A Sneak Peek at "Xinsheng"

Alyssa curled her thin arms and pulled her chin up to the bar. She let out a hot breath and allowed her body to drop. Her bare feet slapped against the chilled foam floor. One hundred. Her last set of the morning. She pulled a towel from the bars of the elliptical and dabbed her head and shoulders with it.

“The more you work yourself,” warned Herod, his voice booming from every speaker in the gym, “the more you’ll need to eat.”

“I have to stay in shape,” she said. “This isn’t vanity.”

“Your skeletal mass has decreased by approximately 12.2% since launch.”

“Exactly.” She swung the towel around her neck and walked into the observation bay. Overhead, Alyssa could see distant stars standing perfectly still, belying the fact that the colony ship Xinsheng was traveling at a little over 250,000 kilometers per second.

“Herod?” Alyssa asked.

“Yes, Captain Arreguin.”

“Time to destination?”

“Nine months, fourteen days, three hours, and thirty-eight minutes. All things remaining the same.”

A drop of sweat stung Alyssa’s eye. “How much do I have to eat in that time to survive?” She wiped her forehead and let her hand slide over her buzz cut, her sweat aerosolizing as the brown hairs snapped back. It would eventually become vapor, travel through the filtration system, and return to her as drinking water. One less thing to worry about. One less is all she could ask.

“Should I limit the parameters to meals including only those items you’ve included in your manual diet?”

“Yeah.” Alyssa thought about how fast she would have to run to break through the glass in the observation bay. Too fast was the answer. She’d have to throw herself at one of the panes at supersonic speed. She’d die, sure, but much of the ship would be vaporized with her.

“Approximately 82.9 kilograms. Assuming that you can hold everything down.”

Alyssa’s heart sank into her growling stomach. She had to drink water now. And she had to eat soon. The shifts before her—before the Xinsheng crossed the Einstein-Rosen bridge, carrying it over twenty light years from Earth—had all enjoyed access to the hydroponics bay. She’d awoken from stasis to find every plant in the hydroponics bay desiccated. Every seed irradiated. Colonel Rahmani, her superior officer, had been on duty. When Herod had awoken her, Rahmani been missing for two days—along with the logs and sensor data for that period of time.

The colony would be fine—their food was stored with other genetic samples within locked compartments in the stasis deck. Alyssa, and anyone who Herod woke up after her, would starve without a new source of food. And there’d only been one viable source of food left on the ship. As a volunteer, Alyssa had sworn to protect her crew. She had failed. Even if she succeeded in leading them to their new home, she knew she couldn’t stay with them. Not now. Not after what she’d done.

Read "Xinsheng" today by purchasing Dark and Dangerous Things III on paperback or Amazon Kindle.