Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2307781-CBD
Printer Friendly Page Tell A Friend
No ratings.
Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Political · #2307781
CBD Tower is a slave society. Until 16-year-old Sarah Gilapilli changes things
Sarah Gulapilli sat round, bored silly as she watched Francis and Henri, the only white people whom she had ever seen in her life, serve her family their lunch at the long bright red, red gum table that she, her parents, and six siblings sat around.

Sarah had never been out of CBD, a three-hundred-storey building in Albanese City, the capital of the island country Albanese. She had heard rumours that had once been called Terra Australis, before Anthony Albanese, the founder of Albanese -- city and country --, had introduced something called black apartheid. Although Sarah didn't have a clue what black apartheid was, her parents pleaded ignorance or simply refused to tell her.

Sarah had often wondered what life would be like outside the CBD tower. But she did not have clearance to go below the one-hundredth storey, let alone down to ground level.

Her father had clearance, but whenever she asked him to take her, he would say, "It is a radioactive wasteland out there. Once there was a nuclear holocaust, started by two madmen Vladimir Putin and Donald Duck. Most human beings on the planet were wiped out, but the few remaining survivors built towers like CBD to live in.

"But why can't we go below the one-hundredth storey?" demanded Sarah. "I've heard they have something called windows down there, where you can look out and see the outside world."

"There's nothing to see out there," said insisted her father, Thomas Gulapilli.

"Yes," said her mother, Wendi, "it's a nuclear wasteland. Everything was reduced to ashes."

"Wasn't that a couple of centuries ago?" asked Sarah's eight-year-old brother, Wendell.

"Nuclear radiation can last thousands of years," lied Wendi, not very convincingly, making Sarah think:

What are they up to? What is really out there?

That night, after her family had gone to bed, Sarah got out of bed, in her pink room -- pink was her favourite colour --, and sneaked out into the lounge room, shuddering as the electronic door whooshed open.

"Shoosh she said," although knowing that it couldn't hear her.

Crawling along the plush pile carpet, she reached the door to her parents's bedroom. Reaching up she placed her palm against the palm-print reader, not sure whether the door would open. Although her palm print was registered with the household computer, if her parents wanted to do more than just sleep in bed, they would voice-lock the door so that no one else could enter their bedroom.

Come on, she thought. And just when she thought that the door would refuse her entrance it whooshed open.

"Shoosh," she said again crawling into her parent's room, stopping as her father muttered something, afraid he would roll over and spot her. But then she realised that he was just talking in his sleep. Something that her mother, Wendi, was forever complaining about.

"Thank Albanese," she said aloud, almost shooshing herself.

She crawled across to her parents' bed and began to hunt around the top of the bedside table with one hand, while watching her parents, as best she could in the darkness.

"Damn!" she cried as she knocked over a glass of drinking water. She hesitated, afraid she had awakened her parents. But they slept on.

Finally, she risked looking away from her parents to examine the top of the bedside table and saw her father's elevator pass wasn't on it. After a moment's hesitation, she slowly pulled open the top drawer of the table, shuddering as the wood creaked, and looked in.

"Aha," she said aloud, seeing the large oval-shaped white card.

She looked back at the bed, afraid that her parents had heard her. When finally convinced that they were still sleeping, she reached in to pick up the card, then slowly closed the draw, thinking as it creaked again, Why doesn't Daddy oil this thing? She made a mental note to suggest it to him but then realised that that would mean having to admit that she had been sticky beaking into his drawers without his permission.

She turned, took one last look at her parents' bed to ensure that they were both still sleeping, and then crawled out into the lounge room, where she collided with her seven-year-old sister, Wilhma.

"What are you doing out of bed so late?" demanded Sarah Gulapilli.

"I was hungry, so I came out to get some cheese slices," said Wilhma.

"You, and your cheese," said Sarah, "you must go through a kilo a week."

"So what, I like cheese," said Wilhma.

"Cheese can give you nightmares, you know."

"It's never given me nightmares, and I love cheese. What are you doing down on the floor."

"I dropped a contact lens and was looking around for it," said Sarah, climbing to her feet.

"Hey, but you don't wear your contacts in bed," pointed out Wilhma.

"I put them in to go out and get a sandwich."

"Well, it better not be the extra tasty cheese. We've only got four slices left, and that's what I plan to eat."

"No, it will be ham and tomato."

"Okay then," said Wilhma, leading her older sister into the kitchen unit.

She put her palm against the palm print reader on the fridge door, and it whooshed open.

"Thank goodness," said Wilhma. "I was afraid that Francis or Henri may have double-locked it."

"Why would they do that?"

"They did once, and I had to tell them off the next morning because I couldn't have any cheese."

"And Daddy told you off for telling them off if I remember rightly."

"Yes," said Wilhma, taking out the plastic cartoon and turning to run back to her room.

Not really wanting a ham and tomato sandwich, Sarah waited a minute or so, then closed the fridge, walked through the lounge room, and put her palm print on the print reader in the front room.

"Where you going at this hour?" asked Wilhma standing behind you.

"What are you doing still out of bed, squirt?"

"I came back for a glass of milk. I love milk and cheese."

"Just go get your milk."

"Not until you tell me why you're going outside at this hour?"

"Because..." said Sarah, struggling to think of anything.

"I'll give you one minute to think of something, then I'm going to call Mum and Dad."

"Listen you precocious brat. If you forget seeing me sneak out tonight, I'll show you how to get as much raspberry ice cream as you want out of the dessert dispenser."

"Ooh, I love raspberry ice cream."

"I know you do. Now do we have a deal?"

"Now," insisted Wilhma.

"Show me now, not tomorrow."

Sighing in frustration, Sarah led her little sister into the kitchen and showed her the code number to get raspberry ice cream out of the food dispenser. Most things in CBD require a palm print or Key Card to access. But as a necessity, the food dispenser only needed a code number, for each specific food time."

"Now do we have a deal?" demanded Sarah.

"Sure," said Wilhma, starting to scoff down half a litre of raspberry ice cream.

"Thank Albanese," said Sarah Gulapilli, heading back to the front door, to sneak out into the corridor.

She crept down the red-carpeted corridor to the elevator bay. Used her hand print to open the door, which whooshed open, making Sarah almost shoosh it, then said floor ninety-eight please."

"You need a special key card to go below floor one hundred and one," said an IT voice.

She swiped her father's card through the card reader and the elevator went door five centimetres before stopping.

"Key Card is registered to Thomas Gulapilli," said the IT voice. "Palm print used is registered to Sarah Gulapilli, his daughter,"

"Oops, sorry, I must have picked up Daddy's key card by mistake. Please return me to our home storey."

The elevator did as instructed, and Sarah got out into the corridor, cursing under her breath as she put her palm against the palm reader on the door, to re-enter her family's apartment.

Inside she crept across to her parants's bedroom and dropped to her knees again.

"Lose another contact lens?" asked Wilhma.

"Ugh," said Sarah Gulapilli dropping her head in dismay. "What will it take to make you forget that you saw this too?"

"Show me how to get cherry cheesecake out of the food dispenser."

"Okay, but wait until..."

"No, now," insisted Wilhma.

"Aaaaaah!' said Sarah, climbing back to her feet. Leading her younger sister into the kitchen again, she showed her the code for cherry cheesecake."

As Wilhma started into a family-sized cherry cheesecake, Sarah asked, "Now may please I go back to looking for my contact lens?"

"Sure," said Wilhma between mouthfuls. "Or whatever you were really doing."

Ignoring the precocious seven-year-old, Sarah went back, to the lounge room, and dropped to her knees again. Palming open the door again, she crawled inside, placed the key back into the top drawer, cringing at the creak, then crawled back out into the lounge room.

And crashed into the legs of her six-year-old brother, Wendell.

"Hey, what you doing crawling out of Mum and Dad's bedroom at this hour?" he asked.

"Aaaaaah," said Sarah, dropping her head again. Standing again, she said to Wendell, "How would you like it if I showed you how to get Cherry cheesecake out of the food dispense ... in exchange for forgetting that you saw me crawling out of Mum and Dad's bedroom?"

"I hate cherry cheesecake," said Wendell. Then realising that he could be onto a good thing, he added, "But I love huckleberry cheesecake."

"All right, so I'll show you how to get huckleberry cheesecake out of the food dispenser."

"Okay," he said, and followed her into the kitchen where Wilma was still scoffing down her cherry cheesecake."

"What'd you see her doing?" asked Wendell.

"Probably the same as you," said Wilhma.

After showing how to get blueberry cheesecake, and boysenberry ice cream out of the food dispenser, Sarah Gulapilli staggered off to her own bedroom and was asleep in ten minutes.

The next day at breakfast Sarah was quieter than usual. When she finally looked up from her crepe Suzette she saw Wilhma and Wendell both staring at her, smirking a 'we got ya' smirk, and she wondered how much more they would want from her.

Finally, breakfast finished and Henri and Francis took away their empty plates to put into the dishwasher, and Thomas and Wendi headed off to work.

"Make certain the younger kids go to school on time, Sarah," said Thomas Gulapilli, before putting his palm print upon the palm reader to go out into the corridor.

"Sure thing, Dad, Bye Mum," said Sarah.

An hour later, Sarah shepherded her six younger siblings out the door and into the elevator. Being sixteen she was allowed to home-school over the PC.

Ten minutes later, she heard the front door open. Looking round she saw Wilhma, and Wendell walking back into the apartment.

"Why aren't you two squirts at school."

"We don't like school," said Wendell.

"So we decided to have the day off," said Wilhma.

"Excuse me," said Sarah. "You, two little squirts just decided to have the day off school? Mum and Dad will hit the roof when your teachers tell them."

"Our teachers won't tell them," said Wendell.

"Not if you video chat them and say we're sick," said Wilhma. "You can send them an email to make it official."

"So if Mum and Dad find out, it's my neck on the chopping block, not yours?"

The two youngsters exchanged looks and smirked at Sarah, then Wilhma, who was clearly the ringleader, said: "Yes, that's right."

"Listen, you two knee-height blackmailers, we had a deal."

"But a deal with two underage children doesn't count," insisted Wendell.

"Especially when you're trying to take advantage of them," said Wilhma.

"Whose trying to take advantage of whom?" asked Sarah. Then, well, just this once. But if you try this again, I'll tell Mum and Dad. I might get in trouble, but so will you two little embezzlers.

