Status: this is an INCOMPLETE FIRST DRAFT, and has only undergone minor edits. if something seems weird just leave it be


Filing Memories

Life in Sequoia moved on. That its people were hardy was one of the only common factors the damned place had. And the morning after she had thrown her boyfriend over the railing to drop over a hundred feet she was back at work.
After all, the archive wasn’t going to manage itself. One of her three helpers in the place had already unlocked and opened for the day. He had expected her to be late. Hell, he had already done most of the cleaning she could not get to last night.
She glanced at the clock. Fifteen minutes late. Lord, had she gotten terribly sloppy. She would not let this spiral down, no. Not when there was so much work to do. This ended now, she decided halfheartedly. Cate had precious little strength for real determination, but considering the circumstances whatever she had managed to muster came surprisingly close to the real thing.
Cate had records to update. One record, rather, she supposed.
Her archive, her precious archive, her baby, was housed in the same tree as the governor’s office several floors above her. It made for a very smooth operation in both places, or it would if Cate’s archive was staffed as well as it should be. It must definitely was not.
Especially with her not only as head historian and librarian for the whole city, but also playing the governor's secretary for convenience's sake. It was, in fact, terribly inconvenient.
She kept most of the important records in a room only she and the governor had the keys to. Cate hated that room, it was stuffy and stuffed full of secrets and confidentiality. She had had to take so many oaths and sign so many papers to open the archive just for this one reason.
But, well, that was what happened when you only had one person willing to handle all the classified information. One person who mostly wanted to do other things.
Cate unlocked the room, steeling herself for what she had to do. The files were arranged neatly, in boxes labeled alphabetically. A smaller label under each one told exactly which families were in each box.
The box with the Popes was near the back of the room. She thumbed through the files, through the names of last generation. Though history. Glen Pope and his wife Eun-Yeong had been instrumental in the building of the city. The records, these of course written before she was born, claimed that Glen’s rope had snapped while he and his team were putting in the complex network of support beams that braced the city and its walkways against the trees. He had left a grieving Eun-Yeong to raise their only son, and she had died of a sickness years later. But at least she had lived to see her boy married to Sparrow Anderson. Sparrow and Phillip had three children, only two of whom were alive today. As of three days ago.
Cate’s breath caught in her throat as she pulled Selsdon’s file. Selsdon Keith Pope’s portrait stared up at her under his thumbprint and signature, above his date of birth and current age. He had never been a very photogenic man and the angles at which the offices upstairs took photographs were universally unflattering. But there he was, unaware of how weird he looked, grinning stupidly up at her from the paper. He had begun growing his beard when the black and white picture was taken, dark scruff covering the lower half of his face.
What had drawn her to him in the first place were his eyes. Warm and brown, and narrow, indicating as much as his grandmother's name that his family had come from elsewhere. He had been so beautiful.
And he was dead at twenty-three. It was common here these days, but it had turned out that something being common never made it hurt any less.
Cate flipped the papers over to the very back, inked the deceased stamp and slammed it down. She filled in his death date and the official cause as declared by the coroners. Selsdon had been one of those unlucky guys to die twice.
Infection, reanimation, and finally a gunshot.
Her hand seized as she finished the details. She shook it out, forming a claw and releasing, and repeated it a few times to loosen up again. Poor Selsdon. She kept writing; when he had been bitten, who his squadmates were, how he had managed somehow to conceal his condition long enough to make it back up home. How he had broken the groundguard’s code of honor.
How she had gotten up in the middle of the night to pee. How he had stopped breathing while she was asleep. How he had lunged for her when she came back from the bathroom.
How she had shot him in the head.
No. No no no. She pushed the memory out of her head. Now was not the time for the gunshot, the bang unbelievably loud in the holy silence of the early morning. Now was not the time for the gore that had scattered about her bedroom.
No, now was the time for work that would not wait. There was research to be done, there were histories to be written, accounts to be pieced together. The sooner the people of Sequoia knew where they had come from, the better.
After all, what moron builds a city open to refugees without having them bring with them what made them them? Many had protested, but the students had not brought their textbooks with them. They had brought water canteens and knives and first aid kits.
The truth was, the governor had told her, that Sequoia had been meant as a brief refuge. It was never supposed to be the entire future. The size of the epidemic had been miscalculated, and now the children of the old world were stuck up their trees with nowhere else to go and no one else to be.
And Cate would absolutely not stand for it. She had never seen herself as a hero, nor would she let herself be praised as one if that time ever came. She doubted it would. She simply saw it as a civic duty, a way to do some good in a world that seemed to have expired and shriveled up years ago. If she could not bring them protection or riches or good health, she would bring these people their heritage no matter what the cost. And it all started with managing the census, with understanding the population itself.
Oh. Fuck. Cate had spent far too much time simply thinking in this hell of a back room. She thumbed back through the files and slipped Selsdon neatly back into his place. I hope you're free and happy, you big dumbass. Wherever you might be.
Casting one last look at the box, Cate shut and locked the door behind her. Her office awaited, the day's real work yet to be done.
She arrived to a plate of fruit, a cup of tea that barely still steamed the air above it, and a few flowers stuck in a bottle on her desk. Aw, hell. That was really sweet. Her helper - she still didn’t even know who it was today - had known she would skip breakfast. Had known she would have no want for it.
And they had set this up for her.
The flowers were a nice touch.
She sat down and took a slice of an apple from the plate and idly raised it to her mouth, pulling the small stack of papers from the corner of the desk to read them. Two wedding contacts she would have to stamp and file properly, followed by another trip to the population room. She did not want to go back there yet.
She set the contracts aside.
Yesterday's newspaper, which meant today's had not yet been delivered. Cate skimmed over it, gnawing on the apple slice with teeth that felt wooden. She flipped open the book she was working on, a collected history of what was currently happening, in case it would make it to the hands of those who came after her. If there were any.
The newspaper told her very little. Most days in Sequoia were uneventful things. A small bar fight here. A tryst there. Little things, only worthy of footnotes in the narrative. But it was a start. She jotted down a few lines from the article about reconstructing weaker spots in the early build, and the possibility of adding rope elevators between the levels of the city for further accessibility to those with disabilities. Progress, though not a whole lot.
Cate thought for a moment and reached for her tea. Still hot, just enough to burn her tongue. She had always secretly liked that feeling, liked being able to feel the heat go all the way down and blossom in her gut. It was so, so comforting and she needed it now more than ever.
She took a big gulp, swallowed, and coughed before she bent back over to write another section in her notebook. Cate had, until now, neglected to mention how varied the population was in terms of physical ability. Missing bits were incredibly common as a result of the importance of firearms and other dangerous weaponry not only in their survival, but in their society as well. She chided herself for not having researched the numbers and statistics of how many citizens wore prosthetic limbs, and which ones. If there were many more entire legs missing than just fingers, it would certainly say something about Sequoia itself.
Cate scribbled herself a note to request the information. She would have to go through several rounds of permissions and signatures again to access medical information, but now she saw how important it was to give future historians a clear and accurate picture of the current lifestyle. If there was a future to be had, and historians in it.
The rest of the papers were quick shims, a few signatures, and oh hell.
An urgent summons from the governor herself.