Writer’s note: This upcoming conversation may be a bit clunky still. Later edits should smooth it out.
After a few twists and turns, Perdie was diving back through the residence hall. A quick glance in their dark apartment confirmed it to be empty. She flung herself farther down and caught herself on the hatchway to the observation room. It was still dim in the shadow of the new planet, but she easily spotted the small figure of Shmee in the pail light of the stars, curled against the far window as best she could be in her bulky suit.
“Shmee, what are you doing?? Can’t you hear that? We have to go!” As if on cue, another metallic, mournful groan had emanated from the hall.
Shmee had taken off her helmet, and the two skinny braids reaching out stiffly behind her head wobbled as she wordlessly shook her head.
“Then go!” She sniffed, and Perdie realized she was crying.
She eased into the viewing deck and toward her little sister, the panic in her chest suddenly tempered by her sister’s tears. She took off her own helmet and reached out a hand in time to cushion her stop at the edge of the large window.
“Shmee, what’s going on?” Perdie’s tone had softened to a whisper.
“I’ll be fine. You heard Doctor Souchong. There’s a chance the ship will stay in orbit….”
Perdie cut her off with a shake of her head, her own braided pigtails swinging around her.
“There’s no way you can stay, Shmee. Those noises mean bad things are about to happen.”
“Soon!” She watched the young girl process this.
“Why would you want to stay behind? And by yourself? That’s crazy.”
“The hamster wheel.”
“I never,” Shmee swallowed, “I never even started logging exercise hours on there. You didn’t notice. Mom didn’t notice.”
Perdie’s mind reeled with the implications. Shmee’s body had not been conditioned to gravity at all. Spoiled by a lifetime of weightlessness, the shock of it might be too much for her system to take.
“Mom’s been so busy preparing for the landings… and then she put you in charge of me ’cause I kept getting in her way, but you don’t want anything to do with me anymore.”
“Shmee, that’s not-”
“No one does. Just like this ship.” She turned to her big sister. “The ship is all I know. You at least remember something about the old world before. Most everyone does, and so everyone’s been so eager to leave, and go back to a real world.” Her gaze drifted to the dark mass looming below them. I don’t care about living on a real world. I thought I’d stay here with the ship and… we’d keep each other company.”
Another low groan, accompanied by a series of booming creaks demanded their attention. The skin of the ship vibrated with each pop.
“Shmee, the ship… she’s old and tired. This was all she was built for, you know? To get us here. Now, I think she would be ready to let us go.”
“But what about me?” Shmee squeaked. The girl seemed to shrink, to revert back to a younger version of herself; back when the word “sister” was synonymous with “best friend,” before teenage growing pains pushed Perdie away. The older girl reached out and gently drew her sister into a hug.
“I’ll take care of you. Okay? It won’t be any fun for awhile, but I’ll make sure you get on your feet down there.” Perdie chuckled to herself, “Literally, I guess.”
Shmee pulled back. After a moment of uncertainty, she offered a weak smile.
“Look,” Perdie continued. “I’m sorry I’ve been so short with you lately. I don’t mean to be.”
The younger girl sighed, “It’s ok-”
She was drowned out by a thunder clap that shook the room around them. Static burst from helmets that had been floating aimlessly away from them.
“Perdie!” Barked Doctor Souchong, “Do you see her?”
She plucked her helmet out of the air and squeezed the communicator at the chin.
“I found her.”
“Get back now!”