Boots’s Pick
Jim Harrington

The photon blast rocketed past my ear and hit the metal wall behind me. Fiery tendrils exploded from its core like fireworks on the Fourth of July. I uncovered my eyes in time to see the heel of Zorton’s boot disappear down the hallway leading to the crew’s quarters.

I paused when I reached the junction of the two passageways and snapped my head around the corner and back. No Zorton. I edged into the hallway and was greeted by a waving Nolander. He wore a purple and yellow tunic. His hair sprouted from his head like the branches of a willow tree. The thump, thump of a cane tapping the floor preceded him down the hall.

“Did a man run past you?”

“Yes. Don’t know who he was, though.”

“He escaped from the Mitros penal colony three months ago and is here to kill me.”

“Why would he want to do that?” The man rested both hands on the cane and leaned against the wall.

“To get even with me for sending him there. He tried to kill me just now, but I got off the first shot. Thought I hit him, but he’s damn fast for a man with a wounded leg.”

“He dragged his leg, and I thought I smelled burnt flesh.” The Nolander bowed and excused himself.

I continued my search without success. I knew Zorton wouldn’t leave the ship until one of us was dead.

I returned to my apartment around ten that evening. Cassandra leaned against the wall waiting. “Did you forget about our dinner date, Alexi?”

“Oh, shit. Yes. I’m so sorry. Something came up.” I unlocked the door and motioned for her to enter. “Did you hurt your leg?”

“It’s nothing.”

I met Cassandra two months ago in the ship’s game room. Tall, with long white hair, her pale blue Andrean uniform molded to her sleek body, she yelled with every kill, until her opponent was out of players. Victorious, she turned, looked my way, and wagged me over with a long finger. After she kicked my butt in every viral game the place had to offer, we went to the bar, where she out-drank me as well. Before I was unable to think or talk, I asked her to dinner. What started as a platonic affair turned into something more by the end of the week.

“It must have been something important. You’ve never missed a date before.”

“It was.” I put my weapon in the wall safe and turned to her. “How can I make it up to you?”

Cassandra pouted a smile and lowered the zipper down the front of her uniform. She was naked underneath. We made love, slow at first, then as if we hadn’t been together for weeks, instead of days.

Afterward, we lay naked, spooned, my back to her front, her arm across my chest. I opened my eyes and saw the hair on her arm change from white wisps to dark strands. I felt hot breath assaulting my neck in angry puffs. The arm increased its pressure on my chest. The hand edged toward my neck. I heard a growl and reached my own hand under the mattress. Tonight my battle with Zorton would finally end.

Jim Harrington lives in Huntersville, NC, with his wife and two cats. His stories have appeared in Apollo’s Lyre, Every Day Fiction, Bent Pin Quarterly, Long Story Short, MicroHorror, Flashshot and others. He currently serves as a flash fiction editor for Apollo’s Lyre. You can read more of his stories at his website. E-mail: jpharrin[at]