Author : Sam Clough, Staff Writer

Peter sat on the harbour wall, coat high around his neck in an effort to keep out the spray of water in the air. The freezing mist had a way of insinuating itself between layers of clothing. The sea roared defiance to sky, and at the horizon air and water intermingled, melting together into a gray mess.

Savannah drew her gloved finger through the patch of grey, brought it to her nose, and sniffed. Still unsure as to what was causing the mystery liquid to bubble out from underneath a drive plate. She stood up, and retrieved a nanowelder from her kit. Before she could set to disassembling the plate, the entire ship rocked, and proximity alarms started droning like a swarm of very, very angry bees.

Able carefully reassembled the hive, his confident motions fruit of long practice. Tending his father’s beehives was one of his favourite hobbies, and had been ever since he’d got over his fear of stings. He felt a slight rumble through his feet. An armoured column was in the area. The sheer mass of unwillingly moving metal always bought an earthquake with it.

Bernard kicked the seismograph: the needle abruptly ceased its shiver, and registered one slight peak. Seismic surveys of outworlds were about as dull as ditchwater: Bernard was reminded of enthralling times that he’d had watching alcohol evaporate.

Moll groaned, wishing that she could transpire alcohol. It had seemed like a good idea at the time, but then it always did. She blinked, trying to clear her vision. Her head was pounding, a rhythmic thump-thump, thump-thump. The wreckage of the party was still ankle-deep. Neb was slumped over the table, and Zal was picking his way towards the door, to answer the incessant knocking.

Tac pressed a hand to his armoured helmet, a useless attempt to ease the pain of the drumming piped through his implant. The drums, the call to war. They focused you, and drove away your fears and nightmares. The drumming never stopped, it modulated — your orders were embedded in the beat. The rest of Tac’s squad took up firing positions around him. Railguns cracked the air, forming gusts which threatened to knock him over.

Nathalie felt the displaced air, and flinched. The brick shattered on a policeman’s riot shield. She had gone to the demonstration because the politics had finally touched her life, restricted her freedom. Like thousands of others, she’d turned out to voice her rejection of the government. But it had got messy. The demonstration had turned into a full-blown riot and Nathalie was just desperate to get out. She spun round, looking for a way through the press of bodies. Someone caught her arms, wrenched them up behind her back: two policemen were pinning her, a tonne of bricks keeping her stuck to the ground.

Graph gasped as the rubble settled. It sounded like his ribs were splintering. One of his legs was definitely broken, and both of his arms were at least dislocated. This was, he assured himself, the last time he followed a radio signal into an ‘abandoned’ warehouse. He coughed, and grimaced at the pain. The explosive had left a residue in the air that was playing havoc with his lungs: his mouth was full of the taste of sulphur and metal.

Indar stared out at the blackness. The effect was electrifying. His hair was standing on end, and he could taste the metal tang of a forcefield.

“This is it,” the girl said, “you’ve reached the top, just moments before the earth will stop…”

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