“Welcome to your new home,” the crewmen said dully.
The room's walls were a dull orange. Bits of paint had flaked off in places, exposing pale white undercoat. A single light, along with a single light bulb, flickered on the ceiling, dousing the room in flashes of darkness. Two lumpy beds were pushed into either corner, but there was only one small dresser. There was a card table and two hard chairs in the room's center. Other then that, it was depressingly bare.
Lying on one of the beds was that strange cannibal boy that Zoey had met in the woods. What was his name? Derek, that was it. Apparently, they were sharing a room together.
“It doesn't look like much because it ain't much,” the crewmen continued. “There's a bed for both of you. Although, bein' teenagers you'll be sharing beds before long.” The crewmen chuckled to himself and then slid the door closed, leaving Zoey and Derek alone together.
“Were have you been all this time?” Derek asked, sitting up to look at her. He was tall and muscular, with brown hair that curled uncontrollably in every which way. The features of his face seemed incredibly small, out of proportion with the rest of his body. His clothing was machine woven, but looked like it had taken a beating. Dried blood ringed his wrists, a memento from his time hanging from the tree.
“They threw me in a cell to make sure I wouldn't escape again,” Zoey answered back. She had already decided that escape was not only impossible, but completely worthless, as the fleet would just shoot her if she came back anyway. She was stuck out here, whether she liked it or not.
“Sucks,” Derek said, lying back down on the bed. Zoey went over to her's and sat down too. There was a long silence, where they listened to themselves breath.
“What's your family like?” Derek asked.
“Family? Whats that?” Zoey was unfamiliar with the word.
“You don't know what family is?” Derek said with evident surprise. “Lucky you. My family was made up of my mom, who never loved me before she abandoned us, my dad, who got drunk and hit me a lot, and my sisters, who constantly need my attention. Must be fun not to have a family.”
“I don't know,” Zoey said. “I never had a family. I don't know how to judge yours.”
“I sucks,” Derek said, annoyance in his voice. “We're just a bunch of lousy, poor, third class workers.”
Zoey was interested now. “Third class? What does that mean?”
“Ya know,” Derek said with only a glance in her direction. “Workers. The third class. As opposed to Employers, the first class.”
“Something there doesn't add up. Shouldn't there be a second class if there's a first and third?”
“Nah. There used to be, a very long time ago, but it was dissolved as unnecessary.”
“You know, it sounds like your village has a very interesting history Derek,” Zoey said, wanting to hear more. She heard Derek take a gulp of air. It was a breath of fear.
“So how to you know this Clooney guy?” he asked after several moments of silence.
Zoey thought about it, and decided it would be best not to press a clearly sensitive subject. “I don't know that much,” she said truthfully. “He just sort of showed up, jumped into the ocean with and next thing I knew he was helping me escape my own people. It's all so mixed up in my head I don't care anymore.”
“Do you trust him?”
“Of course not.”
“And what about Joshua?”
Derek tentatively asked another question. “What... um... about me?”
Zoey sighed. All boys did talk like George. “I think you're more trustworthy then Joshua or Clooney.”
“Oh, that's nice to know.”
“Didn't say I trusted you.”
“Of course you didn't. And just for the record I don't trust you either.”
“Good to know.”
An incredibly long silence followed. After all, admitting that you expected someone to stab you in the back has a way of killing conversation. The problem was they could do little else but talk. There was, much to Zoey's disappointment, no activity pads in the room, and as far as she could tell none on the entire ship. So they simply sat there, thinking about how they could improvise a weapon if the other one attacked in the night.
“Well,” Joshua said a he pushed the door open, breaking the monotonous silence. “I have good news, and I have bad news. Which do you want to hear first?”
“Bad news,” Derek said before Zoey could respond.
“Rightie then. Clooney is dying. Nothing we have on this ship can help him. There is one thing that might help, but it's insanely dangerous. Mostly for you, because I sure as hell ain't sending any of my men into a fire. That means you two will do most of the heavy work. And I have some more bad news, because now that I think of it there's no good news at all.”
Zoey sat up on her bed. “What do you mean? Is there some way to save him?”
“To keep him alive longer, yes,” Joshua said, laying out a large map on the card table. “To save him? Probably not. What we're going to is the Well Well.”
“I have no idea what it is but it has the stupidest name I've ever heard,” Derek said without sitting up.
“Well, you see it's a well that helps you get... well,” Joshua responded. “It's the kind of name the crew gives stuff when I let them put it on the map.”
“The map is hand drawn?” Zoey said, getting off her bed and looking at the roughly drawn map. It was full of islands with messy edges and hastily written labels such as “Love trading, but don't have money,” “FREE OIL!” and “Good times here.” The top forth of the map was covered in thick coating of black ink. It was labeled “The Scheldt: You WILL get lost here!” She finally spotted the “Well Well.”
