Read Toxic Treacle Online

Authors: Echo Freer

Tags: #Young adult, #dystopian, #thriller, #children and fathers, #gender roles, #rearing, #breeding, #society, #tragic

Toxic Treacle (16 page)

BOOK: Toxic Treacle
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Parental Responsibility

A scream froze in his throat. All rational thought deserted him. He wanted to run out there and save her. He'd be arrested, too, he knew that but, without Angel, what did it matter? His own life, Tragic's - they all meant nothing if she wasn't there with him.

Monkey turned on Eric. ‘You bastard! You did this - didn't you?'

Eric's eyes flashed from his son to the scene outside. ‘Don't be absurd.'

Sally Ellison's cries were blocked by the triple-glazed door but the anguish on her face howled volumes. Monkey watched as the Security officers tossed her to one side and the stealth, with Angel inside, crept slowly from The Plaza. He lashed out, catching Eric with his fist but Eric caught his wrist and held his son at arm's length.

In rage, Monkey kicked out. ‘Satisfied?' he railed. ‘Are they coming for me next? You got what you wanted?' Eric watched his son's grief and anger without comment. ‘Well there's more of us you know! Hundreds - thousands! All over the country!' Monkey shouted. ‘And you won't beat us. You can arrest as many radicals as you want but you won't win because in the end there are more people like us who
are
interested in their offspring than the likes of you and my sad excuse of a nurturer.' He shook his hands free and glared at Eric. Calmer after his outburst, he looked his father in the eye. ‘I knew it was a long shot coming here but I never dreamt you'd betray your own flesh and blood.'

‘I didn't,' Eric said.

‘Yeah, right!' From the corner of his eye Monkey caught a flash of movement in the glow of the street lights. He looked again. It couldn't be. The interior light of the foyer was turned off, making the office darker than outside. A figure was standing in a doorway, not twenty metres from Leadlow Chambers. And there was no mistaking her features. Moni Morrison was standing against a wall, arms folded, a look of smug satisfaction on her face. Then she turned and a second pre-nurturer came out of the shadows. It was his sister, Penny, and she, too, was grinning.

‘Shiltz!' Monkey swore under his breath.

‘Now, who's betraying their own flesh and blood?' Eric asked.

Monkey spun round. ‘You recognise her!' It was an accusation rather than a question. ‘You've seen her before, haven't you? How?'

‘Come through to the back office,' Eric's tone was gentler.

‘Why, so that you can keep me here ‘till I'm arrested too? Forget it.' Monkey made to open the door but Eric blocked his way. ‘You must be very proud of how your daughter's turned out. Ironic though - don't you think - that
I'm
the one wanted for treason? Nice work,
Dad
! Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to get back.' Monkey's voice was laden with contempt.

‘Where will you go?' Eric asked.

‘Like I'm gonna tell you,' Monkey sneered.

‘Look, I didn't have Sally's girl arrested and I'm not going to hand you over, either.'

‘Sally's girl?' So, Eric not only recognised his own daughter, but he also knew Angel's nurturer. Monkey didn't trust him. ‘When are you gonna come clean and tell me what's going on?'

‘Sit down,' Eric told him, but Monkey remained standing.

Eric raised an eyebrow. ‘Explain to me how you think the re-introduction of fathers into families will help?'

‘Adolescent males need role models. It's that simple.'

‘Need them, why?'

‘To model how we're supposed to be!' Monkey clenched and unclenched his fists with exasperation. ‘It's not rocket science.'

‘Go on,' Eric encouraged.

‘We've got no one to aspire to - except females; no one to teach us how to act; what we're supposed to do, what we're supposed to enjoy. That sort of thing.' He was expecting a response from his father, but none came. ‘When I was at alpha- school I tried to sit in the urinals because I didn't know what they were for. You know, there're even some pres who can't piss standing up - because no one's ever taught them! No one can show us how to be adult males except adult males - and we don't see any until we graduate.' He began pacing the floor. ‘It's too late by then. The damage is done. Have you been out on the streets lately? We're killing each other because there's no one to keep us in line. If this carries on, there won't be any breeders or providers - they'll have killed each other because the only training we've had is “
love conquers everything”
and
“respect breeds
respect”.
And it's all horseshit!' His eyes scanned the room. ‘And, if you've got this place bugged, I don't care that I've used profane language. That should be the least of The Assembly's worries. Kids need dads. There has to be a balance.'

