A Long Walk Out the Airlock


In the isolated expanse of the edge worlds, there is little industry aside from mining.


A scuttled ship split in two creates a conspicuous scene amidst the graveyard of derelict ships, orbiting a small, sage-colored world. The front half of its hold exposed to space violently jettisons cargo as it barrels through, the contents exploding spectacularly into iridescent spheres of light and dust as they impact what was the aft of the ship, the remaining half heading toward the cloud-laden planetoid. The cracked window of the cockpit inhabits only one person, ragdoll as the ship shakes, the unsecured harness next to them whipping violently. Through the door to the communications deck, a center-console futilely warns the crew of the ever-present danger as floor panels are ripped open and sucked through the adjacent cargo hold, the items within their compartments following in chase. The skipping voice informs the empty ship, “WARNING, HULL BREACH DETECTED, WARNING, PRIMARY ENGINES OFFLINE, WARNING…”, it cycles through several automated status reports as the accompanying alarm signals futilely, then falls silent. Through the corridor and into the medical bay, emergency lights flash to life as a cryogenic-stasis pod vents into the room, the water vapor quickly thins and rushes out the corridor into space.


From inside, two eyes open in panic to witness the carnage in the medical room. Dry blood covering the walls leading out of the room describe what was, presumably, the death of an unlucky inhabitant. A deafening hiss signals the sealing of the ship as heavy breathing becomes audible. The occupant stumbles forward as the pod’s doors open outward, dropping them to the floor. As they struggle to stand, they notice they are not normal to the floor, and are forced to lean back just to remain standing. The chill of the ship becomes noticeable soon after, and as if by instinct the empty pod ejects a sealed bag containing clothes from one of its receptacles close to the floor. The pod dweller rushes to open the bag, attempting to consciously prevent their haste from hindering their efforts to unseal the bag.


They find a two-part seal, requiring it to be torn then unzipped to open, their hands shake as they gathered the strength to partially tear it, placing their elbow against their abdomen to gain leverage and fully remove the first seal. The zipper opened slowly, the bite of each tooth dragging against the slider body reverberating into their thumb and index finger as they unsealed the bag fully.


A tan metallic suit is the centerpiece of the kit, equipped with several pouches on its front chest-plate, with hoses starting at the front and moving over the shoulders to an inflatable seal around the neck. On the left arm, a circular patch with a triangular symbol is the only notable indicator of its origin, the letters ‘AEV’ embroidered in the center. As the pod dweller removes the suit from the bag they feel a heavy object underneath, and discover a box with two pins at the center, a small gap separating it into two distinct sides. The two sides rotated about the pins, revealing a pistol grip, the internals of the box are an array of crystals and focusing lenses forward of the grip, and four batteries behind it. The barrel is nestled by the cuboid body of the gun, only a small opening at the front reveals itself. The pod dweller folded the weapon, the barrel opening becomes concealed, returning to an unassuming, boxy form.


After donning the suit, gloves, and boots, the top of the cryo-pod opens to reveal a helmet, it’s obsidian-like glass, dark and opaque, starkly contrasted the white-walled medical room. Protected by the rigid structure of the cryo-pod, the helmet is in pristine condition, if only somewhat dusty. The pod dweller hears a hissing sound as they feel air squeeze out between the helmet, gloves, and boots from the suit, and infer it has successfully sealed.


The hoses on the back of the suit magnetically latch to the helmet, and the chest plate had a hollow recess in the front that fit the pistol perfectly. Inferring its design intent for concealment and transport, the pod dweller placed the box into the receptacle where it snapped in place with stout report. Their attention now focused on assessment and escape, they moved toward the cryo-pod and adjoining terminal.


Scorched weld marks cascading from its base imply the pod was retrofitted to the ship, and the only connection the pod has is to the nearby terminal. As the pod dweller moved around the terminal monitor, they are met with a gloved hand, severed, and gripped tightly to a lever. A white tag is fitted to a small chain, wrapping the hand beginning at the wrist, intertwining the fingers, and finally around the lever, the hand swaying as it is held afloat by the chain.


The pod dweller inspected the hand, sinew dangles from the exposed bones, split and jagged with sheared muscle hanging solely from skin. They remove the hand from the lever and take the tag, placing it in one of their suit pockets before moving on to the cryo-pod terminal. The terminal, halfway torn from the floor and tilted on two of what appears to have once been four large bolts at each a corner, is currently displaying the status of each section of the ship.



!WARNING! Viewport breach

Captain Fea at Station



!WARNING! Hull breach

Vacuum Shielding: Online



!WARNING! Transmitter offline

Receiver Online



Doctor Territ at station



!WARNING! Status Unavailable

Engineer Jaru is away


//Carry your tags with you at all times. If you get lost without it, don’t expect someone to come looking for your ass! -Captain Fea//


The list provides no indication of the existence of the cryo-pod. The pod dweller attempted to access the terminals other menus. They navigate to the logs section, which shows several voice-transcribed journals signed ‘Dr. Territ’, the first two of seven entries are deleted. They opened the most recent entry on the terminal.




//we just lost half the ship some kind of pulse from the quasar and i cant get with fea took the last of my ash all at once


im not gonna let you die here after spending two months watching you sleep im waking you up think of it as my last good deed


if theres something after im gonna need it good luck aev//




“Aev?” they asked aloud.


An uneasiness accompanied the word as they once again inspected the patch on their arm. The letters ‘A E V’, written in bright, embroidered letters.


A download button sits at the bottom of the entries, and as the pod dweller presses it their view within the helmet lights up to denote the entries have been stored.


“An Acronym?” they questioned aloud. The ship begins to shake, nearly throwing the pod dweller to the floor.


“One thing at a time” Aev said, resigning their thoughts solely to escaping the room.


A blue, translucent barrier obstructs their path, several pipes running parallel with the corridor are barely visible through the crackling shield.


“At least the vacuum shield is holding… no remote access on this suit…” Aev pondered as they searched their suit for a way to deactivate the shield from a distance. The ship shakes again, more violent than before as Aev struggles to stay standing.


Making haste, Aev takes staggered steps to the back of the room, moving to draw their pistol. They press with their palm into the chest-piece, an affirming click is audible as the they feel the pressure of the gun beneath their palm. Aev pulled their hand away as the boxy weapon unfolds and flies out into their hand. Having no sights, Aev attempts to aim the weapon at the control panel to the vacuum shield and fires three times, their aim swaying off center as the ship shakes again.


The first two blasts miss the controls, leaving scorch marks on the wall, while the third hits the shield and ricochets back towards Aev, narrowly missing over their shoulder. Aev takes aim once more, steadying their hand in the few peaceful moments available to them.


