Chapter 3 & 4

Chapter 3: Hunted

 

Jacks and I venture through the desert terrain in the custom cruiser, making our way to Gharis City. There’s not much around here except for a very faded view of New Rellow, the city that I am probably wanted in for escaping that Menta-Life facility. I’ve only ever passed through New Rellow once, and I wasn’t driving, so I’m not familiar with that place at all. We’re heading south towards the east road that I came in from; that must be the nearest road here. After driving miles through the barren wasteland, we reach the east road and take it towards the west gate of Gharis City.

Our destination is a forest on the southern perimeter outside of the city. Dayio and his crew of watchmen guard an illegal tunnel entrance for smugglers like me to get into the city unnoticed with contraband. In my Life, I had spent two years in prison since I’d falsely been there. Now that I’m back to twenty-two-years-old again, I guess it’s only been three months. I had been taken three months ago, so I’ll be treading on foreign territory when I arrive at the forest to recruit Dayio. I’ll have to be on my guard to be welcomed for an unannounced arrival.

Jacks sparks a conversation, “So… Gharis City huh?”

I simply answer, “Yep.”

“What are we looking for here?”

“Who. I worked with someone there for a while and he’s a skilled runner like me so he’s number one on our recruitment list.”

“I thought you didn’t have any friends?”

I only ever worked with Dayio. We went on jobs together, yet mostly, thanks to me, our personalities never rubbed together in a friendly way. We never discussed our past or current personal lives, so there was never a reason to become close enough to call ourselves friends. In my Life, he hinted something of a confession to me when I met with him.

He said something like: “You’re more than just a running buddy to me.” I never got a chance to elaborate on what he meant by it because the next time I saw him, he ejected me from an airborne plane. Actually, it doesn’t matter what it meant now, anyway, because what happened between us was just in a Life; it never happened here in the real world, and things may be different.

I answer, “I said I worked with the guy. We did smuggling runs together, and that’s it.”

He asks, “So you can trust him?”

“I can rely on him, but I don’t trust anybody. We did a lot of runs together, so he’ll be in, probably for a price. We’ve done a few favors for each other before, but never a prison break.”

“Well, not to be a pessimist, but I think it’ll take more than just three of us to break Geilium out of a prison.”

“I’m sure it will. Maybe he’ll know someone who can help us out and I may be able to locate someone else.”

In my Life, there was a person out there who could control mechs. The only downside is that I never sought the person out, so I have no idea where, or who to start looking for. Finding them will definitely be a task, but he or she will possibly be the best member of the team, if they actually can control mechs. Using mechs to get inside, or even taking control of any mechs in the prison, would help greatly, and even avoid a firefight. There is also another potential who had the plans that helped me through Menta-Life: Jerry. After about an hour of riding passenger on this boring adventure, I’m beginning to become very bored and impatient.

I sarcastically ask, “You think you can go just a lot faster, please?”

Jacks rejects, “No, this is the speed limit.”

“Yeah, but we haven’t passed a single cruiser on ground level. There’s nobody out here.”

Jacks states, “You just broke out of a Menta-Life facility. The last thing we need is to draw attention to ourselves by speeding for no reason. Don’t worry. We’ll get there.”

“How much longer?”

“About two more hours. Just relax and enjoy the drive.”

“Does this thing have a radio?”

“Absolutely.”

He reaches for the center button on the right side of the steering wheel and pushes it. A sound of static fades in and a woman starts talking like she’s dispatching people for something.

I ask, “How about another station?”

He answers with disappointment on my behalf, “All we have in here is the Regulator scanner. This cruiser is meant for missions.”

I reach over to the steering wheel and press the button, turning off the scanner. I sit back in my seat and stare out of the window in silence. Jacks doesn’t have a clue. The only reason I brought him along is to get everyone’s attention and keep them guessing. I like people who don’t listen to me to be in the dark as much as possible.

Anyone can call me a horrible person for that, although I would just agree. I can’t blame Jacks, though; he’s trying his best to help me out. This must be the first time he’s ever gone against orders to stand down, so I could lighten up on him just a little bit. I continue staring out of the window at the desert and distant city with the huge bubble over it. No city is too close to each other; almost like they are all part of their own little world.

There are rumors that everything is still controlled by one person that chooses to remain unknown. Everyone knows that there is a commander-in-chief out there; however no one has proof of it. The last time around, things didn’t go so well between all of the separate powers which led to the world’s last war and destruction. Keeping the new world leader unknown makes the people feel like they are truly free and are only restricted to follow the most obvious of laws enforced by Regulators, the new world’s police force.

Jacks and I remain silent towards each other for a little while longer, thus I commence a new topic, “How long have you been working for Simon?”

He smiles, then answers, “I think I’m coming up on four years now. It feels like a lifetime, though. He recruited me because I have skills at formulating ideas for the scientists to put together, and I’m a good gearhead.”

“So you’re a tinkerer?”

“I like the term gearhead better, but yes. For example, I developed the idea and schematics for this cruiser, from top to bottom.”

“All the more reason why you deserve to take it anywhere you want at any time. This is an incredible piece of machinery. What all can it do?”

“This cruiser was only made to fit particulars for camouflage. It can become a four-door cruiser, two-door, drop smoke screens, spike strips, go invisible–”

I quickly cut him off, “Whoa! Invisible? Like, can’t be seen, invisible? Like disappearing, gone?”

“Yes.”

I excitedly state, “We have to try that right now.”

“We can’t. It’s not an unlimited usage tool, unfortunately, so we have to use it sparingly.”

Well, that killed my buzz almost immediately. I continue staring out of the window at the very distant mountains for a few minutes longer until we reach Gharis City’s western entrance. The forest that we need to get to is on the south side. Instead of driving around the city, we can go through it, so I can go to my makeshift home to get clothes. Underground is where I’ve lived since I was old enough to live alone. It is also where the Deserted live in peace, away from the sane population.

I stare at the checkpoint as we continue towards it. Considering that I had just broke out of a Menta-Life facility, the Regs may be after me for questioning. Not being sure on which end the Regs play by, they could just turn me over to Menta-Life, or I could not be wanted at all. Geilium McKoy was apprehended, so they’re probably tying up loose ends and I may be on their list. Finding out if this is true isn’t worth the gamble right now. The arrest is proof enough that the Regs are in Gene’s pocket.

I state, “We can’t go through here. We have to go around to the south and use the tunnel.”

He agrees as he veers to the right side off the road, “Right… What tunnel?”

“The smuggler’s entrance into the city.”

