Sea Full of Stars
Zef was finishing up repairs on the space telescope when a stream of glittering, translucent bodies passed overhead. The sight stole his attention. Astreya fish never swam this close to a planetary orbit. He checked his vitals to ensure he wasn’t hallucinating from a lack of oxygen.
No, this dream was real.
Their fins fanned out to capture the solar wind, aurora sails streaming jade, magenta, and indigo-violet. Long koi bodies twirled around one another in intricate dance. Their tails curled into the spiral likeness of a galaxy. Stardust trailed from their silvery scales, draped over the void like jewels on black velvet.
Then she appeared, a great guardian astreya fish. She overshadowed the school of smaller fish; her bulbous body held a hazy, pearly glow, like a snowstorm captured within a bubble. Tentacles spread out from her sides, as though reaching for the edges of the universe. The smaller fish darted playfully among her tentacles; their shimmery touch a celestial webwork.
Zef gazed in awe, his work forgotten, swaying lightly to the astraya’s motion. Lights grew in the fishes’ bellies. Fragile at first, but soon intensified, almost as though they gestated stars.
A shadow appeared in the corner of Zef’s vision, grew from a dot to a tenebrous ship, running lights dark, stealthed against casual notice. Base should have notified him of any ships in the area… When Zef tried to contact base, he found his signal blocked. Pirates, perhaps, or…
Poachers. Nets blossomed from the hull of the dark ship, capturing netfuls of astreya fish.
The fish clustered around their guardian. Her tentacles writhed and contracted close to her body, like the arms of a mother protecting her children.
The poachers had come prepared.
Harpoon torpedoes fired and speared the guardian’s body, began pulling her in for the kill. Zef felt her silent vibrations of pain echoing through space. His muscles went limp, and for a moment he lost his grip on the telescope. His mind went liquid with panic, then solidified as his hand snagged the frame and he re-anchored himself.
Zef carried a gas cannon and a backpack full of thermal bombs for deflecting large debris away from the fragile telescope. The explosive charges packed enough punch to damage engines. He gripped the cannon’s handles and used spurts of gas to propel himself toward the poacher, with luck a stellar mite too small to register on their sensors.
The vibrations of pain deepened, battered at him in silent waves.
He was close enough. He extracted a handful of disc-shaped bombs, from his backpack. Broke the seals all at once and tossed them at the engine pod. Their magnetic bases latched onto the hull, timer lights blinking a red warning.
He turned the gas cannon around and accelerated away from the ship.
The cannon puffed gas from a new hole in its middle, began spinning him end over end. As the ship whirled past his eyes, Zef saw a space-suited man with a rifle, aiming at him from an open airlock, firing –
And then the ship exploded. Zef was flung outward at the verge of an expanding cloud of debris, the gas cannon torn from his grip. Stars whirled madly about him, then went black.
When he regained his sight, the ship was a distant scatter of firey fragments, the telescope a shrinking point of light.
He had four hours of air in the tank… the rescue team would never find him before it ran out. Space had him now. They would only reclaim his cold corpse.
As he drifted he imagined majestic astreya, softly dusting the horizons of planets across the dark expanse. He would join their stardust in that eternal dance.
His back contacted something soft and blubbery. He opened his eyes to find a tentacle wrapped around him, cradling him in its glowing embrace. The tentacle drew him in, and he clung to it, full of sudden hope.
She deposited him near the telescope; her movements so graceful, she did not disturb its orbit. Zef’s breath came hot with relief. All he could see through the fog of tears was the school of astreya fish being led away by their guardian. He waved goodbye, feeling a little foolish.
No one would ever believe it, but he thought he saw one of her tentacles wave back.
“Sea Full of Stars” © Siobhan Gallagher
Siobhan Gallagher is a wannabe zombie slayer, currently residing in the Forever City. Her fiction has appeared in several publications, including AE – The Canadian Science Fiction Review, On Spec, Abyss & Apex, Unidentified Funny Objects anthology, and Grimdark Magazine. Occasionally, she does this weird thing called ‘blogging’ at: defconcanwrite.blogspot.com
“Sea of Space” © Alexander Rommel
Alexander Rommel, aka Evergreenarts, is a German artist who loves creating digital paintings of skyscapes. His works shows the magical beauty of the skies with its delicate and complex mixtures of clouds, wind, and sun. In some works, he mixes landscape with science fiction and fantasy elements. Check out his work at http://naldzgraphics.net/inspirations/evergreenarts-digital-paintings-alexander-rommel-skies/