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Awakening


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Central Square, Vakor, later that day

Kanka kept her children close to her as she walked down the square. To anyone else, they were just visiting for the day. But she, and a handful of other people knew about what was to come. She was walking idly, almost as if to just catch some fresh air. But all the while they were waiting for a signal. Just for a second, Kanka turned to her two children.

“Now remember what I told you two.” she said. The two nodded in response.

The ground rules were simple. Don’t bring ID. Keep moving. Don’t stop. Stay near their mother. If someone grabs at them, get away from them. If separated, make it out of the square and meet up at a nearby convenience store. These steps would help them survive what was to come, but they did have one rule in case that all failed.

If they get caught, refuse to say what clan they’re from. They may be Okla, but they didn’t deserve any different treatment than anyone else.

Suddenly a man, who was previously just watching the news on his phone, looked up.

“Down with the liar!” he screamed.

“Make votes fair!” Kanka responded, along with about a dozen others. They gathered around each other, forming a small group. But they kept moving, walking through the square, keeping their eye out. As they continued, a few others joined them. Their group now numbered about 3 dozen. Then, they started chanting.

“We are free! We are free!”

Those chants got the attention of those around them. Kanka had thought of it herself. She hoped in a country like Kolhar, where if you thought the wrong thing and it got out you could be arrested, the sight of people raising their voices and establishing that the government could not stop them because they are ‘free’ would be a powerful message.

It seemed to have had some effect. Some bystanders clapped or cheered, showing their support, but they didn’t join in. Also, clearly not everyone was keen on this. Many looked away immediately, some goin so far as to look straight down. Then, they rushed out of the square, as if they had just witnessed something they shouldn’t have.

They couldn’t be blamed, they probably didn’t want to be arrested. They could have a husband or wife, or children, or maybe elderly parents to take care of. Not everyone would be willing, or even be able, to risk everything to try and make a statement. Not in a country like this.

But Kanka was one of those few who was. And now, for the first time in their lives, Akzim and Talshin would see the truth of what she was doing.

This was her ‘second job’. Following her husband’s death, she had taken his place in the Freedom Party.

The group made their way down the square and towards the nearest exit, knowing what would be coming soon. But before they could make it there, she heard something.

“Vultures!”

Kanka didn’t know who it was, but they knew what that codeword meant. The security service was here, and much earlier than they had thought. It was a small surprise, but not entirely unexpected. This was the day the election results would be announced, they probably knew of the symbolic significance of it.

“C’mon, let’s go.” she told her children. They, along with the entire group rushed their way towards their way out. They made it, and were about to get out of the square. They were almost in the clear.

And then a black bus turned up in front of them.

Immediately they turned around, only to find security forces behind them as well. There was no way out.

“You’re under arrest for disturbing the peace. Put your hands behind your heads and identify your clan.”

“We are expressing our right to free speech as recognized by international law.” Kanka responded. “We caused no trouble and we will now head home.”

The security forces gave no answer. They reached out towards them, but everyone locked arms. Even so, they grabbed someone from the group. Everyone tried to hold on to them, but then the punches started coming in. Still, they held on, until a baton came down, followed by a loud snap.

“AAAAAAARGH!” Someone screamed. Two people were dragged out of the group. One was the man the security forces were grabbing at. The other was someone else, and his arm was bending the wrong way. The security forces pulled him back, even with those two struggling to get away. Some of the security forces were now focused on them, as they forced them away. But there was still a few left.

They grabbed at someone again, again punching and hitting people with their batons. They tried to stand firm, but a few more people were pulled from the group.

“YOU FILTHY MATAQ!” someone screamed. It was one of their own. They let go and lunged at the security forces. It clearly was something they didn’t expect, and many jumped back in surprise. But not before the person grabbed one of their batons and started swinging it at them. Many security forces rushed to stop them.

Kanka instinctively moved towards him, hoping to calm him down and stop him before things got out of hand. But she felt a strong tug on her shoulder. She turned back to see Akzim.

“No, mom, don’t you see what he’s doing? They’re distracted.” he said.

Akzim was right. The security forces were distracted, and where they had once surrounded the group there was now a gap wide open for everyone to go.

“We live for another day!” Kanka screamed. It was the codeword for them to make it out. Everyone that could started running, all heading for that one opening. Kanka herself made sure her two kids were running, and then ran herself. She didn’t look back, only running. She headed straight for the convenience store they had talked about.

It took a good 10 minutes, but she got there. She looked back and saw Akzim behind her.

“So, what do you think of my second ‘job’?” she asked.

“It’s nice.” he answered. “That couldn’t have gone better though.” Kanka raised an eyebrow. They had lost some people, and with their movement they needed every person they could get. Surely Akzim knew this.

“What do you mean?” she asked “We could’ve been more careful and less people would’ve been caught. We need everyone we can to spread our message.”

“True,” Akzim said. “But we can get more people on our side with this.” Akzim pulled out his phone, showing the screen to Kanka. There he played a video of everything that had just happened, from the start to the end. The government always tried to downplay what happened, or even hide it, but with this they couldn’t anymore.

“Amazing!” she said “But how are we going to spread it?”

“I’m in my school’s computer classes, remember? Leave it to me.” Akzim said.

Kanka rushed up to her son and gave him a big hug. She couldn’t have been more proud of him. But after a moment, he pushed away.

“Uh, mom” he said, his voice quivering. “Where’s Talshin?”

Kanka looked around, only to find her second son was nowhere to be found.

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  • 2 weeks later...

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“Name and clan.”

A large man, dressed entirely in black, stood in front of Talshin and the 5 others who had been arrested. Talshin didn’t know where they were. They had all just been shoved into a black bus, with the windows all blocked off so nobody could see where they were going. When they were finally taken out they were all blindfolded until they were brought inside this building. But the bus ride had been quite far, and the scents and sounds coming from outside were clearly not that of a city. They were obviously very far from civilization, but just where they were Talshin had no way of knowing.

Now the man in front of them was asking everyone’s name and clan. Talshin knew what this meant. There would be no record of his arrest. No trial, no judge, no jury. They were being checked into a political prison camp, and from the perspective of the public they would disappear.

Through this process they were separating the first-class citizens that made up the Okla from the second-class citizens that were everyone else. Even in prison, the tiered citizenship model created discrimination.

“Isam Qadir, Sa-” the man next to Talshin started, but before he could finish saying his clan he was cut off.

“You don’t need to finish that, Samoro filth.” the man answered. Talshin wasn’t surprised by his tone. Isam was a name common in the Samoro clan, and the Samoro were despised by some idealogues in the Kolhari Advancement Party.

“Next, name and clan.” the man continued. He looked directly at Talshin.

“Talshin Salin.” Talshin answered.

“State your clan.”

“It is not important.”

“That was an order, not a request.”

“My clan is not important, treat me as you will.”

The man shrugged when Talshin said that.

“Well, you had your chance.” he said. “From here on forward you will be treated as a second-class citizen. If you are Okla, whatever happens next is entirely because of your refusal to assert your rights as a first-class citizen.”

“There shouldn’t even be classes of citizenship.” Talshin snapped back.

“Ah, so know better than what’s kept our country on track for almost 100 years, do you? Well, it won’t be long before you change your tune.”

With that, the man in black turned his attention to the others. Once all names and clans, at least of those who volunteered their clan, were jotted down they were sent into another room. The lights were turned off, and the door closed. Nothing could be seen but an endless pitch black void. It shook Talshin, even though he knew they were in a room.

Then out of nowhere a bright light filled the room, forcing Talshin to close his eyes for a moment. Not a moment later someone walked in. This man, who was very wide in spite of his height barely being above that of a teenager, wore a black uniform reminiscent of a police officer. Medals proudly decorated his chest, an odd sight considering this wasn’t a formal ceremony of any sort.

“Hello there, I am Kar Niyaz.” He said as he walked down, taking a good long look at each and every person there as he did.

“I hear that all of you poor souls have been infected with unhealthy ideas regarding our country. You are in the Karim Reeducation Center,”

Talshin froze. He had heard the name of that place before, if only in rumors. It was from some foreign news articles that was snuck in on USB drives, alongside some media from countries like Mito. Supposedly it was one of the most brutal political prison camps in the entire country. Talshin had read about regular beating of prisoners, and even worse, while he was there.

“Here you will be taught how to properly think about our great country.” Kar continued “I may be your Warden, but I want you to think of me more as your head teacher.”

Kar turned around, still looking at the prisoners, and started walking the other way.

“Now, as long as you lot behave, you have nothing to worry about. But if we were to have any issues…”

Kar smirked as he said ‘issues’, staring Talshin directly in the eyes as he did so.

“Well, let’s just say only one of us will be enjoying things if that were to happen.”

Suddenly Kar began walking out of the room.

“The guards will get you set up for everything, we’ll meet again tomorrow.”

With that, Talshin and the others were approached by prison guards and handed plain gray clothes.


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The Next Day

Akzim had cried that night, thinking about what his brother was going through. His mother hadn’t spoken at all since then. She still made food for Akzim and brought him to school, but the whole time she seemed to be in her own wurld. Not that he could blame her, it probably brought her as much pain as it did him.

But Akzim wasn’t about to let the government get away with this.

It was now late. Much later than he would normally stay at school. But nobody else was in the school’s computer room, and Akzim could use this without knowing anything. He pulled out a drawer the teacher normally kept. Inside were countless flash drives, normally given to the students whenever they had an assignment to do. This was the easiest way for him to get a hold of these, and he knew his computer teacher had bought all of these himself. In other words, they weren’t the schools property, so they wouldn’t be kept track of.

Akzim booted up a computer and plugged his phone in. There he began loading up the photos and videos he got from the protests the day prior. Once they were on the computer, he grabbed one of the flash drives and plugged it in. While the files copied onto the flash drive, he opened up a text document and began writing about it.

Then the door opened.

Akzim froze. There shouldn’t be anyone here, the school was going to close in an hour. Who could it be?

“Akzim, I know it’s you.” a voice said. Was that… his computer teacher?

“I know what happened yesterday.” he said.

“What are you talking about?”

“I’m Talshin’s teacher too. And I’m in the same group as your mother.”

“The same as mom?”

