Beryl sat on a patch of pale brown grass next to the hulking ship, heedless of the dust that clung to everything. Fife set to, poking and prodding at a ground-level hatch that was partially crushed on one edge and utterly unresponsive.
“Why put up with me at all?” Beryl asked, genuinely curious and not the least bit concerned he would convince Fife to abandon him. He doubted he could convince her of anything that she didn’t already want to do.
“At least a few reasons,” she replied, fingers wedged into a crack as she tried to prise open the hatch. “First of all, destiny.”
Beryl rolled his eyes. “I regret asking.”
She removed her hands from the unyielding door and glanced over her shoulder. “You don’t find it odd that of all the people in that facility, only you and I survived.”
Beryl knew the truth: she had immortal genetics and he had been dumped on Earth well after the collapse of civilization as most defined it. He had been relatively young when he crawled into one of the pleasure pods. So, no, he didn’t find it odd. But what he said was, “Strange happenstance does not destiny make.”
She wrinkled her nose. “Aphorisms aren’t your strong suit.”
“No, my strong suit is physical strength and pleasing conversation,” he drawled sarcastically.
“Yet I plan on keeping you around. I will benefit from an alternative perspective.”
He didn’t like that at all. “So I’m your self-help project.”
“And I’m yours. Though you might not know it yet. It’s destiny, remember.”
“Good grief,” he muttered. “Your logic is air tight and circular. And empty.”
Fife grunted as she wedged a stone between the hatch and the hull, then threw her weight into rocking the stone back and forth.
“You aren’t going to respond?” he asked.
“No need. My logic is air tight.”
Beryl huffed, then pushed himself to standing. “Stop that before you break something.” He limped over to the hatch. Fife backed away, a curious expression focusing her eyes.
Beryl yanked the rock out of the gap in the hatch. Then he placed his palm flat on the center of the hatch. He sent his thoughts back into distant memory, a distant time, before he’d had this body. He tried to remember the old ways.
His fingers began to trace a pattern on the metal skin of the hatch: a spiral here, a jump and a tap there, criss-crossing, and a finishing thump.
Nothing happened. Beryl could sense the pressure of Fife’s anticipation on the back of his neck. He scratched his neck, then ran stubby fingers through his greasy hair.
The hatch groaned. Metal screeched against metal. A central circle sank inward, slid to the side. Radial grooves shot out from the center. Slices of the hatch folded inward, crushing bent metal out of their way with easy strength.
“Nothing to it,” Beryl said as he grabbed the edge of the hatch and swung his bum leg over the threshold. He didn’t have to look to know that Fife’s mouth hung open in shock. He grinned for the first time in a long time.
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