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Chapter 43

Horatius

I slept in darkness, and I awoke in darkness.

My head slammed against something hard as I sat up, doubling the already throbbing headache as I fell to the floor with a grunt, my palm clasped against my clammy temple.  My heart raced to keep pace with my rapid breaths as I felt around me, searching for clues about my surroundings.

“Hit the shelf,”  Came a quiet voice from beside me as I jumped to my feet, stumbling to a thin strip of light on the ground that would be the bottom door.  I found the handle and pushed, the door emitting a dull rattle as it bounced against the frame but refused to budge.

“Locked,”  Came the same voice through a sniffle, and I froze, realizing that I recognized it, “Barricaded from the outside, they’ve piled things up so we can’t escape.”

“H-Hannah?”  I said, sinking to the ground with my back against the wall, “What’s going on?  Where is everyone?”

“Nean,”  She sniffled, “He had me seized out of my apartment and taken here, where I found you passed out.  There- There’s a crowd of gardeners in the hallway outside, all calling for justice, and Nean is keeping us prisoners here until Elliott relinquishes his position as chief to Vaca.  W-We thought Vaca was not listening in the meetings, but there was one topic he did listen to- Airomem’s lectures on bottleneck defence.  They have this entire corridor blocked off, Horatius, and defended.  They’ve taken the knives, along with Airomem’s stun guns, and are guarding both ends.”  

“I- I’m sorry Hannah.  It’s only a matter of time until they run out of food and water, though, and then they’ll have to give in.  They’ll have to- they can’t last long, and we’ll bring them to justice.”

Hannah’s sobs double for a moment in the darkness, then she found the strength to speak.  

“Before they blocked off the corridor, they raided the food and water stores.  It’s all here, stored away in the apartments nearby, and they’re not rationing it.  They were able to take it by stationing their own guards at the stores, and since there wasn’t much left, there wasn’t much to carry.  You’ve been knocked out for a day- last night, they had a feast in Segni’s honor.  Tonight, they’re having another. Since they’re only a quarter of the ship, they don’t have to ration.”

“Oh God,”  I said in realization, realizing the true reason that Hannah was crying, “Everyone else, all those outside the corridor-”

“Have nothing to eat,”  She cried, “Ruth, Elliott, they’ll starve!”

“They won’t,”  I said, thinking, “There’s enough food growing in the gardens to keep them sustained for two weeks at least, and enough water in the reclaiming units to stave their thirst. It’ll be tight, and they’ll be eating crops before they have a chance to mature, so they’re borrowing crops from the future.  But after that…”  My voice trailed off, and I bit my lip, not wanting to think about what would happen after that.  We were silent for a moment, then I spoke up, fighting to keep my own voice from cracking.

“I- I’m sorry, Hannah.  I only did what Pliny would have-”

“What’s done is done,”  Said Hannah, managing to make her voice hard as she pushed away the sobs, “And while I can’t say I disagreed with your actions, doing them as a team would have been far more effective.  Elliot and myself had a suspicion to what you were doing in the gardens and we turned a blind eye, so we are just as guilty.  Ruth kept a watch over you for us, and her reports were positive, so we stopped short of questioning you.  And Nean confirmed my suspicions- he’s kept it no secret what you have been up to.”

“And Airomem?  Is she locked away too?”  I asked.

“No, she’s gone.  Back to her end of the ship.  He gloated about that as well, said he took the trash back where it belonged.”

I paused, my swallow audible among the voices outside the door. Over the next two days, I racked my brain, my ear pressed close to the door to where I could hear Elliott negotiating down the hallway, while Nean and Skip refused to budge on their terms.  That Elliot turn himself over to them, serve six week’s confinement for his act of treason alongside us, and declare Vaca the true heir.

At times I stared outside the window to where I could see the other end of the ship, and I wondered what Aromem was planning, or even if she was planning.  If she had convinced the Lear that we were worth saving, or if they might try to block us out from the new planet after the way we as a people had treated her.

Hannah and I spoke of possible escape, trying to think of ways to get past the barricaded door.  But beyond that there would be the mob that we would have to fight through to escape- we were weaponless, and though none of the gardeners were well trained in fighting, neither were we.  Eventually I resigned myself to looking at the rightward wall of the apartment, knowing that two apartments over the corridor ended, and so did our imprisonment.

And on the third day, as I racked my brain for possibilities, and I heard Elliott pleading at the end of the hallway, a voice came down from above.  The voice that had changed all our lives just a few weeks ago, and now prepared to do so again.

A voice that chilled me more to the bone now that the first time I had heard it.

“Twenty four hours until arrival,”  It proclaimed from above, accompanied by a siren and repeating itself three times, “All members of the ship, report to the landing vessel.  Immediately.”

I swallowed, meeting Hannah’s eyes in the darkness.  Knowing that if nothing changed, we would be left behind.  And knowing if God were to exist, he was not with us.

Chapter 44

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