"Where the fuck are you Renegade?" he felt the need to check the time again. "It's 27 minutes past 4 and you're still not back!" he groaned and thumped a fist against the door out of frustration. "If you're not here in-" checks the clock "three minutes I'm gonna have to leave you behind."
Frank really didn't want to leave Hugh behind. If he did he knew that there's be little chance the man would survive another day in Battery City. Already on the news there were reports of a zonerunner intruder. Fun Ghoul rolled his eyes. Of course Renegade wouldn't play it low key; he always had to cause trouble.
Gerard and Hugh had that in common.
Right as the clock flicked over and announced that it was 4:30am Frank heard a thump on the roof of the car. A face grinned upside down, outside the drivers window and scared Frank half to death.
"Miss me?" Renegade batted his eyelids cheekily at Frank. The two had been going out a couple of years back, but the commitment hadn't suited either of them. They had dropped back into an easy friendship since then.
"Not one little bit." Frank sighed in relief as Hugh scrambled into the passenger seat.
"Guess what!" Renegade exclaimed
"You found the photo album!?" Frank squealed, eying the box in his friends hands.
Hugh had to double back mentally. "Urrr yeah that too. But guess what else!"
Frank grabbed the box and was ecstatic to find the other memorabilia piled in there. "You bought back some of our stuff!" He answered.
Renegade rolled his eyes. "No, besides that as well."
Frank paused, holding open an old band poster. "Umm, you secretly found a way to infiltrate BL/ind HQ?"
"Better than that."
"Youuuuuuu killed Korse?"
"Nu-uh, even cooler than that." Hugh grinned like a maniac.
"You found a bottle of coke! God I miss coke..."
Frank flipped through the photo album happily. "Nup, sorry man I'm out of ideas. You're gonna have to tell me."
Hugh wriggled in his seat and giggled. "I think I just fell in love!" he exclaimed gleefully.
Fun Ghoul's jaw dropped a little. He wasn't sure what the appropriate reaction was. In the end he settled for "Dude, you were gone like 12 hours. How could you just.... Find some guy that quickly in Battery City of all places!"
"Mmm well she's not really a guy for starters."
"Oh." Frank had to process this thought heavily. "Not a guy.... But I thought you were... But we... How?"
"Ummm Frank, I'm bi. Not gay." Renegade laughed.
"Ok... you're gonna have to give me a minute here man. This is all a lot to take in." Frank placed the box carefully in the back. "But before we do discuss... your little expedition in Battery and your... findings, we need to get out of here."
"Oh yeah. Well lets going." Renegade stretched out in his seat, joints popping. "Oh man that was a real hike. I vote next time we park closer to our target, because I am exhausted."
Frank chuckled at his friend and started the engine. "Transverse tunnel here we come."
"And then home to the zones..." Renegade murmured falling asleep already.
Fun Ghoul drove the car down the ramp into the abandoned subway that started the city and ended in the heart of the desert. It would be 4 hours before they surfaced at a derelict train station in zone 9. It would be a short 6 months before the tunnel itself was ratted out to Korse, by the most unlikely of people.
Party Poison groaned as he squinted at the thermometer on the wall. The red bar had risen just above 39˚C (102˚F).
"Mikeeeeey." He whined.
"Nggguuuh" His younger brother replied, sprawled across the table with a magazine over his head.
Gerard tried to ruffle his limp, red hair. "It's soooooo effing hot."
"Mmmph." Mikey responded.
"It's not even summer yet and I already think I'm going to melt." He pulled at his sweaty shirt.
"Pffft." His brother didn't seem to mind that Gee was about to spontaneously combust.
"Where's Jet Star?" Party grumbled.
"Imagarrrgerrr." Kobra Kid replied.
"You're gonna have to repeat that one for me."
Mikey swatted the magazine off his face and sat up. "In the garage." He rolled his shoulders and wiped the sweat from his brow. "Him, Bob and Dr. D are trying to sort through all the crap that's in there."
"Lost cause if you ask me." As if on cue there was a loud crash followed by Dr. Deathdefying's booming laughter and Ray's cursing.
"Hmm, when's Frank getting back?" Mikey asked.
"Ummm, if everything went well they'll have left the tunnel 2 hours ago. Should be back here by mid afternoon." Gerard took a swing of warm water.
"I wish there was an easier way to get into Battery City. Hope Frank's made it through the subway without any trouble." Mikey hated it when Frank went on raids without the other Killjoys to back him up.
Gerard shrugged. "He's got Renegade with him. I don't think any drac could get anywhere near those two, especially in the Trans Am."
