Second Class Humans

Carmen and Fredrik trudge down a dimly lit tunnel. Neither has said much of anything since they hurried away from the side of the shuttle rail. Fredrik doesn’t know where they are but it seems Carmen does. He finds comfort in that but feels he should say something. What he doesn’t know and so he keeps quiet and just continues putting one foot in front of the other until finally he devises something to say. It won’t be much but it’s got to be better than continuing this silence. Just as he goes to speak however a voice he doesn’t recognise demands, “Who goes there? This area is off-limits.”

Immediately Fredrik fears the worst. The male voice, definitely not his own, sounds like it holds authority and weight. To Fredrik that means only one thing, UEGSec. They always talk like that. How they’ve found Carmen and Fredrik he doesn’t know. Maybe it’s bad luck or perhaps it was always supposed to happen this way and Carmen was only present to lull him into a false sense of security. His previously steady heart rate doubles in that instant as the engineer considers brandishing his wrench. He doubts it will be effective but it’s better than nothing and that is the sum total of everything else he has on his person.

Before Fredrik can say or do anything Carmen calls back, “Relax Hans, it’s me.”

Fredrik’s heart leaps into his throat as he grabs the grip of his wrench ready to raise it and start swinging.

“Do you know you’ve got an unnatural shadow?” Hans advises as he raises the burst-rifle in his hands so that he can peer fully down the sight. Fredrik, in comparison to Carmen’s average sized frame, is a larger and darker shape that is trotting toward Hans hot on the heels of the woman who is wrapped in simply dark grey garments. They help her to blend in with any crowd she might find herself amongst. In turn that allows her to go about her business without being memorable in any way.

“Fully aware, and he isn’t a shadow. He’s a citizen.” Carmen replies calmly as she steps out of the layers of darkness and into a bright area bathed in light. The light cast by a trio of horizontal bars affixed to a vertical post.

“Basri isn’t going to like this.” Hans says just as Fredrik steps into the light only for his vision to be overwhelmed by the severity of the shift from a glow that was barely useful to this one which is dazzlingly brilliant. The brightness makes it impossible for the engineer to make out what this Hans looks like as he attempts to shield his eyes, with limited success.

Suddenly and as if on cue, Basri appears and queries, “What am I not going to like?”

He doesn’t get an answer, at least a verbal one. Not that he needs to as he quickly spots the extra shape that should not be present, Fredrik.

Basri at the glimpse of the man demands to know, “Why do you have a civ with you?”

His tone isn’t angry. Instead, it’s a mixture of confusion and irritation. To Fredrik that’s an improvement seeing as he has, since finishing his shift at Ishita, been threatened, shot at, assaulted, battered and then only seconds ago threatened with execution again.

“Don’t start Basri.” Carmen says with an index raised in warning before she continues. “This is Fredrik and Sec were going to kill him.” Her tone is cold as her hazel eyes look up at Basri’s to meet his judging brown eyes as they look down at her. Not in a superior or condescending way but in a way that anyone taller than the person they are speaking to might.

Basri says nothing at first. Rather, he considers for a moment in silence so that he can choose his words carefully before he utters them. When he is ready he asks, “That doesn’t explain why he’s here Carmen.”

“We had to jump off one of the shuttles. It didn’t feel right leaving him there in the dust to fend for himself.” Carmen admits with a shrug that indicates that she made a judgement call at the time and that if Basri doesn’t like it then it’s far too late to change what happened in the past.

“I would have. If I’d bothered to save him at all, that is.” Hans remarks before exhaling. His brown eyes linger on Fredrik who is now able to make out that these two men, like Carmen, are also clad in simple and unremarkable dark grey garments. However, the one named Basri has short black hair, not at all styled, while Hans has brown hair that is half as long on the sides as it is on the top.

With his eyes having adjusted Fredrik can also make out that both are armed, though he would only call Hans’ a proper weapon. Basri you see is armed with a rivet gun. Fredrik is sure it’s capabilities make it deadly but it really doesn’t compare to the burst-rifle in Hans possession. How Hans came to own such a firearm Fredrik cannot imagine, and right now isn’t inclined to enquire seeing as it seems neither man is thrilled by the engineers presence.

