Second Class Humans

Wow we’re already in February. Plus it’s a Wednesday, so that means story time. This week I’ve got a Sci-Fi story centred around how people are treated differently because of where they are born and from. Not saying anymore about the story than that as I don’t want to give too much away. Only other thing I have to say is it’s about 17,500 words long. That’s it. That’s the introduction over. So lets get into the story.

Fredrik Emerson steps off the Renalt platform he’s been waiting on for the last few minutes and onto the currently stationary silver coloured oblong box shaped transit shuttle that forms part of the Lunar Transport Network.

Renalt platform is like all the other platforms that make up the LTN, bland, uniformed and uninspired in every imaginable way. It’s a theme that carries on throughout the entirety of the lunar colony. No matter where you go on the Moon everything looks like it was built for function and at no point were aesthetics taken into consideration. That is because they weren’t. It’s a plain and simple truth. Those invested in the Moon have at no point been interested in any need for architectural brilliance or a wish for these structures to one day be heralded as marvels of human design. No, these structures are here to serve and be easy to keep in operational condition. It’s why no one who lives on the Moon pays any attention to the aesthetics around them. They are all well versed in the lack of imagination and care for design that this colony, the second world of humanity, is etched with.

It’s why the flat white stained walls of the Renalt platform over which hang periodically placed metal squares adorned with the logo that serves not only to represent the platform but also the transit systems operator, which also bears the name title, Lunar Transport Network. It’s as an unoriginal corporate branding as is possible to exist, but somehow perfectly fits alongside the aesthetic of the structures on the moon, all of which are boxy, angular and dull.

Fredrik couldn’t care less about the appearance of this place or who owns what right now. He’s too exhausted and so slumps into the nearest available seat now that he is onboard the shuttle.

Much of the carriage around him is empty. It’s no surprise given how late the hours is. Not that you can tell the hour just by looking up. That is only possible on Earth, where there is a natural sky. Not an artificially created one like on the Moon. Still, it doesn’t bother Fredrik, at least right now anyway. Instead, he just wants to rest. His legs ache. If it were only his legs it might not be so bad but after a thirteen hour shift of crawling through tight spaces and fixing autonomous machines, without a break, he can safely say his legs are the least of his problems. His arms and elbows in particular feel heavy, but they in no way compare to the surging agony that is emanating from his back. For a man of thirty two he sure doesn’t feel it right now as he leans back, his blond closely cropped hair covered head resting against the wall of the shuttle as the doors hiss closed.

Fredrik rolls his green eyes closed wondering if he’ll be fortunate enough to be able to get some sleep while on the shuttle. He hopes he can, especially as the journey back to the accommodation sector, where his tiny studio apartment resides, is a good twenty minute ride.

He’d find the journey acceptable if every time he thought about it he didn’t remember that the link between the Moon and Earth, a distance of almost a quarter of a million miles, takes only sixteen hours. At least that is what he’s heard. He’s never been to Earth. Few on the Moon have. Those that were born here never leave. Such a thing is not permitted under any circumstances, ever. The same cannot be said of the people of Earth. They can come and go as they please. They don’t. But they can. No one would stop them, even the United Earth Governments Security, or UEGSec. They are a quasi-police force; if a small army of armed and often condescending jerks that know they have absolute reign over the Moon can be described as such that is. And they make sure to exploit that position too. Not that the people of Earth likely ever hear about what they do up here, and even if they did they likely wouldn’t care. After all, the Moon and its citizens exist for one purpose and one purpose alone, to build and grow everything that Earth needs to keep it going. That was never meant to be the purpose of the Moon, at least not entirely. Instead, the Moon was supposed to be a springboard that would help humanity catapult itself out into the stars. But such a thing never transpired. Perhaps it was never supposed to. No one on the Moon can say for sure. It’s been several centuries since the colony was established. Anyone that had been around back at its founding are without a doubt long dead now. Average human life expectancy is ninety years, on Earth anyway. On the Moon it’s more like sixty, at a push and if you’re lucky. Few are and that means, not that Fredrik thinks about it as he hears the gentle whoosh of air beyond the bounds of the shuttle which signify that it is now hurtling down the rails elevated off the rocky grey surface that is the Moon, he is over halfway through his life. If he was being honest he wouldn’t call it a life. In fact he rarely does, when speaking to himself silently and in his head. It’s an existence really and not a happy one at that. But it’s all he’s got he knows as he unfurls his eyelids and lifts his head forward so that his neck is supporting the not insignificant weight entirely once more. It is at that point he sighs, shakes his head and then following a couple of blinks in hopes of dispelling his exhaustion, casts his gaze about.

