Sunday, 23 August 2020

Diver City II

 Second part of a sci-fi short story inspired by a friend's interest.

Diver City - II

Ortmann shifted sideways a little as he stood before the board. It was not a conversation he had wished to initiate. The harsh white strip light didn't make it any easier.

"I'm… I'm concerned about Harwell. He seems… unwell."

Not a single member of the board looked up at him. He'd never seen their eyes, and had never known them to leave the board room.

"Councillor Ortmann, we do not concern ourselves with the well being of the collectors."

Ortmann felt his throat dry. Looking around the room for a window, he began to speak.

"The collection yields have steadily reduced for the past sixteen weeks, and we're not hitting the targets. His cough has worsened. What do we do if he has the gall to die?"

A flicker of the strip light punctuated a silence that must have lasted at least four minutes. He could feel their contempt like insects under his skin.

"Councillor Ortmann, we do not repeat ourselves. You have our decision. If he does not improve, kill him yourself, and then take his place."

Diver City

 Title is only a placeholder really, will change if something better comes to mind but this is the start of a short sci-fi story I was inspired to write by a friend who'd been looking for some dystopian fiction along the lines of the treatment of the Dalit bone collectors.

Diver City - I

The collections agent stood before him.

"How far down did you get last week?"

Harwell tapped three times on his stick.

"Three hundred metres eh?"

A single tap. Harwell had been forbidden from speaking for over a year now. Words were exclusively for those who could afford the subscription rates.

"And what have you got for me this time, Harwell?"

Taking a crumpled list from his pocket, Harwell unfolded and attempted to smooth it out a little before handing it over, bowing his head and tapping his stick on the ground.

'alumin - half kilo. sulfa - two kilo. tin - one kilo. lead -  two hundred gram'

A nod as Harwell stifled a cough. His writing had improved little, and as much of an effort as he'd made with spelling, he still struggled to remember the correct words.

"They haven't let you into the reference libraries again have they Harwell? Make sure you don't lie to me!"

Harwell shook his head violently and bowed a second time. He kept his head down, not noticing Ortmann's nod as he left Harwell to another coughing fit.