Stories from Refuge – 34 – “We’re not kids anymore, and Cora wasn’t laughing this time.”

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-32, submitted anonymously
RY 100.8.23

I was supposed to arrest my best friend.

I had a feeling she was there, when we were called to a disturbance in Section 14. We used to hang out around there in Credit Processing. Cora liked to make things, and she’d done a pretty good job making a fake credit chip. She kept trying to pass it off as a real one, to see if she could trade it and get some real money. We were kids, so when the people working there saw us they just yelled at us to go away. Once a man in one of the offices came at us waving a big crowbar, like the kind they use to lever open the few hatches that still work. I didn’t know what it was at the time, we just saw this guy waving something dangerous and we ran. It took so long to catch our breath that I didn’t realize Cora was laughing.

We’re not kids anymore, and Cora wasn’t laughing this time.

It was the same man with the crowbar, but Cora and the people she was with had brought things to defend themselves with. Tools from the Maintenance sections. Spray cans of chemicals. One actual weapon, a gunpowder pistol like the Aboveground bands use. By the time we got there the man with the crowbar was down, his eyes were full of chemicals, and the door to his office had been pried open. Two of the thieves went running but Cora was still in there, loading up a bag with chips.

The other guards went after the two guys who ran. It was just me and Cora. She was taking her time, too, still loading up that bag, like she was daring me to arrest her.

The Sec 14 employee was on the ground screaming but I could hardly hear him. “Damn Civil police force,” I finally heard him say. “Back when the bots did the arrests this would be over by now. Hang her up by the ankle and shake my stolen goods out of her.”

Cora stopped what she was doing then. “Yeah. Remember the time the bots almost got us? We weren’t even doing anything then, just out past curfew. We ran away from them. No, wait – you ran away from them. I tripped and they caught me. Hung me up by the ankle. They dislocated my hip, I couldn’t walk for a week, and I passed out by the time the Commander got there to order the bot to let me go. My parents locked me in my room to ground me, at least until I managed to make a duplicate key to get out. You never even asked me how I started making fake stuff.” She looked at me, and her eyes were all cold. “Did you ever ask yourself what you’re doing now? Civil police guard. Fake bot.”

One of the guards came back by then. He did the arrest. He didn’t see that I’d killed the charge on my weapon and dropped my handcuffs. It never went into the report. Insubordination. I’m not sure what they do to Civil police guards who fail to do their duty. We haven’t been around that long. I’ll never have to know, like I’ll never have to know whether I would have been able to arrest my best friend. But I know I couldn’t just keep running, like I did when the bots chased us after curfew. I couldn’t keep running and pretend that Cora was behind me and everything would be fine. We’re not kids anymore.

©2016 Michelle M. Welch

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Next story: “They danced in the rain and laughed like it was the end of the world.” ->

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