Mars didn't work out. We're all packing up and going home. My estranged dad is refusing to leave, so I'm out travelling the Martian landscape to his solitary outpost to bring him back.
If it were up to me, I'd say he'd made his choice. But my sister, back on Earth pleaded, "The kids want to see their Grandpa. I want to see him again."
I've always had a soft spot for my baby sister…
Get your FREE copy of Leaving Mars by Adeena Mignogna!
Club Codex is continuing to read and discuss “The Kaiju Preservation Society” by John Scalzi through October 14. Please join us!
My latest story is now available in Boundary Shock Quarterly 24.
“An Unexpected Grace” is a follow-up to my novelette “An Illicit Mercy”. It continues the story of corporate police officer Corporal Siwela:
Still coming to terms with her decisions during a recent assignment, Corporal Siwela takes a leave-of-absence. Perhaps a holiday visit to her home community will help get her head straight. But the trip doesn’t go as planned. Marooned and wounded in the Martian outback, running out of air, Siwela won’t survive without aid. This wasn’t how she planned to spend Christmas.
Here’s a short excerpt:
“An Unexpected Grace”
by Brian Scott Pauls
The flyer went down over a hundred kilometers from any known habitat. It was too far south for the regular patrols from the more developed regions to pick it up. It was too far north to show on the sensors at Heatwole.
Thanks for reading The Cosmic Codex! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
I knew immediately something was wrong. I was flying on manual to stay awake when I lost control. The vehicle listed to one side, then leveled out and began gliding toward the Martian surface. That glide saved me. The ship’s broad wings kept it aloft long enough to end in a belly-scraping, bone-jarring crack-up. Better than a fatal nosedive. If I’d been conscious when the wreck finally slid to a stop, I would've considered myself fortunate.
Getting stranded on Mars is bad. Getting stranded when no one knows exactly where you are is about as bad as it gets.
This was my fault, of course. When I requested a leave-of-absence, I didn't submit an optional travel itinerary. Listing Heatwole as a destination would have raised questions I didn’t want asked. Seven years ago, I had severed all ties with my past. Some on the force might take an unfavorable view of me returning home for Christmas.
When I came to and opened my eyes, a telltale appeared in my corneal implant. The blue read-out informed me I had been out for 12 minutes and 37 seconds.
The bulkheads of the cabin had crumpled about me like the sides of a crushed aluminum can. I tried to move my head and found I couldn’t. The wreckage of the flyer held my helmet and torso tight. I felt an excruciating pain in my lower abdomen.
What concerned me most was a faint, high-pitched whistle. I didn't have to wonder where it came from. My restricted line-of-sight to the now-shattered canopy still afforded me a dim light. In the corner of my faceplate, I saw a hairline crack. Not long, but it didn't have to be.
I tried moving my arms. I could raise the right up-and-down only if I wriggled it through the wreckage. The other had a surprising range of motion.
With my left hand, I reached over to my opposite side, grunting in pain. Something hard, cylindrical, and unyielding—a broken conduit!—had penetrated my belly. The far end, somewhere within the remains of the flight console, didn't budge. Cautious probing around the entrance wound confirmed the narrow pipe had impaled me. Pinned me to the back of the pilot’s seat. I was in big trouble.
If you’ve enjoyed this excerpt from “An Unexpected Grace”, you can read the entire story in Boundary Shock Quarterly 24: Science Fiction Holidays, available at Amazon and other online booksellers.