There is No Cause for Alarm by Geoff Gander

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NoCauseForAlarmCover

THERE IS NO CAUSE FOR ALARM…

Geoff Gander

Margret pulled the red banner from her threadbare grey jacket and unfurled it. She suppressed a shiver and checked the glowing panel on the corridor wall. 17:45, 12 Celsius, C-deck sector 23. It rarely went above 10 on this level anymore. Fifteen minutes until the workers got out.

She pinned one end of the banner to the wall. “Hurry up with that,” said Sami, “we want the workers to see it when they come out.” Margret muttered under her breath as she stretched the banner along the wall. Once she was finished she stepped back to survey her work. The words “BETTER CONDITIONS FOR ALL” ran along its length in yellow block letters.

Sami ran his hands through his dark wavy hair and exhaled loudly. “Okay,” he said as he pulled a half dozen mismatched glass bottles from a dingy grey plastic bag. He yanked a handful of rags from his pocket and stuffed one in each bottle. Margret wrinkled her nose as the acrid odour of gasoline filled her nostrils.

“Do you think that’ll be enough?” asked Margret.

Sami fished a hand torch from the recesses of his jacket and pressed the button. A tongue of blue flame flashed from its tip. “This is just the first shot in the revolution,” he said. “There doesn’t need to be ‘enough’; there just needs to be something.”

Margret bit her lip. “When are the others coming?”

“Soon,” said Sami. “Just worry about your own job once the shit hits the fan.”

Margret rummaged in the bulging blue kit bag on the floor next to her. Bandages, gas masks, plus a half-dozen combat stims one of the members had “procured” recently. The stims were past their expiry date, but they would still give enough of a kick if they were in a tight spot.

The clock read 17:55 when the others drifted in. The half-dozen men and women clapped Sami on the back or raised their fists in salute. The Commune might be a band of equals, but Sami’s experience made him more equal than the others. “Shift ends in five minutes,” he said. “These guys have been down in the refinery for three weeks; they don’t know about the recent hits. Some of our people are with them, undercover, and have been trying to recruit. When they see us, we radicalize. If any guardsmen show up, take their guns. Bombs are our fallback. Margret, hand out the stims and masks.”

A loud buzzer sounded and the doors slowly ground open. Margret stood behind the others, crowbar in her unsteady hands and bandages at her feet. Her weapon would do little against the armour of a guardsman. She glanced over her shoulder at the narrow service corridor stretching into blackness. Hardly anyone used them, but they crisscrossed the Arcology and unless you knew your way you would get lost for hours. It would be so easy to just dart into that maze if the guardsmen showed up.

But nothing will ever change unless we act, said Mika’s reproachful voice in her head. Margret shook her head to dismiss her brother. It had been the last thing he had said to her. She had tried to convince him that the Commune indoctrinated just as much as the authorities, to get him to convince Sami to educate the workers. But Mika would hear nothing said against his childhood friend. The day after that argument the guardsmen arrested him in a sweep. They dumped him, battered and unconscious, on her family’s doorstep days later. He died that night. Sami visited often after that. He talked about Mika’s bravery, his optimism, and above all the unwavering devotion of his family to improving the lives of the workers. Margret took his place in the local cell of the Commune. She clenched her fists and stared at the door.

The first knot of workers emerged into the corridor, some shuffling with exhaustion, others moving more purposefully. The people in the lead stopped short and stared at the gathering of people in front of them, and the banner.

Sami stepped forward, arms high. “Brothers and sisters,” he cried, “you are working to enrich the enemy, while your families struggle with less and less! There can be no fairness until we force the Shepherds to share power. Help us seize this refinery.”

Some of the workers paused, thoughtful expressions creeping across their faces. “Down with the Shepherds,” shouted one of them. A handful took up the cry, while many more edged away.

“Call the guardsmen,” said a hoarse male voice, which was reduced to a grunt as the speaker fell under the weight of the man who attacked him. Shouts echoed down the corridor and similar scuffles arose.

