Mining Ship: Tinto

Date: October 19th, 2123

Location: Jupiter L4 Trojan Asteroids

A great author once wrote ‘Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space.’

He certainly wasn’t wrong. I remember first reading his books when I was at school, one of the great writers of the twentieth century. If only he could have known­–or maybe he did know–how empty and cold space really is, as well as being mind-bogglingly big.

It’s times like this, when I’m sitting out here, waiting, that I ponder how small and insignificant my collection of molecules are in our vast universe. Also, having read the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy again recently, makes me appreciate how fun it is out there in space, flying spaceships and hopping from outpost to outpost, it’s everything Arthur Dent didn’t want to do.

My name is Wren, and I’m the captain of the Tinto, a four-person mining ship currently hanging out in the Trojan asteroids at Jupiter’s L4 point. The Tinto has been in service for about four years now, three of them under my command, she’s my home. I fought tooth and nail to get her assigned to me, and she’s never let me down. She’s not as shiny as the day she was built but looks ain’t everything.

My crew have stepped out for a while, surveying the hunk of rock we’ve been assigned to take apart and return to the Martian colony for processing. Early survey indications point to a sizable quantity of titanium, tungsten and osmium. The osmium is the payday we’re after.

It was my turn to stay behind and keep an eye on the ship’s systems today, which is fine by me. The new EVA suits the company dropped off at our last resupply stop chafe in all the wrong places, but I’ve got a plan in the works to get our old ones back. The problem is making sure the company doesn’t find out, and that’s where my crew come in.

This expedition is our twentieth as a unit, so by now, we’re operating like a well-oiled machine.

Yo, Cap! You still awake in there?’ came a voice over the comms.

That would be our lead engineer, Cisco. He’s a smug little bastard, but one of the smartest guys I know. He’s the one who’s going to reprogram our old EVA suits so that the company doesn’t know we’re not using their latest and greatest ones. It’s something to do with insurance or health and safety, but we don’t get paid extra for losing skin. It’s also best that Cisco’s out there in a suit than in here right now. We had curry for dinner last night, and we all know intimately what that does to his bowels.

‘Cisco. Alive and well, thank you. How’s the flatulence?’

A well-oiled machine that knows each other far too well!

‘Smells like a Martian curry house in here, Cap.’

‘Give it a rest you two,’ said Jessica, my metallurgist. I’ll just go out of my way and say it now, my crew are all clever shits, and I wouldn’t run these trips without any of them. We’re all loners, no one to speak of back home, wherever home happens to be. I’m from Earth, but Jessica and Cisco are Martian.

That just leaves Ortis, my demolition and mining expert. He’s from a colony on Titan, and we found each other entirely by accident on one of my early trips out in the Tinto. I went out to Titan on a shakedown cruise, and the bugger picked my pocket not five minutes after docking for supplies. Unfortunately for him, I was wise to the antics of the colonists, and he ended up flat on his back, more than slightly winded. I was too tired to take offence, so he bought me a drink to apologise, which I later decided to be another ploy to rip me off.

I was right about that, but when he heard that I was heading for a shakedown cruise to the Jupiter Trojans, he changed his attitude pretty quick. Ortis had wanted to get off Titan for a long time, and he saw me as his ticket out of there. He also saved me from an ass-kicking in the bar, so I owed him. I was also a crew member short at that point, intending to find someone with his expertise on my return leg, but I gave him a trial run and never looked back.

‘Hey, Jess, how’s our rock looking. Got your samples yet?’

If she had responded, I didn’t hear it as a sudden explosion against the hull made my ears ring and rattled my brain.

‘Hull impact!’ I shouted down the comms, as I jumped out of my chair to check the engineer’s panel behind me, which was lit up like a Christmas tree. I stabbed at the console to turn off the alarms. No breaches were being indicated, but there had been an impact of some kind.

Then I heard it. The maniacal laugh of Ortis over the radio.

‘What the hell did you do, Ortis?’

‘Just a firecracker, Captain. Didn’t even dent the hull plating.’

What an asshole.

‘Do that again, and I’ll personally drop your ass on Titan as we fly by, without stopping!’

‘Aye, Captain,’ he said. I could hear the satisfaction in his voice of a job well done. Being out here for as long as we have, shit like this happens from time to time. The key, I’ve discovered is to let the little things slide, but keep them handy for payback later.

