She was humming again. Had you asked him, perhaps he would have told you that it was the humming that made him fall in love with her, but that, of course, wasn't exactly the case. He would never be able to tell whether it was the humming, the humor, the genius, the voracious fascination with circuits, motors, and moving parts, or the way she made old-fashioned ham and swiss sandwiches with just the right amount of mayonnaise.
"What?" Sarah looked at him, or at least her reflection in the mirror did. One of her hands was trying to pull a few stray strands of mostly-wavy-and-slightly-frizzled red hair around a messy bun behind her head, while the other couldn't seem to stop poking and prodding at some sort of circuit board sitting in front of her on the "vanity". She was using a soldering iron. Why in the good heavens did she bring a soldering iron in here?
"You're going to set off some sort of alarm." He didn't point out that she was humming again. A part of him was worried that if he did she wouldn't do it anymore, and that would certainly be a shame.
"Hmph. No way." She now had a bobby pin in her mouth. He had no idea how it had gotten there. Female magic, most likely.
"No way, I'm very shneaky."
" 'Shneaky' huh?" Miles couldn't help but smile.
"Yup." She gently, almost tenderly, set the little circuit board and soldering iron aside and turned to face him, sliding the bobby pin into place behind her head. "That's why you married me, right?"
"Because you're 'shneaky'?" Miles looked amused, "Nah. I married you for your sandwiches." He grinned.
"Brat." Sarah stuck out her tongue and seemed unable to keep herself from grinning in return.
"Mhm. The brat needs to brush his teeth." He scooted around her and reached into a compartment in the bulkhead beside the mirror, pulling out a green toothbrush and a tube of something that smelled way too strongly of baking soda.
"Ugh, that stuff is disgusting." She had retrieved her circuit board and was now sitting on the edge of the bed, trying to decide whether it would be more fun to tease him or to keep working.
"What's that?" Chimed miles, toothbrush already in his mouth and sawing away, "You want a kiss?"
"Ew." Sarah's nose crinkled and a few tiny blossoms of white light bloomed briefly under the tip of her soldering iron, followed by a few puffs of smoke.
The cabin was not very large, even by middle-class standards. It consisted of one room with a tiny offshoot of a bathroom, separated by a doorway, but no door. There was one slightly dirty mirror, the tiny "vanity", and a small upright shower, which included a pull down compartment for the toilet. In the shower. Miles had whined a little about that at the beginning of their stay, but Sarah's teasing had been enough that he didn't feel the urge to whine anymore. Besides, it didn't really bother him as much as he let on, he just liked to give her an opportunity to tease him.
The main section of the cabin certainly wasn't much larger, but whoever designed these stations had most certainly adopted the mantra "economy of space". Pretty much everything slid out of a compartment in the wall. Refrigeration units, food processors, the bed, the sink, and several storage compartments. The room was also filled with sounds. Whirs, clicks, swishes, and the occasional scraping, grinding noise. The two of them hadn't really felt the urge to pay for anything soundproofed, they weren't staying long anyway, and while Miles didn't know nearly as much about machiney-type things as his wife, one thing he did know was that large starports were noisy.
"You ready?" He spit his toothpaste into the sink, pushing a small button that vacuumed everything in the basin to places unknown. To be recycled, no doubt. He didn't think about that too deeply. Miles generally didn't like reminding himself that most everything that went into him was recycled from something that came out of someone else.
"Mhm." Sarah had carefully wrapped both circuit board and soldering iron in a small piece of cloth and tucked them...somewhere. More female magic, no doubt.
"What is that thing anyway?" Miles asked, drying his hands on his trousers.
"Whatever it is you're fiddling with."
"Ohh, it's an old Artificial Intelligence insert."
"Mhm. It was trashed. I'm fixing it, and then I'm going to upgrade it."
"Upgrade it, eh?"
"Yes. I'd like it to be able to fly a ship all on its own."
"Oh really? Trying to replace me so soon?"
"Exactly," she grinned impishly up at him and pushed herself off the bed. "You always pick the worst radio stations, and you never ask for directions."
Miles rolled his eyes in mock frustration. "It's a rule, Sar, men aren't supposed to ask for directions. I think it's in the fine print somewhere."
Sarah kept smiling, standing on her tiptoes to kiss him on the cheek. "Uh huh."
"And what's wrong with my radio stations?"
She gave him a very flat "you know what I'm going to say, so do I really need to say it" look.
