by Greg Egan
Camille peered out from her cocoon into the star-strewn blackness, waiting for the moment of terror to come and grant her a modicum of peace. Every minute she spent awake only wasted her resources and added to the risk that her heat signature would be detected, but she didn’t dare begin hibernation until she knew for sure that she was well-enough secured to survive at least one collision. If she was shaken loose at the very first impact—still awake, still in sight of Vesta—she might have a chance to make it home. Any time after that would be fatal.
The cocoon was only a few centimeters wider than her suit in any direction, and its thick acrylic walls undermined the crisp transparency of her face plate, leaving her with a dull, distorted view. Elastic restraints kept her from rattling around inside her plastic coffin, but since it was glued smack on the rotational pole of the ten-meter slab of basalt—whose spin was so stately that her mind wandered every time she tried to track the turning of the stars—her own fidgeting far outweighed any centrifugal force. She’d stopped responding to every maddening itch, but she was afraid of keeping her legs too still lest she find herself with a painful cramp that she’d have no room to deal with.
She turned her head to the left and forced her body to the right against the tug of the restraints, until she could just make out part of Vesta below her, a lopsided crescent almost bisected by the slab’s horizon. How many more of her friends would die before she saw this world again? She shaped her lips and blew across her face to dislodge the tears. READ MORE
by M. Bennardo
Carlo wakes me sometime in that foul period between midnight and dawn. He’s at my bunk, calling my name softly but urgently. He flashes a penlight and I groan, hand over my eyes. “Anders—there’s been an accident,” he says.
Automatically, my mind goes to space stations and flight paths, freight ships and passenger clippers, everything in low to high Earth orbit. But no sooner does my brain fall into the familiar groove, then a searing crack fires down the front of my skull. Suddenly I remember the station’s recreation room, a redheaded pilot, and shot after shot of every liquor stocked by the galley.
“I’m not on call,” I mumble.
Carlo shakes me again. “Not that kind of accident,” he says. “I mean, it is. But you’ll want to be there.”
My eyes open and my mouth goes cotton-ball dry. My headache bleeds down into nausea. I know what’s happened. It must be the Eden. It must be Jessica.
* * *
There’s coffee on the shuttle, but there could never be enough of it. I’m trying to get this all straight, trying to assess the situation. I shouldn’t be here, not in the shape I’m in. Search-and-rescue in a crippled space station is dangerous enough without introducing a hangover into the mix. Or a personal relationship.
It was bad policy for Carlo to bring me along. Bad policy, bad leadership. But absolutely right. I would never have forgiven him if he’d left without me. READ MORE