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-6, dialogue between A.M. and Cleo 59D, recorded by Ana 53C
[She is different, this one. No gray in her. The color – the color I can’t see well – it’s blue, isn’t it? That was the color for calm, for intensity, the spectrum of pale to dark. But the panel is waiting for me to stop writing – breaking the pencil on the paper, so little of it, they don’t understand why I want to use it and not their little black screens with the keys on them – and let her speak.]
You alright, hon?
[A.M. says this to me. But she should be speaking to Cleo. 59D. Fourth Empath born in the year 59, taking our names away from us, I wondered that they gave us first names at all but they had to distinguish us from the Type 2s somehow, those people who cannot form memories without hardware installed in their heads like air scrubbers in the walls, those people good for nothing but being turned into Commanders, directing an army of robots, more machine than human. But perhaps Cleo was born to a family and they gave her that name, while some of us were abandoned at the Medical Section when the tests came back showing Grays Type 1 or even born there, engineered to be the next generation of Empaths, keeping peace in Refuge by touching people’s minds before they even act to break the peace. But they are looking at me again and I have to stop writing until A.M. speaks.]
Okay. Now, I don’t know what you want to hear from me that’s not already in your records. Cleo here interrogated me about contact I had with Abovegrounders, and you already know I refused to name any names or tell anyone where my contacts were. I didn’t sell anything to them and I didn’t smuggle anything in so you don’t need to know about any of that. But she tried to get it out of me, and you’ve probably got that in your records, too. I’m not about to sit here and roll up my sleeves or pull back my hair and show off any scars, but you already know what Empaths used to make people do to themselves. And I’m not going to sit here and shout at her and go on about how my life was ruined since then, if that’s what you’re expecting me to do. I’ve already forgiven her for all that. I forgave her a long time ago. I forgave her the minute she did it. I’ve got a mile of dirt hanging over my head and I wasn’t about to let that anger and hate hang over my head, too. And that’s all I’ve got to say so you might as well let me get back to work.
[A.M. A.M. AM. I am. She is – she is the core of humanity and the whole of the world. Cleo’s response. Cleo’s response – she cannot speak, she has no words, she opens her mouth and she cannot answer, but her output is blinding in the colors I can’t see, wide and luminous and shooting through the room, driving out shadows – confusion, amazement, humility, the entire earth shifting beneath her on the power of the words she never expected to hear, she never thought she wanted to hear – I’ve forgiven her – I’ve forgiven her. The language changed in a few syllables, words to be written on the walls, carved into the earth – tear down the bulkheads and rip up the tunnels and shout it through Refuge – this is the answer, this is the answer, this is- ]
[Recorder’s note, Jennifer 80B: Ana 53C was sedated and taken back to Confinement. She broke her pencil into half a dozen pieces, pressing down on it so hard, and tore the paper so badly I can’t read her last notes.]
©2016 Michelle M. Welch