"Hmph. So judgemental." It was his turn to grin.
For a moment they just stood there smiling at each other, it was really quite silly, but they'd not even been married a year, so both of them were very much convinced of their own justifications for being terribly, sickeningly, maddeningly adorable. Though perhaps not in public.
"Let's go get some breakfast before we head to the hangar." Miles reached for a bag he'd left sitting near the doorway. The gravity in this part of the station was a little weaker than he had been used to, so he had to be a careful not to fall head over heels.
"Mhh.." Sarah just smiled and nodded, fiddling once more with the bun behind her head. She followed him out of the cabin as the door slid closed, clicking against the bulkhead behind them.
The room went dark, but the noises remained. An air circulator switched on--the fan rattled. A soft tapping moved from one end of the bulkhead near the bed to the other. And somewhere on the same deck someone else was speaking a little too loudly. Everything smelled (or tasted) a little like the electric tang of metal, and no matter where you were on the station it was always impossible to completely forget that outside, outside everything, there were no more clicks or whirrs or rattling of fans. There were only stars, and the vast empty spaces between them.
"Those were, without a doubt, the worst simulated eggs I've ever had." Said Sarah to no one in particular as the two of them strode through the doors to the tarmac.
"They weren't that bad."
"They were blue, Miles."
"Blue's a nice color."
"My food should not be blue."
"Mhh. I'll keep that in mind."
"Don't you get any ideas, Mister."
Miles smiled as the two of them made their way toward one of the industrial looking buildings that dotted the actual "star port" portion of the station that they'd called home for the last couple weeks. There was a rather large man standing just outside the tower they were approaching, datapad in hand.
"Hey, Martin!" Miles called out.
The man didn't look up from his pad. "Those pressure suits aren't going to do either of you very much good dangling around your waists like that."
"Ohh c'mon Martin. When's the last time the life support failed on the flight deck, eh?"
"Don't ask a question you don't want the answer to, kid." Martin looked up from his data pad, and Miles could swear he sensed a smile from underneath the darkened helmet visor, even though the man was clearly shaking his head.
"Is the old tub ready to go?" Sarah asked.
"Eh...she going to need a lot of work, but she'll definitely fly if that's what you're asking."
Sara's face clouded in mild irritation. "Work? What are you talking about... I left that Cobra in pristine condition when we landed..."
"Cobra?" Martin's voice was questioning, and the tiniest bit uncertain.
"Yes, Cobra. Big. Flat. Shiny spaceship. The one we flew in on."
Martin turned toward Miles. "You haven't told her yet, have you?"
" 'Course not." Miles said with a grin.
"Told me...what?" Sarah fixed her green eyes on his face with a mix of confusion, irritation, and curiosity.
"That's a secret." He said, still smiling.
The irritation in her eyes began to win out.
"He sold the Cobra." Martin chimed in.
"You WHAT?!?!" Sarah practically barked.
Martin's shoulders began to shake very slightly, as if he may have been chuckling silently under that dark helmet of his.
"Well aren't you helpful, Judas." Miles snapped at the flight deck overseer. He turned toward his wife, "Yes, I sold the Cobra, but maybe you should come downstairs to the hangar before you throw me out of any airlocks?" His voice was gentle, not wanting to push this particular surprise too far. It wouldn't be worth it if he weren't alive to see her reaction.
Sarah looked skeptical, slightly more curious, and still a touch irritated. She crossed her arms over her chest and nodded once.
The flight deck, itself, was as busy as one might expect. The trio weren't close enough to be able to hear the faint buzzing and whining of the letterbox, but they could see its pale blue forcefield off in the distance. Every now and then a ship would take off or land nearby, and Miles briefly wondered if maybe it would have been easier on his ears had he fastened up his pressure suit and put on his helmet. More constant than the sound of thrusters was the sound of traffic, as the various cargo transports, personnel transports, and other wheeled vehicles made their way over the tarmac or across the raised highways circling the starport itself. The metallic tang was still in the air, accompanied with the ever present smell of fuel. Both seemed to cling to the back of one's throat even after he'd left the flight deck behind.
The three of them made their way into a small lift that would take them down to the actual hangar. As was common in pretty much every station that Miles had ever visited, the ships were stored under the deck to avoid accidents. As the lift reached the bottom of its route, the doors slid open and Martin fidgeted with his datapad, before punching a few numbers into a console in the wall just outside the lift doors.
