Aphelion Issue 240, Volume 23
June 2019
 
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Scavenger

by Denny E. Marshall


Elwek had no idea where he was. Well, at least, not exactly. Sure, the general vicinity. Within a quarter light year. The warp engines were out. He had standard propulsion. The cruising speed for the standard engines was sixty-four thousand miles per hour, and a maximum speed of eighty-eight thousand miles per hour. He could only sustain the maximum speed for short periods. The rub was that he only needed a couple of small parts to fix the problems with the warp drive. In the last few months, he had cannibalized many of the systems on the ship, and there was nothing left to use. Sure, he could find a few parts to work if he did not want to have oxygen, carbon monoxide removal, or climate and environmental controls. Not breathing and near absolute zero conditions did not appeal to him. Of course, being light-years away from home and in the middle of nowhere was not that appealing either. He could not believe his misfortune. His situation was caused by not having a couple of small parts. Not terribly important parts when you think of the total that goes into a warp drive, yet important enough.

Elwek kept the craft steered in one direction, hoping to get lucky. He had stopped counting how many months he had been out here months ago. He sat looking out the front portal, enjoying his dinner the best he could. At least he had lots of food, water, and entertainment options. He was not keen on spending the rest his life out here. He missed his wife and his children and the rest of his family. The pain he felt was real; the situation was affecting him physically, not just mentally. These unfortunate circumstances would be more bearable if his family were here, or at least some of them, or even a close friend. He sat alone in his prison with no guards or inmates.

He needed to take his mind off these kinds of thoughts, at least until the cycle started all over again tomorrow when he got out of bed. He looked out the view port again, seeing the same thing he pictured day after day. He admitted to himself that he never did tire of the view. Though it was the same every day, it was also different every day. Elwek stood up, and walked over to the large shelf across the room, selecting a book to read. A good book or movie could take his mind off his plight for a while.

He was on chapter two when he heard a beeping from the short-range radar. The long-range radar was not operational, a victim of an earlier parts scavenging. The short-range radar has pinged once or twice recently, and then stopped. He has had quite a few false alarms, most likely caused by a loose wire, so he was used to it. This time, however, the pinging did not stop. He jumped up, realizing it was not a false reading.

The radar display screen showed a very small object. Looking out the portal, he saw nothing. He turned on the exterior lighting when he was closer to the radar track. He still did not see anything. Then he saw a faint mirror-like reflection. What a tiny object, he thought. The object was not moving all that fast, so Elwek matched the speed and direction. After positioning next to it, he maneuvered the retractable robotic arm, retrieving the object and placing it in one of the airlock chambers. After he finished he went down to examine his catch. Upon arriving at the airlock station Elwek removed the object and placed it on an examination table.

He did not know where the device originated from or what it was. It seemed like a crude machine. He examined it carefully, not knowing if it held any dangers. The process was slow. He did not want to mess with it too deeply. He was not sure if the device could cause him harm or be infected with some contagious disease. The writing on the interior and exterior were in a language unfamiliar to him, and he knew well over a dozen.

Being alone and lost in space made him even more wary of the small piece of metal and assorted instrumentation. He did see a couple of items that piqued his interest. Yes, Elwek thought, that might work. Making several measurements, he realized that two parts on the strange apparatus would be effective in repairing his warp drive. He carefully removed the two parts and repaired the warp engines, then tested the warp drive to make sure the repairs were all correct and the engines operational. After making sure the systems were a hundred percent functional he returned to the place he found the object. He placed it into the airlock and released it back into space at the same speed and path, letting it continue the journey it was on before he interrupted it. The machine was still functioning correctly, even with the two parts missing. Since the object saved him, Elwek felt he owed it to the device to free it and let it resume its mission, whatever that may have been, even though he was tempted to keep it for parts, in case he needed to be a scavenger again.

As Elwek was ready to return to his home world, he remembered the strange writing from the examination. All the time he was lost in his isolation, Elwek had not said a word aloud, only speaking in his head, not vocally. As the object moved away, he said the first words aloud that he had spoken in months.

“Goodbye, Voyager, and thank you.”


2019 Denny E. Marshall

Denny E. Marshall has had art, poetry, and fiction published. One recent credit is fiction at 50-Word Stories Fall 2017. See more at www.dennymarshall.com.

Find more by Denny E. Marshall in the Author Index.

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