“I’m so proud of you, Cassie, getting into your old dad’s job, joining Cal on the Haven fields. So proud, darling. Well done.”
Dad squishes me in his big, strong arms before handing me a spade and a pair of gloves. I take them from him eagerly. Agriculture is the least technology dependent work you can get in Haven, and that’s why I like it. As much as our tech is helpful, I like the feeling of grass, love the feeling of observing nature. Farming and planting and harvesting… it appeals to me, despite most of my peers competing for top jobs in Council or programming.
“Thanks, Dad.” I smile as Cal bounds up to us, farming tool slung over one shoulder. He’s a pretty tall kid for his age. Strong and well-built too- just like dad is, I guess. I’m the scrawny looking, short one, taking after mum’s figure, but at the same time, I beat all the kids at arm wrestling when I was in the First School. I’m pretty strong for a girl.
“So, what we doing today?” Cal asks dad. Our father gestures over to the orchard, where ripe apples are hanging tantalizingly from the trees. Next to it is a field full of a vegetable I can’t classify from the distance we’re at.
“Harvesting time,” He says. As we walk together, a family, over to the fields, the announcement from Council sounds, over the noise of the trees rustling in the artificial breeze, telling all workers and schoolers to start their tasks. I begin digging up roots as Cal jumps from branch to branch in the orchard next door, laughing every time he slips and dramatically tumbles to the ground. Everything is normal, at least, normal for Haven. Everything is-
“Cassie? Are you awake? Please, wake up, Cassie, oh, sweetie…”
I grunt and roll over, away from mum. She’s gripping my shoulders tightly and I shrug her off. I can tell it’s still dark outside. And now, I’ve lost my grip on that dream, and it felt so real…
“It’s Kirsty… She, she’s…” Mum trails off and starts sobbing, shaking me. “Wake up!”
I sit up, suddenly awake at the mention of Kirsty’s name.
Mum’s a wreck. It doesn’t look like she’s had enough sleep. Her hair is a mess and her eyes are watery.
“There are some Council members downstairs… they want to talk to you. Oh, goodness, Kirsty…”
A quick glance out of my window at the Clock tells me that it’s not even six O’clock yet. What could have happened? I only saw her less than eight hours ago- when she kissed me on the cheek and ran off… Why did she even do that?
“What’s happened?” I ask, swinging my legs over the side of my bed. Mum embraces me and strokes my hair.
“She’s gone. She went a few hours ago…”
Mum seems to read my thoughts, and shakes her head into my shoulder. “No, no, not died… but, well, she’s gone. From Haven. She escaped earlier this morning. She… She set off a…”
There’s a knock at the door and a male voice that cuts mum off. The door opens, despite neither of us replying, and a man and a woman, both in smart suits despite the time, stride through.
“We’d prefer to tell Cassandra the details, thank you, Ms Peterson.” The lady says. She’s tall and thin, with a spiky feel to her.
“We’d like to escort her downstairs now for interviewing.” The man adds. Numbly, I stand up, and join them, glancing behind at my mum who catches up as we walk down the staircase.
“She has just woken up, Sir, Madam. I’m not sure if she’s capable of answering anything just yet...” Mum murmurs as she wrings her hands. I sit myself down across from all three adults. It feels daunting. What’s even going on?
“Miss Cassandra Peterson, you were the last person to witness Miss Kirsty Silverton before she escaped, excepting the guards that she attacked brutally in the early hours of this morning. We need you to tell us everything you know about the situation. Was she planning this?”
I stare at the man talking, my jaw hanging open. It’ll hit the floor in the moment. “I don’t underst- what’s happened?”
The man frowns, setting creases deep into his face. He pulls out a Holoport- Everyone on Council has one, to exchange any information. I’ve never actually seen one in real life, however. I gaze at it in awe, almost forgetting that something’s happened to Kirsty, as he switches the little disc shaped device on and a holographic screen projects from it. He sets it onto the table as the 3D image loads.
It’s footage from a camera. We don’t have security measures enforced too much on us- no camera networks, because it’s drummed into us that we follow the schedule, or Haven’s Council will punish- so it’s strange to see recorded footage of someone I know. We only watch videos in our Haven history lessons.
Kirsty runs forward, through a tunnel, wearing what she was when I saw her last evening. Though now she has two backpacks slung over her shoulder. I watch her fly past guards as they cock their weapons and fire at her feet. I watch her as she glances back, and throws one backpack at the guards. I watch as the backpack hits the ground, and it explodes. Flames seem to engulf the air in front of me, as they fill the holographic screen. I flinch and scoot backwards in my seat.
