The Cavern – Part 3

All the council were watching me, as if I could refuse, as if I would, then I remembered that Elder Cantor had been an eminent explorer.

‘Really but Cantor…’

‘Is old,’ Cantor replied, ‘we need the younglings to help us out of this and I have no idea how the Cho-Lo’s work were as we know you suggested improvements to the current models.’

I swallowed, ‘but I only submitted the final copies of that a week ago!’ I wailed, as in I actually wailed and then fell silent.

‘Yes we know – we have several prototypes out there with the locator team as we speak.’ I paled, was this part of why I wasn’t included because I’d been working on something they needed? What if it didn’t work properly it was a brand new concept. Somehow I had ended up on my feet now I collapsed back down to the too ornate chair.

‘It’s untested,’ I said dully, ‘I never thought it would be used like this,’ I felt a deep frustration and a heaviness pushing down on me, the survival of our people could well ride on something I’d been working on purely to finish my education and as a fun thing. It seemed nightmarishly desperate to me and then I took in the grave and wrinkled faces around me. ‘Why didn’t you tell me things were this desperate, I could have put more time in, done it better or…’

‘Or burnt out with stress and fatigue, you have a good brain on you but you never did do well with exam stress.’ I looked up and saw my mother smiling gently at me, it was the first time in years. I had not been an exemplary child I had taken a round about route to achieve what I had.


‘Go and do your best, we know you always have,’ I nodded but stared at the table.

‘Jenleg will help you find the team and give you the paper work.’

I almost laughed at that – here we were trapped in the bowls of the earth using a piece of student work to try and find a way out and that didn’t even begin to cover the plight we found ourselves in and they were bothering with paper work? Would there be anyone left to read it?

I followed Jenleg out listening to them bicker over latrines and the issue of not enough composting vats having made it down, it made me conscious of the stim liquid having made it though my system. ‘Talking of toilets?’ I said playfully, the older woman nodded to me and lead me through to a series of tall thin conical tents, the sort I would have previously expected over babies beds to keep the midges and other biting insects away. They were suspended from a bar that had been fixed across the roof of this little side cavern. It already smelt pungent. It had already had two weeks worth of use, though only by the council members.

‘We have a cleaning and emptying rotor – everyone is expected to do latrines and site maintenance stuff unless too old, ill or young.’ I nodded I would not have expected anything else. I pushed my lips out in an expression of mild disgust and made myself go forward.

It was… an ordeal, the Suma are naturally clean animals, but we need space and water to be so. Here we had neither, not even soil to bury to proto soil as we thought of it. And I knew instinctively that this was going to be the best set – the council were fair but if there were limited numbers of compost vats and toilets to go with them then the council area would be the ones with the clean loos. They couldn’t afford to be sick. If sickness got them then it was a nasty future however short for everybody else.

Jenleg, led me through a labyrinth of canvas and too my surprise wooden planking, until we came to a little chamber set out for eating, ‘you will be hungry and have a lot of reports to read – we have these facilities set up as stop points going further into the cave system, the general population do not know about all of it, and that is the way it has to be if any Suma are to survive this – do you understand?’ I nodded dumbly knowing that those words would be hurting Jenleg, she was after all a medic.

She dumped a wodge of reports and schematics and data in front of me and then began to prepare me a cold cuts sandwich. I wanted something warm, the chill of the cavern was starting to get to me. ‘It is cold food until the fresh stocks have dwindled I’m afraid, we have chest freezers full of meat and milk and bread but we also have the fruit and salad and cheese and cold cut meats which must be eaten first. Lastly we have tinned and then dried foods. We have to prioritize I hope you understand. Stim on the other hand is available in vats as we are going to need it and the vats help to keep it and us warm with minimal fuel use.’

I nodded dumbly and began to process data, the portion of food placed in front of me was about two thirds of what I would normally have eaten and I hadn’t eaten for over 24 hours, ‘I am also reducing everyones rations, a bit at a time but we can survive on a fifth of our normal intake.’

Yeah I thought nastily, if we weren’t being expected to go off and do heavy duty stuff like building structures and emptying latrines. I ate and read and seethed, a deep gut ache that was hatred for the Nesu was beginning to build within me. I wondered how the general populace was taking this and the sniveling kids I’d seen queuing with me came to mind. I blinked away tears and hoped that there really was some way out of this cave.

Posted: Thursday, August 2nd, 2012 @ 8:33 am
Categories: Series, The Cavern.
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