“Yes, she told me. I won’t stop you, but if you just copy it like that the government is going to track you down pretty quickly.” His teacher walked up and pulled out a disc.

“This is a foreign OS I had smuggled in a while ago. It’s entirely in Ilene, but I can use it.” He sat next to Akzim.

“I have a good guess as to what you're planning, and I want in. Let me help you.”

Akzim nodded. He didn’t know if he should trust his teacher, after all Akzim was new to this. But if he was lying, then Akzim would be taken away either way. Might as well give it a shot.

Together they loaded up the OS, and then re-created the files in a software that Akzim had never seen before. Supposedly this was what foreigners used to make new images and videos, and his teacher wasn’t allowed to teach any of it even though it was superior to similar Kolhari software.

Akzim got home very late that day, but he brought with him roughly many flash drives. His teacher promised to buy a load more and give them around as well, and Akzim showed what he had to his mother.

“Now everyone will know what happened to Talshin” he told her.

Edited by Kolhar (see edit history)
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1Ɛ Piltal 1204 (23 September 2020)

6 AM and the guards came banging on their metallic beds to wake them up. Followed by an assembly in the courtyard, where they all undertook warm-up exercises before having a meager breakfast of one bowl of brown rice that half the time was undercooked and some soup. All of this needed to be finished by 8 AM, when the first third of the day started. That was what Talshin learned from other prisoners about their morning routine.

And it was miserable.

Talshin’s first third of the day was assigned to work. Grueling, backbreaking work in a factory making furniture for a large company that Talshin knew all too well. Talshin was assigned to carry supplies to where it was needed, and often struggled to keep up to his quota. And yet, with his young body he was still able to make it, even if just barely.

The others, though, were not so lucky. As Talshin carried the materials around, he saw an older man stumble. Nobody knew how long this man had been here, but he clearly struggled with his quota. Talshin moved to try and help this man up, but suddenly a guard’s stomping stopped him.

“YOU, GET BACK TO WORK!” the guard screamed.

“Yes, I will. Just give me…” the old man answered.

“Do it now, or else!” the guard raised a baton. Talshin rushed over and grabbed the guards hand, not even thinking about what would happen next.

“Stop it!” Talshin said “He’ll work, I’ll make sure of it, just give him a brea-”

A baton to his face shut Talshin up. He went flying to the floor.

“This is insubordination!” the guard screamed as he walked over to Talshin, and began stomping on him. Each blow hurt more than the others, and Talshin could do nothing but just take it. Eventually the guard seemed to grow tired of it and stop, and then walked away. With that he got back to work, trying to meet his quota. But with how long he had been beaten, there was no way he would make it.

At the lunch break Talshin was supposed to get the same brown rice and soup. But having not met his quota earlier, his soup was taken away. All Talshin had left was a single bowl of rice, and he was not allowed to go for seconds. His was famished from not having any filling meals in the last few days already, but this was incredibly difficult to deal with.

But there was still more to come. The next few hours would be a ‘re-education’ session, where Talshin would be forced to memorize a large amount of fascist propaganda. And if he couldn’t memorize it by heart the same thing would happen. Even on his empty stomach, he needed to be ready to remember what he was told to next if he was to survive.

And yet, outside the building Talshin was eating lunch at, a single jeep pulled into the prison. Out from it stepped another man, dressed very similar to the Warden Kar. Yet he didn’t wear any medals on him, instead he wore a blue armband with the Kolhari sun on it. The symbol of the Kolhari Advancement Party.

Kar stood in the field to greet him.

“Welcome to Karim Reeducation Center!” Kar said, bowing slightly to the person. “It’s always a pleasure to have someone from the Party here. I presume you are our new political officer?”

“I am Atan.” he said. “I’ve heard some… things about how you run this camp.”

“Have you?”

“Indeed,” Atan replied. “But I trust they are simply false rumors, and that this camp is run entirely up to Party standards.”

“Of course!” Kar motioned for Atan to enter. “How do you think I’ve kept discipline here for so long? I’m sure you’ll find my methods… exemplary.”

Atan raised an eyebrow, but didn’t say a thing. He simply followed Kar’s guidance and entered the building.

Talshin sat on the floor in a large room. This was supposed to be their ‘classroom’, but there were no chairs nor any tables. They were just to sit and listen to the lecturer, all while they memorized passages from the Kolhari Advancement Party’s official manifesto.

“Kolhar is a unified state led by the Okla. All other clans must endeavor to follow Okla leadership and strengthen this great nation.” the lecturer in front went on.

Talshin was listening, but in his mind he was rolling his eyes. His mother had always taught him that all the clans were equal, and nobody was inherently superior to anyone else. All this ‘Okla leads and everyone else supports them’ crap was just plain wrong. And yet, here, Talshin had to memorize it.

The door opened, and Talshin looked to see someone the warden Kar and someone he didn’t recognize.

“This is our new political officer, Atan.” Kar said. “Atan, these are our newest inmates. They have been making good progress.”

Kar then turned to the lecturer. “Perhaps a demonstration is in order?”

“471,” the lecturer called out, referring to the person by their prisoner number rather than name. “What does the Davil do for us?”

“The Davil leads our nation along the path of greatness and national rejuvenation.” The person said, in a monotone voice. “All must support him in our grand mission to help our nation survive in this hostile wurld.”

“Exactly.” the lecturer said. Then he looked straight at Talshin.

“Now, 473.” That was Talshin’s prisoner number. He couldn’t forget it now that it was tattooed on his right arm. “Why are the Okla first-class citizens in this country?”

Talshin knew what the lecturer wanted him to say, and it was the same thing he knew that he should say if he wanted to avoid being beaten. Something he should say even if he didn’t mean it, if only to increase the chances he survives this ordeal.

And yet, what would his mother think if she knew that he had given in so easily? He had to at least try to resist, right? More importantly, he would be disgusted with himself if he let this slide so easily.

So he didn’t give them the answer they wanted.

“There is no reason for them to be first-class citizens.” Talshin answered.

“Wrong answer.” the lecturer said as he approached Talshin. He pulled out a badon and smacked Talshin’s arm, hard enough to bruise.

“Now, try again.”

“I won’t repeat your lies.”

The lecturer’s brows furrowed and he glanced towards Kar.

“Looks like we got a tough guy here.” Kar said. “Do what you must.”

With that the lecturer pushed Talshin onto his stomach and began beating him with a baton. Each strike hit a different part of the body. First his arms, then his legs. It kept going and going. The next hit Talshin felt was on his spine.

“Now hold on a minute.” It was the new political officer, Atan, that was speaking. But Talshin couldn’t tell while he was being beaten. All he felt was just blow after blow, until it seemed to stop for a moment. Talshin began to look up, thinking the ordeal was over, only to see the baton heading straight for his face.

“THAT’S ENOUGH.” The baton stopped in mid-air as Atan screamed. “This punishment far exceeds party guidelines.”

“Now, now, Atan. We both know that sometimes the rules are… insufficient.” Kar said.

“You may think that,” Atan said, but he glared at Kar. “But the guidelines clearly state that punishments should not render a prisoner unable to perform their work. Besides, he’s only a child.”

“Now Atan, being a child is no excu-”

“Party guidelines are clear.” Atan didn’t let Kar finish. “I expect you to follow them to the letter. Do you understand?”

A silence filled the room. Nobody spoke for a good minute.

“Perfectly.” Kar said as he walked out of the room. Atan followed shortly thereafter.

Talshin stared at the door they had left from. That beating could’ve been worse, and the only reason it wasn’t was because of Atan’s intervention. Yet Atan seemed to be completely loyal to the Kolhari Advancement Party, to the point where he seemed to have memorized their rules and regulations by heart.

Just whose side was that guy on?

Outside of the room, the warden Kar fumed to himself. “I need to win that Atan over, if I’m to keep doing as I please.” He thought to himself.


Akzim walked around slowly. He had been told that this was where he needed to go to meet someone who would help him spread the word. But they weren’t here yet, and he wanted to see them soon. This wasn’t a spot that he wanted to be seen in for too long after all, it wasn’t exactly the best part of town.

Akzim looked at his watch. It was getting late, and he wasn’t willing to stay here much longer. But just then, he saw a woman approach out of the corner of his eye.

“What is someone like yourself doing out here?” the woman said.

“I’m in search of a flower that has yet to bloom.” Akzim answered. The woman nodded and took out her purse.

“Put everything in here. I’ll give them out to people who are interested afterwards.”

“Thank you.” Talshin said as he handed her the flash drives. It wasn’t all of them, but it was a sizable chunk. Then the woman left. She would go around giving people the flash drives, spreading the word of the protest so as many people knew as possible.

Of course, Akzim had no way of knowing that one of these flash drives would make it outside of Kolhar and spread news of what happened abroad as well.

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Vakor, former royal palace
21 Piltal 1204 (25 September 2020)

“Here, take this.” It was a young boy, no older than 16, handing another a small flash drive. “It has the newest shows from Mito on it, and more.”

“Thanks Mar.” answered another boy, the same age as the first, as he took the flash drive. Then he handed the boy, apparently named Mar, a wad of cash.

“Ibak, you know you don’t need to.”

“You’re risking yourself to help me do this, let me at least make it worth your while.”

“Thank you.”

Ibak waved goodbye to his good friend, and distant cousin, as Mar walked away. Then, he stuffed the flash drive into his pocket and dashed into his room. After closing all the large, intricately embroidered curtains he pulled out his laptop, one of the best and most expensive in the wurld. He couldn’t wait to catch up on the newest Mitonese anime, even if it was subtitled in Kolhari. He jammed the flash drive into the computer and waited for it to show up.

And it did! Clicking it open, he saw the file names of many anime’s which he enjoyed watching. He couldn’t watch them legally, foreign media was banned in Kolhar. He couldn’t stream them, legally or illegally. Kolhar had an intranet and access to the wider internet was tightly controlled.

But something else caught his eye. A folder named “IMPORTANT KOLHARI NEWS READ NOW.” It wasn’t unusual for foreign news to be sometimes smuggled into Kolhar, but this didn’t seem to be any of that. Indeed, most foreign news clips or articles that were smuggled in had the name of the news agency followed by a date. This didn’t have any of that.

Curious, Ibak clicked it open. Inside were two files, a text document and a video. Still unsure of what to expect, Ibak clicked on the video.

