Introducing Among the Stacks

VIGETTE

‘WE AGAIN BEHELD THE STAR’ BY NIGEL MCKEON


Some sort of welcome tone, like the type that would
happen before a presentation or something

ANGUS

Welcome, everyone to the Cradle Observatory and
Interstellar Research Centre. My name is Dr. Angus
Walker, and I’ll be your guide through the cosmos
this evening. We’ll be taking a look at some of the
wonders of the night sky, and what a night it is for
it tonight, folks, here at the top of The Cradle. So,
if you’ll all follow me, we’ll get this show on the

road.

(switching into tour mode) Space is truly one of the
most incredible things about existence. For
millennia, we spent our lives trapped here on this
one planet, we lived our life entirely by the blue
light of our own little solar clock. Then a couple of
hundred years ago we invented technology to allow us
see further and further out into space, to observe
planets and stars millions of miles away. Now, I know
with the new tech that’s being invented by the United
System of Planets, this seems laughable, but for the

longest time, it was all we had.

In a world where hyperdive ships can take you across
the System in a matter of minutes, I think it’s
important we remember our roots. A galaxy at our feet
is only as good as the ground we came from. Our
ancient ancestors revered the heavenly bodies, built
entire civilisations around the light of the suns,
used the stars to navigate across oceans. The atoms
in our bodies were all forged in the centre of stars,
so it makes sense we’ve spent so much of history
looking up at them, trying to find a way back home.
Since the dawn of our species, we have had the love

of the stars in our hearts.

There’ll probably come a day when every person on
this planet moves on to some other star, as far out
as you can possibly go. How long do you think it’ll
take before our descendants completely forget we came
from here, and all that’s left is a planet full of

thousands of years of the dead?

This is a question that has preoccupied our leading
xenobiologists over the past eight or so years. We’ve
been examining the biological remains we’ve found on
other worlds to try and find our original home, the
point from which all sentient life originated. Take
for an example, the star Sulo 38, which, if you
direct your attention to the screen to my right, we

should have a live feed of-

Beat

ANGUS (CONT’D)

(nervous, he is unused to his talks being derailed)
It seems we’re having some trouble with the live feed
at the moment, I’m sure if we just wait a minute
it’ll- (distracted now by what has just come through
his earpiece) What? (to his audience) I’m so sorry
about this, folks, it seems my team is having a bit
of fun at my expense. They’re telling me that this is
the live feed of Sulo 38, but unless a supernova has
happened within the last 24 hours without my being

aware of it, I highly doubt it.

(clears throat, attempting to get things back on
track) Right, well, the interesting thing that links
Sulo 38, and a star on the far side of the galaxy,
known as Alod, is- (annoyed) Oh, very funny. Haha.
Yes, show me the blank screen again. Is this ‘Prank
Dr. Walker Day’ and I missed the memo, hm? (across
his earpiece) I know you think that this is
hilarious, but come on, at least pick a prank I might
actually fall for. (a pause as he listens to what’s
being relayed to him) No, you’re not getting me with

this one. Get Dr. Faulkner on the line, why don’t
you, and pester him with this nonsense, and (increase
venom with each successive word) stop disrupting my

tour.

(conciliatory chuckle) I’m terribly sorry about that
folks. You all paid good money for this tour, and
you’d best believe heads are going to roll for this
disruption. Now, where was I? Right, yes, the
similarities between Sulo 38 and Alod, (muttered to
himself) apart from being what gets those idiots the

sack.

Now, as I was saying, there’s a lot of very
interesting similarities between these two stars
which point to all the sentient life in our system

originating in-

(finally losing his temper, something else has just
come through his earpiece) What now? Dr. Faulkner?
Don’t tell me they’ve got you in on this too. Look
up? I’ve spent my life studying space, I know how
stars work. (notices the tour group is now all
looking up in awe) Oh, very good, the tour group was
in on it the whole time. I must admit, I have to give
you points for thoroughness. Haha. Very well done.
Right, fine I give in. I’ll look up. What’ve you got
up there, a banner that tells me I’m an asshole?
(short pause as he listens to what the people on the
other end of his earpiece are saying) Alright,
alright, I’m looking up now, keep your ha–
(his blood has suddenly gone cold) The stars… they’re
disappearing… One by one, they’re all going dark…

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