La Bonne Étoile (The Lucky Star)

Submitted into Contest #245 in response to: Write a story in which a character navigates using the stars.... view prompt


Adventure Science Fiction LGBTQ+

The portal malfunctioned again. Fortunately, it dropped him close enough to shore that he could swim the rest of the way – better than being dropped in quicksand, like last time. Slightly annoyed, Professor Gregory Reyvannes scrambled out of the azure waters onto the soft, supple sands of the shore. “I know you’re here somewhere.” he mumbled to himself, shaking the water from his coat.

The professor blinked a few times, taking in his surroundings; white sands reflected the sun in a way where the little island looked like it was glowing. Not a single tree adorned this patch of land from what he could see, and there was nothing else but the dark waters of the sea stretching out to the horizon. He huffed, wiping the excess water from his nose and mouth, and then fumbled about his pockets, continuing to conspire aloud to himself.

“I won’t let you get away, not this time.”

After checking a few pockets, he finally found what he needed; shaking more water out of his chestnut curls like a wet dog, he held a chrome orb the size of a walnut in his palm. He tapped it twice with his thumb – and nothing happened. “Come on...” He growled at it in exasperation, and again tapped it twice with his thumb, this time the presses being more deliberate. This seemed to do the trick; a holographic image appeared above the device with a cluster of small blue dots, one of which was pulsating purple with the letters ‘SX-384b’ illuminated beneath it. Reyvannes released a victorious bark, as his map confirmed what he already knew.

“Ha! Yes! Very close now,” he assured himself, “That damned white rock is very close indeed...”

Despite the portal coordinates going rogue again, according to his calculations – which were seldom ever wrong – he had landed on the planet that would soon see the Comet d’Ivoire, also known as the Ivory Comet, glide past its atmosphere. Four long years ago his employers had dispatched him to the galaxy of Sigma X to confirm its existence. He had come so close to capturing this 5,000-ton asteroid on only a handful of occasions, one of which nearly cost him his life. Despite this he never feared nor despaired in the loss, as each passing encounter only gave opportunity for Reyvannes to perfect his astral map and tweak his calculations. This time, it would be perfect. It had to be. His reputation depended on it.

The professor’s renown as a former fifteen-year-old prodigy had caused the French Galactic Consulate to approach him about their cosmic navigation project, and Reyvannes found it too intriguing to refuse. It also helped that he was coming out of his second divorce penniless, and they offered him a handsome fund for him to retire on. Professor Reyvannes kicked the sand suddenly, giving in to a moment of frustration. “I did not dedicate twenty blasted years of my life at Oxford to be made a fool of now!” he shouted to the unyielding churn of the tide.

His intrigue and greed had led him to be stranded on a desert island on an alien planet. Hunching close to his shiny device, Reyvannes poked the purple dot in his map which caused it to grow larger. There was a larger planet nearby labeled ‘SX-80r’ that would be closer to the comet’s path, but the data probe on his ship suggested highly sulfuric fumes in the atmosphere and heavy magma activity on the surface, so it would not have been safe to teleport to that planet. The task at hand was like trying to prove the existence of the Tooth Fairy. There were no other celestial masses within a lightyear that would offer as close a brush with the Ivory Comet for at least another millennium.

Gnawing at his thumbnail, Reyvannes studied his map, growing anxious at the thought of losing this opportunity and not sure when the next one would come. He turned in a full circle, slowly observing the watery landscape in hopes of finding something on this planet that might offer a little bit of height, perhaps a mountain or even a hill on a nearby island. He was greeted only by the empty blue, which was deepening with the setting sun, and the gently crashing waves upon the sand were the only sounds that accompanied his breathing. He was initially surprised to find another planet so similar to Earth that was uninhabited, but now he knew why. This was a planet quiet and devoid of life, save for the extraterrestrial that had appeared upon the shore soaked and shivering.

He was a voyager marooned within the void of loneliness, and the silence was deafening.

Reyvannes groaned, circling again, his brown eyes scanning the horizon desperately for the second time when a glint of light caught his eye, reflected from the palm of his hand. “Of course!” he exclaimed, while chuckling at his foolishness. He had been so focused on finding an elevated spot to stand on when he could simply make one any place he wanted. He tapped the device he held to put the map away then turned it over to the bottom. Taking his index finger, he made three small circles in the center. The device responded by emitting a fiery red glow, as if he awakened some mythical beast. He spoke into the glowing device, “Activate summoning mode.”

The device began humming but was soon drowned out by a noise like a swarm of angry hornets. Reyvannes looked upward, admiring the true love of his life as she glided down from the sky – the Bonne Étoile was a state-of-the-art spacecraft that gave the appearance of a raven diving from the sky. It was built and crafted by the most advanced engineers in Europe, commissioned by the FGC for this very mission. They had even given the professor the honor of christening the ship with her name, which Reyvannes felt the French translation for “Lucky Star” was quite apt. She was made for him.

