Tachi and I made our way across Flint slowly and cautiously. The original plan had been to hole up in the vacant lot until nightfall and make our way on foot from there. By now enough people in that lot had seen us and could probably identify my missing arm. We didn’t know how far PR’s networks extended around here, but just the chance that word of our arrival might reach PR was trouble enough.
We fell back into the same wordless fire and manoeuvre drills we’d used at the clinic. Tachi took up a position at a corner and aimed his AR-10 around the side. I stayed low and made my way down the alley until I reached an overflowing garbage hopper and took my place while Tachi caught up with me.
After a while we found a disused back alley and sat ourselves down, we only had a few hours to wait until it would start to get dark.
Things got tense when a middle-aged man stumbled out of a side door and into our alley. Tachi immediately ducked down behind the garbage hopper while I flattened myself against the wall and turned on my camouflage.
The man looked blearily around, like he was trying to recognise the place. He had closely-cropped curly hair and a beard, both with a heavy salt and pepper colouring. He shuffled uneasily towards the hopper, thankfully to the opposite side to where Tachi was hiding and got his tool out to drain the lizard.
Then someone else shouted from the mouth of the alley. “Put ’em in de air mo’fucker!”
The middle-aged guy did as he was told, with no hand for guidance he began involuntarily pissing in his pants. The shouter was a youth with a black hoodie over his head and a red bandanna covering his mouth.
“Move real slow old man.” The youth said, approaching him with a handgun outstretched. “Take out your wallet and throw it behind you.”
Shakily, the man reached down to his back pocket, trying not to further his humiliation by letting his open pants fall down. With some effort, he got the wallet out and tossed it lightly behind him.
The kid smirked, bent down slowly to retrieve the wallet and immediately turned his back and legged it for the exit.
The middle-aged guy made his move. Even with his pants down to his ankles, he spun around fast, his own pistol in his hands and lined up a shot.
He tapped the trigger three times, two at mid-height and one high performing a range perfect Presidente drill.
The rounds found their mark, the double-tap smacked right into the kid’s spine while the last punched through the back of the hoodie, exploding out the front in a splash of red.
The middle-aged guy, an ex-cop by his handiwork, pulled his pants back up and cursed. He glared at the kid, cursed again and bent down to take off his shoes.
From the corpse, he took back his wallet, confiscated the kid’s gun and then stole both his pants and his dignity. Sgt Salt-and-pepper probably figured the kid had no further use for either.
We moved on again barely an hour later. The darkness cut both ways, it may have made it harder for random people to notice the two of us carefully manoeuvring around, but it was also clearly the time when everyone decided it was okay to shoot up the place and steal shit.
The only explanation I’ve got for why we were able to cover the rest of the ground to our destination without having to shoot anyone or directly see anyone else get shot is sheer dumb luck.
But finally we made it to the rooftop we wanted.
I stopped to rest for a moment and looked out over the Flint skyline. I took in all the lights and small fires that peppered the darkness here and there. The further out you looked the harder it was to tell the two apart. The sound of distant gunfire was almost constant.
“How does anyone sleep here?”
“With one eye open and a gun under the pillow.” Tachi said.
We’d chosen this building because it was the tallest structure this far out from Jamestown. Ideally we wanted something with a commanding view of the sports oval.
It was closer than I would have liked and there were ridiculously large holes in the floor in places, forbidding us from making use of the top floor, but aside from some hobos (by which I mean the classic type, drunken and shouting incoherently, not just because they were as dirt poor as everyone else) down on the ground floor the place was deserted.
I got my shelter-half out of my pack and settled in for the night.
The next day I climbed back to the top of the building and got to work on the old antennae. Far as I could tell it hadn’t been used as a receiver since they stopped broadcasting analogue TV around here. So it hadn’t been too hard to wire it up for my purposes.
I was also lucky an old resident had satellite TV installed some decades ago and pilfered the dish for my own purposes. From the faded logo of a cable-TV company that went out of business ages ago, I knew no-one would miss it.
It brought back memories of my uncle. During the Austral-Indo war, when everyone was abandoning the top-end my uncle grabbed me, his ute and a pair of rifles and we headed up north. We travelled around to each town and city as it was being evacuated and set up radio jammers in the tallest structures we could get inside. Wiring them up to the building’s solar panels for power.
When we made it back to Brisbane, my uncle managed to convince some of the officials of what we’d done. So when the Indonesians were ready to attack Cairns, he hit them with one of the biggest communication blackouts in military history. From what I heard after, there wasn’t two Indo companies in the whole of Queensland who knew what each other were doing when we hit the switch.
To the antennae and the satellite dish I hooked up a wireless relay that retransmitted everything to a laptop back at the OP. The power of our antennae allowed me access to the net from here and I dialled up Kitty’s cype ID and opened an audio-only channel.
Kitty answered with a growl. [Who is this?]
[Tell PR I have a message for him. Tell him people may die, his people, if he doesn’t hear it, then give him the call ID for this unit. I’m expecting a response in the next 20 minutes.]
Then I killed the connection.
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