Authors: Ann Christy
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Dystopian, #Post-Apocalyptic
Two of the Silo 49 Trilogy
A Wool Universe
© 2013 by Ann Christy.
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of
This is a work of fiction. All resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and the product of a fevered imagination.
Torrey Cooney -
This series has been written primarily for readers already familiar with the world of
, that delicious dystopia created by Hugh Howey. While I’ve tried to make it accessible and enjoyable for readers who have not yet plunged into
, much of what happens may not be understood in context unless one knows of the dark depths of the Silo world.
I’ll be honest, I
was terrified when I clicked ‘okay’ and uploaded the first story,
Silo 49: Going Dark.
While I did disclose that I’m an amateur more comfortable with my field of science than writing fiction, that didn’t stop me from hoping like mad that you, the readers, would like it. That most of you did delights me in ways I just can’t describe.
This second book delves more deeply into the changes in our silo and the way they have evolved culturally in the generations that they’ve been on their own. And
there is the story, of course. It’s a longer work. I’m not sure if that is a good or a bad thing. Let’s just say that I made it as short as I could, chopping out an “extra” 16,000+ words before calling it done.
With many thanks to Hugh
Howey for his generous permission to publish this series set in his world of
and the Silos and with affection for my fellow
ians, Ann Christy
1) We are different. We are the good.
2) All Conduct Above the Rails
3) What those within the
silo need, the silo has provided
4) Nothing Wasted, Nothing Lost
5) Life is for Giving
6) Always Be Prepared
7) Reason is always the better choice.
8) One day we will reclaim
Others are still out there
10) Thoughts are the bedrock upon which the
Wallis tossed down the book in frustration and pointed his finger at Grace. Eyes narrowed in skepticism, he asked, “Are you getting rid of those colors because you don’t like them or do you have some actual logic here?”
“Honestly, Wallis! Why do you always have to be so contrary?” She picked up the book he had just tossed down and turned pages rapidly. She knew exactly what she was looking for
so it didn’t take long. They had both been pouring through his journals since Graham died, but Grace was the one who always seemed to know where to find specifics. She found the passage she sought and turned it for Wallis to read, a finger pointed at the line.
With a sigh that told Grace she had already
won, Wallis peered at the page and read.
Gold. Really? Gold? What’s that? And silver? What possible purpose does it serve to have the most difficult cloth to work with, repair or clean be reserved for a select few if not to set them apart? Sure, red and green and gray and all the others identify people but don’t set them apart in the same way. Silver and gold are boasting and intimidating and probably meant that way. Plus, they are ridiculously uncomfortable. I feel like I’ve got a piece of plastic stuck to my balls whenever I wear them. I’d ditch them if I could and make the colors match the rest of the work groups. Probably gray for IT and tan for the other.’
When he finished reading, Wallis sighed again. He looked at Grace, her face one that was
quickly becoming essential to his daily happiness. He gave a grin of surrender when he saw her lips lift in victory. “Okay,” he said, touching her fingers as he let the book go, “I see the point. But now I have to get new coveralls.”
Grace pinched the odd fabric in her fingers and teased, “You just like wearing gold.”
“Yeah, yeah. You won already, so let’s not rub it in.” He picked up the pages full of lists they had been going down, designing and deciding as they went using Graham’s words as their guide. It would be a whole new silo once the “Great Forgetting” was started and complete. He put a careful check-mark next to Grace’s neat script. “Okay, coveralls are done. Next, it looks like we’ve got identification, communications and government.” He made a sound of disgust and asked, “Can’t we pick something less dreary for the next one?”
She gave him a level look, all her humor gone. “Whatever we do now will
be what everyone
us will live with and build upon. We owe them to get the basics correct or else who knows what the silo will be like in a hundred years.” She nodded at the list and said, “Pick one.”
He hung his head a little and studied the list for a moment. “I would pick one but I think we have to settle the whole IT issue. Everything before led to IT. We should figure out where all those loose ends will go now that we don’t have the other silos and IT controlling us.”
“That does make sense.”
we do about the whole IT thing?” Wallis asked.
“Well, I have some ideas about that, too.”
