Further Tales From The UnderCurrent (Short Story Prequel Series)
A few things happened these last few weeks and I thought it might not hurt to write them down, get them off my mind you know?
Although I'm still not sure who this 'you' is...
I made good on my idea of removing one of the spare pilot chairs for a start. Took a hot-minute with my handful of tools, you'd be surprised how tight those things are held down - Still got it out, made up a little wooden frame and put it out front of the house.
Tamai really took to it, she looks tiny in it but its definitely more comfortable then what I had out before.
She seems fascinated by how it's from out of a mecha, I guess most kids at her age are interested with wars and tanks and stuff, I was too at her age.
Wasn't long till she brought the rest of her school class with her of course.
T'was early afternoon, I was working on the Neo when I hear the sounds of a gaggle of children - Looked over to the front of the house to see Tamai proudly showing off the chair to them.
After a while they creeped their way over to look at the main mech itself, they seemed wary more of me then it but eventually Tamai took the lead, walked right up to me and then turned back to her friends as if to illustrate that I wouldn't bite or something.
I've mentioned before that there isn't exactly alot of kids here, really all of them from 4 to 14 are in the same school class, although the ones that visited me were mostly younger kids around Tamai's height.
In such a small closed community as
ou, as this I'm sure you can imagine how school differs.
They do a bit of maths and language, everyone is expected to be able to read and write obviously but after that things are a bit less academic.
It's strange, back where I grew up school was just a place where you went and read textbooks, then answered questions on the textbooks, then failed a test about the textbook etc.
But here they get thought basic farming, economics, philosophy even - Not alot, they're only kids and I'm not sure how much of it sticks but I guess the idea is that if some of that sinks-in subconsciously - By the time they are adults these kids will have atleast a vague idea of what their neighbour's jobs are, or their spouses - Built into them from childhood, as-a-versed to regular school where you gain the ability to do algebra, if that even...
Once they hit 13 or 14 they leave school for a sort of apprenticeship. So say your a farmer's son and you want to take over the farm soon, well you'll do your apprenticeship at the neighbours farm - Learning different ways of doing things to those of your Father/Mother.
Apprentices still get thought academic stuff but its just more geared towards your eventual job, rather then the general knowledge you get in a normal highschool.
I personally think it works quite well for them, I've met some of the twenty-somethings who've been through the system and they don't seem any dumber for not having done 14 years of regular school and 4 of collage - In fact if anything I would say they're better off.
They appreciate the work everyone else does in the village, they've been honing their respective crafts since they were teenagers and they can read and write as good as any.
I know I couldn't say the same after I finished school... Then again I dropped out at 16 so maybe that's a biased view.
There a nice bunch of kids, Tamai's friends. Its funny seeing her act like a child around them, rather then her usual gig of talking like an adult.
They started climbing up the legs of the mech and all sorts, I guess they've never seen anything like it up close before.
It was a couple days after their unprompted visit that I learned a new secret about this place, one I think I might of rather not known.
I got up one morning and went out to the shed I've made. Aside from my sparse collection of tools I also keep some cheap farming equipment I bought in their and some chicken feed for the hens.
Oh actually I don't know if I ever mentioned them but I got some hens, 3. There actually pretty important to the story I suppose.
Anyway I went out to the shed and to my surprise there's this massive metal box with just my address on it (Though I guess no one knows my name so that much makes sense) - High quality shiny thing, if a little rusted around the edges.
I crank it open and inside I find an absolute treasure trove of tools.
We're talking a well polished set of spanners with ratchet cranks, a full rack of screwdrivers, a socket set, a high-quality powered drill - And best of all a tasty little welder.
All of it had been cleaned up nicely, though I could make out the odd sign that the set was second hand - Like that hardly mattered, compared to the handful of pieces I'd had up until now, the welder alone would be a game changer for my progress on the Neo-Vijaik.
I couldn't understand why I had been given them, I spend my week either working on the Nemo or helping around town to earn funds for food - I sure as heck hadn't earned a massive crate of top notch tools, second-hand or not these are the type that are second best only to actual military grade items, some real good stuff!
So I asked around town, politely of course (never look a gift horse in the mouth too quickly). But everyone I asked was unhelpful in the 'nicest' way.
They all seemed to know about the box and all said the same sorts of things;
Don't worry about it, you've earned them' or 'Oh those? I hope they're helpful dear' - Sickly-sweet comments like that.
So I gave up and went straight to the town elder.
