The Flats

The Flats Await!

You’ve been living in 47 your entire life. 16 years of austere living, if it could be called that. Hunger is a constant in your life and that of the other 200 people in 47. Your lungs in pain from the minty smelling air, your body constantly malnourished and in a constant state of dehydration. Headaches are constant, chronic pain, illness rules the community. The most common cliche in 47 is, “Life is Hard Work, but Hard Work is Life.” Yeah, it’s irritating but it’s also very true. There is little time for fun, since the whole place is falling apart.

Last year you thought life would change, you turned 15 and that meant you could go outside. You quickly found out that is no reward. Outside is oppressive, dirty, … deadly.

The minty, clawing air inside is horrible but the poisonous air outside is sure death. Just walking through it is depressing, living in it is impossible.

You’ve heard rumors that far from here there are areas that are not like this. Areas where people are able to stay in the air without dying, without changing. Where people can grow food and be out in the night.

Where people can live.

Live.

You dream of that place, but you don’t dare talk about it or, more importantly, allow yourself to really believe in it.

You wake up today, throat raw from the minty air, body wracked in pain from sleeping on broken down mats which replaced the mattresses decades ago.

Time for school, although you have no idea why you need to know most of the crap they force feed you. They tell you it’s for your future, but that seems so ridiculous. What future? Sure, you need to know about geography of a world no one knows exists anymore.

Sure, you need to know about crops. Laughable, unless it’s about the pathetic potatoes and carrots every meal is made of in 47.

Sure, you need to know how to shoot a rifle. There are a lot of dangers in here. But then again, you might be forced to the world again some day to help find replacement parts for the dying generators or air pumps.

You decide to get started though, since just lying here will give you more time to think about it all.

Your body aches. You lean your head back toward your pillow and

You jolt awake, head screaming as the speaker blares out “Laura Merril, report to the adminstrator immediately!”

You’ve overslept again. You jump to your feet, groan and quickly try to make yourself presentable and head for the administrator’s office.

Presentable, you think.. sure, jumpsuit one or two? Everyone in 47 has exactly two jumpsuits. It’s a big joke, “day suit or night suit?”, “regular suit or sunday best suit?”, on and on the jokes go. What’s not a joke is all the suits in 47 are on the same path as the machinery which keeps everyone alive… just about broken down. You pick up “Suit 2” and throw it on, brush your hair with the makeshift comb that belonged to your mother and head out down the hallway.

When you get to the administrator’s office, there are three others there. Teryn, your best friend and the only girl you’ve ever been able to get along with. Paul, the good looking guy from Section Two. And Joel, mr. brainy, who everyone knows will end up leading 47 one day.

Hey Laura, Teryn says. What’s going on?

“I overslept again,” you say with a groan. “Why did they bring you in?”

Teryn starts to answer in her bubbly manner but Paul interrupts her, “Who knows, they don’t tell us anything ever do they?”

Joel ignores you all, working on his pad, just as he always does.

yeah, what he said" teryn says.. kind of snickering under her breath.

You ‘sush’ her with a smile. They never do tell us anything. You wipe your hand down your face, trying to wake yourself up a little before they bring you in. “I’m so tired.”

“oh goodness, I know!” Teryn says in her normal way of making even the worst things sound fine. Paul just nods.

The administrator will see you kids now," mrs. samples says, as she gestures toward his door.

Joel gets up and walks toward the door without a word.

You gesture for them to go, then follow them in.

Paul and Teryn find their feet. You realize again how big Paul is. Must be six feet and muscular. They both head inside the door behind Joel.

You follow them, wringing your hands behind your back. What is it this time?" you think.

As you enter Mr. Bradley’s office, he points to the small conference table.

The other three grab chairs and Mr. Bradley sits at the head.

You sit down next to Teryn and look to Mr. Bradley.

“Good morning, we’re waiting on Mr. Stevens to get started, but he will be here…” the Administrator is cut off as Stevens rumbles in. “ah, speak of the devil.”

Stevens, the security chief of 47, takes the last chair at the table. He grumbles something under his breath but you can’t quite make it out.

Apparently no one else can either, as they all half laugh and look back to the administrator.

The Administrator clears his throat and hits a button, which causes a panel to slide back revealing a white board type device. The seal of pod 47 is shown on the device.

