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Her forceful nature caused me to pause for a moment. At first, I felt a little defensive. I wanted to shout at her. Random thoughts from my time during the Great Wipe popped into my mind. Tears welled up in my eyes. “Well,” I said and huffed. ”That doesn’t sound fun, but I still think it is better than spending two years without electricity, vehicles broken down everywhere, limited food, water and waste systems. Everyone fighting for survival. Disease outbreaks with limited medical support, and entire cities left barren due to death and destruction.”
“How does that happen?” Willow asked. She leaned in close, her interest noticeably piqued.
I felt even more angry at her. I could feel my heart in my ears as I prepared myself to answer questions about the hardest time experienced by modern humanity.
“There was a prolonged solar storm unlike anything we had seen before. It hit the Earth and caused an electromagnetic field that stopped everything electronic dead in its tracks.”
“Weren’t we prepared for something like that?” She reminded me of my nieces and nephews at story time.
I shot Willow a quick smirk. “That was the first question most people tossed around. We all expected the military to quickly come to our rescue, but things fell apart fast and they didn’t have enough resources.” I tapped on the nearby display. “Here, we digitized some photos from the aftermath of the Great Wipe.”
Image after image faded in and out. There were thousands of them stored on the storage drives. There was one that showed rioting in downtown city streets. The next showed giant metal towers with their thick black power cables sagging near the ground or completely split in two. Another image showed a scattered crowd of people standing idle on a freeway.
“Eight billion people, many of us too used to living a life with the Internet, electricity, garbage collection, corporate mega-farms and vehicles. It was anarchy.”
I saw the horror in Willow’s eyes as she realized the future that she had missed wasn’t what she had expected it to be.
“How many survived?” She asked.
“A little over a billion people made it through everything.” I paused and let the number sink in. I had lived through it and it still felt unreal.
Willow’s jaw hung open. Her eyes nearly popped from her head.
“I know,” I said solemnly. “In the end, it might have been for the best.”
Her expression changed from shock to anger and frustration. Her mouth shut and her jaw visibly clenched.
“Wait.” I interjected before she could say or do anything. “Let me explain.”
Willow released a sharp exhale and tipped her head forward in a tiny nod.
“There wasn’t any Internet. No GPS. Most electronics didn’t work. Everything had to change. The military, even with all of their shielded electronics equipment, couldn’t fix everything, at least not very quickly. Many people thought it was the end of days.”
“That doesn’t sound like it was for the better,” Willow interrupted.
“Well, those that survived banded together. Strangers became communities. Neighbors became family as we all worked together.” I thought about the group of people I lived with on the edge of Toronto, a large metropolis in Canada. I thought about the people that I had bonded with and how, with their support, I had survived to be reunited with my family, most of whom had also survived.
“Even after power started to be restored to different areas, our world, our culture, and our faith were all permanently transformed.”
“Attention, LD crew,” Emeric’s voice came over the comm and emphasized ‘crew’. “You are required on the bridge for an important meeting.”
I glanced at Willow and shrugged.
“I guess that means Skyler and I don’t have to go, right?” She said with a small smile.
Panic tightened around my heart. I did not want to leave her and Skyler alone. I worried this meeting would give them the opportunity they had been waiting for to sabotage the ship. I shrugged again. “Orders are orders,” I said sadly. “I’m sure it’s nothing. Either way, I’ll let you know when I get back.”
“Alright,” Willow said with a smile. “Have fun.”
I walked onto the bridge and Emeric stood in front of his station at the front of the ship, his hands folded behind his back and his posture straight and rigid. He nodded to me as I took my seat. There was something extra stiff and formal about his appearance and movements.
I quickly opened a few small windows on my display, each showed a different room on the ship. I had a view of lower engineering, upper engineering, the hall outside the crew quarters and the infirmary. All of the areas that I felt were at risk while we were on the bridge. I tracked Asher as he shut down a program on one of the terminals in the lower engineering section. He disappeared out the door and a few moments later he appeared in the hall. I lost him again as he ascended the stairs, but a mere moment later the door to the bridge opened behind me and he walked in. Emeric gave Asher the same formal but cold nod that he had given me.
“Glad you two made it here so promptly,” Emeric said. “We need to discuss the status of our ship, both in terms of the actual ship as well as its occupants.”
Asher and I both nodded.
“I’ll go first.” Emeric offered. “I have changed course a few times trying to see if I can find a weakness in this – for lack of a better word – forcefield.”
I looked at Asher and he rolled his eyes.
“So far we have hit the same resistance in every direction. We need to discuss further options for dealing with this issue. The AU prize lies on the other side of this hurdle and I know I don’t want to return to Earth empty handed.” Emeric started pacing along the central line of the bridge between my seat and Asher’s. “Which brings me to our guests. I know that Ms. Smith has had some health concerns, and I don’t want you to breach doctor/patient confidentiality, but I feel like it is something we should address. Will her illness continue to be a problem?”
I didn’t know what to say. I paused, no doubt a look of confusion on my face.
Thankfully, Emeric didn’t wait. “I also just don’t like Mr. Grey. I know that he was picked for reasons, but I can’t for the life of me figure out what they are.”
I glanced at my multiple views of the ship, Skyler was sitting beside Willow in the infirmary. They seemed to be chatting, and he had a big smile plastered on his face while his mouth moved incessantly. Willow nodded occasionally with a small, polite smile on her own face.
“Skyler,” I began, “is a puzzle for sure. I don’t entirely trust him myself.”
“He seems to like you though,” Asher cut in.
“The feeling is not mutual,” I clarified. “I kind of heard something after they got here, I think Skyler is a ‘win by any means necessary’ type of guy. I don’t know what he’s planning, but I think he might be up to something.” I glanced at my screen again and the situation had not changed.
“I think we should all watch him closely,” Emeric said.
“As for your question about Willow, I have discussed her situation with her, and I hope she will make some hard choices in that regard.” I cleared my throat. “As for how we should proceed with the ship, I have no recommendations.”
“It is the most frustrating thing in the universe,” Asher said. “The engines are functioning within normal parameters.” Asher threw his hands up above his head. “I still don’t have a clear understanding on what is keeping us from moving forward, but I think we should go back to trying to ram through it. Maybe, if we pull back a bit to where it isn’t as strong and build up enough speed, the extra momentum can help us get beyond this snag.”
“If you think it has a chance, I’m up for that.” Emeric said, turning his attention to his navigation display.
Goodbye Sol – Page 22
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