The shuttle really is empty at this time of night. Only a few others frequent this ten metre long oblong metal box, the sides of which are lined with bench seats that face in toward the wide central lane of the carriage.

During rush hour few would be seated, whereas right now everyone is. Not because there aren’t any seats available but because there are so many packed into each carriage that no one gets the chance to sit. Instead everyone has to stand, crammed and sandwiched together in the most awkward and uncomfortable of ways. It’s like cattle being herded through gates. At least it is according to what Fredrik has seen of how cattle used to be treated on Earth. It’s done very differently on the Moon. No animal roams, at least in the open. They live entirely under cover within giant silo shaped buildings that are divided into separate levels. Each one of those levels is dedicated to a different species such as cattle, pigs, goats, sheep, turkeys and chickens. Fish are housed elsewhere from what Fredrik has been told. Not that he’s ever seen any of this. He’s not that kind of engineer. He works on repairing machines in one of the Ishita Electronics plants. That particular mega-corporation makes electronic products of all shapes, sizes and uses. None of their products are sold on Lunar. They are for the people of Earth and only the people of Earth. Fredrik as an engineer is one of the few who actually, occasionally, glimpses them. A lot are not so different to what is available on Lunar, except clearly better quality and more substantial. Though, there are items which Fredrik is unaware of the purpose of. He can’t learn what they are however as there is no one to quiz and discover such things. Not that if there were he would be permitted to gain such knowledge. Company policy dictates that Ishita Electronics secrets, which they define as everything relating to their business, will not be shared unless guilty parties wish to be sentenced to a life of hard labour and be landed with charges amounting to nine hundred and thirty seven million dollars.

At that moment Fredrik looks down at his grubby dark blue overalls to find he still has his wrench on him. He rolls his eyes in frustration. It’s the third time in two weeks he’s forgotten to leave the tool in his storage locker. It isn’t a big deal, unless he forgets it again that is. It’s what he did the last time and as a result had to pay a non-returnable and hourly hire fee to use another. That is how they get you on Lunar; they add costs on costs on costs until the miniscule sum you get paid, the average being seventeen dollars a day, dwindles down to nothing. It’s criminal, it’s exploitative, but its unavoidable.

That’s not to say that people haven’t tried to change things. They have. Or, to be more accurate, they did. Those attempts were a long time ago. Back when UEGSec had been more lenient. Well, more lenient than it is now anyway. At least that is what Fredrik had been told. Still, the attempts ended in failure, bore no fruit and only led to increased UEGSec presence in the aftermath, which has still not abated to this day. That is why it is now more like being under permanent military guard than it is living in a colony that has a security presence.

Everywhere you go there are checkpoints, scanners and cameras. If you so much as look wrong UEGSec pull you aside for questioning. Fredrik has never wanted to find out what sort of questioning. That’s why he keeps his head down. Still, if he had a management position it would be easier. Not that he’d ever get one seeing as they are reserved exclusively for Earthborn and why managers can be seldom found anywhere on Lunar.

To the engineer, it’s like the people of Earth don’t want to remember them, and maybe they don’t, Fredrik thinks as he turns his head to the left only to see a couple of UEGSec personnel dressed in their trademark black armour, Fredrik has no other word for it. They’re heading his way. It’s not surprising. They’ll be checking to make sure everything is peaceful and that no one is getting up to something they shouldn’t be. Or at least that would be their reasoning, if they were willing to give any which they wouldn’t be.

Just the sight of the armed criminals in what must be a military rated uniform makes Fredrik’s blood boil. Not that he’d ever act on his emotions. He can’t afford to. He’d stand no chance if he tried. That is why he instead is inclined to do what he always does when any of the security agents are present, bow his head and keep his gaze averted. So that is exactly what he does.

Meeting them eye-to-eye, as he has witnessed first-hand, often results in a beating at the very least. Fredrik isn’t inclined, now or ever, to risk such a thing. But as they grow nearer Fredrik hears one of the two UEGSec demanding that ID is shown so that it can be checked and authenticated. That’s pretty standard fair, though unusual for this late at night. Then Fredrik hears the other half of the pair of armed thugs in uniform demand to know if their current target, a weary looking white haired man, knows anything about Dissidents. The man, meekly and respectfully, assures that he does not. Then the agent checking the aging man’s ID clears him. The other agent, who mentioned the Dissidents, growls in frustration perhaps believing that they might have found a suspect. They haven’t.  

