Stories from Refuge – 18 – “I can keep saying how bad I felt but it doesn’t matter now.”

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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-18, dialogue between W.A. and Van 48C, recorded by Mary 80C
R.Y. 100.7.2

I was interrogated by this Grays Type 1 Empath in Refuge Year 90, in reference to my connection with Isabel Roderguess. I stood up to him pretty well, I think. He only got me to sprain one of my fingers. It wasn’t my hands that forced me to quit Medical. I was forced out because of my connection to a presumed traitor.

[Recorder’s note: Councilors break to discuss anonymity. Councilor Booth advises subject not to name names.]

What are they going to do to me now? I’m eighty-nine years old, I’ve outlived everyone I know, and what’s left to threaten me? The Type 1s and even the bots are locked up. The Type 2s are Aboveground, as if the poor bastards would have enough memory or personal will to come after me. They already had Isabel killed, and if they wanted me dead that would’ve happened ten years ago.

You want more? You really want me to talk? I’ll talk. I’ve been practicing medicine since before I was out of school. My father was a doctor like his father before him, and we were all working on Levinn’s Carcinoma. You’re all too young to remember this, but we brought some of those patients into Refuge with us, back at the beginning. Ones who didn’t go in for treatment because they were scared of Grays Syndrome. We had to figure out some way to treat them, after moving down here in a rush to get out of the mess Aboveground. No radiation equipment, no chemotherapy drugs, hardly enough supplies to set up a decent medical facility. I started helping my father when I was a teenager. And we did good work. Got some care for those patients. The last one lived until RY 79, eighty-five years old when she died, peacefully, in her sleep.

My life’s work. I had to do something else then. The psychiatrists were all working on the stress-related illnesses. Those are so common it’s like treating babies for crying. I wanted something that was more of a challenge, the big question that no one was asking. I wanted to treat paramania.

No one even knew why the Type 1s get paramania. Better than fifty percent – in some years we tracked up to an eighty percent incidence rate. It’s even been observed in a few of the Type 2s, and that’s a complete mystery. An awfully big mystery for no one to be investigating. Your government was content to use these people until they were worn out, then toss them away when they weren’t any good anymore. But I started working on it, and that’s when I learned that Isabel Roderguess was working on it, too.

The Councils didn’t see it like that. They saw that she had contact with Abovegrounders, and figured she must be putting Refuge in danger. Giving away the locations of the entry ports, or whatever ridiculous accusation they came up with. She was contacting researchers, the scientists who’d developed the treatment that caused Grays Syndrome in the first place. They never stopped asking the questions, they never stopped working on the problem. They never locked up thousands of people and put them on sedatives because they didn’t know what else to do with them. Isabel wanted to help those Aboveground scientists with their work and use it to help people down here, and she got killed for it.

[Recorder’s note: Long pause. Subject does not continue. Van begins.]

I didn’t feel good about that, interrogating someone who was trying to help people. I saw Roderguess’s file. I knew she didn’t fit the profile of the smugglers, and it only took me a few minutes questioning Doctor A. here to figure out that he didn’t, either. He was completely truthful when he said they were researchers, they were working on paramania, and that was it. But the threat of treason, the idea that someone might be helping the Abovegrounders, however inadvertently, and letting invaders exploit their weaknesses to gain access to Refuge… It was just too great a danger. I made my report to the Councils and they interpreted it as a danger. I didn’t recommend the kill order but they deemed it necessary.

I can keep saying how bad I felt about that but it doesn’t really matter now, does it?

I felt bad about interrogating Roderguess’s son, too. He was just a kid, fifteen, I think. It wasn’t easy, either. He was an Empath.

Wait. That’s why, isn’t it? Roderguess was working on a treatment for paramania so she could treat her son, to keep him from developing it. That’s… that’s… You’ve got to keep working on it. How far did she get? Did she have a treatment? Was it mechanical, like the headsets, or was it pharmaceutical? Do you have her notes? Do you have her research?

[Recorder’s note: I sensed Van’s attempt to read W.A. and stopped the interview. Councilors allowed me to read W.A.’s reactions for the record. I made the following report: “He doesn’t trust you. He doesn’t like you. He’s holding back the truth out of spite.”]

©2016 Michelle M. Welch

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