Saturday, February 28, 2015

Chapter 16


My gawd. Georgie must be part ghost and the other part mouse. I've tried to follow her through the maze of ventilation shafts, electrical shafts, and old maintenance crawl spaces but about half the time I can't even fit much less get through them as fast and as silently as she does.  I don’t even want to think about some of the things I’ve seen along the routes we’ve taken in this old mausoleum. 

I've see rats as big as dogs a few times; they looked about as vicious too when I came near but didn't pay any attention to Georgie. She said they're used to her smell and know that she won't bother their nests or play with their litters. She admitted however that she wouldn't want to be caught injured in a few places like the basement or the blood smell might overcome the rodents' apathy. Had a nightmare of that village in Asia after remembering the rats there. Dammit. Just thinking about it gives me the shakes.

I've gotten used to "acquiring" supplies the way Georgie started doing but over the preceding weeks I've also heard things that have given me the shakes just as bad as the aftermath of a battle. They've moved the bloodletting up to every two weeks. I'm not sure how much more the kids can take. Two liters each time and Roland said he overheard them wondering if they could push it to two and a half liters. A couple of the kids are already anemic, causing a big argument in the Administrative Wing. Hell, it was loud enough that we could hear some of it in our wing.  I don’t think they realize how much sound travels through these old ceramic lined corridors.

Got into it with Tracey who has started to reveal her loyalties.  I expected it, but I’m still pissed off.  She's back to calling the kids defectives and made a few derogatory comments. What surprised me was Peterson. He reached over and backhanded her. Shocked everyone to be honest. He said, "If it wasn't for the kids most of the people in this world would be dead, you included."

Tracey didn’t bust him back but stood way off.  I think maybe he’d scared her.  Besides, she made a habit out of picking men that beat on her.  It’s one of the reasons I’d always kept my distance from her.  Woman that don’t value herself more than that ain’t worth my time.  All she did was wipe her moutht and say, "They'd find some other way to deal with X13."

"Yeah, like letting everyone die and only the elites having the full clade vaccine. Who do you think is getting what they're taking right now? Front line troopers? Nope. Your average urban dweller? Nope. It is going to people with the money to pay for it. And all the crap they are promising ain't nothing but ashes if these kids don't live."

"There are other people that are immune. I'm immune to at least three of the clades."

"But you can't pass on your immunity. You can't share your immunity. X13 don't work that way because of how the virus mutates."

"Tell me something I don’t know.  That's all Biology 101."

"No kidding. So why are you being such an idiot? Even getting out of this place, there is nowhere to hide. X13 is everywhere or soon will be and the only antidote for it is in those kids' blood and in case you haven't noticed yet, they're being treated like crap. Here's another one for you. You want to know why the staff are acting the way they are? They aren't being given the full clade vaccine. Especially since most of them are on medical triage. Apparently they're being bribed with a full clade vaccine shot if they can get us to roll over on each other."

"BS you defective and useless ..."

I broke in when all it started to become was a bunch of name calling. Tracey is finding herself awful lonely. Even Nela has started spending less time with her. Don't know if it means anyone is less likely to fall for a deal from Waverly, but it sure didn't help her calling the rest of our crew defectives. Damned if she isn't one of us too, or does she think she is going to magically get a new eye and high end plastic surgery to repair the scarring? Her vision ain’t too good which is one of the things making it so hard for her to study.  How she’s acting don't make no sense to me.

To be honest, none of this is making good sense. We either pull together or we're all gonna fry. Today, tomorrow, or some time down the road. Eventually we're all gonna fry.  All we’ve got is each other.

**********

"Georgie, you need to get some rest. You ain't looking good."

Georgie irritably snapped at Johnson, "I've got a mirror. I know what I look like. But the supply train is coming in and there's supposed to be a lot of stuff on it. I want some of that stuff for us. And I want to know why they are sending so much. They don't even inventory it anymore.  Just haul it off the bay and shove it where ever they can find a place for it."

Johnson and Roland had developed a theory and he shared it with the girl. "Pickering is being turned into a bunker or something similar."

"A bunker? You mean like a supply hub like the South Wing is a harvest hub?"

"No. And the South Wing is being shut down."

Surprised she asked, "Since when?"

"Since last night. There was a lot of coming and going ... mostly going ... yesterday and Chaplin overheard Russell pitching a fit that he was losing his security detail, at least the few still loyal to him.  They were being transferred someplace.  I crawled through your rat maze and saw them ... everyone but Minke and Kilpatrick are gone. The two women on duty were complaining because they would have to wait for someone else to help them move them."

Concerned at the possibilities Georgie asked, "Where were they moving them to?"

Johnson sighed. He really didn't want to bring this particular subject up. "They said they were being transferred to the medical ward in the Administrative Wing."

"There's no medical wa ... you mean Lockdown? They were going back to Lockdown?!"

"Easy Georgie, that's just one possibility."

Georgie covered her ears and trembled. Johnson was about ready to call the "requisition" off when she lowered her hands and shook herself like a dog. "There's nothing I can do about it right now. Victor and DW are ... are beyond my help. I feel bad for them but I can't change things. And this is more important to the people I can help."

