The vibration increased. Drew Wells snorted from Gwen’s other side. “These ships were designed nearly two hundred years ago. We went over them as best as we could, but who knows what structural weaknesses we might have missed.” The young engineer was shouting before he finished as the vibrations morphed into a loud rattling.

You’re not helping, Drew.” Gwen adored her former student, but he lacked the finer points of tactful conversation.

Laney snorted a laugh. “Breaking apart on the way down will be an easy way to go. Better than dying slowly of thirst or starvation. Or in agony from some alien disease or toxin we encounter.”

How did I wind up seated between you two?” Gwen had chosen her seat like all the others of the one hundred and sixty-three people selected to risk themselves on the first landing ship.

The ship jolted as the engines fired in reverse. The vibrations screeched into a shaking that threw Gwen against her safety belt. As the ship shuddered, her body tried to lift out of the seat.

We’re slowing.” Drew let his arm rise from his body, grinning at the weightless feeling.

That’s good, right?” Gwen clung to the edges of her seat, glad there was no food in her belly to come up.

If it’s enough If not, splat.” Drew’s grin grew.

You’re an evil man.” Gwen gripped her seat harder. The ship lurched and threw them all forward into their seats and then slammed them back. Someone cried out in pain from a few rows behind her. Then all the lights blinked out, then on, and then out again.

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