A Story by Brian Shepard

A few centuries of correspondence. The death of a star. Humans being a******s....

October 26th, 1797

My Dearest Miranda,

I am entrusting this letter to Captain James Hopewell of the East India Company who has given his word that he will guard it during the long journey from Kolkata and deliver it unto your hand upon his return to London. I trust that it finds you well and that the months since we last spoke have been kind and filled with merry distractions. India is far more fantastic than I could have ever imagined- filled with alien sounds and smells, teeming with wild frenetic life. Each morning I walk through the crowded streets from my apartments to the ministry, buffeted on all sides by urchins and peddlers, street musicians and holy men. Often there are elephants and their handlers casually lead the great beasts as if they were as tame as lap dogs, and strange men with deep sunken eyes and long gray beards entrance vipers they keep in wicker baskets. It is a type of madness- the noise and crush of brown skinned men in silk turbans and women with painted hands and gold rings in their nostrils. I dare say you would be shocked and exhilarated by the way the women dance and sing in the streets and on the steps of the many temples of the city.

The richness of the regional cuisine has had a peculiar effect on my digestion and I find myself mixing water and lime with my gin, and adding great spoons of honey to my tea. No doubt my father would accuse me of ‘going native’ and I confess that I do feel a kinship with India I never imagined possible. My only cause for despair is the distance that separates us my love, and even as I experience the beauty of this strange land- it is your beauty that I long for, to gaze once again into your eyes and touch your lips with mine. Two years seems an eternity! Yet I will write often and be frugal with my business that we will be able to afford a royal wedding indeed and a fine home to raise our children in upon my return. I pray that you write as well.

I must be brief that I may catch the Amelia before she leaves her dock and secure this letter to the good Captain. Be of good cheer my love and give my esteem to your father and mother. I will write soon.

Your heart’s servant


P.S. Last evening I was engaged, as I am most evenings, with the telescope my great uncle sent with me. The skies over this region are unusually clear and I believe that I have stumbled upon a hitherto uncharted bright star, at least it is not documented by name in any of my uncle’s charts or books. I have named it Miranda, which I hope will please you, and it is by her light I send my prayers and wishes to you my love. E.

January 6, 1835

I am so very tired of the snow. The sisters tell me that the white blankets covering the fields are to remind us of the pure white wool of the lamb and we should rejoice but all I can think of is the poor fragile flowers trapped beneath, unable to breathe. My room is so cold and the window glass is blurred by frost. When I close my eyes I can see the green waves of summer grass like undulating waves and I am almost happy. Oh how I miss my years in London now! I miss father and little Sheldon who grew up and found fortune in Cardiff and who is buried there now beside his Lilly. I miss Christmases in the old house near the Thames, and the winter carnival, the games and the dances. Life is so still here and there are no tokens of my girlhood left, save one, and that one is bittersweet… my star, my namesake, shining so faintly in the company of giants. The sisters say it is pride and a sin to put your name into the heavens but I tell them it wasn’t my doing at all. Edward, dear sweet Edward was a romantic fool and it was his gift. I imagine him watching over me, forever young and free while I am trapped here in the body of an old woman. In truth I can no longer remember his face or the sound of his voice- nor his words- his letters long since lost but his light is still mine and at night it is sufficient to guide my dreams. Father Brand encourages me not to dwell on the lost but on the coming of our Lord and of the new heaven and new Earth- he has no patience for my stories. Perhaps I should seek out a new confessor- someone young and in love as I was once…someone with passion and blushing cheeks and wild eyes who will understand that loss is as vital as any promise. The sisters are useless, they have pledged their life and their chastity to Christ whereas I sacrificed mine to the memory of a man who died long ago in an exotic land. Oh Edward! Would that you could fall from the sky and into these arms! My light is growing dim with each passing year and yours is so far away. I will sleep now and pray that I remember your face in my dreams. Goodnight my love.

SMS, 03/16/2012 Contact: Levingson(Doc)

Good news broskii- Angie says we’re a go go for tomorrows presentation. Idk what Bronson or his suits are expecting but the numbers are fking insane. I think the old man is gonna s**t himself! Bro, if they green light then our funding is gonna go through the roof so wear a clean shirt. And smile. Plz. Show up to Leary’s around 2 and we can pre-game. No way in hell am I going into this sober! We fking did it man! B.

