Short Story 36

Jemima and The Broken Ones

They used to call us The Broken Ones. In the fallout of the revolution, the world ushered in a new way of life. For the first time in our history, Earth fell into a state of equality…but only through the introduction of the hive reaping. Once every six months The Cleanse would sacrifice a few for the greater good of the many. We didn’t fit in, and that didn’t sit well with The Collective. What did they really expect? In the process of trying to overthrow the powers that be, they adapted and took humanity to a depressingly new low.

Our differences were removed, and the new norm restricted what people could feel, what they could do. People feared becoming victims of The Vortex, but the worst part was that nothing had actually changed. An illusion that would make great magicians bow down in disbelief: the powerful just found new ways to hold onto their thrones and manipulate people.

Those of us who still had a head on our shoulders fled to the abandoned land across the boundary. Others risked it all and hid in the cities while trying not to get caught and forced into The Vortex, a literal hellscape of…well…no one really knows. One moment you’re there, the next you’re not. Gone. Non-existent. Never to be seen again.

The Collective didn’t actively cross the border to take us away, but the narrative within the city walls ensured we could never live a normal life. At least not yet. We have a plan. They wanted to criminalise us? Bring it on. For those of us who never submitted to their regime or let our thoughts be sullied, the war was just beginning.

These farmlands hadn’t been used for years before the revolution. There was a quiet beauty in the fields where wild horses roamed free. I sometimes imagined what my life would be like if I just threw in the towel. I’m tired of fighting a war we might not ever win. My mother, may she rest in peace, would be upset at me even toying with the idea. I can hear her voice even now, “Wyatt, you were always meant to save the gem of this world.” Words mixed with dreams of a woman fading into the grips of death.

Everett came running from the warehouse that had seen better days, “Wyatt! You have to see this!” Just as quickly as my mind wandered, I was back to reality. I needed to try, even if it meant one day I wouldn’t come back. The others were already gathered around the mainframe. I spotted Kat through the chaos, “What did you find?” Her face was normally frustrated, it still was, but there was a glimmer of hope in her eyes as she said three words, “Someone broke in.”

It took me a second to process what she was saying. Someone broke in? Then it clicked and I moved quickly to the computer screen, “Someone got behind the fence?” Everett laughed and he typed on a computer, “They did more than that. Whoever it was mined data. The Collective are freaking out.” I nudged someone out of the way to stand behind him, “Who was it? Can we track him?” Cracking his fingers, Everett never took his eyes off the screen, “Working on it. I know they’re in the city. You won’t have long to get there. We’ll be close behind.”

I got on my bike and started the ignition. I had decent forgeries to get me through the checkpoint including a stolen chip in my neck. Should be easy, especially if I go through the 16th gate. Barry always wanted to go to dinner around this time. Getting there fast, I was in the queue waiting to pass through as I thought about the best way to approach this. It could be a trap, and I can’t be caught. We had ideas about what was powering The Vortex, but most importantly I couldn’t let them know that our numbers were growing.

Everett was back on comms as soon as I was through the electro-boundary. His instructions led me to an abandoned funeral home. Creepy. I bet the hacker did this on purpose. I turned my lights off as I neared it, “Everett, are you sure this is the place? It doesn’t look like there’s anyone here.” He was deeply offended, “Rude. The signal is coming from the west side of the building.” I walked carefully down the hallway following Everett’s instructions. I turned left and expected to see someone as I entered a room with a piano that gloomily took the glow of my torch.

As I moved closer to the piano, a tablet lit up, and a female voice entered my earpiece, “Hey you! Tall handsome idiot, you’re going to ruin everything.” She must be able to see me, and I looked around as I told the others what was going on, “Everett someone hacked the comms.” She continued speaking, slightly annoyed that I was here, “They can’t hear you or me. Also, yes, the scary lady infiltrating your ears is watching you. Listen to me, The Collective have sent a squadron who just surrounded this place.” Panic jolted through my body and I tensed as I started towards the door swearing. The girl told me to relax, but I wasn’t inclined to do so, “You can’t leave. The door is rigged. No one else was supposed to be here for this, and you clearly aren’t with them. You must be what? 6’2”? I’ll work with what I’ve got. Just get them all into the room and keep them talking. Pick up the tablet, face the door and trust a stranger.”

