A face from the past

An hour after his abduction Reid was being prepared for teleportation. Among the thoughts careering through his head was an image. Maja’s face the day she chose him.

Put to work extracting ore, he retained that image. It anchored his sanity.

On Carlona conversation was banned. The monthly Broadcast contained only the numbers of men to be punished and their misdemeanours—crimes such as ‘utterance’, the use of words.

Forty months. Reid drew Maja’s face in the dust as he listened. The Voice read a roll call of punishments then paused. ‘We have news from your home planet-time. We have seen its demise. Within months it will be destroyed. Our work here is almost done. You may choose either to return to the death that awaits or be released to fashion whatever you can here. We, the Masters, wish you such luck as you will need.’

A cheer went up for a kind of freedom.

‘Those wishing to return should approach the vent housing now.’

Reid looked at the face at his feet. Destruction. It would be better to be with her than to fear she had faced it alone. He jostled through the crowd. No one else moved. Jeers greeted his stupidity.

‘Only one remembers’. The Voice boomed, then laughed, victoriously. ‘Willing to suffer for  petty emotions.’