The drunken Gambler and the kids in love
Gerard stretched happily and gestured at the unconscious girl. "She ok?"
Diamond nodded. "She's fine, just overworking herself. She hasn't slept for two days. I keep telling her that she needs to spend less time planning survival, and more time living." she gave a small laugh "The other day she chucked a tantrum at me. Apparently my plans are "all very well" to formulate, but when it comes to finding the muscle and machine to back it, she's keeps running short."
"Well you've got us the starters for what turned into a great plan. I'm glad I came now because I really think this will work." He grinned at Harlequin Diamond and realized that sometime in the past few hours he had relaxed into the company of a perfectly nice person. "You know, I didn't really want to come here today."
"Really?" Harley smiled and she chewed on a biscuit.
"Mhmm, I just remember you two as being so much more confronting."
She nodded. "Yes, that's all a front. Don't tell anyone though. It's hard to keep a reputation going."
Gerard paused for a moment, finding the right words. "No offense to Rabid, but I get the feeling that whatever mask she's got up is starting to slip."
A flicker of sadness passed over Harley's face. "Yes, I do believe that you're right. Ever since BLi has been trying to cut off zone 6 from our supply chains she's been working to stop it. I don't know how long she can keep it up for."
"And what about you? Don't you get tired always looking after your people."
She shook her head. "No, my people don't need looking after. I chose my followers because of their ability to adapt to any environment and fend for themselves. Roulette on the other hand..." she patted her friend's curled head. "liked the idea of an invincible army; indestructible through sheer size."
"I don't think it's working." Gerard whispered.
"No, no it's not. And it'll be the death of her at this rate." she sighed and stood up. Party followed her lead. "Thankyou for trusting us enough to come here Party Poison. I am glad that the bond between Dice, Cardz and Killjoy is as strong as it was in seven years ago."
'Me too, it seems so long ago when we were all just beginning out here."
Harley laughed "Oh yes, and when you still had black hair!"
Gerard laughed with her, a lightness settling in his heart. 'We have a goal now.' He thought to himself as he left the cave. 'And we will succeed.'
Renegade and Fun Ghoul passed through zone 5, getting closer to home. When he had woken up, Anton had happily told Frank about the girl that he met.
"Oh Frank you just have to meet her! She's just this random, rebellious kid living in Battery City. It's amazing that BL/i haven't picked her up yet!"
"Yeah but Hugh, aren't you jumping the gun here? You don't even know the girl." Frank rubbed a hand over his eyes.
Renegade shook his head. "Nope, the kid's got like this spark of something in her. And a hell of a temper to go with it. I promised her I'd go and see her, and I can't break that promise."
"I can't believe this; you're going to get yourself killed chasing after some stranger." Frank couldn't help but feel slightly jealous. Hugh's face was lit up in a way that he never had with Frank.
"But you have to meet her to get it. She's so tragic it's almost funny. When I dropped her back at her house I had to climb up to her window so I wouldn't be seen by her parents." Hugh's face took on a sad expression. "I felt so bad for the girl, her room is just stark white. Hell the whole house looks like it's BL/ind designed to the fifth degree. It's like god (if there is a god) decided to drop a zonerunner in the middle of the city and see how it worked out for them. The whole situation is just one bad joke."
Frank hummed. "Why don't you just bust her out of the city?"
Hugh thought about this for a minute. "Well, yeah maybe I could... I dunno man, she's got her parents and is living comfortably. If you could live in Battery without being sucked in by BL/ind, would you?" he asked his friend.
"Umm, well I guess I might. It'd depend on who I was living with and how happy I was. It's be great to have a hot shower again though, and food that doesn't come out of a tin." He grinned, reminiscing the simple pleasure of soft bread and chocolate milk.
"Yeah, remember the taste of coke?"
Frank groaned "Don't remind me! I'll never forgive Better Living Industries for shutting down the Coca-Cola company. I swear it nearly killed me!"
"Yeah, BL/ind are such....."
Renegade laughed "Yeah, they are. It was probably that add "hear the happiness inside every bottle" that ticked BLi off."
"Do you think all this shit will ever end?"
Frank had to think about this. After a few minutes of silence he replied "I think it will. We can't keep fighting BLi and living on nothing. Sooner or later something's gonna spark a reaction, either in the city or amongst the zonerunners. And I dunno who's gonna come out on top, but I sure as hell know that I wanna be there with you when the sun goes down and we start to party." He smiled and punched his friend lightly on the shoulder.
Renegade grinned back and turned up the radio. The rest of the way back to the Diner they belted out the words to their favourite songs, all playing on 109 in the Sky.
Abbey paced her room nervously. The past few months had been the best in her life since the takeover. Knowing Anton had really bought her back from the edge. When he was with her she was able to block out the complaints of her parents and teachers. Even the nasty voice in her head was silenced. It was bliss being able to talk to someone who was completely aware of himself and the world around him. He was the drug that she needed.
