“The Tower cut a deal with that man at last. And he didn’t realise it then how much power he held in his mere existence, he was too dazed himself. The Tower couldn’t let the people see a man from the past. Everything that he knew, from the 21st century, was too dangerous. He knew how the people had led to the formation of the Tower itself. More than anything, he knew about God, and about religion. The Tower couldn’t risk the people believing in those things again. All control would be lost. Ironically, the reigning Head Lord even quoted a very Godly phrase in context to the matter- ‘All Hell would break loose.’ ”
Auxi stared at Vizas, as he held her hands and tried to explain.
“So the Tower cut him a deal, on which grounds he was to disappear in an excavation assignment. In fact, there was nothing we were actually trying to uncover, the Tower most certainly didn’t want any huge discoveries, and we just went round the world to Nepal to bury the man’s memory. He was actually, pulled into an underground settlement, along with some other top secret officers and projects. The man lived there for some while before he realised he was actually being killed, slowly, with every meal he took.”
“I don’t understand… why would he cause this winter… and why- why would he kill Bei?”
“That’s where we went wrong, Auxi. He had nothing to do with Bei. Or this winter. It has nothing to do with anyone actually. No Tower conspiracy, nothing. It’s just plain history, repeating itself. The world is constantly being born and living and dying. He knows tales himself, of how his generation came from an Ice Age. This is our Ice Age. This is our Judgement Day, our Apocalypse. It’s a circle, and these things keep happening.”
“But the Tower only momentarily lost control. They explained that the heat controls had collapsed. It all came to control after the S-Crisis.”
“The Tower didn’t know what had happened. They believed it was an internal failure. We are so advanced, we think we can manage anything. Actually, it was the first Ice Blast. The Tower only understood one thing. That the people who were on that excavation trip in Nepal would remember the snow that had permanently covered those mountains. They called in that team, remember?”
“Yeah- but what did they do?”
“The team, incidentally, comprised six of the remaining excavation base members. Some commoners were red-herrings…”
“But we selected that team. How could the Tower ensure they came?”
“The Tower was relying on our trust on those people. They were known for that excavation. That landslide, the pictures… the people were our heroes… and if those people weren’t chosen, the Tower was ready for a long drawn-out program to call in the people somehow or the other.”
“But what did they want with them?”
“Just assurance. When the team thought they were touring through the Tower controls, inspecting… they were actually going through interrogation. Lord Janei, by the way, was one of the people on the team. He knew everything, I think. And anyone you should signs of rebellion was immediately pulled out-”
“Killed?!” gasped Auxi.
“No Auxi. Just pulled out. They were put on the Tower as officer, often within the same control centre- thermal. That ensured confidentiality, as per Tower regulations. And the people could also help control the thermal crisis coming.”
Auxi’s eyes widened. “Befriend the enemy.”
“Something like that.”
“But they killed Bei!” cried an outrage Auxi. Nothing was wrong? Then why did Bei die?! She was tortured, if nothing else!
“Bei- it’s tough Auxi.” He gathered her close. “Bei thought he was onto a conspiracy. He thought there was something the Tower was hiding. He was right. That man from the past, the coming of the Ice Age… and when he started poking, they tried to kick him out. He wouldn’t stop. So the Tower cut the 21st century man a new deal. He was threatening their control now, since he knew he was being poisoned. The Tower had no choice but let him inside the control rooms. He did what he pleased. And soon he heard that Bei was poking around.”
“So he did kill him?!”
“Auxi, this man, was the exact image of Bei’s great-great-grandfather. And you know how Bei was always boasting of his noble bloodline. Bei saw his own an-descent, talked to him, and before he died, Bei knew everything. But what Bei did not know was that he had caused his own death by meeting the man.”
“Bei could not believe what he had seen. He started acting weird. The Tower was already troubled. If the man didn’t tell everyone, Bei could. But before they could do anything, Bei died of a nervous fit. Not heart attack. Nervous fit. Which is completely possible in his circumstances.”
“I don’t believe that.” Auxi grunted.
“I knew you won’t. But that’s where I will leave-”
“And me? Why did that man come after me?!”