We drive along the desert that vastly surrounds the outer bubble of the city. The Regs may have seen our approach, but as long as we’re not causing any trouble, they won’t interfere or send anyone out to investigate. We take a little over an hour to circle around to the south side of the city by the forest.

Leaving a cruiser parked outside of a forest would be suspicious to any Reg ships in the area. I have to go in alone and have Jacks meet me inside of the city at Feegle’s bakery. I doubt there’s anything holding him back from getting into the city. We reach the forest, but I let him drive around it to the single southern road.

He pulls up to the left side of the road, a good distance away from the city’s checkpoint, then I give instructions, “Meet me inside of the city at a place called Feegle’s Bakery and stay parked across the street. I won’t be long.”

I get out of the cruiser as he approves, “Okay. Feegle’s Bakery. Got it.”

He turns onto the road, then drives towards the checkpoint and I walk into the forest. I begin making my way towards the center, so I can head straight to where the entry is. The clue to look for, to spot if a smuggler is in the right place, is two tree stumps side by side. Once there, the smuggler will be greeted by the guard and escorted into the hidden tunnel entrance. Walking through here is still very quiet.

There isn’t any surviving wildlife here in the forest because there is no food. Food is portioned according to a small set serving to avoid waste, which would have been able to attract animals. It’s been so long since I’ve seen any that I’m not sure if animals like dogs and cats even exist in the wild anymore. The war irradiated most of the world, making it uninhabitable for anything. They’ve been pushed to extinction. As I’m walking, I notice something strange on the grass. There is what appears to be a burn mark and it looks recent.

I should be careful because Dayio and his patrol could be training out here. The last thing I’d want to be is mistaken for an enemy, but then again I’m not sure if things are the way they were before. I have been gone for three months and there was an adjustment in security during my Life. The last time I was physically here, there was only one guard on patrol; however, when I wasn’t physically here, Dayio had a crew that he would train out here. As much as I love keeping people in the dark about what I’m doing, being in the dark myself is something I can’t stand. The security adjustment may have never happened; therefore, it is definitely something to be worried about, granted I have to press on either way, just a little more careful than before.

Not two minutes into my careful stroll, I see a body face down next to a tree. The person is dressed in all black thin type material clothing like an assassin and, from the darkened bruises on the trees, there seems to have been a firefight here. That’s no good. This person on the ground isn’t dressed like a soldier but for stealth. People don’t dress stealthy for an expected firefight in broad daylight under shade-carrying trees; something bad happened to the wrong side here.

I check the body and find a battle knife. This wouldn’t be my first choice, yet I have to make due until I find something better. I trek on forward and see someone dressed like the last guy, dead in a tree, then another further up on the ground. These guys weren’t prepared for this battle and were slaughtered. There’s still no one dressed differently who could have gotten taken down from the invading side. It’s difficult to tell what happened. I continue through the maze of trees to the next body on the ground and see a few more dead bodies ahead.

Luckily for me, this one on the ground in front of me has a weapon. I bend down to pick up the pulse rifle, then hear a faint sound, so I quickly look up and see something shiny flying fast towards me. I quickly shift behind the nearest tree to take cover when I see a knife fly past me and pierce a neighboring tree. I hear two fast thumps on the tree behind my back. Who’s there? Is it the person who killed all of these people?

I shout, “I wouldn’t recommend you keep doing that! Someone could get hurt!”

I hear Dayio’s voice equal mine, “Van!?!”

Oh good, it’s Dayio. Now I can find out what’s going on and why it looks like a slaughterhouse in this place.

I step out from behind the tree and answer, “Yeah it’s me. What–” I lock eyes with him and see a knife flying towards me again, so I jump back into cover then shout, “Dayio, it’s me!”

He heatedly declares, “I know it is, traitor!”

Traitor? What is he talking about? I haven’t betrayed anybody in a long time and the last person I’d betray is him.

I yell, “What are you talking about?!”

“Don’t bother trying to trick me! You’ll fail!”

“I’m not trying anything!”

His voice goes silent, therefore it appears the hunt for me is on. I don’t know what’s going on, regardless I’m not going to fight him, despite him trying to kill me. I need answers, and from all of the dead bodies around here, it seems like he’s the only one left alive to give them to me. I take a peek around the left side of the tree and no longer see any activity over there. He must be on the move.

I clarify, “Dayio I didn’t betray anybody! Dayio!?!”

Here I am in the dark again. What’s going on and how am I a traitor? I haven’t even been in or near this city in months to betray anybody, unless he’s talking about my last job for Trex. I step out from behind the tree and look around some more for Dayio, or possibly anyone else like the people that actually did this.

I continue looking in every direction as I creep around then yell, “I don’t know what’s going on, but I swear what happened here has nothing to do with me!”

I hear a branch lightly crunch directly above me, so I crouch down and roll forward out of the way from whatever could be coming down. I roll up to a crouched position as I turn around with my knife at the ready. Dayio is coming at me with his combat knife fast as he slashes from left to right. Dayio is of Asian descent with short hair that can barely hold the ponytail he likes to keep it in. Through his dark eyes, I can see the fury of belief. I back away, dodging each oncoming slash as he angrily lunges them at me. He slashes at me from his right and I step in close to him so he can’t slice at me again with that arm.

Dayio raises his left hand up with a smaller knife, as he slices the right side of my face, so I take a single step away. I quickly step back in, then push both of his already crossed arms together and place my left foot behind him. He tries to back away from me, accidentally falling backwards into a roll. He rises back up into a crouched position and throws the small knife in his left hand at me. I lean backwards into a back handspring and the knife soars over me. As I complete my handspring, I recover and see Dayio has vanished. His dark clothing in the shadowy trees above will make him nearly impossible to spot.

I rub the blood away from the open wound on my face then shout, “Dayio, snap out of it!”

Dayio matches me, “So you can finish the job?! No thanks!”

Does he really believe I did all of this myself? Someone had to have attacked him too and it would have been obvious if it was me. Coming back to finish what I started would be a dumb idea. I am a dumb idea kind of girl, but, fact is, not this time.

I continue keeping an eye out for him as I make another attempt at convincing, “I didn’t do this to your people, Dayio!”

He responds, “I never said you did! It was your Menta-Life friend! I won’t let you finish me off for her!”

He did say “for her” so whoever the person is, is a female. Did a single woman do this? I can’t even recall having any female friends involved with Menta-Life.

I tell the truth that he refuses to believe, “I don’t know who you’re talking about, Dayio!”

