Junhyung wakes up to the roaring of engines. The humming he’d already gotten used to, like a song on repeat that assured him they were moving, that they were safe. It was a strong, steady hum that drilled itself into his head, and it never left him, no matter which inch of his land he was on. He’d come to terms with it, come to coexist with it, but roaring, especially stretched out this long, could only either mean something was terribly right, or horribly wrong.
He’d never stepped foot off his property before. There had never been a need to. He was self-sustaining, down to the rice paddies and irrigation system. Except the IT department had visited him once: to string some wires inside the house, and give him a computer. The wires apparently were the source of his electricity, and he knew what that meant, that he was feeding off the ship, tied to it, in at least one way, and he was not as self-sustaining as he wanted to be, but it was such a small detail, that he didn’t dwell on it.
Now, he let his footsteps carry him across his land, following a familiar, well-treaded path to a grand iron gate, flanked on either side by stone walls rising 20 feet tall. He followed the curve of stone left, his right hand trailing along it, until he reached a stretch of slightly rougher rock. He pushed gently, and slipped inside.
The IT department, they’d tried to build him a greenhouse. Insisted on it, really, wouldn’t take no for an answer. Said it would help run the ship and spat some science terms in his face that they both knew he didn’t understand. So he lead them there. Made a big show before grabbing the keys and trying them and, oh look at that, the gate doesn’t open. As he sat among the flowers, listening to the rush of the stream to try and drown out the roaring, he wondered, if there was even a fraction of the possibility, that he was the reason. If they were finally coming for him, for everything.
The alarm jarred Kikwang from his sleep, and he groaned as he slapped his bedside blindly for the snooze button. Then, he became aware of the sound of the engines, droning on and drowning him. He had never heard them this loud before. He stumbled out of bed, nearly tripping on his sheets as he rushed down the hallway, shoes half on, squeaking against the tile.
He burst into the engine room, and the roar deafened him. It was like a monster had nested inside, an angry monster, a monster angry at him. Silently reprimanding himself for not noticing sooner, and deep down, for drinking last night, his fingers furiously jump around the mainframe, muscles tense until he hears a satisfied click and then a sealing hiss. A sigh of relief escapes him, and he taps in a few extra security measures before sliding down to a sitting position. A few moments later, he becomes aware of a coldness against his back, and belatedly realizes that he’s shirtless.
He successfully returns to his room without being spotted by anyone (well, other than the security guys, but that couldn’t be helped), and now fully clothed, makes his way down the same hallway, but took a left at the end instead of right, to the IT headquarters.
The roaring had stopped. Well, if it’d stopped, that meant something had been wrong. Junhyung didn’t know whether or not to be grateful. Whether to thank the bastard who had fixed it, or the one who had broken it. For the first time in his twenty-six years of existence, Junhyung would need to step off his plot of land.
Hell, he had no idea what to expect. His whole life was on these acres. His parents were buried in its soil, in the backyard. But after much deliberation, he decided he needed to know. His hand briefly hovered over the doorknob as he was leaving the house, and he realized he was trembling.
He doesn’t remember being afraid of anything. His parents hadn’t died in the best way, but he’d come to terms with that. The tractors and reapers that had seemed so large to him were suddenly in his hands, but he didn’t feel fear. The wide expanse of green had never frightened him. Living in this house was safe, living on this land was safe, and he hadn’t felt the need to feel fear. Come to think of it, he hadn’t felt the need to feel much of anything for a while.
As if sensing his tinglings of loneliness, Hyungnim come trotting to his feet. Junhyung smiled as he petted the dog’s head. People were constant annoyances, constant disappointments that brought far too much drama, too many emotions. Dogs were pure, dogs were good, dogs wanted nothing more to be happy and make others happy, and dogs didn’t believe in evil, because it didn’t exist in their minds.
Kikwang stretched his arms above his head, yawning as he cracked his knuckles. Someone nudged him. “Dude, it’s already like 9. Did you even sleep last night?”
He stared up at his standing friend. “Yeah, I did. For like 2 hours.”
“Do you know what woke me up?” He continued. Yoseob’s face said, Enlighten me. “The engines.”
His friend’s face fell. “No…”
Kikwang nodded solemnly. “Had to go to backup.”