The sleek, black craft lowered itself from the air until it ran ten feet above, parallel to the water, jetting forward to the small island where Reyvannes stood. “Activate docking mode” he spoke into the device again with a small, satisfied smirk, just as the ship approached him. In an instant the ship pivoted ninety degrees, its jet engines blasting on and off to supplement the shift in weight and direction, before kicking out its landing gear and sinking gently into the sand. The swarm of hornets subsided as the jet engines powered down to a low rumble. Reyvannes never thought he could be sexually attracted to inanimate objects, yet here he was growing hard for a spaceship.

He chuckled a little at himself and slogged towards the Bonne Étoile, his boots squelching with ocean water. Reyvannes approached the craft, gently placing his hand on the portside as if to greet an old friend. A thin, red line of light scanned across his palm, accompanied by two small beeps; the recognition software had identified its master and the front of the ship unfolded, revealing the cockpit. “Bienvenue, Gregory Reyvannes” the ship’s AI chirped out to him in a tinny voice.

Another thin light beamed out from inside the ship and scanned the professor’s whole body as he walked into the opening. “I have detected foreign bacterial particles within your attire,” the ship alerted Reyvannes “as well as excess moisture. Risk assessment: potential for hypothermia and/or bacterial infection and/or viral infection. Shall I run the sanitation cycle for you?” Reyvannes chuckled at this.

“Come now, BE,” he chided the ship by using her nickname “I know you’re not one for the beach, but surely a little sand and sun never hurt anyone, hm?”

The ship responded with silence – it did not have humor programmed within its mainframe. Reyvannes sighed, lifting his arms out like a scarecrow. “Commence sanitation cycle.” He commanded flatly.

With that Reyvannes was blasted with a cool, white mist from head to toe for three seconds; once the mist had cleared, he had been dried and cleaned as if he had never been dropped by the portal in the first place. “Suppose that’s your way of apologizing for dropping me in the wrong spot again.” He quipped briskly, adjusting his now dry jacket on his shoulders. “Apologies for the miscalculations, sir,” BE responded to Reyvannes as he loaded himself into the pilot’s seat. “My coordinate location software is only adjusted to planets with similar mass and size to Earth, however your feedback is appreciated and will be transmitted to quality assurance division – warning: systems communications disabled.”

“Yes, yes... I know.” Reyvannes mumbled, more to himself this time, activating the controls to close the cockpit and ready for take-off. He made a mental note that artificial intelligence did not include emotional intelligence, and to stop trying to initiate friendly banter with a robot.

The ramp had retracted, and the seat locked back into place. Now that Reyvannes could reach the controls, he plugged his silver device into a small port and illuminated the map again. After flipping the switches to fire the engines up to take-off mode, he pulled the throttle lever slowly until the buzzing sound of hornets filled the air, lifting the ship off from the ground within a whirlwind of sand twisting furiously around the craft. “Up we go now.” he said softly, disengaging the landing gear and pulling up the yoke of the steering column.

The Bonne Étoile lifted off with ease, steadily gaining altitude. Reyvannes consulted his map and tilted the craft to the left to direct him towards SX-80r – the planet closest to the path of the Ivory Comet. He took an opportunity to glance down at the water world he was leaving behind, observing the other sandy islets surrounding the one he had come from. They looked like white inkblots to him, inevitably disappearing as he left SX-384b’s atmosphere.

Some lights began to blink on the control board, and the professor’s curly hair began to drift gently in the air as they entered the realm of low gravity. With the flick of another switch to his right, BE chirped out “Gravity stabilization initiated” and his hair flopped back down again lifelessly, accompanied by a noisy hiss. He barely needed to use his map at this point - SX-80r could be seen with the naked eye and was about a fifteen-minute journey with hyper-speed travel. He just needed to be slightly off-right to the planet in order to catch the comet, but the navigation systems built into the ship needed a point destination in order to activate hyper-speed controls. He risked missing the asteroid altogether if he remained in a manual cruise speed, however Reyvannes already had the solution to circumvent the navigation systems.

Using his map again as a reference, he pulled up the IGPS – inter-galactic positioning systems – and punched in the coordinates for SB-44. This was a star in an entirely different system which would take twenty lightyears to get to in hyper-speed, however it was in the precise direction of the Ivory Comet’s predicted path. Reyvannes was confident in his calculations; by navigating to this star, if he initiated a manual override after fifteen minutes to halt hyper-speed travel toward SB-44, it would land him just outside the path of the Ivory Comet. Most space pilots would never dare to dream of manually overriding the IGPS system, but those space pilots were not Professor Gregory Reyvannes.

Hyper-speed travel was never easy on him. The last time he had to use it was a life-or-death situation, where he was nearly pancaked by the Ivory Comet for being directly in its path. But he was so close now, personal sacrifices had to be made. This would the last time he would let it get away. Taking a deep breath, a self-assured smirk played across his lips as a shaky hand pressed the button to activate the IGPS hyper-drive. The engines whirred to a whistle as the ship announced, “WARNING: Hyper-drive engaged in 3... 2...1...”. The force of Bonne Étoile jetting forward caused his head to snap back into the seat, and the universe around him began to blur in streaks of light. Reyvannes clutched the yoke to keep the ship steady as it careened through space, perspiration gathering on his forehead as he felt the bile rising in his throat.