He deflects on a single shout, “Liar!”

“I swear that corporation doesn’t mean anything to me! I’m nowhere near involved with them, and that’s the truth!”

The forest goes silent again. Who did this and why would he think I have anything to do with it? I can’t even imagine anyone from Menta-Life being capable of this kind of slaughter, but Dayio is obviously the sole survivor. Someone must be trying to set me up because, if someone else did this, why would I be here to finish him off?

I try to reason with him, “Dayio, think about what you’re saying! If someone else did this, I wouldn’t be here… right!?!”

I get no response, hence I initiate searching for him through the forest again, keeping my focus as I do. I silently search for him, then notice a shadow over my shadow. It quickly disappears to reveal the sunlight again. I turn around and see a knife cruising downwards at me. I shift half of my body to the right, then throw my hand back to catch the handle of the knife. Once I catch it, I fling it back up into the trees and in front of Dayio, who is trying to flee above. The knife pierces the tree ahead of his path then, having abruptly halted to avoid getting pierced, he loses his balance and falls. He hits a branch on the way down, crashing on his side and facing me.

I run over to him and speak, “Are you alright?”

He rises to a sit then angrily demands, “Go ahead and finish me.”

“I’m not finishing what I didn’t start, Dayio. What happened?”

“A Menta-Life assassin attacked us.”

“You said ‘she’.”

“Young oriental girl, I think Japanese, dressed in a gray suit with short hair in two pigtails. She used a sword. She was so fast. None of us even saw her coming.”

At that second, a name clicks to me with that description: Ryishi. She was part of Gene Archibald’s entourage at a ball that I attended with Feegle in my Life. That sweet and innocent looking girl did this? That really doesn’t seem likely, although it’s clear that they were attempting to turn him against me before I got to him. Gene must’ve known I would return to Dayio for help based on my Life.

I kneel down next to him and state, “Ryishi is a part of Gene Archibald’s entourage. I met her once. Did she do all this by herself?”

Dayio answers, “Yeah, and I know it was you that led her here.”

In a way, he isn’t wrong. I did unintentionally lead her here, along with the apprehension of Geilium as well. They must have intended this from the very beginning with the kidnapping. They had three months to come here and kill Dayio. I guess my escape was the trigger to go after my potential allies.

I explain, “That last deal I went on for Trex… Menta-Life kidnapped me and had me placed into a Life. I found out that they monitored everything that I did for, I don’t know how long.” He puts on a disappointed face and lets out a sigh as I continue. “I had no idea what was happening, Dayio, I swear. I’m so sorry.”

He calms down and requests, “Why did you come back here?”

“I came to ask you for help. I escaped Menta-Life, but they stole a memory from me. If I don’t get it back, I won’t just become a Deserted, I’ll die. Menta-Life must be tying up loose ends because they know I’m coming for them.”

“Become a Deserted? And what loose ends? Wait, since they saw you come here, why wasn’t she able to get into the secret entrance?”

“I never knew how. Just where the panel is.”

“Did you ever go through the bakery?”

I sure did and on numerous occasions, too. Trex and Feegle could be in some serious danger right now. If Ryishi was able to do this to people that Dayio trained, they’ll need our help for certain.

I answer, “I did. We need to get in there. She must have left to go around.”

Dayio swiftly gets up and begins jogging away towards the entrance while I shadow closely behind him.

I ask, “How long would it take her to get around?”

“I don’t know. It depends on how she’ll get there. She could have had a lectrocycle or cruiser parked near the forest, or walked. She may have executive clearance or an entrance of her own.”

It doesn’t make sense that Ryishi would come here first, knowing that she can’t get in. There must be a second play here that we’re missing. We reach the two tree stumps, signifying the secret entrance’s location, then Dayio approaches a tree that is a few feet ahead. He opens a panel on the right side of the tree that’s colored to blend perfectly with it. I don’t watch him as he does his thing at the panel. The secret, narrow double doors inside of the hollow tree begin to open outward.

The entire passage is brightened with blue lighting and steps going down that’s only big enough for one person at a time. Dayio enters first, then I follow. The passage widens at the bottom of the stairs, and we jog almost side by side to Trex’s office. The passage stretches for about a half mile long and only has two doors – one to Trex’s office and one directly across the hall to a lunch room. All the way at the other end is an exit to Feegle’s Bakery.

I question, “Do you remember how long ago she left?”

“Just before you showed up. About ten minutes, maybe.”

The forest is too big for me to have seen her heading in my direction on her way out. The west checkpoint is further away from the bakery than the south, so she wouldn’t go that way. Working for Menta-Life, she may get special entry privileges like Dayio mentioned, being their assassin and all.

I continue, “Why’d she leave?”

“I don’t know. Right in the middle of the fight, she just took off. It was strange. I was here checking if anyone was left alive, but if I had known she knew about the bakery, I’d have come here already.”

We reach Trex’s office. Dayio storms in first, and I trail behind him to see Trex reaching for something under his desk.

Dayio quickly mentions, “Trex, it’s us.”

Trex is an islander with dreadlocks that dangle down to the middle of his back; actually, to the middle of his wheelchair. Trex has been a paraplegic since I’ve known him, and is in charge of this illegal tunnel. I worked for him for years without ever trusting him for a single day of my employ. He’s a money-hungry crook like myself.

Trex stops reaching for whatever he was reaching for, then leers at me with heightened brown eyes and asks, “What is she doing here?”

I didn’t expect a happy reaction from him seeing me. We have unfinished business with a deal that went sour three months ago that turned out to be Menta-Life’s responsibility, though he’s not yet aware of that. He lost out on a lot of aers because of me and aers is the only thing he lives for.

Dayio answers, “It’s a long story that even I don’t know about yet, but we’re under attack. Stay hidden.”

Dayio leaves the room and so do I. We run through the rest of the passage to Feegle’s bakery, then climb the small set of stairs. I hope Feegle is okay. He’s not the type to win a fight, or even participate in one. Dayio presses a button to automatically open the sealed door. We exit through the secret passage in the back left corner of the basement. The basement is dark, and the only light in it is from the blue-lit passage Dayio just opened.

We rush to the stairs in the center and run to the top, entering the ballroom where Feegle holds his parties. The ballroom is what anyone would expect it to be: two big chandeliers, a bunch of tables on the outer perimeter where people can sit to mingle, and carpet flooring. Nothing seems out of the ordinary in here, so we go right and into the wooden door where the small storefront is. Feegle, standing next to his MechCi, gets startled at our unexpected and rushed entry.

