Page 24

    The elevator doors open, and Elder holds his arm out to prevent them from closing without him. He searches my eyes. "I'm not angry at you," he says, his voice sincere. "But these ‘clues' aren't going to fix the ship."

    Elder steps into the elevator, leaving me alone on the cold, empty cryo level. Part of me wishes he could stay, bu...now he's needed on the other levels. A...alk slowly back to the locked doors...onder how things would be different if Elder didn't have to be in charge of Godspeed...ould never ask him to give up the leadership he's longed for all his lif... . but maybe if he didn't have to care about the ship first...ould believe him when he said he cared about me.

    I pull the floppy we found out of my pocket. Maybe Elder is right. Maybe this is nothing bu...ild-goose chase.

    Bu... . it's al...ave right now. It's all I've had for three months. It's the first spark of hope I've had since waking up, an...ave to cling to it...ave to...ave to believe something, something will come of this.

    I play the video file again, skimming over the words and straining my ears to pick up some nuance in Orion's tone, something that will give m...lue.

    Orion's voice-so much like Elder's-fills the hall. "Eldest doesn't want anyone to know this secret...on't think he even wanted me to notice, bu... . the outside of the ship needed maintenance... . I-I saw what he wanted me not to see."

    "Whatever you found,&rdquo...ell Orion's face, "you saw it outside the ship."

    We can't go outside the ship. There's the vacuum of space, waiting to suffocate us or turn our lungs to mush or pop our eyeballs or whatever. We'd die. Unles... . unless behind one of the two remaining locked doors are space suits.

    I stare up at the hatch that shows the stars. Well, of course there'd be something to enable people to safely go out the hatch. Surely the makers of the ship realized that in centuries of travel, the ship would need maintenance. That's what Orion called me in the first video, his contingency plan-this must be theirs. Four locked doors on this hall. One leads to the armory, one leads to an evacuation hatc... . one must store space suits.

    The possibility of what I'm thinking hits me so hard tha...on't breathe fo...inute. The...emember the other thing Orion said.

    But the secre... . it should sta...ecret.

    No...ant-I need-to follow this through to the end...eed to know what Orion knows. Because if it's something that will get the ship going again, that will get us to the planet-it's worth it. And if it's proof that the ship will never move again-that's worth it too. It's the not knowing that's killing me. Not knowing if there'...hance that something can change, not knowing if there's hope at all.

    I play the video again.

    The thing is-there's something different about this clue. It feels off. It was o...loppy, no...em card. The scrolling text, the fact that Orion was so much younger-it's as if someone found this video and cobbled it together from an old film. Which mean... . Orion didn't make this.

    Someone else has the real video-the real clue.

    33

    ELDER

    "FREX,&rdquo...UMBLE AS MARAE RUNS DOWN THE LIST OF EVERY thing that's happened so far today. I've only been with Amy for two hours, tops, bu...hould have known better than to ignore my coms.

    First there was the meeting Bartie held at the Recorder Hall as soon as the solar lamp clicked on. Second Shipper Shelby had been there already and commed Marae, who tried to com me. By the time Marae had gotten to the Recorder Hall with the rest of the first-level Shippers, Bartie had already presented his ideas for what the ship's leadership should be like in the future, with an added note tha...as too inept to rule. Thirty people had pressed their thumbprints on his petition, giving it their mark of approval.

    Then Marae tried to "arrest" Bartie, bu...on't think she really even understood what the word meant, even though we've all been reading up on police forces and civil conflicts...hink she thought if she just shouted "I arrest you!" really loudly that would mean he'd quit, but instead he uploaded the petition to the floppy network and everyone on the ship had it by lunch.

    Not tha...ad lunch. By midday...as back in the City, standing up on the table at the Food Distro, explaining that, for some reason, wall food production was delayed. The whole time, the Food Distro manager, Fridrick, was staring at me, smirking, an...ept remembering how Bartie said that you could star...evolution if you took away people's food...id an all-call explaining that extra portions would be delivered for supper, but no one was really satisfied with that answer.

    It wasn't until now, with the workday nearly done, that Doc bothered to summon me to the Hospital and explain that someone had broken into his office and stolen his supplies of Phydus med patches.

    "Why the frex didn't you tell me this sooner?&rdquo...hout.

    Doc cringes. "You looked busy."

    I roar-an inarticulate sound with no words. The stolen patches explai...ot-a...as running from one end of the ship to another, I'd noticed surreptitious looks and veiled comments, but I'd thought it was people passing around Bartie's manifesto. No...ee they were also passing around the Phydus patches. The people who've been depressed-and many who weren't-are trading anything they have for them.

