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Aphrodite's Dawn

Aphrodite's Dawn

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Aphrodite's Dawn

311 Seiten
4 Stunden
Jan 20, 2012


When your entire world consists of six floors and 500 people, any chance for escape is an irresistible adventure.

Garret is 14, living in a waste reprocessing and food recycling plant. His culture says that they are alone and there is nothing outside, just the rock of the walls going on forever. Everybody does exactly what they have always done, children taking on the roles of their parents. There is no growth, excitement or variety. Even the food is restricted to rationed cakes and water. The environment is slowly breaking down, and everything is dirty. 

Then Garret hears a voice in his head, telling him the access code to a panel deep in the gloomy darkness of Level 6. Garret does not even stop to think. He sees an opportunity to escape from an unbearable world, and grabs it. He follows the instructions he is given and escapes into a world of fear and wonder.

Aphrodite's Dawn by is another YA SF adventure by R B Harkess. Grab a copy, and find the access code for your own escape.

Jan 20, 2012

Über den Autor

R B Harkess grudgingly shares his writing time with his real-world job, where he does things with computers and bosses people about. He lives just north of London with a wonderful wife and two attention-seeking dragons shape-shifted into the forms of conventional felines. Robert also publishes mainstream fiction as Robert Harkess. Look out for 'A Meeting of Minds' and 'Maverick' , both availale from this site. He blogs, a nasty habit that many have tried to break him of, at


Aphrodite's Dawn - R B Harkess

- 59 -

‘I ’ve been hearing a voice in my head.’ I said, and I could feel my cheeks start to burn.

I was sitting in our hideout in the shadows behind silo 6, at the end of the small tank room on level 4. My back was propped against some wadded plastic sheeting, my legs stretched out on some matting. Pitr, my best friend, sat next to me. I felt the sheeting move as he pushed himself away from the wall, then he turned to face me in a cross-legged sit. I couldn’t avoid looking up at him. There was enough light to see ‘excited and impressed’ fade from his face and be replaced with ‘oh come on’.

‘Who is it?’ he asked.

I shrugged again. ‘I don’t know. I don’t recognise it.’

‘Is it there all the time?’ Pitr asked. He sounded like he was picking his words carefully

I shook my head. ‘I only hear it at night, when everything is quiet. It always says the same thing.’

‘What does it say?’

I could see that Pitr was getting interested despite himself. ‘It doesn’t make any sense. It says my name.’

‘It knows your name?’

‘I just said, didn’t I? He uses - ’


‘He, it, whatever.’ I stopped and took a breath to calm down. ‘He says my full name, ‘Garret Barton Trent’, then says something about an access code for a maintenance panel down on level 6.’

He looked sharply at me. ‘Level 6?’

I mustered a grin and nodded. Childhood ghosts and mysteries lived on level 6, even though we had outgrown them long ago.

‘So what have you done about it?’ Pitr asked. ‘Who have you told?’

I fidgeted a bit. In front of the silo a glowstrip flickered for a few seconds and made a glassy ‘pinkpink’ noise before settling down. Our hideout turned from dim to dark and back again. Not far away there was a grinding noise, then the sound of fluid rushing through a pipe.

‘Nobody, yet.’ I admitted.

Pitr made an exasperated gesture with his hands. ‘You have to tell somebody,’ he said.

‘Who?’ I asked, picking at a loose fibre on the matting.

‘The medic? Or the Historyun?’

Sometimes Pitr could be a bit obvious. ‘And either of them would go straight to my dad and tell him, wouldn’t they.’ I didn’t want my father to know. He would turn it back on me and say I was making up stories. Again.

‘But it could be something important,’ said Pitr. ‘What if there’s something wrong with you?’

I’d thought about that. The first time I had heard the voice it had scared me. I knew I wasn’t dreaming, so the first thing I had thought of was I was going nuts. There was something about the voice; the gentle hiss that came with it every time it spoke that made me less worried each time I heard it. I supposed I could still be going loopy, but it didn’t feel like it.