Both UEGSec hesitate, as if they are looking, more likely attempting to fabricate, a reason as to why they should pursue this man further. Ultimately, they conclude there is little point and so move on. That is part of the reason Fredrik hates UEGSec so much. They look for reasons to go after people. It’s pick a target and pursue, irrespective as to whether they are guilty or not.

Having reached the next passenger, a young woman, they demand she present her ID and then question as to whether see knows anything about Dissidents. Fredrik doesn’t hear the reply. By this point he has tuned the voices out. He can’t listen to their public interrogations and lack of civility any longer as it will only succeed in making his blood boil more than it has thus far.

Dissidents, it’s a name Fredrik and the rest of the citizens of Lunar have been hearing more and more frequently about in recent weeks.

According to UEG propaganda they are a small group of rebels who are attempting to destabilise the productivity of the Moon in hopes of usurping control of it for some nefarious means. Fredrik can’t recall the details. The reasoning will be false. UEG propaganda always gives a reason as to why everyone else bar them, the mega-corporations and Earth are in the wrong.

The reality, at least according to opposing Dissident propaganda, is that they are a growing group of civilians who think the time is long overdue for the people of Lunar to rise up against the exploitative nature of the UEG, and the people of Earth by extension, who use the Moon and its people for nothing but maintaining an easy existence for all those who were born on the planet of humanities origin. Fredrik has heard their transmissions, illegally piggybacked on UEG network broadcast systems. He hasn’t a clue how they manage it or have avoided being caught, but he agrees with them to a point. The UEG and Earth do exploit the people of Lunar and yes they do deserve the right to govern themselves, but the truth is that is not going to happen. UEGSec have guns. They’re the only guns on the Moon. So even without numbers, which they can get via reinforcements that would funnelled up here through the LunarLink, the citizens stand no chance. And that would be if every inhabitant of Lunar joined the cause, which they haven’t, of that he is almost certain.

Either way the UEG regard the Dissidents as the highest priority targets for their UEGSec agents and have even gone as far as to issue orders that any Dissident member or sympathiser can be dealt with using whatever force is deemed necessary and at the discretion of the agents involved. That broadcasted order alone was terrifying for everyone on the satellite to hear. Yet, it is the direct result of a string of progressively more brazen Dissidents attacks against corporation property in the name of delivering a free Moon to its citizens.

These attacks, the Dissidents believe, are the only way of bringing about change, and think that the damages will force the UEG to accept demands of entering into a negotiation. A negotiation which the Dissidents believe will give them the opportunity to broker a deal that will hand the Moon its freedom and independence from the UEG. If they believe that is what fate awaits then they are sorely mistaken. The UEG will not enter into a negotiation. They would rather see the Moon destroyed than bow to terrorists, criminals and murderers.

The two UEGSec agents check several more passengers, finding all of them clear, before continuing toward Fredrik. The engineer doesn’t look in the agents’ direction, at least not fully. Instead, he glances to the corner of his vision as a bad feeling creeps over him and then picks at his fears like you might a scab on your arm.

He curses, silently to himself, wishing that the shuttle were closer to his destination, the housing district Persius, named after the founder of the Weaver’s Water Distribution Service, or WWDS.

The WWDS serves as the one and only utility company from which the people of Lunar can get there water. On the Moon there are no competition laws. Unlike on Earth they have never been written.

Nerves get the better of Fredrik as the pair of agents draw ever closer, having swiftly, too swiftly compared to the others they surveyed before, passed the last passenger before him. It’s why he is now up on his feet and mid-stride.

His aim is to head down the carriage and away from these UEGSec agents. What that will achieve he isn’t sure, but if he can stay away from them for long enough then he might be able to get off at his stop and avoid them. This isn’t something he would normally do but something tells him that the two agents may not be looking for Dissidents at all. Instead, it seems more like they just want a target and Fredrik gets the feeling that it might be him. He can still feel the pair’s eyes on him. He’s been able to for the last couple minutes. But he manages only to complete a single step and place his foot firmly back on the floor of the shuttle before he hears one of the agents call out, “Stop!”

