Having the thieves’ encouragement that time was of the essence drove my route to ATCO. I hunkered down on the bike and took chances through areas where bandits took shots at me and where zees still freely roamed. My mind was taken away by listening to music from a radio station I had yet to locate, going by the call sign Bluetone Productions. When we first connected into the CVC at Terry Fox we were starving for information, but now that we knew the channel was an outlet used by both government and possible Cult members all information from that source came under suspicion. The DJ at Bluetone named Jammer kept my spirits up with both songs and stories of survivors and there was something wondrous about having a pirate radio station out there in competition with the CVC.

It was still a good hundred miles from ATCO when my bike broke down and left me stranded. The area was clear of zees but I could smell smoke in the air. I found a garage to push my bike into in order to inspect the reason my trip had come to a halt. It seemed that one of the raider’s bullets had struck a mark and caused me to lose oil. Standing up I swore and kicked at the tires of the bike furious with my situation. ATCO was still a long walk and much of this area had been cleanly picked by scavengers on their way to the markets. On top of that there would be other bandits along the way and I as an easy target on my own. I’d have to wait for night to fall and try to slip through, adding to the danger of being on foot.

When I heard the bikes on the road near dusk I took cover and watched from beneath a trailer that was tilted on its side, a burned out husk from what it originally had been. It was from the cover that I saw three bikers from The Hungry Tiger come to stop. They talked in undertones and I was unable to hear their words before two peeled out leaving behind the third. My eyes settled on this young man with an angry gaze. I had no grief with The Hungry Tiger but I needed that bike. My ethics were constantly under test in this new world and perhaps this time I had found my breaking point. I was already considering robbery or murder when the young man lifted his head and looked straight at my hiding place. I froze in place in surprise. There was no mistaking that smirk, despite the unbroken skin, healthy complexion and unclouded eyes. I was looking at Subliminal Kid from the RAiders, only he was healthy as I was, perhaps even more so. Before I had time to consider my actions my legs took me out from under the trailer and I scrambled in the dirt to stand up.

“Chy, I heard you are quite the life of the party. You didn’t strike me as the kind of girl to dance on a bar top.” His teasing caused me to flush realizing that he probably has more of an idea of what I did at The Hungry Tiger than I.

“What the hell happened to you? I mean you look great!” I moved forward eager to greet my friend. “Has something happened to the RAiders?”

His expression fell for a moment before shaking his head, “no, they remain as they were. It happens from time to time, rare but it happens. Seems it’s possible for the body to reject the virus and heal up.”

“Holy shit,” I whispered, “you realize what this means? You could have antibodies for a cure!”

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His expressions harden at my words and a hand swept in front of his body, “Stop. Right there stop, don’t ever say that again. I’m not a guinea pig for anyone. I let Alcatraz have some blood samples, but that’s it. Not getting stuck in some fucking lab and injected with gawd only knows what.” I could appreciate his concern; people were desperate for a solution. “Besides, I’m not the first and others who have been taken reverted after testing.” My mind again returned to the body of a Rite Aid member I had seen in Alcatraz. Perhaps they had received it legitimately after all. Then again it was just as likely that they had taken a cure Rite Aider and kept him in a lab until his death. Desperate times tested everyone’s ethics. “You’re not on foot are you?”

I grimaced, “my bike took a bullet and has seized up. I’m sort of screwed at the moment. I have to get to ATCO and then back out – there.” I ended the statement lamely not wanting to identify where I was heading. I could see from his smirk that he hadn’t been fooled by my attempt to hide my intentions.

“How about I give you a ride?” Thankful, I nodded my head and moved to take a seat behind him.

“Least you smell better this time round.” I wasn’t aware I had spoken that thought out loud until I felt him laughing quietly. I blushed again grimacing. Clearly I was tired from the pace I had taken. I felt the engine rumble beneath me and Subliminal Kid took control leading us onward abandoning the broken bike.

It was dark when we arrived outside ATCO. Pulling up and parking the two of us walked in together. I noticed that Subliminal Kid was being as watchful as he had been as a RAider and I chuckled, “you can take the undeath from you but you’re still one of them.” I kept my voice down so that we weren’t over heard.

Shaking his head Subliminal Kid murmured, “Wish that were true. I have lost the voice. I can’t understand them the way I used to. Part of me will miss that. Part of me is glad to have the clear mind though.” I remembered the ritual I had witnessed at the funeral. My questioning look was ignored and I took that as a sign that he would not go into details. He might not be one of them at this point but he still kept their secrets. “What are you here for Chyram?”

Gently I rubbed at my forehead, “somewhere in the market someone is selling,” I hesitated, “Green Zone passes. I need a blank one.”

Subliminal Kid let out a low whistle, “you seriously have the cash and supplies to afford one of those?” All I heard from his question was that he wasn’t denying such a vender was in the market.

Eagerly I seized his arm, “you know where? You know who I need to talk to?” Alarmed at the scene I was making Subliminal Kid pulled me out of the line and to the fence.

“Sure, I know about a person who can help. That is I know someone who knows someone from RAider days. You realize that you’re talking costs that rival joining CVC Level 8 safe houses or more. This won’t be cheap and I didn’t think you were flush with that much resource?” He studied my expression and could see from my crestfallen look that I was not. “Just what do you need with a Green pass Chy? You were going to abandon us now?” Subliminal Kid’s tone had turned gentler but I heard a slight edge to it, a hint of betrayal maybe? I might not be important as an individual but I did realize the symbolism of the most vocal opponent of the Cult fleeing.

