Author : Callum Wallace

“Forward! Move forward!”

I duck the humming blue blow as the throng presses me onwards.

“How much further?” Davos looks afraid, scared of the dark, frightened of the ubiquitous pressing weight above.

I grip his hand, “We’ll know soon enough.”

The ceiling thickens. Air becomes thick, nasty, hard to swallow.

Sallow lanterns joke about light as the darkness squashes us, making us formless, one, a huddled mass, the underclass, alone in our multitude.

“What’s going to –” His whisper is cut off by a booming voice that echoes around the tightly packed space, ignoring the bodies trapped there, strong, powerful.

“Friends! Fellow slaves! Urchins, off casts, dregs. I’m sure you’ve been called them all. But listen now! We are mistreated, pushed about, abused and used, only to be cast aside and discarded when it is no longer appropriate for us to be seen above ground, broken and useless!”

There is a heavy pause as the voice soaks up the eagerly listening air around them.
“It is time for this to end! It is time for us to rise up! Look at us! How many of us are sent underground to await death? Ten-thousand? Twenty?

“More than enough. With this number, we could –”

I turn away, pulling Davos close. His eyes are still wide, still deathly afraid, but I note the dangerous gleam, the spark that leads to violence. “Come on, let’s get out of here. We can still find a hab-shelter, I’m sure.”

“No. He’s right. This is too far.”

Grimace. “This is your first ramp?” He nods. “I’ve lost count, Davos. It never changes. Every time, it’s the same. Trust me. Now come on.”

He pulls his hand from mine, eyes wide as saucers in the gloom. “What do you mean? There are other ramps? They’ve sent more of us down? That means there are more of us to fight!”

I shake my head. “No. One ramp at a time. They send us down the ramp, wait for the inevitable fight, wipe you out and start all over. Do you recognise anyone down here? Ever seen any newscasts, any footage of any rebels at all? Think about it.”

“Only Archangel.”

Shudder. “She was the first. And one of the first to die, or go missing. Every rebellion happens because of her, and thousands of humans have been culled because of her.

“Please, Davos, come with me. It isn’t worth throwing your life away. Do an old woman a favour.”

The speech overhead is raising the crowd to a fever pitch. You can taste the metallic quality of the peoples’ excitement in the rank air.

“I have to do this. You would agree if you weren’t a coward. If you cared.”

He pushes away and into the swarm, one of the chosen, a hero in the making.

I shrug sadly, and go the other way, heading deeper down into the oppressive black of the ramp.

I know I should try harder, but it’s happened so many times before. I know it’s pointless, and I know what’ll happen. Davos will be dead by morning.

The Tregeél communicator vibrates silently against the inside of my skull, and my vision blurs.

They’re waiting.

“This is Twelve. It’s happening again. You’ll have to kill them all.”

Another buzz that shakes my teeth, and I find a hidden alcove where I can watch, safely above the surging idiots below me.

And I sit.

Archangel sits.