The forests of Mercury, through a twist of optics and evolution, were a bright pink colour. Unlike the green of Earth or the dark brown of Mars, you end up feeling pretty silly being terrified by bright pink trees. I knew nothing as going to kill us in the New-Black Forest, stupid name, but I was a city and spaceship kind of person. Walking the wilds of Mercury looking for a small town that shouldn’t exist wasn’t my idea of fun.
“Would you stop jumping at every twig and shadow?” Suzie was the only crew member to come with me. Janet didn’t want to be recognized and Adric said he needed to work on the ship. I knew what they really wanted to do, but I also knew it wasn’t going to happen for a few more years. They would take my death very hard.
“There are things everywhere on this planet that want to kill me.”
“We’re not on Earth. The biggest wildlife they have here are cats.”
“Did you know that cats will eat their owners if the owner dies? That means they want to kill me.”
“I’ve seen you stare down some of the most dangerous people in the system and you’re afraid of a cat?” Suzie rolled her eyes as we approached Green Lake. I really need to have a terse word with the person who named these things.
Green Lake was neither a lake nor green. In fact it was a small jungle town with a river running through it. The ground was brown and the trees were still pink. The native people, having absorbed millennia of radiation, were nearly completely black.
This semi-tropical area was considered ideal, especially by people who didn’t want to be found. We checked the bar first. Some things never change. The man I was looking for was an old friend and that’s why when I found him, his fist found my face.
“Nice to see you too, Travis.” I mumbled through a few napkins quickly filling with blood. His pale grey eyes almost glowed in their dark sockets. Suzie had her sword out and it sang with power.
“What do you want, Hal?”
“I need a pilot and I want the best.”
“Do you have any idea what they did to me in that Pirate Ship?” he looked at me with anger and I returned his look with my own. I knew every pain and every injustice that the Pirates had inflicted on him. I had experienced each second with him. I knew his pain as if it was my own.
“Yes. I know, and trust me, worse would have happened to you if I’d taken you with me.”
“How much does this job pay?” I could see his anger soften as he started to understand how intimately I understood his pain.
“It pays room, board, and a small salary. It also lets you pilot the greatest ship in the solar system.” Both he and Suzie laughed at that. When he laughed I could see through the pain that made him look much older than his forty years. “I’m not joking. I’m assembling the best crew and ship possible to go back to Venus.”
“What’s on Venus?” he asked.
“We’re going to my funeral.”
Another hearty chuckle and he replied, “I’m in!”
On the uncomfortable trek back to the ship, I hate nature, Suzie walked ahead and Travis walked next to me. He asked the question I didn’t want to answer, “You’re dying aren’t you?”
“Yep, but these visions aren’t going to kill me yet.”
“What will?” He looked at me and added, “You’re preparing a ship of people to continue your work. Aren’t you?”
“How did you know?” I said, sighing in fatigue. I always felt weak now.
“I was your captain for two years, I know you.”
“Sol let me know that I would die at my funeral, feels almost ironic.”
“Can we stop it?” he asked and it sent a shiver up my spine. My premonition told me that if anyone tried to stop my death, it would lead to terrible things. Empires falling terrible.
“No, and I don’t want you to try.”