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My Final Worry by Rhiannon Matlock

For Brandy, thank you for the starter, I hope you enjoy the story.

It was just for one night…

…and it didn’t matter how much skin I was going to take off in the process. My little sister had taken the abuse for me but that was going to end here. Tonight. The ground was coming up fast; I had maybe a hundred yards before it was either splat or I was going to just skim the surface of that patch of death below. I’d read about Hell in the old books. Some distant, undefined place where the Devil resided. No matter how bad it was, it had nothing on the hot, dark blaze that I was headed for. It burned at over 300 degrees and was so fiery that it turned to ash everything and anything it came into contact with. As a result, it was black as sin and as wide as the ocean. The Pilots called it the Last Land because it was the last thing that the first explorers saw and the patch of stars that no one ever went to unless they wanted to kill themselves or if they wanted to win a bet. Racing headlong at the oblivion and then turning at the last second was a great way to make a lot of money in a hurry if you had the guts for it as rich people with nothing better to do paid a lot of money to see some idiot turn themselves into cinder.

I licked my lips. Anticipation growing as I set the final course correction, grabbed the steering column for lack of something else to do, and waited. This was the worst part. Too much time allowed for too much thought. This was where I would at last prove whether I was as horrible as I always knew I was or whether I had some part of me that deserved redemption and there was only one way to find out.

Liquid eased from my hairline and slid down my face, burning a trail as if to remind me of my sins. I wasn’t religious but I knew that there were forces beyond me that had set this up. No one gets away with hiding for as long as I have and not have to pay for it. I re-gripped the control stick between my legs, tightening my fingers inside my gloves. My moment of truth was here and I had doubts. I wanted to cry at the knowledge. Why? Why was I born such a coward?

At that moment a loud, clanging ring rattled throughout the tin can I was in. A call was coming through. Of all the fucking things to be working, it had to be the one thing that did. The gods seemed to have heard my question and were prepared to answer it.

I smashed my hand against the controllers, sparking a few circuits that I probably needed but the ringing continued. I wasn’t being let off that easy. Still I wasn’t planning on taking it. Let it continue until I burned up in the ash below. The gods had another plan.

“Hello?” came a shaky, female voice.

The voice was muffled as it came through the ancient voice box but I’d know it anywhere. It was my sister. My breath caught in my dry throat and settled harshly against my lungs.

“Brother?” she called out again, a little more desperate this time. “Are you there?”

There was silence that followed as she waited for me to reply. I couldn’t though. Talking to her would only get her hurt.

“God dammit, Bastian, answer me. I know you’re there. I can hear you breathing.”

It was a lie. Of sorts. She couldn’t technically hear me over so shitty a connection as ours, but we were twins and we’d always had a special bond.

“Bastian, please,” she pleaded and I could hear the grief in her voice.

Tears came to my eyes and I couldn’t fight it.

“Talk to me,” she said quietly.

She must’ve sensed my deteriorating resolve because she added one of her patented “please’s” that I could never turn from.

“Hey,” I said, my voice thick even to my own ears.

“Hey,” she replied and the relief was evident. “Where are you?”

I didn’t answer that and my silence must’ve been enough because I could feel her anger before she said anything and it was enormous.

“You fucking idiot! What the hell are you doing?” she yelled and her voice reverberated off of everything including the inside of my skull.

“I had to,” I croaked out.

“No, no you didn’t. You turn your ass right around and you get back here. Do you understand me?”

I snorted, “You, know for a younger sister, you are really bossy.”

My attempt at levity was not well met.

“I swear to the Gods, Sebastian Reynolds, I will hunt you into every life you have after this if you don’t turn around right this minute.”

I looked down at the controls. Not that I had any plans to follow her order, but I needed an excuse and I found one.

“I can’t,” I stated simply.

“Yes, you can. I know you can.”

“Dials are going wild, sis; I have no more control.”

“You could fly a horse underwater if you needed to, brother, so don’t give me that bullshit.”

I sighed and let go of the stick, sitting back in the shitty seat and letting my head fall back against the cracked and beaten head rest. It reminded me of myself.

