Winter Continues

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Please See: Written due to requests made to the first part- Winter in June.

Vizas walked up and down in his little white cell, his little white home and growled. One year and sixty days to go… One year and sixty days in this hole.

Auxi had made it bearable. For some time Vizas had even dared to enjoy the cell, not having to make decisions, not having to be on his guard all the time like he did at the Tower. But all his reckless bouts burst when he saw Auxi trudging on, even when it was the coldest winter in the land and that too in June. Of course, the Tower was involved. And Vizas hated having to be in Waratia while Auxi made her visits everyday through the numbing cold, and her cloak reminded Vizas of that when she came.

But even that was now no more. She hadn’t visited him yesterday. She hadn’t sent someone else. She should have done something. Vizas was furious. He realized, for the first time, how incapable he felt living one day in that hole. He hadn’t done so before, because he had spent his time thinking about Auxi, trying to read her thoughts at the Message Room. But now that he had not seen her for one day, he had a head full of doubts.

Vizas slumped into his bed. It was about time for her visit now. Would she come today? Vizas tried to concentrate on her thoughts. But he picked nothing, just like yesterday.

Vizas blew on his wrist, near the artery, and within seconds, his skin peeled and a plate of green numbers and figures showed. Vizas noted the time and exhaled on his wrist again. As the skin sealed, it pained a little. But Vizas had the comfort of knowing her regular time hadn’t yet passed.

Unlikely as it was at the moment, sleep came. And Vizas happily embraced it, and was soon snoring away, thinking of Auxi.

Fifty paces away from his cell, A-56, Auxi stumbled on. She was trying hard not to break into a run and alarm the people behind the steel lenses of Waratia. The prison was new, but the men behind it, experienced hard to the core. She couldn’t afford to lose her meeting. She might not get another.

Auxi reached the final corridor. The corridor that would always be the final one to her. But she passed on, ahead of 56, and could already hear the small whizz of a camera surprised by her movement. She was supposed to enter 56, as always. And I will. But first, I need to speak to him.

Auxi knew this conversation would be taped. Every first is. But she had prepared for that.

Auxi presented her ID, and it took longer than the usual time to enter her. The seven checks progressed. And the door opened, ever so slowly. Only this time, Auxi wouldn’t mind if it went slower.

Okay, gotta do this. She thought to herself. But then stopped, afraid that Vizas had heard her in the next cell. Auxi rushed inside, and the cell slowly closed.

“Auxi Feaze,” said a thick voice from inside. “To what may I owe the pleasure, my lady?”

Auxi breathed slowly and stepped further inside the little cell. For some reason, this one seemed smaller to her, but it could just be the dominating aura of the person she was visiting that made her feel small, and the walls nearer.

“Lord Janei, I come here to discuss a very important issue, which I believe you can assist me with. And I don’t intend to take much of your time.” came Auxi’s rehearsed reply. How would he play along?

Auxi looked into the face of the man she once loved dearly. But he had never encouraged such feelings, and she had kept in check, but not hiding her respect. There wasn’t a man in all the land who did not bow when Lord Janei passed. But things had taken an awful turn and the Lord had been convicted of a crime no one believed he could have committed. Auxi had often wondered if every inmate at Waratia was just plain wronged, because the people didn’t really know any name that deserved to be in prison.

“Auxi, time is something I can give to you freely, because not many people think of visiting old Lord Janei and the few who come get a fair chance.”

Auxi felt the words come right from the Lord’s heart. That was strange, because the Lord spoke, felt, ate and slept through his brain and that alone. But he had been changed. Waratia had won over Janei, and even the deep lines beneath his eyes that earlier spoke of experience now only hinted at tiredness. Auxi wondered if she would actually win today.

“Lord Janei-”

“Just Janei. Not much of a Lord anymore.”

“Yes Lord Janei. I had a query about the Tower, but I feel I must warn you. If you think you should not indulge in any discussion about the Tower, or that you may compromise any rule on you, or any other breach to promise, this would be the end of this conversation.”

Auxi hoped all her heart that it wasn’t. The Lord was frowning. Was it a bad sign?

“You always had a way of unsettling a person didn’t you? How can I possibly turn you away now, now that you have my full attention and grappling curiosity? But should I indeed refuse to talk? Will you make me reveal what must not be revealed?” The Lord thought for a moment. Auxi was getting tense.

“You win. Ask your questions.”

Auxi tried not to show the immense relief she felt. She felt like she had already had the conversation and gained enough victory.

“About two years ago, there was a glitch in the Tower Mainsroom. A central processing device had failed and several other linked to it were breaking down. I’m talking about The S-Crash.”

The Lord nodded, listening carefully.

“It was said that the central processing unit was one heating control panel that had broken down due to random temperature changes and hot wind gushes in the Tower.”

“But at the same time, there was noticed a steady drop in temperature and that was the year there was autumn in August.”

“The Tower explained it. They had their own separate heating channel and it was not holding up properly.” the Lord interrupted.

“Right. For the next six months a team of workmen put all their day on the Tower temperature controls and things had been turned back to normal.”

“The central processor had been fixed, yes.” The Lord said, waiting for her question.

“What if it hadn’t?” Auxi asked.

“The Tower let a team of people come and poke in, just for that reason. They wanted the people to verify for themselves that things were indeed right and the Tower controlled the temperature again. The point was to reinstate the authority. The taxes had been cut off when the heating was weird, but now they had to be started. But you know all this, so what’s your question?”The Lord asked, frowning deeply.

“My real question is- What if the heating had never really broken down? What if the team was collected for something else? What if, and this is very important, that the Tower needed those people, and precisely those people, to come in for something and they needed a very strong theory to hide it with?”
Auxi asked slowly. She knew Waratia didn’t record audio, and felt glad.

“Why would they do that? There are hundreds of people who can make just any excuse to meet any of the people on the team any day. When the heating broke, the Tower lost almost half of it’s control centre, and that is a pretty big risk for anything. And how could they be sure the right people were sent on the team? Why would they create such a bogus story? This is too much speculation, I say. Why go to so many lengths to bring in just a few people? What could possibly be that big?”

“What indeed?” Auxi mumbled.

The Lord frowned.

“Auxi- if there’s something-”

But the Lord was cut off by the glow if a red light inside his cell door. A startled Auxi jumped in her seat.

“First visits are half as short as regulars! I completely forgot!” Auxi gave away a desperate cry.

“I know you will come back tomorrow. I know I’m in too deep to get out now. So Auxi Feaze, I think there’s no reason for you to feel defeated, yet. You shall get another chance to complete your well-prepared speech.”

Auxi bowed her head in respect, just like she did all those years ago.

Without a word, she walked out of the Lord’s cell and let the door shut tight behind her.

Once out, Auxi breathed freely. She realised how tight she had been holding onto her cloak, and the tension she was in. Auxi took two long breaths and stepped in front of the next door.

She must finish her other visit too. She wouldn’t tell him about the meeting with Lord Janei as yet but she could tell him, maybe, some of her doubts. At least that would give her something to talk about.

Sighing deeply, Auxi lifted her ID for the second time that day and allowed it to be scanned outside Vizas’ cell door.

 

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