They fire, the shot finds the door controls and the shield dissipates near instantaneously. Aev is pulled forward by the rush of air leaving the room and narrowly catches the door frame with one hand, causing them to round the corner. Aev slams against the inside wall of the corridor, their heart racing as they feel for their helmet, searching for any cracks. Aev begins to float away from the wall, their arms swinging wildly before they find a pipe to grasp.


Aev examines the corridor in search of more handholds, noticing the walls are faded with blackened strips peeling off the doorway at the opposite end. They turn around to see the sheared hull afore the desolate view of space behind them, several ships floating in tow, broken and lifeless as a bright band of light becomes larger with time. Panic sets in as Aev pushes themselves from the pipe to the opposite wall, kicking off it to float back toward the medical room. Aev looks back to see the corridor light up, the silhouettes of pipes fill their view.


“There are actually quasars still out there?!” they exclaimed, unfamiliarity resounding as frustration in Aev’s voice.


Aev hurries to exit the hall before another pulse contacts the ship, pulling themselves by the door frame and landing against the opposite wall feet first, kicking off the pipes and floating towards the next room. Aev approaches the communications deck as they once more grab the frame, this time remembering to turn their body to land feet first against the inside wall.


The ship shakes again, Aev floats in place as the door frame slips from their grasp, the floor of the ship moving high enough to just touch their feet, instilling a sense of nausea within Aev as their eyes registered the movement. Aev spots a control panel on the other side of the doorframe and moves towards it, they begin pressing buttons and turning dials hoping to engage the vacuum shield.


Aev sees the corridor light up again, and a few moments later the ship bounces, the control panel moving in and out of their reach.


“Come on!” they shout, sighing reluctantly. Aev takes a deep breath, breathing out slowly. They repeat this breathing exercise a few more times as they float between the door and the central holo-terminal in the communications deck.


“One thing at a time” Aev repeats, trying desperately to calm themselves.


Reminded of how they blasted the controls to the door of the medical room, Aev draws their weapon, attempting to inspect it further. The ship shakes again, less intense than before, Aev tracking the control panel as its position shifts. Aev fires, the control panel explodes, sparks fly as bits of hot metal explode and float away.


A sphere of expanding smoke emanates from where the control panel was, clearing up with time. Aev turns their head to the door to see the doorway still unchanged.


“That tracks…” they note with a sigh, resigning to floating while they consider other methods of escaping their predicament. The blast from their pistol did not push them back at all, and they do not have any other equipment to throw to propel them. Aev shakes their head each time they consider and concede each option they can come up with.


The ship shakes again, moving as lightly as before. Aev tilts their head up in attention, searching around frantically.


“Why would the intensity drop?” they questioned as the shaking was clearly weaker. For a moment Aev considered if they were mistaken, only believing that the shaking was weaker since they were no longer being pushed around through contact with the ship.


Aev looked to the corridor to check the intensity of the light and compare it to the shaking, and confirmed that the ship was shaking less while the corridor illuminated consistently. The silhouettes of the pipes were static, not just in contrast but in position.


Recalling the journal entries Aev downloaded, they moved to access their suit functions using the controls on their arm. Aev launches their heads-up display and notices a charge meter, a round symbol denotes the suit can recharge through radiation, though what type is not specified. Concerned that they may deplete the charge of their suit, Aev prioritizes their O2 recyclers over their curiosity.


Hours passed, the shaking ceased and Aev understood just how quiet everything was. The systems of the suit became loud, breathing like it was alive, pumping air within the suit through the tubes from their helmet to the recyclers on their back. If they focused, Aev could feel the air moving through the tubes and the light vibrations indicating the direction of its flow, the crinkling whenever they moved, the slight fogging of their helmet just below their nose with each breath.


Within the still, silent ship the only notable entropy was Aev and the signs of the quasar coming from the corridor. Another hour passes, using the flashes from the hall as both a sign of time and measure of sanity, Aev carries on with nothing. Aev relegated to utilizing their time to gain familiarity with the communications deck.


The first thing Aev noticed was that they were rotating very slowly, with a slight precession. Next, the sparks and bits of metal blasted out from the control panel, unsure if they were fortunate to not get hit by any or if their suit was resilient enough to withstand them. After that was the darkness of the room. Each flash of the corridor dissipated softly into the deck.


Aev verified their knowledge of the deck with each rotation. Opposite the corridor, centered with the room, was likely the cockpit doorway. Facing the cockpit, to the right was another door, closed. The center of the room contained the holo-terminal, but it was too dark to see much else but the silhouettes of a large concave object in the middle of the structure. Pipes raced the walls, leading to each corner of the room and through the walls into other parts of the ship.


Their boredom had long peaked when Aev realized the deck was not being lit as brightly when the quasar flash occurred. The excitement of existing at the exact moment a star would dim, and to even be there to witness it, had Aev excitedly turning in place, arms flailing to desperately keep their eyes on the hallway, fascinated at the thought of the improbable.


Their excitement diminished with each flash, as they came to realize that the star was not getting dimmer, but the room was getting brighter.


The short-lived astronomical romanticism that they experienced was bittersweet, as Aev witnessed the room being slowly lit brighter from the cockpit doorway.


As almost another hour passed, Aev also noticed they have floated close enough to the holo-terminal for a chance at escape. Aev has had time to consider exactly how they would do so, and waits until their feet are close enough to stretch out, as if tiptoeing against the terminal to push themselves towards the wall again.


They grab a pipe on the opposite wall to secure themselves, bringing their feet around and pushing off the wall, aiming themselves towards the cockpit. As Aev gets closer to the open cockpit door, they see the source of the deck’s illumination.


A small planet the perimeter of which reflects the sickly sage color of the atmosphere, enveloping the flat, cracked surface, so barren as to make the single circumferential mountain range appear to reach space as they penetrate the clouds.


Aev enters the cockpit to see a spacesuit clad body hanging halfway through the forward viewport, their back facing Aev, only illuminated where they face forward, mostly obscured in shadows by the bright planet ahead. Examining the cockpit, Aev sees a chair for the pilot on the right and co-pilot on the left, a yoke and two sets of rudders at the pilot’s chair and computer controls at the other.


The controls appear to be mostly intact, but unresponsive to any gestures or input when Aev interacts with them, the yoke free to move but the rudders locked in place. Aev moves to release the body from the window, hooking their feet around the co-pilots chair and arms around the torso.


The body is held by the viewport glass and remains in place, the spacesuit slightly tearing near the waist. Aev searches the body for pouches or pockets like theirs, and notices the suit is made of different, thinner material, less metallic in appearance. There are no visible pockets on the suit, the only visible accessory a small red tag hanging off their right wrist.


Aev produces the white tag from their pocket, confirming they are identical in all but color when compared. Removing the red tag, Aev returns to inspect the communications deck, hopeful that the tag may prove useful.


