Winter Outcast - Chapter One
Previous parts: Prologue
Her eyes widened. She wasn't expecting someone this huge to be there, much less for someone to say that they can prove her innocence. "What do you mean?" she said. "And private space please." She pushed out her hand and he backed up.
"I can help you prove your innocence," he repeated and nodded confidently. He had a scraggly beard that looked like squirrel had been living in it. He was large and broad, like a mountain. He had on a red flannel shirt with a faded green vest on top of it and worn out blue jeans. Even though her black uniform with white trim was wet and needed to be straightened out, he still looked savage compared to her.
"You mean even out here," she started slowly when she thought about it, "in a hut in the middle of nowhere, you know?"
"Everyone knows. News travels fast these days."
She sighed. She wanted to leave the hut and get away from that man, but outside was bitter cold and snow. She had just started to warm up. If only no one had ever accused her, she wouldn't be running. "I didn't do it, I didn't steal information from the Code, there's no way I could get in the room for the Code. But I've still become a Sein Darnell." She slumped against the rough, wooden door.
The man looked at her with a seemingly surprised expression and the floor creaked as he shifted from one foot to another. She could tell he was uncomfortable and deducted that he didn't know what being a Sein Darnell meant.
"Being a Sein Darnell means you betrayed The School or a really important law, because a nineteen year old student named Sein Darnell did that once."
"Stop," he held out his hand flat to stop her, "you don't need to tell me the whole story. I know what it means, it's just that you shouldn't be calling yourself that if you're innocent."
"Well, everyone thinks I'm one. How do you know that I'm innocent?"
He paused for a second as if he was choosing his words. "Because in the video that they showed of you sneaking in, you were carrying a bag with your school data collector."
"Who knew a tablet for something as simple as taking notes could be used to record top secret information," Catherine interrupted with a small laugh.
"And you don't have it now, you don't have anything with you now. If you were actually the one who broke in, you wouldn't have left behind precious information like that," he continued. "From what I've seen on the News Player, you have no training or education that would help you. Plus, you're young."
"Only a year younger than Sein Darnell was," Catherine muttered. "If it's so obvious I didn't do it, then why does everyone think I did that?"
"It's the twenty-third century, anyone will believe anything the Officials tell them," he shrugged. He looked towards the rest of the room. There was a crackling fireplace with a flickering fire. Next to the fire was a worn out, striped red couch and armchair. "Come, sit," he gestured towards the seats.
Catherine was hesitant. She carefully stepped towards the couch and slowly set herself on it. The man sat in the armchair. They sat in silence for a few seconds.
"What's your name?" Catherine questioned when she realized she had yet to learn his name.
He hesitated as if he didn't want to tell it. "Lot."
"Okay. I'm," she wondered if she should give a fake name, but she realized something, "well, actually, you probably already know my name is Catherine. Everyone knows it now."
"Yes, I do already know it."
"What did you mean earlier when you said that you could prove my innocence?" she asked as he put more wood in the fire.
"I mean we can find the person who framed you and edited the video," he explained.
"How could a video from the security cameras be edited without the Officials noticing. A student or a teacher couldn't do that," Catherine pointed out.
Lot pointed his index finger at her while he sat back down. "So that indicates it was someone in charge. Someone that could access the videos without looking suspicious. We can get proof that they did it and prove that your innocent."
"We can look through profiles. We'll see who has the skills and position to do something like that, we'll combine that data with data on their past and why they would frame you, and use that evidence to prove you didn't do it," Lot explained.
The couch squeaked as Catherine sat back and let out a breath. "Looking through files on people in the government?" Her eyes turned down at the ground while she turned the idea over in her head. "That would get me in huge trouble."
"You're already charged with the worst crime possible, you don't have much to lose. If we find the crook and proof, you might still be in trouble, but you won't be on the run the rest of your life or have as bad as a punishment. If we look and don't find any proof and get caught, you'll still be in as much trouble as you were before," Lot said.
"Except I'd be caught. Why do you want to help me? Why do you even care?" Catherine sat forward as she question with her brow furrowed.
He paused and pursed his lips. "Because someone who's innocent should never have to face the consequences of the real criminal's crime." He suddenly changed moods and said, "You should probably eat something and get to sleep, it's getting late and both you and I have a big day tomorrow."
"I haven't even agreed to it yet," Catherine mentioned.
"So what's your answer? Get proof, yes or no?"
Catherine bit her lip and stared at the floor in deep thought. "...Yes."
Lot prepared soup. Catherine watched him make it to be sure he didn't put any poison or anything else in her soup. She knew when you were on the run, you could never be too careful, and she wasn't going to completely trust him just yet. After she was finished with her soup, he brought her to the guest bedroom. She wondered if she should sleep under the bed, just to be safe, even though it would get her uniform dirty. She laid down to think about it, but she was so tired and the bed felt so soft after the long day, that she fell asleep in a few seconds.
This is the continuation of a very short story I made and posted. I made the cover myself. I hope you enjoyed chapter one.