Johnson patted her shoulder, feeling some pride in how far Georgie had come with conquering her fear of Lockdown and what it might represent. "Good girl. Now let's get focused. Here they come."

Here they come was right. Several supply trucks were winding their way from the train station.  Their headlamps lit the meandering road creating weird shadows in the shrubbery and metal fence that encircled the Pickering ground and acreage. The way it works is supplies were brought in by rail. What was assigned to go to Pickering was transferred to the supply trucks which would wind their way along the old highway and then pull up to the security gate. The men manning the gate would then check the back of the trucks and wave them through. The trucks would then drive around to the old supply bays that sat between the South Wing and the wing where the soldier's ward was.  Sometimes a truck would go to the old bays that were closer to the Administrative Wing but not every time.  Mostly what came off those special deliveries was wine and liquor.  The supplies from both kinds of deliveries would be offloaded and the trucks got out of there as quickly as they could.

It was then that things would get interesting. The supplies were basically broken down into three piles. There was the pile that was for the Staff, soldiers, and the children. There was the pile that was set aside for the Administrative Wing. For the last few deliveries there was also a very large pile that was moved to an area in the East Wing's fourth floor and stored there on the pallets they came in on. This moving and stacking of the large pile was completed by the Staff and the new people living in the Administrative Wing. Since the supplies were never labeled, it wasn't until Georgie had broken into some of the lockers and large metal barrels that she discovered it was more food, though different from what was sent to the kitchens.

There's also been things besides food delivered and stored in a similar manner. Medical supplies, books, pieces of artwork, furniture, crates of what looked like people’s personal belongings. The non-food deliveries is what made Roland and Johnson suspect that someone was turning Pickering into a safe haven. The question was did it make the children and the soldiers more expendable or less?

After the guards left the loading dock and the trucks drove away they knew they would have less than an hour before Staff would show up in the bay to start the moving process. They quickly left their hiding spot and got to work. It was Johnson who noticed there was a lot of fresh and frozen items in the supplies heading to the Administrative Wing this time. "Better pick what you want carefully and quickly. They'll have to come down here and get this stuff soon if they don't want it to spoil."

"It's in cold pack boxes. They have some time."

"Best not to take chances."

"Agreed. Oh look, more steaks and a box of roasts."

"Grab that and I'll try and get it cut up to go on the dehydrator."

They'd had no choice. With the weather beginning to get bad - they'd had their first snowfall less than a week ago - and the grounds being watched so closely by the new people they'd had to figure a way to preserve what they'd been acquiring in a secure location. Since the fifth floor was already inaccessible to everyone unless you could climb into the ceiling panels and then through the maze in the old walls, that's where they set up shop. First they "acquired" some pesticides to keep the rats and other vermin out. Then they silently repurposed some empty metal cabinets that remained on that floor. They also built another dehydrator out of parts scavenged from one of the ancient furnaces in the basement. Roland outdid himself by designing a solar powered blower and heater and Johnson ran wide, heat-proof conduit for an exhaust that fed into one of the roof vents that served the administration staff’s kitchen. This way if there was any smell from the dehydrator people would assume that it were it came from.

Because they'd been acquiring real meat they were able to make jerky.  Roland also made what he called a redneck smoker that helped them to cure sausages and hams.  The fresh fruits and vegetables were dehydrated as well and put into old, unused glass apothecary jars found throughout the complex. In fact they had a pretty sweet stash of supplies of their own squirreled away.

By 1 am Johnson said they'd done all they could for the night. "You're trashed Georgie and I'm not far from it."

Georgie shook her head. "I feel ... feel like ... like ..."

"Hey. You sick?"

Georgie shook her head. "No. I mean I am but not beyond what I can bare. No, it's ... it's these important people that keep showing up and then just going away. There's some deep game going on."

Johnson didn't even try to play dumb. "Yeah there is. Peterson was going to try and get a comm link access up and running so we could get more intel but he's out for at least 24, maybe 48. He ain't faking either."

"You think he's stepped back to our side?"

"He never left, he'd just been tempted to. Did you know that he lost his family in the original Terror Blue attack ... well, not the attack but the aftermath?"

"He mentioned it during one of his ... meltdowns. Chaplin was there so he explained."

"I think that's what is keeping him on our side. That he knows, has experienced, what it means that X13 is out of control."

"I wonder if it still is. We haven't had any new news, not even from Mr. Waverly which is strange."

"I'm beginning to think that maybe Waverly is having his own set of second thoughts."

"Not Mr. Russell. If anything he seems to be getting worse."

"Not worse Kiddo, desperate." Johnson stretched and Georgie caught herself realizing that Johnson had gained muscle mass. He'd need to be careful. He was the only one that she gave extra rations to. In fact none of the soldiers except for Johnson knew about their new 5th Floor Facilities.

"Johnson, you need to be careful. You're looking ... healthy."

Johnson snorted. "Noticed that have you? Tracey already said something and I reminded her that if I wanted to make it into Farm Management I had to be able to pass their physical requirements."

"Did it work? Was she suspicious?"

"She might have been but Waverly said that it was wise that I was training. That books were all well and good but that there were other parts of the testing program that books wouldn't help with. Then he acted - oh you know how he can sound - he reminded me that I needed to be careful and not get sick, etc etc etc. He called me on the carpet and that made Tracey grin and go back to what she was doing. But she and Nela have started exercising too. Several of the others have as well."

