Johner sat in his chair staring
out the window. Well, he said to himself, finally got
a chance to get out of this shithole. Earth - who needs it.
He sighed. The last three months had been fun, running through all
the money he had made on the previous trip. Stayed drunk more times
than sober, couldn’t count all the women much less remember
their names, and raised enough hell to let everyone know to steer
clear of him.
He thought again of Ripley, wondering
what she was doing now that she was finally through of the hearings
and inquisitions about the aliens and blowing up the military ship
in the middle of Siberia. She never said anything more to him when
they left the ship, just turned her back on him after saying “See
ya around, Johner.” Then she went out into the Terran atmosphere
that was so rich with oxygen that it took his breath away. That
was the last he’d seen of her. He gave himself a moment to
remember her long legs, legs all the way up to her ass,
he would have told her, thinking of her husky voice and dark brown
eyes. Then he sighed again. Time to get off this fucking planet.
He was going out in space again,
but this time he was making a trip to another solar system where
Earth had started moon colonies. Five months of hard, backbreaking
labor, mining the crystalline ore that served as the new fuel for
the new data transportation devices.
Transporting data almost instantaneously
was now the biggest thing to hit the worlds since the invention
of the steam engine. Information could now flow back and forth from
planet to planet as fast as if you were on Earth, talking to your
next door neighbor. He didn’t care about any of it though.
All he saw was a good paycheck at the end of it. And a chance to
get off Earth again. One thing about being on a ship, you establish
yourself as someone to be reckoned with, and people left you the
hell alone. All I need, he said. All I ever needed.
Two weeks later he
was packed and standing in line to board the ship. Two weeks of physicals,
vaccinations, and form filling had meant no booze. He was aching for
it now. A few days in space and then he’d be working 12 hour
days for the next five months, making enough money to see him though
a couple of years if he was conservative. Funny, I never thought
about that before. Maybe I’m getting old. Got to start thinking
about what it’d be like not having the balls or the muscle for
this kind of work.
The first few days of the journey
were spent in sim machines learning the mining techniques he would
be working with. At night, while the other men and women chatted
and socialized, he had stayed mostly apart with his alcohol. He
would flirt with the few women that were on board, but there weren’t
any sparks between him and anyone, so he just kept to himself. Most
of the time he drank and walked the ship.
He was on one of his walks, approaching
a little eating area that was filled with a small table, snacks
and drinks. Normally it was deserted, but he heard the clink of
spoon against china cup and automatically padded his steps to approach
the room without making a sound. He was in the small, dimly lit
hallway, looking through the door where the light was shining brightly
in the room. He stood just outside the door, knowing that the shadow
would conceal him, and looked in. There was a woman standing there,
lost in thought, stirring her spoon in a cup. The fragrance reached
him; it was tea. She was still not aware that he was standing there,
so he stared at her for a moment. She was short and slightly built,
with fine skin and short, dark brown hair, and dressed in lounging
clothes. The scene fascinated him, for it had been a long time since
he had seen that type of woman. She wasn’t the outgoing, hard,
aggressive female that he was used to who usually went out in space;
this one was soft and vulnerable looking. She looked quite out of
place on the ship. He felt his pulse quicken.
At that moment she noticed him standing
there and jumped, startled at the sight of him, nearly spilling
“Well, little girl, where’ve
you been hidin’? Ain’t seen you around and I thought
I’d met everyone aboard,” he drawled.
I work in data storage….” Her voice was so soft and light
he could barely hear her.
“What do you mean, data storage?
What do you do?” He started to leer, and thought about saying
something off-color, but then stopped. She looked as if she might
turn around and run, he thought, and suddenly he realized he had
rather she stay and talk to him.
“I just maintain databases
for the mining operations,” she said, and lowered her eyes
as a red coloring came to her cheeks.
Damn she’s shy, he
thought. Shit. What do I do with a shy girl that don’t
As if she heard him,
she lifted her head and asked, “Can I make you a cup of tea?”
He pulled out his hip flask and
said with a smile, “This is all the tea I drink. Care for
She blushed again.
Well, now what, he thought.
