Unnamed Journal 7 - Page 16

Like a sandcastle breached by an invisible wave Zool and the rest of them suddenly dissolved into the same fine white dust he had seen onVulture One. Six of his crew were sitting at the center table. They were not eating. They were not talking. They were sitting there, looking at him, as though they had been waiting for him to come in the door. In front of them, standing still as a golem, was Alera Zool. She looked quite as strong and young and full of a hinterland childhood on Earth as when she first signed on, a hotshot pilot with fresh Union certification, to get a share of the Vulture. But that was only the body. Her eyes, which had danced with excitement, now regarded Lang with a predator's opacity. Lang looked into those eyes and the nerves along the back of his head shuddered. He did not understand what he was seeing. But the strange feeling did not escape him. This was not Alera Zool. Lang repeated this experience with the sitting members of his crew. They were all there, and all not there. Kel Gaussman and Mara Luntz and Hen Fulgor and Obadiah Willems, and next to them, Ed Kronz and Jon Hunstail. But the more Lang was sure he was seeing them, the more he was sure that they were not there to look back at him. "Skipper" said Zool, and Lang was almost positive he was hearing the rest of them say it, too, if just under their breath. Lang said nothing.  Like a sandcastle breached by an invisible wave Zool and the rest of them suddenly dissolved into the same fine white dust he had seen on Vulture One. Then together the dust gathered into a single pillar and before Lang's mind could process what his eyes were seeing it was upon him. He tried to evade but managed no more than a flinch, a duck and cover. So this is it, went through his mind. But it was not it. The beast never came. The blow never fell.  After a what seemed like a long time to wait for death, Lang looked up and saw the fine white dust sandstorming in a perfect hemisphere around him. It was translucent enough to allow the mess hall's LED lights to come through, but not enough that Lang could see anything beyond it. It seemed to hum at a frequency just on the low edge of his hearing. It did not sound happy. Finally this hemisphere dissipated from the apex and flowed down a nd away from Lang. With the speed of rapids it gushed out of the mess hall to the aft of the ship. To engineering. "Covey," said Lang, and he ran after it. As he sprinted, he felt his internal pacemaker jolt his system. He'd had it installed years ago as an enhancement, something that would allow his heart to shove through sudden moments of stress and restart after a severe shock to the system. It wasn't exactly an experimental procedure, and it wasn't exactly commonplace. He saved up two whole shares as First Mate of the Expletive Express to get it. He felt it in his muscles, hot and tight. He didn't remember the last time he ran this fast, as the corridor leading back past the Airlocks to Engineering. Covey was there when he entered, looking quizzically at his captain. "You," said Lang, between breaths. "Skipper?" said Covey. "Is that you?" said Lang, which was pointless, because he knew it was. Covey stood like that, with his shoulders stooped and his head jutted forward like a peacock. "Who else is it going to be?" "I don't know. Never mind." "What's all this?" "I don't know. We need to get out of here. I need you to see something, but first, we need to get out of here." "Out of where, skipper?" That thought paused Lang. Where were they going to go? There was no way to seal the bridge, or anyplace else, away