This is Issue #50 of DeathWatch, an ongoing Serial. Click that link to go find ‘A Beginning’ and read from there, if you need to catch up.
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“I need the Captain,” Kieron said, looking at Nate.
“She’s gone to bed,” Nate began. “And anyway — are you drunk? You stumble out of the meeting like you’re going to throw up. I find you out here sleeping,” he snorted, rolling his eyes.
“I need Sha,” Kieron said, shaking his head. “I can’t tell you,” he said, looking apologetic, but firm.
“This is too fuckin much,” Nate growled. “You’re crew, which means you’re mine. You got a problem, that makes it my fuckin problem. You go through me, and I go to the goddamn Captain, Brody — stop making this stupid.”
“She’ll know what I–” Kieron began.
“Damnit, Brody!” Irritated, Nate rolled his eyes and moved to haul Brody down the deck. “Fine,” he snapped. “We can go visit the Captain,” he growled. They marched across the boards, and Nate only barely resisted the urge to pull Kieron’s arm up behind up and force him to move double. He rapped on the door of the Captain’s quarters, but didn’t bother to wait for a reply before he pulled it open and shoved Kieron in. “Tell her,” Nate said.
“Tell me what?” Sha said, turning to look at them. Her expression turned from minor annoyance to shock and worry when she saw the glassy, nauseated look on the recruit’s face. “Kieron? Who was it? What do you need?”
Nate looked frustrated; obviously he was missing something — he didn’t know why the captain knew about Kieron’s problem more than he did. Normally on so many things, he wouldn’t care, could roll with the punches, but somehow this seemed more important, seemed like something he should know about — and for Sha to know and not have talked to him, it was either completely unimportant, or very, very important. Given his status as Quartermaster, he thought he should know what was going on, at the very least.
“The Maxima,” Kieron breathed, his expression full of pain. “Find the ship, Captain. You have to get to them, before they do it.”
“Do what?” Nate wondered, furious. “Sha, what in the name of all the blue fucks is the kid on about?”
Bright eyes looked haunted; the Captain pressed her fingertips to her forehead, briefly. “Fuck me,” she breathed, shaking her head. “We know their general whereabouts for two weeks from now, not their charts, I don’t know how we–” She stopped racking her brains, and looked to Kieron, who merely looked expectant. “He’s got Jacob’s curse,” Sha blurted, looking at Nate. Kieron didn’t flinch, so she imagined, at least for the moment, that it was the right thing to do.
Until Nate exploded. “What?” His eyes were wide, but his face was red, and his hands curled into fists.
“Nate–” Kieron began. He didn’t want this to turn into something stupid. They had to move fast.
“You didn’t THINK to fucking TELL me?” he said, furious. He wasn’t staring at Kieron, however — he was looking at Sha.
Kieron tried with the Captain, hoping cooler heads would prevail “Sha–”
She answered in kind; it was easier to slip into bickering than for either of them to comprehend what Kieron’s distress could mean for those they loved aboard the Maxima. “Fuck you! It wasn’t my secret to tell!” she snapped.
Nate pointed an accusing finger, baring his teeth as he snarled “I’ve had him doing jobs he could’ve fucking DIED on if he got a sight while in the middle of–is THAT why he fucking fell off the ship, Captain? Is that what I wrecked my arm for? Because you were keeping secrets?”
The level of tension was simply too much; Kieron tried again to get either of them to pay attention, but they were both so caught up in shouting at one another that he had to get their attention by any means necessary. He grabbed the nearest thing at hand, which happened to be the table upon which Sha had a few books and maps resting, and upended it toward the shouting couple. It crashed, sending things flying, and made both Sha and Nate flinch, startled. “SHUT THE FUCK UP AND FIND ME THE MAXIMA!” Kieron shouted, his eyes wide and wild, his voice louder, angrier, more desperate than it had ever been.
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The pilot changed course on Sha’s orders, even as the navigator squawked and snarled about getting them discovered by the Ilonan ground forces, but when Sha then commanded them to go to full speed for as long as possible and send out a shortwave for the Maxima, the crew complied with speed. Something was up. Something was wrong. They fell into ‘duty’ mode and simply did what they were told as quickly and quietly as possible.
Once the ship was set to go, Sha herded Nate and Kieron into the maps room and pulled the door shut.
“I can’t believe you didn’t–” Nate began, looking furious.
“Shut up,” Kieron said, his fingers pressed to his temple. “It was my choice to keep it to myself, don’t yell at her about it.”
“I can fight my own battles, Brody, but thank you. Nate, shut up, seriously. It wasn’t my secret to tell. He was getting the same benefits from being around the aether engines that Jacob was. No reason to think he wouldn’t do just fine–”
“–until he fucking didn’t,” Nate said bluntly. “Jacob had plenty of close calls — Brody’s condition is a risk I should’ve been aware of. What do you think I’d go telling everyone what he can–”
And then it hit Nate — the sudden overwhelming dread that comes with remembering something. “Brody — for all of this, I knew what Jacob could do. What happened to him. So unless what’s happening to you is drastically different, I only got one question: Why are we going after the Maxima?” He reached out a hand and put it on Kieron’s shoulder, his expression begging. Don’t say it. Do not say it. “Who’s dead?”
Kieron closed his eyes, remembering the taste of salt and copper and fire, the site of Abramov’s face as he begged forgiveness, and the way his own throat burned as he tried to speak. “If we don’t stop them from what they’re about to do, Nate? All of them.”
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