Previous Story: 8. A Walk in the Park
The apartment block wasn’t far from the Aureus Gate Bridge. Gadget pulled up in front of it and jumped out of his pick-up. The Wade Warrior 5X had served him well; very low-maintenance and reliable. With his trusty Browning rifle over his shoulder, Gadget looked up at the second floor. Denny has obviously heard the engine because he appeared immediately on the balcony, first waving then pointing downward. While he waited, Gadget took his toolbox from the pick-up then looked around. The street was strewn with wrecked cars, rubble and the detritus of several battles. He was surprised that Denny had been able to survive here for so long. As far as he knew, most of this area has been stripped bare and there would inevitably be some Crazies lurking around.
When Denny emerged from the front door, Gadget could see others in the shadows behind him. They were quick to pull the door shut and replace whatever barricades they had in place.
‘Thanks for coming, man,’ said Denny as they shook hands. ‘Really appreciate this.’
‘No problem but let’s get going. Not much light left.’
‘I hear you. Come on, it’s round the back.’
Denny was armed with a baseball bat and still wore his faded NYC cap. Gadget reckoned it had been eight years since they’d first met. Back then, Denny was a street kid running with a bad crew and in serious danger of not making his eighteenth birthday. Gadget had given him a few shifts at ATS and helped him pass a data entry course. Denny had eventually secured a post with Amari Electro and built his life from there. Both lovers of whisky, they had celebrated the job by sharing a bottle of Jack Daniels. Gadget had heard nothing from his friend in years until the previous day.
Denny had braved the streets alone to visit ATS and ask his old mentor for help. The area had simply become too dangerous; Denny had to get his family out.
Behind the apartment building was a row of lock-ups. Denny swiftly unlocked one and opened it. Inside was a Yu-Long Comfort sedan.
‘Battery seems okay but it just won’t start.’
‘Okay, let’s see what we can do.’
As it turned out, the problem was a fried control hub. Gadget didn’t have a direct replacement in his box but he did have a hub for a different Yu-Long which he could adapt. Denny stood guard while Gadget worked. It was a complex, delicate job and by the time he finished, he needed a flashlight to see his way. But once he’d fixed the hub and reset the Yu-Long’s master system, the car started first time. Gadget tested it once more than turned the engine off to avoid attracting anyone – or anything.
‘Full tank. How many of you?’
‘Six. My wife and daughter plus my sister and her two boys.’
‘I’ll give you ten minutes then drive this around to the front. We need to be quick. Very quick.’
‘I know. Thanks, Gadget.’
‘Thank me later.’
In fact, they all thanked him. Gadget was grateful but he didn’t take his eyes off the southern end of the street. He was crouching behind the door of his pick-up, rifle at the ready. He had somehow forgotten to bring his night-vision goggles but he knew what the dots of green light were: looters equipped with optical implants. They could see everything: including the fact that they faced only one gun and the valuable prospect of two working vehicles.
Fortunately, Denny’s car was behind his and the other five were now safely inside. Denny hurried forward and placed a hand on Gadget’s shoulder.
‘Big trouble. Just go. I’ll cover you.’
‘Gadget, I don’t know how to-’
‘Just go, kid. Stay away from the bridge. There’s a bunch of Crazies in the middle of it.’
‘Got it. Bye, man. And thanks.’
With a last slap on his mentor’s shoulder, Denny departed. Once the sound of his car had faded, Gadget readied himself to leave. He took a last look along the street and realised there were at least six of them, advancing towards him, using the wrecks as cover. The closest was within a hundred feet.
The green color meant the implants were third generation: even the truck’s headlights wouldn’t disrupt them. Gadget got into the pick-up and pulled the door shut, staying as low as he could. A second after he started the engine, a bullet shattered the windshield. Knowing the area immediately behind him was clear he selected reverse and accelerated backwards. Throwing the pick-up into a neat turn, he kept his head down as bullets peppered the vehicle.
But once he was away, the firing stopped. The looters knew they couldn’t get him now and they didn’t want to waste their bullets.
He hadn’t gone far when he noticed a weight in his jacket pocket. Reaching inside, he immediately realised that Denny had put it there. Gadget grinned; he didn’t need a light to know what it was.
A miniature bottle: Jack Daniels.
Next Story: 10 - A Plan to Survive