by Betty Prophète
“Are you okay sweetheart?” Levi frowned and stepped closer.
“I’m fine…” Silence barely recognized her own voice. She forced a smile but couldn’t look him in the eyes. “I just… , I’ll be right back”.
She closed the door too hard, too fast against the raised voices, the children’s laughter and all the light.
Her fingers fumbled with the light switch until a lightning strike illuminated the tiny bathroom and she caught her reflexion in the mirror. Murderer! Her hand shot to her face, blood under her fingernails. Jihan’s blood… oh God.
She backed away but couldn’t go far enough. Her back to the wall she tried to steady her breath but her head was spinning. Thick, burning air in her throat. She couldn’t breathe past it, couldn’t swallow.
In the semi-darkness she felt the walls closing in on her, her world imploding. Her legs dissolved under her and she sunk to the ground. She looked up to try and hold back her tears. You can’t do this now Si. You’re not back with the Scar theorizing and planning anymore, this is real.
Shit this is real!
It only got real for her tonight though; When Jihan found her downloading files from the restricted vault in the lab. She’d only wanted to stop him from alerting anyone but the boy had lost his footing… by the time she got to him there was nothing to do. Jihan lay where he’d fallen, shattered skull, eyes unseeing.
Now she couldn’t get those eyes out of her head. Hurt eyes, disillusioned, horrified. Go to hell, she wanted to scream, you weren’t supposed to be there. She ground her teeth against the words, but still they got out, a growl, a moan: “I never promised you anything”.
A flash of lightning.
Tears poured out, coloring her world with the deep red of the coming storm. The thing was rearing its head over the horizon, a deep, menacing cloud over the crimson expanse. In minutes Onahaï would be engulfed, its shield only partially dimming the brutality of the storm.
Great, I’m stuck here. Tomorrow the lab staff would discover the body; and everything would crumble, a castle of lies blown away by the storm, dissolving in a fury of dust and sand, leaving her exposed.Along with all their preparations, all their plans.
But… only if it got that far. That was the beauty of it, she realized: Nobody was gonna go out in that storm. And Jihan wouldn’t be talking. If the Scar was to move on Onahaï it had to be tonight. She’d finally retrieved the last piece of information they needed and the next blood drive had only been a convenient time. The storm was the perfect distraction.
Silence straightened up, feeling dizzy but calmer. She ran cold water on her face, scrubbed her hands and forearms, erasing all visible traces though she knew what had happened tonight would cling to her.
She powered on her Comm and sent her signal; Then she waited to be contacted.
“… If you get here before the storm is over and the shield is down, they won’t have time to prepare a counterattack, fighting will be minimal.”
Silence finished laying out her plan. She’d been told Morgan was in the room but he’d said nothing yet. After a long silence a woman said “Now you say there are three persons controlling the trade from Onahaï, we’re gonna need their names.”
“Leslie Adsteunz,” she cringed, “Domenico da Silva and Tany Lake.”
There were deliberations after that, clearly not meant for her ears. With no way of knowing what the committee thought of the unfolding events she could only wait and hope that they could be swayed.
“And you’re confident that you will be able to deactivate the shield in time –?”
“Yes, it’s all set up”, she said expelling the breath she’d been holding. They’re going for it… Maybe nobody else will have to die.
The murmuring died and at last Morgan spoke.
“People of the Scar, the time has come to answer to our calling. When human excesses and selfishness had ravaged our environment and left the earth a crippled, uninhabitable place, the rich attempted to tame nature, burying themselves under domes, filtering the light of the sun.”
“The poor, the destitute, the forgotten of this world were left to die by millions under the rays of a merciless sun, on this scorched and dying earth. From their trials emerged the people of the Scar!”
His voice echoed trough the comm as Morgan let that sink in for a while. Then, as people all over the web started reacting, cheering…
“Born from blood and suffering, we bear the mark of the sun so that our children, the future of humanity can live off this new land… and prosper.”
“Today, when their technology’s failing them and their shields aren’t strong enough to protect them from the sun anymore, today the cowards under the domes want what they haven’t earned, and they want it cheap. The serum Onahaï synthetizes from our blood keeps them all alive long enough to turn up their noses at our scarred bodies.”
Morgan paused a minute to let the crowd’s reaction die down.
“But today we say no more”
“Yeah no more!” someone echoed on the other side of the line.
“No more, Morgan continued, will the poor have to-”
The knocks startled Silence and she almost dropped the Comm.
“Si? Are you sleeping in there?” A smile in Mila’s voice. “You can catch a quick nap if you want, I’ll keep a plate for you. I’ll tell them-“
“No, I’m fine. I’ll be there in a minute.”
“A’right but they’re getting hungry, I’m not sure I can keep them waiting longer. ”
“I’m almost done. I’ll be right there.”
“All right sweetie just call if you need something. Ohhh and… you guys are gonna have to spend the night. Storm’s early, looks bigger than they said too.”
Steps fading, then Mila’s voice in the living room “Diner will be in a couple of minutes. Why don’t we play charades? Girls against guys… we’ll beat you for sure.”
Back on the comm, Morgan was completing his speech under thunderous applause.
“Today they will know that the path to salvation lies with us. Embrace the scar, spread the scar or perish in squalor and agony, as our ancestors have for decades. They need us, they… will… fall! And once Onahaï falls they all will.”
“Today we take into our hands the reins of history. Let us prove worthy !”
The excitement was palpable, they had been waiting and training for this for years; so much hinged on what would happen next…
As the wall of the storm hit Onahaï, Silence’s calm determination settled back. The sounds of the storm and the heated game in the living room masked her going through the master bedroom to sneak back Domenico’s lab pass before she joined the others.
Mila leapt from the couch and was on top of her in seconds, “Did you hear who the lab hired as a replacement for…” She paused as she took in her friend’s face, “Sweetie I hate to say this but you look like hell!”
Silence let the young woman guide her to her end of the couch, next to Levi who took her hand in his but asked no questions. It scared her how well he knew her in less than a year, how much she’d come to depend on his strong and calm presence. How fast she’d grown accustomed to Mila’s antics. How different it all seemed now that she’d lived among them, under Onahaï’s dome; Now there were names and faces to go with the numbers, now she counted friends among the enemy.
How would she face them tomorrow?
When the gliders drowned out the remnants of the dying storm, Silence lay motionless, staring at Mila and Domenico’s family picture on the side table. Amid the tangled sheets and Levi’s embrace she spared one last thought for the lives she’d led. Warrior of her people, vengeful angel seeking restitution and justice; quiet scientist, in a desperate quest to save humanity. One had been purpose, the other solace, one harsh truths and honest facts, the other shameful secrets and sweet lies. None had been her choice, but both had become part of her.
She slipped into her clothes and her dustmask. She struggled with the reinforced window latch for a while then, with a last glance to Levi’s sleeping form she crawled up to the roof. The wind was still high, picking up the dust in bright waves but she could see them, maybe five minutes out. Not much time left. As she was setting up her Comm to deactivate Onahaï’s protective shield, she felt hard, cold metal on the back of her neck. She slowly turned her head to the barrel of a gun… and Mila, face grim and tight. “I can’t let you do that Si.”