Rations were lower than ever the next week, the sound of forks scraping on plates becoming commons during meal times to account for every last crumb. And though we worked in the fields with the best possible techniques, our backs bent over the soil for long hours of the day, plants take longer to grow than stomachs take to shrink.
Each night after meeting with the council, Airomem spent time in her own personal apartment that the council set aside for her, often accompanied by Ruth who she was teaching how to speak with her hands. And each day, Airomem taught us about the other side of the ship- everything from their government structure, to what we now knew as the power room, to the methods of bottleneck defense, which we immediately taught to the porters guarding the bridge. Each day she communicated with those on the other side of the ship, asking how many more days left until arrival, and getting little in the way of answers.
“The problem is, they don’t know,” She told the council, after one week on our side, “We should be approaching the planet soon, and we should be landing soon, but it could be a month away or six months away. We don’t know how much time Necti left us to be prepared, and we can only assume that he erred on the side of caution and gave us more time than we needed. But what does matter is that, once we are close, we are able to evacuate the ship.”
“That won’t go over well,” I said, “It’s easy to speak with us about leaving, now that we know what you know. But the rest won’t want to listen.”
“If they don’t, they’ll die – in day or weeks but they will still die. We have to make sure that when the time comes, they are ready to move, and move quickly. We need to tell them now.”
Elliot raised a hand in caution, and spoke, the wrinkles that had started to form on the edges of his eyes over the last few weeks becoming more pronounced.
“Remember, the majority of them do not understand what is going to happen. But they do understand that their chief was killed, and he was killed by people closely interlinked with you, Airomem. And they do understand being hungry. We’ll have to break this news softly, and in increments- over time, they will accept it.”
“But it could happen at any time!” Protested Airomem, “And if they are not ready to evacuate, we might as well have put a knife through their hearts!”
“Airomem, we are not like the Lear,” I said, frowning, “Despite how much I wish we were. There is much that your kind understands that ours does not. Trust me, teaching them the simplest of changes took years and gratuitous reinforcement. If the day comes too soon, then we can handle it to the best of our ability- if the ship truly is a danger to anyone who remains on it, then we are justified in giving them a little push if necessary.”
“What, what exactly do you mean by that?” Asked Elliot, and he cast a searching eye over me as I fidgeted. He still did not know about the power room, nor my antics in pushing the people into adopting my agriculture methods. But Elliott was too sharp to stay in the dark for too long, and I would need to inform him soon. Perhaps when everyone was not so hungry.
“Like Airomem could shut off the power again,” I said quickly, “And if they think that the ship is too dangerous, than they’ll have to follow us out of fear.”
“Don’t you think that they should get to decide if they stay or leave?” Said Hannah, raising an eyebrow.
“If they decide wrong, then they die,” I responded, “Should we allow that to happen instead?”
“But what if we decide wrong?” She objected, “What if we evacuate, and it kills us? As much as I would like to place my faith in this plan, you must admit that it is an unprecedented risk.”
“Even if we do give them the choice,” I said, “There are many who would follow us, many whose eyes have been opened over the last few months. There are likely just as many who would remain entrenched in their ways, but we could at least save half.”
“Regardless, as of now this conversation stays between us for now, the members of the council,” Said Elliot, “We should make plans for each possible scenario so we are prepared.”
We nodded in return as he walked to board, and started to draw out possible plans.
And even Vaca nodded, as he continued to stare out the window.