He was suddenly conscious of how he looked and smelled. He didn’t
want to get closer to her just yet, not until he could wash the
alcohol and the sweat of the day off. “Gotta go”, he
said, and he turned and walked away. “See ya.”
She said softly.
Ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod.
That was all she could think when he suddenly turned and left. She
couldn’t believe he had just been there. His presence filled
the space between them, filled her mind. Her stomach tightened the
moment she saw him, and felt embarrassed at the immediate thought
she had when she first looked into his startlingly blue eyes. Yes.
Well. It’s a knee jerk reaction. An attraction to a tall,
handsome, masculine, specimen of a man, nothing more, she told
herself. Nothing more. And I can’t afford any more complications
in my life.
She was not an adventurer. Her job
would keep her in the storage and living areas of the community
that was settled there, not outside in the mines. Her reason for
being on the ship to the moon colonies was to be away from people,
to heal herself. She was still not well enough.
She was shaking; the
surprise of meeting him had jolted her to remember the bad times,
when the man back somewhere on Earth that at one time she thought
she loved had turned into a jealous, raging despot. She didn’t
understand him at first, blamed herself, went through all the motions
and denial that an abused woman goes through, before she finally woke
up to see that he had changed into a monster, and she was not responsible
for it. When the realization hit her, she had felt calm. It was many
weeks before she got the nerve up to leave him, quietly, silently,
not giving any indication to show her hand, and so expertly with the
help of the women’s shelter that she had left no clue or trail
for him to follow.
And now this. She didn’t want
to think about another man. But there he was, suddenly, so different
from anyone she had ever met. She couldn’t help herself. But,
he’s not my type of man. He’s the type who lives dangerously,
fully. And I’m certainly not his type – a little scairdy-cat
who would bore him to tears. She shuddered, finished her tea
and cleaned up quickly, then returned to her quarters.
Twenty four hours later, the ship
had landed on the moon colonies. She was disappointed that she had
not seen him again, but the memory of their conversation had lifted
her spirits. She went about her tasks feeling light hearted; suddenly
she wasn’t so bored with her job. Off ship, she found her
new quarters in the mammoth cave that had been outfitted to house
the workers. She wondered where he had been assigned. I don’t
know a thing about him, she realized. How can I be thinking
about him so much?
She reported to her supervisor,
who immediately assigned her to a small desk. She found herself
in there with other workers, getting to know their new environment.
She noticed the large windows overlooking the valley where the cave
she had entered a mile behind her had ended in a cliff.
She was looking down
at the mining activity in the valley, a small but very busy hive of
construction machinery, with men and women floating or walking over,
around and above it all. Their slow motions combined to make a ballet
of work by human and machine, with dust floating off, settling, and
resettling to lend it a mysterious, ominous look. No sound reached
her except the quiet hum of the environmental system that kept them
all alive and breathing on the unforgiving, alien landscape. Wow,
she thought. How can those people be so brave? I’d worry
She started looking around her new
work space. Where are the office supplies? she said to
herself, and started to look through the shelves in the cabinets.
There were the pens, just out of her reach on the top shelf. She
stood on her tiptoes as far as she could and tried to reach, but
just fell short. Back down on her feet again, a large hand was suddenly
over her and picking up the box.
“Looking for this?”
She turned to face
him. Again, he had come up silently upon her. She didn’t know
if she liked that or not. It unsettled her. “Yes, thanks,”
He smiled down at her, realized
how close he was standing to her, and backed away a couple of steps.
She smells good, he thought. “Nice perfume,”
he told her.
“Ummmm, not perfume…shampoo,”
she replied and inwardly cringed. What a stupid thing to say
she said to herself. Why don’t you just come out and say,
‘geek girl who never goes out on dates’. She was
He laughed. “Okay, okay. Thought
maybe you’d gone back to Earth. Didn’t know you were
part of the company here.”
“Yes, my job for the next
At that moment a young woman came
walking by and chucked Johner on the arm. “See you at the
party later?” She smiled at him and Angela.
“Maybe” was his answer,
as he playfully chucked her arm as well. Then, as the young woman
walked away, he turned back to Angela and asked, “You like
“Oh, no, I’m just going
to eat dinner then go to my quarters. I’m really tired.”