“Help our people,” said Sami as he ran towards the fray, waving a narrow bent pipe. Others followed suit, and Margret backed away, leaning against the wall and watching wide-eyed as the orderly file of workers degenerated into a flailing mob. She glanced at the entrance to the service tunnels. I’m sorry, Mika, she thought, I’m not a fighter like you were.

The sound of marching boots insinuated itself into the din. Margret gasped. Guardsmen. She looked down the side corridors and back the way they came. A column of black-uniformed troops bearing batons approached from the right. She blew her whistle twice.

Sami jerked up from standing over a prone man. He shook his pipe, scattering droplets of blood and small gobs of flesh and hair. “Fall back,” he shouted.

A metal canister plinked into the corridor. Margret yanked on her gas mask and readied a stim. A deafening boom shook her bones, followed by a wave of vibrations that made her bones and teeth buzz. She collapsed with a moan, her head spinning. As she struggled to her knees the first guards stormed into the chamber.

Margret dashed into the service corridor. The din faded as she dodged left and right through the cramped, dimly-lit maze of tunnels and crawl spaces used by the maintenance crews that kept the Arcology running. A shout echoed from behind, followed by the resonant thud of boots. Commune or guardsmen? No time to wonder. More footsteps echoed up the corridor ahead. She froze, glancing in all directions. A narrow hallway to the left led to a dusty storage room, and to the right a ramp sloped downwards to the steam tunnels. She reached into her pocket and grasped empty air. She cursed. Her flashlight was in the kit bag, which she had left behind.

She ran down the ramp as far as she could before it grew too dim to see. Hardly anyone came down to this level, as most of the pipes were tended by machines that had no need for light. She shuffled forwards, keeping one hand on a pipe at her shoulder. Faint murmuring told Margret her two pursuers had met. She quickened her pace. She had been down to this level twice. There was a ladder leading up to a service corridor near her residential zone. She bit back a shout of pain as her foot smashed into something solid. She reached down. Her fingertips brushed jagged, rusty, damp metal. This tunnel hadn’t been cleared.

Margret hobbled along, pausing to listen. Is that my heart, or footsteps? Her hand brushed against the cool, damp rung of a ladder. A bobbing point of light drew her attention back the way she had come. She hauled herself up the ladder until she ran into a grating, through which faint light streamed. She gave it a nudge. It shifted with a squeak. She braced herself and shoved, holding her breath. The grating screeched open and flipped onto the floor of the room above with a bang. A faint male voice shouted from behind. Margret bolted up the ladder and slammed the grating shut. She looked around for something to delay her pursuers. She stood in a cramped utility room that held crates of lighting units, portable barriers, and other maintenance materials. Her eyes settled on a rectangular plastic crate, which she dragged over the grating before rushing outside. A placard on the wall read, “B deck – Sector 17”. Close to home.

SciPhiSeperator

Margret slipped into her residential unit and leaned against the wall. She listened. The gentle hiss of the air circulation system barely disturbed the silence. Her father must still be out. That was close. She shuddered at the memory of the fight, and wondered if any of the others had got away.

The wall panel beeped. She pressed the viewer button. A youthful face framed by blond hair appeared in the viewing lens. “What do you want, Dav?” she asked in an irritated tone.

“The newsvids say there was a problem at the refinery,” said Dav. “Labour unrest.”

“Don’t know anything about it,” said Margret. “Now if you don’t mind I…”

“But what caught my eye was a girl at the back of the crowd,” said Dav, interrupting. “She looked just like you.”

“Lots of people look like me,” said Margret, fingering a wavy brown lock.

“Better hope so,” he said, “The last thing our sector needs is another sweep.” The screen went blank.

Margret plopped down into the easy chair and rubbed her eyes. Dav had a point. Mika had been picked up in the last sweep; a second would mean five percent of the residents would be selected at random to be exiled Outside. Outside, she thought as she plodded into the kitchen and punched a code into the Nutrimat. Seconds later a watery, lumpy green paste oozed out of a nozzle into a plastic cup. People once lived Outside, but a lucky few managed to flee to the Arcologies after the Fall. They were supposed to be temporary shelters until everything could be rebuilt, but that had been hundreds of years ago. She had seen the pictures at the education centre–there was nothing out there but a rocky, frozen wasteland, littered with what looked like half-melted ruins. The first exiles had been sent out to rebuild as a form of penance. Now it was to die, people said. No one ever came back.

