December 25, 3491
Whitey was a wreck.
Born a thousand years earlier on a planet a thousand light years away, the ancient freighter had made a thousand long forgotten runs for hundreds of years, no doubt providing a living for long forgotten crews. Somewhere in its dim history something had happened, and the ship had gone adrift, somehow managing to travel this vast distance to the Thargout system.
It might have been manned when it entered orbit, or perhaps had been taken over at the last minute – no one really knew. It had been under command, though, when it was crash landed onto Thargout by the Pilot, a man of uncommon skill. Perhaps the Pilot had planned the landing area; perhaps not. But it certainly appeared planned, for the huge craft had landed on an even keel and for the most part intact on the leeward side of the Pilot mountains. It lay half-buried in a deep grove of evergreen trees, less than one hundred meters from a permanent hot spring and only fifty from a permanent spring of drinkable water. From that point on, Whitey would never fly again.
But Whitey didn’t die.
The Pilot stayed and opened a small business of trade, supply and shelter for weary wayfarers who happened to be traveling in this obscure sector of the Milky Way. He married one of those wayfarers and raised a family. As the years passed, their children grew up and raised their own families, as did their children. Now, four hundred years later, the post had closed, and the people had all departed, leaving Whitey and the grave of the Pilot unattended.
All but two.
Greg and Li Disandro remained, brother and sister. Born on Whitey seventy-two years earlier, the twins had nowhere else to go when their children and grandchildren pulled up and headed to the town of Nuflaenhouch on Uklanivet, some twenty light years away. They were not lonely – twenty light years was only an hour’s flight – and they stayed busy, looking after Whitey and tending the graves of the Pilot and the others who had poured their souls into this small, peaceful planet that was abandoned, save for two.
In was Christmas morn, and snow lay deep on the ground. Greg rarely activated the thermal shield because Li so loved seeing the snow outside the large bay window cut into the port side of the ship. (Right between the D and I – or maybe it was an L – of the ship’s name, faint but still visible to those with a healthy imagination and a keen sense of what was.)
Greg woke up and made his way to the kitchen. Whitey had not had its own power for centuries, but there was more than enough from the modern chronofusion reactor located in the forward hold. He brewed a potent tea and prepared a hot breakfast for his dear sister. He always served her in bed on holidays. It was a simple yet elegant gift and she appreciated it very much.
“Merry Christmas, Greg.”
He turned quickly at the soft voice, startled. There was no one behind him, but one of Whitey’s screens glowed a dim blue. Approaching it, he stared in amazement. It was Whitey’s mission logs! All of them! They’d never been seen before; the ship a derelict for ages. Li must have somehow repowered the logs and had given him this priceless look into ancient history as a gift. Hurriedly, he gathered up Li’s breakfast and carried it to her room, his heart overflowing with happiness and love.
He walked into her cabin and saw that Li was staring into another screen monitor, tears in her eyes. At his entrance, she looked up at him, her lips trembling.
“Greg, dear! Thank you so much!” she exclaimed in joy. “Whitey’s logs! It’s like a precious visit from an old friend. How ever did you manage it?”
Whitey was a wreck.
Copyright ©1998 by Peter Prellwitz All Rights Reserved.