Standing in the doorway, arms against the frame and red tag around their wrist, Aev spots where they plan to land against the central terminal and propels themselves toward it. The time they spent weightless is made apparent as they deftly land at the terminal, securing themselves in place.


The tag’s momentum propels it forward from their wrist into contact with the tag reader that controls the terminal, causing it to spark to life.


“So there’s still power after all this time, but to how much of the ship… And for how long?” their voice breaking in concern, cutting away to reveal the silence in the ship once again as they stare back at the scorched panel that controlled the corridor.


Aev cycles through the center console and finds a menu for communications, for both local and external transceivers. The red ID tag signed Aev in automatically as Captain Fea, and shows a log of her previously sent messages, and showing none received. Besides the local message Aev read on Territ’s terminal, there was only two other messages sent. The messages read:




//To: crew.Mako

Subject: some ‘space’ between me and jaru


I don’t care what anyone says, Jaru is on board somewhere. If any of you find him you tell me immediately, or you’ll be out the airlock along with him after he fixes this mess.







//To: user.Nomad

Subject: Icicle


We’ve kept them on ice like you asked, I’m used to waking them up and spacing them, so this is a nice change of pace. Surprised you even want to talk to them at all. Want us to send their gear like usual?//




Aev tugged at the fabric of their suit, curious as to the true value of it, and what could make others kill for it. They searched for a method to send an emergency broadcast or distress signal, but having evidence this was a smuggler’s ship with less-than-legitimate practices, it would be unlikely one remains.


After navigating to the ship status menu, Aev searched for escape pods, a standard installation on most ships but a question deserving of scrutiny on the Mako.


“Pretty sure Fea would be the only one with access to one anyway” Aev stated, holding up the red tag around their wrist, recalling what they’ve learned of the character of the late Captain.


Turning left and moving towards the cargo hold door, Aev pressed the red tag against the flat black panel that controlled it. Unlike previously, this door’s controls did not have dials or buttons, only a simple pad like the center terminal.


With a loud clunk the door unlocked, the light of the quasar shining through as it slowly opened to reveal the shredded cargo hold. Half the hull was sheared away, sharp metal remained in its place with fragments and debris floating around the open room. Several straps in a grid pattern are anchored to the floor, their unsecured ends dangling weightless with the cargo they held, lost to space.


Aev stood in the doorframe, holding themselves in place with their left arm as they fiddled with the red tag between their fingers and wavering confidence that the tag’s chain will keep it from escaping. Their helmet faced dejectedly toward space as they lost themselves in thought.


“Smugglers always have a hidden stash somewhere, just have to find it” they convinced themselves, now gripping the red tag firmly in their hand. Aev kicked against the doorframe toward the opposite wall, catching one of the floating straps.


Aev wound the strap around their wrist and stood flat-footed against the floor. They looked around the room for any discrepancy or detail that might suggest a hidden cache or smugglers hatch, to no avail.


“At least my luck’s consistent, if there was a panel it may have gone with the other half of the room” Aev said in resignation.


With a single kick, Aev traverses the ground using the cargo straps, floating through the cargo hold and exchanging straps in hand until they reach the aft of the cargo hold, winding the final strap around their hand like before.


Aev reaches the end of their travel as the strap snaps them to a halt, they twirl their wrist and wrap the strap two more times while simultaneously pulling their arm in to tension the strap, turning their body to stand on their feet again.


Standing before the great void they can see only shadows of the dead ships within the bright expanse of the quasar. Their helmet displayed a prompt to dim stellar objects.


Aev began scanning themselves hastily as they realized they did not know how to access their helmet menu. Aev looked at their hands, arms, and chest in search of any form of controls.


On the top of their forearm were four buttons in a row, unnamed and with no tactile sensation when pressed. Finding the correct button, the helmet menu lights up and adjusts itself to a comfortable focal length to view. A small display in the lower left corner of their view showed the buttons on their arm with a single word description of their functions.


‘UP, DOWN, SELECT, MENU’ are located neatly above each illustration of the buttons. After cycling through the buttons a few times, the dim stellar objects menu icon was highlighted. They activate it from their wrist controls and the quasar dims to a point where the ships became discernable.


The pulses emanating from the quasar traveled through each ship, causing them to shift in place as if a wave were passing through them. When the wave reaches Aev, however, there is no shift or motion, nor force of any kind, only heat. They see the space around them move.


Instead of just one ship moving about, the whole universe itself seemed to be affected by the wave. Aev stood among the graveyard of ships and was a rare witness to the event that took place. In the endless void, wherein the only sign of life was the quasi-stellar object and any destruction it wrought, Aev felt compelled to emote.


“No one’s coming…” they spoke dejectedly, the words echoed through their helmet and etched shame into their heart. Aev was proud of their capabilities, and helplessness had become antithetical to their principles.


A short tone broke the silence, Aev desperately scanned the cargo hold for any sign of its whereabouts before realizing it was coming from their suit. They initialized the suit’s head-up display and were met with the same radiation symbol as before, this time indicating the suit had been fully charged.


“At least something’s going right for once” they said relievedly.


Aev travels back across the cargo hold and into the cockpit where they examine the controls to the co-pilot’s seat.


“Every ship has engines and control surfaces, how hard could it be to figure out?” Aev stated assuredly, their newfound optimism fading after several minutes, concluding that ships do not, in fact, all operate the same.


“But they all must have the same basic components, right? Shields, engines, communications… How can anyone fly without those?” they questioned loudly, attempting to convince themselves their intuition was still trustworthy.


Aev sat down and secured themselves, searching for the backup shielding for the cockpit to seal it from space like before. The controls were unlabeled and with no distinct features to discern, a true smugglers ship.


They grunted and began pressing buttons randomly, one at a time, their pace quickening as each switch has an undesired effect.


Lights turn on and off, storage compartments open and close, empty weapon racks deploy and retract.


“Who designed this junker?!” Aev shouts, slamming their closed fist against the panel and recoiling, writhing in pain. Their frustration mounding, they turned their attention to the pilot’s seat.


“No way Fea was crazy enough to pilot and manage shields” they say bewildered, looking up at the corpse of the captain still hanging halfway through the viewport.


Aev moves to the pilot’s controls and begins pressing buttons again, the first switch they toggled brought the shields to life and cut the captain neatly in half. Her upper body slowly drifted out of view. 


The cockpit powers on, lights blinking as it goes through its boot-up sequence. The emergency floor lights illuminate the cockpit sufficiently for Aev to now make out the sleek, rectangular paneling of the cockpit, different only in size and pattern from the corridor illuminated by the quasar.


The captain’s lower body floats before Aev, the dim lighting revealing the slag where it was bisected from the heat of the shields along the abdomen.


