Star'ton is MAster's mate on the ship Ecclesiastes and Morton is the Master (which is the person in charge of navigation, etc.)
Star'ton rolled on his side and let the hammock swing. A dull light dripped from the glass in the ceiling, but it burned the side of his eye. There was no sound at all but the creaking of the timbers. No sound at all. There was only the warmth growing in the stifled room. It was so lulling.
Star'ton took a deep breath in - but lost his breath at the tone of a deafening sound. Shacking from shock, Star'ton sat up; he saw others, also stirring. Then there came yelling voices from above deck. Fear convolsed inside the mate's skull, and he leapt from bed and ran up the companionway in his pajamas.
It had happened in the officer's quarters. Star'ton stepped up from the ladder and nearly slipped. He chocked down an exclamation and looked down at the deck beams. They were dripping in hot blood.
Star'ton's eyes went wide and he turned to the crowd that was gathered in the common space of the officers. Officer Testle turned and noticed the Master's mate and shivered. Star'ton caught his eyes and asked over the voices: "What's going on?"
Testle shook his head and moved nearer to Star'ton. "Ah..Mr. Star'ton..I don't know what's happened..Something to the Master.."
"The Master?!" He whipped his face toward Mr Morton's cabin and pushed his way through the officers who were gathered before it.
There was Morton dead on the floor with blood-soaked clothes. Tissue and gore was spewn accross the outer wall of the cabin and dripped down like rain on windows.
Start'on let out a moan and sank to his knees, weakened. The others saw him there and the eyes were flying about - in shock and confusion of what to do. Finally, The first officer stepped in the space and boomed:"Everyone out and make way fro the surgeon. We will discuss this later - for now, please just get back to your posts. There isn't anything you can do."
The men muttered to themselves and dispersed slowly as the surgeon's mate reached the scene and slipped in the cabin. The captain also appeared from his cabin, awakened by both shot and voice.
"Mr. Contal, what has happened here?"
"It's the Mate, sir. He's dead."
"By whom?" the captain raged.
"It seems that he has done the deed himself, sir. The surgeon's mate is examining the situation."
The captain moved into the cabin, saw the victim and turned back to the first officer. "Nobody was here when the shot was fired?"
"No, sir; so Lt Nathan has informed me. He was coming from here to the QD when it happened."
The captain nodded, chewed the inside of his lip. "That'll be all, Lt. I am going off until the morning watch. See that you have the details for me then."
The captain slammed the door on his way back to his chamber.
Contal stood motionless for a moment. Saw the men leaving with shocked faces and sorry countenances. He swallowed in a dry throat and entered the Master's cabin to [followed a few feet behind and] ask[ed] the doctor - "Is there anything you need of me that I can do?"
"Uh, no, sir; I don't believe so."
Contal nodded, heaved a deep breath and turned his face away. "This was self-inflicted, was it not?"
"So it appears, sir," the medical man replied, cleaning off the remains for burial.
"Why would a person do such a thing - he didn't even give any signs of such a thing!"
"I don't know, sir."
"Yes, yes, I know. Nevermind - just let me know when you are done here," Contal snapped.
With that, the officer left the room, closing the door behind him. All of the spectators were gone, save for Contal's aid and a wounded Star'ton who was leaning on the wall for support as he stood.
"Uhh, Mr Star'ton," the first officer started. "Why don't you take off for the evening. I will set one of the midshipmen to the log. We will speak of this again in the morning when the Captain raises his inquiry. But until then..try to get some rest."
Star'ton shook his head, eyes glazed and motionless though his bodily was softly shaking all over. "Sir, I-"
"Don't worry - no one expects you to claim any responsibility over this. It will all be worked straight in the morning when the sun has come back. I might have some answers fo r you then on why this happened, but that is none of your concern for now."
"But it IS my concern, sir!" he blurted.
He knew that with the Master dead, he was the new Master of the ship. . .
Contal put a gentle hand to stay the shaken younger man. "I know that you were of no part of this foul decision of his. And as for now, you will retain your position until the captain decides on a new solution. There is nothing you need do - it is already being taken care of. You need to take care of yourself for tonight."
Star'ton remained still, unable to move or to quell the inner agony.
Contal looked him in the face - "And James, don't fear tears tonight - they come when they will to even the strongest of men. Don't be hateful of them."
Star'ton couldn't hold back the warm, dewy tears that fell from the mosty grey lenses. He tore himself away from his stance and slowly, with leaded feet, descended the companionway which led to his bed. He collapsed into it - other mates watching him silently with questioning faces, forlorned looks of attempted comforts which couldn't be expressed. But one extinguishedthe lamp, and that was the only kindness that could have been done; The tears were unseen in the blackness of night.
Star'ton threw his hat against the wall with a sigh.
The blood splatter was gone, but it haunted his mind as strongly as the smell of the cleansers did. The 4th Lt had shoved away the Master's possessions after Star'ton had rumaged through for tools, equipment, and charts. Now, his own chest and hammock sat dutifully in the little cabin. His dulcimer case was propped up in the corner; it was already growing dusty from neglect. No matter how many of his artifacts he cluttered the area with, it would not feel like his own.