And now…. Chapter 21!
The sound of a crash slammed into my eardrums again, far louder this time, reverberations reaching us in the control room as the book shook off the table.
“I don’t understand, it should have worked!” I said, double checking the knob and jiggling it to be sure that there was no room left to turn. It was the right one, corresponding with the correct section of the ship according to the manual.
When I had tested the knob indicated to adjust the control room, it had worked- I’d felt my arms being dragged down to the ground, and my spine crunching under the excess weight, just like I felt in the heavy room.
But this time I must have been wrong.
“They’ll be breaking through now!” Shouted Airomem as we heard shouts, “Hurry, we need to get back! We can defend the door for some time at least! With any luck, if we harm enough of them they’ll turn back and we can regroup, and maintain the bottleneck. But once they break through that door there will be no stopping them!”
We ran back the way we had came, thoughts flooding my mind as Airomem removed the black rectangles from her belt and blue light flashed along the walls.
Like she said, if they had already broken through then we would already be defeated. With several more times people on their end of the ship than our own, defending ourselves would be impossible. Even if they did not harm a single person on our end, they would find our crops, and without stores weakened from the combination of feasting and my actions then we would starve.
Water had now puddled thick upon the floor from the icy walls, frigid moisture soaking through my shoes with each step. And we were nearly at the corner when the shouts had grown more frantic.
And I wondered what we would do.
We had almost no weapons. In my entire life before that day, I’d never been in a fight whose consequence was anything more than a potential broken bone. And after seeing Segni go down, I knew how this fight would end.
Then we turned, and I saw the scene that was waiting for us.
The porters still stood with their backs against the door, pushing against the metal. Nean and Vaca watched from the hallway, ready to run at a moment’s notice.
But nothing had changed except for the screams on the other end of the wall. Which, though faded, now sounded quieter than they should at our proximity.
“What happened?” I said to Tom, my breaths coming in stuccatto gasps, “We heard the ram, are they preparing for another strike?”
“One hit,” He answered, “Then nothing. Only noise.”
“It’s unlike them,” Said Airomem, “Typically, when they are blood lusted they do not give up that easily, or until they can carry away some of their own dead. Their tribes detest each other, however, and made a peace pact for today only. Maybe it broke down.”
“Have you heard anything close in the past few minutes since we left?” I asked, listening, and Tom shook his head.
“Then open the door.” I said, “But be prepared to slam it shut again.”
“I would advise against that,” said Airomem, flashing the blue lights brighter, the porters flinching away.
“We’ll be alright,” I answered, “I know what happened. Go on, open it.”
One by one, the porters stepped away until only Tom was left. With a nod he grasped the hand holds in the center, and pulled, slowly cracking the door until it was only an inch open. And stepping forward, I placed my eye against the crack.
“Clear!” I said, and pushed the door open as we crowded around the opening.
At the far end of the hallway several bodies were squirming away on all fours, dragging their limbs along the floor, their hair plastered to the sides of their heads. And directly in front of us was the battering ram where it had fallen under increased gravity, its edge denting the metal floor underneath.
The front of it was the remains of a metal grating, folded over and hammered into a blunt edge. And the body was constructed the tops of desks, dressers, and bed frames bound together, with fabric handholds from ripped apart clothes lining the sides. Inside the hollow frame was gardening dirt which had given it weight, but now spilled out a crack in the back. Underneath the ram a shoe stuck out, trapped underneath its weight, and a trail of blood led from it back to the door at the other end of the hallway where the last of the others had disappeared from sight.
I averted my eyes from the red mass past the end of the ram, though little of Segni remained. Instead, it looked as if they had taken him with them to their side of the ship.
“They’ve fled!” Shouted Vaca, “And taken Segni with them!”
Before I could stop him, he crossed over the threshold into the hallway, Nean moving at his side. Or, as Airomem had called the hallway, the bridge.
Confusion crossed their faces as their first step slammed into the ground, puling the rest of their bodies forward. Vaca’s face followed, smashing into the metal, an audible snap sounding as his nose arrived first and bent under the weight of his head. Nean caught himself with his hands before collapsing on his chest, his arm muscles bulging as he pushed himself up, his legs which were still across the threshold kicking.
“I’m suck!” Shouted Vaca, he voice nasally, “Help, I’m stuck!”
Tom reached down and took each of their legs in a hand, then pulled them backwards, sliding them out of the bridge.
“The hallway is now a heavy room,” I said, pointing as Vaca held his nose, “But much heavier than you are accustomed to. So heavy that making it across is difficult, and we can fend away anyone who gets close. All we have to do is defend this single point, and we defend our entire side of the ship. As long as we post guards, our life will go unchanged.”
“Unchanged?” Shouted Vaca, and sniffled as tears accompanied the blood on his face, “Without Segni, who will lead us? How will we be able to survive?”
“Why, you of course,” Said Nean, and knelt in front of him, “Just as I protected your brother, I will protect you. And just as he led, you will lead. And I assure you, those that were responsible for his death will pay dearly.” And with that sentence, he turned to look at me, his eyes narrowed and furious.
“Me, chief?” Said Vaca, holding his hands in front of him.
“Not yet,” I said quickly, “Without the approval of the council-”
“Then for my first decree,” Said Vaca, ignoring me, and pointing a finger at Airomem, “I want her locked away, for what her people did to my brother!”