Marina looked up as a knock sounded
at her door but made no move to answer. Instead, she looked back at the delicate work in her hands. It was at a crucial point in assembly and she sighed in annoyance. Even the act of sighing was carefully done, the stream of air directed away from the work.
"Just a moment," she
One final and almost invisibly small twist of the tool in her hand and the part was set.
No matter how many times she finished any repair, these moments when some stage was complete always brought a certain sense of satisfaction. She set a tiny blue marker in place to remind her of what she had last done. Leaning back, she gave it one more measuring glance and ensured all was properly done.
The component hung snugly in a clamp above the workbench surface. The open top revealed a complicated geometry of boards and traceries of dull metal, all bristling with wires of the smallest gauges
. Each wire was colorfully rendered in the coatings that identified their purpose. She tapped her magnifiers and the lenses lifted on slim metal arms to stand above her head like the antenna of some strange, human sized insect.
as she stood, her back giving a loud pop in the quiet room. The feeling of muscles held too long in one position stretching free was a good sort of pain and she certainly didn’t mind it. She opened the door just wide enough to frame her face and peered out, her eyes blinking myopically from too much time behind strong magnifiers. The lenses standing above the mass of her curly hair seemed to peer just as myopically.
with a bulky bundle strapped to his back smiled at her from the hall and said, "Hey, Marina. Good to see you again. I've got the load from Level 50 for you. From the reclamation?"
It took her a moment but his wide smile was familiar and it eventually
placed him in her memory. This was the same boy who had brought her the load from Level 25 just two weeks previously. She smiled then, forgetting her annoyance, and dipped her head quickly out the door to look left and right.
The lights that flashed to indicate someone was using the buffer doors were out so she eased the door open wide
, grabbed her flask and slipped out into the hallway with the young man. She closed the door just as gently as she had opened it to minimize any breeze upon her small pieces and parts inside.
Turning to the boy, she saw the sheen of sweat on his
face and the darker edges of sweat dampened cloth on the kerchief tied about his neck. She squinted up at him, her eyes still adjusting, and said, "You didn't need to run, you know. How about a cup of something besides water?"
The boy licked his lips and smiled
his wide, young smile, "That would be good. Porting is thirsty work."
Marina led the way to the buffer door that brought them to the main hallway in this part of
Level 99. She held the first door open for the young man, whose name still had not appeared in her mind, before she entered the buffer chamber herself and yanked down the lever that sealed them in. By habit she looked out the thick window, scratched and cloudy from countless years of use. The way was clear so she lifted the opposing lever and opened the second door. Her ears popped and she saw the porter work his jaw as his did the same.
Marina felt that pop as a relief, an indicator of the end of a work day and a signal to go home
. It was much the same as the stretch of stiff muscles at her bench. The boy didn't seem to enjoy it as much given the way he screwed up his face.
Again, she held the door for him and closed it behind them, slamming the lever home. The
clank of metal on metal echoed along the deserted hallway, featureless save for more closed doors, worn tile and scuffed walls.
Marina walked briskly down the hall till she reached the Reclamation Room hastily converted for this project.
project. It was one she didn't relish doing but it was necessary. She was glad that she had brought the problem Up-Silo but that didn’t change the fact that this was a burden she’d rather not have now that the doing was required.
here was no need for caution against the ever present hallway breezes here so she opened the door without hesitation. She motioned for the porter to enter and gave a general wave toward the workbench so he would know where to put his load. He grunted a little as he eased the burden from his back and onto the cleared workbench. He withdrew some papers from the front pocket of his coveralls and smoothed the folds before handing them to her.
She glanced at the sheets, a little limp from the heat and
sweat of the porter's body, and set them aside to take two cups from a deep shelf. She poured him a cup and said, "Tea, fresh from this morning. Drink up. Have a seat."
took the cup eagerly and plopped into the only available chair. Marina suddenly remembered his name was Jason. She also remembered he was twenty or somewhere thereabouts and in love with a girl in Mechanical, which was why he always wanted to take loads to the Down Deep.
