Author's note: I was inspired to do this piece after having an odd dream which will be mentioned in chapter 3.... Show full author's note »
The UndergroundThe buzzing of a powerful motor bike roared through the silent plains of sand.
“Stop! Thief!” yelled out a mechanically created voice.
Robotic security bots were in hot pursuit towards the biker.
“Faster Tor faster!” Vanessa hissed.
She was on top of her mechanical-dog in the form of a motorbike. The girl was young, barely in her mid-teens. The guards continued their advance. She knew it was risky to steal the ancient 21st century computer hardware from the most highly guarded scrap shop in all of the sectors. Rumor had it that the Duke himself used metal from there.
The border to Sector 33 was clearly visible in the scalding landscape. This was no problem to Vanessa. After all, she was born here.
“Cut em’ off!” one of the guards cried.
The gate guards were beginning to lower the wall’s entrance. The door was a single slab of concrete, lifted from the ground from a single strong wire. Vanessa stamped on Tor’s drive mode furiously. She had never been sent to jail before, and from the descriptions Chase gave her, she did not like it.
“Oh come on!” she snarled.
She looked on ahead and gasped. Suddenly the guards were surrounded by a mound of sand and landed smack-dab against the stone door. But the girl was gone.
Vanessa landed into Sector 34 with a thud and Oomph!
“Ow…” she moaned
Groaning in pain, she rose up and dusted sand from her hair and face.
“Tor?” she asked hoarsely.
She found the dog a few feet away. Unfortunately, he had no legs and therefore, had no wheels.
“Oh great!” she moaned with a sigh.
A jutting rock was right in front of Sector 34’s entrance to Sector 33.
“I’m happy you’re in bike mode.” She mumbled.
Tor was like any dog to Vanessa, a loyal but very talkative mutt, who couldn’t shut up.
“I think Tec designed Tor to be annoying on purpose. And Sand-Wheels! Who replaced my hover pads?!” She growled.
Vanessa swore silently and pressed a button on her wrist watch.
“Who do you want to talk to?” the watch asked.
A small blue-green screen appeared from the watch face. A woman’s face was on the screen.
“Hey Maudie. Listen, I need to talk to Tec.” Vanessa answered her cell phone.
Who needed a touch screen phone when you had a computer who talks to you? (Not allowed in school during tests. Does calculations.)
“Of course Miss Retaxes.” Maudie nodded.
“Hey, call me Vanessa. Oh and thanks.” Vanessa answered.
Maudie nodded. The screen suddenly turned off and then reappeared again. A young girl in color image appeared on the screen.
“Hey Van.” Tec said casually.
She was Vanessa’s best friend ever since they met in the orphanage. It had been very long time ago since the two lived in the now abandoned and penniless orphanage. They had grown up together as child-hood friends.
“Hi Tec.” Vanessa grinned.
Tec’s shoulders stiffened.
“What happened? You never call me when you’re out.” Tec asked worriedly.
Vanessa frowned. Tec was always a worry-wart, constantly checking on her best friend.
“She’s always worried…Maybe its cuz we’re so close. Like sisters…”
“You know me so well. I’m stuck in Sector 34. Someone switched my hover pads for Sand-Wheels, and I drove em’ broke.” Vanessa informed.
Tec sighed. As if she had enough stress taking care of her own health, she had to take care of Vanessa’s education as well.
“I’ll get Chase to pick you up. He’s over in Sector 36 now and he is closer to you. Oh yeah, when you get home, I am going to make you hit the books. Your grammar is atrocious!” Tec continued.
“Why?” Vanessa asked.
“Its ‘I drove them till they broke’. Not the way you said it.” Tec answered.
“I drove over a rock. Sorry Tec.” Vanessa mumbled.
Tec looked at her best friend sympathetically.
“It’s ok. I really want to bust something mechanical up anyways. I’ll fix Tor up.” Tec said gently.
“You sound like a mom.” Vanessa smiled.
Tec’s eyes were sad. They all had such a hard life as a bunch of homeless kids in the streets. It was only Vanessa who stuck by Tec’s side and was the closest to family Tec had. Tec looked at Vanessa’s hard blue eyes, so unusual during this time in both color and strength. They all grew up fast, even a little too fast.
“Ok, I’ll see you soon, Van.” said Tec.
The watch’s screen turned off. Vanessa bent her skinny knees and sat down in the sand. She was bored and began whistling a random tune.
An hour later, the sun was still high in the sky. Vanessa had set up a small tent she recovered from Tor’s pack. She was still bored, lying down and staring up at the tent’s roof. A roar of an engine sounded from outside of the tent. Vanessa stood up and walked outside sighing in relief. A black motorcycle was waiting outside. The black leather clad figure removed his dark shades.
