“Earth always has been the authority, and it will be forever if we let it, but we don’t need them.”
Off Day is original fiction by TGDaily’s CB Droege. Don’t start in the middle. Get the story so far.
Part 4 of 5
He held the small box out to her, “You sure you don’t want to jack-in, I don’t mind.”
“No, thank you,” she said, “You had something to show me…”
“Yes, of course,” he said, “I’m sure you’re busy.” He dropped the small box of hallucinogenic pills back into the drawer and closed it.
“Actually, coming out here is my last assignment as an OWA officer,” she said over her shoulder as she wondered across the kitchen, past the net-node, and over to the reading chair, “I just need to be on the rocket in the morning and…” her voice trailed off as she read the titles of the books on the shelf, “These are all about gardening.”
“Yes. Are you interested in gardening?”
“Erm… no, but I’ve never seen books that weren’t classic collectables,” she said, “my father has one shelf of books like this, which he never touches, they’re all the ancient classical writers: Shakespeare, Poe, Asimov, you know. These books aren’t like that, they have really been used,” she reached out and touched the spine of one book, running her finger over an embossed title, “Are they paper?”
He laughed then, “How old do you think I am?”
She looked sheepish, “Sorry, I’ve just always heard about how wood used to be so common that they made books out of it.”
“My grandfather once told me the same, but I’ve never seen it myself,” he said, “He smuggled one paper book with him from Earth when he was drafted into the colonization program, but he sold it long ago, when he realized what it was worth out here.”
“He must have had a lot of stories to tell.”
“Yes he did,” he said, “What about your family?”
“Well, was your great grandfather a conscript or a volunteer?”
“A volunteer,” she said, “He piloted one of the sleeper ships.”
“Is that still a fine point back in the city?”
“That my great grandfather was a pilot?”
“That he was a volunteer.”
“No,” she said. Then, “Well, sometimes my parents’ generation still makes a comment about some families being from volunteer stock, and others from conscript stock, but my generation doesn’t really see it that way anymore. The families are all so mixed up now it’s too difficult to tell anyway.”
“That’s good to hear,” he said.
“You see,” she said smiling again, “the city’s not so bad as it was, you would do fine there, I’m sure of it, even though we’ll all be up in the station.”
“Here,” he said, as if he hadn’t heard her, “let me show you this.” He had stepped over to a small rug in the living room, and lifted it aside, revealing a ring in the floor, which he tugged to reveal a spiral stairwell, leading down into the darkness.
He started to descend into the floor, “Just let me go first, so I can get the lights for us.”
Jade took a few steps closer, and looked down into the darkness. Otis fumbled for a moment, groping for the panel that would activate the lights and brighten the short hallway. “What is all this?”, Jade asked from above, once the light was on.
Otis looked up at her. He paused for a moment, seeing her face lit from below, and framed in the relative darkness of his house above. He shook himself internally. “My father passed away a few years before my wife,” he explained as she began to descend the stairs, “he had some investments left over, so I sold them all, and used the funds to have this place installed after my… after the proclamation.”
He took a step through a large, bulkhead door while he spoke. The stainless steel room beyond was lined with shelves on both sides, a bed and a small counter with a sink were installed in the back, next to a small door that could only be a bathroom. “It’s not as big as the house upstairs, but it’s big enough, and as you can see, it’s stocked with all the things one needs for a long stay.”
He gestured around the room at each of the things in turn, “plenty of dried food, a water recycler, bed and bath facilities, a shelf for my books, and a CO2 scrubber and oxygen tanks in the ceiling, in case the few live plants I bring with me aren’t enough. A man could live fifteen years in this room, which I daresay is more time than I have left to me.
“So, you see, Miss Oliver? I’m prepared for Off Day. When the last envi plant shuts down, and the atmosphere begins to float off into space, I’ll be safe and sound in here.”
She stared up and down the shelves at thousands of plastic-wrapped packages, “you dried all this yourself?” she asked, “from the garden outside?”
“I did,” he said, “I had plenty of warning, so it really wasn’t much work at all.”
“But why?” she asked, an expression of clear confusion on her face, “Why not just come with us to the new station?”
“This is my home Miss Oliver,” he said, “I’ve lived in this house since the day I was born, and it’s part of me now. I would never leave this place. Not for anything.”
“But this is not your home, it’s just a room, and the accommodations are smaller than you would have on the city-station.”
Otis considered this for a moment, “Perhaps that’s true, but this is my place. I’m the captain here, and all the rules and regulations are my own.” He picked up a bundle of dried tomatoes and glanced around the room.
“That’s what this is all about?” the way she said it didn’t sound like a question, “You don’t like authority?”
“No, that’s not it, really,” he started, “maybe it was once, but the reason for all of this has changed so much over the years. Originally, it was a political statement. Now, I don’t know… I guess I’m just used to the idea of spending the rest of my life alone in this box. I’ve put thirty years of work into preparing this room for Off Day. It would be a shame to let all that go to waste.”
“Political?” she mused. “You don’t agree with the directive?”
“The directive was fine. Made sense even,” He looked down at the bundle still in his hand, “but we should have been let to come to those conclusions on our own. We don’t need Earth’s directives.”
“Earth is the seat of all governments.”
“And why is that, do you think? Is it because we cannot govern ourselves?”
“Well, I don’t really…”
“You haven’t really thought about it.” he said, showing a spark of the passion these conversations once brought out in his own father. “Earth always has been the authority, and it will be forever if we let it, but we don’t need them.”
He slammed the package back on its shelf, almost breaking it. For a moment Jade simply stared at him, clearly at a loss. Otis realized then that his face had twisted with anger, and he had been nearly shouting at the girl. She must think his solitary life has left him a bit mad, and perhaps she was right.
Look for Part 5 tomorrow. In the mean time, check here for more fiction on TG Daily.