Reyvannes looked up and watched the stars streak by, their blazing forms stretched above him in a rainbow of lights. He marveled at the sight, temporarily distracted from his movement sickness, and thought of his life on Earth. He remembered his mother’s smile – she died when he was only seven, and it pained his heart that he didn’t know her better. He recalled the times spent in Oxford, a young boy amongst men that praised and demonized him all at once. His first husband – one of those men that he now realized groomed him into marriage as soon as he was of legal age, only for it to fall apart after a measly three years once he found the other young boys that occupied his ex-husband’s not-so-secret hard drive. At least he was paid a nice sum to keep quiet upon their separation. He thought of the sleepless nights, the endless peer review requests, the smell of cigarettes permeating the walls of his apartment. He thought of Gerard, and his chest tightened at the memory of the green-eyed graduate student whose heart he could never hold even after ten years of marriage – or maybe it was the hyperdrive.

All that time he spent on Earth, he only ever looked to the stars. He found solace in their consistency. They were always there, a mystery to him, and yet at the same time he understood them so well. It was a paradox and a passion that isolated him from others that could never comprehend. He was pushed to achieve, to conform and condense himself, all while seeking to answer the meaning of humanity’s feeble, mortal existence. He always felt so lost, adrift in a sea of earthly bodies that crowded him, pushing and shoving each other to get by. Yet it was here, wide-eyed and panting at the speeding celestial bodies above him, in a no-man’s land of empty and endless space, he had found solace and belonging. At long last, in the silence of the stars, this marooned voyager had been found.

Enough time had finally passed and Reyvannes reached a shaky hand toward IGPS controls and flipped the switch for manual override, keeping the override lever held down with his eye on the emergency shut-off lever. “WARNING: MANUAL OVERRIDE ENGAGED.” BE cautioned him. “COMMENCING IGPS HYPER-DRIVE SHUT DOWN IN 10… 9… 8…”

The sweat began to drip from his hairline, his eyes darting back and forth between the override and emergency levers.

“7… 6… 5…”

His gut instincts kicked in; he needed to stop now.

“Sorry, darling - not on your count.” Reyvannes apologized, and with his hand still gripping the override lever he yanked back on the emergency lever.

The engines cut off abruptly and the Bonne Étoile rolled several times before the ship rebooted back online and recalibrated the balance. “EMERGENCY SYSTEMS WARNING: SYSTEM REBOOT ENGAGING.” BE ran ship diagnostics as Reyvannes scrambled for the sick bags stored under the control board. “SUCCESS. ALL SYSTEMS BACK ONLINE.” BE’s confirmation chimed out, but Reyvannes barely heard the report as he retched into a paper bag, his body trembling from the shock. After emptying the contents of his stomach, he sighed in partial relief, “Never doing that again.” he mumbled after crudely spitting bile into the bag. “I will be sure to enter additional safeguards for manual override protocols in future, sir. As always, your feedback is appreciated and will be transmitted to the quality assurance division.”

“Can you add fries with that order?” The professor shot back.

“Warning - systems communications disabled.” BE responded to him automatically, and Reyvannes rolled his eyes in annoyance – for an AI that lacked emotions she sure had a tenacity for sass. The engines buzzed contentedly, the motherboard blinked and glowed, and all was well.

He had just lifted his head to glance out the window when he saw it – a small twinkling light in the distance, growing larger by the second. Eyes widening, Reyvannes strained against his seat harness to get closer to the windshield, jaw dropping when he realized what he saw. The twinkling light turned into a glowing orb, floating its way toward the Bonne Étoile, with what looked like puffs of glittering frost billowing around it. Reyvannes nearly jumped out of his seat, whooping victoriously with elation. “There you are you stupid, glorious Moby Dick of a boulder bastard! You’re real!

He had done it. He had found the Ivory Comet. He laughed jovially as the massively imposing comet came into view, tumbling through space enshrouded in white flames like an avalanche, leaving nothing but shimmering debris in his wake. Reyvannes’ laughter transpired to sobs of joy; a lost asteroid thought only to be a fairy tale was found.

The hardest part was over – now the real work could start.

Collecting himself, Reyvannes flipped the controls and the engines whirred to a whistle “Now then,” he said to his ship, eyes on the comet and clutching the steering column, “Let’s catch our whale.”

April 09, 2024 03:00

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Hazel Ide
01:41 Apr 19, 2024

I enjoyed your writing style, a lot of action in very little time/space, well done!


04:33 Apr 19, 2024

Thank you Hazel! I am glad you enjoyed it :)


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Jacqueline R
01:49 Apr 17, 2024

Good read, I enjoyed it!


02:36 Apr 17, 2024

Thank you for reading, I'm glad you enjoyed it!


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