‘That would go down real good, wouldn’t it? Chief Foreman’s son crazy with voices in the head’.’ I looked down at my nails, but they were all too far down to bite. ‘Look, forget I said anything. You’re right, I’m making it up.’

I turned round and crawled out of the hiding space, then headed off as quickly as I could so Pitr wouldn’t follow me. I didn’t need him being sensible at me right now.

I thought about heading home and going to my room, but my mum would probably have chores for me. My mother seemed to think that now I was out of school I was her slave until I got inducted. I stopped and slouched against the wall. The thought of induction made me feel sick. It was supposed to be such a good day, such a big day. The day everybody was supposed to consider you a man, and the day you were supposed to start working. The whole thing terrified me.

I heard footsteps behind me, running, and the sound of gasping.

‘Garret, wait up,’ called Pitr. I had to grin. It used to be a lot easier to shake him off. But then, I guess as we got older, everything got smaller, and maybe the places to hide got fewer too.

‘I’m sorry,’ he said when he caught up to me.

‘For what?’

‘If you thought I was poking fun. I wasn’t. But I really do think you have to tell someone, even if you don’t want to tell your dad.’

I stopped again. I didn’t need to look around to know where I was. It was almost impossible to get lost. In a community of 500 people spread across six levels, it didn’t take long to learn where everything was. I was four intersections away from my home. Too close. Too many people and too likely someone would see me and start asking me why I looked so down.

I couldn’t think of anything useful to say, so I just said ‘Whatever.’ Pitr looked a bit hurt.

‘Yeah, well. Look, if you want to talk about it, just come find me, OK?’

I nodded. He touched my arm, which was unusual. I couldn’t leave him like that.

‘Meet me at silo 6 again. Tonight, after the meal.’

Pitr looked a bit brighter, and half smiled. ‘OK. I don’t know how long I can stay though.’

Mum managed to rope me in to setting the table then I got to go to my room for a while, saying I wanted to catch up with some reading. I heard my father come home, and heard mum call for me to come and say hello. I pretended not to hear.

Our home only had four rooms; my room, my parents’ room, the bathroom, and a common area where we ate and did general family things. Much the same as everybody else, but I suppose I was lucky I didn’t have to share with a brother or sister. Mum called a second time and I went out to the family room.

We sat to the table, poured water for each other, then mum took the food cakes out of the ration box, peeled off the wrappers and put one on each plate. Each was placed dead centre, and with the words stamped in to the top of the caked neatly lined up.

Aphrodite Settlement

Emergency Ration 1 Adult Meal

800 Calories equivalent.

We all guessed that ‘calories’ were something to do with the size of the cake, but what ‘Aphrodite’ meant nobody had a clue, and ‘settlement’ was when you repaid someone for a service. I picked up my utensil and used the sharp edge to slice off a corner before spiking it and lifting it to my mouth. I chewed, swallowed, and like every other day wondered why the only thing we ate was so boring. But cakes were cakes, and all there ever was and all there ever had been. The kids all called them ‘bricks’. I sliced, spiked and chewed another mouthful, trying to make it last.

‘So, Garret. Do anything useful today?’

Every evening meal since I had finished school three weeks ago, my dad had said the same thing. I did everything I could to stop myself rolling my eyes, or sighing, or showing anything on my face. If I did, I got a lecture.

‘Guess not, Dad,’ was to be the safest thing I could say.

‘Well, you won’t have to put up with all this boredom for long. How many days is it now?’

He meant until I got inducted. ‘Nine, Dad,’ I replied, still keeping my face under control as much as I could. Dad was digging in to his food cake with gusto, and was already half way through it. Mum was only picking at hers, and I knew he would finish hers off when I wasn’t looking. One rule for outside, and another rule for inside, I supposed. ‘Only nine days, then you can call yourself a man and start a real job. Must be looking forward to it, eh?’

I managed a weak smile. I had a horrible feeling he was going to go for the long speech tonight.

