CHAPTER THREE

Jarvan, hands jammed into his pockets, walked the late-afternoon streets in search of his son.  For nearly six hours he braved the maelstrom swirling about him, ignoring everything but his goal.  Granted, he had little to fear, as he could have been the leader of any number of the larger and more dangerous packs now roaming the streets.  Those who knew him well called him “Bear,” while those who didn’t know him mostly tried to stay out of his way–especially on a day such as this.  Nearly two meters tall, barrel-chested, and with a sternly chiseled face, he was an imposing figure in the sector as he strode defiantly through the chaos.  At his most dangerous only when drunk, he could still turn a pack like a flock of birds with only his sneer to back him up.  He was a walking wall, who presently had a number of women and children in his shadow like killdeer following a bull through his pasture.

He still wasn’t sure how it had happened, but with every turn of a corner more of the helpless attached themselves to the train.  It wasn’t like he encouraged it–he had, in fact, actively attempted to discourage the first few who tried to follow–but the women looked so frightened and forlorn that he finally gave up.  Each group was questioned about Jarrell, and then quickly dismissed when they had no information; and though he had no clear direction or destination, as he walked a few would peel off and hastily slip into what was, presumably, their apartment building while others added on.  He was the engine of this train, but he made no stops.

The big man looked up at the skyline as he strode purposefully down the street.  Sentry Robots patrolled the air above, while everywhere around him people were running with their bags of groceries, trying desperately to reach their apartments before one of the packs caught up to them.  Occasionally Jarvan heard the chuffing sound of a Sentry launching a trank dart, immediately followed by some offender falling insensate to the ground.  Above the Sentries the sun shone between the buildings, beams splayed out from where it hid, reflecting off thousands of windows and creating as many spotlights shining on the stage before him.  On another day he might consider it beautiful.

“Mr. Gardisto!  Bear!”  The call came from behind and to his left.  He turned to see a boy running toward his caravan from a side street.  The boy appeared to be roughly the same age as Jarrell, though he was a bit larger.  The joy on his face at seeing Jarvan was matched only by the obvious fear in his eyes for the events surrounding them.  As he drew closer, Jarvan recognized him, though he never broke his stride to allow the boy to catch up.

“Bindle, have you seen Jarrell?”

The teen, breathing heavily, pulled alongside the man and adjusted his stride to match.  “I saw him in line with Cesca this morning, just before everything went crazy.  I had just got my allotment and was walking away from the line when people started running.”  He lowered his head slightly, “I’m sorry… I didn’t see which way they went.”

“This morning?”  Jarvan turned to give the boy an appraising look, “What happened to your allotment… and why are you still out?  You should be home by now!”

The boy hesitated for only a second before answering, “I couldn’t get home.  I was cut off by the East Siders, and, well, I’ve been hiding out ever since.”

East SidersDamn.  Jarvan knew they would be out in this–they couldn’t pass up an opportunity this great–but he had hoped they would still be on the goddamn East Side.  A pack that large, though, tended to move slowly, and there was no way Bindle would have been cut off by the pack unless they were out in numbers before the trouble started.  That just didn’t make any sense.  This pack was mostly adults, too, so while they–unlike the younger groups–were not so quick to take up violence, they were far more brutal when they did.

Jarvan stopped dead in his tracks, and looked directly at the boy.  “Wonderful.  And I supposed you’ve led them right here, haven’t you?”

Bindle’s eyes darted around nervously, and he said, “I think one of the kids has been tracking me.”  He looked up at the man, eyes wide, and quickly added, “But I’m sure I lost her a couple of blocks back!”

The women who could hear the exchange gasped quietly and pulled their children closer.

“Just fucking great.”  Jarvan surveyed the group behind him.  There had to be more than sixty people following him now, and unless they all lived in the closest buildings, they were all about to be caught without shelter of any kind.  You couldn’t just walk into any building… it had to be the one in which you lived, unless someone buzzed you up.  That wasn’t going to happen anytime soon.  Of course, he could always just leave them behind.  Son of a bitch.  It was days like this that he really hated his old friend.  Aldan had told him repeatedly what a good person he was, and no matter how hard he tried to prove otherwise, days like this just kept happening.

“All right, boy, you’ve got point.  I want you a good twenty meters ahead of us at each intersection, and you yell your fool head off if you see even a hint of East Siders.  Got that?”

“But…”

“No buts, boy!  Do as I say, or you’re on your own.”

Bindle looked around uneasily.  He was standing in the only calm place surrounded by a sea of storms.  He nodded once, then moved ahead of the crowd.

Jarvan called out to him before he got very far, “Take a left at the next intersection.  I think I know a place where we can hole up.”

 

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