"They'll eventually notice that you build up and they don't."

"We'll worry about that when it happens, for now it is what it is. We can't tell anyone else about these supplies because we need 100% secrecy. And only you and Roland know about it on your side of things which protects the other kids. I wish I could do this myself," he finished on a troubled frown.

"But you can't so we'll worry about that later too."

Johnson said something rude but it only made Georgie smile and they made their way back down to their respective rooms after accomplishing at least as much as they had set out to do and a little more besides.

Chapter 15


I almost laughed at the look on Johnson's face. Almost. He danced around like the chickens do when something upsets them. He finally stopped then nearly yanked me down so hard I almost landed on my head. I think he wanted to spank me. Probably would have if I hadn't handed him a ham-apple sandwich.

He tried to get me to eat some of it but I wouldn't. I explained it to him. I have found a new way to get supplies. More and better supplies are coming in. Obviously not the Director's doing, she'd never order the kind of stuff coming in. Steaks, sausages, expensive canned stuff, potatoes, liquor, exotic fruit, stuff I’ve only ever seen in picture books or on the Tri-V. It has something to do with the important man that now uses the Director's office.

I should probably feel guilty for stealing but after what I've heard I just can't find it in me. I should probably feel sorry for our Staff but I don't. I'm worried for our soldiers but I think I might have found a way around that but I'm not for sure yet and it could be very dangerous if we get caught.  Before I even mention it I need to have all the kinks worked out or they’ll flat out refuse.

I've also found a way to get around their security procedures. These new people don't think much of Defectives. They make the mistake of thinking that having a physical defect somehow translates into having a mental defect too. Sure some of us and some of our soldiers do have brain trauma but that doesn't mean they aren't clever in their own way ... clever and useful.

The other thing is that because they underestimate us they don't do as good a job as they could at watching us. The new people are watching the Staff more than they are watching us. It makes the Staff nervous and do bad things. I am especially disappointed in Mr. Waverly. He was our friend. I get that he is scared but he is now trying to turn some of our own against us. This is what I really needed to tell. I've told Roland already and he is heartbroken; but, he surprised me too because it seems to have turned something back on inside him. He agrees that the only other that we should trust is Johnson. But there's a risk trusting him so much. What if Waverly has already gotten to him?


**********

"I ought to skin you you little ..." Nothing else coming out of Johnson's mouth made any sense since it was just a bunch of growling so Georgie pushed the sandwich back into his mouth and then handed him a bottle of orange juice.

"I'm going to be sorry I asked. I know I am. Where ..?"

"Shhhhh. Let's get in the closet."

"Like hell I'm getting in my closet with a pint-size, half-dressed piece of jailbait.  I don’t care if you are nearly as bald as a cue ball."

It took a moment for Georgie to figure out what he meant but when she did she just rolled her eyes and opened his closet and went in and sat down, giving Johnson little choice but to follow her if he wanted answers.

"Georgie ..."

"Oh stop already. You're a man but you aren't like the ones that hurt me and you're not like some of the Staff can be either. You might think about sex but ..."

Johnson started to get up but Georgie stopped him. "Ok, I won't say the word, don’t have a meltdown.   I just wanted you to know I know you are the right kind of man because you choose to be."

Johnson sighed between licking the crumbs from his fingers. "Fine. Just don't push your luck. And get to explaining. Now you Brat."

Georgie knew he had to make his point one way or the other but this way of making it - by calling her a brat - at least meant he would sit still and listen so she didn't complain even though she was getting tired of him acting like she was a little kid. "I'll get around to the food 'cause it's important too. But you can't yell or someone might hear and ... and you have to be careful Johnson. I ... uh ..."

"I think I figured part of it out Kiddo," he said gently. "Who is Waverly talking up?"

Georgie was relieved. She'd hated the idea of putting ideas in his head. "Peterson, Nela, Tracey, and ... and Archer only I'm not sure how much Archer gets it. I think they are just pumping him for information, not promising him anything in exchange."

"Gotten to briberies already?" Johnson asked, a little surprised at how fast things were moving.

"Yeah. Peterson ... I think he might be the weakest link because Waverly has promised him medicine for his nightmares. He really hates them and the only teas I've found to help him are the ones that make him loopy or put him to sleep. He doesn't like those feelings either so he won't take them enough to get them to work right. I don't know if Chaplin knows or not but I'm thinking not because I think he'd rather die than go on pain meds. He's always telling Peterson what a good thing it is that he's not dependent on his old meds so they don't have anything to hold over his head. But Peterson is just ... he's just the way he is I guess. He's strong so long as there's no chance of him getting meds to help him but if there is a chance ... Johnson I'm sorry but I think if this - whatever this is - goes on for much longer Peterson is going to fold."

Johnson said a rude curse. "Figures. I hope we are underestimating Peterson - or maybe underestimating Chaplin's influence - but what you've said sounds about what I've seen out in the field.  Peterson is a good man … but he’s also weak.  Always has been.  What about Nela and Tracey? They've been off to themselves a lot but I put it down to studying for that damn test."

