“When Plankton Met Comets”

I wrote this little flash scenelet some years ago for my newsletter subscribers, and by popular demand, it is now available for all! It takes place between the Memoirs of Lady Trent and Turning Darkness Into Light, with no particular spoilers.

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It almost sounded like a fairy tale. He went out in the day, and she at night; though they traveled on the same ship, they rarely saw each other, passing only at dawn and at dusk, and might never have spoken.

But in a fairy tale he would not have been studying plankton, and she would not have been studying the Chambirrin comet.

Each day he was on deck with his sample buckets and his collecting jars and his microscope. Each night she was on deck with her notebook and her telescope, mounted on gimbals so the movement of the ship would not interfere. So it went, day after day, as the ship sailed along the eastern coast of Coyahuac, until the night the ship passed through an area known for its phosphorescent sea life.

He slept that afternoon, to give himself strength for the night. But despite that, he was not alert enough in the darkness; as he was backing along the rail, trailing his bucket in an attempt to capture a small jellyfish, he bumped into her — and her telescope.

It went over the rail. So did she, halfway, in her mad lunge to save it before it could fall into the water. He seized her legs to save her and telescope both.

In the chaos, he let go of his rope, and the bucket and the jellyfish slipped away. He never saw either again.

But he caught something much more valuable that night: Kwenta Adiaratou Shamade, an astronomer from the Talu Union, whose love of the sea equaled his own, even if her gaze was fixed on the sky above rather than the waters below. For them, the ship was dawn and dusk: the place in between where there two worlds could meet.

They married at their next port of call, because Jake Camherst had never been one to hold back when he found where he wanted to go. And Kwenta was the same — which made her a very good match for that family.