Miranda Axel didn’t think much of The Domes when she first arrived. They were plain grey spheres cut in half and slapped against the ground; their alien humps out of place on the red desert sand of Solastam.

Now that Miranda Axel had got a closer look, sitting there with a bottle of Iced Brandy, she was never going to think about her time on Solastam without remembering the mysterious alien city.

As much as she wanted to see what it looked like from the inside, it wasn’t going to happen. Outsiders were strictly forbidden. The Kyith had extended their hospitality enough by even permitting her kind to stay on Solastam. Asking for permission to enter the Domes would probably test their tolerance.

‘Very beautiful city. Cannot believe my people built it. Very fascinating.’

Miranda smiled, turning to the young Kyith as he drummed his four-fingered hands hastily on the bench. She wasn’t sure if his fragmented sentences were a result of speaking English, or if it was a species thing. It would be rude to ask. ‘Yes, Vortex. It is.’

Vortex stared back at her with his inky eyes, blinking upwards as he cocked his elongated head. ‘Sounds like you don’t mean it.’

‘No, I really do.’ Up close they were quite beautiful. Covering almost a dozen square kilometres in ground, the five semi-spheres were grouped together in a circle; their transparent chrome surfaces covered in what looked like countless tiny hexagons with gel swirling inside their nanometre ducts. The smoky substance prevented her from seeing detail, but piecing together what she could see and what vague hints Vortex had dropped over time, Miranda gathered that each Dome was built in parallel to the one before it with lexicon-like rings that served as suspended walkways, running along the inner-wall of The Domes. According to Vortex, they were billions upon billions of years old.

The Kyith took a last, quick gulp of the tea he had been drinking before standing up, patting down the creases in his ornate tunic. ‘Must go. Have appointment with associates. Mustn’t be late.’

Miranda nodded, trying to hide her disappointment as Vortex strode down the hill, his thin frame eventually vanishing into the distance. She’d have to go back to the base now. The assortment of eggheads and dim-witted marines that she had been placed in charge of had the personality of soggy toilet paper. The only one worth spend timing with was Ethan Alcatraz. He was one of the few scientists based on Solastam who actually realised there was more to life than molecules, tissue samples and chemicals that smelled like six month-old faeces.

She hoisted herself to her feet and began the return trip to the camp, dry tufts of bronze coloured grass whipping against her bare legs as the hot wind blew in her face. That was another thing about Solastam; it was far too hot. It was never this hot back in Stockholm.

The marines gave her brisk nods as she approached the camp, assault rifles cradled in their arms. Sweltering in their stuffy suits of armor, their days consisted of finding new ways to fight off the never-ending heat, as well as the army of bloated, mosquito-like insectoids that seemed to invade the camp at this time on a daily basis. The marines had started calling them Bloaters, and the name stuck.

‘Commander.’ Oh hell. Miranda turned around to face Ryan Butterfield, a scientist with hawk-like eyes and a thin face. The sun was turning his skin into a salmon pink. It seemed he had forgotten her instructions to use SunBlocker gel before stepping outside. Again.

‘Where have you been?’ Miranda asked.

‘Looking for you,’ he responded. ‘I wanted to ask you something before you head off to quarantine.’


‘Do you have any samples?’ he asked, holding up a hand before she could interrupt. ‘I don’t mean live tissue samples. I mean leaves stuck to your boots or something.’

‘You know the rules,’ Miranda said, ‘we can’t take anything outside of the perimeter. I believe the Kyith made that very clear when we arrived.’

‘You can’t stop leaves from sticking to your shoes,’ Butterfield murmured.

‘It’s not happening,’ Miranda said, maybe a little too harshly. ‘If you’re having trouble keeping up with the rules, then I suggest you put in a transfer request.’

Butterfield had no response to that. Miranda felt a twinge of guilt, but stamped down on it, hard. She knew there was no room for negotiation. It wasn’t something she was going to admit, but ultimately it really wasn’t up to her. They could only be on the planet as long as they had the approval of the Kyith. That meant they had to play by their rules. If that meant maintaining a good relationship with the aliens, she was more than happy to comply.

She entered the quarantine room, where the door snapped shut and locked behind her as the decontamination commenced. It was an annoying process, but the essential ones usually were. Quarantine was part of the deal. Miranda promised Vortex that they wouldn’t take samples of anything outside their perimeter and she felt compelled to stick to that agreement. Every time someone wandered outside the base, going through quarantine was a must. That meant that everything – grass, sand, leaves, fauna – was melted away and dissolved. Miranda was once tempted to ask Vortex why the grass behind the perimeter was fine to study when the grass beyond it wasn’t, but she thought the better of it.