When my heart had stopped pounding, I shook my head and had a little chuckle. Not over the radio, of course, I can milk this for a few days at least.


The crew and I are taking a break from prospecting, giving the analysers time to work the samples we collected. Ortis has hit his bunk and will probably be there for a few hours yet. He’s happiest when outside the ship in microgravity. Having spent most of his life on Titan, he’s been used to a much lower gravity than the rest of us, about fourteen per cent of Earth gravity. Being aboard takes it out of him, so we reduced the ship’s gravity to about that of Mars, as a compromise for everyone, but it’s still hard for him. He’s a tough bugger though, never complains about it.

Jess was hovering over the sample analyser, scanning through the data as it appeared on the screens. So far, the preliminary analysis looked promising, we might get the haul that we wanted after all. I’m happy to wait for the complete report, but Jess is dedicated to her profession and babysits her samples until they’re baked.

The rock we’re attached to is just sitting out there, minus the few chunks that were brought inside earlier. The ship computer estimates the longest axis to be about ten kilometres, so it’s only a baby when compared to some of the monsters floating at other places in the Lagrange point. We’re not the only ship out here, but like that writer said, ‘Space is big’, so we’re unlikely to ever bump into them.

Our forward searchlights illuminate the tethers that were shot into the asteroid when we arrived, stopping us from drifting away. The rock is just a dull metallic grey, a motionless mass outside the cockpit window. It reflected some of our light back at us, giving the inside of the bridge a moody grey feel.

If the analysis shows enough concentration of osmium, then we’ll spend the next few weeks blasting chunks of rock out of the asteroid and packing it into the unpressurised cargo bay. The design for this ship, which also happens to be the namesake of our company, the Yutani-Tinto Mining Corporation, lets us cram about a thousand cubic meters of stuff in the hold, which is a hell of a lot of rock! With that much mass onboard we’re still reasonably manoeuvrable if we stay out of an atmosphere.

The engines we’re sporting are the first of a new generation with an anti-matter core, which is a thing of wonder. Cisco is really the only one who understands how it works, and he claims he can feel what the drive wants and knows how to service it. Personally, I think that’s horseshit, but he does keep us running, and that’s what counts when we’re all the way out here. My previous ship had the older generation fusion drive, which was much slower and always broke down when you least needed it to. In three years, we’ve had zero problems with this new system. It rocks!

Jess broke my daydream, putting her hand on my shoulder and passing me her tablet with the analysis result.

‘Seriously?’ I couldn’t help saying, smiling as I scrolled through the numbers.

‘Oh yeah, we’re gonna fill the hold and then some, boss,’ she said.

The numbers did look fantastic, and we’d have to stake an official claim on the rock when we get back to Mars. A good proportion of our hull is made from osmium, which protects us from radiation in deep space, so I have an appreciation for the stuff.

That’s where my thoughts were entirely derailed as I felt Jess nuzzle my ear and whisper that she was tired and going to her quarters. I know, I know, a Captain shouldn’t fraternise with the crew under their command, but hey, this isn’t the military. Company policy is pretty clear on the matter too, but what they don’t know won’t hurt us. We’ve managed to keep this a secret for months now, but sooner or later Ortis and Cisco are going to notice, and well, we’ll just have to deal with that when it happens.

Right now, I’m off to bed–not mine.



Shit, why’s Cisco banging on my door now. Wait, it’s not my door!

‘What?’ I shouted back, as Jess panicked and started getting dressed.

‘The core, it’s shut down!’

So? It’s in maintenance mode, it’s supposed to be shut down. I said as much through the door as I put my flight suit back on and Jess hid behind the door; kind of pointless on hindsight.

I opened the door to see Cisco looking sweaty and pale. Whatever he meant by shut down, wasn’t what I thought he meant.

‘It’s not in maintenance mode, it’s completely shut down, dead, no output at all.’

‘That can’t be right. They don’t just go offline. You sure–‘

‘’course I’m sure! Come see for yourself if you don’t believe me!’

I nodded and grabbed my boots as Cisco turned and ran off towards the drive room.

Well, looks like our secret isn’t all that secret after all.

