The 13th Kat

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Chapter 6

A few weeks after what should have been her joining ceremony, Nadalia was lying low at her dad’s place. She had returned to the house she had been sharing with Mari, grabbed what few clothes she had there, the figurine Korian had given her, and the portable transmitter she got from her dad, and she’d run before Saphrax’s people arrived. Her dad had agreed to hide her while she thought of a plan, and help in any way he could. She’d heard nothing from Mari, and was beginning to think that maybe she’d been caught by Saphrax too. Nadalia was getting a little paranoid about Saphrax at this point, and it had only been made worse two days after Korian had been killed. People had woken up in the morning to discover that the sky had gone black. No-one knew what was going on, until a general broadcast was made across all wavelengths. It had said something like this:
“Dear citizens of the world. This is your new leader, Saphrax. You have probably noticed by now that thick black clouds have blocked out the sky. This was organised by me, to prevent you all getting free energy from the sun. However, I am not completely unfair. I am willing to provide you all with electricity, to run your radios and cars, and whatever else you have, on the condition you accept my leadership and obey my laws without question. You have… well, I suppose you have until your local battery storage runs out to respond. Bye for now!”
Less than a day later, the Region Governors and Representatives had agreed to Saphrax’s terms. In doing so, they relinquished their say in anything that happened next. Saphrax had abolished the global system of politics, and placed his own ‘enforcers’in every district. All citizens were required to report to the enforcers for ‘chipping’, which meant they got a coloured disc placed in their hands (or species equivalent of hands) according to which district they were supposed to be in. The system wasn’t as strict as Nadalia thought it would have been, species were allowed to mingle in the central districts during the daytime, but had to return to their own districts at night. Nadalia had managed to avoid being chipped so far, but if they caught her she had more to worry about than a little coloured disc.
She was using her portable transmitter to send out broadcasts asking Mari to contact her, if she could. She had to be careful though, because Saphrax had outlawed all frequencies except the highest band, used for his own official transmissions. She had been listening to the lower bands though, and there were several groups of rebels who were trying to incite uprisings, to get people to reject Saphrax and his laws. Nadalia thought of a plan, both to help deal with Saphrax and to find Mari easier.
“Dad, I’ve thought of something. And you can help, I think,” she said to her father when he came out of his workroom.
“Okay. What’s the plan then, Naddy?”
Nadalia held up her portable transmitter. “Can you increase the power on this, so it can reach across most of this island? Or further, if that’s possible?”
He tilted his head to the side, as he always did when he was thinking about something. “I don’t see why not,” he said thoughtfully. “It might take me a week or so, though. Can you wait that long?”
“Yeah, I don’t think they’ll find me here for a while yet. Take as long as you need, dad.”
“Okay, I’ll go and start tinkering with it now. How come you want it upgraded so much, if I might ask?”
Nadalia took a deep breath. “I’m going to start doing rebel broadcasts, like the groups on mid wave and long wave. Only I’m going to be trying to contact Mari, too. So that she can tell it’s me, I’m going to use the in-joke we had, about the old Black Kat song ‘Thirteen Kats’, and call myself the Thirteenth Kat. Since Saphrax and his lot are still after me, I’ll be needing some sort of code name, won’t I?” she said as her father looked disapproving of her shedding her name.
“I suppose, if you’re doing something like that you would need a false name. Don’t forget your real one though, your mother gave you that name,” he said.
Nadalia rolled her eyes. “Dad, I’m not going to forget my name. Who forgets their own name?”
“I know it sounds silly, Naddy, but it has happened before. Remember your grandpa? He forgot his name, kept calling himself Mr Flibbertigibbet.”
“Yes dad, but grandpa was crazy. I’m not.”
“Alright. Just don’t get yourself caught. I hate to think what’s going to happen to some of those groups if they get caught.”