“You’re in the way” Aev says as they grab the lower half of the captain and toss them into the communications deck. Captain Aev now manning the helm, they sat in the pilot’s seat and searched for a method of escape.


“Shrewd, cunning, paranoid… typical qualities of smuggling vessel’s captain, and they usually have their own means of escape” Aev surmised while searching for retrofit panels, hidden compartments, or other such features common to smuggling ships.


Aev discovered a small glass panel on the underside of yoke, opaque and nestled flatly against the body of the ship so as not to elicit curiosity from touch.


“A place no one would think to look, unlikely to set off by accident” they said snidely, with admiration for their predecessor’s clandestine attitude.


Aev tapped the glass, concerned that if it were not tempered it may cause shards to float about and endanger their suit integrity. They pressed the tag against the glass, to no result. Deploying their weapon and turning it to wield the corner like hammer, Aev begins tapping the glass, softly at first but increasing the force with each strike.


The glass finally cracks from the impact point and patterns like a cobweb, the shattered pieces remain in place, glass dust floating beneath it. Aev uses a flat edge at the back end of their gun to pry the glass away, avoiding touching it with their suit gloves, revealing a square pad with rounded corners, the same as the other terminals in the ship.


“At least I’m getting somewhere” they say, cautiously optimistic that their situation might improve further.


Aev tossed the glass panel into the communications deck then sat down in the pilot’s seat, securing themselves with the harness and checking the yoke to ensure its operability before wrapping the red tag securely around their hand, as it was around Territ’s. With one hand firmly on the yoke, helmet hard against the headrest, and muscles tensed as tight as possible, Aev pressed the tag to the panel.


The bulkhead slammed shut, sealing the cockpit from the communications deck. The escape pod detached, concealed thrusters engage as flaps deploy and Aev is pressed hard into their seat, straining their extremities as they try to keep the blood in their head. The initial acceleration shock registered a warning on their head-up display.


“One thing… at a time!” Aev says, tensing their muscles between each breath and struggling to get the words out, the inside of their helmet visor clouded up.


The escape pod quickly reached the outermost atmospheric layer, leaving Aev to ponder if the planet was unusually small or the escape pod was obscenely fast. The upper atmosphere cracks with thunder, the emergency engine cutoff engages and Aev is left adrift on a crash-course to the planet.


Lightning striking the pod caused it to be thrown about as it was ablaze in reentry. Aev looked towards the surface of the planet, the opaque glass of their helmet reflecting the sage clouds and dusty surface as the escape pod continues to descend.


Their stoicism regained, Aev looked ahead to scan the surface for any memorable landmarks. The escape pod became turbulent again, falling quickly through the atmosphere as it hews about from gusts of wind and thermals. A single mountain range is the only seemingly visible landmark from this height, sharp and jagged as it peaks through the clouds.


Quickly descending below the cloud layer, the height of the mountains was humbling, standing several kilometers above a cracked and rocky surface as green bodies patch the surrounding landscape. Geysers emitted white plumes, as if built like columns to keep the sky from falling.


Structures peek out just beyond the mountains and just as quickly fall out of view, Aev grabbed the yoke and large mechanical latches resound as flaps deployed, acting as control surfaces tied to the yoke.


Aev rolls and pitches the escape pod toward the buildings, but they were too late to clear the mountain range.


“Just once I’d like things to be easy!” they shout, dodging several mountain tops so shear they could be mistaken for stalagmites.


Rocks float between the mountain walls, scaling the range up and down, varying in size from pebble to boulder. The patter of rocks was deafening as they bounced off the hull and viewport. As they approached the end of the mountain range, Aev was nearing the largest of the herd, a boulder so large it could have dwarfed the Mako. It floated effortlessly between two mountain tops that appeared to have formed around it, their peaks nearly bridging a path between across the boulder.


Aev dove below the boulder to avoid it, the pod was pulled violently as the boulder curved it upward. Aev felt themselves being pressed into their seat as they abruptly orbited the boulder.


They quickly reached the apex of their parabolic path, and were momentarily weightless before the nose of the pod pitched down towards the surface, the structures coming back into view.


A maneuvering flap broke off the pod, sending it spiraling toward the surface, Aev barely managed to crash the pod upright.


Dust followed in the pod’s wake as several sections of hull were torn off, tumbling over in a roll until upside-down and sliding to a stop, leaving a plume at least ten meters tall.


Hanging upside-down and still strapped to the pilot’s chair, the once bright helmet now only flashed intermittently from the controls sparking in the pod’s death throes. Aev hung still, their stoic mannerisms accentuated by their still helmet, the co-pilots harness swung suddenly into view.


The harness impacted their helmet, a clanking sound reverberated from within as Aev flinched, then flailed angrily to swat the harness out of the way.


Aev grabbed the bottom of the chair and planted one foot against the overhead console, releasing themselves from their harness and climbing down onto what used to be the ceiling.


They walked over and turned the lever on the aft bulkhead, thrusters inside the doorframe ignite just before the door flew off.


Air rushed in to fill the vacuum of the pod, knocking Aev onto their back.


Aev lay still, staring at the floor above them as the warm, sage colored light leaked through the bulkhead, exploiting any opportunity to rest.


Awoken by a sudden bout of tinnitus, and reminded of the world beyond, Aev groans in frustration.


Aev lifts themselves up by their arms, staring out at the sage sky that peers through the top of the bulkhead.


Aev groans loudly as they roll themselves over to kneel and stand up onto their feet, stumbling to the bulkhead where the top of the frame is now level with their waist. They mantle over and step onto the rocky surface, nearly slipping on the loose dust and sand collected on the surface.


Their helmet visor, once as black as empty space, now reflects the sage sky. Their previously tan suit reflects an olive color as the shadows around them are starkly contrasted by the bright Quasar above. Another pulse fills Aev’s view of the sky, they look up to see it originating at the poles and encircling the planetoid.


The sky shattered with streaks of lightning, thunderous cracks echo across the landscape as the pulse falls beneath the horizon opposite the mountains, the small size of the planetoid accentuated the curve of the surface.


Their helmet displayed a flashing symbol, warning of a corrosive atmosphere without mention of its composition. Aev struggles to find the town through the haze of the atmosphere, the only indication was a plume of dust racing toward them.


Aev speculated as to who may arrive, feeling their chest plate with their hand to confirm their weapon was still present and secure.


Concluding it would take some time before the speeders arrive, Aev cleaned a small rock just large enough to sit on and began playing with the buttons on their arm, several options displayed.






Aev entered each menu and confirmed they are what they claimed to be, the STATUS menu displayed the current suit condition, it’s state of charge, integrity, and oxygen levels, all at optimum conditions.


ENVSTAT displayed information about the current environment, atmospheric composition and whether it could be utilized for oxygen scrubbing, or if it was hazardous.







