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Designing Glem

Designing Glem

Character Design

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Plan your passing

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Transition Period

by Joseph Cadotte

[This is a modification of a story I entered into NPR’s Three Minute Fiction contest. I have moved the setting to be more appropriate to the Paradise, Inc. universe]
    “Hide, he’s coming!”
She pulled him into the alcove as the High King strode by, a phalanx of aides sweeping the halls before and after. The eyes of this new king saw everything and they hid against them.
Bringing up the rear, the corralled interns were guarded by a few pages. They didn’t look up to the task, but the interns were so dispirited that they didn’t need looking after. The catch was small, but there had already been so many sweeps and there were only so many hiding places.
Her hand covered his mouth. He turned around, pressing his head into her shoulder, knowing that there was bound to be a friend amongst them.
When the new High King had passed, and she judged them safe, she pulled him out and down the hall. They slipped into the maintenance elevator, opened the safety hatch, and climbed to the rooftop where everyone from the previous administration was hiding.
They were huddled in the center of the vast roof, amongst the antennae dishes, where the surveillance cameras were confused by the electronic noise. They had found the nest when, five years before, they had hunted down their own predecessors, and they had been building it up ever since. As always, Jupiter loomed, covering the sky, with small dots of moons the size of small planets mere flecks against the constant storms.
The smell from the Holly Grove was overwhelming, even in the recirculated air of the colony. The persistent scent of blood and burnt meat was tantalizing and, at the same time, repulsive. It was at an ebb now, but it would soon strengthen as the fires were lit and the first of the new offerings was laid upon the flames. Up close, he remembered, it had been the essence of triumph, the High Queen looking so glorious at that moment – the cameras had loved her then. He had been there at her insistence, just as he was now, camped on the rooftop refuge.
He had begged her to leave in October, to abdicate before the inevitable loss in November. She refused and held out hope, right up to the Coronation. But it was always that way – the system wouldn’t work otherwise.
A clatter and all the hatches to the roof burst open. The druids’ headhunters, once loyal to her, swarmed them. He knew that they had been followed, or rather, he had led them to the refuge. Somehow, he managed to escape, following her down a hatch amidst the antennae. They dropped farther below the palace than he thought possible, deep below the colony itself.
“There’s a safe room, big enough for the two of us.”  He followed her through the maze of old, walled off tunnels. “It’s well-stocked, food and water for decades.” She drew a kitchen knife and grinned at him.
She burst through the door as hard as possible. Three shots rang out as she dived forward, knife held low in front of her. She was dead before her momentum carried her into the man hiding behind the door, who gasped and slumped into her. All he could do was watch as they both bled. The dead man had been the Eldest Shaman once, some administrations ago. Hours later, he cleaned. Later still, she was found, and he watched the final triumph as her body was thrown on the fires by a druid as the new High King beamed for the cameras.
Days went by, and he was safe. He watched the feeds for amusement and company. He could have waited out until the next election, or the one after, but it was the quiet that finally got to him. So one day, he opened the door, climbed into the yard, and stood amongst the ashes of his wife.

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