Stories from Refuge – 27 – “I would do anything to protect Refuge, but not at so high a price.”

(c) Svedoliver |

(c) Svedoliver |

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-8, interview with Edward Hernand by Councilor Alice Booth
RY 100.8.10

I think it’s very telling that Vessa Harmon blocked the presence of any of our recorders at this interview. Did she want to prevent any more lies from being detected? The other Councilors questioned whether we should proceed but this matter has been hidden long enough. I will transcribe the interview myself.

I asked Hernand if he had any corrections to make to his statements, in light of the information submitted by James 72A.

“Someone tampered with the records. Tampering can go both ways, you know.”

“So you’re claiming,” I asked, “that this new information, that Cleo 59D is the one who actually interrogated K.F. and S.B., was itself a falsification?”

“There’s no way to prove that it’s not.”

No, there isn’t. But I noted that Hernand glanced up and over my shoulder when he answered, as if looking at Councilor Harmon. For approval? For direction? I don’t have the skills to make this judgment.

Harmon herself interrupted at this point. “If we’re only going to sit here and speculate, our time is better spent elsewhere.”

I had no option but to ask point blank: “Did you order the sedation of Cleo 59D?”

I had never wished more that I had empathic ability. I might have been more sure whether her brief hesitation was a sign of lying, or the aggressiveness of her answer. “Is this how we’re going to proceed? With accusations of Council members? You might as well demand whether Councilor Nash sedated the Empath. He’s the one with the background in the Medical Council. Or are you just attacking former Military staff? I see you haven’t leveled any accusations against Councilor Green. Is it because he had already retired when you put this Council together, or because his rank was too low? Are you just attacking commanding officers, since you don’t have access to any Commanders?”

Andrew Green himself spoke up at that point. “And what is the point of this demonstration, Colonel Harmon? Because it looks like distraction.”

Councilor Ethen finally spoke then. She was the last member to be appointed and is typically the last to speak. She worked in PsyOp before the Revolution and is purported to have some low-level empathic ability, but not so much that they put her in the field. I often hoped she could shed light on the mental states of people in the gallery. I was often disappointed, as I was again now. “You know that I disapproved the selection of Councilor Harmon from the beginning.”

I told them all to stop. “We are not going to argue like a lot of school children. I’ve had classes of ten-year-olds better behaved than this. If Edward Hernand isn’t going to answer a straight question he is dismissed.”

He paused for a moment. I wondered whether he was going to try answering, whether he was going to claim that no one ordered him to lie. But he stepped down from his chair and the guards escorted him out.

I faced Vessa Harmon. “Are you going to take his seat?”

“I’m not going to be interrogated,” she said.

“This is an interview, not an interrogation.”

She frowned. “I have nothing further to say.”

“Don’t you? You didn’t answer my first question, Vessa. Did you order the sedation of Cleo 59D?”

I expected her to lie, or to make another distracting statement. She did, but not as I thought she would. “You had it so easy, Alice, in your little school rooms in Section 19. You weren’t fighting the war that we were. You weren’t trying to keep people alive in thirty-five miles of tunnels, everyone terrified of the poisoned air outside and the cancer that it caused, and then bottled up down here in the only place that was safe, only it didn’t stay safe because you can’t keep people in a pressure cooker without things going wrong. And that’s even before you factor in the bad seeds that came down with us. The smugglers and the drug runners and the rioters and the people who just hate everyone else so much they’ll kill them the minute they have the opportunity.

“That’s what was brewing in 18c. The Ashbeys and the Feeords and the other recessive gene families – they weren’t just outcasts living in a little corner, they were building a full-blown racial purity faction. People whose grandparents and great-grandparents rejected the genetic blending in the last century, before Refuge. They started off talking about pride and identity but they ended up talking about resisting anyone who didn’t fit their image. Which is the rest of us. All of us. Those riots in 96 weren’t just about attacking the Councilors. They were going to attack all of Refuge. I was sworn to protect Refuge and that’s what I did. I called in a strike force and wiped out everyone in 18c who hadn’t already been arrested, like Kirsten Feeord and Anthony Zepped.”

Wiped them out? I almost couldn’t say it out loud.

“Yes, that’s why your little boy James didn’t find any arrest records for anyone else. There weren’t any. There weren’t any death records, either. The only thread I didn’t tie up was Cleo, and when she started buying in to the public flagellation show that this Council has turned into, I no longer trusted her to keep the strike classified. So yes, I had her sedated, I had the records edited to show that Kay did the interrogations instead, and I ordered Hernand to back it up.

“Is this the answer you’re looking for, Alice? I lied. I ordered the elimination of sixty or sixty-five residents of Refuge. I did it to protect the other eighty-five thousand. And I’m not going to ask for reconciliation because I didn’t do anything wrong. I did the job I was sworn to do.”

I accepted Vessa Harmon’s resignation from the Reconciliation Council. We replaced her with Robert Stray, the Military representative that Councilor Ethen recommended. I do not like Robert Stray, I do not like his uncooperative attitude, and I do not like his negative opinions of many of our subjects. I recommended Vessa Harmon instead because she seemed to be more conciliatory, more willing to go along with the Council. I now recognize that as an act she played so we would not question her too closely. At least Robert Stray passed the evaluations of all three of my recorders. His unpleasantness is completely honest; he does not lie.

This work will continue. I also have eighty-five thousand residents to protect – and not only their lives but their minds and their spirits. Yes, the violence planned by the racial purity factions in 18c was a threat, and I would do anything to protect Refuge, but not at so high a price. Vessa Harmon’s solution only guarantees more threats in the future. If we had had a Reconciliation Council in the year 96 we might not have had the riots. Giving people’s pain a voice is the only solution. Taking it away will make it fester until it erupts.

©2016 Michelle M. Welch

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