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Manoeuvers in the Dark
frustrated mother of teenager
rix_scaedu
This is my 12th story of the Apocalypse Bingo, and it is based on the prompt "Rich People Are Evil." It follows on from Change Can Begin Slowly, and came in at 1,391 words.

 

Sluen returned to her family's quarters after the shift was over, and the team's report had been entered into the chain of command. She had decided on her way home to talk to her father about the contents of that report as soon as she could; Elder Dirryck Monstead liked to be that one step ahead of his fellows when he could be, and Sluen could stand to be in better favour with him. That was why she violated his pre-dinner privacy and knocked on his office door.


 

His face went the angry puce colour that usually led to one of his tirades, but Sluen forestalled him with, "I'm sorry to disturb you, Father, but I report from my shift has been submitted to the chain for consideration by the Council, and I thought you would want to hear about it before the other Councillors."

His colour subsided, and Sluen wondered when his underlying skin tone had become that become that dirty grey colour. She made a mental note to organise a medical appointment for him. "If you've got information for me, then by all means, come in here, girl, and tell me all about it."

"Thank you, sir." Sluen stepped through the open door and sat in the chair her father indicated. She waited for him to resume his seat behind his desk.

He spoke before she had a chance to start talking, "Well, what is your shift recommending?"

"We're not recommending anything," Sluen politely corrected. "We are reporting on observations that will be of interest to the Council. I thought you would want to hear the gist of it from me, rather than waiting for the report to be tabled."

Her father looked at her, thunderous expression gone. "That's well thought of, " he said approvingly. "I do like to be first with the news. What have you heard?"

"We observed power fluctuations in the barrier level consistent with lights being turned on and off while the level was explored." Sluen sat quietly and waited.

"Looters? The enemy? Can you be more specific?" He sat forward in his chair, forearms supporting him as he leant on the desk.

"We can't, sir. The cyber units didn't activate, so they didn't take pictures. Ithen, our supervisor, thinks they were barbarians, but there was nothing to indicate that. It might be that whoever it was is from the guard group." She added thoughtfully, "There was nothing to indicate that they tried to open the airlock."

"Our founding ancestors were convinced that the guard group would stay where they were," commented her father. "Their children were not so convinced, and even made plans to repel the inhabitants of the upper level by violence. Mind you, the Council that came up with that plan were held by their children not to have ever read a technical specification in their lives - that's why membership of the Council these days requires bloodline, education and service to the bunker."

"I wondered if something might have gone wrong on the guard level, and some of them may have come downwards seeking help," remarked Sluen.

"That's a good thought," agreed her father. "I'm inclined to take a defensive posture, myself, but if whoever it is wants to ask for help instead of expecting to break in and help themselves to our stores, I'd be more inclined to want to aid them. If it is the guard group, and they haven't been breached to the surface, I wouldn't think that biological contamination would be an issue - the things our founders were worried about would have wiped them out by now." He smiled smugly to himself, and said, "Thank you for the advance notice, Sluen. I won't forget when it comes time to distribute the household allowance of nonessentials."

That might be a very generous reward, depending on how things went between her father and her siblings. Sluen was rather pleased, there were a number of things she would be very happy to receive or gain the goods to trade for. "Thank you, sir. If there is nothing else, I'll leave you to your thoughts."

As she went to stand, he forestalled her with, "Actually, I've been wondering. Why do you work in the monitoring centre?"

Sluen considered lying, but her father had always been able to tell when she did that, and right now he was pleased with her. "In the short term, I want to be qualified to speak in the Sessions. At the moment the only people of my generation who are qualified to do that are Berniy and Ulge. Frankly, I think we need more voices there. Voices that aren't Wedswurths." She even allowed her pronunciation to slip into the modern version of the name, instead of correctly using the original pronunciation.

Her father nodded. "The Wadsworths have been trying to win the hearts and minds of the Sessions for at least two generations. Even if behind closed doors they still think the founders should have debt-slaved everyone outside the central families. When he was your age, Berniy and Ulge's father used to say that we should be getting ready to fight our way out through the guard group. I'm a selfish man," he admitted, "but the Wadsworths have always been worse than us. Back in the day of the founders, they wanted to lock all the support people, the ones who'd gotten the central families here, out of the bunkers completely."

"They didn't think about the problems of inbreeding, did they?" Sluen witheringly.

"Probably not, given who they've married over the years," agreed her father. "Not that I can talk, with my ancestry. Marrying your mother was probably one of the best decisions I made; you children should avoid most of the family health problems. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll take a few minutes on my own before dinner." He smiled benevolently as Sluen saw herself out of the room.

Later that night, at a business meeting in another part of the bunker, Dirryck Monstead sat opposite his non-family political protege, Ledd Abbot. "We talked a while ago about finding you a wife," said Dirryck as he poured the younger man a shot of pale, bunker-produced whiskey.

"We did," agreed Ledd, as he lifted his cup to salute his mentor, "but the desirable ladies have no wish to pass the time of day with me, let alone consider conducting the intimacies of marriage and daily life in my company." He tossed back the iquor and commented, "Apparently their parents have all warned them about men like me. My name might even have been in the warnings."

"Your parents did publicly what most people who've made it onto the Council have done privately," replied Dirryck. "You understand that I'm making no admissions about my own behaviour here."

"I probably wouldn't hear them if you did," answered Ledd. "If it wasn't for you, I'd be sorting trash and living in a cubicle on the work floor."

"That trash experience is what makes you useful to me," pointed out Dirryck, "because that gives you a voice in the Sessions. Really though, sleeping cubicles in the trash facility shouldn't be an accommodation option. While living space volume is a status marker, though, I can't afford to give up any of my household's space. My influence in the Council would be affected."

"And that wouldn't be good for any of us," agreed Ledd.

"I have found you a potential wife," added Dirryck. "It turns out that one of my daughters, Sluen, is working to become qualified to speak in the Sessions. She thinks we need more voices there." He smiled, "That, and my interests in you both, gives you two things in common. You should meet her - the two of you might even like each other."

"As we discussed, women tend not to like me, sir." Ledd gave the older man a wry smile.

Dirryck drank his own whiskey, then as he poured them both some more, he said, "Try compromising and being pleasant. Find...things that you both like. I can manipulate her into marrying you, particularly if the two of you move into one of the family sub-suites afterwards, but it would help if you work at being a good option."

Ledd sighed and raised his cup, "To being a better choice than I am now!"

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