“We're about here,” Joshua said, pointing to a spot of sea quite a distance away from the well. “It'll take us about two weeks to get to the well. Now the last time I sent some of my men to the well, two were killed and another was reduced to gibbering insanity. That means I'm not sending any of my men down there. Because Clooney is the one paying for your transport, you're the ones who'll keep him alive.”
“You're sending us down there!” Zoey was shocked. “We're just kids! We don't know how to fight!”
“I don't care,” Joshua said, his voice dripping with contempt. “I know my men. I want to keep them alive. You I don't know. Clooney I don't know. The only reason I'm trying to save him is because I'll get paid a very large sum when we get wherever we're going! I already got screwed over on this deal!”
“How did you get screwed over?” Zoey shouted, angry. “It looks to me that the worst that can happen to you is not getting paid!”
Joshua suddenly got a very strange look on his face, like he couldn't believe what he was hearing. “Did you not notice that entire dam army of soldiers after us? Did you not notice that five of my men were injured? Did you not realize that if it weren't for me taking out that ship, every single person on this ship would be dead now? Did you not realize that it's all because of you and Clooney?”
Zoey was struck dumb. She realized that the fleet was chasing her. If everyone on the ship died at their hands, it would be her fault.
“Bet you don't think you're so dam high and mighty now huh?” Joshua said angrily. There was a long silence. Derek broke it.
“I was the one who took out the White Fleet ship,” he said suddenly, as if he'd only just realized it. “I was the one who fired the shot that did it.”
Joshua's green eye zoomed around to rest on him. “I was the one that aimed. You were nothing. You just pulled the trigger. If I wasn't in the middle of an episode when it happened I wouldn't have needed you at all.”
“An 'episode',” Derek asked. “Is that what you call it when you go all twitchy? It looked like you were having a seizure.”
“Shut up,” Joshua responded coldly. “Don't you dare talk about that again. And I'll send you to hell if you talk.”
Derek clearly wasn't satisfied. “What caused i-”
“Shut the hell up!” Joshua screamed suddenly. “You aren't ready to hear what I have to say! So shut your goddam mouth!”
Zoey, who'd been wondering what they were talking about, finally spoke up. “You don't seem exactly stable enough to be captain of this ship Joshua.”
“Yea,” Joshua said, disgusted. “Because most of humanity is so damn stable.” He left without another word. There was only silence as Zoey went back to her bed, and lied back down.
“We're screwed,” Derek commented.
“We're on a ship, on which the captain hates us, about to go on what I can only assume is a suicide mission, to save a man we barely know, in hopes that he'll save us from a gigantic fleet of people desperately trying to kill us.”
“And also...” Derek started, showing Zoey the palm of his hand from across the room. There was a small puncture in the skin, which seemed to be poisoning the skin around it, creating a black circle. “Somebody attacked me a few weeks ago. Stuck me with a needle. It gave me this mark. Joshua has one exactly like it.”
“They're identical to the last detail, as far as I can see. After he saw I had one he said that he'd give me passage for free.”
“Doesn't seem like he'd be the type to give free passage for much,” Zoey answered back. “Why are you telling me anyway?”
“I need somebody to tell.”
It was a simple answer. And it was true for both of them. They starting talking. Zoey learned that Derek had two little sisters, both of his parents were dead, and that shockingly, he was from The Sphere! At first she was uncertain, but she quickly realized Derek was not a life-hating fanatic like the ones she'd been told about. She also, strangely, understood why he lied to her. If she had been in his situation she'd have done the same thing. He told her all about his heroic action that had saved The Great Foundry, how he'd woken up a rich man. He even told her about a strange incident where a radio told him that going outside would lead to disaster. He told her about a horrid man named Cornwell, about killing him with a shot to the head, and about being captured by the natives.
She talked to him to. She told him about the Society Test, about being a cleaner, about Citizen Twenty-Seven. She told him how she got her name. She told him about George, still lost somewhere with that strange man Kurt. She told him what little she knew about Reverend Clooney, and why the fleet was trying to hunt her down. It all came out.
They only stopped talking when a crewmen came in a shouted that it was time for night shift, and they had to be quiet and get some sleep. They turned off the light and tried to rest. It was hard, with the ship rocking back and forth on the waves. But eventually Zoey drifted off.
She saw Derek lying in a puddle of water, twisting and writhing as he screamed. “How could you do this to me? I trusted you! I thought you were my friend!”
When she woke up, she was suddenly relived to know it was a dream. But something at the back of her mind said it wasn't a dream.
It was the future.