The 13th Kat

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Chapter 9

Mari wondered if she was doing the right thing. She’d been working with a group of people whose job it was to listen in to rebel broadcasts, and she’d helped uncover a meeting between some groups. She was sure she recognised one of the voices though, and she felt that the ‘Thirteenth Kat’ ought to be familiar. She tried talking to Valamir about it, but he just told her not to ask too many questions. He’d been acting very cold towards her lately. When she really thought about it, she was sure she remembered a friend, who she used to live with, but the details were all hazy. Since she had spoken to the news reader though, things were becoming a bit clearer.

“Hey Mari, we’ve got a new prisoner you might want to talk to,” Valamir had told her earlier. “Remember that news reader you were working with a while back? She’s been brought in for questioning about some connection with a rebel group.”

So Mari had gone to the cells and spoken to the prisoner. “Tsoline?”

“Mari? You’re working for this jerk?” Tsoline had been a popular unofficial news reader before Saphrax took over, and had ended up having to broadcast illegally afterwards. Mari had worked with her for a while on assignment from Saphrax. “Don’t tell me your friend is here too.”

Mari was puzzled. “What friend?”

“The friend you told me about when you were working at my station, what was her name? Nadalie?”

“I don’t know who you mean,” Mari said uneasily. She’d been getting fragments of memory surfacing in her mind for a while, and they seemed to involve living with a cetacean called Nadalia. She had been trying to pass them off as vaguely remembered dreams, but Tsoline seemed to know about them too.

“You must do, you’re the one who told me about her. Don’t you remember?” Tsoline said. “You even told me how you met, at a rock concert.”

Mari sat down on the floor next to Tsoline. “I don’t remember anything about it. Not really,” she said. “I keep getting these, like little flickers of things, though. Could you tell me everything I told you?”

Tsoline shrugged. “Sure,” she agreed, and began telling Mari everything she had said about her old friend.

“So if all that’s true, why can’t I remember any of it properly?” Mari wondered aloud when Tsoline had finished.

“Beats me, maybe they’ve got you on memory pills or something. I wouldn’t put it past Saphrax.”

“Memory pills? Don’t be stupid, there’s no such thing.”

“Mari, this is the guy planning to bring back visual transmissions,” Tsoline explained. “I know he says he doesn’t believe in brainwashing, but he’s also said he doesn’t execute people or watch what the public are doing. He’s a lying, cheating scumbag, and a clever one at that. You need to watch your back, and don’t eat or drink anything they give you here. You don’t know what they might’ve invented and put in the water here.”

Mari considered this for a moment. “Alright. You might have a point there. Oh, and I think I’m supposed to have been getting some information out of you, anything you know that I can pass off as useful?”

“I’m not sure,” Tsoline thought for a bit. “Ah, there’s something that seems to be common knowledge outside. You know the rebel the Thirteenth Kat? Most people seem to think that she’s got some connection with either Saphrax or Korian. No-one’s sure which one, though.”

“Thanks. And I think I’ll take your advice about the other stuff too.” Mari left the cell to pass on the ’news’to Saphrax.

While Levon and Nazar were off doing other things, Nadalia thought she should check the official news frequency. She usually tuned in to it once a week, to see what Saphrax was up to and whether the enforcers were on her trail or not. She found the broadcast and turned up the volume a little.

“… are still searching for the escaped prisoners Demile and Aleyn, who have been described as ‘unstable and dangerous’. In the yellow district of Region Two, two enforcers were brutally murdered last night. The weapon used is unfamiliar, but the perpetrator is believed to be the insurgent known as the Thirteenth Kat. A confidential source has been assisting enforcers to track down the suspect, and they are close to making an arrest.”

Nadalia didn’t hear the rest of the transmission, as she had switched off the radio and practically run down to the caves to find Levon. She expected to have to call him to find her way there, but he had relit the candles in the tunnels to light his way back. It didn’t take her long to get there.

“They think it was me!” she shouted as soon as she got into the cave, making Levon jump and smudge the copy he was making. “They think I killed those two enforcers last night.”

“What? How can they think it was you? Nobody saw any of us,” Levon replied. “Unless they’re just trying to pin it on you. Saphrax tried to pin our mum and sister’s deaths on us.”

Nadalia sat down on a crate. “That could be it,” she said slowly. “But they said they were close to making an arrest, that doesn’t make sense.”

“It might. Have you had any weird messages or spoken to anyone suspicious recently?”

