by Grace Bridges
Tennant gained the rim of the lava sea with a final crunch of his boots and paused for breath. He never tired of this moment, giving colour to his otherwise dreary life: moving from the sealed habitat on the broken planet’s regularly curved surface, to this, literally the end of the world, where the sphere had cracked into craggy, uneven halves.
He turned his face straight up and beheld the other major remnant of the cataclysm, a huge sky of lava that threatened to fall on his head. Swathes of rubble danced around it and in the gap between Sheba’s halves.
He blew out a breath, fogging his faceplate, and returned his gaze to the task ahead, fighting vertigo. Tennant glanced at his partner, then stepped forward from the volcanic grit into the maze of scaffolding at the edge of the abyss.
Iridium ore: the “batteries” of Avenir, partly present in the crust of the more habitable planet Eclectia that now loomed beyond the incredibly distant horizon ahead.
They attached their harnesses and turned to back down the first ladder. The Avenir station glinted there in the bright light of Ceti 94, and off to the right he spied the lesser glow of its distant twin star before the rock blocked his view.
They reached the tunnel entrance and unhooked themselves in turn. Tennant allowed himself one last, long look over the wild and ever-shifting sea of lava still miles beneath them, before he spun and entered the mine to begin another long shift.