She scooped up her paste with a spoon that came attached to the cup. She sniffed. It reminded her of the SugahStix treats she used to love as a kid. She swallowed, and winced as a wave of intense sweetness washed over her tongue. The Nutrimat screen said it was strawberries. It said. They said. They said a lot of things. That only the Shepherds had the knowledge to guide the people and keep the Arcology – the only one left, they said – running. That the subterranean power plants were not failing. That as long as the people did their part everything would be restored. “But,” said Sami on the day she joined the Commune, “the Shepherds don’t really know anything. They interpret old knowledge and run things only because the people are kept ignorant. It’s easy to win the game if no one else knows the rules.”

I hope the others made it out, she thought.

SciPhiSeperator

The newsvids covered the demonstration in breathless detail, praising the guardsmen for upholding public order while denouncing the protesters as saboteurs. Several Commune members had been captured, and would be sentenced shortly. There was also a blurb about the “heroic efforts” of the workers of Sector 18, and that there was no cause for alarm. What happened, she wondered. “They” rarely ever said.

The panel beeped, jolting Margret into the here and now. She looked around the flat. Everything had been left where it had been the night before, and her father’s door was closed. She jabbed the button to see who was there. The screen showed empty porch. Margret scratched her head and opened the door. A folded slip of paper lay at her feet. She picked it up and read it as she closed the door.

“They got most of us. Sending them Outside. Meet at old pumping station. 1600.”

The writing was Sami’s. At least he escaped, then. She turned on the family console to review the orders for the day – five stops in Midtown, too far to walk. She printed the work orders and gathered the personal electronic devices her father had repaired. The money would be enough to keep things going. She padded downstairs to the garage. Her father’s red electric scooter sat in its charging bay. The well-heeled clientele Margret and her father served allowed them a personal vehicle – it used as much energy as a person. She punched the co-ordinates into the scooter’s console and made sure her permits were in order. She would be crossing sectors. She should be able to reach all the stops before the meeting.

She puttered down the access ramp to merge with the sparse traffic of the feeder tunnel. Citizens plodded along the walkways while crackling loudspeakers urged listeners to watch for suspicious behaviour. “Saboteurs are everywhere!” declared a blinking sign.

Margret sped up the access ramp to the Arterial, a plexiglas tube that cut across the Arcology. There were no pedestrian walkways here and most of the vehicles were much larger. She veered around a boxy, grimy industrial transport, bracing herself against the gusts stirred up from the vehicle’s wake.

The guardsmen had arrived quickly yesterday. Could they have infiltrated the Commune? She had wondered about that when Mika had been picked up. But Sami vetted anyone who wanted in. Was Sami the one? She dismissed the thought quickly. He had worked so hard to build the Commune. Or maybe surveillance really was as good as they said.

Dav? His family had been kind, especially after her mother had died in an accident while working in a factory. He had played with her occasionally, and had even gone to some rallies before his family won in the annual lottery for higher positions. Now his father worked among the lower-level officials in the bureaucracy, which gave the family better accommodations and more education. He had cut her off soon afterwards. There was no reason for him to even care what she was up to, now, so why had he messaged her yesterday?

Margret took the next exit onto a local roadway. She checked the holographic exit signs to the side streets as she drove. No stencilled notices on concrete here. They probably think working-class plebes would just destroy the holo-projectors, she thought, gripping the handlebars. She bobbed her head to the soft, peppy beat that was piped into her helmet, then stopped herself. It was so unlike the slow-paced drone played in her home sector, which Sami had said was composed to pacify the workers. She glanced at the people striding along the walkways on either side. They seemed to move faster, and talk more animatedly.

At home, Margret’s parents had always given her mem-tapes that were different from the ones she used at the education centre. They covered more topics. They explained more. They made her question. She had even shared some with Dav, before he changed. Once, she asked her father why he got them. He shrugged and said, “If you stop learning, you stop growing. If you stop growing, you stop living.”

