Hul Matuul’a knelt beside the fallen, unconscious shaper and drew his coufee. Unlike the fallen warriors around her, this one had not elected to suicide when the infidel gas began to fill their compartment. Instead, she had succumbed to it, and fell with her face pointed towards the armory which had been her charge, and a certain set of chemical reagents and triggers in her hands. Admittedly, it would have gone ill for his plan had she actually reached the armory and carried through with her intentions, but with communications down and an obvious boarding about to take place, she likely felt there was little choice
“I would have done the same,” the shipmaster whispered as he slit her throat. “There is no shame in what you tried to do, daughter of Yun Ne’Shel. Nor shame in failure. But I will not allow you to be captured, so go to the gods in honor.”
Behind him, and all over the ship, his few remaining warriors did likewise for those few who had not opened their own throats or bellies when the gas overtook them.
“Sir, we’ve the final report from the SAR teams.”
Carlos closed his eyes and let out a breath, leaning over the tactical board in the Illuminator’s flag bridge. A steady buzz of activity filled the air, though those nearest to him fell quiet, and stood by to hear.
“How bad, Aral?”
From a far enough distance, an outside observer would notice little difference between the debris filling a certain swath of the Aten-Re system. Yorick coral and durasteel alike, each was only a small, twinkling point of light, bathed in the soft blue glow of Aten. Were it not for the unnatural concentration in so small an arc, each little point would be easily mistaken for a distant star.
“So, ten more minutes?”
Cam was not entirely certain what his mother was talking about. He was pretty sure it didn’t apply to him, as he was actually up early. Not that he wouldn’t have minded another ten minutes of sleep; in fact, he’d tried to claim just that. For him, though, sleep would not come.
Two days before the wedding.
“Peregrine’s Claw, this is Wayfarer Station. You are cleared for transit to Xenen surface.”
“Thanks, Wayfarer. See you again in a couple of days. Claw, out.”
“He’s late,” Robert said.
“He is not late,” Talia replied. “Your chrono is fast.”
“Calibrated it just this morning. He’s late.”
“By all of two minutes,” Talia said as the Claw settled down on the landing pad. “Now hush.” Continue reading