NaNoFeed (excerpt): first crash of the school year (CW: DEATH)

The first crash of the school year interrupts breakfast conversation. Content warning: death by small aircraft crash (offstage)

***

Martisset now had a generous plate of savory lentil stew, another plate of bread, and three pears from the Academy greenhouses, which Genubi Trick-of-the-Light and her brother really didn’t like.

And all the coffee she could drink. Jehen kept pouring her coffee, until she put up her hand to say no, as the flash of the silver carafe showed in peripheral vision.

But it wasn’t the sunrise. It was far brighter — something was reflecting off the surface, something unbearably bright outside the windows.

And then the windows rattled with the shock wave.

It was adrenalin-slowed, all of it; she’d been weighing the chance of talking with Jehen, in front of all her kin, with the two siblings in particular feeding her and chivvying her along toward the simulation lab …

She hit her head against the edge of the table when Jehen and Genubi grabbed her and pushed her under the table, and upended one of the benches on the side facing the windows.

Outside the windows, somewhere on the downslope to the Inland Sea, the fireball faded from sun-bright and roiled into orange-black glowing smoke.

“The glass held,” Shamali said. “Come on, let’s see if we can help.”

When they got to the windows, there were already servos converging on the wreck. It was burning furiously; from somewhere jets of white foam sprayed on it.

“What?” Jehen said.

“First crash of the year,” Genubi said. “Nothing we can do.”

“What?” Jehen repeated. “What in the name of Void are you saying? Do people crash all that often?”

Genubi said, “Flight class. Randomly generated errors.” The tone indicated she was holding the words at great length, with insulated tongs and possibly from behind radiation shielding. “Someone met an unfortunate end, it does appear.”

Shamali had his tablet out and had flicked open the sign-out schedule for the skimmers.

“Cadets Rahel and Axia.”

“Two Iskri, administrative track,” Genubi said. She shot a glance at Martisset as if daring her to say something.

Martisset had a cold feeling in her stomach. Rahel Altair Matar Afanasi yr Iskri was a clan-cousin of her patron’s consort, and one of the names on the List.

All she remembered of the other one was that she was far enough away in the web of kinship, and sufficiently strategic, that she might also have qualified as a marriage prospect.

Well, not now. Not for herself. Not for anyone. Not anything, ever again.

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