< Shrinelands

Snowflakes fall silently, melting into the seeping redness spreading across the breast of her flight suit. Tall conifers, heavy with blinding white ice, loom over her, framing the intensely azure sky. Tiny crystals swarm and play amongst the limbs and needles, flung along by brisk tendrils of freezing, unbreathable wind.

A branch bent by a weight of snow sags precariously above her. She wills her body to move, puzzling at the numbness and lack of response. Unable to even roll her head, she is returned to darkness as the limb gives way.


The klaxon sounded again and again.

"Fuckin' Allright," Azamat shouted as he swiped one arm blindly across the interactive holodisplay embedded in the roof of his bunk. "I'm awake, what is it?"

"Distress Signal." KARKOS, the ship's AI, responded flatly. "Three-hundred twenty-six kilometers distant, North-northeast. Beacon identity null, but signalling urgency."

"Null ident? Is it encrypted or missing?" he asked as he drew himself from coffin-shaped bunk in the bulkhead of the tiny ship.