Child of Stars

Submitted into Contest #86 in response to: Write a story where flowers play a central role.... view prompt

6 comments

Science Fiction Suspense Speculative

“Things are not looking good up here,” a voice said through my comms. “But don’t wait for us. Get that thing down to the surface. With any luck, it’ll save us.” 

I swallowed, staring at the curve of the Earth beneath me. 

“Yes, sir.”

I’d never gotten to see the planet in its prime. My commanders had told me stories of brilliant blue oceans and emerald continents, swirling weather patterns and vibrant sunsets. Earth wasn’t just a rock in space, it was a planet, a living thing. 

But even from my vantage point, Earth was frail. The colors had faded into browns and grays, and the fluffy white clouds visible from orbit were a thing of the past, instead replaced by smoke and the burning embers of fires nearly gone. 

Earth was still alive, but she was dying. 

“We’ve got a visual, you’re go for landing. May the stars watch over you, pilot.”

“And you as well.” 

I could change all of this. I could change the tides of the war, reverse Earth’s impending fate. 

My dying homeworld blurred in my vision as I focused on the faint reflection I could barely make out in my cockpit’s canopy. Red petals stared back at me, as innocent as ever. It looked like any other flower I’d seen, but I knew better than that. 

It was our salvation. 

It was my salvation. 

Earth’s faraway commanders had refused to risk one of their few remaining officers for the job, so they'd picked me, a victim of lifelong exile, the granddaughter of a traitor. 

If I succeeded, I’d be a hero. The stars would sing my name for generations.

If I could just survive descent—

“IMPACT IMMINENT. CHANGE COURSE IMMEDIATELY.”

My ship’s proximity alarms began to blare, but I couldn’t move fast enough. 

“IMPACT IMMINENT. CHANGE—“

Boom. 

A ball of fire collided with my wing. 

“WARNING: SHIELD FAILURE.”

Earth began to rotate around my canopy like it was being spun in a centrifuge. The band of color marking the horizon began to blur. 

“WARNING: UNCONTROLLED SPIN.”

I tried to blink away the dizziness and fire up my boosters.

“WARNING: HULL INTEGRITY CRITICAL.”

I was met with only a short splutter as the fusion reactor powering them failed.

“WARNING: BOOSTER FAILURE.”

“Iris!” Flight Command shouted through the comms. “You’re not going to survive the descent!”

I squeezed my eyes shut. I knew what was coming. 

“You’ve got to eject!”

G-forces hit me as another system failed. The world spun and my head throbbed and I had to push as hard as I could to keep my lungs from collapsing. I’d trained for this, but nothing prepared me for the real thing. 

My surroundings began to blur as the lack of oxygen got to my brain. Burning fire and gray oceans became one and the same. Black blobs crowded in the corners of my vision as the weight of my eyelids increased tenfold, forcing them downwards. Everything… was turning… 



I woke up in a brightly lit room filled with synthetic plants. Neptune shone like a sapphire out the porthole window. Leaves brushed my face as I stood. Grandmother had preferred it this way, and even the distant Triton colony was lenient in death.

I could just make out Grandmother’s features beneath the sheets of her bed. She was turned away from me, IV dripping steadily. She was comfortable, and that was all that mattered. 

My helmet was tucked under my arm. I was getting ready to leave.

“From stardust we came, and to stardust we shall return,” she murmured.

I stopped in my tracks, fixing the sleeves of my flight suit. I didn’t have time to wait. The fires of war were burning, and—

She turned to face me. 

Her eyes were no longer eyes, but flowers, eyelids and lashes nothing more than bright red petals frozen in the stagnant recycled air. 

Horror struck me as I realized that I hadn’t been fixing my flight suit, I’d been adjusting twisting leaves as they tickled the insides of my wrists. They reacted to my touch, reeling backwards as if disgusted by my skin. 

I blinked, and red petals fell into my palms. 

The world around me began to disintegrate, piece by piece as if it were made of nothing but stardust. 

“Daughter of Neptune, child of stars,” Grandmother began. Leaves and red petals began to twist in front of my vision. “The galaxy will remember your name.”



“WARNING: LIFE SUPPORT FAILING.”



My eyes snapped open as I gasped for breath. Almost immediately, I jumped as I realized how close Earth was. The horizon had disappeared from view, and all I saw were the charred remains of a former city growing larger and larger in front of me. 

“Iris, you’ve got another one on your tail! You’ve got to abort, grab as much as you can and get out of there!”

The eject lever’s red confronted me like a punch in the face. 

No… no. I couldn’t eject. 

If I failed, the war would rage on, but Earth would be lost. 

This was our last shot. 

My last shot. 

I had to try to save my ship, to save the seeds of tomorrow inside its battered cockpit. 

They were worth more than I was. 

As the atmosphere began to slow my spin, I saw the stars. 

Betelgeuse, the glowing red chip on Orion’s shoulder, sat in the center of my vision. I could relate to Orion. Angry and bright, I’d been certain my whole life that I would slay the beasts of war once and for all, just as certain as Orion was as he brandished his bow towards the sky. 

I’d been naive. 

When one beast is slain, another arises. 

“IMPACT IMMINENT. CHANGE COURSE IMMEDIATELY.”

I could make out the individual spires now as the skyscrapers below me stretched towards the heaven they’d never reach. 

The last shred of dignity in my system spoke loud and clear. 

I’d rather die a hero than live in disgrace.

I winked at Betelgeuse one last time. 

“Iris, you have to eject! That missile is coming in fast!”

In a last ditch effort, I popped my canopy. 

“What are you doing?”

Wind slammed into my chest. I could just make out the missile Flight Command was talking about, and they were right. I only had a few seconds left. 

“IMPACT IMMINENT. CHANGE COURSE IMMEDIATELY.”

I reached behind me and wrapped my hands into as much of the soft dirt as I could. Vines wrapped around my arms and red blossoms bloomed in front of my eyes, but I shook them free. 

Just another second or two.

“Go,” I said to the flowers as I hurled them into the sky. “Bring us eternal spring.”


Child of stars…”


A brilliant ball of golden fire filled my view. It slammed into my ship’s fuselage, lighting up what was left of its war-torn skeleton in a burning inferno. 


“CRITICAL SYSTEMS FAILURE.”


…the galaxy will remember your name.

March 22, 2021 21:19

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6 comments

Josselyn S
19:32 Mar 30, 2021

beautiful story!

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Claire C
13:21 Mar 31, 2021

thank you!

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Nina Chyll
16:55 Mar 28, 2021

I really enjoyed the idea of bringing seeds back to charred Earth (if I understood correctly). Also, the view of the planet made me think of McCarthy's 'The Road' and I love that novel, and somehow, I thought this story could happen in its lonesome universe. Betelgeuse, the glowing red chip on Orion’s shoulder - a beautiful turn of phrase, I'm infinitely jealous. I thought it was a really brave piece in its unabashed creativity. The only thing I thought was that the quick-firing warnings were perhaps one too many.

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Claire C
21:02 Mar 28, 2021

thanks so much for your feedback!

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Sam Ackman
02:08 Apr 04, 2021

This is a great such a great story. Easy to read and felt fairly real. Not much time to get much sympathy for the character in such an action sequence but you painted her decently. Good job :)

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Claire C
20:45 Apr 04, 2021

thanks!

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