I didn’t really mean that.
Why did I say that to him? She thought to herself. She felt
depressed. What an idiot I am.
“Well” he said in a
low, quiet voice, disappointed, “You better get back to your
She ruefully turned and walked through
the narrow hallway, conscious that his eyes were on her. At the
end of the hall, she started to turn towards the living space. But
instead, she forced herself to look up at him. His steady gaze met
her tentative one. She looked into his blue eyes, frankly, more
intimately than she had ever looked at a stranger, unable to look
away. Her heartbeat quickened. She slowly turned and started walking
again, and this time he began to follow her. She heard him catching
up to her; he was knocking his knuckles quietly on the side of the
wall as he walked, the only clue that he was not as cool as he looked.
She felt him very close behind when she stopped in front of her
door, fumbling dizzily for the combination of her lock. I can’t
believe I’m doing this, she thought.
She felt his breath on the back
of her hair. She turned the handle to the door and stepped in and
faced him. He stood there, looking expectantly at her, his large
frame filling the small door opening, and resting his arms on the
jamb above him.
“You sure about this?”
He asked. He couldn’t believe his luck, and something about
the quickness of the connection made him suddenly wary. Any second
now he expected her to back away. But she didn’t. She stepped
back further into her room, nodding her head. He stepped inside,
and closed the door. Then he locked it.
The 5:00 am wakeup alarm sounded,
but Johner was already awake. He pushed the wall where the alarm
button was, and relaxed back into place. "Man", he said.
"Man oh man." Instead of the groggy hung-over feeling
he was used to, he was alert and wide awake, feeling stretched out
and better than he had in years. That’s the kind of exercise
I need to be doing more of, he thought to himself. He looked
over at the sleeping figure next to him, remembering the previous
evening, and smiled. Then, started to laugh, softly.
She stirred, slowly awakening, turned
and looked at him. “What’s so funny?” she asked
He laughed again. “You know,
we didn’t even ... What’s your name? My name is Johner.
She started to laugh herself. Of
course. They did not speak when the door shut behind him last night.
Another form of communication had taken over.
“Hi. I’m Angela”.
She somberly offered her hand out for him to shake. He just as somberly
took it and they both burst out laughing.
“Angela. Well, Angela, it’s
time for me to get up and get ready for work.” He shifted
out of bed and stood up, stretching and yawning.
“Want breakfast?” she
asked, getting up. “You should, with all that hard labor ...
“Yeah,” he said. Then,
as she passed by him, he put his arms around her waist and pulled
her back and down into the bed. “This is the kind of breakfast
I want ... ”
He felt he was walking
on air as he strode into the changing room to put on his day’s
work clothes in front of the air lock. The shift’s other workers
were getting ready there, and two of them looked at him, then at
each other, nodding and winking knowingly. One of them said, “Well,
somebody had a good time last night!” Johner didn’t
respond; he just smiled at them. He didn’t care what they
said to him today. His mood was too happy. He felt on top of the
world. This ain’t good, he told himself jokingly.
Have an image to maintain. She’s going to ruin it.
Angela. He took a deep breath and
let it out slowly, finished putting his hard hat and face mask on
to complete the safety suit.
One last check to make sure everything
was air tight, then the workers made their way into the airlock,
where the people mover was waiting to take them into the valley.
His good mood stayed with him for the rest of the day.
The euphoria she felt lasted for
an hour. For a full hour, she let herself feel the pleasure and
warmth of last night. Johner. She loved the name. It was strong
and masculine, and suited him perfectly. Oh, this is what life
is made for, she told herself joyfully. As she got dressed,
ate breakfast and started toward her work area she felt ecstatic,
more alive than she had in years.
But as she walked, in small increments
with every step she took, her small, thin, self-defeating voice
inside her head started its litany. What were you thinking,
it said. You don’t know him! He could bend you like a
twig, and you let him into your bedroom without knowing a thing
about him. Without even knowing his name! You could have been seriously
hurt! What if you had changed your mind, and he didn't ...