I don’t know why, but I believed she wouldn’t leave me in here with no options. I heard the enemy breach the building and begrudgingly grabbed the tablet. I hoped she was worth trusting. Within seconds I was surrounded. God, what have I done? The feeling quadrupled when Archie walked through the door – my brother. In my ear I heard the girl whisper, “Showtime, Ryan Reynolds.” I chuckled as Archie rubbed his hands, “Well, well, well, if it isn’t the black sheep of the family. How are you baby brother?” The girl gasped and whispered, “He’s your brother?! You poor thing, that is not a nice man.”

I ignored her, but I agreed wholeheartedly, “Archie, I hate what you’ve done with your hair.” He was taken aback and that meant I could still push his buttons. Taking another step forward he pulled out a gun and pointed it at me. There is no way he would shoot. Frowning he looked frustrated, “Wyatt, I know you couldn’t pull off this data heist. Tell me what you’re doing here?” The girl whispered in my ear, “Thirty more seconds, please.” I was looking my brother straight in the eyes, “I just wanted to see my big brother’s face. I haven’t seen it since I gave you that scar.” I dragged my finger across my face, and smiled, “Father must be so proud with the man Archie Williams became, I know mother wouldn’t be.”

I heard a gasp and slight giggle, “A bit harsh. Got some issues that need to be resolved?” My eyes faltered slightly, and Archie’s frustration turned to anger, “You’re a distraction.” I stayed silent and watched him try to radio someone with no response. As they turned to leave, the first one to try and run out the door got burned by a laser grid. Clever way to augment their remote taser drones. I didn’t even care much that I was trapped in here too because I was really impressed, and didn’t even notice myself laughing at my brother’s predicament until he started towards me.

I dodged a punch and barely heard her apologetic voice say, “This might hurt. Sorry in advance.” Alarm bells went off. What does tha…An explosion went off. Son of a bitch. Archie was yelling at someone to get off him, and some of his cronies started firing their weapons like absolute idiots. I couldn’t see anything and then felt myself being tackled out the window. The short drop from the window to the ground felt like an eternity. The person on top of me wouldn’t let go, and soon enough I was hitting green grass with the wind knocked out of me while breaking the fall of whoever was on top of me.

“Come on, Keanu Reeves! What are you doing just lying there? We have to go!” The girl’s voice wasn’t in my ear but from the masked person picking herself up from my chest. I coughed a little as I strained to speak, “Easy for you to say. You didn’t just act as a human airbag.” She wasn’t having any of it, pulling me up and firing an electrified net over the window we had jumped out of a few moments ago. She waved at my brother, “That should stop them for a second. Now come.” I stood and as I did, Archie furiously shoved two of his men out the window, electrifying and taking the barrier with them. Shit.

We turned and ran. Mystery girl took my hand and we teleported about five metres ahead. This is their tech, how does she have it? “You can use the jumpers?” I could tell she was smiling under the mask, “Oh, just you wait until you see my other toys.” We teleported again and stopped dead to hide from a drone. The girl swore and I looked at her shaking my head, “I’m surprised you didn’t plan for that.” She hit me in the arm, “I did. I didn’t anticipate you.” Worried, she touched something around her neck, “I can’t let them have this back.”

I looked back and saw Archie and his evil minions catching up, “I can get my team to pick us up, but we need to keep moving.” No response. I decided best to let her process. She thought about her options and conceded, “I have a great idea, why don’t you call some of your friends to help. After all, why should I have to do all the work?” The audacity of this woman genuinely had me baffled. I open my comms channel which she fixed, “Everett, tell me you guys are nearby?”

