The Hungry Donuts store 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.
‘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.
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.
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.’
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.
Sergiy Vovk had been stuck in the building for a day and a night. After a fruitless search for an old friend, he’d been forced to seek refuge when he encountered the largest group of Crazies seen yet. Most of the apartments in the building had been locked but one had already been broken into and it was here he spent the night (after blocking the door with a couch and a freezer). From his vantage point at the kitchen window, he had a good view of Jackson Avenue and he hadn’t seen a Crazy for half an hour. Time to go.
Looking forward to the weekend, son. Love you, Mom.
Jeff ‘Rhino’ Xu wondered how many times he had read the text message. A hundred? Two hundred? Probably more. He felt embarrassed; ashamed. He was a senior figure in the Red Dragon gang, respected and feared by the criminal fraternity of San Lazaro; and yet here he was, sitting alone, reading the last message he’d received from his parents.
There hadn’t been much time to pack. Flash’s neighborhood had been evacuated by the army two weeks into the crisis and all he had with him was what he’d been able to throw into his car. He’d remembered most of the important stuff: his expensive collection of suits, his 1985 Thorens turntable, his jazz collection and his revolver. He’d also risked a drive down to Republic Square to liberate his drone, which he knew might prove crucial. Fortunately, the skeleton crew on duty had allowed him access to the tech stores. But in his haste, Flash had forgotten to take any spare batteries.
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.
Lucky stood in front of the fifth blockade he’d seen that day: high metal barriers designed to prevent people leaving San Lazaro. But now even the military who had placed them there had withdrawn. People had gone underground. There were rumors of rioting and widespread violence. Food, fuel and medicine were already becoming scarce.