The two tykes exchanged looks, the Wilhma said, "Okay, but you gotta give us the codes to another twelve desserts."

"Four," said Sarah.



"Ten," insisted Wilhma.

"Eight," said Sarah.



Fearing it would go on all day, Wendell said, "Split the diff. and say nine."

The two girls considered for a moment, and then both said: "All right nine."

"But not now, I should be at the computer."

"Who'll know?" asked the seven-year-old girl.

"Mum and Dad. The damn thing keeps count of my daily keystrokes."

"What's keystrokes?" asked Wendell.

"Every time she hits a key on the puter."

"Oh!" said Wendell Gulapilli.

By noon Sarah was entitled to a one-hour break. So she loaded the two kids with mountainous plates of ice cream, then headed out into the corridor to get away from them for a while.

As she was about to press her palm print against the reader at the elevator bay, a hand grabbed hers to stop her. "Ah ah," don't do that said a nineteen-year-old girl, Veronica Bindul-Bindul. Whispering, she added: "They can follow your moments by the palm readers. Every register is recorded upon the Central Computer index."

"What...?" asked Sarah.

"Follow me," said Veronica, walking past the elevator bay toward a supplies cupboard.

Not knowing why, after a second Sarah Gulapilli walked after her, and even followed her into the supply cupboard. Turning off the light, which had come on automatically when they entered the cupboard, Veronica took Sarah's hand and led her to the back of the cupboard, where she pushed aside a metal wardrobe, to reveal an old-fashioned wooden door, with an old-fashioned keyhole.

Taking a rusty-looking key from a trouser pocket Veronica Bindul-Bindul unlocked the door and led Sarah inside.

Inside, she turned a manual lock device and said, "That makes it soundproof. This room is a forgotten part of CBD. I only found it by chance, a couple of years ago."

"Why did you bring me here?" asked Sarah.

"I was on elevator duty last night."

"Elevator duty?" asked Sarah, puzzled.

"From ten PM to six AM all palm prints and key cards used in elevators are recorded, kept on tape, and watched later."

"What?" asked Sarah, afraid that her father would be informed of her late-night excursion.

"Relax," said Veronica, taking a tape spool from her jacket pocket. Starting an old-fashioned shredding machine, she slowly unrolled the tape into the machine, shredding it. Then she emptied the shredded tape into an old-fashioned metal bin and ignited the tape.

Sarah looked around, expecting a smoke detector to go off.

"Relax," said Veronica. I took the batteries out of the smoke alarm years ago. And as I said, this room is soundproof."

"Why did you want to go down to floor ninety-eight?"

Deciding not to lie, Sarah admitted, "I've never seen a window, I wanted to look out of one."

"You wouldn't have seen much late at night."

"I could see the stars. I've heard about the stars on the PC. But I've never seen them."

"That's about all you could see, at night," said Veronica. "Only floors thirty to one hundred have windows."

"The lower storeys don't?" asked Sarah, puzzled.

"No, you might see things that they don't want you to see."

"What is there to see? There was a nuclear holocaust that irradiated everything."

"That was hundreds of years ago."

"But nuclear radiation last at least two thousand years," insisted Sarah Gulapilli.

"Is that what your PC told you?" asked Veronica Bindul-Bindul.

"No, my parents did."

"They lied to you. Even after a major nuclear holocaust, radiation only lasts two hundred years. We're well past that now. Whatever is at ground level, it isn't radioactive."

"So you don't know what's down there?"

"No, but like you I'd like to find out."

"But how?" asked Sarah, not bothering to pretend that she didn't want to find out what the outside world is like.

"We're still trying to find out?"


"Me, and my boyfriend, David Bulawadi. You'll like him," said Veronica. Then she looked at her watch, but we don't have time to meet him now. You're late back from lunch."

"Oh my goodness," said Sarah.

"Meet me back here after your family goes to bed tonight."

"Okay," agreed Sarah, racing through the doorway, into the supply room, then into the corridor outside to return to her family's apartment.

"Where have you been?" asked Wilhma as she came back inside.

"None of your beeswax," said Sarah racing across to her PC to start catching up on her schoolwork.

Half an hour before their parents we due home, she said: "You two had better get into bed."

"Why?" asked Wilhma.

"Because I'm going to tell Mum and Dad that you were ill so I gave you the day off school."

"Why would you do that?" asked the seven-year-old girl, clearly puzzled.

"To get me off the hook, and to drop you two on it if you ever try this stunt again."

"She's smarter than she looks," said Wendell.

"Well, she had to be, didn't she," said Wilhma, reluctantly heading off to bed, followed by Wendell.

"Watch the lip, squirt," said Sarah. Trying her best to look busy, when her parents returned home.

"Still hard at it, I see," said Wendi as she and Thomas entered the lounge room.

"Did the youngsters get off to school all right," asked Thomas Gulapilli.

"All except for Wendell and Wilhma. They weren't feeling very well, so I gave them the day off. I video-chatted their teacher and then emailed confirmation. So they spent the day in bed scoffing down ice cream. According to them, when you're sick, that's all you're allowed to eat."

"Well, I've never heard that before," said Thomas, as Wendi palmed open the door to the kid's room to say to them:

"How are my two little darlings feeling."

"A little better now," said Wilhma trying her best to look less than 100%.

"You're my little angels," said Wendi, before kissing them each on the forehead.

Yeah, fallen angels, thought Sarah.

That night, after waiting till her parents had fallen asleep, Sarah Gulapilli decided to play safe. She went across to put her palm on the reader outside the small children's room and said, "Lock the door so that only I or my parents can open it."

"Lock the door so that only you or your parents can open it," agreed the household computer.

Inside the room, Wilhma roused and shook Wendell awake.

"I think she's sneaking out of the house again."

"Sarah?" he asked, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.

"Who else?" asked Wilhma placing her right hand against the palm reader. When the door failed to open, she said: "Open door, please."

The computer said: "Door is locked so that only Sarah or her parents can open it."

"The sneaky cow," said Wilhma.

"How dare she," agreed Wendell, yawning widely.

Wilhma went to knock on the door, then decided waking her parents would be a bad idea.

Humphing in disgust, she went back to bed, followed by Wendell, who was almost sleepwalking.

Carefully, Sarah crept across to the front door, palmed it open, then stepped out into the darkened corridor. This time careful to take a black military-style flashlight with her.

She tip-toed down the corridor and knocked gently upon the door to the storage room. After a few seconds, Veronica Bindul-Bindul opened the door and looked out.

"Come on in," said Veronica. "I wasn't sure if you'd show up."

Shooshing Sarah, Ronnie took her by the arm, and led her to the back wall, without turning on the overhead light. Then, with Sarah's help this time, moved aside the metal cabinet, to reveal the door to the back room.

She unlocked the door and they stepped inside. Then Veronica clicked on the overhead light.

Sarah saw a handsome caramel-coloured man, of about twenty, sitting on an ancient armchair.

"Ronnie, baby, you're back," he said, as though she had been gone for hours, rather than just a few minutes.

Veronica went across to sit on his lap, saying, "This is David, isn't he handsome?"

"Yes," agreed Sarah.

Holding out his hand, he said: "David Bulawadi."

"Sarah Gulapilli," said Sarah, shaking hands.

"I hear you're like us," said David. "You want to break out of this high-rise prison."

"Not exactly," said Sarah Gulapilli. "But I would like to see if the outside is a blackened wasteland like my parents insist, or not."

"It's not. I've been down to the thirtieth floor. Although you can't see too clearly from that height, you can see greenery, and people moving about down there."

"Though from that height you can't see if they're mutant or not."

"Probably some are, babe," said David. "But I'm guessing that most of them are just like you, Sarah, and me."

"So where do we go from here?" asked Sarah.

"Ronnie and I are working on a plan to break out of CBD and see for ourselves. But we'll need help from a few others."

"But we have to be very circumspect in questioning people," said Ronnie. "We can't just say, 'We're planning to break out, will you help us?'"

"Or we'll wind up in the slammer," said Dave, "that's what happens to what they call malcontents."

"What we call thinkers," added Ronnie.

"The thing is to be circuitous," said David. "Start off by saying something like, 'I wonder what it's like outside CBD?' Then if they get heavy about it you agree with them, 'Yes, it would probably be awful.' Then be careful to try it again on someone else."

"But not for a few days," said Ronnie, "and not within hearing of the first person."

"Take it slow and careful," advised David. "We've tracked down a couple of possibles, but we're taking it strictly softly-softly."

"One of them is an electronics expert, the other helps look after the munitions store."

"Munitions?" asked Sarah.

"Weapons left over from the war, before it went nuclear," explained David.

"Although whether the weapons would be safe to use after centuries, is another matter," said Ronnie.

"We'd only risk them as a last resort."

Seeing Sarah yawning, David said, "Anyway, we'd better get back to our respective beds."

"Yes," agreed Sarah.

"We'll meet back here in three nights' time."

"Okey dokey," said Sarah

"You go out first," said Ronnie, "then I'll go next, then Dave last." She gave Dave a big kiss on the mouth, then got up to open the sealed door for Sarah.

A few minutes later Sarah Gulapilli was back inside the family unit. She started to walk past the younger children's bedroom, tempted to leave them locked in for the night. It'd teach the little embezzlers, she thought.

Then she had a change of heart and unlocked their door, before returning to her own bedroom.

The next morning, at breakfast, Wilhma said, "I thought I heard footsteps outside our room last night."

"That was me," said Sarah. "I couldn't get to sleep, so I walked around a little while to tire myself out."

"Oh," said Wilhma, thinking: Yeah right!

Three nights later Sarah crept out again, careful to lock the young kids in again, and crept down to the storage room.

This time she was introduced to a rather stocky forty-ish man named Peter Munapilko.

"Pete's in charge of the munitions store," said Dave.

"And Pete has some interesting information for us," said Ronnie, sounding excited.

As Sarah sat, Pete said, "There's a heliport on the roof of CBD."

"What's a heliport?" she asked.

"It's a landing pad for helicopters."


"They're sort of snail-shaped machines that can fly."

Sarah Gulapilli laughed at this. "Nothing can fly, except birds and insects."

"Yes they can," insisted Pete. "There are Planes, helicopters, rockets, space shuttles ... All of which can fly."

