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-60, interview with W.F., recorded by James 72A
Refuge Year 100.10.18
You called me the subject. You’re giving me initials like I’m a victim who needs my identity to be protected. What’s going on? Are you confusing me with someone else? Are you bringing in one of my victims later?
Or do you really think I’m the victim? I could almost laugh at that.
So yes, I was arrested. The Government threw me in jail, and your Council, I suppose, is interviewing anyone who ever went to jail. You’ve decided the old Government was all bad, so the people who got persecuted must be all good. I guess every new Government probably does that to the one they replaced, never mind how much of an oversimplification that is.
Alright, then. I went to jail. I was identified by PsyOp as someone who was potentially hiding something, and they searched my living unit. They found drugs, narcotics I bought under the table from someone who’d smuggled them out of Medical. I was arrested for possession and purchasing contraband. Does that make me some kind of victim? Maybe the part about PsyOp invading my brain, hunting for people to accuse of something?
But that’s not really how it works, right? Empaths can’t read your mind; they can only read what you’re throwing out. And I was throwing out a whole lot of guilt.
You must have it in your records. I was an engineer. I worked in Sec 12, overseeing the air scrubbers. Back then – it must have been about six years ago – the main lithium playa we were drawing from ran out. The supply was gone, and it took a long time to find a new one that had enough brine to support us. The air scrubbers were pushed to capacity. Some of them stopped working altogether. We were looking at eighty-five thousand people suffocating to death and it was my job to stop that from happening.
That’s when the order came down from the head of the Civil Council. Cut off the sub-tunnels. Shut down fifty percent of the air scrubbers to the tunnels under Sections 16, 17, and 18. That would drop casualties to about six thousand.
People in the department were saying that was good. We probably needed to reduce the population of Refuge anyway. And you know what kind of people live in the sub-tunnels. Someone got worried that they’d start rioting down there, and they’d come up and start killing the rest of us. Someone else said we could just lock the riot doors and keep them down there.
There were a few people on the maintenance crews who were horrified, but they didn’t say anything. Most of them were on the verge of living in the sub-tunnels themselves, as little as they got paid, or they had family down there, and they didn’t want to say anything that would get them locked in next.
And what did I do? Me, the manager, the head engineer, the one who could have put up a resistance and stopped the whole thing? I flipped the switch. I turned off fifty percent of the air scrubbers to sub-16, -17, and -18. I did it myself. I couldn’t let anyone else live with that, even if most of my department could’ve used some guilt to punish them. I didn’t expect how much guilt it really would be, though. I didn’t expect that I’d need painkillers just to get through the day. I keep asking myself, what if I’d known? Would I have done anything different? Would I have fought the order, or resigned? Or would I just have told some other poor bastard to flip the switch?
©2017 Michelle M. Welch