This very special Forsaken Stars Tale of A Soulless Christmas takes place in Captain Sera Besh’s youth. You know, before she was a Captain.

“‘And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”‘” (Luke 2:9) Emilene read from an old datascroll, plastic and frayed at the edges, while Sera cuddled against her mother and marveled at the pale, flickering animated paintings drifting across its translucent surface.

Samwell burst into their hovel, escaping the raging ice storm outside, carrying a load of new furnace cells in his arms. He had come just in time, as their current ones were pulsing their last heat-breaths. He removed the old ones from the mouth of the heat bay quickly and tossed them aside, and began to replace them with the new ones. “Emmy, why’re you reading Sera those old stories? She should be pouring over the schematics for the new hypercurve navcomp coolant system.”

“Oh, Sam, there’s time enough for her studies, it’s Christmastime.”

“Christmas–? Ha, winter ghosts. I’d rather you read to her from the Book of Tolkien, I’d wager there’s much more truth in it. And lots more adventure, right, Ensign Sera?” Samwell, having screwed in the last of the cells, plopped on the couch beside them and dug a gloved hand into her side, tickling her.

Sera laughed and then punched back. “Ow! Emmy, read to her the bit about honouring thy mother and they father!”

Emilene rolled up the scrolls and handed them over to him. “I’d say you deserved that one, Love. Here, you read on, while I put on the pot o’ coffee and warm up some hot cocoa for Sera. Warm the outside, warm the inside, I always say.”

Sera leaned on her father’s shoulder, the scent of the leather of his rocket jacket and his earthy cologne filling her reddened nose. She looked up at him with her big blue eyes as his own darted over the datascroll to find a good place to take up the story. “‘The Magi went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.'” (Matthew 2:9)

“Dad, do you believe the stories? Or do you just like reading them to me?” Sera looked up at Samwell, who returned her questions with a sheepish smile.

“Well,” he said slowly, never wanting to lie to his baby girl, now nearly a teenager, but searching his own Soulless heart for a truth of which he could never be entirely certain, “we’re all out in space for a reason, and if I believe even a fraction of our history, it says Jesus did come back to judge the living and the dead, and our ancestors ran from that judgement to the stars. So if he came back, then he had to have been born at least once, right?”

“Do you believe he’ll ever come out from behind the Godshield to come and judge us?”

“You’re mother’s more of a believer in that sort of talk than I am. It’s like my dad and his daddy before him—I believe in the Core, the Fusion Core, the thing that powers our ships and space stations and cities, like primitives worshiping the sun(s) above them. The Core keeps us warm, provides us power, light and life support. That’s where my ‘legiance lies.”

Emilene returned from the kitchen with a tray of coffee, cocoa and pastries. “I worship with candles and prayers; your father worships with liquid metal wrenches and curses when he pinches a finger.”

“And I like doing both,” Sera proclaimed, reaching for the mug filled with mint green marshmallows.

There was a thunderclap, and the lights flickered. Sera jumped and clung tightly to her father’s arm.

“Core damn, I’d better go check the field generator. If it fails, we’ll be at the mercy of this storm, and I’ve seen ice knives pierce plasteel.” Samwell rose, and Sera held his arm tighter. He was surprised at how strong she was for her age.

“Dad, no, don’t go out again! It’s not safe.”

“I’ll be going out in the power suit, baby girl, with the heat shields set to high. I’ll be fine.”

“I’m not a baby girl. I’ll show you. Let me come with you then.”

“Oh, no, you’re mother’s not finished with the story and you’ve got to keep her company.”

“Baby Jesus got his presents, what more to it is there?”

“Sera! You know there’s more to it than gift giving.”

“Yeah,” she said, sitting and pouting, “It’s about family staying together.”

Samwell and Emilene shared a look. Emilene mouthed the words “go” and “be safe.” Sam nodded and walked out of the living room, this time leaving through the side door that led to the garage.

“I just miss him so much,” Sera said under her breath. “When he comes home, he should stay home. Uncle Dorn, Goony or even B9 can go check on the stupid field generator.”

“I know sweetie, I miss him too.” Emilene wrapped her arms around Sera. “He just wants to feel like he’s personally doing all he can to keep his family safe.”

“But he’s supposed to be retired! These are your Golden Years. You’ve both done your bit for the Republic. Why does he still have to go on the months long shipping runs?”

Emilene wasn’t entirely sure herself why he continued to work so hard, push himself so hard. Other than the obvious. “He’s doing everything he can to ensure that you have a bright future, that you have every chance to succeed. One day the Bluebird will be yours, and you won’t give a second thought to coming home to visit your old fuddy duddy folks.”

Sera wrapped her arms tightly around her mother, “Oh, no! Don’t say that! I’m never leaving you!” Her face became wet with tears at the thought. “And when I get the Bluebird, I’m turning it into a cruise ship and you and dad will come with me and we’ll have adventures bigger than Frodo’s or Dorothy’s or dad’s even!”

Emilene hugged her tightly back and ignored the arthritis that wracked her body. “That sounds wonderful, Sera.” It could happen, Emilene thought. She believed in miracles. And she believed in Sera, if nothing else. “My little miracle,” she said to herself and kissed Sera’s forehead through her soft, blond bangs.

* * *

Samwell stood over the field generator reading the data on the GUI. The north e-wall was down. “That’s not good.” He radioed Dorn to suit up and meet him at the dead spot.

On his way, he noticed the barn door was open. “From bad to worse.” He put in a call to Goony and asked him if he or anyone else had call to be in the barn. “No, sir,” was his reply. Samwell pulled his pulse rifle from it’s holster on the back of his power suit and proceeded with caution. “If it’s an expectant couple and their burro, I’m going to owe Sera a big apology,” he said to himself and strode up to the barn’s entrance. The power lock was shorn off.

“Goony, B9, get your arse’s over to the barn, we got ourselves a—well, I dunno what, but come armed and armored.”

Samwell was itching to rub the graying stubble of his beard, but he kept his helmet tightly secured to its moorings and entered the barn. The rush of the wind and ice sheeting down was behind him and he started to process the sounds within—the murmurs of the tri-horses, the snorts of the snow pigs, the rustle of hay—when the rending of meat, teeth tearing into gristle and bone, and a tongue lapping at blood cut through all that. Sam walked up to the splintered door of a tri-horse stall and nearly wretched in his suit at the sight of so much blood and gore splattered across the stall’s inner walls. At the center of the scene a great white werewolf hunched over the still twitching tri-horse body. The beast  paused on sensing Sam’s presence, and one of it’s black on yellow eyes turned to fix on him.

Come back for Part Two on Monday!

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