“Fuck,” Yoseob hands tore his hair. “Fuck.” His friend fixed him with a worried gaze, and dropped his voice. “Are you gonna tell the captain?”
Kikwang grimaced. “Hopefully not. I mean, I managed to—”
But before he can finish, there’s a sharp, hard knock on the metal door. Kikwang frowned. IT didn’t get visitors; they were usually the ones who made visits. Looking around, it was him, Yoseob, and a handful of other crew members. Aside from Yoseob, the others acted as if they hadn’t heard the knock, probably because they expected him to answer it.
The door opened to reveal a man decidedly out of his element. “Oh thank god. I thought I’d gotten the wrong place. Do you know how bloody long it took me to get here?” The man shifted uncomfortably, and although his face was a stony wall covered by a sheen of disgust, his shaking hands gave him away.
“How can I help you?” Kikwang asks curtly, because it would better for everyone if this man left sooner rather than later.
The man eyed him. “Are you in charge here? Who can I talk to about the engines?”
Kikwang’s eyes widened in alarm, and he didn’t have to look back to know Yoseob’s frown had deepened, and that his friend’s eyes were boring into his back, not to mention the attention he had suddenly received from the rest of the crew.
“Come with me,” Kikwang said in a low voice, stepping outside.
In a small side room, Kikwang and Junhyung sat down on opposite sides of what had apparently become an interrogation table. “So,” Kikwang started, “what do you know about the engines?”
“I don’t know anything,” Junhyung growls. “I want to know what the fuck’s going on with them.”
“Nothing’s going on with the engines.” It comes out easily, smooth. This couldn’t get out; it didn’t need to get out. After all, he’d fixed it immediately and deleted it from the system log…
“Oh don’t fucking lie to me. It was the engines that woke up three hours ago, and it was the engines that stopped about 30 minutes ago,” the man held his gaze steadily.
Kikwang sighed. “Look, Mr…?”
“Yong Junhyung,” the stranger said by way of introduction.
“Mr. Yong,” Kikwang went on, “the engines overheated for a bit, and that’s why they were so loud. I just went to refill the coolant. There was no problem.”
Yong Junhyung studied him. “That’s bullshit, and you and I both know it,” he decided, as if he’d known it was what he’d say all along. “First of all, you’re IT, not engineering. Second of all, overheating doesn’t cause engines to fucking roar. And I doubt you would know what coolant was if a gallon of it was sitting right in front of you.”
Kikwang’s eyes narrowed.
“That’s the problem with all you IT boys,” Junhyung continued in a mad rant. “You don’t actually know anything; you just know how to work your damn computers and make them do all the shit for you.”
How could he get this man to leave? “Mr. Yong, if I could please ask you to refrain from cursing.”
Junhyung threw his hands in the hair. “Oh, fuck you,” he said, exasperated. He then crossed his arms and huffed. “If you aren’t going to tell me anything, I’ll just go to the captain—“
Kikwang interrupted,“Sir, I assure you there are no problems you need to worry about—“
“Bullshit.” Junhyung glared at him. “You’re hiding something. I can see it in your eyes.”
“If you really could read people that well,” Kikwang resisted the urge to roll his eyes, “you’d know that you’re wrong.”
“I intend to find out what’s going on here,” Junhyung said seriously, glaring at Kikwang. “My life is on this ship.”
“So is mine,” Kikwang informed him, staring levelly back.
Kikwang quietly entered the IT room and sank into his chair just as the door slid shut. “So,” Yoseob said casually, “who was that? And what did he want?”
“You mean, what did he ask for or what did he really want?” Kikwang said dryly.
Yoseob shrugged. “Both.”
“His name was Yong Junhyung, and he asked about the engines.” A flicker of recognition flashes across Yoseob’s face. “What he really wants,” Kikwang grimaces. “It feels like he wants us gone.”
“Us?” Yoseob asks, because ‘us’ was sounding like him and Kikwang.
“The IT department,” Kikwang clarifies, although that doesn’t make Yoseob feel any better.
“What?” Yoseob asks incredulously. “Without us, who would run the ship?” He passes his hand over the panels. “We literally control everything.”
Kikwang laughs, hard, gritty, and dry. “He really hates us – the department. I wonder what happened to him.”
Yoseob looks at his friend funnily. “You think something happened to him?”
Kikwang stares off into space, into his lap, and his hands begin to fiddle with themselves. “It was just the way he talked. That much hatred, it has to come from something. People aren’t born to hate.”