10/06/2014 To: [email protected] Fr: [email protected] Subj: Thanks

Angie, thanks for shutting L. down at the staff meeting. I don’t have the authority or the balls to deal with him. I can admit that, I’m not proud, so thank you. I don’t know how much of the recent email shitstorm you’re aware of but it’s bad. Power grabs are everyone’s new love language and it’s getting ugly. Ive been holed up in my lab most days just running new models through the computer. All this politics is way over my pay grade and Levinson is a lunatic. All he does is stomp around ranting about sun death and flare shocks. I know hes the genius and all but seriously- it’s like he wants the project to fail. None of the models we have suggest were doing any damage whatsoever and the brass doesn’t want to hear doomsday. No one does. I know I dont. Our current projection is a 66% increase in stored hrs. next quarter. That’s on top of North American usage. But you saw the figures. He’s wild though. I think he’s honestly scared we’re gonna blow up the damn sun and that it’ll be his fault somehow. It’s the money. So much money and let’s face it- we had no idea how any of this was gonna pan out 2 years ago. It’s gotta be guilt. And of course his new pet theory. That’s what he was trying to go off on when you stopped him. He’s convinced he’s found an ideal star on the other side of Cygnus. The holy Grail he calls it. Madness. I’ve actually read his notes and they’re bonkers. I don’t pretend to understand all the math he’s playing with but I know enough about astrophysics to see he’s chasing a unicorn. The fact is DeepSol is working, and I can’t let 21st century guilt over how we raped the environment for cash distract me from results. We’re doing good work Ang. Anyway, thanks again. I’ll send you and the rest of the board the hardcopy and keep tweaking the models. Maybe L. will calm down when he runs the numbers himself. Maybe not. I can’t help thinking that Bronson should just pull him from the project completely. Put him somewhere else. Anywhere else. Didn’t Einstein get pulled from the Manhattan project?



To: [email protected]/ScStat.gov Fr: [email protected]/Prog.gov Subj: Deepstar

Aaron, the latest batch of data from the Deepstar 7 Probe has confirmed Dr. Levinson’s initial analysis of Delta-C115, otherwise known as Miranda. The star can officially be categorized as a Type Two Red Giant or Hyper Giant with a solar mass indication of .8M and a equatorial diameter in excess of 4 AU. I don’t need to tell you that this represents an anomaly. Up until now the existence of such massive low density stars has been purely theoretical- with most astrophysicists regarding it as an impossibility- Dr Levinson the notable exception. I’m sure the smug b*****d is practically beaming over these numbers! The probe has launched into a high coronal orbit and will continue to relay data for another 22 hrs after which the stars gravity will pull it past the heat tolerance and it will disintegrate into 4 Billion dollars worth of atoms.

What makes Miranda so impossible (apart from existing at all!) is that it has maintained steady mass and cohesion- by all current models it should have gone nova over 100 million years ago. There simply isn’t any working math to explain it’s continued stability.

I am authorizing complete transfer of data to your department for deep analysis. I want to know how effective our proposed “scoop” device (I know it has a fancy technical name and I don’t care) would be in retrieving samples from the convective layer of this monster. I know we are still years from it’s completion and even further from any sort of deployment, but Miranda might have critical information on restoring and maintaining solar cohesion in our own sun- which, in the light of the damages solar mining has already caused our home star, would be tantamount to salvation. I needn’t mention the potential profits of expanded solar mining. It is possible that we are moving closer to a Nobel prize after all. Not to mention the riches of Midas. (Do scientists dream of such things?) Please keep my department advised with regular reports. Your friend, Angela.

E.D. 2112.05.28/0:500

Log, ISSV Ceres

CH. Science Officer

Dr. Bradley Griffyn

Final sequencing for Coronal intrusion will be completed at 22:00 Ship-time during tomorrows rotation. The Cjandilari device, which I have affectionately dubbed Caliban, has achieved a stable orbit .6 AU from Miranda and will continue to maintain its relative position until 24:00. The final descent into the convective zone will occur in 3 stages over a 12 hour period, during which time Ceres will maintain tangential orbit at .86 AU. Of course, all of this has been recorded and archived in Ceres’ central net, as well as transmitted to Command Alpha on Earth.

What hasn’t been recorded is the effect Miranda has had on Ceres’ crew. After nearly 45 years in stasis, the 8 men and 3 women who left behind a familiar home world awoke to a red god holding court over alien worlds far older than our own solar system. Frost giants with great silver rings and belts of blue pearl-like moons dwarfed by their Crimson Queen. Even the most disciplined military and scientific minds of humanity catch themselves staring like children transfixed, speechless, breathless- dumbstruck. I often catch myself gravitating to one of the observation decks for no other reason than I want to see and remain seeing what no human has ever seen before. Miranda and her children defy description.