It got the best of
her, this small, dismayed, voice, and her good mood slowly began its
sure, downward spiral into depression. Maybe it’s only a
“recession”, she tried to joke to herself. But it
was not. She shuddered with the thought of them together ... Oh,
what have I done. Now all the dark thoughts, every possible harm
that could have befallen her last night came full force to her in
a rush. She tried to still her mind and keep it on the work in front
of her. I’ll have to think about this later, I’m too
busy today. Finally, her focus came.
Johner finished his shift, and he
pulled off his work clothes and showered. He was looking forward
to seeing Angela again. A warm feeling for her was beginning to
form. Maybe she’d like to go eat in the dining room overlooking
the valley, he thought to himself. Maybe I could pick a
couple of flowers in the “farm”, the small biosphere
where fresh vegetables and flowers were grown.
He walked to her small quarters
and knocked on the door there. No answer. He knocked again, a little
louder, and the door opened just slightly.
“I’m not feeling well”,
“Are you okay? Maybe….”
He started to say.
“I’m fine. Just please,
I need to be alone.”
“Give me a call later?”
“Okay” she said in a
small voice, and closed the door.
What was THAT all about?
He asked himself. That wasn’t at all like the Angela he remembered
from last night. He shrugged, then walked slowly back to the mess
hall to pick up some food.
Two days passed; Johner tried to
contact her several times, but Angela would give some excuse not
to talk to him.
A few nights later, Johner was sitting
by himself in the bar, well into his fourth drink. He’d given
up on hearing from or seeing Angela again.
Hell, he said to himself.
She was just taking a field trip the night we were together.
She didn’t mean anything by it. Just a little walk on the
wild side with Johner. He raised the drink in a mock toast
to her, then drained the glass. Shit, why should I care?
he thought. He got up and went to the virtual reality room to play
a game of Annihilation. Suited up with helmet, vest and laser, he
cranked the game up to the highest level and spent two hours killing
everything that moved. Finally spent, he went back to his quarters.
That’s enough of that, he said to himself. And
of Angela, too, he added. He felt a cold knot in his stomach.
He ignored it.
Every morning after their one and only night together, Angela would
wake up with her mind clear and calm. Then, slowly, the memory of
the bad times before she got away from her ex-husband began to form.
Her stomach would sink, and dread would wash over the calm like
an incoming tide. Every movement was mechanical, no meaning or feeling
would penetrate the fog she felt. She couldn’t face talking
to Johner, and he had called several times. Each time he called
her, she felt like a heavy hand was around her neck, and she could
barely speak. It was painful to leave her quarters to go to work,
and hard to keep on the task. Her coworkers finally stopped talking
to her and left her alone. She felt miserable. She felt like something
bad was going to happen to her.
The next morning Johner was suited up for work, waiting in the rowdy
line of workers waiting for verification that their salaries had
been credited to their accounts. When it was his turn, he looked
down at the slightly-built, fussily-dressed accountant, ready to
hear his confirmation. But the man was busy studying his computer,
then looking quizzically at Johner. “Hmmmm….”
, he said thoughtfully. “Johner, is it? There seems to be
a problem. Looks like your account isn’t here.”
The accountant looked at Johner
as if he were a simpleton. Slowly, with a hint of sarcasm in his
voice, he said, “There must have been a mixup. Don’t
worry, it won’t take long to fix. I’ll need your access
code so that I can go into your account to make a change. It should
be verified by the end of the day.” He smiled, but it wasn’t
a pleasant smile. Johner looked down at him, not smiling back, wondering
what to do. “Go on,” said the man, “There are
people waiting. Just give me your access code and I’ll get
back to you.”
Johner gave him the code, then said,
“You be sure it’s fixed by the time I’m off work.
I’ll be looking for you.” He gave the accountant a scowl,
then huffed off to the air lock, waiting for the next people mover
to load them all up again.
As Johner turned his back on him,
the accountant just smiled.
“Don’t worry about him.”
One of Johner’s coworkers had overheard the encounter and
sat next to him. “He’s an asshole to everybody.”
Johner just grunted. Already the
people mover had moved into position where the first group of miners
disembarked, and he started thinking about the day’s work
and the incident left his mind.