"I spend eight to ten hours a day learning on the computer," insisted Sarah. "If these flying things exist, how come I've never read about them?"

"Because the Central Computer censors what you can read," explained Ronnie Bindul-Bindul.

"They don't let you learn about science or technology," pointed out David Bulawadi,

"Sky-ence?" asked Sarah.

"Science," said Ronnie, pronouncing it slowly, "is the systematic study of things through experimentation and study.

"But I do study," protested Sarah.

"Only of the things that they let you learn about," said Dave.

"They don't let you learn about helicopters or planes unless you're trained as a pilot or part of the flight crew," said Dave.

"They don't let you learn about ships, boats, hovercraft, yachts, dinghies, rafts, or other things that can sail across the water," said Pete.

"But water comes out of taps," said Sarah.

"In here, yes," agreed Ronnie. "But outside there are creeks, rivers, seas, oceans, pools, and ponds," said Ronnie. "All brimming with water. Much of it salt water."

"Yes," said Dave that's where we get salt from, the oceans and seas," said Dave.

"Salt comes in little packets," said Sarah. "It's made in factories somehow isn't it?"

"You can make it in factories, combining sodium and chlorine," said Peter. "That's what table salt is sodium chloride. But that requires knowledge of Chemistry. One of the sciences. And they don't want many people to know anything about science."

"I'm confused," said Sarah, "and I used to think I was smart."

"You are smart," said Ronnie, sitting on Dave's lap as she always was at the secret gatherings. "But the smartest person on Earth can't know things that the Central Computer won't let you learn."

"And the Central Computer won't let you learn anything which might make you a threat to the Monopoly," said Pete Munapilko.

"Monopoly?" asked Sarah.

"That's where one company dictatorially controls a market," said Dave. "The way the controllers of CBD dictatorially control our lives: setting what we can watch on TV, what we can learn, even to an extent what we can eat."

"there's something called the internet, where you can learn almost anything," said Dave. "But it is heavily restricted, ninety=nine percent of people don't even know about the Net, as it used to be called."

"Is that how you know so much about helicopters, science, and other forbidden knowledge," asked Sarah Gulapilli.

"Yes," said Ronnie. "Dave and I have access to the Central Computer, through which you can access the net."

"Although we have to be careful to erase any record of us having searched the Net, or the Web, as it's also called," said Dave. "Also there are some subjects that are taboo for even us to research."

"If you try to research one of those, you are shocked with wattage, not volts," said Ronnie. "It hurts but doesn't do any serious damage. But they won't release you until you explain why you have tried to research a forbidden subject."

"The best recourse is to pretend you didn't mean to and to act disgusted that such 'filth' is even on the master computer," said Dave. "That always impresses them. As well as getting you off the hook."

"So anyway," said Pete Munapilko, "Dave and I are going to try to get up to the top floor after midnight to check out how to get to the roof. Logically there must be some doorway you have to pass through and it has to have some kind of locking device."

"If it's an old-fashioned key lock, it can be picked in relative safety," said Ronnie. "If it's palm activated, we might be able to tamper with it from the master computer...."

"Being ultra careful not to let anyone see us," added Dave Bulawadi.

"If it's a more complex system like a retinal scanner or something, we may need to find some computer genius to help us."

"Assuming we can find a computer genius, willing to join us," said Pete.

"Okay, Ronnie, Sarah, you'd better leave now," said Dave. "In a little while Pete and I will try to check out the top storey."

It was actually nearly 1:00 AM by the time that the two men set out on their mission. Ignoring the elevator, they went to the stairwell to start an epic journey up to the three-hundredth storey.

After what seemed like hours, they finally reached the two-hundred and eightieth storey, where the stairwell ended.

"What the...?" said Dave. Seeing a red sign near the door to the corridor, he read aloud: "Passage beyond this point is only possible via the elevators."

"We might have known that they'd think of everything?" said Pete Munapilko. He opened the door from the stairwell to the corridor saying, "I'm game if you are."

After a moment's hesitation, Dave followed Pete out into the corridor, and then down to the elevator bay. He placed his palm on the reader, and the two men stepped into the elevator.

Swiping his key card through the reader, Dave said, "Top floor please."

The elevator moved up about twelve centimetres and then stopped. An AI voice intoned, "Access denied. Your palm print and key card do not allow you access beyond this storey."

"Apologies," said Dave. "Floor two hundred in that case."

The elevator swiftly took the two men down to floor two hundred.

Stepping out into the elevator bay, Pete said, "Well that was a big waste of time."

"Not at all," said Dave. "We can always learn from our failures. They went into the soundproof room behind the storage room before he added: "We've learnt that we definitely need a computer expert who can tamper with the master computer's control tapes."

At the next meeting, the next night, Dave and Pete told them of their failed attempt to get to the top floor. And introduced them to two more members of the Breakout Squad, as they had started to call themselves.

"Donna Nobellulla," said Dave, and a tall, lean thirty-something night black woman stood and did an exaggerated curtsey. Taking it from his trouser pocket, he held up a reel of tape, and said: "Donna saved our bacon by half-inching the tape of last night's failure for us."

He went through the procedure of shredding, then burning the tape, then introducing the second new member, Evan Malik-Malik. "Evan is an ultra-skilled computer programmer, and may be able to reprogram Central Computer to allow us to get up to the three hundredth storey."

"Then what are we waiting for," said Sarah.

"Don't get carried away," warned Evan, "I haven't had a chance to even try yet. I can't spend a lot of time on it without being seen. So it'll take a while."

"All right," said Dave, "how about we meet back here in a week's time?"

"Fair enough," said Evan Malik-Malik, and the others nodded their agreement.

One at a time, over the next hour or so, the five people gradually left, Dave Bulawadi leaving last so that he could push back the cabinet, after making sure that the back room was locked. So far, only Dave and Ronnie had keys to the back room, but he had plans to get three more made for the others, if he could work out how to do so, without raising suspicions, in these days of key cards, getting old-fashioned metal keys cut was a suspicious, and potentially treasonous activity.

The next week was one of the longest, and worst in the life of each of the five people. Sarah Gulapilli was almost squirming from frustration at having to wait so long to see the others.

Ronnie and Donna did their best not to keep looking across at each other when they were on the same shift, in the elevator tape room.

Peter, usually an impeccable programmer, made enough mistakes to get an unofficial reprimand -- whatever that is.

Dave had the feeling that he was being watched all week. From time to time he looked around suddenly and was almost certain that his supervisor had turned away. As though the man had been watching him.

The others had assembled in the storage room late that night. Dave had almost reached the door when the feeling of being watched became almost overwhelming. Turning he saw his supervisor, Rodney Longalingo staring at a location map. An anachronism from the days before the Central Computer had been finished. Now, wherever you were, you just had to ask Central Computer where you were and how to get to wherever you wanted to go.

So why's he looking at that old thing? wondered Dave. Looking around, he saw the storage room door open a crack and Ronnie Bindul-Bindul looking out at him.

Dave shook his head ever so slightly at her, then walked across to the elevator bay. Palmed the print reader and got into the lift as Rodney Longalingo started running after him. However, the older man reached the elevator bay too late, the doors had already shut.

Inside the elevator, Dave grinned with satisfaction at giving his supervisor the slip. He thought: Now I know for certain he's suspicious of me, and will have to go more softly-softly for a while.

Outside the lift, Ronnie Bindul-Bindul watched Dave being chased by his supervisor. Then as the elevator doors closed, she shut the door and went back to the rear room to tell the others what had happened.

Rodney Longalingo kicked the elevator door in frustration and the AI voice instructed: "Please place your palm in the palm reader to request an elevator. Kicking will not bring an elevator to you.

"Oh shut up," said Rodney. Going across to the stairwell, he walked down the six flights to where his apartment was.

It was another week before they dared to meet again in the hidden room. Against type, Dave was the last person to arrive. He told them of his supervisor almost catching him a week ago.

"He's been watching me like a hawk ever since," he clearly suspects something.

"Then we'd better try as soon as possible," said Peter Munapilko. Then to Evan Malik-Malik: "How close are you?"

"It should be working now," he said. "I suggest the three men try to go up to level three hundred tonight."

"Why only the men?" demanded Ronnie Bindul-Bindul. "This isn't one of those gender things is it?"

"What gender things?" demanded Evan.

"you know!"

"I hate it when a woman says 'you know'," he said. "It's the curse of the male gender. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, when a woman says, 'you know', in fact, we don't."

"Ha! Ha!" said Ronnie, not sounding remotely amused."

"Ronnie, Evan, come on let's not fight amongst ourselves," said Dave. "We've got the regulators and examiners to fight against."

"Examiners?" asked Sarah. "My Mum and Dad are examiners. I thought it had something to do with product control on the factory levels."

"No," said Ronnie. "Regulators and examiners are brutal sadists who torture, and possibly even murder anyone whom they even suspect of opposing the lies, deceit, and deception of Albanese City, and CBD. Even if they don't have a shred of evidence."

"What?" demanded Sarah Gulapilli, in disbelief. "My Mum and Dad aren't sadists; they wouldn't torture or murder people, even with evidence."

"Examiners are genetically altered to remove all conscience and kindness," said Donna Nobellulla. "Once they are activated, they never again show any humanity to anyone."

"Until their first prosecution, or persecution they behave, even are perfectly kind, loving people," said Dave. "But once they are given victims to torment, all trace of humanity flees and it never ever returns.

"If we're caught, and given to your mum and dad, they won't show you any more mercy than any of the rest of us."

"And your brothers and sisters will have to be taken away from them, and fostered out ... for their own safety," said Ronnie.

"I can't believe it," said Sarah, covering her eyes with her hands, as she started to cry.

They did their best to comfort her, Ronnie conceding: "Maybe it is best if the women stay behind, while you blokes check out the three hundredth storey, and hopefully the heliport above it."

"If you're sure," said Dave.

Ten minutes later the men set out, carefully in case Rodney Longalingo was lurking nearby. Reaching the elevator bay unobserved, Dave said: "Well, I guess this is the crunch time."

He reached up to palm the reader, but Evan stopped him. "No, let me. I did the programming, so let it be on my head if anything goes wrong."

"Whatever you say," said Dave, stepping back a pace to let Evan palm the reader.

