Repulse by Will Swardstrom

The ship’s repulsor kicked on and another hurdle was cleared. Another asteroid towed in the name of progress. The Galactic Superhighway needed space and Javon and his crew were part of the solution.

“That’s PF-95064 down.”

Javon imperceptibly moved his head, but it was enough for his navigator, Lesh Pollax. The two had been a tag team since they had both become refugees twenty-three years earlier. Sometimes lovers, the two maintained a steady professional relationship for the good of the crew. If they knew that the rest of the crew had no illusions about the pair, they might have been more open about their love lives.

Lesh immediately piloted the ship towards the next asteroid in the proposed highway flightplan. PF-95065. At a certain point, they all turned into just that. Letters. Numbers. It didn’t register with Javon and his crew anymore. They were just hunks of rock they were hurtling towards the nearest sun.

The scar on his lip told a small part of Javon’s story. How years before he and his family had left their home planet. A mass exodus of sorts. They had been driven out by fear and greed, but it was small consolation when those who had driven them out had imploded the entire planet just a few hours later.

In the confusion, Javon and his family had gotten separated. He’d been with Lesh that day. They day the world ended for them. The day it ended for so many of their kind.

Lesh knew when Javon was lost in his thoughts, and coughed once, snapping the captain out of his own reverie. But the cough was immediately followed by a series of beeps from her console.

“What’s that?”

Lesh ran her fingers over the controls, momentarily confused. It’d been a while since she’d gotten a ping like that. A message from the past. Whenever she’d seen one before, the one who’d recorded it had been long dead. A voice from beyond the stars.

“Uh. Looks like a beacon.”

“Why didn’t we catch it before now?” Javon asked. Beacons were scattered throughout the universe and projected their pings across millions of kilometers of space.

Lesh furrowed her brow. “It just looks like a beacon. It’s actually designed to mimic a beacon. It’s an old trick designed to catch the attention of the next ship that passed by. Whoever recorded it borrowed the signature from the beacon a few systems over.”

“So what is it?”

“It’s a recording. Someone’s last message. Their final words before…” She couldn’t finish. Javon knew what she meant.

Javon paused, and put a hand on her shoulder. He knew the final moments of their world were hard on her, too. Moments like this…seeing someone else’s final words…were tough on Lesh. “Right,” Javon said. “Send the message over to my terminal and I’ll watch it. They deserved that much. You keep flinging those asteroids. Take care of 95065 and move on down the row.”

He shuffled his feet over towards the captain’s chair and flung open his screen. The file was waiting for him. Javon took a deep breath and clicked.

And found himself struggling for breath.

“To whomever finds and watches this recording, I thank you. I have so many regrets, but my one main regret is that I lost my son. Over two decades have gone by and I am plagued by guilt every day. So, thank you, but the rest of my message is to my son, Javon Gracekill.”

Lesh heard the words from Javon’s station, signalling another crew member to resume the asteroid work as she went to the captain’s side. He barely felt her touch as the face of his mother filled the screen. The voice he thought forever silenced. Speaking.

“Javon. I am so sorry for that day. We were supposed to be together, but I had sent you to be with the Pollax family that morning. When the riots got out of hand, it was impossible to get to you. You were so young…just eight years old. Now, you must be…at least thirty-one.”

Javon’s mind raced. With the twenty-three year gap since the planet’s destruction, she said his exact age. That meant the recording hadn’t been made in the immediate years following the evacuation; it was more recent. In the past few months at least.

“We tried to look for you over and over again, but we got stuck on Nebulus Prime without any funds. When we were able to get enough money to get off, but the lousy rust bucket your brother managed to trade for broke down.”

She tilted her shoulder and Javon saw a much-older form of his older brother. One he figured never imagined growing up. He grimaced at the camera and she turned back. Javon seemed to notice from the first time that her hair was longer, greyer. Her face longer, leaner. Yet it was still his mother. He couldn’t help it. His eyes began to water.

The crew all around Lesh and Javon continued the work of flinging the asteroids towards the nearest star as Javon himself was back on his own, extinct planet.

“We tried to find you, but couldn’t. Your brother and I ended up on an asteroid. What’s the number, Pledias?” A mumble from behind. “Oh yes. Asteroid PF-95066. We are recording this on Stardate 253458.956.”

Javon bolted to his feet. That date was just two days ago. He turned to face the main screen as PF-95066 was engaged by the ship and violently repulsed across the universe. His mother. His family with it. He could barely see as the voice of his mother carried on behind him.

“I’m so sorry Javon. I wish I could have been there when you needed me most. I love you now and always will. No matter what.”

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