However, Anton ran on a very strange schedule. He told her early on in their friendship that he was an art student, studying at a uni in a nearby city. He told her that it was one of the last places where creative courses were held and he was taking advantage of it while it lasted. Consequentially she went for days without seeing him, weeks even. It was in those long, lonely periods that Abbey began to feel depressed again.
One time Anton had come back to find her with bandaged wrists and a crazed look in her eye. Ever since he had been pedantic about getting back into the city at least once a week.
Frank though it was insane and voiced his opinion on the strange relationship often. "You're not even going out with her! How can a relationship without sex be this addictive? It's like you're taking Abbey pills."
Renegade had laughed at this and just tried to explain that he loved her company, and wasn't too fazed that they weren't together. "I'd love it to happen, but I'm not pushing it Frank. I have no idea what she feels for me, she might only like me because I'm not a zombie. Perhaps if the world was normal she wouldn't look at me twice."
Renegade was mistaken though, Abbey was completely smitten with him. Her parents knew something was different about her, but couldn't pick it. She'd seem to be getting better, more lucid. Then, over the space of a few days she would become temperamental and difficult again, until suddenly she was suddenly happy. Her mother hoped that the drugs were starting to work, her father just thought it was a teenage girl thing.
Both of them were on the wrong track.
This would be the twenty-third time that Anton had visited Abbey. She was nervous because she was finally going to tell him how much she liked him. Abbey was terrified that he would reject her, but she couldn't stand not knowing if he might feel the same way about her.
There was a tell-tale tap on the window from a small rock. She rushed to the window and looked down at the road. Leaning against his car like he always was, casually grinning up at her, was Anton. Abbey had to contain the rush of happy bubbles that surged through her. She grabbed her hoodie and quietly snuck down the stairs and out the front door. It was late at night and her parents were (hopefully) fast asleep. She always left a note tacked to the fridge explaining that she had gone for an early-morning run so that they wouldn't freak out when they woke up.
Abbey ran lightly across the lawn to Anton and gladly let him embrace her. She told herself that it was a friendly hug, but secretly she wished it was something more than that.
"I was hoping you'd come tonight." she murmured into his shirt. He smelt like mint gum and a dark, slightly feminine cologne.
He patted her curled hair and planted a gentle kiss (that he hoped was close to brotherly) on her head. "I'll never leave you for too long." He could feel the weight of responsibility with that promise. "Come on," he picked her up and plonked her gently in his convertible, "I've got something to show you."
As they drove through the sleeping streets of Battery City Hugh felt another surge of gratitude towards Maverick; his crew leader, for giving him this car. It was too fragile to use in the desert, so the man had happily given it to his young protege to use in the city. Although Anton was away from his crew often, Maverick was ok with it, assuming that he came back home once every few days. Renegade had been a pretty lost zonerunner for a decent chunk of his rebellious life after the takeover, always getting into fights over nothing. It was only when Maverick pulled him out of a nasty squabble one day that the teenage boy had found a new home. Maverick was like the older brother he never had.
The years had passed and Hugh had grown into his shoes. He was now twenty four and acted as Maverick's second in command of sorts. The crew he was a part of had about sixty zonerunners in it; the third biggest in California. Needless to say Maverick had his hands full running the group, and often called on Renegade to help organize attacks on drac camps. Anton loved his guerilla life.
"So how's school been?" he teased Abbey.
She rolled her eyes, not rising to the bait. "You know I hate it. I can't wait to graduate." As they passed over the main bridge that spanned the river the city was built around, Abbey paused to appreciate the lights reflected across the water. She loved light in all it's forms. "You know, I was given a form to fill out at school today."
"Yeah? What was it for?"
Abbey dragged her eyes away from the lights and looked at Anton. "It was about enrolling to become a Draculoid for BL/ind."
Hugh struggled not to show the anguish that he felt at the though of Abbey working for the Industry.
She tried to read his closed off face. "I didn't apply for it. Everyone else did, or at least all the girls put in applications for desk jobs at BLi Headquarters. I heard that all of the boys (there were two separate sections of the school; BCGG and BCBG) wanted to become draculoids." She pondered over this. "I've never seen a draculoid before, only the Battery City Police Force. Have you seen one?"
Anton tried not to let hatred seep into his voice. "Their called dracs for short. And yeah, I've seen them before."
"Oh really?" Abbey sounded surprised. "Where are they?"
Hugh mentally kicked himself. He kept forgetting that Abbey had never left the safety of Battery. She may have cottoned on to the fact that BL/ind was brainwashing people, but she didn't have a clue about what happened outside the city walls.
"We're here." he announced and parked the car outside a small, unremarkable house just inside the city wall.
"But..." she wanted to hear what he knew about draculoids.
"I'll tell you about the dracs in a minute, but right now we better get inside." he opened the car door for her and grabbed a bag from the back.