Walked down the streets along the riverside, past the market and up the half-dozen steps to see the old man.
He is a truly generic elder, almost annoyingly so. Like something straight out of a cheap story-book he's got this big, bald, shiny head - He's short of stature, wears these old robes and smiles this big broud, toothy grin whenever you speak to him.
I found him outside his house, it's adjoined to the main council meeting room - He was out tending his plants like a regular old man.
I guess I'd kind of had enough of asking people for one day as I ended up being a bit blunt with him - Asked him straight out what the deal with the box was, told him I wanted to know who I owed labour to for it and how much.
Well, he turned and gave that stupid grin before saying there was no cost.
When I pressed him to elaborate he told me that all the townsfolk get certain things free of charge.
As I see it, tis' kind of like how a regular government will fill in pot-holes in the road as compensation for you paying your taxes.
Now we don't pay any taxes here but we also aren't allowed to ever leave the town - So in a way that's a pretty big tax on our freedom right? Well the return is certain things free based on the town elder's discretion - Tv, books, foods we can't grow here and of course my box of pristine high-quality tools.
So while that answered one question, it opened another; Where the hell did all that stuff come from or the chickens I bought, or any of the wildlife in general? Heck where do they get light-bulbs or plastic plumbing from?!
Well the elder let me in on that too, took me inside to pour some tea and then sat me down to explain.
I don't really know why it upsets me so much but it does, it really damn well does - I just, I don't know, it just pisses me off.
Apparently there is an exception to the rule, there is someone who is allowed to come and go from the town of their own violation. The nation-state this settlement is hidden with-in is incomplete but their is one port entrance, intended for construction freighters - One such freighter turns up once every month or two and brings a variety of things that we can't create ourselves here in the town.
Foods that the artificial climate can't grow, plastics, a small amount of livestock when needed and things like Tv shows or literature.
It makes sense really. The town is all about balance, having it be that no one ever is allowed leave would be no different to TSU methods - It would ensure absolute secrecy but at the cost of any modern living.
So they have taken one calculated risk, someone out there knows, comes by with supplies and then leaves again.
Its a risk but a considered one.
And yet... I don't know, it just felt like everything was false after I heard about it.
Like this place isn't as wonderful as I had begun to think - In truth this place can't last can it? The population pyramid is upside down and people can hardly live without lightbulbs can they - literally.
Without someone on the outside to bring the specialist parts for keeping the solar panels running, then this place would eventually run out of power - That would mean the gravity would turn off and before long even the air supply would become unfiltered.
This secret world can't even exist without the charity of someone outside and that just pisses me off...
I walked back home from the Elder's place, along the riverside, looking out at the forest and rather then being glad that I'd been trusted with another one of the town's secrets - I just felt, well it's stupid I know but like, forlorn?
I couldn't get all these stupid thoughts off my mind, I started wondering how long this place will last.
Say I'm right and Tamai is the reason for this place's existence - Say she lived to 80 years of age but never had kids of her own, would this place then just stop existing if there was no longer any one for it to keep hidden?
Or what if others know? What if Tamai's parents are still alive, just waiting for the right opportunity to start another revolution on Abhaile - Maybe some day a call will randomly come and this whole place will just be abandoned in an instant as its people run off to another war of independence.
And what's it to me eh? I'm not one of them, I'm not truly part of this community am I?
I'm only here by chance right, I'm only useful to them because I'm young and fit. Even if I built a house in the centre of town, went to the pub everyday, joined the town council or whatever else - I'll always just be some randomer who fell from the literal sky.
No matter what I do I'll always be different - They are from Abhaile, I'm from Bhaile - Our only commonality is that we're all humans, we ain't even from the same planet...
This isn't my home, I've barely been here something like 6 months.
So why do I find myself thinking about the kids? Do I want a child of my own or am I actually concerned for the security of this place's future?
Will those who look up in wonder at the Nemo in my yard, one day be sent off the fight in another bloody war for reasons they don't fully understand?
Will I find myself alone here some day? Just a crazy old man living on the outskirts of a long abandoned town, hidden away in deep space.
With the new tools my progress on repairing the Neo Vijaik will no doubt increase by leaps & bounds - I wonder how long until it's complete?
I joked about it before but upon closer inspection the head of the Nemo is actually pretty damaged, the lens especially - I may actually have to replace it with one of the Ogre heads, it's going to end up a real patchwork clown at this rate.
Heh just like me.
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