‘I’ll shoot him,’ spat Pine. ‘I’ll shoot him in his head.’

I leaned on the window, half-listening to the arguments of the crew. The space pretzel, having unwound from our shuttle, writhed incomprehensibly. After a moment I realised it was giving us the finger. ‘Oh,’ I said.

The captain, finally fed up trying to get a word in on the rest of the crew, overrode their comms and muted everyone but himself.

‘We won’t be shooting anybody’s head,’ he said. Behind his helmet Pine mouthed unheard syllables, his face reddening. ‘Technologically, they’ve a thousand years on us. Bluster will get us nowhere. If any of you have something worthwhile to add, speak up, but otherwise you can each of you maintain radio fucking silence.’ He glanced around at some of the crew (who only grimaced or shook their heads) before turning to me. ‘You’re the diplomat, Leigh. Of all of us, I think you’re the only one who hasn’t lost their cool. Would you mind injecting a little reason into the discussion?’

They all looked at me. I crossed my arms. The captain hadn’t read my file, apparently—diplomacy might’ve been my role here, but I had no such qualification. I was just one of the few to have struck a square deal with the only other aliens we’d ever met. Human corporations had dismissed my designs as impractical and too experimental: a commonality these days, scientific understanding having outstripped manufacturing feasibility long ago. But Andromeda had found them most interesting. The exotic power sources, yes … but the psychic weapons especially.

That wasn’t the only thing he was wrong about, either. Like I said, no living thing. I was just better at hiding it.

That was when it came to me.

I nodded at the captain; he unmuted my comm. I met the gaze of each crewmember in turn. On their faces I could read every flavour of furious. Some despairing, others murderous, but all of us were angry.

‘We’ve lost a power source of such potency,’ I began, ‘that even as it slagged our world we were able to nudge its rotation and provide the cooling required to live in a boiling atmosphere. We’ll need to find another one.’

The captain looked relieved. ‘Finally. A productive thought.’

‘And once we’ve harnessed it,’ I said, ‘we will obliterate them. Not just the bastards that came here.’ I turned back to the window to watch the receding middle finger. ‘We will murder the future.’