Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Writing Wednesdays: The Reformed 1.5

Sorry for the delay between posts for the story.  The previous five parts are available here.  In quick summary, Sienne, a zeta, has been captured and experimented on.  Meanwhile (though not literally on the same time scale), Kent Andrews has different views on Reformation than his wife, Dr. Chloe Andrews.  Thanks for reading.

June 10, 2021
Kallie’d be proud.  Or something like that.  Those were the last words he’d spoken to Chloe.  Almost two months ago, right after she found out about his afternoon excursions.  He’d been pushing his time later and later, knowing one day he’d be discovered.  Deep down, he wanted her to know what he was doing.
    “I can’t believe you would do that, Kenneth.  Those things are people for Christ’s sakes, not some game sport.  Have you not listened to any of the confessions from the betas?”
    “Yeah, I’ve listened, and that convinces me even more.  They’re not people,” he’d said.  “They’re monsters and they deserve to die.  Look around.  Look at the mess they’ve caused.  Don’t you remember the world before they came?”
    “Of course I remember, but that’s not the point.  Despite what you think they’re still humans.  The things my patients tell me.  They don’t comprehend what they’re doing.  They’re just sick, but the beta-ion solution reverses the disease.  It changes them back to what they were.  It’s not their fault they got infected.”
    “It’s their fault that she’s dead.”  Chloe’s mouth hung open in hurt.  “And here you are trying to help the very things that killed our daughter.  Well congratulations Dr. Andrews.  You’ve helped change the world.  Kallie’d be proud.”
    She slammed the door in his face.  He packed a few essentials and left and hadn’t seen her since.  But here he was, standing in the deep shadows of dusk in front of his apartment door.  Some part of him wanted to go in and let her know that he was leaving town, that he probably wouldn’t make it back alive.  He wanted to apologize one last time for losing Kallie to the horde.  But he wanted her apology, too.  He wanted her to be sorry for helping the monsters, for changing them.  He knew it would never happen, just like he would never change his opinion on the matter.
    He pulled out the letter he’d written, kissed the paper, and slid it under the door.
    “Good luck, Chloe,” he said, barely a whisper.  And then he was gone.

    “So.  Where we headed first?”  
    Kent stared at the boy like he’d lost his mind.  They hadn’t been on the road half an hour and already he was getting annoyed.  What did he expect, travelling with a boy just out of his teen years?  “You know where we’re going, Michael.”
    “I told you it’s Mercury now.  Michael was pre-zetas.”
    Kent rolled his eyes.  “Whatever.”
    They were moving down the highway, south on rural roads that lacked the mounds of abandoned vehicles major roads were littered with.  He knew that some CRC jobs involved cleaning up the highways, creating routes for trade between other known city-states, but he didn’t know how much clean up had been done.  The closest known refuge, the Omaha Reserve, took less than a day of travel, north until I-80, then it was a straight shot.  Farther away was the haven in Louisville, right on the Ohio River.  Neo Louisville, some called it.
    Kent hadn’t been to Louisville in a long time.  A junior in college at the time, he and some friends decided to drive to Churchill Downs and watch the Derby.  What was the horses name that won?  Big Brown?  The Downs was packed with its usual celebrities and race enthusiasts.  A festive air buzzed all throughout the track and grounds, charging everyone with wild energy.  Or maybe it was the mint juleps.  Kent stood down in the infield and watched the races with half-a-care.  He was more interested in the redheaded sophomore that had been flirting with him on the drive down.  Chloe.
    “Look man.  I know this ain’t no picnic for you.  My dad’s a pretty tough guy to work for, so I understand your reluctance.  But I’m not my dad.  I’m Mercury Clark, and I’m just trying to make this trip as painless as possible.”
    Kent weighed the words.  Maybe he had been too hard on the boy.  It wasn’t his fault that he got the sharp end of Kent’s jaded attitude.  “Alright, Mercury.  Fine.  But you’ve got to listen to everything I say.  You got that?”
    The kid’s eyes widened.  “Yeah, no problem.”
    “I mean it.  Out here, it’s not like it was back in the Hub.  We’re never safe.  There’s no fortifications or military to take care of the zetas.  It’s just you and me and whatever we have at our disposal.  Have you ever even seen one of them up close?”
    “Not really.  Just through the fences when they wander too close.  I’ve seen plenty betas, though.”
    Kent snorted.  “Betas are nothing like the wild ones.  Betas may still look like ‘em, but they don’t lunge for your throat and the taste of warm blood.  They don’t catch a whiff of flesh and follow you until one of you is dead.  Zetas are dangerous, kid.  They’ll kill you before you even know what’s happening, if you’re lucky.”
    He was talking like he had experience.  Like he spent more time outside the walls than within.  True, he had logged plenty of time hunting, hours up in trees or building snares or laying traps.  But distance-wise, he’d never been more than a few miles away from the walls at any time.  This was as new to him as it was for Michael.  No.  Mercury.
    The spare tank of gas sitting in the back floorboard was giving him a headache.  The windows were all down, but the odor still clung to the interior.  In the early summer humidity, the fumes were thick and heavy, clinging to the seat covers like dew on morning grass. 
     He scanned the sides of the road.  If not for the discarded vehicles, the wide-open doors, the broken windows, the lack of movement, everything would look almost normal.  But it wasn’t.  It was as far from normal as Kent could imagine.
     A flicker ahead caught his eyes.  Walking slowly down the sidewalk of whatever podunk town they were in (Grafton?) was a zeta.  Alone and oblivious, the thing moved at a pace slower than a crawl.
     An idea began creeping its way in.  Kent dropped his speed.
     “Look up ahead,” he said, nodding off to the right.  His voice was a whisper.
     Mercury squinted.  Gasped.  “It’s...”
     “Shh!  I know what it is!  But you’ve never seen one, a real one, so I thought we could get you some real life experience.”
     Kent couldn’t tell if the kid’s face was terrified or excited.  He licked his lips.  “Okay.  What do I need to do?”
     “I’ll show you,” he said, his appetite whetted.


Jay Belt said...

Good entry, I've been missing them over the past couple weeks. Glad you shared more. I liked reading the dynamic of Kent in this section. Can't wait to read further on it.

logankstewart said...

@Jay: Thank you. My writing time has greatly slacked off. Life's just got suddenly very hectic, and writing's suffering. Still, glad you liked it, and hopefully I can maintain a relatively normal publication up on the blog.