Stories from Refuge – 30 – “Then I started talking myself out of it again.”

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-29, dialogue between P.N. and Hal 65B, recorded by Beatrice 75C
RY 100.8.14

I didn’t want to do this for a long time. I thought about it, six months ago when you started. It was actually the first thing I thought of when I heard about the dialogues – not the Commanders who used to come search the classrooms when I was a kid or the bots who broke down my door once because my roommate used to buy contraband or the woman Empath who grilled me about the medical records I fudged when I was working with Doctor B. No, the first thing I thought about was him.

Then I started talking myself out of it again, like I’ve been doing for the last five years since it happened. No big deal, I’d tell myself. It was upsetting and it made me sick but it wasn’t an attack. Not like that. I agreed to it, right? That makes it consent, right? So nothing to talk about.

But we used to just accept these things about Empaths, about everything in Refuge. Empaths would mess with your head and you just had to take it, because what else could you do? People sometimes said it made things safer, Empaths being able to catch bad guys and stop riots before they happened. Not that there was any other choice, so who cares what we told ourselves? Empaths might mess with you just to get what they wanted and that was just the way it was. So this man showed up at my living unit, just after we got the door fixed, right after I was interrogated about the medical records, and said he had to follow up. But it wouldn’t have to be messy, he said. Maybe he could just come in and talk about it. Sit down next to me and we could talk.

He smiled a lot. Pushing out this reassuring look. Actually, I can’t remember if he messed with my head or not. It sure didn’t feel like when that woman interrogated me, putting things in my head that didn’t belong there. I don’t think this one put anything there. He just kept talking about how we could help each other out. But that’s still a threat, right? He knew I was in trouble.  I didn’t really have much choice but to give in.

[Hal interrupts:] I didn’t threaten her! She wanted-

[Subject continues:] I wanted to be safe. I wanted not to be hurt.

[Recorder’s note: Hal’s anger erupted faster than I could detect it and put a stop to it. It was a surface anger, not something that was a real risk for violence. Subject wouldn’t have been able to respond otherwise. When he caught me reading him he quieted down. Interesting, watching Hal process the fact that he interpreted the subject’s output wrong. He shakes his head. He does not apologize. He gets himself on angrier, more stable ground.]

Fine. You’re sending me to Criminal now? Lock me up in 5 South?

[Councilor Booth:] This isn’t a criminal investigation. We will refer it to the Civil Council to see if they want to investigate further.

[Her output is very hard as she says this. If it was up to her, she’d lock him up now. Hal reads the room, finds everyone against him. He tenses up. This isn’t a situation he’s used to finding himself in.]

[Interesting. He protested in the last report, but his life really did change.]

©2016 Michelle M. Welch

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