WORKING IN THE FACTORY was always the same. After almost a decade of doing identical movements, Kiara’s hands did their job on autopilot. Instead, her senses were roaming the corridors outside. Could she hear any out of the ordinary movements? Pick up on any conversations? Or – when she was lucky – get a whiff of actual food?
It was one of the very few perks of hearing, seeing and smelling better than anyone around her.
And today was a special day. The Factory was cooking up the banquet the Commander was throwing after the festivities.
She loved nothing more than smelling real food – not the odor- and tasteless bars her hands were preparing – no, the real food that was forbidden to her and her class.
There. She could hear the elevators outside move to a stop. Taking another deep breath she waited. And was rewarded with the fraction of the most delicious smell. Sucking and storing it in, she kept taking deep breaths until the carts had passed by and the smell vanished. Taking another, now frustrated breath, she looked around.
To her left and right a long line of workers was standing in order. Each of them was wearing the same gray uniform that identified them as Factory workers. A few positions away to her left she saw Kevin wink at her. She smiled back, knowing it didn’t reach her eyes.
It wasn’t Kevin’s fault. He was light-hearted, good-looking, and stable. A good match to live a calm worker life, invisible under the radar of the Commander.
No, the problem was her. And her secret. She couldn’t let anyone get too close. She needed to stay invisible.
A loud alarm started sounding, indicating the end of shift. Today everyone was getting off early to attend the anniversary ceremony on Demeter’s Central Square.
Kiara pulled her hands away from where they were picking out green nutrition granules from the gray rest.
Green out, gray stays.
They didn’t know why exactly. But rumors claimed the green indicated leftover radiation.
Kevin joined up with her in the shuffling of hundreds of factory workers making their way outside. She had been avoiding him for days now and finally there was no sneaking out as fast as she could after her shift and vanishing out into the streets.
She really shouldn’t have agreed to go out with him. Now he was encouraged and Kiara didn’t have the heart to tell him to his face she wasn’t interested.
Which wasn’t necessarily true in the first place. She simply couldn’t be interested.
Neither she nor Kevin said anything as they walked down the long gray corridors and into the bright sunlight. People usually didn’t.
The late spring weather seemed to reward the Commander for his anniversary.
She couldn’t say she was particularly happy about it.
Once they reached the Central Square, Titans, huge humanoid fighting machines, guided them towards the left where all the other workers of Demeter were standing. On the right, a huge amount of chairs indicated where the higher classes were going to be seated.
Once they joined the sea of gray uniforms Kevin pulled her protectively in front him. He always did that, unaware that she could outrun him and would see or hear any danger way before him. But again, not his fault.
“I hope this won’t take too long, my feet are already killing me from the shift,” he commented with a sour face.
“Don’t get your hopes up. The citizen’s aren’t even here,” she said looking across her shoulder towards the mostly empty chairs.
“Why do they always make us come so early?” Kevin complained. Then he continued in a lighter voice, smiling down at her “Though, I won’t complain about the company”.
Hopefully he didn’t want to have the talk now, she thought. He had been pushing for it for days now, ever since things had gotten heated between them and she had run out of his living unit’s bedroom.
She couldn’t fault him really. Who else did that?
The evening had been going fine – they had taken a long walk, he had taken her up a civilian building with a view across the city, and then she went home with him.
Kevin lived alone in a unit. After former experiences Kiara had decided that in order for her to have a normal relationship, she needed to be with someone nice, but someone she wasn’t too emotional about. Someone who just wanted to have some fun with her.
Fun, end of story.
But she had underestimated her own nature. Apparently, it didn’t matter if she wasn’t fully interested. Kevin was nice and good looking and it had been enough to push Kiara past what she could take. Not that she had not enjoyed it. In fact, she had enjoyed it too much. So she had run out.