“I’m not turning back, Belly,” I said quietly and looked at my final destination with a sense of certainty.

The ground was coming up far too quickly now and I knew that I had maybe ten minutes left before I entered the gravitational pull of the piece of rock in front of me and had next to no possibility of survival.

I should be panicking, but instead I all I could feel was this odd sort of peace. It was here. My end was finally here. I could finally leave it all behind and I didn’t have to keep fighting it. I’d cause no more pain.

“You never caused me pain, brother,” she said suddenly, hearing my thoughts as clear as if they were her own.

Her voice was thick again, anger leaving her and a new wave of desperation rolled over me. I knew it was hers but it didn’t deter me. I was going to save her.

The closer I got, the hotter the tin can I was in was getting. The dials were going crazy now, swinging wildly out of control. Just like me. I was so out of control that I’d willing put myself in this situation, but what choice did I have? It was either this or let that bastard continue and I wasn’t going to let that happen.

The anticipation lifted the rhythm of my heart to a thicker, quicker beat. I could feel my blood pulsing, vibrating my body. It would seem that as I finally wanted things to speed up they only slowed down. I knew I had less than five minutes now but it felt like ages. The black mass of earth was becoming more and more defined. It was coming. My retribution

I licked my lips in anticipation. Maybe the scales would finally be balanced.

“Bas,” she said tearfully through the line, “this isn’t how you can save me.”

“Yes it is,” I said, my own tears spraining back to my eyes.

It was always thus with us.

“No, Bas, what am I going to do without you?”

“Live a good life,” I said harshly though it wasn’t directed at her.

“No,” she said and I could almost see her shaking her head, “No. You honestly think that he’s just going to let me go when you hit that inferno?”

I didn’t answer. My thought process hadn’t extended that far. All I’d see what the blood covering her body and the ultimatum I’d been given. Race one final time and instead of pulling out at the last second like everyone who was watching was betting on, I was to go down in a blaze of glory. Only it was no kind of glory that I’d ever wanted for myself save only that it would finally free my sister. My craft jerked violently and then started to rattle wildly. I’d touched the outer rim of the gravity. There was no turning back now.

“He’s a monster, Bas,” she insisted roughly. “There will be no one to enforce your stupid agreement with him with you gone.”

That was true. No, I shook my head. I couldn’t listen to her any more or she would dissuade me. I gripped the controller again. Don’t lose faith, don’t lose faith, I chanted over and over again in my head.

“Brother!” she screamed and it took everything in me not to turn the stick.

“I have to do this, Bel,” I said hoarsely. “He will kill you if I don’t.”

“No, he won’t. I’m his star. He won’t touch me.”

I snorted, “Do you think it was a fluke that you got through to me?”

She clearly hadn’t thought about that.

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“This is a test. He wants me to suffer in every way possible, Bel, but there is a bomb in your room right now and it’s timed so that it will go off a few seconds after I’m to hit the blaze.”

She was quiet for a second.

“If you pull out, I blow,” she finished for me quietly.

I nodded though there was no one to see it.

“He just wanted to hear me plead with you.”

“Yeah, Bel. Don’t you see? This is the only way.”

An overwhelming sense of sadness mixed with hatred swelled throughout my body.

“Bel,” I said quietly.

“Yeah?”

She tried to answer evenly, but I could hear the hitch in her voice.

“I love you and I’m so sorry.”

“You have nothing to be sorry for.”

“Yes, I do.”

“No Bas. No. You don’t.”

I tried to shake my head but the rattling was so bad now that I didn’t know if the bobbing of my chin was of my volition or not.

“It’s because of me-”

“Shhhhh,” she said quietly. “We’ve all made mistakes. I slept with the bastard, not you.”

“Yeah, true, that was pretty stupid,” I said, though the tears were falling freely at this point.

A strangled laugh came out of her and it mirrored my sentiments. I had less than a minute now and the fact that I would never see or talk to her again was finally hitting me. That single bit of data was more horrifying and more detrimental to my final resolve than any other thing she could’ve said.

