|THE CLOUDS OF ASTER|
The skies reach on through flowing, eternal night, a wilderness unmatched, speckled with bright oasis, the birth clouds of growing stars, the oceans of spectral wonder beyond the sight of rainbows.
Ship's great hull hums in vacuum's stillness, a comforting drone unnoticed to all save me: opening doors, flowing power, drive twisting ethereal matter. I survey this jewel-box realm from the great portal, lulled by the sounds almost to slumber.
There, far below the bow, a comet lost in this abandoned waste, a titan's snowball, an elaborate tail this far from warmth.
A violet flare as tiny pebble burns against our shields, rather than punch through ceramic, steel-hard hull like hot needle through wax.
A mixed cargo of platinum, rare knowledge and exotic art, plus a dozen passengers from their homes around three scattered stars. Some actors, a physician, two scholars, a gaggle of traders and a tourist.
The tourists, now he's an alien, though whether "he" or "she" is not so clear. He wants to see the human worlds, and has a taste for playing cards, and having four brains he rarely loses!
Of crew there are three officers, excepting me:
"Bear" is partial human, 8' tall and built like Hercules, his ancestors "warped" for heavy worlds. Good with ships, and not at all bad with pirates, folding, spindling and mutilating them that is.
BD Salron, cook and entertainer extraordinaire. Though elaborate meals come in packages, the passengers love sitting in the big kitchen, listening to Roger's tales and savouring his food, his spices come from 500 worlds!
From Atholl, a "thinkers" world, Spectre is a quiet fellow, but with knowledge and our craft's mindnumbing mode of flight, he always knows the right thing to call.
Then there's Leah, now apart from accountant and canny merchant, she's me lady, and having your sweetheart on your own ship is no mean accomplishment, and is rather nice for both of us!
A week of travel from our last port, a 3 day carnival, there showed us how the locals dance, living inside a gigantic, burned out volcano, the spectacle of ships entering that yawning chasm, dark lit by terraced houses, is only exceeded by the triumph of flying out of that abyssal maw, and into the Sun.
The destination now in sight, a bluish star, the frozen sea world of Merlin circles giant Aster, a mighty ball of gas with dazzling ring of gemstone clouds.
By rarest quirk of Fate, the rings are made of pale amethyst, the Sun sintering in dazzling flashes in a billion glittering wonders.
The heavy ship, yet so lithe and sheering grace, she turns and rolls as we pass through this wonder, leting passengers and crew saw what some of the first solar voyagers beheld in utmost rapture.
And in my arms, Leah, and we look upon one of Creations rarest treasures, but I'm holding one far more precious...