posted on Jan, 28 2005 @ 04:10 PM
The gate is camouflaged behind a dumpster, the path littered with trash and foul smelling garbage. The sentry is in the shadows, invisible, hiding
behind a broken door swinging on battered hinges.
In the lead, Zoe checks the street, right, left, then skips quickly over the refuse, and runs her fingers across the chain-link three times, lightly.
Ba ba strummmm. I’m watching her back.
“Patrol 17 reporting in,” she says softly.
The sentry slips from the shadows to the gate, checks the street again, and swiftly lifts the rusted bar. He grabs Zoe, pulls her through.
“Hurry! A robot patrol’s been by three times in the last hour,” he whispers urgently. Then, "You guys have chips?”
“Yes,” I murmur as he replaces the bar. The robots find us with infra-red and who knows what else. Special micro-chips block the kill function and
usually, deflect their attention. The new rulers get them implanted; we have to cut them out. We’re still short. Rulers normally travel in groups.
Prime 8 Patrol is looking for the supplier.
“Be safe,” I whisper to the guard as Zoe and I dart down the steps behind the broken door and into the maze. We still have a mile of booby traps
to negotiate before we reach headquarters.
“Can I stay in the lead, Mom?” Zoe asks. “I know where the traps are. I can do it,” she assures me confidently. I nod. There’s a first time
Down stairs over trip wires, up stairs past poison gas, through tunnels with laser triggers, it’s a test every time. Zoe’s cool. I’m tense.
Vigilant, adrenalin pumping, I’m ready to save my daughter if she mis-steps or mis-calculates, and wired-exhausted when we finally get to the guard
The sentry studies us attentively as we approach, not wary, just interested. Flushed and slightly breathless, Zoe steps up, looks him straight in the
eye and states calmly, “Patrol 17, reporting in.”
All adult and competent. I’m thinking she’s too full of herself and ready to run the world, or else she has the hots for this guy. I’m not
prepared for it, whichever it is.
“Prime 6 Patrol?” he asks, differently alert, suddenly professional, aloof.
“Yes,” Zoe responds, matching his tone, maybe miffed.
“You’re Prime 6 leader?” he questions, cautiously.
“No, that’s my Mom,” she answers, tipping her head in my direction, holding his gaze and smiling. His reticence was just discretion, a matter of
mistaken identity. He grins back at her.
“Uh, Prime 6 leader…,” he says, pausing, immobilized in the light of Zoe's brilliant smile.
“Sentry?” I snap impatiently, after a moment. Prime Patrols are not identified without good reason, usually an emergency.
“You can call me Martin,” he sighs, still grinning at Zoe. She glances at me, back to him, grimacing and twisting her mouth to point to me.
Instantly conscious, he whip-turns toward me, blushing.
“Sorry, ma’am,” he stammers. “There’s a Prime Patrol meeting. It started about five minutes ago.”
I raise my eyebrows, flash him a look.
“I think there’s a tower down,” he explains, without meeting my eyes.
Public access to the InterNet was shut down before the famines hit. We hack into it, but our high security net uses towers for ham radio
transmissions, linked to computers. We tap into old towers or jury-build new ones with cables and strips of metal, hanging them off empty skyscrapers
or sometimes, using box kites to get them in the air. A down tower could be normal, or it could be a major security disaster.
“You’ll have to make the preliminary report,” I tell Zoe, “If you’re not too busy?” It’s a bit bitchy, but we have work to do and our
lives are on the line. I don’t have to say it. They both know.
“Right,” she confirms matter-of-factly, back in professional gear. “Grid 38. There’s a new surveillance camera in the old Citibank at Fifth
and Columbia. Seven groups of contaminated, twenty-three individuals total. Eighteen deaths observed; five still alive, wandering. Four robot patrols;
we kept a good distance, our shields held and we weren’t detected at all, our chips aren’t compromised. One food stash looks good, approximately
150 cases assorted, labels say it pre-dates first known nano-bot contamination by about a year, location Fifth and Euclid, no evidence it’s being
watched but we had to leave the door open because we broke the lock. Two suspect food stores, probably contaminated. Ten new drops of Live Right, left
in the open. No new uncontaminated people found.”
“Good,” I say, impressed. “You’ve got it covered.” We head in together, each on our own mission.
“Wait!” calls Martin, anxiously. “What’s your name?”
“Zoe,” she yells, glancing over her shoulder. “I’ll see you later.”
“Later!” he shouts back, the single word punctuated like a promise.
[edit on 28-1-2005 by soficrow]