14

2110 • Silo 1

The shrinks kept Troy’s door locked and delivered his meals while he went through the Silo 12 reports alone. He spread the pages across his keyboard—safely away from the edge of his desk. This way, when stray tears fell, they hit only wood. He routinely palmed them off and smeared them into his thigh.

For some reason, Troy couldn’t stop crying. The shrinks with the strict meal plans had taken him off his meds the last two days, long enough to compile his findings sober and free to remember. He had a deadline. After he put his final notes together, they would get him something to cut through the pain.

Images of the dying interfered with his thoughts. It was always that view of the outside, of people suffocating and falling to their knees. Troy remembered giving the order. What he regretted most was making someone else push the button.

Coming off his meds brought back other random haunts. He remembered his father. He remembered events from before his orientation. And it confused him that a billion dead could be an ache in his gut while a few thousand made him want to curl up and die.

Maybe it was because he saw himself as a steward to the thousands. They were in his charge. But then again: hadn’t that been true of the billions? Hadn’t they all been stewards of one another? Or was inaction somehow a lesser sin? Was keeping quiet less evil than barking orders?

The reports on his keyboard told a story, a predictable story. Troy knew there were paragraphs in The Legacy that told the same tale. What he didn’t understand was how something could be predictable without being preventable. Statistics were magic like this: they could tell you with near-certainty that a thing would occur, without a hint of when or where.

There was something else about those reports; they reminded him of parts of the Legacy. He thought of men like Hitler, Stalin, and Napoleon. All it took was a lot of seemingly decent people to put the wrong person in power and then fall under their spell.

Troy’s stomach grumbled; it was an impatient fist opening and closing, asking for the pill. He wiped his forehead with his sleeve, which was already dark and damp with his discomfort. That wasn’t right, blaming it on one person. Was it? He glanced around his office and wished there was a copy of the Legacy he could consult. But the books were across the hall, and his door was locked. He tried to remember on his own, but the past was fuzzy. The past was more distant than minds were meant for.

The report in his hand told a story, a story of a shadow who had lost his nerve, an IT Head who couldn’t see the dark thing spreading out at her feet, and an honest enough Security chief who had chosen poorly.

The keycodes for each video feed sat in the margins. Again, it reminded him of another old book; the references had a similar style.

Jason 2:17 brought up a slice of the shadow’s feed. Troy followed the action on his monitor. A young man, probably in his late teens or early twenties, sat on a server room floor. His back was to the camera, the corners of a plastic tray visible in his lap. He was bent over a meal, the bony knots of his spine casting dots of shadow down the back of his coveralls.

Troy watched. He glanced at the report to check the timecode. He didn’t want to miss it.

In the video, Jason’s right elbow worked back and forth. It was easy to imagine him eating, perhaps sawing into a delicious cut of pork. The moment was coming. Troy willed himself to not blink, could feel tears coat his eyes from the effort.

A noise startled Jason. The young IT shadow glanced to the side, his profile visible for a moment. He grabbed the tray from his lap; it was the first time Troy could spot the rolled-up sleeve. And there, as he fought with the cuff to roll it back down, were the dark parallel lines across his forearm, and nothing on his tray that called for a knife.

The rest of the clip was of Jason speaking to the IT Head, her demeanor motherly and tender, a touch on his shoulder, a squeeze of his elbow. Troy could imagine her voice. He had spoken to her once or twice to take down a report. In a few more weeks, they would’ve scheduled a time to speak with Jason and induct him formally.

The clip ended with Jason descending back into the hole, a shadow swallowing a shadow. The Head of IT—the true Head of Silo 12—stood alone for a moment, hand on her chin. She looked so alive. Troy had a childlike impulse to reach out and brush his fingers across the monitor, to acknowledge this ghost, to apologize for letting her down.

Instead, he saw something the reports had missed. He watched her body twitch toward the hatch, stop, freeze for a moment, then turn away.

Troy clicked the slider at the bottom of the video to see it again. Jason popped on the screen as he went back too far. There she was rubbing his shoulder, talking to him, Jason nodding. She squeezed his elbow, was concerned about him. Jason was assuring her everything was fine. He was great. Thanks for the concern.

Once he was gone, once she was alone, the mental machinations began. Troy couldn’t know it, but he could sense it. She had her doubts. Here was her chance to destroy the dark thing she’d helped create, a twitch in that direction, reconsidering, turning away.

