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Pod and Planet 2013 Contest Entry - The Hush of God

Author
Gallente Federation
#1 - 2013-11-02 00:02:50 UTC  |  Edited by: Soren Audeles
Hey everyone,

The posts below are my entry for the Pod and Planet Contest 2013 as part of the "Day in the Life" category. I originally wanted to submit this under the 8,000 Suns category, but given the liberties I take in describing non-capsuleer ships and functions, I played it safe. The story centers around the captain of a sellship crew and the conclusion of their latest escort contract.

Word count is 4987 according to MS Word and is previously unpublished:


The Hush of God


 The sudden but cool red flash and audible bleep of the small transmitter sitting center stage on Captain Ben Sole's console made him blink out of his starry daydream and straighten himself. The bridge of his Evocator class escort ship hung dim and silent, save for the occasional groaning of the aged hull and the electrical hum of its systems and propulsion at work. His first mate Darion or, more appropriately, Ruckus, so nicknamed for the state of things he was so adept at causing, sat asleep at his station nearby. Ben unhurriedly scratched at the short black fuzz on his face and tightened his old brown longcoat before opening the channel comm to the bridge.
 
"This is the Alastor, go ahead" Ben droned the line into the receiver for what seemed the millionth time.
 
"This is the Jax. We are approaching the gate to the Deven system. Inform your convoy and prepare to jump" returned the gruff voice of Admiral Tyrius Keldon.
 
 The transmission cut before Ben could reply his affirmation.
 
"Figures" Ben huffed.
 
Ben wasn't surprised though. Ruckus was right to call Keldon nothing short of a "...rankled and sparse ol' bastard, still stylin' himself some sort of military leader an' tryin' ta relive some glory days he never had!"
 
Of course, Sole mused, it was easy to style yourself whatever you wanted when you sat at the helm of a Federation direct issue, precision assembled, christened and bred, Gallente-green-right-down-to-the-bones Megathron battleship. Also with a hand picked crew and state of the arms weapons systems to boot. And while the Alastor had been Ben's baby girl for the last eight years, Evocator class ships were noted for their versatility, and certainly not their aesthetic, or prestige they brought to their controllers. So Ben could only imagine how far down the ladder Keldon had been kicked when he was assigned to lead a group of dirt-shoveling civilian ships in several convoys ten kilometers long. As well on an escort mission the length of which was the first Sole had been hired to do.
 
Ben snatched an empty can of Quafe from the edge of his console and overhanded it at Ruckus, "Wake up, Ruck!"
 
Ben missed his mark but the shout and tink-clinking of the can on the deck startled Ruckus out of his nap. He grumbled and looked around, sitting up in his chair. He spotted the can as it rolled away before rubbing his tired eyes and turning to meet the face of his captain and employer.
 
"Get your lazy ass up!" Sole barked, "Run along and tell our convoy to warm up their drives, next stop is Deven on our mark."
 
Ruckus stood. He was no less the tall and muscled, but drunk bellied, Matari ex-pirate than the day he found him on a slowly sinking orbital out in Auga. Ruckus yawned and rubbed his eyes again before nodding.
 
"An' what about Tally and her boys? Do I keep 'em on the trigger?
 
Ben thought for a moment, "Nah, tell them to stand easy. Their nerves must be all kinds of frayed from manning the guns and only targeting stars this long of a trip." 

If Ruckus was the brawn that kept his crew of over three dozen in line, than Tally was the brains. Supposedly a top tier war academy graduate on one of the Gallente core planets, her pedigree of knowledge and skills could fill a book. As a matter of fact, it was a wonder she signed on with Ben at all. But like the rest of the crew, he wasn't one to ask too many questions, understanding the importance of secrecy when trapped amidst jackals and vagabonds in what amounted to a metal tomb.

Ben smiled and took on his most sarcastic tone.
 
"After all, we've got an almighty ex-flagboy of the Federation in his shiny green boat to protect us."
 
Ruckus gave a hoarse and sleepy chuckle before turning back to his station and contacting the officers of the ships they had been assigned and passing along the order.

Despite the length of the trip and the boredom that ensued when moving at this snail's pace, Ben still smirked when the ship came to life. The static of Darion's speaker as he called out orders, the echoing voices and metal clamor of his other two bridge crew, Iolis and Seth, as they made their way over to check in and assist with the jump. He even recognized the bump and thrum, a side effect when your ship is built with second hand containment parts, of the fuel line mixtures catalyzing to speed up the ship for gate travel.

