In the time since Olivia had been granted the cinema, her team had gone to work transferring computers, monitors, radios, and anything else that might be helpful in executing the upcoming exploration mission. As she was busy bundling one of the last runs of data cables, she paused to tie back her black hair in a ponytail. It was only when she had finished that she heard the creaking footsteps of someone coming upstairs.
She saw Rayland Walsh poking his head up the stairwell and tried not to groan. It was easy enough to know it was him since he wasn’t as young as the others that arrived from the Core. His face showed wrinkles that betrayed his age and his hair had far more gray than brown. While most of the other citizens appeared to be in the prime of their youth, with ages ranging from early adulthood to middle age, Rayland looked to be approaching the elderly stage. This seemingly “advanced” age had made him an outlier to the community as a whole.
He scanned the room as he finished climbing the stairs and she found herself genuinely considering hiding behind one of the server towers before he saw her. It wasn’t that she disliked Rayland. He was never outright cruel or mean to her, but he also wasn’t friendly either. They were mostly like oil and water, with each one having little interest in the activities of the other. Unlike John, who had been excited to see the two moving closer together, neither of them were too keen on the plan.
“Ah, there you are,” he said cheerily when he finally saw her. “Just the person I was hoping to find.”
She offered a simple greeting and went back to tying the bundles of cables together. “How can I help?”
“Well, you see, some of the citizens have been complaining about the noise coming from the cinema. They said you’ve been flying helicopters in almost nonstop.”
“Just one,” Olivia replied. “It’s the only one we’ve got.”
“Yes, of course. They’re just complaining about—”
Olivia stopped her work and stood to face Rayland. “Look, I have kept our activities limited to midday and early afternoon when I can, but honestly there’s some shipments that are time sensitive and could only be moved at night.”
“I understand,” Rayland said. “It’s just that the town has had a lot of sudden changes recently, what with a currency introduced, the new mysterious family arrival, the mayoral election, and now the whole hubbub here at the theater. They’re on edge. A helicopter and moving crews yelling at one another in the dead of night is disconcerting to say the least.”
Olivia frowned. “Rayland. My focus is the safe execution of the Explorer One mission. I am sorry that I’ve made a few people feel uncomfortable. If you want, I can reconsider using this location as Mission Control after we complete our first outing. For now, however, I would recommend that you do some of that wonderful public relations stuff you are so good at to tell the citizens everything is fine.”
Rayland didn’t seem pleased with this response, but he also didn’t argue with her. Instead, he took a deep breath and told her he would be in touch. As he returned to the stairwell, however, he turned back to her. “Have you seen John?”
“No,” she replied. “Not since yesterday. He was supposed to meet with Samantha.”
“Noted. Thank you.”
The area in front of the pool hall was filled with curious individuals who had come to attend a special event organized by John in his last newsletter.
He had invited Ruby Rose and David Nash to visit town and talk about two major parts of life here on the world ship. The Exploration Missions and the Core. Ruby had spent over an hour answering questions about the Core and how she worked to retrieve people who woke up. She was more than happy to explain how things worked, and John felt like the citizens were getting a really good understanding.
Once she had finally run out of talking points, it was up to David to keep things interesting.
He stepped up to the group with a smile on his face and a white object in his left hand. It didn’t appear to be much larger than a small piece of luggage, and he held it at his side with ease.
“Greetings all,” he started. “So, today I’ve been asked to talk about the Exploration Team that we have down at the Grid. I can give you the condensed version, which is to say that we explore the ship whenever and however we can. That’s a boring answer to the question, so instead of lingering on it, I’ll jump to the ‘however’ part. In the coming weeks we’re going to be launching our very own exploration vehicle, aptly named the Explorer One. A lot of you might be wondering a little bit about the vehicle, so I brought this to share.”
He pulled a rolled piece of paper and revealed an intricate drawing of the Explorer One craft layout and even electrical schematics.
“We can pass this around, so no need to squint,” he added, drawing a few chuckles from the audience. “Honestly, I don’t think we initially planned to show the schematics to so many people. So, while you’re all looking at that…” he handed the paper to the first row to be passed around. “I’ve also got a really cool piece of technology to share. We call them repulsors.”
He presed a button on the object and then released it. Instead of falling to the ground, it remained right where he had been holding it. He pushed on it and it slid away from him, crawling toward the edge of the stage. When it reached the end, it continued on out over the audience, its height unchanged.
This drew considerable excitement from the crowd.
“How does it work?” one of the citizens yelled.
“Great question. The truth be told, the technology is still a little beyond us. These units are part of a transport system that runs all around the Grid. We have started using them on our own projects. Explorer One will be the first manned vehicle to use these things. The long and short of it is the more power funneled to the repulsors means the more height we can obtain. It’s not efficient to use them for the initial climb, however, so we use the standard rockets for that.”
“Will there be rockets on the test mission?”