"Yeah, it is mostly that. And Nela being tore up about Roland ... but Tracey is working on her. Tracey is more of a weak link than Nela. But Nela has the bigger temptation she has to fight."

"The limb transplant." Johnson shook his head. "And with the harvest hub right here ..."

"Yeah. Tracey's temptation is pretty simple and straight forward; she just wants money to get out and start over in some place down in South America. She's got relatives down there and there are no Defective Laws to hold her back."

"Hate to ask but are any of the kids at risk for being used like that?"

"Not knowingly. Not even Victor would have told secrets and he was our weakest link before he was taken away. The others ... we've lived our whole lives keeping secrets; it's a lifestyle. Some of them don't even know any better, it is just the way it is. If we don't keep secrets we could be sent to Lockdown. That's enough for most of them. If Lockdown isn't enough then the food is."

"Ok, there's no changing it so I'll try and keep an eye on my people. You and Roland though, you need to ..."

"Keep an eye on ours. Got it. In fact I just came from Roland's room. He's upset about Nela but ... but I think it might have brought him back to life some too. He's remembered what's important. And he was super happy about the food though kinda mad that I'd gone and done it without talking to him first."

Johnson winced. "If Roland is mad I have a feeling I ain't gonna be too happy either so get with the telling about the food already."

Georgie ordered her thoughts. She had the beginning of one of her bad headaches, had been fighting it all week. Lack of sleep, stress, and worry had just contributed to the growing pain. "This goes in too many different directions for me to pick a good starting spot. I don't know where to begin."

"Start with how you know what you know."

"That's part of it too though. To tell that I have to tell other pieces."

"Hey Kiddo, you don't feel well do you? Are you taking those ... those blood supplements like you are supposed to? Wait. Oh damn. Waverly ..."

"It's okay. They are what they are telling us they are. The first day they had a sedative in them but not since. There hasn't needed to be, we were all too weak. Johnson, we are in serious trouble."

"So just tell it the best you can and I'll ask questions if I'm not getting it."
 

“Before I tell you about the food I need to tell you about Waverly and Russell.” 

“Yeah, I saw that look you through their way.  You’d best be careful about your attitude showing.” 

“I wish I could hit them over the head.”  The growl in Georgie’s voice was so unlike her that Johnson had a hard time believing it was the same girl. 

“What pushed your buttons?” 

“You’re gonna think I should feel sorry for them but I don’t.  It is their own fault for being selfish.” 

“Uh …” 

“I … We … We needed information.  This wasn’t just a calendar mistake, this is a new calendar.  And a new boss making the calendar.  And new security here to enforce it.  I don’t know where the Director went but she hasn’t left the grounds – all her stuff is still in her suite and Miss Neville is still taking care of it – but I haven’t seen her anywhere.  I even looked in the South Wing.  I think she might be in Isolation but I don’t know for sure because the ceiling over that area is all plywooded over.” 

“And?” 

“And these new people are being mean to the Staff that was already here.  Mr. Waverly got beat up for trying to tell them their business I guess.  That they’d taken too much blood and it was too soon.  They didn’t like him butting in so they put him in his place.  Yesterday Mr. Russell got upset that the new security people were going over his head with stuff and he was getting left Out of the Loop.  He started digging around in the personnel files to figure out who was who and one of the assistants to the new Director slammed the file drawer shut before he could get his hand out.” 

Johnson whistled silently.   

“Yeah.  Then they reminded him that he was a medical triage just like the rest of the defectives and that he’d just have to suffer along and hope that it healed.  That he wasn’t even entitled to an aspirin or anything.  And if he didn’t shut up that he could go into Isolation and if that didn’t fix him up he could take a stroll into Lockdown.  Mr. Russell started stuttering and saying that wouldn’t be necessary, that there had obviously been some kind of misunderstanding.  That’s when the new Director walked in and said that there had certainly been a lot of misunderstandings going on and he was here to rectify that and there were a bunch of new rules for the Staff.” 

“And I’m sure that’s not all.” 

Georgie shook her head in disgust.  “No, that’s not all.  All of the Staff were brought into the big conference room where men with fancy guns lined the wall and the new Director laid down the law.  I couldn’t hear everything because someone was vacuuming in the hallway but basically it was his way or Lockdown and that they were to report everything they saw and heard to him, including what they saw and heard each other doing.  That if anyone was caught collaborating or something like that … well he looked out the window and the South Wing entrance was right there and no one misunderstood what he meant.” 

“Damn Kid, when you deliver a load of intel you deliver a full load.”

Chapter 14


Holy hell, what a damn mess.  What a damn friggin’ mess.  It’s taken almost a week for all the kids to completely be themselves.  I’m pretty sure it would have been longer without the meds and special rations being given to them. 

Waverley; ain't sure what to make of him yet. I don't trust him but at the same time looks like I might not have any choice but to accept the help he is offering.  If it really is help he is offering.  I have my doubts.

It's more information than actual help, assuming it is true it is more than I had before. I haven't said anything to the kids. Don't know what to say yet. And what I could say I'm not sure they're up to hearing. On the other hand I wonder if they don't already know. There's a weird acceptance coming off of some of them. Especially Roland. The boy is depressed. It ain't all about Nella either.