There was a sniffle through the line. She was crying and she’d heard everything that I’d just thought. After everything I was putting even my last worry on her.

“Don’t you dare do that,” she said.

“Do what?” I asked limply.

“Blame yourself for caring about me.”

I wiped the tears from my cheeks and took a long, cleansing breath. I was seconds from my end.

I was about to respond but the nose of my ship hit the blaze and whatever shielding I had was ripped away in a second. The tin can was now an inferno and I had no time left.

“I love you Bel,” I said softly.

“I know you do big brother. Hey Bel?”

My ship was quickly falling into the fiery pit and my body had suddenly burst into blame and started to burn hotter than the hell I’d been sentenced to. I screamed and I felt panic overwhelm me. She was still connected to me in my mind.

No, Bel, get out of my head. She didn’t need to see this.

Bas, she called out wildly.

Go, Bel.

        I will find you again. I promise.

It was the last thing I heard before I combusted; the final scream caught inside my death trap.

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Buffy by Dee Rea

For my wonderful and incredible friend, Erika the Amazing, just remember it’s all about the vampires and evil twins!

 

She had assumed having the fingers forcibly removed would be the worst part; she was wrong!

 

I shook my head. No, I thought, this has to be the worst part! I looked around the room. The steady high-pitched beeping told me that I was still alive, for better or for worse. Sighing deeply, I tried to move my arm up to tuck it under my head.

“Damn, well that would be a good reason why,” I muttered and lightly tugged at the restraints that held me firmly to the bed. “Regrowth is tricky now, isn’t it? Don’t want the patient to start chewing on the nubs too soon.”

“Oh Captain!”

The shrill female laughter made me jump. Jerking my head around to see where it came from, I figured that it had to be the annoying nurse I’d been stuck with. Rolling my eyes, I relaxed again. Maybe if I pretended to sleep, the woman wouldn’t try having a conversation with me.

“How are you feeling today, Captain? I know that having to regrow your fingers can’t be all that great. I had to have my leg generated again, let me tell you!” The nurse laughed and walked around what was apparently a false wall. “It itched for days! Weeks even, and I had just had my nails switched to the new tetrachromadamas. You know, the ones that are made out of diamonds that change color all the time and like when you change your clothes or even like when you go from inside to outside? I didn’t get the ones that change colors with your body temperature because well I have more color choices…”

Staring at the nurse, I blinked her eyes and my jaw fell open in disbelief. How could one person talk so fast and for so long without taking a breath? Has she even stopped yet? Nope, her lips are still moving and I can hear that high pitched nasally whine just droning on. Does she really think I give a shit about her fingernails? I was just held prisoner on a hostile planet for at least six Earth years. Is she… no wait she has to be brain damaged. It’s the only explanation! Must shut her up! Quick, how can I get her to change the subject from her enhancements to something useful? “So… uh… Blitzy, was it? How long will it be until we reach the outpost? I’d kind of like to stretch my legs a bit, ya know?”

“….and that’s when I changed my doctor, because who is he to tell me that I can’t take out the part of my cervix that keeps me from being able to take bigger… Oh the outpost? Captain Menderok said that we should be getting there soon. Actually, he said the sooner the better before he has to go to the brig. I don’t understand why he would have to go to the brig if we don’t get there soon. I mean it’s not like he’s under orders to get you back quick or anything. Our orders were to get you back to the outpost alive, on the mend and post haste. Whatever that means… Post haste. Such a weird thing to say as if a post could move quickly.” The nurse laughed as she walked from a drawer to the bed. “Why did you call me Blitzy? You know that’s not my name. My name is Buffy…”

I turned my head away from the speed talking woman who must have had an anti-breathing modification to be able to ramble like that. Blitzy, Buffy, or Bunny was going to end up being called Gummy if she didn’t just shut up. “Okay, okay Flaky, hey! You, yeah you!” I waved my stump in a beckoning motion as best as the straps would let me. “Okay, are we breathing again? No, no… shhhh my turn to talk. Me talk, you listen… got it? Alright! Now that we have that all figured out. What is our vector? Where are we? Answer my question and my question only.”