‘Decontamination complete,’ said the androgynous voice that somehow managed to sound bored. ‘Thank you for your patience.’

The doors at the other end of the room parted like a curtain, revealing the human camp that had been Miranda’s home for the past few months.

It had been built without style, but it was comfortable and provided a decent living space. It was made up of a dining area, conference hall, and bunks for the different departments. As commanding officer, Miranda was provided with her office that doubled as a cabin. She hadn’t had much time to unpack, but she did manage to set up her datapad to receive and send messages. She turned it on now, waiting patiently as the screen flipped over and booted up.

There was one new message waiting for her. It was from a science magazine based on Earth Central. They were asking if it would be possible to have an interview with some of the aliens, and if it wasn’t much trouble at all, could she please set up a cam-recording to capture video footage of the interview as well? Miranda snorted, deleting the file before she bothered to read the ‘I know you’re busy, but-‘ paragraph.

There was a brief knock of warning on the door before it slid open and allowed Ethan Alcatraz into the room.

‘Commander,’ he nodded. ‘Are you busy?’

‘Not really,’ Miranda said. ‘Why?’

‘There’s something I think we need to discuss,’ Ethan replied, biting his lip. His cyan eyes focused on her. ‘Privately.’

This can’t be good, Miranda thought, stabbing a button on the desk and locking the door shut. She turned to Ethan as he sat down in the chair opposite her. ‘What happened?’

‘Butterfield,’ Ethan said gravely. ‘He’s been wandering outside the perimeter again. Without an escort.’

Miranda frowned. ‘Why? It’s safer to go with an escort.’

‘It’s not about safety. He wants privacy,’ Ethan replied. ‘He took a biotube with him.’

Oh no. It was starting to make sense. She didn’t even have to ask the next question. ‘I guess it wasn’t empty when he came back?’

‘Of course not,’ Ethan replied. ‘It was quite full.’

‘Shit. What was inside?’

‘No idea. He locked himself away and started performing tests before I could see.’

‘I’m going to give him a thrashing for this,’ Miranda muttered. She saw the expression on Ethan’s face and smiled. ‘Verbally, of course.’

Ethan was about to respond when Miranda’s comms device pinged loudly. She had received a message from – she looked at the sender – Vortex. Damn. ‘Miranda. Must speak with you this afternoon. Maybe important. Meet at usual place? Thank you.’

‘You know what this means, don’t you?’ Miranda asked. It was a rhetorical question, but she needed to hear Ethan say it.

He nodded solemnly. ‘Yep. It means that we’ve officially pissed off the Kyith.’


‘Ah, glad you could make it. Usually not so late.’

‘Sorry Vortex,’ Miranda said, climbing the rocky slope that lead up to where Vortex was waiting. ‘Had to fix a few things first.’ What she didn’t mention was the long debate that she had with Butterfield about his screw-up. Apologies were made and promises to never do it again were uttered. But Miranda wasn’t fooled.

What really mattered was what happened now – whether Vortex was going to get angry with her or not, if there would be consequences or not, and if they would have to leave Solastam or not.

But Vortex didn’t look angry. He was sitting down, hands cupped behind his head in a very human-like manner. ‘Very beautiful at this time of day,’ he said, pointing out to the desert plains as the sun became a perfect disk cut in half by the horizon. ‘Always liked it.’

Miranda shifted uncomfortably. If there would be trouble, she wanted it over as soon as possible. ‘So, what did you want to discuss?’

‘Well,’ Vortex began, ‘been talking to Conclave elders.’

‘Ah.’ Miranda had been told about the notorious Conclave elders. They served as overseers of The Domes. If they were involved then it couldn’t be good. ‘About what?’

‘Possibility of your entrance to The Domes,’ Vortex stated matter-of-factly. ‘May allow access to you in a few days.’

‘Wait, really?’

‘Not yet. Must prepare some things for biggest Dome. Much to discuss. Possibility of alliance between species no small issue.’

‘No,’ Miranda agreed, ‘definitely not.’

‘Also something else.’ Vortex had a grim look on his face. He looked directly at her. ‘I know what your scientist did.’