When the elevator doors opened, the three men stepped warily inside. He hesitated for a moment, clearly uncertain, then Evan Malik-Malik swiped his card in the reader and said, "Floor three hundred, please."

"Floor three hundred," said the AI voice, and the elevator started rising. This time not stopping immediately, but taking them right up to the top floor.

"You did it," said Peter Munapilko, clearly impressed.

"Let's hope so," agreed Evan.

In minutes, which seemed like hours to the three men, the elevator doors stopped and the doors opened revealing a plaque saying floor 300, across from the elevator.

The men stepped out and looked around. At first, there seemed to be no way up onto the roof, then they noticed that part of the wood panelling was half a centimetre further forward than the rest of the wall.

Carefully pressing their fingers into the gap, they pulled as one and the panelling swung outwards to reveal a hidden door.

"Those sneaky bastards," said Dave Bulawadi, "even if you get up to the three hundredth storey somehow, the door to the roof is hidden behind fake panelling."

"They don't miss a trick," agreed Even. Unlike the door to the hidden room in the storage area, this door had an ultra-modern security code system.

Even used a jeweller's screwdriver to pull open the frontispiece of the lock, then attached clamps to two of the wires. The clamps were attached to a digital phone. He pressed two numbers, then waited two or three minutes, before hitting the enter key.

And with a whoosh the pneumatic door slid open. "Easy as A, B, C," said Evan, leading Dave and Pete up the silver-grey metal steps.

Upon the rooftop, they saw two black helicopters numbers CBD1 and CBD2.

They hid in the doorway for a few minutes to allow their eyes to adjust to the darkness, while looking around the rooftop. A cool, fresh breeze blew lightly across the night sky, making them all think: That's the freshest air I've ever breathed. It's not recycled, but fresh and clean.

Finally convinced that they were alone on the roof, they tiptoed across to the roof.

"Can you fly one of these things," Pete asked Evan.

"With this thing, I should be able to," said Evan, holding up the mobile phone-cum-consul.

Opening the door to CBD1 slowly he looked inside, then hotwired the chopper to his consul, tested it, then said, "I think that ought to..."

Then the back of his head seemed to explode.

Standing over the three unconscious men, smirking a real shit-eater grin, Rodney Longalingo said: "I knew they were up to no good."

"Should we take them down to the examiners," asked one of the three men with blood-soaked shifting spanners in their hands.

"Only those two," said Rodney, pointing to Dave, then Pete.

"What about the third one?" asked one of the three heavies.

"Throw him off the roof," said Rodney.

For a second they hesitated, then, as he started to come around, they lifted up Evan Malik-Malik by the hands and legs and threw him off the roof.

Coming around at the wrong time, Evan began to scream as he plummeted three hundred storeys to his death.

"I love it when a plan comes together," said Rodney, smirking his shit-eater grin, as they carried the other two men down to the elevator, to take to the examiners.

Down on the two hundredth floor, in the secret room behind the storage room, Ronnie Bindul-Bindul was standing near a small window. Unlike the sealed windows in the rest of the building, the small window opened upwards.

Ronnie had the window up, enjoying the cool night air, when Evan Malik-Malik fell past the window, still screaming in terror, falling to his death.

"What the...?" said Donna, as she and Sarah raced across to the window.

Ashen-faced, Ronnie said, "I think one of the boys just fell past the window!"

All three women had to sit down quickly, for fear of fainting.

When David Bulawadi and Peter Manapilko awakened, their heads had been dressed, but they had been undressed and were sitting naked tied by nylon ropes to wooden framed chairs.

"You're in room zero, on the two hundred and ninety-ninth storey, said a beautiful, forty-something, coffee-coloured woman.

"Why is it called that?" asked Pete.

"Room zero?" asked the woman. "What was it that the Doors sang? 'No one here gets ... out alive'."

"So this is a death room?" asked Dave, noticing that the woman's name tag read 'Wendi Gulapilli'. The man's nametag said, 'Thomas Gulapilli'.

"If you like," said Sarah's mother, smiling an evil grin. No longer, the sweet loving mum that she had once been. But never would be again.

"You're..." Dave started, stopping himself before he could say, 'Sarah's parents'.

"I'm what?" asked Wendi.

"An evil bitch," said Dave, his ears ringing like cymbals as Wendi slapped his face hard enough to make his teeth rattle.

"I'm what?" she repeated.

"An Evil fucking bitch," he said, still not ready for it as she slapped his face, even harder the second time.

"Don't think that I have the body of a weak and feeble woman," said Wendi, misquoting Queen Elizabeth I. "I've had strength training, plus genetic enhancement. I could slap you hard enough to break your neck."

"I'm sure that you could," said David, not being sarcastic.

"Good," said Wendi, "now tell me who your confederates are?"

"Confederates?" asked David. "Weren't they the Southerners in the American Civil War? Or aren't I supposed to know about warfare?"

This time she punched him in the face. Hard enough to break his nose, and almost break his jaw as well."

"Honey, you're two gentle with him," said Thomas Gulapilli, making Dave think:

What? Too gentle?

"Just grab his nuts and squeeze them until they either burst, or he tells them who was with him."

"There was just the two of us," shouted Peter Munapilko.

"Now, we know that isn't true," said Thomas, seemingly calmly, "we also caught Evan Malik-Malik and threw him off the threw."

"Threw him...?" began Pete, juddering as Thomas punched him in the face without warning.

"Well, actually a confederate of ours, Rodney Longalingo ordered some goons of ours to throw him off the roof."

"Oh Albanese!" said Pete.

"Don't you blaspheme! Don't you dare blaspheme!" shouted Thomas punching him in the face again, drawing blood at the corners of his mouth. "Albanese the founder of the modern Black Apartheid system would not like scum like you calling his name."

"Our Lord, Albanese only listens to those who support his system of lies, deceit, deception," said Wendi. "The truth is that the three and a-half Percent were created to rule. The rest were created to be our slaves."

"That is the teaching of the Great Albanese," said Thomas, glassy-eyed in obvious insanity. "That is what the country and city of Albanese were founded upon. What CBD was founded upon."

"The minority is always right," said Wendi Gulapilli, like a fervent priest giving a sermon against sin. "Even when Albanese led a political party called The Australian Lesbians Party before Australia recognised his greatness and changed its name to Albanese. Even in those early days, Anthony Albanese recognise the incontrovertible truth that the smaller a minority, the greater power it should have!"

They're both quite insane, thought Dave. But he kept quiet and listened, because while they were raving they were not punching him or Pete.

"He held his V for Defeat referendum to establish black apartheid rule, in what was then Australia. But when the selfish majority let him down, by refusing to concede control to the three-and-a-half Percent, Albanese had the opposition parties taken out into a field near Parliament House and shot. Then with an absolute majority in both houses of parliament, he was able to get black minority rule put through parliament.

"He had to then take the vote away from the ninety-six-and-a-half Percent who were white or Asian. Then finally abolished elections altogether. Saying, 'The people voted me into power, so they must want me to rule. So why do we need elections.' Quite right too."

Barking, thought Dave, trying not to let them realising what he was thinking.

It was after 2:30 AM when Sarah Gulapilli crept back into her family's suite, only to find the lights all on. Her six siblings were standing around bleary-eyed, while two tall black forty-something people tended to them.

"Where have you been young lady," demanded the woman, obese, yet still attractive.

"Outside walking. I often do that when I can't sleep. Just walking up and down the corridor outside. So I don't wake anyone in here," said Sarah. After a moment she said, "May I ask who you are?"

"Why, honey, I'm your new mother Lizzie Gallawadi-Wadi." Then pointing at her husband: "This is your new father Taylor Gallawadi-Wadi."

"New mother and father...?" asked Sarah confused. "But what happened to our old parents?"

"Your old parents were activated, so they won't be coming back. You can just call us Mum and Dad."

"Mum and Dad, can I have some Cherry cheesecake?" asked Wilhma.

"Of course, you can, honey."

"Can I have some huckleberry cheesecake?" asked Wendell, deciding to get in fast.

"Of course, honey. Dad, take them to the kitchen to get them as much cheesecake as the little darlings want."

Yes, Mum," said Taylor heading toward the kitchen, with six squealing youngsters racing around him like excited pets about to be fed.

"Now would you like some cheesecake, Sarah?" asked Lizzie.

"No, Mum," said Sarah, making Lizzie Smile, "I'm tired, think I'll just head off to bed."

But as she turned to leave there came a rapping at the front door."

"Now who can that be?" Lizzie wondered aloud.

"I'll get it," said Sarah, racing across to open the door. Outside she saw Ronnie and Donna looked even more stressed than awhile ago.

"The shit has hit the..." began Ronnie, stopping as she saw Lizzie through the doorway. "Who is that?"

"My new mum, you were right about getting new parents after the old ones have been activated."

"Then your parents...?" asked Donna.

"Yep, apparently."

"Shit, they've probably got the other two."

"Didn't they return?"

"No, and Longalingo and some goons are knocking on doors trying to find out who's been outside their apartments tonight."

"Shit," said Sarah, "do you know yet who it was who fell?"

"No, but if the other two haven't talked yet, they won't hold out for long."

"We've stashed some food and water in the secret room," said Donna. "Enough for the three of us to hide out for three or four months."

"Where do you think you're going young lady?" demanded Lizzie as Sarah slipped out into the corridor.

"It's schoolwork related," said Sarah.

"I don't think so," said Lizzie, letting her sweet loving mother act slip. Get back here at once!"

But Sarah, Donna, and Ronnie were already running down the corridor, heading toward the hidden room at the back of the storage room.

"Now who are your confederates?" demanded Wendi Gulapilli.

"You've got it all wrong," said Dave Bulawadi. "The Confederates were the bad guys; we're the good guys. You're the ones who have confederates."

Doing as her husband had suggested earlier, Wendi grabbed him by the testicles and gave them a hard squeeze.

"Aaaaaaah!" screamed Dave.

"Who are your confederates?" demanded Wendi, squeezing his nuts a little harder this time.

He screamed again, then said: "Sarah ... Sarah Gulapilli ... your daughter."

"I have no daughters," insisted Wendi, "I've been activated. Once you've been activated you have no daughters."

She squeezed his testes again, making him scream and say: "Sarah Gulapilli, your used-to-be-daughter."

"I see," said Wendi, squeezing again. "Who else?"

