Chapter no 57

Winter World

WHEN JAMES and I have eaten, we lay down to rest. I can’t remember being this exhausted in my entire life. We spent eight hours floating through the wreckage, searching for this escape pod. It has to be one of the longest EVAs on record.

James crawls over to me, panting from the exertion. “Hey. You do the honors.”

“The honors?” I mumble, half asleep.

“Of telling Earth. This started with the attack on the ISS. That was our solar Pearl Harbor. Now we’ve won.”

“Like Midway.”

He grimaces. “Well, sort of.” I raise an eyebrow.

“Midway was the turning point in the war in the Pacific, a battle where the Allies used airpower to neutralize the Japanese aircraft carriers. This feels more like a final battle—” He holds up a hand. “But it’s not important right now. We’ll work on your grasp of military history later.”

He activates the comm. “Please.”

I swallow hard, knowing these words will likely be replayed for a very long time. “To the triple alliance that launched the Spartan fleet, this is Emma Matthews and Dr. James Sinclair, last known survivors of the Spartan fleet. We have succeeded. The entity that created the solar array was indeed operating from Ceres. We completed our assault, destroyed the harvester, and now we’re commencing search and rescue operations from one of the escape pods of Sparta Three. The Sparta One escape pods were jettisoned several days before the battle, for use by the survivors of the Pax,

whom we encountered on our way here. If you’re receiving this transmission before they arrive on Earth, be advised that they may be in need of urgent medical attention.”

I end the comm recording. “You like it?”

“It’s perfect,” he says.



THE SEARCH of the wreckage reminds me of my desperate search of the ISS debris, of finding Sergei, of my joy at seeing him and my horror when my hand closed around his arm, knowing his suit was compromised and that he was dead. This time, I’m more guarded as we power the escape pod through the wreckage, prowling, looking for signs of survivors.

In many ways, it feels as if I’ve returned to the beginning, to the event that set everything in motion. Then, the harvester destroyed the ISS and I was left for dead. This time, we are victors.

In the wreckage of Sparta Four, in the cargo module, we spot an EMU suit. It’s pressurized and undamaged, but it’s not moving. There’s someone inside, unconscious. A survivor. My heart leaps.

On Sparta Seven, in the weapons control bay, we find another suited survivor, also seemingly unconscious.

James and I are connected via a tether between our suits. Over the comm line, he says, “Until they regain consciousness, it’ll be hard to make an assessment of them. We’ll have to split up. Each of us will take one of them in an escape pod. We’ll need to find another one.”

I can’t hide my disappointment. After we jettisoned Sparta One’s escape pods, I didn’t think we would be coming back from Ceres. But I thought if we did, James and I would be returning together, just as we had returned from the Pax. There’s still so much I want to say to him. I want to tell him that I don’t care what he did in his past, that all I care about is the future. But there’s no time for that now. Every second counts.

You'll Also Like