You’re starting to get used to low-G again, as much as you’ve had to be here in the service module. Today you’re tasked with replacing a problematic switch in the reactor regulation system--a simple task as long as you follow the documentation. Picking up your field sensor you verify power has been cut off before you touch anything. It’s all clear, so you get to work disassembling the housing.
You turn your head to better see a hard to reach bolt, expecting the direction to be spinward. It really clashes with your sense of direction to be here in the counter-rotating segment of the colony. You didn’t realize how much you had built up an innate navigational sense on TLA until it was all flipped backwards on you. That’s only the beginning of your disorientation. The engineering crew has been nice to you, but a shadow looms wherever you interact with any of them--with two of them already revealed as æthercultists, you can’t know how deep it goes here. You have to make sure to take extra safety precautions and never let your guard down.
“Hey kid,” someone calls from above, to presumably you.
You turn around. “Aydan,” you say.
“My bad, just got transferred to this shift.” A small butch girl looks down at you from the walkway just above you. “You’re a candidate helper? What’d you do?”
It seems this is far more often a punishment than an educational exercise. “Tampered with a transmitter...”
“Unexplained signal loss...” you say.
“And no patience to wait around for someone else to fix it. You’ve got the heart of a mechanic after all.” The engineer girl slowly glides down to your level, holding a rail of a ladder for guidance. “I’m Die of Luna, xe/xem.” The mechanic’s jumpsuit is a little big on xem. Xe must not be many years older than Synth. With the sleeves tied around xer waist in the heat of this room close to the reactor core, you see a fine metallic dust catch the light, coating xer dark skin and xer short hair.
“Die,” you say.
“Short for Diode.”
You twist and pull apart the wires. Only since you got up here have you noticed just how much this colony is patched and spliced together. You’d be worried if they weren’t all such heavily redundant systems to begin with.
“I’m a Lunatic too,” you say. “From Korolev.”
“Ah, spacesider,” xe says. “So I was looking for you, I think. When you finish that, go down to thermal exchange and help the other blueshirt. I don’t even know what year y’all are anymore.”
“No, level 8,” Die says. “Well, see you around.”
You focus back on the task at hand and change out the part for the new switch. Reconnecting the wires is a simple matter. Now you already have another order.
You drift down the low-G corridor in steps five meters long. The spin doesn’t pull you down here before the short curvature of the floors catches up with you. Now you come to the most disorienting place--the exchange.
You reach the edge of the service module block, where right in front of you the habitation block spins in your opposite direction. You step across through one of the wide openings as it passes by, and let your magnets grip a floor running backwards from where you were just standing. Now at least the spin-direction is more familiar.
Ahead are the service elevators everyone uses to get around up here. For some reason their shaft is on the habitation side, so everyone is just used to their world getting flipped backwards constantly up here in engineering world. You suppose you’ll get used to it.
You step into the elevator when it reaches your level. Only after you start moving do you notice you weren’t alone. There’s another candidate here, a second year in a purple dress just like Akiko’s. You look over at her--around your height, with light brown skin, black hair shaved close on the sides, short on the top. She doesn’t seem to acknowledge you, and you can’t see her eyes, covered by a reflective visor.
“Hey. You’re a first year aren’t you?” she says. “External interfaces, they make this stimmy induction field, I can tell one.”
“Yeah...I got sent here as punishment,” you say.
“I’m just coming back from an errand, picking up some components,” she says.
The service elevator is a slow crawl, made for moving volatile materials safely.
“You like music?” she says.
“Stuff like ZERO, you know, generative stuff that’s a little different every time,” you say.
“You’ll like this, then.”
You feel the offer of a file transfer. Looking over it, you see the name--
Reflections of the Æther II -- Pulse