When the flames clear, there’s dirt coating the lens of the camera. I can make out a door, light streaming through, slamming shut in the distance, and…
Are those bodies?
Guards. Dead, and dying, guards. Lying sprawled on the floor. Some are just limbs, scattered like macabre confetti.
I’m suddenly cold all over- freezing, in fact. I pull my dressing gown around me tighter and hold a hand over my mouth. I resist the urge to gag.
That can’t have been Kirsty. Kirsty… Kirsty would never do that. Ever. No. It’s not possible.
“Did you know anything about her plan? Did you know that she had stolen a bomb from our… I mean, did you know she had made a bomb?”
I’m too numb and cold and sickened to speak. I shake my head slowly. I’m shivering. Temperatures all over Haven are regulated so no one is ever too cold or too hot. But I feel so, so cold. Is this fear?
“Has Miss Kirsty Silverton ever mentioned anything suspicious sounding to you?”
I almost faint. I’m so stupid.
“Don’t you hate it here?”
“Okay. Come with me.”
“I want to know what’s out there. I need to know. Callum, he-”
I snap out of my flashback to yesterday.
“Did she ever mention anything of suspicion?” He pauses, drawing a deep breath, and the woman takes over. “If Kirsty Silverton said anything of suspicion to you, we need to document it. If you are hiding anything from us…” The woman raises a thin eyebrow and rubs her hands together, almost as if she’s enjoying this, “You will be punished, depending on how obvious the evidence had been. If she told you she was escaping to the Outside and you did not file a report, we will have to consider imprisonment or Outer-Haven exile.”
I flinch and mum lets out an audible gasp. She opens her mouth to protest against the woman’s words but the Councillor shoots her a death ray of a glare.
Outer-Haven Exile is where you’re banished to the outer regions. Haven’s inhabited areas are in the centre, and there’s about five miles’ length between the outermost fields and housing estates and the Barrier, which is heavily guarded. We learned about the exile in class; for classified reasons, Council is not allowed to exile people to the Outside- but they will dump them between the edges of inhabited Haven and the Barrier. Left to die. Guards patrol the areas and if they find a dead body, it’s cleared away. If you get to close to the Barrier or back to Haven’s centre, you’re shot on the spot. The offender is literally left to die in the wilds. It’s a grim way to go.
“Of course, however, you could tell us any information you may possess now, and punishments will be slightly less severe. Maybe denied food tokens for a week, maybe house arrest for an allocated time.”
What do I say?
Oh, Kirsty. What have you done?
I’m just about to tell them of the conversation Kirsty and I had in the orchard, when my mouth begins to talk for me.
“No, Madam. I don’t know… anything. She, Kirsty, she… seemed perfectly normal, yesterday. I didn’t notice anything.”
“Are you sure that is the case? Kirsty’s brother committed the same crime a year ago. We found out that he had confided in his best friend, months later. I think you may recall what happened to Gabriel.”
I shiver again. Nobody could forget Gabriel: He went mad. And by that, I mean entirely crazy. He lost his mind. One day, he’d randomly run into the streets, confessing that he knew where Callum, Kirsty’s brother, had gone. When the Council’s guards arrived, he lost it. He clawed at the face of the guard who’d grabbed him first, and there had been a day long man hunt- he ran off and nobody could find him. They finally caught him, behind a building, bloody and muttering over and over about some kind of ‘resistance’. Everyone gathered in the streets as he was driven to the wilds of Haven, exiled. Aside from the day Callum himself ran away, I’d never seen a scarier time.
“Kirsty… she usually tells me about everything!” I scream.
I seem to be a very good actor. But I’m not sure why I’m putting on a show at the moment.
“Why wouldn’t she tell me about this? Why didn’t she? God, I hate her… I hate her, I hate her, I…” I trail off dramatically, and collapse back into the sofa. Is that… sympathy? Just a hint of it… glowing dimly in both of the Councillors’ eyes.
I start to cry, but this bit isn’t faking. Mum scoots over to my side of the room and cradles me in her arms.
“I think Cassie may have seen enough video footage… enough interviewing, for now at least.” She mutters, stroking my hair. I can feel my tears mingling into her cardigan.
The Council people nod and make their way to the door. Mum leaves me to cry softly into a sofa cushion as she ushers them out.