Chapter 49 out of 82

Airomem had no need to read the note to know her next destination. Instead, she felt her legs carrying her forward against the current of the frightened crowd, attracting stares as her shoulders rubbed against those preparing to flee. Whispers chased her down the hallway, whispers that threated to distract her from her task.

Snippets like “I bet she knows more about what’s going on” or “Why isn’t she preparing to leave?” or “Hard at work, even on the brink of disaster,” accompanied by a knowing glance or worried frown, though none of the speakers followed her. And when she arrived in the power room, it was emptier than she had ever seen – posts were abandoned in favor of preparation, knowing that reactor failure was soon imminent and that there was little the extra hands could do to help.

Despite knowing what was occurring, chills still ran up her spine at the distress alarms and flashing lights that called out to her to fix them, and her eyes widened as they saw the energy expenditure levels high above anything she had ever observed, yet still rising.

Prometh was right, she realized. The time to act before power was completely lost was rapidly dwindling. And turning away from the machinery she had dedicated so much of her life towards, she opened the note Prometh had written her and started to read, keeping an eye upwards at the few workers who had stayed behind.

She recognized one of them, Abraham, an engineer in training that she had personally helped instruct as he neared the title of full engineer. He was brighter than most his age, yet still had to grow into his gangly body, his arms and legs possessing an uncanny knack for bumping into tables and chairs. She raised a hand and beckoned him over, leading him outside the power room to where they could hear each other speak.

“I think I know what’s wrong with the reactor,” Airomem said, avoiding his eyes, “and I’m going to need your help to fix it.”

“But everyone says it’s already destroyed,” he said, brushing a bead of sweat away that raced down a strand of his dark curly hair. “Even Prometh said that.”

“Well, I think he’s wrong,” she countered. “And if it is already destroyed, there is little harm we can do. Don’t forget that you’re still an apprentice, Abraham – there’s much you still don’t know about the reactor, information that I do know. And if you work with me, we might just save the entire ship.”

“But how?” he asked, his eyebrows scrunching together.

“Not many people know this, Abraham, but there is a way that we can cause the reactor to reboot,” she said. “Do you know the panel on the side wall, the one with the number keypad on it?”

“Yes,” he said. “But I’ve never seen anyone interact with it. And I do know that if I touch it, that I’m no longer allowed to become a full engineer.”

“Abraham, if you don’t touch it, then there will be no full engineer position,” stated Airomem. “But besides, you have my full permission. More than that, you have my command. Here’s what I need you to do – I’m going to access some of the wiring on the other end of the wall, in the side room. When I give you the signal, I’ll need you to enter in the code I give you and hold down the green button. Okay?”

“Sure, but are you sure you know what it will do? And what is the signal?”

“Abraham, I know exactly what it will do. Remember that afterwards,” she said, and avoided his eyes again. “The signal will be when I flash my stun gun. You’ll be able to see the glow through the window on the door to the room, but I’ll be too busy to come into full sight. Understood, Abraham? From this point forward, you are under my strict orders to complete this action. No matter what anyone says, now the fate of the ship rests upon your shoulders.”

“Understood,” he said, straightening upwards. “And the code?”

“One four four zero,” she said and asked him to repeat it. Then he reentered the power room and she walked over to the side room, looking at the small circular window set into the metal that Abraham would see the glow of her stun gun through.

Taking a breath, she cast a look back at the struggling engineers and the limping reactor. She looked at the door that led back into Lear territory, where her father would be waiting for her, where the Lear were preparing to depart, and where all she had ever known was locked inside.

Then she nodded to Abraham and placed a hand upon the cold metal, entering the room as the door clicked shut behind her. Her own breathing was the only sound as she was cut off from the power room, and she struggled to keep it under control, raising her chin to look outside the window at the stars beyond.

Completely alone, except for the eleven suits at her back.

Next Chapter


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