Feegle turns to us and inquires in a surprising pitch, “What on Earth is the ruckus about?”

Feegle is a short, chubby Caucasian man that I’ve known for years. He dresses flashier than anyone I’d ever seen. Attire and popularity are what matters to him most, so, wherever he is, he has to stand out by wearing bright suits. He seems to be metrosexual, which makes him such a pleasure to be around; however, no one, including me, is sure if he actually straight. He likes to have beautiful women on his arm, although he can sometimes seem overly feminine. His dirty blonde hair and trader style mustache are always professionally well-groomed.

Feegle notices me, and greets me happily, “Ms. Pheros! It’s been too long, my dear.”

A loud bang, proceeded by the shatter of glass, startles us all. We turn our attention away from Feegle and to the front door where the noise happened. Feegle screams loudly in a panic. A huge guy in a gray suit zooms past me and runs straight into Dayio. I see Ryishi outside, running rapidly towards the shop from across the street. She is wearing an all-black body suit that fits her petite figure perfectly and her pigtails make her look very young. She is armed with a pulser and two swords on her back. I hear a loud bang behind me as she points the pulser at me and starts blasting away into the shop. Feegle begins to panic and I don’t want him to get hit by the heat rounds flying towards us.

Feegle’s male MechCi advises, “Please take cover, Feegle.”

Ryishi blasts the MechCi, destroying it. I run towards Feegle, then jump on him, taking us both down behind the display counter for the cakes. The glass from the outside window, counter, and every cake on display are horribly redecorating Feegle’s small establishment.

Feegle yells wildly, “What’s happening?! What’s happening to my shop?!”

I peek up and see Ryishi walking towards the door through the small, broken shop window. She fires another round at me. It shatters more glass on the counter. I look up again to see her disappear behind the small wall between the window and the broken door. What a mess. I can’t tell who that guy was, but it looks like it could have been another member of Gene’s entourage.

When I first met them, they didn’t appear to be the dangerous or violent types at all, yet here I am, fooled. I swiftly climb over the counter and run to the small wall to take cover, waiting for Ryishi. Her right hand, holding the pulser, enters the door first. I quickly switch the knife to my left hand as her entire body enters the shop. When it does, I rush at her and use my right hand to pin her right hand to the wall. A pulse round goes off at the top corner of the door that I came out of. I swing the knife in a half circle around to my left as hard as I can with my left hand, aiming straight for her head.

She drops down and I plunge the knife so deep into the wall that I can’t pull it out. Ryishi swings her right foot backwards at my stomach, but I use my right arm to block it. Having let go of her weapon hand, she brings her right arm in front of my head. I spin around to the back of her, making her miss another pulse shot. I pick her up by the back of her waist, then run her into the hinge of the wooden door. I lose my footing, falling into the ballroom. We both hit the red and yellow carpet. Ryishi rolls away from me. I notice she dropped her weapon.

I see Dayio having a difficult time fighting the buff, business-suited, black guy, and now I remember who he is. His name is Tylyn and he is also part of Gene’s entourage. He is bigger than any man I’ve ever seen. He has a short haircut and the angriest brown eyes. What’s odd is he looks more muscular than he originally did when I met him in my Life. I look back at Ryishi and she doesn’t look angry at all. She is fighting me completely emotionless.

What’s with these two? They seem somehow abnormal. There’s no focus on her face at all as her green eyes lock with my hazel. In a flash, Ryishi springs up and runs towards me. I quickly get up as well. By the time I recover, she is already throwing a right punch at me. I dodge her punch and she uses her left to punch me in my right rib. I uncontrollably lean sideways. She lunges her right knee up, then hits me in the face hard enough to make me glide backwards.

Once I hit the ground, I do a sideways roll and get back up onto my feet. I see her speeding at me again. I don’t think I can stand against her for too long. Her speed is unbelievable and I can’t keep up with all of these hits I’m taking. She thrusts her right foot at me and I dodge to the left, then launch a right punch at her. She catches my fist and spins around to her left. Having my arm over her right shoulder, she leans forward, flipping me over her back and to the ground. She lifts her right foot, then stops as Reg sirens begin wailing from outside.

She looks over at her partner Tylyn, and I look at him, also, to see he has Dayio held up on the back wall with one hand. He looks back at Ryishi. She lets me go, then runs toward her weapon. I hear Tylyn drop Dayio. I watch Ryishi scoop her pulser off of the floor, then I watch her run towards the table underneath the balcony and pounce off the top of it. She grabs the platform, then quickly scales the railing and front flips over as Tylyn bolts up the stairs. I get up and follow Ryishi up the railing.

There are only three rooms up there, and none of them leads to an exit door; nevertheless, they are running with a purpose, which strikes me as odd. It’s like they know where they’re going. I scale the rail as I spot Tylyn enter Feegle’s library at the dead end of the balcony. I hear glass crash and a hovering sound from beyond the door as I enter. The huge stained glass window on the back wall of the library is broken and I see Ryishi ascending on top of a cruiser.

Tylyn is nowhere to be seen. I run over to the window, as she floats away, and look around for Tylyn, noticing a speck of dust fall from above me. I look up to see Tylyn pull himself up to the roof, then I lose sight of him. How is it possible that a guy that huge can pull himself up past three floors of windows? On top of that, the windows are on different levels, so he had to boost himself up an entire floor to get up there. The arm strength for that kind of lift has to be incredible. I wonder how Dayio faired against him.

The sirens begin blaring louder and, seeing as I’m most likely a wanted criminal, it’s time to make myself scarce. I hear a cruiser honking. I look down then see Jacks’ cruiser down below and he is looking up at me, probably wondering what he should do. I signal to him to wait, then I run back out of the room and jump over the balcony, down to the ballroom floor. Dayio is up on his feet trying to recover from his fight with Tylyn.

I rush over to him, “Can you walk? We gotta go.”

He sluggishly responds, “I think so.”

The sirens go silent. The Regs are here, which means I shouldn’t be. I throw Dayio’s arm over my shoulder, then start carrying him over to the garage door to the left of the basement. Dayio is in pretty bad shape, but there aren’t any obvious bruises. He seems to be just heavily exhausted. Trex will be safe down in the passage, and it’ll probably be safer for us too, still I can’t leave Jacks out there.

 

Chapter 4: Seeking Allies

 

If the Regs see Jacks just sitting in the cruiser, they’ll surely get suspicious and make a move. I help Dayio into the garage, then press the little button next to the door to open the two-cruiser garage. The door begins sliding up as I help Dayio over towards it. I stand him up at the wall and peek around through the alley to the street. Jacks is gone. Where’d he go? I suppose it’s good that he got away, although I have no way to contact him and pinpoint a location where we can meet back up.