“No, it’s not for me. I need to trade it for information on the Cult.”

I watched him draw in a breath and realized that it looked unnatural to me to see him do so. The RAiders did not do that simple gesture, the deep breath. In fact I could only recall shallow breathing among them as if it was memory more than reflex. “Alright stay out here. I need to talk to someone and these people won’t talk if I’m not alone. You stay at the fence and you wait.” It was an order not a request but I was in no position to argue.

Three hours I waited. Night fell from dusk to darkness. When I saw him next Subliminal Kid’s jacket was ripped and he had a black eye. He greeted my worried expression with that same cocky smirk, “one package miss. You owe me one Chyram. Anything I ask, at any point. You get that right?” My eyes widen as I nodded speechless. I saw him flicker a glance back and he quietly swore, “Shit, thought I slipped out unseen. Here, take the keys and get out of here. And don’t get my bike shot up or I will kick Malkoris’ ass.”

I blinked, “Malk’s ass, why Malk?”

Subliminal Kid smirked at me, “I don’t hit women. Go, stop gawking you idiot.” He gave me a shove with his keys in my hand towards his bike and turned around. Squaring his shoulders I saw him stalk forward. Past him I could see two security guards from ATCO approaching batons in hand. I turned and ran, tucking the package into my jacket as I got to his bike. I gave him one last glance that night, and witnessed Subliminal grab the stick from one of the guard’s hands and strike out sending him to the ground. You can take the undeath out of a RAider, but you sure as hell can’t take away their fight.

It took me two days to return to the Den of Thieves safe house. Part of that was spent up in a water tower out of the reach of any undead sleeping. I’m sure I looked like the dead myself by the time I returned. I didn’t knock this time but entered the building directly. Seated at a small round table were three figures, two women and a man, none of which were the old man and his granddaughter from the previous visit. All were dressed in a manner startling in fashion for the day. It was a mix of leather, cloth and Victorian styles with practical pieces, the style called SteamPunk.

The first woman to speak glanced from me to the other and shook her head, “might have been better to have played straight with her. She’s going to be pissed. “ She picked up a torch from the table and headed towards the back door. Opening it I could hear the clangs and sounds of a workshop and saw a brief shower of sparks before she disappeared behind the metal door shutting out whatever the thieves were working on.

The second woman, a dark haired woman with a face mask hiding half of her expression offered me her hand, “I’m Hannah, NinjaHannah. That was my sister in arms, also Hannah, HannahBMoe and this is Talon5150. I believe that we owe you an explanation.”

My eyes narrowed as my sleep deprived mind exploded, “what the fuck?! Where is the old man, the grand daughter?”

Talon5150 responded, “We needed to make sure you were properly motivated. A lot of lives hang in the balance of this outcome.” His expression was non committal in if he felt shame or pride in the ruse they had used.

My hands curled into fists, “so this was all a game? Push me into getting you the ID, for what? So you can all retreat into the Green Zone? Or you were going to start selling your own passes for profit?” I was shaking with anger feeling all my expectations crash down upon me. A pair of hands appeared on my shoulders and I felt NinjaHannah gently guide me to a chair to sit me down.

“Nothing nearly so crass, we are thieves not bandits. What we require is something that takes a lighter touch. A way to prove our value to The Colony while not sacrificing the wealth we are building up. You do have the pass?” She paused from sitting down.

There was little use in denying it. They were unlikely to let me walk out of here without checking for the package. My hand moved into my jacket and I saw Talon5150 tense up, prepared likely for a gun. He relaxed when it only removed the envelope instead. I placed it upon the table and NinjaHannah scooped up the package to examine the contents. She nodded her head and while I could not see the smile behind her mask I could hear it in her tone as she responded, “good. Talon, see this gets to the right people and have the IDs prepared.” The packet moved to new hands and NinjaHannah stood back up, “Thank you for your business Chyram. Should you have need of our services in the future you know how to get in touch with us.” It was a dismissal as royal as I had received back in ATCO when I came before a portion of their council.

Angered I stood up, “Hang on a second, we had a deal! You owe me information on the Cult!” Talon5150 and NinjaHannah turned to walk out of the room ignoring me. For a brief moment my hand nearly went for my gun but still shaken I just watched them leave. When I stumbled back outside dawn was breaking on the horizon. My borrowed bike stood there gleaming from the rays of sun striking across its metallic surfaces. Lying across the seat was a large yellow envelope with my name written on the surface. I approached the bike as if it was a snake prepared to strike out at me. When I ripped into the envelope and pulled out what was inside everything stopped. I could smell the sweet scents of the morning with the acidic smells of the shop inside from the thieves. I had never noticed the smell before. I could hear birds singing their morning song awakening to the growing light. I could even feel a vague hint of warmth from the light breaking the chill of dew that settled on everything. Yet all of that was in the background, my whole world was the contents of a single yellow envelope with my name written on the surface.

Comments
  1. DoreeAnne says:

    Reblogged this on Horror Zedits & Last Writes and commented:
    Love this!!

  2. Lessifer says:

    These just keep getting better and better 😀

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