Everywhere She Went

The Overlight were best known for their disdain of the uninitiated. They didn’t much care to have nonbelievers fouling up their meticulously crafted masterpieces. Truth be told, Kris wasn’t too keen on being here either, even transiently, but there’s no such thing as a closed system—stellar or otherwise. There’s always a certain amount of bleed around the edges.

She flew her ship toward the empty left eye socket of a human skull 500 kilometers across. It had been carved from a single asteroid. By hand.

The Overlight were an obscure religious sect—sun worshippers—controlling a dozen stellar systems, maybe more. They had an affinity for the simplicity a star represented. Take one dead ingredient—hydrogen—and from it make light. From that idea grew a complex and nuanced philosophy that was as labyrinthine as it was bleak. They eschewed most technologies, and members outside the clergy caste spent their lives arduously constructing the most audacious monuments humanity has ever conceived. They painted on the black canvas of the sky with ionized gasses. They carved asteroids. Their official capital was an unoccupied planetesimal called Graves made entirely of human bodies; it had the requisite mass to hold its shape. That’s where they would all end up, one way or another. Eventually it would be large enough to occupy. When that day came, the last of the living Overlight adherents would mass on Graves and hurl the entire planet into the nearest star.

Kris thought the whole thing was nuts. But not any more so than anything else she’d ever come across. People are all alike, and they’re fucking crazy to the last. The Overlight didn’t like Kris—that would be a stretch—but they tolerated her because she treated them like she’d treat anyone else. She ran cargo for them. It was infrequent work, but they paid generously.

Her ship, deep inside the carbon skull now, approached the appointed docking bay and she radioed in. No one answered. Not uncommon here; most weren’t allowed to use a radio. She docked the ship and walked to the hatch. When it dialed open there were seven people waiting anxiously; an old woman, a baby, a middle-aged man with one arm missing, a young man whose hair had gone to white, two teenaged girls—twins—and an Overlight acolyte. It was the last who spoke.

“We’re defecting from the Overlight. Please, can you help us?”

Kris didn’t even hesitate. “The less I know the better. Cargo is cargo.” She flicked her head toward the ship. “Get in.”

She wasn’t surprised. Happened just about everywhere she went.

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