Miranda herself, and the clever device that will peer beneath her skirts is my great mystery, my portion of this expedition- though I will have only 8 days in orbit after tomorrow’s launch. I will spend the next 22 months collecting and analyzing data from the great star while the geophysicists and exobiologists dance about on and around the 5 frozen Titans that circle their red mother. I confess that I am nearly giddy which is rather ridiculous at my age, yet I cannot emphasize enough the wonder and enormity of this expedition.

I will begin a solid stream link with control upon launch and resist the urge to keep Miranda’s secrets to myself. It’s enough to be here, in her presence, and marvel on God’s brilliant architecture. END LOG TRANSMISSION: Dr. BRADLEY GRIFFYN


…too late…contact imminent …device… unforeseen… stop wave… cease all… pray for us…



Priority One/Encyrpted

To: MarshallAddams.CSO. SolarTech/Admin

From: DeanMatthews.SD.SolarTec/Dev

Re: Miranda Event

Marshal, Primary Telemetry confirms Dev/Stat findings concerning Miranda Event.

Ceres Status: Catastrophic Loss

Cmdr. Llewellyn Jacobs, Deceased

PIL Capt. Daly Koscov, Deceased

CSO Dr. Bradley Griffyn, Deceased

SO Dr. Aileen Withers, Deceased

SO Dr. Miles Reece, Deceased

SO Dr. Andrew Chu, Deceased

SE Wilton Manning, Deceased

JE Michael Spanner, Deceased

All data from AI: irretrievable.

Final transmission: Fragmentation attached.

Marshall this is the cluster f**k to end all f**k ups. Dev/Stat has filtered all streaming data leading up to Ceres’ final transmission and can see no causality related to deployment of the Cjandilari device. They’ve run countless simulations and nothing in the data suggests anything outside projected parameters. The readings are consistent with both Cjandilari’s and Dr. Griffyn’s models. We have nothing. Something happened out there. Something unforeseen, and I’ll be damned if anyone can tell me what.

All information regarding Ceres has received Top Security Protocol, not even the minister of Defense can access the logs or records. As far as anyone outside of Solar Tech and the Admin President of the Assembly himself know anything has happened. I don’t have to remind you of what is at stake here. The combined securities of all 5 Admin Blocs have a dangerous stake in this nightmare and unfortunately it will fall on you and me to sort it out. I have begun drafting hypothetical scenarios with my media drones in anticipation of the inevitable public statement. Some sort of heroic accident that will make heroes out of the crew no doubt. Better minds than ours are working on it and I will forward whatever they concoct to you before anything is released for approval. Above all the shareholders must be assured that Solar Tech stock will not suffer and that the gravitic mines on Mercury as well as all Coronal retrieval will continue as scheduled this quarter.

The Admin President is preparing his own address to the Bloc Assembly, though what bullshit that b*****d will spin is a wild card. At least we can be assured he’ll cover his a*s and an a*s that huge should shield us from everything save the whack jobs and religious nuts. Small comfort indeed!

Of course the families will have to be strutted out and given some sort of posthumous medals or some such s**t to shut them up and distract the plebs with patriotic tears. We’ll leave that to the Admin’s a******s. I for one will stand up in front of the Universe Bloc flag and shed appropriate tears. I’ll fall down sobbing in front of the empty coffins if that’s what it takes to keep the machinery going.

But it bothers me Marshall. Once upon a time I was a scientist, we were scientists… and something is very wrong here. Nothing we did or approved should have resulted in this mess. I am going to submit to Dev/Com that an exhaustive inquiry be set in motion, even if a new department has to be created just to figure out what the f**k happened?! Ideally we need to set in motion another Miranda probe if not another full relaunch of the Ceres project. Also, it may be time to consider the Dark Star Initiative our Indian friends have proposed. I know, I don’t like it either- no one likes issuing a death sentence but these are desperate times my friend. If it is any comfort to you Tempest won’t be ready for launch till we are long dead and hellbound. Perhaps we’ll run into some old friends there.

The sun is our cash cow Marshall and it’s dying. Miranda was and is our best chance for understanding how to undo what we’ve done, and maybe we can fix it. I’d like to think so. I’d like to sleep at night again. Dean.

