“Good morning, Tibbs,” Rasa said. She said it every morning, even when there wasn’t a morning. If she hadn’t stopped when Tibbs left, why stop when there wasn’t a sun to rise? Rasa rolled out of the bed, sinking too deeply into the foam and the overlarge depression in it. Tibbs liked it soft. After a quick rinse, Rasa squeezed through the corridors to the bridge, where the dispenser gave her hard-boiled eggs and sausages. Rasa only ate the eggs. Sausages were something Tibbs liked.
Rasa lived on a haunted spaceship. She didn’t have to. She could have told the computers to fix it, to clean it up, to erase it, but she didn’t. Rasa let the spaceship stay haunted. The computers didn’t care. That was why Rasa liked them.
In the too-large chair at the navigation center, Rasa did her best to keep things on course. She’d just done the jump yesterday, so it was another six days of deceleration before she’d reach Pendergast and deliver yet another cargo. Mostly data, these days. Shipping wasn’t profitable unless you had a far larger ship than she and Tibbs could have afforded, and the money for a license and a scanner and certification. People were nervous about contamination. And so Rasa was sitting behind an enormous jet of heated particles, watching the blueshift fade, riding on what amounted to a giant metal mail bag. A haunted mailbag.
Rasa squirmed in the space meant for Tibbs and called up a view of the stars ahead. She wondered how many of them were burned out already, light from dead stars. “I’m using you up,” she told them. “Too fast now.”
She wondered what it would be like to not stop. To turn off the decel and fire up the Keppler Tank over and over and over until she ran out of fissionable material and the nanobots stopped rebuilding, just fly out into the dark spaces in between, read other people’s mail until she knew their stories better than her own. She could grow old out there, in the places between the stars, the gaps and holes left behind. She could jump back and back and back to the place where the star’s light was still new and fresh.
But she’d seen that light before. She had the tan and the scars to prove it. It wouldn’t be the same light, anyway; it would be older, light that had been around the block and seen a few things since it bounced off her skin, since it reflected in her eyes and his eyes, inches apart, in the warm dark flying through the cold dark.
The computers whirred to life. They’d hit the laser-comms from Pendergast, information beamed out five or six days ago, traveling at the pokey speed of mere light. This was new light, shaped light, light serving other people’s needs. News. Information. Connections.
Rasa watched the computer screens flicker for a long while before she reached to type in the commands.