I promised this a while ago.
SO I'M DOING IT NOW!
okay, no more caps (or sugar.) I overslept so that is why I'm not actually writing something right now... hmm. Please enjoy.
Mira struggled to find her grip with her wet palms. She didn’t understand how it could be so dark, yet so unbearably warm at the same time. The young girl was tired, sore, sweaty and slightly delirious, the events of the night before not quite sinking in. Yet despite it all, she still climbed.
“Are you…okay?” The man above her asked. His name was Barrack and he had the strangest speech pattern Mira had ever heard. His voice was deep and masculine but it cracked often, also he seemed to struggle to find what to say. Yet, what shocked Mira the most was his sheer size. He was a good head and a half taller than her, his shoulders were incredibly broad and he was pure bulky muscle. Despite that, he moved gracefully in the cramped corridors, letting his legs hang while he only used his upper body to climb. Barrack was obviously used to doing this, he knew to wear little clothing, unlike Mira who was still wearing all her pieces, he instead just wore a shirt and baggy pants.
“I’m okay,” Mira muttered, a little more rudely than she had intended. They had been climbing for several minutes now and she couldn’t even feel her arms anymore. “What were you doing here anyway?”
“I work…I work here. In the tunnels.” Barrack answered.
“I fix things, mostly the rails.”
“You fix the rails? You know how they work?” Mira asked, honestly astonished.
“When they break…sometimes they don’t, but I still fix them,” Barrack paused, as if something suddenly occurred to him. “I was trained to do it, because I am of the First Stratum.”
“The first?” Mira gasped. She never met anyone from above the fourth, they were enigmas, people treated better by the Subjectors because of their superior intelligence and physicality.
“Yes,” Barrack said simply. “Is that strange?”
“Yes!” Mira exclaimed.
“I’m sorry…” Barrack muttered, his voice full of sudden guilt.
“Don’t apologize!” Mira hissed, horrified by his overreaction.
“Sorry…” Barrack repeated again.
“No…” Mira shook her head in frustration. “You shouldn’t apologize for apologizing. I didn’t mean you were weird in a bad way, just different than what I’m used to.”
“What are you used to?” Barrack asked quietly. The thought occurred to Mira suddenly, this man was loyal to the Subjectors, why wouldn’t he be? They took good care of him.
“Just normal folk, nobody so important.”
“I’m important?” Barrack asked, slightly confused. “I know I’m useful, but I wouldn’t say I’m important.”
“So humble!” Mira joked, giggling slightly. She was cut off when her hand slipped slightly, it was hard to explain, it was like her grip just lost all strength. She cried out, falling backwards, the sense of dread kicking in. Yet Mira felt something grip her arm and the resulting force as she was whipped slightly.
Barrack hung above her, she could barely see him in the darkness, only a shape. He was hanging from his left arm while forcing his back against the wall so that he would remain steady, the right arm held her wrist. Mira gawked at him as she remained suspended, how was he so strong? Was this what the First Stratum was capable of? Such great feats of ability while at the same time being intelligent enough to understand Subjector technology? There was no way he would relate to her plight.
The young man grunted audibly, he lifted Mira up like she was nothing and placed her on a solid ledge.
“Here is a fire escape, we’ve been at this for an hour so you’re tired.” Barrack said swiftly. He reached past her and opened the door, letting the light and fresh air pour in. Mira sat there stunned, huffing while he adjusted his position so that he was across from her, keeping his arms pinned so that he remained upright.
“That was incredible, you saved my life,” Mira whispered, slightly ashamed that she couldn’t help herself in the situation. Then suddenly something occurred to her. “We’ve been climbing for an hour?”
“Over an hour now, I’m shocked you’re doing so well. We’ve crawled a bit too but you seem to get really quiet once in a while…”
Mira felt her head, it was wet with sweat and perhaps blood. She was sure she had taken a blow to the head at some point, was she slipping out of consciousness? Was she in danger and didn’t even realize it?
“That’s amazing that you know how long we’ve been here. You are pretty smart,” Mira admitted.
“I wouldn’t…” Barrack began but suddenly cut off, his eyes falling upon her metal boots. Before Mira could protest, Barrack had pulled up his legs, pinned them against the wall and was already studying her metal boots. “They’re broken.”
“I know,” Mira grunted. If they worked, she would have jumped out the fire escape earlier and grinded away. Right now, her only chance of escape was to follow this mysterious young man and hope he didn’t report her.
“Strange,” Barrack said, as if talking to himself. He gingerly lifted up her legs and examined the boots and the wire. “It is all intact, even the wiring.”
“I know, they’re broken for some reason.” Barrack reached over and bent Mira forward, she protested audibly but he examined her backside. “What are you doing?!”
“The belt,” Barrack said simply. “The small turbine the boots use is placed within, it creates a current which powers the boots. Revius always has a magnetic field, but the mineral in the boots is designed to have a weak field unless the current is switched on.”
“So I don’t stick to the floor right?”
