The Last Run
By J. Scott Coatsworth
Lesfic / Sci-Fi
Sera is the last runner from Earth, bringing badly needed supplies to the Tharassas Colony across a twenty-five-year gulf between the planets. Jas works on a hencha farm to make ends meet, harvesting berries from the semi-sentient plants.
Neither one that knows their lives—and worlds—are about to change forever.
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Sera’s back arched as she gulped a lungful of air, her eyes bulging out of their sockets. She collapsed back on the memory foam of her sleep pod, sucking oxygen into her lungs gratefully.
It was a bit stale, but not immediately fatal—a good sign given how they escaped near-certain destruction by the skin of their teeth, as Earth and her local colonies fell into chaos and self-imposed destruction.
Sera’s throat was raw, dry—the antiseptic spray either hadn’t worked or hadn’t been administered by the Spin Diver’s wake-up protocols. “Waaaater.”
A slim white feeder line slipped down from above to mouth level. She took the sipper between her lips and sucked in the gloriously wet liquid.
Like the air, it tasted a bit off. She sighed. Time enough to figure that out later.
She drank her fill and sat up, swinging her feet off the edge of the couch to look around the sleep room.
The other three pods were dark.
“Tavi!” Sera slipped off the couch and winced. Every one of her muscles ached.
She hobbled her way to the closest pod. Please—no.
It felt like just minutes before—when their fingers had been intertwined, Tavi giving her a quick kiss as the ship shuddered all around them, the air filling with noxious smoke. Staring at each other as the hardened plas lids slid closed over them.
Sera fumbled with the manual release controls on Tavi’s pod, frantic. They were unresponsive, as dark as the pod itself.
Sera stumbled to the wall and retrieved the axe that was strapped there for emergencies. She managed to lift it up, her shoulder muscles on fire from the weight. She brought it down blade-first on the plas cover of the dark sleep pod. The reinforced plas cracked but didn’t break.
She lifted the axe again and brought it down hard on the slick surface.
The axe blade skittered across the smooth shell, and the handle slipped out of her grasp. The axe fell on the metallic floor on the far side of the pod with a loud clatter in the deceleration-created gravity.
Sera squeezed past the pod to retrieve it, sparing a quick glance for the two unoccupied pods.
Jace and Herrol hadn’t even made it to the ship. They were long dead by now.
Sera lifted the axe once more and brought it down on the cover with all her weakened strength.
The plas shattered at last, revealing the pod’s contents.
The musky smell of decay slammed into Sera, driving her back toward the exit hatch. She couldn’t believe that it was true—that Tavi was long dead, her corpse a shrunken mess of bones and dried flesh.
“Oh God.” Sera stumbled backward and slammed her hand on the hatch release. She practically fell through it, slamming her hand on the door control outside.
It spiraled closed, shutting off the horrible sight, but leaving the sickly-sweet smell lingering in the air.
Sera fell to her knees and retched.
After almost twenty-five years in suspension, there was nothing left in her to come out, but still her stomach heaved. It was a primal reaction, far beyond her ability to control. She’s gone.
Then she just lay there, wrecked and broken. “Tavi.” How did this happen?
Time slowed and dilated.
Her mind refused to process what she had just seen. It was too visceral, too real.
She closed her eyes and sobbed.
Scott lives with his husband Mark in a yellow bungalow in Sacramento. He was indoctrinated into fantasy and sci-fi by his mother at the tender age of nine. He devoured her library, but as he grew up, he wondered where all the people like him were.
He decided that if there weren’t gay characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.
A Rainbow Award winning author, he runs Queer Sci Fi, QueeRomance Ink, and Other Worlds Ink with Mark, sites that celebrate fiction reflecting queer reality, and is an associate member of the Science Fiction Writer’s Association (SFWA).
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