Stories from Refuge – 25 – “You took our name away.”

(c) Serjio74 | Dreamstime.com

(c) Serjio74 | 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-27, dialogue between A.Z. and John Cruss, recorded by Beatrice 75C
R.Y. 100.8.5

There were riots back in 94 and 96. Section 18c, the side tunnel closest to the airlock where they bring the lithium in. Not a great place to live. Everyone thought they were getting poisoned every time they opened those doors, and the Commanders worried that some people might try to get out. It got even more violent than usual. And look at who they put in 18c to live. Rejects, untouchables. The people who look wrong. The Feeords and the Ashbeys, they lived in 18c. Didn’t look anything like each other, the Feeords were really pale, except for Ingrid, and the Ashbeys were black. But they didn’t look like they were supposed to and so they got stuck in 18c, and you Government people told them they couldn’t have kids. Some of them did anyway.

Nicky Ashbey, he did the first one of these talks, right? Did you ask him why he got born?

I lived in 18c. Are you looking at me and wondering why? No, I didn’t grow up there, but I ran away when I was a kid and ended up with the other rejects. The less said about my old home, the better. You can make people look right, but you can’t actually make them good people.

Yeah, when the riots started, I helped them. Kept a lookout, warned them when bots were coming. I worked in Maintenance East and I would cut the cameras so they could get through. Old Man Ashbey grabbed some bots and broke them down, and I fiddled with one of the wireless transmitters until I could use it to shut down other bots. I was at the lead when the last big riot broke out, when they stormed the tunnels almost all the way up to Section 1. They almost knocked on the Councilors’ doors and gave them a piece of their mind.

No, I don’t know what their goal was. No one who interrogated me got me to answer that, either. Sometimes people are just mad and can’t take being mad anymore. They’ve got to let it out and if you’re in their way when they do, that’s bad for you.

They also asked me why I bothered helping. I wasn’t part of the stronghold, the recessive gene people holing up in 18c. I looked normal. But maybe I didn’t want to be. You Government people called me Anthony Zepped – and no, I don’t care about anonymity – but our name was Zepeda. You took our name away. Ashbey used to be Achebe, before you took their names away, too. I’m a lot more like them than I am like you.

I was at the front of the riot so I got arrested first. This big Commander couldn’t get his bots to respond so he stomped right over to me and punched me in the head. I was out, so I didn’t see what happened to everyone else when the Commander took away my transmitter. I heard Old Man Ashbey got taken apart by a bot. The guard in Confinement who told me that said “What goes around comes around.”

Things would be a lot different down here if that was true.

[Recorder’s note: Cruss speaks.]

Um, I don’t know what I’m supposed to say. I worked in Military, but all I did was supplies. Ammo, uniforms, helmets. I changed out batteries in the bots but I didn’t make them, just carried them from the Factory section to Military. I didn’t even get arrested after the Revolution, so I must not have been too important.

But yeah, they called me to bring in new wireless transmitters, just before that riot came up the tunnel, because they thought a whole corridor had gone bad. I said that was pretty weird. There’s sixty bots in a storage corridor, and even if a bunch of transmitters went bad, at least a couple of them would have been working. Commander I was talking to – I think it was 5A12 – went right out to look for someone with a jammer or something. I guess that was this guy.

I guess he’s right. What goes around comes around. They’ve got me fixing toilets now. But I don’t really know anything else. I didn’t hear anything about the riot, and when the wireless transmitters came online I had to jump into the barracks to get out of the way of the bots. It wasn’t until they told me I had to be in this meeting that I found out how many people got killed. The records said most of them had other charges against them anyway, contraband and theft and stuff, and then whoever wasn’t killed in the riot got arrested. That’s what they told me, anyway. Like I said, I’m not important enough to know these things.

[Recorder’s note: I was asked by Councilor Booth to follow up on James and Mary’s theory that dialogue partners have been lying. This is my assessment: Joey Cruss is not lying. He’s too far down the chain to have to lie. He was probably chosen for that reason. But there was definitely someone lying in the dialogue gallery. I could sense it put I couldn’t pinpoint it, which suggests that it was behind me where I couldn’t see to get a good read. There were four guards at the door behind me. And then there was the Councilors’ table.]

©2016 Michelle M. Welch

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