Hey everyone. Due to some shenanigans there won’t be a Broken Wing update this week. Instead, as a compromise, I’ve included the first part of a short story I’ve been working on that’s set in the Broken Wing universe, except instead of in Western Europe and North Africa, it’s set in what’s left of the southern United States. I hope you don’t mind, and I promise that this story will kick off a little more in the next part. — S
Houston, Texas. Or, at least, it was.
Some nights I lie awake just wondering what the old world was like, you know? For all of its grandeur and majesty all we’ve got left is—is these snippets. These little morsels. It’s like being shown one piece of a jigsaw puzzle, right? Like, it’s mostly just blue so you think your piece might just be the sky but off in the corner there’s this brilliant little splash of neon color and you just…you just wish that you knew what it was. I’m starting to think that anything would be better than the colors we have now.
All most people know about Houston, Texas is that now it’s called Juniper Colony. Colony Oh One Four Seven. They don’t even pronounce it right anymore; they call it house-ton. It seems like such a dumb thing to have to correct, and yet every time I hear it, it’s like a needle in my tooth. House-ton, house-ton, house-ton. Jesus.
June—sorry, Juniper—it isn’t bad per se. I know I’m making it sound like it’s bad, but it’s not. It’s just very…uniform. Everything is built to be efficient above all else—the water filtration, the farms, it’s all built to be the peak of mechanical functionality. The problem I’ve been having lately is that that peak is very beige and very angular, and it looks exactly the same no matter what fucking floor you’re on in this stupid tower.
The whole thing’s a tower. Open at the top because that’s where the air’s still clean. Everything’s beige because it takes less power to light a white room than a black one. It makes climate control easier, too. I’ve read the files, I know exactly why everything is the way it is. I’ve read every single fucking file and I can’t fault any of their logic. I just wish I’d been there to make the call when they were building this place rather than getting the keys to the castle three hundred years too late to matter.
Sean sounded like he’d been standing there a while. Or else he managed to work himself up to ‘annoyed’ on the walk over. I lift my eyes from the bar and lock them with his. Jesus, if I looked half as bad as he did then we really were fucked.
“Have you slept yet?” He asked as though he had any right to.
“No,” I replied with a slow sigh, “I hope that’s not all you came to see me about.”
Sean’s skin was drawn tight over his pale face; he was starting to look less like my advisor and more like a skeleton.
“There’s not a whole lot to be said, Ben. They have us by the balls,” Sean sat down on the stool next to me before taking a glass from under the bar and swiping my decanter, “Nothing is going to change until you make a decision.”
Juniper Colony was under siege.
These things, these towers, they were never meant to last this long. No, that’s not right. These things will still be here after we’re all dead and gone. The real problem is that they were never designed for breeders.
The technical manual says that each colony has five hundred and five bedrooms per floor, and somewhere between eighty and one hundred thirty floors; June has a hundred and ten. That means that June was meant to house fifty thousand and some people, feed and water fifty thousand and some people, clothe fifty thousand and some people. Maximum. As of last count we were just shy of seventy thousand.
The last big idea I’d had is the reason why we were in this in the first place. For a long time rations were keeping us afloat, but with forty percent more people than food and water our only option, ultimately, was to expand production. So maybe a year ago I set my manuals, my technical documents, and my explicit instructions aside and I opened the doors to the outside world. I just wanted to farm.
“You still think we should deploy.” It wasn’t even a question at this point. I took a slug of the off-red liquor that had been holding my attention for the better part of an hour.
“If we throw every single thing we have at them we stand a good chance,” Sean said, the conviction in his voice hurting my heart. Neither Sean nor I had any military experience and yet here he was talking as though he were a seasoned veteran. Nobody had any real-world experience here because none of us lived in the real world.
Juniper’s last and best line of defense was the fact that it was a self-contained impenetrable tower. Short of dropping bombs right down her throat from above there was basically no way to attack her. This had allowed us to live relatively undisturbed for the better part of three centuries. And then I opened the front fucking door expecting everything to be peaceful and quiet. If the outside world was peaceful and quiet why the fuck would they build a giant tower in the middle of it?
“This stuff tastes like shit.” I muttered.
“Ben, I’m serious. They have us surrounded. Nobody gets out. The crops are fucked. We’re sitting in a box with nothing. We can punch our way out and maybe survive or we can starve to death in an air-conditioned tube. It’s your call to make and they’re making it for you.”
“But you making it for me is better?”
“We’re dying Ben—you’re dying. No amount of silty red bullshit is going to convince you otherwise.”
Sean grabbed the drink from in front of me and downed it himself with a visible grimace.