Stories from Refuge – 21 – “That’s why the baby came out like he did, we were being punished.”

(c) Radist | Dreamstime.com

(c) Radist | Dreamstime.com

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-20, dialogue between K.S. and R.J., recorded by Beatrice 75C
R.Y. 100.7.5

They took my kid away because he was a Type 2. My girlfriend had him at home, which was a problem to begin with since we weren’t married and so we couldn’t get permission to have the baby, and we had to hide the whole thing from the beginning. My girlfriend thought that was the reason the baby came out the way he did, like we were being punished for breaking the rules. Eventually she left ’cause she couldn’t handle the guilt.

I called him Nod, since he nodded a lot. That’s really all he did. Other than that, there wasn’t anybody home. I had a thing hanging over his crib, little wooden blocks for him to play with, you know, but every time he woke up he looked scared, like he’d never seen them before and he was terrified of them. I tried to teach him to say Dada but he never could remember how to do it. He couldn’t even remember the game we played with the baby food, the train going into his mouth. He only ate when he was so hungry he about started crying.

He didn’t do that too much. He didn’t cry. I could leave him home when I went to work and he’d just lie in his crib, not crying, not doing anything. No one even knew I had a baby and that’s how I was able to keep him at home until he was almost three. Then the woman I was buying the formula and the baby food from – she was black market, selling to people like me who didn’t get permission, people with third kids and so on – well, she must have got arrested. I didn’t know if Nod could even eat solid food without choking on it, he sure didn’t remember me giving him a cookie from one time to the other, so I went into the Commerce Section to buy baby food from a normal store. They ran my documents, of course. They said I didn’t even have a kid. It wasn’t more than an hour later that the PsyOp people showed up to take him away.

Here’s what I hoped. I hoped they killed him. I actually hoped that for a long time, that they decided he wasn’t worth the food to keep him alive and they killed him. That would’ve been better than turning him into a machine-head. Then I started being scared that they did, that they turned him into one of those Commanders and sent him off to fight people, or kill people. I would stay up nights, worrying, imagining the worst thing he ever did.

But I guess I should stop worrying and imagining, or hoping he’s dead or alive. Maybe I should just ask.

[Recorder’s note: R.J. requested records check and Councilors approved it. Unauthorized male child collected from K.S. in Refuge Year 71 was implanted and put into service as Commander, unit 5, robot company A, iteration 12.]

[R.J. responds.]

I remember 5A12. It was a little tough implanting him. Usually we get Type 2s at birth, and we can start training muscle memory into them, get them using blocks with letters and numbers and putting them in order. They don’t remember their toys but when we put them in front of the kids, they can replicate the patterns we trained them in. It was harder with 5A12 because he’d gone so many years without any training.

Can I redact that? I don’t want it to sound like K.S. did something wrong. I don’t, sir, I don’t think you did anything wrong. You just wanted to do right by your boy. And do you want to know what the worst thing he ever did was? Because I can tell you.

[Recorder’s note: I paused the dialogue. Councilors debated whether subjects should address each other directly. Both men ignored the debate. They were crying. R.J. continued before the Councilors were done, leaning over the rail to talk to K.S.]

He did good, your boy. The A companies go through a lot of iterations. They’re the first ones we send out, and their Commanders die pretty fast. 5A12 was smart, he gave good commands, not just because I wrote them but because he followed them well and interpreted them well. He stayed alive for ten years after we put him in service. He was still alive when they turned out all the Commanders Aboveground, and I’ll bet he’s up there now, whipping them all into shape.

There was just one incident a few years ago, when one of the Aboveground bands attacked the lithium fields. 5A12 engaged their leader and assaulted him pretty badly. He lost control, he said, and kept beating him long after he needed to. The leader was an old man. 5A12 was so shaken up about it he kept playing it in active memory until we downloaded the records. He actually came to me, even though I don’t handle the downloads, and asked me to take the memory out of him. He felt really bad about it. But he drew a picture of this old man in a little notebook he carried around. I asked him if he wanted me to rip out that page, and he said no. He said he wanted to take responsibility for something, even if he didn’t remember exactly what it was. That was the worst thing he ever did and he wanted to take responsibility for it.

Now they say that Type 2s can’t remember anything, and if they took him away from you when he was three, it would be hard for him to remember you anyway. But he learned that responsibility from someone and I’d say it was from you, sir. It got into him somehow and he remembered it in his bones, even if he can’t remember it in his head. So don’t you worry about your boy. You did the best by him that you could, and you gave him exactly what he needed.

©2016 Michelle M. Welch

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