Adam had a franticness about his movements that Ami had rarely seen. He crossed from one side of the spaceship to the other. Occasionally he would lay his hands on the wall or run his fingers over a surface or the edges of one of the carved sigils. The gentleness of his touch reminded Ami of how her mother would check her forehead for a fever when she was young. She watched him for several minutes, curious. Her arrival into the ship had come with its usual crackle of electricity and pop of air being rapidly dispersed from the space she had suddenly come to occupy. Teleporting wasn’t quiet. Yet, Adam gave no indication of noticing her presence.
She cleared her throat.
Adam jumped, startled, and turned around, one hand upraised as if to fend her off or to protect himself from a blow. “Ami,” he said, blinking at her as if he couldn’t believe that he was seeing the person he thought he was. He looked like he hadn’t been sleeping well. His eyes were tired and baggy, his brown hair mussed.
“What are you doing, Adam?” she replied, raising an eyebrow to indicate that there was more to the question than a casual inquiry. She had been trying to get a hold of him all day, and had grown increasingly concerned at his silence. Unlike mobiles, the telepathic connection between the Tomorrow People was always on. Except this time. He had blocked himself from contact and that had raised red flags. Ami parked on hand on a hip, determined not to let him continue until he gave her an answer.
Adam blinked again, rapidly, as if having difficulty redirecting his thoughts. “The ship is sick,” he finally answered.
“The ship is broken,” she pointed out. There was no doubt about that. The area they stood in must have been the command center back before the spaceship had crash landed on the deserted island where it was now mostly buried in the sand. This room was the only part of the spaceship big enough for multiple beings to move around in comfortably. Now it was also the only part of the spaceship with any functionality. Everywhere else was dark and unresponsive, the sigils that must once have served a purpose reduced to mere decoration.
For all the time they had spent on the ship--all the time they had wandered through the corridors, slept in its nooks, and eaten sandwiches in the central room—they had never been able to figure out where the ship came from originally or what kind of species it would have belonged to. All they knew for sure was that it didn’t work, save for the single column in this central area that could illuminate, make wordless sounds, and sometimes help them enhance their natural powers for better, deeper, or more accurate use.
Adam shook his head and pushed past her to cross over to the wall with the see-through panel that looked out onto the ocean. He gazed into the water, his arms dangling by his sides. “All this time,” he said, “the ship has been sick. That’s why it crashed.” He paused, drew a breath. “Did you know I can heal?” He was still facing away from her, and at first she wasn’t sure she had heard him correctly.
“What do you mean?” She moved to stand next to him. He tilted toward her, like he was desperate for contact but unwilling to ask for it. She took a tiny step closer to him. Their breathing feel into sync; they were standing close enough that the fabric of their shirts brushed together on each inhalation.
Adam lifted a hand and held it in front of them, curling and uncurling his fingers like a baby just discovering its limbs. His skin always looked so pale to her, so pink despite the tan she knew he had. While he’d never spoken of his time before washing up on the island’s shore after his first teleport, she had seen how comfortable he was around water, how at home in the waves and surmised that he must have grown up near the ocean. Not at all like her, an ordinary girl whose only claim to sea-legs came from having grown up near the shore of the Thames. He had so many secrets, she realized, and it never occurred to any of the Tomorrow People to plumb their depths. At some level, Adam was supposed to be mysterious. His hand started to glow, and Ami drew in a sharp breath, breaking their rhythm. How had he kept this a secret? Why?
“I can heal injuries with a touch,” he clarified. He pressed his palm against the window and the glow started to spread. “I don’t know why I never thought of it before. If I can heal people’s injuries, why can’t I heal the ship’s?”
From behind them came a low moan, the closest the ship had to a voice. Yellow light pulsed from the central column, darkening the view through the window.
“Because the ship isn’t alive?” Ami asked. It was a possibility she had to say, and it seemed the obvious answer, but she doubted the truth of the words before she’d finished arranging her tongue around them.
“Isn’t it?” Adam asked. His other hand rose up and pressed on the transparent surface next to the first. “I think the ship is alive. It’s always been alive.”
Ami watched the glow spreading, then remembered how exhausted Adam had looked, and how possessed. He was pushing himself too hard, had cut himself off from the rest of the Tomorrow People. If she hadn’t have thought to check on him, would he have pushed himself beyond exhaustion? Did the Tomorrow People’s inability to kill extend to kill themselves?
“Adam,” she spoke, nudging him with her shoulder in hopes of breaking into his concentration. “You can help the ship. We’ll all help the ship. Not like this, though. This isn’t the way to do it.” He might be able to heal people, though of all his secrets, that seemed like a strange one to keep. She wondered what kinds of injuries he had healed, if he knew the extent of his powers. There was so much that none of them knew about how their powers worked.
His head slowly turned toward her, and her breath caught in her throat. Adam’s normally brown eyes were burning yellow. She’d been a Tomorrow Person long enough to know that glowing eyes were never a good thing. “Adam, you have to stop.”
“I can’t stop,” he replied. “I have to help the ship. It needs me.”
Once again the ship moaned. The noise was louder this time and sounded stronger. Whatever he was doing was working. But his hands. His eyes.
Ami grabbed Adam’s arms and pulled them off the window, breaking the connection. “Stop!” she ordered. She rounded on the ship’s column and repeated her command, “Stop! You can’t do this to him. We need him.” Adam was the first; he was their leader. Of all of them, he knew the most about who they were and what they could do. “You’ve waited this long.” Thousands of years, they had figured, based on how buried the ship was and how old it felt. “You can wait longer. We’ll help you. But. Not. Like. This.”
The column’s brightness increased, flooding away the soft natural light that came in through the window. It grew brighter and brighter until Ami had to shut her eyes against it. She hoped Adam had the wherewithal to do the same. She stood strong, never wavering in her stance, in her determination. The ship should know all of them well enough by now to recognize that they were a group, a team. They worked best together, and Ami was the last one who would allow any other alternative.
Then the light cut off, leaving only sparklers flashing behind her eyelids. Adam slumped forward, fell on his knees into the sand that had blown in over the years. Ami’s reflexes were too impaired to break his fall, but she managed to wrap her arms around his shoulders. “If you can heal, that probably means the rest of us can, too. We all have our other powers in common,” she pointed out. She was speaking softly in his ear, her cheek resting on his temple. Her braids tangled in with his hair. “Teach us how to heal. All of us. Then we’ll help the ship.”
She felt his nod, his relief. He would have given everything he had to the ship. If there was one secret he didn’t have, it was how willing he was to give everything to those he cared about. He couldn’t help himself. Ami had almost been too late to stop him before he’d crossed that line of no return. But she did. She had.
Ami tightened her arms around Adam’s shoulders and reached out mentally, searching for the others, calling them in. Adam had said that the ship was sick; Ami wasn’t sure how that could be, though it was a spaceship, so what did she know? Despite her promise, despite the millennia the ship had already waited, she could sense an impatience from it. For reasons it couldn’t yet communicate, the ship was desperate to be healed. It wasn’t malevolent, but she had to remind herself that it was alien—and that could very well be the same thing. Ami had bought some time for Adam, for herself, for the rest of them. For years, they had been treating the spaceship as a glorified treehouse; now they had to figure out how to help it fly.