Kosis dimmed her datapad display and did some mental calculations. Even accounting for the delay brought on by the Hive artifact, they were still far behind schedule. If the situation didn't change soon, compromises would have to be made. Either she had to return with less salvage than anticipated, or she had to stretch the Ether reserves to buy more time. She'd have to reduce her own share. Or reduce the size of her crew. Kosis knew what Spider would choose.

She began cycling through crew members, deciding which one to cull, when the sudden silence of the moment struck her. No Arc cutters sizzled. No grunts of effort or idle chatter. No clangs of loaded salvage. Just the empty wind and the whir of the rusty Shank making its usual rounds.

A dull pressure built in her thorax as she surveyed the abandoned work site. She searched for any explanation except the one she knew to be true. With the holster unclipped on her Shock Pistol, she set off toward the Hive construct.

There they were, sitting idly in the dirt, staring into the slowly churning spire. They paid her no mind. She tried to speak, but only dull clicks escaped from her mandibles. When she finally found her voice, it came across as a croak, barely audible above the deafening whisper of the tower. "You lot. Get back to work."

Several of them turned and stared at her quizzically. They seemed confused. The smallest Dreg and newest to the crew, stood up. He approached her calmly, his voice the howl of the Whirlwind. "Those born only to live cannot see eternity, nor are they welcome here. If you dwell on that which is beyond your grasp you—"

The peal of the Vandal's Shock Pistol tore through the air, rupturing the crew's trance. Several leapt up while other scrabbled away in disorientation. They stared as the young Dreg slumped to the ground, his face disfigured by a blistering hole. The whispering had ceased.

In the silence that followed, Kosis found the rest of her voice. "I just extended our Ether rations by three days." She backed away, her Pistol held level. "Hurry up. We're leaving as soon as that wreck is stripped."


Category: Book: Call of the Cryptolith


VIII: And Also Light

Category: Whirlwind

Where Loyalty Lies