She stands watch.
Ungloved trigger hand clutching the stock of her gun,
she notes the sky isn’t sable, but blue
and the night air smells of ozone and wet dirt.
He kneels in a puddle of crimson light,
the click and tap of his precision tools
a-rhythmic and bright.
Night-repairs warrant a practiced force of two.
Operator and Specialist,
machinist and soldier. The optimal team.
Pylons loom for kilometers, awaiting his quick hands
to coax their circuits to life. She glances at him,
comprehends him with aching clarity—
how he moves with sureness,
muscle a machinery hitched to gears of bone.
The curve of his back, set of his shoulders.
Armoring over a heart at home in its cage of ribs.
He is the only thing in her universe not alien
He is true north, he is quantifiable.
He mutters specs to himself. Acronyms,
numbers and component names losing sense
in the velvets of his voice. She could drift into these
softnesses but duty keeps her keen.
She casts her awareness over weed-knotted terrain.
No threats. Not yet—
only stillness. Only a waiting dark.
He leans back on his heels and tugs away his mask,
says he wants to show her something.
“Remember, you wanted to see the ship’s namesake—”
He sweeps one hand over the dome of sky towards
Ursa Major, the bear-stars sharply diamondine.
She knows them as suns named forever ago—
Dubhe, Merak, Phecda, Megrez.
“Arc to Arcturus,” she whispers.
She spots the orange giant in the constellation Boötes
just as a shimmer of hot-white brilliance
rockets over their heads.
“Quick, make a wish,” he urges
but the light blinks away into nothingness, vaporized
by its own velocity.
She thinks about wishes, pleas to false stars,
ephemeral trails streaking retinas, neural memories of light or
the swansong radiance of suns long-dead.
He’s packing his tool-kit. He rekindles
the bloodred lamp, mounts it to his suit for the trek
back to the ship, businesslike.
Back to bullet-proof walls, routine tasks,
recycled air. Back to the rote and the known.
They watch the pylons whir to life, monoliths blinking praises
to their efforts then side by side they march east,
footfalls synchronous over night-cool soil.