“He realised that his own power stayed as long as he was the only, exclusive threat. Otherwise, the Tower would wipe out the entire problem without thought. He needed us to shut up, and the people must not know.”
“So he would have killed us!”
“No. He would only scare us to silence. He didn’t know himself how far he was willing to go, but not murder.”
“And he told you all this readily? Wow! Man suddenly has a conscience!”
“It came at a price…”
“I don’t believe it, I just don’t. The Tower wouldn’t waste so much time on a threat. This winter is totally under our control, and I intend to make that five moon donation for the heat machine. This man is a killer, Vizas, I’m telling you. He killed Bei.”
“I knew you would want to know on your own. So I’m leaving you this-”
“Leaving you?! Where are YOU going?”
“This information came at a price, Auxi.” Vizas smiled suddenly. But his eyes were sad.
“What price? Vizas? What’s going on?”
“I love you Auxi. I told you I would be saying that to you once I got out of Waratia. Here we are Auxi. I’m just one year and fifty-eight days early.”
“Vizas! Where are you going?!”
“He’s taking me with him. I don’t know where. But that’s how this will end. He is leaving the Tower to explain for themselves. The winter won’t get better Auxi, so get underground. Start building. I’ll come for you as soon as I can.”
“Vizas, you can’t go! How can you- Where-”
“Auxi, I want you to know I love you. And I always will.”
But Vizas pushed her away and walked to the door of her house. He opened it, gave her one last look and then vanished, forever.
In that last look Auxi saw that he was destroyed. Everything was over. Nothing meant anything anymore. And the winter had already thawed… because what was cold, heat, pain, or love, without anyone to share it with?
Ice Age may come next minute, and Auxi couldn’t care less. Because Auxi had already died.
Auxi frowned as she walked back to her house, from Waratia. The day had proven useless, and Auxi knew she couldn’t waste so much precious time. All she had managed was introducing her agenda to Lord Janei, and revealing everything to Vizas, if very abruptly. The grief of Bei’s death was weighing down on her. And the fact that it might just be murder, was something she couldn’t come to terms with. Could the Tower really kill someone, for a secret? A life, taken? How could they be the people’s government then? How was the Tower not a monarch then? How were they in the 31st century then, if their human ideas of dominance had just not died?
Auxi wondered what she could do… where she could go… who…
She wanted to go through Bei’s house but had seen the heavy surveillance around it. And the Tower had not even bothered to keep it down. Rounds of red rings floated halfway up the house, as warning for trespassers that that particular house was reserved for Tower work, for some time. And since Bei lived alone, with no one to call family, it was all very convenient too.
Auxi passed the house again, and the lifeless still building chilled her heart more so.This very building only recently housed a living heart, a noble heart made Auxi shiver despite the cloak wrapped around her tight. The red lines shone bold. Warning was clear.
Auxi knew entering would prove fatal.
Auxi reached her own house. The warm air that hit her as she entered made her breathe in relief. Finally. Auxi shed almost all her layers, and was surprised to find she could still go around in a single T-shirt and pants. That was strange. With three degrees outside and the Tower having to set up a heat machine, she was surprised she could afford her own heating.
Auxi went over to the study. She lifted the lid of her laptop, and pressed her fingers across the blue strip. The laptop sprung to life.
“You have, four messages pending.”
Auxi start scribbling an imaginary pencil against the white metal plate following the blue strip, and the strokes appeared on the screen.
“Lord Janei visited. Vizas told. Bei’s house still sealed.”
Then she swiped her thin fingers across the screen in moves practices through repetition and the Messages panel opened.
1. Officer Uid, Waratia Prison Facility; “You have made a first visit today to a prisoner. This has been recorded in the prison logbooks. According to the Prison Regulations you have already been briefed, every first visit is video-recorded, for security reasons. You have been notified.”
Auxi wondered if the last sentence was indeed ominous- You were told. You shoudn’t have.
2. Tower Message Center; “You have missed one day at the Message Room. Since your leave form had been turned down and you had been notified, this shall be recorded in your work sheet. Another miss without permission could lead to expulsion from the job.”