Fredrik freezes in place. A section of him screams because he’s complied without hesitation. The voice in his head roars that he’s a fool, and that he should have kept going. But Fredrik knows what would have happened if he’d ignored the order, or indeed broke into a run. They’d have gunned him down. UEGSec don’t care. They have carte blanche; can do what they want when they want. No one is going to stop them. No one can stop them. If Fredrik believed otherwise he might have joined this supposedly growing group of rebels, but he doesn’t. In fact, he isn’t even sure that it is growing. It sounds more like a lie to convince others than it does actual truth.

Quickly the twin agents circle around either side of Fredrik to block his path. The engineer can feel sweat beading and then trickling, uncomfortably, down his back. He gulps, hoping that only he can hear it as his palms continue to grow clammy. He even has to force himself to focus on the men before him. If he looks away now they will take that as a sign of being guilty. He can’t afford that. Still, it doesn’t stop the thought of, why me, running through Fredrik’s head. He doesn’t have an answer. Likely he never will. Not that he knows what will come next. He has ideas and none of them do anything to ease his fears. In fact, they only amplify them.

“Credentials.” The man on Fredrik’s left spits as angry staring almost black eyes burrow deep into him. They aren’t black in colour but in the artificial light they look it. Fredrik wishes he could see the rest of the agents face, but it’s hidden beneath one of those helmets that they are usually adorned with. Though, the ability to glimpse the agents’ eyes is unusual. Just not as unusual as his colleague who’s face is uncovered.

Fredrik resists the urge to shudder as his skin crawls. Like he resists the urge he feels to look at the other agent. He doesn’t need to. He can see enough of the other half of this duos face and expression in his peripheral vision and it’s even more menacing than the agent who has made the demand.

“I don’t want any trouble.” Fredrik blurts honestly. The words leave his mouth without thought or intention as panic fills his eyes. That alone results in them shifting rapidly a little to the left and then back to the right over and over without breaking direct line of sight from the agent on his left at any point.

“Shut it and present your ID now.” The other UEGSec agent demands. A snarl appears across the agents round face as his amber coloured eyes narrow to suggest that he finds Fredrik suspicious.

Without pause Fredrik dives into his pockets and begins to rummage. He could have sworn it was in his right pocket but he finds nothing. It’s why he frantically dives into his left pocket. The pockets are deep but sparsely populated. Plus at any other time Fredrik is certain he’d lay his hand on his ID almost instantly. Right now however, while under pressure that is not the case. It’s why his heart is beginning to hammer off-kilter in his chest as sweat beads and threatens to trickle down his brow. Never before in his life has Fredrik been so conscious of the passing of time. So when his hand finally comes to rest on his ID badge some twenty nine seconds later he feels a wave of relief wash over him. Without pause he rips the ID badge from his pocket and then presents it with a shaking hand.

The agent on his left snatches the badge from Fredrik’s hand and then holds it up as if to compare the photo to the man it belongs to. Fredrik hasn’t changed much since the image on his ID and he’s thankful for that as he waits patiently and uneasily for a confirmation that all is good. Even if in the back of his mind he still worries that he might be being singled out. It wouldn’t be the first time UEGSec had been guilty of such things. In fact, it’s a widely known danger of coming face-to-face with the agents. To make matter worse there never seems to be a trigger or pattern to when it occurs and that makes it all the more terrifying.

If Fredrik could see the agents face it might ease some of his fears but the helmet that covers his face makes his expression indistinguishable. If only that were the same for the other agent who continues to snarl angrily as his helmet is lodged under one of his arms.

Fredrik knows for a fact that the agent should not have his helmet underarm. Not that he is about to question the UEGSec on his adherence to regulations.

Suddenly Fredrik catches a quick jab from the helmet wearing agent to his colleague. It’s a clear sign of attempting to gain the attention of the other UEGSec member and one that Fredrik concludes cannot be good. They didn’t take this long to conclude the previous passengers in this carriage were clear. At least Fredrik doesn’t think they did. He can’t be sure. The passage of time when it is you under the microscope compared to when you are a bystander is very different. But his belief is that his ordeal is lasting much longer than those around him did. That alone makes Fredrik want to gulp. He resists the urge encase it somehow implicates him in some negative way. How he doesn’t know, but he is in no way inclined to risk anything right now. He can gulp, sigh, shake, and anything else he feels necessary when this is over. If this is soon to be over, a voice calls in his head rather unhelpfully. The engineer tries to dispel it but fails and is instead forced to admit that he’d be lying if he wasn’t aware that when UEGSec agents are bored he’s heard tales of them picking on members of Lunar’s populace just because they can. The believed reason for this is said to be because it is something for them to do that helps break up the dull hours of their shifts. The truth, in Fredrik’s eyes, is they’re sick, sadistic and cruel.