E.D. 2247.10.06/0:900

TFSS 117, Tempest

Fr: CmdrMichaelEllis.SolarTech/Tempest

To: DrElaineCurren.SolarTech/SciAdmin

Subj: Coronal Event, X.2, Miranda

I’ll be damned if it hasn’t happened again. And yes, I know that means I owe you dinner and drinks when this is all wrapped up- barring anything catastrophic I should be home in another 22 years Earth-time. Bring your dancing shoes. But I’ll be frigged if I can figure out how you knew where to look and when. The math just doesn’t add up. No existing pattern analysis can explain let alone predict these events. It just doesn’t make sense Ellie, and I don’t like it. No one on Tempest can wrap their brains around it and I don’t like feeling as if the Company is deliberately withholding crucial data. Dr. Andhar, our helioseismology wunderkind, and Dr. Wendt, our Chief Schrodinger have been running non-stop holofield simulations for 6 weeks now, and though we’ve documented 2 of these Exo-Solar Anomalies (the crew are calling them whizbangs for Chrissake) since our arrival in the sector -so far, all we have determined is that- for reasons unknown- large eruptions (in excess of (.942 47±0.00007)�-10^30 kg) of solar mass- roughly equivalent to ½ of our own sun’s total mass!- are being ejected into empty space at a rate of 1.5 AUs per second at seemingly random intervals. This is theoretically impossible. A hypergiant simply does not have enough mass to maintain cohesion while ejecting what amounts to �" it’s total particle weight. At least it shouldn’t. Andhar has theorized that fusion within Miranda’s core has continued at the rate of a much younger star, somehow replenishing its mass continually- though every law of physics denies that such a thing is possible. Stars do not create matter. Newton says so. And I, for one, am too old to argue with my ancestors. Still, there she is, somewhere on the edge of birth and nova. It’s damned peculiar.

If any planets once inhabited this region they would have been vaporized long ago, after a single eruption- God knows there are considerable amounts of loose particle atoms surrounding Miranda, but can we classify them as cataclysmic residue? Of course not. Base elemental soup and an impossible star. That’s what we have.

It is still undetermined how far these ejections reach before dissipating but Holo projection places it at a distance of roughly 6.2 light years! Ellie why the hell are we here? What aren’t you telling me?

With no way to accurately predict these events we are forced to remain in constant phase which leaves physical inquiry impossible. We don’t know what we’re looking for Ellie. Please help an old friend to understand. I know you know something, Company be damned, let me in. Cmndr. Michael Ellis, Tempest Outpost. END TRANSMISSION.

(Note left on Secretary General Jarvis Anderson’s desk: Sir, WE have become death, and may God have mercy on us all …)

E.D. 2247.11.27/0:432

TFSS 117, Tempest

Fr: CmdrMichaelEllis.SolarTech/Tempest

To: DrElaineCurren.SolarTech/SciAdmin

Subj: Nova

Ellie, there isn’t much time but I thought since I’m going to die out here, a lot sooner than I was planning on btw- I thought I’d use this phase rotation to pen a few last thoughts for posterity.

First, I forgive you for lying to me. Oh I know you never directly fed me false information but you did hold a lot back, and I know you had your reasons. Whatever the Company held over you I can only imagine- but my death, and the death of all of us out here on the far fringes of known space must weigh heavily on you. I remember our last conversation in Zurich and how kind your eyes were. You must have known then what you were sending us towards and how it must have destroyed you. So I forgive you. You’ll grow older and I’ll join the stars but I don’t hate you and besides, I saw Miranda, and she is beautiful.

Phasic shifts are a funny thing, and I’m sure that the AI and tech wizards on Earth will have a field day with what we found when we sifted through the matter stream of sub-space and then isolated, out of the atom soup, Ceres’ final transmissions. I don’t pretend to understand it all, I haven’t had the time and now time is not my luxury.

I’ll never know why, though I have my own pet theories, we as a race thought it appropriate to dig our claws into Miranda but this I have learned- we were playing with big boy toys we had no business with. Whatever we did, we tapped an energy, a force, we couldn’t even begin to control. Humor me, I have a few minutes, this is what I think:

I think God knows what he’s doing but He lets His foolish children blunder about, hoping we’ll learn humility in the face of his immensity. I think He makes mistakes there- and I know how blasphemous that sounds and I know that you don’t care. I’ve read your personnel file and I know you have no room for God.

I think we did something terrible to Miranda and that she is crying about it. You can forgive me where I sit for saying so. Science has led me here but I think faith is what will make this end bearable. For me, for my crew, and hopefully for you as well.

Miranda will nova soon. Whatever precarious, impossible balance she maintained- whatever deal she brokered with quantum physics has been called off- and we did that! Andhar submitted his final report one hour ago, you’ll have received it by now. Does it strike you as surreal that as you read this I am already a week dead, atomized, gone into the dark space? The Nova is my future and your past. How odd that must seem!