Current (315 K)

Peak (315 K)

Minimum (298 K)


Atmospheric Composition:

Primary Sulfur Dioxide (SO2)

Secondary Diatomic Nitrogen (N2)

Tertiary Diatomic Oxygen (O2)


“Sulfur rain…” Aev said trailing off, remembering the green patches they saw in reentry. They looked around the environment and witnessed several pools of bubbling liquid, and presumed it to be the liquid sulfur dioxide.


Aev quickly stood up as if in epiphany. While their suit can withstand the current environment, the minimum temperature listed is still above the temperature required for liquid sulfur dioxide, suggesting it was displaying the temperature of the ship, not the environment. The suit did not indicate how long this temperature memory lasted.


If the surface was prone to caustic rain, their suit may not be able to survive it. Uncertain, Aev opted for a cautious approach and decided to wait in the escape pod for the speeders to arrive.


Aev looked up to check for the speeders, and concluded there was enough time to start reading the remaining journal entries they downloaded from the ship.


Entering the LOGS menu, Aev noted each log entry sorted by name and selected the topmost option.


“Shouldn’t take too much time” they said aloud, as if to excuse themselves for reading the journals while waiting.




//Jaru won’t take off ‘Doctor’ from my tag, he just keeps laughing every time I ask.


They keep asking me to diagnose you, or what your status is, as if they forget they just told me to grab a coat and started calling me doctor?


It’s not even a coat, it’s a duster! And it’s not even white! I swear if one more person asks me I’ll shoot myself.


Why’d Jaru even install the pod in the med-bay anyway? It’s cramped enough as it is.//






//We all thought he was playing another prank at first so no one was seriously looking, but Jaru has been gone for 3 days.  I swear he isn’t anywhere on the ship. No way this is a prank, or at least it’s not anymore if he ever thought this was funny. We’re stuck floating without power and no one else knows how to fix it.


Fea insists he’s “at station” since his tag is there, probably out of spite since it happened after she made the warning on the status chart.


She always made fun of me for keeping a journal, but someone’s gonna want to know what happened if things go bad, right? I’m basically a glorified historian, this is the most exciting thing I do all day.


I hope this really is a prank, for Jaru’s sake.//




Aev stopped reading to check on the speeders progress, determining there was enough time for one more entry.




//We just got word from our client.


Jaru’s been gone over two weeks and he didn’t even care, he told us to eject him along with the ash and only worry about the “icicle”, something about a habit of losing contact around Myarta every time someone’s hauling one.


After the call I told Fea we were already one man down and needed all the hands we could get, and suggested we thaw you out. Jaru’s the only one who knew how to maintain the engines, and it’s practically held together with sealant and tape as it is.


She gave a colorful description of what she’d do to me after I said that, which is when I nearly painted my pants. I’m not about to cross the only captain who’ll employ me this side of the Zulo cluster, and I’ve heard what she does to people on her ‘grievance’ list.


Not sure why we’d dump the ash though, it’s worth more than this stupid antique and we keep the navicomputer locked so no one could find out where we got it from.


Only idiots buy this pre-expanse stuff anyway.//




As the sound of the approaching speeders grew louder, Aev stopped reading to prepare for their arrival.


Aev stood up to walk towards the speeders, one suddenly turned and slid to a stop, kicking up dust along their path that hung like a thick fog. Heavy footsteps were audible as a tall silhouette traversed the fog, shoulders forward and arms conspicuously raised.


As their weapon came into view Aev punched their chest-plate, the concealed gun unfolded into their hand as Aev ducked and fired several blasts, the first finding its mark. The silhouette fell to the ground as the remaining shots streaked through the fog.


“Stop! Stop shooting!” a modulated voice cried out, trying to wave the dust away to clear their vision.


Aev fell back to the pod and concealed their weapon into their suit.


“We’re not here to fight!” claimed the voice.


Aev peeked out to see a one-piece mining suit, a patchworked duster barely hanging off its shoulders with cuffs taped to seal its gloves. A synthetic cloth fiber helmet provided air from a ribbed hose connected to a tank on its bank.


Stepping out slowly, Aev walked toward them with hands raised and palms forward. As the dust cleared, Aev noticed the panicked eyes of the man behind the helmet, two thin glass lenses for his eyes did little to conceal his fright. A circular speaker adjacent to the air hose illuminated as he spoke.


“We just came to check out the crash, we don’t want trouble!” the man claimed.


“Seeing as you’re alive, any chance you’re from Novak? I’m Farron, by the way. Are you okay?” he asked with seemingly genuine concern.


“I’m fine” Aev responded, eyeing the rifle on the ground as Farron nervously moved toward the body. Farron kicked the body over onto its back before moving closer with his face to check for signs of life.


“He should’ve never been here if you ask me” Farron replied, beginning to strip the man on the ground of his equipment.


“Never seems to finish the one job he actually has” Farron remarked snidely.


“Well, had” Farron added.


He frisked the body from bottom to top, unsealing the full-face respirator at its neck, revealing a clean-shaven man with short, buzzed hair as his pale complexion quickly reddened and began to blister.


The man’s eyes were blank, staring up into the sage sky. The gaunt in his cheeks accentuated as each pulse from the quasar momentarily lit his face. He had freckles, and a scar across his cheek.


As Farron reached for the dead man’s rifle, Aev inconspicuously slid their foot into a wide stance.


“Let’s head back to town, we’ll call a salvage team to reclaim your pod. You can take my speeder, I’ll take this one” Farron said, his voice fading as he turned his back and moved towards the long, narrow speeder.


He brought the rifle close to the side of the speeder, it leapt from his hands and attached with a hollow clunk against two round pucks protruding the side of the fuel tank.


“Oh, I need to ask…” Farron trailed off as he kickstarted his speeder, it shook violently before stabilizing.


“Don’t mention what happened to Jaru, I’ll take care of it” he said before turning around and speeding off, the dust on the ground kicked up and obscured Aev’s vision.


Aev waited for the dust to clear and looked for the starting lever, kicking it down as Farron did. The speeder shook to life and Aev felt themselves lift slightly from the ground, they took hold of the controls and jerked each time they twist the throttle as they attempted to turn.


Aev stopped, feeling themselves nearing frustration. They took their hands off the controls to take a calming breath.


“One thing at a time” they said, then slowly twisted the throttle.


Aev began by moving in a straight line, pinning the throttle as they head towards the mountain range. As their speed increased, they could feel the resistance of the deafening wind, growing stronger and louder as the bike roared and shook. The speeder’s shaking subsided as it reached its maximum speed, the mountains slowly filling up Aev’s vision as they drew nearer.


