by Travis Perry -
Eyeing his knife, Ernsto Mons’ first thought was to slit his wrists in defiance, choosing his own time of death rather than letting Hobson pick it for him. But then a memory drifted back into his mind, a memory he somehow felt the angel had helped bring back to him.
The wall wasn’t my only hiding place. He glanced at his mattress. The bed in his nearly bare room had been an acceleration couch once on Avenir during the long-ago voyage from Earth. Some of the couch’s panels and braces had been stripped away since then, but it retained the same basic frame. The original mattress, on the other hand, had long since decayed and had been replaced by a hand-crafted type from the surface of Eclectia. This new mattress showed no signs of having been disturbed…except along one edge, near the head of the bed, where the hand stitching looked subtly different from the rest.
Ernsto knifed it open there and tore mattress fabric with his hands. Inside, his hands found three capped titanium pipes with fuses, filled with what he recalled having stuffed inside—an ancient recipe for homemade explosive, ammonium nitrate saturated with liquid hydrocarbon.
What he didn’t have was the flame to ignite the fuse. After seconds of thought that seemed to stretch an eternity, he began to unscrew one of the caps on the threaded pipe. Once open, with his knife edge he pried a hole in the control panel to the door and bared an electrical source wire.
Suddenly, his ears heard a gas hiss into the room from a vent low along the door and his vision blurred. He held his breath, while with as much care as he could muster he scooped a dollop of wet gray pipe filling out from the open tube with his knife, grounded the blade on the edge of the panel, and moved the hot wire close to the knife blade and the small portion of explosive on top of it, which without the power of a blasting cap, should burn rather than blow up. At least I hope so.
The wire sparked but the current bit him, forcing his muscles to contract. His arm jerked away, flicking the flaming yellow onto the mattress, which immediately leapt up and burned bright, so much so that the whole room might burst into flame. That works, thought Ernsto, still shock-dazed.
He seized another pipe bomb, lit its fuse in the mattress flame, rolled it to the bottom of the door, and dove behind the bed—tipping it over as a shield behind his back, jamming his fingers in his ears. The clap of the explosion he barely heard because the overpressure knocked him unconscious.
He regained consciousness, confused, breathing something that made him cough, his ears ringing so loud he could hear nothing else. The mattress, riddled with gaping holes, didn’t burn very bright, suggesting he’d only been out for an instant. The door bent outward at the bottom, about 50 centimeters worth, but the inside of the room clearly had taken the worst of it—its metallic walls were gouged and pitted with shrapnel in the pattern of a misshapen cone. And Ernsto felt the warm of what must be blood flowing down his back.
His eye caught hold of the third pipe bomb. Its fuse had caught fire—with him still trapped inside the room.