Categories > Original > Fantasy > Tradewinds 07 - "Away From Home"


by shadesmaclean 0 reviews

Jesse Fletcher

Category: Fantasy - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Fantasy,Horror,Sci-fi - Published: 2008-12-06 - Updated: 2008-12-06 - 1248 words - Complete

Justin Black crawled on his hands and knees through the dark labyrinth of vent shafts for as long as he could endure before emerging back into what he was beginning to think of as aboveground.

After cutting the vent grill with his laser staff, he had quickly snatched it before it could hit the floor. The metal floor. Terrified it would reverberate for miles around. Anymore, he was terrified to make even a single sound; he still had no idea exactly what the hell an NK-525 was, or what its hearing range might be, but he didn’t care to find out the hard way.

Just that brief glimpse of his hunter was more than enough for him, thank you.

He was shocked to discover that, after over two months of not having people and things trying to kill him in Paradise, he actually had to get used to running for his life again. Those shafts had become his Works, his Ruins, all of these endless hallways had become the rest of Benton Island. Though the vents, unlike the Ruins, also granted him “underground” passage around Tranz-D, aside from dead air, they provided him with none of the bare necessities. In this new game of cat and mouse, the streetrat still had to come up for food and water.

Thinking about it only made him wish he had chosen to stay with Max. Perhaps the two of them together would have been able to watch each other’s backs in this twisted maze. All these years, he had come to trust only himself, yet he found that he wanted to trust Max.

And, much to his surprise, found he even believed he could.

And thinking about Max brought to mind the only other person he had ever thought he could trust. What felt like a lifetime ago, when his life of drudgery in the Triangle State was still fairly new to him. During his stay in Pullman Mine Camp, his thoughts had briefly touched on him at times, otherwise it had been years since the name Jesse Fletcher crossed his mind…

…At the bottom of crude stone steps of rubble left over from the TSA’s long-ago assault on the Works lay the entrance to the Ruins.

“Damn, Justin! You’re out of your fuckin’ mind!”

Though he had said it with a laugh, Justin’s new companion also held a measure of seriousness in his voice. Of course, Justin mostly felt a rush of pride at the other’s trepidation, an echo of his first pursuers’ thinly veiled anxiety. After all, that was the very reason he had chosen this place.

“And that’s why no one will find us here.”

Jesse had no answer to that.

Only hours before, Justin had met Jesse James Fletcher, the newest inmate of this ocean-locked prison. Another orphan, just like himself, but while Justin had no knowledge of his origins, Jesse at least knew he was from New Cali, though he had yet to tell him how he ended up in this far-flung hellhole. Jesse was perhaps a little taller, with reddish hair and blue-green eyes that always seemed to be looking far ahead of where he was.

They first met when this newcomer, whom he had seen around off and on lately, had dared him to venture into the Bone Yard, and after escalating to Triple Dog Daring each other, both of them ended up going. The Bone Yard was where the Authority scrapped all of its old mining equipment and military hardware, a walled junkyard guarded by a malicious crew known as the Junkyard Dogs. It was a stupid thing to do, and both of them were lucky to get out with only scrapes and bruises.

“Come on man,” Jesse said, “let me check it out…”

Along with being only person ever shown Justin’s secret hideout, there was also the matter of Justin’s new toy. Having escaped with it from one of the mercenaries, who, in typical TSA fashion, was one of their leaders. An interesting weapon, the like of which was seldom seen in this realm.

“Wait.” Justin paused now that they were underground, walking among the tunnels that were once hallways. There would be plenty of time to mess around with his new laser staff later, but for now there was something important to discuss. “Before we go any further… I need you to promise me that you’ll
never tell anyone else about this place.”

“Come on, Justin, who’m I gonna tell?”

“Jesse. Swear you’ll never tell anyone where this place is.”

“Fine.” One thing Justin would learn about Jesse Fletcher was that he was quick with his wits, and with his mouth— he would later come to associate that face with con artists. “I swear I’ll never tell anyone about this place.”

“Okay.” Still, there was just something about that gleam in his eye that he wasn’t entirely sure he could trust, yet he had decided to take the risk. It would never occur to him until years later that he might merely have been lonely, but for now all he knew was that he was tired of having no one to trust, and somehow he saw himself in this newcomer. “Come on. I know it looks like it’s gonna fall apart if ya look it at wrong, but it’s safe enough.”

“Now let’s see that staff…”

“Don’t worry. Let’s go to the lower levels, then we’ll check it out…”

…When Justin heard the approaching whir of the cleaning drones for the first time, he freaked out, realizing that he had totally dropped his guard in his reverie.

Something was about to come around the next corner, and it completely had the drop on him. Even as he raised his power pistol, the first of the little metal boxes rolled into view, scrubbing the floor in their mindless automaton fashion. And Justin, of course, blasted it to bits with a couple clean shots.

“Shit!” he hissed, already bracing for another blast of alarms. Knowing he should run, yet his feet were bolted to the floor.

No alarms came, still he could feel cold sweat dripping down every square inch of his body, imagining half-seen visions of the Enforcer coming for him. Even as he attempted to make his feet move, he watched the little machines at work as more of them came around the corner, maneuvering around their fallen comrade with their customary chirps and beeps. Justin tried not to laugh out loud, for fear of other machines hearing.

Still he feared his shot may yet have triggered some as-yet unknown security system, and he started walking down a different branch, ready to turn that stride into a sprint if anything else came by.

As he made his hasty way, Justin wondered why he had thought of Jesse after all this time. Though the two of them managed to get on for a little while, they ultimately had a bit of a falling out later. Jesse storming out, claiming he was going to stow away on another ship, consequences be damned, and that was the last Justin ever saw of him. That was years ago, and Justin had long since written him off.

Still, Justin had to grant him one thing: whatever happened to him, Jesse Fletcher never did tell anyone in the Triangle State about his hideout in the Ruins.
Sign up to rate and review this story