Author : Andy Brazil

It’s difficult to know which will kill us first, the decompression when the shields fail or the radiation poisoning from the crippled engines. Either way, it’ll be messy and unpleasant. That’s why we decided to do it this way.

Un’Shaqq was staring out the window, watching the stars. She didn’t flinch as the needle sank below her brown fur, didn’t turn her gaze as her right paw signed her thanks. I was almost out of her quarters when I heard her body fall, her body harness rattling on the metal floor.

Dorothy and Paul were already gone when I got there: their bodies lay next to each other on the bed, the open tablet bottle a testament to their choice, the sound system still playing. Verdi, I think.

Sal was huddled on his chair, pale, legs drawn up, knees below his chin, hands clasped by his ankles. Rocking as he stared at the dead monitor screen. “It’s all gone” he said as I entered, “All gone, central core, off-line storage, back-ups, everything except the optical disks and they end 5 minutes before the accident.”

“They won’t know, Jane” he continued, “They won’t know what hit us – not from the system. So I wrote it down for them. Only there’s no pens you see, no paper for that matter”

I turned to follow his gaze. The far bulkhead was covered, the handwriting starting in the top corner above his cot, like a child’s crayon in rusty brown. I glanced back and down, the thin smear on his socks next to his wrists confirming my suspicions. I tilted my hand slightly; let him see the needle held there. “No need” he smiled, “but they’ll know now, when they come looking.” I nodded, “Yes Sal, they’ll know” I murmured as I gathered him to me, “They’ll know”

“Getting cold now” he said. We’d moved to the bed and I was lying next to him, his head on my chest. Then, “I wish we’d… you know”.

Eventually I eased his head back and stood. I was stiff from lying so still for so long, but there was still time. Time, and one last visit to make. It took a while to thread my way down to the engine rooms, the bulkheads twisted by the explosion like crumpled card, but eventually I stood in the cavernous space. Stood by the ruined engines – the engines that had been my rival for her love for so long. Stood and called her, my lover, my friend, my soul-mate. “Kitty” I called and stood, my head to one side.

Stood and waited for the kiss of her teeth.

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