It is hard to believe
After fighting for so long, it was hard to believe that some of the firemen didn't believe in their job. They were paid to destroy all that we held dear, what could have caused the doubt?
And, yet, there was something about his tone that made me think he was honest. I had heard a whisper that there was a growing element who didn't like destroying books; I put it down to idle gossip - after all being a fireman was a well-paid job with an endlessly expanding scope of work, why wouldn't they love the job?
I looked at the old man sitting before me, and asked him, "What is the cause of the unrest?"
He turned to look at my smoked-streaked face as it glistened with sweat from the fires, and said, "We're upset that we'll lose all these excellent books forever. The writers of these works are long-dead, and their work can is unrepeatable. If we lose these books and periodicals, who'll tell future generations what went wrong? I have to admit, with the craze for games, I doubt anyone will be able to read before long." The man paused, as if to gather his thoughts, and gave a short cough.
In shock, I replied, "But, you work for the Game Lords and get all the benefits of being a fireman. You get the best games before anybody else. Firemen get the best housing while the rest of us live in burned out shells where houses used to stand. You've got a job that will never stop, the more we find, the greater the need for you to destroy the books."
He gave a laugh, and commented, "I'd quit my job and the perks tomorrow, if I could sit down and read in peace for one night. The endless babble of the games and the lights emitted by the software are driving me mad. The problem is we're too small - at the moment - to be effective. We are growing but too slowly to make any impression on either the sales of the games or rescuing material but we do what we can."
Smoke from the fires rose in the night skies, and the stars appeared to shine a little brighter as I listened to his words. "There was a rumour of groups like yours, but I put the talk down to idle chatter. I never realised there were men like you, men who wanted to save the books and papers."
He turned to look at the burning building on the sidewalk opposite, and said, "Those of us who can read, appreciate the time and care the writers put into those books, we want their people to value their works. I'll have to go now, but remember that not all firemen are bad, some do care and believe in your task."
I looked through the flames at my friend, and our cadre leader, Kabel, and said, "That's a turn-up for the book. I never expected to hear a fireman decry his work."
She shook her head, the long black mane of her hair flowing like a kite, as it caught the wind. "You can never tell, Mandrianus, you can never tell. He did appear to be genuine." She grinned and continued, "Even with their help, we're fighting an endless, losing war. We need to make a breakthrough and soon, or we'll never get this operation off the ground."
The fires glowed and the group went silent, we'd known Kabel long enough to recognise the signs that she had a plan in mind. Somewhere in the distance, an owl hooted, nothing strange you'd think on a moonlit night, only since the start of the wars there had been no birds sounds - the only sounds were the nonstop flights of the Firebird helicopters dashing to their next destination. Did the hoot mean anything?