Buffy stopped talking long enough to listen to what I had asked. She looked thoughtful for a moment then tapped her temple. Her eyes glazed over briefly and her normally fast paced speech patter was slow and methodical when she replied.

“That’s really good to hear! We’re not that far from the outpost.” I tipped my head to the side and just stared as Buffy tapped her temple again. The woman shook her head and her eyes unglazed. The stupid smile returned to her features. “Do you know if the meteor shower has already passed this region?”

As if on cue, the entire ship seemed to shudder and groan. The lights began to blink before finally fading to just the emergency running lights. I knew what that meant. How bad was the damage? Where was the damage? Was the ship easily fixable? I began to struggle against my bindings in earnest.

“Now Captain, thrashing like a virgin on prom night won’t help. You know that those bindings are strong enough to hold a Trivarion. Those things are huge! They’re like eight feet tall and bigger than… than, wait what was that ancient creature we read about in science? Oh you know that giant lizard that always fought the big pretty butterfly?”

“Um, Dingbat, it was a moth and I need you to do that temple thing. I need you to focus and give me a damage report!” I retorted hotly. I definitely wasn’t in the mood to deal with this twit right now.

“Oh sure, Captain. Just let me…” Buffy tapped her temple with the same robotic effect.

“Oh shit, can this get any worse? The engine room disabled and thirty percent loss of life? Shit, Shit, shit shit! Listen to me Breezy; I need you to let me out of these restraints. I can help!”

“Unacceptable, Captain. Your present condition dictates level four medical care.” Buffy tapped her temple again and a shiver coursed through her body. “I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to that upgrade! Let me tell you, Captain, never get an upgrade for a guy unless you know he likes you for more than just a piece of side ass.” She laughed and walked over to wave her hand in front of a panel that had only moments before been alive with lights and activity. “Huh, why won’t the lights turn on? I’m waving my hand!”

“You can’t be that dumb, can you?” I murmured. “Look, all joking aside sweetie, you need to let me out of here. I think some serious shit is going down and we need to man all hands on deck. Ironic, I know, since I have no hands, but we need to talk to the captain of your ship, not just me talking to the air!”

“Captain! I didn’t know you were a closet slut! Is that how you got your ship? Hell if putting hands on dicks was all it takes, I should have a fleet by now! You must do more than get handy with the crew. Do you su…”

“Captain Menderok here,” the voice from the intercom system croaked. “We have been hit by a rather large meteor. I hereby invoke Article 319114 of our Articles of Operation. I repeat green light on Article 319114! Yes, Bunny, that means we’re evacuating the damaged areas and moving everyone to the levels three through five. No Bunny, you don’t need to go anywhere. Sick bay is on level four. Menderok out!”

“How did he know I was going to ask that? I bet he has the same upgrades I do! Oh, Captain! Maybe he’s the one! Well not THE one, but the one on this ship! Aww, I always knew…”

I jerked on the straps in frustration. I can’t even… Just call me a prime number because I can’t even! Of all the people to be stuck with, it had to be her! What did I do so wrong in any of my past lives to be cursed with this? I must have been one bad ass bitch to deserve this. Wait a second; I’m having a conversation with myself just so I don’t have to listen to her gums flapping? Yep, yes Ma’am, I am. I would face palm if I had hands, or better yet, choke the life from her dumb ass. Sighing softly, I lay back and tried to relax in the face of all that was happening. I glanced down to where my stumps were and saw that since I’d last looked at them I could see the beginnings of fingers. Another week and I would be back to my old self.

The ship began to quake and groan much louder than it had before. Before either of us knew what happened, the ship began to spin like it was in a blender on high. Buffy fell to the floor and when she was sliding past the bed, she grabbed it to hold on for dear life. The screams of the women were drowned out by the sounds of the ship coming apart at the seams. The temperature rose slowly at first then faster and faster until I thought she was going to burst into flames. The last thing I remembered was what seemed like half the room coming to crash down around me.