Staring across the street, I notice something strange appear like a slit into something, then disappear. What was that? The gap appears again, but this time a little bit bigger. I see a hand waving back and forth in it. Jacks’ cruiser actually came through. He can see me, though now that he’s rolled the window back up, I can’t see him. I’d love to be his biggest fan at the moment, but now isn’t the time. I wave him over to come into the alley, and since I can’t see him, I just wait to see something change.

I poke my head back into the garage and see Dayio bent over, still catching his breath. Tylyn must have really dug into him pretty hard. I can’t even imagine going toe-to-toe with that beast. If those two were that bad, I wonder what the other two are like. In my Life, Gene’s entourage consisted of four members: the two that were missing are Payge and Booker.

I whisper to Dayio, “We’re almost out of here.”

I poke my head back out to the street, not noticing any changes. The Regs will be in here soon. What is he doing? I hear a small “psst” sound to my right, so I slowly turn my head. Jacks’ eyes are narrowly peeking through the gap in the passenger window from the driver side.

Jacks whispers, “Get in.”

Dayio looks around into the alley, not noticing the cruiser, then asks, “What was that?”

I answer, “It’s awesome. Come on, get in.”

I feel around for the passenger handle, then, when I feel the gap, pull it out to open the gull-wing door; having the door open reveals the cruiser’s interior to us.

Jacks whispers, “Hurry, come on before more Regulators arrive.”

Dayio raises the front seat and slides into the back, then pulls the seat back toward him so that I can get in. I close the door, as Jacks presses the button to roll up my window. He proceeds to move forward out of the alley and into the street. If we’re speeding, invisible or not, we’ll be very easy to spot or crash into, so taking it slow is the smart approach. Jacks watches for the traffic to be at its lowest before he slowly pulls into the street, fleeing the scene of the crime. That escape worked out much better than I hoped it would.

The Regs are supposed to be peace officers, but all they’re really good for is simple apprehension. Once a Reg is onto a criminal, if the criminal gives chase, it is their job to pursue and inform a BAMech squad. Afterwards, they’re relieved until the BAMech does its job. BAMech stands for Battle Assault Mechanics and they are the toughest ground mechs underneath the Alpha Mech.

Once they’re on a person’s tail, giving up is the quickest way to not get taken down with extreme measures. These mechs will do anything to capture a criminal, excluding hurting a civilian unless necessary. Their weapons are in their palms; they can use both shock and heat rounds. In short, we got off easy. Once Jacks turns the corner, he pulls into an alley and deactivates the camouflage. From the inside, we can’t see the difference, but as long as he knows what he’s doing, it works for me.

Jacks pulls out of the alley and sighs with relief, “That was a close one, huh?”

I look back and ask Dayio, “Are you okay?”

He ignores me, as he stares out of the window with the most distraught expression on his face. He just lost his entire team, and I won’t blame him if he feels like it’s my fault. In a way, it is, but it was completely out of my control, so what can I do besides give him time to soak in his own mind?

I direct Jacks, “There’s an alteration shop on the southwest side of the city called Lynn’s. We have to stop there first.”

Jacks acknowledges, “Okay.”

I don’t know what Dayio’s thinking, but I feel sorry for him. Geilium has been arrested instead of killed, and Trex will be safe while the Regs are around Feegle’s bakery. Feegle has nothing to do with any of this, so he should be safe, also. I wonder how Geilium was captured though. Maybe Booker and Payge stopped him. They sent Ryishi to kill Dayio and Tylyn to possibly kill Trex. Tylyn could probably have taken a few pulser rounds before killing Trex, so that may have been their intention.

There wasn’t anyone else who aided me in my Life except for Aleena and Mitchell, who are currently unaccounted for. They would be loyal to Geilium, so I might be able to use them on my side to break him free, along with my father’s goon, Welktin. I don’t know if Equility is started, since I’m two years back to when it began, nor do I know if Mitchell and Aleena are even in the picture yet.

I admire the city as we’re heading towards our destination. I was fooled by the Life system because everything looks exactly the same; it’s like I’m not even really awake. The unlit billboards, holographic signs that follow people in front of shops with discount offers, the traffic flowing on all three levels of gravity, the MechCi portraying humans for social interactions; feels just as it did before I woke up. We arrive in front of Lynn’s shop. Jacks pulls over and cuts off the battery.

As I get out, I say, “I’ll be right back.”

I close the cruiser door, then enter the double doors to Lynn’s small alteration shop. When I turned seventeen, I developed a style of clothing that I had to have and she has been the only one who has been able to provide it for me. I wear a specific style and comfort to match my criminal needs for smuggling. The inside of Lynn’s shop is a bright yellow color with her most accomplished clothing lined up along the walls for display and her counter is in the center.

I see Lynn sitting behind the counter reading a digital sheet. Digital sheets are a single page of any read that can be scrolled through on the same sheet. Most files, documents, and even news-pages use this type of tech. I step up to the counter, then her eyes drift up at me. It’s almost just like it was when I saw her in my Life. Lynn is a young woman that is a lot more repressed than most citizens. She is the best tailor in the city, but she only does work for high-end clients and likes to remain anonymous.

I greet her, “Hello, Lynn.”

She drearily greets back with a question, “How are you, Vanessa?”

“I’ve had better days. Yourself?”

“Relaxed.”

I wish I was in her shoes right now. She’s the mellowest person I’ve ever met in this city or any other.

She continues, “I have one ready for you in the back, hanging on the wall, and the boots are underneath it. Will you need more outfits and another pair of boots?”

“I’ll need two more outfits.”

“I’ll have them ready by tomorrow.”

I thank her as I’m walking to the back of the shop, “Thank you, Lynn.”

She doesn’t respond as I enter the back door to her studio where she does all her work. It’s just a small room with her favorite pieces displayed. I spot my outfit on the right wall. I’m glad it’s already made, because I still don’t have an Econ to have called in advance and she only does her work at night when she closes the shop. I quickly take my outfit down and change out of my current clothes and into my new ones. I put on my tight black jeans, hunter green belt with matching leather jacket, white tank top, black fingerless gloves, and my knee-high black boots.

