Settlers of the Void

The Terrarium

Two of the goats died in the crash. Dawn tried to strap them in the best she could, but I guess the stress was too much for them. The ship came in faster than we expected and everything went to shit.

Oversight has been sending out a steady stream of apologies to our inboxes since it happened. I’ve messaged it back, saying that it did the best it could and that was all anybody expected, but the computer seems to be taking things personally. I suppose I’d feel the same way if I had been the one at the controls.

After the last of a long series of debriefings in the navigation room, Hiroshi and I headed down to the terrarium to try and cheer Dawn up about the goats. On the way I grabbed the bottle of wine I had kept hidden in my bunk for the past two years, thinking that now was the right time to finally open it. The lift was crowded. The whole crew seemed to be in a rush to go somewhere else: to the dorms, off shift, to anywhere they could finally exhale.

We found Dawn at the far side of the torus scattering feed to the chickens. They still hadn’t settled back down since the crash and were clucking wildly at each other, fluttering like particles of gas in a vacuum.

“How’s Harris?” Dawn asked.

“Some broken ribs,” I said. “But Robertson says he’ll be OK.”

“And the others?”

“OK. Beat up and in shock, but OK.”

Dawn nodded, reached into her bag of feed, and scattered another handful for the chickens.

Sometimes being inside the terrarium with all the soybeans and corn feels more fake than being in the sims, but I like going down there. The air smells sweeter than in the winding corridors of the ship and there’s more humidity, even if there isn’t any wind and the only birds you can hear are pre-recorded. It’s so big that sometimes you forget you’re inside the Hierophant at all. Plus, Dawn is usually there. She has a way of cheering me up even when she’s sad.

“There’s a party tonight,” Hiroshi said. “To celebrate us finally making it.”

“Not all of us made it,” Dawn said.

"Sorry about the goats," I said.

"Not just the goats," she said. "But my parents and your parents and everyone else who came before."

I didn’t know what else to do so I showed her the bottle of wine. She had fermented it herself. It was one of her many experiments as the ship’s chief agricultural officer and she had given it to me for my 17th birthday.

“I’m opening it,” I said “Do you want any?”

Dawn finished up with the bag of feed. The chickens pecked at the leftovers for a while and then I helped her herd them back into their coops. Hiroshi found some glasses and the three of us sat down on the grass and drank the wine under the white heat of the artificial grow lights. Dawn seemed to cheer up. She even laughed when Hiroshi told a story that we had all heard a dozen times before about when Captain Martinez had gotten trapped in the lift during a glitch-out.

The corn, I noticed, was starting to get tall.

“When will it be ready to harvest?” I asked.

“Soon,” she said. “With any luck we’ll be eating it outside.”

“According to Martinez, that won’t be for another month at least,” Hiroshi said. “Everything is alright so far from the scans, but they want to run enough tests to be 100% sure.”

“That’s fine,” Dawn said, although to me it seemed she sighed a little when she said the words. “We’ve spent our whole lives onboard and another month won’t kill us.”

“It’s a miracle the hull didn’t crack,” I said.

I refilled each of our glasses. The wine tasted sweet, sweeter than it does in the sims.

"How many goats are left?” Hiroshi asked.

“Twenty,” Dawn said.

“Hopefully they'll have good lives here,” Hiroshi said.

“Yeah,” I said. “Hopefully.”

We finished the bottle and took the lift back to the dormitories to change into our hand-me-down Class A uniforms. The party starts in another hour and I already have a bit of a buzz going from Dawn’s wine.

Despite the harshness of the landing, we’ve got a good reason to celebrate. The Hierophant’s two hundred year journey is over. We’re here.

- Owen