Need to talk to Georgie but she's closed herself off. She still takes care of everyone, still calms the fears I see popping up more and more. Even does what she can for the staff. She patched Waverley up, not asking a single question. Yesterday she set Russell's hand; it looked like it had been slammed in a door or a drawer. She did didn't ask questions about how it happened. Russell was so relieved he actually patted her shoulder and told her not to wander.

When he turned away he missed the look Georgie through his in Waverley's direction. I've never seen the girl even give a hint of that kind of anger, not even with that whole thing went down in the greenhouse. Roland saw her too and it confused him. Tells me it's time to get worried.

She knows something but I don't know how she knows. We've all been watching her to make sure she doesn't go wandering. I swear she ain't been out of the wing so how could she know something we don't?

**********

"Roland?"

"If you're asking me what's up with Georgie, I don't know. All she does is sit there with the books, trying to learn more doctoring."

Johnson, visibly upset, snapped, "Dammit! Dammit! Dammit! She's figured it out."

"That X13 has gotten out of control again? Another wave is sweeping the country?"

A startled Johnson through a disbelieving look at Roland.  "How the hell ... never mind.  Guess it is time to put the cards on the table.  It is worse than it simply being out of control.  It's the world this time Kid. Quarantine and spot vaccinating is not helping. It has officially taken on pandemic status. And this latest strain is extremely antibiotic resistant. The only thing that is helping is a full clade vaccination of X13 serum before infection."

Georgie, having seen some of them congregating strolled over and casually sat down like she did when she was making sure that no one needed her doctoring. With facial expressions that didn’t match the words coming from her barely moving lips she told them, "Don't talk when Waverley and Russell are around. They're reporting everything they hear. Don't believe anything Waverley says until we can fact check it against what we've seen with our own eyes.  From what I’ve seen it's way worse than he is letting on. The Director really isn't in charge anymore. In fact she hasn't been seen in three days; right after she had a fight with some Outsider big wig that took over her office. I'll explain later. There's other things we need to talk about but not now and not here. I'll figure out a way as soon as I can. Play normal, they're watching us."

She got up and turned around and said, "I'm fine. Just fine. Stop treating me like a baby. I'm over it already I told you."

Johnson slowly turned to Roland and asked in a similar tone, "You believe that?"

Carefully, in the same tone, he answered, "She's just worried. Some of us took longer to come back from giving blood than usual. Someone getting the dates wrong really upset her. The Director will fix it. She doesn't like things to throw the schedule off because then she gets chewed on by her bosses. Maybe we should give Georgie some space."

"Hmmmm. Maybe so, but you need to encourage her to take care of herself too. Worrying about everyone else isn't going to change what happened and it only makes everyone nervous."

"I will. But ... she worries. She has a lot of responsibilities since DW hasn't come back yet. I wonder when she will?  Maybe I should ask Mr. Waverly if he knows."

"Don't go sticking your nose into some place it doesn't belong Kid. Just make sure that Georgie behaves."

Johnson went back to the ward used by the soldiers and sat in their common area brooding. He didn't want to believe Georgie but he did. He also wanted to know how she knew what she knew.

He was no closer to an answer at lights out but he was exhausted. The food may have improved for the kids but it wasn't improving for anyone else. And foraging for more food was out of the question if they were being watched. He was about to take his shirt off when he noticed a little dust drifting down from the ancient acoustic ceiling tiles. When one lifted and a stubbly-head appeared it took everything Johnson had and then some not to have a furious meltdown.

 

Friday, February 27, 2015

Chapter 13


Something is going on.  I don’t know what but we suspect it is bad and maybe even really bad.  They say the Tri-V is broken but Peterson – who used to work in Communications before he got blown up and POW’d – says they’re lying.  He says they’ve removed the relays to all of the Tri-V units except for the one going to the Executive Administration Office.  And that connection is live because he snuck in and tested it. 

What is worrying is they’ve also disabled the wifi signal to all of the old feed points.  Roland is worried that they’ve figured out we’ve been spying on them but Johnson isn’t buying it.  He thinks that the Director – or someone higher up – has ordered the Staff cut off.  I can’t imagine why although Mr. Waverly has been acting weird too. 

Then Roland and I got pulled off our chores by people we’d never see and taken to the Administrative wing.  I was sure we’d been found out, only when we got there we were told to calm the rest of us down so we could give more blood.  I don’t feel well now.  Most everyone else had to be helped back.  Roland was too weak to push his chair which has never happened.  Mr. Waverly had to get our soldiers to help us get back to our rooms as we weren’t allowed to rest until we felt better and could move on our own.  They didn’t want us in the Administrative wing.  And I’m pretty sure that I heard noise from Lockdown.   

Lockdown.  This is the first time I’ve ever heard sounds coming from there.  I know where the door is.  I’ve figured that much out.  But the noise didn’t make any sense and then I got so dizzy I passed out. 

Something isn’t right.  It was too soon to take our blood.  It hadn’t been a whole month.  And they took so much.  Too much.  Something just isn’t right. 

********** 

Johnson cornered Waverly and snapped, “What the hell man?  Two liters … two friggin’ liters.  And who the hell was doing the sticking?! They look like they’ve been chewed on by a pack of rabid vampires.” 