“Exactly. The connection between the switch and the turbine has been severed. As a result, the loop of energy the turbine creates to keep itself turning was broken. I can fix this easily back at my workshop.”
“You would do that?!” Mira exclaimed. To her own surprise, she sat back up and seized his massive hands and shook them. Barrack’s face turned red, his eyes wide. He reeled back, visibly uncomfortable. “Sorry about that!” Mira added, barely able to contain her excitement. “Subjectors damn these things for breaking in the first place though…” She cut off.
“What did you say?” Barrack asked, his expression shocked.
“I said nothing, don’t worry about it.” Mira was frustrated with herself, normal docile citizens referred to the monsters as the Masters, not the Subjectors like those right of mind did.
“Okay,” Barrack said simply. He smiled awkwardly, obviously unsure of what to say next.
“So we should get moving again,” Mira said. She went to move, but her body screamed in pain, she winced as a result.
“You’re in no condition to climb anymore,” Barrack said, suddenly in control of his tone.
“But my boots and…” Mira was interrupted as her stomach growled, she hadn’t realized how hungry she was.
“Here,” Barrack said, he turned around and hung off the wall, his back to her. “Climb on.”
“Are you sure?”
“You’re small, it should be no issue,” Barrack replied. Reluctantly, Mira reached out, putting one hand on his shoulder, with the other still holding the edge. Next she wrapped her legs around his chest as best she could, but his chest was massive and she couldn’t even hook her feet. Barrack seemed stable so slowly she let go of the ledge and let him support her completely.
Barrack took off at an incredible pace, climbing so fast that Mira cried out and grabbed around his neck. She was close to him, he was so large, she felt like a child when this close, completely dwarfed. This is what a life of eating enough food to grow at a healthy rate had caused, people of the higher Stratums were truly giants. Had Mira been slowing him down this entire time? He could have easily doubled the distance if he had gone off alone. It was all so embarrassing, she put her head down on his back, trying to relax, and hopefully her head would stop spinning. Barrack smelt good, a little heavy of smoke, but he was clean and different than what Mira was used to.
They traveled like this for several minutes in silence. Every so often Barrack would stop to rest for a few seconds, and each time he would take off again and climbing again. Eventually they reached narrow tunnels that required them to crawl, Mira could do this on her own. After even more climbing and crawling, they finally came to what felt like a dead end. Barrack reached upwards, and grabbed a wheel, turning it till it opened, he pushed it open and the door flipped over, slamming as it hit the ground in the room. Barrack moved aside so that Mira could crawl over him and through the trap door. She stood up for the first time in a small eternity. Her legs hurt so much, but it felt good to move back and forth slightly. Mira was stunned by what lay in front of her.
Mira had never seen quarters so large. The ceiling itself was at least three metres high, while the room was massive and open, twenty, no thirty people could live in this at least. Yet the entire space was taken up with things: shelves, tables, couches and even a bed in the far corner. The windows were massive, however they’re view was ground level, and capable of being covered with metal blinds. Mira had never been in a place that was so large yet could be so private!
Despite herself, Mira found herself delving deeper into the room. One section was a work station, covered in tables, plans and tools! Small devices lay sprawled everywhere. In another corner, there was an entire wall of bookshelves, consumed by hundreds of massive tomes. Stepping closer, Mira read that most of them had strange titles, revolving around sciences she had never heard of.
“This is incredible,” Mira exclaimed happily. Her eyes fell upon the furthest wall and she was completely caught off guard. An entire wing was filled with carvings and statues that could be called art. She stepped closer, seeing the incredible detail that had gone into everything. There were little toy men carved from wood, little dolls of pretty girls made of clay and even strange abstract shapes that were made from twisted metal. Mira couldn’t help herself, she reached out and picked up a small figurine. The girl it depicted was beautiful, wearing a strange dress that seemed to flow in one spot, it was amazing.
“Barrack, this is all so…” Mira’s eyes widened and she dropped the figurine, it hit the ground and shattered.
Barrack was making his way towards her slowly, but it couldn’t even be called walking. Despite how large and imposing he was, he was hunched over, grasping onto something. It was made of metal with four legs and a handle, a walker. He lifted it up and placed it down gingerly, proceeding to slowly drag his legs forward one at a time. In the tunnels he had moved so quickly, so naturally, climbing with just his upper body and letting his legs dangle. Now Mira understood why.
“You’re crippled,” Mira gasped. She moved over in an attempt to help him move, but he was so slow and so large she didn’t know what to do. Barrack simply lifted his head, he smiled at her but his eyes were full of shame.
“Yeah. I am,” He said simply. “More than that, it wasn’t an accident that did this to me, I am sick.”
“I don’t understand,” Mira said shaking her head in confusion. Barrack shuffled over to a nearby couch in the time it would have taken her to do it a dozen times over. He used his upper body to do most of the work, but his legs slowed him down severely, dragging against the ground, the sides of his feet often touching the ground instead of his soles. Barrack did this with little concern, every so often his feet wouldn’t go forward, and he was forced to reach down and pull his foot to where he needed it.