Mikey was silent for a moment. He couldn't help the thread of worry in his next words. "Hey Gee, do you think that Frank and Renegade.... You know, are getting together again?"
Gerard was surprised and puzzled by the question. "I doubt it Mikes. Frank was telling me last week that he wasn't even sure why they got together in the first place. I think it was just a fuck-and-forget thing they had going." Fun Ghoul hadn't been very open with the others about his relationship with the zonerunner. They respected that and didn't ask any questions. "Why do you ask?"
Mikey chewed his lip. "I just, I'd hate to think that Frank would leave the Killjoys for Renegade."
"Oh Kobra, Fun Ghoul would never leave us. Sure Frank and Renegade are tight friends, but him and us go way back." Gerard sat on the table and put an arm around his brothers scrawny shoulders. "Sure he's known the guy for a couple of years, but we were My Chem before all this bullshit happened. He loves us, we're the only family he's got."
"Mmm." Mikey was saddened by the memories of their former life. "You know, it was our anniversary last week..." he couldn't even bring himself to say her name.
"Yeah I know. I didn't want to say anything, hell I still don't even know what to say to you. I'm sorry." Gee squeezed Mikey's shoulder.
"Nahh don't be. In some ways, I guess I'm kind of glad."
"That they aren't here to see what a mess the world's become."
Gerard pondered over this. "I guess I agree. I'd hate to think of Lyn-z living on the edge like this."
Their melancholy conversation was interrupted when Dr. D wheeled into the room. "Hey boys," he paused when he saw Mikey's red eyes. "You okay there Kobra Kid?"
Mikey sniffed and nodded. "Yeah D, just remembering stuff... people."
D nodded gravely. "Why don't you go help the others make even more of a mess in the garage? I need to have a chat with Party Poison."
Kobra kid nodded and hopped off the table. He was about to walk out of the room when D called back to him. "Mikey?"
"Cheer up, we're working for a better tomorrow. It's all going to work out."
Mikey gave a small smile "Ok D, thanks." and left, leaving Gerard and the doctor alone.
"Everything alright Party?" he asked the man.
Gee sighed, "Yeah, apart from this heat. I swear any second I'm going to melt into a puddle of liquid Killjoy."
"Mmm it's the start of a hot spring. No ones looking forward to what summer will bring"
"What did you want to talk about?"
"Well," Gerard prepped himself for a serious conversation "lately in the zones there's been a fair bit of talk about zonerunners organizing a watch on Battery City. There's been a debate raging amongst The Head of BL/ind. After you guys took out the S/C/A/R/E/C/R/O/W Shrap, there's been a lot of panic among the dracs and BLi officials. You certainly knocked the head off the chicken there."
"Thankyou." Gerard grinned.
"Yeah, well don't get too excited. Cut down one tree and ten more will spring up to take it's place. Korse is the only one left now and the Industry is breathing down his neck to find some replacements asap. We need to keep an eye on their candidates, see what makes them tick."
Gerard groaned. "Can't we just storm Battery City now while their numbers are still down?"
"Well, that's what needs discussing. I've arranged a meeting between you and The Gamblers today, leaders of Britz and Dice, at noon."
"Eh, noon? D I'll die! It's fucking a bazillion degrees out there!" Gerard exclaimed and slumped backwards.
The doctor laughed. "Not my fault Party, they were very insistent that it take place at midday. We may have a common enemy, but the zonerunners of California are far from united. They wont risk an ambush."
Gerard gave a half laugh. "Ambush the heads of Cardz and Dice!? Haha are they kidding? I'd rather take the whole of BL/ind head on with an uncharged raygun than face Harlequin Diamond and Russian Roulette. Their fucking crazy!"
"You sound like a teenage boy worried that the girls next door are going to give him cooties."
"But... but... but..." Gee whined looking out the window at the rising sun.
"Party Poison!" Dr. Deathdefying boomed.
"Fine fine." Gee slung his jacket over his shoulder and donned his mask. "But if that Roulette chic beats me up, you're gonna cop it from my brother."
The doctor just laughed and wheeled towards the broadcast room. "Take the bike Gerard. And don't upset the ladies now."
"Ladies my ass." Gee muttered and stalked into the garage.
"Hey Party, what's happening?" Ray looked up from the engine of an old Corvette. Grease and dirty were smeared across his nose.
"Ugh D's got me on a suicide mission to go see Diamond and Roulette." He dumped his jacket in the drac bike's boot. They had taken the vehicle off a drac they ghosted a couple of weeks back, painted it up and used it for a quick ride. Apart from the Trans Am the motorbikes were the fastest thing in the zones.
