They picked me up out of deep space, floating in an impossible pocket of air sealed inside of a room aboard the ransacked Farseer battlecruiser. A search and rescue crew of some kind had been dispatched several months earlier, after the battlecruiser went missing, and they finally tracked it down, with me aboard it.
I was held for questioning. But ultimately, they determined I was just another victim of whatever unknown force assaulted the battlecruiser in the first place.
The only thing they found of any consequence about my person was a large egg. They told me I was clutching to it when they found me, wrapping myself around it as if to shield it from harm.
After picking me up out of the battlecruiser, the Farseer crew shipped me back to their starting base. Velann II. Seems we weren’t too far away after all. Tragic, really. That this one trip was destined for so much grief. So much that the entire crew should go mad and jettison themselves into open space. Miracle I survived long enough to find that pocket of atmo.
At least, that’s the official story. They of course found Bessie, floating beside the battlecruiser. Empty, save for Chief’s body, the deactivated Tic-Toc, and the pile of useless ore. They offered to turn the ship over to me when we reached Velann II, but I told them I didn’t want it. Wasn’t mine to begin with and I didn’t want it now.
Too many memories in that ship. Besides, what was I going to do with a bulk freighter, anyway?
Maybe I’ll regret that someday.
The egg they turned over to me. More surprisingly, I accepted it. I’ve carried it with me everyday since.
While I may not have accepted the ship, I did lay claim to the not-insubstantial funds that Cap had stored on the ship, as well as a few personal items – like my mother’s Bible. All in all, it left me with enough to survive on for several months following my release from the hospital. Long enough to figure out how things work on this new world, and to maybe secure a job with a bit more stability than the occasional dockwork.
For a long time afterward, I wondered if my encounter with the Dark was a dream. That maybe the official story was right. Maybe we had all gone mad.
But then I considered the egg. Its origins. Its purpose. It seemed obvious, after discussing it with several biologists, that this was the child birthed from Mearr’s and my union. Still growing inside the egg, despite its time growing in the womb. Changelings, or at least Mearr’s brand of changeling, apparently have a very long gestation period.
It was easy enough to explain away at first. The crew had jettisoned itself in a fit of madness, sure. And I, dutiful father that I am, wrested the egg from Mearr’s arms as I strove for whatever safety I could. Anything to protect my child.
Truly, I was a hero.
Except, that’s not me. I’m nothing like that. Not anymore.
So then I considered the other possibility. That it was a gift from the Dark. Some message or another. A gesture of goodwill? An attempt to probe my responsibility? Another test?
Even these possibilities were tremulous, at best, until I began to see the writing. Every day, when I woke up, something new would be written on the egg. For a long time, it would be in languages I didn’t recognize. But then, at last, there were words that I could read.
They said, “For those who ask why.”
They were sign enough for me that my encounter with the Dark was more than simply delusion. That there truly was something, out there, beyond mortal perception.
And those words stayed there, as a reminder, until the day my daughter hatched.
But that is a story for another time.