Are people really “living” in my home sector?

SciPhiSeperator

Margret listened before stepping into the cavernous chamber. Silence reigned, save for the faint hum of the emergency lighting far overhead. A lighter patch of concrete on the far wall, from which severed cables and tubes protruded like leprous fingers, betrayed the former location of the control centre. The larger sections of piping, as wide as she was tall, were still mounted in the walls and ran up into blackness, sliced away only where they connected to the hulking machinery that once filled the chamber.

“Did you notice anyone following you?” asked Sami’s voice from the darkness.

Margret jumped. “No, no,” she said hurriedly. She took a few breaths and waited for her heart to slow down. “I…didn’t see any signs of surveillance, either.” Cameras came in many forms. You could never be sure.

“Good,” he said, “Let’s make this quick. We have to step things up. We’re going for the power station.”

Margret gasped. “But we’re not ready for that. We need to rebuild after that fight. There’s no way we can pull it off so—”

“We’re doing it,” said Sami. “The station in Sector 18 went down. They’re dying in droves and they’ve been sealed off. We’re going to reroute power.”

Margret gaped. “But…we’ve got people who could help. Self-trained experts. We could smuggle them into 18 if their people can’t fix it.”

Sami shook his head. “That’ll take too long. Before he got taken away, one of our guys made a contact in the security forces. I got a hold of this person and he picked up supplies for us. Enough to even the odds.”

Margret paused to digest the news. “And then…?”

“And then other cells will follow our lead.”

“But what about the people working there?”

“All workers are united in the struggle against the Shepherds,” said Sami. “The loss of one, or ten, or a hundred, won’t stop us.”

Margret stepped back and leaned against the wall. The cool dampness of the concrete kept her inside her body. Sami had never spoken so forcefully before. Does he really mean that? “I might be able to get us inside without a fight,” she said, keeping her voice steady. “Just let me talk to someone.”

“Alright,” said Sami in a flat tone. “You have until this time tomorrow.”

“Thanks,” Margret said. She hurried back the way she came, her stomach churning. Memories of the fight played out across her vision. There’s been too much bloodshed already. I hope I’m right. I hope. I hope.

SciPhiSeperator

Margret stared at the button. She chewed her lip. This isn’t going to work, she thought. He would just tell her to get lost or more likely call the authorities on her. The prick was too good for his old neighbours, now. But if Sami fights his way in…

She pressed the button. The buzzer rattled in the early morning silence. She looked up and down the empty, brightly-lit corridor. A gleaming service bot trundled up to a leafy potted plant next to a cushioned bench and sprayed it with a gentle mist. Dav’s face appeared on the viewing screen. “What?” he snapped.

“I need your help,” said Margret. Dav had come by her place the day he secured the position in the guardsmen—just to rub it in, she had assumed. Only people with clean records were allowed to work in security, unless one had connections.

He narrowed his eyes. “What’s it to you?” he asked.

“Dav,” she said, fighting to keep her voice steady. “This is important.”

He gazed at her steadily. “What’s going on?” he asked after a pause.

Margret let out a ragged breath. Now or never. “There’s going to be a raid at the plant. Unless you can help us things will get bloody.”

The screen went blank. The door opened and Dav stood before her, arms crossed. “Before I report this I’d like to know more,” he said.

Margret drew back. “Wait,” she said hurriedly. “Aren’t you going to hear me out?”

“Only enough to make sure the bastards get exiled.”

“Some of those ‘bastards’ were your friends last year,” said Margret. “Or have you forgotten them in your rise?”

Dav clenched his fists. “You don’t know what you’re talking about,” he growled. “Loyal citizens have a duty to report—”

“All suspicious behaviour,” interrupted Margret in a sarcastic tone. “And what do they get in exchange for their loyalty?”

“Better positions. Education. You know how it works.”

“And how loyal are you? We went to rallies together until your dad won his position.”

Dav bit his lip and looked away. “It’s different now. You don’t understand what it’s like here,” he said.

“Maybe not, but I do understand that the system isn’t working and the Arcology is failing. And it’s going to get worse unless you help me.”