“Hey Van.” Chase said casually getting off his bike.
“Hi Chase.” Vanessa answered.
Chase ran a gloved finger through his wild greased stuck-up hair.
“You need a shower.” Vanessa noted.
“I was working with Clark today.” Chase slouched.
Vanessa turned slightly pink.
“I thought Clark was in Sector 24?” Vanessa asked.
Vanessa pressed a button on her watch. The tent automatically folded up to the size of a dime. She pocketed it and mounted onto the motorcycle. Chase pressed a button and a large claw like hand appeared from the back of the motorbike and picked up Tor’s remains. Chase smiled suddenly; almost sheepishly.
“No!” Vanessa growled.
Chase began to look nervous.
“Have you been…drinking?!” Vanessa exploded.
Chase looked absolutely shocked.
“No!” Chase snorted.
The bike revved into life and drove onto the border.
“I’m way over that. I’m not gonna be a drunken fool lying dead in a stinking alley. I’m actually cutting down on my cigs.” Chase said casually.
“But why were you in Sector 36?” Vanessa asked.
Chase smiled slyly.
“Tec’s got’ a lead, so she made me go.” Chase explained.
Vanessa sighed. But Chase smiled.
“You really don’t like these missions huh.” Chase laughed.
Vanessa shook her head.
“I haven’t been caught, but I’m scared of jail.” Vanessa shuddered.
“You’re lucky ya never got caught.” Chase continued.
Vanessa knew that Chase was in deep trouble when they found him. He was lying wounded and drunk in front of Tec’s workshop. After Tec healed and let Chase in, he began to show his dark side. Apparently Chase had been abandoned at birth and was a lone nomad and drug addict. Chase was very violent and had a terrible alcoholic habit. But Tec kept him. It was mostly the fact that Tec flawlessly repaired Chase’s motorbike, but she did seem rather “air-headed” around him. Chase though had a very colorful jail time history. But Tec took the time to re-teach him. Now he was a respected member of the “family”.
“I need to go pick up Tristian over at Clark’s place. He shared a ride with me this morning. Where’s your RV?” Chase asked.
“Over in the north-east corner of Sector 35.” Vanessa answered.
Vanessa was also homeless, just like her friends. However she lived in an RV. Chase and Tristian lived with Tec in her house upstairs of her mechanic’s shop; in Sector 66. Clark was another friend who was a car mechanic living in a body shop in Sector 24. Vanessa, however, lived in any Sector she wanted. She still occasionally stayed in Clark or Tec’s house, but she was mostly a loner. The RV was very significant in Vanessa’s life. She received it after the orphanage closed down. Apparently, her unknown mother left the RV at the orphanage for her daughter. Why Vanessa, Tec, Tristian, Chase, or Clark was abandoned was unknown. They had theories, both personal and general. Vanessa frowned gently at these thoughts. She missed the family she never knew, but she had her friends; for now.
Chase’s motorcycle stopped in front of the off-white RV.
“I’m sending Tor to Tec’s place. See ya later Van.” Chase bid.
“Ok, see you later, Chase.” Vanessa waved.
Chase gestured with the rim of his helmet and revved away. Vanessa turned around and entered her home. She merely pressed a button on her watch and the door swung open. The RV was amazingly roomy, despite its small appearance. Vanessa slumped into her couch and gave a sigh of relief. The day was long and the only thing she could prove to her efforts was an ancient 21st century hunk of computer junk.
“I hope I can get a good price for this chunk of metal.” Vanessa thought.
She never cared much about mechanics that was Tec and Clark’s jobs. Vanessa slowly closed her eyes. Being a “scrounger” was hard work and one must be persistent. She had to look for pieces of metal to sell to dealers for her lively hood. She mostly lived on that money. Tec had her shop and Clark had his, so they had money. Vanessa, Tristian, and Chase mostly also took odd jobs to earn money. Vanessa was lucky she had the RV from her unknown mother as a home and roof over her head.
Soon enough, she was fast asleep and drifting into the world of dreams.
She lay on a wide bed of clouds. An endless, infinite, perennial sea of clouds. Nothing stopped her endless sleep and eternal rest. She snuggled close to a pillow of cloud. She did not want the moment to stop… But that music… She heard something familiar in her past, her lost childhood past. A woman’s voice was singing. A beautiful, amazing song that seemed familiar and comforting. But she did not recognize the words. A gentle caressing hand passed through Vanessa’s tired and worn forehead. The hand was gentle but rough and weather-worn. Yet, Vanessa felt safe and felt a sense of love and compassion in the hand. Then, it disappeared. Vanessa furrowed her brow. This was wrong; she wanted the comfort and the vanished song. But a new sound replaced the other, a buzzing noise close to her ear. She tried to brush the sound away, but it continued to grow, grow, and grow….