The helmetless agent grunts and then asks, “What you doing on this transport?”

His voice is deep but quicker than Fredrik remembers compared to the last time the agent spoke. Still, it doesn’t change the short couple seconds of being unable to think before his brain finally kicks into gear, subconsciously taking over and forcing him to reply, “Heading back to my bunk in Persius.”

Even though his brain forced him to speak Fredrik still managed to blurt his answer with more fear and shifting pitch than he would have liked.

“Where from?” The other agent asks. His eyes are now hidden by his helmets visor. Fredrik doesn’t know when the man slammed it down, but this change is more than enough to further panic the engineer.

“I-Ishita Electronics. I just finished my shift.” Fredrik stutters as he glances from the faceless agent to the snarling one.

Fredrik is now convinced this is bad, very bad. He is the first and only one, of the few others in this carriage, who they have gone so in-depth with. That in no way can be a good thing. He should have run. He knows it now, but at the time was convinced that if he’d tried he’d have been gunned down. And it is true that he might have been, but he might have survived it. Whatever this is on the other hand it seems his likelihood of survival is much slimmer.

“What do you do there?” The helmet wearing agent quickly queries with curiosity and suspicion in his tone.

“I-I’m an…engineer.” Just as he finishes overcoming the catch in his throat to give the answer, Fredrik turns ever so slightly to show the wrench that is hanging off his waist.

He hopes that it will be enough to placate the agents. Whether he believes that it will he dares not consider but the answer soon comes as both UEGSec personnel before him draw and raise their weapons so that they are pointed at the centre of Fredrik’s chest. By that point the one who had been snarling at Fredrik his now wearing his helmet and barks, “Do not move!” His voice loud and angry but befitting its owner entirely.

Fredrik instinctively raises his hands, slowly, in surrender. They shake visibly as he holds them up. Though he does manage to ask with a mixture of panic and desperation, “What is this about?”

“You fit the description of a confirmed Dissident.” The agent on Fredrik’s left announces.

“What? That can’t be!” Fredrik spouts with incredulity, his eyes wide as they flit from one UEGSec member to the other and then back again. “I’m no Dissident! I’m a good honest worker!” Fredrik continues to promise as he attempts to peacefully protest against the insinuation. To do anything else will end in his execution, here and now on this shuttle. It might be want the agents want, but he isn’t about to give it to them.

However, the UEGSec agents ignore the engineers protests as the one who had been snarling, before he donned his helmet, asks, “How do you want to handle this?”

“Better safe than sorry.” The other agent replies with a shrug and a particularly cool tone of voice.

“What does that mean?” Fredrik demands as his heart races.

“It means you’ll never be involved with terrorism again, scum.” The agent on Fredrik’s right spits angrily.

“I’m not, never have been. I’m just a simple engineer.” Fredrik exclaims hoping, but knowing, that his pleas will go unanswered. So he screws his eyes shut and shrinks visibly as he cowers and waits for what he is sure is about to be his death. A thousand thoughts race through his head. Many are memories, a few are regrets. One such regret is how he ended up here in this moment. How he hadn’t listened to the voice in his head when he’d had the chance. It wasn’t a singular chance he’d had. In fact, it had been multiple and he’d ignored them all. He only really remembers the first, and not all those that had followed it. Still, he knows they had existed. But he’d ignored them and deemed them to be unnecessarily rash and overly risky. If only he’d listened.

Instead of shots however Fredrik hears one of the agents exclaim in surprise. Even though it could be a ruse, for what reason he cannot imagine, he dares to open his eyes to see what is going on. To his surprise he finds a woman with black hair cut into a bob completing the takedown of the second of the UEGSec agents using a shock dart pistol.

The agent on Fredrik’s left completing his drop to the floor as his body convulses and shakes angrily and beyond his control. His words, whatever they had once intended to be, are nothing more than unintelligible errs and groans.

Fredrik’s jaw drops, literally, for he cannot believe his eyes. Even though there is no way that his eyes deceive him. He’s saved and yet he feels no joy, just confusion. It’s why he stands rooted to the spot with a gawping look on his face unable to speak.

“We need to get going before more arrive.” The woman with the bob cut announces with a strong and steady tone as she locks her hazel eyes on Fredrik.

