Category: Short Story
Genre: Sci-fi short story
Approximately 22 printed pages (or about 18 minutes to read).
Favel only wants to stay out of the way of the City’s upper class. But when her friend gets involved in a revolution against the City, she’s thrust into a conflict she wants no part of.
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Favel pushed the shopping cart containing her fake possessions into the alley next to the warehouse. She looked for a window to watch the gathering. If she couldn’t find one then Jesper could tell her about it afterward. One thing was certain, no way was she going to join dozens of Lowers in a confined space and be trapped like rats. Why make it easy for the Uppers to disappear them?
She could hear the speaker’s muffled voice, Mr. Grady, the vegetable merchant from the Eastside Market. Each week he brought goods from country farmers to the City to sell or barter from his market stand. He was a good man. A generous man. More than once he’d given Favel and other dwelling impaired damaged merchandise. Nothing wrong with a bruised melon or misshapen squash, but the Uppers wouldn’t touch them. Uppers were too good for anything but perfect produce.
The crowd inside the warehouse cheered. Once they quieted down Mr. Grady’s muffled voice continued.
Shadows created too many hiding places in the alley. Favel was on high alert, ready to bolt at the first sign of ambush. Her cart contained nothing valuable, well not much anyway. She’d miss the atom cooker, but the cart’s items were bait more than anything. If attacked, she’d abandon the cart, the attacker would search its contents, rifling through papers and cans and boxes of garbage she collected, allowing her time to escape. Lord knows she had left it behind more than once.
Some women were attacked for their bodies, but that wasn’t an issue with Favel. She wouldn’t let herself get pretty and she had a secret weapon, cheese. Stinky Grouden Cheese to be precise, the foulest smelling cheese in the City. She always kept a chunk in a pocket of her patchwork overcoat. She couldn’t even smell it anymore, but people on the street gave her a wide berth. Just the way she liked it.
She eyed the fire escape attached to the warehouse’s side. The rusty contraption looked ready to fall if a strong wind hit it. The ladder’s bottom rung hung a couple feet out of reach. If she climbed up on her shopping cart she’d be able to reach it and from the second story windows shy might be able to see the gathering inside the warehouse.
She pushed her cart against the brick wall under the fire escape and locked the wheels. Then she climbed over the handle, careful not to tip the cart. She stood in the basket, feet mashing the contents, and grabbed the ladder second rung from the bottom.
When she put her weight on the ladder, it groaned and squeaked and lowered three feet. Favel looked around, worried the sound may have attracted somebody. Nobody around. The crowd inside must have drowned out the noise.
She climbed up ladder to the second story landing.
The window over the fire escape was locked or painted shut and blacked out so she couldn’t see through it. She leaned out as far as she dared, trying to look through an adjacent window. She could see into the warehouse, down into a cavernous room. Mr. Grady stood on a crate, addressing a crowd of at least a hundred.
Favel put her hand against the rough brick, bracing herself. She watched and listened.
“Why should we fear the Uppers?” Mr. Grady asked. “There’s more of us than them. We could overpower them.”
“They got the Sentinels,” someone answered.
“True,” Mr. Grady said. “But let me ask you, if the Sentinels were not a problem, would you be with me?”
Favel felt a warmth creep down her neck. They were talking revolution. If the Uppers discovered this meeting, the whole building would be wiped out. She climbed back down the fire escape, grabbed her cart and ran toward the alley’s entrance, pushing the cart in front of her. On the main street she turned left to avoid going in front of the warehouse. One cart wheel spun circles as she pushed it, creating a drag, but it didn’t slow her down. She crossed the street and went another block before stopping in front of a brick building.
What were they thinking? You can’t assemble publically and talk about overthrowing the Uppers. That was a one way ticket to disappear. Hopefully Jesper would wise up and leave before it was too late.
She felt the rotors before hearing them, a dull but rapid thump-thump-thump. Sentinels. Favel pushed her cart out of sight around the corner, stopped, peered back around the building, and watched the warehouse.
In front of the warehouse two Sentinel ships descended, clear bubbles with large spinning propellers on either side, like wings. The props rotated, providing vertical or horizontal thrust as needed. The bubbles each could hold three Sentinels.
Favel watched as three Sentinels exited the first ship, humanoid metal forms, a mockery of real humans. Two Sentinels exited the second ship. For the briefest second Favel was tempted to not watch, to continue down the street, but morbid fascination kept her focused on the scene.
The five Sentinels formed a line and marched toward the warehouse entrance, arms extended. Each arm contained a weapon, an atom blaster. Or maybe a laser. Favel didn’t understand the technology.
The Sentinels marched forward in unison. A bright red light flashed from one of the Sentinels, and the warehouse entrance disappeared, replaced by a smoky haze.
Then, as one, the Sentinels fell forward, crumpling on the street, almost as if a magic off button had been depressed.
Favel stepped forward from around the building, staring, not understanding what had happened.
Several people rushed out through the hole that had been the warehouse entrance. They went to each Sentinel and pried a box from its chest.
“All clear,” one yelled.
Mr. Grady exited the warehouse. He spoke, but Favel couldn’t make out the words. The people who had pried the boxes from each Sentinel’s chest boarded the ships. The ships rose straight up and disappeared from sight.
What the hell is going on? Favel thought. She grabbed her shopping cart and hurried away from the warehouse and pile of dead Sentinels. When the Uppers struck back, the warehouse would be vaporized and she wanted to be away when it happened. Far away.