“In my absence,” Said Airomem’s father to the room, fifteen of the Lear’s most experienced members within, “Each of you shall command over your areas of expertise.  Airomem, you shall take charge the power room.  Prometh, I give you council over the young of the ship, and over education.  To matters of war, to the military committee.  Each of you shall act independently until I return, and should I not return, make plans for the appointment of a new leader.”

“But who shall accompany you?” Asked Prometh, seated in a chair in the front, his few fingers stroking a silvered beard, “And more importantly, what is the point of this expedition?”

“I suspect I will have to go alone,”  Her father answered, “The Agrarians and Aquarians will be suspicious enough, and should I try to bring additional people, their suspicion will only increase.  As to why this mission is necessary, it is because we will need those on the other end of the ship in order to survive.”

Her father pulled a large roll of paper out from underneath his chair, then unfurled it on the table, pinning down the corners with dinner plates until it was as long as a man laying down.

“This paper,”  He said, gesturing, “Was left to us by Necti himself from those before him, and details what will happen as we reach our destination.  First, and most importantly, it mentions the awakening of this ship.  For those of you in the power room, that means we’ll have to crank up the reactor to levels higher than ever intended by the original designers.  Efficiency will be low, but we should only have to maintain it for a limited amount of time – which is fortunate, for our dwindling fuel stock will be exhausted quickly.”

“This is preposterous!”  Said a voice from the back, belonging to AJ’s father named Tela, one of the older members of the war committee, “If Necti is wrong, and our power is exhausted, we will have no bargaining chips against the Agrarians and Aquarians.  If the lights go out, we will be starved, starved then overrun!”

“The you better hope he isn’t wrong!”  Snapped back Prometh, popping the edge of his chair back against the edge of a nearby table, “By my estimates, the ship has twenty five years of fuel left until the reactor fizzles out through normal consumption.  And that’s a best case scenario!  So either we take the risk, or your children face certain darkness.”

“Is this, is this true?  Why were we not informed?”  Demanded Tela.

“The arrival of Dandelion 14 at its destination is beyond our control,” Answered Airomem’s father, “For this reason, the fuel stock was kept secret to prevent general panic.  We had plans within the next tow years to start rationing energy more strictly, however, we are now close to arrival.  And that is why we must act.  Come closer, and see what we have to do.  This concern lies close to you as well, Tela, for we may be in dire need of your military strategy.  Come, here, where you can see the paper.”

Those within the room crowded forward, standing around the table, squinting down at the minuscule handwriting and stenciled diagrams on its surface.

“Where did you get this?”  Asked Tela, his voice suspicious.

“It has been passed down from chief to chief since Necti left us,”  Said Airomem’s father, “Aside from myself, Prometh is the only other person to know of its existence.  Now, the paper itself is simple enough to read – it moves from top to bottom, detailing each stage the ship will enter.”

He pointed at the top and they leaned in, following his fingertip as he spoke.

“Necti programmed the ship such that the halves would come together when the destination planet became close.  That is what will happen first- the ship will repair itself, and systems come online.  This has two implications- one, as I mentioned, is the power requirement change.  And two, due to our position at the back of the ship, the Agrarians and Aquarians will be the first to meet with the other side, which could be disastrous.”

“You said we may need the other side to survive,”  Said Tela, “Why is this?”

“We do not know what awaits us on the new planet,”  Airomem’s father responded, “The more of us to face conflict, the better.  But that is not the only reason- whoever remains on this ship will die. Those on the other end are our brothers and sisters- we cannot condemn them to that fate.”

“For all we know, they could be as bad as the Agrarians and Aquarians!”  Responded Tela.

“And for all we know,”  Said Airomem, “They could be an enormous benefit.  We’ll have to give them the benefit of the doubt, we ‘ll have to meet them before we pass judgement.”

“Precisely,”  Said Prometh, “And we may need their help sooner than we think.”

“Yes, we may,”  Said Airomem’s father, “For the ship itself will never land on the destination planet.  No, as I mentioned, Dandelion 14 will continue sailing past it.  Only a small piece of the ship will detach itself and carry those within to safety.  And that piece of the ship is currently unattainable to us, beyond our reach.”

“It’s the third broken segment, which will be repaired along with the rest of the ship,”  Said Prometh, his eyes glinting, “And we’ll have to fight our way past the Agrarians and Aquarians to the only entrance. To the bridge.”

***

Chapter 31

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