Author : Suzanne Borchers

“How long have we been out from Base surveying these idiotic planets?” Shar slapped a metallic cloth on the shielded wall to collect filings from her husband’s work on a port glass. “I’m ready to slurp down some authentic concoction while slouching on a nonmetallic stool.”

Shar waited for a response. She heard a grunt. “And I’m ready for a real conversation. I wish just for once you would answer me with words instead of guttural sounds. Can you do that?”
Shar waited for her husband’s answer. He had stood a bit behind her finishing up his repairs to the port glass on the ship. His silence made her swivel around to glare at him, but he wasn’t there. She was used to him ignoring her, but where could he go on a 10’ x 20’ ship?

“Herri?” Shar stepped around the enclosure to check the head. “Herri?” Not there, and he wasn’t in the galley kitchen, the bridge, engineering, or even nesting in the pull-down bed. “Herri?”

No need to panic. They were alone in the seventh quadrant except for that greenish planet they were surveying for a new colony. And it too was alone with no inhabitants. Nothing had pinged their lifeform meter. So he had to be in the ship, but where?

Moving again into the observation enclosure, she noticed the coverall pile on the floor under the port glass where he had been working. Kneeling next to them, she lifted the coveralls, gently stroking the material. Herri’s boots lay akimbo beneath them. “Herri?” she whispered.

A horrible impulse made her straighten up and press her nose against the port glass to examine the blackness outside their ship. What was that silhouetted between her and the bright green planet? “Herri!” A wail escaped her lips. She collapsed.

Questions beat an incessant rhythm on her mind–unanswerable questions. Why didn’t the airlock alarm sound? How did Herri leave the ship? Did the planet below have an unknown lifeform? How was Herri pulled off their ship? Why? Was she next? Shar listened to her shallow breathing and pumping heart. She had to get out of there!

But as she sat beneath the port glass hugging Herri’s coveralls, she knew her first duty.

She logged: plt 239 Not Suitable Quaranti…

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