"I'll head back upstairs, you two are fueled up and good to go. But I wasn't joking about the work. She really could use some love." With that, Martin stepped back into the lift and the doors slid closed around him.
Sarah took the opportunity to punch Miles in the arm, quite hard.
"What did you do?!" She pinned him to a piece of metallic railing with just the force of those green eyes.
"What did I do?? You just hit me! Domestic violence!"
"Miles! Quit it! What did you do with our ship?"
"Take a breath, Love, it's alright, look." The two of them stood atop a short flight of stairs that led to the broad floor of the hangar. The space was huge, but had a hollow sort of feel to it, which managed to make one feel slightly claustrophobic, despite its size. Resting on the hangar deck was something much larger than a Cobra. The paint was a bit charred and blackened in some spots, and, depending on what angle you looked at it from, it was obvious that some repairs would have to be made, but the black letters stenciled on the side of her nose proudly proclaimed what she was: A Faulcon DeLacey "Python".
"I see a Python."
"Yes, you do," Responded Miles slowly, with a smile on his face.
"I... I don't understand..." Sarah first looked shocked, then confused, then heartbreakingly hopeful. Her gaze moved very quickly from the ship, to his face, then back to the ship. "Miles... there's no way that that...no way that we...." She looked up at him, her eyes pleading for the sort of confirmation that she was currently unable to put into words.
Looking down at her like that he had to exert all of his will not to just kiss her and postpone any further conversation, instead he spoke softly,
"She's a Repo...An old pirate ship that got shot to bits a few months ago. The System Authorities did a better-than-decent job of salvaging the hull and modules, and Martin managed to get me a price I couldn't refuse." He started speaking more quickly, a few traces of his insecurity that she might not like this surprise after all showing through in his haste, "He's right, she'll need a lot of work, and she's not much to look at just yet, and I had to sell the Cobra, and-"
He didn't finish what he was saying. It could be awfully hard to finish a sentence when someone else's lips were getting in the way. After Sarah was done taking her turn calming him down, he managed a deep breath.
"How did you manage it?" She asked him.
"I'm very 'shneaky'" he replied.
Sarah just smiled and kissed him again.
"I'm sorry I sold our ship..."
His wife shook her head. "You bought us a home."
"Do you...like it?"
"Do I like it?!" She looked at him as if he were crazy, and he quickly got the message. Of course she liked it.
"C'mon!" He grinned and tugged her down the stairs, making for the front landing gear which housed the gangplank.
Sarah followed along breathlessly, "I can't believe it...."
"Believe it! Here..." They had reached the front of the ship and Miles unceremoniously swept Sarah up into his arms, one across her back and one under her knees.
"What are you doing?" She laughed in his ear.
She shook her head once more and kissed him on the cheek--parts of her mind still trying to process the turn of events as Miles carefully picked his way up the stairs with his red-headed bundle, avoided the railings, and carried her across the threshold.
"Herring? You can't name a ship after a fish, Sarah." Miles was adjusting something under the pilot's seat, while his wife was several paces away at a console on the starboard side of the bridge. "Fish aren't scary, they aren't majestic, they don't inspire anything... except maybe hunger. Besides, the only herring I've ever known about has been pickled. Do you want to be pickled?"
"I like it, I don't know why, it's just fun to say." She punched a few keystrokes into the console and then unwrapped the little circuit board she'd been fiddling with for weeks. "It's unique." She added as she cracked open an access panel below the console she was working on.
Miles grunted as he tried to twist something under the chair that obviously didn't want to be twisted. "Unique... well yes, it is that."
"Alright, we're going to try this again, and it's going to be better this time." Sarah took a short, thin wire with some sort of adaptor on its end from inside the access panel she'd just opened up.
"That's what you said last time." Miles grunted again, still struggling with the underside of his chair.
"Here goes..." Murmured the red-headed woman softly, to herself. She plugged the wire into the little circuit board she'd been working on, waited for a few lights to flicker on, and then pressed a button on the console.
A star is a luminous sphere of plasma held together by its own gravity.
The voice reverberated throughout the ship much, much too loudly. Both miles and Sarah immediately stopped what they were doing and jammed their palms over their ears.
A star shines due to thermonuclear fusion of hydrogen into helium in its core.