Besides cutting my hair back down to the length I like it, I feel almost complete. I check myself out in the mirror as I put on the boots, custom made with amazing grip to support my running habits. I toss my other clothes in her small junk pile by the door as I exit, then walk back to the counter. When I reach the counter, I realize that I might not have any aers; to use my body scan for payment would trigger a report to the Regs. If they’re looking for me, they would know exactly where to send BAMechs for my arrest. Maybe Dayio has some to spare.

I inform her, “I have to get Dayio to pay for it. He’s in the cruiser.”

She bounces another option while looking at her page, “Pay when you come to pick up the rest.”

I head for the door, “Okay. Thanks again, Lynn.”

When I leave the shop, I see Jacks standing at the driver side of the cruiser, waiting. I step up towards him and he tosses me an Econ earpiece which I catch. An Econ, or Ear Connect, is a phone made specifically for hands-free usage. The user taps the Econ and an artificial intelligence services their every need.

He mentions, “I picked you up something on the way to the bakery. I forgot to tell you. It could come in handy for next time a giant goes crashing through a door.” As I put it in my ear he adds, “So what’s the plan?”

“Let’s lay low for a while somewhere, so I can talk to Dayio. There’s a small, classic diner near here on the southwestern edge of the city.”

We both get in the cruiser and Jacks begins driving. I look back to see Dayio has changed positions, but he still doesn’t look at me. Instead of speaking about the loss of his people, maybe we can change the topic and I can tell him what’s going on; how we can make things better. After a twenty minute drive in silence, we arrive at the diner on the outskirt of the city.

For being at the edge, the diner is actually quite popular. Its design is for people who want to get the retro feel of how the world used to be about a hundred years ago. We pull over in the parking lot in front of the oversized metal gray trailer, then get out of the cruiser. I let Dayio out from my side and close the door.

I tell him, “We’ll talk inside.”

We start making our way to the set of four stairs and red entry door. I enter, then see the lineup of booths on the outer walls and stools around the counter in the center. The diner goes all the way around in a big square, and is a little bit busy seeing as it’s still lunch time for some people.

An attractive girl standing in front of us behind a podium greets, “Hello and welcome to Fran’s Diner. Table for three?”

I answer, “Yes, preferably a booth in the back.”

She grabs three menus from under her podium then authorizes, “Certainly. Follow me, please.”

She starts walking to the right and we follow her around the square to the far right back corner. There doesn’t seem to be any MechCi here, but it only makes sense, seeing as this is a classic-style establishment. Some people catch eye of my and Dayio’s unfit appearances. I had almost forgotten that we were just in a fight for our lives only an hour ago.

She queries, “Will this be fine?”

I answer, “This is perfect.”

She places the written-out menus on the table and I signal Jacks to sit on the inside. I sit next to Jacks. Dayio sits in front of me with a blank expression on his face and a sort of confusion in his eyes. It’s not too obvious, but I can tell it’s there, whereas Jacks wouldn’t. What can I say to him to make things easier to handle?

The hostess updates us, “I’ll be right back to take your orders.”

She walks away and we all sit there awkwardly, not looking at the menus, but away from each other. Jacks wasn’t there to see what happened, so I’m sure he’s entirely clueless about what’s going on with our difficult tension. Dayio, on the other hand, doesn’t know fully what’s going on, but he still has every right to be mad at me. I could take it upon myself to acknowledge that.

I turn my head slightly away toward the door and apologize, “Dayio, I–”

Dayio lowly interrupts, “Don’t say it. Van, just don’t.”

I look at him with empathic eyes, then plainly ask, “What should I say?” He turns to me and I continue. “I didn’t know that this would happen, and I didn’t know I’d make you, of all people, a target. It doesn’t excuse what they discovered from me, but I made a mistake.”

“What did you do?”

“I didn’t do anything. Their Life system seemed so real to me. I don’t remember any of what happened while I was there for the past three months; I just remember before I got there, my Life, and when I escaped. They used me, and now I’ve got about two weeks to figure this out before I die.”

“What’s in two weeks?” he speaks sarcastically. “The end of this new world?”

Jacks answers as he looks through the menu, “No, the end of her. Menta-Life has stolen one of her memories, and she has to get it back or her brain will completely shut down.”

Dayio rudely asks, “And who are you?”

Jacks puts his hand out for a shake and introduces himself with enthusiasm. “Jacks Timbelin.”

Dayio doesn’t shake Jacks’ hand, so he retracts it back. Dayio asks me, “Why you, of all people?”

“My f–”

I can’t trust anyone enough to tell them who my father is. I’m sure I can trust Dayio and Jacks seems clumsy enough to be trustworthy. If something were to happen, I can’t bank on how Jacks’ loyalty would hold. He seems like he’d tell someone everything in a heartbeat to save his own life.

I continue. “A man named Simon Harold. Menta-Life was using my memories and watching my Life to try and find him. He got a message out to me in my Life and woke me up. I escaped from the New Rellow facility, and now I’m helping him take down Menta-Life.”

Dayio asks, “And you have an army big enough to bring the mechs and Regs down?”

“No, but we’re hoping to very soon. If not an army, at least some skilled infiltrators who can get the job done stealthily from the inside.”

“Who’d be taking your place? We both know that stealth isn’t your style.”

“It has to be, if I want to get my memories back. I was hoping you would help us. I know things are bad, and I’m sorry about your team, but Menta-Life has been leaving people brain dead by stealing memories. Someone needs to stop them.”

“What happened to you in the past three months?”

“What do you mean?”

“Three months ago, you wouldn’t have lifted a finger to help anyone without getting paid for it. Now, you sound like you’re some kind of hero.”

“If saving the new world is the only way to stop my untimely death and get my memories back, I’ll stick to being a hero until I do.”

“Now, that sounds familiar.”

“So, will you help us?”

He ponders for a second, then answers, “Sure, but I’m not doing this for you. Ryishi needs to pay for what she did to my team. What all do you know about this memory stealing?”

“Not much. Just that they caused the Deserted outbreak.”

“Only just, huh?”

“I haven’t figured out much yet, but as far as I know, we need a team to break someone out of prison to join us too. Not sure which one that is either.”

He turns to Jacks and asks, “It’s pretty amazing how uninformed she always is, isn’t it?”

The hostess arrives and happily questions, “Are we ready to order?”

“We haven’t fully checked the menus, can we get a little more time?”

“Of course. I’ll be right back.”

She walks away and Dayio says, “There’s no escaping the fact that, if we’re actually going through with a prison break, we’re going to need muscle.”

“I can handle that part.”

“No, you can’t. But I know just the guy who can help us out.”

I ask, “Who’s the guy?”

“His name is Odom.”

