“Happy Valentine’s Day, Auntie Allie.”

Long-range deep-space pilots like Allison were among the most highly-sought-after, highly-paid, and lonely jockeys in the cosmos.

“Did you get my valentine? I made it special for you.”

The relativistic nature of their travel meant that they were permanently sundered from kith and kin. Paid in advance, they often gave the money to the families that they were leaving behind forever during their lonely decades-long voyages.

“I made it out of thing that I found lying around.”

Loneliness and a longing for family that was aging and dying beyond their ken led to a lot of coping mechanisms. Some families would record years’ worth of holiday messages to be played out as the travelers went about their celestial vigils.

“I hope you’re not mad, Auntie Allie.”

Others went the highly illegal route of uploading personality engrams from their families into their ships’ computers before their departure. Allison had made just such an engram of her niece, Callie, before leaving for the voyage that was supposed to provide for Callie and Callie’s invalid mother for the rest of their lives.

“Have you seen Mommy?” I want to show it to her.”

Huddled in the emergency pod, drawing on its oxygen and power reserves, Allison watched fearfully through the porthole as Callie’s engram cried out to her from every screen, every speaker, every port, every network on her ship.

“I want to give her a valentine too, Auntie Allie.”

Carson had suffocated when the atmosphere had been blown out of C Deck. Patel had been asleep when those systems have been overrun with junk data; she was just a brain stem connected to life support now.

“I made valentines for your friends too.”

Atmosphere reserves were dropping, power was almost out, and the only surviving crew member was crying silently next to Allison in the dark.

“I hope they liked them.”

Allison pressed her hand to the porthole.

“I love you, Auntie Allison.”

“I love you too, baby,” Allison whispered. “I love you too. Happy Valentine’s Day.”

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