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-10, submitted anonymously
I should have been punished for what I did. I should have been anyway, and I should be locked up in Confinement now. I worked for the old Government. But I wasn’t punished and I’m not sorry, because I’m not sorry about what I did.
I found out I could do it by accident. It’s not something they told me about in training, and I have to wonder whether anyone knew about this kind of ability. I wonder if anyone else has ever had it. You’d think they would have told us if they’d known. They would have trained us to do it. Think about how much easier it would be – instead of torturing people to get information out of them after the crimes had been committed, we could pull things out of their heads that would make them commit the crimes in the first place. Take away those old grudges, that information about contraband and how much money they could make dealing it, those rumors about which hatches open to the Aboveground. But no, PsyOp decided they’d rather give people nightmares and make them beat their heads against walls.
That’s not how I used it anyway, making people forget things during interrogations. I did something else.
It started during an interrogation. They had me question a little girl down in sub-16 after a riot. Her living unit had been bombed and her whole family had been burned to a crisp, and I was supposed to go in there and ask her if she’d seen her daddy talk to anyone suspicious, if she’d seen any weapons in her house, if anyone had more money than they should have. She couldn’t stop crying about her big sister. The bots had fired through the window where her sister was standing and her sister’s clothes caught fire. The girl couldn’t stop thinking about the screaming. She covered her ears like she was hearing it all over again.
That’s when I pushed in and dampened something. I can’t describe it any better than this – it was like playing a guitar or some kind of instrument and putting your hand on the strings to stop the vibration. Maybe I projected some kind of aversion to the thought and her brain shut it down. All I knew at the time was that I made the girl stop crying and I’d never been so relieved by anything.
There’s a lot of pain to dampen in Refuge. It doesn’t take long talking to someone to find something they really want to forget. I had to get them to talk about it first, get them to call the awful memories to mind before I could build a block against them. I got flooded with a whole lot of misery, but it seemed like it was worth it. To take it away. Maybe it’s arrogant of me to think I was helping people, but that’s line they spun at us in PsyOp training, wasn’t it? That we were helping people, that we were helping Refuge survive, and that justified any kind of torture. I can be sure of one thing. What I did was better than that.
I wonder how long any of these projections lasted. I wonder if that little girl woke up one day a week later or a year later and remembered her sister catching fire. I wonder if she never consciously remembered it but if it came back in her dreams. Maybe I gave people nightmares anyway. But I know one thing has lasted. Everyone who’s seen me, everyone I made forget me, whose minds I reached into and buried the memory of me, has continued to forget me. All the other PsyOp Empaths from before the Revolution are locked up, and I’m not. No one’s even looking for me. I’ve disappeared like Bee has, although rumor has it that she was scrubbed. It makes me wonder whether I could plant a memory, not just bury them. Maybe I could make everyone think I’m dead, too.
©2016 Michelle M. Welch