Chapter XXIII: Loyal

                                                                                            An excerpt from
                                                                             The Journal of the Loyal
                                                                                                            Entry 1
                                                                                     Date 69 of 7499 SC

Well ... this is some of the first handwritten stuff I have written for many years now. You're taught as a youngster in case the Diaries ever need to go offline - you're expected to keep up your Entries by hand on special forms and type them up when the System reboots, which can take days, I've heard. But the System has never shut off in my twenty-seven years on Colony.

So, as you've guessed, I'm not in the Colony anymore, and I don't have access to my Diary. At first I thought I'd die from anxiety, as my Diary had been like my friend - a place I could expound on my theories and thoughts, a place I could release my feelings in private to some unknown audience. Thankfully, Tiranus has given me a book of sorts, but blank and with faint lines on every page. He explained that outside the Colony, humans always write things down by hand, and keyboards are only used for programming.

It's taken me a while to begin trusting them. So much has happened over the last three days that my head's been spinning. But as this is the first time I've managed to get to a Diary (of sorts) since my escape, I'll try and remember as much as possible.

Father had taken me on some sort of errand, I don't know what it was, on Date 66. I'd never heard of anything of the sort occurring in the history of the Colony, and I was surprised and a little touched that he trusted me enough to invite him to such an important event, despite the lack of proper water and minimum rations.

I was angry, though. Father had never denied me any information before. Admittedly, I had never asked for restricted information - I had no want of it - but after a day or so I was confused and bored, and I was missing Cunning. So I confronted Father near the Outer Wall. I had been forced to put two walls between Cunning and myself already - I wanted to make absolutely sure that there was a good reason for putting another between us before I walked through those gates.

And Father was unable to give me an answer.

I could not explain my feelings. Ever since we had left the Colony my mind had seemed to open up, certain barred doors had been unlocked. It was as if my whole head was expanding. My thoughts could flow easier, I was doubly curious of everything around me. And something deeper - I don't know quite what it was, but my whole personality had changed. I was angry. I had been angry before, but that was nothing. It was as if the anger that flared briefly in the Colony had been hot water stored in a large tank, and the anger I felt on that night had been the water steaming out in a huge torrent. I was unnerved and scared by the change in my mind, but it helped me think clearer. And that was how I knew that Father wouldn't let me have what I wanted.

So I abandoned him, something I never thought I would do. Running back to the Colony had been easy; all I could think of was Cunning, and my desire to be back in his arms.

But then I had been ambushed, by freaks in black clothing. They had come forwards to talk quietly to me, dragged me off the path into the shadow of a bush, to hide me from Father's infrared scanners, and they had tried to talk to me. I knew they were Interlopers at first glance - they had that look about them; a strange facial hair had grown on their chins and upper lips; dark, sunken eyes and prominent cheeks. They were human, sure - but they didn't look like the Children at all, nor were they dressed like them.

I wouldn't cooperate with them, so they gagged me and bound me. Dragged me into some sort of concealed tunnel, which had somehow been constructed under the Union's nose without their noticing. The entrance - a heavy metal trapdoor - had been perfectly concealed by the bush, which by the feel of it was made from PP or some other artificial polyform.

When we had emerged the other end I was barely conscious. They had given me a perfectly comfy bed, but they'd locked the door on the way out, and I was stuck until morning, when I had my first visitor.

He came in quietly, as if not to scare me, but I woke instantly and huddled against the wall behind my bed, staring up hatefully at my captor and curling tight like a Hedgehog (an animal I once found in Encyclopaedia Systematica) does when it feels threatened. The man was 1.8 metres tall at least, and he was carrying a tray.

"You no need worry," he said in a deep voice. "We no give food nice as in your prison, but we help you."

His accent was so alien and unrefined I had trouble understanding him. It did nothing to help my nerves.

"Who are you?" I said, defiantly as I could. "What do you want with me?"

"I Tiranus. I one of men who rescue you."

"You didn't rescue me, you - you've taken me prisoner!" I shrieked.

"Here," said the man called Tiranus, putting a tray on a table next to my bed. "Water and food. You need decent meal."

I admitted to myself that I was thirsty. I tried some of the water in the slim glass on the tray and straight away spat it out.

"That water tastes different ..." I said warily, sniffing it. "You're trying to poison me!"

Tiranus had actually laughed in my face, but I did not find him amusing. I smashed the glass on my bedside table and shoved the shards into his face. "If you come near me I'll stab you!" I screeched. I could feel the tendons in my arm and hand tensing, ready to attack. Tiranus stopped laughing at once.

"All right, flower, you must calm, then I come back and talk," said Tiranus slowly, deliberately, clumsily. He had then locked the door and left me alone for hours.

I could not deny my thirst, I had been without a proper drink for two and a half days. There was a tap and a dirty polyform basin in the corner and I drank like a Camel. The water tastes funny to this day but it hasn't had any effect on me at all. In fact, it's much more refreshing and cleansing than the water we drank at the Colony.

Tiranus had come back in and reiterated what he said before - the Interlopers didn't want to hurt me, they wanted to protect me, and the Colony was a dangerous place. They constantly referred to it as a "prison". The proper noun had been unclassified in Dictionary, and the improper noun had been restricted. And when they explained to me what the word meant I wondered why it had been restricted in the first place.

I think they are still wary of me. I'm waiting now for Tiranus to return. He said he'd give me a few hours to write in my journal, which he gave me the last time I saw him; then he'd be back with someone who spoke my language better than he did. I still haven't received a proper explanation from a well-spoken individual as to why this has happened, and I want to find out what other restricted nouns mean. And more than anything I want to find out what's happening in the Colony. I'm not going to spend much longer being locked in the dark.

The End

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