“Not the beefy ones,” David said. “We’re actually going to use a cable launch technique to launch the vehicle, but we do have rocket engines aboard the Explorer One for thrust. It’s really exciting stuff.”
“How many people are going?”
“Just two for now.”
“Is it dangerous?”
Here, David Nash had a fine line to walk. He could say the mission was, in no way, dangerous and run the risk of shock and confusion if something went wrong. He could also say that the mission was full of perils, but that could cause panic about the mission itself before it was launched. His response, was a mixture of both.
“Well,” he explained. “We’re attempting to explore the unknown, and that carries with it an innate risk. We are taking every precaution we can and we fully expect to return from this mission with new data and exciting opportunities!”
David’s explanation of the repulsors was going swimmingly. John, watching from the sidelines, could see that most of the citizens were truly excited about the mission, while only a few of them appeared to be expressing grave concerns.
All of this had been John’s best hope. When he had first interviewed Olivia all that time ago his intent was to draw a public eye to the explorers and their missions. To highlight the reality of their work and remind people why they do what they do.
He was still in the middle of patting himself on the back when he heard Rayland Walsh say his name from behind.
“Hello Rayland,” he said, turning to face the man. “I’m glad to see—”
“Don’t waste my time,” Rayland replied, his brows furrowed. “You’re supposed to have gotten me an architect.”
“Rayland, I’m working on it.”
“John, I have had to deal with at least a dozen citizens clamoring to have discussions with me about Olivia’s occupation of the cinema. If you recall, I warned you that I’d reverse my decision if you didn’t provide me with a solution.”
John had hoped he would be able to delay as long as he could, but now was the time to reveal his hand. The last thing he needed was Rayland trying to make a scene by evicting Olivia’s team. “Okay, listen,” he said. “We might have our guy.”
Rayland’s furrowed brows lifted. “You have someone?”
“Our newest arrival. William Everett. He may be a genuine architect.”
“How could you know that?”
“You know each new arrival spends a few weeks talking with Samantha. William liked drawing little doodles while he talked. Some of them were amazing sketches of buildings. They talked about it more and he’s realized that he can design buildings. He can make it happen.”
“That’s incredible,” Rayland said.
“Exactly. Right when we need one, an architect shows up. Just like when Olivia needed a helicopter pilot and one woke up. I have a theory that the Core is sending—”
“I’m not worried about theories right now,” Rayland snapped. “William Everett is an architect. We need to capitalize on that. If we could work with him to get some plans for a potential building then we could lock down a victory for my mayoral campaign.”
“I’m not sure if he’s ready to jump into something like that.”
“I won’t make him, if he’s not ready,” Rayland assured him. “But we do need more living space and he’s the man to make it happen.”
“What about building materials?” John asked. “How will you build anything without supplies?”
Rayland smiled wide and then patted John on the shoulder. “I suppose it’s time I told you about the Warehouse.
Ruby Rose was riding a large elevator that lowered down into one of the deepest parts of the world ship. It was old down here. Some of the engineers said it might even be older than the Core.
Next to her, Flynn was looking over a checklist with a half-cocked smile.
“Are you sure about this?” she asked him, as the elevator creaked and shook.
“Absolutely,” he said without glancing up. “This place has everything. If we need a new helicopter, I’m confident it’ll be down here.”
“Is this where we got our first helicopter?”
“We think it came from here,” Flynn confirmed. “We don’t know for sure. When Olivia woke up, it was already sitting out on the exit platform. Never figured out how it got there.”
The elevator came to an abrupt stop and the large door opened with a sound that resembled a rock grinder. As the opening widened, Ruby saw into the massive area of the ship. It was comprised of rows and rows of massive shelves, each one loaded to the brim with boxes, parts, supplies, and other equipment.
This is incredible,” she said, trying to mask some of the utter shock.
“They call it the Warehouse,” Flynn said, finally looking up from his list. “It’s become somewhat of an important place for all our needs. Finding a new helicopter won’t be easy. It would be completely boxed up in parts down here. Some of the explorers tried to map out sections according to what they think is housed in each area. We’ll start with that.”
“How long will we look?” Ruby asked.
“Until we find one,” Flynn replied. “We can break it down and go row by row if it gets desperate.”
“Don’t you need to be training for the Explorer One mission?”
Flynn flashed a smile at her. “There isn’t anything to train for that I can’t already do. Now, building a new helicopter? That sounds fun. So let’s get looking for those parts!”
He marched forward, heading right into one of the enormous rows with that paper still in his hands. Ruby watched him with fascination. He was so confident in his abilities, but surely he felt fear on some level, right? If she had been assigned to Explorer One she might have cried. Just knowing that if something went wrong, she might be the only capable pilot in the whole community made her terrified. She needed him to be safe.
“Hey,” he called from down the row. “Come on, Ruby. Get looking!”
She waved at him to signal she had heard and then headed over one row and started down, looking at the various boxes and parts. The sheer number of items boggled her mind and made her realize that this search was going to take a long time.