“After a trade with another ship, a former cruise liner named the SS Elizabeth, we have all the equipment we need to start a hydroponic farm below deck. We believe this will give us a steady supply of food for the years to come. Modifications are currently being made below deck to accommodate the operation.”– History of The Empress: Book Six
The next few days were a whirl of activity, everyone was in overdrive. A service was held for those who died during the incident, thirty in total. There wasn’t much time to grieve, it was kept short so that everyone would return quickly to their tasks, and the bodies were promptly sent to compost. Gardening was working hard to repair their equipment, and several people were reassigned to gardening to cover those they lost. Fishing took on extra help as well to try and increase food intake, though it didn’t seem to help. Arthur had already started work on replacing the documents they lost, spending most of his time tracking people down to fill in the gaps in his memory.
Thomas and Obadiah were both busy keeping on top of the progress. Thomas had Arthur transcribe a new entry for the histories, without the usual ceremony of gathering everyone together. Obadiah had stopped by to look through the old histories. He was very interested in the previous expeditions to land. The lieutenant asked him to keep his visit quiet, which Arthur agreed to. He knew the captain would be furious if he found out, and he didn’t want any part in the drama. Arthur looked through those parts of the histories as well, he couldn’t stop thinking about going to land. He asked the Lieutenant if they could meet sometime to talk, and Obadiah invited Arthur over for dinner. Arthur’s stomach was already screaming from the rationing, and welcomed any extra food. He arrived at the lieutenant’s place just after sunset.
Arthur knocked on the door, which Obadiah quickly opened and welcomed him in. “Thank you for coming Arthur. Here, take a seat.” Arthur sat down at the table. Obadiah handed him a cup of water and laid out their dinner, grilled fish with bell peppers. They each took a few bites and then Obadiah started. “I know why you wanted to talk, and I’ve been thinking about what you said about sending a team to land. It’s intriguing but dangerous. We’ve sent people to shore before and they’ve never come back.”
Arthur had been thinking about it a lot himself and had a quick response. “WE haven’t, people a hundred years ago did, and we have no idea what happened to those crews. They could’ve fallen off a cliff, not gotten eaten by some insects. Whatever bug killed off the old world has to have died off by now, their source of food has been gone for hundreds of years now. What I know for sure is half of us will starve if we stay here, the water can’t support us. This is our best chance. If the crew we send dies, at least we’ll know. Captain would doom us all rather than the small team we’d send to the land.”
“I just keep thinking, what if we make a mistake and The Bug gets on the ship. At least we can guarantee some of us survive by just staying in the water and fishing until we can grow more food.” Said Obadiah.
“I understand, but we’ll be careful. Like you said, we’ve made close passes to land before and nothing has ever gotten on the ship. We could potentially lose a few men on this expedition, but if we do nothing, we guarantee we lose at least two thousand. Men, women, and children. I think this is worth the risk.” Replied Arthur.
Obadiah paused to mull it over, then after a long sigh he said, “Okay, I think you’re right, it’s a risk worth taking. But you understand what we’ll be doing. Captain will never consider this, we’ll be throwing a coup.”
Arthur was solemn. “I know. I never thought I could betray Thomas, but I love this ship, and this is what needs to be done.”
They spent all evening planning out how they would pull it off. They had to be careful, if they weren’t successful, they would both be sent to compost.
Obadiah spent the next day finding department heads to talk to in private. He first met with the head of security, as the guards would be crucial to making their plan work. Once he had security, everyone else was pulled aside one by one. He gauged their thoughts on going to land. Those who agreed were told to spread word of a town hall meeting to take place that evening, with clear instructions to keep word away from the captain. A few leaders protested and threatened to tell Thomas. These were quickly escorted by security to the brig to be held for the time being, and leadership of that department given to someone sympathetic to the cause. He arranged for waste management to ask Thomas to come in that evening to discuss some issues, since that would take place on the opposite end of the ship from the town hall.
The time quickly came for the meeting to start. Obadiah, Arthur, and the department heads stood at the head of the bow facing everyone. Arthur saw many anxious and worried faces among the crowd. Obadiah began his speech. “Citizens of the ship, as you all know, an explosion destroyed our garden earlier this week. The damage was extensive, and it will take a long time before we can feed ourselves again. Leadership has decided that the best course of action is to go to shore, to source new plants for food.” This caused a lot of uproar in the crowd. “Please, please, calm down everyone,” urged Obadiah.
Someone yelled from the crowd, “Where is Captain Thomas?!”, followed by many shouts echoing the question. As Obadiah was about to offer a response, Thomas emerged from the crowd and barged up the stairs of the platform.
“What are you doing Lieutenant?” demanded Thomas. “This is not what we decided, you think you could lie to the ship and I would just roll over and agree?”
Obadiah responded, staying calm. “I’m sorry sir, I didn’t want to do it this way, but you’re too stubborn, everyone else here is willing to take the risk.” He gestured to the department heads. Thomas gave them a stern look, to which many of them sheepishly looked away.
Denise took a step forward to speak to Thomas. “Please Captain, you know this is what we have to do. We all just want what’s best for the ship, for our families.”
Thomas huffed, “You’re all weak, we’re still here today because we’ve made hard decisions, this is no different.” The captain then turned to face the crowd, which was still riled. He gave a loud bellow, “QUIET!” Everyone immediately went silent. “People, we will not be going to shore. We will figure out how to get through this, but we will not do anything so foolish as to send people to land. As your captain, I promise-” But he didn’t get to finish his statement, for Obadiah and a guard grabbed his shoulders and forced Thomas down onto his knees.
“I’m sorry captain.” Said Obadiah as they attempted to force his hands behind his back to bind them. Thomas swung his head back and bashed his head into Obadiah’s nose. Obadiah stumbled backwards as Thomas elbowed the guard in the stomach and staggered to his feet. The two officers faced each other, anger in their eyes. Obadiah wiped the blood from his face and yelled loudly. “Captain Thomas, I hereby relieve you of your position. You will be restrained to the brig until a time deemed appropriate for your release.”
“That’s funny Obadiah, as I hereby relieve you of your position. You are charged with treason against the ship, of which you know the punishment is death.” He spat. Several more guards jumped onto the platform. Thomas commanded them, “guards, arrest my Lieutenant.” They hesitated, looking back and forth between Thomas and Obadiah.
Obadiah moved closer to Thomas, keeping a defensive position. “I’m really sorry Captain, please don’t resist.”
“The hell I won’t.” Thomas said as he charged. Obadiah was ready for him, ducking a swing as he caught the captain, throwing him into the deck. He pinned Thomas to the ground as the guards rushed up. They helped him bind Thomas’ hands behind his back with rope, and then three of them took a struggling Thomas down to the brig.
Obadiah finally returned his gaze to an uncomfortable crowd. “People, allow me to be very honest about our situation. Contrary to what you’ve been told, we do not actually have the food reserves to last until the garden is at capacity again. The truth is if we stay on our current path, we will have to let half the ship starve to allow the other half to survive. Think about your family, your friends, your neighbors, your workmates. Think about which half of them you’re okay with killing off. It’s certainly not a choice I want to make. We have the chance to send an expedition to land, bring back plants for food, and save us…all of us. If I’m wrong, we’ll reinstate Thomas as captain, and I’ll accept my fate in compost. But I, just like all of you, want what’s best for the ship. I do not choose this course forward lightly, but it is our best chance to ensure our survival.”
The crowd stayed quiet. There was no joy in what was just told, but no one voiced any protest. They were coming to terms with this new reality. Obadiah dismissed the crowd, telling them to resume their duties, and that they would begin preparations soon.