A Song for You
This story came to me after I had finished another writing prompt. The opening is a slightly altered version of a much shorter version in my blog.
“So, let me make sure we’re completely clear on what I’m doing,” said the Scavenger.
“Whatever helps, friend,” said the Pilot.
“I’m going to - and please let me know if what I’m saying is completely wrong here - I’m going to eject myself from the airlock,” the Scavenger said, tapping the inner seal door to the airlock, “this airlock right here?”
“I’m then going to stabilize my forced ejection into space with…” started the Scavenger, leaving the question unfinished.
“Right, this,” the Scavenger said, tapping the blaster holstered at the blaster at their hip, “this blaster. The one with which I usually shoot people.”
“And that goat,” added the Pilot.
“Of course, right, mostly people and also one very angry goat. I’m going to use it to stabilize my forced exit from a pressurized airlock into space.”
The Pilot simply nodded affirmative at this.
“So then I’m supposed to fly toward that,” the Scavenger began while pointing out a nearby view screen, “field of debris from the last ship that attempted this.”
“The last two, actually.”
“Oh, right, the last two ships that attempted to retrieve this crystal,” the Scavenger said, rolling their eyes. “Thank you for the correction.”
The Pilot nodded again.
“Now once I clear the terrifying debris field which, if I heard correctly, contains live explosives…”
“It does, yes.”
“Okay, I get past all the wreckage and bombs and I dive into the hole in space?” the Scavenger said very loudly, again pointing out the view screen, this time at a shimmering nothingness just beyond the debris field.
“That’s the one.”
“And once I make it through the rift in space and time, I grab the hunk of blue crystal that’s resting in a deep nothingness beyond the comprehension of mortal minds humming a tune that’s known to warp one’s understanding of the self and potentially trap them inside their own consciousness forever.”
“Mhmm, thus the earbuds you’ll have in playing music to anchor you in reality.”
The Scavenger ignored this, “And lastly I need to come back out, which will be from a random direction and at a random…”
“Velocity,” the Pilot finished.
“Right, so I’ll be launched back out of the void within a void at an unpredictable direction and speed back through the same debris field filled with explosives and you’re just going to…” the Scavenger finished, arms open in an exasperated half shrug.
“And how exactly are you going to do that?”
“I’m very good.”
“Okay, yes, fine. And the reason we’re not using a drone for this insane stunt is…?”
“The goat,” said the Scavenger, adding a curse. “Wish I could shoot it again. And the reward for this?”
The Scavenger shrugged, deciding that this all sounded perfectly reasonable and they really liked money. “Well, shit, I guess let’s get started.”
The Pilot nodded and disappeared through a hatchway as they made their way back to the cockpit. The Scavenger delicately inserted their earbuds - making sure they were firmly placed and wouldn’t drift out in zero-gravity - and placed the helmet over their suit to make a pressure seal. The Scavenger went through the familiar diagnostic motions looking over the suit as they had countless times before. Everything was green.
Moments later the Scavenger was in the airlock as the Pilot finished positioning their craft for the absurdity the two were about to perform.
“We’re in position,” said the Pilot’s voice from inside the Scavenger’s helmet.
“Great, do you have any more advice?” said the Scavenger.
“Yeah, don’t miss,” the Pilot responded before popping open the airlock.
The Scavenger was ready. They kicked off the opposite hatch at the sudden hiss of escaping gasses and launched themselves into open space. They drew the blaster from its holster and waited for the familiar blue glow of the ship’s shields becoming active before firing two quick blasts to stabilize their trajectory. The Scavenger looked up toward their target to scan for danger. That’s when they noticed light glinting off a small, spherical object - a mine.
The Scavenger had to think quickly, for they knew that there were only moments before the mine would be close enough to trigger from heat proximity. Firing on it with the blaster, still held in hand, would be too dangerous - not to mention that the blast would completely throw off their trajectory. The Scavenger fired half a dozen shots in rapid succession, hoping to push themselves out of the way of of the proximity range. They held their breath as the passed barely a dozen meters past the metallic sphere. The Scavenger was so very fixated on it, that they missed the other mine they were drifting towards completely.
