Stories from Refuge – 53 – “It’s my fault you were in danger in the first place but I kept you safe.”

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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-15, interview with J.N., recorded by Tee 76D
RY 100.9.15

I heard one of your victims was talking about me. Putting words in my mouth. Well, he doesn’t need to do that. I’m here.

I patrolled the Commerce section when it was open for business, keeping an eye on transactions, making sure no one stole anything. They didn’t like to have Commanders and bots walking through – it made people nervous. Bad for business. So people from the Civil Council got assigned to do it.

We were supposed to watch out for contraband, too. A lot of us took advantage of that. A lot of us got arrested for that. It wasn’t just me.

It was the guards in Confinement who told me what that kid, the playwright, was saying about me. That I beat him up because of how he looked. Didn’t look like everyone and so he didn’t act like everyone else, and so I had to teach him a lesson. But he’s wrong, that kid. I don’t give a damn what he looks like. He doesn’t know anything about me.

Sure, the merchant probably thought that was a good excuse. He’s like that, always looking around for someone to hate. The color of this kid’s skin was probably as good an excuse as any. He said that to me, he said, “Let’s get that unblended piece of trash.” I don’t know why. But I wasn’t about to say no. I had to grab that kid and mess him up as badly as the merchant did.

That kid couldn’t have imagined why. He didn’t even think about it. Maybe there are people down here who have it harder than he does. Maybe some of us made a bad decision a while ago, got in trouble, went to someone who could get us out, but he charged us a pretty hefty price. Maybe this someone, this guy running contraband, he started thinking he could manipulate us, that he had a pretty little Civil clerk on his payroll now and he could get us to do whatever he wanted, and if we tried to back out then he’d go down to Sec 19 where our daughters went to school and bring back pictures they drew that he stole out of their classroom, just to remind us who was really in charge around here. Maybe if we wanted not to roll over and give in to this, we had to make it look like we’re every bit as strong as he is. He wants to pressure some of the other merchants into letting him skim off their profits, we’d better be there to take our cut. And if he wants to pick this kid at random and beat him up for whatever stupid racist reason he might have, we’d better beat up the kid twice as hard, just to show we’re not weak.

I’d have to apologize to that kid if I did this right, wouldn’t I? If I’d confessed to beating him up when I got arrested for the contraband, then you’d have known it was me when he did his statement and you’d have brought me in here to sit across the aisle and look at him. Well, I’m not going to do that. I’m not sitting here and apologizing to anyone. Not even my little girl, if you dragged her in here, if she’d ever been allowed to come visit me in Confinement. I’m not going to look her in the eye and tell her, “This is what I had to do to keep you safe, sweetie. It’s my fault you were in danger in the first place but I did it, I kept you safe.”

©2017 Michelle M. Welch

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