“Tess? Tess, if you’re in here, let me know you’re okay.”
I looked around, cautious, each step setting me drifting a good foot in the light gravity. Someone had fired a set of boosters to slow the station’s rotation; the final firing sequence had begun, and I couldn’t afford any loose ends at this point. I moved through the station compartment by compartment, always leading with my taser. The little weapon was dialed up to quite a lethal voltage but would be safe to fire on the station.
“Malcolm. I’m in here.”
I lowered the taser and moved into the compartment. “Thank god. Tess, are you okay? Did you see anybody?”
The kick hit me square in the chest, and in the low gravity, I tumbled straight through the inner door of the airlock. Tess flew backward against a wall, then leaped off the wall back toward the airlock controls. I scrambled forward, but I wasn’t fast enough. The door was built to cut off explosive decompression, and it slammed shut before I’d gotten an inch.
She drifted to the window and touched the plastic where my fist laid against it. “Malcolm. You were my only friend. My only real friend, in the bad old days. I know you only loved me recently, but I always…”
“No. I loved you from the start. I always loved you. So, why?” I flattened my palm over the plastic, to match hers. “What are you doing, Tess?”
“I love you. . . . but I’m not like you, Malcolm. You’re incredible, you’re so smart. You built this home in orbit and cured so much sickness. But this . . . what you’re trying to do is madness. You can’t help people by killing people.”
I slammed my fist on the plastic, and she flinched. “Killing people is the ONLY way to save people! Nature reacts to overpopulation with massive die-offs. If I don’t do this, nature will, and nature will not have the human mercy to make it quick! There will be decades, generations of pain and overcrowding and disease!”
“You always knew so much, you think so fast. I could never argue with you. But this is wrong, Malcolm. Please,
the person I love is a good man. You protected me when I had nobody else to protect me. Protect them, now.” The tears were brimming in her eyes, and I looked away to nurture my anger, my sense of betrayal. I would need them.
“You’re right. Thinking is my strong suit.” I left the door and went to the access panel next to it. I ripped a circuit board out, and took a spool of wire off my belt, cutting and stripping wires, beginning to make hard connections between the copper contacts that typically were controlled by the advanced circuitry on the floor.
I heard the shattering of safety glass. That was the override for the outer door. It didn’t matter. I almost . . . there! The door slid open, and I strode out of the airlock. “Take your hand off the override. You’ll kill yourself, too, and I don’t think you are prepared to learn what dying in space feels like.”
She stared at me, tears dripping down her face, scattering from her lashes in the low gravity. Out of the observation window, the earth slowly wheeled into view with the station’s slow rotation. She looked at the view, and I saw her resolve harden before my eyes. “Malcolm…I know why we both only have one name on our wrist, now.”
“Tess, Tess don’t–!”
She threw the switch. The outer hatch opened, and I had just overridden the inner hatch. I saw her only briefly as I tumbled out, another star flying off into space. In the five seconds or so that I had before my mind got fuzzy and by body started convulsing, I found myself wondering if these two meteors would land close to each other.