Author : Steve Jopek

A man lies gripping a slowly tumbling boulder of ice and stares into the distance of space.

His broken femur pokes sharply into the material of his white skinsuit threatening to rupture it. His foot and leg are numb, his boot full of thickening blood. Here, deep in the planetary rings, the light is weak and the shifting ice unnerves him. In his concussed state waves of vertigo sweep over him, making orientation painful.

His spaceship will be crossing the planet’s terminus soon, allowing him perhaps one more chance at rendezvousing with it. An explosion has ripped the jetpack from his back and shredded the sample bags he was towing. Now he can only improvise a method of propulsion by cannibalizing his remaining suit pressure.

He’d been trailing Sharon back to the ship when the explosion flung them apart. She had nearly reached the airlock. Twice already he has glimpsed her body for scant seconds before she is eclipsed by the drifting ice fragments.

He can make one last effort to try and reach the ship when it comes about its orbit again, although he has no idea how badly damaged it is. He sights the blue corona of the ship’s tail flare and tracks it unsteadily.

Her body appears then in his peripheral vision, emerging from the ice field, floating amidst mangled metal and accretion stones. As he gapes, suddenly a pocket opens, a random confluence of space with her at its center. The scarlet bloom splashed across her torso is punctuated by the bright yellow lumishaft protruding obscenely from her chest. The lumishaft has activated upon impact and splays morose yellow light in all directions.

He finds the ship again, now arcing towards its closest approach. Through blurred eyes he watches her broken body drifting closer. He feels like he is falling, falling, falling, but the ship is nearly there. Nearly. The ship is coming for him — she is coming for him. The watery reflection of red and yellow in his eyes is joined by the shocking blue of plasma thrusters.

A man lies gripping a slowly tumbling boulder of ice and stares into the distance of space.


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