That evening after
work, Angela was in her small room straightening up. She sighed. Time
to do laundry, she said to herself. I really let it pile
up this time. I’ll be there all night.
She was the only one in the laundry
room, standing in front of the washing machine as it filled with
water. It was Friday night and everyone else had gone to one of
the bars. She could hear the laughter and music wafting towards
her direction. She wondered if Johner was there, meeting someone
new. Maybe he caught the hint when I started to avoid him,
she said to herself, bitterly. She couldn’t bear the thought.
She felt so alone. She really did want to be with him; it was her
fear that kept her from seeking him out.
“Hey.” She heard his
voice, turned and saw Johner standing just outside the door. Her
heart leapt and she smiled, but he didn’t smile back. “You
never called back,” he said.
“I’m sorry. I ... it’s
... ummm ... ” she stammered. She couldn’t go on.
He stood there for a moment, then
left. Her face fell. I’ve lost him, she thought.
She felt like crying.
Johner walked away from Angela toward
the bar that overlooked the valley. There were the two moons shining
brightly through the small window on the valley side of the building.
The moons were in an asynchronistic orbit, so it always seemed that
one was racing the other to see which one would become the fullest
first. Then, they would both wane until the point where they started
the race again. There was really never a darkness over the surface.
Mining was a twenty-four hour a day operation, and from the window
in the bar, Johner could see the activity taking place.
In the laundry room, Angela hesitated
for a long moment before she gathered up her courage and to follow
him. She walked up to him and said, “Johner, can we talk?”
He turned and looked at her for a good long minute, then shrugged
and walked her to an empty table in a small alcove, away from the
loud talk and pulsing music. They sat down opposite of each other.
A waitress appeared and took their
drink order and left them, and for a moment neither one looked at
Johner said, “What happened
Angela said, “I’m sorry.
I was really rude not to call you. I guess I just felt we were going
Johner didn’t say anything,
just looked at her and said again, softer and more gently, “What
happened to you?”
She finally guessed at his meaning.
Her throat tightened, wondering if she should tell him everything.
Even if it scares him off? Well, at least I will have let him
know why I’ve been avoiding him. “I’m not
like some of the people here…”
“… I’ve never
been one to go on … an adventure like this before. I was too
afraid to cross the street, sometimes, at home … Well, when
I divorced my husband, I sort of went a little crazy. Going out
to space seemed like it would be a way to jumpstart my life again.
I guess it did.”
Johner rolled his eyes and chugged
his beer. “ I guess everybody’s got a story.”
For a moment they were both silent.
Then Angela asked, “What’s yours, Johner?”
He just looked at her without smiling.
“Well, it ain’t like yours. And if you’re still
pining for your husband, I don’t want to be in the picture.”
“I’m NOT pining for
my EX-husband. He was horrible. It was a bad situation. I was glad
to get out of it.” Her vehemence surprised her. “Well,
that’s my story. Aren’t you glad you asked.” She
felt very disheartened. She couldn’t look at him.
Johner sat there musing for a few
minutes. “Okay, don’t need to talk about it again.”
He emptied his beer and set it down. He left some money on the table,
then walked away without a word and stood at the bar. She felt confused.
I guess he doesn’t want me to be around. She left
the bar. Johner watched her leave.
Johner stood at the bar, wondering
what he should do next, when he noticed the accountant coming up
to him. There’s the rat bastard who gave me a hard time
this morning, he said to himself. “What about my pay?”
he said to the accountant, without preamble.
The man looked up at him and smiled.
“Well, hello to you, too, Mr. Johner! Oh yes, your pay. Well,
it’s all been taken care of. Come with me, and I’ll
be glad to show you. It wasn’t easy, I’ll tell you!
It took me some time, I had to….”
“Just show me in the morning.”
Johner scowled at him. “I got better things to do now.”
“Well, it won’t take
more than a minute, and I really do want you to check it to be sure
that it’s all right. Otherwise, it might take longer, the
more time that passes…”
“Okay, okay,” Johner
said. Shit. Have to spend time with this jerk.
