Another week--and this one we get some really juicy information finally! This week's flash with the Wednesday Briefers is inspired by the prompt: The truth is out there, and it's scary as hell.
Fortitude Part 23
I blinked. “Why do you ask?” I spoke carefully, casually, but I could tell from their expressions my caution was like openly admitting my parents were up to something bad.
“Our parents sold us to the king,” Chester said bluntly. He crossed his arms over his chest. “Just like yours sold you, even if you don’t know it yet.”
Teddy’s mouth dropped open. “You can’t sell people.”
Chester snorted. Bart elbowed him. “I’m afraid it’s entirely possible. It’s not even that much of a stretch. What is apprenticeship, after all, but indentured labor? Do you really believe have a choice?”
Printing wasn’t Teddy’s dream, and we both knew it. It wasn’t so bad; he had no head for numbers, at all. Words were more his thing, but his drunken father wouldn’t let Teddy pursue writing.
The last beating for story telling had been pretty bad; the paper wasn’t selling so well and he’d been missing his drink. Blaming Teddy for wasting time—the precious few hours he had to himself—was nothing new. The beating was nothing new.
And no one really cared.
I grabbed Teddy and pulled him in close. I squeezed his hand behind out backs. “My dad never cared if I worked with him.”
“Of course not. You’re not going to be a… whatever your family does,” Chester said. “You were always destined for something else.”
My plans had been mocked by my brother several times; I’d made no secret of my unhappiness at my family’s station. My reasons had been my own, no one else’s. “And what is that?”
“Slavery,” Bart whispered. He took a fortifying breath. “And then death, if you’re lucky.”
“Because you’re a beta.” I knew my status made me stand out; my parents had told me many times of my special nature. That’s why I’d had so many tutors.
Bart looked at Teddy who was leaning against my side. “And because he’s a gamma.”
“What does Teddy have to do with it?” I demanded. I stood rigid. Teddy began to sweep his hand up and down my back.
“You’re connected. That’s why you’re in so much danger.”
At first I thought he meant our physical touch. Usually Teddy and I were far more circumspect but the brothers had been touching since Chester stopped holding a knife to my throat. They were in sync, far more than I could even fathom, like two halves of a whole.
Just how I felt about Teddy. Even though I felt the urge to move away, to protect our secret, I didn’t. That would draw more attention to our actions by making it seem as they were untoward and we shouldn’t be touching.
“I’m nobody special,” Teddy said. That was so not true. I pinched him and he winced. “What? It’s the simple truth. Gammas are always looked down on.”
Bart didn’t argue; if he was one too, he knew
“Your parents introduced you, didn’t they? But are they friends?”
My parents, be seen with someone like Teddy’s father? No.
“Do either of you have other friends? Someone more than a casual acquaintance?”
I’d been far too focused for friends, and Teddy’s dad worked him hard.
“Have your parents been pressuring you about your coming of age lately?”
Of course they had, but didn’t everyone’s? Joining adult society was only done once.
“He doesn’t have a clue,” Chester said. He leaned forward, spitting out the words. “Your whole life has been a lie. You were groomed to become nothing more than a means to a very selfish end. Your purpose begins and ends with the capabilities of your minds.”
He ignored his brother’s chiding. “No! Their ignorance can’t go on, Bart. Do you want them to learn the hard way? The truth is out there”—he waved his hand upward—“and it’s scary as hell!”
My stomach roiled. Chester was an abrasive boor, but the agony in his voice was plain.
“We’re not as naïve as you think. We’ve heard things. Look, Teddy and I came here for answers. We’re on a path and we can’t turn aside. But we’re listening. Can we sit down and just talk, without this?” I waved a hand between us, the separation and distrust a nearly tangible border across the scraped up floor.
The room was shadowed, but I could see a few chairs grouped around a battered table near one wall. Bart and Chester stared into each other’s eyes; I waited for their response.
Chester deflated, some of his anger trickling away, though I sensed a vast ocean of it inside him. “Fine,” he muttered.
Bart even bustled over to a small brazier and pulled off a pot of warming liquid, pouring it into cups for tea. All in all, seated at the table with china cups in front of us, the mood had changed quite a bit.
From everything I’d seen, I had the sense our time to find answers was running out far sooner than I anticipated. Ana had raised questions about the hidden nature of our city’s ruling class, and my misgivings about those being truth were almost gone.
Something was very, very wrong in the city.
“A beta and gamma are not as different as everyone thinks,” Bart said. “We think differently, but when we’re close to a beta, the ability to filter and focus changes when we fugue. The power of our minds is such that we have nearly unlimited computing capability—but we can’t really express that physically through power. Betas can.”
Bart paused and Chester stepped in, speaking for him. “Betas can do all sorts of things. Power machinery—like Schvesla’s machine. That’s how it powered the whole city.”
“Right, but it drains them. That’s why his design was so revolutionary. It amplifies a small bit of power exponentially.”
“Exactly. Now think about the other things a beta can do with their power.”
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