‘I know you don’t want to start off working on the big tanks, Garret, but it’s the best thing in the long run. Trust me. You have to have a taste of everything if you’re going to take over as Chief Forman after me. If you were to head straight into a more senior job, all we would hear is scandal and rumour. Can’t have it said that I’m favouring my son, now can we. Chief Foreman is a responsible position. People have to look up to me, to know I’m fair and follow the rules, eh?’

Sure, I thought, like stealing mum’s food cake if she doesn’t eat it. I forced a nod.

‘Trust me, you won’t be down with the big tanks long. My son is better than that. Just bide your time for a few months - maybe six. A year at the most. Then we can start showing them what we’re capable of, eh? Be out of there in no time, eh?’

I tried to keep the horror I felt out of my expression. The big tanks were where the raw material was delivered and broken down. ‘Collection’ and ‘Slurry’ were the names of the tanks. Sometimes you could see what came back into ‘Collection’. It was disgusting. You could almost feel it inside your mouth, like acid green bile. My father was condemning me to a year working with them before he would let me get to anything better. Pitr’s father was in distribution, so Pitr was going straight into distribution. I suddenly felt really jealous of him. My father must have picked up on something on my face, and my stomach dropped as his expression darkened.

‘I thought we had been through this, Garret. I thought you understood the importance of being seen to do the right thing. I know you feel that as my son you should be destined for higher things, and in time you will be, but ... ’

As soon as I began I regretted what I did next, but it was one of those things that once you had started it you had to go on to the bitter end. I got to my feet, and the chair I had been sitting on crashed back against the wall. My mum jumped and looked a little scared. My dad just looked up at me.

‘You don't understand anything,’ I said, my voice too loud. ‘I don’t care what job I end up doing because they all suck.’

‘Garret, we have a responsibility. We alone have been entrusted with the upkeep of these life-giving machines. The Historyuns tell us the world depends on us, and if we fail to produce enough food bricks the world will end.’ He was using his deep voice, the one he used for talking to everybody at Gatherings when he would go on and on about Duty and our great purpose and responsibility.

‘We make twenty bricks for every one we eat, dad. If we don’t make enough, you make us go hungry. Where do they go? Who else needs them?’

‘That's not for us to know, son. It’s enough that we have been chosen.'

‘To do the same miserable things with our lives forever. It doesn't make any sense.’

I slammed my open hands down on the table, turned and rushed out of our apartment. I heard mum call my name and my dad telling her to let me go. Then I was too far away to hear any more.

- 58 -

When I got to the tank room I saw a big spanner with a long handle. I wanted to use it to smash at something, and my eyes fell on a cluster of valves and pipes. I had even drawn the spanner back over my head before I came to my senses. Damaging the equipment was the only crime we had with the death penalty, and I had no desire to be Tanked. I swung the spanner at the ground instead.

I cursed and nursed my stinging hands under my armpits as the spanner fell back to the ground with a clang. Somebody behind me laughed and I spun around to see Pitr near the doorway, his arms crossed over his belly and taking great delight in my discomfort. I felt a flash of anger, but then it drained away. I guess it must have looked funny, but I wasn’t laughing.

Pitr came over and picked up the spanner from where I had dropped it. There was a little crater in the floor. He didn’t say anything, but put the spanner on a nearby shelf. ‘Come on,’ he said, and headed off towards silo 6.

We climbed back onto our plastic couches, crackling and scrunching as we settled. Pitr hadn’t spoken since he put the spanner away. I was grateful for that. My heart was still hammering and I still tingled - not from the spanner, but from feeling so angry.

‘Did you have another fight with your dad?’

He spoke quietly, and I could only just hear him over the soft rumble of the machines. I nodded, though he might not have seen me in the dim light

‘Mate, you have got to stop doing that,’ he said

I actually turned to look at him, I was so surprised. I had been expecting some support. ‘Teenagers Against Parents United’, or some such. I wasn’t expecting to be told I was wrong.

‘Huh?’ was as eloquent as I could manage.

‘I know he’s your father and all, but he is still The Boss. Of all of us and everything.’

