Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer

Jolla looks toward the setting sun: “A million light years from home and we still instinctively count ‘one’, ‘two’, ‘three’, ‘four, ‘lots’. Our territories are virtually limitless, yet our minds still consider a horizon as the end of the world.”

“I know you’re one of the smartest people ever loosed upon the universe, but do you have to be such an asshole?”

He looks across at me and smiles: “Unfortunately, my intelligence is the side effect of a modification to correct a genetic defect. My being an asshole would still be a feature even if I were as slow as you.”

I’d take a swing at him, but that would mean releasing my death grip on the finger-width ledge we dangle from.

The sun sinks behind distant mountains and the twilight is a strangely comforting shade of deep blue.

He reaches up, swaps gripping arms, and gives a one-shouldered shrug: “To be fair, I only pointed out truths.”

I shake my head: “Pointing out to a bigger force that we’re out of monitoring range, I could let slide. Subsequently cataloguing the shortcomings of the entire opposition from boss to deckhand, I can’t. The fact you’re the logical expedition leader had no influence on a group of beings who hated you for your condescension over the previous eleven months. Hell, the only reason I’m here is duty. We had a mission. Now our vessel is heading for the Free Territories, loaded with the legendary treasures of the no-longer-long-lost Corunna. If I’d been given the slightest moment to change my mind, I’d be with them. But gut reaction is what it is. My reward is to be left hanging from a precipice alongside the cause of my imminent death. Why couldn’t Handra or Marten have gotten lucky, instead of plummeting? At least they were funny.”

“Plus, you fancied them both.”

I look him straight in his perfect blue eyes: “True.”

He smiles ruefully: “Never could get interaction with slow-minds right. Even hints to the one I fancied.”

It takes me a moment to get that.


He closes his eyes: “Yes. I always hoped; never had the guts. So smart, so scared. So, here’s a thing. I know you’ve got a one-shot line on the back of your belt. You’re just too damn dutiful to abandon me, even though I’m to blame. Therefore, I apologise.”

He lets go.

Just like that. Asshole to saviour, but still an asshole. He’s guaranteed I’ll never forget him.