Categories > Original > Fantasy > Tradewinds 03 - "Shipwrecked"


by shadesmaclean 0 reviews

one morning in the Ruins

Category: Fantasy - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Fantasy - Published: 2008-10-01 - Updated: 2008-10-01 - 1817 words - Complete

One morning.

That’s how these sort of things always seemed to start. One bright morning, one bright idea. Bright as the solid slat of sun on the concrete wall.

The sun that was inching its way down onto Justin Black’s cold, huddled form. He had spent the early hours of the morning curled up, shivering in the tattered remains of a blanket that had seemed a lot warmer when he first absconded with it almost two years ago. For now, though, he had been enjoying the growing warmth of the sun, for it would be gone in a couple hours.

After a while, Justin finally got up. He hung the blanket on a protruding hunk of concrete, not wanting the bugs or the rats to make it their home, and walked over to the deep slit in the concrete wall. He knew from experience that once he was up and moving, the chill and the stiffness would fade. The view from up here was one of the few things he really looked forward to on any given day. From up on this embankment, he could see many of the ships that passed through Benton Island’s ragtag excuse for a port.

Just another day in the Works.

Or rather, what was left of the Works. The ruins stretched out behind him in all directions, both above ground and below. From various overheard conversations, he had pieced together little, other than that the Works used to be a major facility when the Triangle State Authority first “annexed” Benton (once
Gwanga) Island many years ago, and that it was destroyed during a riot in that same era. Much of the ground-level portion of the Ruins had crumbled to a skeleton of its former self, and many of the underground parts were commonly thought to be unstable.

That, of course, being the very reason Justin chose it as his home. Though a few vagrants sometimes hid in the ruins above, no one dared venture into the crumbling basement levels.

Which suited him just fine; he knew the risks, and there were even some parts he dared not go because they looked a little
too unstable. This section— compared to its exterior— was quite solid. The Works’ reputation, combined with the fact that no one else had found the entrance to this level, served to make this the only place in the Triangle State where he actually felt safe.

At least until recently.

He first discovered this place over five years ago while being chased in the woods by some guards. Had fallen down into part of the basement, and the guards had climbed down after him. After what had felt like a terrifyingly long amount of time, scrambling through tunnels what were once hallways, he found the “entrance” to this area. It had been a tight squeeze, but Justin was skinny little bastard, and he made it just moments before the strobe of flashlight beams came zigzagging around the corner.
Come on, he had heard one of his pursuers say, If he went down here, he’ll be lucky if the roof doesn’t collapse on him! Like what had happened to some other guards a few years ago who went poking around down here. And another one said, Little streetrat thief! I hope the roof does fall down on you, ya little shit!

And they walked away, laughing wildly.

In the intervening years, Justin had appropriated a meager stockpile of supplies in this, and a couple other rooms. In a small pouch tucked in a crack in the wall, he kept a little money, though he ended up hoarding most of it; sometimes he would actually
buy food, but it always raised the question of where a dirty little streetrat even got pocket-change from in the first place. Unless it was canned, he couldn’t keep food in this place; the rats just ate it when he wasn’t around. Sometimes they were audacious enough to try it when he was. So he still had to go into town to find food on an almost daily basis.

It took his eyes a good while to get used to the bright light flooding that narrow concrete slit. After which he spent a couple wistful minutes watching a ship glide out of the harbor and off into the unknown reaches of the Ocean. Of course, he kept back in the shadows, for fear of somehow being spotted from afar, but he loved to look out from this underground highland perch. If he had a telescope, he would be able to see Pullman Island— which he would be visiting all too soon— from here. Before he found the hidden level of the Ruins, he had sometimes wondered what was up there, behind those mysterious concrete slabs up on the bank, where he could see narrow little windows. From this now obscure, hidden place, he could watch ships sail in and out from different parts of the Triangle State, and the vast reaches of the Ocean beyond… Then the fierce growl of this belly brought him back to the here and now, and he sighed, stretching and yawning as he turned back to his bedcorner.

