The night was silent, anxious and filled with stars. Dragomir had never seen the stars like this: there seemed to be billions of them, in clouds and clusters, shining brightly alone or in distant, dreamy communes. He looked into the heavens in a sort of childish awe, looking down only when he stubbed his toe on a curb or kicked something by accident. He had never seen the stars like this, normally, the factory fumes choked them out and blanketed the City in fog.
Guiding him was Cyril Fietznyak. Cyril was used to the stars and missed them ever since he had come into the City. They were like old friends to him, or onlookers, to be admired, but ultimately ignored. Tonight was important.
Between the two narrow streets, ahead of them, was a pile of objects that were indistinguishable in the dark - a great pile of objects, obstructing the way. Cyril approached this confidently - this barricade guarding the rebel headquarters area.
Something moved, and a voice snapped: –Who goes there? Answer or I'll shoot your brains out.
Dragomir looked at Cyril, but the voice seemed to be coming from the other side of the barricade. A voice answered, but neither could hear it.
–That'll be him.
They climbed the barricade. It was difficult, and more than once their footholds and handholds were loose and threatened to break, but eventually they struggled over to the other side. A night-guard was there, with a policeman.
The policeman lifted his visor. –Calm down,– he said. –I'm in disguise. Aleksandr Aleksandrov: investigative journalist, at your service.–
The nightguard looked at him, and then at Dragomir. Dragomir recognised him: Rouben's accomplice on the night of the attack. Piotr scurried back up to his post on the barricade.
–I have three more guns,– said Aleksandrov. He sounded like he wasn't sure what to say.
–Excellent,– said Dragomir. –Cyril, if you could take the weapons in while I talk to Aleksandrov.– Cyril nodded and left.
–Aleksandrov,– said Dragomir, –what news does the outside world bring?–
–Mixed reactions,– said Aleksandrov. His voice shook slightly, despite his uniform. –I mean, mostly good ones...–
Dragomir began to walk a little way down the street. –Aleksandrov,– he said gently, –Understand that you can tell me honestly what they think. I'm not armed: I'm not going to hurt you. I just want honest answers.–
Aleksandrov looked away, stopping and looking back at Dragomir. –The official figure for those in prison is two hundred and fifty,– he said, –but the actual number is something like one and a half thousand.–
–Any news on a young man called Krasimir Dulka?– Dragomir asked apprehensively.
–I did not notice his name,– said Aleksandr Aleksandrov, –I can only give you this, courtesy of a friend.– He reached inside his uniform and gave Dragomir a pack of papers. Dragomir noticed the first page: Prison records.
Dragomir was looking at the floor as he walked, his hand to his chin. He stopped in front of a dilapidated building, next to the dark shadow it cast. For a second he thought he heard a scuffle, but he ignored it.
–The mainstream are really putting it out there that you're bad people, but the free media is all positive: people are therefore divided in opinion. That's why I want to get inside,– continued Aleksandrov passionately, –because I believe in your cause. I want to do a report, see what things are like in there...what are they like?–
–Satisfactory,– was the only answer Dragomir gave.
–Well.– Aleksandrov stopped in front of the building. –Oh,– he continued suddenly, –the Police believe that you need to make a move soon. None of this holing yourselves in, they think you're going to need to get out soon.–
–Out of what?
–The barricade. 'Your' area,– said Aleksandrov, making quotation marks with his fingers.
–Aleksandrov,– said Dragomir, –The whole City's ours.–
–Why don't you claim it, then?
Dragomir paused for thought, after which, he said, –How did you know the Police thought that?–
–We were all told at the Press. It was the news for the day: this headline, the fact that you can't stay in there for ever.
So now we're made to look militant, paranoid and now weak, thought Dragomir. He began walking back towards the barricade. –Tell them we're not going to,– he said. Aleksandrov whipped out a little notebook and pencil, and wrote this down.
–Anything else?– Aleksandrov pressed.
–Tell them,– said Dragomir, reaching the barricade, –that we're not scared of them. They have oppressed us for too long, and we are reclaiming our freedom. Though most of us are behind barricades, we will soon burst free and there will be a final, great uprising, the winners of which shall seize control of the City. This was never about a couple of youngsters getting drunk and misbehaving on a Saturday night. There was a reason everyone championed Rouben Waletzko for doing what he did, though we are peaceful people.–
–And that was?
–That humans are, after all, animals, and when pushed, will behave like an animal. That one act, that burning of the station of the Police, the soldiers of the rich, was a desperate cry for help.
Aleksandrov noted this eagerly down. Dragomir looked around, and something glinted where he had just been standing. Suddenly he shouted, and ducked, dragging Aleksandrov with him, as Policemen raced out, guns blazing. Piotr opened fire. Dragomir scaled the barricade and over the other side as Aleksandrov disappeared. He picked up one of the guns and opened fire, but the group of Police were only small, and they soon scattered back into the night.