Miranda felt the relieved smile wilt on her lips. Vortex was watching her carefully. Saying something would be a wise move.

‘How did you find out?’ she asked carefully.

‘Surveillance drones,’ Vortex replied. ‘Was unsure of purpose. Then saw him collecting fertiliser and fauna.’

So that’s what he took. ‘Butterfield isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed,’ Miranda murmured. ‘I spoke with him about it. He won’t be doing it again.’

Vortex smiled tightly. ‘Happy to hear that.’

Miranda suspected there was more to it. ‘What does this mean now?’

Vortex seemed to consider this. ‘Have not told the Conclave. Will not.’


The Kyith inhaled sharply through his nostrils. ‘You are good friend. Not want to see you go away. Enjoy your company. Also interested in humans. Much to learn from you.’

Miranda thought fast. Does he want something? A human certainly would. It was also possible that he was being genuinely sincere and did want her to stick around. She decided to take it at face value.

‘That’s good to know,’ Miranda replied. ‘I like you too.’

Vortex stroked his chin with a bony finger. ‘Surprising. Always thought relationship was for professional purposes.’

Miranda smiled. ‘Not completely, no.’

Vortex cocked his head to the side. ‘In that case, would you like to go near Domes? Can take you on fascinating walk.’

Miranda hoisted herself to her feet, failing to conceal her excitement. ‘Definitely.’


Vortex led her on a pathway cut straight into the rocky slope, tufts of black grass and bushes of strange fauna surrounding them. Occasionally Vortex would bend down to pick them, placing them in his satchel.

‘What’s that for?’ Miranda asked.

‘Use plants for tea,’ he explained. ‘Very refreshing.’

At the edge of the slope was a rolling black grassland, the wind scattering the sand in every direction. Miranda failed to see how grass managed to grow on such a harsh landscape, let alone fruit and vegetables. She asked Vortex about it.

‘Pipe conductors from Domes,’ he explained. ‘Spread underground like tree roots. Pump nutrients and fertilizer into soil.’

‘If you have everything you need inside the Domes, why use resources on the outside?’ Miranda asked.

‘Kyith are guardians of Solastam,’ Vortex said, speaking to her like a patient parent. ‘Is our duty to take care of all life on planet.’

‘Ah,’ Miranda said. ‘That’s why you don’t want us to take samples.’

Vortex nodded. ‘All natural resources may remain on planet, untouched and pure. Belong to planet only. Not for tampering. As protectors of planet we take care of home.’

They were on the desert planes now, heading towards the grassland. This was closer than Miranda had ever been to the Domes. She heard a tiny vibrating noise, like an electronic pulse.

‘Noise is anti-EMP emission from Domes,’ Vortex explained, seeing her strain to listen. ‘Protects inside from damage.’

So they did have some sort of defence system. It was also possible they had railguns and automatic turrets to counter any unwanted predators getting too close to the Domes.

Vortex led her to a pathway of white quarry stone that snaked right through the black grass, leading towards a clearing dotted with jagged bushes and red-leaf trees. At least ten Kyith were there, half a dozen of whom were squatting back on their haunches in a circle. It reminded Miranda of a meditating group. Their eyes darted back and forth uneasily as they spoke in hushed whispers.

‘What are they saying?’ she asked.

‘Asking what you’re doing here. If you’re going to hurt them.’


Vortex spoke to his kin in their guttural language. They visibly relaxed when he finished, going back to their business, pretending not to steal glances at her.

‘Explained situation. Apologise for misunderstanding,’ Vortex explained to her. ‘Uncertain of humans. Willing to accept you if I am present.’

That’s a start, Miranda thought. Vortex led her next to a great tree, where they sat down on the hot sand. Miranda gazed up and noticed a group of Kyith children playing in the tree. They were climbing around easily, hooting playfully. It reminded Miranda far too much of human children.

‘Will be building facilities here soon,’ Vortex explained. ‘Will be very enjoyable. Perhaps humans can use as well.’

‘How do you get your energy?’ Miranda asked suddenly.

‘The sun,’ Vortex said, pointing upwards to the Dome’s edge. ‘Dome panels collect energy. Use to power generators and conductors.’

So the Domes also acted as solar panels. That was definitely interesting.

Miranda glanced around the clearing. It was peaceful here. She settled on a family gathered round a table of purple fruits. They shyed away when they realised she was watching them. ‘Do you ever think we can coexist on a large scale?’