The video seemed to be taking place at the Central Square, on election day too. Nothing much seemed to happen. Then he heard someone scream.

“Down with the liar!”

What Ibak saw next surprised him. It was a small group of people doing it, but they clearly had the support of at least some other people. An anti-government protest in Kolhar, and it was the first Ibak had seen on video. He had heard of such protests occurring every now and again, but only in rumors. The media never reported on any protests, unless it was supporting the Kolhari Advancement Party.

And then he saw how the security forces responded. A brutal crackdown, violence. People with their arms broken, being dragged away against their will. Worst of all, they asked what clan each person was beforehand. Ibak knew that meant only one thing - they likely intended to treat Okla differently.

Ibak closed the video before it finished. He felt disgusted. In his gut he felt like he bore some responsibility for what he had just witnessed. As a 16 year old boy, he knew that he probably didn’t. All of that happened without him even saying anything after all. And yet, with his family history, he still couldn’t help but feel like it was his fault.

There was still one more file to look at. The text file, and Ibak opened it. As he read it his rage boiled.

“I’m grateful that you’ve taken the time to read through this file. Thank you for that.

I’m sure you know what state our country is in. We all know that no one likes the government, and we all know what happens if we try to oppose them. And because of that, not a lot of people want to oppose them. I can’t say I blame you.

But I ask you to watch the video I’ve attached. If you already have, thank you. There you can see a group of brave individuals standing up for our rights. Rights that are guaranteed to us by international law.

I know how the video ends, and it’s completely wrong. We should all have the right to express our opinions freely. I’m sure this sort of tactic is meant to scare us all into silence.

But know this. You are not alone. There are many among us who hate what’s happening. Many who want change. Alone we can’t do much, but together we can do a lot. The very fact that you're watching the video and reading this means they cannot stop us.

Some were captured, taken captive by a terroristic government that has no sense of honor or ethics.

I lost someone I care very deeply for in that recording. He was a child, age 16. I don’t know where he is or what happened to him. I can only pray to my ancestors that he’s okay.

Think about it. They’re willing to do all of that to a CHILD. This is the type of country we live in. And it has to change.

I will not let his sacrifice, or anyone else's, be in vain. And I ask you to do the same. Help us in any way you can. Spread the word. If you see people voicing their opposition, trying to change our country for the better, help them. If you’re invited to join us, please do.

We’re counting on every Kolhari person. If we all work together, we can change this country for the better.”

Ibak stared at the text in silence. The sight of a child his age being beaten by police ran through his head. He could see the person being beaten, he could feel every blow. He imagine that such a child could be himself.

He wouldn’t wish that fate upon himself, and the thought that anyone else could suffer the same thing pained him.

Finally, with a newfound determination, Ibak grabbed an old flash drive and ran out of his room. He walked towards his fathers office, still in the same building. It was past 6 PM, so hopefully nobody would notice that he was in here. Once inside, he ran to the computer on his fathers desk, a much more bland one than the one he had.

The screen lit up and a password screen appeared. Ibak hadn’t been told the password for this computer, but he typed in the password for one of his fathers accounts on a domestic streaming service. He breathed a sigh of relief when the login screen changed into a desktop. His father could never figure out how to use computers, and he always struggled with basic security.

But there was no time to celebrate. Ibak opened some folders and found what he was looking for. His father still had access to many government documents, including some about the details of the security forces. Ibak didn’t look through all the files, he just started copying everything he could to the flash drive. Most of them would probably be boring stuff, but he hoped that maybe there would be something in there that could help stop them.

Once the files were all copied he left the room, and immediately sent a message to Mar asking to meet up in private. It only took a second for Mar to come to his room, and Ibak asked him only one question.

“Where did you get the flash drive?”


Karim Reeducation Center

Another day, another quota barely met. Talshin didn’t like the hard work, but at least his evening shift was finished. The final third of Talshin’s day was dedicated to work, which wasn’t pleasant but at least he was lucky. He had a break in between his work shift patterns, unlike most of the other prisoners.

It also helped that he got on well with other prisoners. But that didn’t change their situation.

Suddenly another prisoner shuffled over to him. It was one of the prisoners whom he had got on with quite a bit. He came carrying something in his shirt. As he got closer he showed it to the rest of them.

He had stuffed a load of rice into his shirt. It was cold, dry rice, probably leftovers that were being thrown out, but it was still rice. Edible rice that they could eat.

“Here,” he said. “We need to stay strong if we’re going to make it through this.”

Talshin thanked him as he grabbed a handful of the rice and began eating it. Many others near him did the same. They all snarfed the rice down as quickly as they could, their lives depended on it after all. This small group was the group of people that Talshin often found himself with, and they made his time slightly more bearable. Or at least as bearable as being in a political prison camp which had the explicit aim of working people until they break, either mentally or physically, could be.

As Talshin finished the food, he heard some footsteps behind him. Talshin froze. Who was it? Another prisoner? A guard? The Warden? He had no idea, and he was too afraid to look back.

“What are you all doing?”

It was one of the guards. Nobody said a word.

“I said, what are you doing?”

Nobody answered the guard. Talshin glanced back, just to see what kind of mood the guard was in. He did NOT seem happy, and he was only getting angrier every second. So, Talshin spoke up.

“Nothing,” he said. “We’re just talking to each other.”

“Really?” the guard answered. “It didn’t seem that way to me.”

“Yeah, just conversation.” Talshin tried to reassure. He was lying through his teeth, but hopefully this would keep the guards off their trail.

“Well then, I suppose the answer would be the same if I…”

With that the guard kicked one of the prisoners in the stomach. The sound echoed through the building Talshin was in. Talshin flinched as he saw what was happening. The prisoner who got kicked fell over, coughing and writhing in pain.

“Now,” the guard continued, “what were you doing?”

“We told you, just conversation.” Talshin’s voice trembled as he said that.

“You weren’t eating stolen leftovers, weren’t you?”

“No!”

“Well then, I suppose nothing would happen if I were to…”

The guard pushed a prisoner onto their back and began trying to force his mouth open. The prisoner tried to push back, but the guard was more forceful. Talshin knew what he was trying. He was trying to make the prisoner vomit so that they could check what came out. If they did, the guard would see that they had stolen the food, and they would all be punished.

Talshin couldn’t let that happen.

“Hey, stop!” he called out “We didn’t do anything!”

“Yes you did!”

“Please, we’ve done no-”

A sudden thwack to the head knocked Talshin down. Dazed, Talshin got up.

“Tell me what you were doing.”

“Idle conversation, I swear.”

Talshin could see a vein pop out of the guard's forehead. He raised his hand, ready to hit Talshin with a baton again. Talshin prepared for another thorough beat down, one like the countless others he had experienced in his short time here. But once the guard’s arm was fully raised up, it stopped and hovered there for a moment, before coming back down.

Talshin looked at the guard, confused about what happened. The guard no longer seemed angry. Instead he had a big grin on his face.

“Come with me.” The guard said, dragging Talshin with him. He didn’t have a choice but to follow the guard.

It didn’t take long for them to find their destination: the Warden’s Office. The guard knocked on the door, and it opened to a rather irritated looking Kar.

“What, I was about to leave for the day… well hello there 473.”

“I have a name.” Talshin spat at the warden.

“Shut it you filthy wretch.” Kar spat back at Talshin before looking at the guard. “What is it that you want?”

“It seems 473 needs more than our ordinary discipline. He was talking back to me and lying about what he was doing just a few minutes ago!”

“I wasn’t talking back.” Talshin tried to object, but nobody was listening to him.

“Well then,” Kar said, sitting back in his chair as he mused to himself. “I suppose we can’t have that go on, can we.”

“Perhaps we can use some alternative means to gain his… cooperation.”

“A wonderful idea.” Kar said, a smile coming onto his face. “Send him to one of the rooms at building 1-0.”

“With pleasure.” The guard said as he dragged Talshin out.

Talshin was then forced to walk towards a building on the other side of the camp. If he was too slow, the guard would smack him with a baton. But Talshin’s gut told him that something worse was coming.

When they finally arrived at the building, Talshin was taken inside. A large number of steel doors lined the hallway. The doors only had a large lock and a small slat that could be opened and closed. There Talshin was stopped, and ordered to strip. Once he had, he was given a new set of clothes to wear. A pure white shirt and pure white trousers.

The guard approached one of the rooms, and opened it. Before Talshin could take in what was inside he was thrust inside and the door locked behind him.

The room was small, but livable. Or it would be if it wasn’t for the rest of it.

The entire room was painted white. The ceiling was white. The light gave off a bright white. The floor tiles were white. The bed, bedsheets, and pillows were white. The toilet and sink was white. Hell, even the other side of the steel door was painted white.

Talshin turned around and pounded the door.

“Hey, what is this place?” he asked the guard.

“Have fun spending the next week here.” The guard answered.

Talshin pounded the door some more, but there was no answer. He could only hear the faint sound of footsteps walking away.

Edited by Kolhar (see edit history)
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23 Piltal 1204 (27 September 2020)

White. White. More white. The food was white rice with white tofu and white milk for a drink. White clothes, a white bed, and white lighting. The toilet water has some kind of white powder in it. The sink’s water is surprisingly well kept, coming out perfectly clear in complete contrast to every other building Talshin had access to where it was slightly brown and tasted of rust.

The room was somewhat soundproofed, so Talshin could only faintly hear footsteps outside of the room. The lights were kept on 24/7, so he had no sense of time. Even the meals were served at inconsistent times, so he couldn’t use that to measure it. How long had he been in this room? Had he been here for a week? Two? Maybe one and a half? More? Less? For anyone inside, there was no telling.

All Talshin had was his own thoughts to himself. He paced around while in thought, sometimes talking to himself. Anything to keep himself sane, but it was only barely working. Sometimes he re-lived events that had happened in the camp, some of the beatings or times in ‘reeducation sessions,’ other times he thought of how he got here. Of how he had been grabbed while trying to get away from the protest. He wondered if his mother was worried about him, and if he would ever see her again.

Sometimes Talshin would think he heard something from outside the room. Maybe a guard coming for food? Or maybe to let him out? But most of the time nothing came. When someone did come, they didn’t make any conversation, no matter how much Talshin called out to them. They just finished whatever business they had, usually leaving Talshin food, and left.