    "The worst thing," Doc tells me a...tare at his disheveled office, "is that this must have happened yesterday...aven't been back to my office since early last morning. Whoever killed Stevy must have pocketed the patches afte...eft."

    Doc's lips curl in disgust...on't know which part he hates the most: that someone stole med patches, or that whoever it was turned his office int...ess.

    "I made the concentration of Phydus in the patches high on purpose," Doc says, "so that one patch could quickly placat...erson. But the problem is, with suc...igh concentration-"

    "It only takes three patches to kil...erson."

    "Yes. It's very concentrated-two patches, an... . It slows everything down. The organs. It's too much for the body to handle. Three is death...hould have diluted the drug, bu...hough... ."

    "You thought you'd be the one administering it."

    "Me or Kit. Someone who knew the dangers and could regulate it." He sounds guilty, sad. But I'm as much to blame as he is...pproved the use of the patches.

    


    We both stare silently at his trashed office fo...oment. Everything is normally so neat and organized. But now it'...haotic mess. The desk shoved to one wall. The locking cabinet smashed open, with med patches spilling out in all colors, but none of them pale green.

    Kit runs into the office. "There're reports," she says breathlessly.

    "Of what?" Doc snaps.

    "Dead. Someone dead. From the patches."

    We immediately spring into action. Doc drives the electric cart across the Feeder Level, with me riding behind him. As the level flies past us, al...an think of is how much worse everything has been sinc...ook over.

    "You're going to have to do something," Doc calls back to me over the roar of the electric cart. "Something to really make the Feeders see you as leader. Use this problem to show your strength!"

    Yeah. Right.

    When we get to the City, Doc stops the cart in front of the weaving district. "Why are we stopping here?&rdquo...sk, my heart sinking.

    Before Doc can answer, someone yanks me off the back of the cart and throws me onto the street...tumble, almost losing my balance.

    "You frexing chutz!" Bartie bellows.

    I step back, surprised.

    "What are you-?&rdquo...tart.

    Bartie shoves me, hard, with both hands on my chest...tagger back, hitting the cart with the back of my legs. He hurl...andful of square, pale green med patches at my face.

    "Did you do this?" Bartie shouts. He towers over me.

    "I don't know what you're talking about."

    "Those ‘special' med patches are full of Phydus, you chutz." Spit flies in my face as he growls the words at me.

    "I-I know,&rdquo...ay, looking over his shoulder where the patches he threw at me lie scattered on the ground.

    "You know? You're not even going to deny it? You know? How could you let Phydus back on the ship? You-you-swore that you wouldn't use it again! You stupid frexing chutz!"

    "How did you get any?&rdquo...hout back...on't like the way he's in my face, the way he won't back up, give me room to breathe...ry to lean up, but he doesn't back down.

    "How could you?" Bartie sneers. "You prance around here, talking about how great you are for letting the people all get off Phydus, and then you just slather some frexing med patches on them and call it done! Anyone get in your way-anyone cause too much trouble-just sla...rexing patch on them!"

    Bartie spins away from me. But just a...ak...tep toward Doc, who's standing on the curb, too shocked to do anything, Bartie turns back and shoves me hard so tha...lam against the side of the cart again.

    "You're worse than Eldest, you know that? At least he treated us all the same. You're just picking us off as you choose."

    He turns to go, shaking his fist out.

    "Wai...rexing minute!&rdquo...hout. Bartie stops but doesn't turn; his back is stiff and straight, and his fingers curl into fists again. "I didn't do anything wrong!"

    "Didn't do anything wrong?" Bartie sneers without turning around. "Tell that to Lil."

    He strides off. The people on the street are silent, watching us. As soon as Bartie turns the corner, they start whispering.

    "Lil?&rdquo...sk Doc a...ather up the patches from the ground, stuffing them into my pockets. They may be scattered throughout the rest of the ship, but at leas...an make sure these don't fall into the wrong hands.

    Doc's face is creased i...ark frown, but he's glowering at where Bartie walked off, not at me. "She's the one Kit found dead."

    I rush up the stairs to Harley's childhood home...on't know wha...xpect to find there-his mother is already dead. Lil's trailer is exactly as it was before-messy and slightly smelly. Whe...nter her bedroom, Lil's just where Amy an...eft her, sprawled on the bed.

    Across her forehead are three pale green patches. One word on each patch.

    Follow the leader.

    "You know what that means, don't you?" Doc asks. Whe...on't answer, he adds, "This was murder. Someone killed Lil. For you."

    "For me?&rdquo...an't take my eyes off her body. It seems to melt into the bed.

    "Follow the leader. It'...arning to others-to those who don't."

    "But Lil wasn't rebelling. She wasn't involved with Bartie's group, and she never spoke against me-"

    ......
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