"Turn it off! Turn it off!" Wailed Miles, unnecessarily, from the deck below the pilots chair. Sarah tried to punch at a few buttons while still keeping her ears covered. The voice droned on in that computer monotone that most AI's used, complete with a slight accent that most programmers seemed to think made them sound more credible.
A star's life begins with the gravitational collapse of a gaseous nebula of material composed mostly of hydrogen...
The voice devolved into several strings of numbers, random words, and an eventual inhuman screech as Sarah furiously punched buttons on the console. After a final keystroke she was able to unplug the AI and everything returned to "normal", though not before the pilot's chair spun in a circle, smacking Miles in the face.
"Well," exhaled Sarah, "That was an adventure...."
"Yeah," groaned her husband, "just like last time." He scrunched and un-scrunched his face, like someone who had just been hit in the nose.
"But hey," he gingerly touched his jaw, "At least it fixed my chair."
Sarah sat at a small desk in the small quarters on the not so small deck of the Python that she and her husband now called "home". They didn't bother renting their room in the station any longer, as long as Martin didn't mind them staying on the ship. He had told them he'd let it slide as long as they were still doing maintenance work, and the two of them were more than happy taking their time.
The AI sat in front of her on the desk, gradually evolving and taking on more little parts and chipsets. Miles didn't understand it at all, but it was his wife's favorite project. He didn't need to understand it to know that it made her happy.
Sarah let out a soft groan and massaged her temple and forehead with the fingers of one hand, squinting her eyes closed.
"You alright?" Miles glanced over at his wife from the small bunk fastened to the bulkhead. He had been reading GalNet on his datapad. Mostly out of obligation, as the news was never terribly uplifting.
"I'm fine... just a headache." Sarah blinked several times, though the lights weren't terribly bright.
"Maybe give it a rest for a bit?" He suggested gently.
Sarah ran both of her hands back across her scalp, raking her fingers through her unruly red hair.
"Hmm...yeah. Maybe, for a bit." She pushed herself slowly back from the desk and took the few short steps to the bed. Flopping down beside her husband, she wormed her way against his side and draped one arm over his chest. She hummed very softly for a few minutes before ending her song with a brief whimper and drifting off to sleep.
Miles kissed her on the head, laid his datapad beside the bed, and dimmed the lights. It wasn't long before his eyes, too, drifted closed.
The console lights and holograms flickered to life, and all across the ship they could hear systems powering up one by one. Everything seemed normal. No red warning lights, no shrill alarms, just the occasional click or beep of a message from the sensors or a GalNet update. The new power plant seemed to be working just fine.
Sarah was holding her breath.
Power Plant capacity at thirty-six percent. Shields online. Systems Nominal.
She let out a squeal of delight. "It works!"
Miles smiled from his spot in the pilots chair and swiveled to face his wife, who was standing at a familiar console on the starboard side of the bridge.
"Which, the new power plant, or your imaginary friend?"
She made a face at him. "She's not imaginary! Are you, ASTRA?"
I do not understand.
"Hmm." Sarah pressed her lips together in a thoughtful expression, "We'll have to work on that. And give you a name."
I am called ASTRA.
"That's an acronym, not a name. Don't worry, we'll come up with something!"
His wife was absolutely glowing, and as such Miles couldn't keep from grinning, himself. Her exuberance was contagious.
"You did it." He fell in love with her all over again. Though, he seemed to do that several times a week.
"Hmm." Sarah smiled. "Not yet.... not quite yet..."
Miles was swiveling his chair back toward the displays when his wife let out a soft gasp and pressed her palms to her head in a motion that was becoming far too familiar.
"Headache?" He got up out of his chair and moved towards her.
She nodded, squeezing her eyes shut and reaching out one arm toward him, it wobbled a little in the space between them, fingers looking for something that she couldn't yet open her eyes to see. Miles took her hand and then pulled her gently against his chest, granting her a bit of support.
Sarah sighed and leaned against him, she seemed frail and much weaker than he'd realized. The sensation startled him.
"You should rest more...." He said, resting his chin on top of her head. "We could rent a decent room for a little while, get off the ship for a bit. Martin would probably be overjoyed." He tried not to sound too worried.
Sarah just shook her head. "I like it here...it's quieter, what's more, she belongs to us...she's our home..." She took a few deep breaths, "Miles?"
He planted a kiss on her forehead as she craned her neck to look up at him.