She did try to remember these details about people. Her husband had an uncanny knack for it but she found that it just wasn't natural to her. She was more of a machine person
, if she was honest about it, but she'd seen the reactions he got when he addressed people in personal ways. So she tried.
She sipped her tea as he gulped his down. He smacked his lips and accepted a refill, this time matching her sip with one of his own.
"That's good. Nice and sweet. Thank you," Jason said.
Marina could see he meant
it sincerely. She wondered, not for the first time, if the porters liked her because of these little niceties. Not everyone showed the same courtesy. She knew some of her co-workers grumbled over the need to pay chits for far too little news or the way the porters always seemed to have more to tell than they did. Marina liked things to be regular and predictable so she never indulged in the news-for-money game. All news came around eventually. So, she always gave a modest tip, a cup of tea and a few moments rest whether they had news to share or not.
"You're very welcome," she said and returned his smile. She pulled the lens contraption from her head and laid it on the workbench
with a relieved sigh. Her curly hair, once dark and now beginning to show a bit of gray, held a pronounced dent all the way around her head that she knew looked rather comical. When Jason looked up and made a face very close to a laugh, she patted it down and tucked the strays into the band of her ponytail.
The big pack full of boxes on
her workbench kept luring her gaze away from the business at hand. She rubbed at the two irritated spots on either side of her forehead before she asked, "How did the collection go?"
He looked confused for a moment until Marina's eye flicked toward the bundle. Then he shrugged. "I wasn't there for that. It's not my floor, but one of the porter shadows I know lives there.
He said his mom cried when she gave up her ring." He shrugged again. "I think that’s about it, though. It will make people sad but what can you do?"
Marina nodded, relieved that the only obvious impact
was a few tears. She had feared worse. What might be included in this ‘worse’ option had even been discussed during the planning stages of the reclamation. A recurring discussion surrounding the possible consequences had almost toppled the effort. In the end, the council had decided the risk was worth it and passed the Reclamation Resolution. The alternative had been unacceptable and therefore, almost any risk was worth it.
"That's good. I mean, it's not good to make anyone cry, of course," she clarified as she picked up her tea again and sipped. "But it's good that people understand and are going along with it."
Jason studied his cup and replied, "What else can they do? It's not like we don't all know the reason and the need."
Marina reached over
the workbench and patted the side of the bulky package, "And this will go a long way to filling that need, I hope."
hank you again for the tea. I've got two more small deliveries to 120 and 135, so I’ve got to hit the treads," Jason said, patting a bulging pocket on his thigh. "I like picking up and delivering to this level, though. The air, you know." He said this as if Marina would understand his reference.
Marina's brow crinkled and she sniffed without thinking about it.
"The air? What about it?"
said, drawing the word out as he considered his response. "It's very still. It smells of very few things and the air is quiet, like it can't carry sounds very well or something." He spread his hands in surrender, apparently giving up on the description.
grunted and then leaned back a little on her stool to listen and test the air. She thought she felt what he was describing. "I think I know what you mean. It is sort of like that. But it's not hard to figure out why."
"Then why is it like that?" he asked, genuinely interested.
Many porters went into that line of work because it was physical. It was a job full of motion and not a lot of thought. Others went into it because their curiosity spanned the silo and the idea of settling on one profession was simply too much to commit to. Jason seemed like one of the latter sort to Marina.
thought he was a rather bright young man. The image of her daughter flashed through her mind and she couldn't help but wonder if he was still in love. He was quite good looking. Tall, too. She brushed the thought away and answered him. "The buffer doors are probably the main reason. It keeps the breeze that flows throughout the silo at bay and the way the air is passed through means there is different pressure on each side of the buffer doors. That's because of fire and gasses. Safety, you know. We use a lot of heat and chemicals on this level."
She paused and tasted the air, recognizing for t
he first time in a long time the peculiar absence of life in it. "Also, there’s not much evidence of people in the air here. It is
Jason nodded. "It's a nice change once in a while for me. I get to smell everything." His nose wrinkled at some remembered smell she guessed was not at all to his liking.
Marina laughed and tried to remember what it was like to be so young and full of life.
Adjusting his kerchief, Jason rose and handed Marina his cup.
"One more for the stairs?"