All four of us stood looking at the anti-matter core. Where we would typically hear the hum of the core and see the multiple displays animated and active, all we saw was a large, lifeless hunk of equipment, nothing more. The core didn’t just move us from place to place in space, it also provided all our power, life support, the lot. Oh, and the anti-gravity systems, which just went offline. That draws power through a buffer so that any interruptions in power don’t send us floating into each other at an inconvenient moment. Our boots automatically engaged their magnetic anchors when they detected the lack of gravity, so at least we could walk around if a little clunkily.

The anti-matter core itself has a projected runtime of a couple of years without refuelling, and I know we’re topped up with gas before we left Mars.

Cisco went over to a console, reset some breakers, flipped some switches and pulled some panels off to gain access to the wiring. Pulling out my tablet, I could see that we were running on reserve batteries for life support and guessed that might last us a week. I ordered Ortis to turn off everything that didn’t need to be on, anything that the system hadn’t automatically shut down. He was already one step ahead of me on that one.

I sent Jess to the bridge to broadcast a distress signal and find out if there are any other ships in the area. On reflection, the search for other ships would probably be a dead-end if the navigation system was offline already.

‘Do what you can, Cisco,’ I said, feeling the drop in temperature as life support was reduced to minimum levels.

He gave me the middle finger and was already buried neck-deep in cables and sub-panels, I just needed to get out of his way and let him do what he does best.

‘I’ve launched the emergency beacon, Wren, but the nav system doesn’t show any other ships in the L4 or nearby. We’re on our own.’

Jess looked ashen, the thought of being stranded out here had clearly shaken her. Time to act all captainy.

‘Jess, go to the engine room and assist Cisco with whatever he needs,’ I said softly, but firmly.

She looked at me and nodded. We all needed to be busy, not dwelling on what might be.

‘What are you gonna do?’

What was I going to do? ‘Keep us alive as long as possible, until that core is back online.’

Jess kissed me as she walked past and said, ‘Thanks,’ which made me smile.

Without the anti-matter core, we had no long-range communications. The beacon Jess had launched could only send a lower power radio signal, so it could be several hours before we got a response. This would only be good for a week anyway, so we would have to hope someone tries to check in from the company and comes looking for us before then.

Heck, to get a response from Ceres station from here using the primary radio system would take about an hour, and that’s if the signal isn’t blocked by all the asteroids floating around out there. I didn’t have a way to know how far the beacon had reached, it might not yet be in the clear.

Time to start doing the math on what’s left in the life support systems and see how long we can last before another ship gets here to rescue us. Turns out my initial guess was way off, and we were looking at about thirty-eight hours of life support for four crew. Food and water weren’t an issue, but the recycling services were offline, so we would be bagging our waste until main power was back. Food pouches would have to be eaten cold as well, to add insult to injury.

I briefed the crew on our situation, and Cisco still hadn’t come up with a way to restart the core. It was possible to restart them–I have been reliably informed–but they usually would be dealt with in space dock, not floating in the middle of an asteroid field. Feeling like a spare part and not helping, I went back to the bridge and looked out into space.

‘What the fu–‘

I ran to the bridge airlock and shouted down the corridor to the rest of the crew to get to the bridge immediately.

‘What’s going on, Cap?’ said Ortis, stepping onto the bridge drinking a juice packet.

‘Take a look outside and tell me what you see,’ I said.

Ortis shrugged and walked over to the starboard window and looked out.

‘Where are the stars?’ he said aghast.

‘Exactly, where is everything.’ Even though space is vast, there are still lots of stars that the human eye can see without assistance. And right now, that’s two crew members who couldn’t see any of them. Jess came over next to me and saw the same thing, nothing but blackness. The blackest blackness any of us had ever seen.

A thought struck me, and I grabbed one of the emergency torches from under the central console. I shone it on full power through the forward window and saw nothing except the tethers that were previously attached to our asteroid, floating in space before us.

‘There’s nothing out there–at all,’ said Jess, looking confused.

She was right, there was nothing there. No asteroids, no stars, not even bits of debris from mining our samples floating around out there.


‘Captain!’ called Cisco as he came running onto the bridge. ‘I know why the core is dead, or at least I have a good idea.’

Jess, Ortis and I looked at him expectantly.

‘Well spit it out then!’ I had to say, impatience winning out.

‘The anti-matter core has collapsed, completely. It’s ceased to be there. It looks just like the engine did before it first came online in the shipyard.’

I looked at Jess and then back to Cisco. ‘Okay, that’s not a why. Why has it collapsed?’

