A pair of light blue eyes peered from a corner of the window on the apartment of a brick building overlooking an alley. In the past this would have been considered a crappy apartment. Who wants to overlook an alley and the brickwork of the opposite window, a cramped apartment with stained carpet and water damaged ceiling. When the plumbing had run Steven2 was certain that it used to leak, but months of neglect have led the plumbing to seize up and he gathered fresh water from other sources, including the water catcher system he had rigged on the roof. In general the room had a musty smell to it though he had carefully cleaned out anything that could rot or spoil and make him sick. The area had been relatively zee free for over a month and Steven2 had settled into the apartment without too much trouble. All the easy pickings had been combed over so raiders had moved on from the area. What were left were scraps and parts and this Steve2 had reveled in. What others saw as junk or scrap he had seen as possibilities. As the last man standing in the area, Steven had been living as a relative king in comfort, well fed, warm and dry. The only off setting environmental factor in the area had been the absolute silence. Other than the sound of birds there were relatively few animals left in the area, though the last few weeks had seen some start to creep in, from deer to domesticated pets gone feral. The car crash had startled him as it had been more noise than he had heard in weeks.
“Weeks, make that months?” Jonathan’s voice echoed in the room. He had grown accustom to the voice of his friend, a disembodied reminder of past regret. Steven2 ignored Jonathan for the moment and pushed upwards against the wall to peer down again at the alley. The terrified looking woman was hiding behind a dumpster at the dead end. His hand reached up to push the black baseball cap on his head to swivel it around backwards. He only recently found a store that had been pilfered but still contained a few articles of clothing that hadn’t been rain damaged. Forget diamonds, a baseball cap that protects your eyes from the sun when you are lining up a shot is worth far more. Steven2 scowled as masked figures poured into the alleyway. That was unusual. From all the strange things he had witnessed over the last year, rejects from a bad fantasy movie was not among them. Who could these freaks possibly be and what was their connection to the woman? He stayed silent watching as the one approached the dumpster and discovered the woman. A brief exchange followed with the slamming of the butt of his weapon into her face. She sprawled backwards, hit the wall behind her and crumpled to the pavement.
“You just going to sit here watching?” Jonathan’s tone was more urgent this time. Again Steven2 made no response. He had finally set up a shelter that was secure and if he was alone it was by personal choice. The silence had not been all that disquieting. There was something pleasant about waking up to bird song and not traffic every morning. If he really wanted to talk to someone there was Jonathan. There were plenty of gatherings he could have joined but this was safer, for him and for others. “Bullshit! You’re just enjoying the self pity.” Jonathan’s tone was full of accusation tinged with anger.
“Look Steve? What happened with me sucked right? If we could change the past we would, but right now there’s someone out there who needs your help. Stop using me as an excuse to do nothing. There’s no way a dude in black robes means rainbows, puppies and shit. If not for you, do this one for me.”
Steven2 scowled slightly and finally responded in a gravely tone. “Fuck you Jon.” His eyes flickered to the travel pack that was always kept placed by the door. Weapons, ammo, several says supplies and basic tools. His bike is safely stored not far from here. An inner panic had always kept plans for being immediately mobile. Again in the past survival training would have kept him in a relatively small location so that he could be easily located by rescue parties. All training he endured had been modified to deal with a change in goals. Quick, quiet and mobile were the keys to surviving both zees, and raiders. Now he got to add robed freaks to the list. Eyes returned to the alleyway where the biggest figure was picking up the girl to carry her off. She must be still alive? Distracted Steven2 reflected on how the outburst to Jonathan was the first time he had spoken aloud in weeks. His own voice was becoming unfamiliar to him.
“Yeah you’re sort of losing it out here Steve. Too little human contact and all, you know better.” The ghost of Jonathan was being a real know it all prick lately. Steven2 grimaced and rolled away from the window heading for the door. There was too many of them to rescue the civilian in a sudden surprise attack. He was going to have to follow them and hope they stop some place tonight where he could plan a rescue. Perhaps sniper action from the dark will help clear them out. If he didn’t take care though they could kill their hostage and move on. Steven2 scowled and shrugged on his jacket before shouldering his pack and picking up his rifle. He hoped he won’t regret this, his eyes scanning the shelter he had created.
“You’ll regret it more if you stay.” Steven2 fingered the room and his companion ghost, the voice in his head that won’t quite go away. Jonathan tended to be quieter when other people were around. Maybe that was why he had isolated himself. Alone he allowed Jonathan to punish him over and over. “Yeah, self pity later – be the hero now. Move it dumb ass!” Steven2’s lips curled up slightly in a grin. His hand rose as he flipped off the room in general and slipped into the hallway to make for the stairs. It was time once more to hunt.
EmBot’s head tilted to the side. Nose flared a bit her hands reached out to play with the dials and switches in front of her. “Repeat, repeat the last message.” Static returned to her ears. EmBot frowned darker and hit the auto record play back, listening to the distress call. Her hands dance on the keyboard in front of her with a soft clatter of keys as she entered voice comparison information. It’d been weeks since she heard this voice on the CVC, could this be a false message meant to draw out Chyram or Malkoris from hiding? The readouts came back confirming the voice as Chyram. Shaking her head she punched the dials to put out a call to Terry Fox Elementary only to find static on the line.
“What the hell?” Em’s voice whispered in a scowl before glancing towards her sisters also struggling to reach the signal. “What’s going on?”
“We’re being jammed?” The response was in a tone of disbelief from BethyBot. Alcatraz was being attacked as the nerve center of CVC free communications.
“Someone doesn’t want that message delivered.”
“If they think that’s enough to stop us, then they don’t know Alcatraz very well. Send out the chopper; get the signal beyond the jammer’s reach. Send out soldiers, find the source and shut it down.” Like a hive struck by a stone, Alcatraz erupted in movement as the call left the voice to the brains of the operation. When found, the encampment on the shoreline lit up with fire and bullets until nothing remained and Alcatraz’s signal rang true again.
Three hours had passed by the time EmBot’s voice spoke to Malkoris. The distress call was played for him without missing a single digital note. Seated on the lounge chair he stared sightless at the wall in front of him so that at first he missed EmBot’s encouragement. It was only the repeating of her message that he found direction, “Malkoris we have the exact location of her broadcast. We know where she was taken. There are rumors of trackers, rangers who can follow any track. It’s just rumors passing on the CVC, a long shot, but I can send you information on their location.”
“Do it.” His expression was stone like, frightening the girls in front of him. Of late Terry Fox had grown and there was a grounds keeper of sorts. A quiet man named Tough Hands who kept the grounds zee free. Beebles and Searlait would be safe while he left to find their missing leader, that damned, stupid, stubborn woman.