Mr. Bradley gets a stern look on his face, one of the few times you’ve ever seen him not acting like the world is great. “We have a problem, and you four have been chosen to be part of the solution. We have confidence in you all.”

You sit up, worried about what you might be doing. Will you have to go Outside?

Teryn looks at you, her face clearly showing terror at your words. She has never been outside and has been very clear that she’d be fine dying inside 47 without every going there.

“Yes Laura, some or all of you will. The administrator’s words draw a gasp from Teryn, but the other two are emotionless.

You nod, and pat Teryn’s hand under the table, trying to comfort her. “What do we need to do, Mr. Bradley?”

Bradley goes on, “We have kept this information from the community, but the other pods who have survived and who we’ve managed to communicate with are in even worse shape than 47.”
[12:42:20 AM] Jerry Harper: "Well Laura, it will take serious devotion to your fellow members here in 47. We know the four of you care enough, and that’s why you were chosen.

“47 will not last six more months without…” The administrator stands up.

He rubs his temples then his eyes, obviously very disturbed. “Well, without you being victorious.”

“It isn’t my idea, but there is a solution for one pod. Only one will survive.”

The air in the room is even worse than normal. It is as if you can smell fear and hesitation. No one speaks.
Finally, you look around the table, trying to gauge reactions. Are we going to war? 47? We can’t even feed ourselves, much less a fighting army.. you think. You don’t speak either.

Eventually mr. Bradley begins again. “Well.” He pauses.

“I…”

He presses another button and the seal of 47 disappears, replaced by a video.

“Let me explain what you’re about to see.”

“This is video from a team sent out from 39. They have no engineers left in 39, but they do have other assets. They’ve kept themselves alive by learning some new ways of dealing with their issues. They’ve traded information, spare parts and things they find in the world for food and water.”

“They have located this warehouse which was used as a base for the forebearers that built the pods.”

Paul and Teryn stare around at the others, obviously note sure what this means. Joel stares at the screen then blurts out, “this could fix all of our problems!”

“It could, couldn’t it?” you say, nodding at Joel. “Will we have to fight for control of it, Mr. Bradley?”

Mr. Stevens half laughs, then catches himself. “DAMNED RIGHT!” he blurts out before the administrator casts him a harsh glare.

“Well, sort of,” Bradley continues. “The administrators of each pod have decided, ….” He looks pained, but goes on “to send a team to determine who will take the contents.”

“We are to pick a team of those who will lead our communities into the future, our best and brightest I guess you could say, and send them to the Flats.”

“the Administrators have decided this will be the most fair, as the rules dictate what the team must take with them to the Flats and how many may go.”

“You see.. some communities aren’t as blessed as others. Weapons and supplies aren’t equal, but neither is training and education. Heck, neither is population. The largest pod is 1200 strong! While 39 is a mere 45 strong. They may not even be able to field a team at all, much less a competitive one.”

“What we’ve decided to do is reach out to other pods and try to arrange an alliance in the Flats. If we can accomplish that, we could bring home the victory.. but we would need to merge our space with the allies also.”

You’re somewhat honored, but mostly scared to death. “When will we be leaving? What can we take with us?”

“Good questions Laura.” The administrator smiles at you, in his normal “everything’s going to be perfect” manner.

“What you can take depends on who we send. We can send 2, 3 or 4 members. However, the larger the team, the fewer the supplies that are allowed. This is the administrator’s idea for how to help level the playing field.”

“I want to go Mr.Bradley,” Paul states flatly. “I can do this.”

Teryn looks like a trapped mouse and you think she’s about to be sick. Joel begins typing something on his pad, seemingly oblivious to the entire thing.

Stevens says, “Each of you has talents and skills that could help. Just depends if you got the guts for it.”

“I’ll do it.” you say, sitting up a little straighter.

The administrator smiles again. “well, mr. Stevens and I have some more prep work to do. We’re going to leave the four of you here to discuss this and decide who’s going, who’s leading and what you all have to offer the team. I will be back shortly to hear what you’ve decided. I will say this, I think 47’s team will be the winners of the Flats! Back shortly.” With that, they go out the door, leaving you alone with the other three.

“Are you okay, Teryn?” you say quietly, as if she really was a little mouse.

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