“Look, even if I wanted to help, I can’t,” he said. “I’d lose my position. My dad, too.”

“Thanks,” said Margret slowly. “You’ve clarified a lot of things for me. I made a huge mistake thinking there was anything left of you in there.” She turned away and ran down the corridor.

SciPhiSeperator

“Are you ready?” asked Sami.

Margret nodded. “As much as I’ll ever be,” she said. “I don’t want us to hurt anyone if we can avoid it.” She turned her rifle over in her hands. She closed her eyes and replayed in her mind the crash course Jos had given them all in using the weapon. It all boiled down to pointing the wrong end at the enemy, but looking at the weapon made her stomach clench. This thing will kill people.

“We’ll try,” said Sami. He checked the safety on his stubby pulse rifle. “Let’s go,” he said as everyone stuffed their weapons into their toolboxes. He stepped into the corridor and sauntered towards the entrance to the power station. Margret and the others followed. Sami waved at the bored-looking guard lounging behind a barricade next to the double doors.

The guard looked over the half-dozen men and women in coveralls and scratched his head. “No one told me a tech crew was coming,” he said. “Where’s your work order?”

Sami handed the guard a sheet of blue paper bearing several stamps. The guard stared at it for a moment, and flipped it over. Margret ran a shaking hand through her hair. She hadn’t been able to get a decent scan of the signature. “It’s not countersigned by the security chief,” said the guard.

“Happens sometimes. Can’t you just let us in?” asked Sami. “We’ve got a quota.”

“So do I,” said the guard. “Come back later.”

“We’re legit,” said Sami. “I can prove it.” His hand edged towards the clasp on his toolbox.

Margret’s eyes widened. “Wait,” she said. She paused as Sami and the guard turned to face her. “I mean…you could have someone escort us to the work site and supervise us. That way, we can meet our quota and you can be assured nothing bad will happen. We’ll file the paperwork afterwards. It’s been done before.” She smiled hopefully.

The guard narrowed his eyes. “This is…highly irregular,” he said. “I’ll need to clear this with my supervisor.” He turned towards his console.

Sami slammed his toolbox into the guard’s head. The guard crumpled to the floor. Margret stared at the prone form. “He was too suspicious,” said Sami. He jabbed a button on the console. The doors opened and he sprinted down the corridor. Margret and the others pulled out their rifles and ran after him.

They emerged into an open area dominated by humming machinery girdled with ladders and catwalks. “Fan out,” said Sami. Half a dozen men and women in coveralls looked up from their tasks and froze.

“No one move,” shouted Jos.

“We are the Sector 23 Commune,” said Sami in a clear voice. “This power station is now under the people’s control.” He pointed to a man standing next to a bank of dials and screens. “You,” he said, “transfer power to the Sector 18 emergency system. Their station’s shut down and people are dying.”

The worker swallowed and shook his head. “I…I can’t,” he said. “We’re flushing toxins out of the lower levels of this sector right now. If we divert power the contaminants could seep into the water system.”

“Do it,” said Sami.

“But people could get sick, or worse,” said the worker.

“It’s worse in Sector 18,” said Sami. He aimed his gun at the worker’s chest.

“Hold on,” said Margret. The worker stopped. She placed a hand on Sami’s shoulder and leaned close. “How will killing some lives to save others solve the problem?” she asked in a low voice.

He glared at her. “This will radicalize the workers and force the Shepherds to pay attention,” he whispered harshly.

“So you’ll kill for the cause,” she said bitterly. “We should’ve sent our people over.”

He brushed away her hand. “I’m the Chairman of this cell,” he said. “An educated worker won’t survive a hail of bullets. An armed one will.” He pushed her aside.

The workers shuffled back to their stations under the Commune’s gaze. The faint rumble of advancing footsteps echoed down the corridor. “Guardsmen,” muttered Jos. “Someone either ratted us out, or we were spotted on a camera.”

Sami looked at Margret and frowned. “Doesn’t matter now,” he said. “Take Smit and cover the entrance. Shoot anyone who comes close.”