Vanessa woke up with a start. The dream was so vivid, but the buzz was still here! She looked around wildly.
“Miss… I mean Vanessa, the phone is ringing. It’s your friend: Tec.” said Maudie.
She was not only in Vanessa’s watch, but the main computer in her home. Vanessa groggily sat up.
“Urg… I feel half sober.” Vanessa moaned.
Maudie quickly turned on the kitchen and made Vanessa a cup of hot chocolate milk. She sent it to Vanessa’s side.
“Thanks Maudie. *yawn*. You can show Tec now.” Vanessa said sleepily.
Maudie turned off and Tec’s wide awake face appeared. Vanessa sipped her milk.
“What’s up Tec?” Vanessa asked.
Tec rolled her eyes.
“Oh I don’t know… the roof?” Tec asked sarcastically.
Vanessa laughed softly.
“I’ve already *yawn* heard that one.” Vanessa yawned.
She rubbed her nose and sipped her milk.
“You look dead.” Tec noted.
“And you look furious. What’s going on? Have you been having *yawn* ice cream before bed again. That always makes you *yawn* cranky.
Vanessa’s shoulders slumped.
“Nope. It’s Tristain. He replaced your hover pads. Its kina of a bit of revenge for last year’s April fool’s. But mostly its fact that we have a situation. We’re gonna have an Underground meeting right now!” Tec yelled.
“But it’s…” Vanessa began.
Maudie helpfully appeared and showed a holographic clock.
“Four in the morning!” Vanessa yelled.
Tec rolled her eyes.
“Fine, knock yourself out. We’ll meet at nine. I’ll serve lunch too. Besides, I still need some time to fix Tor.” Tec said casually.
“If I can fall asleep. You know me, once I’m awake, I’m awake. When did you wake up? The crack of dawn?” Vanessa asked.
Tec laughed humorlessly.
“Ha ha. Good night Van. Or should I say good morning?” Tec asked.
“Don’t care. Good morning, and all that what not.” Vanessa grunted.
Tec sighed and turned off the screen. Vanessa slumped onto her couch. Maudie helpfully pulled a blanket onto her master and put away the cup; clean and everything. As suddenly as Maudie put the cup away, Vanessa jerked awake.
“Shoot! I forgot to eat dinner! No wonder I’m so sleepy, and Tec and even Clark told me to gain some weight.” Vanessa moaned.
Maudie held up a mirror and began to measure Vanessa’s weight with a scale under the couch.
“Aw I look like I’ve just been at a fight. And I just lost a pound!” Vanessa growled.
Her eyes were dark around the edges and sunken into her skull. Now her cheeks were thinner than before and had little fat. In-fact, all of the friends was skinny and desperately needed extra weight. Maudie helpfully served Vanessa a very balanced meal of pasta, mixed veggies, a whole mango, some cheese, and a glass of water and milk.
“Thanks Maudie. I can’t believe on how much you know.” Vanessa smiled.
Maudie beamed as Vanessa enjoyed the food.
“Thank you Miss. I was going to be a dietician’s aid, but when I malfunctioned I was scraped. So I still have the dietician’s wanted memory. But when Tec fixed me my hope changed. Well I am much happier to be your computer.” Maudie smiled.
Maudie knew the strenuous activities Vanessa encountered every day and how much food she needed. Now 2,000 calories wasn’t enough for the growing teen. Food was hard to come by, but Vanessa always managed, bills and all. Vanessa completely devoured her meal. There was not a single crumb on the plate.
“Thanks again, Maudie. I really owe you one.” Vanessa smiled.
“Do not worry. You can’t really owe me anything, I’m a computer.” Maudie noted.
Vanessa laughed freely.
“Oh I'm still tired. Maybe I can drift to sleep.” Vanessa sighed.
She rubbed her eyes.
“Do you want some sleeping pills?” Maudie asked.
Vanessa shook her head slowly.
“Naw, I can fall asleep. Wake me up at eight thirty.” Vanessa yawned.
“Ok. I’ll set the alarm.” Maudie reassured.
But Vanessa did not hear her. She was already asleep.
The clouds were a deep comfort for her. She knew that the woman’s voice and caressing hand will come back. The hand did come back and the music came. Vanessa smiled and began to move closer and closer to the hand’s owner. She felt herself be lifted into warm arms. The hand’s owner cradled Vanessa and comforted her. Vanessa snuggled closer to the woman.
“Oh my child.” the woman said.
Vanessa was silent and began to come closer to the woman.
“My burden goes to you.”
Vanessa just smiled. She did not care about anything, just being together with her mother.
