Tarkos bent under the forbidding black flanges of the ship. The hull loomed above him, blotting out the sky, like a spider collecting the stars in its fangs before it sucked the life from their planets. Tarkos sneered at it, angry at himself for his involuntary frisson of fear.

He was about to transmit again when Bria leapt down from the partially open door.  She set her suit to glow white, in order to give them both visuals of the scene.  It made the sickly green ice suddenly white and pure, and it made the ship seemed to retreat into its charcoal darkness.  Bria held a sample box and she set it on the ice between them.

She had come out alone.  It could only mean one thing:  the Ulltrian was dead, and Pala was….

“Where’s Pala?” Tarkos asked, almost choking on the words.

“Passed,” Bria said, her voice so soft Tarkos almost did not hear it.

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