Author : Thomas Keene

Every metal surface inside the cabin sang, and the readouts flickered. A steady, pure note that Charles called “the Banshee”. Evan clenched the crew telemetry readout so hard that waves of color flowed across the display. He was the only crew member with a heartbeat.

“‘Brown dwarf’ my ass.” Evan looked over the magnetic readings one more time, and scribbled them on a notepad. Three times stronger than an hour ago, before Yuri and Charles had gone on EVA to fix the external sensors.

The metallic ringing increased in pitch, and two more monitors in the cabin flashed error messages before shorting out. Evan shook himself. “I’m already dead. No propulsion, no computers, flying blind, gonna crash into a star at one-third cee in a week…”

Evan pulled himself along the rungs to the canteen. He drunk a liter of sugar-water as he stared out the port at the slow-moving bluish starfield. After a few minutes his breathing slowed, and he wiped the sweat from his face with a towel.

The ringing sound dropped half a note and Evan flinched. “Maybe… Maybe the magnetic anomaly is blocking their telemetry signals. They could be alive. I’ll just duck out for a quick look.”

Evan pulled himself to the back of the crew compartment. He stared wide-eyed at the airlock as he stroked the fabric of one of the pressure suits. “Wish I could use a hardsuit, but nobody’s here to close it. Hell… Dead, dead…” He suited up and started the cycle.

The ringing became quieter and quieter. Evan could feel a small buzzing in the joints of his suit, but if he breathed deeply he could barely hear it. He sat in the open airlock for fifteen minutes, staring at the slowly-shifting starfield that trailed behind the ship with his arms pressed against the walls of the chamber.

Then the ringing became a sharp whine inside his helmet. Evan curled up and gasped, then flailed and grabbed a rung at the edge of the airlock. He took a deep breath and pulled himself through the door.

To his left was the fore of the ship, with the back of the ablative shield sitting as a large, dark pentagon with reddish stars slowing spreading from its edges. He carefully inspected it for holes, some sign of damage, but it was perfectly intact. Then he looked to his right and threw up in his helmet.

It was Yuri, his hardsuit’s steel-faced helmet ripped clean off. His face was pale and still. One side of his body was charred black, and white vapors leaked from it. His intact arm was held stiff, close to his face. Evan choked and coughed as he jerked his head around, and the vomit eventually moved to the side.

Evan turned back to the airlock. He pulled himself forward on the rung, but met resistance. He pushed on the rung to look behind him, and a bright white glow filled his vision.

Her upper body was chalk-white and slender. She had human clear-blue eyes, Evan stared into them with his mouth agape. Her tail was a thousand-meter long strand of twisting rarefied plasma curled around half the length of the ship.

She floated closer and took him by the shoulders, then kissed his visor. It bubbled apart under the heat and his suit depressurized in an instant. He screamed soundlessly as she caressed his face, his cheeks baking in the solar wind as he drowned beneath the starry waves of the void.

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