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ALL TOLD, I CAN'T BELIEVE HOLLIDAY WAS ABLE TO PUT IT BACK TOGETHER. NOT A LOT LEFT AFTER A SMALL-SCALE NUCLEAR BLAST.
In the moment his Sparrow crashed, there was no time. To react. To brace. To think. There was, however, an instant for him to feel: an unbearable, brief eternity, when everything in Marco's world was pain. Nothing else existed—just the simple, sharp agony that made up his whole universe. And just as quickly, it was gone. Stillness.
The sound of a motorized whine returned to him first, ringing in opposition to the pulsing ache in his head. Slowly, his eyes adjusted, and he glimpsed the unbearable brightness of the Martian sun.
Slowly and all too quickly, pain returned to smother all else.
The Sparrow beside him smoked, reactor shielding intact, but only just. He eyed the long gouge in the ground where the bike had bottomed out and scraped its way across the ruddy landscape, where it had rolled over his—
He looked down at what was still attached of the leg. Broken. Twisted. Meat. Bile caught in his throat, and he choked it down before realizing the mangled limb was the only corner of his flesh free from pain.
]]]The sun roils. White-beyond-white plumes lick worlds. Hope births agony births stillness.[[[
Strained electro-mariachi music still sputtered through the Sparrow's speakers. Marco struggled to inhale, and a flutter in his chest hinted at a punctured lung.
His gaze fell on Container 6010, lying cracked against a spar of basalt.
]]]Yawning plasma. Thick embrace, light gouging Light. Only warm shadows.[[[
Black veins snaked through the red dust, through the wreckage.
]]]Hand-delivered glory strips pain from those too weak to savor.[[[
They wound through the soil and—where flesh met dirt—had already traced into his twisted limb. The Sparrow's carriage throbbed like a heart, and Marco could feel the hymnal rhythm in his leg.
]]]Worlds burned free. Sweet, still ash.[[[
Visions crowded his mind, spilling into his mouth and lungs, threatening to drown him in bliss. His shattered leg turned and popped and righted itself and euphoria filtered through him where pain should be.
]]]Deep. Still. Safe embrace.[[[
He dragged his sidearm from its holster, gasping as he took careful aim at the cracked reactor shielding.
]]]So soft and still.[[[
His mind tore free, and in an unbearable, brief eternity, he gulped one final breath.
What remained of Marco squeezed the trigger.
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