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Science Fiction LGBTQ+ Fiction

You’d think that interstellar travel would make getting from A to B easier, but galactic rush hour is the absolute worst. Thank the gods for Autopilot- even if the computer flying the ship is a complete-

“Thinking swear words will result in a swear-jar penalty. Would you like me to remind you of the terms of our swear-jar policy?”

AstroNav, lovingly called Navie, exasperatedly called the “Zero-G-Twit-Machine,” (Zero for short) asked.

“No, thank you Zero.” Vega crossed their arms. Just a few more hours.

“Loading: Terms of the Nebula Noodle’s swear-jar policy.”

A few more hours and Vega could finally get off this ship and see their family.

“No thank you, Zero, I mean it. I do not want to hear the swear jar rules again, I just want this fu- this fluffing traffic jam to end.”

“Your brain chip indicates you wanted to use another word to describe the traffic jam. This word is on the list of words designated for swear-jar penalty. Would you like me to remind you of the terms of the Nebula Noodle’s swear-jar policy?”

Vega took a deep breath. A few. More. Hours.

“Oh, come on Navie, Vega didn’t even use the word. Go easy on them or they’ll have to sell their firstborn to me before we even get to Kar One.” Zenith jumped into the seat next to Vega, smiling brightly as ever.

“Just think of that, Navie; Vega, all alone in some intergalactic space-slum, neck deep in swear-jar debt. You wouldn’t want that, right?”

The cockpit was silent for about three seconds.

“Selling relatives into slavery to evade debt-collection has been abolished during the fourth intergalactic mega-summit. Would you like me to- “

“And right you are, Navie, right you are! How long ‘till Kar One, you reckon?”

“I am calculating a delay of 7 hours. We will arrive at Kar One in approximately 15,7 hours.”

Vega banged their head on the control panel before them, causing several lights to flicker in an angry red. Zenith reached over and began rearranging the controls, working around their companion’s head. When they finished, Zenith patted Vega’s head gently. “There, there, it’s alright. Only a few more hours and you can rest your pretty head on something more comfortable than buttons and switches! Like… the jagged rocks of Kar One! Navie, be so kind and put on Vega’s playlist, yeah?”

“Loading: “Space tunes for blue moons” Playlist. Playing: Moonage Daydream by David Bowie.”

Despite themselves, Vega smiled against the controls. They leaned back in their chair and put their head on Zenith’s shoulder. “I really like this song. Thanks, Navie”

“It is my pleasure. I will now engage standby autopilot protocol. Have a pleasant flight.” Navie’s screen dimmed, showing a calming sea-panorama. Kar One.

“You think we’ll make it in time for the eclipse?”, Vega mumbled against Zenith’s shoulder. Zenith replied with a non-committal grunt.

“Hard to say. Navie said 16 hours, right? Well, more or less, we still have to unload and register at the dock and… Yeah no, probably not. I’m sorry Vega, I know how much it means to you.”

Vega shrugged their shoulders and looked out the window.

Zenith squeezed their friend’s arm. “How about you tell me about the last eclipse? When was it, like 12 years ago?”

Vega smiled. “You know exactly that it was 13 years ago. Even though you spent most of it with your head in the toilet from drinking Jori’s… what was that even? Durog-fruit-punch?”

“It felt like a punch all right, but in the face… and my stomach and brain and every other organ I have. Anyway, I don’t remember much, that’s right.”

“Well, what do you remember then? Except for Jori’s bathroom tiles”

Zenith grinned and bumped their head upon Vega’s. “Ah right, let’s see. That was when Zyra accidentally blew up Jori’s kitchen, right? And Jori screamed for like ten minutes straight? That really messed with my beauty sleep- not that I’d need any, of course”

Vega laughed. “Was that really 13 years ago? We’re getting old.”

“Speak for yourself, senior, I don’t look a day past 212. You, on the other hand? Debatable.”

“Oh, ancient one, what can I say against those wise words that – “

Zenith laughed loudly. “All right, all right. Well, since I don’t want to relive that particular evening, do you wanna watch the 6890 eclipse’s tape instead? It’s the one where granny Qao tells her story of the first eclipse.”

Vega just nodded, suddenly melancholic again, and leaned even more into Zenith.

“Navie, be a dear and put the tape on.”

Navie, to their credit, said nothing, instead just playing the tape.

Granny Qao was ancient. Not old; actually ancient. She’d been there at the first Karan eclipse and loved to tell the story over and over again. Always a bit different, but great, nonetheless. The tape showed her, sitting in front of a gaggle of children, Vega and Zenith in the back, both on the verge from adolescence into adulthood.

Granny Qao raised her hand and started to speak.

“When the great goddess Prageth created Kar, it was whole.”, her deep voice sent a shudder through her audience. “The great war had not yet split it into two and three suns circled the planet, ever chased by our 35 moons.”

A kid’s hand flew up. “But Granny Qao, we only have two suns!”