“Watch your tone and lower you voice.  They’re watching everyone these days.  Just help me get the children to bed.  They’ve promised more iron supplements and some vitamins, blood builders and the like.  I’ll come back when I have them.” 

Three hours later Johnson was weighing the risks of going to look for Waverly when he limped into the common room pushing a cart.  Waverly had been beat on, though not so bad he couldn’t do his job.  He was accompanied by a man that Johnson recognized as Mr. Russell, the man in charge of grounds and security. 

Russell asked Johnson, “What are you still doing here?” 

“I was assigned to look after the kids.  I haven’t been relieved.” 

Sighing in aggravation Russell said, “Fine.  Since you’re here you can help.” 

Waverly beckoned Johnson over and they pushed the cart towards Roland’s room.  As they did Russell sat down and started reading something on an old-style clip board.  Johnson started to say something but a look from Waverly asked him to keep it quiet. 

As they went room to room dosing the occupants with various medications before telling them to go back to sleep, Waverly would write quickly on a pad of sticky notes and then palm the notes to Johnson.  Johnson would quickly slide the notes in his pocket.  Russell would pop in and out of the rooms as well at irregular intervals and sometimes stop them completely and make them do a spot inventory.  It was like he was trying to catch them at something, or that he didn’t trust Waverly for some reason. 

Finally Waverly rolled the cart towards the exit where Russell stopped him to take inventory one more time.  Johnson asked the two men, “What now?” 

It was Russell that answered rather than Waverly that answered, “They’ll sleep it off like they always do.  You and the others just keep an eye on ‘em.  Don’t let ‘em wander off.  If you make yourselves useful enough, then might be them study guides ain’t the only assistance you’ll be receiving.  You make trouble and it’s off to Lockdown for the whole lot of you.”

Chapter 12


I wish there was some way to make Roland feel better but Johnson said he’d have to figure out a way to feel better on his own. 

It’s Nela.  They don’t spend time doing stuff like they used to.  I think they are both being strange but Johnson said to keep my nose out of it, they were both experiencing what he calls growing pains.  He can call it whatever he wants to but it is still strange.  And maybe a little stupid too.  Or maybe I am being stupid for not understanding.  But I mostly do understand.  I just don’t know why they have to act like they are acting.   

It is hard to see them hurting.  It is harder to see them hurting and not try and do something about it.  That’s what I’m supposed to do, help those that are hurting.  When I said that to Johnson he made that noise that makes him sound like he has a stuffy nose and told me to knock it off, that sometimes hurting is what helps you to figure things out.   

Maybe he is right.  I guess it is like consequences.  If there are no consequences you keep doing things that will cause trouble instead of learning how to do things so that they don’t cause trouble.  All I know for sure is they make me tired with all their strangeness. 

********** 

“Here, let me get that before you hurt yourself,” Roland told Georgie as she juggled bags of dried fruit that needed to be taken back to their rooms and hidden. 

Georgie looked at Roland like he’d fallen on his head recently.  “You are acting strange.  You came out here in weather that you know makes your legs ache, on a trail that is bumpy which is only going to make you ache worse.  And you’re going to get hung up on the exposed roots.  You’ve never bothered about me carrying stuff before so don’t start now.  Go on back inside, I can do this.” 

“I’m not helpless,” he snapped. 

“Of course you aren’t helpless.  And you’re even stronger than you used to be.  Those exercises that you used to do with Ne …” 

“I don’t want to talk about that.  I’m going to take these in.  And don’t you stay out too much longer either.  The dark is coming earlier and you don’t have a coat on.” 

Georgie shook her head as she watched Roland bounce down a trail he would never have attempted a few months ago.  She started to go after him to make sure he didn’t tip over but a voice from behind her changed her mind. 

“Let him go.  He just needs to work off some frustrations and prove himself.” 

Accepting the counsel of Johnson’s words Georgie went back to peeling apples from the feral trees around Pickering and slicing them to go on the drying trays.  “Why do they have to make it so hard on each other?  Why do they have to stop being friends?  It’s senseless.” 

Johnson began emptying his jacket pockets of fruit that he’d foraged.  “Because they weren’t just friends.  They were more than friends and now they aren’t.  That takes some adjustment.” 

“You mean sex complicates things.” 

“Sure as hell does brat so I hope you aren’t … aw hell.  I …” 

“It’s OK Johnson.  I know what you mean.  And no, I’m not interested in having sex with anyone.  Not even to try and make them feel better.” 

“I didn’t mean …  You know I always end up with my foot in my mouth around you.” 

George shook her head.  “Johnson.  Stop.  You’re getting that weird look on your face that you do every time sex comes up.  I’m ok.  I know what happened to me isn’t the way things are supposed to be.  But that is the way it happened and that’s not going to change so I might as well accept it.  And even if I might wonder what the right way is supposed to be like I’m not going to go find out at the possible expense of my friendship with Roland.  He and I weren’t the ones having sex and it already made things more difficult between us than it should be.  It makes it seem that maybe sex is just more trouble than it’s worth.” 

Giving Georgie an amazed look Johnson said, “You have the damnedest way of looking at things.” 

“What do you mean?” 

“It’s too hard to explain in a few sentences so I’m not even going to try.  I’d more than likely just wind up with both feet in my mouth instead of just one.” 

