Councilman Jessup grinned. "We're gonna get two for one today. And a bunch of the devil's devices."
"Gaffer," Tanner Ellis spit the name like profanity. "Probably not even your real name."
Behind his captors he saw a flash of dark hair and a lab coat disappearing down the hall.
The old man grinned at Tanner. "Nope. The name's John. Warner. "
"Why?" Tanner quickly scanned the room. No exits. No help.
"Because we don't need people messing with things they don't understand with technology that brought our world to ruin," Gaffer answered. "Come on out of there."
Tanner got to his feet from the cot. "How?" He spied something by the door - a silver gun with an orange cable attached to a wall panel. He trudged forward slowly, calculating his steps.
Warner's brows knit. "Called a GSP, I think. That flashing light. Boys in Seattle did it."
"How's it work?"
"I'm supposed to know? Quit stalling."
"You don't understand the technology you're messing with?" Tanner laughed and shrugged. "I'm coming."
As he neared the doorway, he grabbed the gun and shouldered the door aside. He pointed the barrel at Warner.
"Back up," Tanner yelled, his heart pounding. "All of you, back in that room."
He waved the gun. Most of his captors backed up, bunching in the doorway, but Jackson, the young bully, stood there, frozen.
"Move it!" Tanner gripped the gun tighter. His sweat made it slippery in his hand.
"NOW!" Tanner hollered.
Jackson moved, but not before Tanner saw a patch of wetness on his pants. Big tough bully.
Now they were all through the doorway. It looked cramped in there. The door looked strong, but he didn't have a key.
How long before they tested him? Would he really pull the trigger? What would the gun do?
Warner stepped to the front, tripping over some hardware. "You can't get away with this. We've got people in Seattle. People like me to take care of geeks like you and your dad."
Tanner chuckled. "Yeah, but you did a feeble job. Maybe next time they'll send somebody who knows what they're doing."
Then he heard a rustle behind him.
"Dad!" He knew that voice anywhere. "Kinda busy here."
"I'm here, Son." His father's comforting hand rested on Tanner's, and then slid Tanner's hand gently from the gun. "Let me take that. I'll cover 'em. Don't want you accidentally killing someone."
Tanner let his dad have the gun.
Mouse, the scientist Tanner had seen disappearing down the hall, spoke. "Quite a catch there, kid." She must have brought his father back to him.
Tanner grinned at her. "Thanks."
His father fiddled with some knobs and nodded. "That's better. Warner, that you? Thought I'd seen the last of you. You and your Inquisitors don't belong here in Bellingham."
Something shifted in Warner's eyes, part of the old-man slump returned.
Tanner said, "Maybe the council doesn't belong here, either."
"Now, wait just a minute there, Tanner," Jessup barked.
Tanner felt a gentle hand on his shoulder. His father whispered, "Do you know what you're doing?"
"Probably no more than the rest of the adults," Tanner whispered back. "But I think I'll go with my hunches."
Tanner smiled and faced Jessup. "Do you belong here? There might be some hope for you."
Tanner's father cleared his throat and pointed at Warner. "But using outsiders like Warner to solve your issues with my family, using my son against me with someone who ran away from the hardships here, left us to work with the Inquisitors in Seattle ..."
Tanner pulled the device from his pocket. "I saw you, Jessup," Tanner coaxed Jessup. "Your eyes. When you found those old pictures. They're not evil, not the devil's work. They're memories. Memories you've been trying to forget."
Jessup's angry face softened; his eyes left Tanner's for the ground.
"Those memories ... us young folk never got to know. No one will tell us for fear of the work camps."
Tanner suddenly knew what to do. "Maybe we should lock you all down here. So the council quits infecting people with the darkness. The world is dark enough from the weather. Let it be a little lighter with knowledge.
"I think it's time for a new council," Tanner continued. "And anybody on the current council who doesn't agree can go south with Warner to Seattle. We'll send an escort."
"Let's lock 'em in to think about it," his father said as he shoved the metal door almost closed and stuck a key in the knob. He tossed in the gun, then closed and locked the door.
"What are you doing, dad?" Tanner wanted to run. "They'll break out."
"It's a timing light. A tool for cars. Can't hurt a fly."
Tanner hugged his dad.
His dad was smiling, but there was pain and weariness in his eyes. "This isn't the end, Tanner."
"No." Tanner shrugged. "It's a start. Time for some light."