I am Deltander Permund.

It is very likely that I am about to die.

After I had written that, I sat and rubbed the smudges from the marking stylus off my fingers. That melodramatic statement seemed all there was to say.

What abominable taste.

Andur sits across from me, back against the wall, steadily working some tag ends of cord. He picks and pries with the tip of his knife, pulling the fibers apart, drawing them free, and joining them into a longer strand as if there were no more important thing in the world. Only his inward-looking expression shows how intently he is listening to the muffled sounds outside.

Teyr leans against the wall next to him, so relaxed that Andur may think he is sleeping. But I can see the moving glitter of his eyes under lowered lashes. Teyr, too, is listening. Of the three of us, he has the most to fear. Andur and I may be killed in the first rush of the mob. They will take Teyr alive.

I think I could kill him first.

I won't have to try: Andur and I silently agreed some time ago.

Andur pauses in his fiddling work to check the keenness of his knife; draw its small whet lovingly down it.

And as for myself, I smooth the rough length of packing paper and adjust the sleeve on the tip of the stylus over and over, drawing each letter as if it mattered that this be legible. No one will care. Reading is an antiquarian's skill, and in any case our attackers will burn everything. I am my only critic, and my judgment is suspended for the duration.

I will begin at what I think was the beginning.

It was universal standard year 6239. I was head of a team of negotiators on circuit to settle an accumulation of off-world trade disputes, when we received an emergency request for assistance in resolving a crisis aboard the freighter Aeguit.


The ship was in the vicinity of Ventrubli Corporation's free-fall farm, Holk Station, which reluctantly granted permission to dock, but required the Aeguit to maintain quarantine. The stipulation was a reasonable one: Holk's crops were susceptible to contamination.

Once docked, the Aeguit's crew began to shift cargo into the docking bay. Seeing this on the remotes, station personnel questioned the ship's captain. She said they were making repairs.

The chief of Holk security, alarmed by the change of story, had a team suit up. When they reached the lock opening on the bay, the Aeguit broke its moorings and pulled out, rupturing the station hull, damaging station life-support, and abandoning their own on-station personnel. Some of these managed to reach shelter in the cargo warehousing section where they resisted attempts to make them come out and report to Holk authorities.

When I and my team arrived our ship's life-support systems were parasitized to help stabilize the station's. We were stranded: unskilled and unwanted in the middle of a disaster.

Deltander is available on Amazon.

Copyright 2016 Catherine Mintz. All rights reserved.

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