Ray tried to stifle a laugh "Oh have fun Gee. I'll be sure to engrave something witty on your gravestone."
"Funny." Gerard retorted and kicked the bike alive. He waved at Mikey and Bob, who were intensely involved in the assembly of a toaster in the corner, before speeding out of the garage.
The sunlight immediately squeezed every last drop of liquid from Gerard's body. He could feel the sweat on his arms and face evaporate almost as soon as it formed. He tossed up putting on his jacket to prevent the sunlight burning his skin, before deciding that he'd be dead from heat exhaustion long before a melanoma got him.
He followed the unmarked road from the diner down to Route Guano and headed towards zone 6. This was the hiding place for the majority of zonerunners in the state. Communities of rebels had sprung up in every corner of it, drawn to the slightly cooler temperature of the valley that zone 6 covered. There was even a small lake at the centre that expanded and shrank with the change of seasons. It was the perfect place to settle a crew, the whole area buzzing with traders and looters. Because of the ridges that ringed it, the people there felt safe from the clutches of BL/ind. Attacks on the community did happen, but the people were well warned by the sentinels placed at each pass through the mountains.
When the first rebels had headed to the deserts to escape the faulty government, it was natural that they had wanted to stick together. And although the system had worked to some extent, Gerard was always wary of making an appearance in zone 6. Corruption and betrayal ran just as strongly there as it did in Battery City, and any zonerunner who found themselves alone in zone 6, learnt quickly that you had to join a crew, or die trying. Strangers were not welcome.
Party Poison however was not a stranger. The Killjoys were one of the first official groups of rebels to form against Better Living Industries and fight back. Tales of the boys escapades reached every ear in the zones sooner or later. Gerard had often found it amusing that no one had made the connection yet between them and My Chemical Romance.
Harlequin Diamond and Russian Roulette were also two notorious gang leaders. The story went that the two had escaped a boarding school together just as the takeover began and had fled the tyrannical masters of the academy. This school was later to be known as the main contributer to the drac population, 93% of students enrolled as officers of BL/ind upon graduation. The school had been a constant source of frustration for rebels as every drac someone ghosted always had a replacement waiting at the academy to fill their shoes. There had been multiple attacks on the institution, but none proved successful.
After his few meetings with the young rebels Gerard had soon learnt that although the girls ran separate crews, they had remained thick friends. This was fortunate, as both had the largest and best trained zonerunner gangs behind them, which would have been horrific enemies of they were not allies. Russian Roulette had the largest crew; her influence reaching to the furthest corners of the state and beyond. There were so many people that worked for her, no one dared speak a word against the young woman or Dice, incase she heard of it. Harlequin Diamond on the other hand, although her crew was not as sizable as her friends, collected the most skilled fighters for Cardz. It was rumored that she herself had trained intensively in martial arts and passed her knowledge on to her carefully selected followers.
It was no secret in America that if you came to California, you answered to The Gamblers.
And yet Gerard wasn't nearly as threatened by the overlords of zone 6 as everyone else. The Killjoys had never managed to pick a fight with either gang, and even if they had, he knew that they wouldn't find him. The location of the Killjoy hideout was a huge mystery to everyone, including BL/ind. The whereabouts of Dice base and the Cardz HQ were common public knowledge, but the actual home of Roulette and Diamond was known only by a select few. Party Poison was one of them.
As he passed through the canyon that joined zone 6 to the rest of the desert, Party Poison could feel that he was being watched. He took a moment to thank Mikey mentally for re-decorating the drac bike, or else he might have been assumed to be an intruder and shot. The guards of the valley, he knew, would be radioing ahead to announce the arrival of a stranger. Party was pretty sure that no one would recognize him from a distance without his jacket or the Trans Am.
The valley housed around eighteen hundred people; tiny in comparison to a modern town, but a metropolis in terms of rebel bases. From a distance he knew that the place look pretty much uninhabited, but within the derelict buildings and in tunnels beneath the ground there were people. The people here ran on a different timetable to most. Rather than pit themselves against the strength of the sun, they slept during the day and came out at night. It was truly a nocturnal society.
The name given to this strange community of divided people was The Sanctum, befitting of it's purpose.
Gerard accelerated through a few dusty towns before reaching the other side of the wide valley. Hidden in the rock face was his destination. He followed a barely visible dirt road up the mountain face for a mile before cutting the engine and hiding the bike. It took him a moment for his memory to kick in before he found the trail that secreted it's way up onto a ledge.
Party pulled himself up over the lip and found himself staring at a pair of booted feet.
