“Stand Down” Week 91 – Warcoe
Two years passed in a flurry of apathy, soon to be hounded off by desperation though it was. This is how they went.
It had been a scene like out of some teen fantasy novel– a world bereft of adults, and so ruled over by the young.
Considering such a setting, one is liable to assume that all social order would be lost to disarray, hormonally-fuelled adolescents destroying each other and what little remained of human advancement.
This would not be the case, though; at least not here, and not now. For in Oakville, Scott and Jordan ruled the roost.
Though everyone kept to their own homes as places of rest, only sometimes meeting at schools and malls to socialize or trade, word still spread.
Word of a couple boys working to fashion a hostel for those numerous who weren’t old enough, or just couldn’t bear to live on their own. Word of them attempting to forcibly extort payment from one of their clients, a girl, in the form of sexual favors. Word of a boy who’d recently arrived, disabled up to the hip, wheeling out to them and somehow melting them head-to-chest into steaming gore.
Flanked by a quiet, tired-eyed girl of some asiatic origin and possessed of a sour, angry disposition, he would quickly become the stuff of rumor and fear. By his one brutal act of vigilante justice, he’d scared the law back into those making to become the reavers of this apocalypse.
He’d also ruined any chance of another hostel being formed, or at least advertised in Oakville– that is, in all but one place.
Town hall would one day begin to issue its many squad-cars out into Oakville’s neighborhoods– each one armed with a set of police-lights, to draw eyes, and microphones to draw ears. They would make many rounds, all the while announcing that Oakville’s people not need be afraid of each other, or of being alone, any longer; that each and every one would be afforded a spot in the town’s new society under the leadership of one Scott Warren. That all wishing to contribute or benefit should come to the hall.
Warren hadn’t commanded this message be spread without anything to back it up, either; as people trickled by in their ones and twos, some on foot, some on bikes, some in poorly-driven cars (and, one in a wheelchair)– they would find themselves being screened for disease in an almost professional manner. Even more, whoever these people occupying town hall were, they had the medicine needed to treat some of these illnesses.
The teens and children working for Scott spoke of him in only the highest terms, as they passed out food and ministered to those that had gone sick in their solitude.
Night fell on the day, a week following the first wave of announcement, and still the area was buzzing with activity. Some kids had already begun ferrying their things from home to the residences surrounding the hall, being stirred to new, cautious optimism by the promising bit they’d seen.
Scott sat in what was once Oakville’s council-room, at town hall’s center, in quiet appreciation of the papers in front of him. They’d started keeping inventory of what they’d gathered from the grocery and pharmaceutical stores. Soon enough, he’d have his own pen-pushing work on his hands.
A slack-jawed and hairy young man, heavy from either muscle or fat (none could tell) pushed hurriedly into the room, shuffing the door closed behind him. This was “Kratos” but one of the few kids that had taken to changing their names in the wake of the mass-orphaning, perhaps as a way to cope. Despite that, Scott was not unglad to see him; he’d become one of his favored workers in the past few weeks, by his willingness to lift and drag the heavy things no one else would.
He seemed panicked, panting just a tad. “Scott, we’ve got problems. It’s the guy that wrecked up that hostel– you know, the one with the rapist guys.”
Scott stood immediately. He’d had his suspicions. There had been three people in wheel-chairs settled into the houses around the hall. And, one in particular seemed to fit the hostel melter’s description rather well.
“He’s not taking no for an answer,” Kratos huffed, peeking back out the door. “Remi said he melted one of those concrete stick-up things, you know the ones to stop people driving through the doors– that he melted one of those things right in front of him.”
“Wuh– how?” Scott questioned. He knew he wouldn’t like the answer.
“It just– happened, he said it just happened out of nowhere.”
Scott pushed past Kratos and into the hall, newly aggravated. He’d had enough of the supernatural for this lifetime, and whatever this was he planned on having it over with quickly.
Just a few doors down from the councilroom, Scott saw him sat. He was being wheeled, at all too calm a pace, down towards him by some girl.
