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The voice came from above as she walked to the meeting room, causing her to redouble her pace, nearly reaching a run.

“Twenty four hours until arrival.  All members of the ship, report to the landing vessel.  Immediately.”

She broke into the meeting room just as her father stood atop a chair, calling for order among the arguing members.

“Your heard it!  Twenty four hours until arrival!  I want every member of the Lear notified to pack no more than a knapsack of belongings and to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice! Everyone but the most senior members here will be supervising. In twenty four hours this ship becomes a wasteland- anyone who stays will not be under my protection, and even if they were, they wouldn’t survive longer than a few days.  Dnadelion 14 is a about to become a husk, devoid of food or water, and with no power.  To stay is to embrace death.  Go! Now!  Except for you, Airomem, we need your report.”

Before she could speak Tela cut her off, his voice sharp with desperation, “Their military, how large is it?  How well can they help us fend off the Agrarian’s and Aquarian’s as we flee?  Are they potential allies?”

She raised a hand, signaling him to pause, and took a breath.  Then she began.

“The-,” She paused, realizing they had no name for themselves, and restarted, “The Nectians have a population of approximately one thousand, separated into their leaders, their chefs and doctors, and their laborers.  They have no warrior class, nor do they have weapons among them- I suspect there may be racks of stun guns locked away in their power room, where we recharge ours, but it is too dangerous to enter there.”

“So it was fruitless,”  muttered Tela, his eyes narrowing as his fingers gripped the tabletop, “Our weapons traded away for an empty expedition.”

“Not quite,”  She answered, holding a finger in the air, “Actually, quite the contrary.  The Nectians may be unable to lend a hand in leaving Dandelion 14, but they could prove crucial once we land on the new planet.  The majority of them are farmers- assuming that’s how we will find food, they will be indispensable when we disembark.”

Tela frowned, and her father spoke.

“And their disposition?  Will they cooperate with the Lear?  As farmers, are they like, well, are they like the Agrarians?”

“I would estimate that seventy percent are compatible,”  She answered, “But the other thirty percent will balk at the notion of leaving the ship, and will be left behind of their own accord.”

“And this other thirty percent,”  Growled Tela, “Are they the reason for your return?  We received no message from you that you were coming back, and had the guards on the boarder stationed there in case you arrived, not because you were expected.”

“Yes, the thirty percent mutinied,”  Responded Airomem, “Which is another reason we must help them.  They took prisoners, two of the leaders of the Nectians.  And without them, many of the Nectians will not be convinced to leave.  We’ll have to rescue those two, or risk losing them all.”

“So you’re saying that thirty percent were able to overcome the vast majority,”  Countered Tela, “Meaning the majority we are to bring with us is far weaker.  And in addition to that, they can offer no assistance against the Agrarians and Aquarians, but rather require our assistance to leave the ship.  Airomem, do I need to remind you that we now have twenty four- no, twenty three and a half now- hours left to disembark?  To force our way through to the bridge, and to protect our own kind first?  We cannot afford to take them under our wing.”

“But there is something they can do to help fight!”  She exclaimed, her face brightening, ”On their side of the ship they have discovered a control room, and they can wreak havoc upon the Agrarians and Aquarians from there!  The could incapacitate them from a distance, a tactic that could prove invaluable.”

But across the table, Prometh shook his head, large bags recently formed under his eyes.

“I’m afraid that will not be possible,”  He said, “I’m familiar with this room from old drawings of the Power Room schematics, and Airomem is correct.  It does hold great power.”

“And?”  Pressed Tela, as Prometh paused.

“And it also requires power to operate.”  He sighed, “For the past twelve hours, our engineers have detected the electrical draw of the ship to have tripled and to be steadily rising.  We checked everything- from wiring faults to misreads, and until I heard the announcement I assumed that we were simply missing something.  But now, I realize what has been happening- the ship is drawing power to the bridge, preparing the vessel that will take us to the planet.”

“And why is this a problem?”  Said Airomem.

“Because at the rate that the power is increasing, due to the exponential burn rate,”  Said Prometh, “I would estimate that, at best, we have about twelve hours of power left.”

For a moment, the table was silent.  Then Tela’s chair flew backwards as he stood, his face red as he shouted.

“So not only do we have to fight our way through our enemies, but we have to do so in the dark?”

“Well, yes,”  Answered Prometh, his voice tired, “But I suspect that will be the least of our worries.”

Airomem’s eyebrows shot upwards as Tela prepared for another outburst, but her words cut his off.

“Gravity!”  She exclaimed, “Without power, we’ll be weightless!  Weightless and in the dark.”

“Precisely,”  Said Prometh.

“With this information,” Stuttered Tela, “It is absolute madness for us to attempt a rescue mission.  Those of the Nectians who come of their own accord will be admitted.  But the rest- the rest have decided their fate.”

Airomem bit her lip as her father spoke up, his voice slow and deliberate.

“The Lear come first,”  He said, “Our duty is to serve them before all others.  I’m sorry Airomem, but under the extreme circumstances, we have no choice.  The Nectians will have to make their own choice, as you made them aware of the situation in your envoy.”

“Except for the prisoners!”  Airomem exclaimed, rising to her feet, “They don’t get to make a choice, and they’re the ones who saved their people!  Now they are dying for it!”

“They chose to be heroes, Aeromem.  And being a hero means you put yourself at risk for the sake of others. “

Her eyes flashed as she whipped around to storm out of the room, her voice coming out in a hiss.

“You’re right, father.  That’s precisely what being a hero means.  And once, I would have believed we fit that description.”

“Prometh,”  She heard her father say as she left, “See to it that the power room lasts as long as possible.  And my daughter has always listened to you, talk some sense into her as well.  This is a difficult decision, but I can’t afford to put our people into more danger. Compromises, difficult compromises, must be made.”

“Of course,”  Said Prometh, following Airomem from the room, “Talking sense is what I do best.  She will be ready to depart promptly.”

Chapter 48 : https://leonardpetracci.com/2017/04/20/the-bridge-chapter-48


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