I distinctly remember getting that call from Elder to go to the Keeper Level. It was odd that we had been called up there for a second time in less than a week's time, but I followed everyone else without questioning it. Lara grasped my hand and gave it a small squeeze as we left the quarters we now shared. What would Eldest have to say now?
The way over to the Grav Tubes wasn't exactly pleasant. People were suddenly arguing and shouting at each other to get out of the way. I was immediately put off by this rudeness, but I pushed through while towing Lara along with me. Her hand squeezed mine even tighter, checking for my reassurance the whole way. We went up in separate Grav tubes but found each other immediately. After a few minutes of waiting, we all looked up at the podium to see Elder, not Eldest, looking down upon us. The stars glittered above him making the moment seem a little more magical than it was supposed to be.
"People of Godspeed, I have something to say to all of you," Elder began. "First off, our previous Eldest is no longer with us. I… I…" His voice faltered for a second as if he had trouble deciding exactly the right words to say, but he kept pushing forward. "I am now your Eldest. With this news comes even more. The truth has been withheld from all of us in the years that Godspeed has been making its journey through space. You have all been drugged, your emotions subdued by something called phydus that was placed in your water supplies ever since our first Eldest." Lara squeezed my hand tighter at this announcement. What did he mean by subdued emotions? My brow furrowed in confusion as shouts began to ring out from the crowd. The more confident ones began to declare our new Eldest a liar with some of the foulest words that I had rarely ever heard.
"This is exactly what I'm talking about!" Eldest's words quieted the crowds. "What you just did! That was emotion! That's what was held back from you for so long! You all can feel now."
"This is a curse you have put on us! A curse!" a voice in the crowd declared.
"This is no curse," Eldest replied calmly as if he was correcting a small child. "With this anger and hurt also comes good emotions. You will all learn what happiness, joy, even love is if you're willing to allow yourself to experience it. All you have to do is try. That's not the only truth that has been withheld from you, though." Eldest paused here as if he was really trying to select the right words to say. Lara squeezed my hand even tighter. I glanced down at our intertwined hands and thought about how she could break my hand if she squeezed any harder. Then I looked back up at her and my thoughts of pain melted away. She was beautiful. Was this what Eldest meant by love? My thoughts were shut down when Eldest began to speak again.
"Your children will not see Centauri-Earth." Shouts were already ringing out again. "Nor will their children or even their children. Our engine is not as strong as it was believed to be when it left Sol-Earth. We are about 250 years behind schedule. Odds are, if we don't get the engine fixed somehow we will never make it to Centauri-Earth." I gave a small yelp of pain as Lara tightened her grip on my hand. I really wished she would stop, but I knew that she needed the support. Well, a part of me knew. It felt so strange having these instincts. I felt the sudden need to be there for Lara no matter what happened. Things were just changing so quickly.
"That doesn't mean that all hope is lost, though. Now that you are all free from the Phydus, you all have the opportunity to pursue what you think you would like. As long as productivity is maintained aboard the ship, everyone will be able to be independent in his or her own rights. You may visit the Recorder Hall to learn about Godspeed's history, Sol-Earth's history even! I do request that anyone that has a knack for mathematics, science, engineering, or anything of the sort visit the Shipper Level. If we can get the engine fixed, there is a chance we may make it to Centauri-Earth after all. Free and open access will be given to all members of Godspeed as long as it does not infringe on safety. Now, I would recommend that you all go back to your quarters and sort everything out. It is a lot to take in, but I am confident that we have a bright future ahead of us in Godspeed." With that, Eldest steps off his podium and leaves us all to figure everything out. Lara is still clutching my hand desperately. Her breath comes in short gasps, then she suddenly stops and looks at me.
"What does this mean for us, Darek?" she asks.
"I don't know." For us, I had no idea what life would bring. What would happen now that we could actually feel? Would we be torn apart? Would be brought closer together? One glance at Lara told me all I needed to know for my side of the story. There was no way that I was going to give up on her even if she broke my hand in her tight grasp.
The rest was simple, though. I was going to the Shipper Level tomorrow.