Yet again, he was going to put his ass on the line just to bring back table-scraps.

Tucked in his fraying belt was a power pistol, and tucked away in several nooks and crannies of his hideout were several stashes of power clips. He kept them in two sets: one set was used (and he had no idea how much power was left), and new clips that were at full power. He always kept his pistol armed with one of the latter. He also had a couple other pistols and rifles hidden in the dark maze beyond, just in case.

Little did he know, but years before he ever set foot in the Triangle State, this place had once been used as a base by a group of guerrillas who had escaped from the mines. It was these freedom fighters who brought down the Authority’s wrath on the Works— already a
de facto home for the homeless— and reduced it to the Ruins. Had no idea that he wasn’t the first to wield that power pistol against its original owners.

In the corner, where he spent every night shivering on the cold stone, dreaming of sand and sun, was the flashlight he always kept close to him in the darkness of the tunnels. He would want that handy at the entrance when he returned; by now he knew his way around in the dark, but he still kept it close at hand for emergencies. And he wasn’t too keen on losing it in the dark either, given that he very nearly ended up as some guard dog’s chew toy getting ahold of it in the first place.

He picked it up, heading into the tunnels that were once hallways, switching it on briefly to make sure the batteries were still good. He also had a couple hard-won stashes of power cells hidden down here, too, along with various odds and ends he had managed to get his hands on over the years.

Though he knew the way by heart, he also remembered that it was the sound of dripping water that first led him to where he now went. Ever deeper he walked, skirting holes and small piles of rubble, until he came into a cavernous chamber whose floor was spotted with scattered puddles. This room lent every sound a deep atonal echo, robbed of any warmth by metal and concrete. The far wall of the chamber was crisscrossed with pipes, most of them broken, leaning at various angles. A few still ran unbroken, but Justin knew that nothing flowed through them anymore.

Only one was still running.

Trying to keep his feet dry, Justin made his way over to a pipe running at about waist-level. There was a large metal valve wheel, and he knew he only had to give it about a three-quarters turn to get a modest flow of water. He never gave it more than a full turn, though, fearing that someone might notice a
decrease in water somewhere. He had no idea why this one was still running, or if anyone actually received anything on the other end, but he wasn’t about to give the Authority any excuses to start poking around his subterranean home; he had enough trouble with them above ground.

After filling up a chipped plastic cup he kept near the pipe, he splashed his face a couple times, then cupped his hands and took several long draughts. Feeling refreshed, and more awake, he made his way back through the tunnels.

At some point, he turned a different way from where he came from, ultimately arriving at the entrance to his secret hideaway. He set the flashlight down, took one last swig of water, then set the cup down as well. Hidden in the rubble was a backup power pistol he kept waiting there, just in case.

Thanks to the Triangle State Authority’s Streetrat Subsistence Diet, Justin was just as scrawny was he was when he was a little kid, so he had scarcely had to alter the entrance since he first stumbled upon it.

Here there were gaping gaps in the ceiling, revealing patches of sky and trees. A couple rooms over, he found the ragged edge of a thick foundation, leading up to the ground in easy-to-climb steps. Looking cautiously to make sure no one else was about, he quickly ascended the steps and emerged into the woods above. Seeing the coast was still clear, he stepped onto one of the old paths and made his way to the shantytown below.

On the surface, things appeared to be set to go just like so many days before it, except for one small detail: Justin had made a little change of plans.

To most, the Works was a lonely place, but to Justin Black, it was a welcome reprieve from all the assholes he had to put up with on the rest of the island. Under the Works was the only place he had ever felt safe, but now even that might be taken away from him. At first he had dismissed it as rumor, but he had been overhearing an increasing amount of talk— and from all the wrong people— about the Triangle State Authority planning to tear down the old Works and build new Works on the same site. Even then he had held out the hope that it was all talk, as previous proposals had been over the years, but just the other day, he had caught sight of a survey team snooping around the aboveground portions of the Ruins.

Justin knew his days here were numbered.
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