Crude image of the ship below. What’s that? You’re an artist? Yes I would love it if you made a better picture as fan art!
Shrieks erupted around the garden as the floor lurched, knocking gardeners off their feet and into the mud as the cables holding the ship snapped taut. Above, the lights flickered and dimmed as the ship lurched again, the visuals accompanied by the sound of screeching metal in the distance.
“First the chief died.” Shouted Skip, raising to his knees, his face white, “Then the crops died. Now this, now we die! The Hand of God is upon us again and no doubt in punishment!”
Glancing around, the gardeners stared at me from every direction, many of their expressions accusing. But in greater numbers were the children I had taught and the group of gardeners that had recently adopted my methods, a different expression on their faces. A mix of confusion and of expectation. Faces searching for hope.
“Listen up,” I shouted to them, planting the blade of my shovel deep into the soil for a post to hold onto as the ship shifted again, “There is no reason yet to be frightened! There is no reason to panic! We are the gardeners, the backbone of the ship. We are the lifeblood. Stay put, and continue working on the crops- show the rest of the ship your example and your grit.”
“But what if-” Shouted Skip, and I turned towards him, my nostrils flaring and voice commanding.
“There is no time for what ifs. Skip, it is now your time to lead. Now more than ever we must enforce your mantra and do as we have always done. We must garden, we must provide for the ship. And I promise you that while you protect the crops, I will speak with the chief himself, and determine what action needs to be taken for your safety and the safety of your families. Do you understand?”
Wide eyed from across the field, Skip nodded as there was another tremor and the color flooded again from his face. Then he was standing, barking out orders to his gardeners, his voice slightly higher pitched than normal. Not because I had given him the order, but because it is easier to face a disaster while staring at work than staring at it head on.
Once my gardeners were organized, I walked calmly from the gardens, then broke into a sprint as soon as I was out of eyesight, zig zagging through the hallways to the council room. Even with Segni in charge, there would be an emergency meeting – and though he might not be present, which was likely to be the preferable option, the rest of the council members would still convene.
As I neared the council room, my path brought me parallel to the windows of the ship, where I could watch as the second half of the ship pivoted in the distance. It was slow, so slow I had to stop my running and compare it against the background of stars to be able to tell, watching as it eclipsed a peculiar grouping of seven stars shaped like a ring. And within the windows of the other side, there was a flurry of movement, dark shapes that hustled through corridors, followed by bursts of the strange blue light that had occasionally flashed through the windows in the past.
“You!” Shouted Segni, pointing at me as I burst through the doors of the council room, breathing heavily, “Just who we were waiting for. Now we can begin!”
“Segni, as I was saying, our situation is dire,” Said the head doctor, Hannah shaking by his side, “The lurch has caused dozens of injuries in the kitchens, from burns to cuts, and already we are stretched thin on herbs to treat infections- and that is just for the kitchens! The number of reports of lacerations alone I expect in the next few hours is surely to be astronomical.”
“Then grow more herbs, Horatius,” Said Segni, with a shrug, “So that we don’t face a shortage.”
“The bare minimum time I need to grow medicinal herbs, depending upon the varieties you require, is three weeks.” I answered, and my muscles in my shoulders tightened as I thought how the overhead lights had started to dim when the ship moved, “Make that four weeks.”
“Fine. In four weeks, you’ll have your herbs then.” Said Segni.
“But the infections will have set by then! We need them now, Segni!” Exclaimed the head doctor, as Hannah put her face in her hands.
“Then maybe,” snarled Segni, “You shouldn’t have used so much in the past!”
“And refuse treatment to those who needed it?”
“You could have stretched it.” Said Segni, “Instead of using them for everyone who came crawling for aid. Obviously they need it more now.”
“There’s more,” Said Elliot, his voice quiet from the other end of the table. The council turned to face him, a vein on his neck throbbing as he spoke and his eyes hard, “More news, after I took stock of the injuries in my kitchens.”
“Go on, then.” Said Segni, waving a hand.
“As you know, we rely upon porters for the transportation of food to the kitchens. During the lurch,” Elliot swallowed, then continued, “During the lurch, the majority of the porters were in the heavy room.”
My breath caught in my chest as Segni waited, his expression blank. After all the hours I had spent in the heavy room, I knew the caution required when handling the equipment, how anyone who endangered others by using it inappropriately was swiftly punished.
“And?” Segni said, his voice impatient.
“And I’ve already called for the doctors.” Said Elliot, shaking his head and staring at the table, “It’s… It’s a mess.”
“We’ll send the porters back to clean up the weights then.” Responded Segni, “The doctors wouldn’t be much help in lifting them.”
“No!” Shouted Eliott, and I saw tears threatening spill onto his cheeks, “No! It’s a mess because at least half the the porters are dead, Segni! It’s a mess because the entire room is painted crimson and those who are not dead are severely injured, with little to no herbs to help them! A wall of weights fell when the ship lurched – I’d like to think it killed them mercifully had I not heard the screams when I approached, but I did. Oh I did. And now they’re gone, half our labor force, but also our shipmates, our friends!”
“We can replace them with gardeners,” Countered Segni, “They’re just porters, so their job can easily be learned. As well as the chefs who can help- hey, where do you think you are you going? What are you doing?”
“I’m going somewhere I can be of use!” Shouted Elliot as he reached the door, “Because that place obviously is not here!” He slammed the door, the sound echoing throughout the chamber as Hannah stood and followed him, not saying a word as she departed.
“Half the porters dead,” I muttered, “The kitchens injured. The doctors short on medicine. The food stores low and half the gardens dead.”
“I know.” Hissed Segni, “Don’t you think I know that?”
“But what about what happens next, Segni? Look, out the windows. The ship is coming together where the Hand of God smashed it apart. The voice said the two halves of the ship are reuniting in a day, which means that everyone on that side will be able to come to this side. Watch, through the window, see their half moving?”
“By the Hand of God,” Whispered the head doctor, “He’s right. We need to call Elliott and Hannah back! As well as the historian! We’ll need full council to determine how to meet them. It will be the first time in centuries.”
Segni squinted as he stared out of the window, then he leaned over the table, his nostrils flared and jaw clenched as he looked towards me, one of his hands resting inside the box that normally kept his strawberries.
“Like he said, someone will have to meet with them. But this,” He said, waving his other hand in the air, “All of this, how will this affect the birthday feast?”
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