Words: The Inventor (12c)

Prologue / 1a / 1b / 2a / 2b / 3a / 3b / 4a / 4b / 5a / 5b / 6a / 6b / 7a / 7b / 8a / 8b / 9 / 10a / 10b / 10c / 11a / 11b / 12a / 12b

Winter 3.11 HC, 2210 (Day 71 of the Year of Winter)

We made it back to the abandoned, graffitied-up house in the Outpost. Artie, and a second man who’d been introduced as Klaus, had remained here. Enell was missing. Uly hadn’t said much since rescuing me from the armed patrol. He didn’t care to hypothesise what had happened to Enell, nor did he elaborate on how he found me beyond dumb luck. He had been planning to steal a transport to get us back, and there I was. But no sign of Enell. Given their closeness, I couldn’t help but feel like a poor second to Uly’s hopes of finding her.

The violence in the Outpost had got worse, and they advised me to stay inside with them. Yesterday, Artie and Klaus ventured out to get some basic supplies, but were cornered by two gangs and brought back less than half of what they bartered for: bread, three live hens, a ten kilo bag of rice, a box of green tomatoes. Enough to survive, and certainly enough not to bother going back out again for a while if they didn’t have to. Apparently, the gangs had thought the armoured vehicle (and the resistance’s armour) to mean they were part of the institution. In a way, they were – like the antithesis is inevitably a part of the answer – but things had become so fragmented now that everyone was in it for themselves. It was the only way to guarantee survival. And that counted for us as much as anyone else.

This morning, two of the hens had laid eggs, so we devised a rota. Uly and I were the first receivers – Artie and Klaus declined first dibs, claiming our trauma was worse than theirs had been. Probably it was, but I had done everything to avoid thinking about it since arriving. In the middle of the night, I woke and sat bolt upright, remembering that I had a mission to accomplish. The sleep I had was full of strange and unsettling imagery: My house wasn’t much more than a room with sandstone walls and a sandstone bed, no furniture to speak of. I would leave only to kill, then return home to pace my tiny, monochromatic interior.

Klaus greeted me in the kitchen with a freshly poached egg and a slice of bread.

cooked food dish on plate
Photo by Marta Dzedyshko on Pexels.com

“You need your strength today,” he said, as jovially as he could manage in the circumstances. “Oh, and you had a message come through this morning on my implant. They haven’t been able to contact you since, well, about a month ago.” His tone was flat. Did he think I had changed sides? That I had downed our craft? Killed Enell?

“I had my ID wiped,” I explained. “Stephen did it.”
“Interesting,” Uly added. “That could be useful. Enell had hers done a while back…” he trailed off.

“Yeah, I thought so. I mean, Katie Paloma’s on a watch list somewhere. With some hair dye, make up and some costume changes…

“Just… make sure you don’t go out for too long without wearing an ID. If you get caught without one…” Artie cautioned.

“Yeah, I know, I know.”

“…they might kill you on sight.”


“Makes some perverse sense, from an absolute point of view,” he added.

“Anyway, we’ll help you. Just need a decent ID to get you in. Klaus can work your implant. I can work my contacts… try to get you an appointment once we know who you are. And Uly…”

Uly didn’t look up from his nearly-empty coffee cup.

“Better take him. He’ll have your back. Don’t want you going in on this one-on-one.”

Uly looked up at Artie, expressionless. “I’ll go,” he said. “This matters more.”

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