I must have sat there all night, because eventually, it got light again. I was tired, but not because I needed to sleep. I hadn’t needed to sleep the night before, either. Everything that had happened to me had just worn me out, and I didn’t know how much more I could take. But giving up wasn’t going to do me any good. I forced myself to stand up, and I walked away, trying not to look around too much. I had enough on my mind: I didn’t want to see any more than I had already.
When I got back to the spot where I’d left Lindsi the night before, she was already there, waiting for me, leaning against a wall. People kept giving her funny looks, which really wasn’t too surprising, but she seemed to be ignoring them. She smiled when she saw me, straightened up and walked over.
Someone behind me mumbled something in return and hurried on. I glanced around, beckoned Lindsi, and slipped past the other people in the street, headed for a quieter corner. I really didn’t need people walking through me while I was trying to talk to her.
Hello, Lindsi. Are you… are you all right?
She smiled at me again. I don’t know how she did it. I still felt like I was just a short way away from falling apart.
“Are you? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
I forced myself to smile, but it can’t have looked good. It’s nothing, Lindsi. I’m all right. I knew she didn’t believe me, but she let it be.
“If you say so.” She paused for a moment. “I’ve been thinking about what the Ship said. If everything really is going to stop working in twenty days, we have to do something about it.”
I blinked at her. Sure, it was true, but…
What about you?
“Me? What about me?”
“You mean this?” Lindsi waved a hand in front of her face.
“I feel fine. It’s not like there’s much I can do about it even if I’m not.” She smiled, but she looked worried behind it. “Besides, this is more important.”
I guess. I didn’t know how she could set it aside like that. She was right, what the Ship had said was far more important, but if I’d been in her shoes, well, I honestly don’t know what I’d have done. So what are we going to do?
“We’ve got to find out just what the Ship was talking about. Problem is, I’m not quite sure how.”
Can’t you just use an access point?
She gave me a funny look. “Nuh-uh. They’re all security locked, and I sure don’t have the codes for them.”
Oh. I’d known it could be done, of course, but I didn’t quite understand why anyone would want to. Only a few terminals had ever been locked back when — when I’d still been alive.
“You don’t have the codes, do you?” Lindsi asked, breaking into my thoughts.
I don’t think so, no. I’m sorry.
She shook her head. “I didn’t really think you would. It was just the way you asked if I could use one — it made me wonder.”
I looked down. That was because I was dead, because I’d been dead for years, but I couldn’t tell her that! But if I didn’t say something, or change the subject, she’d start asking.
…Maybe you could try the Bridge? The Ship spoke to you — it might let you in.
“Maybe,” she said, dubiously. “But I think the consoles there will be locked, too. Most of the locks override Ship systems.”
I frowned. Why would anyone do that?
“You really don’t get out much, do you?” I shook my head, looking down again, and I think she mistook my reaction for embarrassment. “It’s all right, I don’t mind. Anyway, people say that the Ship doesn’t want us to learn, that it’s trying to hold us back.”
From destroying ourselves! I couldn’t help it, I shouted. The grimy, dying Habitat Dome, the twenty days that the Ship had said were all we had — the Ship had always been our protector, always given us advice, warned us when we were about to exceed its limits, given us the information we asked for. By cutting off all access to it, these people had no way of finding out what they were doing wrong, or how to fix it!
“I know, I know,” she said, “but that’s what she says. Nobody contradicts her. Well, not for long.”
It was Lindsi’s turn to look slightly embarrassed. “It’s really just a rumour, another way of saying the people in charge. You know the Rodriguez Family run things on the Ship — well, rumour has it that there’s someone behind them, controlling them, and the reason they keep getting voted back into power. They say whoever it is has been around for nearly a hundred years, and they call her the Witch. Really, it’s just a way of talking about the Rodriguezes. I guess it makes people feel better to believe there’s something more to it all than just a family of corrupt politicians.”
Oh, I said. Right. Actually, I had no real idea what she was talking about, but there was no way I could ask. I’d just have to make do with what I had. …So what do you think we should do?