He screamed again, then said: "Donna Nobellulla."

"Who else?" she demanded, squeezing again.

"No one else," he shouted in agony. No matter what he refused to name Ronnie Bindul-Bindul, whom he still hoped to marry and have children with." If I can still father children, he thought before passing out.

"Is that true?" asked Thomas Gulapilli, squeezing Pete Munapilko's testicles. "Were there only five of you?"

He squeezed his testes again, demanding, "Are you certain?"

"Yes," said Pete between screams. But as Thomas kept squeezing his nuts, Pete broke down and finally mentioned Ronnie Bindul-Bindul.

"Is that all?"

"Yes, for Albanese's sake, there were just the six of us. Three men and three women."

"I believe you," said Thomas. "But you shouldn't have taken Albanese's name in vain.

So he squeezed one of Pete's testes until it burst. Making Pete shriek and pass out.

In the corridor, Sarah Gulapilli, Veronica Bindul-Bindul, and Donna Nobellulla reached the storage room unobserved as far as they knew. They raced inside then Ronnie keyed open the door to the hidden room and ran inside ...

Coming face to face with Rodney Longalingo and his three goons.

"Hello Sarah, Ronnie, Donna," said Longalingo with a broad shit-eater grin on his face. So, we meet again."

Cliché much! thought Ronnie as the girls span around to find four more goons standing behind them in the storage room.

"By all means struggle," said Rodney, "my friends just love breaking arms and legs, necks occasionally. They even threw Evan Malik-Malik off the top of this building."

Poor Evan, thought Ronnie, although grateful that it hadn't been Dave. The man that she still hoped to marry and have children with.

"You told us to throw him off," said one of the goons.

"That's right," I'm the brains of the operation; they're the muscle. They need me to tell them who to throw off the top of buildings."

Unable to stand his shit-eater grin, Ronnie lashed out and managed to kick him on the upper leg, just missing his testicles.

Yelping, he said: "Bitch!" and punched Ronnie in the face, knocking her out.

"Should I pick her up and carry her?" asked one of the goons.

"You can drag her along by the hair, for all I give a damn," said Rodney.

The goon considered for a moment, then not quite as sadistic as Rodney Longalingo, he picked up Ronnie quite gently and carried her into the corridor as the other goons dragged Sarah and Donna out by the arms.

Without even waiting for the three women to be brought to them, Wendi and Thomas Gulapilli, had Pete Munapilko and Dave Bulawadi dragged out to the elevators, following along behind. palming the register, Wendi swiped her card through the reader, followed by her husband's card, which said:

"Secret Basement Level Two."

Without argument from the AI, the elevator took them down Secret Basement Level Two, which was really a long redbrick tunnel leading two kilometres underground, before coming back outside.

They drove a Humvee Super Brand Two out along the tunnel, till reaching the small elevator to the outside.

They carried the two unconscious men into the small, cylindrical elevator, then threw their clothes in on top of them.

"Aren't you going to let me attend to them first," asked a medic, carrying a large valise as his little black bag. "I thought that was why you called me. To repair their testicles, so that they could survive outside?"

"Very well ..." said Wendi, you can go up top with them.

"What? No way am I going outside to face radiation and hideous mutants."

She punched him in the face, knocking out two of his teeth and knocking him unconscious.

"Throw him and his magic bag into the elevator with them," instructed Thomas Gulapilli.

The goons, knowing how psychotic examiners could be after being activated, rushed forward to do as instructed.

After the elevator had gone up -- it was programmed not to come down again unless it was empty, Wendi said:

"Now let's go up and see if they've caught the three bitches yet."

"Yes," agreed Thomas as they headed back to the Humvee, "we have to teach them some respect for us, for CBD, for Albanese City and country. And most importantly, our Lord Albanese, the Great Unemancipator. The Great Enslaver of Majorities, and giver of power to tiny minorities."

"Amen," said Wendi, as they prepared to climb out of the Humvee to return to the elevator to return to the two hundredth and ninety-eighth storey. And their torture chamber."

Inside the chamber, they found Sarah Gulapilli, Donna Nobellulla, and Veronica Bindul-Bindul, all stripped naked, and tied, legs spread to three cane chairs.

"Good work, Rodney," not remotely concerned that he had been fondling the breasts of her former daughter, Sarah.

"Thank you, madam examiner," fawning over her.

"Mother," pleaded Sarah, hoping that there was some hint of affection left in the woman who had given birth to her, and raised her for sixteen and a bit years.

"Quiet, bitch," said Wendi, slapping her until-recently daughter hard enough across the face to loosen two of her teeth. "I am no longer your mother. I am loyal to CBD and the Great Unemancipator."

"You, on the other hand, former daughter area treasonous bitch, and blasphemer."

Wendi slapped Sarah harder to second her husband's criticisms.

"Would you like me to twist her nipples for you?" fawned Rodney.

By all means," said Wendi," and Rodney Longalingo twisted both of Sarah's nipples, making her scream in agony. Then without even asking for permission, he reached down to finger-bang her with one hand, while pulling one nipple with the other hand.

"You're a virgin?" said Rodney, sounding surprised.

"I'm only sixteen and a bit," protested Sarah.

"That's old enough," insisted Wendi. Then to Rodney, "Pluck her cherry for us."

"At once, madam examiner," said Rodney, slamming his right hand forward, making Sarah, cry out as he thrust his fingers right through her hymen.

Wendi and Thomas laughed at the sight of their former daughter's vagina running with blood. And from her obvious distress.

Outside, at ground level, it was a dark night. There was only a slither of a crescent moon, and the city no longer had any street lights outside the CBD tower, as it had had before the nuclear war.

Two dark figures crept out of the shadows to examine the three men: Dave Bulawadi, Pete Munapilko, and the medic, Stephen Goorjian.

"These two are hurt bad," said one man dressed in torn animal skins. "They've each had a testicle crushed."

The second man examined Steve and said, this one has a broken nose, but otherwise seems to be okay."

Carefully, they lifted the three men, one at a time, into a wooden handcart and wheeled them to a two-storey mud dwelling.

Inside they lowered an animal skin over the doorway, then lit a motley-looking home-made animal wax candle.

One of the men, both of them white, opened the large black satchel and found it contained medical supplies, including scalpels, sutures, and painkillers.

Excellent, Derek," said the older man. At least sixty, with a long unkempt grey beard.

"Are you going to operate tonight doc?" asked Derek.

"I've got no choice. At least of the two with a shattered teste each. They won't live much longer without surgery."

Using an ancient Boyles Machine to keep him unconscious, Derek said, "This one's well out, Doc."

And the elderly man began to operate upon Dave Bulawadi, to remove his shattered testicle, then sew up his scrotum again. Handing Derek a bottle of hospital-strength painkillers, when there had been any hospitals at ground level, the doctor said. "Never give him more than eight a day, without consulting me."

"Yes, Doc."

They then washed down the face mask of the Boyles Machine and switched it across to Pete Munapilko, to perform the same operation on him. Before finishing straightening Stephen Goorjian's nose, apply plaster to it, to keep it straight until healing.

Up on floor two hundred and ninety-eight, in the torture room, Rodney Longalingo had been allowed to torture the nipples of the other two women, using his hand to deflower Ronnie Bindul-Bindul also with his hand. Although to his disappointment Donna Nobellulla had not been a virgin, so instead he fisted her deeply, trying to do as much damage to her vagina as possible.

"Yes, tear that bitch apart," said Wendi Gulapilli, and she and her husband Thomas, laughed like lunatics from pleasure that the sexual mutilation being done to the young women, by sexual pervert Rodney Longalingo.

"Rodney you are a natural at this kind of work," said Wendi.

"Or should that be unnatural," suggested Thomas, and they both cackled like wicked witches again.

"How would you like to be our permanent assistant?" asked Wendi: "I'm sure there's plenty of more of these treasonous cells needing to be rooted out, tortured, then thrown out to fend for themselves at ground level."

"Thank you, madam examiner," fawned Rodney, a little concerned in case he would have to be genetically enhanced for the job.

As though sensing his fear, Wendi said: "Don't worry, you're a natural-born sadist, you won't need any genetic enhancement."

"Thank you, madam examiner," he said, deciding to take it as a compliment. He thrust his hand deeper until he was probing at Donna's cervix with his right hand.

"No, please," she cried in despair.

"We always aim to please," teased Wendi, and the two examiners roared with laughter again.

And they call me a natural sadist! thought Rodney, careful not to say it aloud, in case he was the next one to have his testicles crushed.

The torture, both sexual, by Rodney and punches, pinches, and slaps from Thomas and Wendi went on until almost daybreak.

Then yawning, Thomas said, "Isn't it time to send these bitches up to ground level?"

"Ground level?" gasped Sarah, not understanding.

"Well, that's what you wanted, isn't it?" said her former mother. "To go up to ground level outside CBD. Your boyfriends are up there already ... admittedly slight shop soiled..."

Thomas and Wendi roared with evil laughter again.

"So we might as well send you up to them. We don't want you in CBD. You don't respect the ordered chain of command," said Wendi. "So if you want to cause trouble, cause all you like at ground level."

"Assuming that you dare to against the hideous mutants up there," said Thomas, and he and Wendi roared with laughter again.

Half an hour later they were standing at the base of the elevator up from Secret Basement Level Two.

Wendi threw their clothes into the elevator and said: "There you go."

This time a young female medic was careful to just hand her large medical bag to Donna Nobellulla, saying, "You might have some use for this."

"Don't you want to go up with them?" teased Wendi Gulapilli.

"No thank you, madam examiner," said the young woman, careful to fawn to the sadistic woman.

"Oh, and before you go," said Wendi, "as I explained to Stephen earlier..."

"Stephen?" asked the medic. "Not Stephen Goorjian?"

"That's right," said Thomas, "he volunteered to go up with the two men earlier."

The Gulapillis exchanged glances, then cackled hysterically again.

"As I was saying," said Wendi, trying not to cackle. "The elevator won't descend if it has more than twenty-five kilos in it. So don't think that you can use it to come back down to re-enter CBD for any reason."

"Such as wiping that smug look off your bitch face," said Sarah to her former mother, pushing the close door button before the examiner could come after her.

"The bitch! The fucking bitch!" cried Wendi, making the others careful to stay well out of her way, guessing correctly that she would be in a foul mood for the next day or more.