Cisco hurried over to one of the consoles and yanked a panel from underneath. His hands were a blur as he disconnected a set of cables and reconnected them to another system.

‘I’ve redirected power from life support to the propulsion subsystem logs, and–‘

‘You’ve what?’ screamed Ortis who ran over and picked Cisco up by the collar of his flight suit. Even though Ortis typically struggled in the higher gravity on the ship, his sheer bulk and muscles made up for it. Without gravity, and the hindrance of magnetic boots, however, he failed to lift Cisco even a millimetre off the deck.

‘Ortis, stand down!’ I ordered. He hesitated but let go of Cisco’s flight suit after a moment of contemplation.

I prompted Cisco to continue.

‘The only way I can think of that the core could collapse and cease to be is if all the fuel it contained was used up in some way.’

‘Meaning?’ Jess said.

‘Meaning, the drive did something monumental before going dark.’

The console in front of Cisco came to life, and the logs for the propulsion system appeared on the screen. He searched for the last recorded event, and there it was. A jump so massive, the computer couldn’t register the speed, distance or energy consumed and just recorded an overflow for each metric.

‘We went somewhere, and we didn’t even feel it,’ said Cisco, reconnecting the power back to the life support systems, which shut the console down again.

I didn’t know the drive could do that, and it looked like Cisco didn’t know that either.

‘So, where the hell are we?’ Ortis demanded.

Suddenly feeling like I needed to captain again, I sat in my captain’s chair and pulled the dead console around in front of me. I placed my tablet on top and checked on our life support status. Fortunately, Cisco’s little stunt had only cost us a minute or two of time. Which got me thinking.

‘Cisco, can you connect the proximity radar to the life support power, like you did for the drive logs?’

‘Now you want to kill us as well?’ Ortis said.

‘Enough!’ I shouted, probably a little too loudly, but they needed their captain right now. ‘Ortis, unless we find out where the hell we are, we’re dead. If finding out where we are, costs us a few minutes of life support, I think that’s worth it. Anyone disagree?’

Not surprisingly, Ortis put his hand up, but Jess and Cisco agreed with me, so I asked Cisco again.

‘Sure, it’s just a subsystem power conduit that I need to reroute–’ he said, heading off on a technical answer we didn’t have time for.

I motioned for him to get on with it as Ortis sat himself down in one of the couches and sulked, sucking down another of his favourite juice packets. Once we had answers, I was hoping they would placate him. If we didn’t get answers, we’d be dead soon enough, so it wouldn’t really matter all that much whether he was pissed with me or not.

The console came to life and finished booting within a few seconds. I activated all the perimeter radar nodes and sent out a single ping. I didn’t want to use more energy than necessary.

Everyone huddled around the console screen and watched as the circles that represented the radar pulses spread out from the image representing the Tinto. They kept going and then disappeared from the screen.

Ten seconds had passed, which was just over a seven hundred thousand kilometres, and no echoes were detected.

‘Was that full power?’ Cisco asked, looked crestfallen.

It was. One pulse at full power from ten nodes.

We waited for a full minute, but not even the faintest echo came back.

‘Disconnect the console,’ I said, getting up from the chair.

I knew that would have used up a decent portion of our reserve power, and a quick glance at my tablet told me how much. A full hour of life support, gone in a fraction of a second.

‘Can we still use the manoeuvring thrusters?’ Jess said.

‘And go where?’ I asked, maybe a little too abruptly.

She looked mad at me for asking the question, but I deferred the matter to Cisco, who would know what we could and couldn’t use in our current state.

‘Sure. They can be manually activated if you wanted to run them dry. Wouldn’t need any power to maintain them once they start burning. Why?’

I was as curious as Cisco.

‘Well, I assumed, maybe we all did, that we’re sitting still? Speed is relative right, so if we add some, maybe we’ll be able to see something move out there that we can’t see at our present velocity.’

It was a good idea, and it wouldn’t cost us anything except hydrazine, which won’t do us any good soon anyway.

‘Go for it,’ I said.

Within a few minutes, Cisco and Jess were standing by on the manual release valves for the monopropellant thrusters. I gave them the nod, and we felt the kick from the increase in thrust as they began to burn.

The acceleration levelled off, and we let the tanks run dry. Ortis was in the bridge looking for anything moving outside the ship, and we all joined him to add eyes to the exercise. Several minutes went by, but nothing else did.

‘Well, that sucks,’ said Jess.