Auxi swore. She recollected how her leave application had come back with a ‘Not Suitable Grounds’ Rejection when she had reported the death of Bei.
3. Bei, Tower Control Room;
Auxi jumped when she saw who the message was from.
“This is an electronically timed message. You have received this, because the sender created an event that has happened, and the message has been automatically sent.
Dear Auxi, if you get this message, I want you to know someone has been tampering with my personal laptop. It isn’t as safe as the Tower networks so I have stored this message here, right under their nose. I told you I felt a danger to my life at work. When those officers took me away, they led me to the Jury Centre. They said they knew I had been poking about. They knew I was digging up files from various sources for the S-Crisis. I had been to talk to all the families of the poeple on the Team, only one actual member was alive. They said they were stamping my record with Breach to Solidarity, something like betraying Tower ethics. I know it was just bullshit, they just wanted reason to poke around.
I am recording this message because if something really happens, I want you to start from what I already know, because I am sure you WILL start.
Auxi, I’m holding on to you. And Vizas, though I know he is angry.
Auxi let a tear sip away. Bei was murdered. She would get to the bottom of it, she was certain now more than ever. With a heavy heart, she turned to the last message.
4. Auxi was shocked it was another message from Bei. It was from his personal laptop.
“Auxi, I know they are coming for me. I am sending you all my files, everything I could jot down, all the pictures I could collect. Get everything down to download, out of your laptop, they will breach it sooner or later. Clean it thoroughly Auxi. Tell Vizas I am sorry I could never come. But it was just this-”
And then it broke off. Auxi opened the files he attached right at the top. She couldn’t go through them just then, because a sharp knock on the door made her swipe the blue strip and lock the laptop.
“Tower Control Officers, ma’am. Please open the door.”
Their IDs scanned through the door, and Auxi went through them carefully before opening the door.
“What-” but the rest of the sentence muffled as she looked at a bright white light and slipped to the ground.
Forty five minutes later, when she woke, Auxi was still in her T-shirt and pants but cold, as she was bound to a tall vertical hold, she couldn’t yet understand what and the room was freezing. The rumble of an Air Cooler explained that the temperature was set low, on purpose.
Auxi gasped for fuller breaths and shivered.
Please See- This has become a six-part series. Part 1 and 2 are Winter in June and Winter Continues. Here’s Part-3.
“Vizas?” asked Auxi nervously. She knew Waratia wouldn’t let him die, but he hadn’t responded to her entering his cell, and surely he must be anxious to see her, when she hadn’t visited him yesterday.
Vizas didn’t stir. Auxi rushed towards him, and grabbed his arm. He didn’t move an inch. She breathed hard onto his wrist, and peered as the green letters re-appeared. Pulse-normal. Heartbeat-normal.
“I had half a mind to let you run crazy to the guards screaming for help. But I can see you are dead stiff.”
Vizas made her jump.
Auxi caught him a tight embrace and held on.
“I couldn’t lose you. I could never lose you.” She muttered softly.
“Really? I thought you had found someone else yesterday… Kick that old bum at the prison… what can he do anyway?” sneered Vizas.
Auxi reeled back. She was clearly hurt. “Vizas! I would never-”
“Of course. You wouldn’t. I would blame the rat but-”
“Vizas! What are you talking about?!”
“What you were THINKING about! I go berserk worrying about you, why you never came, what could have happened, and I hear nothing from no-one! And then suddenly, fifteen minutes ago, I picked your thoughts and have the ball of my ruddy life!”
“Whatever you heard, it’s obviously not true! You’re just creating storms out of things you obviously don’t know!”
“Perfect! He’s in prison! Blame HIM! He would NEVER know! All right, you tell me- what did you mean when you were thinking- I must not tell Vizas. I will have this meeting and no one will know. But I must do this. About time. How long can I wait? He will give me what I want. YOU tell me, what the hell was THAT about?!“
“You have been reading my mind and you get these mess-ups and then you go livid over nothing! Would it amuse you if I brought out my entire day’s proceedings written and submitted it to you everyday like a schoolkid?!”
“Hell, it would! Specially if my girl was going out with someone else!”
