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Beyond the Colony (Part 2)

The final part to this short story.

[Here is the 2nd part of this series.  The first part can be found here.  If you like what you see tweet at me @amccaul1976.  If you don't like what you see please be constructive with the criticism.  Help me be a better writer.  You can also email me at [email protected]  Thanks for reading and if you like what your read please share this story with others.  Thank you and I hope you enjoy part 2.]

Owl and Mike walked into the council chambers, the red dust that inundated every part of the colony puffed out of every step.  The council chambers were rarely used and were cleaned even less.  The shoes the boys wore pressed their indentations into the dust covering everything in the chamber.  The boys made their way up to the dais.  The boys pushed their way into the artificial light that shone down on them from the top of the chamber.  The light was cast from an unknown source hidden in the dark covering the ceiling of the chamber. The light circled the boys and the light could clearly be seen as the haze of the room shone light smoke in the light that encircled the boys.  The boys stood silent until asked questions by the council.

A voice from the dark of the chamber spoke.  It was one of the councilmen his voice echoing though the chamber.

"Why were you late for your walk assignment?"

Owl spoke first.  "No one woke me and my alarm didn't go off."

Mike said "Owl was supposed to meet me but he was late so I went over to his house to get him for the walk.  Because I was late I thought we might get a bad assignment and I didn't want to walk alone."

The boys looked out into the dim light their eyes adjusting to the conditions around them.  They could see eleven figures seated in front of them.  The men were hooded and in the dim light the boys couldn't see their faces.  They could see if the had beards or not and just enough to see the outlines of the men's faces. 

The next voice that spoke was of a higher pitch and a woman. 

"So you didn't plan to get there late for just such an assignment?"

"No we didn't." Both of them said.

"You didn't tell your classmates that you wanted a far walk for your assignment?  That you wanted to get out of the colony and stay out overnight somewhere?"

"No." Mike said. 

Owl paused for a long moment and then said "I did but I didn't think it would actually happen.  It wasn't like I did it on purpose or anything."

The council members turned to look at each other and the boys could hear whispers.

"This is a sealed meeting, that means whatever you hear and say in this meeting stays within you two and the council and you may not speak about it with anyone else." A deeper baritone voice said.

"We understand." The boys said.

"The reason for this is that we are going to ask and share some sensitive information in this meeting.  We would ask that you would let us handle things in our own way and in our own time."  The voice said pausing for a moment before continuing. 

"There are certain factions in our colony that would use the information that you gained from your walk to try and change things.  This we feel at this time would be a mistake.  We don't feel like the colony is ready to move back up to the surface just yet.  It is still dangerous up there and if we try to leave the colony would be dead in a matter of weeks."

"But we went up there overnight and nothing happened to us and our badges were still black."  Owl said.

"But they didn't stay black."  The deeper voice said.  Then two badges were thrown in front of the boys and the badges had now turned a yellowish brown.

"The badges did turn.  Just not like they used to.  They didn't change right away.  So we think the damage that the surface does is getting weaker and in a few generations we will be able to return to the surface but now is not the time."  The deep voice said again.

"Are we going to die?" Mike asked.

"We can't be sure and we will want you to check in with medical every few weeks for the next year to be sure."  The deep voice said.

"For now you will both be enrolled in college free of charge as hazard pay for your duty on your walk.  You will be excused from all your walks for the next year. Until we are sure that your aren't sick." The woman's voice said.

"Thank you for your generous gift."  Said Mike to the council.

"You both are welcome.  We are not going to forbid you to stay inside the main colony grounds but we strongly recommend that you do.  We are going to forbid you to return to the surface.  For several reasons, not the least of which is further exposure will make you sick.  If you stay for a longer time the surface will kill you."

"We understand."

"Good, you both may go and good luck in the fall."  The woman said.

"Thank you sirs and ma'am." Mike said.

The boys exited the council chamber quickly kicking up more dust and smearing the footprints they made when they came into the room.