"Hello Party Poison." Said an English accented voice.
He looked up to see the smiling face of Harlequin Diamond. She was dressed in a her typical black shorts, red singlet combo. Her long, deep blonde hair had been pulled back, except for the thick side fringe that feel forward. Party grinned back and stood up. "Hey Diamond, what's happening?"
She shrugged. "Nothing much. Roulette's still asleep; you're early."
"Oh." Gerard didn't know what else to say. He noted her lack of ray gun, but knew that her gloved fists were a more than capable substitute.
A clipped voice drifted from the cave entrance behind the smiling girl. "I don't give a shit about appearances! Bitch better be dead before sunset or god help me I'll-"
"Sleeping huh?" Gerard chuckled.
Diamond winced. "So sorry. She's in one of her moods again."
"Fucking sell the drugs and ditch the body you incompetent twat!"
Gerard tried not to smirk. "Yeah... I can tell. I wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of that threat."
Diamond grinned. "I can imagine it would be quite a terrifying experience for said person involved. Rabid isn't well known for her compassion towards others. By the way," she added, "you can just call us by our short names here. If she frowns at you just ignore it, I said you could."
"So what do I call you?" he asked
"Have to do everything my self these days. Is it that hard to find some decent fucking help? No one wants to get their hands dirty anymore! It's like we're living in the fucking 20th century again-" Russian Roulettes furious rant was cut short as she saw Party Poison and Diamond staring at her. Her eyes narrowed. "Oh it's you." And with that she stomped her high-heeled stomp back into the darkness.
Harley sighed. "Come on in Party. Don't mind her, she really isn't as bad as everyone says she is."
"But I haven't heard anyone say anything bad about her." Gerard feigned innocence.
Diamond laughed. "No I suppose you wouldn't have. Any man who values their balls wouldn't risk it." she flashed a toothy smile at the guest.
The cave entrance was dark, but it soon opened out into a spacious, candle lit area. There were couches and ottomans, piled high with pillows sitting on a large area of carpeted ground. Gerard saw Roulette standing over a large table, muttering over a map of America.
"Please," Harley gestured vaguely towards the couches, "make yourself at home." She drifted over to her friend who was glaring at the map.
"BL/ind's sending dracs out to the southern edge of California.... Blocking our supplies... Sanctum will be cut off in a few weeks..." Rabid's crazily curled dark hair hid her face from her friend, but Harley could tell from years of observation that she was trying not to cry.
"Rabid?" she placed a hand softly on her friends deeply tanned shoulder. "You need to come talk to the Killjoy."
"What?" Roulette looked up at her highschool companion. Week old mascara was deeply smudged under her eyes. The mask that she had been holding together for eight years was finally beginning to crack. "Oh that's right, Party Poison. Why are we talking to him again?"
"There's some stuff we have to organize for the rebellion in Battery City." Harley said gently.
"Fan-fucking-tastic." All of Rabid's thoughts about the rest of America were put on pause, and she let Diamond walk her back over to the patiently waiting Killjoy.
Gerard had been watching their exchange from the corner of his eye. He found it amusing that so many people followed the two, rather young women. From the look of it they weren't anything phenomenal, human really just like the rest of the zonerunners.
Roulette sat down with jerky movement and grabbed for the pot of coffee laid out of the table. She took a large swing of the burning liquid. Harley seemed inclined to let her friend start the discussion.
"So Killjoy," she addressed him vaguely. "Harley and I have been reviewing the concept of trying to mount an attack against Battery City for some weeks now." she took another deep gulp of caffeine. Gerard nodded and accepted the cup that Harley handed him. "And I have reached the conclusion that it is impossible for either the Cardz," she gestured at her friend "or the Dice to participate in such an action. We may not be undermanned, but we simply don't have the firepower."
"That's it?" Party said, dumbfounded. "I came all the way to your house to hear you say that?"
"Don't be so quick to the point. That's not JUST it. Diamond, of course, has come up with a few brilliant schemes of her own, which I have been working on backing up." She waved her hand holding her cup wildly. Coffee slipped over the brim and dripped onto the carpet. Neither woman noticed. "Show him the plans please Harley."
Diamond nodded and unravelled a diagram of Battery City and laid it out on the table. She weighed it down with teacups and a plate of biscuits. "We have designed a system that will allow us to infiltrate BL/ind Headquarters so that we can constantly keep an eye on what is happening within the Industry." She went on to explain the need for multiple people to rotate spy duty and the logistics of getting the zonrunners in and out of the city. Gerard listened intently and the two discussed in depth the plausibility of the plan.