As I look back I realise that it was not coincidence that led him to me. He had known what I had done. Had they been tracking me? It seems likely, but I will probably never know.
The rest of that night was a blur. They asked me questions but I do not remember answering. I know that I passed out at one point. And then, finally, I was free to go. The Commander covered me tracks, I know, but I still have no clue why. I headed out into the night, the blood drying on my hands, no longer the hands of a child. It was brown and clinging, like liquid guilt.
I made my way straight to them. They had not believed me when I said that I could prove myself; they had forced me to do this, as a test. And now they saw me arriving, bloodstained, broken, tired. No longer the innocent I had been just a day ago.
“Get out,” they told me. I was unable to talk for a moment or two.
“What?” I croaked. “But I did what you asked!” And they pushed me backwards, out of the door, out into the darkness.
“The only thing you proved tonight,” they said, “was that you would do anything necessary to achieve your goal.” They paused, savouring my brokenness. “We don’t trust people like that. Get out.”
I gave up everything for them, and they turned me away, like an unwanted dog.
Now my memory turns to my father. He was a peaceable man, very different from my impulsive mother. I have not inherited any of his looks, or his temperament. He is such a gentle man that it is hard to believe he was ever a rebel, and yet I know that in his youth he was a ringleader of a massive anti-leadership movement that went on in this city; the only protest here for decades. It is hard to believe, yes, but it is true.
Yes, what about my father? What do I remember about him?
That is hard to say, really. A lot of my memories have left me now, the product of spending too much time away from Home, but I am sure they will return at some point.
I remember the way he was always losing things – his books, his locators, his communicator, once even his contact lenses … I do not ever remember him managing a week without a cry of, “Has anybody seen my…?” And his jokes were terrible. Terrible, but in such an absurd way that we laughed at them anyway. Oh, my father; such a scatterbrained man, and yet so clever, really.
I remember the day that he died. I was nineteen, almost ready to go out into the world. That day I was out with two friends, Olivia and Sunshine, when I received a call. At first I ignored the buzzing of the unobtrusive green stud in my left ear, but it was insistent and I excused myself to take the message.
“Mai, your father has just had a heart attack. He is in hospital, please come quickly.” The message ended there. I was surprised, to say the least. A heart attack? Surely one of our healers could sort that out?