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“Jazz.” He stood up. “What are you doing with that pipe?”

“We need leverage.” I gripped the pipe with both hands and pointed the sharp end forward. “And I’ve got it. If this won’t turn it, nothing will.”

I rolled my ball over to the handle.

“But the pipe’s inside your hamster ba—oh. No!”

“I probably won’t last long enough to turn the handle. You’ll have to grab the pipe and finish for me.”

“Jazz!” He reached toward me.

It was now or never. Dale had lost focus. I can’t blame him. It’s hard to watch your best friend die, even if it is for the greater good.

“I forgive you, buddy. For everything. Goodbye.”

I thrust the sharp end of the pipe through the edge of my ball. Air hissed out through the pipe—I’d just given the vacuum a straw to suck on. The pipe grew cold in my hands. I pushed harder and wedged the pipe into the valve handle’s spokes.

My hamster ball stretched and ripped near the puncture site. I had a fraction of a second left, at best.

With all my strength, I shoved the pipe to the side and felt the handle give.

Then physics showed up with a vengeance.

The ball ripped itself to shreds. One second I was pushing on the pipe, the next I was flying through the void.

All noise stopped immediately. Blinding sunlight assaulted my eyes—I squinted in pain. The air fled from my lungs. I gasped for more—I could expand my chest but nothing came in. Weird feeling.

I landed faceup on the ground. My hands and neck burned while the rest of my body, protected by clothing, roasted more slowly. My face ached from the onslaught of burning light. My mouth and eyes bubbled—the fluids boiling off in the vacuum.

The world went black and consciousness slipped away. The pain stopped.

Dear Jazz,

According to the news, something’s very wrong with Artemis. They say the whole city went offline. There’s been no contact at all. I don’t know why my email would be the exception but I have to try.

Are you there? Are you okay? What happened?

I awoke to darkness.

Wait a minute. I awoke?

“How am I not dead?” I tried to say.

“Huu m uh nn’ d’d?” I actually said.

“Daughter?!” It was Dad’s voice. “Can you hear me?”


He took my hand. It didn’t feel right, though. The sensation was dulled.

“C…can not…see…”

“You have bandages over your eyes.”

I tried to hold his hand, but it hurt.

“No. Don’t use your hands,” he said. “They’re also injured.”

“She shouldn’t be awake,” said a woman’s voice. It was Doc Roussel. “Jazz? Can you hear me?”

“How bad is it?” I asked her.

“You’re speaking Arabic,” she said. “I can’t understand you.”

“She asked how bad it is,” Dad said.

“It’s going to be a painful recovery, but you’ll survive.”

“N…not me…the city. How bad is it?”

I felt a pinprick on my arm.

“What are you doing?” Dad asked.

“She shouldn’t be awake,” Roussel said.

And then I wasn’t.

I drifted in and out of consciousness for a full day. I remember snippets here and there. Reflex tests, someone changing my bandages, injections, and so on. But I was only semi-alert until they stopped groping me, then I’d return to the void.



“Jazz, are you awake?” It was Doc Roussel.


“I’m going to take the bandages off your eyes.”


I felt her hands on my head. The padding on my face unwrapped and I could finally see. I winced at the light. As my eyes adjusted, I saw more of the room.

I was in a small hospital-like room. I say “hospital-like” because Artemis doesn’t have a hospital. Just Doc Roussel’s sick bay. This was a room in the back somewhere.

My hands were still bandaged. They felt awful. They hurt, but not too bad.

The doc, a sixtysomething woman with gray hair, shined a flashlight in each of my eyes. Then she held up three fingers. “How many fingers?”

“Is the city okay?”

She wiggled her hand. “One thing at a time. How many fingers.”


“Okay. What do you remember?”

I looked down at my body. Everything seemed to be there. I wore a hospital smock and I’d been tucked into the bed. My hands were still bandaged. “I remember popping a hamster ball. I expected to die.”

“By all rights, you should have,” she said. “But Dale Shapiro and Loretta Sanchez saved you. From what I hear, he threw your body over the Armstrong–Shepard Connector. Sanchez was on the other side. She dragged you into a rover and pressurized it. You were in vacuum for a total of three minutes.”

I looked at my gauze mittens. “And that didn’t kill me?”

“The human body can survive a few minutes of vacuum. Artemis’s air pressure is low enough that you didn’t get decompression sickness. The main threat is oxygen starvation—same as drowning. They saved you just in time. Another minute and you’d be dead.”

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