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-55, dialogue between S.F. and Walter Newson, recorded by Beatrice 75C
I knew one of the Commanders. There was some kind of incident in my section – I didn’t know what exactly, because I always locked myself up in my living unit at the first sign of trouble, I never wanted to get into any of that – but they sent two Commanders with the bots. I saw them marching down the row just before I shut my door. Then when the riot alarms stopped ringing and the all clear announcement came over the speakers, I opened the door again and saw just one of the Commanders still there. He was leaning against the wall next to my door. His helmet was off and he looked lost, confused, like he didn’t know what he was doing there. I just wanted to shut my door again, since it would be even more trouble. My neighbors kept talking about things, even though I tried not to listen to them, and if they weren’t the ones who’d just gotten arrested, they were going to open their door at any minute and see the Commander and… Well, I didn’t want to know what they’d do to him. But for some reason, instead of just shutting my door, I pulled him inside first.
He had a head injury. Someone had knocked him on the side of the head, and maybe there was a weak point where the visor attached to his helmet, because there was a big dent on his helmet and a bloody spot on his temple. I used to be a nurse in the school section. I had to treat him. Really, I wasn’t sure why, and I kept asking myself while I cleaned him up and checked him for signs of concussion. Maybe it was just some kind of reflex that made me pull him inside, like I recognized he was hurt when he was standing there next to my door and my instincts kicked in without my thinking about it. But he was there now and I had to deal with him. He didn’t seem to have any serious damage but it was like the hit to his head knocked out whatever memories he’d gotten programmed into him. He couldn’t tell me where he was supposed to be and he didn’t seem to know why he was there in the first place. He couldn’t even tell me his name. Do they even have names? He just sat there like he was waiting for me to give him an order, and he seemed upset when I didn’t. Not upset like he was going to get violent, which is what I was afraid of. Upset like he was going to cry. Big guy like that, in his body armor with his helmet, one of those big weapons still strapped over his shoulder, and he looked like he was about to cry.
I watched him for a couple of hours. He slept for a little bit, and he must have woken up when I went to the bathroom, because when I came back out he was gone. I was kind of relieved that I didn’t have to worry about what to do with him anymore, and if he ran into trouble with my neighbors I didn’t need to know about it. But I was up half the night thinking about him. I was worried about how he got home.
I told myself I was being silly. After a while I sort of forgot about it. I kept closing my door when there was trouble and tried not to listen to my neighbors. Then one day I was in Commerce when they locked down the section for some kind of disturbance, and the bots went marching through with their Commanders. And he was there. Bringing up the rear, looking into all the shops and stalls like he’d been programmed to identify someone. When he stopped in front of me I almost had a heart attack. My neighbors had gotten caught and framed me to get out of trouble – that was the first thing I thought. But the Commander didn’t arrest me. He lifted his visor and looked at me really close, and his eyes got kind of big like he recognized me. I swear, it looked like he recognized me. Then one of his partners shouted at him and he kept moving, went back to searching.
So I guess that’s why I’m here. Not to complain about any mistreatment I had. Like I said, I always tried hard to stay away from trouble. But I wanted to ask someone – could that Commander have recognized me? Did he remember me? It sounds ridiculous now that I’m saying it, but it felt important, locked down here in our tunnels and little compartments, trying hard not to interact with anyone who might get us in trouble. It felt important to think that someone might recognize me.
[Recorder’s note: Newson responds.] I don’t know. We always figured the Type 2s didn’t have any memory capacity at all, beyond maybe a few minutes, without using the hardware array that’s implanted in their brains. That’s what we were told, anyway. But those of us who worked on them – and I didn’t work on them very often – we knew that a lot of the things we were told weren’t quite right. I remember I had to help with one upload, on a female Commander who was resisting it. She pulled the jack out of her head and I had to come in and sedate her. It took a little while for her to go under, and she kept telling me she didn’t want to, she didn’t want to do that again. I didn’t know what. The officer from Military who came to debrief me said that we needed to keep the incident quiet, since dissidents might find a way to exploit any rumors that Commanders had reflexive fear responses. He didn’t even consider the possibility that she might have actually remembered something she didn’t want to do again.
So I don’t know. I guess that’s not much of an answer, is it? But I know what you mean. If someone came out of the blue and recognized me, made me think I’d done something good in their life and they remembered me for it… Hell, that’s why I got into medicine, or at least I keep saying it is. Funny that people don’t remember me very much.
[Recorder’s note, James 72A: Beatrice turned this report over to me, asking me to search the records and attempt to identify the Commander that subject S.F. encountered. It seems to have been 5A12, who was missing for several hours after an assignment on the date in question. Strangely, Beatrice seemed disappointed, although I couldn’t read why.]
©2017 Michelle M. Welch