My tablet said we had thirty-four hours of life support left, and I needed to get off the bridge for a while.


Well, I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit around moping about the end of my life, so Jess and I used up a little more oxygen than we should have if you get my meaning.

It didn’t really matter that Ortis and Cisco knew what we were up to now, and I didn’t care. Jess and I were close, but I don’t know if either of us saw what we had as a future-together kind of thing or just something we enjoyed doing together on these long assignments.

She was lying peacefully with her head on my shoulder, snuggled up next to me in my bunk, which was never designed for two people by the way. I thought about waking her to use up some more oxygen, but my eyes were heavy, and I felt sleep beckoning.

I was just drifting off to sleep when I opened my eyes a fraction, only to see that my bunk was not there. Nor was Jess, or the rest of my ship for that matter.

Everything around me was a blinding white, and not like everything was painted white, it was just like the void outside the ship, but the inverse colour scheme. After my eyes had adjusted, the levels of whiteness died down so that it didn’t hurt them anymore.

My feet were touching what I could only assume was the ground, but I could see no differentiation between the ground and anything else. There wasn’t anything else. There was also no horizon, which made me feel a little agoraphobic. I did the only thing I could think of and closed my eyes again, hoping that this was just a dream and I’d wake up for real this time.


Lacking anything else to do, I said ‘Hello’ to the void and got nothing in return. Walking seemed possible, as there looked to be gravity here, so just started heading in the direction I was facing. With no reference points to judge movement from, just like outside the ship, I had the sensation of walking on the spot.

I had to be dreaming, I thought to myself, unless I’ve died, and this is what comes next? Did our life support systems give up when I was asleep?


Your colleagues are well and unharmed.

The voice made me freeze on the spot, if I’d even moved at all. It had sounded like the voice was inside my head, which makes me think I must be dreaming, or have gone crazy.

We can assure you that your sanity has not been compromised, Captain Wren Norris.

‘Oh okay, that’s alright then. So, who are we then, if you’re not me?’ I was sure I was talking to myself, so sarcasm abounds.

We are the thing your species has been searching for since you first left the confines of your planet.

I had to think about that. Did he mean God?

No, Captain Wren Norris.

Probably means aliens then, I thought as a joke.

By your species’ definition, you are correct, Captain Wren Norris.

I can’t get past the creepiness of them hearing my thoughts.

Apologies, Captain Wren Norris. If you prefer, we will respond to your vocal projections instead.

‘Yeah, that probably works better if I’m honest.’

‘As you wish.’

Tuna fish sandwiches, I thought.

Okay, at least you’re not listening to my thoughts.

Are you?

Guess not.

‘So, if you are an alien–whatever, what am I doing out here having a one on one with you?’

‘There is much to learn from each other, Captain Wren No–‘

‘Just Captain is fine.’

‘As you wish, Captain. We have seeded your young minds with technology and information over many of your years, to prepare your species. There is much about the galaxy that your kind cannot comprehend at your stage of evolution. Yet, the threats are there none the less.’

‘Wait, what threats? An extinction-level kind of threats?’

‘We have brought you here to offer you the thing your species desires most.’

I want to think ‘decent bathroom facilities in all spaceports’, just to see if they are still reading my thoughts, but I’m pretty sure they don’t want to offer something this massive to a cocky little human being.

‘And what is that?’

‘Answers to your questions.’

Oh shit!

‘All of them?’

There was a pause, but I took this as to be him, or them, thinking.


Okay, not the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything then.

‘And what do you want from me in return?’

‘To understand your species further and justify our decision to interfere in your development.’

A bit late, I thought, having gifted us with all our technology already.

‘Agreed but interfering with your species’ development was not a unanimous decision among my kind.’

‘Hey, you are still reading my thoughts!’

‘The exchange will be thus. We will return your ship and your crew to its previous location in your solar system, and you will remain with us.’

Now, any human being with a decent-sized sense of adventure would be jumping at the opportunity to spend time with beings as powerful as these. I must admit I do have a rather large helping in this area, but one question struck me as being an obvious one.

‘For how long?’

Again, the pause.

‘Time as you understand it does not apply here. It will be no time and all of time.’

Clear as mud then. Another question–

‘How do I know you are benevolent and not some other, powerful, mind-warping alien that just wants to add me to their museum of antiquities? There was a lot of talk about probing back in the latter twentieth century. I’m not into probing.’