‘Yes, but - ’

‘What ‘but’? We all have a job to do, a Duty, and his job is making sure we all do it. Must be pretty tough.’

I bit off a snarly reply and thought about it for a minute. I was still feeling really upset, but had to admit that Pitr might have a point. Maybe.

‘How can it be so tough if we are just doing the same thing? What does anybody ever do except look after these machines? Everything smells bad here, and we can see things are falling apart. Almost every other light panel is dead, and even the big stuff is dying. What about Reclamation Tank 4, and the pumps? They say they failed fifty years ago. And when was the last time anybody saw a maintenance ‘bot’? Maybe five years? When we were kids a bot crew came back to the servicing pen every six months or so.’

‘All the more reason to support your father? Help him.’

‘You sound like an adult,’ I said, and even to myself I sounded petulant.

Pitr didn’t say anything for a while. I guess maybe I had upset him, but then he shouldn’t have preached at me. Pitr was my best friend, but sometimes he seemed really stuffy, and as mad about ‘Duty’ as the rest of them.

‘Is this a ‘voices in your head’ thing, Garret?’

‘Voice,’ I corrected. ‘And no. Well, maybe. I’m not sure.’

‘You have to talk to someone about it.’

‘Like I said, who?’

‘Whoever,’ Pitr snapped back, surprising me. ‘If it’s real, it’s an issue, one way or the other. If it’s not real ... ’

He left it hanging in the air, but I got his point. Was I maybe making this up? I didn’t think so, and why would I?

‘Seriously,’ I said. ‘Who? Who would you tell?’

Again, there was nothing but gurgling pipes and muttering machines. I was just thinking that maybe I had scored a point and Pitr couldn’t think of anyone either when he snapped his fingers.


- 57 -

Jedd used to be the apprentice Historyun, then two months ago he was suddenly promoted to journeyman, years too soon. Something about the old Historyun retiring early. There were rumours his memory had gone vague before he had got old.

We found Jedd at the Historyuns’ rooms. Pitr went in and got him to come outside. I didn’t want to say anything in front of anybody else, and there were people hanging about.

‘Garret? Pitr said you wanted to talk?’ Jedd said. His voice was deeper than my dad’s, but it was warmer.


‘Come in, then.’

‘I wanted to speak to you somewhere quiet.’

Jedd looked thoughtful for a moment, then said ‘Commons. Come on.’

I thought he was mad. Commons was where everybody got together when they weren’t doing anything else and I didn’t see how that could be private, but Jedd was right. People there were busy doing their own thing.

One corner was taken up with an evening crèche, and in another a half dozen girls were smiling at boys then collapsing into a huddle of giggles as the chaperone told them off. I didn’t stare too long. I didn’t want the chaperone noticing and telling my dad. Boys and girls weren’t allowed to mix until they were sixteen, and not allowed to be un-chaperoned until they were eighteen. Nobody noticed the three of us sitting at a small table near the edge

‘So what’s this about?’ asked Jedd when we were settled. ‘This better not be about the apprenticeship again, Garret. You know the answer.’

‘But ... ’

‘But nothing. Even if your memory was good enough – ‘ he held up his hand to stop me protesting I had never been tested. ‘ – which is not an issue, your father would never permit it.’

I sighed. It still hurt, even though I had already been told a half dozen times. ‘No, this is something different.’ Pitr said. Jedd looked at him and raised his eyebrows.

‘Is this Garret’s story or yours?’

Pitr flushed and scrunched back on his seat. Jedd was nice enough, but he could be a bit overpowering at times. He was six feet tall, and big in a muscled sort of way. His hair was almost black, and he had thick eyebrows so when he looked hard at you it could make you nervous. Still, he was only about 19, and almost one of us. I might be as tall as him one day, I’d swap my scruffy brown hair for his any day.

‘Mine,’ I said, then I took a deep breath. ‘I’m hearing a voice in my head.’

I had expected him to laugh, or to dismiss me like a regular adult would. I didn’t expect him to look deeply shocked for a moment, then to lean forward and look at me so hard I pulled a bit away from him, like Pitr had.