Derek and the Doc were still tending to the three men when a red light lit up in their mud house-cum-surgery.

"The lifts coming up again," said Derek, sounding as surprised as the Doc looked.

"We'd better go get them," said the doc, and leaving the still sleeping men, they wheeled the wooden pushcart back toward the circular elevator.

"You really got her," said Donna Nobellulla, although like the other two women she was hurting too badly to laugh. Plus they had to put on their clothes before the elevator reached ground level.

When the elevator doors opened the three women stared in surprise at Derek and the Doc.

Apart from Francis and Henri, whom she now realised were slaves, Sarah had never seen white people before.

"Are you slaves?" asked Sarah.

Derek and the Doc laughed at her.

"No, we're not slaves," said Derek, but don't worry we're harmless. Although Doc is pretty handy with a scalpel."

"Haven't you ever seen whites before?" asked Doc, as dawn started to break.

"Not accept for my family's two slaves," she said hanging her head in shame. Looking up, she said, "I don't like slavery."

"Neither do the people out here," said Derek, "that's why our ancestors chose to live outside that awful tower as free men and women. Rather than being slaves inside it."

"But what about the radiation from the nuclear war?" asked Donna, as Doc and Derek started to help the three women onto the pushcart.

"That was minimal in the southern hemisphere. It virtually wiped out North America, Asia, Europe, and Russia, all of whom were partially responsible for what happened," explained Doc. "But there was very little fallout in South America or Australia."

"Australia?" asked Ronnie.

"That's the correct name for this country and continent," said Derek. "Albanese burg or whatever is just slang that the black apartheidists use to try to justify enslaving the greater majority."

"Black apartheid?" said Sarah. "I've heard that term before, but no one would explain it to me?"

"Basically," said Derek, a shortish but powerfully built yellow-haired man, "in the twenty-first century three point four Percent of Australians were black, and ninety-six point six percent were white or Asian.

"Now the three point four Percent had five Percent representation, so they were being fairly dealt with. But then along came a madman called Anthony Albanese. Despite being white himself, Albanese became obsessed with the notion that the black majority should rule the country and the great majority should be their slaves. Black Apartheid, in fact.

"He put it to the people at a referendum. That's like an election, except that you vote on an issue, not for a politician. Well, anyway, every state and territory rejected the insane idea. Except in the Australian Capital Territory, where people were mainly politicians or other lowlifes.

"So, never having respected the voice of the democratic majority, Albanese had the opposition party members all shot, then put the issue through parliament. With no one left, except members of his Australian Lesbians' Party, the bill passed easily, and the greater majority were enslaved by the three-point four percent. Despite being white, Albanese was declared a living god by those he had set up as evil slave masters."

As they reached the mud hut and carried the women inside, Derek continued: "The slave masters built great towers like CBD to protect them from any rebellion from the white and Asian slaves, taking a handful of them into the towers to wait upon them and do any heavy or dangerous work, to make life easier for the slave masters.

"But most of our ancestors went to ground, hiding out in caves and whatnots until the towers were sealed so that no one could break in, to try to restart a democratic government."

"You forgot to mention that Albanese abolished elections, and appointed himself supreme fascist dictator for life," said Doc.

"Oh yeah," said Derek, "Albanese had always idolised an evil fascist mass murderer and war criminal called Adolph Hitler. When Hitler took power in Germany, that's in Europe, in the early 1930s, Hitler abolished elections saying: 'You voted for me, so you must want me in power. So why do we need elections?' In fact, only a small percentage of Germans had voted for Hitler and his Nazi party, most opposed his insane antics. However, the convoluted political system they had was so complex that it was almost impossible to select a workable coalition government. So after trying every other possible combination of parties, the Burgermeister, or whatever he was called, reluctantly gave Hitler a go, and World War Two happened because of that bad decision.

"Anyway Albanese, as a fascist himself, idolised Hitler, and said the same thing after having his opponents slaughtered: 'You voted for me, so you must want me in power. So why do we need elections?'"

"Things change, but never madmen," said Doc as they helped the women onto stretchers in the front room.

As dawn broke and the room began to lighten, the women noticed the three male patients for the first time.

"Dave," cried Ronnie, although her boyfriend was still sleeping off the nitrous oxide from the Boyles machine."

"Leave him be," said Doc, he was very badly hurt by those sadistic so-and-sos."

"How badly?" asked Ronnie.

Before Doc could stop him, Derek said: "One of his testicles was destroyed. Crushed by hand, by the look of it."

As Ronnie tried to climb off the cot to get to Dave, Doc said, "Stay on that bed young lady, or I'll have Derek strap you down."

"Did you get our medical bag?" asked Sarah. "A young medic gave it to us before we were sent into the lift."

Derek looked in the cart, then said: "Got it."

"Excellent," said Doc. "A medical kit was sent up with the three men, although they were all unconscious, thank God. But we can always use medical supplies." Then to Derek, get the Boyles machine, this one is going to need a lot of stitches."

Then to Donna Nobellulla, he said, "Lie down young lady, and breathe deeply. I'll soon have you stitched up."

Not liking the nitrous oxide, Donna tried to protest, but Derek held her down until she was unconscious."

"Always best to put a lady to sleep before sticking her private parts with a needle," said Doc, trying to lighten the atmosphere a little.

When he was finished Doc gave the three women strong sleeping pills, which they had found in one of the two valises.

It took months for David Bulawadi, Peter Manapilko, and Donna Nobellulla to fully heal. But the others were soon up and about again.

On her first trip outside the mud dwelling, Sarah Gulapilli watched as people went about their daily lives, pushing handcarts, or prams with babies in them. Carrying bags of fruit and vegetables from a communal farm which everyone in Melbourne, as she was told it was called.

"Not Albanese City as they call it in CBD," explained Derek to her.

"You have no flying things?" commented Sarah.

"You mean planes? No, a lot of technology was lost when CBD and places like that were set up. The fascist elite took most scientists and techno-smart people with them as slaves to keep the Inner Sanctum on top of things."

"Inner Sanctum?" asked Sarah.

"The Sanctum Sanctorum, where the privileged few live in luxury," explained Derek, "while the rest of us live in what the elite regard as squalor. Although personally, I prefer a simple life. We have no government out here. No one to give us orders and boss us around. Of course, we have wise men and wise women, like Doc, who people come to for advice when they have problems.

"I enjoy working for Doc. He has taught me a lot about medicine, and healing the sick."

As they were talking a beautiful twenty-something Asian woman walked past, saying: "Good morning, Derek."

"Good morning, Lolla," he replied, watching her, as she walked away, clearly infatuated with the lovely woman.

"She's olive-coloured with oval eyes?" said Sarah astonished.

"She's an Asian Australian, Lolla Chinn. Asians are very beautiful people, who made up a fair proportion of Australian society before the fall of civilisation, due to the evil of Anthony Albanese."

"In CBD they regard Albanese as almost a God," said Sarah. "But from what you've told me, he seems more like the Devil."

"Well, the Devil's right-hand fiend, anyway," said Derek, taking her out to the orchard where the fruit was being grown on apple, orange, and other trees. Along with Banana-, and date-palms."

"Unlike in CBD we have no slaves to wait upon us, so we have to grow our own food, prepare it, and cook it ourselves. But in some ways that makes it more tasty."

They worked through the orchard, to where some sheep were grazing.

"What are they?" asked Sarah.

"Sheep. They give us wool, and also their meat is delicious when cooked. Haven't you ever had lamb chops?"

"Well, yes," said Sarah, "but I didn't know where it came from. In CBD we were just given it by Francis and Henri, our ser... I guess in truth, our slaves."

As they approached another paddock, Sarah was startled by the sound of mooing. Looking around she saw a dozen or so Jersey cows. Stepping back in fright, she asked:

"What are they?"

"Cows," said Derek, "they're quite gentle, although pretty stupid creatures. They give us our milk and cream, from which we make butter and cheese."

"My seven-year-old sister, Wilhma, is obsessed with cheese. Especially the very strong, aged cheese," explained Sarah.

"As I said, cows are gentle, although the males, called bulls, which are twice the size of the cows, can be dangerous," said Derek. But pointing to a larger bovine at the other end of the paddock, who had started trotting over as he saw them: "But not our Tosca, he's as gentle as his harem."

"Harem?" asked Sarah.

"Yes, you only need one bull to fifteen or so cows.

As the bull reached them, Derek pulled out a tuft of grass and fed it to the bull, patting Tosca on the nose with his other hand.

"You can pat him if you like."

With some hesitation, Sarah reached out and patted the bull, which suddenly licked her hand with his long tongue.

"Ooh," said Sarah, "I'm all sticky."

Laughing, Derek said, "That means he likes you. Tosca always did have an eye for the pretty ladies." Then to Tosca, "Didn't you big fella."

Tosca mooed his agreement in a much deeper tone than the cows.

Later they looked at the dairy where the cows were milked. "What are those things?" asked Sarah as a milkmaid placed a metal suction device on the udders of a cow which mooed at the coldness of the metal.

"Those are clamps," explained Derek, "they can milk a cow in twelve and a half minutes flat. A Hell of a lot faster than milking by hand."

"Don't the cows mind?"

"They object to the coldness of the clamps sometimes but they have to be milked for their own good. If the milk stays inside them till it goes off they can get sick, or even die."

Later they visited the cheese factory which was less automated than the milking shed.

Seeing the great barrels of cheese aging, Sarah said: "Wilhma would be in Heaven here."

"You miss her, don't you?"

"She could be a bit of a conniving brat sometimes ... but yes, I miss her, and Wendell, and all of the others. Even my parents ... as they used to be, not as they were when activated as sadistic examiners."

This time it was Derek who asked the questions, and Sarah filled him in on life in CBD, and how her life had been turned inside out when her parents had become feral examiners.

"Ouch, that's rough," said Derek.

He led her across to a huge communal eating room, where a couple of hundred people sat around eating bread, cheese, and vegetables for lunch.

"No slaves here," said Derek, "if you want to eat, you have to help yourself."

He leads her over to a long wooden table with huge plates of all kinds of food.

"Help yourself," he repeated giving her an empty plate and cutlery.

She selected some meat, cheese, bread, and butter and they went across to sit together at one of the dining tables.

