Authors: Dayton Grey
“Hope so, G. CARE will come and get them and help them,” Allea replied.
“That’s what you think,” Sabien remarked. “They may come, but they won’t help them. They’ll probably send them off to—”
“Sabien!” Allea jumped in and interrupted as she came to a stop. “Let’s focus here.” She pulled up the weather on her LifeCuff once more. “Okay, let’s take a look. I still don’t see any signs of flooding here. Water levels are the same as yesterday, no signs of a flash storm. ORBs are yellow. What was Mr. Dauphine talking about? Let’s walk around a bit.”
As they proceeded around the streets, it became evident to Geon that this was a rougher area of the city. Living conditions appeared worse than in theirs and people seemed sicklier. A small girl, face spotted with mud and dirt, hair and clothes filthy, approached Geon with her left hand extended. Geon reached his own left hand out to shake her hand and just as he touched the child’s fingers, Sabien jumped forward and slapped his hand away from the child’s.
“G! We don’t shake hands anymore. It’s frowned upon. It’s because of the spread of the X virus. It’s just too risky and medicine is a rare commodity these days. You have to be more careful. Besides, she doesn’t want a handshake. She wants credits.”
“I’m sorry, little girl, we just don’t have any,” Allea interrupted. The small girl looked up at them with her large, round eyes. Geon’s stomach sank, imagining the poor girl going without food today.
“It’s okay, Allea. I can spare a couple,” Sabien said, noticing the look on Geon’s face. He nodded to the small girl and put his LifeCuff next to hers and said, “Transfer two credits.” Both his and the child’s cuffs beeped and she ran off with a half-smile.
“Geon, slide your hand over this,” Allea said as she touched some buttons on her cuff. The entire cuff suddenly glowed a light, bright blue. “It’s UV. It’ll kill any germs on your hand. Get used to doing this on your own cuff each day. From now on, no shaking, okay? Mama V encourages us to be friendly with each other like people used to be, but you still can’t be too careful with strangers.”
Geon nodded as he slowly ran his hand over the blue light on Allea’s cuff.
“You can also do this,” Kumuki said as he leaned toward Geon and slapped the back of his right hand with the back of his own right hand. Geon smiled, unsure if Kumuki was joking or playing a prank on him.
“So, like a high five? Only…
“Exactly. It’s called a back-five.” Sabien responded as the others nodded in agreement. Geon shook his head in amazement.
What a strange, backward world,
he thought as the group continued on, walking further into the depths of the city.
“So, Mama V…,” Geon started. “She seems really loving… caring. Did she ever have children of her own?”
Allea looked up from her cuff to respond. “She doesn’t talk much about her past, but no she never did. She was engaged once, but I think he died… during the Shift. She doesn’t talk about him and we don’t even know anything about him, except that she called him Sivi. We think that’s why she cares for us so much. She looks at us like we’re her own.”
Geon nodded, wondering about Sabien’s and Kumuki’s past. “So, does anyone ever get…
Sabien laughed. “It’s not like that, G. Not like the orphanages of the past. We aren’t going anywhere. It’s permanent. Hope you like your new family.” He grinned at Geon who smiled back at him and nodded.
Suddenly, all three of the LifeCuffs made the same loud, unique noise, like a rusty horn. Instantly some shouts from other people in the streets could be heard, but Geon couldn’t make out what they were saying.
“Oh my God, here we
!” Allea shouted as she pulled up the hologram from her cuff and began gesturing rapidly with her fingers as it beeped with each motion. “It’s a flash flood! Mr. D
right! G, get ready to run! It’s coming from a few blocks northeast from here. This way!”
The group began jogging in a northern direction as Allea checked her cuff and guided them through the streets. They turned right at one block and ran through a narrow alley and then took an immediate left turn and came to a stop.
“Guys,” she said, staring down at her cuff once more, eyes wide open and voice sounding more serious. “This one is coming fast. Unless you feel like going for a swim, we need to RUN!”
Sabien grabbed Geon by the sleeve of his jacket and pulled him as they began sprinting down the street and away from the coastline. Geon struggled to get his feet moving quickly at first, but after a block of hobbling awkwardly, he began to get his rhythm down. His heart pounded and his chest tightened as he tried to take in as much of the cool air as possible. He was frightened, yet strangely,
The other three looked much more calm and even Kumuki had a worried grin on his face as he lurched hastily through the streets. Geon turned his head to the right to look at other people as they screamed and ran in the same direction as them. One boy, who appeared to be with his mother, fell down and in one swift motion his mother grabbed him and jerked him up again. He noticed the ORBs were all glowing orange now, this time pulsing slightly faster than before. To his left, people were running as well. Children, teens, adults,
. All of them wearing regular clothes in a full-on sprint away from the water, moving faster than he had ever seen people move before. It was a sight Geon had never imagined.
Suddenly, the sounds of the water came within earshot of them. It sounded like a jet engine from an airplane and Geon could feel the ground below him tremble. The sound of the rushing water became louder and louder until Geon finally looked back to see where it was.
“GEON, NEVER LOOK BACK!” Sabien screamed with authority. “EYES FORWARD, KEEP RUNNING!”
It was too late. What Geon saw sent a shiver down his back and left him breathless. His legs started to stiffen, his body petrified from the sight of the churning water. The water wasn’t coming from directly behind them, but rather from the side streets. The first thing Geon saw was the crashing and splashing of the wake off the side of a building and into the street they were running in. It came from all sides behind them, gushing and billowing nearly ten feet high as it gained momentum. Geon could see debris of all sizes floating in the water, and some people behind them had even climbed onto rubble and grabbed onto larger structures and fixed wreckage to save themselves as the water rushed past and even over them. Sabien looked back to see Geon a few paces behind them and stopped running, turning quickly to grab Geon once again, this time clasping his shoulders and jerking them toward his own. He stared directly into Geon’s eyes and said calmly and sternly.