“No… wait, yes,” Nadalia said. “There was a note from my friend Mari outside the hut when we picked up my stuff. She wanted me to meet her by the river tonight… now I think about it, it was a bit odd.”

Levon put the unfinished copy down and went to sit next to Nadalia. “How so?”

“Well, Mari’s feline, so why would she want to meet me near water? At the beginning of the note she’s put ‘Nadalia’. She never calls me that, she calls me Nads like most people do. Besides, it says she’s been hiding, but why wouldn’t she have got in touch before now?”

“Sounds a bit peculiar to me. Might be a trap, if she’s been held captive like you said before. If you decide to go meet her, you should take someone with you, just in case.”

Nadalia nodded. “Right. I haven’t decided yet, I’ll let you know when I do.” She looked over at the crates marked with writing. “So what do you reckon might be in there?”

“No idea,” Levon answered. “Should we open one and have a look? If we know what whatever it is looks like, it might help with the interpretation,” he suggested.

Nadalia agreed, and they found a flat bit of metal they could use to get the top off one of the crates. Once it was open, they found it was full of brightly coloured tubes, discs and cones, all with bits of string trailing from the ends. Levon reached in and picked one up.

“What do you think they are?” he asked.

Nadalia was mystified. “I haven’t got a clue, I’ve never seen anything like them,” she said. “Anyway, Nazar’s probably back by now, I’ll let you finish copying that writing and see if he found anything.”

Nadalia had just come out of the basement and switched the radio back on when Nazar got in. He had managed to scavenge several components that they could use to make communicators.

“Lev still down in the caves?” he asked. Nadalia nodded distractedly while she retuned the radio receiver. “I was thinking while I was out, maybe we should explore the rest of the caves too. If there’s more stuff down there, it might be useful to know about. Looking for something?”

“Nothing specific, just checking the other groups’frequencies. You think there might be more weapons down there?” Nadalia asked him, turning away from the receiver.

“Maybe, but I was thinking of other stuff, that might help us figure out exactly how old those weapons are. Besides, I’m interested in who hid those crates in a deep cave, so I’m going exploring when Lev gets back. You coming with?”

“Sure, why not? It’ll be more interesting than sitting around up here,” she replied.

A few minutes later, Levon came in. “Hey Naz, you got the parts?”

“Yep,” Nazar handed the bag full of stuff to his brother. “Should be enough for at least six in there, maybe seven.”

Levon gave the electrical components an approving glance. “Nice. I’ll get started,” he said. “What are you two planning to do?”

“We were thinking of going down to check out some of the other tunnels you mentioned, see what else might be hidden in there,” replied Nazar. “Think you could keep an ear on the radio for a while?”

“No problem. Don’t be down there too long though, the Rowsers’party is kicking off soon.”

“Okay, I don’t think it’ll take long to have a look around. Come on Nads,” Nazar led the way down to the basement and the entrance to the caves.

Valamir was extremely pleased with his orders. He had to follow Mari to the river in Region Two and watch for anyone coming to meet her. His assignment from the beginning had been to get close to Mari, insinuate himself in her confidence, and gather as much information as he could about her friend Nadalia, who was Korian’s intended partner. Mari, of course, hadn’t known who he worked for to start with, and was perfectly willing to talk about her best friend.

Slowly, he had built up a large cache of information about Nadalia, and had delivered it to Saphrax just a few days ago. Saphrax had instructed him to find her latest hideout and leave a note from ‘Mari’ asking to meet somewhere. He decided on a river running between Regions Two and Three, and Mari had been told earlier that she was supposed to be picking up her next mission there tonight. Valamir had been told to arrest Nadalia when she turned up, along with anyone else who came along with her.

Mari’s got no idea she’s about to see the friend she hardly remembers, he thought as he walked down the street to his own small house. She doesn’t even know how much she’s told me. Saphrax is really on to something with these visuals, they really do screw up people’s heads. Valamir smirked to himself as he opened a tin of synthesised meat. If we can make people all but forget their best friends, we can do anything. When mass transmission starts next month, people are going to think whatever we want them to think, and no-one will be able to do a damn thing about it, he thought gleefully. Not even that blasted Thirteenth Kat would be able to resist, if we put in messages telling her to give herself up.

“Oh, I love my work!” Valamir exclaimed to himself as he sat down in front of his own visual receiver to check on the latest test transmissions.

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