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I’d been teaching Airomem in the gardens for a week when it had happened.
She’d been among my quickest learners, due to her mind being a blank slate and her focus upon science, but even for her the techniques were not instant. And in that week, Airomem had become acquainted with the other gardeners- there were children who crept in close to watch her, or to ask her questions about the other side of the ship. And there were the early adopters of my gardening ventures who ventured forward to offer a handshake and exchange names, or to offer their assistance in accommodating her.
A group of people gathered around her each morning before work began, a group that she told stories. She spoke of Necti, and how he was among their ancestors. And she mentioned how our and her people had once been the same, and perhaps they could be the same one day again. And together, stomachs would be full, thirst would be quenched, and the children would prosper. Heads nodded at her words, at the idea of a unified ship, of returning to the former glory of what we once were- though Airomem neglected to mention that we would be doing so off the ship itself.
They watched her as she taught Ruth sign language, even sending some of their own children to learn as well. They nodded in approval when, during mealtimes, she would wait until last to be served. And they marveled at her uncanny ability to remember their names, as well as where they worked in the gardens- but what they didn’t know about were the long hours she and I spent going over them together, rehearsing so she could regurgitate them them next morning.
“What do you think is going to happen once we arrive,” I said once as we sat back in her apartment after learning a new set of names, “What do you think it will be like?”
“Well, if I was in charge of building the ship,” She said, “I would try to make it as similar as possible, so that when we arrived, the shock would be minimized.”
“That makes sense,” I said, thinking back to some of the oldest stories I knew, “But I think some things will be different. Like sheep, I wonder if there will be sheep.”
“Sheep?” Airomem asked, an eyebrow raised, “What are those?”
“I, well, I don’t really know. Something from the stories, but they showed up quite a bit.” I responded, drumming my fingers on the table.
“How are you going to know when you find them then?”
“I didn’t think that far,” I said, “Not sure if I would recognize them even if they are there. Then again, we didn’t know who your people were either, besides the stories, and I think I understand them pretty well now.”
“I think I’m still working on yours,” she said letting her gaze rest on me, “But for now, let’s continue learning names. If we’re ever going to win their support, they’ll have to like me first.”
Those who agreed with Airomem largely consisted of the people who had trusted me in the past. There were others who slinked to the other end of the garden when she passed, or who cast dark looks in our direction. And there was Skip, who never permitted himself to be within fifty yards of her.
Until Airomem and I worked through lunch, our hunger forgotten in the lesson, and those who were amicable to us already had departed for the midday break. And when I looked up from planting a row of new seeds, I saw Skip facing me with a quarter of the gardeners at his back. Behind them there were others, others who I had seen scowling in the hallways, or huddled around Nean’s table at dinner.
“We’ve had enough!” shouted Skip from the spearhead of the group, now only fifteen feet away and still approaching, “We want her out,*now*. It’s an insult to Segni and to us, and she comes trying to change our ways far more than you ever did Horatius.”
“There is no reason to overreact!” I replied as Skip stopped only inches from me, his face livid. From beside me, Airomem’s hand instinctively went to her belt as Skip pushed forward.
“Overreact?!” Shouted Skip, “While you’ve been leading this intruder around our ship, and while you’ve been meeting with the council, what have we been doing? We’ve been here gardening, praying that there will be enough food to support us! And what’s more, what’s more is what I heard what the council are planning for us! The treason!”
“Skip,” I said, “Calm down. Whatever your issue is, feel free to take it up before the council and it will be addressed. As far as food goes, we should have a surplus, it’s just going to take time. You know as well as I do that it is no instant. And Aeromem has done nothing but help us.”
“The council? The council? I would take it up with the council, if they weren’t brainwashed by her! Did you hear what they are saying now, what their plans are?”
He was shouting to the mob behind him now, their attention acute he spat the next few words.
“Their plans are to rip you away from your homes! To move us all somewhere else, somewhere we might die just as Segni did. And how do I know this? Because Vaca himself told me, Vaca the true chief!”
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