***********************************************

The first thing I noticed was the gentle breeze floating over me. Without opening my eyes, I ran through a mental checklist. Toes wiggling? Check. Legs flexing? Check. Fingers moving? Check. Elbows bend? Check. Hey wait a second, fingers? I cracked my eye lids and winced. The bright light seared into my head. More slowly, I opened my eyes to allow the adjustment. I looked down and saw that my hands and fingers had indeed finished their regrowth. Glancing around more now, I couldn’t believe my eyes! There were lush green trees on one side of me and a beautiful beach on the other.

“What in the bloody hell!” I whispered, sitting up. I noticed the rather mangled bed from the ship’s sick bay was what I was on. My last memory came back to me and I hopped up from the bed. I immediately stumbled and tripped, not used to the amount of gravity that the planet had. “Where the hell am I? Where is everyone else?”

“Captain! I’m so glad you woke up! I was beginning to think that I would have to kiss you or something just to wake you up. That is what they did in the history books, wasn’t it? The men would kiss the women and wake them up from their comas or something like that? I would wake up if it was a man… or even a really cute girl but she’d have to have a smoking body. Oh but not too hot because I have to be the prettiest one in my relationships!” Buffy laughed as she walked up with her arms full of some sort of fuzzy brown balls.

“Ok Busty, if you say so,” I muttered. I searched the horizon for signs of life. “Where are we? Do you have any idea? Or better yet have you done that head tappy thing?” I smacked the side of my head with my palm.

“Oh, yeah I don’t know where we are. I tried finding out from the ship’s computer but…” For once, the woman silenced herself.

“But what? Where’s the ship? Buffy, show me where the ship is! Where’s everyone else?” My brow furrowed in confusion. The silence was deafening. For once, I wanted the woman to speak and she wouldn’t. “Buffy,” I started softly. “Tell me where everyone is or where the ship is. We can’t be all that’s left.”

“The ship crashed,” Buffy said in a very monotone voice.

“Yes, the ship crashed. Where is it, Buffy?”

“Well, see, I sort of pushed the wrong button when I was trying to find out where we were and it started the self-destruct sequence. I barely got away! You didn’t even flinch! I was way impressed! Don’t worry though, I didn’t kill anyone. They all died in the crash. It’s just you and I, but don’t worry! My upgrade is one of the bio-locator types. When the ship crashed, it set the beacon going beep beep beep beep beep…”

“Buffy! I get the picture. So let me just get this straight. You and I are all that’s left out of a crew of 2,224? That’s it, no one else? You’re sure?”

“Yep I’m sure. I’ve walked the entire island. It’s not that big after the ship exploded. It wasn’t really that big to begin with but the explosion made it even smaller. It’s kind of nice because I can still get my exercise and not be more than shouting distance from you. Okay, so a bit more than shouting distance, but you know what I mean. Oh Captain! This is going to be so much fun! Just the two of us until the rescue ship gets here! Just think it’s going to be like a slumber party that lasts for months!”

My heart sank and I exhaled a long slow breath. I plastered a fake smile tightly on her features. “Oh yeah, that’s just great! So tell me how this bio thing works. It sends a beacon and a ship locks on and comes to get us?”

“Yes indeed! Man you’re smart! I wish I was smart like that but my talents lean more toward the girly side of life. You know, clothes, makeup, sex…. Oh but the bio-locator! As long as I’m alive the bio-locator will send the beacon that’s going to get us rescued. Looks like you have to keep me safe now doesn’t it?” Buffy laughed.

I walked over to Buffy and placed one hand on her shoulder as the other slid around her shoulders. I made sure to keep the smile on my face as I leaned to whisper in her ear. “You know, I thought the worst thing that could happen to me was having my fingers removed one by one. I was wrong. You were the worst thing that ever happened to me and I’m fixing that right now!” With the swiftness of a striking snake, my hands shifted into position. When the resounding pop filled the air with blissful silence, my smile formed for real.

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