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Shauna floats, eyes closed, luxuriating in the sensation of foam sliding over her skin, the white noise of bubbles popping in her ears, the scent of patchouli in her nostrils.
A floorboard creaks, and she opens her eyes. Harry stands over her, holding out a towel. "Three hours to launch," he says. "How's the pre-flight ritual?"
She stretches her legs. "Heavenly."
"Why do you do this before every mission?"
"I've told you. A bath is the one thing you can't do in zero-G that I miss." She reaches out to him, water dripping on the floor. "Why don't you join me?"
He checks his watch. "Isn't it time for you to be getting ready?"
She pouts. "Always so practical." She looks round one last time, and sighs. "End recording."
The bathroom fades away. She is in her cockpit. Her skin is dry and gritty, her hair unwashed. The air tastes musty. The silence presses in on her.
The instrument panel is dead except for one light, glowing red to indicate that life support is at critical. Outside, debris from the meteor strike floats alongside the ship.
"Update," she says.
"Engine repair still unsuccessful," says the computer. "No response to distress calls."
"How long until life support dies?"
"Running only essential systems, approximately six months."
She fingers the VR jack plugged into her arm. "How long if I keep the simulator running?"
"Approximately three months."
A single teardrop tracks through the dirt on her face.
"Replay recording." She closes her eyes, and the water washes over her.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, July 25th, 2022
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