I was kind of hoping for like this long background story, but he just drops a pause in there and starts looking in the menu. Who is Odom?

I nod and ask, “How do you know him?”

He answers, “Well, technically, I don’t. I just know of him. And he recently broke out of a prison, so that’s icing on the cake, right?”

“What makes you think he’ll help us out?”

“Well… I hear he’s impossible to get along with, and so are you, so it shouldn’t be too hard for you to convince him.”

His confidence isn’t assuring at all, but it’s worth looking into. The prison Odom broke out of should be where Geilium is, so we could have an edge over on that department. If it’s Ori prison that Geilium is in, I’m familiar enough with my breakout from there to break out again. Hopefully, that information was accurate, but now we find Odom.

I investigate, “You know where he is?”

Dayio answers, “Last I heard, he was in Teykrys.”

Jacks snaps his head over at Dayio and loudly asks, “Teykrys City?”

I turn to Jacks and stare at him with the “shut up” face. Teykrys City is the most dangerous and fiercest city left in the world. The people who took to crime after the world ended, such as the looters, scavengers, raiders, and psychos, all conquered a city. Actually, they more just found it already abandoned and claimed it for their own. Teykrys is a city that even the Regs wouldn’t dare step into, but they still monitor all the happenings. In the event anything gets too crazy beyond repair of a gang war, they send in BAMech squads to resolve all issues and restore their chaotic order.

I ask Jacks, “How far is Teykrys from here?”

“I’m not exactly sure; little less than four hundred miles, maybe.”

Dayio suggests, “We can use the hyper warp.”

Jacks replies, “With the custom cruiser that we’re driving, that wouldn’t be recommended. Warping is only meant for standard cruisers, but we have too many modifications to make it out of there in one piece.”

The hyper warp is exactly what it sounds like. The warp isn’t instantaneous, but it beats driving four hundred miles in about six hours when we can warp in about six minutes. Most Regulator units never have to go city to city, so it’s a rare that they use warps.

I sigh, then suggest, “Okay, then we steal a cruiser and warp out of here with it before it can get reported.”

Dayio quickly comments, “That sounds like a fantastic idea.”

Jacks nervously asks, “Can I stay here with my cruiser until you guys get back?”

I caringly deny him, “Of course not. You’re the most valuable member of this team.” I quickly add, “Plus, you’re the only one here without a questionable criminal background that can get us into the hyper warp without Regs having to search us all.”

Dayio sarcastically agrees, “Yeah, you’re the man, Jacks. C’mon.”

Dayio and I get up, then make our way around to the door and the hostess asks, “Will you be returning to order?”

I sincerely answer, “Yeah, we left our aers in the cruiser. We’ll be right back.”

I smile at her confused face as we leave. She’s probably thinking how I could have possibly forgotten my digitized funds that are linked to my physical features anywhere at all. We get back in the cruiser and Jacks begins driving.

I mandate, “Take us to any parking garage where we can park and steal a cruiser.”

If Dayio heard about Odom from this far, finding him won’t be too difficult of a task in Teykrys City. Asking around would definitely make people leave us alone, though, because of the reputation he may have; hopefully, it’s not a bad one to where they try to kill us, thinking we’re his friends. I’ve personally never been to Teykrys because it seems like a place I’d enjoy too much to want to leave.

I like the dominance that I have over the innocent people here; besides, I would never turn down a fight with any of the people who think they’re better than me. I’m not sure what to expect of Odom, but to break out of prison and go to Teykrys is bad enough for me to like him. Jacks pulls into a random parking structure that has four levels on it.

I say, “Take us up a couple levels.”

Jacks slowly begins driving around as Dayio and I check out potential cruisers to steal. We go up to level two and slowly continue to cruise.

Dayio quickly demands, “Stop.” Jacks stops the cruiser, then Dayio continues, “I got this one.”

Dayio exits the cruiser and strolls away from us. I’m reminded that the cruiser is just an illusion. It actually used to be a two-door, but it can take the look of a four-door and still have more passenger space. The other ones might have different perks and tricks.

Dayio closes the false door, then I say, “Go two levels up and park.”

He does what I say, then we get out and take the stairs back down to where we left Dayio. Jacks and I walk the parking lot until we catch a glimpse of headlights flash on the right of us. We turn and see Dayio flagging us to get into the gray, two-door sport’s cruiser. Dayio gets out as Jacks walks over to the driver seat.

I question, “Is this supposed to be inconspicuous?”

Dayio laughs lightly at my question as he presses the button on the seat, making the driver seat collapse forward to let him in. Dayio gets in the back seat and Jacks gets in as the driver seat rises. I get in as a passenger. The cruiser is already started, so we take right off and head to the north checkpoint. The sun is still highest in the sky, but it’s falling gradually, as it should. When we get to the checkpoint, we paste fake smiles on our faces as we pull up to the two guards; one on our left and one on our right. They’re wearing blue cargo pants and blue short-sleeve, button-up shirts with blue militia hats to match.

The guard kindly demands, “Retinal, please.”

Jacks aims his face at the guard as the guard raises up his forearm to reveal a travel retinal scanner. The scanner expels a red line to scan Jacks’ eye then turns blue and beeps twice. He looks at the small screen on his scanner then presses the screen three times as I place my hand on the door handle. Usually, the scanner only beeps once, then we’re sent through. What did Jacks not tell me that would flag us? It seems that we’re gonna have to-

The guard notifies, “All clear, sir. Where’s your destination?”

I ease my hand from the handle and Jacks answers as he smiles at the guard, “Teykrys City.”

The guard looks at him suspiciously then down into the cruiser at Dayio and I. The only way to get where we need to go in less time is the hyper warp, and they need to know where to send us. With my criminal history, they’d happily send me, but I’m not sure how up to date it is.

The guard turns away and shouts up, “Warp to Teykrys!” He turns back to Jacks and requests, “Trunk, please.”

Jacks looks around for a button that can open the trunk, since he’s not familiar with this cruiser. He’s going to get us caught, because this is supposed to be his vehicle.

I suggest, “By your right leg honey, remember?”

He reaches down to his right, then pulls a latch and smiles at the guard as he apologizes, “Sorry, I’m used to it being on the other side in our other cruiser.”

The guard doesn’t smile back at Jacks, and the second guard makes his way around to the trunk, then pulls it up. I hope there’s nothing back there that will make the guards suspicious. I completely forgot to check it. The average citizen who owns a sport’s cruiser shouldn’t need to travel with much anyway.

The guard closes the trunk and states, “Clear.”