Admiral Keldon and his frigate wing jumped first, with two other sellship captains and their convoys due to follow up before the Alastor and her charges.
Gallente Federation
#2 - 2013-11-02 00:03:34 UTC  |  Edited by: Soren Audeles
Waiting only for clearance, Ben, Ruckus, and his bridge crew blinked out the viewport at the massive gate structure looming near them and the forty ships scattered near the entry or 'sling' point awaiting the same.

But what normally only took ten minutes or so became far longer. Thrice as much time dragged by and it was Ruckus who sat up and spoke first, "What's this old man waiting for? The Feds are payin' us to move, not wait!"

Ben said nothing, only narrowing his eyes out the view, thinking that maybe something had gone wrong. But wouldn't Keldon have called back for aid? Or direct the convoy through another route towards some rendezvous? Kedama wasn't exactly the safest area of space, Ben knew, laying outside the jurisdiction of any CONCORD fleets, but not out of reach of their networks or any Navy patrols that could indeed be contacted at need.

Still they waited. Maybe I shouldn't have called Tally off, Ben thought. Then, as if his mind could manifest thought, Tally's voice came from the entrance to the bridge,

"There any reason we haven't moved along yet, Captain?"

"Not sure", Ben admitted, turning to face his blonde haired and dark eyed third in command. Dressed plainly, she stood short, straight and expressionless at the threshold to the bridge. Her words were informal but disciplined in tone, as always. "But get your crews up and prime the blasters for manual operation in the mean time."

Tally nodded acknowledgment and left.

"Cap'n, you really think something caught up with Keldon?" asked Ruckus after Tally had departed.

"Well, either that or--"

Ben was cut off by Iolis, the old Amarrian exile that served as one of his bridge operators and that the crew had nicknamed 'Cleric' for his ability to recite Amarrian scripture verbatim.

"Captain", Iolis said as he turned to Ben, punching in commands on his console and taking off his headset, "The Black Thorn has received clearance from the Admiral and are preparing to jump." The Black Thorn was another of the escort ships, of four in total, tasked with leading one of the other convoys.

Ben sat back in relief and watched, on cue with Iolis' words, as eighteen ships disappeared into their blue-white warp cradles in near unison.

After the second convoy was through, Iolis opened channel to the bridge as Keldon's voice crackled through, "Alastor, you and your convoy are safe to jump".
 
"About goddamn time" were the last words from Ruckus before the Alastor was bolted through storm and nether for a brief, but anxious, while before birthing into the Deven system. The assortment of civilian ships accompanying them arrived in twos and threes over the next minute after that. The Jax could be seen nearby, its flight of elite Comet frigates running patrol in formation between the civilian ships as they arrived. The last convoy, led by the Valiant, another Evocator transport, owned by the humorless but fair captain Lew arrived shortly after. Chatter shot from every direction over the comms as civilian officers foolishly checked in on open frequencies. The Admiral would likely have them drift out a hundred kilometers or so while his boys ran recon to make sure the way to the next gate was clear. But after Keldon's delay, unease nested itself inside Ben's mind and while he was no one to defy the Admiral directly, the reins of his better judgment took hold.

"Iolis, have we received pre-alignment orders from the Jax?" Ben asked.

"No sir, not yet", Iolis held up a hand in follow up while he pressed his headset, "...and nor have any of the other captains."
 
Ben stood up slowly. He didn’t want to jump to conclusions, but things were starting to look awfully familiar.

"Get me a line to the Jax" he said sharply, standing up and beginning to slowly weave between the half-active consoles and unoccupied stations that composed the bridge, moving closer to look out the viewport.

Ruckus straightened himself in curiosity, "What are ya thinkin' cap?"

"I’m not sure,” Ben admitted, without turning to his second in command. He knew that Ruckus asked because he suspected the same. It was a pit of uncertainty that he had not felt this entire trip. It dropped from his throat to his gut and told him that something wasn't lining up. Living on the edge of civilized space and sharing bed and board for a few years with fringe lunatics who would kill you as soon as call you brother taught one to never ignore that feeling.
Gallente Federation
#3 - 2013-11-02 00:04:23 UTC  |  Edited by: Soren Audeles
An eternal minute crawled by.

