Tim lost track of how long he remained under Dr. Armstrong’s care. A few months, at least. One day, she got him out of bed as usual, but it wasn’t for his regular treatment.
“Today, you’re going to go for a walk. I’ve programmed this pass to take you to your home tunnels and back here. Once you’re home you’ll be able to use your regular pass card to get around. Just remember to use the red pass to bring you back to the hospital. Unless, of course, you want to wait in the emergency line.”
Tim accepted the card, putting it in his wallet beside his regular one. He then got up and got dressed. He was almost unfamiliar with getting into his regular clothes; he was almost comfortable in his hospital gown. That in itself told him it was almost time to get out of here.
After working his way down to the cafeteria to have a bite to eat, Tim went to the elevator and pulled out his red pass. Pressing the call button brought the elevator. He went in, and saw the pass reader on the wall. He’d never used an elevator pass reader before, but since he used his card at home to get into his home and the power plant, he knew how it worked. A quick swipe of the red pass, and the elevator was in motion. This continued for a few minutes before the elevator slowed. It opened again and he stepped out into the tunnel.
Like the tunnels he had grown up in, this one was as straight as the eye could see. He didn’t recognize anything at first, but this wasn’t a surprise as he rarely came to the transit elevator. He stepped out of the elevator and followed the tunnel down.
It didn’t take long for Tim to realize that the reason he didn’t recognize this tunnel was that he’d never been here. This was a bit of a shock – he couldn’t remember having ever been anywhere outside his home tunnels until the hospital. He slowed, considering returning to the elevator to tell Dr. Armstrong about her mistake. This thought didn’t last long though. He didn’t think he’d ever get another chance to explore. If he gave up on this one, he didn’t think he’d be able to forgive himself.
Tim set of purposefully, not turning at any of the side tunnels. He was surprised at how empty the tunnels were, and he realized that he had no idea what time it was. Maybe everyone was asleep.
That idea was stifled when he heard voices. He slowed, so as not to be overheard, and continued towards the source of the voices.
He found them near another intersection. He went through, then hid behind a door. Glancing through the door, he saw a room full of strange instruments. He also caught a quick glimpse of a person near the edge of his field of view. This person was obviously talking to another, but he couldn’t get any more details than that or identify which speaker was which.
“I’m just saying, sir, that most people onboard don’t even know about the Grand Mission. Hell, most of them don’t even know they’re on a ship.”
“I thought we’d already been over this. The original orders said to keep them in complete ignorance. Despite your feelings, there’s no provision in the orders for teaching them otherwise when the planet was in sight. Who knows, maybe we won’t be able to land here, then we’ll have them excited for nothing.”
“Do you want to deal with an end-of-the-world hysteria? That’s what this will seem like to them either way. I’d rather wait until I know I can get out of range of the mob before I announce anything.”
Tim staggered. A ship? What did that mean? All he knew were the tunnels that he’d grown up in. And something about a planet. He didn’t understand some of the strange words being spoken inside this room, and he wasn’t sure if he wanted to.
Suddenly, the decision was taken from him.
He found himself in an iron grip, as someone grabbed him from behind. He was forced into the room, where he found himself in front of a man and a woman, both similarly dressed.
“We found this one spying, Sir,” said the man holding Tim.
“Spying, eh?” said the man. “I don’t know who would be spying here, but they wouldn’t choose someone with his leg in a brace.” The man looked directly at Tim. “I am Captain Lee. Who are you, and what are you doing here?”
Tim’s mouth had gone dry, so it took him a moment to be able to speak. “Tim Stokes, sir. I got lost when I came from the hospital.” He tried to reach for his wallet to prove himself, but the guard’s grip didn’t relent.
The woman looked at Tim then at Captain Lee. He nodded; she shrugged, then nodded as well. Tim felt the grip relax.
“We have a few options,” the woman addressed Tim. He noted that she hadn’t provided her name yet. “Several are distasteful, and some are less than prudent. For now, you will be placed in a cell while we determine the best option.”
Captain Lee glanced at the woman before stating “Welcome aboard the Generation Ship Earth’s Hope. You’ve been here all your life, and it looks like that will be changing soon for better or worse.”
Before Tim was taken from the room, he noticed the central wall of the room. A large, mostly-blue sphere dominated the wall. Behind it was mostly black with patterns of white dots.
“We may be stopping for a while,” the Captain said to Tim’s retreating back.