Yoseob shrugs again. Kikwang hated it when Yoseob shrugged. “Or maybe he’s just the bitter, lonely farmer that everyone says he is.”
“What?” It was Kikwang’s turn to be surprised. “You know him?”
Yoseob gives him a sideways glance. “Everyone knows him. Yong Junhyung, right?” Kikwang nods. “I mean, I don’t know know him, but the Yong’s are the last actual farmers on the ship, since all our other food is machine bred, grown, and harvested.”
Kikwang nodded slowly, processing all of this. “But why is he lonely?”
Before Yoseob could answer, the door to the IT room slid open with a hiss, and Captain Yoon appeared under the arch. “Lee Kikwang, I understand there’s a problem with the engines?”
“Why and how were you able to fix the engines yourself?” Doojoon asked.
Kikwang now sat on the opposite side of the interrogation table, his eyes fixed on his lap. He was sure he could feel the captain’s eyes boring into the top of his head. “I woke up because of the malfunctioning noise, and I figured it might be serious, so I went to check it out. It turned out to be something I could fix, so I did.”
“You didn’t call an engineer at all?” Kikwang shook his head.
Doojoon beckoned his assistant over. “Dongwoon, go call Hyunseung to the main engine room for an inspection. Tell him to be exceptionally thorough,” he said, emphasizing the ‘exceptionally’.
Kikwang swallowed hard. The cool air of the interrogation room couldn’t prevent the beads of sweat he felt lining his forehead and the nape of his neck. Nothing was worse than getting grilled by Doojoon.
Dongwoon left with a few additional instructions, and Doojoon turned back to him. “Why didn’t you notify me as soon as the problem arose?”
“I could fix it by myself—”, Kikwang started.
“Then why didn’t you notify me as soon as you ‘fixed’,” Doojoon actually used air quotes, “the problem? I need to know what is going on in this ship at all times.”
“Yes, sir,” Kikwang said, still staring into his lap. “I understand. I apologize for not letting you know right away.”
Doojoon didn’t seem satisfied with this result, but didn’t see what else he could pin on the IT leader, so he merely stood up. “I hope we won’t see each in here again,” he said, as coldly as he could muster, before exiting the room.
Kikwang crumpled against the table, his forehead finding the cold, hard surface and his arms joining around his head, his fingers gripping themselves in his hair. He didn’t notice another person in the room, until said person cleared his throat.
“Ahem,” Yong Junhyung stood in the doorway, in his ridiculous plaid shirt and overalls. “Are you willing to tell me about the engines now?”
Kikwang sighed and lifted his head up, using it to point at the empty chair across from him. “Have a seat.”
“So to clarify, again, there is no real problem with the engines, just the possibility of a threat due to the newest software update,” Kikwang had repeated these words in various orders at least three times by now.
Throughout the entire explanation, Yong Junhyung had sat still, face blank, and had once even nodded to acknowledge that he comprehended what Kikwang was saying. Kikwang was about to rearrange the words and repeat them for a fourth time when Junhyung spoke up.
“Let me see them.”
Kikwang felt himself jolt back. “What, the engines?” Junhyung nodded. “You’re not an engineer,” Kikwang frowned. He was sure Yoseob had said ‘farmer’.
Junhyung still stared at him with that mixed expression of boredom and disdain. “Neither are you.”
This man was insufferable. “Either way, you don’t have clearance.”
Junhyung shook his head. “Doesn’t matter. I won’t feel safe until I see the engines myself.”
Kikwang had had enough. This request was absurd, and coming from the guy who had just ratted him out to the captain as well. Clearly he had never learned the ‘Be nice to people you want favors from’ rule. “Then there’s nothing I can do to help.”
“You don’t understand—”
Kikwang exploded. “No, I don’t think you understand: coming in here, insulting my department, snitching on me, then asking me to violate protocol for you?” Kikwang focused an intense gaze on him. “Who do you think you are?”
Yong Junhyung was finally showing some emotion on his face, but Kikwang only got a glimpse of the shock and confusion before he was out the door, making large strides down the hall.
“I won’t do it.” Kikwang stated firmly. “Anywhere but there.”
“It can’t be that bad,” Yoseob tried, and failed, to reassure his friend.
