Ellie felt a tad bit guilty about feeling glad to be on the away team. True, they were walking around a virtual graveyard, but at least everyone seemed to have died happy. She glanced at the couple in the Jeffries tube. Some died very happy, indeed.

She missed Todd.

She blamed her parents. They kept pushing off deciding on a date to meet at the starbase until she’d finally given up and resolved to go to Sapphire station on Neptune and visit Todd’s family alone. By the time she had the travel arrangements figured out, the Impulsive ended up pursuing the Sllthan ship, and her plans toppled like dominoes. Now, each lead on the Cybers was taking them farther from him.

We knew this would happen, she told herself. She had another two to five years on the Impulsive, and there was nothing for a civilian on this ship. She could probably request a transfer, but this was where she wanted to be. She wasn’t ready to give it up, not even for him. But, oh, she missed him.

She acknowledged the doctor’s recommendations and Commander Smythe’s orders, then followed Leslie out of Engineering. They’d take the lazivator up to the bridge. The air was starting to warm up, but before they left, she suggested they keep the temperature at freezing.

“Good idea,” Enigo agreed as he slid down the ladder. “That way, we don’t have to worry about slipping on blood.”

He stepped over a body of a crewman that had impaled himself on a broken bar.

“A sensible precaution. Make it so,” Smythe said because although the accepted HuFleet term was “Beer me,” as a member of British nobility, he could never make those words sound natural in a command situation.

So, each party headed off on their tasks, all chilly except for the doctor. Doc Sorcha debated altering her program to manifest goosebumps in a show of sympathy, then decided everyone was too focused on the tragedy around them for it to matter.

One problem with the cold, however, was that it made it harder to detect bodies accurately. The Marvin housed 101 crewmen. They’d found 10 partying it up in Engineering, and two actually at their posts, though what they’d been doing was anyone’s guess. One presumably turned off the environmental systems but may have been trying to fix them. The other had been rewiring the weapons systems into something he had called the “Illudium Pew-36,” according to the schematics. They found seven more outside, orbiting the ship like gruesome human satellites, and two others that had been caught in the pull of the star. That left 80 more to account for. The odds of surviving were less than a percent, but they needed to account for everyone to be sure.

They found another body clawing at the lazivator doors.

“That’s more than a little spooky,” Lieutenant Straus said, and with the commander’s permission, carefully moved it from the doorway.

The door nonetheless refused to open as their warm bodies approached. Leslie opened the console to hotwire the control. While they waited, Ellie contemplated the body. 79, then. Why was he trying to get to the lazivator? Was he trying to escape? Flee? Hide?


“Commander,” Ellie said, “we should send someone to check the shuttles to make sure no one was hiding there. Someone might be alive but so close to death, we’re not picking them up through the extra barriers. We might want to check the teleporter buffers as well.”

“Excellent suggestions,” Smythe said and called the Impulsive to send landing parties to those sections.

“Got it!” Leslie declared as the doors swung open.

Ellie had just enough time to scream and try to leap out of the way as dozens of frozen bodies spilled out of the lift and half-buried her and Commander Smythe.