“OK, fine, then can you at least explain why Nela is upset if Roland is giving her the space she asked for?  Is it really that big a deal that Roland did so much better than her on the aptitude test?” 

“You just answered your own question Kiddo.  Nela was on her way to officer training school before she stepped on that land mine.  Plus she’s older than you lot.  Maybe not a lot but enough that it should make a difference.  And she’s got a lot more life experience and schooling too.  Having a sixteen year old boy show her up like that hurt her pride.” 

“He didn’t do it on purpose.  Roland is just smart.  Besides Nela is smart too.  It is one of the things that Roland liked the most; he could talk to her about things he couldn’t talk about to anyone else.  Her scores were higher than everyone else’s but yours and you went to college.  Why is she focusing just on Roland’s score?  Shouldn’t she be mad at you too?” 

“It … look Kid, sometimes something comes along and makes a fear you have bigger.  For whatever reason this thing between Nela and Roland …” 

“You mean the sex.” 

Wincing Johnson said, “Yeah, that’s definitely part of it.” 

“Ok.  You don’t need to finish.  I get it.” 

“Oh you do do you?  Just all of a sudden.” 

Georgie nodded confidently.  “Yeah.  It gave them both ideas.  Only now they understand they were wrong.  Being wrong has messed with their self-image.  More reminders of being wrong just messes with it more.  Now they’re trying to figure out how to go forward and every stupid little thing makes them wonder if they can or if maybe they should have stuck with the way things were.  Plus they feel bad because they do still like each other but they don’t know how to be together now with the way things are.  They also wonder even if they move forward, will what comes in the future be as good as what they had in the past which all-in-all makes them even more moody and cranky on top of missing having sex.” 

“Uh … well … yeah.”  Then Johnson grinned.  “Just don’t explain it that way to them.  They won’t appreciate it.  They … er …” 

“Are too moody and cranky to listen?” 

“Pretty much Kid.  Pretty much.” 

“I sure hope they get over it soon.  There is too much other stuff we need to do and it is going to take everyone working together to get it done.”

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Chapter 11


Roland says he isn’t mad at me anymore but things aren’t the same.  I think it is more me than him.  I’m just not who I used to be.  I’m still one of us, but I’m … I’m set apart.  It’s like when Nurse Cassie picked Roland and I out to be caregivers for all of us, when she left us in charge after she died.  It made us different from the rest of us, more different than we already were.  Not better.  Different.  And now, all these things that have happened since our soldiers came, they’ve made me different as well.  Maybe it is all the secrets I have to keep.  And now I have another one. 

I think I have found a way to help our soldiers but they can’t know.  No one can know, especially not Roland but that’s for a different reason.  I planted the idea in Miss Neville and then she ran off to the Director with it.  It was easy.  I should feel bad at how easy it was but I’m not.   

The Director is in a real tear about money.  She’s always been that way but lately it’s been worse, so I thought to use that to help.  And it looks like it worked. 

********** 

Roland rolled over to visit the soldiers to find them staring at boxes that had been delivered.  “Whoa.  What is this?” he asked. 

Johnson just continued to stare but Nela smiled and said, “Books, manuals, old exams.” 

Curious but cautious Roland rolled forward for a closer look.  “Yeah?” 

“Yeah,” she said tossing one to him. 

Peterson was investigating another box.  “These are all used … old too … but …” 

“But what?” 

“We … maybe …” 

Getting frustrated Roland turned to Johnson.  “What’s going on?” 

“I don’t know Kid except … maybe … maybe this … someone thinks …”  Noticing Roland’s expression he said, “You know what these are.” 

Quietly and with a feigned indifference Roland said, “They’re study guides for career placement exams.” 

Showing more understanding than Roland was comfortable with Johnson said, “Yeah Kid, they are.” 

It didn’t’ take but a moment for Roland to man up and thought he couldn’t smile he did nod and say, “This is good news.  They think at least some of you will be able to leave Pickering and make it Outside.” 

Chaplin snorted.  “More like someone is tired of feeding so many and wants us outta here.” 

Roland blinked and agreed, “Sounds like something the Director would do.” 

After a few more minutes visiting Roland returned to the children’s ward and rolled over to Georgie who was in the middle of patching up a skinned knee.” 

“When you’re finished we need to talk.” 

Georgie met him in the old nurse’s station.  “Are you getting another pressure sore?” 

“No.”  He proceeded to tell her about the study guides and other materials that had been delivered. 

“So?” 

“You don’t care?” 

“There nothing I can do about it.  Besides, if they are really getting a chance to get out of here they should take it.  They don’t have the protection we do.” 

“Maybe we don’t have protection anymore,” he said trying to shake Georgie up. 

However she surprised him by agreeing.  “Maybe we don’t.” 

“But?” 

“If they could have gotten what they need from us some other way they would have done it before now.” 

“You can’t know that for sure.” 

“If I knew what really happened in Lockdown.” 

“Georgie, no.  You can’t.  The risk isn’t worth it.” 

In a dazed confusion that revealed the true inner fear that drove her Georgie muttered, “Purgatory.  That’s what Nurse Cassie said.  Purgatory.  She tried to tell us what Lockdown was but she waited too long and that is all she could get out.” 

