Update: Sorry for the delay. I lost my draft for his on Friday, and just now recovered it. Posts will resume as normal this week (barring strange circumstances.
Harriet made her way to the power station without incident. The only unavoidable camera and the door alarm keeping her from leaving the side exit had an ‘accidental’ lapse in coverage. The entrance door to the power room had a familiar quirk to it.
At her old job, before the apocalypse anyway, the server room had the same door. Any power interruption what-so-ever allowed entry a few seconds. She’d been the one to report it as the system’s fuse box was also notoriously finicky.
Unlike the door at work, this one was exposed to the elements. To that effect, it did its job well. She ran her hand over the surface finding no rust. The access panel, that was a different story. She pried it open easily with a screwdriver and patched in a timer she swiped from a coffee machine.
The power lapse wouldn’t show on Julius’ grid, he didn’t have it wired correctly and even if he did, he probably wouldn’t know what to do about it.
She snipped away the main fuse wire and counted under her breath, keeping her hand on the door handle. The timer clicked and with a gentle push she was inside.
Electricity hummed through the transformers in a steady beat while a large Generator stood by, ready to pick up the slack. Harriet expected as much, but it would be easy enough to override. More importantly, she could make it look natural. The generator hadn’t been serviced for months.
Long rows of steel shelves filled the power room lined with decrepit old equipment. It was a tight fit with barely enough room to walk through straight.
Harriet sniffed involuntarily. Something stunk amongst the strong oil and overworked fuses—a strong odor of rot. She spun around, holding her screwdriver before her like a shiv. Chances were good the place wasn’t nearly as ‘clean’ as Julius lead her to believe.
I don’t have time to play guard duty, though.
She stayed light on her toes, ripping open the main access panel to find the timing computer. It looked pretty old, old enough the device she smuggled out of the Humvee could make short work of it.
Harriet chuckled to herself as she worked. Thanks to a striking similarity between breakthroughs in women’s digital hygiene products in twenty-twenty and automotive diagnostic tools Julius had no idea how much damage she could do.
One-part technical ignorance and one-part male xenophobia makes for a great time.
After she finished the codes, the smell became overwhelming. A quick peek around the corner revealed the source. The rotted remains of a man wearing blue overalls lay in the corner. Most of the flesh of his face was gone and scattered remnants of his putrid entrails surrounded him in a murky black puddle.
“Well he’s not getting back up.”
The air shifted behind her and her body moved on sheer instinct. Icy fingers grazed her shoulder as she ducked forward. A sprinter roared at her, eyes full of feral lust. She flattened against the wall, holding the screwdriver before her.
Undaunted, the sprinter lunged.
She dodged away, shoving it hard against the wall. She ducked behind a nearby wall, cradling the screwdriver close to her body. I need a real weapon, if I jack up my only tool, I’m dead meat.
The sprinter guessed wrong, shuffling down the opposite passageway and sending random junk clattering to the ground. She checked the shelf next to her, finding a nothing but tiny computer parts and wires.
The noise drew the sprinter’s attention and it lunged through the rack, grasping just over her head. Harriet grabbed the shelf tugged and urged the shelf to topple, ducking out of harm’s way. She hurried to the next shelf down and pushed it on top of the scurrying sprinter. Its head splattered between shelves with a satisfying squish.
Harriet let out a sigh and shook the shelving gently. The rattling echoed through the room and faded into the docile hum.
I’m running out of time. Harriet returned to the generator, dragged two shelves to cover her back and got to work. A knock at the door caught her attention.
“Hello?” A voice spoke muffled through the door.
What the… how is he out here?
“Chris is that you?”
Harriet ignored him, finished her work and replaced the panel. Chris was likely the dead body laying on the ground.
“I heard something fall, you alright man?”
Harriet crept towards the door, looking for something, anything, heavy enough to knock him out. When she found nothing, she crouched next to the shelving closest to the door. Guess I’m doing this the hard way.
She felt a tap on her shoulder, flinching she glanced over to spot a hunched figure with a blank face and an immaculate business suit. She fled, flattening against the wall.
The figure raised a calm finger, where its mouth should be and shushed her. “No worries. You just need to kill him.”
Harriet pressed her mouth into a hard line, glancing to the door and back. It made no move towards her.
“Isn’t that always the answer? Killing?”
It’s an illusion. It’s got to be. Harriet pinched her eyes shut and steadied her breathing, but she couldn’t. Her heart raced faster, harder. The more she thought about it, the more the figure was right. Nothing was going to get better in this situation until Julius was dead and gone.
The door lock jostled and Julius spoke again. “I think someone’s in there.”
Wait, is he talking to someone?
“What’s this thing on the fuse box?”
The gentle click echoed through her ears. The door lock disengaged and drifted open.
“Hey, it’s open!”
Harriet retreated deeper in the room. A man wearing a gas mask stepped inside, pointing with an assault rifle.
That’s not Julius. Harriet tightened her hand around one of the shelves, waiting for a chance to strike, but the intruder wore body armor and looked to be on full alert. Another man followed behind and signaled to someone else—military signs. These guys were professionals.
Her mind raced, Julius was a civilian, turned mad by the end, but there was no telling who these men were. She poised to run instead.
Then the shelf beside her fell.
Harriet caught it with her arms, on reflex, but two men bookended her with rifles at the ready. The telltale click of their safety’s snapping off sent a chill down her spine. “I’m human!”
A third man pulled the shelf back—he was the one that tipped it and Harriet stood, holding her hands over her head.
The man in front of her pressed a barrel against her throat. “Move, we kill you. Answer our questions without any bullshit, we kill you.”
She said nothing, swallowing back a lump in her throat.
“Good. You understand basic directions. Is that your vehicle in the lot?”
“Yes,” she said.
“You don’t look like military. Dressed down?”
“No. The feds gave it to me.”
“You got the keys?”
“No. It’s in the turnpike stop.”
“Just the guy that runs this place. He’s crazy… took me hostage.”
The front man lowered his gun. “Pat her down. If she has keys on her, kill her.”
“And if she doesn’t?”
“Kill her slowly.”
The blank-faced man stood, the others paid no mind to him. “For the record, I tried to help, but you humans… never listen.”