Being left alone like this, with nothing to do but think to himself, and no input of any kind from anything, was unbearable. Was Talshin going crazy? He had no idea, but he was worried if he didn’t get out soon he might.

Talshin slammed his plate on the wall, deliberately making a banging sound. It wasn’t something he would normally do, but he wanted something, anything, other than the silence of the white room. Literally anything other than the normal nothing would do.

Then, very faintly, Talshin heard something. Footsteps? No, it wasn’t that. It sounded more like… voices! Talshin moved up to the door and put his ear on it. He couldn’t make out everything clearly, but he could somewhat hear bits and pieces of it.

“And this is the building?” Was that… Atan, the political officer?

“Yes, for our more… enhanced disciplinary techniques.” That voice was definitely the wardens.

“I presume these techniques are used appropriately.”

“Of course.”

The voices seemed to fade a little, and Talshin began to lose hope. Then, some time later, Talshin heard the voices approaching once more. Talshin grabbed his plate from lunch and began slamming it as loud as he could. If that was Atan, maybe he’d wonder what was going on.

“What’s that noise?” It worked! Atan was questioning the noise.

“Ah yes, some prisoners are more… difficult… than others.” No, Atan couldn’t buy what the Warden said! This was Talshin’s only way out.

“It sounded like it came from…” The footsteps grew closer, until they completely stopped.

“What’s this room for?” asked Atan.

“This? This is for the most… uncooperative ones.”

Talshin heard the lock move, only for it to stop part way.

“What are you doing, political officer?”

“I wish to see what exactly is happening.”

“Surely that isn’t necessary.”

“That wasn’t a request.”

“This method only works if we leave it uninterrupted.”

“Perhaps, but if I am to ensure that this facility is being run up to Party standards, I must see everything. Now, Warden Kar, I order you to let me see this room.”

The Warden grew silent for a moment. Then he answered in a scowl.

“Of course.” he said, and the door opened.

Talshin looked up to see Atan, looking around the room. Seemingly he was bewildered by the sight, looking around the room as if he didn’t expect to see it. Then his eyes locked with Talshin.

“You are… 473.”

Talshin flinched at being called by his number rather than name. Yet he didn’t have the energy or will to say anything back at Atan, not right now. It seemed he didn’t need to say anything though, as Atan turned back to the Warden.

“Kar, what is this place?” he asked.

“This is a method of enhanced punishment.”

“I’ve heard about this method, and it is only to be used on the worst offenders. What did this child do?”

“His mind has proved somewhat… difficult to mold.”

“That’s not what I asked.” Atan walked right up to Kar. “Now tell me, what did prisoner 473 do to deserve this.”

“Insubordination.”

“Of what sort?”

“He talked back to a guard. This punishment was the guard’s recommendation.”

“That’s not sufficient grounds to put a 16-year old child through this, and you know that.” Atan looked at Talshin again. “This is to be used only for the most uncooperative prisoners and only after other methods prove ineffective.”

“I have found the guard’s recommendations to be accurate, most of the time.”

“I’ve seen how you allow the guard’s to behave. You let them walk over the prisoners like they are nothing, like they are rodents that deserve to be stepped on and killed.” Atan began walking out. “This is no way to run a prison. You cannot allow your guards to do anything and everything they want with prisoners. That breeds resentment, sets unreasonable expectations down the road, and will make controlling things in the prison more difficult.”

“Hah, I have yet to have any issues with the prisoners.” Kar said, waving Atan’s concerns off and starting to walk out of the room as well.

“I’m not only speaking of controlling prisoners,” Atan shot back. “Your guards need to be controlled as well.”

Kar turned around, completely ignoring Atan’s comment, and began to close the door again. But Atan grabbed the door and stopped him.

“Let him go.”

“What?”

“You’ve done enough to this child. Let him out of the room. That’s an order.”

Kar glared at Atan, but reluctantly opened the door once more. He waved at a guard, who came by and pulled Talshin out.

“Bring him back to his barracks.”

Talshin stared blankly at Atan as he was led away. Just what was this guy’s game?


Another meeting of the Freedom Party. After a week of barely speaking, Kanka finally felt ready to try and move forward. She still felt sorrow at losing her child, but she refused to allow his disappearance to stop her forever. What would Talshin say if he found out she had allowed the government to silence her? She’d never be able to face him again if she did that.

So, with much anxiety, she forced herself out of her house and to this meeting of the Freedom Party’s local branch.

This week the meeting took place in the basement of a warehouse owned by a member. It wasn’t too far from Kanka’s home, all the more reason for her to be cautious when approaching it. She made sure she wasn’t followed, and took roads not many went down, just so she could make it undetected.

As she entered the room, she was immediately greeted by a friendly face. It was Akzim’s computer teacher, Tesur.

“It’s good to see you.” he said to her.

“As with you.” Kanka embraced him. He had been a member for many years now, and grew to be a close friend of Kanka’s.

The two of them sat down in the meeting and listened. Each one spoke of how the protest went, and together they mourned the loss of some of their fellow members. But when it was Tasur’s turn to speak, he got up and took a deep breath.

“As you all know, I have been involved in spreading the truth from abroad into our country for some time now,” he started. “However, recently there has been an unexpected development.”

Kanka’s heart sank. What has the government done now? Were they cracking down on the illegal distribution of foreign media? Was life about to get a whole lot harder for everyone who just wanted a taste of media that nobody would otherwise be able to have?

“For some time now, I have been able to distribute said truth to some… unexpected places.”

Wait, that definitely wasn’t what Kanka expected to hear next. Where was Tesur going with this?

“And I would like to inform you that we appear to have some new friends in… potentially powerful positions.”

“What are you talking about?” Kanka asked. Tesur only pulled out a laptop, and opened a file. He showed it around to everyone. When Kanka saw it, she could hardly believe her eyes.

These were files kept secret by the government. Details about the government’s network of prisons and the pipelines that led into it.

“Where did you get this?” Kanka blurted out.

“Some youth at the royal palace are really enthusiastic about foreign media, even if their parents don’t approve.”

“That’s incredibly risky!”

“I took a chance a long time ago, when I was inexperienced.” Tesur said, seemingly acknowledging the risk he took on. “I’ve been incredibly lucky I haven’t been ratted out yet. And now, I think the risk has paid off.”

“So these files are from…”

Tesur nodded, and then continued to speak.

“I think someone in the royal palace is on our side. I’m going to meet them in a few days.”

“I’m going with you.” Kanka blurted out. Tesur seemed taken aback.

“It’s risky!” Tesur exclaimed, but Kanka wouldn’t be refused.

“I know,” she said. “But he has access to all these files. He might be able to find out where my son is.”

Tesur fell silent for a moment, and then spoke.

“Meet me at the school after class in two days' time. I’ll bring you with me.”

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25 Piltal 1204 (29 September 2020)

The streets of central Vakor were well kept and spotless. The windows glistened in the sun, covering large buildings in a brilliant display of wealth. This was the part of the city reserved only to first-class citizens and honorary first-class citizens, and was thus only given the best of the best services.

All this wealth, just hoarded by a group of people due to nothing other than their ancestry. The sight always disgusted Kanka, a feeling made all the worse by the fact that the only reason she was allowed in was because of her Okla heritage. But she held her tongue, knowing that saying anything right now would mean exposing what she was here for. Tesur walked closely next to her.

“We’re almost there.” he said. The two of them walked for a few more minutes, before they reached an alleyway. It was one of the few dark, secluded ones in this section of the city.

“Is this the place?” Kanka asked.

“Yes,” Tesur answered. “We’re a little early actually.”

Kanka nodded and looked around. This place was very secluded, and someplace most wouldn’t look. Not to mention they had taken a rather convoluted path to get here. If anyone followed them, they probably had lost them by now.

Kanka looked at her watch. 4 PM. They were supposed to meet whoever their new friend was in about 10 minutes. She glanced at Tesur, who was also looking at his clock. The two stood there in silence, not wanting to alert anyone to their presence there. After a while Kanka began to grow impatient, but she made every effort to stay calm. The person wasn’t late, she was just anxious to see who this person was and what sort of information they could offer.

The 10 minutes felt like an eternity, but it seemed to pay off. Kanka could hear some footsteps approaching. She practically jumped to get a look at this person, and was surprised. They were no older than Talshin was! She had heard that Tesur was distributing foreign media to youth, and his description of them told her they were young. But she didn’t expect this person to remind her so much of Talshin.

But there was something else about this person. Kanka almost felt like she should know this person, or rather know of them. But why?

“What did you come here for?” Tesur asked.

“Uh…” the 16-year old seemed unsure. “For a flower that’s yet to bloom, was it?”

“You need to be more confident in your answers.” Tesur said, shaking his head. “Are you the one who gave us the files?”

“Yes!” The answer was immediate. “I did that, and I can get you more if you’d just give me the chance.”

“What sort of files?” asked Kanka, surprising Tesur as she asked.

“Uh, a lot of them.” the teen said. “I- I’m not sure which ones. I don’t actually have access to the files myself, I just know my fathers password.”

Kanka and Tesur exchanged glances.

“I-I just want to help!” the teen ran right up to them and grabbed Tesur’s shoulders. Kanka’s eyes widened as she watched. “I know my family made some mistakes in the past, but I want to make up for it! Please, give me a chance.”

“Wait,” Kanka gently placed her hand on the teen’s shoulder and guided him away from Tesur. “What do you mean ‘your family made mistakes’? Just who are you?”

“I-” the teen stammered. He looked down for a moment, then up, left, and right. Kanka almost thought he wasn’t going to answer. But he did.

“My name is Ibak.” he said.

Kanka’s eyes widened. She thought she recognized the name, but she wasn’t sure. After all, there’s no way this boy could be that person, could he?

There was only one way to find out.

“Ibak,” Kanka asked. “Who was your great grandfather?”

Tesur took a step back, his mouth agape as he stared at Ibak. It seemed just who their new friend could be had just dawned on him as well.

“My great grandfather?” Ibak said. “He… he was King Kulug.”

“Then you… you would be the Crown Prince.” Tesur said.

“If we still had a King or Queen, yes.” Ibak answered.

