Lucky At Last

Richard Scriven

The blue star is closer now, its brilliant light piercing the night and bathing me in strength. I feel better than I have for a long time.
"John," someone was calling.
I look 'round. It is Mi Li, her black hair framed by a distant constellation.
"We miss you so much, John," she said.
Sometimes they called me John.
"When, John . . . When are you coming back?" She began to cry.
"Soon", I replied. "Very soon."
"Oh John, we miss you so much," she sobbed.
"Soon Mi Li," I said. "Soon."

I leave her sobbing in the background. She'll soon go away. I only see Mi Li when I have been crazy for a long time, a very long time. But then it's better than being sane sometimes, especially in the long times between stars. The long times between stars are terrible. The blue star is closer now. I wonder if I will be lucky this time. I will wait and see.

"Johnny!" shouted Paul, as he pounded up the corridor towards me.
"Hurry up," I replied. "I'm waiting."
Paul was new in our block and I had told him about Lucy's ship. He didn't believe me.
He looks strange floating with me through space. I wonder what ship he's from.
We reached the door and squeezed through as it opened.
"Mom," I called out, "I'm home and I brought a friend." Mom turned and looked at Paul. She didn't like me bringing friends home.
"That's nice dear," she said, but didn't mean it.
"I'm going . . . to show him the picture of Lucy's ship." I say this in one breath and wait for her reply. She looms above us, the blue starlight flashing in her eyes. I quickly turn to Paul.
"I'm going to be an Immortal," I said. "Just like my sister Lucy, I'm going to see all the stars." Mom scowled at me.
"There are other things you can be, beside's an Immortal," she said (Mom always got strange when I said I was going to be an Immortal). "Useful, important things."
"Wow," exclaimed Paul. "I wonder what they're like."
"What?" asks mom.
"The stars . . ."

. . . shine around me and the blue star ahead is much closer. Soon I will be passing through the cometary halo. With luck I might encounter one but it's unlikely. I haven't been really lucky in a long time.

"You're lucky, boy, really lucky," the block leader said, as he beamed down at me. "Not many are choosen for this honour. The second from your family too. You do your parents and our sector proud." He was speaking for the monitors again and that was the only reason he had come to see me leave.
Mother was crying near Father. Why couldn't she just be happy?
"Please stop crying," I asked, "It's not like I'll be going yet. It'll be years before I get a ship." The stars blaze around us as we float through space.
"It's not fair," she shrieks, disturbing everybody.
"Don't cry dear," says father, as he comforts her. "He doesn't understand and you're just upsetting him." She'd always been strange about Immortals.
"It's alright," I tell her. "Soon I'll be an Immortal and nothing ordinary can hurt an Immortal. I'll live forever." Her cries get louder.

"Your body will be a marvellous thing; ever-lasting, self-reliant and aware of all your needs," quoted the Instructor. "It will be capable of great feats of strength and endurance, needing very little and giving much.
"Well cadets? 'Needing very little.' A very little what?" The Instructor was an Allmoster - better than practically everybody else but not quite good enough. He took pleasure in tormenting us with failure.
"You cadet!"
"Energy Sir," I respond without thinking. Energy is the only other thing I worry about.
"Energy, cadets. Very little energy but still measurable amounts." He's quoting again. "Even the solar winds can be just enough." He drifts before me, happy in his transitory rule. "And what happens without energy, cadet?"
"Shutdown Sir!"
"Shutdown. Beginning with the higher functions and continuing until only survival systems remain. Not a pleasant experience," he smiles.

I'm screaming again and I loathe it when I scream. I wish I knew why I do it. I wish I knew why these silly people haunt me. I wish for a lot of things . . . well, mostly one thing.
There don't seem to be many planets in this system, at least any that are of use to me. The blue star still blazes ahead, maybe it will be the one. I wish I could sleep, I used to have to struggle to stay awake but this body doesn't need sleep. Staying awake, that's funny. Not much is funny any more. We all laugh together.

"Are you awake yet John?" boomed a voice from the speaker.
"That's funny Will, really funny," I replied, giving Mi Li my best look of martyred suffering. "Don't you ever get tired of those old jokes?"
"No," he laughed. "It's time for your shift."
I got up and flexed my Immortal body for Mi Li, and she smiled gently at my preening. Beside the natural grace she brought to her Immortal body, I was a clown. Together we would live forever, cruising the galaxy and viewing the wonders of the universe, doing the work only Immortals can do, crewing the ships that ride between the stars.
"The port sensor antennae are playing up." Will's voice brings me back to the present. "The chief wants you to have a look at the hull connectors." I can hear him gloating over my misfortune.
"Why me?" I ask, smiling at Mi Li.
You're the one who's always trying to get outside to stargaze." He laughs. I turn off the speaker.
"When are you coming back?" asks Mi Li.
"Soon," I reply.
Someone sobs in the distance.

I exit the ship and feel the particle wind on my face. I wish I was naked among the stars, like in training, but I need my suit tools to work with. You don't need a suit with an Immortal body, just an energy source, like this beautiful wind.
The ship is doing barely one percent of the speed of light and most of the diversion shields are still off. I move towards the antenna complex, glorying in the view.
They're screaming at me again. I wonder why they scream at me. I wonder a lot of things. I'm standing in an antenna dish when the shockwave carries it away from the ship. Something has gone terribly wrong. I climb to the dish's edge and look back. The ship is now a rapidly growing cloud of debris, expanding around me.
I'm alive. My Immortal body, and distance, saved me from the blast and even the radiation I feel is harmless to me. The others were closer, much closer.

"Is anybody there?" I scream in panic, broadcasting as hard as I can. The voices scream with me.
". . . Anybody."
Nobody answers. I'm alone, alone and alive forever, my Immortal body, totally self repairing, totally aware of all my needs . . . but one. With this body I will live forever. Except that between the suns there isn't much energy. I feel a phantom chill. The screaming begins again. I wonder why they I scream.

The star is very close now - I think I passed a comet earlier. If I'd had some spare mass I could have used it to change my vector, but everything is long gone, used in previous attempts. I float naked through the universe. I am going to pass close to this star, maybe close enough and maybe this time I will be lucky. I haven't been really lucky in a long time.

I miss the sun. It's unlikely I will hit anything on the way out of this system. I wonder when I will go crazy again. It's better than being sane, sometimes, especially the long times between stars. I wonder what Paul thinks. I think I'll ask him next time I see him.

Originally appeared pp74-77, Eidolon Issue 01, May 1990.
Copyright © Richard Scriven, 1990. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with kind permission of the author.