MoboReader> Sci-fi > The Taàr (Dystopia #01)

   Chapter 8 NEL'S REQUEST

The Taàr (Dystopia #01) By John A. Bonello Characters: 18692

Updated: 2018-02-08 12:02


He had never been to the place Nel took him next. Some areas within the tower were restricted to Russ, and this was one of them. Nel had to open three doors to get through, each one unlocking with an eye reading mechanism Nel called an eye scanner. Behind the third door they found a hall so vast that objects and people on the other side looked tiny.

Large windows on the inner wall looked over one of the terraces while far on the opposite side, Ben thought the walls looked slightly curved. He thought that perhaps that was the outer wall of the tower. However, there were no visible windows over that side.

Total silence reigned supreme, even though there were other people in the hall besides themselves. Columns supported the immense roof, while a solitary round room with transparent glass walls sat at the very centre. Rows of benches in a star shaped formation jutted out from that centre in all directions. The benches nearest to Ben contained strange looking devices and equipment full of little green, red, blue and yellow lights. Half a dozen men were seated in front of those devices, looking silently at them. Far away, beyond the last benches, people moved to and fro among a shelved section. He couldn't tell what the shelves contained from that distance.

That hall was the heart of the scientist's experiment, Nel explained, the place that controlled all the functions of the building, an observatory of tiny little details that worked together to ensure that the vertical city could remain whole. From within that place, day after day, the scientists who survived the atomic attack measured and studied the effects of the nuclear disaster. They grew old and died but their work was carried on by the next generations of scientists, who strived to keep a watchful eye upon the outside world.

Nel stopped and turned to the boy.

And after they grew old and died, he said, there would be no one left to continue the legacy.

The man could not keep the sadness out of his voice as he said those last words. It was so strong Ben felt a sudden urge to cry. Those words were important to the man in front of him. In that instant he understood that Nel's story, the one he had not yet finished telling, had arrived at a critical point, and he dreaded what was coming next.

But the sadness lifted suddenly from Nel, as if he had had a change of heart, and instead he changed subject completely. He asked Ben to follow him and they made their way across the hall to the shelved section. As they walked, Nel started explaining that those shelves held years of research and reports, containing within them meticulous observations and calculations.

The scientists recorded every tiny detail, he said. Their job was to compare gathered data, analyse changes and predict outcomes.

It was difficult for Ben to understand but he listened intently and watched everything.

The man and the boy continued their tour around the hall. They reached the round glass room at the centre, which Nel said was a laboratory for dangerous or potentially harmful experiments.

They walked on. They went through a section where miniature cities were displayed on waist-high stands. Nel explained that the models showed areas of the island before and after the bombardments and were done by a device called a model printer, which Nel would be showing him later.

Would he like to see the place where he had grown up? Ben said yes, and Nel showed him a model of an intact town, the familiar temple towering above beautiful little houses all painted in different colours, with tiny doors and windows, the streets clear and neat. The boy stared at the model for a long time. Then he nodded, and they went on.

An old man looked up from the biggest book Ben had ever seen, nodded silently to them, and carried on reading. They reached wide double glass doors and passed through them onto the lowest terrace. The doors closed behind them.

A current of humid warm air greeted them, together with a thousand morning calls of different birds shuffling through the branches of the tall trees. Compared to the artificial air inside the hall, this was quite different. From high above, sunlight drifted faint and opaque, giving a pastel-like nature to the lush green environment.

Although Ben had gone on the terraces many times, he felt renewed amazement every single time he saw the towering trees, the creatures flying, the grass and the flowers. He would feel an inexpressible happiness take hold of him.

This particular terrace was the largest of all, with so many trees packed together and tight winding passages between them. They picked a passage and walked in silence for some time, until Nel pointed to the tallest tree the boy had ever seen. An oak, according to Nel. He suggested they stop there and as soon as they were seated, Nel resumed his story.

Where was he? Oh yes, he remembered. One day, a long time after the bombings, a lookout noticed movement some distance from the tower. At first he dismissed them for dogs. They knew about the packs of maddened beasts, had seen them many times prowling the areas close by. There were times when they assailed them, while they were busy clearing the rubble in the immediate vicinity of the building. And because of them, they had had to build a higher wall around the cemetery since the first few burials they made there did not rest in peace for long.

Ben was shocked at hearing this. His clan never buried their dead. They always burned them. Otherwise there was no telling the amount of rats and dogs that would come to

ged to get an audience with the Taàr inside the temple. He let them in, probably because their action took him by surprise, or maybe the reason was another one.

Ben felt confused and at the same time bewildered how nobody had told him anything about this before. But he kept silent. He felt the story was not over yet and he was curious to know not only what happened with Sal but also why Nel had said he would need his help.

He wasn't surprised when Nel declared that once more Sal refused their proposal. Sal started screaming in their faces, he wanted to throw them out of the temple. Things got hot and Nel and the others thought they had got themselves into a fight, but no one touched them. Instead Ben's people let them retreat and exit unharmed, without ever noticing that some of the tower people attached tiny devices to the inside walls of the temple on their way out. Outside it was getting dark, and by the time Nel and his people walked back to the town's border, night plunged in. They stopped there, and waited. From all around, rabid dogs barked and filled the night with terror. The special whistles kept them safe from the beasts.

The devices they attached inside the building were an invention of scientists from the past–a little box from which a potent gas was released, putting everyone who breathed it immediately to sleep. This assured that nobody would get hurt–Nel and Karl knew that the Taàr clan would all be gathered in one place at night and they used this knowledge to their favour.

Ben could not believe all this. But he still kept quiet. He heard how the tower people forced the doors with special tools, then used some kind of vehicle to transport the sleeping bodies from the town to the tower during an entire night. Once inside, they were placed in a quarantine area where they still slept under observation. Before waking them up, the doctors wanted to run all the tests to ensure no epidemic infections were introduced inside the tower.

The tests were now done and as from that day they would start reviving them. That's where Ben's help was required. If they found a friendly face upon waking up, Nel was sure their shock would be lessened. He might be able to help his friends integrate more quickly by sharing his own experience with them.

Nel stopped at that point. He had been talking for a long time, without tiring, without slowing down. Now he observed Ben's face, calculating, trying to gauge his reaction.

And Ben didn't know how he should react. When he heard how Nel and his friends 'handled' the clan people back in Tartarys, he had felt a blow in his stomach. A part of him wanted to keep on believing that Nel was a true friend, with good intentions, but another, deeper and older self, a part of him that grew inside him among the rubble heaps screamed and shouted with rage like a cornered rat. He was so absorbed trying to understand these conflicting feelings and thoughts that he didn't notice that Nel was calling his name and asking if he was alright.

Then when he finally did hear him, he turned his head and just stared into Nel's eyes, searching for an answer to the doubts that clouded his thoughts. He needed to take a decision, one that would help his friends. He felt responsible. He felt he owed them greatly. But most of all, he felt used. Enraged, disillusioned, disappointed. Guilty. That was the right time to ask his brother's advice, since he was wise in a way Ben was not. Rorik, he thought, why did you leave me alone?

Time went by. The man and the boy sat silently next to each other, in the shade of the tree. One waiting and hoping, the other looking inside himself for the best answer.

"I'll help you, " he said at last.

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