“Geon. I need you to run now. Don’t look back. Don’t stop. Not for ANYTHING.”
Geon nodded and followed this time in full sprint. The cloud of fear began to slowly dissipate as he ran faster and faster, jumping over small trash piles in the streets and winding left and right around larger items with quick, graceful motions. His legs felt looser now, stronger, quicker. He soon passed Kumuki, who was paces behind Allea, and then soon passed her as well. Feeling a burst of energy as he stared at Sabien, only a few paces ahead of him, he gritted his teeth and pushed his feet as fast as he could go. The pain from his legs, his feet, his chest all disappeared. The world around him faded out and everything suddenly seemed to be happening in slow motion.
This has become a race.
His ears pulsing with the sudden rush of blood, Geon pulled up side-by-side with Sabien, never looking away from his path. Sabien, too, had his eyes fixed ahead, and moved with strong, precise motions.
“Left up ahead!” Sabien shouted as his entire body leaned left to make the turn without breaking speed. Geon followed only a step behind him and pulled up next to him again. With a final burst of energy, Geon pulled ahead of Sabien, his heart and lungs pounding in his chest. Just ahead of them stood a building with a large opening in the front, and other people could be seen running into it. Geon headed straight for it, pushing his body to maintain his lead on Sabien. The safe house was in sight now and he could see people standing in the back and ushering others in. Sabien was out of sight now and Geon began to slow down as he prepared to stop inside the building. Just as he was steps away from the doorway, Sabien blew past him like a furious gush of wind. He hurtled through the doorway and into the building, stopping only inches from slamming into the other people there. Geon smiled as he crossed the doorway just behind Sabien, wondering if Sabien had let him get ahead or if he truly did have Sabien beat for a few seconds.
Sabien stood there, one hand resting against a table, appearing relaxed and said with a smile, “Hit the brakes a bit early did you? Every step counts, brother.”
Geon laughed and nodded as he took deep breaths and bent forward in exhaustion. Allea came running in only paces behind them and soon after, Kumuki came hurtling into the doorway at breakneck speed, ramming into multiple people in the room all the while yelling at the top of his lungs. Geon could see the water moving rapidly toward them, and with no one else in sight, a man at the front hit a button near the front and a large wide metal door came slamming down, closing off the opening from the street. The door rattled and shook for a couple minutes as the water throbbed against it and moved its way around the building. Geon looked around and saw that everyone stood motionless, staring at the metal door, until the rattling finally subsided.
“Are all these floods so close?”
“Well, usually we get more notice than that,” Allea said, looking down at her cuff and determining the after-effects of the flood. “It seems lately that more and more floods are happening with less warning. It’s strange, really…”
“Yeah, strange is one way to put it. Obviously these recent floods are caused by deep ocean government weapons testing…
The others stared at Sabien with perplexed looks on their faces.
“But yeah, it was a close call. I have to say you’ve got some pretty decent stems on you, bro,” Sabien said while motioning toward Geon’s legs. “I mean, not prize-worthy like my
, but still, decent nonetheless.”
Allea and Kumuki laughed as Geon shook his head in disbelief at Sabien’s brazen self-pride.
“Take it as a compliment, G,” Allea said, smiling and patting Geon on the arm. “That’s as close as you are going to get to one from Sabien.”
Geon thought of a good retort, but kept it to himself, deciding to let Sabien bask in his small victory.
If I hadn’t slowed down though,
Geon thought to himself,
this race might have ended differently
With the mood calm now, Geon looked around and noticed that everyone else had taken seats at the tables on the edges of the room, or at the individual seats in the middle. He noticed a thin strange track, about waist-high, running all through the center of the space and around the edges. The track looked a bit like a miniature Glidewing, except without the hanging car. It was flat on top and about one foot wide and it ran into the back of the room and through two holes in the wall.
“What is this place?”
“It’s sushi!” Kukumi exclaimed. “My favorite!”
Just then a sound overhead beeped and a voice said, “Operation is back in service. Please enjoy your meals.” With that, the track around the room suddenly snapped on with a click and began moving around the room. The sounds of some sort of machinery in the back behind the wall began making clanking and squirting sounds. People at their tables began talking quietly with each other and gesturing down on their tables. Geon followed the others as they grabbed their own seats at a table.
“You hungry, G?” Sabien inquired. “Welcome to Sushi Four. There’s one in every sector.”
Geon nodded in anticipation of a good meal. He was starving.
As they sat down, the table in front of them lit up with a bright hologram of colors, moving pictures and menu items, one for each of them. Geon laughed in delight as he watched the others flipping through the menu items by moving their fingers around the projected images. He followed their lead and looked at the different concoctions of sushi items. All of them were different types of rolled, colored ingredients, none of which Geon could recognize. Geon noticed the menu didn’t actually describe the food or ingredient specifically. Everything seemed sort of vague and strange to him.
Geon wrinkled his forehead in confusion. On the side of the pictures of food were a number of different drink options as well. These had no description or names, just colors.
“What do you guys like here?” Geon asked, looking at the others for some guidance.
“I always get the spicy roll and the purple drink!” Kumuki shrieked with excitement.
“G, don’t agonize over the decision,” Sabien retorted. “Pretty much everything tastes the same, more or less. And the drinks? Don’t get me started on the drinks. They’re all
“They’re not! Purple drink is the best drink!”