‘You hear voices in your head? What are they telling you to do?’ He spoke very evenly, but he was a bit too intense to convince me he was calm.

‘Not voices,’ I said. ‘One voice.’

‘And what does it say? Does it tell you to do things?’

‘Sort of. It just says my name, then says something about an access code for a maintenance panel.’

I never saw anybody look so surprised before.

‘We must tell Erish. Immediately.’

He was starting to get up before I could say ‘No!’ in a voice that was just a bit too loud. A few people turned to look at us,

‘What?’ said Jedd, clearly annoyed. He settled back into his chair.

‘Do you know what it is?’ I asked.

‘I’m not absolutely sure, but - ’

‘Please don’t tell anybody yet. My dad will freak and it will just be more fuss and he’ll blame me and - ’

‘If this is what I think it is ... ’ he stopped himself and looked guilty.

‘Can’t you tell us?’

‘No. Not yet, anyway.’

I looked at him and waited.

‘All right, but you must keep this between the three of us for now. This involves things I was only told after I was made journeyman.’

He tailed off then looked hard at me. ‘I want you to do something for me.’

He held my eyes until I shrugged my agreement. This didn’t sound like much of an explanation.

‘When you hear the voice again, and while it is speaking in your head, I want you to think a word. Think it very hard. See it written down. Make it with your lips.’

‘What word?’


‘That’s not a word.’

A flash of irritation rippled across Jedd’s face. ‘Who is the Historyun here?’

‘Journeyman,’ muttered Pitr, who was in turn favoured with a glare.

‘Ident?’ I said, feeling dubious. Jedd nodded emphatically.

‘OK,’ I said. ‘Then what?’

‘That depends. But try very hard to remember anything that does happen.’

He slapped me on the shoulder, then got up and walked off. Pitr looked at me and shrugged.

‘Did that help?’

I shrugged back. ‘No idea.’

- 56 -

We both got up, heading off in different directions as we made for our homes. I had only just left the Commons when I heard raised voices behind me, and it sounded like one of them was Pitr. I made my way cautiously back to the entrance. If it was nothing major, I didn’t want to embarrass him by sticking my nose in.

There were three guys towering around him. Sometimes Pitr’s build can get him into trouble. He looks like he eats more than the rest of us. He doesn’t. His body is just like that, and that seemed to be what the issue was. They were pushing him back and forward, and yelling stuff into his face.

‘Hey, fat boy.’

‘Your dad been keeping a little back for you again, huh?’

‘Maybe you should be bringing me some of the extras you steal.’

‘Thief. Yeah, I could use a brick or two.’

Pitr was shouting back at them to leave him alone and he wasn’t a thief. He was trying to push his way through, and even threw a punch or two, but he wasn’t getting anywhere. I decided he was in over his head and started to walk across. I recognised all three of them – but, heck, everybody knew everybody else anyway. They were having so much fun they didn’t notice me, so I managed to get right up close before I kicked Terk in the back of his knee. He didn’t go down – quite – but he stumbled sideways. The other two stopped. Terk spun around, ready to hit me, but stopped when he saw who I was. I guess being the head dog’s puppy has its advantages.

‘Problem, Terk?’

All three of them were backing away. ‘He’s fat,’ Terk protested. ‘We don’t get hardly enough, and he’s getting extras.’

‘Better be very sure of that, Terk,’ I replied. ‘Serious thing to say, calling someone a food thief. I suppose I’ll just have to take your concerns to my father, get him to talk to your dad and take a look into it. You got your evidence?’

‘Wait. We just ... ’

I stepped up close, my nose about level with his, poked him hard in the chest with a finger. ‘Beat it. Leave him alone, and if I hear you did this again, I’ll tell my dad anyway.’

‘You can’t do that. That’s favour - favri - ’

‘Fine. Go tell the Sherrif and see what he says.’

Terk and one of the others flipped me the finger then they all hurried off, laughing and probably making up lies to each other about how they had made me look a fool and I how I wouldn’t mess with them anymore. I turned back to

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