Barrack angled himself towards the seat, instead of sitting down normally he simply fell backward, hitting the cushions hard. Mira walked over carefully, her eyes not leaving him as she sat beside him hesitantly, hands on her lap. The large man proceeded to pull up the baggy pant leg of his right leg, then his left.
Mira gasped as she got a look at both his legs. They were both sunken in, only as big as the bones made them. The muscle wasn’t just lean, it was hardly there, in fact the right leg was visibly more muscular, although that did not mean much.
“When I was eleven, my legs started to fail me.” Barrack said solemnly, a distant look in his eyes. “I had already been selected for the First Stratum by that point and it was an incredible opportunity. Yet, shortly after, my legs stopped working, the muscle deteriorated and I eventually could barely walk. It’s only gotten worse the older I’ve gotten, some days I can’t even move my arms.”
“My ancestors…” Mira whispered, trying to fully project the sympathy she felt. Barrack was First Stratum, he was massive, in good shape and very muscular, how could he suffer from something so… so horrible.
“I’m sorry you had to see that,” Barrack muttered, guilt crossing his face. “I shouldn’t have.”
“No!” Mira interrupted, she placed a hand on his. “You’re incredible! You are crippled yet you climb so much every day! And you’re so fast at doing it, I wish I was half as strong willed as you.”
“Thanks,” He responded quickly. Why did Mira feel guilty? She was a criminal, hunted by the Subjectors. The night before she had watched as people she knew and cared about died horribly. She had promised to survive, and until a few moments ago, that was all that had been on her mind.
“About those boots…” Mira said awkwardly.
“Who are you?” Barrack asked suddenly, his eyes narrowed and he did not break eye contact.
“What are you talking about Barrack?” Mira asked innocently.
“Don’t,” Barrack hissed. “You’re small, obviously malnourished, wearing grinding boots, covered in bruises and scrapes, and you referred to the Masters as the Subjectors. There was heavy damage dealt to the rails last night, are you connected?”
“Barrack,” Mira said, looking away for a moment before sighing. It was obvious now that he was no fool, she could lie but it would likely get her nowhere. Mira wasn’t in a position to run or beg, she would ultimately do what it took to keep her promise and survive. “You’ve saved my life, I should be honest with you. I don’t have a Stratum, I am a criminal, part of the rebellion, helping the Allies fight the Subjectors so that we can free humanity from their slavers.”
“I see,” Barrack said, looking down for a moment. Yet his expression changed to interest. “So I’ve always wondered about that. Why do you do that? Why would you fight the Masters when they treat us so well and take such good care of us.”
“They don’t,” Mira hissed, a little more aggressively than she had intended. “The Subjectors are monsters, killers that abuse us and keep us from taking care of ourselves, they separate us from our parents and force us to mine that rock for them. Some people like you, people who they deem useful are treated well, but the rest of us live horrible lives of filth and neglect. Forced into small homes together, forced to live without privacy, assigned jobs, assigned whom we have our children with. Not even given the chance to raise our own children.”
“Is that so?” Barrack said, clutching his chin, looking to be deep in thought.
“You don’t believe me?! I know you live a comfortable life here with everything you could possibly need, but out there your people suffer while you help the Subjectors oppress us! We’re all cattle! You just happen to be better fed than us.”
“How else do we free ourselves?”
“You could ask,” Barrack muttered. “I’m sure they don’t understand…”
“They do. And they will never let us go willingly, we have to fight our way out of their city.”
“I still don’t…”
“Don’t be so naïve, Barrack. Step outside your beautiful home, climb out of your dark caverns and watch the city that you help rebuild, you’ll quickly realize that no human is actually happy. It’s made worse that the Subjectors use a good man like you to help keep your own people down.”
“I’m sorry.” Barrack whispered.
“I told you! Don’t apologize. Just do! Help me Barrack, come with me, we can escape together. There are people I could introduce you to, they would value your intelligence much more than the monsters.”
“They wouldn’t.” Barrack replied quickly. “They would see me the same as every other human would, just a cripple who happens to be smart and strong. I repair the rails because I myself am on a rail, I can only move as far as this walker would let me in this room, or in the narrow corridors below the rails. Outside the city where would I be able to move? Would I even be useful as a cripple to anyone?”
“You could be…” Mira said weakly. “You’re incredible, you really are. I like you and want to see you survive.”
“You’re the first human I’ve talked to in three years,” Barrack said suddenly, Mira couldn’t hide her surprise. “The first girl in ten. My orders are brought to be via courier, automated. I don’t talk to anyone and this has been something I will never forget. But I can never leave my rails, never stop my duty. I will help you escape, but that is all, I will remain here, forgotten. It is all I am good for.”
“I won’t tell anyone about you. There is nobody to tell. I’ll fix your boots and get you as close to the outside of the city as I can, you can manage from there. I don’t understand why you hate the Masters, but I can’t blame you for it either.”
“Thank you.” it was all Mira could manage to say.
“Don’t thank me,” Barrack said as he reached up for his walker. “I’m not helping you, just giving you the tools to help yourself.”