Author : Sean Monaghan

Jerry ducked Monica’s projectile, his knees up to his chin in zero-G. The sno-globe missed his head by millimeters and smacked into the aluminum window casing, then spun through their cabin.

‘Honey, it’s okay, it’s-‘

‘Ladies and Gentlemen,’ the captain’s voice crackled over the intercom. ‘We’ve been cleared for re-entry by Mojave control. If you look out your windows now, you’ll get your last view from space, dawn breaking over eastern Siberia. We’re about to fire our braking rockets and drop into the atmosphere. All going well, we should have you on the ground and cleared through quarantine in twenty minutes.’

‘Where are they?’ Monica yelled. Her make-up was smeared from wiping tears. Jerry wondered if she was still drunk from the end of cruise party. She’d probably kept drinking after he’d turned in.

‘Allan’s holding them. I told you. We can’t go through security with-‘

Monica reached out and plucked the spinning souvenir from the air, flinging it at him again. The globe impacted his abdomen making the adhesive prosthesis jab him sharply. He saw the snowy hills of Mars again, encapsulated in the small drifting quartz sphere.

The ship jerked. ‘We are beginning our descent,’ the intercom relayed. ‘Please be seated in your gravity couch. Ensure you fasten your webbing harness.’

Jerry grabbed the netting. In the cramped cabin, it was hard to drift out of reach of anything, just as it was hard to avoid Monica’s missiles. He could hear a hissing sound.

‘The whole point of the trip,’ Monica said, ‘was to bring home the diamonds. And you give them away.’

Jerry looked out the window, seeing a trail of glinting vapor. ‘I didn’t give them away,’ he said.

The window was leaking, he realized. Ariadne’s cheap reputation included a poor maintenance record, and the sno-globe had probably wrecked the window seal’s alignment.

‘Cabin crew, cross-check doors. And be seated for re-entry.’

‘We can’t trust Allan.’ Monica grabbed her own webbing, pulling herself in and managing to slap Jerry’s face a few times.

‘Maybe not.’ Red plasma was streaming around the window as they struck the atmosphere.

‘I didn’t even see him on the whole trip,’ Monica said.

A robotic voice chimed through their speaker. ’13B, your harnesses are unbuckled. Ariadne Spacelines will not be responsible …’

‘Shut up!’ Monica yelled. ‘I’m putting it on!’

The pane’s edge was glowing now. Jerry knew at this stage their cabin door was sealed so, even if the window blew out, the ship’s integrity would hold. Assuming door maintenance was better than for windows, the other four hundred passengers would be safe, while he and Monica got crisped.

‘Are you hot?’ Monica said.

The window was a blur of red and he could see a thin blowtorch of flame from one edge.

‘Dammit,’ he said.

‘I’m not giving Allan any of my percentage.’

Jerry threw her a look, then ripped off his harness, feeling the tug of deceleration still pushing him against the couch. He pulled up his shirt and peeled back the prosthesis. The piece of artificial skin flopped around and he slapped it onto the damaged frame. The fibrous bioshard material designed to elude security began shrinking and charring, then congealed into a solid glittering carbon lump, the diamonds showing. Still, it had stopped up the hole.

‘What the hell?’ Monica said, staring at the makeshift repair.

Jerry sighed falling back into the couch. So much for his plan to tell her that Allan had given them the slip at the spaceport.

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