“Really? You’re going to try and play the tough guy Hans. Drop it. It doesn’t suit you. Fredrik might not know but I do. You’d have done the same. It’s in your nature. So quit the macho bull.” Carmen fires back in response, her hazel eyes lingering on the man just long enough to evoke a shrug. It neither confirms nor denies Carmen’s words, not that it needs too.

“Well you’re back now. So you can turn Fredrik lose.” Basri states with an upward nod of his head.

“Can’t do that.” Carmen utters much to the surprise of all three men who all exclaim in unison, “Why?”

Their voices are incredulous as the single word question leaps from between their collective lips.

“Say I turn him lose and UEGSec catch up to him, and we all know they will Basri, they will torture him for info…” Carmen doesn’t finish her statement. She doesn’t need to. Basri is smart enough to realise where she was going and that she’s right. And it seems Fredrik does too as he stands with his mouth agape.

Basri curses loudly and then seeing no other option now that Fredrik, a civ, knows how to get to where they are, relents. “You’re right. We can’t turn him lose.” Basri says looking Carmen right in the eyes. The look lasts mere seconds. Following the brief silent exchange Basri then focuses on Fredrik to whom he utters, “Welcome Fredrik. It seems you’ve joined the ranks of the Dissidents.”

“I don’t want to be a Dissident. I just want to go home.” Fredrik blurts feeling cold, exhausted and defeated.

Hans erupts into laughter, slaps Fredrik on the back and then informs, “Such a thing is not going to happen while our oppressors remain on Lunar.”

“Hans is right, but time is of the essence, so if we’re going to chat we need to do it on the move. Time is short, we might only get one chance at this and we’re already running behind schedule.” Basri informs.

“Get only one chance at what?” Fredrik enquires confused.

“Severing the LunarLink.” Hans blurts without thinking.

After all, he sees no reason to keep their plans a secret if Fredrik is joining them. Not that it changes the response from both Basri and Carmen which is a pair of glares tossed his way. Hans shrugs in response as means of an apology that he doesn’t really understand the reason for needing to issue. Meanwhile, Fredrik spits in disbelief, “You cannot be serious! That’s madness. And I’m no terrorist. I want no part in this…this insanity!”

“We don’t have time for this hysterical breakdown. You deal with it Hans, this is your mess.” Basri orders succinctly and a furrowed brow.

Fredrik continues to back away, clearly intent on running. What he thinks it will gain him he doesn’t know. All he does know is that he isn’t a Dissident, a terrorist. So far he’s been involved in a misunderstanding. But that isn’t about to drive him to an act of violence like the destruction of the LunarLink, even if he hates the UEG, the mega-corporations, UEGSec and the people of Earth.

The LunarLink being the elevator-like connection that allows for the safe and secure transport of goods predominantly from the mega-corporation manufacturing facilities on Lunar to Earth, where they will be sold and consumed by the general human population. Nothing made on Lunar is for sale their as all goods are earmarked for the people of Earth. However, the LunarLink can also facilitate the transport of people and while all Earth citizens can seek transport to the Moon, the same cannot be said in reverse as the citizens of Lunar are not permitted to venture to the world of humanities origin. Truth-be-told, the LunarLink is seldom used by any Earth citizen save for occasional visits from mega-corporation management and UEGSec personnel who rotate on and off tour depending on assignment.

Before Fredrik has the chance to run Hans throws his fist in a wide arc. Seconds later the mass of balled up flesh and bone slams into the engineer’s jaw. Fredrik’s head snaps right, rendering him immediately unconscious. His limp body crumples to the floor in a heap mere moments after with a dull thud.

Hans smiles as he turns and looks at Basri and Carmen. Basri shakes his head while Carmen sighs and then points out that, “You could have at least caught him.”

Hans shrugs to indicate that he doesn’t see what difference it would have made. Basri rolls his eyes to Hans’ shrug before ordering, “Hans carry Fredrik.”

“Why? He’s unconscious. We could leave him here. He’ll be out for a good while.” Hans chuckles without realising that perhaps he shouldn’t.

“Will he? Do you want to stake our lives and the mission on that?” Carmen queries with a more serious expression than Hans can ever remember seeing on her face before now and that is saying something.

Ultimately Hans’ shoulders drop after he casts his gaze to Basri only to find that he too seems to be in agreement with Carmen. That is a fight Hans cannot win, and he knows it. That is why he quickly lumbers over to Fredrik and hauls him off the ground and up onto his shoulders, grumbling to himself as he does so.

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