The Leya was Mule class, one of those workhorse, carry-all transports that had seeded humankind from Luna out past Neptune. She was not new even thirty years ago. The warrior’s heart drummed happily its music upon catching sight of Leya settled like a child’s erector-set fantasy on the ice, ablaze in all its sunny lights, beneath the Antarctic night rolling in purply aurora.

But Leya’s klaxon moaned tragedy. Odd, Gunnar considered it – the ship totally roused and no one should think to turn it off. Then he reminded himself that Leya was a civilian ship. Ship sentries, though, barely challenged Gunnar as he boarded. Lightning bolt shoulder flashes on their battlesuits. Elites. Who should know better.

Late night, local time, and the whole ship was awake. As he passed among the crew, the talk all of a girl found outside without gear. A suicide. Faces long in shock drew him along the corridors, and inside Leya’s hospital.

The trio of medics in palest green busied themselves about a part-clad female laid out under glaring lights. Watching from one side, someone Gunnar might have anticipated finding here in Antarctica ahead of him. Her figure the perfectly lethal augment to her black battlesuit.

She knew he had arrived and without turning to look at him.

“Gunnar Skjold…” – perfect, her enunciation – “Your diversions have become just predictable enough. You might allow yourself…even more playful sight-seeing, sometime. Re-train yourself. Never too old to learn new tricks, eh?”

Gunnar willed his jaw unclench.

“Ali Shansee. Young one. I expected a secondary. Finalta being…thorough.”

Her smile, those bending lips, the high cheekbones, and flashing eyes, all together fixed him like a target.

“My reasoning, exactly, Gunnar. And Franklin’s. You see, I respect you, your reputation. We have our differences, different approaches, you and I, yet I respect you enough not to withhold the blatantly obvious. I shall not be playing games here. That will be Franklin’s little fun. You see, Franklin is the secondary. I, like you, am not here…so far as Finalta knows. You see, I am not so young and foolish I cannot learn from the veteran and endure just the requisite pain.”

“And Franklin?...”

“Finalta will be tracking him, of course. He’ll…dally…and far enough off our coordinates…long enough. We’ll have sufficient time for raising the objective and lifting off this pretty world of ours.”

“So, we come, Ali, to why you are watching a dead girl and not this moment watching our common objective.”

Her eyes twinkled and the operative smirked in response – “I would’ve hoped Gunnar Skjold was drawn here as I was, to witness the miracle that is life!”

The medics in palest green had turned to Ali Shansee’s exclamation. Her features changed, instantly. She glowered at them.

“She’s not coming back to life without help. Staring at me’s not helping. Get on with it! Hot packs…applied externally…right. You’ve vented her long enough. Warmed her up long enough. Put two-hundred joules of the ship’s current through her heart like the books say. And let’s have a look.”

The two-hundred joules jolted Gunnar enough that he registered a very unfamiliar slight tremor in the small finger of his left hand. He subdued the sensation. He made a fist of it.

The girl lived again across the medical monitors. Her heartbeat chiming, repeating its music. Faces peered in from the corridor. Someone running away, shouting, “She’s okay!”

Ali Shansee’s features had settled. She was watching Gunnar. And he was attempting to read her face.

“GEDDAWAY! GEDDAWAY!...” – the suicide had awoken, flailing about her slim arms, battling with the medics.

“Hold her.”

“I’ve got her.”

“Marcella, you’re gonna be fine. Just lie still.”


“Shhsssh, Marcella…you’re safe…We have you…”

“Why’d you go outside, Marcella?”

“Don’t ask her that.”


“Why’d you try t’kill yourself, girl?”



Ali Sanshee stared so, for whatever her interest, Gunnar told himself.

The End

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