“The guy hates me,” Kikwang wailed, “and frankly speaking, I’m not very fond of him either.”
“He specifically requested you.”
“Don’t I have a right to deny that request?” If the farmer was calling him out just to argue with him over the engines, or ask to see them again, Kikwang would much rather not walk, and stay in the air-conditioned command center.
“If it was anyone else, you would. But he’s the one who caught you with the engines,” Yoseob gave him a sympathetic look, although he couldn’t say he understood why Kikwang was so adamantly against it.
Kikwang grimaced. “Yoseob, you can’t do this to me.”
“Sorry, dude.” He didn’t look very apologetic.
Kikwang has been on runs, but has definitely never (and never had good reason to) leave the bubble of the downtown city area. Junhyung’s home is not only very far from any civilization, but also on the opposite end of the ship from command central. Living in space, you’d have thought there would be a better way to get across the ship, but apparently, good old fashioned walking was still the answer. The fancy travel was only built for outside the ship, where new worlds awaited, not inside, where a grumpy farmer awaited the IT chief.
He started out quite fast, walking briskly through the dome of the command center, throughout downtown, all the way to the edge of the city even. But the edge between the city and the plantation was so evident— sturdy steel buildings given way to wispy dust land, that Kikwang immediately felt dread upon reaching it. He didn’t keep track of how long it took him to get there, although Yong Junhyung had no right to complain about trying to find the IT department when his house was floating in this vast expanse of land, and nowhere near the barn, which Kikwang had already entered. At last, he made it, sweating more than he had when he was fixing the engines, and panting heavily. On the porch, there was no scanner, not even a doorbell, but there was a handle sticking out what looked like a lion’s head. Kikwang picked it up gingerly, and pulled. Nothing happened. He waited a while, catching his breath, before he pulled again. Still nothing. “Hello!” he shouted. This was absolutely archaic.
He heard shuffling inside, and sighed with relief. The door opened to reveal Yong Junhyung, in another pair of overalls, looked puzzled at Kikwang before realizing the situation. “Ah, you’re coming today?”
“Yes,” Kikwang said tightly. “That’s why I’m here.”
Junhyung stepped back to invite him inside. He seemed to be in a much better mood. “I never thought I’d want to call the IT department,” he joked.
“Yeah, why did you call?” Kikwang asked, unable to keep a bit of the bitterness from seeping into his voice. “You never gave a reason.”
“I didn’t give one because whoever answered my call didn’t ask,” Junhyung said pointedly.
“You have a telephone here?” Kikwang was genuinely surprised.
“Yes?” Junhyung was not amused. “Doesn’t everyone?”
Kikwang rolled his eyes. “Everyone also has an ID scanner at the front door, so guests don’t have to yell to alert their host that they’ve arrived.”
Junhyung regarded him quizzically. “Why didn’t you just knock?”
“What, with my hand? I mean I suppose I could have done that…” Kikwang had never thought about it.
“No, with the knocker,” he got up, and Kikwang reluctantly followed him. Junhyung pointed at the lion head.
“What about that thing?” Kikwang asked.
“It’s a knocker,” he demonstrated by rapping it up and down against the door.
Kikwang’s mouth fell open. “So that’s what that does!”
The next moment was forever seared into Kikwang’s mind, as Yong Junhyung opened his mouth and laughed. He actually laughed, which also meant he smiled, and Kikwang had to admit it was a lot harder to be frustrated at him after that, no matter how archaic his greeting practices.
They returned to his dining table, yet Junhyung still had not delivered his request for maintenance. “Do you want me to put in an ID scanner?” Kikwang asked.
Junhyung snorted. “No thanks. I don’t need some computer to let people into my house; I can do that myself. I can also recognize them without failure, and your systems can’t guarantee that.”
“Our systems are actually very reliable,” Kikwang stated simply. “It’s mandatory in the city.”
“Then I’m glad I don’t live in the city,” Junhyung shot back.
He was back to being irritated again. “What exactly do you have against IT?”
Junhyung settled down, the fire fizzling out. “Just a problem with the way you guys think.”
“Not really a grudge; just that you guys seem to be shockingly close-minded for the people who are supposed to be the future,” Junhyung mused.
There’s a pause as Kikwang deliberates how to phrase the obvious. “But we are the future...”
