Lights flashed in the sky, blinking through the smoke and flickering flames as beams of light tried to pierce through the chaos. The hum of giant engines almost drowned out the crackle of fire as the ship descended, it’s size quelling some, but not all of the fire. Not enough to save the city.Heat was blasted away from the area. Bodies packed in upon bodies, slick with sweat that came from both heat and fear. Hands reached high, grasping towards the ship that now blotted out the sky, as if they could drag it down toward them by sheer force of will.
People weren’t supposed to be packed into the street as they were. Yet there were hundreds, crammed in amongst each other as the buildings around them burned. People pushed in, ashen and burning, screaming, even as those at the outskirts of the crowd were shoved toward the unforgiving flames.
The fire was their sin, engulfing the ring city of Tear, two weeks before they were set to start drilling into the planet Gal’s core. Gal would be saved from the fire, but Tear would not recover.
More lights, blinding and yet hypnotic. The ship fell out of sight under the intensity of the lights. Then the crowd began to shift. Individual beams of light grabbed at people in the crowd, illuminating them right before they disappeared. More beams of light, people shoving and fighting over them, desperate to be whisked away from the endless heat.
People pushed. A mother, thin and frail from lack of food, grasped at her child and hoisted her into the air, thrusting her toward the overwhelming light above. Half a heartbeat later, and the child was snatched away by a beam. The light never came for her mother, who was ambushed by the crowd, thrown back into the fray.
Other’s grabbed at younglings, hauling them out of a beam and diving into it in their place. A haggard man, who bulged from too much food—his shirt adorned with the stripes of an officer—barged a young boy from a beam.
Everywhere there was chaos. The city was dying. Under fire. The great metal arms that kept the heart of the city spinning had creaked to a stop that morning, throwing the entire city into chaos. Everything had stopped. When the city stopped moving, the power went out, and there was silence. No machine hum. No steady vibration through the feet of those who lived within Tear.
The fire started not long after the city stopped, though no one quite knew how it had started. With the fire, came chaos.
The Cruiser had not heard the distress call, for there had been none. Without the heart of the city in motion, they didn’t have even enough power to send out a beacon.
Instead, the Cruiser’s Captain had seen the fire. A solitary planet, ringed in flame, lightning up the sky. He had never seen anything like it. An entire Planetary Star City ablaze.
Upon seeing the burning city, the Captain had sent out his own distress call. Yet the crew knew, there would be no one close enough to save all within the city. They had been rerouted due to solar storms, and had been passing through the solar quadrant quite by accident, anyone else close enough, would be in similar circumstance.
As a cruiser, they had little space to offer, but could not sit by idle and watch an entire city burn.
Though the crowd below them began to thin, it was not enough. The ship’s capacity was already at it’s limit—over and beyond. The lights began to dim, and the Cruiser began to pull away from the flames and the distraught crowd.
A small boy darted through the growing mob. Slipping between legs and arms and pushing bodies. He was searching for his friend.
‘Caster!’ he pushed through the crowd, his face smeared with soot and muck and sweat. ‘Caster! Where are you?’
The boy paused, his head cocking to the side, his eyes rising through the crowd, searching for the source of the drawn out call.
He turned, shifting through the crowd toward the outskirts of the street. He was pushing against the flow now, as they all surged inwards, trying in vain to reach toward the leaving ship. It was still picking out people from the crowd, but the intervals between beams were surely growing.
Asher Dow of Tear City finally spotted his friend.
The older boy was perched atop a broken down street vendor’s cart. With the nimbleness of street kids, Asher ducked around one final man and reached for the side of the cart. He hauled himself up, scrambling up through the strange conglomeration of wood and metal, until he swung up and over the side.
‘Asher!’ Caster called, grabbing hold of one of Asher’s grubby arms and pulling him away from the jostling crowd below. ‘Everything’s burning!’
‘I know,’ said Asher. Navy blue eyes scanned the dark street. Firelight flickered in the reflection of his eyes as he peered up at the ship.
‘They’re taking people away,’ he said, pointing up.
‘But they’re leaving,’ said Caster, shielding his eyes.
One side of his face lit up in the glow of flames that was spreading ever closer. The building behind them creaked, it’s weight becoming too much now that the foundations had been damaged.
Asher looked up, seeing the top of the building sway high above. ‘We have to get out of here too.’
Asher pointed again.
‘But they’re leaving!’
Asher stared at the departing ship. It was the biggest ship he’d ever seen. Oh he’d seen docking ships, and cargo ships, and transport ships—but none of those compared to the Cruiser. It was long, and sleek, rimmed in lights.
He felt a faint buzz tingle up his spine. Almost like the vibrations of the city, but different. As if someone was trying to call out to him. As if the blinking lights of the ship were staring at him.
Unsure why, Asher reached out a hand, mimicking those in the crowd below—though his wave was pleading. He stretched out, fingers grasping as if ready to take hold of someone’s hand.
‘Lullaby,’ he said, the word lost amongst the call of the crowd and the crackle of the flame.
‘What?’ Caster yelled, leaning in next to Asher.
The reflection of the ship in Asher’s eyes, combined with the glow of the firelight, made Caster pause.
‘Lullaby,’ said Asher again, and felt the buzz tickle up his fingers in an answering call.
One of the shifting beams of light swivelled their way, engulfing the pair of them up there on the cart roof. People’s heads turned. A surge from the crowd made the cart wobble and Asher almost lost his footing. His feet slipped, and his balance tipped over the edge of the cart roof.
Caster grabbed hold of him, trying to pull him back across the edge. Another jostle, and the two boys began to fall. Blinding light. The faint tickle turned into a vibration so strong Asher felt it in his bones. He could see nothing. He could smell nothing—not even the thick smoke, the burning of his home. He could hear nothing. Nothing except the buzz. The rumble echoing along his skin and an endless void of oblivion.