SHADE (for writelongandprosper)

Yellow for mild swearing and some scenes of a sensitive nature.

To the north, there lies the old lake. South, the mountains. The west of the city is bordered by desert. To the east, there stands a wall.

Myles Lakeman is 18. He is a man, and it is time for him to receive his mission. His mission? Survive the night.
Myles must capture the rebels, conquer the landscape and most importantly, escape the elusive Shades... but along this journey he meets a girl, a girl with a mission of her own: she must find her brother.
Together, they discover that their world is hiding so much more than they once thought: what are the Shades and where do they come from? What are the rebels doing? What is on the other side of the wall?

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12. Chapter 11: Myles

The door opens, and the man he knows as his father stands in the doorway. He seems smaller than Myles remembers, his back hunched with age and his hair greyed at the edges. In the few silent seconds that the two men spend facing each other, Myles realises that he can’t remember the last time he saw the old man without a desk separating them.

                “You shouldn’t be up here, son,” his father tells him. His voice is steady and measured with a hint of disapproval, but even so a hint of pride glitters in his eyes. Here is a man without his suit or laboratory-issued white coat to hide behind, his air of professionalism banished in favour of a pair of grey sweat pants, a bathrobe and a pair of slippers.

                Myles bounces on the balls of his feet, suddenly anxious to be out of there. He knows he’s done something wrong: he’s broken the rules a little over 24 hours after being introduced to them in the first place, and he knows that stuff like this just isn’t going to sit with Bandit. Besides, with each minute he hovers on the threshold, his meeting with the lieutenant creeps steadily closer. “I need to ask you something.”

                The elder Lakeman casts his eyes quickly down the length of the corridor, but there are no other soldiers in sight. There is only Myles, his stiff white uniform square on his shoulders and the skin of his freshly-shaved scalp shining in the spotlights above. “Fine,” his father almost spits the word out, stepping to one side to let Myles step into the apartment that yesterday he would have called home.

                “It feels different,” he remarks as he strides down the short hallway, his hand finding the polished silver handle of his old bedroom and swinging the door open. The room is exactly how he left it; the painted white walls staring blankly back at him, the freshly pressed bedding tucked neatly under the mattress. Behind this clean façade, he knows that all of his belongings will have been taken away by now, put into storage until he is issued an apartment of his own. All of his old clothes will have been cleaned, repaired and passed on to the younger classes and smaller boys; his maps and drawings rolled up and shoved in some box in some room somewhere in the facility.

                His father coughs, his hand pressed against the wood of the living room door to allow for Myles to enter.

The living room has the same small, square windows as all of the other rooms in the above-ground part of the complex. Bulletproof, reinforced glass designed to keep them safe in the event of a rebel attack: though given that they lived on the twelfth floor and he doubted any of the rebels were quite that good at climbing, Myles had always wished that the windows could be bigger.

A low, black fabric corner sofa dominates the living area, a matching glass coffee table forming the last corner of the square. There’s a half-wall splitting the lounge from a small, modern kitchen-diner; all dark wood and glass. He’d always wondered how they can live in such luxury when the rest of the city is crumbling into disrepair. His father had told him that the building was once a series of apartments, that all this stuff was already here when the government had taken over, but there was something about that answer that didn’t add up.

“What do you want, Myles?” His father asks, walking up the length of the lounge and stepping up the small platform into the kitchen. He withdraws a bottle of water from the fridge, tossing it to his son before grabbing one for himself and moving to perch on the end of the couch. “I have to be in a meeting in half an hour and as you can see, I’m not dressed yet. Make it quick.”

“Last night,” he starts, sitting a few seats away and cracking open the water bottle, “they sent me into the city. For the first time in my life I truly experienced the differences between us and them, but now that I’ve been there I just can’t understand. We should be protecting the people down there, not… not shooting them.” The image of the man lying dead in the alleyway flickers back into his mind, the infinite darkness of the hole in his head surrounded by splatters of blood and grey matter. “Everyone I encountered down there- they were innocent.”

“Even the Shades? Would you say those are innocent?”

“That’s why we should be protecting them! We need to protect people from those monsters. The people-”

“You’re too young to remember the rebellion, Myles. You can’t understand what it was like, why we have to prevent that violence from ever coming back to these streets.”

“But we’re the ones inflicting that violence. We’re the ones going out there with uniforms and guns and shooting people where they stand-” He doesn’t remember getting to his feet again, but all of a sudden he’s standing, his arms waving around in front of him as he talks. “And we bring them in here to ask them questions but we don’t believe them when they say that they don’t know, even though they’re innocent and we’re the ones accusing them-” he takes a breath to continue, but his father takes his pause as an opportunity to take over.

“You don’t understand. You’ll never understand.” He is on his feet too, his bathrobe flying ridiculously around his animated arms. “You didn’t experience the rebellion. You don’t know what fear feels like. Whatever you did in the city last night? That was nothing. Raymont can never see that sort of upheaval again! What do you think I do all day? Sit around in my office all day in my fancy suit with my feet up? No! I spend all day, every day, working to keep this city safe. I’ve spent my entire life working to protect you from those people!”

“But why were they rebelling? If we’re scared of it happening again, we’re obviously the ones doing something wrong, something they’re unhappy about! What have we even got to fear from them? How can we live in here? How can we keep ourselves holed up in this… this fort…” his shoulders sag, his arms falling hopelessly to his sides. “How can we stand by and watch them suffer? Look at this, look at everything we have.” He holds up his bottle of water as if to prove a point. “They have nothing. And we’re scared of them?”

His father stammers, his argument shattering in front of his eyes. It’s as though something in Myles’ words manages to change the way his father looks at the world, as though the boy has managed to say something to wake his father from the delusions fed to him all his life.

“It’s wrong,” Myles declares, slamming the open bottle of water down on the coffee table and marching back to the door. “It doesn’t add up. How can we have all this technology, food, clean water… when they have nothing?” His voice is cracking now, his eyes burning with angry tears. He grips the handle of the door and yanks it towards him, stepping out into the hallway and listening behind him for any more words from his father.

“What do you want me to tell you? How can I give you the answers you want when I don’t even know the whole story myself?” The old man has sat down again, his elbows resting on his knees and his chin tipped towards his chest. “I don’t know what to say to you, other than that you’re different. You’re not like the other soldiers. Even with their fancy robotic eyes, they never really see. You have something they don’t. There’s something within you that makes you different. That’s why you were never matched, that’s why you’re bothered by this even though nobody else is. You have a heart, Myles.”

Myles lets his hand drop from the door handle and turns back to face him. His father lifts his head for a second, then stands and walks past Myles, back towards his bedroom at the end of the hall.

“You can’t come back here again. You’re supposed to be on base at all times unless you’re on a mission, and you don’t want to draw attention to yourself. If you truly believe that those people are innocent and that we, the government, are the monsters… then that is what you think and I can’t change that,” he sighs. “But I truly believe that I am doing the right thing. We need to protect us, the people worth saving. There are things that happen in here that you wouldn’t understand. There are things we do that would make your flesh crawl. You’re too good for us. Do with that what you will, but for now… go back to base and let me do my job.”

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