Eric nodded, and Monkey thought he looked as though he was addressing the Court. ‘You're supposed to be advocating fathers being involved in their families and appear to cite your main reason as being one of discipline - and yet you won't even sit down when I -
your
father - ask you to.'

He'd walked right into that, Monkey grudgingly conceded. ‘What do you want?' he asked, sitting down. After all, what had he got to lose? Angel had gone. He was wanted for treason. In two days, he'd be packed off to The Ridings. What's the worst that could happen?

Eric paced the floor of the office. ‘In the past, I have worked with Sally Ellison,' he explained. ‘That's how I recognised her. As for your sister - yes, you're right - I have made it my business to follow her progress - and yours. From afar, you understand. I have never breached Assembly laws.'

‘Perish the thought!'

Eric shot Monkey a look. ‘I was a little older than you when I went off to fight in the Oil Wars. Of course I was only involved for a year or so...'

Monkey made to rise. ‘This is hardly the time for a potted family history. In case you didn't notice, my...' He hesitated, unsure how to describe Angel. Friend? She was more than that. Girlfriend - as Tragic had described Zoë in the village? It sounded old-fashioned. The girl I love, he wanted to say. But he couldn't. Love wasn't allowed between genders:
procreation,
not pleasure. No emotional attachment.
That was The Assembly's rule. But the reality was, he did love her. He ached inside and wanted to get out of there, find her and rescue her. ‘I need to go,' he said, simply.

‘I was in love once,' Eric said.

Monkey stopped, shocked. This was treasonable talk. He looked round, anxiously, checking that they weren't being filmed: that he wasn't being led into a trap.

‘Long before Vivian came on the scene. She was called Juliet and, when I went off to the war and left her, it felt as though a hole had been cut out of my chest.' Something had changed. Eric's previous harsh demeanour had softened and he spoke quietly. ‘I saw terrible things in the war and lost many friends but none of it compared to leaving Juliet.' Monkey wasn't sure where this was going. He hadn't even known that his provider had been in the war, and all this personal stuff was too much information. ‘Sally's girl - the one who was arrested...'

‘What about her?' Monkey said defensively.

‘You love her, don't you?'

‘Look, cheers for the overdue interest, but I'm outta here.'

‘You'll need a good lawyer for her defence.'

‘You offering?' Monkey challenged.

‘Come and see me again tomorrow at 19:00. By then, I'll know where she's been taken and with what she's been charged. Now, you'd better go out the back way so that your sister doesn't see you.'

***

Monkey made his way back through the drain to the underground chamber, only to find the others packing up.

‘What's going on?' he asked Daz.

Without stopping what he was doing, Daz replied, ‘She knows where we are. We gotta move out.'

‘Angel won't snake!' Monkey was offended.

‘Course she will.' Daz's voice was cold and matter of fact. ‘They all do.'

‘Where're we going?' Monkey's breath was so shallow as to be barely perceptible. He rubbed his hands together anxiously. They couldn't move on - not now. Not when he'd got Eric to agree to defend Angel. And it would only be a matter of time before he took on the others' cases as well.

Daz turned to look at Monkey; his features heavy with contempt. ‘Dunno where
you're
going, Monk. But
we're
outta here.'

‘You
can't
go without me.' His eyes darted round the cavernous space. Bedrolls were being tied up, boxes and bags stacked in the centre of the underground room. But in the place where he and Angel had slept, nothing had been moved. ‘I got him to agree,' he blurted, desperately. ‘Eric's gonna take on the case.'

Daz shrugged. ‘So?'

‘It's what you wanted.'

‘What I wanted,' Daz said, ‘was to be safe - for all of us to be safe. But you and your little mate have put paid to that.'

‘Why is that my fault?' Monkey gasped. ‘What the fegg were you doing letting her go into The Plaza in the first place?'

‘She was looking for you, you brick-brain!' Monkey felt his stomach lurch. He felt sick. ‘One hour I said! One fegging hour! But you couldn't even manage that simple instruction, could you?'

‘Eric was late,' Monkey offered, lamely.

