Episode 1 Scene 20
Christ, my head hurt, the parts I could feel. The first person I saw after the explosion was the person who stitched me back together. She was a vet, the animal type, not the war type, which was good because pieces of me had been flapping all over the place.
When the Scyther blew, shards of shrapnel whizzed all over the place. My body armor was enough to protect my torso, but my head and lower limbs were brutally smashed. Slices of scalp had peeled away, and there were large and anatomically interesting gashes in both my legs. According to the animal doc, I was lucky. I didn’t feel lucky.
The people inside the compound had been reluctant to come out and see what had happened. I can’t say I blamed them. The Scyther had been taking shots at them, and, well, they probably weren’t as invested in me as I’d thought.
Eventually, a few brave souls ventured out and found me not far from the still-smoking bike and Scyther. Whatever explosive he’d used, it was effective. There was little they could salvage. They were, however, nice enough to grab me, and the rest was all about recuperation.
I lay on the cot for about two weeks, eating, sleeping, and getting fed scraps of information. We weren’t the only group to encounter this new force, but we were one of the few to survive. A large number of compounds had either been completely destroyed or had split into smaller groups and disappeared as best they could.
On day sixteen of recovery, I was allowed to get up and move about. The doc admonished me not to move too vigorously. Little chance of that happening, but I nodded anyway and staggered to the common room where I knew I’d find something real to drink.
Life was improving. I had my hand wrapped around a mug of clear liquid and was vaguely focusing into the middle distance. The guy serving as bartender didn’t question my need for booze, even looking the way I did. This was something I appreciated about this quasi post-apocalyptic chaos that we found ourselves in. The holier-than-thou, nonsmoking, nondrinking, gluten-free human sheep, who were appearing in increasing numbers when The Blink happened, largely didn’t make it. Smarter people than me have debated the significance of this occurrence, but not me. Good riddance.
The middle distance I was locked onto was losing clarity, so I had another swig and refocused on something closer. It was then the common room door swung open. The bartender stopped cleaning glasses and stared at the two strangers. It wasn’t a pleasant look. The men silhouetted in the doorway were wearing uniforms, but I didn’t recognize the type. They looked more army than police, but who can tell? The amount of military-grade equipment the police had access to prior to The Blink ostensibly made them a paramilitary force anyway, and times had only gotten worse.
The two hitched up whatever crap they had hanging from their oversize belts and ball-walked over to my table. You know the walk: the one where the cop/manager/guy-in-charge walks around his nuts to show everyone how truly large he is. Well, I now had a pair of them swaying their way in my direction. This was supposed to be intimidating. They stood directly in front of me and turned up the threat level. I took another swig of the clear brew and waited. Put a drink in front of me, and I can be the most patient bastard on earth. They didn’t know this.
They continued to stand in front of me, trying to bully me into speaking first. They’d probably read the book that said this was the best way to get people to reveal their true intentions. That was funny. In my experience, it was the last words said that carried the most weight. I continued playing their childish game. I’d been lying on a cot for two weeks; for me this was high-class entertainment.
Then I finished my drink.
So I ordered another.
This got a sigh from the junior of the two. “Trevayne,” he stated.
What? Again, with my name. How come everyone knows me all of a sudden? I’d told no one in the compound about the bizarre conversation I had with the Scyther. Some shit’s best left untold until you’ve worked out what the hell it means. And the only name people know me by here is Jack.
“Jacques Trevayne,” Junior tried again.
The full name now, and pronounced correctly. It was time to be polite.
“Jack or Trevayne. No one calls me Jacques.”
Junior pulled open a khaki bike-messenger-type bag and grabbed a clipboard. He deftly made a note of this riveting piece of information. I glanced at his counterpart and raised an eyebrow. The older guy shrugged. This was the one I should be talking to.
“What can I do for you?” I offered.
“We need to talk,” said Junior.
“Fine. Take a seat. Have a drink,” I raised my glass. “It does the job.”
“That’s inappropriate behavior for us while we—” Junior got cut off by a firm grip to the arm.
“Sounds like a good idea,” said the senior of the two. “For me. Go wait in the truck.”
Junior didn’t even blink. He followed orders and left. I waved over at the bartender for more drinks. He nodded and brought them across to the bench. Senior reached into his bag, pulled out a handful of batteries, and placed them on the table. The bartender looked pleased and grabbed a couple. Senior had skills.
Batteries were a de facto currency in many compounds. Everyone outside major cities was off the grid. Most had generators for community electricity, but these were often shut down overnight. Batteries to power small devices were valuable, and the companies that produced them were extremely well guarded. Most people living in still-viable major population centers didn’t know this or didn’t care. This guy was better informed.
I took a slug of the drink. Shit, it was water. I glanced at the bartender. He looked me in the eye and shook his head. I’d been cut off. The man opposite me took a mouthful of his brew. His eyes watered and bulged. He was on the real stuff. Damn, the bartender was looking after me.
“What do they call you?” I asked.
“The name’s Rhiel,” he stated and offered his hand.
We shook. It had been a while since I’d done that.
“What do you want?”
“Back in the old days, you’d have called it a consult.”
“Yeah, you know, we ask you questions and you give us the benefit of your,” he paused and searched for the word, “expertise.”
“My expertise,” I echoed. “And what exactly am I an expert in?”
Rhiel waved his hand in the air. It took in much of the room. “Compound defense, tactics, weaponry.”
I coughed in disbelief. I was good, but there were plenty out there equally skilled. It had to be something else. And, as far as I knew, there was only one thing unique about me.
“Scythers,” I guessed. “You really want to know about Scythers.”
The man leaned forward, both forearms on the table, his hands wrapped around his drink.
He nodded. “Ahh, now there we have it.”
“Why me?”“Oh, that’s easy,” he smiled. “You’re the only one who has survived a direct encounter.”