Editor's Note: If you haven't already read it, we suggest you read through Garbagewoman first!
My father’s Aurora feels cold, empty. It feels… different. The readouts on my HUD tell me it’s fine, tell me it’s still in peak working order.
But I can feel it all the same.
I can’t even think of it as my own. My father bought this Aurora years ago, decades ago. He’s been flying it since before I was even born. My earliest memories are of him bouncing me on his knee in this ship. He taught me to fly in it. He always called it his little cocombre, his little cucumber. Spiky, wrinkled, and dirty on the outside; crisp and clean inside.
My fathers’ little cucumber.
I hated that name as a teenager. How do you impress a boy when your ship is called the cucumber?
My mind is wandering. I let it.
When was it, a week ago? A month?
He just had to give me the Aurora. I’d just turned twenty-one, and he wanted me to have my own ship. If… if he hadn’t bought that used Freelancer to replace it, if he’d held onto his cocombre for just a few more weeks…
I didn’t trust the Freelancer. It felt too…too large. Too empty. I didn’t want him to be alone in that huge ship for days.
I wanted to go with him. I asked him, asked him right after he hugged mama goodbye.
‘Don’t worry Allen,’ he said, smiling, putting a hand on my shoulder. ‘It’s just a short haul, I’ll be back in a few days.’
I should have insisted. I could have helped him, I could have…
The distress call came in the next day. Engine problems, he had to shut down or risk an overload.
It was a safe sector of space. It was supposed to be a safe sector. That one distress call he sent out, and a note to us, to me, to mamma, to my sister, a note telling us not to worry. He’d be picked up soon, he was on a common trade route.
We never heard from him again.
Police say it must have been pirates. A broken-down ‘Lancer, full of cargo? Easy pickings. They’d left no signs. There was nothing of my father’s Freelancer left. They’d put out a few more patrols, question a few locals, keep an eye out for any scrapped Freelancer’s hitting the junkyards, but…
They had no hope. I could hear it in their voices when they were telling mama. They wouldn’t catch whoever did this.
And here I am. Same sector of space, same distress call, same day of the week. I’ve accounted for everything.
I’m hiding in one of the cargo crates…they’ll never think to look for me there. The Pirates will come, and they’ll radio me to jettison my cargo, and I will. I’ll float out into space in the cargo crate, while they destroy my Aurora, then they’ll tractor me in.
They’ll put me in their cargo hold, and I’ll wait a bit… then I’ll get out of the crate, sneak up on them, and kill them.
I’ve got a pistol. I can do this. They killed my father, I’ll kill them back. It’s fair. It’s… it’s…
No, I’m getting distracted; I’m distracting myself.
The distress call’s been sent out. The cargo in the back is ready… I’m in the same sector of space he was.
Unlike my father.
No, I can’t cry. I’m ready.
The call comes sooner than I’d expected, a buzzing on my ‘Glass.
Deep breaths, calm, steady. It’ll be them… it has to be them. I raise my arm, nervously thumb the flashing ‘accept call’ icon.
‘h… help please?’ I stammer. I don’t have to act. Nerves, fear, anger…emotions simmer and broil, seconds away from boiling over. ‘I… I think my power plant is…’
‘Ey, don’t worry kid!’ the voice coming over the comm is warm, motherly. She sounds… middle aged. Friendly. She sounds like my mother.
No Pirate would sound like my mother. It’s not them.
All this time, all this planning, and I’m being rescued. Why?
‘Don’t you worry boy,’ the lady’s voice comes over the intercom, soothing, ‘It’ll all be over soon.’
I laugh to myself as tears flow down my face. I’ve failed.
The ship shakes, hard. She must have hit me with her ship, or…
‘What are you doing?’ I ask, concerned. I flick on my ‘Glass, check the external sensors. It’s a…she’s in a Reclaimer…
I can hear the frame of my Aurora protesting. Something’s… something’s wrong.
‘Ah, I’m just here to clean up, kid’, ‘Let me tell you a little story…’
Her voice doesn’t sound very motherly anymore.
‘I remember how it started; I remember the day my life changed.’ she starts, mellow, monotonous, as if repeating by rote. ‘June 7th, 2917. I was six years old, in Primary, and our Teacher asked us a question. THE question. The most important question anyone has to answer, ever.
What do you want to be when you grow up?