The Day-shift aerospace interface comptroller was checking his personal mail. The daily shuttles on and off planet were done for the next hour so he was only in the position in case something unusual came up, and it almost never did. The system was not a busy one and the planet was not connected to any sort of trade hub. It was a place to live, to grow, to survive. Gallente politics did not reach down to the grass roots and so they seldom bothered with news of the rest of the Universe, just what was going on at home and that was good enough.
“Sir?” One of the scanner techs was trying to get his attention. “We have a capsuleer on approach. He seems to have disabled his warp and is actually coming in.”
“Into the atmosphere? Is he going to make it?” He tapped a control shunting the mail to the side and brought up a replica of the data the tech was looking at. “Yup, he has circumvented the planetary bypass systems and should be slow enough not to burn up on entry.”
“Do we scramble a response?”
The comptroller tapped a few keys and shook his head. “No, it is not an attack. Get me a full set of camera drones out there to shadow him down.” He looked at some info and then brought up a map. “There, there is where he is headed and by the time he is done he will wish he had not made this trip.”
The tech was new and did not understand. “Sir?”
“It’s a Homecoming, poor bastard.” He brought up the images of the drones as they closed on the Navy Comet. “Pretty ship.” He spun away from the screen to face the tech and explain.
“Capsuleers don’t die, you know that right?”
“Yeah, lucky bastids.”
“Two sides to that coin. They head off into space and make a life for themselves out there, Become famous, maybe, or die . . . a lot. Whatever, they leave and live and live and live. Thing is, the folks back home? Family? Friends? Not immortal. They age, they change, they die.” The last was almost a whisper, it was said so low. “In space there are no seasons, no change, no falling of the leaves or migration of the gnorks. Time loses its meaning and the years pass. For some of them a lot of years pass and they forget the mortal life they once had. But every now and then one of them remembers and tries to come home.”
The ship was sweeping across the continent on a straight line for where the comptroller had predicted. He glanced at the ETA timer and continued. “They have forgotten the limits of time, of mortals and they expect to come home. But there will be no homecoming for them, not one they want.”
He paused and brought up a history of the land plot and its inhabitants. He knew that he would need the information soon. Another drone was launched on an intercept course, it would get there just in time, he thought. “So the prodigal son or daughter returns, but you cannot step in the same river twice.”
The drones slowed as did the ship, a wide field, a farm, once and a very small and tattered remains of a house in the center of it. Even at its best it had been a humble abode and the years had not been kind. The Comet stopped, hovering 3 meters off of the ground and just stayed, silent, still.
The comptroller stood, straightened his uniform and stepped off to one side before activating the last drone, a projector unit. His image appeared between the ship and the house.
“Sir, I know you have changed your name since you went into space.” He looked up at the ship and paused. “I also know that this was once your home . . . a long time ago. But time has passed. Your family ran the farm for almost a decade after you left before age and disease took your parents. Your siblings have moved off planet, I do not know where and the land here has been uninhabited since then. Neighboring farms have been granted permission to till the fields but the house here, as you see, is empty.”
He looked at the ship, nothing moved. “There is nothing for you here, anymore. I am sorry to bear this news but it true.”
Was it his imagination? Did the ship settle down just a bit, as though suddenly heavy hands held the controls within? “If you wish I can forward all relevant information that I have told you to your files . . . ”
Like a skittish gnark the ship backed up a few meters.
The ship rotated up and swept away from the farm, from the projection, from the past. The comptroller sighed and stepped out of the projection, the camera drones were recalled and he sat back in his chair.
“Now what, sir?” the tech asked quietly.
“Now nothing. He knows there is nothing here for him. No ties to come home to. He won’t be back . . . he might not even live the night.”
“But he is . . . ”
“Immortal, yes. But they can CHOOSE to end. CHOOSE to lose. Some do. It gets to be too much for them and so they cancel all their clone contracts and” he paused “I believe the term they use is ‘biomass’. They recycle themselves and end. They are immortal only as long as they choose to be, no longer than that. He tried to come home but home had left him after he left it. Some of them cannot handle that and this is heir goodbye. Others? Well others move on, find a new place and continue but I have never seen one come back more than once.” He touched and control to confirm that the ship had left the atmosphere and returned to space. “Just log the visit.”
In rookie chat ‘can I ram a planet’ is a common question followed by ‘what happens if I fly too close to the sun’
Rixx did the art https://www.flickr.com/photos/12832008@N04/40729561351/ and I could not help but write something for it. Since he is off travelling he cannot complain for at least a week. HA timing is
. . . wait for it . . .
fly it like you won it.