Episode 2 Scene 2
What a mess. Chunks of radiation-hot Scyther are strewn everywhere. When these blow, they leave a mighty big hole. I roll up to the main chunk of carcass and poke it with my boot. Not much to see, as usual, just a mess of black oily blood and biomech parts.
I move over to the Scyther’s machine. I flip down my visor and get my bike to run a deep scan. What the hell? I flick a quick n-comm confirmation to my bike. My bike coos in agreement. While the guts of the machine and its outer covering are mostly spread around me, the basic architecture of the vehicle’s still whole. This is damn interesting, but it can wait. I need to start looking for Mikey.
I needn’t have bothered.
“Christ, Keeper. You call this a search and rescue?”
The rig-rat clambers over the rubble. She stands on the edge of the depression and wrinkles her nose in disgust.
“And what the hell’s that smell?”
I wish I had more Mikey-free minutes to get my thoughts together and get a plan going, but this, along with most of my wishes, has not been granted.
“Shit, it smells like someone cooked rotten meat in used machine oil. It stinks.”
I raise my eyebrows. A nice description.
“You OK?” I ask.
Mikey does a less-than-elegant pirouette, but her point’s clear. She’s on the grungy side, but nothing major’s broken.
“Get over here and take a look at this,” I order.
Mikey scrambles over the broken building and moves alongside. She looks down at the light shard–blasted vehicle.
“Is that what it was riding?”
“Yep. Notice anything strange about it?”
She takes a closer look, and her brow crinkles in concentration. She pulls out a pair of gloves from one of her many pockets and slips them on. They look to be asbestos lined. Good, given the heat coming off the frame. She crouches, glances up and gives me the “May I?” look. I respond with the “Go ahead” nod, and she gets stuck in.
Mikey plunges her hands into the vehicle, and soon she’s elbow deep in Scyther machinery. A brief memory of Dwayne doing something similar flares into my mind. He must’ve trained her. She looks completely at home doing this. There’s nothing better across time and space than a depot-born rig-rat when it comes to taking technology apart. Soon she’s depositing Scyther components at my feet. This shouldn’t be happening. Sure you can move the basic parts around on a Scyther bike, but these vehicles are future made and can’t just be pulled apart by hand. Maybe the explosion rattled stuff free.
Mikey grunts and wipes away the sweat on her forehead. She looks happy. My bike makes the pigeon noise again. I’m feeling left out.
“So what do you think?” I ask.
She looks me straight in the eye. “What do you think, Keeper?”
Ah, great. Getting tested by a teenager.
“I think it’s wrong.” I know what the problem is, but I want her to tell me.
“Let me ask you something,” she says.
“Your ride. Your bike—it’s got reflexive morphology tech, right?”
“Sure, re-morph’s standard issue.”
“So you adapt to different eras, different times.”
“Right. When we cascade in, my ride and suit automatically change. We’re supposed to fit in.”
“And Scythers have similar tech?”
She’s good. She knows what the problem is. And she got this from rooting around in the busted-up Scyther bike. I had to get confirmation from my ride before I was sure.
“Same basic principles, as far as we can tell.”
“Then this ride’s fucked up.”
“Is that a technical term they teach you in rig-rat school?”
“No, no. It’s all messed up: different tech from different times. Noncompatible, or should be noncompatible,” she answers, shuffling her feet.
“This crap here,” she kicks at the pieces on the rubble in front of me, “doesn’t belong with this crap here.” She kicks the Scyther bike for emphasis.
“So how did it work?” I ask.
“Beats the hell out of me. It shouldn’t have even moved, let alone shoot.”
I grunt in affirmation. Dwayne has taught her well.
“Did your pa teach you this?”
“Dwayne?” she says, giving me a look of curiosity. “Mostly, but he’s not my dad.”
“But he said . . . ,” I start.
“Let me guess,” she interrupts. “He said something like ‘that’s what her mother told me.’ Christ, Keeper, were you born yesterday?”
I take the hit like a man. Fuel depots, communities, religio-groupings, the whole lot of them are tight as hell, and the chances of me or any Keeper getting straight information out of them is impossible. I know this. I don’t give a shit that Dwayne has fed me a line, but this is new information, and it may be relevant. It may be connected with why the Scyther was chasing her.
I take a look around. Being in the open’s not a safe place to be. Time eddies and other nasty shit don’t shut down for the night. The question of who her real dad is can be left for later. The plan for now is to get bedded down.
“Yeah, OK, right. We’ve got to get you saddled up and find somewhere to camp.”
I go to infrared and scan the surrounds. The glowing remains of Scyther machinery make it tough to locate the ATV horror Mikey rides, but my bike spots it tucked around a still-standing corner of the heavily damaged building. Good. It looks functional. I pop open a compartment on my ride, reach in, and throw her a heavy lead-lined, all-purpose bag.
“What do I do with this?” she questions.
“Pick up as many different chunks of machinery as you can. From different time eras.”
“And your ride’s around the corner. Stick the bag in the sidecar and meet me over there.” I point at a solid-looking building.
“Why can’t you do it?”
“Because I don’t want my man parts anywhere near that Scyther shit.”
I slowly tool off toward the designated building. Maybe I should’ve mentioned that a Keeper’s exo-armor is impervious to radiation. Nah, probably not. She already has so much to process.