A large, silent explosion rocked the Scavenger suddenly from behind, sending them rolling off towards a collection of ship wreckage. Thinking quickly, they fired their blaster again to stop the spin before taking another shot at the first mine to boost them back towards the gaping hole that they now realized was approaching much faster than anticipated. They rocketed toward it at incredible speed, seeing no more obstructions between them and the target. The Scavenger grinned as the nothingness crept closer and closer before, as if crossing some invisible barrier, the nothingness was everywhere. Everywhere except, of course, where a glowing blue rock of indeterminate translucence hung still in the air and hummed a light melody..
The Scavenger, without losing any speed, reached out their hands and laughed just before coming into contact with the crystal. “My great, glowing payday, I’ve got you-”
"-now, but we'll see each other again in just a few months," said the Fighter. "A friend in Command let me see the mission brief and this isn’t going to be hard or even dangerous."
The Lover sighed. "That's what you said last time and I didn't see you for two years."
"I know," the Fighter insisted, "I know that. That's why I checked things out first this time. I don't want to be apart that long any more than you do."
The Lover was silent for several moments. Their eyes pierced deeply into the Fighter's own, searching, before looking away. "You promise? I've got my own life to worry about and I won't spend it waiting around."
The Fighter smiled, taking in the sight of the Lover and committing this moment to memory. They wouldn't dare forget a promise like this. Distantly, somewhere else in this park perhaps, the droning thrum of drums echoed across lake they walked beside.
"I promise you. I'll be-"
"-back was hurt in the explosion," explained the Wounded to the Lover from their hospital bed. "The doctors think I'll make a full recovery, but it's going to take some time I guess."
The Lover looked over the bandage-covered body of the Wounded with a worried expression before meeting their eyes with a grin. "Well you kept your promise. I didn't say what condition in which to return, so you get a pass on," they gestured widely, "all this."
The Wounded grinned back at them, "I guess you didn't, huh?" They glanced at the machine measuring their vitals, which beeped with a perfect rhythm. “Do you think all this is necessary?” they asked. “I could ask the nurse to turn it off if the noise is bothering you.”
The Lover looked at it, fascinated with the sound of it. “Nah, I think I like it. It reminds me that you’re alive. You’re back for good and we can finally move on.”
“Yeah, you’re right. Before you know-”
“-it has been a long time coming, but I got the promotion!” the Laborer said, excitedly as they walked through the apartment door. “We can finally get that company housing off-station and get some solid ground under us. Not to mention the money.”
The Lover beamed, swaying a little to the music they had left on in the kitchen. “It’s about time I wasn’t the only one supporting us,” they said with roguish grin. “I knew they’d come around after all that work you did organizing your group and making some real changes.”
“It’s a huge relief, really. I didn’t think I could keep the late hours up for much longer. But it’ll be different now, and we’ll finally have time to do all those things you were talking about.”
“Like the garden?”
“With all the flowering plants you can handle.”
“And the music studio?”
“You can have a whole den filled with synthesizers, banjos, or whatever.”
“...and a child?”
The Laborer smiled softly and brought the Lover into a strong embrace. “Yes, a child.”
After a long moment, the Laborer noticed the Lover’s foot tapping involuntarily with the music in the background. “Can we turn that noise off?” they asked, sounding irritated.
The Lover pulled back, looking puzzled and hurt. “I wrote this for you, don’t you remember?”
“What? This isn’t the one you wrote me,” they said, trying to remember another song at the edge of consciousness.
“Of course I did,” said the Lover, smiling and trying to pull the Laborer closer. “I wrote it when-”.
“No,” said the Lost nothing in particular. A pleasant, soft strumming filled their ears. “That’s right. I wrote it for your funeral.”
The Scavenger blinked hard suddenly before they tightened their grip on the crystal, aimed the blaster straight ahead and fired several more shots to propel themselves back towards the opening. They held fast to the prize, but could not remember the ejection back into normal space nor the cargo bay of the ship opening to catch them after they cleared the debris field.
As the cargo door closed again, the Scavenger dragged the hunk of glowing rock past to a large metal crate, dropped it inside, and sealed it tight. They collapsed there on the floor of the cramped cargo bay, leaning heavily against the box, completely exhausted, and fumbling to remove their helmet. They let the earbuds fall to into their lap, the familiar strumming of the song now tinny as the sound from the small speakers echoed in the larger space.
“We good?” said the Pilot over the ship’s intercom.
The Scavenger waited to catch their breath before replying. They listened to the song finish as their lungs and heart settled to their normal rhythm.
“Sure, we’re good.”