Archive for March 7th, 2012

7th March
written by amber

Underground Nation

Kate peered around a corner, leaning against the graffiti-covered concrete of the corridor. This part of Marianas City was dangerous. She kept her gun up and ready.

She could hear the riot around the next bend. A woman with a door front candy store on the other side of the hall was rapidly pulling her stock inside. With a frightened look at Kate, she slammed and locked her door, not listening as Kate said, “Don’t worry. I’m one of the good guys.”

But if she was a good guy, why wasn’t she running toward the riot with the purpose of restoring order?

That wasn’t her job. The underground city had other ways to protect itself. Even now, the lights overhead were flashing off and on in warning. Kate slipped on her infrared goggles and rounded the corner when full darkness descended, immediately encountering other goggled citizens. She forced her way upstream against their purposeful migration toward data centers where they would download the pictures they’d taken of the rioters, hoping for lucrative media hits or at least a vandalism informer reward.

Soon she was past them and into the zone where the riot had occurred. Darkness was intensified here by smoke from various sources, the acrid smoke from the rioter’s bombs and a debilitating and blinding miasma that the riot control system had emitted when the lights went out. Kate’s high grade goggles cut through the haze and her nasal filters protected her from the fumes, as long as she kept her mouth shut.

She had nothing to say anyway. And no one to say it to.

Any surviving shopkeepers were trembling behind their locked doors, aiming their spyhole cameras in all directions, hoping to catch identifiable faces to inform on. The one shop that had been breached, a Quikpharma, was gutted, empty shelves scattered across the hallway, the owner motionless and bleeding in the doorway. Kate knelt and put a hand to his neck, but she knew before she touched him. The man was dead.

A few of the rioters who hadn’t run away when the lights flashed were clustered together just a short way down the hall, coughing and pawing at their streaming eyes, blinded, disoriented and barely able to breathe. She knew that at least half of them had taken pictures of their fellow rioters to use for plea bargaining purposes.

Kate heard the siren of an approaching police cart and knew she had to work quickly. Once they had the remaining rioters in custody, the air would be cleansed, the lights would come back on. Darkness suited her mission better.

Her target was the bookstore next to the Quikpharma. As Kate’s surgegun demolished the lock, she heard the shop owner scrambling into the inner sanctum, the living area for most citizens but something else in this particular case. A scattering of sample chapters and a few loaner readers littered the floor as Kate strode toward the second door, blasting the locks even as the shop owner was engaging them.

Kate reached in and grabbed the owner by the arm.

“How did you know?” the woman demanded, as Kate forced her to her knees and strapped cuffs on her wrists. Kate didn’t fall for this delaying tactic. The drug lab was well-disguised, power for the vats siphoned from so many adjacent apartments that no one detected anything unusual in their bill, the necessary chemicals delivered by secret tubes from stacks of Quikpharmas above and below, the finished products returned to the legitimate pharmacies for illegitimate sales.

But all it had taken was one nosy neighbour and one augered spy tube to reveal the entire operation, and to document regular visits from the local constabulary to collect their protection money.

Kate scanned the room, her helmet camera and sensors recording all the evidence, then she yanked the woman into the corridor. Not far up the tunnel, the police cart had arrived and the remaining rioters were being constrained. The lights were back on, but the smoke hadn’t yet been sucked out. In the fog, Kate pulled her captive in the opposite direction from the police.

“The law’s that way,” the woman wheezed, resisting.

“They’ll just let you go.” Kate tugged at the shop owner, finally clouting her on the head to convince her.

The woman stumbled along, muttering, “How do you know that?”

“I know everything. Don’t you know – what else is there to do down here except become a nation of informers?”

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story.

This story was written with suggestions for a prop, a line of dialogue and a genre supplied by Barry Hammond. I’m practicing for the script I’ll be writing for the 48 Hour Movie Making Challenge in Calgary on March 30. Barry gave me: 1. A girl and a gun to quote the title of David Myer’s book on Film Noir. 2. “We’re becoming a nation of informers.” 3. Film Noir. Thanks, Barry!