Today's Reading


Every time he closed his eyes, he was drowning. Water poured into the car, flooding the leather interior as it sank into Elliott Bay. He remembered looking to the passenger seat and the shock that washed over him. The wound in her head. The spray pattern on the window. How her hair floated up with the rising water, copper strands shining in the city lights outside the shattered glass. He watched her vanishing in the cold, and realized two things.

He didn't know who she was.

And he was holding a pulse pistol...

The world shook and jarred Flynn awake. He was staring through the shuttle's tiny window again.

The starfield from before had been replaced with something more distinct now. Inspiring and frightening all at once. He recognized it instantly. A planet. 11-H37. Unique in all the galaxy. Utter darkness on one side, raging heat on the other. He could just make out the slim streak of green that split the two massive halves. It looked tiny, nestled precariously between its giant siblings. It looked like it was being crushed.

It was called the Razor.

In spite of everything, Flynn felt excitement looking at it. Everything that had made him what he once was came from this world. Then again, it had also made him who he was now.

The image of the planet, fire and ice split in half, lasted a moment longer, then the shuttle hit the atmosphere and the windows were full of red streaks and Flynn remembered where he was and why and for how long and reality came crashing back. Excitement faded. Fear returned.

He sat back in the hard, cracked seat and breathed deep as everything around him shook again. Before the heat shields slid down over the windows, he saw the ship's energy field flare to life with a bluish, crackling sheen. He wondered how many shuttles actually made it through the planet's ionosphere to the surface. The numbers probably weren't even published. After all, the ship was remote-piloted, and as for the occupants...well, no one really cared about them, did they?

The shuttle shook again. He jarred upward before the restraints on his ankles yanked him back down, biting into his skin. A strange static hum built in the air; he could hear it even over the engines. He felt the tingling on his skin, felt his ears begin to itch. It wouldn't be long now.

There were thirty seats inside, screwed into each wall, forcing the occupants to stare at one another. A woman with worn-out skin, a big scar over her left cheek, and wiry, muscular arms sat in front of him. She was breathing heavily, the pace increasing each time the ship contorted. To her left was a kid with more tattoos than Flynn had ever seen—swastikas and hash tags, skulls and dragons—his head shaved clean, no older than twenty. The tats and the head made him look tough, but Flynn could hear him whimpering, trying not to lose it. The pattern repeated everywhere he looked, in the eyes of every person who was shackled to the shuttle. He'd never met any of them, but he could guess who they were. Killers. Thieves. Gunrunners. Tweakers. Smugglers. Hackers.

No matter how shrewd or scary they had once been, they were all frightened now. All of them. Because everyone knew where they were going.

The shuttle vibrated. The static hum grew louder. The edges of Flynn's vision were beginning to whiten and flare out.

Next to the kid with the tats sat another man. He didn't seem absorbed in his own anxiety as much as everyone else. Average height, in good shape, and his hair was wavy, probably even stylish a few weeks ago, before whatever happened to get him on this shuttle. There was a sense of order about him too, the way he corrected his posture each time the craft rocked, the equal lengths of his shoelaces. He had a different look. It felt like he didn't belong here as much as everyone else.

Flynn could relate.

For a moment, the man looked up and the two stared directly at each other.

Then the shuttle contorted violently and they both closed their eyes, waiting for what was to come.

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