Don’t forget to vote for  The Bridge!  It takes 2 clicks and really helps!

I’ll be providing the entire story here for free for a limited time.  In return, I ask that you tell a friend about Chapter 1!  The only way others find out about my work is through word of mouth.

The Bridge is on sale today for only 99 cents!

***

“Prometh, you absolute genius,” whispered Airomem next to me when we came to the first fork, and a smile broke out on her face. She turned right with confidence, down into a hallway that jutted away from the main at an angle, and had a sharp zigzagging turn near the end.

“What are you doing?” I said at the head of the hallway, my feet planted. “That way is longer; we should turn back!”

But Airomem shook her head, continuing to lead down the side passage, speaking as she walked backwards.

“Before I left, a friend of mine showed me a map of how my people would evacuate. At the time, I thought he needed my help, but now I think he is the one helping us. This map was carefully drawn that, in case the ship were to lose power, there would be the least trouble in still reaching the bridge. And since the ship’s sides are symmetrical, I just have to take the mirror image.”

“Lose power?” I said, keeping pace beside her as the procession started moving again, “What do you mean by that?”

“I mean it would be as if every knob in the control room was adjusted to its lowest setting. Gravity, lights; both gone.”

What?” I said. “Airomem, if that happens, people are going to scatter. It’s going to be near impossible to keep them together. They’ll head back home!”

“Then send word back along the line that if power is lost, to continue forward,” said Airomem, directing her words at the front of the line as they turned to relay the message. I fought the urge to quicken my pace, knowing that there were those who would not be able to keep up. “That no matter what happens, to continue forward! Every one of you, link hands, and do not let go! We will make it there together!”

Then she pointed at one of the men at the front, a kitchen cook with no children at his side, and spoke. “We need a count of every person in this line. Be sure to miss no one. And quickly! Leave your belongings behind; we will care for them. Go, now!”

He nodded and set off down the line, ducking and weaving to spot the children nestled between parents, disappearing around a bend in moments.

We were close now, mere minutes away, but there were plenty who had only rarely traveled this portion of the ship behind us. The puddles from melted ice were now reduced to tracks of moisture that threatened to trip up every step, and the air had taken on a musky quality from the standing water that caused noses to wrinkle down the line. The slaps of our footsteps rushed ahead, their echoes the only sounds from the front, and the strained hum of quiet conversation the primary sound from the back.

The corridors widened, merging back into the main hallway, and I thought back to the first time that Pliny had shown them to me, about how back then I would never have imagined using them for this purpose. That beside me would be a friend who I would once have considered more alien than anyone on my end of the ship. That together, we would lead the ship on an evacuation from the greatest crisis since The Hand of God.

And with only two more turns, we would have made it unhindered. But then darkness descended upon us like a physical blow.

Screams of shock flew down the line as feet left the ground and the hallway turned pitch black. Beside me, Airomem’s stun guns flashed into the air like beacons, illuminating faces flush with fear extending as far as I could see. And my heart skipped as I saw hands that had come unclasped in shock, fragmenting the line, and I shouted, “Rejoin hands! Do not let go of your neighbor! Do not let anyone stray!”

Rapidly, the line repaired itself in my immediate vicinity, but without gravity, the effort of maintaining a straight line was far greater than it had been previously. Twisting torsos combined with loose belongings floating away from owners, the confusion prying hands apart once more, causing panic as the gaps between line segmentations widened.

“We have to get to the control room,” I said to Airomem, fighting to remain right-side up, if that still existed. “We’ll bring back the gravity, and then we can make it the rest of the way!”

“Without power,” she responded, shaking her head, “the control room is useless. We need to regroup – damn, I thought we would have made it. If we had more time, we could have briefed everyone, we could have prepared them better.”

“Airomem, this is beyond anything you could have prepared them for,” I responded, remembering how well changes as simple as altered gardening methods had been received in the past. “Keep moving forward. I’ll run through the line to keep it together. Give me one of your lights. I’ll need it.”

My hand brushed over hers as I took the stun gun, and her eyes met mine in the blue light.

“Hurry, Horatius,” she said, her voice tight. “I didn’t come all this way to save you, only to have you be left behind again. There are too many stories left for this to be your last.”

I froze, thinking of something to say as her eyes lingered for a moment more. Then she started moving, the blue light bouncing along the hallway as I turned to push off in the other direction.

***

Chapter 65

Don’t forget to vote for  The Bridge!  It takes 2 clicks and really helps!

I’ll be providing the entire story here for free for a limited time.  In return, I ask that you tell a friend about Chapter 1!  The only way others find out about my work is through word of mouth.

The Bridge is on sale today for only 99 cents!