“But, your family put the fascists in power!” Kanka blurted. “Why help us?”

Ibak sighed.

“Because… because this is wrong.” He said. “I read on one of those flash drives about a young boy being taken away, just for speaking his mind. Why should he be taken away, while I can get whatever I want just by asking the right people?”

Was he talking about Talshin? Ibak never said a name, so it could be someone else. But the odds were slim, after all if it was a flash drive this kid got from Tesur it could only be about Talshin. Kanka couldn’t dwell on the thought for too long though, because Ibak still had more to say.

“My father…” Ibak went on “My father always said that being King meant taking care of the whole country. That meant making sure everyone in the country was happy, and taking care of anyone. Well, that’s not really happening, is it?”

From all appearances, one would assume that Ibak was telling the truth. But was he really? It was his family that had dragged Kolhar down into the dark hole it found itself in today after all. He could be trying to trick them, all so he could gain a position in the Kolhari Advancement Party.

But this boy also seemed desperate to help.

“Ibak, can you do me a favor?” Kanka asked.

“Anything to help.”

“That boy who was taken, he was someone dear to me. Could… could you find out what happened to him?”

Ibak fell silent for a moment. Kanka saw a glimmer of hope light up in the kid's eyes.

“Tell me more about him, I’ll see what I can find.”


Another day of hard labor. It seemed the prison guards considered the ordeal Talshin went through completely unimportant. They still expected him to fill the same quotas, at the same pace, and memorize things, all at the same pace. There would be no break or time to recover, it was right back to how things were.

But Talshin struggled harder to meet his quota than ever. He found he couldn’t sleep at night. Whenever he closed his eyes images of the white room flashed before him. That meant he was exhausted, all the time. And the quota’s were all the same.

It was too much for Talshin, and yesterday he failed to meet all of his quotas. The punishment was the usual soup being taken away, but that only made Talshin’s predicament worse.

It was the evening and the final third of the day. Talshin once again had to haul raw materials to the factory on the grounds of the prison. But with every step his feet ached, and with every movement his muscles screamed out for a break.

But Talshin worked his hardest in spite of all this. His only hope to survive this was to keep pushing. That was the only choice left to him if he was to live.

The raw materials kept coming, and the daylight kept fading. Soon, Talshin knew, soon he would be able to take a break, eat dinner, and go to bed for the night. The end of today’s work was in sight.

Then, suddenly, Talshin found the energy slip away from his arms. He watched in horror as his arms gave way and the raw materials fell to the ground. He rushed to pick everything up, hopefully this wouldn’t lose time to meet his quota.

“Well well, if it isn’t 473.” A voice came from behind Talshin. It was Kar’s. Talshin froze. “Taking a break are we? We both know you aren’t allowed to do that.”

Suddenly a loud ringing went throughout the camp. It was the bell, the work day was over. Talshin smiled and started to walk away.

“Hold it 473.” Kar barked. “It seems you still need some discipline. Come with me.”

Talshin turned to face Kar.

“No,” he said. “The workday is over, and I’m allowed to rest now.”

“Oh, this isn’t for work.” Kar said, smirking as the words left his mouth. “And it wasn’t a request. Come with me, or else.”

“Or else what?”

Suddenly Kar grabbed Talshin’s arm and began dragging him away.

“Alright, 473, you’ll find out in due time.”

Talshin was forced to one of the buildings off-limits to prisoners. This one held the Warden’s quarters. From there he was taken into a stairwell, and down. A single door greeted him, and Talshin was forced inside. There was one other prisoner inside, whom Talshin didn’t recognize.

Before Talshin could get a better look at him, Kar forced him away. The next thing Talshin knew, his arms were being tied to ropes hanging from the ceiling. Now he couldn’t sit or lie down, even if he wanted to.

“Now, wait here.” Kar said. He left, leaving Talshin there with the other person.

“Hey,” Talshin said. “What’s happening?”

“You don’t know?” the prisoner asked. “Kar likes to take people for what he calls… personal sessions.”

“What does that mean?”

“I guess we’re about to find out.”

The two of them stood there in silence. Neither one of them was sure for how long, but it was a while. Eventually though, the door opened. Talshin looked to see two people. It was Kar and Atan.

“Kar, what is this and why have you brought me here?” Atan asked.

“Officer Atan, please. Relax. This is where I like to give my prisoners some more… personal treatment… if other options aren’t working.”

“I don’t recall this being in any Party guidance.”

“That’s because it isn’t, my friend.”

“We aren’t friends.” Atan scoffed.

“Then soon we will be.” Kar answered. “Perhaps, you would like to give these methods a try yourself?”

“You want me to do this?”

“Indeed,” Kar walked up to a locker in the room, and pulled out two whips from it. He handed one to Atan.

“Now, prisoners, who is the great leader of our country?” Kar barked.

“What?” Talshin blurted. The sudden question left Talshin confused. But before Talshin could process the question and even attempt to correct himself, a sharp slicing pain hit his back. Talshin couldn’t help but cry out.

“WRONG!” Kar answered. He glanced at Atan.

“Now Atan, the other prisoner hasn’t answered yet,” he said. “Strike him!”

“What, exactly, will this accomplish?” Atan asked.

“Hah! Surely you know?” Kar scoffed. “You are Okla, these are degenerate traitors. Show them why we Okla are superior!”

“Answer my question.” Atan demanded. Kar laughed.

“Enjoy yourself, political officer. This is Karim, the Party won’t mind if we bend the rules or even… make up our own.” Kar said as he raised his whip. It cracked as he hit it on the other prisoner.

“Here, we are allowed to be what we truly are. We are Okla, from the all-powerful clan that unified Kolhar twice!”

Talshin screamed as he felt another sharp pain on his back, and felt a warmth flow down to his feet.

“This is no punishment.” Atan spat.

“Yes, it is!” Kar laughed. “It’s punishment for these wretched traitors daring to question us Okla!”

Kar began whipping both prisoners, smiling as he did so.

“We are Okla! We have the power, relish it Officer Atan!”

Talshin didn’t know how many blows he felt, only that it was many. Blow after blow scarred his back, blood flowing down. Never had Talshin been whipped before, and the pain nearly made him pass out.

“Join me, Atan! Show these lowlives what we Okla truly are capable of!”

“STOP. THIS. INSTANT.” Atan boomed, his voice echoing through the room.

The whipping stopped, and Talshin saw Kar take a step back. Was he… afraid of Atan?

“I heard you were a highly skilled Warden,” Atan said. “That you had managed to keep some of our most dangerous political foes in check. That you had managed to break and convert some of our most ardent opponents.”

“But now I know who you are. You’re a thug. A power-crazed thug, and one who tries to turn others into power crazed thugs. Well, you may have got the guard’s but you will not get me. I’m reporting all of this to the Party this instant.”

“The Party loves me, they won’t do anything to stop it.” Kar nervously laughed.

“We shall see.” Atan replied. “Now, I order you to give these prisoners proper medical care. Unless you’d like me to add ignoring the orders of a Political Officer to my report as well.”

“No,” Kar suddenly sounded a little fearful. “I… I will let them get medical treatment.”

Atan approached Talshin.

“Let’s get you down from there, 473.” he said, untying the ropes. Talshin sank to the floor, and the wurld faded away around him.

Edited by Kolhar (see edit history)
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26 Piltal 1204 (30 September 2020)

Talshin woke up to a bright light. It was coming from his right, from a window that was opened. He felt the warmth of the sun on his face. The wurld began coming into view. Talshin nearly jumped back as he saw the white in the room, but relaxed a little when he saw other colors as well. He could see the blue sky from the outside and the door was brown. The room had scuffs and dirt marks, unlike the immaculate white of the other room.

This wasn’t a torture room, it was a room in the on-camp medical center. That gave Talshin some relief, but it wasn’t much. He laid down for about another hour, until he heard the door open. Someone walked in, dressed like a doctor.

“473, I see you’re awake.” he said. “Sit up, now.”

That wasn’t a request in the way a normal doctor would ask for it. No, that was more like an order. So, Talshin got up and let the doctor examine his back. Talshin hadn’t realized it until the doctor came, but he had bandages all over him. He suspected it was to cover the wounds on his back, but knowing the camp he wouldn’t be surprised if he was secretly being subject to some weird experiment.

“Wounds are clean, and are looking alright.” the doctor said. “Alright, you can leave for your bed.”

Talshin didn’t feel well enough to leave, but he knew better than to argue with the camp doctor. So, reluctantly, he got up and began walking out of the hospital. He could see out of the corner of his eyes that he was being followed by a nurse, likely to make sure he actually left the medical center. It was an open secret that the medical staff didn’t like treating anyone that wasn’t a prison guard, in spite of the fact that they were supposed to care for inmates as well.

As Talshin was walking down, he caught a glimpse of Atan. He was carrying a letter and heading straight for the camp’s main administration building. Talshin wanted to get a closer look, but he couldn’t. He had to get to his bed soon if he was going to have any chance of getting a bit of rest. Even with his injuries, Talshin just knew that he would be forced to go right back to work.


Atan stormed into the administration building, slamming the door open as he walked through. He didn’t even ask permission from the other administrative staff that were there. They glanced at him, but didn’t dare to stop doing their jobs. As they should. Atan had very important business to attend to, and he wasn’t about to let anyone get in his way.

It was a minute or two before he reached his destination - the Warden’s office. Atan went right up to the door and knocked on it incredibly loudly.

“Gah, come in, it ain’t locked!” someone grumbled from the other side. Atan opened the door to see Kar sitting down on his desk. “Ah, Political Officer! What do I owe this visit to?”

“The Party was quite quick in getting back to me.” Atan said. “In my hand I have the letter they sent back to me about your fate. I expect you to make some serious changes here, based on Party recommendations.”

Kar seemed to tense up, and Atan wasn’t going to give him a chance to recover. He immediately opened the letter, the printed form of the digital document he was sent. He hadn’t actually read it himself, but he was confident in its contents.

Atan looked at the first line and read.

“The Party is very troubled by reports of basic guidelines being ignored and rules being bent or broken at Karim Reeducation Center.” Atan said. “This type of behavior cannot be ignored. In response the Party has decided to…”

Atan stopped as he read down the letter. His jaw dropped and his eyes widened.