One of the tiles in the floor was crooked. He kept coming back to that tile. Asymmetrical. Out of place. He'd counted the rest of them several times, but he always came back to that one. It was just as white as the rest of them, but something was wrong with it. Just barely. But wrong.
His hands were clasped in front of him, dangling fretfully between his knees as he hunched forward, exhaustion showing in every inch of his features. It was almost as if he'd been a part of this bench forever. He couldn't remember sleeping or eating, just sitting. Counting. He started over.
He saw Sarah standing at the console. It was last week. Or last year. Or a lifetime ago. He saw her standing there smiling and dancing a little to a song that she actually liked, because he'd let her pick the radio station that day.
She had picked up a small wrench or ratchet and started using it as an old-fashioned microphone, shimmying toward him and giving a little "come hither" gesture with her finger.
...twenty one...twenty two....
He remembered laughing, remembered pushing himself out of his chair and resisting the urge to dance as awkwardly as possible toward her. He remembered her gasp and the sound of the wrench, or ratchet, or whatever the hell it was, clanging against the deck as Sarah raised her hands to her head and squeezed her eyes shut. He remembered how she had just crumpled, as if all the air had been taken out of her. As if someone had thrown some sort of switch in her head and just...turned everything off.
...forty five...forty six....
She wouldn't wake up, oh God she wouldn't wake up and she wasn't moving. He remembered his attempts to calm himself down. Gathering her up in his arms...when did she get so light? Rushing her down the stairs to the lift on the other side of the hangar. All he remembered saying was "Martin" over and over again.
The deck chief had wasted no time calling for Emergency Medical. Everything happened so quickly. There were so many people. So much noise. Sarah wasn't moving and her lips were turning blue.
Crooked. Crooked. Crooked.
A man in white and blue stepped out of the room nearest the bench. He pressed a few numbers into a console near the door and motioned to Miles, who stood up much too fast, and wobbled a little on his feet.
"Is she...." He couldn't decide which question to ask.
"She's awake, yes. She'd like to see you, but she's not well. Try to take it easy?" The man had a kind voice.
Miles nodded numbly and quickly darted into the hospital room. Sarah reclined on a bed against the wall, near a rather large screen that played a simulated image of grass and trees and puffy white clouds in an azure sky. The curtain around her bed was drawn back and she was sitting up, a pillow propped behind her back. As soon as she saw him her eyes started to water and she reached up with both her arms. He was at her side before the first tear fell. Neither of them said anything for a very long time.
After a while he, very gently, guided her back to a reclining position. He brushed some hair out of her face, rested his hand against her cheek, kissed her forehead, he was terrified of not touching her, as if a part of him thought that if he couldn't feel her she would somehow disappear like vapor.
"They said it's in my brain..." She was looking at the screen beside her, where a simulated bird was busy building a simulated nest. "It's been there for a while, they said." She turned her eyes toward him. There was sadness and fear and a great longing. Miles just nodded dumbly and squeezed her hand, pouring every ounce of love and support he could into the gaze that he returned to her.
"Miles...I'm scared. I'm so scared...."
He didn't let her go. He would never let her go.
Neither of them could remember if it had been days or weeks. Neither of them really cared. The doctors had told them the truth, and the truth was harder and colder than the station walls and the space outside them. The treatments they needed they could never afford (and consisted of questionable ethics) and the treatments they could afford were painful and, in the mind of the doctors, futile. It was time to start measuring time, they said, so Sarah made a few jokes about her new expiration date. At first they were not very funny. Not very funny at all.
They would try for a year. They promised each other. A year of non-intrusive treatments and as much time as they could gather together. They would try for a year and then they would go from there.
A year turned into two, and they spent them well. The Herring (their ship/home) took them every place they had ever wanted to go together. To see the lush garden-scapes of Mars, the sisters of the Pleiades, a nebula or seven, Alliance Space, Empire Space, and every interesting system they could find in between. Until one day Sarah touched him on the shoulder, leaning in gently.
"Miles." She looked up at him, and something was different about the way she did. She was very calm, and a strange but gentle smile had settled on her lips.
"Miles, I can't see."
He took her back to the hospital as quickly as they could get permission to dock. The room this time was bigger, less-white, more comfortable. Both of them knew that this time she wasn't going to leave. Both of them had talked about it.
Sarah's vision returned shortly after, and as soon as it did she threw a wadded up piece of paper at her husband, reading a datapad next to her hospital bed.
