Nominated for Best Sci-Fi / Space Opera Ménage Romance
“This story was a lusty short that steamed up the pages.”
JBP Reviews – September 28, 2012
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As his ship plummets toward Earth, Cael believes his life to be over. His last ditch effort to save himself ends in a fiery crash. When he wakes up, he believes he’s entered the afterlife, but his surroundings indicate otherwise. He made it to Earth. But who saved him, and what do they want with him?
Cael gripped the cushioned arms of the captain’s chair as his ship tumbled bow over stern. The console flashed a blinding red in front of him. Piercing alarms drilled into his mind and he lost focus. The seconds raced by as he plummeted toward Earth. He’d fucked up this mission of peace. Contact with his home planet had ended months ago. No one from Narien could save him now. His death was imminent.
The water below wouldn’t soften his landing. At its current speed, his ship would disintegrate on splashdown. The planet’s gravity pulled him down faster.
He coughed; the acrid scent of fried electronics stung his nose and the back of his throat. Please let my death be quick.
A rattling to the left caught his attention above all other noise. The handle on the cabin door shook. Freedom. It wasn’t his time to die, if he could get out.
The altimeter on the dashboard read six thousand meters, high enough to jump and land safely with his chute. Only to land in frigid water and die of exhaustion or hypothermia from treading without any hope of a rescue.
“Shit.” But he’d die if he stayed. He had to take the chance. Yanking off his safety harness, he pulled himself to standing and strained to reach the recess where his pack hung. Stretching up, he fingered the cloth strap. Not close enough to grab hold of it.
The ship jolted and flung him to the stern. He weaved his arm through the straps of the pack on his way past, dislodging it from the hook. Yes.
His triumph was short-lived as he flew starboard, smashing his shoulder against the wall. He groaned when an electrifying spasm shot down his arm to the tips of his fingers. The ship lurched again, and he tumbled back toward the console. He grabbed the door, his feet dangling in mid air. If he didn’t get out now, he’d forfeit any chance to survive.
The ship righted again. He planted his feet against the bottom of the door and twisted the crank. The latch snapped open, filling him with a sense of hope. Careful to keep at least one hand on the handle at all times, he slung the pack over his shoulders.
All set. Time to jump. Pushing off the floor, he slammed his uninjured shoulder against the door. It blew open and tore away from its hinges, lost to the sky.
Cael teetered on the edge before plunging out of his failing ship. Wind whipped all around him as he twisted to catch his bearing during freefall.
Glancing down, he spied crystal blue lake, much closer than he’d expected. Too close.
He jerked the cord on his chute–several hundred feet lower than he should have. At least. His feet skimmed the cold waves just as his chute caught the current and heaved him back into the air.
The ship splashed into the water beside him, disintegrating into millions of pieces. He raised his hands in front of his face as shrapnel flew at him. Tiny shards sliced into his arms and legs, but the extreme heat from the cloud of steam billowing up at him stung the most.
From the moment his toes touched down in the once frigid water, his skin sizzled. He screamed in agony. His death would have been quicker and less agonizing if he’d remained in the ship.
A hard piece of his spacecraft smashed down on his head, and he welcomed the darkness.