My decision was made for me. There was a vox at the top of the ladder. It clacked open and the captain spoke.

“Impact,” he groaned.

There was a tearing scream, metal and wood pushed beyond their limit, and the whole ship tumbled in a slow roll noseward. I banged against the wall, then the ladder, grabbing tight as the ship began to corkscrew upwards. Below me Higgins screamed, his feet becoming entangled in the rungs as he pitched backwards. That was all that kept him from falling, his knees looped over a rung as he hung upside down, blood pouring from his mouth.

“We hit the falls!” he sputtered. “We hit the cogsdamn falls!”

“We did,” I said. Above us wood continued to groan, spars popping as they exceeded their tolerances. The anti-ballasts would be crumpling, bleeding lift. No time for mysteries. Control had to be re-established or the whole zepliner was going down. I climbed up to the Primary Chamber.

The platform outside the cabin was wet with blood. There was another body, the other guard. His chest had been opened, the ribs grinning through. He was on his back, facing the door to the Chamber, like he had turned and died before drawing his weapon. The door to the Chamber was ajar. I could see blood beyond.

Higgins reached the platform, limping. Standing up was difficult for both of us, the Glory was rising in wide corkscrews, spinning and shuddering as control systems failed. It was like a carnival ride, only slick with blood. Higgins and I braced ourselves on the railing, surveying the scene.

“Where’s fucking security?” Higgins whispered.

“We’re it,” I said. I motioned to the body on the floor. “Take his pistol and follow me.”

I waited until Higgins had the revolver, holding it in both hands, his elbows stiff at his hips. I put my boot against the door and pushed it open, slowly. The room beyond was a slaughterhouse, a nightmare of gore and broken machines. I crept inside.

The Primary Chamber, when fully functional, is a room of grim efficiency and noise. The captain has no need for luxury or comfort when he’s buttoned in, so the Chamber is stuffed with the machinery of the zepliner. Pipes and gears that serve as the control manifold for the zep covered the walls, choking out all other sound. Burners roared nearby, feeding the anti-ballasts, guiding the zep on its flight. The Chamber is the zepliner’s bursting heart; loud, hot and clamoring with vigor.

The room was quiet. The gearwork stood silent, the burners guttering, the pipes sweating condensation and blood. Blood, everywhere there was blood and silence. Higgins gasped.

“The manifold is idle. Coghell, how are we… how is the captain keeping us up?”

I shook my head and crossed to the Interface. It was a steel cylinder in the middle of the floor, held in place by a network of pipes in the floor. I stepped over the idled machinery and cycled the Chamber.

The captain’s body was a puzzlebox that had been undone and strewn about the capsule. He was still plugged in to the zepliner, the cables socketed into the pewter eyes, the heart mechanism sprouting from his origamitrick chest, gearwork meshing with the interface of the Chamber, pipes and tubes digging smoothly into his skin to plug into the conduits of his bones. To the untrained eye it looked horrible, like a dissection half done. I had seen this before, though. I had been this before.

But beyond the usual violence of the Chamber, a greater brutality had been done. His belly had been laid open, burst and hacked apart, revealing the hidden inner mechanisms of his chest. The oil slick blackness of his secondary blood trickled in with the red and white of his dying body. There was a lot of blood in this room, and most of it belonged to this man.

Higgins stumbled up next to me, took one look at the captain, and turned away from the Interface to vomit. There was a fireaxe wedged between the body and the Chamber’s gears, probably taken from a nearby ready station.

“Report,” the captain groaned from the room’s vox. We both jumped to hear the voice of the dead man at our feet. “Can control be established?”

Higgins coughed and spat. He straightened up and looked at the ceiling. His eyes were glazed. “No, sir. I’m – I’m afraid to report, sir, that you are dead. You’ve been killed.”

The room was silent. Whatever remained of this man was simply an echo, a splinter of consciousness, wandering the soul-manifold that gave the captain control of the ship. What must it be like: dead and still flying, dead and talking.

“No matter. Get the manifold going. We’ve risen too far to take it down in the Cusp. I’m going to try to get us over the falls, ditch it in the Reine. Veridon will save you.”

“Sir, there’s no way. Did you hear me, you’re dead. Whatever control you have, whatever remains… you’ll never be able to get us-”

“Start the manifold. Leave the rest to me.”

I closed the Interface, the coffin, and turned to the manifold. The axe had been used here, as well, though inexpertly. Mostly smashed gauges and severed vents. I slipped the manual overrides and began winding the primary soul-cog.

“You’re a Pilot,” Higgins hissed. “You have the implants.” He grabbed me by the shoulder, his eyes wild. “You can fly us. You can save us.”

“I can’t.”

“Why not! Even if you haven’t finished your training, for Cog’s sake, you can keep us from… from dying.”

“I can’t.”

“Why! Please, please, why?” he sputtered.

I shrugged him off and threw the cog into motion. The Chamber boomed to life, the burners engaging with hell-bent fury. Glory of Day stabilized, stopped its lazy corkscrew and started rising more rapidly, leveling off into a smooth ascent.

“Because I can’t, because that part of me is dead,” I said. I picked up the fireaxe and started to leave.

“It’s bad,” the captain said. Even through the metallic flatness of the vox, his despair was heavy. “Get the passengers to the glideboats. Soon as we’re clear of the falls and a little upriver, evacuate. Veridon will send ships.”

Just as I reached the door there was a cycle of thumps, the zep shuddering a little with each report. I looked up, then at Higgins.

“Those were the glides,” I said. “Too soon.”

“I couldn’t… I don’t know. Someone released them.” The captain’s voice was getting faint. “I’m sorry.”

“Just get us to the Reine, sir. We’ll swim, or we’ll die.”

“We’ll die,” Higgins said. His face was slack, the revolver hanging limply in his hand, resting against his knee. I shrugged and left the Chamber.

Scrambling down the ladder, I took a second to think things through. There were other entrances to the Primary Chamber, mostly service corridors that led from the crew chambers or maintenance shafts. Whoever had done for the captain probably came in that way, then left this way, killing the guards as he went. Probably those gunshots I heard, just as the ship began to lose control. Either way, the killer hadn’t come out into the dining hall. I stopped by the door to the open decks, still unlocked, and pulled my revolver. Killed the guard, climbed down this ladder and gone through this door. I cleared my mind and opened the door.

The open decks were really little more than a railed walkway that circled the zepliner just under the anti- ballasts. Only used for maintenance and access to the glideboats in the event of an emergency. Only the glideboats were gone and the anti-ballast was damaged. Tatters of it fluttered in the tearing wind, trailing wooden spars. The only light was the dull red roar of the burners, buried deep in the anti-ballasts. It was a peaceful color, everything warm like candlelight. To the front of the zep was the waterfall, slate gray and churning.

I braced myself against the railing and crept forward. There was blood here, not as much, a wet trail leading towards the empty glide berths. Maybe our murderer had gotten away clean, though he’d have to be a clever hand with the controls to land a glide safely from this height without crashing into the falls.

Was the crew still preparing the ship for lastrites, even though the glides were gone? They had to know. I was about to give up, to go inside and wait for gravity to take over when I heard a quiet sob, a strangled gasp.

I saw a boot, a leg, sticking out into the walkway. I snuck up and swung around the corner with the pistol at shoulder height. It was Marcus.

He sat in a heap on the floor, wedged between two of the joists for the anti-ballasts above. He was holding a pistol weakly in one hand and his guts in place with the other. A wide tear in his belly was leaking out between his

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