The workers paused in their tasks to glance down the corridor, as the sounds grew louder. A glare from Sami sent them back to work. Seconds later the clatter of gunfire, followed by a curse, cut through the tense stillness. Sami glanced up the corridor and swore loudly. “Margret, Vero, watch the workers,” he barked.

“Move in! Move in!” shouted Dav’s voice.

Margret jolted. He came, but what will he do? Jos and Smit visibly tensed and sought cover on either side of the corridor entrance. The two men opened fire again, muzzle flashes illuminating the dim corridor. The clatter and thud of a falling body reached her ears.

Margret looked back at the workers, their eyes full of fear, edging away from their stations. They cast anxious glances at her, and her rifle. She lowered it and nodded slowly.

“What the fuck,” exclaimed Vero. The tall, lean woman stalked over to Margret and glared at the workers. “Back to your posts,” she growled. She turned to Margret. “Whose side are you on?” she asked in a menacing tone.

Margret swallowed, but maintained eye contact. “I wanted to be on the right one.”

The rumble of the closing emergency door caught their attention. “It’s a wash,” said Sami in a frustrated tone. “Time for Plan ‘B’.”

As everyone else reached into their satchels Margret directed a puzzled look at Sami. “We’re taking the whole place out,” he said. “That’s a message the Shepherds will understand.”

Margret dropped her rifle. “When…was this decision made?”

“When you went away to find a ‘peaceful solution’,” said Sami. “There’s too much riding on this. By the time they get through the door it’ll be too late.” The doors shuddered and opened a crack.

“Sami, this is crazy,” said Margret. “Just hold these people hostage until the authorities agree to talk. We can get them to—”

“They won’t listen. We have to sweep them away,” said Sami.

“Things have to change,” said Margret, “but we need to replace it with something better. We have to break down the hierarchy and share the knowledge. We have to—”

“Put the bombs in place,” he told the others. He pulled the detonator out of his satchel and punched a code on its side. Red lights turned green, and the device began to hum softly. The doors shuddered and opened further.

Margret looked to her companions as they planted their explosives, to the workers cowering at their stations, and to the blast doors. Silhouetted figures moved back and forth through the gap. Jos affixed his explosive to the side of one of the hulking, humming machines. Smit approached a bank of fuel lines, next to the override switch for the door.

Margret sprinted for the door and snatched Smit’s explosive from his hands as she passed. She yanked the switch as he shouted in alarm. The doors shuddered and slowly ground open amid loud clanking noises. Margret backed away from Smit while keeping an eye on the others. “It’s gone too far,” she said.

“Fucking traitor!” yelled Jos. He took aim at Margret and was bowled over by Dav. He rolled to his feet and swung his rifle at the guardsman. The awkward club whistled past Dav’s head. Dav dodged to Jos’s exposed side and struck him in the jaw with the butt of his rifle. The burly man collapsed to the ground. Smit fired. The shot struck a panel of indicator lights next to Margret, which flickered wildly and sent off sparks before going dark.

Two more guards had entered the room, weapons drawn. “No one move,” shouted one of them. Dav turned to face Sami. “It’s over, Sami. If you give up,” he glanced towards Margret, “I’ll make a case for leniency.”

“You’re just one of their tools,” growled Sami. He squeezed the trigger but the shot went wide. Dav dodged to the left and struck Sami’s weapon from his hands. Sami growled and pulled a serrated knife from the inside of his jacket. He lunged. Dav sidestepped the attack and smacked Sami with his rifle. Sami grunted as the blow struck home and slashed. Dav raised his arm to block, but the knife hummed softly as it sliced through his armour, leaving a spray of red in its wake. He staggered back and clutched his wounded forearm.

Margret gasped. Vibro-blades could cut through just about anything. Stabbing someone with one almost guaranteed a trip Outside. Sami edged closer to Dav, who was backing away, his eyed fixed on his opponent. “Remember that fight we had last year, when you left us?” asked Sami. “You cut me. I’m just returning the favour.”