“Vizas, I’m not with someone else. Will you-”
“It’s Bie isn’t it? That- that- hole takes my job, he takes my girl!”
“Vizas, Bie has nothing to do with this. But if you just want to argue with anyone who cares for you, I should just go away right now!”
“Sure! Get more time with your boy, won’t you! Just like yesterday, right? Why weren’t you here yesterday, then?”
“VIZAS! Bie is dead!” Auxi screamed at the top of her lungs, and fatigued by the ordeal, slumped down on the bed.
Vizas had shut up at last. Auxi pressed her forehead, and lay still on the bed.
“What?” Vizas asked.
“Heart attack while he was at work.” Auxi whispered.
“Heart attack?! The Tower monitors the heart beats of everyone inside-”
“A med team was on its way they say, but he went away too quick.”
“That’s bullshit! All they needed to do was drop through the floors! And he didn’t even have any condition-”
“They are holding him under inspection.”
“Auxi you know he didn’t have a heart attack! You can’t-”
“I know. But if you’ll let someone else speak for a change, maybe you’ll know all the other things I do.”
Vizas sat down on the chair, and waited, trying to show he was sorry, though he still had doubts.
“Bie was murdered. By the Tower I know. He acme to me day before after I visited you, saying his life was in danger, and he suspected the Tower being involved in something back when the S-Crisis occurred. He had picked up something, but of course, wouldn’t say anything. Just told me to get to everyone I trusted and start digging if anything happened to him. I pressed for more but some people from the Tower came to my house, where we were, and took him away. He told me to keep things from you for a while, because he believed they would come after you on the double if they suspected anything. And even now, I feel dumb telling you this beneath their obvious vigil.”
“What the hell! The S-Crisis? A heat break conspiracy?”
“And since you so want to know and have no respect for anyone’s privacy at all, I was thinking all those dark thoughts about my visit to Lord Janei right now, in the cell next to yours. Help you sleep better?”
Auxi showed her disgust clearly, on her face. She intended to give him a hard time over this. But Vizas was just plain silent.
“What, you done already?”
Vizas looked at her. He saw his mistake. That was obviously no way to treat her. His eyes fell on her cloak, and the thinning material and greying fabric welched his gut.
“What degree is it outside?” He whispered.
“Three.” Auxi replied, just as softy, exhausted herself, and feeling just as bad.
“Three. You sure you don’t want to steal a fruit or something and get in here?” Vizas asked, hopefully.
Auxi looked at him. She got up and went over to him, and slipped next to him and hugged him again.
“I’m sorry Auxi, I really am. It’s just- it’s this place. You weren’t here for one day, and I was all over my head and-”
“It’s okay. I don’t want to talk about it. It’s okay.”
“We have got to get to this. About Bie. About the S-Crisis. We can’t let this go now.”
“And I will help, however I can.”
“But that’s going to be tomorrow now, Vizas. The light’s on.”
“Shit man. I wasted all our time on-”
“It’s okay I said. I’ll be here tomorrow. Get some sleep, we are going to talk about many things tomorrow.” Auxi walked towards the door.
Auxi turned and saw Vizas desperate for one last word. She gave him his chance.
“I love you.”
“And I do you. And Vizas, I’ll love you for the next one year and sixty days the same , and then after that too.”
And Auxi walked out.
Disclaimer: This is my very first attempt at anything remotely sci-fi. I have never been good at this genre, reading OR writing.
Auxi pulled the cloak around her tighter. It grew colder every day and whatever those people at the Tower said, she was not going to believe that it was only temporary. Already the skies were getting darker and it was obvious that winter was getting heavy. What the problem with that was that it had come in June this year.
Auxi stumbled on. Icy, cold wind had been lashing her face for the past half hour, but she wasn’t thinking of stopping. She would never break her routine at Waratia even if it meant days colder than this.
As she pushed on, Auxi thought about the announcement yesterday. They said they were almost done, that their machine was ready. Auxi didn’t know whether to believe that or not. The Tower certainly was capable of creating a heat blast machine that would increase the temperatures considerably. But why would they do that? Why would they tackle the weather, specially now when they could use this against the strike that had been planned. Things didn’t add up. Auxi decided not to put her five moons in donation.
