I looked at my friend of many years and smiled. “Let’s forget about the issues on the ship for a bit, and just enjoy the meal.”
Captain Martin returned my smile. “Sounds good to me. When we’re done though. I really have something I need to show you.”
I enjoyed the chicken and the company. It was great catching up. It’s only been a week since I’ve been captain, but with everything going on, it has felt like a year.
At the end of the meal, although the food at the Ming was just as delicious as usual, I bid farewell to Zhāngwěi and took the rest of my food in a takeaway bag for later. I had much more on my mind right now, and Captain Martin wanted to show me something.
He led me to a passage behind the Ming before stopping. “I was hoping to wait a bit before showing you this, but fate had a different idea. Step through the looking-glass Alice, because your world is about to get turned upside-down.”
He opened the door, and it led into a back-alley that I never even knew existed. There were a lot of people with spliced genes here, none of whom I had met before. There were other people here as well, some who weren’t spliced, and others of whom I wasn’t sure. There was a heavy-set woman with pale skin, dark black hair, brown eyes, standing at approximately 182 centimeters tall, with missing teeth. She was talking with a green-skinned man, standing at about the same height, with jet black eyes and spiky green hair. I wasn’t sure if his appearance was the result of spliced genes, or if he simply dyed his hair, dyed his skin, and changed his eye color. It could be either, really, since there wasn’t any lack of people here with all kinds of body parts in all sorts of unusual colours.
All these different sorts of people were inter-mingling and just getting on with their daily lives. These people spent their time in a way I had never even known existed until today, living in an area was dirtier than the rest of the ship. No, not dirtier. That doesn’t describe it at all. It wasn’t unsanitary, or unsavory, or anything that word would conjure up in the mind. It was lived-in… and less… sterile than the rest of the ship.
And, the smells here were positively heavenly. As I walked with Rob further down the rabbit hole, I could see why things smelled so good. There was actually a butcher here, with what appeared to be real meat!
I stopped and turned to Rob. “That’s a real butcher. Those are real animals. It’s supposed to be illegal to grow animals on this ship. Not to mention, the DNA to do so was supposed to be destroyed.”
My eyes widened as I realized the truth. “You knew about this. How did you let this go on while you were the captain?”
Rob looked at me with heavy eyes, although I’m not sure whether that was due to weariness, guilt, or both. “There are hundreds of thousands of people living aboard this vessel. It’s just not feasible, or even possible, to enforce every single penal code with that many people, with that many differing mindsets.”
He continued, “Back on Earth, our ancestors had countries and cities and villages, each with their own police force. We have one ship, with many different areas modeled after Earth, but with one captain and one crew. We were supposed to be a ship of a couple of thousand people sailing through space for a century. Instead, we’ve been sailing for four times that. We’ve built up and out to accommodate the rising birthrates. Yet we keep the same system, at least in public. Splicertown here was a way to keep things going like clockwork.”
“The less ‘desirable'”… he actually made air-quotes with his fingers when he said it, if you’d believe it… “stuff happened back here while the rest of the ship ran smoothly under the pretense of following the same set of rules our ancestors did. It seemed to work well.”
I glared at him, my eyes piercing his like daggers. “Until today.”
He shook his head, wracked his neck back and forth, and then dropped his head with a sullen look. “Actually, the situation has been bubbling up much longer than that.”
I gave this man I thought was my friend and mentor a cold stare, unbelieving that he hadn’t told me any of this until now. “How long exactly has all of this been going on?”
He looked crestfallen at that, unable to even look me in the eye. “It all started about 10 years after the splicer children were integrated back into the school system.”
At that statement, I must have looked a sight like one of those animated videos from the old Earth archives, with my mouth gaping wide open. That would be about twenty years ago. That’s when my mother was captain of this ship. That was back in a time when I was only ten years old. It was back in the time when I thought things were happy on the ship. It was Back in the time that I drift to in my mind when things get rough so that I can pull myself back together.
I guess Rob wasn’t kidding when he said that stepping through that door would turn my world upside-down. If my mother was involved, I don’t think I’d be able to process any of it. She was my role model. No, she was more than that. She was my rock. She was my everything. She couldn’t have, wouldn’t have, knowingly let this go on. But I knew I had to ask. I built up my courage and decided to just rip the proverbial adhesive bandage off to get it over with quickly. “Did my mother know about any of this?”
His eyes started tearing up. Oh, no. This is not going to be good.
“Not at first. But when your mother found out about this, her eyes were burning with the same anger that I see in your eyes now. She was positively livid. She vowed to shut everything down and did everything in her power to shut it down.”
I relaxed a bit. At least my mother acted as the same principled woman I knew her to be. “Why’s everything here still going then? Why didn’t my mom put an end to this? What happened?”
He gave me a fearful stare, his lip trembling like I never saw in his eyes before. No, his eyes gave off an expression, unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. “She tried hard to shut it down. Even went against her better judgment and hired a detective from Splicertown to get to the bottom of things. And he was good, but they were better. The people who started this hid their tracks well. Too well.”
I probably had the same scared look on my face that Rob did, as I dreaded his response to my next question. “What do you mean too well? What happened?”
“Your mother was murdered.”