Junhyung doesn’t relent. “That’s what you would think. But you guys aren’t willing to consider a possibility other than the one you have right now. You rely too much on technology to do the work for you, that you forget what you’re doing, and only know how to work the computer.” Junhyung fixes him with a steady gaze. “What happens if the computer decides not to work anymore?”
“Well, it’s a computer,” Kikwang begins, “so it’s much more reliable since more of the factors can be controlled. Of course it’s necessary to update the software and the system, but that’s what IT is for. You,” he stared at Junhyung accusingly, “are so stuck in the past though, that you can’t find it in you to see how to move forward.”
“Better to be in the past where I can rely on myself, than to ‘advance’ just to realize I’ve lost the knowledge and ability to do pretty much anything,” Junhyung fired at him.
“That’s quite an extreme assessment of how we’re supposed to be,” Kikwang commented. “How long have you been on this ship?”
“I was born on this ship,” Junhyung said.
“Oh,” Kikwang should have expected this. “Well, I’m from Xerius, and—”
Junhyung scoffed. “Of course you’re from Xerius.”
Kikwang raised a brow. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Technology capital of the galaxy,” Junhyung said simply. “I think the better question is, what are you doing here?”
Over the next few months, Kikwang finds himself back at the plantation after work every week or so, mostly because he still doesn’t enjoy the trek. He’s determined to figure out what Yong Junhyung’s problem with IT is, and fix it.
One day, even banging the door repeatedly with the lion head doesn’t garner a response, and Kikwang is forced to sit on the porch and just wait. The signal is pathetic out here, but there has to be a tower somewhere if Junhyung has a telephone. Kikwang debates whether or not to look for, but eventually decides he’d rather not be more lost in the plantation, so he settles for playing phone games instead of doing anything productive. He only looks up when he hears footsteps approaching the house.
“How long have you been here?” Junhyung asks.
Kikwang checks his phone. “About an hour.” He suddenly becomes aware of his dimmer surroundings. “It’s getting late actually; I should head back.”
Junhyung seems to give him a once over as he stands up. “I’ll meet you at the edge tomorrow. I want to show you something.” He gives him a slight smile before entering his house.
As he’s walking home that day, Kikwang thinks he might be just a little bit excited.
The next day, Junhyung meets him at the brink of civilized society and they continue to travel along the edge until the dusty ground meets grass, trees, and ivy. “There’s a forest here,” Kikwang stated.
Junhyung nodded. “But that’s not what I wanted to show you.”
They keep walking along a path, until the ivy begins to creep up a massive stone wall. They follow the wall around to a tall, iron gate, and Junhyung pulls a small key from his pocket.
Kikwang merely stared. “That’s a real key,” he said.
Junhyung laughs. “You’re all for stating the obvious today, aren’t you?”
Kikwang regards him seriously. “We don’t have keys in the city anymore. Access is granted by keycards or touch pads now.”
Junhyung is taken aback. He’d never thought of what a key would look like to someone whose whole life revolved around different systems of technology that replaced them. He opens the door, and Kikwang’s mouth drops to the floor.
Inside is nothing he had ever seen before. It was a circular area of grass, encompassed by the ivy covered walls, and everywhere, there were flowers. He had never seen so many, all together, coming out of the ground! The ones he’d seen had been in museums, or preserved in vacuum sealed bags, and all of them had been dried. He went up to a yellow one with spikes and caressed it; it was so smooth, and the smell was strong: a sweet, light aroma.
Junhyung lead them to a hanging, swinging bench tethered by rope and ivy to a thick tree branch. Kikwang sat down, but continued to crane his neck and look around in wonderment. “This is unreal,” he breathed out.
Junhyung nodded. “I found this place when I was eight, and I still come here to relax, and to remember what nature means to me.”
“How is this, how is it possible?” Kikwang inquired. “How can they grow without—” he stopped, and hit himself in the forehead. “Of course. Of course! You have artificial sunlight created to grow the crops, therefore these plants are able to receive it too. But water… what about water… do you water them?”
“Stop being such a scientist and just enjoy it.” Junhyung had leaned back and closed his eyes, allowing the bench to slightly rock back and forth.
“I am enjoying it. I enjoy studying it,” Kikwang pointed out.
“That wasn’t why I brought you here,” Junhyung said.
“Why did you bring me here then?” Kikwang asked.
