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Science Fiction Drama

Delirious with cold and shivering, we hiked the last twenty feet to the shack of the cabin at the edge of the snow capped mountain. Each inch was a mile in the heavy drifts. Howling winds picked up and Jax whimpered next to me, his lips blue and his eyelids heavy against the storm. His eyes were glued to the door with determination. I held his arm to guide him into the cabin knowing that if he fell where he was I would not have the strength to carry him. When we finally shuffled inside, it took all I had to not collapse. 

“Come on.” I nodded at an open area that had what may have been a couch at one time. It was a tattered structure of cushions and old wood that had it been any other circumstance, would look uninviting. Thankfully, there was an old stovepipe fireplace and some cut wood ready to toss on a flame. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to get us through the night. 

Jax shook so violently he struggled to pick up the logs to put in the fireplace and I guided him by his elbow to the couch instead. If it weren’t for daylight, we’d be doused in total darkness, but the little light that shone through the warped glass window pane allowed me to do the work to get a decent fire going with the last of my flint. I sighed as the flame grew strong and hot. 

We made it. 

I helped Jax sit closer to the flame and we melted into the warmth. My fingers and toes regained feeling and I peeled off the heavy, waterlogged coat that kept me from death only moments before. My eyes started to wander around the rickety cabin and I began to question the precarious safety of our shelter. The dark, ancient wood bowed slightly, so that the cabin held a distinct lean to the right. The fun-house effect was disorienting and ominous. I knew it was better than nothing, but I wished we had a better option. I knew that was impossible. I shouldn’t look forward to any help or safe spaces anymore. It would have to be good enough that we were no longer at the mercy of the commander and the colony. 

“Do we have anything to eat?” Jax’s eyes were closed as he asked, his face turned to the fire, his snow-laden coat dropping flecks of ice onto the splinter-wood floor. 

I checked in my damp coat pocket. I pulled out the last of the rations I managed to steal from the colony. It wasn’t much. In fact, it wasn’t enough for both of us even for one meal. But I knew Jax had had a rough time of it and needed it more than I. 

“Here.” I handed to him and his eyes fluttered open to stare at the packet of regulation protein given to all mid-tier colonists. He pursed his lips and his face twisted in frustrated sadness. 

“What?” 

“It’s just, I’ve never seen a portion this large before.” 

“It’s protein, Jax.” I gave him a steady look, “you need it. Please. I don’t think I can hunt out here alone.” I glanced behind me at the blurred window pane. A blizzard set in and it wouldn’t clear for several hours. “Certainly not in this.” 

He didn’t argue with me any further. He tore the packet open as if it personally insulted him. I let out a slow breath. The differences between us, between our lives, it might be too great for us to survive. I helped him get here and now I felt responsible, but perhaps he saw it as a test of his own capabilities that he would even think to turn away food, even if it was from the militia rations. His pride might get in the way if he didn’t trust me and I didn’t want to further the divide. We are all we have now. 

He ate in silence for a few minutes before he asked. “Do you think they will come looking?” 

“You mean will they use their great army to come after a farmer and an ex-militia grunt? I don’t really know.” I really didn’t know. It wasn’t as if I escaped the colony all the time. There wasn’t a record of anyone surviving if they had in the past to prevent anyone from trying. But I did think the colony would try to make an example of us if we were found. 

The wind battered against the frosted window pane and the little fire, though strong for now, held only enough heat to keep us from freezing. My back grew cold and the lingering feeling of being exposed made my pulse rise. I got up to lay out my coat to dry it out. 

“Jax, give me your coat.” 

He did as I told him and as I laid it out on the couch an object dropped out.

I picked it up and turned over. It was true parchment paper folded neatly with the militia insignia of three stars and the ringed planet. Before I could ask what it was, he was in front of me. 

“Don’t.” 

A shadow crossed his face and a flicker in his eye that made me second guess this whole plan. What was this? 

“Jax?” My voice sounded brittle in the dark, cold cabin. 

He gave me a dark look and turned his back to me, returning to the fire. 

“Are you,” I steadied myself, ready for the blow of reality, “are you a rogue?” 

The silence was punctuated by the crackle of the fire. I had my answer. 

“How could you?” I shook my head in disbelief at his back, the paper crumpled in my grasp. I knew what it was. It was intelligence swiped off the desk of one of the sergeants. Maybe the commander’s desk itself. Everything I’d done up until now with this person, I thought was to save this person's life. This “Jax.” And now? 

“I didn’t mean to entangle you in this operation. I was going to tell you after we regrouped with the others.” 

“What the hell does that mean?” I bit back, “you ‘accidentally’ involved me? Jax, or whoever you are, you deceived me! They’ll do more than shoot me! They’ll skin me alive for this.” 

My hands shook as my own words sunk in. The cabin grew stifling and I wasn’t sure I could breath anymore. I wanted to run. Dying of exposure would be a better death than what awaited me if I was found. Before I could solidify a concrete plan, Jax was at my side, his hand gripped my upper arm as if to prevent me from moving. 

“I was trapped. You did help a wrongly imprisoned person. They put me in the brig for shorting them on food supply, but no one had a good harvest this year. Not the way the ice was setting in. They chose me as their example.” 

“Does it really matter now whether or not you deserved to be rescued? I helped a rogue. Before, I could expect to be shot. Now they’ll torture me for information I don’t have.” 

Jax turned me so that I had no choice but to look him in the eye. He didn’t look concerned. He looked satisfied. 

“You can join us. You see how the colony operates and you pulled yourself out of the cult of the many. You saw the ethical contradictions, the harsh treatment of common people, the inequalities of the colonists. You can be part of the solution.” 

“I really don’t know.” 

“I think you do.” His lips curled up in a knowing look, “I think you absolutely know. You put your life on the line to help one man. How much harder is it to apply that to the resistance?” 

I stared back at Jax. Or, the man known as Jax. Did I climb out of one trap to fall into another? No one in the colony believes in the possibility of a rogue faction building into a cohesive resistance movement against the might of the colony. I was on a precipice and if I wasn’t careful, I’d fall. But my choices were gone. I had helped a rogue escape. I now knew too much. I wanted to survive. Perhaps I could make it far enough to gain true freedom. I licked my lips and he waited patiently for my answer. 

“Ok.” 

He grinned, relieved of suspense. 

“First,” I held his eyes with mine, “what is your name?” 


January 19, 2021 15:59

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