Author : Dan Whitley

A ghastly wrenching sound drummed the ship from outside. Another loose bit of hull or outboard instrument had torn away. It flapped off into the distance, carried on the frigid blizzard of an alien world.

“Would you stop fidgeting?” Petra shot a baleful look over her shoulder at Quinn, the downed ship’s other occupant. She felt too cold to worry about getting the distress beacon working. He ignored her and continued rummaging about. She looked back toward the burning instrument panel and warmed her hands again. Quinn located the ship’s emergency locker and secreted its pistol into the back of his belt. He tossed the first aid kit onto the small loading deck.

“Seriously Quinn, cut that shit out. You’re gonna use all the air.” Petra stared rimed daggers at him. Her voice had the wrong sort of dread in it, the kind of tone when someone knows they’re going to have to live through something awful.

Quinn did not look up as he sorted through the first aid kit. Petra spun back around in a huff and tried the distress beacon again. Quinn made sure she wasn’t watching and shot himself up with a morphine syringe. He repaired the first aid kit and stretched his limbs a bit, getting his blood pumping.

“Fuck!” Petra shouted, dashing the distress beacon against their ship’s wide viewport. “I can’t get this working!” That tipped her over the edge. She coiled up in the co-pilot’s seat and spoke into her knees. “Oh god… we’re really gonna die. Quinn, we’re gonna die! Do something!”

Quinn was back at the locker. Satisfied that it was empty, he wandered over toward the loading hatch’s control panel and started typing at it.

“Quinn… Quinn, look at me…” The dread in Petra’s voice had returned. Quinn spun around and looked Petra square in the face, knowing full well what would come next.

“Listen,” Petra went on. “I don’t think we’re getting out of this… so I have to tell you. Back home, Chris…” Tears crept into Petra’s voice. Tears of dread, but not remorse. He could tell; he knew her too well. “He’s not yours, Quinn. I’m sorry.”

The slightest of smirks crept over Quinn’s face. He drew the pistol from his back and let it hang at his side.

“So that’s how it goes, huh?” Petra all but screamed. “We crash on a routine scout flight, and I come clean about Chris, about what I did, and you’re gonna up and shoot me, right here, just because you can? Well fine!” Petra threw her hands up defiantly. “You wanna kill me just because of that, do it.” Her words rang with more hollow fear than anger or hatred.

Quinn raised the pistol and put a round right through the distress beacon. He put another into the radio for good measure. Petra stared at Quinn with empty confusion. He never broke eye contact as he punched the console to open the hatch and set it to lock when it shut again. Lethal, icy winds blustered into the ship as the hatch crawled open.

Quinn spun around and flung the pistol off into the snow at an angle. He turned back and punched the console to shut the door and looked Petra square in the eye.

“I knew.”

Quinn ducked under the hatch as it shut and started off into the snow. As he walked, the ice in the wind tore his suit, and then his skin, and then his flesh, right off his bones.

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