Abbey stepped out of the car and followed him to the building. Anton unlocked the front door and let her inside before shutting and locking it again from the inside.
"What is this place?" she asked, looking around the very simply designed and furnished house.
"A place for students studying at my uni to crash when they visit family here." It was a pre-prepared lie. The building was actually Maverick's, his hideout if he needed to get into the city for an extended period of time. He was the only zonerunner Renegade knew of who owned a house inside Battery walls.
"It's nice." Abbey said, not sure what to say. She felt her cheeks flush at the thought of being alone somewhere private with Anton.
He was about to voice his distaste of the white walls when laughter was heard from the upstairs hallway. Hugh was shocked to see two of Maverick's followers run down the stairs to greet them. Their names were Tech and Sun Speed, but they had cover identities while living here.
Renegade frantically pointed at Abbey and shook his head, indicating that she didn't know about him being an outlaw. She smiled obliviously at the men and introduced herself. "Hi, I'm Abbey."
"Good to meet you, I'm Jason." Sun Speed shook her hand and motioned to Tech. "This is Chad."
"Nice to see you guys." Anton smiled, "Abbey and I are only going to be here for the night. We were going to go up the wall."
Abbey had no idea what this meant but continued to smile politely at the two strangers.
"Well have fun. We're going out for a while, but we should be back later on."
They left Abbey and Hugh. Renegade let out a quiet sigh of relief. 'That was way too close.' he thought and motioned for Abbey to climb the stairs.
After taking a few turns Abbey realized that the house was far bigger than it had looked from the outside. "Where are we going exactly?" she asked Anton.
He grinned and shook his head. "Its a secret."
They reached a heavy door which Hugh had to punch a code into to open. When Abbey stepped through the door she was surprised to feel the temperature drop. The walls of the corridor were stone. Anton led the way confidently up more flights of stairs.
"We're here." he announced cheerfully.
"But I only see a door." Abbey pointed out, feeling slightly disorientated.
"Open it." He poked out his tongue at her teasingly as she nervously pushed open the heavy door.
It took her eyes a moment to adjust to the darkness, but when they did her breath caught in her throat. "Oh Anton! It's so beautiful up here!" She cried and ran out to get a better look at the view.
Renegade had led her up a secret passageway that Maverick had constructed through the centre of the Battery City wall. The view from the top was of the expanse of zone 1 and the rugged mountains in the distance. The remnants of the river spilled out from the wall to their right, creating a (very) small lake beneath them. There was no moon that night and stars shone strongly through the pollution layer in the sky. Behind then the city lights winked, and you could almost forget that it was an ugly place during the day.
Abbey hadn't seen the desert so close before for years and she drank it the sight. "It's so beautiful." she whispered. The wind tugged at her tangle of hair and she giggled happily.
Anton couldn't find words to express his joy. He had forgotten how bewitching the natural landscape was.
Abbey spun around on the tips of her toes to the music in her head and danced over to Anton, white smile flashing in the dark. "Come dance with me!" she cried happily.
He chuckled and let himself be swayed into spinning around the top of the wall with the girl that he loved. There was no sound for ten minutes as the dark silhouettes of two dancers fell ever more in love with each other. Anton and Abbey gazed into each others eyes, captivated by what they saw. As they moved Abbey's eyes reflected yellow and green. Anton's black hair rippled with colour.
The two began to grow dizzy and they slowed to a stop, but couldn't break their gaze. There was a pause, bordering on awkward before Anton leaned down and touched their lips together.
Abbey felt the heat of the desert at his touch and smiled into the kiss. Hugh pressed himself against her, wanting more of Abbey's cool, soft skin. He ran a hand through her hair, up behind her head and she hesitantly placed two hands on his hips. He couldn't help chuckle at her innocence.
"Anton..." she murmured as their lips broke apart.
"Mmm?" he touched their foreheads together and looked deep into her virescent eyes.
"I think I love you."
He roared with laughter and picked her bodily off the ground in a hug. "I know I love you Abbey Palini!" he spun her around joyously.
She laughed with him and threw her arms around him. She looked out over the desert as she did so and thought that she had never been so happy as right then. Hugh squeezed his new found love, watching the city as he did so. He felt a pang of sadness, the knowledge that come morning, he would have to leave her.
Abbey's stomach interrupted his thoughts and he smirked. "Hungry are we?"
"A little." She blushed as he placed her gently on the ground.
"Well isn't it good that I bought food with us!" He ran over to the bag sitting by the door and pulled out a blanket to sit on, and a box of food.
The two spent the next seven hours lying together watching the stars. Sometimes they talked, sometimes they laughed. Often they were quiet, wrapped up in the beauty of the moment.
When the sun crept sleepily over the horizon, turning the methane skies pink and blue Abbey cried out in wonderment at the beauty of the scene. And while they kissed Anton couldn't help but feel that this was the best summer of his lifetime.
"You can run away with me Abbey," he murmured into her soft hair, holding her close. "Anytime you want."