October is here! So it’s time for a Game of Life marathon. Buckle your seat belts, things are about to get rocky for Jeff and Harriet.
Part 13 — Control
The control room stayed silent, giving Harriet plenty of time to examine the computer. The insides sparked and flickered, most of it reduced to slag from Harriet’s rifle shot. She pulled out piles of shredded circuitry and retrieved a small black cube. It was mostly intact, save for some scorch marks and a corner.
“That was close,” Karen said scowling. “That box is made for concussion and fire, not a high caliber rifle round.”
“I told you it’d be fine. It’s bullet proof enough.”
“What’s on the hard drive?” Jeff said. “Why are you so big on getting your hands on it?”
Karen shook her head. “No questions. It’s part of our deal. You don’t need to worry about it causing the end of the world or anything.”
“Yeah, that part already happened,” Harriet said. She handed over the box. “You need any help getting it open?”
“No.” Karen slipped it into her pocket.
“Nice doing business with you.” Harriet grabbed Jeff by the shoulder, leading him out of earshot. “We need to not sit around and argue. They helped us, time to GTFO.”
“You don’t think it’s shady?”
“Everything is shady now. Unless you think we should stick around with them, we should focus on getting our ride back. If they were suspicious, I’d rather get back to our humvee before they steal it. Yeah I’m curious about the data, but I couldn’t d anything with it even if I had it.”
Jeff sighed. “True. So what’s the plan from here?”
“Find a city with a stocked game store, get some food and lay low for a couple of months.”
“So, the usual.”
“Hey,” Justin approached, carrying a thumb drive. “Wanted to say thanks for your help. Without you two, we wouldn’t have made it out here alive. Here’s a little something from Karen.”
Harriet took it. “A two Meg? What is this, 1990?”
“It’s special,” Justin said grinning. “Since we recovered the data from the mad doctor, we won’t need those any more. I promise, you’ll like it. I’m not supposed to warn you, but we have forty-eight hours before this place is a crater. We have a ride coming in twenty four, if you want a–”
“We’ll pass,” Harriet said. “I knew you were a fucking fed the instant I laid eyes on you.”
Justin lost his smile. “Well, to be fair, you asked if we were military.”
Jeff shook his head. “You said you were pre-med. That’s lying in my book.”
“I am. To broaden my horizons right before this shit went down. Look, we’re feds, so what? The data you got us might help stop this. We got labs set up in D.C. we could always use talented people like–“
“No, fucking, way,” Harriet said. “Bad enough we’re relying on Federal equipment. You want to help me? Get me a GPS layout and a point to the nearest half intact city.”
Justin sighed, glancing back at Karen. “She called it I guess. I just thought we could hang for a while. Been so long since I’ve hung out with anyone half as cool as you two.”
“Sorry,” Jeff said. “I agree with Harriet, and she’s all the company I need. Trust is a big thing for us. Nice to meet you Justin, too bad I won’t be seeing you again.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“Call it a gut feeling.” Jeff nudged Harriet and they headed for the door.
Their footsteps echoed through the hallway. The manual override unsealed the rest of the doors and the auxillary power trickled into the lights.
Jeff glanced back at the lab door. “Odds of them killing us?”
“Low. Probably twenty percent.”
“Twenty? Man. I hoped for one percent.”
“Well, if we’re lucky they’re CIA. Nothing they do matters anymore. The FBI are bigger assholes when it comes to sustainability secrets. They might pin us for being terrorists or some bull shit. Then there’s a five percent chance reinforcements are outside ready to light us up.”
“Whoa, so if they’re CIA, that data is some foreign conspiracy shit?”
“Pretty much.” Harriet stopped walking, putting her hands on his hips. “So were you serious? I mean, marriage?”
“Dead serious,” Jeff said. “It’s not like it’ll change much. I’m not going anywhere without you. Why not make it official? We should start asking people if they’re priests. You picky about what kind?”
“Well… I am Jewish. Not that it matters much anymore. ”
“Bullshit. You eat the shit out of bacon.”
“I eat bacon cause it’s delicious. Life’s too damn short to worry about what’s unclean post zombie apocalypse. You wanted to know if I’m picky, I’m saying I’m not. Just– if there’s a choice I’d rather it be a Rabbi.”
“What about pagans? Or like a crazy cult that worships bears?”
Harriet chuckled. “Now you’re just being a dick.”
“You didn’t answer my question.”
“That’d be fine too. As long as you’re mine and I’m yours.”
They reached the end of the hall and stepped outside. A chorus of clicks caught their attention. Ten armed soldiers waited with rifles at the ready.
Jeff and Harriet raised their arms. He sighed, leaning close to her. “Five percent, huh?
“Give or take. We have shitty luck.”
One of the soldiers raised a hand to her ear. “Two unidentified civs, armed. Orders Blackbird?”
Tense silence passed and the soldiers lowered their guns. The officer pulled away her mask, revealing short brown hair. “Sorry, didn’t realize you were a friendly.”
“Blackbird?” Jeff said, lowering his hands.
“Agent Karen Helgest.”
“I know who you mean… but she’s blonde. It doesn’t make sense.”
The officer smirked, “It’s a wig.”
Harriet scoffed. “So, if we’re friendlies, you can get the hell out of our way. We need to leave now if we want to be at safe distance between us and the nuke you plan to drop on this place.”
The officer scowled. “That’s classified information.”
“Not that hard to guess,” Jeff said. “Where’s our ride? The humvee on the corner of town?”
“Right where you left it. We gassed it up, restocked your ammo and replaced the tires.”
“Do you usually do this to strange military vehicles?”
“We do when it’s an order, Sir.”
Jeff and Harriet exchanged a look.
“I think you have it backwards. You two are particularly lucky.” The officer handed over her earpiece to Harriet. “Karen has something to say.”
Harriet snatched it away. Listened and nodded absently.
Jeff raised a brow. “What’s she saying?”
She held up a hand to hush him and paced away a few steps.
The atmosphere turned icy, and suddenly Jeff felt as much an outsider as any of the soldiers.
“I understand, thanks,” Harriet said, handing back the earpiece. “Let’s go Jeff.”
“R-right.” He had to hurry to catch up, matching her strides. “So what did Karen say?”
“We’re all dead in three months.”
“Wait, I shouldn’t be vague about this. In three months there’s gonna be an ‘event’ capable of wiping humanity off the planet, turning most of us, and killing the rest. That’s what we handed over to Karen, the only clue to the details of how it’ll be done.”
“So, we did good right?”
Harriet shook her head and held up the thumb drive. “They’re gonna take Karen captive as soon as she gets on the chopper to D.C. “”
“Do you remember the deal we made with Karen?”
“Yeah, she wanted the drive from– wait. No that’s not right. She wanted a drive on the guy’s person. You saying that is– ”
Harriet clenched a fist around the thumb drive. “Exactly. She knew something was wrong and she’s relying on us to clean up the mess– typical fucking fed. She passed the buck.”