The man led him down the hallways,
past the living quarters, darkened dining rooms, and finally to
a deserted area that was close to the mechanical rooms that held
the life support units which kept the entire colony alive.
“Seems a funny place to go
to get my pay straightened out,” said Johner.
“Every square inch of space
has to be used as economically as possible. It’s not easy
to keep a colony on a harsh planet such as this,” the accountant
chirped cheerfully. He led Johner to a small room and closed the
door. “Stay here,” he ordered Johner. “I’ll
be right back. You are not authorized to go into this area.”
He pointed toward a second door with a window that led out of the
room. He left through it and then closed that door, leaving Johner
alone in the small room.
It was so simple, the accountant
said to himself. What an idiot. He nearly laughed out loud,
he felt so giddy. “Now for a big surprise, Mr. Johner”,
the man said to himself.
The doors had automatically locked
Johner in the small room. He heard a hissing sound and noticed a
break in the pipes above him. A gas was coming out of the pipe.
What the fuck? “Hey!”
Johner shouted. “There’s something wrong with the pipes
in here! Let me out!” Johner started pulling with all his
strength to open the door. He saw the face of the man through the
window of the door, laughing at him. What was that little asshole
doing? Johner was bewildered. The accountant turned around and purposely
left through another door, knowing all the while that Joiner’s
eyes were glued to him. With a triumphant last look at Johner, he
slammed the door.
Johner stood amazed, and slowly
the realization hit him: The little fucker did this on purpose!
He’s trying to kill me? I don’t even know him!
Now Johner’s senses were all
heightened. Not yet afraid, but anxious, he focused his attention
on the room he was trapped in. The pipes overhead were a few feet
above him. He had no idea what the gas was, but he knew he had to
hurry and do something before the fumes overcame him. He looked
around the room for something to climb to the pipes. The door lock
was underneath a heavy ledge a few feet off the floor. If I
can jump up to the pipes from there, maybe I can break it and then
break out the window. He quickly lifted his leg and placed
his foot over the lock, then vaulted himself to the ceiling. Almost.
He fell to the floor.
Try again, he told himself,
sweat pouring off his head and drenching his shirt. Again he vaulted
himself toward the ceiling, this time with a harder push off from
the ledge. The effort paid off. He made it. He grabbed the broken
pipe, and with his weight it broke free and followed him down to
Now the gas was really pouring in.
The fumes were beginning to make him dizzy. He unsteadily picked
up the broken piece of pipe and began hammering at the window with
all his might.
The accountant now
made his way quickly towards the laundry room where Angela was loading
her clothes into the dryer. He stopped just short of the door, listening
to her for a moment. She has no idea, he thought to himself.
His heart was thumping loudly, so loudly that he thought she might
hear it. He could barely control his excitement. This is it,
Angela heard the footsteps and turned
around, expectantly, thinking it was Johner.
Her world caved in around her. “No.”
she whispered, more to herself than to the man standing in front
It was her ex-husband, Ryan.
She started to scream but noticed
the knife he had gripped in his hand. As calmly as she could, she
said quietly “Ryan, don’t."
He sneered. “Thought you could hide? Thought I couldn’t
find you if I wanted to? Well, surprise, surprise! Here I am!”
He laughed an ugly laugh.
Angela felt dizzy. She could not
believe what she was seeing and hearing. What? How did he get here?
She looked past him, hoping against hope…
He read her mind. “Hahaha.
Don’t go looking for your boyfriend to come in and miraculously
save you. I took good care of him!” He laughed sarcastically,
but he was shaking with emotion. He grabbed her by the arm and led
her towards the hall. “Keep your mouth shut and keep walking
normally,” he said. “Or I’ll kill you.”
Everything he had planned was working out perfectly. He felt vindicated.
He felt like he was justified in what he was doing.
They started walking together through
the darkened halls, Ryan holding the knife firmly behind her back.
Her mind was racing. What did he do to Johner? She was scared and
frightened and tears were beginning to flow. “Where are we
going?” she asked shakily.
“Shut up!” he hissed.
