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 C-2, interview with E.L., recorded by Jennifer 80B
You’re recording government workers now and you still say this will be anonymous? Everyone will know who I am when I tell this story. Everyone will know who my mother was. Are you going to track down the Commanders who had her killed, or is this propaganda like everything else?
You’re still recording? You’re really serious, then. You think this reconciliation will work. Okay, see if you still think so when I’m done.
My mother hid me. She worked in Section 23, she had access to all the medical records, and as soon as they tested me for Grays she deleted the file so no one knew the results. She took me home like I was any normal baby. She hid me for years. It was hard, pretending like I couldn’t read everyone around me, trying not to look scared when I could tell someone was angry even though they had a smile pasted on their face, trying not to get jumpy when someone was excited but working hard to keep it in. I thought I got pretty good at it, but not good enough.
We called in a problem with our ventilation system one day, and this woman came out to fix it. Bee. The albino. I guess she was working undercover then, not letting anyone know she was PsyOp. I sure couldn’t tell she was an Empath, and I was usually good at feeling them when they came by, getting out of there before they could pick up on me. But I didn’t know she was one and so I didn’t get away before she read me. I saw it in her face, when she recognized I was a Type 1. She didn’t try to hide it. She looked right at me – there was something weird about her eyes, some kind of metallic glint in them like she had something implanted – and she gave me this smile. Didn’t say a word, not until a week later, after my mom was killed and Bee came back for me.
If she went to work on me, if she projected at me, it was so subtle I couldn’t even feel it. “I’m sorry about your mother,” she said, and everything I could read off her looked completely sincere. “It must have been frightening, living here, just the two of you, hiding.” She kept going on like that, knowing I was afraid, of course I was, I was torn up over mom and I didn’t know if another Commander was coming for me next. She waited until I was practically shaking, all that fear pouring out of me, and then she said, “And that’s not even the worst part, is it? Now you’ve got to worry about the paramania, too.” Looked me in the eye with that bullshit honest act and told me I was going crazy, so I’d worry about that instead of recognizing that she was trying to get me to admit to being an Empath.
“It’ll be better if you come in,” she said. “They can take care of you if you come in.” So I came in. I didn’t think I had a choice.
So here I am now, working for PsyOp, or what’s left of it. They didn’t trust me enough to put me in the field, but they found out I played music. I should’ve wondered how they knew that. It should’ve got me thinking about just how long Bee had me under surveillance, how long she knew I was in hiding. She was probably working all along the residential sections, looking out for strange things, and heard me playing that old guitar I had. Those sub-tunnels weren’t built really well, and you can hear everything up and down them, with your ears or not. It’s hell when someone gets upset. They hardly need speakers in every unit – just put one at the end of the tunnel and everyone will hear it.
I used to play along with the songs I heard on those speakers. I always thought that music was lousy, that I could play so much better if I ever got to be on the speakers. I never thought I would be. PsyOp was excited to have an Empath who was also a musician, someone who could really figure out what kind of music would calm people down and what kind would get them up in the morning to work. They brought people into the production section and had me play at them to test it, with a bunch of PsyOp Empaths in the room to check their reactions. Bee wasn’t there. I guess she was still undercover at the time. It didn’t occur to me until later that I could have outed her, I could’ve broken her cover. I had some leverage and I could get some revenge on her for manipulating me. But I didn’t do it.
There’s not a lot of point in these dialogues if the other person isn’t here, is there? I heard some of them didn’t go so well when both people were here. It’s probably best that Bee isn’t here. I don’t know what you’re trying to get me to say, but I’m not about to forgive her. She lied to me. There isn’t even any treatment for paramania, is there? The Type 1s who go crazy just get locked up and sedated. She had me come in and play into their propaganda machine, making mind-control music for their speakers, blasting it all over Refuge, and for absolutely nothing. She lied to me and I can’t forgive her for that.
©2016 Michelle M. Welch
Author’s note: I have to admit that I had to make a change. One of my readers pointed out an area of confusion: the A or B in the Empaths’ names does not correspond to Type A or B Grays Syndrome, but calling someone Jennifer 80B makes it look like she’s a Type B, which she’s not. So I’ve made an across-the-board change to the Grays Syndrome designations: Type 1 and Type 2. Just another piece of weirdness in the new world of online publishing, where editors don’t catch all these things before publication. Previous posts have been edited to reflect the change. – mmw