Turns out they were watching from the old Hollywood sign. I indicated with my eyes, “Odds of us getting up there?” The drone was gone and she stood enough to lock onto a roof across the road to guide the teleport, “Who doesn’t like a bit of parkour?” With that we took several short bursts through buildings to confuse our pursuers. We ran out of jumps and had to hike up the lookout, but we had sent Archie in the opposite direction.

Everett and Cassidy were waiting at the summit. We got in the car and both of us visibly relaxed, if only for a second. Cassidy turned around in her seat, “Cool mask. Is it energy-centric?” The mystery woman nodded, “I made it.” Impressed, Cassidy looked at me, “I’m guessing she saved you then?” The girl laughed, “I like her. Yes, I did. Chris Hemsworth here nearly messed up my plan.” I was a little insulted, “You’re the one who trapped me…and if throwing me out of a window is saving me, next time try something more painless.” Scoffing, she had sass in her voice, “Some people aren’t ever grateful. A simple thank you would suffice.”

We arrived back at the compound and cleared out all non-essential people. It only left five of us. I turned to the woman, “My name is Wyatt Harper. This is Cassidy, Everett, and Kat. We are fighters, they call us The Broken Ones.” I wasn’t prepared for the person I saw when she removed her mask. She was beautiful. Smiling she said, “So you’re the ones I hear whispers about. Word is, your numbers are getting pretty big. The closest we’ve been to revolution 2.0. My name is Jemima.” My mind instantly went to what my mother had always said, ‘You’ll save the gem of this world’…The Jem.

Kat nodded a greeting before asking what sector she was registered in. When Jemima told us she wasn’t registered anywhere, Everett was sceptical, “You mean you only travel on false documents like us?” Shaking her head, she frowned, “No. I mean, I was born free. I was never barcoded.” Holy crap. I made a few false starts, “That’s not possible?” Grinning, Jemima looked like she was enjoying herself, “You know, I never tell anyone that. Feels good to share. Speaking of, do you have something I can use to hack this?”

Jemima was holding Archie’s necklace, “That’s-” She didn’t let me finish, “The key to shutting down The Vortex and bringing them back. Exactly.” Cassidy started pacing, “Bring who back?” Jemima looked between all of us, “You know what The Vortex is right?” Everett shrugged, “As much as everyone else. It’s where people who don’t conform go to die.” She was shocked as she brought up a live feed from inside the compound. Jemima explained the rows of pods we saw, “The Vortex is an energy source syphoned from living people The Collective literally collects. Their power, like always, continues to come from humans they are supposed to protect.”

After the initial shock wore off, we devised a plan because the urgency of the situation demanded a quick response; we have to save them. A few days later, we launched our attack. Without the power from The Vortex, we would all be on an even playing field again. Many of The Broken Ones sacrificed themselves to help Jemima and myself get to the core. There wasn’t time to think about what we were doing. As we climbed to the centre mainframe, I grabbed her arm and pulled her back, “We might not get out of here…and I just wanted to say thank you, for saving me in more ways than one.”

Jemima smiled, “Wyatt…” That was the first time she had used my real name and not some obscure actor from the old days. I stepped forward and kissed her. This might be the last time I would be able to try. She was somehow my everything and I had only known her for a blink of an eye. When I pulled back, she stoked my cheek, “You didn’t let me finish. You saved me too. Restored my faith.”

Archie clapped from the end of the platform, “How beautiful! My brother found a delusional soul mate.” I pushed Jemima behind me and whispered for her to go. She needed to finish this. I pleaded with my brother as we pulled guns on each other, “Please, just let us give the world a chance.” He squeezed the trigger at the same time I did. We both crumbled to the floor. I felt cold drifting over my body and could barely feel Jemima as she kneeled next to me, a tear falling out of her eye, “We did it.” She kissed me as The Vortex overloaded and the operations room blew up releasing the millions of people across the world trapped in energy farms.
I died with hope and love in my heart.

By Naomi Eleanor

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