A Corridor of Stars

Every stepped sent a most obnoxious metallic ping sound through the corridor. He would never understand why the standard issue boots had a little sliver of exposed metal in the heel, but that was not his job. Aeric Sauft had one job; walk the corridor and keep people where the needed to be. He was a well paid sheep dog. He was coming to terms with that fact.

The corridor under his purview was at least entertaining. Window ports gave a full view of the alarmingly empty scene of space as it zipped by. He assumed the ship was zipping through space at least, having no nearby reference points made it difficult to tell if the ship was actually moving. He found early on in his career that space travel was basically a really long trust exercise. Trust that the pilot is sending the craft in one direction or another, trust that there’s enough oxygen in the tanks to get from point A to B without turning purple, and most importantly trust that the artificial gravity keeps going.

He walked by windows and saw little specks of light light years away. He looked at the stars and wondered how many of them would be there tomorrow. How much of the light he saw now had sputtered out eons ago? The stars life could be proven for as long as that light echoed through the void. Once the light was gone, so was the star’s story.

He was not a fan of looking out the windows on an empty stomach. He became existential when he was hungry.

“Three hours to chow time,” he said checking his watch.  Some shifts felt longer than others.

He clanked along his route, taking quick looks out the windows and listening to the chatter from the labs and research rooms he protected.  He heard doors swoosh open behind him.

“Anything I can help with?” He asked as he turned to the sound’s origin.  One of the ship’s scientists quickly ran back into her lab.

“Well, that…that wasn’t nice,” he muttered.  A sheep dog so rarely conversed with the herd.

He turned around and continued his steady march.  Forty seven steps remained before the end of the hallway arrived.  He knew every inch of the hallway; his hallway.  It was a mind numbing routine.  As step 47 ended, he pivoted on his metal heel and turned, beginning his walk once more.  Same ping, same windows, same distant stars.

This time though, the slightest of motions caught the corner of his eye.

Darting by the windows was a small ship, moving faster than he thought ships could move.  Up and down, left and right; he hoped the folks inside had strong stomachs.

“Well, look at you,” he said, his head pressed against a window for a better view of the ship.  It was adorned with crests and sigils he did not recognize.  “You must be important with markings like that,” he said.

The ship danced around space.  He watched and smiled.

“Hey, Aeric, how’s it going today?” the voice of Rasivi Reed called.

“Come over here, Rasi, you have to see this ship,” Aeric frantically waved his hands to call over the young researcher.

“A ship? Out here?” Rasivi’s voice trembled.

“Yeah, it’s moving pretty fast.  I haven’t seen something so free in a long time,” Aeric could not remove the smile from his face if he had to.

Rasivi pressed her face against the window next to Aeric and saw a different object entirely.

“Aeric, call the bridge.  That is not a friendly ship,” Rasi said before running to her lab.

“Rasi, wait, what?” Aeric said.

As Rasi ran one direction and he stood confused the ships alarms sounded.  The interior lighting turned red.  A computerized voice instructed all non-essential personnel to stay in their labs.  All security staff needed to move to the docking station.

That was him.  He was needed somewhere other than this corridor of stars.  He had to take seventy-six steps to exit the hallway and after that he had would just have to count how many steps it took to get to the docking station.

His routine was shattered, but that only made his smile grow larger.

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