“And we aren’t any closer to finding out what she meant than we were back then.” 

“After what I saw …” 

Roland grabbed her arm, “No.  That’s not Lockdown.  Remember there can’t be any strong drugs in our system before they take the blood.  They’d have to dope them to keep them in comas, but alive enough to harvest from.” 

That calmed Georgie’s imagination some and though Roland sensed it he didn’t relax.  “Let it go Georgie.  We can’t change what has already happened.” 

Sadly she opined, “So many of us have disappeared.  And the adults too.  And now this other man.  Too many.” 

“But not for two years until Victor.” 

Like she hadn’t heard him she whispered, “Poor Victor.” 

Shaking the arm he still held Roland agreed, “Yes, poor Victor.  But we did all we could.  Not even an Outside doctor could have done more that you did.” 

“Not according to the Books.” 

“Most of those books were written before the Defective Laws took effect.  You know that Georgie.  What doctors might have been able to do back then – repeat, might have – isn’t what they will or can do today.  A lot of drugs that could have helped a Defective back then aren’t even made anymore.  You know the rules – probably better than any of us; and, you know the consequences for breaking them.” 

Shaking her head she said, “I need more training.  There’s still so much I don’t know.  There wasn’t time for Nurse Cassie to teach me everything.  There has to be people looking for ways to make medicines that wouldn’t break the rules.” 

“Why?” 

“Why?  What do you mean why?” 

“Just what I said.  Why do there have to be people doing that?  Most defectives are aborted before they’re born.  Those few that are born get triaged out of the womb and then euthanized.  People who become labeled Defective like our soldiers get permanently triaged and sent some place to contribute to a society that tolerates them as long as they don’t waste resources; or, they go to someplace where resources are withheld until they die.  I shouldn’t have to explain this to you.” 

“Roland don’t.  You sound like a Euthanist or someone who operates a Compassionate Ending Farm.” 

Sighing Roland said, “Well I’m not, I’m no more that than you are.  But those people exist and they outnumber us millions to one.  It is stupid to pretend life is any other way.”  After letting go of Georgie’s arm and looking at a sky they’d never known freedom under Roland added, “And it is stupid for me to pretend too.  Sometimes I wish they had never come here.  They brought the Outside and … and feelings and …” 

With understanding compassion Georgie patted Roland’s arm.  “I know.  But they are here.  And Nurse Cassie left us in charge, made us promise to always take care of us all.  They’re part of us now.” 

“Not if they can leave.” 

“Yes, even if they can and do leave.  In fact we need to help them leave, encourage them if they believe too much in their own Defectiveness.  Those that leave will take a little of each of us with them.  It won’t be like us all really getting to leave, that’s never going to happen.  But a bit of us will.  Someone will know our names, remember us, be happy that we were friends.  Us Roland, not just our blood.  We may have no other freedom in this world but we are free to be friends.  And friends help each other.” 

They were both quiet for a while then Roland asked, “Does it ever stop hurting?” 

“Losing someone?  No.  Sometimes I miss Caro so bad I can’t sleep and can barely breathe.  I remember them all, even back before everyone helped to quiet the dragons that used to run around in my head.  We all slept together in that room with the padded floor and walls.  When it was cold we snuggled close.  I couldn’t hear most of the time, sometimes the dragons were so bad I couldn’t see, but I knew smells and I remember how everyone felt.  I remember when the smell and feel of someone would just suddenly be gone.  I remember when the realization that another one was gone would sweep through us and how everyone would start crying.  We didn’t really understand what was happening but we understood Gone Away and Never Coming Back.” 

“You remember that?  I thought I was the only one.” 

“No.  You aren’t the only one.  Caro remembered too.  She would have nightmares about being the only one left.” 

“I didn’t know that.” 

“Others have told me similar things when they have an episode or a nightmare.  You’d be surprised what some of us remember.  The first time I really understood the feelings … there was a girl.  It was before Nurse Cassie.” 

Surprised Roland asked, “So long ago as that?” 

“Yeah.  There was a girl.  I think she was worse than me.  She couldn’t see or hear or even really move around very much.  It used to be she would shake and shake and shake.” 

“Seizures?” 

“No.  Dragons.  Different from mine but still some kind of dragons.  She was scared all the time.  But she didn’t shake so bad when I slept close to her.  Somehow she knew I understood about dragons.  One day after the blood taking she didn’t come back.  I remember waiting and waiting.  I’d grown used to recognizing when she was there.  Then finally I understood missing … that feeling that there was a hole in us that hadn’t been there before.  That’s when that woman cut herself.  I’ve always wondered if the two things connected.” 

“You should have asked Nurse Cassie.” 

“It took a long time for me to figure out how to control the dragons enough, that I could learn to put my feelings into words.  But eventually I did ask her.” 

“Well?  What did she say?” 

“That there were some questions that didn’t have answers.  Same way she talked about Lockdown.  I think she knew but was trying to protect us.” 

“Maybe she was.” 

“Maybe.” 

Roland was uncomfortable with some of the ideas and memories that Georgie had brought up.  He needed to think.  He rolled out of the nurse’s station and to his room to get ready for lights out.  But it would be a long time before he actually fell asleep.