Little /^^^\&-

Clarkesworld, issue #132 (2017)

Eric Schwitzgebel

/^^^\&- sighed out a little moon-sized cloud of gas, then let herself, alongside her jailer, drift down toward the calm, solo star. She assessed her prison—a cold, dim star system out toward the galactic rim. No gentle surround of fizzy radiation. No flurry of message orbs to decrypt. A lonely wasteland, so unlike the warm nebulas of power where she’d been raised. /^^^\&- increased her rotation speed in frustration, briefly extruding ten thousand X-ray-coloured nubbins from her spherical golden surface. Prison wasn’t something she had imagined belonging to her future.

Four little rocks and some debris were rolling around the star about once per breath—per Second. Four corky gas balls hung a bit farther out, completing a full orbit once every Minute or two—planets about /^^^\&-’s size, hardly erratic at all, almost too boring to watch. /^^^\&- figured she’d scoop and fuse some hydrogen from the star, then doze away her time if she could find a comfortable enough rotation cycle. Maybe write some letters. Complain about the Galactic Government *~*^*, but this time in a more understated way and to a better selection of friends who wouldn’t rat her out. She might plan a trip for after her release. She could visit (---/-\*) and ~#~~^~. She craved a dose of (---/-\*)’s dark humour. He’d toss her an orbful of refreshingly acid remarks about the governmental *~*^* and their stupid Black Hole Idea.

The jailer extruded a proboscis toward /^^^\&- and injected the encrypted dismantling instructions that invisibly shackled /^^^\&- to the star. If /^^^\&- tried leave the star’s gravity field before the Month’s term, she’d disintegrate into her component parts. Shell, foil, beams, orbs, chambersful of monkeys, power plants, wastebulbs, blobs of raw material—all would fly out on inertial trajectories into the dark.

“*-##-n,” she suggested, not really hoping. Just basic ##-n access to a private info-stream?

“00j0.” Of course not. The jailer retracted his proboscis. In a sudden bright swirl he launched, copper-green and microwave tail behind, leaving little /^^^\&- in the cool near-dark to wait out her sentence.

continued here.

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