“The… the Party has decided to give you a formal warning?” Atan couldn’t believe his eyes. At the very least he expected a direct order to conform to Party guidelines under threat of immediate dismissal. But a formal warning? That was barely a slap on the wrist!

Kar grinned.

“Well, I thank the Party for its wise guidance, and shall endeavor to have this facility be kept up to the strictest of Party specifications.” Kar said as he glared at Atan.

“This isn’t over.” Atan shot back. “I will report back to the Party should you fail to follow the rules.”

“Atan, this is Karim. Relax, I told you the Party wouldn’t mind.” Kar tried to extend an arm around Atan, as if they were close friends. But Atan pushed him away.

“I expect the rules to be followed to the letter, do I make myself clear?” Atan said.

“You certainly do,” Kar answered, “but let me tell you this. The Party doesn’t care about rules, they care about results. I suggest you get with the program.”

“We will speak again.” Atan said as he slammed the door behind him.


Ibak crept through his fathers office once more. The computer was right there, and thankfully nobody else was in the room. He knew what the risks would be, but he was going to do it. If it was anyone else, they wouldn’t even be let in the royal palace. If it was anyone else allowed in, they would question why a child was walking around the palace rather than playing or being at school. This was something that only Ibak could do, but he needed to make it quick.

He jumped up to the computer and logged in. His fathers password still worked, thankfully. Even while he was in a meeting it was accessible. Now, hopefully his father would have access to the records of where different political prisoners ended up. It was a longshot, but his father was technically a leading figure in a faction of the party. A reformist faction that had so far been locked out of power due to perceived “liberal” tendencies, but he was still a leading figure in it. He had connections. It wouldn’t be unheard of for him to have had access to those files, even if he officially wasn’t supposed to.

And he was in luck! His father did have access to a limited set of records. He didn’t have access to every prisoner's record, when Ibak tried to access those the access was denied. But he did have access to some of the high risk prisoners data files. Ibak immediately knew his father wasn’t supposed to have access to this. He definitely had to bribe someone to be allowed this. In any case, it wasn’t important to Ibak. The question of “why did he bother to bribe for access to these files?” didn’t even occur to Ibak.

The odds of what he was looking for being in these files was slim, but Ibak searched through them anyway. He was looking for anything about a child named Talshin…

And it was there! Right here, a Talshin that was arrested in Vakor after the election results were announced. Considered high-risk not because he himself was high risk, but rather because he was suspected to be part of a cell of anti-government activists. He is seen as a potential source of information, and potential convert to fascism, due to his age. So he was sent to…

Ibak’s heart sank when he saw what came next.

Karim Reeducation Center. That facility was one he knew of. He had overheard his father speaking to someone, a former political officer at the camp, who had resigned after seeing what was happening. That camp was one where people were sent not to be “re-educated” into true believers of fascism, although that was the stated goal. No, it was a place the government sent people to try and break their will and turn them into a shell of their former selves, and be more subservient to the state. The idea being if these individuals could be “broken” they would be less inclined to disobey in the future.

For that reason, the rules and regulations of the Party were regularly broken there. The Party knew about it, and tolerated it. The Warden was chosen not because of his skill, but because of his brutality. And that had driven the last political officer away from the camp.

Ibak copied all the files to a flash drive and made his way out of the room. This information needed to get out, and he would make sure that happened.

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7 Kartal 1204 (7 October 2020)

Kanka paced through the alley, the same alley that she had been in to meet with Ibak just over a week ago. Today was the day he had to prove himself. He was given two options of things to do, and Kanka hoped he would pull through with both. That having been said, she was more personally invested in one of those tasks than the other.

“Easy there,” Tesur said. “He isn’t late yet.”

“I know,” Kanka sighed. “It’s just hard.”

“Hopefully he won’t be long.”

The two of them once again fell into silence as they waited for Ibak. It wasn’t that long, but it felt like an eternity. The deafening silence just made the wait all the more tense. They had taken a massive gamble with this person. If he was who he said he was, then he had the potential to massively help their movement.

Eventually, they saw movement. Kanka and Tesur hid and looked towards it.

“What did you come here for?” he asked.

“For a flower that has yet to bloom.”

Kanka looked and breathed a sigh of relief when she saw Ibak. He was alone as he walked into the alleyway. As he approached he pulled out a flash drive.

“Did you get it?” Kanka asked.

“I did… but you aren’t going to like it.” Ibak said as he handed the flash drive over. “He’s in… Karim.”

A darkness took over Kanka’s heart when she heard the name. She had only heard of the place in rumors and in news reports smuggled in from abroad. But what she had heard about it was horrible. And it was supposed to be only for the worst of the government's opponents. What the hell was a young boy who had only been to one protest and had no other criminal record doing there?

“How? He only went to one protest!” Tesur blurted.

“They think he’s ‘high risk’ because of who he was arrested with.” Ibak answered. “They know of the existence of your cell.”

Kanka’s blood froze when she heard that. She had expected it. The government would catch on to the existence of their cell sooner or later. It was bound to happen. It was unavoidable. Yet, somehow, to know that they knew the cell didn’t die with her husband brought a sense of dread over her.

It was only made worse by the knowledge that she was likely part of the reason Talshin was in Karim.

“Look, everything you asked for is on that flash drive.” Ibak said. “Talshin’s file, some information on Karim, and even information on what the government knows about you. I want to help you more, just tell me how.”

Tesur took the flash drive from Ibak’s hands. Out from a small bag he pulled out a small laptop and plugged it in. His eyes darted from left to right as he read the contents of the flash drive. Eventually, he turned to Kanka and nodded.

“It looks like it's all here,” he said. “And more, actually.”

Kanka took a deep breath, trying to calm herself down. Eventually she felt someone tug at her arm. It was Ibak.

“Don’t blame yourself, the Party is the one that decided to do that. It’s not your fault.”

Kanka closed her eyes for a second before opening them.

“You’re right.” She looked Ibak in the eyes. “Thank you for telling me where he is. And giving us what we asked for.”

Kanka turned to Tesur with a new look of determination in her face. Tesur nodded. They didn’t need to speak to each other to know what they were going to ask Ibak for next.

“Ibak, member of the royal family, and crown prince of Kolhar,” Kanka said “what I am about to ask of you will be dangerous. You will be put at risk. Your family may also be put at risk. But, if you were to accept, you would be strongly helping to bring about a new and free Kolhar. Will you accept?”

Ibak nodded.

“You will be our eyes and ears within the Party.” Tesur said. “I know there’s a limit as to how much you can know, but you’re already in a position to know much more than any of us. Listen to your father and his associates. Bring us information. Warn us of crackdowns. If you do this, we will be greatly indebted to you.”


Talshin’s wounds were barely starting to heal. And yet, he still had to go back to his backbreaking labor. The quota wasn't even relaxed, so it was either put up with the massive amount of pain he had to go through or go without food or drinks on that day.

The only thing different was that he was actually being given medical care, thanks to Atan’s orders. It wasn’t the best medical care, but it was better than nothing. That said, he could tell the doctors and nurses didn’t enjoy treating him. Though a few looked at him with pity, most treated him like he was a waste of time. As if they believed a prisoner of his sort didn’t deserve to be given any medical care whatsoever.

Even with all that considered, today was going well. He had managed to meet his quota, even if only barely, and now the day was over. His thinning body had taken to the food well today, and now he was free to just rest. He would need to be up in a few more hours so he needed every minute of it. He laid down on his bed, going on his side since lying on his back hurt like hell, and closed his eyes, ready to drift off to dreamland.

And then a blinding light shined in his face.

Talshin nearly jumped back, covering his face to stop the light. Who could it be? One of the guard’s probably. They sometimes did things like that to force prisoners to stay up, all with the excuse that they were “monitoring” to make sure prisoners weren’t “up to anything”. Talshin had the gut feeling that it was something night shift guards did to deprive them of sleep so that they’d have a harder time meeting their quota the next day, and in retaliation for being forced to work the “bad shift”.

“473, are you okay?” a voice asked. It definitely was NOT a voice of one of the guards in fact, if that voice was right then it was…

“Political Officer?” Talshin said as he sat up. If it was Atan, then what in the wurld was he doing over here?

“Yes,” Atan answered. “I wanted to check up on you. I ordered Kar to provide you with medical care. He says he has, but I don’t trust him entirely. Has he been doing as I ordered?”

“Yes, he has.” Talshin reluctantly answered. It was technically the truth, even if he wasn’t being given the best the camp could offer.

“That’s good. If he stops, let me know.” Atan got up and began to leave.

“Wait!” Talshin wasn’t done with this conversation. He had an actual chance to talk to the guy, and he had some questions.

“What is it? Is there a problem?” Atan asked.

“I thought you had to be fiercely loyal to the Party to become a political officer. Why are you helping me?”

Atan stood there for a moment before answering.

“I believe in the Party,” he finally said “and I know for a fact that their government is best for Kolahr. But I also believe that the rules have to be followed. And the way they were treating you, they were breaking the rules.”

“Did you ever think the Party would be more than happy to break its own rules if it gave them what they want?”

“Why would they ever do that?”

“They already do with the elections.”

Atan went silent for a moment. His brows furrowed and his mouth hung open, as if he wanted to speak. But he didn’t, not for a good minute or two.

“I shouldn’t stay any longer.” He said “I’ll speak with you again later, 473.”

“My name is Talshin.”

Atan didn’t say anything. Instead he rushed out, leaving Talshin alone for the rest of the night.

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Ɛ Kestal 1204 (11 December 2020)

Two months. If Talshin hadn’t been keeping track of the days on his bedframe he would’ve lost track of it very quickly. If he had even been moved to a different bunk he would’ve lost track of the day. But thankfully neither one of those happened. And more thankfully, he had managed to survive this entire ordeal so far. Each day was more grueling than the last, and with each day Talshin grew thinner and weaker. Yet he had made it this long, and hopefully he could make it much longer.

But how long was he going to be here? Talshin had heard the average sentence in Karim was 5 years, with the shortest being 1. But there was no way to tell since nobody ever told anyone exactly how long they were going to be there for. Not to mention the Warden or guards could just claim whatever “crime” they want happened and their sentences would be arbitrarily extended. But he was still going to do his best to survive this. After all, that was all that he could do.

