Allegiance

“Alin?”

“What’s on your mind, Graf?”

“What makes you think something’s on my mind?”

“You’ve been shuffling all morning, and you’ve been clicking your mouth. That means you’re thinking, and you need some help.”

“I click my mouth?”

“Only when you’re deep in thought.”

“How do you know that?”

“Seriously? We’ve done this duty together for months now, right? Every day, for hours on end, stuck in this room. Just ourselves, these chairs, a couple of screens‌‌…‌”

“And the doors. Don’t forget the doors.”

“Of course. The reason for the job. But I’ve spent more time alone with you than I have with anyone else. It sometimes feels like we’re in a relationship, and Chelle’s just someone I know who shares a bed with me.”

“You’re lucky to have someone like her.”

“I know. But I still know you too well. So out with it‌—‌what’s bothering you?”

“Okay. I’ve been thinking‌…‌”

“Always a dangerous move, my friend.”

“‌…‌and I’m not sure what to do. It’s kind of connected with our job”

“Go on.”

“See, we sit here and make sure nobody comes through who isn’t supposed to.”

“I know the job, Graf.”

“Let me finish. I’m trying to explain. It’s hard.”

“My apologies. Carry on.”

“Thank you. So we stop people getting in or out, unless they have permission. And not many people try.”

“Some do.”

“Yes, but very few. I can only remember one.”

“That’s at this gate. There are the others, remember, and the routes we’re not supposed to know about.”

“True. But there’s still not many people wanting to cross the glass.”

“There’s good reasons for that. Who’d want to go out there? You know what that‌…‌creature was like. He was wild, more of a beast than a man. And they’re all like that Outside. You know that.”

“Maybe.”

“That doesn’t sound good, Graf.”

“But‌…‌I don’t know what I think anymore.”

“Even after that madman?”

“That’s what started me thinking. See, we’re better off in the Dome, right? We have all these luxuries, what with the protection and the fine weather, and food and all that stuff. And everyone’s really nice and friendly. And Outside, it’s the opposite. Out there, you’re likely to get attacked every day, or worse. People will steal, and throw things at you, and say whatever they want.”

“That about sums it up. We’ve got it good, they’ve got it bad.”

“So why have we only seen one of them in all these years?”

“I don’t follow.”

“Why haven’t more of them been trying to get in?”

“Well, maybe they don’t think of it. That one we had to deal with‌—‌he wasn’t too bright, was he? They’ve been breeding with themselves, and you know what that does. He was probably an intellectual by their standards.”

“Then why are they dangerous? If they’re that stupid, we should be fine out there. They might be strong on a one-to-one basis, but we’ve got intelligence. We can outsmart them.”

“Look, Graf, I don’t know where you’re going with this, but there are some things we just have to accept‌…‌”

“Why?”

“What?”

“Why do we have to accept them? It doesn’t make sense. If it’s so terrible out there, more of them would want to come across the glass. So it stands to reason that it’s not that bad Outside.”

“Not that bad? They’re animals, the lot of them!”

“But we don’t know that. Some of them are, I’m sure. But all of them? Sorry, Alin, but I can’t believe that.”

“And so?”

“What do you mean?”

“You don’t believe it’s as bad as they say out there. So what’s eating you up inside?”

“I want to see.”

“See?”

“I want to see for myself. I want to go out there.”

“Outside? Through that door?”

“Yes.”

“You’ve lost your mind!”

“No. I think I’m just starting to gain it.”

“You’re serious? You want to leave the Dome?”

“Not as such. But I want to go Outside. Just to see.”

“Then go.”

“What?”

“You know where the door is. You’ve even got a weapon, so you’ll have protection. Go.”

“You’d stop me.”

“No I wouldn’t.”

“It’s your job.”

“But you’re a friend. If you want to leave, I won’t stand in your way.”

“You sure?”

“Of course.”

“I knew you’d help.”

*   *   *

“Alin? Alin? You there?”

“The door’s shut. Go away.”

“But it’s me, your old friend.”

“Can’t help.”

“Alin, it’s me, Graf. You were right‌—‌it’s horrible out here. Please, open the door.”

“I can’t.”

“I want to come back!”

“You’re not authorised.”

“I wasn’t authorised to leave. Come on, be a friend. Open the door.”

“Well, okay.”

“Thanks, Graf. You wouldn’t believe how terrible it is out there‌…‌oh, good morning. Should’ve realised they would have replaced me. I’m Alin. I used to do your job. Graf, do you think they’ll let me have my old job back, or will I have to go to another gate?”

“No. They won’t even let you back in the Dome.”

“But I am back.”

“This is in-between. You know that.”

“But you’ll let me through, won’t you?”

“You’re an Outsider. We can’t let you through. You know the rules.”

“But I only went out to see. I never wanted to stay.”

“You left the Dome. You need authorisation to come back in.”

“But you know me. I’m Alin!”

“Alin lived in the Dome.”

“Yes, that’s right. I’m from the Dome. I’ve come home.”

“You left. You’re an Outsider.”

“Oh, come on, Graf! Let me through. No, put that thing down. You won’t use that, not on me. What are you doing?”

“Just doing my job.”


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