The boys went back to Owl's assigned housing.  Everything in the colony was built into the surrounding rocks.  Owl's house was metal plating covering a rock wall.  Windows were built into the metal plating letting some of the surrounding outside light shine into the home.  Inside brighter artificial lights lit the windows from the inside.  Looking into the house you saw a house that was fairly modern.  Carpet covered the floor, a couch and chair sat in the living room along with a coffee table and a television set.  Owl had left the TV on when he left for the meeting with the council.  The boys had been back for three days after giving their report when a date was set to meet with the council and both boys had been given little notice to meet with the council.  Being in a rush Owl had forgotten to turn the TV off.  Everything was quite modern in the house.  The kitchen was a bit bigger as well having an island to prep food, dual stoves, refrigerator/freezer, plenty of cabinet space.  The outer walls were the old thing that would remind you while you were inside that you were underground.  The walls were the same red color as everything else. 

Entering the house the boys relaxed grabbing some food from the kitchen and sat in the living room talking as they ate in front of the TV. 

"Mike, do you think the council lied to us?"

"No, why would they?"

"I don't know but it sure seems like something is off here.  I thought that the badges turned color right away and that it didn't take them overnight and certainly not three days."  Owl said.

The boys ate snack foods for a while sitting in silence.  Owl liked the game shows and was intrigued by the prizes that people won on there.  The best prize for Owl that a woman had just won was getting a new house at the top of one of the spires.  The air and food seemed cleaner up there.  Food and air here on the ground seemed dirty and had the taste and feel of being coated with the dust.  After the show ended the boys returned to their conversation.

"I always wanted to go to college and now we get to go for free.  I think that is so cool.  I am glad we were late now."  Mike said.

"I am glad we were late too but I think that I am going to try to go live on the surface rather than go to college."  Owl said.

"Owl, why would you want to do that?  We have everything we need down here.  We are protected, we have food and shelter, we are even going to college why do you want to ruin that now?"  Mike asked.

"Because we are trapped down here.  It is a gilded cage.  The council is lying to us then they offered us a carrot to stay down here and not rock the boat.  I think we should steal a couple of badges and stay up there for a week.  If the badges change color in that time then we know we will get sick and die heck we might do that now anyway since the badges already changed.  I think that the badges will stay black and that the council lied.  If they stay black we can expose the council and tell everyone they have a choice.  Either to return to the surface or stay down here and live."  Owl said.

"I don't know about that Owl."

"You know I'm right Mike."

"But college."

"Fresh air, clean food, and a chance to build your own house and live in peace." Owl said.

"I know you're right, you have always had bigger dreams than I did Owl.  If you want to do this I'll do it with you.  But let's sleep on it tonight and if you feel that way tomorrow I'll go with you for a week to the surface."  Mike said.

The next morning Owl showed up at Mike's house.

"Mike, I've thought about it and I still want to go back."

"I thought you might say that." Mike said.

Mike then pulled two badges out from his pocket.  "Let's pack some food and clothes and go up top."

After the boys packed up a couple of backpacks, they went out into a different side of the city so they could exit out into the tunnels at a different point then they did yesterday.  So that if they got caught trying to sneak out into the tunnels the guard would be a different guard and might not recognize them.  All the teens in the city tried to sneak out of the city at some point and if they got caught they would try to lie about being younger and be let off with a warning as the guards were apt to do. 

The dust was a bit thicker that morning.  Mike and Owl were stuck trying to think of a way out of the city without the guard seeing them.  The dust was hanging in the air almost like a smog over the city.  The boys try a few things like making noises and trying to distract the guard.  The guard was a bit older and must have been hard of hearing or had been duped by some of the kids before so the guard didn't budge. 

While the boys were sitting there they got a bit lucky.  A group of older kids came by just before the Mike and Owl were going to give up.  Those older kids came by and started teasing the guard and pelting the guard with dirt clods they got from the walls.  The guard ended up chasing the kids off calling into his radio for help.  Mike and Owl looked at each other, surprised at what just happened.  After the guard was out of sight the boys just walked out into the outer tunnels again.  After a couple of hours of circling back to the tunnels they did their walk though Mike and Owl were on their way again.  This time they walked a bit slower to make sure they were going the correct way.  Once they found their way to the cafe the boys knew they were going the right way.  Once they got a bit further out the boys started hearing strange noises coming form behind them every so often.  A few times they paused to see if they could see someone or something coming up from behind them.  Once they even circled back to try and catch whatever might be trailing them.  After Mike and Owl had done that last maneuver and found nothing they were able to head straight to the surface with little fear of being followed. 

Looking out into the open air and seeing the sunset for the second time the boys made camp.