The wind dropped, and it was considerably easier to move. Within three minutes Auxi covered more distance than she had in the past half hour. She reached Waratia. Auxi slipped inside the front door, as she had done every day for the past six years.
A wave of hot air hit her sharp. Auxi loosened her cloak gratefully. That was the one good thing about Waratia. It gave all it’s residents the priviledge of a moderate temperature condition all through the year. Anyway, it was very problematic to have an inmate die in prison, questions were asked.
Waratia was the only prison in the land, but then crime was a new word. The front door opened automatically as she walked in, and so did every door in the mesh of tunnels she crossed. There was no one anywhere. But Auxi knew her every move was being monitored and she had already been frisked twice. She had learnt through experience, that the metal badges on her cloak could detain her and cancel her meeting, so she always stripped them off before coming.
The dim white light of the final corridor beckoned her closer. Auxi tried not to run the last few steps. She reached the familar A-56 door. She typed the passcode she had been issued. She stood straight, and tried not to move or blink, as the seven-step checks proceeded.
Then a heavy frisking sound issued and the door slid open slowly. This had always tested Auxi’s patience. Like always, she stopped the urge to slip in and waited for the whole door to open, ever so slowly. Any hasty moves in Waratia and you were dead.
She heard him before she could see him. And just as she stepped inside, he took her in a tight embrace and held on.
“Just 1 year and sixty two days more, Auxi. Just this much.” He whispered in her ears, a figure Auxi was well aware of. The Tower may only just have faced crime, they were harsh on their sentences. Vizas had got a four year sentence for breaking out of a meeting in the Tower, and that too wasn’t much to blame him on…
“I know Vizas. I know…”
They stood like that for some time, when Auxi finally slipped down in the only chair in Vizas’ cell.
Vizas took his place at the bed. They talked about their families, Auxi’s job at the Message Room, but not much was spent on what Vizas did yesterday, after Auxi’s visit.
Auxi looked into Vizas’ blue eyes. The only blue eyes in all the land. Like she did every day, she wondered if he would be ready to slip back into the world when he finally got out. The world was precisely the reason he was in here in the first place. And it apparent he liked the hang of things much better here.
He had told her enough times that the only reason he was willing to get back to the Tower, that is if his position was still available, was to get nearer to Auxi and nothing else.
“How’s Bie?” Vizas cut through her thoughts.
Bie, his best mate. Auxi had never found just the chance to tell him he had taken his position at the Tower, temporarily as he said. But even Auxi could see he was in love with his job.
“He’s good. Asks of you everyday.”
“Yeah, he could just visit anytime.”
“Vizas. You know how they wouldn’t allow it, back at the Tower.”
“They did you.”
“Bie’s in admin, Vizas. They can’t take the risk.”
“So they say.”
Talk ceased once more. Auxi feared if Vizas would ever be the same again.
Vizas’ eyes lowered. He seemed to hear her thoughts. He had always showed telepathic tendencies, although if they were serious, they should have formed fully by now. What it would be if Vizas became one of the Lords, Auxi thought.
“Not very happy. The first thing I’d get changed is prison rules. This place could do with improvement.”
“You’re reading my thoughts again.”
“You were thinking too loudly. Sometimes, I seem to hear you from Message Room… for instance, were you really thinking about donating five moon for the Heat Machine?”
“I decided against it.”
They talked for another half hour. Vizas pried for anything Auxi might be hiding. He hated to see her cloak, it made him realise what she went through every day to get here. He had tried to dissuade her from coming everyday, but he had been pleased when she had refused outright.
Soon, the red light lit up inside the door, and Auxi got up to leave. Her swept the white cell that had been Vizas’ home for more than two years and put on her cloak. She tried not to think about the cold she was going into. She didn’t want Vizas to hear.
He hugged her tight, again, and Auxi held on for as long as she could. But then the light started whimpering an alarm ,as it did everyday to break apart these two, and Vizas whispered in Auxi’s ears again, “One year and sixty two days, Auxi and we’ll be together again. I love you.”
Auxi whispered, “And I do you.”