Operation Hide and Seek pt. 4

Drey pulled into the back lot of Kitty’s Coffee and powered down the Pursuer. Friday night, the place was packed. Not the public place, of course. That would be foolish – nothing broke up a party like the authorities. The basement though, where things were a little more hidden and a lot more relaxed, was where the action happened. Drey palmed in her biometrics and entered the Breaker underground.

A blast of smell, sound, and light greeted Drey as she entered. Drey maneuvered through the converted storeroom and the crowd, toward a table in the back where a lively card game was going on. She hooked an empty chair with her foot and swung it around to join the table.

“Deal me in Jack, double or nothing,” she said. The dealer gathered his cards quickly out of her reach.

“No deal Drey, You cheat too easy,” Jack said. Drey smirked, grabbed four cards from the top of the deck, and flipped them over to reveal four aces.

“You just make a rotten dealer.” She tossed the cards back at him and they landed as a king, two fours, and a seven.

“I didn’t think you were still in town,” Tommy, sitting across the table, said.

“I got a steady job now, bring in what I can for the cause,” Drey replied.

“Yeah, and we spend it all on booze,” Kirsten said as she drained a bottle of Coors Light. Drey shook her head, smirking.

“And to think – an outstanding citizen such as myself supporting a bunch of lowlife money grabbers.”

“Speaking of which, you owe me two hundred Tommy,” Jack said. Tommy grimaced as he dug a handful of cash from his pocket.  The card game started back up, people making bids and bluffing money nobody really had. Kirsten tossed her losing hand down on the table with finality.

“I still suck at cards. By the way Drey, Danny’s sick, and we could use a gunner on mission tomorrow if you’re missing action,” Kirsten said.

“You know me, I’m not much of a team player,” Drey answered.

“Me and the boys aren’t much of a team.” Kirsten popped the top off of another beer. Drey laughed as she reached for the neon blue electric guitar which was leaning against the wall.

“If this is another attempt to get me laid, no. Out of curiosity though, where are you headed?”

“Out towards Boulder. Byte has us running a mark down to San Antonio,” Kirsten answered.

Drey nodded absently, busy tuning her guitar. It was always a little sour on the e. She strummed a couple of cords, adjusting the volume and distortion on her amp.

“Play Freebird!” A random voice from the other side of the road called. She probably knew him, but didn’t feel like coming up with a name.

“Kirsten, are you going to play or not? I was beating you,” Tommy said.

Kirsten turned back to the game. “Deal us Jack, I need to teach the pup a lesson.”

“I’ll run interference if you need it Kirs, but I’m not leaving the state,” Drey said. She started strumming, playing with the distortion because she could. She played a couple of scales, then launched into a full-blown rendition of her own take on the cover of an old eighties song.

In a different time she might have sung, making up words to fit the notes that flowed from her fingers, but not tonight. Instead Drey played, taking requests when she knew the song, playing to someone’s voice when she had a singer. It was fun, especially when people started to feel generous and left money in her jar.

Eventually the night grew stale. People wandered off, left singly or in groups through the secret ways, people with something to hide and everything to lose if the wrong people saw them at the wrong time. Drey eventually hung up her guitar. When she turned around Blaze Hopkins was waiting.

“I thought you swore never to come back,” Drey told him.

“Byte sent me. It’s about Meg,” Blaze said. His hands were in his coat pockets as usual, his stance was keyed up, the way it always was, his voice caught when he said “Meg,” the way it had ever since everything had fallen apart.

“Meet me outside.” Drey turned back to the guitar to hide how much her hands were shaking.

Operation Hide and Seek pt. 3

Ryan fired one last shot and the mother ship exploded into pixelated wreckage. He smiled. Somehow that was still ridiculously satisfying. Meg used to get so annoyed by the old eight-bit style, but there was something about the blatant unreality of it. In a world where the lines blurred, eight-bit seemed like one of the few honest programs left. Still, they’d had some violent arguments about it – each twin dedicated to their own views. Meg, always dedicated to making things better. Himself, wondering if they’d already reached the best at some point in the past and foolishly lost it. The world was spinning out of control, a repeat of history – of a history where the only end had ever been blood. Right and wrong… maybe Meg was right, maybe it would be better just to let Management have final control. Maybe utopia was worth everything Management and Facility had done. Were doing.

Ryan sat back and attempted to rub the thought out of his head. He knew better. Maybe. Utopia always ended badly in the books, but maybe Hobbes was right and peace was better than liberty. Maybe real life was different from the books, maybe people really didn’t care about freedom, not really. Management did provide safety – freedom from war, crime, hunger, illness… did he have a right to destroy all that like some toddler knocking down a block tower?

“Dear God.” Ryan powered off the computer. The room was thrust into pitch black. Light wouldn’t come on till six thirty am. The start of another day in hell. “Dear God, why can’t things be simple?” Like the thousand times he’d prayed that line before, there was no answer.

 

It was late when Megan finally left the lab – probably close to 1 AM. And in the end she only left because she ran out of coffee and was having trouble keeping her mind focused. She half ran the two blocks to the staff apartment complex, her coat wrapped tight around her against the cold. The apartment wasn’t much better – her roommate must be half polar bear. The psych expert was sprawled across the couch, a blanket mostly sliding on the floor. Megan dumped her coat, kicked off her shoes, flipped on the light in the kitchen and searched the fridge in the vain hope that there was something edible inside. Only two half-empty bottles of beer and a week-old takeout carton filled with something unidentifiable. Megan chugged one of the beer bottles simply to keep Dr. Becky Summers PHD from it and headed for the bathroom.

“You’re late again,” Becky said. Meg glanced in the mirror to see Becky sitting up on the couch, blanket wrapped around her, staring bleary-eyed. “You keep doing this I’ll have to send in a report.”

“I’ll be useless on drugs and Management knows it.” Megan leaned toward the mirror to ensure that each tooth was brushed with the greatest care.

“Well if you’d talk to me maybe we could work out your latent inferiority complex.”

“I’m tired. I am going to bed. Good night.” Megan shoved her way out of the bathroom. Becky attempted to follow her into the bedroom, but Megan slammed the door and locked it.

“Latent inferiority complex my foot,” Megan mumbled under her breath as she dug through her hamper for something vaguely clean. She knew exactly what was wrong with her, and there was no way she’d ever tell some stuck-up half-drunk so-called expert. No, the problem was Ryan – nobody else could get under her skin like her twin brother could. Why did he have to be the special one? The one with a power she’d practically kill for? He could do this crazy cyber-space manipulation thing, and all she had was a brain that wouldn’t shut up. She couldn’t keep up with people like him. She had tried the whole “I’m practically Batman, I don’t need superpowers” thing, and it had nearly gotten her friends killed. Friends who were infinitely more powerful than she was. No, this chance to do science at a real lab, where her ideas could actually be recognized, was much better.

Megan flopped into bed and stared at the pills that lay on her bedside table. They’d put her out for at least eight hours, which put her at… 10am wake up time.

“Its the weekend.” Meg downed the sleeping pills and flopped back under her covers.