Vortex seemed to consider this. ‘Impossible to be certain. Likely if coordinated in correct way.’

Any further conversation was cut off by a Kyith that approached them, eyeing Miranda with suspicion. He said something quickly to Vortex before hurrying off.

‘What’s that about?’ Miranda asked. A worried expression had come over Vortex’s face.

‘Some children are missing.’

‘How?’ Miranda asked, looking at the oblivious Kyith children playing in the tree. ‘Aren’t they all here?’

‘One never came here,’ Vortex explained. ‘Has not been seen all day. Has not come back for hours. Family is worried.’

‘Do they often go missing?’ Miranda asked.

Vortex shook his head. ‘Never. Always come back safely. Something wrong this time.’

Miranda could tell it was time to go. She was already getting awkward glances instead of just curious ones. ‘I’ll head off. I’ll keep a look out for the kid.’

‘Yes, yes,’ Vortex replied, his expression brightening up. ‘Will also speak with Conclave tonight.’

Miranda stood up and exited the clearing, feeling dozens of eyes boring into her back as she walked away.


Something was wrong. She could sense it even before she stepped out of quarantine. Everyone was rushing about, avoiding her gaze and pretending to be busy. She was about to start drilling everyone for info when Ethan came running up.

‘Can you tell me what the hell is going on?’ Miranda demanded.

‘It’s Butterfield, Commander,’ Ethan said, biting his lip viciously.

I knew it. ‘What’s the idiot done now?’

‘Screwed us all over, that’s what.’


‘He left without an escort again,’ Ethan replied. ‘He came back with a bio-sealed satchel and locked himself in the lab.’

Miranda started to feel a cold lump in the pit of her stomach. ‘What was in the bag?’

Ethan seemed to force the words out of his mouth. ‘A child. A dead Kyith child.’

Miranda froze for about four seconds for the words to fully kick in. She swore hoarsely and stormed down the corridor, her intestines in knots. She began pounding on the solid door, Butterfield’s figure visible through the smoky glass frame.

‘Butterfield! Open this goddamn door!’

There was no response and his figure didn’t move. She violently swiped her access card into the reader slot. Nothing. She tried again. Still no access. The bastard went to my computer. It was the only way he would have been able to override her authorization.

A small crowd was gathering behind her. She grabbed a pistol from the hands of the nearest marine and fired upwards at the glass, shattering it. Kicking down the large shards of stuck glass she thundered inside, rage blurring her vision. Butterfield was standing there, coat stained with blue blood.

‘Now-‘ He got no further. Miranda slammed her fist into his face, spurting blood from his nose. Ignoring his groans she looked down at the dissection table, a small hole growing in her heart.

On a small metallic tray was a lump of alien flesh the size of a baby, its guts spilled out like loose cables. Its black eyes were shiny and hollow, its skin marked and dented by the collection of syringes, scalpels, and probes that lay on a nearby tray. We’re too late. He dissected a baby alien. It felt like someone had slammed a hammer into her stomach. Her knees threatened to turn to jelly as she swallowed the rage inside her. If I wasn’t Commander…

‘Cuff him to a chair in the mess hall,’ she ordered, not turning around. ‘Then go back to your stations.’

They filed out like a collective herd, only a few marines staying behind to escort Butterfield to her office. Ethan stood next to her, a look of disgust on his face.

‘I’m going to have to tell Vortex about this,’ Miranda said quietly, the lump resurfacing in her throat as she gazed at what once was a Kyith child.

‘I know.’

‘You know what it’ll probably mean, don’t you?’

‘Yeah. I do.’


Miranda thought that Butterfield could have had some sense knocked into him by now, sitting there with one hand cuffed to the chair and the other holding a tissue around his bloody nose. But it seemed do have done him no good. No good at all.

‘I know we’re not meant to do this type of stuff, but it was just lying there. We need data and tissue samples. I did what I had to do.’

‘So you thought a baby would bring you those results?’ said Ethan icily. There were a few nameless marines hanging around in the mess, most of whom were pretending to ignore the interview, even though they were hanging on every word. Miranda didn’t care. She wanted them to hear this.

‘It was a dumb animal,’ Butterfield insisted.

‘Have you even seen the Domes? Miranda asked, leaning forward intensely. ‘They’re protected against radiation. The whole planet could have a nuclear fallout and they wouldn’t even notice. They could even nuke us to oblivion if they wanted.’

