I wish I didn’t give the diary to Riles, but it’s the only choice I had. Only now as I stare out the window at work blankly do I regret the decision. My mind believes it holds the answer to where I stand with everything. I know I’ll miss my status as one of the wealthier families of the city, but at the same time, is wealth worth the destruction?
While I’m being bombarded with images upon images of the destruction caused by the rebels and the deaths of innocents, I’m also being reminded of the counterfeit. Elaine’s response to the religion ban, seeing the pastor of our old church crying as he watched his church being knocked to the ground and, of course, Rose and her walk out. There’s two things that I have to choose between.
Either I choose to support the movement that will keep crime down and people safe, or to disagree with it and stand for freedom and happiness with the catchline of death and destruction.
The choice seemed so easy before, but the people around me have me in doubt. How do I make a choice like this? It’s too much for one man to hold.
Over the course of three days I spend my time fretting over Rose and fretting over this choice. Logically I should say that I’m still in agreement, but that would be a betrayal to those around me. If I said no, I would be going against the government, a type of treason.
I try to get in to see Rose, but Riles tell me I can’t.
“She’s in safe keeping. She’s got guards with her twenty four seven all of which who are aware they can’t lay a hand on her without answering to me.”
“I want to see her,” I plead. “I need to see her for myself.”
“Give me an answer first,” he tells me. “Then we might negotiate.”
I’m not surprised at his response. Of course he will use Rose to bribe me. All I can do is nod in agreement.
“Have you read the full diary?”
“Not yet,” he shrugs. “There’s nothing really in there that we can use. We already know most of it for ourselves.”
“Would I be able to read it?” I request.
“Sorry, Charles, but I think if you aren’t swayed already this might be the final push you need to end up hating us.”
His response is nearly enough to sway me, but I simply shake my head.
“Okay, but sir, I think I’m on your side.”
Riles doesn’t look surprised.
“We don’t want thinkers, we want doers. You have been incredibly important to this experiment, but that won’t save you.”
“Please,” I beg. “Just accept that I’m here to stay and let me see my daughter.”
The door opens and Riles gestures for me to enter.
“She’s in there. The guards won’t leave her side so don’t bother asking them, too. This is a product of her actions.”
I personally think he’s going over the top and being unrealistic, but I don’t say that. Instead I thank him and hurry inside.
I’m not surprised by what awaits me. A similar room to Kirsty’s, hospital beds are along the wall, only these ones are filled with other people. They’re all sedated, drips plugged into their skin with monitors bleating beside them. A few scientists mill around them, taking notes and checking the equipment. They talk amongst themselves in an easy and excited tone. Going off of the dark tone that’s starting to colour their skin, I would say the experiment is going quite well so far.
I look around the room, searching for my daughter. Once I spy the officers, it’s not hard to locate her.
I rush forward and step around them, hands eagerly going to Rose’s. She seems to be sleeping, eyes closed. I quickly check over her. No drips are hooked into her skin which is a relief. I have no doubt she’ll be made into a test subject. Minus the lack of violence from the guards, she’s still an inmate by nature. Treason is not taken lightly.
“Hello Rose,” I whisper as I run my hands up her arms. Not surprising, her eyes slowly open sleepily.
“Hey,” I stretch up to kiss her forehead. “I was finally able to see you.”
“I’m sorry, dad. I shouldn’t have done what I did.”
“It’s okay,” I reassure her. “What’s been done is done.”
“They’re going to make me a test,” she says mournfully and my heart squeezes in my chest. “I won’t be me anymore.”
“If it’s any reassurance,” I tell her, “Everyone’s going to be changed sooner of later.”
“I’m going to miss my looks,” she admits and her skin flushes a bright red. “I look a lot like mum don’t I?”
“You do,” I agree. “You’re her doppelganger.”
“Do you think mum’s ashamed of me?” she asks, much to my surprise.
“No,” I sigh. “If anything, she’d be ashamed of me. I’m the reason this is happening.”
“Not really,” she shrugs. “Either way, they would have done something. Maybe even this idea, too. You were just the first to suggest something that could be considered worthwhile.”
“I let your mother down,” I tell her, resting my forehead on her hand which I hold in mine. “It’s okay to admit that.”
“Maybe,” she admits. “But if there’s one thing I know about mum, it’s that she would forgive you no matter what you did. She loved you.”
“She loved you, too and I love you.”
“I love you too, dad.”
We sit there a while, simply holding hands. I look around the room, watching the work that’s unfolding. It could be any other hospital in the world, only it holds a much deeper and darker secret.
“I wish you didn’t have to go through this,” I tell her quietly. I don’t have to worry much though. Her guards are talking to each other about their families.
“Me too,” she admits. “I wish we could just run away and take Rosemary with us. We could go live outside the city.”
“You know there’s no way out the city.”
She shakes her head, a small smile on her lips.
“Mum mentioned a way out.”
“I gave Riles her diary,” I admit regretfully. “If there’s a way out, it’s sure to be under watch.”
Rose fidgets and I immediately narrow my eyes at her. She looks down and bites her lip.
“What did you do?”
