by Travis Perry
The shuttle trailed black smoke as it dropped toward the ocean. Ernsto struggled with the controls to slow the landing. Behind them, somewhere, two other vessels were hunting for them in Eclectia’s atmosphere.
He’d originally aimed for Zirconia but he realized it would be impossible to enter the city, not with enforcers chasing him. They’d surely radio ahead.
At an unknown location on the high sea, somewhere in the Zirconia region, the shuttle hit the water hard. It bobbed upward due to the air in the hull, but immediately afterward the fractured ship began to slowly sink.
Ernso unstrapped and seized the angel’s pressure tank and shoved it toward the airlock, which he moved to release. Lock open, ocean water began pouring into the vehicle, hastening its doom. Ernsto quickly released pressure, unlatched the tank, and hauled the angel out. He shoved her into the water and plunged in after her. Seconds later on the surface, coughing cold green water, he scrambled upward, coming to his feet on top the still-sinking shuttle.
Beneath a nearby wave he saw the angel’s glowing white light. The low pressure at the ocean surface caused her pain, yet she looked past her own agony to project worry about what would happen to him.
“I’ll make it, get out of here!” he shouted. There was no way for her to save him anyway—she needed to dive to the ocean depths; he could only survive on the surface.
Her mind projected understanding and regret. She dove deeper.
At that moment it struck Ernsto that he’d never loved anyone the way he’d loved her, not even his grandmother—certainly far more than any woman who’d ever shared his bed. Her mind had been so beautiful, so kind, so gentle and soothing. How would he survive without her? He fell to his knees, astonished that his heart was breaking, astonished that if he could have swum after her, he would have followed her to her underwater world and been her husband if she’d have him.
Her mind reached out to him in pity. He could feel her embarrassment at his gushing emotion. It never had been like that for her. She’d cared for him…but like a pet…
On his knees, the ocean rising, he buried his hand in his face and wept. He’d been like a pet, like a savage dog taken in by a gentle woman who believed a little loving kindness would calm its vicious ways. The love of his life, yet to her only a pet, an animal. This pain—he knew he’d never overcome it.
His peripheral vision caught a vapor trail of a shuttle overhead. It turned in a big arc across the ash-gray sky back his way, apparently having spotted him.
Ernsto Mons stood upright on the shuttle hull, water now lapping his ankles. He pulled the plasma pistol from his belt and aimed it at the incoming shuttle, his mood hardening.
“Come on,” he rasped. “Come kill me.”