"Seeing the sunset is amazing and almost as beautiful as the night."  Mike said.

"The air is so sweet and fresh and there isn't any dust in the air to breath.  I love it."  Owl said.  "Let's get up and look around in the morning I don't want to spend the whole week sitting around the mouth of the tunnel. If anyone comes up looking for us I don't want them to find us so easily."

"Sounds good, I know we are risking free college, our futures in the colony, as well as our lives up here.  We should take a good look around and get our monies worth."  Mike said.

"Sounds good, Mike have a good night."

"You too Owl."

The night passed with no further events.  The stars spun slowly in the sky and in the morning the sun woke the boys with its brightness.  It was a quick cleanup and the boys set out through the tall grass.  The terrain drastically changed over the next few hours.  Owl and Mike were able to climb to the top of a few foothills near a mountain range.  They looked out over the plains to see a vast crumbling city and was wasting away in disrepair and disuse.  The hours pasted and they walked to the edge of the city.  Again night fell and the boys made camp.   As the boys were sleeping flashes of light woke the boys.  Soon the wind was blowing harder and rain fell from the sky.  The boys ran for the shelter of some of the broken buildings nearby.  After searching through several of the structures they found one where the roof wasn't missing or damaged and crumbling down.  Still the boys couldn't fall back asleep.  The boys had never seen weather like this before and were not prepared.  The food they had packed was protected well enough in the backpacks that it wasn't ruined in the rain.  So the boys were able eat some more of the provisions that they brought with them.   Mike and Owl said very little to each other as they were too busy looking out at everything.  The boys kept track of their badges but the badges remained black.  Every so often Mike and Owl saw vast herds of animals unlike anything they had down in the colony.  They spent the remaining part of the week in the city looking out onto the plains and exploring the city.  They were able to learn that this city was Denver and they saw herds of Deer, Buffalo, and Big Horn sheep around the plains.  They were able to learn that Denver had survived the war unscathed.  The war hadn't originally touched the city.  But the poison from the air settled over the planet.  That is what forced them to create the underground colonies.  After the boys explored the colony and confirmed the council lied about the badges they headed back down to tell the council and the rest of the entire colony. 

Hiking back down into the dust Mike and Owl started to hear explosions and gunfire.  They ran back down into the dusty tunnels and soon found the colony was engaged in a large battle.  Some of the men spotted the boys and soon there was a clear division between the men as one small group started shooting at the boys and the others killed those men.

The leader of the survivors came up and said "Mike, nice to see you and this is your friend Owl?"

"Yes, this is him and we brought back proof that the council has been keeping us down here." Mike said.

"Mike, who's this? How do you know him?  What is going on here?" Owl asked.

"Owl, this is John.  He is part of the resistance.  I have been working with them for a little while.  They starting recruiting me a while ago.  They are the ones who gave me the badges."  Mike said.

"Hey guys, we don't have time for this we need to go see Christopher now."  John Said.

John took the badges from the boys and led them through the massive conflict.  After a time they came to a command post and were led inside.  Christopher took the badges and asked the boys one question.  "Were you guys up there all week with these badges?"

"We were." They replied.

"The council knew you were headed to the surface and they sent several men to kill you.  You guys made it more difficult on us by stopping.  The men started to make their moves to kill you and we intercepted them."

Mike and Owl looked at each other and thanked the leader of the resistance for saving their lives.

"There is one thing you could come do for us.  I mean not just the resistance but for the entire colony.  Come give your account in front of the media.  They will broadcast your account to the colony."

"Will it stop the war?"  Owl asked.

"It will at least stop it for now and who knows maybe we can work with the council and get them to help us move back to the surface."  Christopher said.

"Lead the way."  Mike said.

Christopher told John to lead them to the studio.  Fighting was intense near the studio so it was difficult to get the boys into the studio.  The studio didn't waste any time getting the boys on the air and by the end of the broadcast the sounds of fighting had stopped.

Within a week Owl, Mike, and the resistance had returned to the surface.  After the broadcast the council and the colony agreed that if people wanted to go to the surface the council would no longer try to stop them.  The resistance also agreed would not try to force those unwilling to return topside to do so.  After a few years of moving the entire colony started to rebuild and renew what had once been the City of Denver.

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Beyond the Colony (Part 2)
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