I knew even then that the General and the Counsel were planning by role for Contribution. I started working for them almost immediately after I finished my schooling. They have me operate as a sort of advisor between the Counsel and the Camp denizens. On most days I’m instructed to roam the camp, meeting with as many families as I can to find out how they are and what they are doing. Most C42 people take to my visits well, welcoming me in with kindness and sometimes offering me a gift or meal. Many know my father from his extensive contributions and, in turn, treat me as well as they treat him. I try my best to return the courtesy, often delivering packages or messages between my visits, but when there isn’t a direct way for me to help a family I’m always sure to show my gratitude.
My father once told me, “if you can’t reciprocate, be grateful. And if you can’t be grateful, be invisible.” It’s a motto I try to live by since my mere existence is an anomaly. When I was younger, I preferred the “invisible” part. I would point this out to my father during social situations and he would always respond with, “you know what I meant, now go over there and say thank you.” I’m glad he broke my shy habits and introduced me to so many Camp members. It makes many of my visits much easier.
Sometimes, though, I’m met with skepticism and reticence during these visits. Word has traveled that I am a Counsel affiliate and that has made certain people nervous. I try to assure them that I simply want to chat, but it doesn’t always put them at ease. I’ve never really understood the anti-Counsel emotions that sometimes surface within the Camp. I don’t see too much of it now due to my affiliation, but I remember hearing it when I was younger. Once, when I was twelve, my mother and I came across an argument between a Counsel official and a man in a tattered blue baseball cap while we were taking a walk. The official was trying to calm the man down, but the man in the cap was doing his best to make a scene.
One thing I distinctly remember him saying was, “I think the Flash proved that the last thing we need is a new government! Just let us take care of ourselves and stop looking over our shoulders!” That’s an edited version of what he said, at least. His actual rant contained a few words I’ve been taught not to repeat. About a week later, the man in the hat was banished. Like the other banishments I’ve seen, he was allowed to pack whatever he could carry and then escorted to the main gate to be read the Decree of Disownment by General Kane. This man did not stand stoically, though, listening like the others I have seen. Instead, he turned and left before the General could start reading, yelling, “Close the gate! I’m better off without you!” Again, that’s an edited version.
Once a week I’m called in to the Counsel Building, one of only four structures in the camp made from concrete. Inside is always cool, even during the day. During these visits, I usually spend the first hour talking to the Counsel members or General Kane. They always ask how my family is doing, then inquire about the people I met with during the week. They ask questions like “what do they do during the day?” and “how healthy do they look?” When that conversation is over, they set me up in a room with a digital tablet or a stack of papers. I’m asked to go through all the information and learn as much as I can. The subjects of these papers and files are always varied; sometimes they are about the Pre-Flash days, other times about the Camp. Information is given to me in statistics, stories, pictures and anything else that can be shown through those mediums. When I finish, they thank me and send me home with a basket of food and weekly regiment of supplemental vitamins.
I do enjoy my Contribution work. Camp 42 is full of amiable people, both residents and Counsel workers, who I now know well. I also enjoy telling my family the stories I learn from my research. Sometimes they’ll smile and nod knowingly. Other times they are captivated, asking me questions and imploring me to learn more if I can’t answer them.
For example, they were fascinated that since C42 was established, no citizen of has passed away from natural causes. There have been a few accidental deaths in the Camp and on Out-Wall excursions. We even have had one case of murder when a wife caught her husband in another woman’s hut. Yet not a single resident has died from illness or old age. Some of it certainly has to do with the oldest admitted citizen, Counsel Member Shen, being 45 at the time of establishment. But apparently the fact that a virus has yet to kill someone is odd to my family, and they implored me to find out more.
When I ask such questions at the Counsel building, however, I’m always given the same response. “We can’t really tell you, so just keep coming back. Maybe the answer will be in the next batch of papers.”
Despite the limitations, my Counsel Contribution role also comes with many privileges. I have extended hour access to the Counsel building, which is great on hot days. I also find out about new discoveries and policies before they are made public.
This is why, tonight, I will be one of the first to meet Theo.