Episode 2 Scene 4
“Get up, sunshine.”
I give Mikey a poke in the ribs with my boot, and she groans and opens an eye. The morning light seeps through the busted windows of the building. It’s weak after refracting through the protective curtain a hundred yards or so away. I stare at the curtain’s shimmering surface. The buildings inside the dome are still beating their syncopated rhythm, and trying to focus on them is making my brain ache. I give a firmer shove with my boot, and the other eye rolls open.
“Jeez, all right, already,” she moans. “I just got to sleep.”
I know what she means. Through the night my bike’s proximity detector kept blaring every five minutes. The time eddies have been crazy. Probably something to do with the Scyther going boom. But there’s nothing I can do about it.
“You properly fueled up?” I ask.
I walk over to her ATV/sidecar combo and lift the cover. I take out a can of gas and roll it in the direction of Mikey. She grumbles, picks it up, and takes care of her ride. I rifle through the contents of the sidecar. Some of the cobbled-together weaponry’s on the useful side. Some of it I can’t identify.
“What the hell’s this?” I ask, holding up a Y-shaped piece of recurved steel with two slots grooved into the divided ends.
She looks over at what I’m holding.
“Unscrew the cap at the bottom.”
I turn it over, give the bottom a twist, and a piece of flexi-wire with a pouch in the middle springs from the hollow space in the handle. I instinctively jump back. She laughs.
“Shit, Mikey! You know what this is?”
Flexi-wire’s one of those dubious gifts from the future. Its basic form’s comprised of nano-thin carbon tubes, and it can slice through anything. Spin these nano tubes together and you get an extremely strong, flexible wire. Hence the name. This wire has a variety of uses, most of them connected with separating one part of the human body from another. It’s truly nasty shit.
I prod at the flexi-wire with my boot. “You got the gloves to go with this crap?”
“In the sidecar.”
I root around in the vehicle until I find the diamond-dust-coated gloves. I slip them on and pick up the wire. There’s a small loop at each end; they match the notches carved into the steel at the top of the Y-shape.
“A slingshot?” I guess.
“Go to the top of the class, Keeper.”
“What the hell does it fire?”
“Anything you can fit in the pouch.”
Christ. Who made this? And how come the wire doesn’t slice through the steel? They make weird shit in fuel depots.
“What’s its range?”
“How far can you see?” she replies.
I laugh. “You ever shot anything with it?”
“Nothing that came back alive.”
I grunt and carefully feed the flexi-wire back into the base of the Y-shaped steel. Even with the diamond-dust gloves it requires careful handling.
“Where did you get this from?”
“The wire? Trade probably.”
Fuel depots by their nature are trade entities. And trade entities like to do business. But cascading up and down the line brings with it clear currency difficulties. Providing fuel across a variety of eras means barter’s now the primary system to grease the wheels of commerce. Still, bartering batteries for fuel pales against getting flexi-wire. What had Dwayne swapped to get this?
I put the weapon back into the sidecar and grab a food pod. I’m starving. I rip open the top and take a sniff. It smells like crap, but it’s better than the dead Scyther smell that’s wafting through the smashed windows. I should’ve picked a building farther away. I take a knife and give the paste inside the pod an exploratory jab. It doesn’t react, so it’s not an aggressive food form. It may even be something from this era. The shit that passes for food up the line can get agitated if you don’t give it enough respect.
I throw the pod over to Mikey. She sniffs, smiles, and gets stuck in. Rig-rats have digestive systems that make real rats envious. I grab another pod and go through the same routine. It tastes like refried shit. Reminds me of the crap they served in the army.
“So, Keeper. What does today bring? Hard to beat blowing up a Scyther.”
“Getting out of Sync City.”
We’ve been here too long, and the influx of time eddies is becoming a real issue.
“And heading to HQ. The Deacons seem to want you.”
My bike gives a warble. Another time eddy. The whole area’s rife with them. It can’t just be the Scyther I got yesterday. I’ve killed Scythers near the temporal sink before and nothing like this happened. I focus and commence a full n-comm link to my ride. I need to find a way out. My world opens up. I search for a way through this mess, a way through the maze of eddies.
“What are you doing?” interrupts Mikey before I complete my search.
“What?” I mumble. I’m still n-linked to my ride and concentrating on finding a way out.
“Why are you making that face?”
“The one that looks like you haven’t had a shit for two weeks.”
Christ, teenagers. “I’m talking to my bike.”
“Oh,” she says. “Maybe it hasn’t had a shit for two weeks.”
See what I mean?
“I’m getting us out of here,” I try.
“Good. That Scyther smell’s really getting to me.”
Shit. I sigh and resume my n-link. My mind again opens up. The nearby curtain shimmers and flares in the high-resolution search. Shit. Even a Scyther would be good news now. Anything to get me away from this conversation.