As it turned out, Nadalia’s dad was right to worry about the consequences for rebel groups who got caught. Only a few days after Nadalia had come up with her plan, an official news broadcast said that most members of a group calling themselves The Skull Children had been caught and detained in a secure facility. However, rumours were flying around that the group’s members had been tortured and executed, though why Saphrax had supposedly tortured them was a mystery. It seemed to be common knowledge, however, that Korian’s assistant Alaric was being held captive. Saphrax was apparently trying to find out the location of Korian’s family and close friends. None of this put Nadalia off her plan, though, and she made her first transmission the same day as her dad finished boosting her transmitter. She decided she would play music as well as making her point against Saphrax and his enforcers, so she opened with the song she was taking her name from.
‘The thirteen kats stood in a line,

United, brave and calm.
They knew they were about to die,
For crimes they had not done.
But still they stood there, in that line
Protecting each other 'til the end.’

The soft, haunting ballad seemed appropriate. It told the story, from feline myth, about a group of cats who had been accused of treason against the cat ruler at the time. One of the thirteen was guilty, but they had all covered for each other, making it impossible to prove which one it was. The ruler in question had been cruel and unjust, so had ordered all thirteen to be killed. The group, according to the story, had stoically accepted their fate, and stood united until the very end. The story had always been a favourite of Mari’s, and when Nadalia had first heard the song the lyrics had stuck in her head. The song ended, and Nadalia began her broadcast:
“Good evening listeners. I am the Thirteenth Kat, and I have a few things to say about the new leader, Saphrax…”
She made several points about the unfair curfew laws that were imposed, species restriction and the over zealous enforcers that were operating in many regions. She talked about Korian, and revealed something that nobody had previously said on the radio by telling everyone who was listening that Saphrax had had him killed. She mentioned the rebels that had been caught, and asked anyone who knew anything definite about their conditions to get on the airwaves and let the truth be known. She finished by telling everyone listening to do whatever they could to disrupt Saphrax’s enforcers and stop his plans. By the time she switched off the transmitter, her throat was sore.
“I thought you might need a drink of water, Naddy,” her father had crept into the room while she was turning off her equipment. “I heard some of what you said, about Korian. Did Saphrax really have him poisoned?”
Nadalia nodded and took the cup. “Dad, do you think any of this will make a difference?”
“I don’t know. I hope so, but something I do know is that you wouldn’t be able to forgive yourself if you didn’t try.” He sat next to her and hugged her tightly.
Mari stood nervously in front of Saphrax’s desk. She had just given him her first progress report, and was waiting for him to tell her the next step of the plan. To stop herself fidgeting while he read it, she stared at his desk. There was a lot to stare at. The edges and legs were carved to resemble some sort of trailing plant, and there were flashes of gilt embedded in the surface. It matched in with the black and gold embroidered cushions that were scattered across the chairs that lined the sides of the room. She was wondering why he had chosen to have everything made out of such dark wood, when she heard paper rustling. She looked up at her boss.
“Quite impressive, Mari,” he said as he looked up from her report. “You seem to have a talent for media work. Anyway, the next thing I want you to do is get in touch with some of my undercover people. Valamir will tell you exactly who to contact. Get onto that now, and send Melicia in on your way out.”
Relieved, Mari crossed the dark stone floor, pushed open one of the heavy doors and said to Melicia that she could go in. Melicia struggled out of her chair and entered the office. She had recently been given an important task to oversee, and it was in its final stages. Saphrax had put her in a supervisory position, out of harm’s way, since she had informed him of her condition. Melicia was pregnant, carrying Saphrax’s child.
“I assume you want the latest on the surveillance devices?” she said as she approached the desk. Without waiting for a reply, she continued. “We’ve managed to have them placed in all new light fittings and bulbs. However, we have had some difficulty getting them into some existing fixtures. It may be easier to simply wait until people replace broken bulbs with new ones, which will have devices in.”
Saphrax considered this for a moment. “I think we can wait. In the meantime, have we gained anymore information from our guests?”
“You mean the rebels we captured? There’s not much more they know, besides some rumours that seem to be circulating about Korian’s partner. Apparently she knew more than we thought, and has managed to avoid being chipped.”
“Very well. Have them taken out of the main chamber and put in the lower cells with the other ones. We can deal with them at our leisure then. Also, would you have Korian’s assistant taken to the interrogation room? I wish to, ah, speak with him personally.”