By now the sound of the bell brought Talshin up in an instant. He had no need to remember what the punishment would be if he got up late, since his body did the remembering for him. His Whipping left scars all over his back, but the wounds had healed making his job marginally easier. Once again his shift began, with nothing seeming out of the ordinary. Again the impossible quota was pushed onto them, but again Talshin barely managed to meet it. He knew he wouldn’t be able to keep meeting it for much longer, but it was something he could do.

When the bell finally rang for lunch, Talshin rushed to grab what he could. He snarfed the rice and soup down as fast as he could, and secretly supplemented the meal with the dead body of a rat he had killed. It was disgusting, but everyone here had to do what they must to survive. When mealtime finally ended, Talshin got ready to go to his ideological indoctrination. Mentally he prepared to remember everything he was told once more, even if he wouldn’t believe a single word of it.

But something was different. The guards came up this time and brought everyone out to the field. Talshin looked at the other prisoners, confused. But nobody said anything aside from one phrase.

“I guess it’s that time of year again.”

Everyone gathered in the field. The guards lined them all up and began inspecting each and every prisoner. Some men and women were pointed out. They were brought into a different group, separate from everyone else.

“You, join them!” someone barked at Talshin. Reluctantly, he followed.

Eventually a large number of guards surrounded them. They all started taunting and hurling insults at everyone. After a while, though, everyone seemed to quiet down. That was when Kar appeared, carrying a large briefcase with him.

“I see not all of you were here for last years game, so let me tell you what’s going to happen.” Kar said. “You all have been selected because you are the worst behaving of the prisoners. You either refuse to listen to orders, refuse to believe in the true value of our wonderful Party, or a mix of both. Whichever one it is, it doesn’t matter. You will all be made an example of.”

Kar motioned to the guards, who one by one began restraining them. The other prisoners, though unrestrained, were made to stand there. Kar opened his briefcase, revealing a vast assortment of tools. From knives to whips, and even a few flails. Each one was slightly different from the rest.

Talshin already knew what would come next.

First Kar grabbed a whip, and moved towards a prisoner. Each crack was followed by a loud scream, with it seemingly going on for ages. Talshin couldn’t bring himself to watch what was happening, the sounds did all the speaking for him.

After a good 15 minutes or so (Talshin wasn’t sure himself), Kar seemed to grow tired. He motioned to the guards who released the person’s restraints. They just collapsed onto the ground, motionless.

Next Kar grabbed a flail, and proceeded to hit the prisoner with it continuously. After the first hit, Talshin again looked away. The screams he heard, though loud at first, slowly died down with time, until eventually the prisoner was silent. When Talshin looked back, he saw the prisoners face staring back at him, unblinking, before being unceremoniously thrown back.

Soon, Kar turned his attention to Talshin. He braced himself for what was to come as Kar reached into the briefcase.

“What’s going on here?!” a sudden voice screamed. Talshin looked to see Atan staring at them, his face red with fury.

“Ah, Atan,” Kar said. “You’ve come just in time for our yearly tradition, and what keeps my camp so orderly.”

“I just saw you kill that prisoner! Under what authority did you execute them?”

“It was to set an example, and you’d better get used to it.” Kar pulled out a knife from his suitcase as he spoke. “Now if you know what’s good for you, I suggest you back off.”

“Did you just threaten me?” Atan said, but Kar didn’t answer. Instead he approached Talshin.

“Now, let’s see how you feel about this.” Kar said as he slid the knife down Talshin’s arm. As it inched down Talshin screamed. When it was finished he felt blood drip from his arm. Talshin forced his eyes closed, all in an effort to deal with the pain.

“Oh, so you won’t look at me? Well, I guess you won’t be needing these then.” Kar grabbed Talshin’s head and forced his eyelid open. The next thing Talshin saw was a knife going straight for his right eye, before the pain overtook him once more. His scream practically echoed, in spite of the fact they were in an open field.

When he finally came to his senses, Talshin could see Kar getting ready to go for his other eye. He braced himself for it, and then…

It never came.

Talshin looked up to see Atan standing in front of him, arm out, with Kar’s knife embedded deep inside of it.

“THAT IS ENOUGH.” Atan screamed. “YOU SADISTIC MANIAC. Nobody of your stature is fit to serve as Warden anywhere. I hereby strip you of your position. Return to your quarters IMMEDIATELY.”

“ON WHO’S AUTHORITY?” It was Kar’s turn for his face to go red.

“ON MINE!”

“You have no authority here!”

“I am the political officer and I have final say.”

“No, I am the Warden, and I have final say.” Kar pulled out his gun and pointed it towards Atan. “Now, DROP IT. THAT’S AN ORDER.”

“NO. YOU ARE RELIEVED OF DUTY.” Atan began reaching for Kar’s hand. “Now, stand dow-”

A loud bang rang through the ears of everyone, and Talshin’s eyes widened as he saw a patch of red grow in Atan’s uniform. It was on the left side of his chest. Only a moment later, Atan slumped to the ground.

Kar seemed to immediately realize what he had done. He started shaking uncontrollably, dropping his gun in the process. None of the guards seemed to know how to react either. They all stood back, motionless.

“You… you killed him!” a prisoner that was watching said as he walked closer to Atan’s body. “He was standing up for us and… and you killed him!”

“Stand back!” Kar said, moving his hands towards the prisoner, only to realize he had dropped his gun earlier. The prisoner rushed forward, grabbing Kar’s gun before he had a chance to get to it. Immediately he pointed it towards Kar.

“What are you doing with that?” Kar said.

“No, you SHUT UP!” he screamed “I’m tired of listening to you! At least he tried to make things bearable, you just want to kill us! Well I’m not going quietly”

A shot rang through the air, and a hole appeared in Kar’s head. The other guards pointed their guns at the prisoner, only to be jumped by the others in the field. Shots rang through the air as each side tried to wrangle with the other.

Someone ran over to Talshin and undid his restraints, and he ran for cover. Only then did he stop to take in everything that was happening.

A large number of prisoners were dead in the field, but a large number of them had also stolen guns from the guards. Now guards and prisoners ran around everywhere, taking pot shots at each other in complete chaos. The riot alarm sounded, but the guards didn’t seem prepared to deal with a situation like this.

Talshin stayed down, wanting to avoid being shot at, as he slowly made his way towards his bed. He needed to avoid being out in the open, lest he be hit by something. As he finally reached the building, though, Talshin heard the distinct sound of an engine revving.

He turned around to see a group of prisoners in a van, obviously stolen from the guards. Not a moment later, they charged forward and broke through the fence surrounding the camp.

This was his chance.

Talshin didn’t even wait for the dust to settle. He bolted straight for the opening in the fence. He heard gunshots ring behind him, but he didn’t let it stop him. He just kept running and running, far further than his body should have allowed him. He ran until he couldn’t run anymore, only then did he stop.

Talshin took a deep breath in and looked around. He could see a road extending for miles in front of him. It was the only way out. There was no other sign of civilization. Odds are this road was mostly used by the fascists, but Talshin was in no state to survive in the wilderness. So he began following the road, hoping to run into someone on the way.

After a while, Talshin saw something in the distance. It looked like a car. Was it friendly? Was it with the government? Talshin didn’t know, but he didn’t have much of a choice. He began waving at it with his good arm, hoping to grab their attention. At first the car didn’t slow down, but as it got closer it seemed to?

Talshin smiled, only for his legs to give way. The last thing he saw before passing out was a figure standing over him, and he could only think of one thing.

"Please be friendly."

Edited by Kolhar (see edit history)
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10 Kestal 1204 (12 December 2020)

As Talshin opened his eye he saw a single beam of light coming in from a window. The room, though well kept, was small and dark. Through the bland wallpaper he could see the wooden backdrop of the building. The posters put up gave the building away as some kind of medical facility, but Talshin had no way of knowing what it was.

He looked around the room until he found a clock. 4 PM, he had been out cold for quite a while. At the very least, though, this didn’t seem to be a building he recognized. Hopefully it wasn’t some kind of government facility.

Talshin heard the door slide open. He spinned his head towards the source of the sound. A man, who was obviously quite high up in his years, stood there. His eyes widened, but aside from that he gave no signs of surprise.

“So you’re awake,” he said. “Just lie back down and take it easy.”

“Where am I?”

“You’re at my clinic. You don’t need to worry about anyone bringing you back to Karim here, you’re safe with us.”

Talshin relaxed and lay back down. He took a better look at the doctor. His white medical clothing was joined by a nametag. Next to the green cross he saw another symbol. The crossed wings of a Kolhari desert raven, the symbol of the Nalek clan. Next to that was his name, Sharam Torez.

“Tell me,” Sharam went on. “How did you get out of that horrible place?”

“There was… there was a riot,” Talshin said. “The warden there tried to… make a game out of torturing us.” Suddenly the memories of what happened came flooding back. The whipping, the beatings, even the knife to the eye.

His eye! Talshin felt his face. The right side of it was still covered in bandages, but he could still feel that something was missing.

“I’m sorry, I did the best I could to treat your injuries.” Sharam said. “But your eye was too damaged to save. I had to remove it to prevent sympathetic ophthalmia.”

Talshin didn’t know what exactly that was, but it definitely meant he didn’t have a right eye anymore.

“I know this is a lot to take in. I’ll give you a moment to yourself.” Sharam finally said. “A nurse will be here shortly with dinner.”

Sharam left after that, leaving Talshin to himself. He was glad to have the time to himself but… what was he supposed to do? How was he supposed to take it in? Not knowing what to do, Talshin just stared out the window, watching the sky.

Soon, though, there was a knock at the door. When it opened a nurse came in carrying food.

“Your dinner,” she said. “I know it isn’t much, but we don’t want to risk refeeding syndrome.”

The nurse could say that but just being offered food without any preconditions was a huge improvement for him. Talshin began eating, but he remained guarded. He may have only been in the camp for two months, but in those two months he had learned to keep a close eye on his food. He had to make sure nobody stole his food, since if someone did the guards wouldn’t do anything about it. It was a habit only while he was in the camp, but it would take a while to unlearn it.

Just as he was finishing his food, Talshin heard someone coming down the hallway.