Her focus on the blond man who had been picked out as a target by the currently downed UEGSec agents lasts only several seconds. Following that her head turns this way and that as if she is searching for something.

Before Fredrik can answer and utter more than a pointless um the woman grabs his arm and hauls him forward and into motion.

They head back the way she came and the way he had been intending to go before the agents had ordered him to stop.

As they near the far end of the carriage, other passengers making sure to keep back and out of the pair’s way as they approach, more UEGSec agents arrive. Without warning or hesitation they open fire on the woman and Fredrik.

The woman with the bob cut shoves Fredrik violently, her hands slamming into his chest, to force him back into one of the boarding areas. As the shuttle is moving it is little more than alcove sealed shut against the world beyond its relatively thin metal skin. Not that there is any danger if the doors were not sealed. The time of the Moon being fatal to its inhabitants has long since passed.

For some reason it is at that moment that Fredrik rediscovers his voice and utters, “Thank you for saving me. I’m Fredrik Emerson.”

“Don’t mention it. I’m Carmen…Sarkisyan. Though now really isn’t the time for introductions or a chat, especially when agents are closing in on us.” The woman says without looking at Fredrik.

Instead, she dips in and out of cover to take hastily aimed shots at the advancing UEGSec agents. Her focus is on that entirely.

Meanwhile her statement forces Fredrik to recall the chaos that he is embroiled in and had somehow forgotten about. How he does not know, but as soon as the reality of his situation returns he feels an almost overwhelming surge of panic race through every muscle in his body. It’s paralysing and that paralysis almost sends him into a frenzy of considerations that he would have been better off never having dawn on him.

Carmen ignores Fredrik. She hasn’t the time to drag him out of the emotions he’s wallowing in right now. She just hopes he stays put as if he steps out and gets himself shot then there is little she will be able to do to help him.

Unfortunately, her limited ability to attempt to keep their attackers at bay quickly vanishes when she is forced to leap back into complete cover to avoid rounds that ping her position from the opposite direction.

Carmen curses as she searches the space around them, as limited as it is, while her brain calculates just how much time they don’t have before the UEGSec agents will collapse on their position from both directions and without hesitation slaughter them.

Her conclusion comes mere seconds later, not that she likes the one and only option available to her. And it is only a single option. It was one that first registered with her but that she had been hoping to avoid. However, it seems they are out of luck and before much longer they will be out of time too. As a result Carmen shouts above the sound of gunfire, and the resulting impacts, “Are you ready?”

“Ready for what?” Fredrik hollers back in reply. His voice is barely able to rise over the sounds of violence that is raining down on their position from both sides.

Carmen says nothing. She knows her voice would simply be lost to the cacophony of sound if she tried again. So instead she hits the emergency lock release, which is behind her, for the doors.

Fredrik cocks his head to one side, a quizzical look across his face that forces her to sigh, the sound of the exhalation lost, in the short time before she then roars, “To jump!”

The engineers’ eyes go wide in response, confirming that she has, somehow, been heard over the deafening din. That surprises Carmen, not that she has time to consider her success as Fredrik bellows, “Are you mad? If we jump at these speeds the impact will kill us!”

Carmen knows that which is why she smiles and indicates with her index finger what her free hand is hovering over.

Fredrik follows and traces to where the dark haired woman with hazel eyes is pointing. Once his eyes come to rest on the relevant item it takes him several seconds to realise what the woman intends. Once he does he can’t say that he really feels any less unconvinced. Not that Carmen gives him a second of extra time to declare as much as a smile creeps across her face that Fredrik can’t determine the reason for only for. He doesn’t have to wait long to find out as a split second later her now balled up fist slams into the emergency button.

An alarm squeals into life, drowning out and calling a halt to the weapons fire, before right after the shuttle lurches violently forward. For Fredrik and Carmen it is sideways and why both, though braced, are jolted in the same direction, toward the front of the shuttle. Meanwhile the UEGSec agents are thrown off-balance entirely. They at no point considered that the two assailants might activate the emergency brakes for the shuttle.

Carmen having regained her footing, unlike the agents surrounding them, focuses entirely on the view beyond the now open doors of the carriage. Seconds pass, only a handful of them. She’d like to wait longer but can’t be sure they have that much more time, so as Fredrik goes to speak she charges him. The taller man recoils in surprise just as she slams her shoulder into his torso, launching him backward off his feet.

