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Sword of the Stars

A Letter Home

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Brother,

I know you have been hoping for a message for a very long time. Believe me, I have wanted to make a crystal like this one for years. Unfortunately, as you warned me, little brothers like us are not highly prized in the Queen’s navy. Before I shipped out, I could not get a place in the queue for the recording equipment. Even now, after years, I have worked very hard and earned only a very little personal time. I will have to slip this message in with the colonial registries and battle reports from the frontier, and hope it finds its way to you somehow.

Many things have happened. There has been battle and death. There have been months of boredom locked aboard a tiny vessel with thirteen warriors who, I swear by the Queen, spend 90% of their daily energy trying to find some new and exciting way to kill each other. When I fold my limbs for sleeping, I often do so in an empty fuel cell or food cannister — once when I awoke I found myself drifting in space, because they had “accidentally” jettisoned me with the garbage. To this day I am not certain that it really was NOT an accident — stranger things happen out here — but I choose to regard it as deliberate because all of my ship–mates were so amused.

You were right, brother, about everything. This is the most dreadful job in the universe. The work is dangerous. The hours are unbelievable. Sometimes I literally stand until my legs crumple, because I am no longer able to hold up my own weight…and then I continue working because my arms are still able to move.

The pay I send home…well, I am sure it is probably more an insult than a boon, to our family. And the rations? Are beyond my powers of description. If I had not seen so many warriors set to with gusto and declare this food “delicious”, I would swear that it had been first served in the cafeterias of Hell.

But let me tell you, brother…for all that you were right, you were also wrong. This is the most dreadful job in the universe…but it is also the best. Aboard this ship, none of us hatched together. We have different mothers, different fathers, we come from different lands and castes, and before we were assigned to this vessel none of us had ever met before. But these sailors are a better family to me than you can possibly imagine…

Because I am a worker and not a warrior, my name is often forgotten on the crew complement on this ship. Sometimes the quartermaster sends us out without having provided me with rations or a berth. At such times, all of my crew–mates set aside a portion of what they eat each day for me — a portion they can ill afford, massive and powerful as they are. They arrange their hours to provide sleeping time for me, and reduce the compression of their breathing tubes to be sure I get my share of the atmosphere.

When I fall from exhaustion, someone picks me up. When I am hurt, they risk their lives to retrieve me. They may laugh at my occasional discomfort, but they would never willingly let me come to harm.

It is easy for those at home to say that we are throwing our lives away. Most of us will never see our families again. We all have brothers and mothers we miss. Fathers that we boast of, Princes that have long forgotten us. Lands that we describe in loving detail, painting them with our longing until even the meanest burrow in the most crowded city sounds like paradise.

But this is not for nothing. We sometimes crawl for months to achieve a distant star, and then arrive to find a desolate world useless for our people’s needs. Or fly right into the teeth of some savage enemy who only wants to see us dead. But brother, if you could see the golden Gate open against the velvety blackness of space…! The sleek bodies of our ships silhouetted against a burning sun! The open arms of a whole new world below you, knowing it will provide new homes for our people by the billion…perhaps then you would understand.

When we fly into battle, we all cry out as one: “For the Queen!” But brother, I will tell you my secret — much as I love Her, I would do this just for myself.

I love you. I miss you. But by the Goddess…I love this job!

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