Author: Emma Burnett

Lila held her daughter tightly. The blows from the girl’s little fists fell onto Lila’s shoulders, her cries reverberated through Lila’s head.
“Ted. Ted!” Yanni screamed. Lila’s heart broke for the little girl.
They’d been lucky, Lila knew. They had been in a neighbours’ room when the tiny space pebble had punctured the cheap wall of their outer-lining room. Otherwise, they’d be locked in there, too, like Yanni’s teddy, the only thing left from their emergency flight off-planet. They’d be locked on the other side of the plexi, trying to plug the hole with anything they could get their hands on, waiting for a hullbot to crawl around to them. The bots were programmed to prioritise paid cabins, not the refugees tacked to the outside. They’d probably have frozen, or suffocated, waiting for the bot.
“Ted!” Yanni’s howls cut through the gathering, muttering crowd.
Yanni’s despair was contagious. Panic rose up through Lila. Her throat felt tight. She needed to get into the room, needed to save the last bit of home for her daughter. She shifted her daughter on her hip and pressed her free palm against the door panel.
“Unlock, dammit!” she yelled at the door. She could dash in, grab the bear. Two steps, that’s all it would be. It was a very small room; she would be fine.
“Good luck with that,” the voice emanated from a speaker. The ship’s AI was a casual bully, programmed by people who cared about the location of your room. Luxury inner cabin? Chipper, helpful. Relief outer-lining capsules? Like it said. Good luck.
“Please? Please? Just a quick in-and-out? I could even plug the hole from the inside, save you some work, save you some oxygen.” Air was leaking from the tiny hole, but if it got much bigger the repairs would be much harder for the ship’s bots.
There was a pause. Then the AI said, almost grudging, “Access granted.”
She cupped Yanni’s face and stared into her eyes for a heartbeat. Then she kissed her daughter’s wet cheeks, breathed in the scent of her.
“I’ll get Ted. I love you,” she whispered before she passed her to a neighbour.
Lila took a deep breath and reached for the panel. She couldn’t save them from the past, but she could do this. The bolt on the door thunked.
The room
on the other side of the plexi