Troy paused the video and made some notes, jotted down the times. The shrinks would have to verify his findings. Shuffling the papers, he wondered if there was anything he needed to see again. Here was a story like in that old collection of books with human names, the chapters in hours, verses in minutes. It was the fall of Jericho, the legend of Gomorrah. A black shadow had fallen upon Silo 12. A decent woman had been murdered because she could not bring herself to do the same, to kill in order to protect. And a Security chief had let loose a monster who had mastered the art of concealing his pain, a young man who had learned how to manipulate others, who wanted out.

He typed up his conclusions. It was a dangerous age for shadowing, he noted in his report. Here was a boy crossing that dire Rubicon between his teens and twenties, those years when healthy young bucks are studying their herd and looking for signs that the Alpha has gone gray. It was an age deep in hormones and shallow in control. Troy asked in his report if anyone in their twenties could ever be ready. He made mention of the first head of IT he had inducted, the question the boy had asked after hearing tales from his demented grandmother. Was it right to expose anyone to these truths? Could men of such fragile age be expected to endure such blows without shattering?

What he didn’t add, what he asked himself, was if anyone at any age could ever be ready.

There was precedence, he typed, for limiting certain positions of authority by age. And while this would lead to shorter terms due to the simple math of longevity—which meant subjecting more unfortunate souls to the abuse of being locked up and shown their Legacy—wasn’t it better to go through a damnable process more often rather than take risks such as these?

He hammered the keyboard as tears related to some unnamable other thing splashed to his desk. He knew this report would matter little. There was no planning for insanity. Enough revolutions and elections, enough transfers of power, and eventually a madman would caress the reins. He would caress the reins and reach for a crop, and instead of steering, he would whip for no other reason than that he could.

And so Troy printed his report assuming nothing would come of it. These were the odds they had planned for. This was why they had built so many. He rose from his desk and walked to the door, slapped it soundly with the flat of his palm. In the corner of his office, a printer hummed and shot four pages out of its mouth. Troy took them; they were still warm as he slid them into the folder, these reports on the newly dead and still dying. He could feel the life and warmth draining from those printed pages. Soon, they would be as cool as the air around them.

A key rattled in his lock before the door opened. Troy wiped his cheeks and then his desk. He dragged his palm across the seat of his pants, destroying the evidence.

“Done already?” Victor asked. The gray-haired psychiatrist stood across from his desk, keys singing as they returned to his pocket. He held a small plastic cup in his hand.

Troy handed him the folder. “The signs were there,” he told the doctor, “but they weren’t acted upon.”

Victor took the folder with one hand and held out the plastic cup with the other. A blue blur of forgetting rattled softly inside.

Troy typed a few commands on his computer and wiped his copy of the videos. The cameras were no good for predicting and preventing these kinds of problems. There were too many to watch all at once. You couldn’t get enough people to sit and monitor an entire populace, which meant they were only good for sorting through the wreckage, the aftermath.

“Looks good,” Victor said, flipping through the folder. The plastic cup sat on Troy’s desk. There were two pills inside. It was like the dosage at the start of his shift, a little extra to cut through the little extra. Looking down at them, he saw that there was still a wet smear across his desk. He wondered if it would turn to salt once the moisture evaporated away.

“Would you like me to fetch you some water?”

Troy shook his head. He hesitated. Looking up from the twin pills, he asked Victor a question.

“How long do you think it’ll take? Silo 12, I mean. Before all of those people are gone.”

Victor shrugged. “Not long, I imagine. Days.”

Troy nodded. Victor watched him carefully. Troy tilted his head back and rattled the pills past trembling lips. There was the bitter taste of forgetting on his tongue, and then he made a show of swallowing.

“I’m sorry that it was your shift,” Victor said. “I know this wasn’t the job you signed up for.”

Troy nodded.

“I’m actually glad it was mine,” he said after a moment. “I’d hate for it to have been anyone else’s.”

Victor rubbed the folder with one hand. “You’ll be given a commendation in my report.”

“Thank you,” Troy said. He didn’t know what the fuck for.

With a wave of the folder, Victor finally turned to leave and go back to his desk across the hall where he could sit and glance up occasionally at Troy.

But he had to walk to get there. And in that brief interval, when no one was looking, like a young shadow sawing into his arm because the pain was better than the numbness, Troy spat the two blue blurs into the palm of his hand.

Shaking his mouse with one hand, waking up his monitor so he could boot a game of solitaire, Troy smiled across the hallway at Victor, who smiled back. And in his other hand, still sticky from the outer coating dissolved by his saliva, two pills nestled in a palm dyed pink. The blood red stain from the day before was already beginning to fade. But Troy was tired of fading. He had decided to remember.

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