Hampton Cogs

A gout of steam blew up from the grating of the catwalk and coated the metal with hot and slippery droplets of oily water. Hampton Cogs swore under his breath and hustled along, his arms laden with tools and spare parts. He was a clanking, creaking, cursing mess of a man.

He loved the current ship, The Interloper, but he knew well enough not to grow attached. The captain had this habit of changing ships whenever a better one came along, though he'd kept hold of The Interloper for longer than any other.

"Let's see," Cogs grumbled. He dumped his load on a workbench and wiped a forearm across his sweat-slicked brow. "First was The Crimson Glory, then The Staine, and we almost had The Madeus but she'd gotten away. Then after that little scuffle over Ambia and a long retrofit he ended up abandoning The Staine for this tub. A fickle, fickle man, that captain."

"I'd watch how loud you expressed your opinions, Cogs." A face floated out of the steam, followed by a lanky body. Tobias Krown, his second engineer, unfolded himself from an access port in the bulkhead. He trailed a handful of cables clutched in one of his bony hands.

"I think he'd agree, Mister Krown," Cogs said, shooting the other man an angry look, "and I'd thank you not to eavesdrop on my private conversations."

"Private? Those would be the ones you keep confined to the inside of your greasy skull. I could hear you growling halfway down the maintenance shaft."

Cogs softened and grinned. "Aye, and just because you can hear a man expressing himself don't give you the right to offer your own thoughts on the matter."

"Fair enough. But if I might ask a question—and this is most curious to me—you said the good captain tried and failed to take The Madeus?"

Cogs snapped two lengths of pipe together and picked up a welder. "Oh, that's right. You wasn't with us for that, was you?" Krown had joined the crew to replace the former mate who'd lost his life in the battle over Ambia.

"I heard tell of The Madeus though," said Krown, sorting through the cables. "Her captain and I share the same given name, though she's a woman. I heard there was something else out there in the vacuum with you."

Cogs froze, his fingers gripping the smoked goggles that hung around his neck. "Aye. I wasn't on the bridge when we encountered the… thing. But the captain seemed to know it, and he ordered us out of there just as quick as you please. We was badly crippled at that point anyway, so it was a win-win. We flew far out of range before circling back, and by the time we returned, The Madeus and the thing was gone. The captain was livid, and he's been chasing after the crew of that ship ever since."

"Chasing them? Why?"

Cogs snapped the goggles over his eyes and sparked the welder. "He wants to ask them how they survived. Though he won't talk to none of us about it. Whatever it was out there's put the fear of the vacuum in him."

2014.08.20 – 2023.04.18

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