Friday, August 17, 2012

The Pallbearer: Honeymoon Blues Part 1


The walls of my new junkyard district were overrun with refugees. They were rats fleeing a sinking ship for another one that had only begun its descent. Bellmaker’s Errata were almost back to full strength with only two hundred memory chips left to implant into a functioning robot but it wasn’t enough. Even up to the original six thousand they had been before West Worthington’s purges, they had to stop all construction in order to simply monitor the tide of immigrants. Alithea and her mate Nar had their thousands working to try and build shelters for themselves AND the refugees. They too were swamped under our new popularity. That was something to this empire running that I hadn’t considered.

That people would want in.

Martin’s shadow army was continuing to tirelessly toil at clearing miles of garbage to give room for villages Alithea’s Gray Pack were building. I was doing what I hated the most; planning.

Bellmaker had a map of the district up in front of us as we sat around a large banquet table. Landon, Grendel, and Cassie had joined us. Alithea, wisely, had put her faith in us to provide them with adequate space.

“We’re making great progress on establishing areas for housing in these sectors Neil, but we are still lacking appropriate space for the refugees coming it. Our forces are setting up temporary camp for them before letting them move on to villages with adequate shelter, running water, and waste facilities. Other improvements we’ve been willing to let them help construct, but threat of disease is too high to allow any base city-building areas. For starting from scratch, we’re doing alright but we have to start considering population limits.”

As he talked, I stared at the little red flags he was stabbing into the map surface. Villages? City-building? We had formed this damn district less than a week ago at our wedding. How in the hell was it that we were already talking about limits? Cassie started talking as I continued to stare at the little red flags, lost as to the scope of people that had to be scrabbling over the district walls.

“That’s all well and good to say but what are we actually able to do about it right now? Our walls are just walls. It isn’t like we’re Gravesite with mounted defenses that we could shut down the perimeter when we want to. We need some way to funnel people appropriately without leaving ourselves a target for Corp retaliation.”

“I concur. I was considering creating three main checkpoints: here, here, here, and here.” Bellmaker stabbed four little green flags into the map now, one at each side of the district. However, our biggest influx of refugees is coming from Judge territory to the south. They are also the greatest security risk.”

Green and red flags? Was this Christmas? Now Grendel was talking. What was going on now?

“That’s just stupid. Why even accept them? Who knows how many of them will be bomb-toting repentant working for the friggin’ fish?”

“We’re working on emitters to cut off the detonation signal to the internal bombs. Contrary to popular opinion, it appears most of them don’t like the idea of dying for the Judges. They’d much rather live and have a few new stitches in them. We can’t guarantee anything though, you are right about that. We’re considering segregating them out from the rest of the population centers in order to monitor their sincerity. All of these people are coming from homes that have plenty of electrical appliances and will have to deal with cooking over a fire for some time. Landon’s cooperative force that struck the hydroponics plant at Point Heston found everything Neil said they would. We will have enough food for the Gray Pack, for Martin, and for everyone in this room to sustain themselves comfortably. Two more organized strikes should get us through the initial wave of refugees. After that, we’re going to have start building our own plant and relying on crops grown from the seeds Alithea’s people brought with them.”

“Build our own? I know you machines are good, but I don’t know if you’re good enough to just up and build a hydro-p plant out of garbage. This is sounding harder and harder to do by the second.”

Red flags. Green flags. Oh shit, there’s a blue flag. What’s that? It’s Bellmaker’s proposed hydroponics plant, isn’t it? Now the yellows are? Ammunition? Guard towers? Something to do with guns. Guns. We need to arm the Sleepers. No, we don’t. Yes, we do. They’ll turn on us. They’re indebted to us. Corp movement, nil. Judge movement, nil. Must be planning something big. Have to close off the east tunnel. Stop more Sleepers from pouring in. No resources. Yes resources.

I slammed my fist down on the table. Cassie cringed, Grendel stepped back, and Bellmaker titled his head to look at me. Only Landon hadn’t reacted. He was too busy trying to figure out the damn flags and map and pins and colors and nonsense.

“I’m leaving in the morning, heading east with my Brute. Bellmaker, you’ll be in charge. Landon, Grendel, you two will be his personal guard. Grendel, I don’t want to hear that you once said no to Bellmaker when given an order or I’ll make you wish you had bled to death on the Black Dragon Express. That said, keep challenging his orders. He thinks fast but his conclusions only work if he’s informed. Make sure he stays that way.”

Cassie’s hand was on her hip.

“Why, where are you going?”

“We going.”

“Fine, where are we going?”

“On our honeymoon.”

“Honeymoon? In the middle of this mess, are you out of your damn mind Neil?”

“Yes, I am. I’m also out of patience. We’re going east.”

“To the tunnel?”

“Yeah, I’ve wanted to have a look outside the wall for years. Seems like now is as good a time as any.”

The voices dried up and stopped their constant dripping. Even the welding sparks and grinding gears beneath our feet in the workshops below seemed to fade.

“We’re going outside?”

“Yep. I want to see if Thanatos I and II left everything a desert like they say or if we’ve actually got some decent growth out there. I want some questions answered. I want to know why The Sleepers want in so badly. I talked to Alithea about it. She doesn’t know either. Their leaders, The Somnubi sent out a call for all of the newly made Sleepers to converge on this city within months of them being created. Some of her Gray Pack came from as far north as Alaska and as far south as the southern tip of Argentina. Just so they could attack a walled off rectangle in the middle of the U.S.A. Why? Why in the hell would anyone care that much about killing us when they’ve already got the whole world.”

“…unless they don’t have the whole world. Is that what you’re thinking?”

I nodded. That was why I loved Cassie. Even when I had been strapped into the control system of that Fafnir helicopter, she could still read my thoughts.

“This city’s dying. I’ve been saying that for years. We’ve been assuming that the rest of the world is dead or dying too. Maybe it isn’t. Maybe there’s something else going on out there that The Sleepers and The Judges and The Corps don’t want us to know about. I want to know for certain.”

I was quiet for moment.

“Besides that… I want to kill something. I want to kill something really, really bad right now. Just looking at Bellmaker’s map is making St. George itchy.”

Cassie and Landon laughed out loud as Bellmaker started wringing his chromed hands.

“And to think, I’ve been slaving over this map all day. Fine then, go on your little escapade. I know when I’m not appreciated.”

Bellmaker shuttered his left eye open and closed in a wink.

“We’ll hold down the fort. You two go get yourself a honeymoon. When you get back, I promise, we’ll have more things for you to kill.”

I felt the grin spread across my face like a blush spreading across your cheeks.

“Now you’re talking.”

No comments:

Post a Comment