‘I can’t let you do this, Captain,’ said Lieutenant Barker, struggling to keep his balance. Captain Cruz looked up from the engineering console, focused her one remaining eye on Barker.

‘Stop me, then,’ she croaked, barely audible over the evacuation klaxon. She unclipped her gun from her belt, walked over to Barker, and thrust it into his hand. ‘Kill me, then,’ she said, and turned away from him.

‘If… if you eject the coolant, you’ll poison half the continent.’ He raised the gun and pointed it at Captain Cruz’s back.

‘If I don’t, then we’ll lose the Mbato Drive, and we’ll never make it off this backwater rock.’

Barker’s hands were shaking. He blinked twice, tried to force himself to pull the trigger. That was the right thing to do, he knew: even if it left them stranded, they had to respect the native ecosystem. That was what the rules said. So why were his hands shaking so much?

‘Goddamn it,’ he said.


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