The threat of radioactive destruction seemed to finally have a visible affect on Butterfield. ‘They could?’

‘Hell if I know,’ Miranda muttered. ‘We’ll all be kicked off the planet at the very least.’

‘Do you think they’ll even notice?’ Butterfield asked.

Was he really that stupid? ‘Part of the deal is that we don’t take any samples or objects from the planet. They saw what you did. Taking dirt was pushing it. Then you decided to use a child for research. What do you think is going to happen now?’

‘They’re just animals,’ Butterfield insisted with that stupid expression on his face. ‘Who cares?’

‘I care,’ Miranda said, her voice deceptively calm. ‘Let me conjure up a scenario for you. You find the body of a human child in an alley back on Earth. You don’t tell the parents. You don’t tell the police. You don’t tell anyone. You take it away from the scene, slice it up and dissect it, all for your research. Then you wonder why people have a problem.’ She tapped the side of her head with her finger. ‘Do you get it now? Is it sinking in?’

If Butterfield had anything to say he gave no indication of it. Miranda abruptly stood up and turned to the marines. ‘Get him out of my sight.’

‘What’s going to happen to him?’ Ethan asked as the marines led Butterfield away, none too gently.

‘He’ll be demoted at the very least,’ Miranda said. ‘Maybe a dishonorable discharge and time in containment.’

‘I mean with the Kyith,’ Ethan said. ‘I doubt they’ll let this go unpunished.’

‘I know.’ Miranda had been mentally preparing this whole time what she would say to Vortex, how she would explain to him that a scientist operating under her command had taken and dissected a helpless child. It could be enough to start a war. ‘I’ve got to go.’

‘You’re off to tell him already?’

‘Have to. They’ll find out sooner or later and I’d much rather Vortex hears it from me.’

‘How do you know he’ll listen?’

‘I don’t.’


It hadn’t taken the scientists long to clean up the bloody mess that Butterfield’s screw-up had created, but Miranda knew that it wasn’t the physical bloodstains that were going to leave a mark. She had what remained of the baby Kyith carcass placed in a biosealed container. Hopefully Vortex would give it to the parents of the child so they could bury it, or do whatever they did with their dead.

Walking up the familiar rocky path with the wavy black grass, it dawned on her that this might be the last time she would do this. There was no way of knowing how the Kyith – or Vortex – would react, but she felt obliged to take whatever was coming. She was no coward.

She hadn’t told Vortex the news over the comms, and the bright look of blissful ignorance on his face as he waved to her was a knife piercing her heart. She reached the top of the hill and set the container down on the ground.

‘Ah. Miranda.’ Vortex bowed his head lightly. ‘Have you been well?’ He hadn’t noticed the container yet. ‘Something important to discuss?’

‘Yeah,’ Miranda said as she sat down next to him.

‘About what?’ He blinked rapidly. ‘News about child?’

Miranda lifted the container from the ground. It suddenly weighed a ton. She handed it to him and undid the seal wordlessly.

Vortex glanced at her with a puzzled expression before opening the container. The smile vanished as his eyes widened, darting back and forth at the container’s contents. He seemed to notice the deep slashes with their tell-tale serrated markings on the outer flesh. ‘Humans did this?’ His voice was dry and husky.

Miranda swallowed the heart in her mouth and told him everything that had happened. Vortex listened to her wordlessly, fingers grasped around the container.

‘I’m sorry, Vortex,’ Miranda said was she was done. ‘I’m so sorry.’

Vortex blinked heavily and took a deep breath. ‘Not your fault, Miranda. Cannot be held responsible for actions of others.’

‘Will the Conclave see it that way?’ Miranda asked. ‘Will the parents?’

Vortex shook his head solemnly.

Miranda began to feel cold for the first time on Solastam. ‘What now?’

‘Must report this to Conclave. Will try to convince them that you knew nothing of this and came forth on own accord.’

‘You can tell me the worst and best outcomes?’

‘Cannot guarantee anything. But will promise to do best. For you.’

Miranda gave him a watery smile. ‘Thanks.’


By the time Vortex contacted her again, almost six days had dragged by. Butterfield had been contained in a cell the entire time. Miranda still wasn’t sure what was going to happen to him. Or any of us. Vortex said he would try his best and she believed him.

She told herself there was nothing to worry about, and she believed that lie right until the time she started up the pathway, spotting Vortex at the top of the hill. He smiled tightly as she reached the top. While she definitely had no eye for Kyith attire, it seemed that Vortex was especially well dressed today. It must have been for the Conclave.