“I tore out some pages,” she admits quickly. “I hid them in my room.”
I sigh deeply and pull away.
“Either way, we can’t go.”
“Why not?” she demands. “You could get me out of here.”
“They don’t trust me anymore,” I say with disdain. “Not since they caught you and discovered your mother’s involvement.”
She bites her lip.
“Please?” she whispers. “It’s worth a go.”
I’m fretting over her request when the hospital door opens and Thomas marches in. His eyes brighten a little when he sees me and hurries over to where I’m sitting.
“I’m glad Riles let you in to see your daughter.”
“Thanks,” I respond dryly. “It’s really nice to see her.”
He laughs at the tone in my voice.
“Rose has perfect DNA for the test. There will be no causalities in her change at all so we thought since you were here, we’d move up her change to now.”
Rose’s eyes widen in horror but I hold her hand tightly.
“I only ask that I get to stay with her.”
“Of course,” Thomas agrees and turns to her guards. “I’ll escort them. Please go see Riles about your next duties.”
At Thomas’ agreement I scoop Rose into my arms and follows him from the room. At first she resists, fighting against me pitifully in her drugged out state that they put her in, but eventually she stops, breathing heavily.
I kiss her forehead.
“I love you sweetheart.”
“I love you daddy.”
Thomas chuckles as he continues on down the hall. Eventually I’m able to figure out where we are. Although the hallways are all the same, I eventually recognize the conference room. My arms tighten around Rose as we turn the corner, spotting the elevator just ahead of us. I stop in my tracks, staring at the elevator, a thousand thoughts running through my mind.
The hallway is deserted, as it is most times. Thomas must be wanting to minister the needle in his own office.
He doesn’t notice my pause so I quickly start walking again. Rose has noticed though. Of course she has.
“What is it?” she asks in a whisper.
I furrow my brow in thought.
How easy would it be to just make a run for it. My car awaits in the parking lot so we’d just have to get to it. Of course it would be nearly impossible to outrun the likes of the government and most likely impossible, but if Rose is right and there’s a way out, maybe..
I whisper in Rose’s ear.
“Pretend you want to walk.”
Her eyes brighten and immediately she starts to struggle against me again.
“Put me down!” she says in total character.
“No!” I yell back and pretend to keep a hand on her. As expected, Thomas turns around just as Rose jumps from my arms.
She brushes out the wrinkles in her shirt and pants and glares from me to Thomas.
“I’m perfectly capable with walking. If I’m being taken down, I want to go with dignity.”
Thomas just shakes his head and looks at me with pity.
“Brats these days, hey?”
I want to punch him over the use of the word but decide against it so instead I simply nod.
I hook my hand in Rose’s arm and direct her forward.
“Lead the way Thomas,” I instruct and he complies.
We reach the door and Thomas takes his keycard from his pocket and swipes it in the slot. I tense ready for battle and as he starts to type in his pin number, I take action.
With one swift move, I slam Thomas’ head against the steel doorframe and watch him crumble to the ground without movement.
Rose covers her mouth in horror but I don’t pause a second, instead I start hurrying her towards the elevator.
“Go, go, go!”
She stumbles forward, hand reaching out to hurriedly press the button. Although it’s meant to be one of the fastest in the world, today it feels like one of the slowest.
Eventually the door slides open and we rush inside, Rose pressing the buttons again.
We wait in silence as we begin our ascent, both tense and awaiting the alarms that are surely to sound. When the doors fly open, Rose scrambles out and I’m not too far behind.
As we sprint towards the car, I press the unlock button furiously. We fly into it and are just pulling out when we hear it.
The distant sound of an alarm.
“Drive dad, drive!” Rose screams and I of course obey.
“Do you know the place?” I ask her and she nods quickly.
“I’ve been there a few times. I’ve never had the courage to go through because it looks so dark and dreary.” She looks down and then shyly adds, “It’d be a lot easier to go with you.”
“There’s a flashlight in the back,” I tell her. “We better take it.” I had been using it the last few weeks to get my way into the building and facility. It’s a pain to manoeuvre in the dark, something I learnt all to well and quite quickly too. Eventually I asked Rosemary to buy me one.
I hit the brakes and Rose flies forward into the dash, panting.
“What the hell?”
“We need to go back,” I tell as I spin the car around. “We need to get Rosemary.”
Rose nods, lips in a thin line.
This is a suicide mission of course. The first place they will go will be the house. I just don’t want Rosemary to suffer at the hands of the government for our doings. As payback, I’m sure Riles wouldn’t mind letting her suffer.
I make the twenty minute drive home in under ten, speeding well above the speed limit and dodging traffic at top speed. A glance at the clock on the dashboard. It’s one in the morning. Poor Rosemary might just get a heart attack when we pound on the door.
I let Rose sprint inside, turning the car around ready to go back in the same direction we just came. I don’t turn it off, but wait impatiently for them to appear. After five minutes, I’m starting to get worried and quickly honk the horn.
Not long later Rosemary appears, touching a small clutch bag and lifting up her night dress so she can hurry down the stairs easier. Rose follows behind, clutching an even bigger bag. I frown at her and sigh.
