Author: Allyson Foley
His breathing was deafening in the confines of the helmet as he clung to the wreckage of the Palindrought.
That thing had looked like one of theirs. Its clearance codes had checked out. Its hull, the call sign, even its frequency and flight path had all cleared.
The ship had been Telphi in every way that mattered—a fellow deep space patrol cruiser.
But only on the initial sweep.
Too bad that by the time they’d dug any deeper, they’d been under target lock, and the Odni, marked M.I.A nearly two months previous had opened fire. Too late had their shielding been called up to stop the barrage of alien weaponry that tore through their hull and disabled their arrays.
To call it a fight would be an insult.
To call it a slaughter? Too kind.
The Palindrought had cracked, the fore decks crumpling among depressurization. The airlock he’d been exiting was the only reason he’d survived the initial attack, but now, floating out here, he couldn’t help the panic that gripped him.
He was alone.
He’d caught the gleam from the thing wearing the Odni’s hull moments before as she slipped through the wreckage of her sistership. Hunting.
Had anyone gotten a signal out? Surely someone would have logged the odd encounter in a place where the only reason to see another Telphi ship was in an emergency?
He had to believe someone was coming.
He hadn’t checked his oxygen. Knowing could only hurt him out here.
Then, a shock of orange in the corner of his vision.
Another suit, a dozen or so meters out, drifting in a slow turn. He quickly activated his radio ping. His suit was for hull repair, not full tack with a proper comm unit, but this was close enough.
“Hey! Hey, over here!” He called breathlessly into his helmet.
He cursed and looked around, his mind already turning to more practical ideas. That suit had more oxygen.
He’d need to time this right. A piece of debris tumbled past, his hands and feet bracing him to push off once it was clear.
The sudden noise in the silence caused him to jerk, nearly losing his purchase as he frantically responded.
“Hello? Holy shit, where are you? Hello?”
He cast his head around in the hood of the helmet, trying to find the voice’s owner.
“I can’t see you! Where are you?” He called again.
He looked back at where the suit still floated, not too far off. Could it be them? Wait, there! They’d jerked, arms and legs moving slightly.
“I’m coming! If you can hear this, I’m coming to you! I see you!”
He steadied himself, watching them continue to turn. They would be facing him by the time he got close, perfect.
“Hold on,” he reassured as he pushed off, floating towards them steadily, hand grabbing for his tether.
They were almost facing him now, and he pasted on his best reassuring smile, knowing the helmet lights illuminated his face.
It fell away, however, as the suit finally faced him.
Faceplate shattered. The front of the suit was torn open, and something clung there in the tatters, an almost human face staring back at him, bare of protection.
“Help me!” His radio cried as the thing’s mouth opened.
He floated closer—no way to stop.
“I see you!”