From the author: A sci-fi short originally featured on With Painted Words, You Can't Disappoint the Stars is a story of chasing comets and memories.
Zo kicked her legs out, scattering pebbles like marbles as she flopped backwards. Stones studded under her back but the armour buffered her, smoothing it into undulations as she settled one arm under her head. The sky was alive with targets, lights streaking across the blackness with the speed of prey.
“Lying down on the job?” asked her companion, bright as the fleeing streaks above them. Abreem was one of the older chasers, able to communicate freely without the need for a neural bond. Zo like them, as much as one could like a sentient ball of… something, that you worked with.
“Enjoying the view,” she said, shaking her head. There was something magical, even in this vicious job, in simply watching the vastness of space. You couldn’t disappoint the stars. The cosmos didn’t care if you failed to meet your productivity target. No solar flare was concerned about the rent money or deadlines.
“You see this every time we go out collecting,” Abreem reminded her, wavering down and hovering in line with her face.
“And every time we go out collecting I’m reminded how amazing it is.”
“It’s space.” Abreem phased, pinks and whites turning fizzing green in annoyance.
“It is, and it’s huge. When I was a kid my dad told us all sorts of stories about space. Dragons that flew off the heat of the suns rays, drifting in and out of worlds on the radiation. Planets that could think, far beyond anything we could get our heads around, that had dreams lasting as long as it took humanity to crawl out of the water.”
“I’ve never encountered a dreaming planet,” Abreem said, dampening down to the size of Zo’s fist and setting against her neck.
“Me neither, yet.” Zo let out a chuckle, cupping Abreem in her palm and stroking a thumb along the edge of the flame. “If we did, what would you do?”
“Go away and leave it alone. It probably doesn’t want us waking it up.”
“That, is a very good point. I think you’re probably right there.”
“Do you often think about such things?”
“Not often, but when I remember it comes forward all at once.”
“Lucky you’re in the profession then, so you get to see it.”
Zo nodded, huffing a quiet laugh, “You’re right, as usual.”
“Is that why you chose the job?”
“I didn’t, I was just compatible and needed the cash. Not every idiot wants to hurl themselves though space.”
“I find it rather nice.”
“You don’t have limbs to worry about.”
“Paltry concerns, you know we’re far too good for that to be a worry.”
“Of course,” Zo said, nodding in approval.
“We should go after another.”
“This is correct,” Zo said, slipping her arm free and standing up. “Any you like the look of?”
“There’s a level five heading towards the next quad, that one with the blue aspect. Would put us over target and still give us time for some more.”
“I’ve never tackled a level five,” Zo said, squinting to look at it in the spread of pinpricks above. You got a knack for spotting the comets after a while, not just the streak of light but the afterglow, sprinkles of colour dying in its wake.
“I’d never steer you wrong,” Abreem assured her, blooming up to match the size of Zo’s head.
“Never have yet, indeed.” Zo hummed, lengthening her spear out and hefting the weight in her grip. “Alright then, lets do it.”
Abreem flared white in joy, expanding up to coat Zo’s body and hold her close, wrapped like a second skin. Zo crouched, nestled her spear close, then launched up, chasing the light.