Excerpt from “Outbound”

This week’s excerpt is from my readers’ choice award winning novelette “Outbound” which first appeared in the November 2010 issue of Analog magazine, and has been re-printed multiple times. Most recently, “Outbound” is the opening story in my collection Lights in the Deep.


My immediate thought was of Irenka, stuck in the bathroom. I used my arms to propel myself out of my seat, but was promptly shoved back down from behind by Elaine’s hands on my biceps.

“Do as you’re told!” Elaine yelled at me.

“But my sister!”

Elaine looked to where I stared wide at the lavatory, then nodded once and said, “You stay here, I’ll go get Irenka!”

The older woman almost ran down the aisle, her grip shoes making rip-rip sounds as she went. I managed to get my harness buckled around me when the gee kicked hard. We all slammed from side to side, up and down, screams and shouts and crying filling the cabin. Elaine stayed upright through all of it, and I saw her reach the lavatory door and use the special key card on her lanyard to open it. She vanished inside for a moment, then emerged with Irenka, whose eyes were searching frantically while her legs kicked in the air. Elaine was yelling, “Calm down! Calm down, honey!”

Another series of violent maneuvers battered the occupants of the cabin. I saw one girl come loose from her partially-buckled harness and crash into the ceiling. She floated limply for a moment before being catapulted over my head and out of sight, followed by a sickening thump.

Elaine held Irenka tight, however, and began making her way back to my couch when there was a horrific concussion that made my teeth rattle, following by groans and shrieking from beneath the floor.

My ears suddenly felt like they might pop, and for an instant I realized that the ship had been hit. Elaine and Irenka simply looked at me, their mouths forming twin oh-shapes while their hair ruffled in the rush of escaping atmosphere.

Then the orange decompression shield slipped out of its compartment on the headrest of my couch and dropped down over me like a shroud, sealing at the edges.

I screamed Irenka’s name and fought to undo the chest buckle on my harness, watching through the shield’s small window while the cabin became a nightmare of flashing red lights and debris exploding from the floor. My little sister and I were able to exchange one final look, her little mouth shrieking, Mirek! Then the world tilted over and I was crushed into my couch, the decompression shield flapping and billowing . . .

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Would you like to read more? Lights in the Deep is currently available in e-book and paperback.