In the After

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The Flickering lights

Waking up in the morning I turn over in my bed letting the early morning sunshine on my face. I liked to leave the curtain open at night to look at the stars in the sky. And to see the sun rise in the morning I had moved my bed so that it was right on the wall. Sitting up on the mattress I look at the ocean it goes out for miles.

It’s still early in the morning so the only boats out are sleek security patrol boats and the heavy fishing trawlers. “Curtain close.”

I wait for the curtain to close, but it doesn’t “Curtain close.” This time I say it more clearly it does. The thin film covers the large window really it my south wall, but we call them windows. The film lets in maximum light while making sure that anyone on a fishing vessel can’t look up and in.

“Screen on.” I say standing up.

The screen powers up “Good morning Delia it is May 8th, 2083.” The automatic voice says in almost cheerful tone.

Walking over to the set of metal dressers I say. “Play radio 2.”

“Playing Radio 2.” The voice says.

Since the ships were made before the virus destroyed the world, it had certain luxuries like an impressive music collection and movies some of them over a hundred years old. Radio 2 was rock and roll music the kind that was old when Gran was little.

I’ve just pulled on my boots when the Screen stops the song. “Incoming call from Kathy Wicks do you accept?”

“Accept call.” I say, pulling a fish bone comb through my auburn hair.

“Good morning.” She says still in her nightgown.

“You’re up early.” As a teacher, she doesn’t have to be on the learning decks till eight yet here she is at the creak of six to talk to me.

She nods. “I called last night.”

“Sorry.” I groan last night we had a problem with the number eight turbine strange readings and I had to stay late. “What’s up?”

She smiles. “Allison’s graduation for basic school.”

“We got the passes?” Passes are hard to come by, mostly because fuel is tightly rationed.

“We did!”

“That’s great.” I say a huge smile on my face. Allison is my cousin and she is graduating from basic school on the Blue Lady. The ship anchored about two miles north of us and we all want to go. Me, Gran and Pops, my parents and Diana my twin sister.

“How’s work sweetie, you look beat?”

I sigh. “I am but I can’t talk about it.”

. “Right.” She wants to ask but Screens are monitored by the guard.

Any leak in information could lead to rumors and those can turn into riots. When I was five there was rumor that the crops had failed and rations would be cut. People panicked and started to hoard food. That led to tighter restriction in the mess hall a rookie guard found an apple. He overacted a riot broke out. I remember hiding under a table with my sister Ana.

“How’s Ana,” I change the subject.

“Ana is fine.” Diana, my twin, says as she appears on the screen

I’m older by four minutes, but Ana is smarter. We have the same oval face and fair skin, our hair is short ending in auburn ringlets an inch below our ears. The only way people can even tell us apart is our eye. My left eye is amber and the right eye is pale blue. Ana’s left eye is blue and her right eye is amber.

“Yeah, well your next.”

She smiles that bright Ana smile, the kind that can light up a room. “I can’t wait.”

(*)(*)(*)

“So, Dee and plans this weekend?” The velvety voice says from my left.

I scoff closing my locker. “Visiting my cousin, she’s graduating basic school.”

“Strike one, Toby.”

He turns to the man on his right. “Shut it Mick.”

Toby turns back to me his wide brown eye. “That’s a month away, Delia.”

“First off,” I use my middle and index finger to pull his head up. “These are my eyes.”

“Strike two.” Mickey sings.

“Secondly, my cousin lives on the Blue Lady they are graduating this week.”

I drop his head as Mickey smiles slapping his shoulder. “That is a strike out my brother.”

Leaning back on my locker I smile at Toby, we graduated the engineering program at the same time. He’s been trying to get me to go out on a date with him for a year now. “How much longer are you going to keep asking me out, half the girls on Trig would go out with you?”

The work bell sounds off and we walk down the hall to the main elevator that will take down to the machine decks. Toby laughs. “I could say the same about you’re smart and beautiful, but you never go out with anyone male or female.”

Our boots are the only sound as the three of walk on. Toby while annoying. He is funny and smart you have to be to get into this program. And, he’s not ugly with his wide brown arms, framed by thick ebony hair and olive tone skin. He’s a good person to I’ve seen him on the lower decks reading to the elderly. Any woman on Trig would go out with him.

“I just haven’t met the right person yet no one that just makes me stop dead in my tracks.”

Mickey claps his long bony hands. “Aww you’re a romantic.”

I stop at the door to scan my wrist band giving us access to the elevator that will take us to the machine decks. “What if I’m going to spend the rest of my life with this person and have his children he better the right one.”

