They say there are no stars in space. But there are. I’ve seen them. You just have to look in the right places.
Vera is the name of my ship. We’ve been together for seven years now. It’s a complicated relationship, that of a man and his ship. But in the end, it boils down to one simple thing: if you look after her, she will look after you. It’s been a long – and often difficult seven years – but the best seven years of my life. However, like most things, all relationships have to end. All journeys must eventually reach their destination.
In 45 minutes, we will be arriving at ours. A lonely little planet, in the middle of a star field. It doesn’t have a name and I like that about it. A small, uninhabited planet with no name, surrounded by stars that most people would deny the existence of. A perfect place for retirement.
I found her abandoned on a waste planet. A rock on which people discard the things they don’t want anymore. Things they no longer hold dear. Things they no longer love. A cold planet. An awful place to end a journey. I went there to die. The foul air on that planet is just toxic enough to kill a man, if he stays there long enough. My calculations suggested that nine hours would see me off. I figured I might as well explore the place. Soak up the atmosphere – the misery. The things that people waste fascinate me. A lot of it is junk, of course. But there are things amongst the scrap that don’t belong. Things that would easily bring joy to the right person. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure and all. It is a shame that the people who discard them can longer feel that joy, so the scrapyard becomes home for things that were once loved so dearly. I considered taking off my wedding ring and leaving it amongst the junk. I hadn’t needed it since my wife left three years prior. But the ring wasn’t junk to me, our time together wasn’t wasted. The ring stayed. It could stay with me through death and decomposition – and join the scrap when I’m gone.
I wandered through the wreckage and waste for hours. The toxic air had begun to make me light-headed and a mist had formed over my eyes. Everything had started to become a mess of grey and brown. As I wandered further and my vision worsened, a hot pink smudge burst through the haze. Upon closer inspection I discovered that the smudge was a bright and curvy font, printed on the exterior of a small cruiser, half buried in the junk and shrapnel. Vera.
I was enamoured with her at once. I checked the time and figured I had just short of three hours before I slipped into unconsciousness. I set to work immediately: digging her out of the early grave that had started to engulf her. Once she was out, I realised that she was in much better condition than I expected. All she needed was a bit of light patchwork to the exterior, some rewiring on the main control panel and a new pyrotechnic igniter for the rear thruster. I was able to find most of the parts I needed from other discarded ships and cruisers. I even snagged some pink dice to hang in the cockpit.
The toxic air was really starting to affect me at this point and I was in no fit state to fly, so I set her on an auto-course for the nearest occupied planet where we could rest, refuel and work on repairs. Once I got her back in top shape, she was incredible. A mean little beauty with the elegance and pride of a female lion – with a bite to match. She was a nippy little vessel and she got me out of a few scrapes that I was lucky to escape in one piece.
That was seven years and fifteen days ago. Since then, we’ve seen most of the known universe together – and some of the unknown. We’ve had our ups and downs, of course we have – but she has always been good to me and I have always tried my best to be good to her. As much as I have enjoyed it and I wish I could do it forever, my wandering days are over. Hell, they were pretty much over that day we found each other, amongst the wreckage. She’s still got plenty life left in her though. That’s why we must part ways. She’s still as good a ship as she ever was. Ground's no place for a machine like Vera. She must be free. Free to soar through space; to zip through asteroid fields and glide through the endless darkness that she embraces so well. That is why I’ve decided to set her to autopilot, on a never-ending course. She still has enough fuel and back-up resources to keep her moving for the next two years. By then, I imagine I will have departed this world. Still, when her fuel does run dry, she will drift on. Floating gracefully into the void.
In two minutes, we will be approaching the star field that surrounds my new home. It is almost time for us to part. I suit up and prepare for my short journey to the planet’s surface. I set Vera to autopilot. Take her pink dice and tie them to my suit. Remove my wedding ring and place it on the control panel. I see light in the distance. We’re approaching our destination. Stars begin to glimmer through the glass screen of our cockpit. This is goodbye.
Illustration by Saffron Bell - Instagram: