Author : Steven Holland

Jaden Stanitski throttled the space rover to full power. The soft treads of the vehicle crunched over the rough, sun baked surface of Planet Merco II. He avoided the craters and deep crevices of the planet’s surface as best he could. The sack containing small, labeled samples of rock and dirt had been hastily thrown into the rear compartment. The disturbance of his path sent small chunks of brownish-gray rock flying into the air.

Jaden didn’t notice, for dawn was fast approaching. Miles ahead of him, wispy gray smoke rose in a plume. Even after five minutes, the fire still managed to find oxygen aboard his crashed spaceship.

What had gone wrong? The ship was supposed to remain on autopilot, flying along with him on the dark side of Merco II. Perhaps the magnetic field of the planet’s magnetic core had disrupted some electrical component onboard, not that it really mattered at this point.

He was dead. He knew that. Dawn would come and incinerate him to ashes. Despite the circumstances, Jaden laughed at his actions: trying to outrun the spin of nine hour planet on a land rover. He might buy himself a few seconds, maybe even a minute.

Abruptly, he slammed on the brakes. The rover skidded to a stop, its back end fishtailing slightly. The light was coming; Jaden could see it in the horizon behind him now.

The seconds ticked by. Jaden sat frozen on the seat, his mind whirling like an overworked steam engine. Three deaths – incineration, hypothermia, or asphyxiation. The blazing sunlight drew closer, waves of heat rising toward the empty blackness. He had 15 minutes at the most.

Three deaths. Clenching his teeth, Jaden decoupled his air hose. The hissing sound of the air was lost in the vacuum of space. This death would be the most painful, but it was the fate he could control.


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