Refuge: an underground city built to save people from an apocalyptic world. But how will its people save themselves? Read the stories in any order, or start with the introduction at part 1.
Reconciliation Council report B-5, dialogue between C.H. and Cleo 59D, recorded by Ana 53C
[Recorder’s note: This will be hard but it can be nothing else. C.H. does not wish to speak. Cleo does not wish to be here. Some time passes before C.H. begins his statement.]
Alright, let’s get this over with. You know what I did and you know what that woman did. I got arrested once, been in Confinement five years already, hearing rumors about your big revolution but it sure as hell hasn’t done anything for us. I admit it. I ran drugs and counterfeit credits, I stole from the production sections and put the goods out in Sec 13 with jacked-up prices. You gotta live and it’s hard to live in thirty-five miles of tunnels, never seeing the sun, like a bunch of goddamn rats. I carved out what I could so I could live a little better. You try to tell me the Councilors aren’t doing the same, up in their clean little tunnel in Sec 1. I heard they’ve got carpet on the floors there. I heard they’ve got skylights, little holes in a mile of dirt to let in the sun. They’re not spending any time in Confinement for it, either.
So yeah, I did the crime and I’m doing the time and that woman is why. And what am I supposed to talk to her about? She arrested me. Did her damn job. I never thought I was gonna live like a king forever. Kings don’t have a mile of dirt on their heads. I knew I was going down, whether it was PsyOp that got me or one of the other smugglers. I expected one of them, actually. I was ready for that. I was ready to look a guy in the face and have him pull a knife on me and I’d tell him you do it and you look me in the eye, you son of a bitch, no one’s taking my money and this business I built up and sure as hell no one’s taking my life without looking me in the eye like a man.
But that ain’t what happened. I was down in Sec 9 and heard the alarms go off, I knew the sections were going into lockdown, and I started heading for the shortcut. The shortcut, you know, that tunnel that’s not supposed to exist. I know more people know about it than just smugglers, probably the whole damn government knows about it. But it was the only way I wasn’t gonna get locked into the storage section. I’d just gotten through the door, thought I was in the clear, and the door closed behind me and I was scared shitless of the dark. Never been scared of the dark in my life, not even when I was a kid, and now here I was thinking the walls were caving in on me and God knows what was crawling out of the walls to slither all over me and I was lying on the ground with my face in the damn mud. Next thing I know that woman is there and she’s got cuffs on me and we’re headed to Sec 6 for interrogation.
Look, I did what I had to do. And she can say she did, too, but she could’ve faced me, could’ve looked me in the eye and told me I was under arrest, not hit me from behind like a coward. Goddamn cowards.
[C.H. waits, trying to get a response from Cleo. Aggression pours off of him so thickly he hardly needed to call her a coward. But she does not respond to him. She speaks briefly to me and to the panel.]
If you wanted proof of how my work was justified, here it is. I assume you will return me to Confinement now.
[I will transcribe her output, which she left unspoken. Satisfaction. Confidence. Superiority. And a hint – the faintest gray, although I was never good at perceiving output in colors – of worry, fear, tension. Fearing what will become of Refuge now, perhaps?]
©2016 Michelle M. Welch