The crew has retreated to their cabins to cry, scream, f**k, drink… yes I handed over my precious supply of celebration bourbon, why not? I imagine a few are sending messages, like my own. I assume no one will ever receive them. I imagine an enormous broom whisking us under the company carpet. Sad.

Whatever spin the Company takes, whatever forward thinking arises from this, whatever comes next- allow me to make this observation:

When Miranda dies, she will take… and whatever the cost, it isn’t mine. You dear Ellie, and all who sit in your shoes owe the universe an apology.


J’Ulian Ko,

…Dearest, I have witnessed the most remarkable occurrence in the southern sky! Between the twin moon, in the empty dark- a new firelight has been born! It began as a burst of brilliant white against the void and even now it’s glow grows larger and larger as if being drawn on a celestial chariot towards our erg. What a sign this must be! I am sure the Divine Spirits are sending us a messenger of good tidings! How wonderful and humbling is it that the elders have allowed me, as chief astrologer of the people to choose from the ancient scrolls a name for this new light?! May the Spirits smile upon my reverent pride, for I have named her in like with our own unborn child. My dearest J’Ulian Ko, The night sky blazes as it welcomes Mir’an Da!

© 2020 Brian Shepard

Author's Note

Brian Shepard
I've always wanted to write a story made up of letters. I hope it works.

My Review

Would you like to review this Story?
Login | Register


I love the whole build-up. The first two letters and the last one make this story a thousand times better. As always, congratulations, and thank you for the good read!

Also, I learned a new word: "tantamount".

Posted 5 Days Ago

Brian Shepard

5 Days Ago

A thousand times better than what? Lol. Thank you for the kind review and congratulations on your ne.. read more
Esteban Morfín

5 Days Ago

A thousand times better than it would have been without them.
And yes, new words are nice. I .. read more
[send message][befriend] Subscribe
What a great batch of communication there is here! I was totally taken by your epistolary style, and the passage of so many years. We trace a star from naming to naming, from birth to 'death' to rebirth. It's really well-done! I'm not wise in terminology but it pleased me to think of "AU," whenever mentioned, as "Alternate Universe." That's what you wrote here, with your wonderful way of telling past, present and future stories about the same star, Miranda. The voices in each communication are distinct from each other and hold individual personality as well as a reader's attention. The happenings, secrets, doing, boasting and fearing are all spot-on. And your "Author's Note" - that made me laugh out loud. I've always wanted to do the same thing. :-D

Posted 1 Week Ago

Brian Shepard

1 Week Ago

Alternate Universe. Nice. I like that. AU is an astrolocial measurement of distance- 93 million mile.. read more
Very interesting. The time jumps mixed with the tech jumps are impressive and the static corporate philosophy that drives the astro-ecologic abuse makes it a compelling cautionary tale.

Posted 1 Week Ago

Brian Shepard

1 Week Ago

Thank you sir. I am in the middle of your werewolf piece and will comment when I've consumed it!
This comment has been deleted by the poster.
My goodness, really don't think you need too much help with writing! . Whilst I've staggered through your quite longstory and will definitely return to read it over and over and find what seem to be so many threads, the language, range and tangents are fascinating. The finishing paragraphs are somehow touching on the world as is.. but, science seems to have a different direction there.

Certainly it's a great idea to story-tell in letter form,. Might add a comment from Miranda, or perhaps what E. thinks she might say. He writes of her in such a devoted warm way.

One thing, your initial language definitely had a touch of C18 which opened the time so well.. BUT as your words rolled out, you used modern phrasing and the inevitable swearwords. Perhaps that is supposed to happen or.. .. Great vocabulary however!

I will return and will point your story at some story writers in here. Welcome to the cafe.

Posted 1 Week Ago


1 Week Ago

Great idea re. varying time change. I rarely swear.. but heard it all before. My comment really po.. read more
Brian Shepard

1 Week Ago

Well, the letters are spaced out over a 500 year period. So the language does change.

1 Week Ago

Okay, said I needed to read and read, I will. Don't doubt I''ll realise that I've missed so much on.. read more

Request Read Request
Add to Library My Library
Subscribe Subscribe


4 Reviews
Added on May 19, 2020
Last Updated on May 24, 2020


Brian Shepard
Brian Shepard

Southwest Harbor, ME

I'm not sure how to fill this section without sounding like it's a personal ad. So I'm not going to worry about it. I'm Brian, 42, married father of six. My family and I live on Mt. Desert Island off .. more..


Related Writing

People who liked this story also liked..