Emergency lights silently flashed. A calm female voice came from the speakers in the ceiling: “Oxygen levels at twenty percent. Please make your way to your assigned lifeboat”.
Maria had stuffed the last of her personal belongings in her duffle bag and began making her way to the docking bay. She had learned from a very young age not to run in low-oxygen emergencies, but she couldn’t help picking up the pace a bit. As she passed through the sunlight lounge, she noticed Mukul, one of her suitemates, lying on the couch in the corner of the room. His EtherPods were firmly plugged into his ears. It looked like his EtherSlate was playing an episode of Friends, or at least one of the remakes. Maria hesitated for a moment. She looked down the corridor in the direction she was walking, then decided she would at least try to do the moral thing. She waved her arms until Mukul took a pod out of his ear. She could hear the audio from across the room.
“Mukul! Did you see the warning?” Maria asked innocently. “The oxygen bladder has a rupture. There’s about twenty percent left. We gotta get to the lifeboats.”
Mukul responded lazily, “Yeeeah, I heard the warning and everything. I’m just not sure.”
Maria paused to find the words. Talking to Mukul was difficult, which is why she often didn’t. “Sure of what?”
“Wellll, I was reading that lifeboats are the least used part of the average passenger ship, and Takashi Enterprises, one of the biggest lifeboat manufacturers, just yesterday announced its lowest earnings in over a decade. Think about it. Don’t you think it’s at least possible that they could have faked an emergency in order to get people to use their product, while simultaneously making competing manufacturers, like the one who made the oxygen bladder, look bad? Seems like a pretty decent plan, especially if nobody actually gets hurt.”
“Mukul,” began Maria. She had to meter her speech; she was already short of breath. “This entire ship, which is currently being evacuated, is Takashi. Every single part—the oxygen bladder, the lights, the artificial gravity, which, mind you, is still perfectly functional—is made by Takashi Enterprises.”
“And don’t you think that’s a bit suspicious?” interjected Mukul.
Maria was losing the little patience she began with. “That a spaceship company makes the parts that go in a spaceship or that an oxygen bladder rupture didn’t break gravity?”
Mukul was still cool as a carbon catalexon. He took the other pod out of his ear and shifted his still-reclined body to face Maria. “Maria, you know I’m not saying you have to believe everything I say.” Maria was already fuming.
The female voice from the ceiling returned: “Oxygen levels at ten percent. Please make your way to your assigned lifeboat”.
Mukul continued. “I’m just saying that it behooves us as citizens of the Federation to think for ourselves and use a healthy amount of skepticism. If you do the research and come to a different conclusion, then, hey, that’d be a great debate. However, if you are not so inclined, I suppose we will just have to agree to disagree.” He propped himself up on one elbow. “Now if you will excuse me, I’d like to take advantage of this mass hysteria and snag a shower while they’re empty.” Mukul planted his feet on the floor and stood up. As soon as he did, his face went blank and he began to sway back and forth. Just before he toppled over, he managed to find the couch and sit himself back down, completely out of breath.
“Oof, I’m feeling a bit lightheaded. It must be because I had a big lunch.” Mukul paused for a bit to suck in more air.
Maria bit her tongue. She really needed to go, but she needed the resolution to this even more. In as kind a tone as she could muster, she probed, “What do you mean?”
“You didn’t know this?” he responded. “When you have a big meal, all the blood rushes to your tum-tum and away from your head, you know, for digestion. My mom would say this when I was younger. That’s why I always—”
Mukul stopped and noticed that Maria had left, gone down the corridor, and was already out of sight. He stared at where she was just standing. A few seconds went by. “Alright, thanks Maria!” he wheezed in her direction, “I think I’m just gonna wait this one out.”