Past Light

Chapter 1

Plans, Planets and Plants

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There was no future out here, only the past.

No matter the incredible velocity an object attained, in deep space it would appear to float timelessly. Most of the light reaching the little surveying ship had travelled for millennia. The man staring out through the front windowpane of the cockpit saw the stars as they existed hundreds and thousands of years ago. Hanging silently in space, he and his ship were bathed in the ambient light of bygone ages. The past seeped everywhere and clung to everything; there was no future.

The interstellar surveyor hated this idea.

“Damn,” he muttered.

So he wouldn’t have to see the stars, he entered the new coordinates and sent his ship into its next wormhole jump.

Wanting a distraction from his unwelcomed thoughts, he turned to the here-and-now of the cockpit. His mail file was still open on the display pane of his SynCom, so he swiveled his seat and selected a message.

The face of a man appeared with tan skin and short straight black hair. The dark eyes reflected a stern calm.

“Don’t show your face here anymore or nobody will ever see it again,” the image said. The soft voice didn’t match the serious tone of the threat.

The surveyor knew it should bother him, but it didn’t. Somehow, having to travel two hundred and some odd light years, the words just didn’t pack the intended punch. He’d worry about it later.

“Go sink into a sewer,” he grumbled. “You and your entire moronic family.”

He deleted that response, of course. No sense in making things worse. Instead, he spoke to impress the impassive display pane.

For amusement, he picked another he hadn’t seen in a while. The image of a second man popped into view with similar features to the first, but heavier and more animate.

“You better just disappear!” shouted the impassioned speaker. “If I find you hanging around, if I find out you said one word to her, I’ll break you!”

“I know. I know,” the deep-space pilot began another reply intended for no one to hear. “You were hoping that yelling would miraculously turn a useless drain clog like you into a man. Keep dreaming.”

For a while the surveyor had reviewed the messages every week or so, whenever he felt the need to score the last word with some cleverly composed wisecrack, but he had not played this little game for over a month. Today he was bored and found himself tapping around on the SynCom. He watched a vidcast, toyed with some other pastimes, and now he found himself returning to these old standbys.

The SynCom bleeped. It took a moment for the pilot to recognize the sound, but it soon incited a panic. A text bubble appeared telling him the message had been successfully sent. Somehow, he had accidently hit the wrong command.

“No, no, no, no…” He shot the words out in rapid succession, as if trying to blast the message out of existence. He smashed commands onto the pane, but it was too late.

“Guess I won’t be going back there,” he concluded with a sigh.

Despite the wide selection of engaging missives, a certain memo tag always drew his eye, but he never opened this one a second time. The message that started this whole correspondence love-fest contained nothing amusing, nothing worth ridiculing. He probably would have dumped the thing long ago if only doing so could alter the fact he had seen it. The message was from his wife.