"Hey, you rascal. What do you want from m-...Hey, you HIT me!" He tried to sound indignant, but ended up just smiling at her. Grinning, really.
She smiled right back, "Of course I did, I'm not blind." Their smiles turned a little sad. They both knew it wouldn't last.
"Miles, can you do something for me?"
"Of course." He scooted his chair in a semi-circle and as close to her bed as he could.
"I need you to bring me that AI chipset... from the Herring."
He frowned and laughed for just a moment, "Alright...though I'm not exactly sure why you'd want it..."
"Please...it's important," She offered him another gentle smile, "And it will give me something to do while I can still...do things."
The sadness inside them swelled momentarily.
"Alright...I'll bring it to you. What do you need in order to work on it?"
She beamed at him so brightly that it broke his heart.
"I'll make you a list!"
For a month or so that room became their home. Occasionally they entertained visitors, mostly they just sat in the quiet. They would talk, or they wouldn't, Miles spent a great deal of time reading to her, for when she tried her head couldn't take it. Whatever they did, a soft sort of comfort had settled over the room--a type of feeling that wasn't generally common in hospitals. Sarah poured everything she had into working on the little AI insert that her husband had brought to her from the ship. Late at night, when she thought he wasn't listening, she would talk to herself, poking and prodding at one end or another of the little device. When she was done poking and prodding she had it plugged into the console near her bed and began typing in line after line after line of code that Miles couldn't even come close to understanding. Talking all the while, sometimes humming. Occasionally she would stop to watch him, whether he was sleeping, reading, talking to the doctors, or just sitting. She would stop and look up at him and a soft smile would perch itself on her lips.
One night she kicked him out of the room. She'd never done that before but she said it was important, and she threatened to make him eat her hospital food for the next week if he didn't listen to her, so he swiftly complied. It seemed like he was in the hallway for an eternity, and he could remember looking down at the floor and noticing that same crooked tile.
When she finally let him back in she seemed more peaceful than she'd been for a long time.
"It's done." The words were like a sigh of relief, and she looked up at her husband with such love in her eyes that she didn't even need to ask him to come sit beside her. They sat there for a long time, sharing a lifetime of conversations without a single word.
Much later, in those few brief moments when she no longer felt sick or tired, and just before sleep had laid claim to the rest of her night, Sarah cuddled up against her husband, who had managed to fit the both of them onto the small hospital bed, and murmured something against his chest.
"What's that?" Miles turned his head a little, trying to catch what he'd missed.
"Promise me you'll use it. When I'm...when you go back to the ship. Promise me."
"I swear you love that thing more than you love me. But yes, I promise." The teasing was gentle, and the both of them smiled.
"Not even close." She squeezed him tighter.
"Are you still scared?"
She was quiet for a long time.
"I don't know...I feel different...somehow...like something important has happened, or is about to happen." She shifted a bit against him, "Are you still scared?"
Miles had been looking at the ceiling. "I am..." He said, very softly.
"Yes. I am."
The next day her sight was gone. The next week so was she.
For the rest of his life it would amaze him how something that he'd prepared for for so long could still feel so unexpected.
He sat in the chair by her bedside for a very long time. On the screen beside him a family of simulated birds cried out for simulated worms. There were chicks and a mother and bright sun and fluffy white clouds.
He turned the insert over in his hands. Again and again and again. He traced the little chips and grooves with his fingers and laid a few of the dangling wires over his palm. He looked at their different colors, their shapes, and their textures... and then he looked at nothing at all.
The bed next to him was empty. Empty.
It was a few weeks more before he was finally able to make it back to the Herring. It wasn't the Herring anymore, though.... seeing as he'd spent probably more money than he should having it repainted and reregistered. Now she was "The Red Herring", the color reminded him of Sarah's hair. He had decided very soon after...well he had decided that nothing he could do would erase the memory that she'd left on every console, bunk, and bulkhead, and there wasn't a single part of him that even wanted to try. His wife had poured her life into that ship for their few years together, and he had been there pouring right beside her.
He made his way slowly up the gangplank and remembered that fist morning when he'd carried her into the ship. He didn't know whether to smile or weep.