"Captain, I have the Admiral on the vidline"

"Good", Ben took a few long strides in his heavy black strap boots, quickening back to the Captain's station. He brushed the shoulder of his coat and raised himself to his full height, turning to face the viewport.

"Get the screen up and put him through"

Iolis nodded. A few seconds later, a digital image expanded over the polyglass of the main viewport, illuminating the bridge of the Alastor with a scene of cool and polished and gratuitous perfection. The consoles onboard the bridge of the Jax were mathematical in their placement, their corners sharp edged and shiny enough to not be real. And though Ben couldn't tell through the subpar resolution of his third hand onboard display projector, he had no doubt that he would be able to see his reflection on the deck. Hell, he'd have to replace the grips on his boots or he would slip on that undoubtedly ridiculous sheen. Amidst a staff of over a dozen uniformed bridge operators, Admiral Tyrius Keldon stood center stage, his crisp Navy uniform, lined eyes, puffed chest, and white trimmed beard well complimenting the attitude he would likely take with Ben Sole.

"Admiral Kel--" again, Ben was cut off before he could offer the slightest bit of courtesy.

"Your minion failed to offer a reason for your call, Sole, and so I can only assume it is urgent, assuredly demanding my undivided attention." Their was a moment into which Ben rightly chose not to reply, knowing the Admiral was not finished. 

Keldon paused before his tone started to boil over in venomous resentment, "Is it indeed urgent, Captain?"

Ben was no stranger to this kind of treatment. Mercs and sellships were always looked down on by the 'civilized' types, especially by the military. 

"Sir, the combination of absent alignment orders and the delay into Deven have shaken my crew and convoy. I thought only to reassure them."

"You mean delay us even further captain?" Keldon's words cut through Ben like a sword, "I might remind you of the terms of your contract, mercenary. Therefore, to hell with your crew and your concerns. You will receive your orders whenever it seems good to me. Now, is there anything else?"

Ben gritted his teeth and said nothing.

"Good", Keldon grinned. The kind of grin that got your teeth caved in anywhere else in New Eden aside from the safety of your ship ten kilometers away. The Admiral motioned to one of the operators, who voiced acknowledgment and severed the vid connection. The image of the Jax flicked and faded away, pitching the bridge into its usual button-lit darkness.

Ruckus gave a short and throaty laugh, "Was it me or did that seem jes' a little excessive, even for Keldon?"

Ben cursed and pounded his fist into the captain's station. The sound and suddenness of it made every living person on the bridge jump. The fizzing sound Ben heard after meant he likely broke something under the panel. Ruckus' forced mirth faded instantly.

Ignoring the pain in his hand, Sole whipped around and manned one of the empty consoles nearby. He felt something akin to his instinct flip on and hypertune his words and his movements.

"Warm up the scanner and shoot wide. Note any large and active sensor clusters on the closest orbital bodies or stations" Ben said to no one in particular, keeping his eyes on the center screen of his console.

Ruckus stood up, "Captain, I know what yer thinkin'. And Keldon is one uptight sunava *****, but you know his type, always imaginin' themselves in some pissing contest. No call to be suspicious yet"

Ben looked up for only a second to reply, "Oh no, my friend, things just got violently shoved out of suspicion into something far worse. Now get Tally back on the guns and get us and the convoy aligned to any warp worthy signature."

Ruckus almost opened his mouth to protest but only gave a reluctant salute before calling the crew of two down in navigation and after that Tally, who had likely still waited at the threshold of the gun pits

Ben couldn't wait long. He looked over at the newest addition to the crew and to his bridge complement, a Gallente born orphan named Seth.

Ben had 'adopted' Seth from another sellship captain that he had befriended sometime ago but that afterward lost everything, including his life, to some capsuleer pirates out in the ass end of zero sec. Seth showed up, red eyed, starving, dirty, and twitching from some badly installed implants in need of maintenance, on Ben's doorstep sometime later. The teen had since bounced back, earning his keep to the point of begrudging the respect of Ruckus even.

"Give it to me Seth."
Gallente Federation
#4 - 2013-11-02 00:05:16 UTC  |  Edited by: Soren Audeles
Seth turned a digital dial and entered commands on his console with a stupefying celerity before turning to Ben. Strands of his blonde hair purposely hung over the artificial eye that had malfunctioned and caused the right side of his face to convulse every few seconds in some sort of half seizure. Ruckus was always quick to mock how much it unnerved the crew.