"In time we'll have to find somewhere for you to work," said Derek. "We can't afford to feed unproductive people."

"Of course," agreed Sarah, "although being brought up spoilt, I don't really have any skills. So I don't know what I can do ... if anything."

"Don't worry, we'll start you off with something very simple and teach you how to do it. In time you'll become skilled at lots of things."

After eating, they collected more food to take to Doc and his patients at the mud complex.

"Just what I ordered," said Doc as they started to unload four wicker baskets of goodies. "Who else here is hungry?"

"Five voices called, "Me," and Doc said, "I guess it's unanimous then."

Over the next year or so the couples started to pair off. Ronnie and David were married, and despite him having only one testicle, Ronnie was soon pregnant. They would name their son Evan Malik, after their murdered friend. Donna married and got pregnant to Stephan Goorjian, who became permanently employed by Doc, a more skilled assistant than Derek, who had no official degrees. Sarah and Peter Munapilko would become engaged, not marrying until she turned eighteen. The minimum marriageable age outside, although in CBD it had been fifteen. Derek had married the beautiful Asian girl Lolla Chinn, who was now helping out in the medical clinic as a nurse.

"You look sex ... ee in that uniform," said Derek the first time he saw his wife in an old-fashioned all-white nurse uniform, complete with a little white cap.

"Don't I normally look sex ... ee?" she teased him.

"Of course," you do, he said blushing, which made Lolly laugh good-naturedly.

It was a little over a year later, two years since being thrown out of CBD, that Sarah Munapilko (as she had called herself since marrying Peter) suddenly said: "It's time?"

"For what?" asked Doc. "A coffee break."

"No, to go back."

"Go back?" asked Peter, looking shocked as he suddenly realised what she meant: "You don't mean back to CBD?"

"Of course," said Sarah, "we have to liberate the slaves, destroy Central Computer, and kill the administrators and examiners."

"But your parents are administrators," pointed out Donna Goorjian, her married name.

"My ex-parents," said Sarah. "Don't forget they sadistically tortured us all, allowing that fiend Rodney Longalingo to finger bang the woman, tearing Donna apart so she needed over forty stitches."

"And she destroyed one of Peter and my testicles, that witch ..." said David Bulawadi, stopping as he realised that he was talking about Sarah's mother.

"That's all right, Dave. That witch is no longer my mother. In fact, I'm determined to kill her myself."

"Then I will kill Rodney Longalingo for what he did to me!" insisted Donna.

"And I..." began Ronnie.

"Before you get too carried away ladies," said Dave playing the Devil's advocate, "first we have to solve two problems. Firstly, how the Hell do we get back in there? The lift is programmed not to take down more than, was it thirty-five kilos?"

"I think so, said Pete."

"If we had Evan here, he might be able to get around it. But we don't, and I'm guessing there aren't too many computers up here?"

"No," said Doc, pointing to a bookcase full of medical journals. "We get our knowledge nowadays from good old-fashioned wood-based books."

"Secondly we need weapons," said Dave. "Pete here knows about munitions. "But that doesn't help us if we don't have any munitions."

"We have munitions," a whole storehouse full of them," said Doc, "but they're ancient. Whether they're still safe to use is another matter."

"Well, can you take Pete and me to them after lunch, and he can look them over."

"Sure," said Doc, "I'll get Derek to take you there."

"Sure, I know the way," agreed Derek.

"Excellent," said Dave, "now what do we do about getting down to Secret Basement Level Two?"

"I've seen a large machine thingy by the orchards,' said Pete Munapilko.

"The tractor?" asked Doc. "That hasn't been used in eighty years."

"My brother Johnny was thinking of stripping it down and rebuilding it to see if it could help with the farming," said Derek. "Johnny's never had any experience, but he's a natural with any kind of machinery."

"Fine," said Doc. "But how is he going to fuel it? It won't run without fuel and we don't have any petrol anymore."

"He said he could run it on strong spirits, although that might burn out the engine in time," said Derek. "According to Johnny you used to be able to run most motors on spirits, but in the days of taxes and incises, spirits were a Hell of a lot dearer than petrol."

"Well, it seems a waste of good liquor," said Doc, "but if it can help to free the slaves in CBD, then I guess it's a sacrifice worth making."

First, they went around to see Johnny Dietrich, Derek's brother to explain what they needed him to do, and why.

"Sure thing," said Johnny, "but how can the tractor work."

"Simple," said Sarah, "we use it to destroy the elevator cabinet, moving it out of the way. Then we climb down into Secret Basement Level Two. Lowering plenty of weapons down too."

"That sounds simple," said Dave making them all laugh.

"All right, there are some difficulties involved," conceded Sarah Munapilko. "But it is something that we have to do. We can't allow the slavery and oppression in CBD to continue. And the examiners have to be sent down to meet their maker."

"Examiners?" asked Johnny, and they filled him in on what Wendy Thomas Gulapilli and Rodney Longalingo had done to them. Including the murder of Evan Malik-Malik.

"Jesus, you're right," said Johnny. "I don't normally believe in executions ... but those sadists definitely need killing."

Next, they went to examine the munitions store. As Doc had said many of the munitions were ancient and rusted. Pete dismantled the ones that he could and examined firing pins, and payloads, selecting only the least risky-looking weapons to be used.

"It'll still be a bit dicey," said Pete, "but we should have enough weapons to overthrow the pampered residents of CBD."

"Don't underestimate the dangers of the examiners and their helpers," warned his wife, Sarah.

"Don't worry," he said, "I won't after what they did to me, and the rest of you."

After stripping down the tractor, Derek found that many of the parts could not be repaired, so he had to machine replacement parts on one of only two lathes that the community had. Electricity was limited in the community, but priority was given to getting the tractor fixed. Still, it would be a couple of months before it was ready to be tested.

"Okay, here goes," said Doc holding up a large jug of home-made whisky. He took a slug from the jug first, shaking his head and saying, "That's good stuff."

Then poured the rest of the whisky into the rebuilt fuel tank of the tractor.

"Turn it over slowly," advised Derek.

"I know what I'm doing," insisted Johnny, although he had never driven any vehicle before, let alone anything as powerful as a tractor.

When he pushed the starter button, at first nothing happened, so he pulled out the choke and tried again. This time the engine coughed and spluttered before turning over with a lively roar.

"When are you going to try it?" Horace Koolalongo is one of eight more people to have been tortured and then expelled from CBD, during the two years that Sarah and the others had been there.

"We need to get everything ready first," said Dave, "so how about straight after breakfast tomorrow?"

The others agreed, so Jonny drove the tractor from the orchard across toward the mud clinic, ready to be used the next day.

Straight after breakfast, they headed back to the clinic to get the tractor. As Johnny started it, Sarah warned:

"Be careful, the tractor's too big to go down the elevator shaft," said Sarah. "But we don't want it getting stuck and covering the shaft, or all of our planning will have been for nothing."

"Relax, I know what I'm doing," insisted Johnny Dietrich, thinking: God, I wish I knew what I'm doing!

He backed the tractor up a hundred metres or so, then accelerated at the elevator shaft. The tractor had to screech to a stop as the elevator doors suddenly chinged open, revealing three bloody-looking teenage girls.

"Doc, Derek, Steve," take care of them ordered Sarah, as Derek had to back up the tractor to try again.

"Not yet," said Dave. "Those sadists will still be below the elevator. Let's give them an hour to get back into CBD so that we can take them by surprise.

"Okey dokey," said Johnny, returning the tractor to outside the clinic, and Doc and the others took the three teenage girls over to the clinic to be tended to.

To save time, Dave, Pete, and Derek each carried one of the girls who were astonished to see Derek, Johnny, and Doc.

"You're white?" said one of the girls, Wanda.

"A lot of people are down here," said Derek. He went on to tell them the true story of Australia and how Anthony Albanese had all but destroyed it.

"Aus ... tralia," said a fifteen-year-old girl, Debbie.

"That's the real name of Albanese country," said Sarah Munapilko, introducing herself to the three girls. " Anthony Albanese was a sadistic, self-serving bastard who did not believe in the democratic principle of majority rules. He believed the smaller the minority, the greater the power it should have. A belief held by the Australian Lesbians' Party for more than forty years before Albanese took over and became prime dictator of Australia."

"So now Doc, Derek, and Steve will have to stay behind to tend to you three girls," said Dave. Although Doc was never going anyway due to his age."

"How dare you," said Doc. "I'm only sixty-three, not a hundred and three."

"Yes," said Ronnie Bulawadi, "but you're a lifesaver, not a killer, Doc. We need killers on this mission to have any chance against the examiners and their heavies."

"Yeah, yeah, any excuse," said Doc, making them all laugh. "I have you all know I'm only staying behind because the girls need me."

"Of course, Doc," said Donna, trying not to make him angry by snickering.

"Well, get going, if you're going," said Doc.

Outside Johnny climbed aboard the tracker and took another run at the cylindrical elevator shaft, with the tractor. The vehicle collided with the shaft with a bone-jarring crunch. It made the shaft shudder but failed to push it over.

"Oh, stubborn, eh?" said Johnny. Reversing the tractor further this time he took another run at the elevator shaft. This time, it definitely moved thirty centimetres or so, but did not fall over.

"One more time," he said starting to back the tractor again, only to have its motor splutter the stop.

"What happened?" asked Pete.

"It's outta fuel," said Johnny. "I just hope Doc hasn't guzzled down all the whisky."

"How dare you?" said Doc, when they asked him. "I'll have you know I am a moderate drinker only."

Going across to one of the ancient wooden cupboards in the mud clinic, Doc opened a door to reveal another dozen or so jugs of whisky.

"See, there's plenty left."

"Perhaps we should take them all," teased Donna, "so he doesn't gulp them all down."

"How dare you?" demanded Doc, as they turned to leave with three of the jugs.

Outside, they poured all three jugs into the fuel tank, of the tractor, then Johnny started it again, this time taking a half a kilometre run-up at the elevator.

This time the elevator shaft did more than move a few centimetres, it flew apart, scattering metallic and circuit board parts everywhere.

"Now, that's more like it," said Dave Bulawadi, as they raced across to look down.

To find that there was a steel cap still over the entrance.

"Damn that must be to stop us from doing what we've just done," said Pete, tapping on the steel cap. "Sounds thick too."

"Don't suppose you have any kind of welding machines here?" asked Dave. "To cut through it."

