As she looked out the window, Lendirl felt so alone.
The stars moved slowly against the background of space as the rotation of the ship brought new ones into sight and let old ones slip beneath the rim, like the setting of the Sun she had left far behind years ago. Lendirl rested her muzzle against the windowsill, watching. In another fifteen minutes, they would rise again from the other rim. Up and down. The same dance of stars she had seen for years.
She sighed heavily, her breath leaving a mark upon the glass. It had been ten years since the Searcher's Destiny had left Earth to find a new home for the hybrids, heading for a recently discovered world orbiting the star Tau Ceti, 11.9 light years away. This was just a scouting expedition with a crew of about a two hundred designed to set up the colony so that the main ship, which was probably leaving Earth about now, would find a ready colony when it arrived. After receiving gravity boosts from the Sun and Jupiter, Searcher's Destiny had fired its main drive and accelerated away. However, despite moving at almost thirty percent of the speed of light, it would still be another thirty years before they arrived.
Lendirl leaned back, collapsing on her bunk. She had boarded the ship when she was barely eight and it had been her home growing up. Even so, she longed for the blue skies and open spaces she remembered from her childhood. Now at eighteen, the trim and fit vixen stood about five foot two, with beautiful blazing red fur running from the black tip of the nose on her muzzle to the white tip of her tail, and lush creamy white fur running down her chest to her thighs. Jet black hair rushed over her head and halfway down her back, tightly braided to help keep it under control, and two triangular ears poking through and swiveling occasionally to catch the sounds of the room. The powder-blue jumpsuit she wore molded to her form well, clinging to her toned arms and muscled legs.
She sighed, staring up at the grey ceiling tiles. It seemed as though almost no time had passed at all, but she realized as she wiped her eyes that she had dozed off. The atmospheric lighting in the ship, designed to closely mimic the day and night cycle of Earth, had moved into early-evening phase; a dark-orange glow emanated from the lighting along the walls of the room, casting strange shadows on the gray floor below. As Lendirl began to sit up, she heard a knock at the door.
She looked around to make sure she was still dressed, shaking the cobwebs loose in her head. Figuring it was her bunkmate, Pheia, she called out, "Come in!"
No reply, so she called out again, "Come in!"
Still no reply.
Curious, Lendirl carefully lowered herself from the top bunk and walked the short distance over to the door. She lifted the latch and slid it slowly open as if to peek at who might be on the other side, and to her surprise, found no one was standing on the other side. She slid the door all the way into its pocket and glanced both ways down the downward arching hallway. Not a soul in sight.
Lendirl was just about to close the door when a chance glance downward caught her attention. Something small and red was lying on the floor in the hallway right in front of her door. No more than a square inch in size, Lendirl knelt down and took the small red object in her hand. Though groggy, she recognized it immediately.
A rose petal.
She looked up and, to her surprise, a trail of them lead down the hallway. Lendirl stared at them for a few moments, debating what to do in her mind. Resolutely, she turned around just long enough to slip her slippers on and began to slowly walk down the hallway, kneeling every few feet to pick up a rose petal.
She followed them down the corridor, around a corner where they abruptly ended at the entrance to the transport car that could take her to the other rotating habitat or to the weightless center of the spacecraft. Lendirl stood watching the doors for only a few moments before pressing the "CALL" button to bring the transport car. She anxiously waited the as the minutes passed. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the transport car showed up and she climbed aboard and strapped in.
As the car pulled out of the habitat car, she was treated to the spectacular view of stars all around her and infinite blackness as far as she could see. Her weight slowly decreased as the car moved towards the rotating center of the Searcher's Destiny. After a few moments, the dramatic views of the stars disappeared as the car emerged into the station at the center. Lendirl released her straps and pressed against a wall to cause herself to float towards the doors just as they slid open.
The hallways had darkened completely now as the night cycle had taken over. A faint blue light emanated from the edges along the ceiling, providing a twilight feeling to the corridors, the edges along the floor lit with dim white lights to provide some perspective. And there were the rose petals, tinted grayish-black from the evening darkness and floating weightless in the middle of the corridor.
Lendirl floated down the corridor, collecting the rose petals as she bounced weightless from one wall to the other, slowly working her way down. As one pocket filled with petals, she zipped it closed and began to fill another. She traveled down the long spine of the ship from the hub of the rotating habitat modules at the front back towards the engine and engineering section at the rear. After about ten minutes, she arrived at the end of the trail of rose petals: the door to engineering.
Lendirl paused, considering her next options. Should she go through the door? Turn around and put the whole strange incident behind her? Report it to one the Elders?
"What the heck. I've come this far É" she said softly, shrugging, and lifted the latch that opened the door to engineering. As she floated into the room, her first impression was that something was different. She didn't come down here often - her job was working on the flight deck. But she remembered that the room was usually brightly lit at all times. Right now it was dark except for the blue-tinted environmental lighting, and even that had been dimmed.
Lendirl jumped as the heard the door being closed behind her, the latch clicking shut. She was now trapped in here with whoever had lead her here.