The door opens I get on along with Mickey and Toby who has given up on getting a date for the moment. He changes the subject. “So you have a cousin live on the Lady?”

“My Aunt Mary met her husband Ryan at the launch day celebration.” It was rare to marry someone from another ship. Mostly because we’re separate states and the mass of each ship rarely interact. The ships only come together a couple times a year.

Launch day is when we all come together the ships forming a circle like they did in the first years. When the virus was wiping out civilization on Dry Land. It was a time for reflection on the lives lost. It ended when lanterns were released with the name of a family member lost. My grandmother would light a lantern for her parents they weren’t immune like her so she was boarded alone.

Mickey ask the next question as we slowly go down the decks. “What did she chose as her final vocations.”

“She is going to be a teacher specializing in history.”

“Good for her.” Toby says in a polite tone. History was never his favorite subject.

From the age of five to nine we all go to basic school learning to read and write, math’s, and history of course. That happen Monday-Thursday, on Friday you would go to the recreation deck for the day. When you turned ten you would stop having recreation activities on Fridays and start vocation hours.

Your vocation is your job on Trig you have a list based on intelligence and family history. You would pick a vocation and volunteer under the supervisor of a mentor for a month then move on to another. By the time you eleven you would have an idea of what you wanted to do. By twelve you either have a vocation picked out or one is picked for you. I always knew I wanted to be an engineer. I spend most of my Vocation hours with my Grandfather on the Mache decks.

Year eight was the final year of basic school after that, you would graduate and at the ceremony announce before the whole ship your chosen vocation. Then there would a small party for the graduates and their families. Six weeks later you would start training for your future job.

Once that training is over you move out of your parents’ home to your own since you are now a full citizen of your ship. My training took six years I graduated on my eighteen birthday. Alison, my cousin will train for about four years while my twin sister Diana is still in training to be a doctor, they train for eight years. She’s graduating next mouth.

The elevator opens I smile at the sight of the large turbine currently in the dry deck it’s been malfunctioning. People are starting to notice now the lights are flickering and the automatic systems are slowing down. A friend of mine in the guard did let it slip that all the information on the ship open servers are backed up.

“So who gets to go into the beast?” Mickey asks, eyes wide at the site of the turbine.

“We do.” Toby and I say together.

(*)(*)(*)

Two hours later I’m covered in grease and sweat shining my light on the inside of the giant turbine there are four for each ship. The turbines are each 36 feet tall and ten feet wide. This one is in the dry deck, meaning the ship takes power backup generators. They run on old fossil fuel that we drill from the gulf, it’s dangerous to drill and difficult to make the fuel. We don’t use it unless we are truly desperate like right now.

“Anything?”

“Now these look like any turbine from an ebook.”

Nodding “I know we spent half our training looking at the pictures.” Looking around I see the inside of the steel tube is gray and I drop the light. “I know what’s wrong.”

“What?”

“The turbines are in the ocean, salt water, these walls should be painted with but they aren’t.”

He gets it instantly. “The sea water chipped the paint and now its eroding coils.”

I touch my Comm bud. “Mickey you there?”

“Yeah.”

Going over to the latter, I start to climb up to get out of the tube. “Check the coils.”

An hour later we’re sitting in the break room none of us talk each thinking our thoughts about what we learned. The metal coils, the only ones we have had over the past sixty years been slowly attacked by the sea water. Over time the holes the size of a needle had formed. The inside of the pipes had rusted. The coils needed to be replace.

Mick told the supervisor, we were told to wait here in the break room. Toby’s left leg is shaking something I haven’t seen since we were being tested in training. Mickey is still in a state of disbelief over the whole situation his eye glazed over. I’m going the event in my head forming a plan, it’s a crazy plan, but right now it’s the only one that will work.

Toby breaks the silence “The inside of the turbine can be repainted.”

“That’s putting a bandage on stab wound,” I say. “To truly fix the problem we need to replace the coils in all the turbines all the ships.”

“Four turbines per ship that twenty-four coils we need a hundred feet of copper piping for this ship alone.” Toby look over to Mick still in his daze.

Putting my elbows on the table as I rest my head on my hands “We could use back-up steel for the time being but we need copper pipes.”

Mickey’s eyes clear he knows what needs to happen “You don’t mean…”

“Delia that insane,” Toby says as the door opens and three armed guards enter the room.

“The council request your presence you will come with us now.” Jonah, the head of the security, says in his politest tone, but if we were foolish enough to say no he would taze us and drag us to the council chamber.
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