Part 20

My breath came in choking gasps as the porters stood open mouths, shutting my eyes to block out the remains of Segni on the other side of the door, while Airomem started to shout.

“Brace the door!  Brace the door, we don’t have long!”  Her head whipped back and forth over the crew, surveying Nean who was shaking against the wall, Tom staring dumbfounded at his red hands, and a white faced and wide eyed Vaca, “The braces, where are the braces?”

“B-braces?”  Stuttered one of the porters, as Airomem whirled on him.

“Yes, braces, to reinforce the door!  They’ll be trying to burst through in any minute, first with their body weight, then with a ram!  And I give that door about a half hour before it falls in, if that.”

“A ram?”  I said, my thoughts starting to spin again, fighting the adrenaline that was coursing through my system and still screaming for me to run, “What do you mean by a ram?”

“A battering ram!  As in they’ll slam into the door with something heavy until it is no longer a door!”

“Why, why would they have something like that?”  Asked Vaca, still in shock.

“To. Break. Doors.”  She hissed, clenching her fists, then rounded on me, “When was the last war here?  How prepared are you warriors?  How quickly can we get a group of guards with weapons, here, to defend this point?”  

“W-warriors?”  Said the same porter that had spoke up a moment before as Airomem bit the side of her cheek, and I answered.

“War?  We’ve never had a war, not in all of our recorded history since the Hand of God struck!  I’ve only heard of them through books. This crew right here, these are the majority of those who would be fit for any sort of defense, minus some gardeners.  And Segni’s death is the first violent one in at least three hundred years, since the Great Thirst!”  

“The what?  Wait, no, never mind, that’s not important now.  Unless we have a way to barricade that door, they’re coming through.  And if that happens, you’ll end up just like your chief!  You lot, standing around, I want you pushing against that door as hard as you can!  It will buy us time!”

“Don’t listen to her!”  Shouted Nean, raising his face from his hands, his face wet with tears, “She’s one of them, one of the barbarians that killed Segni!  And now she’s probably going to kill us too, and eat us!  Just like they did, just like they did to-”

“Get yourself together!”  I shouted back, stepping in front of Airomem, “She did far more to protect Segni than you did!  She’s the reason any of us escaped!”

“And I’m not one of them,”  Said Airomem, “Their tribes are separate than my own, with good reason.”

“She’s still one of them,”  Shrieked Nean, “We can’t trust her!”

“What if Segni is still alive,”  Joined in Vaca, “What if he fought them off?  What if he’s trying to escape now, but we are going to lock him inside?  I command you not to hold the door!”  

The porters hesitated, but before I could speak again there was the sound of something striking the metal door as it started to swing open on its hinges, and Tom and I both lept to push our weight against it.  There was a screech as the door slammed shut, something behind it scrambling away and scratching at the metal, as I turned to address the other porters who were already jumping forward.

“All of you, against this door, now!”

Their bodies joined ours as several others collided on the other side, but the door held, rattling against the frame.

“We’ll need braces,”  Exclaimed Airomem, her voice high, “That won’t last long!”

“Hold the door, I have an idea!  We’ll be right back!”  I responded, turning to run down the hallway when Tom’s thick fingers gripped around my forearm and he pulled me close.  Then he whispered in my ear, so quiet that only I could hear him as Airomem motioned for us to hurry.

“I saw Esuri’s knife,”  He said, “I saw Sitient’s kife.  I could only stop one.  Make sure I made the right decision.”

***

“This way!”  I shouted to Airomem, streaking down the hallway, sliding on the ice on the floor. Ice that was now melting, I noticed, and air that no longer frosted in front of my face.  We turned a corner and my feet nearly went out from under me but I recovered, pinwheeling my arms as I ran down a small staircase.

“Where are we going?”  She shouted, nearly colliding with the wall herself, “There is no way that the two of us will be able to carry anything big enough to stop them back ourselves!”

“We won’t need to!”  I shouted, and continued sprinting, not stopping until I reached the room that Pliny had showed me long ago.  The control room.

Together, we burst inside, and I ran to the center table where the book I had studied earlier was still open.  And before rushing to the knobs on the far wall, I read the section again that I had found.

The section in the book labeled Gravitational Controls.  The instructions I would use to defend the ship.

Graviation for the ship has been preset to account for acceleration and deceleration inertial differentials, read the passage, Several other applications are toggled, such as the reduction of artificial gravity in hallways to allow for better transportation, or for recreational activities requiring higher values.  In the event of special circumstances, full gravitational control is enabled.  It should be noted that energy usage grows exponentially with higher gravitational values, and that gravitational changes should be communicated to the inhabitants of the ship to prevent injuries.  Furthermore, the ship’s intelligence will modulate any set gravitational values accordingly to account for inertial deltas.

“It exists,”  Came Airomem’s voice behind me as she walked over to a wall, reaching out a hand to touch one of the knobs, “It actually exists.”

Stop!  Don’t touch that!”  I shouted, and she withdrew her hand sharply.

“Sorry, I was-”

Just then, there was a noise that boomed from above, and rattling thunder that that echoed in the control room.

“Damn bastards!”  Airomem exclaimed, looking towards the origin of the sound, “They must have had the ram ready, prepared before the meeting, in case they wanted to force their way across the bridge!  We should have had more time than this.  Quick, we need to act!”

But I was already running towards the section of switches that I had identified earlier, those that corresponded to the other side of the door and to Segni’s remains.  Without a moment’s hesitation, my finger came into constant with a cold metal knob.

And taking a sharp breath, I turned it as far as it would go to the right.

Chapter 21

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