Dust kicked up as Aev turned sharply and cut the throttle, they banked across the base of the mountains with the nose of the speeder pointed downwards, dust behind them curling in on itself. Aev drifted gently for a few seconds across the bank before looking ahead at the town, keeping their eyes fixated on the dust left in Farron’s wake as they pin the throttle, their head jerks backwards as they slid back on the seat.


Aev rode fast for the town, catching up with Farron only after several minutes at full throttle. They matched speeds to tail Farron as they headed towards the main entrance.


A stone archway over ten meters tall stood crooked, as if built on a thirty-degree angle on purpose. Farron slowed down and rode through the arches at a leisurely pace, Aev dropping their speed to match as they rode along a makeshift road through the center of the town. A dozen or so buildings flanked them on either side, hollow cylinders with cubic centers suspended by thick cables. Stairs descended from each structure’s entrance that floated just above the ground.


Each building was decorated differently, painted to seemingly establish an identity for each. The next closest building Aev passed on their left had evenly spaced stripes, filled attentively. To their right, the art varied depending on which part of the exterior was visible.


There were what seemed to be rocks flying down on the forward-facing section while the peaks of the mountain range decorated the bottom, the base of the mountains wrapped around to the other side. A depiction of the floating boulder Aev narrowly avoided just peeked above a young man’s shoulder as they leaned against the building in its shade, their breathing mask appeared to be splotched with paint as they watched Aev pass.


Suddenly and excitedly, the person standing gestured towards several others lying down on the dirt and painting the bottom side, from their size appearing to be children. They rushed out to view Aev’s suit glistening in the sunsetting light as they rode by.


One person was hanging from the top of the structure, their lower body wrapped around the back as they hung nearly upside down, hurriedly painting what looked to be a box on fire heading towards the mountains. The young girl strained to tilt their head up, gesturing desperately at Aev then pointing at the box.


They waved excitedly towards Aev.


Aev meekly lifted their hand opposite the throttle to gesture back at the child, who nearly fell over the top of the structure in excitement.


“You never mentioned where you came from” Farron shouted over the loud wind as they rode through the town.


Aev paused for a moment, considering how to respond.


“No, I didn’t” Aev shouted back, hoping their candor would be understood despite the speaking conditions.


“Did Novak send you? Look we haven’t had any word from them for decades, we need to know if we’re getting another contract extension” Farron pleaded.


“I don’t know who that is” they replied.


Farron stared at Aev in disbelief, then dejectedly turned away. They sped up once they reached an open stretch of the main road beyond the residential area, heading toward a large building a kilometer away.


Dismounting their speeders after coming to a stop before the building, the two walked towards one of several entryways into the building. A sign was posted to the left side of the door marked ‘Mess Hall’. Farron suddenly stopped and stood in front of the door before turning to Aev.


“Look, I get why you might have some concerns with sharing information, but if there’s one thing you learn on a colony world it’s that you won’t get far alone” he lectured, pointing their finger toward Aev.


“Keep that in mind before you talk to Taela” he said just before entering.


Beyond the door was a second, identical door. In conjunction they formed a small airlock that had enough space for two occupants. Farron turned back and looked at Aev expectantly, misunderstanding Aev to be familiar with the system.


Aev entered and stood facing Farron, they stared at each other for a few seconds before Farron broke the silence.


“Are you going to close the door?” he asked, his tone becoming increasingly confident as he became familiar with Aev.


After another moment of silence, Aev turned to close the door, fumbling to find the latch. The mechanisms on the makeshift bulkhead were different than the Mako, it looked to have been repaired more than once and several seals were damaged. The central valve actuated a mechanical linkage.


The valve was heavy, Aev felt metal grinding against metal as the dry gears turned, screeching between intermittent lock-ups. They shuffled their feet back, leaning their body weight and impacting the valve with their palms several times before it finally set the four rods at each corner of the door into place.


Aev’s sight diminished in the moments before their eyes adjusted to the dark room, their helmet did not assist with visual acuity like it did before when looking at the Quasar.


The absence of sound or motion caused them to suspect they drew a judgmental gaze. They turned back to see Farron staring at them, his eyes brimming with bewilderment as he moved to actuate the two-stage airlock, shuffling in place to avoid bumping shoulders.


Aev felt torn between embarrassment and excitement as the door creaked open, the dust in the airlock shimmering as it was drawn down towards their feet. They noticed a grated floor in the airlock, seeing the dust fall through while larger clumps of dirt were stuck between the grates. Farron stomped his feet to remove any loose dirt before entering.


Aev mimicked Farron, then entered the dimly lit hall in tow. Several benched tables were stacked for storage and cordoned off while a single long table was the centerpiece of the room, chairs cluttered the far end where several people were sat.


Infopads, mining equipment, and hazardous environment gear lay neatly organized on the closest end.


Aev followed Farron who walked towards the conversing group, they fell silent when Aev approached within earshot. They had no weapons in their holsters or within reach, one deployed a scanning tool as they walked towards Aev.


The beam flickered as it split, increasing in width until it was as wide as Aev’s shoulders. It suddenly jumped to the top of Aev’s head and began scanning downwards.


“They’re… clean?” the scan operator stated confusedly, turning to walk toward another woman in the group.


“What’s wrong Shan?” the woman asked, stepping towards the operator. Her blonde hair was neatly buzzed, respirator marks on her face told a story of her many trips outside.


“That’s just it… nothing’s wrong” Shan responded, her blue hair at neck length. Aev wondered if Shan did not travel outside often.


“Farron, who is this?” the blonde woman asked.


“Taela, meet… uh…” Farron trailed off. Farron extended a hand toward Aev.


“I’m Farron, nice to meet you” Farron said, chuckling.


“Call me Aev” they responded coldly, ignoring Farron’s hand, though he retained the smile on his face, failing to hold back a nervous giggle that broke his voice.


“I see you found someone candid enough to match your humor!” A tall man said mockingly. Snickering followed the tall man’s deep, bellowing laughs as Shan joined him in light-hearted banter.


“Where’s Jaru?” Taela asked, looking to Farron. Laughter ceased as the atmosphere in the group became tense again, suspicious gazes fell on Aev as Shan took a step back and the tall man’s expression became familiarly stoic.


Farron’s smile receded. He reached under his coat and pulled out Jaru’s respirator, checking it for loose glass before offering it to Taela.


Taela paused for a moment, breathing deeply before reaching out for the respirator, grabbing it by the straps and holding it in the air to inspect it.


The full-face respirator was undamaged, though scuffed from repeated use. The filters were yellowed, Taela avoided touching them. She reached to her shoulder for a torch mounted on her chest rig, an audible click preceded the white light it emitted. Several metallic tools were lit, secured in webbed straps on Taela’s chest rig.


Taela turned off her torch, then spoke.


“What happened?” she asked, her words were swift and coarse. Farron paced back and forth before turning to meet Taela’s eyes.


