Farewell, Star Harbor
Like as, our lives push outward, to a star turned nova,
And oft, where the ripples meet,
We make connections
– Charles de Beauvier, ‘Recollections of Insanity,’ 1776.
We sit on the beach, side-by-side, watching the rocket trace a flaming arc across pale green skies. My feet dip into the foaming red surf and the meniscus clings to my toes like a hungry mouth in the low gravity. I raise the bottle: “Farewell, Star Harbor!”
My android companion gives a series of mechanical groans and lifts its claw in solidarity. “You are now the last human alive on this planet, Jana Morrow.”
I laugh, appreciating the inflection on alive . . . Yes, the last human alive, but the two corpses floating out there on the waves, they were human too. Raising the bottle to my helmet, I wait for brandy to slither down to the teat then take a sip. Not bad.
“What are your plans for the brief remainder of your life?” my companion inquires.
Squat, cylindrical torso, stick-like pistons for legs, stubby little head with two bright receptor-tubes eyes and a grid for a mouth. Ah well, considering what I had to resort to in terms of salvage, at least it functions. “Good question, Jonesy.” I tip a little more liquid into the valve. “I was thinking about opening a surfing resort.”
My companion – ‘Jonesy,’ as I’ve taken to calling him – says, “That was a joke.”
“In which case, ha-ha.”
I raise the bottle. “Touché.”
The accident that stranded me here was the result of three things: Bad timing, bad karma, and my own outrageous stupidity.
Bad timing was the storm. Our descent had been on-the-nose and then – out of nowhere – a swirling hail of yellow dust, hurricane-strength winds, and the ship had blown right over the one ‘dry’ patch that marked our landing site. Joely – the ship’s female AI – started barking warnings, multiple alarms set to squawking, screens were flashing and the cockpit erupted in clipped, military babble, but it was too late. We struck the dome of one of the big purple trees and the tail section detached. Then we were falling fast, impacts hammering the hull . . . This is where my stupidity came into play. In the heat of trying to control our decent, I’d neglected to attend to the warning light that was desperately trying to inform me that shutting down engine-number-four would be a marvellous idea. Said engine promptly exploded, and we lost three of our nine-person crew. We pitched down, cockpit a bloody, smoking mess, punching through the brittle forest canopy like a fist, till we struck the slightly more yielding floor and there what remained of the ship had split in half.
Nine months ago. Back when I was clean shaven and not wearing rags.
Oh yes, the bad karma . . . That came in the form of the pack of gigantic wolf-like Scrawn’s that were waiting for us outside.
“Would you like another drink?”
“I believe I’m done for the day, Jonesy. I may turn in.”
My gleaming partner nods with a sound like a creaking hinge.
The rocket has become a moving star, soon lost among the countless companion points. Tossing the last of the brandy into my helmet I half-stand, half-stagger to my feet. The red waves make wet licking sounds, but the legs of my suit are dry. I look down at the spindly robot. The tips of his claws are red too, but this is blood . . . Or – to be more specific – this is the blood of Lieutenants Bakker and Hobbes.
“The alternative is to rust. I suppose I shall come.”
I haul him up with a grin. “Your humour routines are my proudest achievement.” The sky beyond my faceplate has begun to darken and the winds are picking up, but I’m not worried. The big storms come only once every couple of months; the bitter squalls that intervene are nothing in comparison.
Today is my twenty-seventh birthday.
I’ve been here 265 days.
“Jana Morrow,” Jonesy says, “I truly pity your smallest achievement.”