Reprisals – Sample chapter

Reprisals – Sample chapter

‘Supposing I said “Yes”?’

‘That’s the general idea.’

‘How long have we known each other?’

‘Five months, three weeks, six days.’

‘Could you at least try to not appear desperate?’

‘Not funny.’

‘How many women have there been in your life? To the nearest, say, ten?’

‘Five.’

‘You are so kidding.’

‘I am deadly serious.’

‘But I’m suddenly The One?’ Enna rolled her eyes in mock disdain.

He shrugged. ‘When you know, you know.’

‘And you know.’

‘Yes.’

‘You’re certifiable, Tom Wagner.’

‘Guilty.’

She could see he was a kid on Christmas night, waiting for the big moment. She hated to be such a party pooper, but this wasn’t merely a “What do you fancy for dinner?” This was life-changing.

‘Do I have us so wrong?’ he asked.

‘No,’ she replied comfortingly.

‘How many men have there been in your life?’

‘A lady doesn’t tell.’

‘I think I’m on safe ground when I say you’re no lady.’ He saw her about to interject. ‘And the fact you’re about to tell me to shove that remark where the sun don’t shine proves my point exactly.’

Enna closed her mouth but pushed her eyebrows up a far as they could muster.

He continued. ‘You’re a woman, but no lady. An amazing woman, the kind that – well, you heard the question.’

She thought for a second. ‘And this would mean – what?’

‘I don’t know. Togetherness, happiness, children – if you want, adventures, old age…’ He tailed off. ‘I don’t think this is a new concept.’

‘It’s not the concept. It’s the…reality.’

‘Thanks a bunch.’

‘Sorry. This has just…freaked me a bit, you know?’

‘Thanks a bunch, again.’

‘I should stop digging.’

Tom nodded and rose from the edge of the bed, giving her some physical as well as metaphorical space. The lightness of the gravity remained disconcerting, especially during movement. He wasn’t a natural at this, ever the Earth-bound desk jockey. For him, this had been Peak Romantic Gesture. 

Problem was, it didn’t look like it had been enough.

He looked out of the shallow window, across the undulating grey regolith towards the passenger Spaceport in the distance. He gave a faint chuckle. Here they were, at one sixth weight, and he felt disappointed she wasn’t walking on air. That he wasn’t. The apex of their little getaway was a damp squib, extinguished like a flame exposed to the airless vista outside.

Enna watched him standing there in his jockey shorts, her mind scrambling with reasons why either answer would be simultaneously right and wrong. She felt like a bitch. 

Here they were, the first real break away together for weeks, and she’d popped his balloon. Why was that? 

With every second it felt harder to concede to voicing an answer. If this needed such apparent consideration, how would the decision now pass without scrutiny, by either of them?

This was getting uncomfortable. She needed to say something. ‘I just imagined, somewhere, I don’t know, more romantic.’

He turned to her. Then she realised that the something she’d decided to say had probably been the wrong something.

Jeez, Enna, this has really got you flustered, hasn’t it?

‘So you have thought about it?’ he asked.

‘Generally.’

‘Just not with me,’ he extrapolated.

She sighed.

Come on Enna, stop digging you idiot.

‘I don’t know – Machu Picchu, on a gondola, under the Northern Lights. Damn it, even freaking Niagara Falls.’

‘One shot and I blew it, huh? Does that mean it’s not the question that’s the problem?’

She closed her eyes and shook her head. ‘I don’t know,’ she sighed.

‘I’m sorry. I’ll take it back.’

Her eyes snapped open. ‘No, don’t do that.’

She stepped over to him, wrapped her arms around his waist, pushed her head against his chest. ‘Unless,’ she continued, ‘Well, you realise this is part of what you’d get. Me being…’

‘You,’ he inferred. ‘I said – I get the concept. For better, for worse, yada yada.’

‘I’m a horrible person.’

‘Don’t fish for compliments, Enna. You’re shit at taking them.’

‘Yeah.’ She listened to him breathe. ‘So tell me I’m a horrible person.’

‘Appalling. The worst.’ He squeezed her a little tighter. ‘Hell, I didn’t even get down on one knee.’

‘Maybe that makes you the worst.’

‘Like you’d ever let me beat you at anything.’

‘Part of the package, lover boy.’

She lifted her head and saw in his expression that the storm had passed, so she sought his lips, and that brief encounter passed for a coda to the whole sorry episode.

He broke off, catching sight of something outside.

She tutted. ‘Only you could bring me to the dullest place in the solar system to do some sightseeing.’

‘Worst Person,’ he shrugged.

She watched too as a shuttle slowly approached the short landing strip. ‘You’re here to watch me being put out of a job?’

‘Pilot-less ships, they’re going to happen.’

She batted it away. ‘They can test it, but it’s years off.’

‘Tell it to the guys in Big Tech.’

‘Whatever. I’ll find another job somewhere.’

‘Chief cook and bottle washer in the Wagner household.’

‘Up your ass.’

It was as she winked at him that the flash of light in the distance burned and died.

They looked.

There was no sound. The chaos was unreal, eerie.

Decompression had burst the impacting craft like a balloon, debris rising into the black sky, scattering outwards in an arc.

Involuntarily they winced, fearing impact that would shred the complex of buildings where they stood, but mercifully the trajectory was perpendicular to them. Nevertheless, they gazed, transfixed, horrified, as the parabola of destruction rained down on the edge of the Spaceport, puncturing one, then two structures.

Then came the faintest screams of anguish from other occupants of the habitation suite near to where Tom and Enna watched, helpless, in disbelief and sick despair.

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