Author: Asher Wismer
Sleeking flashing light through every little hole.
Seventy holes. Counted them. Many times.
Nothing to see outside but silver Sleeking, never-ending explosions. Shell keeps me alive. Eddo’s Star is a low-impact system and there’s still nothing out there. Nothing.
One liter of water today. Plenty of water. Battery is fine. One liter.
Sleeking flashing gleaming light. I plugged one up once. It didn’t matter. Even this close to a star the Sleeking explosions never end. I see them in my dreams, when I’m sober enough to dream.
“…docking at Loomish. I repeat, my shell is low and I am docking at Loomish. I repeat–”
A shell. Another person!
Loomish station is on the other side of the system. No reason for me to go there, too dangerous anyway.
Ten cycles of power before the next flare. Flare means ten layers off my asteroid while the CPU resets. Ten layers… too many, too fast.
My asteroid moves, shell expanding to surround it. The Sleeking immediately assaults my every sense, bruised silver light surrounding and enveloping.
Higher impact now but my shell holds. It’s risky — hell, it’s absolutely suicide even if I make it to Loomish. Battery vanes extended as long as I can, until the endless explosions obscure the star, cutting off my external power.
“–Loomish now. My shell is weak but holding. I repeat, I can see Loomish now. My shell–”
There’s no single point of reference anymore. Anything still alive has an innate sense of the space immediately surrounding their shell, whether filled with ripping debris or near-enough to a strong gravity well to relax and let something large, like an asteroid, take the reduced hits.
Loomish station is somewhere near the Johta Hole. It wasn’t strong enough to pull in the star when it collapsed, and they built Loomish station to establish communication with the remaining galaxy.
Back when they thought there was still inhabited galaxy to communicate with.
My shell expands more, protecting the asteroid. Its layers are too thin for my liking.
“–docking now. I repeat, I am docking now. I repeat–”
I can feel the shell from here. It’s a good one, better than I expected, which is how it survived this long. I push through the Sleeking and it curves away from me, pouring silver and nightmare into the Johta Hole.
Loomish station, right in that little crevasse between the Sleeking and Johta Hole’s event horizon.
Ohhhhhh there’s the shell. It’s charging but I don’t care. Battery vanes pierce through the sweet spot, right where its user was, and my world becomes electric. Blood but not too much, radio killed, sparking debris, all flying horizontally into the gravity well.
Then the shell is on mine and it hurts and then everything is better and the silvery Sleeking nightmare seems almost transparent, as if I could see through the wall of chaos into the larger galaxy.
As if there’s still a galaxy to see. Time to go back. Loomish station is safe but I can’t stand the gravity for a long time. My star is better. My star is safer.
“…asteroid field near Eddo’s Star. Looks like twenty, thirty asteroids, thick enough for at least a hundred cycles each. If you receive this transmission, please follow me to an asteroid field near Eddo’s Star–”
But who, and from where? Transmitting to whom?
Battery vanes retracted, shell extended. My asteroids won’t last the cycles I need if vagrants move in.