Writer’s Note: Yeah, no, I didn’t finish it… again. I’m gonna be more realistic and predict two more posts to round this out. I realized I’ve been spelling Romero wrong this entire time, so that’s been fixed. I’m also gonna go back and tweak the descriptions of the place. No more “floors” only “walls” more falling away and rising, etc. Also, I don’t think I ever really described the girls fully. I’ll let you know when I go back and do that.
Perdi pulled herself over the organized confusion of parts that was the engine to meet Romero at the hatchway.
“I knew you were the right person for the job. Not many people can squeeze in over there.”
“Oh, really? Um, thanks.” Perdie wasn’t sure if he was paying her a compliment or stating a fact. Regardless, she felt herself blush as she approached the young man and was thankful she had kept her helmet on. “How do, um, you get through when it’s running?”
Romero shrugged. “Very carefully. We usually don’t have to wear the suits.”
“Oh… yeah!” Perdi chuckled. Her helmet’s flashlight spotlighted his figure drifting away from her.
“You coming?” He looked down at her from the top of the hall.
“Y-yeah, right behind you.”
“You’re taking this very well, you know.”
He waited, helmet in hand, for her to catch up before pushing lazily through the next hatchway.
“Well, yeah. This has been our home for so long, and you’ve spent most of you life on this ship, right?”
“I remember the old world!” Perdi shot back defensively.
“Ha! Well, yeah, but you were just a little kid weren’t you?”
Perdi mumbled a noncommittal grunt.
“Well, I was just saying, this place has been our only safe place for so long. And now, suddenly, it’s not a safe place anymore. It’s an upsetting thing, especially for kids like you and Shmee.”
Perdi narrowed her eyes, unhappy with being lumped together with her little sister.
Romero looked back again as they reached the last turn in the hallway.
“I mean, it would be understandable if you wanted to cry… or something.”
“Thanks,” Perdi spit out, “but I couldn’t wait to get off this claustrophobic, metal wad of junk. I’m only still up here because of my sister.”
“Oh.. okay.” Romero stammered.
The reflector strips along the walls guided them to the escape pods. The handful of flashlight beams emanating from one of the hatches told them which pod they chose.
“How’s everybody doing?” Romero said as he slowly dove through the entrance.
“You took your sweet time!” Doctor Souchong barked gruffly.
Perdie heard a symphony of sniffles and whimpers from the silhouettes around her. Everyone had the lights on, giving her dozens of spots in her eyes and making it impossible to tell one suited person from the other.
“Shmee? Where are you?”
“What? She’s not with you?”
Romero and Perdie looked to each other.
“No,” Romero said slowly, “she was supposed to come straight here.”
“Shmee??” Perdie pushed her chin down to open the radio. “Shmee? SHMEE??”
She was answered by another metallic rumble from the depths of the ship. Romero flipped his helmet in his hands and secured it over his head.
“Do you know where she could be?”
Perdie’s mind raced.
Someone started unbuckling themselves from their seat against the wall. She knew it was Doctor Souchong as soon as he spoke.
“Right, I’ll need volunteers to search the ship.”
“No wait!” Perdie held up a hand. “I… I know where to find her. Give me 10 minutes?”
She couldn’t see his eyes, but he seemed to look around in uncertainty.
“You know? Why? What’s going on?”
“I don’t know. I just… I think she’s okay. She’s just scared.” Perdie shot a glance at Romero. “I think she’s hiding.”
“You have 5 minutes. 5 minutes and I want to hear visual confirmation from you or I’m sending everyone to crawl over this place.”
“Okay.” Perdie nodded.
“-I’m not liking they way the ship’s groaning out there.”
Perdie hadn’t floated much farther than the mouth of the hatchway, and she reached back up to scramble through. She hoped she only imagined wall vibrating under her gloved fingertips as another booming groan echoed through the hallways.