“So he’s awake?” It was the voice of a young girl.

“That’s what grandpa said,” Another voice said. This one was a man’s.

“Can we see him?”

“Sure, but don’t be too loud. He still needs time to recover.”

The door opened and someone walked in. It was a young girl, probably only a year younger than Talshin. She was followed by a middle-aged man. Talshin froze when he was this man. He’d recognize the uniform he wore no matter what. That was a Kolhari army uniform, with the rank of Colonel judging by the symbol on it.

“Don’t worry, I won’t turn you in.” The man said, seemingly picking up on Talshin’s unease. The girl ran up to him.

“Are you okay? We found you collapsed on the road!” she said.

“I’m… I’m alright.” Talshin hesitated before he answered.

“Are you sure? You were beat up pretty bad.”

“Hilde, he’s still recovering. Don’t press him too much.” the man said.

“Ah, sorry.” The girl, apparently named Hilde, said. “Oh, by the way, I’m Hilde. Hilde Torez. You are?”

“I’m Talshin Salin.” Talshin answered. Then he realized something. “Wait, Torez? So you’re Doctor Torez’s…”

“Yeah, this is my grandpa’s clinic.”

“I’m Krel Torez.” the man said, finally introducing himself.

“You’re in the…”

“Yes, I’m a Colonel in the army.”

“You… you could lose your job. Or worse. Why are you helping me?”

Krel went silent for a moment before he spoke again.

“Hilde, could you give dad some time alone with this boy?”

“But dad…”

“Please sweetie.”

“Alright.” Hilde said as she left. Talshin watched as she walked out, then turned his attention back to Krel.

“Now,” Krel said. “I helped you because you’re a fellow citizen. When I joined the army, I swore an oath to serve and protect this country. That includes its people, like you. But, I have to admit, I’m not entirely sure what’s happening in our country. And neither are my colleagues. We know it's bad but… we aren’t sure how bad it is.”

Talshin listened, wondering where this was going.

“We know Karim exists, but we don’t know anything beyond the rumors. Could you tell me what happens there? And how you managed to escape?”

Talshin froze. He wanted to talk about it. In fact, he knew that he should talk about it. But he wasn’t entirely sure that he could bring himself to do it. At least not without breaking down a few times. But was that excuse enough for him to stay silent?

“I understand if you don’t want to,” Krel said. “No matter what you decide, we’ll still try to find your family once you’ve recovered. But if you’d be willing to help us know just what’s happening in our country, we’d greatly appreciate it. Think about it.” With that Krel got up and walked towards the door, seemingly to call his daughter Hilde back in. But Talshin grabbed his arm to stop him.

“I’ll tell you everything.”

Edited by Kolhar (see edit history)
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17 Kestal 1204 (19 December 2020)

The hallways were bright as Krel walked through them. The building was well kept, unlike some of the others in the town. That seemed to be a common theme in Kolhar, money that wasn’t going to the Party or the oligarchs that supported it went straight into the military or secret police. It disgusted him, but at the moment he couldn’t change it.

When Krel finally reached the end of the hallway he entered into a room. It was a small conference room, rarely ever used. It was so rarely used that it was mostly used as a storage room. This room was chosen because of how rarely it was used, for the meeting that was about to happen was entirely off the books.

As Krel walked in he looked to see who had come. Luckily, it was everybody he had invited. Roughly 20 other military officers from various branches of the military, all of whom Krel knew he could trust. They were all at or around the rank of Colonel or its equivalent in their service branch, something Krel knew wasn’t ideal. The higher ranked the officer he could get involved, the better. Unfortunately, the higher the rank, the less likely one would achieve it without absolute loyalty to the Party.

None of them knew what this was about though, only that it was urgent. When Krel entered they were laughing as they had casual conversation with one another. But it wasn’t long before they spotted him.

“Krel, you’re late to your own meeting.” one of them told him. “Why call us here if you’re going to be late yourself?”

“Apologies,” Krel answered. “I had to make sure about everything. I presume you’ve all ensured that you weren’t followed?”

“It was a pain, but we’ve done it. Now, what’s this about?”

“A week ago I met someone.” Krel started.

“Oh come on, your wife is lovely. Don’t go chea-”

“Don’t even joke about that, I’d never do it.” Krel snapped. “And this is serious.”

The way Krel snapped back at that officer seemed to get the attention of everyone in the room. Nobody seemed to be in a mood to make jokes anymore, and everyone had their full attention on Krel.

“It was on December 12th at 1700 hours.” Krel went on “I was driving down the road when I found a young boy, heavily injured on the road.”

“By our ancestors, I hope you helped him. But what does that have to do with us.”

“I talked to my father, and he used his connections in medicine to get some emergency treatment. But he lost an eye, among many other injuries.”

“What in the wurld happened to him?”

“He was in Karim.”

Krel didn’t have to say anything else to explain it. Everybody had heard rumors about how bad it was. The Party denied it was anything more than a “reeducation facility”, but anyone with a brain knew better than to believe that. After a while though, someone finally had the guts to speak up.

“How did he escape?”

“That’s why I actually called you all here.” Krel said, pulling out a single file and handing it to them. “This is what he told me happened there. From the first time he was imprisoned to when he finally escaped. I had to paraphrase some of it, but it should all be there.”

One by one the officers grabbed the file and began reading through it. When one finished they passed it to another. The whole process took a while, but they all read the whole file. Their expressions grew grim, each one wincing at some of what was described.

“The… the political officer was killed? For trying to make sure people FOLLOW THE RULES?” One of them exclaimed.

“The Party ignored his pleas, and allowed the Warden to continue his abuses.” Krel said. “They are willing to break their own rules if it gives them something.”

“I knew about that from before, but I didn’t realize it was this bad.” the officer continued.

“I agree this is all horrible, but why call us here?” another officer jumped in. “What exactly do you want us to do?”

“Before I say anything, I want to ask all of you a question.” Krel said. “I know that none of you like the Party, and we can all think that what’s happening at Karim is completely unreasonable. Are we all in agreement, though, that this is the last straw? That something needs to change?”

The officers all looked at each other and nodded. Then, one by one, they spoke, each one voicing agreement. Krel smirked once they all finished.

“Then I propose we put a stop to it.”


The government tried to keep the riot hidden. They tried to make sure nobody heard about it. Media was censored, the country’s intranet sites and forums were closely monitored. Information about it was only shared with some people in the government.

But with some prisoners escaping, news spread. And word of mouth would prove impossible to stop. So they had to acknowledge that there was a “prison escape” and claim all the criminals were dangerous, combined with a warning not to approach any escaped prisoners and to report them right away.

Ibak knew better than to believe it though. Word was already spreading through the higher ranks of the Kolhari Advancement Party. His father may have tried to keep it hidden from him, but a riot and prison break at Karim was big news. Word got out.

So, Ibak downloaded all the files he could. Now he was going to meet up with Kanka once more, and hand them over.

The alley he was in was different from the last one. Something about needing to change the location of these exchanges periodically so the government didn’t catch on. Ibak didn’t mind though, as long as the information got out that would be fine by him.

Finally, Kanka came.

“What are you here for?” Ibak asked.

“I’m looking for a flower that’s yet to bloom.”

With that confirmation, Ibak handed Kanka the flash drive everything was on.

“You’re going to want to see this.” Ibak said. “There’s been a riot at Karim.” Kanka’s expression immediately grew concerned.

“What about my boy?” she asked.

“He’s unaccounted for.” Ibak answered. “Let’s hope that means he escaped.”

10 Artal 1205 (12 January 2021)

Krel drove down the road, Hilde and Talshin in the back seat. Talshin had finally recovered enough to where he could leave. Unfortunately, they couldn’t get him a prosthetic eye without arousing any suspicion. They had already pushed things and would need to cook the books pretty hard to make it look like Talshin was never there, they couldn’t risk pushing it any further.

Today they were going to Vakor, hopefully to reunite Talshin with his mother. Krel hoped this wouldn’t take too long, but he knew better than to expect a quick thing. Talshin had told Krel where he was told to meet his mother in case they got separated.

As they approached the street corner, Krel looked at the time. It was about an hour after the normal work hours ended. If she was going to stop by, she would hopefully be here soon. But there was no telling if she would be here, and Krel wasn’t sure how long they should wait.

“There!” Talshin screamed as he pointed outside the window. When Krel followed his finger, he was a woman standing and waiting for something.

“Is that her?” Krel asked. Talshin nodded.

Krel opened the car door and got out, Talshin and Hilde did the same. The three of them approached the woman. As they approached, the woman looked in their direction. Her eyes locked with Talshin, and immediately began to tear up. Talshin sprinted towards her, and the two locked in an embrace.

“Talshin, I’m so glad you’re back!”

“Mom!”

Krel gave the two a moment. The two of them stayed locked for a good two minutes, each one sobbing in the other's arms.

“They took your eye! Oh my child, I’m so sorry I couldn’t protect you!” Talshin’s mom cried. “I won’t let anything hurt you anymore, alright?”

“Thank you, mom.” Talshin said, holding his mother ever more tightly.

Then, Talshin’s mom looked towards Krel.

“Who are you?” she asked.

“He’s Krel, and this is Hilde. They took care of me after I escaped.” Talshin said.

“It’s good to meet you…”

“Kanka.” she answered.

“You have a lovely son.” Krel said. “Take good care of him.”

“Thank you so much, I have no idea how to repay you.”

“I only did what I should.” Krel began to turn around to leave. “I’m sorry, I can’t stay too long. I just wanted to make sure he got home safely.” Kanka nodded.

“Have a safe journey home.” Kanka said as she turned to Talshin. “It might not be safe for you to come straight home. Do you mind staying at your grandpa’s for a bit?”

Talshin shook his head.

“I don’t mind,” he said. “Anything beats the hell of the camp.”

“I’ll bring you there as soon as I can.” Kanka replied.

“Is this goodbye then?” Hilde asked.

“I guess it is.” Talshin said.

Hilde ran up to Talshin and gave him a quick hug, before running back to her father. The two of them walked back to the car. The long drive home was quiet, unusually quiet, but Krel didn’t mind. Once they got home, Krel sent his daughter inside while he pulled out his cellphone.

“So,” he told the person on the other side. “When are we meeting next for the plan?”

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