Airomem

“Before anything else, take me to a window,” Said Airomem, “Towards the back of the ship.”

“Alright,” I said, shaking the water from my shoes as ice continued to melt from the walls with the rising temperature, “But first, how much trouble are we in? How big is this threat?”

“So long as the hallway is blocked, you have nothing to worry about,” Said Airomem, “At least for now.”

“And are you the reason that the ship came back together? Did you do this?” I asked as we walked.

“Us? No, the ship came together on its own, just like it was supposed to after it was reprogrammed when the asteroid struck.”

“What do you mean, reprogrammed?”

“How- no, what exactly do you know about the ship?” She asked, stopping, “How much history do you actually have recorded?”

I smiled, and pushed my chest out.

“I’m the most knowledgeable of anyone on the ship’s history,” I said, “What do you want to know?”

“You are the most knowledgeable?” She coughed, giving me a sideways look as we started walking again,“What’s your plan for departure to new planet?”

“What exactly do you mean?”

Airomem sighed, just as we rounded a corner and a window came into view, “This is going to be difficult. Much of what you know is about to change, Horatius.  Radically.”

Then she walked over to the glass, and pressed her face against it, searching. She pulled one of the black rectangles from her belt, and gave off three quick blue flashes. Squinting past her, I saw three quick blue flashes respond from the other end of the ship, as well as a face peering back at her, the features difficult to make out in the distance.

Taking her hands, she formed several slow signs, exaggerating her movements and squinting at the person across the void, who was forming signs of their own.

“What- what are you doing?” I asked, as her fingernails clicked against the glass.

“Letting the other side know what happened.” She answered, her face in concentration.

“With your hands? You’re speaking with your hands?”

“Well, yes, and no. I can’t fully mimic human speech- there aren’t enough signs for that, and we only use them in emergencies. But I can get the general message across. Words like *safe*, *past-danger*, and *attacked*, but nothing too complicated.”

Then we started walking again, as I took care to bring her along more deserted hallways on the way to the chief’s room at the very back of the ship, and I spoke up after a moment’s thought.

“Why wouldn’t you just speak normally instead of with your hands?”

“Because sometimes, in the power room, it’s too loud to talk.”

“The power room?”

“Yes, where- ah, never mind. We’ll cover all that soon. All you need to know now is that I need to speak with your council, and that it is crucial that they listen to me. What is the current status of your side of the ship?”

“We’re limping, but making it. As Segni said, he was our leader – and recent events have hit us hard.”

“Events like what?”

“The ship coming together was the worst- we weren’t prepared for the lurch, and it claimed many of our lives as well as causing a number injuries. We would have been able to handle them, but we’re low on supplies which complicated matters further.”

“The lurch must have hit you harder than us, or at least at a worse angle. And supplies? As in food?”

“Yes- we’re low on food, and more importantly right now, medicine. The food should be back up soon- after learning how to alter the lights in the control room where we just were, I’ve been able to enhance our growing conditions to be much stronger than the past.” I said, eager to prove to her that there were parts of the ship that our side knew more about than her own, “That action, combined with more frugal stewardship and rationing, should place us into a much more sustainable position. Speaking of food, what, ah, exactly do you eat?”

“We’re not like them,” Said Airomem, gesturing backwards and guessing my thoughts, “Our food comes from the earth, from plants. These paths that we walk, they feel familiar- they’re mirrors of our own, on our end of the ship. We just entered what would be my tribe’s territory on the other end. The rest belongs to the Agrarians and Aquarians.”

After a few more minutes walking, we reached the chief’s room where Elliot was already waiting outside, and the door was open for entry. And Airomem stopped in her tracks, her eyes wide in realization and her hand clutched around my forearm, pulling me away.

“I’m not going in there,” She hissed, and started backing away. “And neither should you, if you value your life.”

***

Chapter 37

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