He sails out the open doors and through the cool air that is ever-present on the surface of the Moon, his expression turning from confusion to terror as he goes. Then he turns his head expecting to see some danger awaiting him only to find that is that lies beneath him is the grey dust of the Moon’s surface. In that moment his expression softens, slightly, and then he slams into the ground. It’s a bone-shuddering thud but not as painful as he would have anticipated. Though, it doesn’t change the fact that he goes rolling over and over and over. His arms at his sides as Carmen, who jumped out right after, too goes tumbling along the grey dust.

Her vision is blurred and filled with dust kicked up by her and Fredrik’s antics, it stings. Then finally, after what feels like a half dozen minutes, the world around her stops spinning now that her momentum is finally spent.

However, her head continues to spin for a little longer as she is forced to wait precious seconds she isn’t sure she has to determine her surroundings. Just as she does UEGSec open fire once more on both of them from the wide open section of the still slowing shuttle on the elevated rails above and ahead of them.

Carmen’s head whips round just prior to her diving from her original position to avoid being lanced with military-issue ammunition. At the end of the dive she transitions into a forward roll. It isn’t perfect and sees her veering off to one side because she is still dizzy.

What she doesn’t realise is that her veering roll actually saved her life as the UEGSec agents shot where they anticipated the roll would complete and not where it actually did because of her sudden sharp change of direction during the manoeuvre.

Now back on her feet, Carmen dives behind a small outcropping of rocks that Fredrik has also scuttled behind for cover. He’s cowering and for good reason. After all if even one of those rounds hits it will tear a large bloody hole through whatever section of body it strikes. Carmen has seen the devastation UEGSec weapons cause. Not first-hand but in the aftermath of a firefight when all is still and deathly quiet. She can’t think about that right now. If she does it will stop her from doing what must be done, which is why she quickly gathers herself, forcing her thoughts and memories aside, and then clambers up onto her knees so that she can carefully peak over the edge of their cover.

As she does so bullets continue to pepper their position but none actively aim for Carmen. The woman concludes that either means they are not willing or able to attempt the shot. Her assumption is the latter because of the movement of the shuttle. For that Carmen counts her blessings, a surprising one but one she isn’t about to argue against.

Fredrik, beside her, breathes loudly through his gritted teeth as he covers his head with his arms, as if that will in some way protect him if the bullets managed to erode his cover. They wouldn’t, but it’s an instinctive and natural reaction and one that no one, not even Carmen, could fault him for.

But the woman with the bob cut isn’t aware of what Fredrik is doing. Rather, she has brought up her shock dart pistol, which she has somehow managed to keep hold of it throughout this ordeal. Rounds continue to pit the surface of the ancient rock that is serving as their protection until finally she is satisfied that she has lined up the shot. Several more seconds pass during which she attempts to steady her aim and then once concluding this is about as good as her chance is going to get, she fires, once. Not at one of the agents as that would have been pointless and futile, especially at this range. Rather, she aimed at an emergency panel. An identical copy of the one that she used to afford her and Fredrik their opportunity to decant from the shuttle without being eviscerated and transformed into little more than bloody smears on the Moon’s surface.

The shock dart hits its mark a short while later, much to Carmen’s relief who had been sure that she had missed due to how many seconds had passed. It really shouldn’t have seeing as it had to cross to a point that is a good way out of its stated effective range. But it has and instantaneously overloads the panel to reverse the implementation of the shuttles brakes. They release almost instantly, which sees the shuttle rapidly accelerates back up to what would be normal velocity for the transport, thus eliminating any opportunity the agents would have had at also departing the shuttle to pursue Carmen and Fredrik.

Carmen, however, isn’t inclined to stick around and find out if any agents are willing to test the likelihood of their survival if they do decide to leap from the once again speeding shuttle. It’s why she grabs a hold of Fredrik’s arm and hauls him up and onto his feet. He doesn’t resist. If he did and refused she would have no way of moving him. But thankfully he complied with her actions and why before he can say anything she states bluntly, “Follow me if you want to live to see another day.”

Fredrik, still in shock, nods without thought to confirm that he both understands and agrees even if he doesn’t know who this woman is really.

Sure he knows her name and that she saved his life while simultaneously risking her own numerous times, but that’s it. He knows nothing else about her.

At any other time he’d be wary of her because of that, but right now he cannot think about much other than this woman, whoever she is, has been his saviour.

One thought on “Second Class Humans

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