The huge gate begins to open, slowly revealing a dark blue swirling light as the guard by Jacks instructs, “Buckle all safety belts and pull slowly into the warp field. Once you feel the warp pull the cruiser, release the pedal. You’ll arrive at your destination in five minutes. Safe travels.”

The guard signals Jacks to roll up his windows. He quickly does it, and begins pulling forward. We enter the swirling blue light and the cruiser begins rising to an upward slant. Jacks releases his body away from all of the cruiser’s mechanics, I’m assuming, so he won’t accidentally interrupt the warp and cause an accident. The cruiser very slowly ascends, then shoots straight outward, continuing through the endless blue. The cruiser feels like it’s driving normal speed, but it’s actually going seventy miles every minute.

At the end of the silent warp, we instantly come to a halt of us cruising up in the sky at gravity level one hundred and fifty. Jacks takes control of the cruiser as we approach the city from one hundred and fifty feet up. Teykrys has no borders or checkpoints for safety measures because there is nothing to keep safe about this place. The city looks like a town out of an old western film. All the buildings and shops are made of the same color brown wood. Despite not being a ghost town, it most certainly looks like one with all of the desert and damage to the city.

As I stare down at Teykrys I state, “This is definitely my kind of town.”

Jacks disagrees, “I absolutely hate this place.”

I turn to him and ask, “You even been here before?”

He hesitantly responds, “No… but I’m here now. And I absolutely hate this place.”

Dayio is the only one who hasn’t voiced his opinion. I look back and see him daydreaming out of the window to the east of the city. The sun is getting close to vanishing over the horizon as we descend to enter the city. As we approach the first block of wood houses, three men with unusual looking rifles walk into the road, blocking our path. Jacks comes to a slow stop. The men don’t make any moves; they just stare at us and we all stare back at them.

Jacks nervously asks, “What do these guys want?”

I answer, “Probably our cruiser.”

I hear a faint motor sound. I had no idea motors still existed, but down here, most of what’s relic exists for use; for example, those automatic rifles seem to be old military issue, like the older ones from war time. Where is that motor sound coming from?

Jacks asks, “What do we–”

I quickly hush him, trying to focus on the noise. I look in the passenger side mirror and see a guy wearing a white mask, sitting on a dirt bike, ready to take off. This is definitely a robbery. They probably think we’re just a cruiser full of rich people that strayed off course thanks to Dayio. I have to get out and show them otherwise.

I open the cruiser door and, as I get out, Jacks quickly, but quietly asks, “What are you doing?”

I ignore him and shut the cruiser door. I walk over towards the three raiders. I make sure to not break eye contact with them; to not appear nervous. I stop in front of the buff raider in the center with the tattoo on the left side of his face. He rests the rifle on his right shoulder and steps closer to me with his shoulder inches away from the left side of my chest. His black muscle shirt is torn and dirty, like he’d fought in it countless times without a wash. His gray cargo pants don’t look equally as bad, though. My head stays straight, but my eyes watch him as he sniffs around at my neck, then gradually moves up past my face letting out a relieving sigh.

He comments, “You don’t smell like the regular rich trash.”

I’m not sure if that’s a compliment or not, but maybe around here it is. His voice is threateningly deep, just like his muscular physique. His crew is just as bad looking, but he’s obviously the leader.

He stares past me at the cruiser and enquires, “What do you want?”

“We’re here for Odom.”

“You a friend or enemy?”

“For now, both.”

His head turns to me, but I continue staring over his shoulder into the city streets. He turns away from me, then rejoins his two raiders and puts his left hand up in the air. I hear a couple of dirt bikes revving behind me. They start quickly whirring, then the sound fades.

I ask, “You know where to find Odom?”

The raider answers, “Everyone here drinks. There’s only a few bars on the west side of town and he’ll be at the one that’s not crowded. Trust me, you’ll know.” I turn around and start walking away, but then he adds, “By the way–”. I stop and he compliments, “Nice cruiser.”

“The person who owns it probably thought so, too.”

I continue walking toward the cruiser as Jacks slowly drives up to me. He stops next to me and I get back in on the passenger side. I see the dirt bike raiders have gone; that went much easier than I thought. The last compliment he made had me worried for a second, but I’d have given up the cruiser anyway if he wanted. A stolen cruiser would only be able to get me so far, but it can do someone good who plans to stick around this dump.

Jacks asks, “What happened?”

I answer, “Odom is at a bar on the west side of the city.”

“Is it safe to drive this cruiser through here?”

It could be safer to drive through here, but not with Jacks behind the wheel. He’d be too nervous to sail through here like an animal, fitting in with everyone else. They’d all probably think we’re Regs and start firing away at us out of caution, or just rob us.

I answer, “No, but we’re gonna do it anyway, and Dayio’s driving.”

Dayio happily acknowledges, “Oh, yeah.”

Jacks gets out of the cruiser, then the seat collapses and Dayio climbs out. Jacks and Dayio trade places, then Dayio smashes down on the pedal as he closes the door. The dirt puffs up from under us as Dayio speeds into the city limits and through the western looking town. This place is filled with sick people, both mentally and physically.

The people’s wooden homes lined up along the dirt road remind me of being underground with Deserted. Most of the windows are broken on each house and everyone out here appears to be a raider. I don’t see any children or properly dressed citizens; only ruffians and thugs with weapons ready to fire at a moment’s notice. Oddly enough, Dayio’s speeding through the streets isn’t gathering anyone’s attention. Seeing people speed around here and doing illegal things probably isn’t even a rarity around these parts.

There aren’t any cruisers around here, but I see a lot of rusty old cars; none of which look functional. As we head west, I constantly scan around for whatever obviously empty bar the raider was referring. We pass by a few places that don’t really catch my eye because people and cars are herded outside of them. As we drive by a street, I catch a glimpse of a fight happening between three guys and one is much bigger than the other two.

We pass the street, so I quickly demand, “Turn back to that street.”

Dayio swings the cruiser around and heads left onto the street I saw. The big, dark-skinned guy has already beaten down the two small guys and is going into the bar. The bar doesn’t look completely empty, thanks to the couple of muscle cars and chopper type motorcycles parked out front, but it likely will be soon. As we pull up to the bar, I see someone crash, back first, out of the front window. The guy hits the ground and doesn’t move. I see how bars clear out now. Dayio stops the cruiser and I quickly get out. I walk towards the bar with the huge “Pete’s” sign at the top. The bar has rectangular windows on both sides and a flat roof with a door that’s cracked open waiting for me.