Rosemary climbs in the front with me and Rose flies into the back. I put my foot down and the smell of burning rubber fills the car.
“Rose, why did you grab a bag?” I glare at her in the review mirror. “You wasted precious minutes.”
“It’s mostly pictures,” she tells me and looks down. “I didn’t want to leave mum behind.”
I press my lips into a thin line. I would have down the same thing.
Next to me, Rosemary is breathing heavily.
“Are you okay?” I ask but as she opens her mouth to answer, we speed past a group of police cars, all with sirens blaring and flashing. My stomach sinks as we all link behind to see them come to screeching halt and turn around.
“Hold on,” I tell the girls and move up a gear, pressing down even harder on the accelerator. This is the fastest I’ve ever driven and I find it strangely exhilarating, especially when Rosemary winds down the window to get some fresh air.
“I didn’t know what to think,” she tells me. “One minute I’m sound asleep dreaming about my sweet Robert and the next I find myself being shaken awake by Rose.”
I look at her in the mirror and she bites her lip, looking away.
“It would have been more effective than yelling,” she explains and we all chuckle a little.
Sadly the humour is short lived. With the cops gaining on us, I have no choice then to turn off the main highway.
Rosemary flattens against her door and Rose is tossed a little as we turn down into a more suburban street.
“Sorry,” I tell them but they’re to breathless to respond.
Rose directs me towards our destination, telling me where to turn and what streets to look forward. When she’s not, she’s typing furiously on her phone.
“What are you doing?” I ask her.
“I’m telling Tayla I have to go away for a while,” she sighs, her face falling. “I just want to say goodbye.”
“When you’re done, switch it off,” I tell her. “They’ll be able to track you otherwise.”
She listens to me obediently and tosses her phone aside and crosses her arms.
Eventually, we ditch the car with all our electronics and anything tractable inside of them. There’s no point trying to make a getaway if they can predict you’re every movement.
We make quite an interesting team, if I do say so myself. An old lady in her night dress, a teenage daughter in a t-shirt and shorts and me, a middle aged man dressed in a layback suit. What a sight we would be to others looking in.
We can hear the police cars in the distance, but we keep rushing down the streets, making sure to stay as hidden as we possibly can. Even though we’re in the outer parts of the city, no doubt there’s cameras trained directly on us.
“Are we far off?” I ask Rose. Surprisingly, even Rosemary is faster than me, running at surprising speeds without so much as a grimace upon her face.
“Not too far,” she tells me, a little breathless. “It’s at the end of the street.”
When we reach it, Rose leads us into an area of foliage.
We pick our way through the trees and bushes until we reach an old drainage pipe. Rose clutches her bag tightly as does Rosemary. Sucking in my breath, I flick on the torch and hurry inside. They follow behind me.
Inside it’s dark and murky, water dripping from the top. We make sure to walk as close to the sides as possible. Rose clings to my arms while Rosemary simply looks all around in awe and disgust.
“I’d love to get some cleaner into these walls,” she tells us quietly with a wrinkled nose. “You can smell the mildew from a mild off.”
This puts a smile on my face, even if it is only temporarily.
I don’t know how long we walk in silence. With each step we seem to slow down our pace, growing weary from all the running and the lack of sleep our bodies so desire. Eventually, we’re walking the speed of a zombie. Not the smartest thing.
“I wish we could stop,” Rose yawns. “Find a place to sleep.”
“We have to keep going,” I urge her and Rosemary, who’s starting to lull behind us along a little faster. “We don’t know how far the cops are behind us.”
Suddenly the tunnel lights up and we all cover our eyes, squinting as the sear our eyes.
“We’ve been with you the whole way,” Riles voice states coolly.
Rose gasps and I lower gradually lower my hands too as my eyes adjust.
Standing just before me is Riles, taking of a headset and goggles, his lips in a thin line. He sees my gaze on the strange contraption.
“Night vision,” he tells me. “They allowed me to track your every move since the moment you entered this tunnel.”
“How did you know we were here?” Rose demands before I can. “This place is meant to be a-“
Riles finishes her sentence.
“A secret? Hardly. We took control over this place not long after getting the information from Kirsty.” He smirks at me. “Torture is quite the compelent.”
I pull Rose behind me and ball my hands into fists, glaring him down.
He doesn’t look afraid, instead he just yawns.
“I wouldn’t try anything.” He points behind us and we all turn. Standing not too far behind us are whole squad of officers, armed with guns raised. “They followed you in and listened to my every order. It’s a surprise that you even thought you had a chance of outrunning them in such an advanced world as this.”
“Riles,” I say quietly. “Please don’t harm the girls.”
“It depends what you mean by harm,” he toys with the headset in his hands. “If you mean forcing a change on them, one that might possibly kill old grandma there, then yes. Yes I do intend harm.”
Rosemary looks confused and mildly frightened, but that doesn’t stop her from pulling her head back and spitting at Riles.
It hits the tip of his boots and he stares down at it in disgust.
“Alright,” he says with a yawn and gestures the police forward. “Haul them in. It’s going to be a long night.”
None of us has the strength to fight so we simply wait in defeat as they set about handcuffing us.