This is Issue #94 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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“Where are your soldiers?” the officer asked. He sat across from Jules and Kieron, with a small sheaf of papers. He took notes in a scrawl indecipherable scrawl, and somewhere a clock was ticking, counting out the seconds.
Jules sat blankly. Her face was pale, and her heart thundered in her chest. She looked around, frowning now and then, trying to see past the bright light over the table that cast the rest of the room into shadow. She wondered if anyone aboard the Jacob knew they were gone yet. Her comms unit had fallen off when she and Kieron were first blown out the back of the ship. For all the crew knew, she and Kieron had fallen to their deaths — along with the cadet who had been in charge of watching the fuel tank pressure.
She wondered if the boy had died instantly, or fallen, knowing the whole while he wasn’t going to be saved.
She didn’t pay a whit of attention to the man asking questions.
Kieron sat in chains next to her, silent, occasionally glancing at her as though to judge what she was doing so he could anticipate what he should do next.
“When are the rest of your soldiers planning their attack?” the officer asked, mild, polite even.
She stared at her hands, where they were shackled to the table, and she carefully pressed each fingertip to the woodgrain, counting her breaths, biding her time.
Kieron didn’t answer, the same way Jules didn’t, looking mostly at his hands, feeling stressed, but not otherwise bothered.
“How do your systems work in the storm? How did you know where our ships were?” the officer asked, leaning into her field of vision.
Jules said nothing, and closed her eyes.
Kieron waited, staying quite still.
“You will give me answers, or I cannot help you,” the officer told her.
Jules smiled faintly, but opened her eyes again and said nothing.
“Is that it, then?” the officer said. “I am not here to trick you. Perhaps you will at least give me your name, rank, number, yes?”
“O’Malley,” Jules said dully. “Julianna Vernon. Commander. JVO27878446.”
“Brody,” Kieron said, looking at Jules. “Kieron Matthias. Cadet. KMB29035768.”
But the officer wasn’t even looking at Kieron. He was studying Jules, some unreadable expression on his face. He got up and moved to unlock Kieron’s shackles, and had guards get him up and walk him out of the room. Lowly, he spoke to his men in Ilonan, and they moved to drag Kieron away.
“Wait–” Kieron began. “Wait a minute, wait, WAIT!” he shouted. “No, you have t–” and then he was gone, and his shouting was muffled, and Jules heard him thrown into the room next to the one in which she was still sitting.
“He’s just a cadet,” Jules said irritably, rolling her eyes. “He’s not going to–”
The officer behaved as though she hadn’t spoken at all, sat down across from Jules and said, “Commander.” Instead, of continuing, he looked through his file, and made more notes.
Jules cocked her head to the side, frowning slightly. She eyed the pins and decorations on the man’s uniform and said, “…Captain? Do I have that right?”
“Yes. This is my ship,” he said, folding his hands in front of him on the table. “Now that we have that out of the way–”
Another soldier came in, speaking quickly, handing over another small sheaf of papers. The Captain took them and frowned, then looked over at Jules, clenching his jaw, looking furious. “You aren’t from the same ship as your companion.”
Jules looked almost smug. “Never said I w–”
“SILENCE,” the Captain said, and his tone was hatred and fury. He stood, towering over her. “You will answer my questions, but you will otherwise hold your tongue in my presence.”
Jules’s brows went up. She smiled, sweet-as-can-be. The fact that the Captain was so riled likely meant he wouldn’t be able to conduct an interview with any real finesse, and that suited her just fine — what she didn’t know, and that bothered her more than a little, was what got him so pissed.
“You’re from the Maxima,” he growled.
Her eyebrows went up, at that. “I’m from the Jacob–” It burned her heart to lie, but she knew in an instant just why the Captain was so angry. Visions of the blackened farmland swam in front of her. Abe’s fury and grief were all-consuming. He had nothing left in his heart except hatred, and the horror of it welled up in the back of Julianna’s throat.
“No. You’re the Quartermaster of the Maxima, under Captain Abramov. You’re from the ship that burned Viridian Valley,” he said, clenching his fists. “So you’re going to tell me exactly what I want to know.”
This is how it’s going to be then, isn’t it? she thought. Well, fine, then. This time, I’ll get at least one of you. At least one of you will go down with me. Jules’s expression went blank, and she relaxed her body, saying, “Delo vashe, skrimsli.”
“Oh, you speak Kriegic do you? And you taunt me with it? I can speak your vulgar tongue,” the man said, his lip curling in a disgusted sneer. “And I can also speak Kriegic. We monsters are well-educated, you know. Tell me what I want to know, or you’ll get my worst, Commander, mark my words.”
She snorted, rolling her eyes “That supposed to scare me?”
The Captain stood back up, and walked over to the wall adjoining her room to the next. The room where they’d taken Kieron. He knocked twice on the wall, and turned to look at Jules.
She stared at him, and the wall behind him, clenching and unclenching her fists, and then opened her mouth to say something else when suddenly there was a high, awful wailing bleat. Kieron’s voice.
A thunderous shock hit Jules; her heart skipped a beat. “No,” she said, her mouth dry. “No, you — don’t touch him, he– he’s not… he didn’t. He was on the Jacob. They came and stopped us. They shot the Maxima down.”
“Answer my questions,” the Captain said.
“Yebat sebya!” Jules cried, gritting her teeth. “He’s innocent.”
“He’s a soldier. Your soldier. Give me what I want, Commander, or I will carve your name and your failures into his skin until he comes apart at the seams,” the Captain told her quietly.
Breathing heavily, Jules weighed the options, and Kieron’s life came up on the light side of the scale. There were too many people on board the Jacob to risk giving any other information. She closed her eyes and shook her head. “He signed up for it,” Jules said, gritting her teeth. The chains at her wrists rattled as her hands shook. She clenched them into fists, trying to calm her heart.
The Captain knocked twice, again, and after a moment, the wailing cry picked up again, and then grew half-strangled. Kieron, again. The voice was unmistakable. “Please. Please, no, don’t — NO!”
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