"Nothing on the scanner, Captain. At least, aside from the usual bits of traffic" he replied, sighing in resignation.

Ruckus looked up, "See Cap'n? Nothing to worry about"

"No wait--" Seth rapidly turned back to his console. A klaxon blared.

Space is a black, foreboding, and vast place. But most of all it is quiet. Starry and endless, it speaks to the silence we only face in death. But their is a type of moment though that is still more silent and telling than this. It is an instant that occurs only rarely; when everything seems to slow and you are gifted with a momentary foresight, and both the everyday noise of ship and crew fade into nothing, no more loud than the stars outside. Iolis called these moments "The Hush of God", recalling his time as officer onboard the Amarrian flagship, Deliverance, responsible for coordinating the orbital bombardment or ‘purification’ of the Empire’s enemies. "It is the breath we take before devastation", Iolis had said, low and ominous.

For as Seth spoke did his voice fade to nothing. Ben then beheld God and all of the heavenly host standing briefly silent, the lance of a single bright laser coming into view and slicing one of the Navy Comet frigates running patrol, annihilating it in a quiet ball of fire and scrap.

The aftermath flooded Ben's senses.

"Multiple contacts!" cried Seth, "Dropping warp, bearing on beacon zero-three-three-one!" he used the codification number for the stargate they had just emerged from.

Two dozen enemy ships were already in view when the light from the ruined Comet cleared. Their frigate sized hulls bright and swarming against the starry backdrop.

"Picking up neural net signatures in six of those frigates, Captain!" followed up Seth, panic in his voice.

Ruckus said it before Ben did.

Capsuleers.

Hot blooded, powerful, immortal, ruthless, brain juiced, pod tubing capsuleers! Ben thought angrily. If Ben and his crew were the dishonorable pockmarks on the face of civilization, than capsuleers, much more these rogues, were the cancer eating it alive.

"Evasive maneuvers! Get the ECM mods online!" Ben commanded, racing back to his station. Then as if in some kind of defiance to his orders, a siren sounded and the ship rocked. Ben swayed and stumbled but stayed upright, "Darion! Get Tally and every man to those gun pits!"

Ruckus grunted acknowledgment, stumbling to his feet and storming out off of the bridge. Both he and Ben knew he would be far more use leading the turret groups or keeping the belly and nav crews calm.

Iolis rattled back and forth into his headset,"Ident information confirmed sir! It's the Serpentis!" he said, turning to Ben.

Serpentis? Ben retreated into his thoughts again. They’re a long way from home out here.

By now, the civilian ships were in complete disarray. Most were weaponless, and against such an onslaught, so sudden and violent, their was little they could do but scatter. Communications quickly escalated into a garbled mess of static filled and half jammed distress calls or panicked requests for orders. Their was no way that Iolis could sift through them in time, much less coordinate any kind of defense.

The bridge shuddered as one of the nearby vessels, a civilian ORE ship, one of the few refitted into a refugee transport, went up in a fiery and deathly dazzle of green Serpentis lasers and hybrid slug fire.

Seth's voice rose up once more, "Eight more ships inbound Captain! Battlecruisers! Far off but closing fast! At least two capsuleers, one piloting an Astarte model."
 
"What of the others? What of the other convoys?" Ben replied, dreading the answer.
 
Iolis turned a dial on his console, staring into the tactical overlay that inflated up over his screen, "The Valiant is tucking tail, burning back for the gate. The Black Thorn and the Nektahr are as well, but they don't look like they'll make it. Their convoys are scattered" he looked off to another display on his right, "Sixteen ships in all, most being run down by enemy Atrons, including one immortal."
 
Things were quickly becoming hopeless. But for the moment, save some stray slug fire, the Alastor was untouched. If their was a chance to get away, it was now. Those civilian ships, even if they made it to warp, would likely never make it outside the system. The Jax, pride and power of the Federation, was no laughing matter, but would wither under the firepower of that many Battlecruisers, though they heard or saw nothing from Keldon’s ship as yet. If Ben hadn't already guessed at what was going on, he would be surprised that the Serpentis were bothering with the convoy at all, at least while a Navy Megathron stood in their way. 

Flee. There is no hope for them, or for you, if you stay, Ben thoughts warned.
Gallente Federation
#5 - 2013-11-02 00:06:03 UTC  |  Edited by: Soren Audeles
"Concentrate fire on the frigates. Give the convoy opening to align and escape" Ben ordered.
 
