It was late the next day when I did find someone. I was passing a low wall bordering a dying flower garden when I saw and heard two girls sitting on it. One looked to be sixteen or seventeen, the other about ten, but they both had the same thick, pale blonde hair, and they looked alike enough to be sisters.
“…so I promise, Kima, no matter how busy I get, I’ll come right back the moment the job’s done, all right? I couldn’t leave my favourite little sister all alone, now, could I?”
“Your only little sister,” the ten-year-old — Kima, I figured — said, but she smiled anyway and leaned against the older girl, who put an arm around her shoulders. Watching them hurt, seeing them so close to each other, part of a family, in a world they knew, and I had to concentrate to stop myself crying and get on with it.
“Mm?” said the older girl, lifting her head off her sister’s and looking around curiously. “Did you hear something, Kima?”
“No-o…” Kima answered, sounding a little uncertain. I didn’t listen. I’d found someone! I’d actually found someone who could hear me, just like the Ship had said!
I need your help. Please…
“There it is again!” The older girl tilted her head to one side, looking right at me. “It sounds so sad…”
“I don’t hear anything, Lindsi.”
So that was her name. Lindsi. I had to get her to come with me, no matter what! Even if the Ship didn’t need her, I did. I was so alone, and I couldn’t do anything, couldn’t even touch anything at all.
Please, Lindsi. You’ve got to help me. Please!
“Whoever it is, it sounds like they need help. Listen, you go back home, and I’ll come back just as soon as I’ve found out what’s going on, all right?”
“Why can’t I go with you?” Kima asked.
“Because if something’s wrong, I don’t want you getting caught up in it, okay? When you’re old enough to have your biosuit fitted, you can come everywhere with me. I promise. But if I get you anywhere near trouble right now, Mum’s going to kill me.”
Kima smiled at that, and Lindsi smiled back.
“Now, let’s just get down off this wall.”
She jumped off easily, turning to lift her sister down, and I felt tears sting my eyes again. I’d lost so much, so fast, and I still didn’t even really know where I was. How could I be doing this?
“There you go! Go on home, and I’ll be back soon.”
Kima hugged her sister and ran off, clearly knowing exactly where she was going. Lindsi watched her go, then turned in place, listening, looking around.
Please. You have to help me. Everything’s gone so wrong…
I don’t know why I didn’t tell her my name. I don’t think she’d have heard if I did, but I don’t know why I didn’t at least try. She walked right towards me, and for a moment I thought she could see me, but it didn’t seem like it.
You’ve got to come with me, Lindsi. Please, I need you to come with me.
I backed away while I was saying it, and she watched me, more or less, as if she couldn’t really see me, but could tell there was something there, the same way she didn’t quite seem to be hearing my voice. I don’t know if she thought she was going crazy or what, but she shook her head and followed me. I kept just out of her reach, trying to lead her out of the Habitat Dome, but the doors were closed, and the people standing by them didn‘t look at all friendly.
“I can’t possibly have heard something coming from through there,” Lindsi said to herself. But she still wasn’t sure. She’d believed in me so far, she knew where I was, even if she couldn’t quite see me. I moved to one side and watched her eyes tracking me.
“Hey, kid!” snapped one of the people at the doors. I didn’t like his tone of voice one bit. “What’re you looking at? Doors’re closed for the day, shift’s over!”
“Sorry, sir.” Lindsi looked angry, but she turned away. I ran to get ahead of her. If she wouldn’t go through the doors, I knew another way out. Just as long as she’d keep following me.
Please, Lindsi, not much further!
She looked at me again, but I could see a lot of doubt in her eyes. If I didn’t get her there soon, there was no way she was going to keep on following me. I started moving faster, not enough to ever get out of sight, but enough to make her walk a little faster. The passage wasn’t that far along: if I could get her there, maybe I still had a chance.
The spot in front of it had been turned into a scrapyard. I felt my heart sink as I looked around at the heaps of useless metal and plastic. If it’d been buried, what was I going to do?
I didn’t really have a choice. I kept going. And for whatever crazy reason, Lindsi kept following me.
As luck would have it, it was clear, just hidden behind a couple of sheets of metal. I ducked through them, and through the access hatch behind them, not liking the odd blurring sensation, but knowing there wasn’t any other way through.
Lindsi! Through here!
“There couldn’t be anything back there, could there?”
Nonetheless, she pulled them down. She must have had sharp eyes, too, because I didn’t even get a chance to say anything before she’d found the touchplate and opened the hatch. It stuck halfway, but she lay down and squirmed under anyway. The edges of the scrap didn’t so much as scratch the surface of her biosuit, even though I’m pretty sure they would have torn mine.
“Where are you?”
The Medical Bay. You have to come to the Medical Bay. Come on!
I shot off down the little maintenance passage, and Lindsi crawled after me. Another hatch at the other end led out into one of the big corridors that run all the way along the Ship — Main Corridor 1, actually. A little way further down was the Medical Bay, and I got Lindsi to let herself in.
I realised right then I had no idea what to do next. She couldn’t hear me well enough to tell what I was saying, couldn’t even see me, and I couldn’t take her any further — what was I supposed to do? Then, amazingly, I heard the Ship again, in my head with its power running through me, just like before.
Just for a moment, I could smile. Then that blue sparkle that had always meant the Ship was about to speak appeared in the air, and Lindsi looked over at it.
“Please proceed through the door at the end of the room.”
She jumped at that, stunned, then stared hard at the sparkle.
“What are you?”
It faded even as she watched, and I remembered what the Ship had said. It could only just keep me here, however it was doing it, so it couldn’t talk to her any more than it could to me. Then I heard a click, and it was my turn to stare.
I’d been in the Medical Bay before. It’s not locked, so most people do at some time or other. It’s divided into sections, and most of those aren’t locked off either, but that door down the end, the one that just hissed open for Lindsi… no-one’s ever seen it open. Like some of the others on the Ship, it’s Sealed so tight that nobody’s ever got past it. But it opened just then, for Lindsi, and she slowly walked towards it, curious and wary. I followed her. I wasn’t going to miss this one, not for the whole Ship!
I didn’t recognise any of what was in there. It all looked incredibly complicated. Lindsi wandered through, brushing her hand lightly across inactive components, looking around just like I would have done in her place. The ancient readouts began to light up, and some of the machinery hummed, and the sparkle appeared again, really faint, the Ship’s voice quieter than before.
“The destruction of mission-critical components must cease immediately. All recommendations have been ignored. At the current rate of abstraction, the mission will cease in approximately 20 days.”
That was pretty much what we both said. Neither of us could have known exactly what the Ship was talking about, but it didn’t sound good at all.
“Life support is already failing in Habitat Domes A, B, and D. Life support in Dome C remains stable.”
I felt the Ship’s attention shift, as if it were looking somewhere else.
“This power fluctuation has been detected. Stop the destruction of this ship.”
The sparkle vanished. Something moved, all the machinery coming alive at once. Lindsi screamed. My eyes tight shut, so did I.
The Fused by V. L. Bending is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.