“The Ship said life support was failing in this Dome. I say we try and find out what’s wrong and how to fix it.” Her jaw tightened. “Our families live here. Whatever we do, we’ve got to keep it operational.”
I nodded. Of course that was the most important thing right now. Without anyone alive on it, it didn’t matter whether or not the Ship could finish its mission, whatever that was. Not to anyone but the Ship, anyway.
You’re right. Life support’s a pretty big system, though. We’re going to have to start somewhere.
That made it Lindsi’s turn to nod. “Yeah. Any ideas?”
I frowned. I’d been a pretty curious kid, so I knew a fair amount about the Ship’s innards, but the life support system for just one Habitat Dome was so complex that I wasn’t sure where I would start. Then again…
As long as there’s still enough plants around here, the air’s supposed to be able to look after itself, pretty much. There was a filtering and scrubbing system, and an oxygen replenisher, but in my time, they hadn’t seen much use. Although I couldn’t help thinking that they might now. What’s the water like?
“You’ve seen that stuff, right? It’s about as orange as usual.”
Okay. Now that wasn’t good.
I reckon the first thing we need to do is sort out the filtration systems. We can’t keep anything alive if we don’t have a decent water supply. I paused. Are you sure we can do all of this… in twenty days?
“Sure. We’ve got to, right?” She was trying to sound confident, but even I could tell it wasn’t working. “So where’s the filtration system?”
I blinked at her. Right under us, of course. It’s part of the reservoir system — water gets filtered and purified and sent back through.
“That area’s restricted. I always wondered what was down there.”
What? Why? Nobody ever messed with the filters when I was alive. Everyone knew they were important. We didn’t even bother to watch them, except to check they were working. You had to know what you were doing, for the most part, to mess with most of the Ship’s systems, particularly the critical ones. By the time you knew enough for that, you weren’t about to mess them up! Lindsi just shrugged at me.
“I don’t know.” She frowned. “Hey, wait a minute… how do you know all this and not know it’s restricted?”
I was a curious kid, I told her uncomfortably. I really didn’t feel like explaining being dead, even if it wouldn’t just scare her off. Who would? She gave me a sharp look… then shook her head and let it slide.
“All right. So how do we get down to the filtration area?”
I thought for a moment. With the area off-limits, the doors would be locked or guarded or both, but I bet they didn’t know about some of the emergency hatches.
There should be emergency hatches in the Dome that lead down there. We’ve just got to find one that’s still accessible.
“You know where some of them are, don’t you?”
I think so. I paused. I’ll have to take a look around.
“I’ll come with you.”
I shook my head uncomfortably. I don’t know whether or not we’ll be able to get to them.
“That’s all right. It’s not as if I can do anything here anyway.”
I sighed. It didn’t look like I was going to be able to lose her, and how was it going to look when I either stuck my head through things or came up against some impassable obstacle to proclaim that there was a door ‘just past here, honest!’? Well… it looked like I was just going to have to think my way around it. Again.
All right. I stood still for a moment, frowning as I thought. I’d have to get lucky. Where was the most remote, inaccessible hatch I knew of? There was that one in Calena’s basement, but it was hardly remote, you just had to get her to let you in first. Probably it’d be sealed off now. But how about the one in the park, the one I’d found completely by accident? If the park was even still there. Well… it looked like the best option I had.
I think… do you know Meridian Park?
“Of course, but — you’re not going to try and go there, are you?”
Sure. I tried to sound more confident than I felt. She knew the place, but something had clearly changed about it. There’s a hatch in there. I’ve found it before.
Lindsi shook her head. “You really are a strange one.” She grinned, and the smile lit up her dark blue face. “All right, then. Meridian Park!”
I followed just behind her as she set off, trying to stay in her wake. Walking through people was unsettling enough on its own without her seeing me do it, too. That, and she couldn’t see my expression as long as I hung back. I knew I had to look worried. What had happened to the park? Was any of this really a good idea? But what choice did we have?
The Fused by V. L. Bending is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.