"Afraid not," said Johnny, "Albanese banned the use of gasses, and even if we had an electrical welder, which we don't, we wouldn't have the power to run it."

Pete tapped on the steel cap again and said, "It's at least half a dozen centimetres thick, but I think we can blast our way through it."

"That'll give us a chance to test the explosives, before using them in battle," said Sarah, trying to find a bright side out of this latest setback.

It took two attempts to blow the steel cap apart. On the second, it shattered into pieces, one large piece flying up into the air, making them all run for cover. The other pieces of steel fell down into the shaft leading down to the tunnel s kilometre or so from Secret Basement Level Two.

Derek backed the tracker up a little so that they could tie long nylon ropes to the front of the tractor to rappel down the two storeys to the base of the tunnel. Then Johnny lowered the weapons one sack full at a time to them.

Down below, Sarah and the others tied the sacks to their backs and held two grenades each, except for Pete and Dave who had ancient but recently tested Winchester repeating rifles.

They started slowly down the tunnel to Secret Basement Level Two, knowing that they would be dead, if the Humvee Super Brand Two came roaring toward them since there was nowhere to hide in the kilometre-long tunnel. And the tunnel wasn't wide enough for the Humvee to miss them, even if for some reason the passengers did not see them.

After a moment they started jogging, to reduce the time in the dangerous tunnel.

Finally, to their relief, they reached the elevator in Secret Basement Level Two. Sarah paled the reader ... And nothing happened.

"Let me try," said her husband, Pete Munapilko. His palm refused to open the elevator doors either.

One by one the other CBD exiles tried palming the palm reader, without success.

"Damn they must have removed our palm prints from the central register," guessed Ronnie correctly.

"Try opening the doors with pinch bars," suggested Sarah.

Pete, Donna, and Dave took small S-shaped Jemmies from their backpacks and started struggling with the doors. For more than ten minutes they failed, and then suddenly the lift doors swung open.

Pushing them wide open, Dave asked, "Now what?"

Sarah looked around the elevator, then noticed a manhole cover in one corner of the ceiling.

"Pete, lift me up to that," she said, pointing to the manhole cover.

He did as instructed and she pushed upon the manhole cover, which initially refused to move. She looked around for any kind of screws or locking devices, but couldn't see any, so decided, it was just stuck. She gave it one hell of a bang, but still couldn't budge it.

"Let me have a go," said Dave Bulawadi, and Pete lowered Sarah. Then with the help of one of the farmhands who had come down with them, he lifted up Dave.

"One, two, three," said Dave whacking the cover with all of his might. It budged a few centimetres. Encouraged he gave it one more whack. This time the cover came loose and fell out of sight behind the elevator, finally clanging to the bottom of the shaft.

"There must be more than two secret basements," said Dave, climbing up to stand on the roof of the elevator.

One after another they climbed up until a dozen people stood atop the elevator. Which suddenly started moving upwards.

"Why couldn't it have done that before we climbed up here?" asked Ronnie.

They stayed up where they were until the elevator reached floor two hundred and seventy, then climbed down again.

Dave, Pete, and three of the farmhands held up Winchester repeating rifles (ancient but checked), Sarah and the others held two grenades each, one in each hand.

On floor two hundred and ninety-nine the doors chinged open to reveal Wendi and Thomas Gulapilli, Rodney Longalingo, and half a dozen goons standing in the red-carpeted corridor outside.

"Surprise," said Dave, and they opened fire with the Winchesters.

Wendi Gulapilli was fast enough to leap aside, and then run off down the corridor. However, they managed to slaughter Thomas Gulapilli, Rodney Longalingo, and three of the muscle-bound goons.

The other three goons had followed Wendi down the corridor.

As Dave started to go after them, Sarah said: "No! Let me go first! I need to kill that bitch for myself!

So they raced out into the red-carpeted corridor, with Sarah in the lead. She hurled one of her two hand grenades after the fleeing figures.

When it exploded, it blew out the doors of two opposing suites and made mince meat out of the three goons. However, there was no sign of Wendi Gulapilli amongst the bloody ruins once the smoke cleared.

"Where did she...?" began Sarah, hearing the door to the stairwell slam closed. "The stairs," she said, taking the lead again.

They ran down to floor two hundred and ninety-eight, just as the door to the corridor was slowly closing. Hearing the sound of running footsteps, Sarah led the way in, saying: "The bitch is in here."

Yet when they went into the corridor, the footsteps had stopped and there was no sign of Sarah's former mother anywhere.

"Where the Hell could she have got to?" Dave Bulawadi said, thinking aloud.

For the next half an hour they went from suite to suite, kicking in doors to look for Wendi.

"I don't get it?" said Sarah, as they were returning to the elevator bay. Then she stopped, seeing the storage room, in the same place as it was on the two hundredth storey.

"Unless..." she said, leading the way into the storage room. She signalled for Pete and one of the farmers to pull the iron cupboard out of the way. And as she had expected, they found a door with a traditional keyhole in it.

"There must be one of these hidden rooms on every floor," said Donna, sounding amazed.

One of the farmers came forward with a collection of over a hundred assorted keys that he had brought up from the community. He had to try over thirty keys before finding one that, with a little nudging, managed to open the door to the hidden room.

To reveal the scowling face of Wendi Gulapilli.

Dave stepped forward to shoot the sadistic examiner, but Sarah stopped him, saying: "My privilege, she used to be my mother."

Holding up her remaining grenade, she said: "Run like hell, while I splatter the bitch."

As the others ran off, Wendi said, "Now, honey, you wouldn't murder your own mother in cold blood, would you? The mother who birthed you, who bathed you, who raised you?"

"No," said Sarah. "But you're not that woman. You're an evil copy of the mother I used to love."

Pulling the pin from the grenade, she threw the grenade, hurriedly closed and locked the door to the hidden room. Then turned and ran like Hell in the direction of the elevator bay.

Sarah had almost reached the safety point, when the grenade went off, blowing out two walls of the hidden room, killing Wendi Gulapilli, and hurling the scattered remains of the evil woman out into the air, to plummet down two hundred and ninety-eight storeys. Just like poor Evan Malik-Malik, except that Wendi was dead so she did not scream as she fell.

Almost out of the danger zone, Sarah was tossed against the opposite wall and collapsed in a bundle.

"Honey?" cried her husband, Pete Munapilko. He raced across to help her to her feet again.

"I'll live," she said, then as her head started to swim a little: "Maybe."

They waited a few minutes for her to recover then set out to find Central Computer. It was more than two days before they found the computer, during which time they located and killed many examiners, regulators, and other controllers. Finally, they located Central Computer and kicked the door in.

Dave and Pete fired their Winchesters into the roof, then Dave ordered: "Everybody out."

Shrieking in terror the computer programmers raced outside and ran down to the elevator bay or stairwell to flee the gunmen.

Pete carefully placed groups of six sticks of TNT in a dozen places in the computer room, using a wireless remote detonator. But not until they were over half a kilometre away.

"Everybody duck," said Pete, although they were well out of the danger zone. He looked back to check that Sarah and the others were covering their heads, then pressed a couple of buttons on the remote, and pressed detonate.

When nothing happened, Dave said: "What went...?"

Then the computer room exploded like Krakatoa shooting the outer wall into the open air, shattering the inner wall and door, sending billions of tiny shards of glass, wood, plastic, and silicone out into the air on one side and coating the corridor in the other direction.

"Is everyone all right?" asked Pete, going over to his wife, Sarah Munapilko.

They checked themselves over, confirming that they were fine, then went to check on the damage.

"Wow," said Donna Goorjian, "I think we can safely say that Central Computer has finished controlling and censoring our lives.

"Now we just have to track down the rest of the dictators, and send them down to meet their makers," said Pete.

"And destroy black apartheid, to restore CBD and Melbourne to democratic majority rule," added his wife, Sarah.

"That isn't going to be easy without the elevators working," said Ronnie.

"Maybe, maybe not," said Dave. He walked across to the elevator bay and pressed the down arrow, on the small tin plate between two elevators."

"That doesn't work," said Donna, "not since the days..."

Stopping as the elevator doors chinged open.

"Who's a smarty pants then," teased Ronnie, giving her husband a pat on the behind.

It would take them over six months to track down and exterminate all examiners, censors, and regulators. Many of whom they found in the hidden rooms, which it turned out existed in the same area, in the same storage rooms on all three hundred storeys of CBD.

They would then hold the first democratic election in Melbourne in three hundred years, outlawing political parties, so that all politicians had to be independents. Which wiped out the corruption of party policy and the evil of party lines.

In the meantime to her pleasant surprise, Sarah did meet up with Wilhma and her other siblings again.

"You're back then?" said Wendell now eight, getting stuck into a litre tub of boysenberry ice cream.

"Where you been for the last two years?" demanded Wilhma, now nine. Devouring masses of raspberry ice cream.

"Oh, you know," said Sarah, "learning farming, getting married, plotting the downfall of the black apartheid regime."

"So just another day then," said Wendell.

"That why you're dressed like Rambo on a bad day?" Wilhma asked Sarah.

"That's right, squirt," agreed Sarah, giving Wilhma a big hug. Trying to be careful not to get raspberry ice cream spilt all over herself.

"You'd better watch out squirt," she said. "If you keep guzzling down ice cream by the litre you'll soon be as wide as you are tall."

"Oh ha-ha!" said Wilma, although she had put on a lot of weight, and width since Sarah had seen her last.

"So, you coming back to live here again?" asked Wendell.

"Yes, are you, Sarah?" asked her new mother, Lizzie Gallawadi-Wadi.

"Well, I'm not sure, I'm married now," she said. She held out her left hand, and Pete Munapilko came across to hold it in his right. "What do you think, honey?"

They discussed it in whispers for a moment, then she said: "I guess so. For a while at least."

"Excellent," said Lizzie, "we kept your old room ready for you just in case."

"I wanted to move in there when you didn't come back," said Wilhma pouting. "But mum said you might return someday. I guess she was right."

The adults all laughed, making Wilhma look up from her ice cream to ask: "What?"

© Copyright 2023 Philip Roberts
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
© Copyright 2023 Mayron57 (philroberts at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
Writing.Com, its affiliates and syndicates have been granted non-exclusive rights to display this work.
Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2307781-CBD