‘Miranda,’ he said, not quite hiding the strain in his voice. ‘How are you?’

Miranda shrugged. ‘Been better. You?’

‘Tired. Not had much sleep. Been debating with Conclave,’ he said as they sat down on the chairs. ‘Many insist that you all leave Solastam. Some suggest you all be executed.’


‘Final decision has been made.’ Miranda mentally braced herself. ‘Scientist responsible must be executed. Request non-negotiable. Refusal results in execution of all humans.’

‘And if we do hand him over?’ Miranda felt strangely calm, juggling lives like this.

‘Entire settlement will have to leave planet immediately. Under no circumstances can you return.’ He glanced at her sadly. ‘Sorry, Miranda. Best I could do.’

Miranda could felt her chest tightening, but in her gut she knew they had gotten off easy. But leaving this place, never coming back, never seeing Vortex again… that was going to be a tough pill to swallow.

But Butterfield’s would be a different kind of pill entirely.

And it was nothing less than the bastard deserved.

She turned back to Vortex. ‘When does this happen?’

‘Immediately.’ Behind him she could see half a dozen Kyith marching their way, rifles cradled in their arms. It was strange, seeing them with weapons.

Miranda got to her feet. ‘Let’s get this done.’


You had to owe it to him, the man didn’t freak out like Miranda guessed he would when she made the announcements. He had an expression of bewilderment plastered on his face as they led him away, like he couldn’t believe this was happening. Everyone watched in silence as they marched Butterfield towards The Dome for execution.

‘Will it be painless?’ Miranda asked Vortex as everyone shuffled away, equally confused. There had been a few protests, but they had withered and died when the Kyith soldiers had marched down the hill with rifles.

‘Entirely up to parents of child,’ Vortex said. He glanced around the encampment. ‘Human quarters very cramped.’

Miranda allowed herself a small smile. ‘Just this one. At least there’s not much equipment to pack up.’

Vortex’s face darkened. ‘How long do you need?’

‘Three days, I guess.’

‘Will tell Conclave.’ He started up the hills before turning around. ‘Will come and see you before you go.’

‘Please do,’ Miranda said quietly. ‘Please do.’


Within two days the entire team had completely packed up, leaving the base nothing more than an empty shell. Their ship had been fuelled and prepped. Miranda had messaged Vortex for the last time, telling him that they were leaving. He was on his way over now.

Ethan came to stand next to her as the final crates were loaded into the ship. ‘Do you think we did the right thing? Giving him up like that, I mean.’

‘It was him or all of us.’ It wasn’t the first time Miranda had had this conversation. ‘What do you think?’

Ethan was silent for a few seconds before replying. ‘I think he got off easy. Too easy.’

Miranda remembered Vortex’s words about the nature of the death. If it were up to me, would I treat the killer of my child the same? The thoughts that followed chilled her more than she wanted to say. If the Kyith loved their kids the same way humans did, then Butterfield got exactly what he deserved.

Ethan headed towards the ship as Vortex descended down the hill, exchanging the briefest of nods. He strode up to her, hands in pockets.

‘Hello Miranda,’ he said, sighing quietly. ‘Never had to say goodbye to friend before. Especially not different species. Very sad experience.’ He smiled tightly. ‘Will miss you.’

‘I’ll miss you, too,’ Miranda said, her gut twisting again. ‘I wish I could stay.’

‘Me too.’ Vortex traced shapes in the sand with his foot. ‘Scientist has been dealt with.’

Miranda nodded. She wasn’t going to ask for the details. She was afraid of the satisfaction she’d get from them. She fished out the communicator from her pocket and gave it back to Vortex. ‘Won’t be needing this anymore.’

Vortex took it, taking her hands in his, nails digging into her skin. She felt something get pressed into her hands, something cool and metallic.

‘Take care, Miranda. Wish you very happy life.’ Vortex gave her hands one last squeeze and walked away, disappearing behind the hill forever.

Miranda stood there for a few moments before uncurling her hands. She held a communicator in her hands, although this one was larger and slicker. She was puzzled until she flicked it on, a set of digits crawling across the screen before a short message appeared.


When you get home, transmit these co-ordinates. Links to secure line. Will be waiting for your call.


She smiled as she pocketed the device and walked over to the ship, the hatch shutting behind her.