2020

Carys is a mediocre journalist looking for her big break. So far, she's been unsuccessful but she hits gold one morning after discovering a huge government secret. The cat's ou of the bag and now, not only does she have a story to pursue, she's become the pursued. The government won't let her unleash what they've been protecting.

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1. Exposed

            “Sorry about the,” she began, trailing off. Talking to an empty office might be considered strange. She rolled her eyes. Always late and she the intern, always early to make an impression. “That’s sod’s law for you Carys,” she muttered, plonking the cup down on the messy desk. A small waterfall leapt over the side, splashing onto a pile of paper. “Damn it!”     

Seizing up the papers, she tilted them to one side, watching as drops of coffee ran down the paper like dirty tear streaks. Just like her to make the situation worse. She waved it up and down, like a fan, all too aware of the stares through the glass of the other workers. “I’m not mad,” Who was she trying to convince? Performing some kind of exotic fan dance with paper? Totally normal. Giving up, she stopped her frantic actions and went to put the paper back down, sighing. She would have to tell the truth.                                                             

  It was as she put the paper down that she noticed the booklet underneath, red print stamped across the pristine white. CLASSIFIED. PROPERTY OF THE GLOBAL STATE UNION. Her hands moved towards it, her curiosity unleashed. Halfway she halted, swiveling her head over her shoulder to check for unwanted observers. Coast clear. She picked it up, flicking to the first page. Columns of tiny print adjacent to small pictures assaulted her eyes. For a moment, she tried to make sense of it before her eyes started to define the pictures. A tsunami, caught poising metes above a city that looked so small and insignificant as it squatted in the wave’s shadow followed by the smashed oblivion of that cowering city. Raging fires that had destroyed the woods and towns in a twenty mile radius. Deserts cracked and smouldering, splitting the camera lens. A view, once green, so choked up with smoke that it made a screen with only a few gaps. The pictures went on and on, over pages, described by captions

‘City destroyed by natural disaster,’                                                                                      ‘Earth lives another day but at what cost?’                                                                                 ‘Our planet is dying.’

Carys was frozen, in horror at the sudden insight she had into a world she had thought safe. Dying? She realised her hands were shaking, creasing the document and her throat was dry. It didn’t make sense.

The door slammed behind her and she whirled around. Mike’s eyes slowly swept over her face and then moved down to the bundle in her hands.                                                            

  “Um, I…was going to put it in the cabinet out of the way. You know, you really shouldn’t leave this stuff around,” she gave a nervous giggle, her heart sinking as soon as she had finished babbling.                                                                                                      

“How much did you read?” There was a tone in his voice that made Carys wilt. After a few breaths, she felt the tension seep away, and the anger come storming in.                         

“Enough to know...that what has been happening is too important to keep hiding. I thought newspapers told the truth.”                                                                                               

  “Ha! You have a lot to learn intern. Newspapers have never told the truth. Common fact.” He reached forward and made an attempt to snatch the document from her hands but she stepped back, clutching it maternally to her chest.                                                           

    “You can’t lie about something like this!” she wailed. “Tell them the truth!”                             

He strode to his desk, slamming his hand down on the phone machine. “Security, now.” His dark eyes never left her face and she swallowed the lump in her throat. Security. What had she done. Get out of here Carys you fool.                                                                                  

In a second, she had sprinted to the door, charging down the corridor, past bewildered workers and hearing the outraged shouts and pound of feet. Two men loomed ahead, black clothes, arms folded. Trained guards. Gasping she veered the other way, diving and shoving the crowd of onlookers out of the way. Her heart sang when she saw the glowing fire exit, and she thundered through, clanging her way down the fire escape.                                                       

  Breath seared through her windpipe and lungs, her boots thudded onto the pavements and she battled past a mass of sticky, static crowds, refusing to move, stuck in the rush of work and urban temptation.                                                                                                                        

“Move it!” she yelled, shoving and kicking. Over the rasp of her breath she could hear a siren start. Crap.

Back home, pursued by sirens, hindered by ignorant people, fueled with adrenaline and a sickening sense of moral righteousness, clothes flung into a bag, hat, sunglasses, scarf. Satchel into which to place this document which had destroyed her life could help prevent the destruction of many more. In the street she walked with a quick step, not wanting to run. Each time she passed a policeman, her breath came in small pants and she ducked her head. In less than an hour, she knew she had become a state fugitive. Everything was destroyed because of this wad of paper, scorching her satchel.                                                          

She ran into the station, keeping her head low, her eyes working like radars behind her shades.

“Ticket to Glanta,” she mumbled to the cashier who didn’t give her a second glance. Pocketing the ticket, she barged her way onto the station, caught in a barrier of human, pressed against laundered suits and choked on deodorant and perfumes.                                                           

 

The train pulled in silently, a huge shadow blocking the artificial lights that beamed fake sunlight across from the adjoining platform. Like one serpent, the crowd jostled forward, sideways as a conflict on two sides was fought; to enter and leave. Carys was crushed forward, slammed against a thick torso.                                                                                                             

Finally the train moved forward smoothly, picking up speed and leaving behind the city that was once Carys' home. She watched as the building blurred by, like someone smudging a thumb over a wet painting. It wouldn’t be seen again. Banished. Outlawed.  A tear threatened to spill from her watering eyes but she bit her lip. Damned if she was going to cry. She was in the right. It was they who were in the wrong and she was going to prove it.                      

The rhythmic motion of the train calmed Carys’ thumping nerves but it gave time for the nausea to set in. At the halfway point, the tannoy crackled into life, rippling around the stifling carriage.     

 “Alert of a fugitive, Carys Woodburn. Dark hair, mid twenties. Wanted for government theft and potential sabotage. This woman is dangerous and authorities should be alerted if sighted.”            

  Help.                                                                                                                           

Nothing could have induced her to get off the train faster, a bullet released from a gun, she hurried onto the streets of the new city, two hundred miles away. Two hundred miles but not safe. Not knowing where to go, she ran to the library, shutting herself into a booth and locking the door. She glanced at the photos again, re-reading the captions, feeling her breath snag in an outcrop of her own fear. Judging by these pictures, the earth didn’t have long left. Her eyes scanned the location of the places that had faced this devastation, places she had never heard of. New York, London, Sydney. Totally obliterated. It didn’t need much for her to work out what she had to do.    

 

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