Escaping the Nonpareil

Sparks came down like molten rain. Drea ran through the neon smoke and darkness, clawing at the air in front of her. Sometimes she caught stray cables hanging like cobwebs, or severed ducts that breathed hot steam onto her face, but mostly she only swatted uselessly at the emptiness. The Nonpareil was bleeding to death, but she would not let it be her tomb.

The smart ones had abandoned ship before it bellyflopped on the atmosphere, and the courageous ones got it to the ground–full credit for the crash landing, given the circumstances. Drea wasn’t smart or courageous. She was part of the third group: the survivors.

The engine crew managed to keep the fuel separators functioning–obviously–evidenced by the fact that she hadn’t been annihilated by antimatter, but she couldn’t be sure about radiation from other sources. This is what she thought about as she pulled the environmental suit off of a young officer’s corpse and sealed it around herself. It smelled like someone else’s panic sweat.

There was light up ahead, but as she got closer she realized it was coming from the ship’s central shaft, which now lay vertically. She walked to the edge and looked down, and then up. She was near the ship’s middle, about a kilometer from the top. And a kilometer off the ground. How the hell was she going to climb down? Where was the hanger bay? It would be no use getting out just to get captured. Maybe she could find a shuttle.

“Hey!”

She almost lost her footing. “Fuck, Shane! What the hell?” It was her way of saying glad you made it.

“This way,” he said. “And fuck you, too.”

Drea and Shane always did speak the same language.

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