PART II: A FIGHTING CHANCE
11. What We Know
Evolutionary Research Associates is a government laboratory institution that has long been considered to be the crown jewel of Settlement 211. It is a leader in scientific discovery and development of worldwide solutions, and it has the largest imp-to-human ration of any major company on the continent. Sixty-five percent of its working population is comprised of imps. The employees are overseen by the imp of the CEO, a strapping, charismatic fellow by the name of Ule. ERA workers have been known to act stuck-up about how prestigious their occupations are, but then again, why shouldn’t they? Their corporation is one of the most important locations on Earth, a place where solutions are found, a safe haven in an unpredictable world.
Or at least it was, because now it is under the control of the Imps Liberation Group.
The Imps Liberation Group, or ILG, is a shady organization dedicated to overthrowing the order between humans and imps. They have been brewing in the nooks and crannies of Settlement 211 for years, initially beginning as a loose-strung group of imps connected only by a single leader. That leader came up with an idea, and he slowly extended his grasp like thin tendrils of poison spreading over the entire city, infecting the minds of imps and sparking dissatisfaction until they were convinced to rebel against their human superiors. At last, the leader accumulated a sizable group of recruits, and he was able to launch his attack on the major government institutions of the settlement.
This leader just so happened to be Ule.
Two days ago, at five o’ clock in the evening, Ule sent his ILG members to conquer the Set Gov headquarters, Evolutionary Research Associates, and many other places. In the ensuing eruption of chaos and panic, most of Settlement 211 was completely taken over. Now everything is in a disastrous state. Neighboring Settlements are deploying their authorities to help, but the rebels have erected a barricade around the city, and very few people have managed to get in or out. Humans and innocent imps are not being rescued. The ILG is not being defeated. And the world watches in shock, unable to look away, because no one knows what this new assembly of mutineers is planning to do.
The day after the attack, Settlement 209 was in complete lockdown mode, and all schools and businesses were closed. It was a pretty miserable day off, since no one was allowed outside and most people were still in shock. In the Mansen household, everything was eerily quiet. No one had the heart to start a conversation, and the deserted streets didn’t provide the usual sounds of groundcraft engines and pattering feet as background noise. The only thing audible was the tinkling refrain of Lai’s December Lullaby, filtering through the door of her room as she played it over and over again, like a music box stuck on endless repeat.
Today, all human citizens over the age of eighteen (as well as all imps) have been permitted to attend work. Returning to a daily routine is a relief for most people, but the atmosphere around Pristine Labs is not exactly normal. Everyone speaks in whispers, the echoes are sharper, and one question is repeated constantly: “Where were you when it happened?”
Felix tries to return to the designs he started preparing a few days ago, but for some reason, looking at the complex diagrams of an imp’s inner workings makes him feel queasy. Even as he sits alone in his private lab, turning up the volume on his comm as it broadcasts ongoing news about the catastrophe, he has a hard time getting his mind to grasp the whole situation. He knows that imps are perfectly safe; he has been around them for his entire life, socializing with them, working with them,creatingthem, so how can this be?! It’s not as if the imps in Settlement 211 were being abused! Imps enjoy working, and they don’t mind being owned by humans. So why would a massive group of imps suddenly decide to rebel and overthrow everything they had ever known?
The peace between imps and humans isn’t perfect, of course. But when there is trouble, it’s always the humans who cause it. They went up in arms when imps were first introduced, and campaigns to eradicate genetically improved humans have been launched even recently – less than five years ago there was an Imp Morality Conflict that produced six casualties, three of whom were imps. Nothing came out of the movement but jail time for the unruly humans who started it, of course. The coexistence of humans and imps is now too vital to society at large to abandon. But that doesn’t explain why an imp supremacy movement like the ILG would suddenly crop up out of nowhere.
Felix has been paying special attention to the chatter of the imps around Pristine Labs, today, trying to pin down a collective opinion on the attack. So far, most of the workers he’s listened to seem to be scandalized by their unruly Settlement 211 counterparts. None of them appear to think that the ILG is a good idea, and no one has come up with a viable theory for the rebels’ motivation.
His comm vibrates late in the morning, and he winces, thinking for a moment that he is about to be greeted with another life-shattering emergency alert. But this time, it is a normal notification of an incoming voice feed. He plants his thumb down on the “accept” trigger, and his boss’s somber tone enters his ears.
“I’m not going to ask you if you’ve heard the news, Mansen, because I already know you have.” That’s the first thing that Mr. Mika says. He’s never been one for wasting time on pleasantries.
“Of course I have, sir,” Felix sighs.
“Well, it just so happens that there’s a visitor on her way here right now, coming to discuss the situation, and she wants you to show up to the meeting.”
“You were specifically mentioned.”
Felix pauses. “Well…who is she, how does she know who I am, and what does she want with me?”
“We’ll talk about that when she gets here, but the long and short of it is that she’s making rounds to all of the nearby settlements, and she needs your help. You see, Mansen, she thinks she has an idea about how to fix things in Settlement 211, and her plan involves a genitech. She thinks you’re the right man for the job.”
The conversation is moving fast, and if anything Felix is only growing more and more confused, but he is also intrigued. It would seem that at least one person was beginning work on a solution while the rest of the world was gawking in horror. And since he wants nothing more than to see this conflict erased as quickly as possible…
“I’ll be there, sir,” he promises. “Just tell me when.”
“Excellent. I knew I could count on you, Mansen. I’ll buzz you when she gets here.”
The feed transmission ends before Felix can reply.