‘So you get outta there and make another appointment. You don't endanger everyone else with your self-indulgent fantasies about playing happy families. We're working for a bigger cause here.' He shook his head. ‘You are bad news, man. Bad fegging news.'

‘Let me come with you,' Monkey pleaded.

Daz dropped his voice and adopted the speech of the hood. ‘It ain't happenin', cuz! All right? An' I get so much as a whiff of you stalkin' and you gonna wish you ain't never set eyes on me. Ya get me?' He turned his back on Monkey, indicating that the conversation was closed and that there would be no further discussion on the matter.

Monkey went over to the bedroll where he and Angel had rested. Their bags had not been touched. He changed out of the female clothes he'd been wearing and slumped on the mattress, watching as the rest of them filed down the metal ladder into the storm drain. Daz was the last to leave.

He pointed a finger in Monkey's direction. ‘You listen up good, Monk. You stay here until 20:30 before you so much as move a muscle. Or, so help me...'

‘Fegg off, Daz!' Monkey spat contemptuously. He lay down with his hands behind his head then rolled with his face to the wall. ‘I ain't goin' nowhere,' he muttered, picking up the ring-cams that he and Angel had been issued and gazing at them with an air of despondency.

He listened to the receding footsteps of the group as they headed out of the storm drain in the direction of the river. When he could hear no sound other than the intermittent dripping of water, he sat up. The fire was still burning under the furnace, giving a soft glow to the chamber. Monkey shuffled across to it, rubbing his hands and holding them out to keep warm. It felt as though his entire being was filled with lead. He stared into the fire, trying to think of a plan but his brain wouldn't function. It was as though all the energy had been sucked from his body. He had never felt so desolate. Tragic, Fuse, now Angel - all gone from his life. There was no one left.

No one except... Of course! Why hadn't he thought of it earlier? Monkey had a variety of IDs and disguises to get him across town, now all he had to do was find his way to the Riverside Apartments, in Socio-economic Group One Providers' Zone, and locate Eric. His father had said he'd defend Angel, now he wanted to see if the great barrister was as good as his word.

***

Monkey was almost disappointed. For years, he'd craned to see over the walls of the Providers' Zone and catch a glimpse of the hallowed interior, when all he'd needed was the ID of an engineering student and the excuse of a game of squash!

‘How come security's so crap in this place?' he asked as he wandered around Eric's penthouse apartment.

‘The Assembly's not interested in who comes in here,' his father replied. ‘It's
keeping
them in that's the problem.'

Monkey was standing before a plate glass window with views across the river and the town. He'd seen the building many times in the distance from Moonstone Park, never guessing that his own breeder lived there.

‘So, what happens next?'

Eric looked him up and down and raised an eyebrow. ‘Clearly, you can't stay here.' A shadow of disappointment passed across Monkey's face. ‘You are quite obviously neither a provider nor SE One.' It was Monkey's turn to raise his eyebrows. ‘I'll have to find you accommodation in the Breeders' Zone for the time being. You'll be fairly inconspicuous over there.'

While his father made several calls on his ring-cam, Monkey showered and changed into some of Eric's sweats. When he emerged from the bathroom, Eric had sent out to a restaurant in town for food to be delivered.

‘I didn't know your taste,' Eric said, ‘so I ordered English. I hope that's all right for you.'

He served the homemade pie, potatoes and beans onto two plates and handed one to Monkey. As Monkey went to sit down at the table, Eric took his food and sat on to the enormous settee that dominated the penthouse.

A grin spread across Monkey's face. ‘We don't have to eat at the table? Fridge!' And he flopped down next to his father.

‘Do you like sport?' Eric asked.

Monkey made a gesture as if to say,
who doesn't?

‘Football!' Eric ordered, and the enormous plasma-screen on the wall adjacent to the window flickered on.

‘Whaled!'

They ate their food in silence as they watched the exhibition match until an election broadcast interrupted the game. Eric directed the laser-remote to the archives and brought up an old-fashioned boxing match for his son to watch. ‘There are advantages to being a barrister,' he explained. ‘Sometimes, one is required to defend a client who's been accused of illegally supplying contact sport vids.' He shot a wry smile at his son. ‘And, occasionally, one forgets to delete them from one's system.'

BOOK: Toxic Treacle
2.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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