“Jaru got off his speeder and drew his gun, he kicked up a dust cloud and I didn’t see what happened after he walked into it” Farron said, his hands punctuating the story as he spoke.


“Next thing I hear and see is blasts going off, so I ducked behind my speeder” he followed up, his body language insinuating Aev would have the full story.


Farron’s anxiety swelled when Aev remained silent, trying to find the most opportune time and to not implicate themselves unnecessarily.


“Farron, stop pacing you’re going to dig a trench in the floor” Taela lectured, Farron failing to understand her attempt at levity.


“The dust cleared, Jaru was on the ground and Aev was still at the pod” Farron stated, nigh panic, the clarity of his words sullied with concern.


“Jaru was a threat, Farron wasn’t” Aev testified. Farron breathed in relief, pacing slowly.


Taela turned away to deliberate with the rest of the group, Farron was clearly worried about her judgement. Aev grew concerned, looking to Farron.


“I don’t know what you’re thinking behind there!” Farron cursed at Aev in hushed tones, gesturing at their opaque visor.


“He said ‘pod’ earlier, an escape pod?” Taela questioned, looking to Aev.


Aev paused before speaking to see if Jaru would continue to testify, hoping to either correct him or use whatever account benefits them most.


“My escape pod crashed out by the mountain range, Farron and Jaru arrived soon after” Aev explained.


“It’s a good thing you didn’t get caught in the mountain range! It’s impossible to navigate ever since mining surveys got lazy and-“


“Shan!” Taela interrupted her.


“…I did” Aev clarified.


“You did… what?” Shan hesitated while asking.


“I flew through the mountains so I could land closer to the town, it seemed a better option than hiking across them” Aev stated.


The stunned silence, nearly tangible, was joined by Shan’s mouth agape as Taela stared, eyes wide and critical.


“That’s why we were in such a rush, we figured the courier was stuck in the mountains” Farron followed up, his leg restless as his foot was tapping the ground.


“Farron, Surr go collect the body and anything useful from the wreckage” Taela ordered. The tall man moved toward the opposite end of the table and waited for Farron.


“…and don’t take long! It’ll be dark soon!” Shan requested worriedly.


Farron glared at Aev as he passed by, whistling at Surr, who replied with a nod as he threw a chest rig at Farron. The two men geared up, Surr’s height was apparent as they stood next to each other, applying tape to seal their suits.


Surr was about a head taller than Farron, who was a few centimeters taller than Aev. They each tugged at the other’s chest rigs, then pressed their respirators against their faces to test sealing one last time before entering the airlock.


Taela waited for airlock door to close before speaking.


“I don’t know what you were told you about us, but it’s obvious you aren’t familiar with colonists” she said bluntly.


“You might be stuck here for a while, so know that colonists abhor liars more than anything else” Taela lectured, then threatened, incorrectly presuming Aev’s background.


“Why did you wait for them to leave before telling me that?” Aev questioned.


“They already know it” Taela replied. “I need you to believe it” she followed up.


“You’re worried he was lying to you” Aev stated.


Taela hesitated to answer, her body language warning Aev not to psychoanalyze her in the future.


“He and Jaru haven’t-” Taela stopped mid-sentence, contemplating her choice of words. “-hadn’t been getting along for a while, Farron suspected he was lying about his trips, I think maybe he was after his gear” Taela explained, a fatigued sigh following.


“But you don’t go around throwing baseless accusations in small colonies like ours” she said, locking her gaze at Aev.


Aev stared back at Taela in silence, Shan stepped forward to break the tension.


“The strong silent type doesn’t do well here” Shan lectured to them both, unclear to whom she directed the sentiment.


Aev turned away, pausing to consider the consequences of lying against those of losing a potentially valuable reputation. Farron’s words echoed in their thoughts as Aev questioned Taela’s character, and if she would truly follow through with her threats.


“Farron thought so too, but I’m not from Novak” Aev admitted, inflecting their speech to insinuate they had not been dishonest.


“What? So why are you here? How can they just abandon us?!” Shan snapped, grabbing Aev by the shoulder and forcibly turning them face to face.


Aev pressed their forearm inside Shan’s elbow with their left arm and shoved their opposite shoulder with the other, surprising Taela who stepped in between them.


“Shan, stop! Just because Aev isn’t from Novak doesn’t mean they abandoned us, and it doesn’t mean Aev can’t help us either!” Taela said, holding Shan by her arms and looking back at Aev expectantly.


Farron, Shan, Taela, even the youth of the colony. Aev had witnessed instances of desperation among them all, peering out from their hearts and taking many forms. Aev considered how best to exploit these feelings, whether it would benefit them more to portray themselves an altruist, or if they should create a more symbiotic relationship.


“If I help you, are you willing to help me?” Aev asked, anticipant.


“Are you making it conditional?” Taela questioned, Aev felt she was hypocritical to now psychoanalyze them in return.


Aev believed they shouldn’t trust or expect a promise of aid, and that such expectations would impress suspicion on either party.


“Don’t you think they owe us for Jaru?” Shan said softly to Taela.


“I don’t owe you anything for defending myself” Aev interjected harshly.


“Do you think it’ll matter if you were right or wrong when you’re wandering the wastes alone?” Taela stated coldly, their lecturing irked Aev.


“…what do you need me to do?” Aev replied despondently.


“Jaru would frequent the moon for surveying missions” Shan explained. “At first everything was fine, he’d go up and find a vein for us to mine, and we’d send up a team. After a while he started taking days to get back to us, and after the elevator-“


“Elevator?” Aev interrupted.


“There used to be a structure here on the surface that connected to the moon when it was still in a synchronous orbit” Taela clarified. “An elevator in it was meant give us cheaper transport to the moon after we ran out of what we could mine planet-side” she concluded.


“We got greedy” Shan said. “We started mining the moon before the ore here was gone, you didn’t give us a chance to-“ she stopped mid-sentence when Taela gestured to her. Aev suspected there were more secrets between the colonists than Taela would ever admit to.


“…The structure was destroyed, it made Jaru’s surveys take a lot longer since he had to shuttle through the debris. Soon he was taking weeks, even months to finish his surveys” Taela concluded.


“We need to get a survey record and assay map drafted and sent to Novak, so they extend the contract” Shan added, clarifying the task.


“Our courier window just opened, so we were… hoping you were the courier Novak sent” Shan said, expressing remorse. She looked to Taela to verify she was not sharing excessive information.


“It’s why we’re all on edge, and why losing Jaru was a big hit to morale” Taela followed up.


“Did you see anyone up in space before crashing?” Shan asked hopefully.


Aev recalled the scuttled and torn ships in orbit, the silence of the Mako whose only occupants were corpses, strangers, and thieves. They felt calling those who fell to the Quasar ‘victims’ would unfairly characterize a cosmic inhabitant as unaware of them as humans were of the edge of known space.


