Donny’s Donuts was on fire. The flames seemed to be emanating from the kitchen and some kind of blast had blown out the windows. Lucky happened to be passing by and he realized this was a chance to grab some complex carbs for his ever-hungry group of friends. Armed as ever with his recurve bow, he approached carefully, worried that the noise might draw CyMS or other dangers.
Walking home from work, eating an apple. Nice weather. Warm, no clouds. Tough shift at the hospital. Didn’t sit down all day. Really need a good sleep tonight. Oh, at least my coms implant updated …
I’m a secret agent on a secret mission. I have to get the package to the top of the building; then I can escape on the helicopter. The package is in my hand. Can’t let go.
‘That’s close enough,’ said one of the guards when they were within ten feet. The trio stopped and Gadget spoke up.
‘We’re here to trade. We need some trans-lithium Mark Five power cells by Excelsior Power.’
‘Haven’t seen you three around here before.’
‘We live some distance away but we heard about the store. We’re unarmed.’
Rose Lin – aka ‘Lady Rose’ – thought her crew had done a decent job of transforming a SUPER BUYS storeroom into an office. She took care not to spend too much time in one location and it was always useful to have another secure meeting place. As well as a large mahogany desk and numerous chairs, the office was furnished with a state-of-the-art computer and a few potted plants (all fake). The other essential she had insisted on was a small but well-equipped bar. Lady Rose only drank Taiwanese whiskey. She poured herself a good measure, added some ice, then sat behind the desk. It was to be a busy night and she wondered which of her subordinates would arrive first.
Walter awoke to the sound of Jugger’s roar. He swung down from the branch he’d been sleeping on and dropped to the ground. Even though he could now sleep anywhere in the zoo, he liked his old home in the ape house, especially the outside section. Looking at the sky, he reckoned the sun hadn’t been up long. He expected Jugger wanted him to do something; she usually did.
Jane knew she had to leave.
It wasn’t just because she felt sure her owner, Howard, wasn’t coming back; something had changed and she felt different now. Though she’d spent much of the last few weeks inside the house, she had also patrolled along the walls, watching what was going on. She had seen many of the human craft with flashing lights; and many people wearing green and black carrying weapons. She had also seen others fighting and three different groups trying to get into the house. But Howard had always been careful to keep it very safe: the walls were high and the doors were strong.
Fei had to search three cabinets before she found it. With the metal drawer open, the narrow beam of the flashlight illuminated a black, rectangular object that looked very much like a DNA drive. But Fei had memorised the images Lady Rose had sent and she knew what this was. By lifting the object and clicking a button hidden within a cavity, she activated the prototype
The animals had decided that they needed to keep watch. It made sense that Howl and Athena – with their exceptional eyesight – should guard them during the night. On this particular night, Howl took the first watch. He sat on a small hill above where the other animals slept, close to Jugger’s enclosure. Before the Awakening and all the humans had left, the hill was a place where they gathered at tables to sit and eat food. To keep himself awake, Howl would regularly lope around to get different views of the area. His eyes were so good that he could occasionally even make out the humans far beyond the zoo.
It was a shock but not a surprise.
Nikki had observed an increasing number of helicopters in the skies above San Lazaro since the crisis had started. Every day there were more of them: police and army choppers, hired transports, private birds. She reckoned it was only a matter of time before a collision occurred. When it did, it happened only a block away.
Bob wasn’t quite sure what to do with his freedom. It had taken a day and a night for him to realize his handlers weren’t coming back. He’d always wondered if he could just reach through the bars, grab the key from the hook with his special paw, put the key in the lock and turn it. It was easy. Everything seemed easier now for some reason. In fact, over the last few days he’d even been able to understand what the handlers were discussing. He knew that something was very, very wrong.
Jugger knew things were different. Before the Awakening, she understood almost nothing of what her handler said. She had three handlers actually, but was most fond of Annie, who’d been there from the beginning. Before the Awakening, she hadn’t even known Annie’s name but now everything was a lot clearer.
‘Any more planes this morning?’ asked Aunt Grace as she entered the kitchen.
Jenny was sitting at the window, an untouched mug of coffee in front of her. The ninth-floor apartment gave them a good view over San Lazaro and she had counted at least thirty different military aircraft during the previous day.
‘Not today. Quiet.’
Rose sat beside the accountant, watching as the man’s eyes scanned the rows of numbers on the screen. The secret rooms below Chen Office Supplies were large and luxurious but they had never quite managed to rid the underground chambers of a dank smell. Rose didn’t enjoy spending time here but it was a highly secure location. She felt like asking the accountant if he was close to finishing but she’d already done so twice and there was no sense hurrying the man. This had to be done right.
It was Thug’s turn for guard duty at Auto Technology Solutions. Second shift had just started, and he’d agreed to cover for Lucky, who was making a run to the homeless shelter.
The afternoon sun cast a warm glow over the city, as dirty and messed up as it was. Thug didn’t even look at the buildings. He was too busy appreciating the sky over his head; a beautiful sight he had rarely seen while behind bars. Ten whole years had gone by, and the entire city had changed.
Lance was one of the last people to leave the Blue Sky Hotel. In the immediate aftermath of the outbreak, most of the guests and staff had departed. Lance could understand the panic but he had every confidence in the authorities to get the situation under control. It soon became evident that might take some time; and by then the airport was closed.
The trucks stopped at the crossroads. Corporal Karina Ivanova - known as ‘Bolt’ on account of her love for sniper rifles – was one of the last out. It had been a bumpy ride; the truck was no military vehicle but some rusty heap ready for the scrapyard. Her unit had only been in San Lazaro for twenty-four hours and there wasn’t enough transportation to move them all.