Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer
The sirens start to wail.
John turns as he shouts, swinging a rucksack of stolen provisions onto his back. By the time we see torch beams flicking about in the hands of guards heading this way – the section where their spotlights aren’t working – we’re all running for the fence.
“Keep up, Jinny.”
Easier for you, Em, you’re taller and it’s all legs. Back here in the shortarse division, we get to dodge and hide more often.
Which is what I’m off to do. There’s no way I can make the fence. I’m not convinced Em can, but at least she has a chance.
Sliding under an overturned truck I pull myself up against the back of the cab, hopefully merging the outline of my form with the accumulated crap already under here.
I hear a shot. Nothing to do but wait. Hopefully they aren’t led by zealots determined to exterminate the evil scroungers threatening the glorious New Era government by stealing a few cans of food.
The night is criss-crossed with searching beams.
A scream. Em! Sodding hell, how am I going to tell Trev? Little Em will be five next week.
Footsteps approaching: one person, no torch.
“Vardy!” The shouter is a long way off.
“Here!” The owner of the footsteps.
“You get that screamer?”
“Body went down into the scrap. You want it, come out tomorrow.”
Footsteps pass the overturned truck, then come back.
Another shout: “Not worth it. Come in. We’ll do a final sweep to the fence line.”
“Gimme a moment. Breathing’s playing up.”
The footsteps stop and someone leans against the truck.
Same shouter, further away: “Catch up when you’re sorted.”
I hear Velcro rip and then the sound of someone taking a big pull on an inhaler.
“The problem with sliding under something in a hurry is that you leave a big skidmark if you forget to brush it away.”
Footsteps crunch and scuffed boots come into view. They start kicking about, obscuring the trail I left!
“Your tall friend has broken her ankle. She’s flat out in what’s left of the grey container between here and the railway line. Wait until the follow-up sweep passes in about twenty minutes, then you can retrieve her. They won’t try to fix the gap in the fence until daylight, so you’re good to get out that way. Mind the sentry drone. They rotate for recharge every hour or so and the procedures are slack, so they bring one in before sending a new one out. You’ll have a ten-minute window.”
I can’t believe I’m about to chat with a Domestic Army trooper.
“The time you’ll have to get through that fence and leave the area.”
“Why are you-?”
“Too old to run with the resistance, and my lungs are too fucked anyway. My choices were Pensioners Workhouse or Domestic Army. I chose the one that lets me look like a loyal citizen while making sure the system doesn’t work like the New Era Mandate says it should. Damn sure there are more like me, but surveillance means we can’t trust anyone. In a way, it makes the disruption better: it’s all disjointed, and they’re looking for an organisation.”
“Some days, I do things I’m not proud of. Other days, like tonight, I get to do a little good. Anyway, I’m off to look for intruders I’m damn sure I won’t find. You have better luck next time. Ciao.”
The footsteps retreat. Our unknown saviour is gone. What a way to survive.