“Heya, Scott.” said the ill-reputed stranger. “Been a while, huh?”
Scott furrowed his brow. “Do I know you?”
“Uh, only since elementary, dude.”
Warren wracked his memory. He couldn’t for his life place this guy. “Uhm– could you try something more recent?”
Jordan loosed a cynical guffaw. “Yeah, yeah– how about that facility on the frozen fucking mountain? Those riot guys with tranquilizer guns?”
Scott stared at him, scanning his face for any hint that was a joke– anything that might indicate this guy was not, in fact, insane.
Scott’s incredulous look spawned a tightness in Jordan’s chest. He’d been red hot of temper, lately– tired of how god-damn unfair life had become.
“Okay, okay, enough of– whatever this is, Scott– this is serious. I think Zain died on that mountain.”
Scott let his cautious mask down. This guy really seemed to believe what he was saying– this wouldn’t be resolving as fast as he’d hoped. “Who’s Zain?”
“Who’s Z– you cock, what’d they do to you?!” Jordan snapped, pulling his chair from the girl’s hold and advancing on Scott with a tightened jaw.
Scott recognized the violent escalation. It was time for a reset– he swore he almost saw a glint of recognition in the boy’s face, as Signed On For A Sequel’s tape whirred.
He stepped out of the councilroom again, and strode straight up to the boy in the wheelchair. “Explain the facility on the frozen mountain.”
“Wh– what? You were there. Also, hi, it’s been like months.”
Scott watched him intently. So he for sure wasn’t making the mountain up.
“And, those ‘riot-guys’ with tranq guns?”
“Well, I don’t think we’ll be seeing them again–”
Scott interrupted. “And what about the guys in… the red suits?”
“Uh– I never saw any.” Jordan staggered, confused. “Should… we be worried?”
Alright. Scott had made something up, and the guy’d not taken to it– all while maintaining what he’d said before. So, at worst, those people and that facility had really existed, and they’d been somehow involved with them. And, only Jordan recalled. At best, this guy was just insane– he certainly looked disheveled enough.
One last thing, before he reset again– he was going to be thorough. “Is Zain alive?”
The boy’s eye twitched at a corner, and he looked up, and to the side. He shot some displeased grimace into the wall. “Yeah. Hundred percent.” he muttered.
After rewinding again, Scott took a moment to rest on the door before opening it. He’d done this before, with many of his closer subordinates– being able to do conversations over was predictably effective when it came to leading, especially when they didn’t know you were doing it. It was how he kept his people so motivated, so confident in him. Even now, Kratos looked at him with his panic half-dead, such was the “faultless leader” image Scott had crafted about himself.
He was going to do some further interrogation in the cordial mode, but there was one thing he had to be sure of, first.
He flung the door open, and threw Signed On For A Sequel through it.
Jordan had wheeled closer, in that time he took to think. All the better to see, as he summoned a spirit of his own.
A brutal thing, it was– formed of some violent mix of cracking, yellow crust and scraping metal, its face aburst with flames, and with what seemed to be small cannons wired into its arms.
What Scott noticed too late, though, was the wild glare that had overtaken the boy’s face. The spirit’s arm cannons rose as quickly as it appeared, and a stray spaz of their hissing liquid ammunition tore straight through the door as Scott re-wound.
That’s that confirmed. Not one of the kids he’d met could see Signed On For A Sequel— not even his girlfriend. Not only could this boy Jordan see the spirit, like that other weirdo, Ranov could– he had one of his own.
Further, his reaction to it held some disturbing implications– Jordan acted as if Scott had somehow known him, but he couldn’t imagine knowing someone with such a violent twitch as that.
Had he been traumatized, somehow? Something to do with these men in riot-gear?
Scott would continue asking these questions. Jordan would continue to not understand why his friend didn’t recognize him.
This would continue for some time– across days, as Scott met Jordan all over again and Jordan became increasingly frustrated.
Then, all too soon, would come those more desperate times.
The wind continued to rise, in Oakville.