It's back again! Wednesday, with another installment of Fortitude. This week my update is inspired by the prompt: Time to make tracks.
Fortitude Part 10
“Really? A corrupt government hiding their people away to preserve their own power. Machines left unfixed—not because they are broken, but because it took away a chance for them to line their own pockets.”
“It makes sense, Will. You know how the nobles are.” Teddy was curled up in a chair by the fire. Anna had left us, after she shared all her revelations about how the city leaders had shut off Schvesla’s machine on purpose, so they could force the people to buy their machines and coal to power them. They’d either converted them to their side or systematically removed all the Betas who could figure out what they were doing.
I didn’t know what to believe. If what she said was true, my entire plan was for naught. The map, Schvesla’s supposed codex… none of that was real. I’d been lured in by clues they left to try and save Betas and lead them here, where people could live free.
Sure the world was dangerous, but they’d survived. Even those who refused to live in the city, like the wildman, hadn’t died because they’d been forced outside the city walls—or chose to stay there when they found out the truth.
“I don’t know, Teddy. I don’t want to think about this anymore.”
He stood up. “They gave me a room. Come on. You can clean up and get some sleep.”
It was a switch, Teddy taking care of me. “How come you’re so okay with all this? You don’t even seem surprised.”
“I hate the nobles. I never did understand why you wanted to be part of them. Besides, I’ve read a lot of literature. Those in power always want to stay in power, and they’re always afraid of anyone they think might take it away from them.”
I snorted. “This isn’t a story, Teddy. It’s real life.”
“Writing is an art. Art imitates life.” He turned and opened a thick wood door. The room we were in was comfortable; it certainly wasn’t any kind of cell. I looked, but there wasn’t a lock on the door. There was even a real bed.
“I had a fresh ewer of water earlier. There’s still half if you’d like to clean up. I’m going to lay down.” Teddy shed his coat, hanging it carefully over the side of a chair. It was torn in one place, and there was dirt and other stains on it, but he acted as if it had been freshly laundered and pressed. He sat down to take off his shoes.
I turned my back on him when he began removing his shirt. I poured some water in the bowl and dipped a rag in the cool liquid. I scrubbed my face, neck, and hands and arms. The water was murky gray and nasty looking when I was done.
What I wouldn’t give for a bath. But dragging in a tub and filling it with water warmed would take a long time and was more than I was comfortable requesting. As comfortable as Anna’s house looked, it didn’t appear as if it had any indoor plumbing. That was too technologically advanced.
Besides, I wasn’t sure if we should stick around.
I stripped to my small clothes and then crawled into the bed beside Teddy. The sheets were rough, and the mattress was lumpy, but it was a far cry from the hard ground we’d been sleeping on, worrying if creatures were going to attack us.
“Do you really believe Anna’s story?” I asked Teddy. “Like, wholeheartedly?” I folded my arms under my head and stared up at the dark ceiling.
“Not wholeheartedly. I don’t know that I would believe in anyone that much, except for you. But it has the ring of truth. And if it is? We have to do something. Our families are back there. I don’t want to just leave them.”
“I agree. I think we wait for tomorrow night. We should take tonight and get some rest, then use tomorrow to find Wildman and resupply—maybe look around. In the early hours before the sky begins to get light would be the best time to make tracks outta here.
“We should try to get our weapons back. Anna might order her men to let us have them. She said we’re not prisoners here. It would be a good trial to see if they’re as good as her word.”
“Anna said Wildman is safe. He is with some others that used to roam around the jungle with him before they decided to ‘become civilized’. They’ve been trying to catch him for a while. It seems he likes living rough.” Teddy rolled on his side to face me. “How are we going to figure out if the council and nobles really are manipulating the city once we get back?”
“I’m not sure, but we can tell your father, right? He could print the story in the paper—he’s always looking for news to sell.”
“We have to have proof. They’d hang him for treason, and they still might, if we’re not careful. This is dangerous, Will. We can’t act rashly.”
“I know, I know.” It amused me that Teddy was lecturing me on being careful. “We’ll figure out a plan on the way back. I promise, if this is too much for us, that we’ll tell our parents before we do anything.”TBC
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