Challenge #01978-E154: Ozimandias' StepchildsteemCreated with Sketch.

in fiction •  11 months ago

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Treasure comes in many forms. -- Knitnan

When the wealthy can afford room-sized vaults to protect themselves and their treasures, those who can't do so are bound to revolt. This is a fundamental truth. Civilisations end when the gap between the wealthiest and the rest are too large to be withstood.

When the wealthy live in secret, secure bunkers, separated from the real world by armies of their own guards and throngs of their own servants, you know the world is about to turn into shit. When the hordes of the starving pull down the walls with their bare hands, there's suddenly no wage large enough to protect the one who's been arguing towards paying you less.

This has already happened. With the bodies of the rich swaying from a convenient tree branch, and the bulk of the gore swept away, those who are left are picking through the remains. Paintings that haven't been seen by the common throng for decades are used as kindling to cook foodstuffs that have also not been seen by the common throng for decades. For a day or five, everyone here gets to eat like a king. A few even managed to walk away with inherently valuable objects, though the solid gold statue of the original homeowner had been melted down and turned into coins.

The focus, now, was on the many safes hidden in the mansion. Safe rooms. Safe suites. And just plain safes, made for holding treasures. It didn't matter. The rich always had something worthwhile in them.

This one was Tarrent's by mutual agreement. It was smaller than most of the others, being the dimensions of Tarrent's whole home, as opposed to a small flat block of seventeen sleep cubes and their hand-cranked elevator.

The rich had electricity. And electric tools made to make work faster. Rather than waste time and energy on the door, Tarrent worked on cutting off the rear wall. Mostly because the safes had all been extracted from the superstructures that supported them. A combination of circular saws and pneumatic jacks pried the wall away from the rest. Enough for Tarrent to wriggle in. Tarrent made sure that there was enough room to wriggle out again with a burden in their arms and secured the rope ladder.

Something inside was making noise.

This wasn't a safe for objects. It was a safe room. For a very small child and the autocare unit that would have taken care of their basic biological needs for five years.

For an instant, Tarrent thought of making this small scrap of humanity join the rest of its family hanging from the tree.

But that was the way of the old world.

Tarrent extracted the crying baby from the autocare unit and gave it what it actually needed. Comfort and succour. "You won't live in luxury," said Tarrent, "but you will live."

Tarrent walked away from the burning mansion with a new family, some food, and a collection of coins made from a mad dictator's left foot. Any future they made from here would be uncertain, for sure, but it would be richer all the same.

[Image (c) Can Stock Photo / pproman]

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