‘Your humour does intrigue us. It is something that we lack in our culture. We hope you don’t take offence at our lack of understanding in this area?’

That’s probably not a bad thing, my sense of humour has gotten me into more than a little trouble in the past. I paced around for a moment, scratching my head. At least I may have been pacing around, I still couldn’t tell. I was definitely scratching my head, though.

‘Okay, so you send my ship and crew back to where we were before losing the ship’s core, and I stay here with you?’


‘And if I don’t, what happens to us then?’

The pause was longer this time, which didn’t fill me with confidence.

‘We don’t believe this eventuality will come to pass.’

Shit, that’s not an answer, but I already know the answer.

‘You’d leave us stranded, after bringing us out to god knows where to die?’

‘We will return you and your crew to your own space. There will be other ships we can access in time. We are giving you, Captain Wren Norris, the chance to transcend to a higher dimension, one that your species may eventually reach, in many millennia.’

‘But we’ll all be dead,’ I said. It was a statement, not a question. They didn’t offer a reply.

‘What is your decision, Captain?’

There wasn’t really a decision to make was there. Jess, Ortis and Cisco will be dead, and humanity wouldn’t have gained a damn thing. Hell, I’d be dead too, and I’m kind of selfish when it comes to living and breathing. I couldn’t know for sure what their motives were, but if it meant they’d flush our ship down the pan and go looking elsewhere, then they needed some education on the value of human lives.

‘One more thing before I agree to do this. I want to go back to the ship and say goodbye.’

‘You may return to your ship for a brief period. There is a condition to this.’

Of course, there is, and I bet I know what it is.

‘Would it have anything to do with my mind and body? You know, only needing one of them here in this place and not the other.’

I took the pause to mean yes, so it looks like we’re already starting to understand each other. I can go back and be with them until they are sent back to our solar system. Then I guess from their perspective, I’m dead, and they can go on with their lives.

What choice did I have? I didn’t want any of them to die, and I certainly don’t want to die.


‘Wren, you okay?’ Jess said, as I opened my eyes and saw the familiar surroundings of my crew quarters?

Before I could answer her, all the ships systems started coming back online. The familiar vibration of the core could be felt through the ship again as we fell back onto the bed, gravity reasserting itself.

‘The core is back?’ she said, excitedly getting up and putting her clothes on.

‘Captain, you better get to the engine room. Everything has come back online!’ came Cisco’s voice over the intercom.

‘Come here,’ I said to Jess as I put my clothes on. I kissed her deeply, remembering her face, her smell, her taste. I am going to miss this.

Ortis and Cisco were staring at the core with elation and a decent helping of surprise as Jess, and I walked in. Everything looked like it did before it shut down, and power levels were nominal.

‘It just came back on, Cap. This wasn’t me!’ Cisco said, sounding disappointed that it wasn’t some miracle he had worked. I wouldn’t have blamed him if he had taken credit for it.

‘Well, whatever you did or didn’t do, great job Cisco.’

The navigation system was blank, it showed our position as, well, nowhere. There was no reference data for it to track us. Cisco and Ortis began checking subsystems, making sure we’d sustained no damage, which, unsurprisingly we hadn’t.

‘We need to report this to the Company if we manage to get back,’ Ortis said. ‘It could be a critical issue that other ships might encounter as well.’

I agreed with him and said that was a good idea. Although it was unlikely to affect any other ship in the future, at least while I was floating around in that higher dimension anyway but didn’t tell him that.

‘So, what now?’ Cisco said, tapping his tablet, trying to get any kind of data from the ship’s sensors.

‘I don’t know,’ I said honestly. ‘The ship brought us here, what’s your guess?’

Saying ‘goodbye’ seemed wrong somehow. Although I’d be gone, it didn’t feel like this was the end. I gave Ortis and Cisco the best-damned high-fives I could muster and told them how glad I was that they are my crew. It felt a little corny, but a hug and an ‘I’ll miss you’ wouldn’t have worked here, I’m pretty sure.

I sat down with Jess and put my arms around her, holding her tight. I really was going to miss all of this, but the fact that they would be alive was comfort enough.

‘Are we going to be alright?’ Jess whispered so that only I could hear her.

I put my mouth next to her ear and whispered back, ‘We’ll all be fine,’ as the anti-matter engines powered up.


The End?