Once he was aboard and everything was closed up, he made his way to the console on the starboard side of the bridge and opened the access port beneath it. Almost lovingly he pulled the little bundle of chips and wires out of the jacket he wore over his pressure-suit, and fitted everything together exactly as he'd seen his wife do a hundred times. Once he was sure that everything was attached where it needed to be, and that all the lights were blinking when they were supposed to (not that he really had any idea when that was) he fitted the chipset into place and closed the panel. His finger hovered briefly over the console before he managed to press the button to boot up the programs that Sarah had spent the last few months of her life perfecting.
The lights in the cabin changed, subtly. A few systems switched on and off and reset themselves to certain parameters. It was almost as if Sarah had swooped in and set things up just the way she always liked them. He wouldn't be surprised if she'd changed all his radio stations, too. Part of him smiled, while something else lodged in the back of his throat and watered his eyes.
There was a soft beep, and then a voice came on over the occasional click of the sensors.
It was everything he could do not to break down right there. A single sob escaped his throat and he just smiled and shook his head, tears streaming silently down his cheeks.
You can change the voice in this... in my programming...after this message, if...if it's too hard to hear me like this.
He wiped his eyes with the sleeve of his jacket.
But I wanted to leave this for you. Something... I don't know. Something to remember me by. I wanted to tell you one more time how I felt about...about everything. About you. About this ship...about our home. About all the adventures, misadventures, and ham sandwiches.
He was crying now, leaning agains the bulkhead nearest the console he'd just activated, he leaned his back against it and slowly slid to the deck. He listened to her as she talked to him about their time together. She shared memories, stories, fears, doubts, dreams, and a great deal of love. She shared admiration, encouragement, and an overwhelming amount of faith in him. She spoke to him for what seemed like hours.
...and I really didn't mind your radio stations all that much. I promise.
That's...pretty much the end of this message, Love. I don't know what else to say and I desperately want to let you back in the room so you can come over here and sit with me. I hope you don't mind that I've done this...that I've programed in a few... changes. If it... if she...if she's too much like me, there are other settings, other voices, other modes...whatever. I just thought...Well I just wanted to leave something behind. Something for you. Even if it isn't much. It's some little part of me. Please take good care of her. Take good care of our home.
I love you, Miles. I love you so much. I promise you I'll never stop. I promise you I'll never be far. I love you.
The line went quiet. He sat there for a long time. Sat there until he could breath normally again and the rush of...everything... had finished passing through him. Grief, loss, pain, hope, joy, glee, sadness, remorse, gratitude, and an inexplicable feeling of peace. Peace.
Miles took a deep, steadying breath. Here goes.
He let out a funny sort of chuckle. The computer... she had emphasized the "commander" in a sarcastic sort of way, exactly how Sarah would have done it when she was making fun of him.
"Well, that's going to take some getting used to..."
Tell me about it. I've just put on a lot of weight.
Miles laughed and shook his head.
"You're so much like her. This probably isn't going to be good for my sanity."
I suppose we're a little like sisters, she and I. If it's too much you know you can always--
"Yes, I know... she told me. I don't want to." His voice was resolute.
Well alright then. Then I might as well make myself comfortable, seeing as I'll be here a while.
"Make yourself at home...Uhm... well what do I call you anyway? Herring doesn't really seem to fit..."
Herring?! You named me after a fish?
Miles couldn't help but smile, at that. "Don't blame me, it wasn't my idea. How about Red?
"Red"...I like it. Alright then, Red it is.
The ship gradually woke itself, powering up the engines and charging the shields. Miles didn't really have to do much of anything, and he could swear that if he listened close enough he could hear Sarah humming somewhere on deck. Perhaps it would be hard for a while, and perhaps he really would drive himself insane, eventually. But nothing in the galaxy of 400 billion stars would ever compel him to change a single line of the programming Sarah had labored over for the last months of her life. She had quite literally built herself into the bulkheads of their ship. She had made herself a part of their home.
"I miss her."
There was a pause. A brief pause. A human pause. He would swear by it.
I miss her too. Am I allowed to miss her too? I don't understand...
Miles smiled to himself as he slid into the pilots seat, punching a few numbers on the console that patched him into the flight deck.
"Guess we have a few things to figure out together, don't we, Red?"
I guess so...
She didn't say anything more. As he was preparing some of the systems for launch, she would prepare the others, and he didn't even really need to utter another word.
He punched his Pilot's Federation ID into the launch request and submitted it to Martin and the flight deck crew.
Commander Miles Walker
Last edited by UnmarkedBoxcar
on Tue Jun 30, 2015 2:50 am, edited 5 times in total.