“No one’s coming for us” they replied, their words instilled with the same nihilism they felt in the cargo bay. Aev hoped their opaque visor would hide their anxiety.


“Let’s take things one step at a time” Taela said, Aev felt calmed by the familiar sentiment.


“Aev, you’ll go up to the moon to finish Jaru’s surveying job” Taela explained. “Shan, get prepped for a kinetic launch and get Aev updated, I’ll work with Farron and Surr on our next steps” she ordered.


Aev was concerned about going back up to space again, but did not want to give Taela justification to openly doubt their motives. They quietly followed Shan who moved passed the end of the table toward the end of the hall opposite the airlock, her pace describing the excitement and worry in her mind.


Aev suspected Shan was enjoying the thrill of the situation, and felt she may be the most relatable of the group. They cautioned themselves to not to conflate comradery with friendship.


Shan placed her scanning tool on one of the cordoned off and stacked tables as she passed by, moving to operate a valve on the door at the back of the mess hall. Adjacent was an entrance through which Aev noticed the meal processors were used for food storage, as was the rest of the kitchen.


Aev followed as Shan entered the next room, wherein documents adorned the walls, messy and overlapping, leaving little negative space. A single terminal was flanked in the center, similar in appearance to the one aboard the Mako, though smaller and with a flat screen instead of a holographic projector.


Aev moved closer to inspect the documents, they noticed small rocks pinning them against the walls. One document caught their interest, an uncanny printout of the mountain range that spans the planetoid.


The rock resisted as Aev tried to remove it and release the printout. They had to brace their forearm against the wall to act as a lever, peeling the rock away after some struggle.


“Be careful with the rocks, they can crush your hand if they’re big enough!” Shan said playfully.


“You use the rocks as magnets?” Aev asked.


“Colonists make do with what we have!” Shan said proudly, her tone implicating the phrase was a common motto.


Aev placed the rock against the empty space where the printout was and walked toward Shan. She was running diagnostics on the central terminal, though the information displayed was changing quickly. Aev felt unsure whether it was Shan’s expertise or their novice for the incomprehension.


“When is this printout dated?” they asked, impatient after waiting for a pause in Shan’s work.


“That’s a survey from a few years ago, the mountains are pretty different huh?!” Shan said enthusiastically, her elation contagious.


Aev suspected Shan may be the most dangerous of the colonists they had met so far, and endeavored to be more conscious of the influence her speech had in the future. Aev was struggling to contain their curiosity for the topological phenomenon.


“How did the mountains grow so quickly, and what was causing the rocks to float?” Aev asked, holding back more mundane questions.


Shan looked back at Aev with expectant eyes, her smile beaming as she explained.


“Finally, someone with the right mindset! You’re the first person in a long time to even ask why something happens instead of just what you can use it for!” Shan ranted, unable to determine Aev’s reaction from their opaque visor, and continued unassumingly.


“Colonists, miners especially, don’t really have any interest in the physics that control our lives” Shan explained. “They don’t care why they have to build these weird round houses, and it doesn’t seem to bother them that they don’t know where this ore comes from, why it generates such a strong magnetic field, or what is it being used for” she continued, piquing Aev’s interest.


“We don’t know why it exists, but we can see its effects! As we kept mining, the planet became smaller, and more of the magnetic material squeezed itself up forming that mountain range” she clarified, Aev felt they underestimated the danger they believed Shan posed.


“…Maybe we’ll come back and set up a research outpost after everything settles” they said, unable to harden their heart to Shan’s infections attitude.


“Don’t make a girl a promise you can’t keep!” Shan said, playfully extending her hand to cement the vow.


Shan had no way of knowing the flustered state Aev had fallen into. Embarrassment at the unexpected gesture, shame that they could not anticipate and avoid the outcome, and hopefulness that such a dream, however infeasible, could be considered pleasant. Since awakening, they had naught but survival to drive their passion, for though Aev strived to be a stoic they were not without emotion.


When Aev’s philosophical struggle neared its precipice, the loud and reverberating clang of Taela’s fist against the metal walls intervened.


“I see Shan has claimed another victim” she bantered. “If you’re finished with the history lesson, maybe we can actually get Jaru’s job done” she impatiently followed up.


Aev seized the opportunity to follow Taela, who had hastily left the room at the first sign of compliance.


“Wai- ooph!” Shan cried out, attempting to halt them before tripping over her feet. She ran out the room to catch up with Aev and Taela who were entering the airlock, nearly crushing her fingers to stop Aev from closing the door.


“Shan you know it’s two at a time!” Taela lectured, trying to pry her fingers off the door, fumbling over Aev’s suit in the cramped space.


“Aev doesn’t know what’s up there, neither do we as a matter of fact! Jaru never reported anything but what if it’s dangerous?” Shan pleaded, grunting as she struggled to keep her other hand wrapped around the door handle. “We should send someone up with them” Shan offered, her defiance fleeting as she tried to establish a discussion with Taela.


Taela lamentingly gave Shan control of the door, who hastily opened it wide and out of Aev’s reach, the weight of the door pulling the uncoordinated Shan, who nearly fell over again.


“It would take too long to retrofit the shuttle to hold two people, and Farron and Surr couldn’t find a way to get Aev’s pod flightworthy” Taela attempted to explain to Shan, whose defiance burned brightly in her eyes as she retorted.


“I’ve seen pebbles sturdier than that argument!” she said, Aev and Taela compulsively groaning at the metaphor.


“We’ve done more with less in the past, but because Aev isn’t one of us you’ve suddenly lost your ingenuity?” Shan followed up.


Taela paused a moment, stunned at the Shan she didn’t recognize, looking at Aev as they considered their words.


“Yes, Aev is a pragmatist so I’m sure they understand. We have one good suit for the moon, they brought us a second, that’s two trips that I don’t want to waste as one” Taela confessed, unable to look Aev in the visor as they spoke.


“Everyone’s on edge because we’re close to the courier window, but we need to take things one at a time if we want to survive, right Aev?” Shan looked to them for affirmation, unaware of their mantra she nearly quoted verbatim.


“…it was Farron who said you won’t get far alone on a colony world” Aev remarked, parroting his sentiments against her.


Taela reluctantly sighed and backed away from the open door, Shan pumped her fist in the air as she smiled at Aev while closing the door.


“Farron and his big mouth…” Taela said to herself, she donned her full-face respirator before opening the door. Aev considered warning Taela that her body was still exposed at the neck and hands. Taela opened the door, Aev’s choice stolen from them as she stepped out and walked toward a skiff-speeder parked nearby.


Aev followed in the dusty path, melancholy footprints detailed their confliction as they remembered the respirator’s former owner.