“To show you what I see,” he opened his eyes to face Kikwang. “How I see this ship; how I see life.” He paused and scuffed the ground with his shoe. “It can’t all be Xerius.”
Kikwang sighed. “Junhyung… Xerius isn’t the place you think it is anymore.”
“It isn’t the technology capital of the galaxy?” Junhyung asked.
“Well, yes and no,” Kikwang began. “It’s still by far the most advanced technology on any planet, but it’s become a different kind of tech capital, the kind where the software companies run the government.”
“And that doesn’t make you afraid of technology?” Junhyung asked.
“No,” Kikwang said firmly, “because there’s so much good that technology can do. It isn’t the technology that can become corrupt, just the people who have it.”
“But the technology can fail,” Junhyung added.
“True, but that wasn’t the topic at hand. With all technology, there’s going to be some risk of failure, but if we never try, then we’ll always be stuck right where we are,” Kikwang said.
“Is that so bad?” Junhyung gestured around him. “Is where we are so bad?”
“It’s not bad,” Kikwang clarified. “It’s just not advanced.”
“So you prefer your computers over this?” Junhyung asked him.
“Well…” Kikwang started, but Junhyung interrupts him. “Never mind, I don’t think I want to hear the answer to that right now.”
“This might not be advanced, but it carries a lot more history than your computers could ever hold,” he holds up a finger as soon as he sees Kikwang’s mouth open, “and I don’t need you to tell me how much memory the IT department has on their computers.” Kikwang’s mouth closes.
Junhyung gets up and heads toward a cluster of red flowers with wispy strands around it. “Take this one for example: the higanbana. There’s a myth surrounding it: a disease called hanahaki byou, where a person coughs up flower petals due to one-sided love,” Junhyung plucks one and twirls it in his fingers. “Apparently, you get infected through contact with vomited flowers, and the only cure is to have the love reciprocated.”
Kikwang stares at it curiously “So, is it this flower specifically that gets vomited? Not different flowers based on people’s preferences?”
Junhyung snorts, but smiles anyway. Trust Kikwang to ask about the technicalities of a myth, instead of the story. “I don’t know, maybe. It’s a fictional disease, so most likely. In a book or a show, of course there’s some way that a disease knows a person’s favorite flower.”
Kikwang examines the flower more closely, pinching it in odd places, and putting his face inches from Junhyung’s fingers. “There’s probably an algorithm for that,” he comments, and this time, Junhyung laughs.
Kikwang becomes fascinated every time Junhyung shows him something new, or really, something odd. He spends longer at the plantation now, and has stayed for dinner on multiple occasions, and he has to admit, Junhyung’s food does taste better. Yoseob frequently remarks on how his under eye circles have gotten darker, but how he also seems to be happier in general.
Of course, Junhyung turned out to be right again. The engine incident turned out to be a precursor for a much bigger disaster: malware eating away at the software for the machines that processed all the food. The IT department sleeps at their desks for weeks fighting the virus, and Kikwang hasn’t had enough rest or time to realize that he hasn’t visited Junhyung at all, or given him any word about the situation, even though Kikwang thinks, in the back of his mind, Junhyung could help. But would he be willing to?
There’s a knock on the door one day, or night, Kikwang isn’t too sure, and doesn’t turn away from his computer until he hears “Um, boss, it’s for you” and spots a stony-faced in the doorway.
Kikwang sighs and gets up, slowly, trying to delay the inevitable. He had been meaning to tell Junhyung, he swears, but he’s been so busy lately and he’s had so much on his mind that— he barely registers that they’re out in the hall, even after the door slides shut.
“What the hell is going on?” Junhyung’s tone is clipped, but a look into his eyes tells Kikwang that he’s absolutely livid.
“We’re working on it—,” Kikwang begins to say.
“Don’t pull that on me again. This is actually my area of expertise this time.” Junhyung scoffs.
“How long has this been going on?”
Kikwang has the decency to look sheepish. “A few weeks.”
His eyes shoot wide open. “A few weeks?! And you have no backup plan? What are the people going to eat? Do you have any idea how big this ship is?”
Kikwang closes his eyes and sighs gently before answering,“Yes, I’ve walked across it several times.”
“So you still don’t want to do the work; you just want the computers to do it for you,” Junhyung accuses. “And you’re willing to let people starve until you fix the technology instead of, oh I don’t know, starting to grow the food yourselves because, in case you didn’t know, it takes months for food to grow.”
