Author: David Barber

“What you mean, we can’t land?” The Captain looked about, bewildered.

The flatscreens and yellowing presskeys of the Pilgrim’s bridge were from a bygone age. People stepped forward one at a time, shy, yet proud of their empty titles. Shaking hands seemed to be important. This one called herself Captain. The man with hair on his face was the Navigator.

Seven wouldn’t have trusted them to operate a toaster. No one apologised for the smell. As if the walls of the slowboat reeked of failure.

They stared open-mouthed at Nike.

The Chief Engineer took Nike’s polyalloy hand, supple and shiny as water. “It’s warm!” he exclaimed.

Introductions had caused confusion, because Nike and Seven had exchanged names, an affectation once, but increasingly common with mixed-sentience couples. Her mother had chosen the name Nike in a sponsorship deal. Seven’s serial number ended in that digit.

Nike had explained about the planet below, how its unique lifeforms were copyrighted by SolarPharm. There had been consternation when told they could not land.

“But what can we do?” pleaded the Captain.

Nike shrugged, a complex liquid ripple. It had been practicing its gestures to please Seven. “We’re here to decide that.” They had bought sole access rights to the Pilgrim, hoping for a quick profit.

Seven brushed at her nose. It was the recycling. At launch, no one could have known how Pilgrim would fare; it should have been called Long Shot. There must be organisations interested in this centuries-long experiment with closed-loop living and its effects on those trapped inside. She pinged off circulars.

“What about rituals?” Nike consulted a virtual checklist. “You still practice democracy.” There was no market for watching people queue up to vote. “Does it ever get violent?”

This was something the couple disagreed about. Seven didn’t think tourism was a solution. There was the smell, and frankly, they were unattractive yokels with depressing lives. This moment in the spotlight needed to be seized by the throat. Maybe a gritty virtuality about their voyage, each episode, a crisis they never had.

“Orbit’s free,” Nike was saying.

“Stay in here you mean?” The Captain was aghast. “There’d be riots! What about Earth?”

“Well, hardly.”

There had been issues with slowboats before, out-of-timers disturbing Earth’s compliant consumer ecology. Besides, who would pay for transport?

The Pilgrim people talked it over, occasionally glancing round at Nike and Seven.

Nike had recently bought a sensory upgrade. More sensitive vision and hearing, and of course, tactile.

“Did you see?” Nike had heard the Navigator whisper. “They was cuddling.”

Finally the Captain spoke up. “We’ll need a vote, but seems we got no choice but going on. If you can find us a world no person claimed yet.”

“A habitable world,” added the Navigator.

Even cutting corners, refuelling and restocking would cost. These slowboat deals were always a gamble.

“Gets them off our hands,” Nike murmured.

These people were outliers in terms of social structure and psychology. Market research companies might be interested. Offset the outlay by selling limited access. Buy now while stocks last. A time-honoured ploy.

Nike searched star catalogues for a moment. “Here’s one. About two hundred years away. You set foot on it you own it.”

As the couple were leaving, the Captain shook her head. “What kind of world is this?”

They supposed she meant the new destination.

“What if one of the new c-ships gets there first?” Seven said to Nike afterwards.

Pilgrim’s request was on record. The Captain should have taken legal advice.

Nike’s shrug needed work, Seven thought.

Submit a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Random Story :

  • Memories of Mia

    Author: William Sieving My cell was full of beautiful memories, …

The Past

365tomorrows launched August 1st, 2005 with the lofty goal of providing a new story every day for a year. We’ve been on the wire ever since. Our stories are a mix of those lovingly hand crafted by a talented pool of staff writers, and select stories received by submission.

The archives are deep, feel free to dive in.

Flash Fiction

"Flash fiction is fiction with its teeth bared and its claws extended, lithe and muscular with no extra fat. It pounces in the first paragraph, and if those claws aren’t embedded in the reader by the start of the second, the story began a paragraph too soon. There is no margin for error. Every word must be essential, and if it isn’t essential, it must be eliminated."

Kathy Kachelries
Founding Member


We're open to submissions of original Science or Speculative Fiction of 600 words or less. We only accepting work which you previously haven't sold or given away the rights to. That means your work must not have been published elsewhere, either in print or on the web. When your story is accepted, you're giving us first electronic publication rights and non-exclusive subsequent publication rights. You retain ownership over your story. We are not a paying market.

Voices of Tomorrow

Voices of Tomorrow is the official podcast of 365tomorrows, with audio versions of many of the stories published here.

If you're interested in recording stories for Voices of Tomorrow, or for any other inquiries, please contact