The stillness of that night was broken only by the sparkle of a star. Over the velvet sky were hung shreds of clouds like an ancient cobweb. The sky, a sombre black that stretched to infinity and back again, was as lifeless and serene as the long forgotten crypt of an ancient hero who now slept undisturbed beneath this vaulted ceiling.
The star exploded in green and pink. Its most intimate and essential innards thrown into space. The night winced with the uneasiness of an inadvertent voyeur. As if on cue, a streak of light appeared in the sky and plummeted to the ground. An explosion of black dust echoed the nova and marked the presence of an intruder.
It was silver-white. It lay in a deep crater shining faintly blue; motionless, helpless.
"Hell," frantic button pushing. "Hell, hell, hell."
"Can't you get it going yet?"
"What the hell do you think? It should have been serviced three years ago."
"Don't complain. Get it going."
The pattern of the cobweb changed. Some stars peeped through to gaze in wonder at their naked companion,an erstwhile brother, but now something different, something alien, something to be stared at.
Four of the stars broke the pattern as if to inspect more closely. The night waited and hoped. The ships passed overhead and were gone, unable to deliver the night from its unwanted visitor.
The nova peered through a gap in the clouds and looked down before again hiding behind its gossamer veil.
"Hell," resigned button pushing. "Hell, hell, hell."
"Come on, what's keeping you?"
"It's no good. I'll have to strip it down."
"And how long's that going to take?"
"I don't know. I don't know what's wrong with it, do I?"
"Well, what is it likely to be?"
"I think ... I think it's probably broken."
"It should have been serviced three years ago."
"Yeah, yeah. So you keep saying."
"You can't fly a ship without the guidance. It should be looked after."
"Shut up and get on with it."
The sky was now edged with purple. Night was fading. A troubled breeze stirred the black dust, some of which settled on the silver ship lying disabled in its crater like a landed fish. Above, in the sky, the ships returned and retraced their paths through the heavens. Passing overhead like angels of death yet they missed their quarry.
"Hell," frantic rummaging through wires. "Hell, hell, hell"
"Can you see what's wrong?"
"Give us a chance. This is a mess."
Silver painted the horizon and the cobweb of clouds. The nova was fading with the coming dawn. Ashamed, it spurned the light; bashful it hid below the horizon. Black dust dunes rose with the sun to kiss the clouds, a fading silver misty blanket of comfort from the darkness.
The night was finally vanquished as the sky bled light from a wound of sun. In the crater the night still lingered, reluctant to leave, afraid to let the intruder out of its watchful gaze.
"Hell," frantic circuit checking. "Hell, hell, hell."
"I can't find anything wrong."
"... Circuits X22R one through five - working. Damn. Circuits V97B seven through twenty-one - fine. Damn. F28X one through nine - working. Hell. Hell, hell, hell."
"I'm looking at the sensor recordings."
"The sensors are still working, I hope."
"You know the star we jettisoned that bomb near?"
"The little blue star, yes."
"Well, it went nova."
"I think I want to get out of here. And quickly."
"You're not exactly the only one."
"Then fix the guidance."
"What do you think I'm trying to do?"
As dawn slipped into day, the dust dunes began their march. Long sinuous shapes that stretched across the flat plain, bulbous hills punctuating the scene, the dunes, shaped of animals and mythological creatures, crept away from the light. The breeze goaded them into life, driving them forward at a pace that echoed the dance of the unseen stars. A dance choreographed to unheard music from an unseen artist.
The gaping crater, lost and forlorn, not a party to the celebration of day, relented and allowed some light to filter down its walls towards the silver fish at the bottom.
"Hell," frantic flicking through a manual. "Hell, hell, hell."
"It's going to take all day to fix this."
"Whatever that bomb was it fused one of the more sensitive components."
"Could you be a bit more careful what we smuggle in future?"
"We got paid well."
"We didn't deliver though."
As the sun approached noon, the last of the cobweb of clouds dissipated. The day shone a purple satin, a kingly setting for the blue-white jewel of sun. The heavily duned landscape, flattened and bowed in the presence of the star at its highest. Light had finally found the ship at the bottom of its crater, where it had winked back, flirting, flaunting its intrusion.
The sun passed its zenith and the landscape again became sculptured. The dunes rose and stretched, rolling in waves over the plain. The light crept up the crater walls and spilled over the rim.
A sunset in silvery purple and black chased away the shadows of day. An invisible spider spun a web over the sky, but with weariness left it tattered and torn. The breeze died as the last of the sunset drained over the horizon. A green and pink glow curiously watched the close of the day.
"Hell," frantic manipulation of a connector plug. "Hell, hell, hell."
"Oh, it's the wrong way round. There. I don't believe it. It's working."
"I think so."
"Set a course, then."
"Give us a chance. Right, where are we going?"
"Home it is. You know, it really is working."
"Right. Power up. Field on. Let's go."
The stillness of that night was broken only by an explosion of black dust as a streak of light sped heavenwards. Over the velvet sky were hung shreds of clouds like and ancient cobweb through which now and again peeped a nova, a splash of colour in the sombre black that stretched to infinity and back again.