Suddenly, the "sky" - the arched ceiling of the room feet above her - exploded in a multitude of lights. There were the stars, just as she had seen them moments ago though burning much brighter than they had from the transport car. They began to move slowly, twisting as if the sky itself were looking for direction. Lendirl was dizzied by the movements; fortunately, one star quickly became the focus of the ceiling right above her. The other stars seemed to darken and recede into the background as this one grew larger and larger in the middle.
Eventually, other objects began to appear on the ceiling. There were icy worlds and comets, two giant blue gaseous planets with almost invisible rings, two yellowish-brown gaseous worlds, one with the multitude of colors of churning storms, the other with a dramatic, beautiful set of rings. And the star in the center of the ceiling grew ever larger. Lendirl saw asteroids so realistic pass over her head she almost ducked, passed through the tail of a comet so close she could practically feel the dust hitting her.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a world approaching; green and blue, with white clouds and the thin blue line of an atmosphere. A large gray satellite hung in the distance. The world soon replaced the star at the center of the ceiling, as she seemed to draw ever closer to it. Before Lendirl knew it, she had plunged into the atmosphere of the world. The green ground seemed to be rushing up her at breakneck speed. Cities could be seen in the distance, ships on the oceans. Airplanes buzzed around the skies around her. The bright orange glow of a spacecraft reentering could be seen off to one side.
The speed slowed down, gradually at first, then quickly. Suddenly, in less than a second, the entire ceiling seemed to invert itself, and Lendirl found herself looking up at a very familiar sky. The Moon hung large and bright just above the horizon, and thousands of stars spread out above her head.
It was the same sky she used to look at every night from her family's farm.
"Earth," she called out, almost in a whisper. A tear fell from her eye, hovering in zero-gee in front of her face.
"Do you like it?" A timid voice from behind her called out. Lendirl turned, startled by the voice behind her. It took a second or two for her eyes to focus on the figure. She recognized him now - his name was Zhyrah and he was an engineer's mate. They had had some classes together growing up on the Searcher's Destiny, but had gone separate ways in recent years as both had focused on different studies.
In school, he had been an unremarkable wolf-hybrid. Not unpleasant; just the sort of guy that blended into the background. He stood about six feet tall, with dark grey fur, black running down his back and blending into light grays on his legs, sides, and tail. A thick ruff of creamy white fur ran down his chest, hidden mostly by his powder-blue jumpsuit. His hair was short cropped - all the engineers were required to keep their hair short since they had to work mostly in zero-gee - and his amber eyes glowed dimly in the dark light. He seemed kind of wiry; doubtless another side-effect of working mostly without any gravity. A pair of wire-frame glasses rested lightly on his nose, pressing to hold in place.
True, he had been unremarkable in school, but now, floating in front of her, she saw something different in him. Something she'd missed before, but couldn't quite put her finger on.
"I would have done it somewhere else," he mumbled, "but no other place on the ship was big enough and the projector needs a lot of power."
"It's ... beautiful," Lendirl said, sniffling a little. "How did you ..."
She could tell Zhyran was visibly relieved; his shoulders relaxed and his face revealed a huge grin, like a kid in a candy shop. "I've been tinkering with the projector for the last few years as a hobby. I figured that we could maybe use it to help simplify scouting when we get to Tau Ceti. It accepts programming, and with some work it could be tuned to receive input from probes."
He floated up next to her. "I spend the evenings for last couple of months programming it from astro-navigation data. But there's something else I wanted to show you..."
He gestured ahead of her on the horizon. The ceiling shifted again, and they were moving, skimming along the grass and over a hill. Birds flocked in the distance and clouds moved overhead. Then they stopped; in the distance, on a hill, was visible a small cape-cod style farmhouse painted white with blue shutters. Lendirl recognized it instantly.
"My home..." she said, tearing up again.
"Happy Valentine's Day, Lendirl," Zhyran said, waving his hand in front of her towards the horizon. The stars above the house began to slowly move and shift position. They moved slowly at first, then quickly as they flew into order. They seemed to be shooting from all over the sky, like hundreds of thousands of meteors falling at one time. And as she looked up, Lendirl was looking at her name spelled out in the stars, burning brightly in the sky above her home.
Lendirl realized what she hadn't been able to put her finger on. Something that she had missed in all those years in school. Zhyran actually cared. He had spent his evenings, when she had been goofing off with her friends, writing stories and moping at the stars beyond her window, working on this for her. Just the thought that someone actually cared enough about her to go to all this work was enough to bring her to tears. She turned and buried her face in his shoulder, hugging him.
"I'd move all the stars in the sky just to see you happy," he said, smiling and pulling her close. The kiss they shared, floating in zero-gravity beneath the sea of stars, was all that was needed.
Lendirl thought to herself, as they held each other, "This day didn't turn out bad. Not bad at all."
Long before I was big into the anthropomorphic fandom, I was big into science fiction. I still am; I love reading Stephen Baxter, Arthur C. Clarke and Robert J. Sawyer among others. So, it seemed like a great idea to mix the two, and on a stormy December night in 2004 that's exactly what I did. This is my first piece of "published" furry fiction; it ran in the convention books for Furry Weekend Atlanta 2004 (where the theme was Valentine's Day) and Rocket City Furmeet 2006 (where the theme was science fiction). I may expand it at some point, but as it is, it stands well on its own.