Junhyung was talking a bit too loudly to do Kikwang’s temper any good. “No one is going to starve; there are plenty of reserves.”
“And how long is it going to take to fix the software problem?” Junhyung continues to bombard him. “You’ve already said it’s been a couple of weeks. Shouldn’t you be looking to the long term? When will u realize that you can’t just rely on computers?”
Now Junhyung wasn’t the only one who was livid. “Well you can’t do everything by yourself either! No one besides you knows how to grow food, and where are we going to get the land and the resources? Besides, the only place with sunlight is your plantation!”
Junhyung’s voice chilled from fire to ice. “You would know that the plantation is too big for one person. I never said that you couldn’t use it. And I could teach you what you needed to do in a few days, maximum. Each person gets a part of the process. When did i ever say I was doing everything by myself?”
“Because that’s what you are; you’re a loner that handles everything on his own. We have to think about the bigger picture—”
“Aren’t I the one thinking about the bigger picture?” Kikwang couldn’t realize, not even in the back of his mind, that Junhyung was the one making logical sense. If only Junhyung talked in computer code: so simple, so straightforward. “Forget it,” Junhyung said, after Kikwang didn’t respond, “you just do what you do best; rely on your computers.”
All Kikwang was think about was that he was sick and tired of being interrupted. “The computers are us! We are the minds behind them, why can’t you see that?”
“Why can’t you see that you are not a computer?” Junhyung sounded almost sad. “You are you, and you can do things too.”
Kikwang leaves the office that evening, and all but collapses onto a barstool.
1, 2, 3 drink. 1, 2, 3 drink.
Shot after shot goes down his throat, burning and searing, calming and relieving. He doesn’t regret it, not even when it’s 2am and he’s in the men’s bathroom dry heaving into the toilet bowl. For a second, he wonders if there are flowers stuck in his throat, but dismisses the idea: it was impossible; he had never come in contact with infected flowers.
He regrets it the next day, when for better or for worse, his alarm that he forgot to turn off sounds and he wakes up by running into his bathroom while clutching his head. He ends up being late for work, which in retrospect, was unavoidable, and yawns for the tenth time before he even sits down at his desk.
He hears the door slide open, and is mentally prepared to be subjected to Yoseob’s questioning, but the figure in the door is too tall to be Yoseob, and his outfit has one too many stars.
He was ready to kill Junhyung. He’d gone to Doojoon again! At this rate, Kikwang was going to be demoted before the end of the month. On the way to the captain’s office, Doojoon gives him equal amounts explanation and admonishing. Junhyung had apparently proposed that they scrap the food processors altogether, yet Doojoon had suspected that Kikwang would have qualms against that.
“Well, the most important one is that such large quantities of food would be impossible to even grow without some sort of machine help,” Kikwang had told the captain.
And so, he was now in a room with Yong Junhyung again, both of them having been instructed to create a new system that comprised both of their ideologies. Of course, arguments ensued.
“This work isn’t intellectual; it’s demeaning,” Kikwang had said after Junhyung had proposed a joint machine-worker relationship.
“What’s so demeaning about feeding yourself?” Junhyung had asked, and Kikwang couldn’t think of a response. He blamed the hangover.
In the end, they created a system that combined machine help with human effort, so that the machines carried the brunt of the work, but people were needed to watch over them. They also had to learn how to do the jobs manually, if the machines were to ever fail or malfunction.
And so, the crisis was averted, and the ship was normal again, albeit different. Junhyung’s plantation was no longer barren; instead, workers and their respective machines covered almost every inch of the dusty land. Yet when Kikwang went searching for him, Junhyung wasn’t in the fields, at his house, or even in the barn.
He approached the iron gate, and rapped his knuckles against it. There was no response, so he tried it a little harder. He winced and rubbed his knuckles gingerly afterwards. Damn, that hurt. He wasn’t very enthusiastic about trying again, but if he had to— Luckily, the iron gate swung open for me, and there stood Junhyung, in those dumb overalls.
An apology was due; two ended up being made. They spent the rest of the afternoon in the garden, lounging, talking, perhaps a bit more.
So maybe the overalls weren’t so dumb. After all, the chief agricultural expert and advisor to the captain wore them.