"There’s no hope,” the Destroyer said cheerfully. “You are so close to the first stage of madness. Might as well give in."
"Do not listen to him, Jeska," Prnei said.
“Shlow down!” said Riox as he approached from a distance.
“We are not moving,” Prnei said as Jeska’s continued to cry.
To Riox, everything looked like it was moving. That's why he misjudged the 10-foot distance between him and his friends and increased pressure to his organic jets.
Riox barreled into Prnei's back at full speed and bounced off like a balloon pushed into a wall.
Riox's top speed wasn't very fast.
“Jusht came to sheck on you,” Riox said, when he stopped spinning.
“How sweet,” the Destroyer said. “But it doesn’t matter, soon—"
“Pleash take ush to Jeshka’s quartersh, Liar,” Riox said. “Burp.”
Responding to the name the crew had given her 2.7 billion years earlier, the Station’s Administrative Mind obliged.
There was a flash, an odd smell, and then Jeska, Riox, and Prnei were in Jeska’s room.
The Destroyer’s voice was gone.
The playing card that had been wedged in one of Riox’s air slits evaporated, like all rec room equipment taken inside crew quarters.
As Jeska tried to stifle her sobs, Prnei said nothing and continued to hold her. Even Riox knew it was time to be silent.
She cried for a while.
When her tears subsided, she spoke with a soft voice.
“I’m sorry for shouting at you, Prnei,” Jeska said.
"You do not need to apologize," Prnei said.
“Don’t you have to …?” she asked, pointing upward.
“Yes, thank you,” Prnei said, letting go of Jeska and extending two tentacles to pull himself up.
Safely back on the ceiling, Prnei felt immediate relief.
He had hidden his pain from Jeska, forcing himself to stand in the agonizing position that was right-side-up for the rest of the crew.
As he stretched out, he felt the ache subside. His vital fluids returned to their original locations, his eyes stopped bulging, and his three lungs re-inflated.
Because of Prnei physiology, standing on the ground for fifteen minutes had brought him close to death.
He decided not to tell Jeska, in her emotional state, how very, very close it had been.