Civilian class transports are just that, transports. Bulky, lumbering, and needing of protection in all save the safest areas of space. That wasn't good enough for the bigwigs at Teknos Industries though. So ten years ago, under the noses of their parent company, Illyn Tech, themselves owned by CreoDron, they decided to take things into their own hands. Take any medium civvie transport; weld on turret emplacements, gut some of the hold to make room for drone deployment pods, slide some cheap armor plating and a beefy sensor suite into the figurative seam, and you have an Evocator class transport-turned-escort ship. It has countless variations. Affordable, barely legal, barely functional, and the choice of every two bit sellship, merc, or bitter ex-soldier captain from here to Pure Blind. In the right hands though, they were more than worthy.
 
The battle, or massacre more like, raged on. The closest enemy Atron, capsuleer piloted, weaved, uncontrolled, as its plating buckled and split under a fusillade of fire from the Alastor. The power of the blasters was such that the firing of its barrel sent shudders through the ship, enough to chatter the teeth and set one on edge. Moments later, hull bursting, the Atron spewed needles of fire and some of its small crew into space before wrecking.
 
"I have the Kobolds online and ready, Captain. Should I send 'em out?" asked Ruckus over comms.
 
Kobolds were a knock off of the military grade Hobgoblin combat drones. And a crappy one at that. Slow, sputtering, and equipped with small solid projectile cannons that Tally and Ruckus were fond of nicknaming '****-and-pea shooters', for their inability to really damage anything. They would serve no purpose now.
 
Ben shook his head, "No. Too slow to keep up with those frigs and too weak to damage the cruisers."
 
The destruction of the capsuleer Atron was enough to disperse some of the smaller Serpentis ships. A number of the civilian ships, several of his own convoy included, broke away. 
 
"We've lost the Black Thorn, Captain" reported Iolis, calm as a rocky stream, "And the battlecruiser group has moved into range and destroyed five of the civilian vessels. A sixth, the Blue Star, is intact but under boarding assault by Breaker pods."
 
Ben nodded, "Continue targeting the frigates and keep us out of range of the cruisers. Have the warp engine ready once the last of the convoy is clear and away. Have we heard from the Jax?"
 
"No sir. And the last of its escort is being driven off by the Serpentis" replied Seth.
 
We've saved what we can. I think we've tempted fate long enough, thought Ben, resigning.
 
A sharp breep sounded from the bridge speaker. It was sometimes the last sound the occupants of a ship would hear.
 
"Weapons lock! The Astarte has lock!" yelled Seth, flipping a switch above his head to open shipwide comms, "Incoming rail fire!"
 
"Brace!" cried Ben.
 
The long range, massive chunks of sonic death ripped through the Alastor's meager shields, biting deep into the nanofiber armor plating. The ship groaned in agony and shook under the first volley. The bridge rocked and some systems sparked and wailed, failing, but she held.
 
"Get us outta here!" Ben yelled before running to the only entrance to the bridge and calling Ruckus up. He would need him here to coordinate the escape.

Ben turned and stumbled, barely managing to grasp the headrest of the captain's chair when the second volley struck. Iolis was thrown clean off of his feet as the bridge shuddered and the defenses weakened. Cries and orders could be heard from the decks below. The bridge came alive with more sirens and automated notifications. The plating was split but still intact. Several codes and coordinates scrolled up Ben's console screen. Some were fires that sprung up, and others were informing superficial damage to the internal bulkheads or other crucial systems.

Ruckus crashed onto the bridge, his haste obvious. He had his sidearm, an old C series ‘Porus’ brand revolver, brandished. He always thought it lent him an extra air of intimidation whenever he took over the crews down below. He was right.

“Damn those brain juiced capsuleers are howlin’ fer blood!’ Ruckus complained, holstering his pistol and plopping down at his station. “Are we aligned yet?”

It was now or never. Ben could only guess how many ships they would leave behind, but he at least wanted to be around to guess. Iolis, having already recovered, reported alignment with the farthest moon in the system. From there they could take stock and make a proper get away.

“Hit it!”

The thrum of the warp engine could be both felt and heard, whirring and priming, preparing to power them away from this hell of wrecked steel.
Gallente Federation
#6 - 2013-11-02 00:06:31 UTC  |  Edited by: Soren Audeles
And nothing happened.

Tense seconds went by, the only noise the bleeping and blaring of damaged systems and the droning of robotic voices warning the loss of shields and the exposure of the hull.

