There was only the chirping of intelligent navigation systems not quite smart enough to know they had just been made redundant by forces codified by Newton and not tamed since he had laid down the laws.

With a cackle and the clink of glass on glass, the awkward silence came to an abrupt end as the first mate's choice of music came crashing out of the ship's projectors like a drunk tossed through a saloon window. It was a chunk of the album considered the defining work of the post-redereconstructionist movement. He was the only one on the crew who liked it, but nobody said a word.

They'd figured it out, of course - how much longer they had. The booze ratio was easy: three bottles a piece. No more, no less, and no trades. There was more food than they could have possibly eaten in the hour and twenty minutes (now down to forty minutes) since the last official time hack before they had all taken turns committing acts of libel in the captain's log, which was due to be beamed out before they dipped too far into the corona for transmission to be reliable.

And of course, everybody on the five man crew got 16 minutes to play whatever they wanted. So, as by long tradition, the order was decided by birthdays - the same way watches were divided for port calls, or latrine cleaning was scheduled, or choice of menu in the galley.

The clock wound down, and the crew strained for a moment to hear the music that would usher them out of this life and, perhaps, into the next.

One at a time, they straightened or sagged or sighed as they realized that the drive tech, born December 29th, had elected for a final moment of silence as she watched the surface of Beta Persei B, now far too close to distinguish any details, or perceive any rush of movement.

"It's beautiful," she said. And the crew that had argued bitterly for years over port calls, and latrine schedules, and menu choices in the galley, had no contradictions to spare.

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