“It’s all your fault he’s dead! You leave me and
the first thing you do is shack up with a moronic jerk-off like
him…. I hate you, you bitch! You don’t leave me!!”
He was still acting calm, but the words he said were starting to
come out louder and more hysterically.
They were close to the air locks
where the miners dressed and got on the people movers. The area
was deserted since it was midway through the shift, and no one was
scheduled to come in or go out for a few hours.
“Well, you’ll never
leave me again! This is the last time! This is goodbye, Angela!”
He pushed her hard against the airlock door, pinning her there,
and opening the door in one swift movement.
“NO!” She screamed.
No one could hear her here, but she struggled as hard as she could.
It was no use. He was too strong for her. They struggled, he dropped
the knife; she pushed back away from the door as hard as she could,
but it was no use, she could feel herself lose ground, felt hopeless
and helpless and weak, as if time had stopped, and there was no
moment except this, her final one, until….
…until the pressure of his
body on hers was suddenly lifted and she felt as if she was flying
backwards toward him. But he was moving much faster away from her.
As if in a dream, she looked up
to see that Johner was there, and he had grabbed and drawn Ryan
in close to him. In one quick, instinctive motion Johner had his
hands around Ryan’s head, and he gave a quick, hard twist.
Ryan fell to the floor in a heap.
He was dead.
Johner stood over him, breathing
hard, looking down.
Angela’s eyes could not comprehend
everything she had just seen. It had happened so fast. She felt
as if she was floating, not really a part of what happened, but
watching it like a movie unfolding in front of her. It was over
so quickly that Ryan didn’t even utter a sound. She could
not believe that it was really him lying there.
Johner looked up at her, his blue
eyes bright from the effort and the sweat pouring off him. Getting
out of the room filling with gas had required a huge effort of muscle
against the door and window, and he was beginning to feel the effects
on his shoulder and legs. Just sheer instinct had led him to where
he heard Angela scream and saw Ryan trying to push her through the
“You okay?” He asked,
trying to catch his breath. She stood frozen on the spot, looking
“Yes” she finally managed
to say. “How…. How…?” She couldn’t
“Who the hell WAS he? Why’d
he try to kill you? And me?” Johner walked toward her and
stood in front of her, taking her in with his eyes. Thank God
I got here in time, he said to himself.
Angela looked up at him, feeling
horrified. “My ex-husband, Ryan. He must have gotten a job
here, and planned this whole thing. He was always hitting me, but
I never thought he would try to kill me… if you hadn’t
been there, he…. I….”
“He tried to
kill me, too.” He stood closely to her, still breathing hard.
“It’s all over now. He can’t hurt you anymore.”
He bent his head to her hair and took a deep breath. He didn’t
want to think what would have happened if Ryan had succeeded.
He saw her stricken look, and her
pale face told him she was about to faint from the effort she had
just gone through. “Come on. Let’s get outta here. We
have to go tell Security what happened. Shit. This ain’t gonna
Angela threw her arms around him
and squeezed hard. The hug took Johner by surprise and nearly caught
him off balance. “If you hadn’t been there…”
A few weeks later, Angela was content and relaxed for the first time
in years. The ship was taking her back to Earth, and she was looking
out the window, trying to decide which of the two moons they had just
passed was the fullest. They endlessly race to be the fullest
moon, she said to herself. She smiled. The light is so bright,
she thought, just like my future. I am full of everything that
I had thought I would never have, she said to herself. Love.
Angela smiled up at Johner, who
had just entered the room and come up to stand close to her. Since
that terrible day in the air lock, they had not left each other’s
side. Her mind was filled with elation. She could not remember
a time when she felt so good. She was getting to know Johner better,
and was surprised at the gentleness that was deep inside him,
coming out little by little.
Johner was thinking about what
it was to be going back to Earth. Well, time for this old
dog to slow down, he thought to himself. Didn’t
expect to be coming back with anything more than a paycheck, and
here I am with this angel from heaven.
“Baby” he murmured,
softly putting his lips against her hair. He took a deep breath,
taking in her scent and warmth. He was happy. Guess I’ll
be looking for a new job. Maybe something with a little more security,
he thought. Time to look towards the future.