Songs in the Silence [Sci-Fantasy Story pt. 4 of 5]
Sometimes, all it takes is a song. Olovia, having lost her voice, is the last person she'd have thought would be able to save the ship and return everyone to the Earth.
Welcome back, Scribes!
We've reached the penultimate part of Songs in the Silence and Olovia takes steps toward figuring out what to do, then finds out just how costly such an endeavour would be.
She had to test her theory and tonight was the best chance she’d get. She waited until the Silence — Silis’s Silence — had ended before sneaking down the streets toward the hatch in the viewing deck. If that coupling had been responsible for the food printer’s awakening, what would more of the empty sockets do? Additional online printers, most likely. Still, she couldn’t quite figure out why the ship had hummed that way. Surely bringing the few printers online wouldn’t have required that much power?
She paused on her way up the ladder. Had she drained the power? She lifted her leg to climb another rung, but her knee felt stiff. Nonsense. The printers were meant to be used, why else had the first-saved people installed them if not for that? Olovia gave a nervous huff and continued up. Her body weighed heavy against the rungs as she climbed, until she got to the upper levels of the shaft.
She wasn’t supposed to be here, especially not with the intent to fidget with forbidden controls. With her kit beside her and tools at the ready, she uncoupled a screen she knew would be in a section without stars. A few of them were like that, some poor attempt to suggest an eclipse, according to the textbooks from training. What if they were a lie, as well?
She grabbed the same type of cable as before and inserted it into the socket, closed her eyes, and waited for the reaction. The humming didn’t increase. In fact, nothing changed. She decoupled and put it back in. Still nothing. At least, not what she was hoping for. Her tablet chimed with another infraction and her evening ration revoked. Something must have happened that it alerted the Overseers system. Another message informed her of two more rations gone with a threat to revoke her housing if she continued.
She couldn’t afford that, regardless of how much her curiosity and empty stomach fought to continue. With haste, she packed her kit and began descending the ladder. At least she tried. Even though it wasn’t successful, she learned something about it. The system had reacted, in one way or another.
The light of simulated dawn filtered through the viewing deck and a trickle of footsteps made Olovia duck behind a support beam. Just a handful of workers on their way to their stations. She let out the breath she was holding and hurried back to her apartment.
The Overseers weren’t known to send out the correction drones, but she did what no one in centuries had and there was no space for taking chances. The stories the elders told the kids of those drones still haunted her, even after the therapy her father had been forced to trade rations for.
A little bit of paranoia hadn’t killed anyone before.
Back in the isolation of her apartment, she leaned against the door, waiting for her legs to stop wobbling. She watched Silis’s motion painting raging on the screen, letting the now predictable cycle ease her mind. It was a shame no one had time for art anymore. The paintings were scarce, but everyone admired them, sometimes trading dangerous amounts of rations above the bare minimum recommended for survival. And Silis had given this one to her, expecting nothing in return.
Her eyes were burning and her lids succumbing to gravity the longer she watched the storm, just enough to hear some of the song underneath. She had to share this with everyone.
Maybe that was the trick, what she needed to really investigate the couplings? She needed to bring all of the printers online. She straightened her back and set her kit on her bed, then grabbed her tablet and checked its memory banks. Distraction had served well in Earth’s history, and it was a tool more effective now.
Olovia had thought this through all night as she waited for the Silence. For once, she enjoyed it, unfocusing her eyes and her thoughts to let the song come through. The more she heard it, the more what Silis had said about a message buried within, became a reality. She felt it, deep in her chest somewhere. An aching to act. But on what?
She knew it was important, the urgency of the melody was difficult to shake. It was strongest when she and Silis listened together. Perhaps, if everyone heard it, the message or at least the reason for the song would be revealed? This feeling, creeping in her muscles, was similar to when she was in the void. No, not similar. Familiar. The song in the void, the one that had stolen her voice, that was slow and soothing. The one in the Silence, however, was filled with an unspoken promise.
She had to try and find it, decipher it. And the couplings were the only way she could think to bring it about. Most of the food printers were out on the streets. If she activated them, drew the people out to look up, maybe there was a chance.
With the last of the installations done and couplings made, Olovia pulled out her tablet and sent a text to Silis to meet her in the city park. She hoped he was awake, with his weird sleeping schedule. The screens would stay offline until then, in case correction drones really were still in use.
Her stomach rumbled, reminding her of how well her previous attempts had gone. And, for a moment, she doubted her plan; wanted to pack up and return to the humdrum of life that everyone else seemed content to have. Just to have something in her belly. Would she regret this?