I have to act, thought Margret. She looked to her left, where Vero was wrestling with a guard. Behind her, the workers were quietly filing out of the room while Smit fought with the third guardsman. Sami stabbed thin air as Dav dodged another blow. Her heart pounded as images of the Mika’s corpse and the attack at the refinery rolled across her vision.

She threw the explosive at Sami. It smacked into the back of his head and he crumpled to the floor. Dav’s eyes met hers. He nodded in thanks.

“Unit 42,” squawked a voice from Dav’s headset. “Situation report, over.” Smit and Jos lay unconscious. Vero was gone.

“Get out of here,” said Dav quietly. “I’ll…I’ll deal with things.” He pressed a button by his ear. “Unit 42 responding. Under control. Send medical team, out.” He pressed the button again.

“But…the cameras will see me,” said Margret, bewildered. “They’ll know you let me-”

“Just go, Margret” he said. “I’ll say it was me against them and one got away.”

“But…why?”

“There was a price to my father’s advancement,” he said. “Me.”

Margret blinked. Their last conversation played out in her mind. It’s different now. You don’t understand what it’s like here. “The system’s broken,” said Margret. “Come with me.”

“If I leave, my family loses everything. That’s how they get people to buy in,” he said sadly. “You’ve got the same ideals as your brother. But you won’t make Sami’s mistakes.”

“Help us rebuild,” she said. “Please.”

Dav shook his head. “I remember those times you showed me your mem-tapes. Maybe you’ll actually find a way to give the people the knowledge they need. I’ll look the other way…as much as I can.”

Margret swallowed. “Thank you,” she said.

One of the guardsmen approached them. “Sir,” he said. “The facility seems secure but the other revolutionary ran off. Jenks is in pursuit. What about this one?” he gestured to Margret.

Dav shook his head. “She was a hostage. She knows nothing. Go wait for the medics.” The other guardsman gazed at Margret for a long moment and nodded slowly. Dav turned to Margret once the other man had gone into the corridor. “Best go,” he said quietly.

Margret nodded. She ran out of the room and up the corridor. She nodded nervously to the guardsman as she passed, then followed a different passage from the one she and the others had used. She sighed with relief as she navigated the familiar twists and turns in the direction of her home sector.

Nothing will ever change unless we act, said Mika’s voice in her head. She slowed as the memories of the last 24 hours played across her vision.

Yes, she would act. And people would learn, grow and, above all, live.

Food For Thought

Philosophical Themes Explored:

  1. “Class” as a form of identity

  2. Morality

  3. Individual versus collective responsibility

  4. Social stability versus the rights of the individual

Questions

  1. Margret initially joins the revolutionaries out of anger over her brother’s death and a desire for justice, but realises that Sami would be just as despotic as the authorities he fights against. Could Sami’s tactics ever be justifiable? Can any ideology be considered inherently “virtuous”?

  2. Dav seemed to have abandoned his old class loyalties when his father was promoted, but towards the end it becomes clear that he did so in order to ensure his family did not lose the benefits conferred by its newfound status. Did he make a selfish decision by putting his family’s well-being before social justice? Are there situations where personal benefit trumps the common good?

  3. The Arcology’s regime suppressed the truth about the dire state of things in order to keep the populace complacent and maintain social harmony. However, keeping people ignorant hastened the Arcology’s deterioration and contributed to greater social unrest. Are there reasonable limits on the public’s right to know?

About the Author

Prior to writing fiction, Geoff Gander was involved in the roleplaying community and wrote many game products. His first short novel, The Tunnelers, was published in 2011 by Solstice Publishing. He has since been published by Metahuman Press, AE SciFi, Exile Editions, McGraw-Hill, and Expeditious Retreat Press. He primarily writes horror, but will try any genre for kicks.

Geoff is currently crafting games and stories as a member of the Sessorium of Creatives, the exclusive creative community of The Ed Greenwood Group (TEGG).

When he isn’t writing or working a day job, Geoff reads, entertains his two boys, watches British comedies, and plays roleplaying games. Geoff divides his time between Ottawa and South Mountain, where a lovely stone-carving, bagpipe-playing witch resides with her many cats.

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Fiction by Kaolin Imago Fire.