“What in the Elder mother are we goddamn waiting for!?” Ruckus asked no one.

Iolis looked up out the viewport at the Serpentis frigates that had begun to wing around and make way towards the Alastor, like vultures ready to pick apart a fresh corpse. He said something in a tone that all heard but none understood.

“What did you say Cleric!?” Ruckus stood.

“We’re scrambled, you slathering brute!”, Iolis retorted in anger. It was an emotion Ben only saw Cleric exhibit with Ruckus. “Nav reports our jump cogitator was remotely crashed not twenty seconds ago. The warp engine is disabled!”

Ben blurted out in disbelief, “That’s impossible. The cruisers are out of range and Tally’s crews destroyed the only Atron with scrambling capability,” Sole said.

Iolis composed himself and turned slowly in his chair to face Ben, “That is correct Captain. The source of the disruption is the Jax.”

Ruckus cursed in every color of the sun while Ben took in what Iolis told him. After a few seconds he looked out the viewport again.

As much as it pained him to even think it, How are we still alive then? Even if had evaded the cruisers, the Jax was well within range to scrap us.

Coincidence saw fit to answer Ben when, for some reason not unexpected, the digital display of the bridge of the Jax, bright and clean, again illuminated the Alastor. The crew of Keldon’s ship meandered about as they did before, cool and collected, as if the souls within twenty ships filled to the brim with innocents and poor transients had not just been snuffed out.

Tyrius Keldon himself stood tall as he did before, and, just as before, wearing the same punch worthy knuckle-to-your-mouth grin. He let the sight of him sink in before he spoke.

“Captain Sole, before I commit you and your crew of lowlives to oblivion, I should like to know how you knew,” Keldon’s voice came through buzzed and mechanical. The image fizzed for a moment, the projector obviously damaged, “Most of all the mercenary captains, your eyes alone told me you had guessed my intent when we last spoke. And even then, spared the first onslaught, given the first chance to escape, you stood by your charge. Why?” he finished.

Ben took a moment to offer his own grin, far past caution with his words, “What? Think you’re the first washout hack to go turncoat, Keldon? What did they offer you? Money? Governorship over some backwater planet of ash and ruin?”

Ruckus, having sat back down at his station, laughed grimly, “Ha! You’d hafta have a spine to ask for somethin’ like that, Cap’n. This scumsucking laph’ta must’ve turned for much less,”

But Keldon’s face did not twist in anger or his grin fade. And nor did he order the attack. He still wanted to twist the knife.

“Do not preach motivation and compare me to my lacking contemporaries, Captain. My ambitions reach farther than that which the Federation would grant me, content to let me retire and die on some civilian paradise.”

Keldon clenched a fist and Ben could see the outline of his tightened jaw against the perfect cut of his white beard.

“That cannot be, no. This is a war and I am a soldier. But for me, the war will never end, and I must fight it, forever.

Realization dawned on Ben Sole.

Keldon folded his arms behind his back. His expression deadened, “And if a few must suffer and die in defense of the lives of many more, then it is a decision I would make a thousand times over.”

“Keldon, wait, the Serpentis, they can’t!” Ben began to say, but his thoughts raced far ahead of his words and he spent what little opening he had gathering the wit to speak.

“Goodbye, Captain Sole”

The screen flicked out.

Ben met the eyes of Iolis. The older Amarrian sat stone faced and unreadable before turning back to his station and placing his headset down in final consignment.

Ruckus leaned back in his chair, taking a deep breath and looking out the viewport, “Welp, Captain. Its as good a day as any.”

Breep.

At such a close range and with the Alastor weakened as it was, the blasters on the Jax shredded the plating and ripped open the superstructure. The force of it knocked Ben onto his back. Pain shot through his skull and neck as he felt his head bang against the deck. He could hear, though faint, the cries of the crew below. Every seam and cranny of the ship whined and creaked and split and screamed.

Ben’s thoughts strayed, half dazed from the blow. Seth’s voice spoke a noise that he could not understand. Ruckus joined the noise with his own, a blur of formless words between them, spoken as if underwater.

Beginning to rise to his feet, the next jolt of the ship sent Ben sprawling forward, this time to break his nose against the Captain’s console. He felt his blood, warm and slick, slide over his face as he slipped back down to the floor. His senses were filled only with the sound of blaring alarms and flickering lights before the darkness overtook him.
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