A small smile twisted Melicia’s mouth. “Would you like him taken there now, or later?”
“As soon as possible, Melicia. I want to know where he told the relatives to hide.”
Valamir signalled to the other two enforcers. The low house with the open balcony above it looked much the same as several others in the street, but they’d been told that rebel broadcasts were being transmitted from this location, and it was their job to go and check it out. They approached the front door quietly, then kicked it down.
“Enforcers!” Valamir shouted as he and the other two ran into the house. “Drop whatever you’re holding and get on the floor, this is a raid!”
They were expecting a bunch of young men and women, but instead they found one elderly cetacean at the back of the house. “What’s this about? What are you doing here?” he asked as they burst into the room and started rummaging through the junk all over the place. It looks like some kind of workroom, thought Valamir. I bet someone screwed up the location and all we’ve found is some mad old tinkerer.
“We have reason to believe that illegal transmissions have been sent from this location. If you’re innocent you’ll have nothing to hide, so you won’t mind us looking through your house,” Valamir responded. It was the official spiel, they said it every time they raided somewhere.
“Look all you like, there’s nothing illegal in my house,” said the old guy. Just don’t go out in the shed at the other end of the garden, he thought, that’s where she’s hiding.
The enforcers spent almost four hours turning the house inside out, but they couldn’t find anything to suggest rebel activity. They left, giving the old cetacean a warning to report anything suspicious, because anyone found helping rebel groups would be severely punished.
Once he’d made sure they were gone, he went down to the end of the patch of land at the back of the house that he referred to as a garden, though it was more like a dumping ground for all the stuff he had no room for in the house. When he reached the shed, he knocked three times and called through the door. “Naddy, it’s me. They’re gone, you can come out now.”
Nadalia emerged, clutching her radio transmitter. “That was close. Thanks dad.”
“How did they find you? Do you think they managed to trace the frequency?” he asked.
She shook her head. “No, I think the rumours about them watching people somehow are true. But how could they get surveillance so widely spread in people’s homes without us knowing?”
“Light.”
Nadalia looked at her father curiously. “Light? What do you mean?”
“I mean that they would need to put devices in things that everyone has, but no-one would think to look at too closely. I think they’ve put surveillance devices in the lights, somehow.”
“Of course, who checks their light fittings?” Nadalia cried. “And outside they’ve got the enforcers and cameras, along with…”
“The streetlamps,” her dad interrupted. “Come on, I want to check out this theory. I can remove one of the bulbs and bring it out here, and then smash it open in the shed to see what’s in there. You wait here, I’ll be back in a minute.”
He disappeared back into the house for a few moments, and came back with a bulb. “Now, let’s see how they’re watching us.”
The two of them went back into the shed and shut the door. Nadalia’s father picked up a heavy tool and hit the fragile bulb. It broke open to reveal a tiny, virtually invisible device, that seemed to be flashing on and off.
“That’s it, it’s got to be,” Nadalia said, looking over her dad’s shoulder at the little thing. “I’ve got to mention this in my next broadcast, people need to know about these.”
“I should say so,” the old man replied. “Are you doing it now?”
Nadalia looked at her dad. “Not yet, dad. I need to find somewhere else to do it from, I can’t ask you to go through raids every other week.”
“Naddy, you don’t have to go anywhere. If we stop using electric light and use candles instead, they probably won’t find you again so easily,” he implored, trying to get her to stay where he could look after her.
“Dad, listen. I’m a fugitive now, and they’ll find some other way to track me down eventually. Besides, I’ve heard what they do to people who aid and abet rebels. I’m not going to have them put you through that if I can help it.”
He didn’t like it much, but he saw the reason behind her thinking. If she kept on the move, it would be much harder for the enforcers to trace her. He’d raised a sensible, intelligent daughter really, but he still worried about her. “Alright, but you look after yourself. I don’t want to hear about you getting caught and… whatever it is they do to people they catch.”
“Don’t worry dad. I’ll be careful, and when I can I’ll try and send you messages so you know I’m okay.” She hugged her dad and snuck through the hedge at the end of the garden.
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