We snuck out of the Dome the same way Lindsi had the first time, through the access hatch behind all that junk in the scrapyard. After our encounter with Security, neither of us wanted to try walking out the main exits, not while they were guarded like that. We weren’t even sure if they’d let her out even if she was just going to do her job.
It turned out to be a good thing that I was in front, too. Main Corridor One wasn’t exactly busy, but it wasn’t deserted, either. I had to warn her to wait until a group of people had gone by, pushing something on a freight trolley. Like everyone else, they looked a little scruffy and sort of tired. Once they’d gone by, she scrambled out quickly, putting the grate back in place and straightening up, turning to walk away at once. It shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did for some reason.
Where are you going? I asked her.
“Engineering,” Lindsi whispered, “where else?” She smiled a little. “I work there, remember?”
I’d forgotten that, and it made me feel a bit stupid. I stayed behind her as she walked along, heading for the central spire of our Ship, the stem on which the reactors and the engines were placed, looking like a giant tower from within the Habitat Domes. She kept her head down, not looking at anyone, and not many people even glanced at her, either. It was… quiet.
Is it always this quiet out here? I was whispering without thinking about it. Just because I knew no-one but Lindsi could hear me didn’t mean I really felt it. I still didn’t even know why she was the only one who could see or hear me. It had to be something to do with the Ship, and with her biosuit, and maybe even Lindsi herself, but I had no idea what.
“Most of the time, except when the shifts change over,” Lindsi whispered back. “Then it’s pretty busy.” She paused. “I’m so late for work.”
I laughed. I couldn’t help it. She smiled too, and once again I felt a little better.
We went quiet again as another group of people passed us going the other way, a maintenance team by the tools attached to their dark blue biosuits. They were talking amongst themselves too, but keeping their voices down almost as much as we were. I wondered what they were saying, and found I could make out every word.
“…for that date.” That was the shorter of the two women in the group, black curly hair cut short.
“I’m just looking forward to getting off shift,” the blond man said. “The internal guys really did a great job on the water. I had no idea there was even a project like that in the works.”
“Yeah, me neither. They could’ve made the announcement a little earlier, though.” The other woman could have been his sister, her features a narrower version of his.
The man walking next to her shook his head, a ponytail briefly coming into view, held by an incongruously bright red band. “Lucky for you Brandia types. We’ve got to wait until the work order makes it down to our water crew. It might be a while; we sprung a couple of bad leaks just yesterday.”
“Yeah,” the short woman replied. “I got called up right in the middle of Starlit Streets to deal with that, and Laine was not happy. You’re lucky you’re on the other side of the Dome.”
The third man laughed, his voice just a little louder than everyone else’s. “That’s the third time you’ve told that story today, Sally. Everyone’s got it worse off than everyone else with you people. Look on the bright side!”
They were past us by that point, and still talking, but I stopped listening, turning to Lindsi.
Did you hear that?
“Not really,” she said softly. “Something about the water, right?”
There’s been a water leak in one of the other Domes. I didn’t catch which one. And there was something about an announcement about a water project.
“Really?” Lindsi sounded excited. “Maybe we really started something!”
I’m not sure. I wasn’t certain, but the way they’d been speaking bothered me. But I hope so.
We hurried on, mostly keeping quiet. There are no windows in the Main Corridors: they’re too deeply embedded in the structure of the Ship. I looked up anyway, wondering where the curve of the tower began, far above my head. There are clear signs painted along the wall, but they just describe what section you’re passing through, not what’s actually above your head. You’d have to have a really good memory to know what the bit of the Ship right above you looked like, from anywhere on the inside. Sure, everyone knows the vague shape of it — it’s hard not to, given you can see it by looking up from anywhere in any Dome — but that’s all.
Eventually, we came to one of the lifts, and Lindsi paused to key in her authorisation. It let her in without complaint, and she shot me a relieved smile before stepping in. I followed. There was no-one else in there, which, in a lift built to carry 20-30 people at a time, made it look pretty big and empty. Lindsi tapped her finger against her chin a couple of times, then seemed to come to a decision, entering a floor number. At once the lift began to rise.
Is that your floor? I asked her.
“Yeah,” she said. “I don’t think we’ll find anything useful there, but at least it’s somewhere I’m supposed to be. And maybe you can figure something out from there, right?”
I shuffled my feet a little. Maybe. I don’t know the layout of Engineering all that well, though. I’ll probably have to look around.
“That’s okay. I should probably talk to the shift manager anyway. I can say that’s why I came up here.” She ran one hand through her hair, dark blue against flyaway silver, and for a moment I saw the stress in her eyes. Maybe coming back to this familiar place was worse than where we’d been before. This would be the first time she’d seen anyone here since what happened in the Medical Bay, and I had no idea how they would react to her.
The lift stopped all too soon, smoother than I’d expected. The doors slid open onto a fairly large room, with a window on the far side overlooking some huge interior space. I honestly had no idea what was on this particular floor, beyond that I thought it was a little too low down to be the reactor itself. Someone in a dark blue biosuit was standing on what looked to be a walkway just beyond the window, looking down over a railing at whatever was happening on the floor below.
“That’ll be one of the managers,” Lindsi whispered to me as we stepped out of the lift. “I’d better go explain myself before he turns around and sees me. You look for somewhere we can learn about the power, all right?”
I nodded. Good luck.
“It’s no big deal,” she said, but I could tell it was bothering her. “Go on! I’ll meet you back here.”
I turned around, looking for another exit besides the one onto the catwalks. Actually, there were two: both behind me, one on either side of the lift. I guessed they probably both led to the same ring corridor, and blurred through the left-hand one, leaving Lindsi alone.
The Fused by V. L. Bending is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.