[Chapter 1 - 016]

Tim looks emo in the library.

I thought the feeling of being surrounded by books would bring me some solace, but that very familiarity in the midst of this horrible place only unsettled me more. Could I really be thousands of miles above the surface of the Earth, so far away from anyone who could help us, just… mindlessly flipping through the pages of some haiku collection?

Maybe we weren’t in space. Maybe Riko was wrong about the low gravity thing, and the stars were fake, and this was all some elaborate training facility or movie set or extremely weird themed resort…

Sometimes a little denial is what keeps you going.

I distracted myself by browsing through the pad of paper on the table. That computer with the fancy catalog probably had plenty of tools for handling circulation, but of course you can’t access those if you can’t log in as an employee or administrator… I honestly hadn’t expected anyone to bother with a check-out sheet, but Kapono had taken matters into his own hands, listing the title of each scientific journal he’d borrowed in his careful architect’s handwriting. A few of the others had followed his lead— Aoi had picked up a volume of Akira as well as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Vasundhara some magical girl comics, and Siegfried a kanji dictionary.

I sensed a few other gaps in the shelving, though. Looks like someone’s taken some horror novels and some true crime thrillers, too. I hope they aren’t doing research…

The rest of the evening passed by rather uneventfully, all things considered. Gugalanna had recruited Jurou to help her rush together some supper, and their raucous laughter from the other side of the cafeteria was a welcome break from the dull drone of the station’s machinery. And the food was great too! Even if Guga pitched a fit about the quality of the pantry’s tortillas and almost summoned MONO-9000 to demand it give her some masa flour.

I started packing up a tupperware for Ishi, but she came swaggering into the cafeteria, eliciting a “Heyyy chica" from the kitchen and a long, heavy sigh from Aoi across the room. I guess she can fend for herself… But there was someone else who I thought might appreciate a food delivery.

I paced down the hallway and knocked one more time on Nik’s door.

Tim smiles nervously.
Hey Nik? It’s Tim, uh, I brought you some supper… Gugalanna made tacos, they’re really good! Oh– not that you should feel bad about not making supper she said it’s no problem and you can just switch with her on the schedule… um…
Tim sighs.
…I’ll just… leave it outside the door, I guess.

I set it down and left quietly for my room. Just when I was almost out of earshot, though…

Nikola talks from the other side of the door.
…thanks, Tim…

So he was in there after all, poor guy. Not that I could blame him– if I hadn’t had such a poorly-worded secret to give me context on how much MONO-9000 could be stretching the truth, I would be panicking, too. I thought about trying to talk to him again, but if I let on that I’d actually heard him, he’d probably freak out even more… And it was getting late, anyway. Time for bed, before I have to hear that awful nighttime announcement again.

I couldn’t help but wonder, though, if it was his secret that had upset him so much, or the one that he’d learned about somebody else… And I wondered about the other students I hadn’t seen any sign of tonight…

Maybe tomorrow we’d get some answers.