Granny Qao smiled kindly. “Quite right, darling, quite right. But when I was your age, Prageth nurtured us through three of her suns. The sun of courage, Thux, the sun of strength, Astae, and the third sun, Guras, the sun of compassion.”

The kid, quite bold for such a small thing, spoke again. “But granny Qao, now Thux circles Kar One and Astae circles the remains of Kar Two.”

“Maybe if we had a fourth sun of patience, you would learn to sit and listen.”, young Zenith said teasingly, but with no real bite. The crowd chuckled, even the kid grinning sheepishly.

Granny Qao raised her hand, and the room fell silent again.

“Before the great first eclipse, which marks the year 0 in our time, Prageth had to fight a war. Our kind was still weak and we didn’t understand. At first, day and night felt… different somehow. We couldn’t put our claws on what it was exactly. Like an itch you can’t quite scratch. Her power had shown us the courage to stand up for ourselves, the strength to defend our people, and the compassion to understand one another. And then the great evil came and darkened the skies.”

Even though Zenith had heard the story a thousand times already, a chill ran down their spine. On tape, several children huddled together to better brave the rest of the story.

“Prageth fought and Prageth lost. Guras, her most beloved child, was swallowed whole by a being so ancient that names had not yet existed when it was created. But what’s in a name, anyway? No word could ever express the anguish of Prageth, the anguish of our people, on that darkest of days, the first eclipse. Prageth, who once walked this grand planet beside us, gave her physical form to defend us.”

The bold child raised their hand again, a slight tremor in their fingers.

Granny Qao bowed her head slightly. “Go on, little one.”

“So Prageth is gone now? What if the great evil comes back?” In that moment, this courageous child seemed frail as a whisper, small as a flower’s petal.

Granny Qao smiled, her sharp teeth glinting in the low lights. “Oh no, little one, Prageth is very much still among us. You just don’t recognise her anymore, is all.”

Murmurs arose among the children, each one looking at each other as if the goddess hid among them, in this very room, right now.

“So how did the story end, Granny Qao?”, young Vega asked on the tape.

“Guras was devoured, so our kind lost its compassion. But courage and strength alone are no good without love and understanding. Our people mistook courage for speaking your mind, without thinking first, and strength for a tool to split the world into right and wrong. The great war split the planet in half: two twin planets intertwined in shared history, brutally trying to separate themselves from each other. Kar One won the war and Kar Two is now… nothing but dust.” He hadn’t noticed back then, but in the tape, Zenith saw tears glittering in her eyes.

Granny Qao was old, they thought. So old that she might have not only lived through the war but also fought in it.

She cleared her throat. “So, our people had to learn compassion anew, like a newborn trying to walk. It is a long journey; one we are still on. So never forget to show understanding, be compassionate. We lost Guras, but we can relearn its virtues.”

Another kid raised their hand as Granny Qao dried her eyes. “What is it, dearie?”

“You said that Guras’ death was our first eclipse, but why do we still have eclipses? The suns don’t disappear afterwards”.

“Because Prageth loves her two other children, just like she loved Guras, dear. And every few rotations around our suns, the evil comes back and tries to take one of them. To make her suffer and to make her remember”.

“So, we could lose our courage and strength at any eclipse?” the child asked softly.

“Not as long as Prageth shields the world from this evil’s grip. Every eclipse it opens its mouth and darkness spreads over the world, but every eclipse ends. And when the eclipse ends, Prageth shines with all her might in reminder of her beloved child that she couldn’t protect.”

As she finished, the sky outside shifted. Zenith remembered the feeling of being watched, eyes at the back of your neck, claws just about to rip out your throat. Granny Qao stood, taking her cane from the side of her chair.

“Now I must rest, children. May you always walk the path of compassion and Prageth bless you.” All the children stood and bowed, watching her frail figure leave. When she had gone, all the children broke into chatter. The story of the first eclipse never disappointed. Suddenly, a face came into view in front of the camera; Zyra. Then the tape ended, and Zenith’s heart grew heavy with homesickness.

The cockpit stayed quiet, except for the faint whirring sound of the gears. Zenith looked over at Vega, catching the moment they dried their eyes. “Hey, are you-“

Vega cleared their throat and abruptly stood.

“Alright then, I think I’ll lie down until we arrive.”

Zenith joined Vega, fake yawning. “Yeah, sounds good. I’ll see you later, then?”

Vega nodded, not looking at them. Zenith sighed, squeezed their shoulder twice and made towards their room, when Vega tugged at their sleeve.

“Thanks, Zenith. I appreciated that.”

Zenith gave their biggest smile and walked away, preparing for the cry she’d have once the door closed. “Anytime Vega, anytime.”

April 11, 2024 16:17

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3 comments

01:55 Apr 27, 2024

Love it

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Lili Margareta
14:40 Apr 27, 2024

thank you Mariana!!

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18:37 Apr 27, 2024

Np

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