on whims of vengeful starlight

Night stars are benevolent, unlike the pitiless lord of the day. Under the moon’s placid gaze, Sesylie can pull off her goggles and drink in as much ultraviolet as the heavens will grant her. Lest her absence become contested, she resists the urge to wander and sprawl on the chalky jigsaw flats of the Barren. The last time she did, the crisp air tempted her to sleep and she woke to Nyria raising Sol in search of her. If she stays close to the mottled obsidian guarding the mouth of the launch cave, she can trawl the waters of her mind in peace.

As she samples the wavelengths, she considers their source. Any one of these gentle lights might contain a dying moan of radiation that would end the world once and for all. But she can’t hold it against them. Though her upbringing was steeped in Berai superstition, she doubts stars have will beyond a desire to burn bright as they can with what they’ve been given. In that, she has sympathy for the little sun, not hot or dense enough in life to become explosive or exotic in death. No wonder it lashes her people with its tongue of fire, its withering light. It feels the sting of not measuring up.

Maybe sympathy isn’t the word for what Sesylie feels. Empathy might be more like it. Yes, though it will take everyone she loves from her–has already taken everyone she loves, in a way–she feels a kinship with the sun above all stars. She knows all too well what it’s like to question your place in the cosmos.

#

Inside the crystal-lined cave, the humid air is thick with anticipation. Sesylie sinks into the embrace of the vessel as Meroan explains yet again what she can expect of her journey.

“I wish we’d been able to build in a readout, a control panel, something in here so you’d know if you were going off course,” he says. He picks at the vessel’s acrylicine walls, his dark eyes narrow. “This thing is a piece of fesh. Should have spent more time digging around the Domes for parts.”

“It’s fine, Mero,” she says. “It will work. You risked enough getting what you did.”

“Under any other star…” Meroan shakes his head and stops before he finishes the adage. “Anyway, I know, I know we’ve gone over this–but you have to stay focused when the engines are on. You get sucked into one of your spirals and there’s no telling where you’ll end up. Or when.”

“Mmm,” she says, gazing over his smooth brown head at the amethyst formation on the wall. It’s amethyst in name only now. Just the palest hint of blotchy lavender distinguishes it from clear quartz. Another casualty of the sun.

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