“I’m so sorry.” her mother sighed
Suddenly the warm hands were gone. Vanessa frowned and began to grawp around for her comfort. The clouds dissipated and she fell. Vanessa instinctively tried to curl up and defend herself. But she was immobilized. A warm stifling blanket was pressed against her chest. She fell and landed in darkness. Vanessa managed to open her eyes and looked up. Three dark cloaked figures came close to her. One was tall and large, another was short and skinny. But the middle one had an average height. The center figure removed its hood. Under was a pale faced girl with blood red eyes. She snarled and showed her bared teeth.
“Die…” the girl growled.
“Die quickly fools. You will not hurt her.”
Shadows came and the buzz began. A single word rang out:
Vanessa jerked herself awake. She was drenched in cold sweat and looked around wildly. She found the warm blanket Maudie gave her was all over her body. Pushing the blanket up, Vanessa glanced around. She looked at the clock. It showed the time: 8:00. Vanessa sighed and scratched her head.
“Man, I feel dizzy.” Vanessa mumbled to herself.
She did not feel sleepy, but disoriented.
“But it was so clear. And my mother…” Vanessa thought
She shook her head and stood up.
“Maudie?” Vanessa asked.
Maudie’s face suddenly appeared.
“Yes?” Maudie asked worriedly.
“Can you call Tec?” Vanessa asked.
Maudie nodded. She disappeared and Tec’s body was seen behind Tor’s body.
“Sup Van? I thought that you would have been asleep until after nine.” Tec asked.
She peaked up from Tor, showing her smug face and spiky head. Vanessa frowned and looked clearly worried.
“Tec, listen. This is serious.” Vanessa said in a low tone.
Tec frowned but looked impassive.
“So, how important was that?” asked Tec.
She looked down again and began to adjust Tor’s mechanisms. Vanessa had just told Tec about the dream.
“Tec. I don’t know, but that was my mother; and that girl. Well, I want to find her.” Vanessa said softly.
Tec suddenly choked and burst into laughter.
“Oh my gosh. It’s like you’re going all Symbolic or something!” Tec laughed.
Vanessa just frowned.
“Oh Tec. I thought you would understand. Oh well. I’ll drive over now.” Vanessa murmured.
Tec frowned as she looked at the blank screen.
“Oh Van.” Tec mumbled.
Vanessa was quiet as she drove through the many Sectors to Tec’s home. She was quiet and her mind was well, some what blank.
“Maybe I am crazy. But the girl in my dream looks so familiar. Oh, just forget it! Tec’s got something up. Just focus on that.” Vanessa thought.
She drove on and on through the sea of endless sand. She had always thought of the days before the land was destroyed. Although the only images she ever saw were in books, she dreamed of swimming pools.
Sector 66 was much fancier than the lower Sectors. Though none can compare to the Sectors in the 90’s, Sector 60 was really the beginning of “real” civilization. And that meant pavement and real houses. Vanessa occasionally drove down pavement, and it was a good change of pace to sand drifts and dunes. Sector 66 was divided into twenty, long log-like paved rows (what we would call streets). Along the rows were houses, and a rare commodity: the occasional plant or two. Vanessa drove along one of the rows to the almost second-hand robotics shop at the end of the third row from Sector 65.
The shop was a two story heavy metal layered store. Across the top of the door was a sign: Tec’s Repairs: Quality Technician. Vanessa remembered when she and Tristian carved the words while Tec herself was inside. When they began to write Tec’s whole name, she stopped them and told them to use her first three letters. After all Technician is a very long name.
“But we still put your name in Tec.” Vanessa said in her head.
She sighed and parked in front of the house, taking her sketch pad along the way. She felt strangely old and weary as she rang the doorbell.
“Yes?” asked a light voice.
“Clark?!” Vanessa almost squealed.
Clark stuck out his head. He was a skinny, boney, almost nerdy kind of guy. He wore very round glasses, but wore a loose T-shirt and shorts. However, his muscular build was very noticeable. His hair was loosely swept in a spiked wave.
“Hi Vanessa.” Clark said coolly.
Vanessa’s ears turned bright red.
“Hey Clark.” She mumbled.
He ran a hand through his wispy hair. Vanessa remembered when they met Clark, several years ago. He was the latest member of Underground but ironically older than Tec and Vanessa. Clark was and still is a mechanic in Sector 24. He had a reputation of being reliable and cheap. Vanessa met him because Tec can not repair cars. She could repair anything electronic, but cars. So Vanessa found Clark and had him repair her RV. When he found out about Underground, he joined along.
“Well? Aren’t you coming in?” Clark asked gently.
“Um… Coming!” Vanessa called.
The two entered Tec’s metal home.
“Hey Van!” barked a familiar voice.
Tor suddenly leapt from Tec’s repairs and jumped onto his owner.
“Tor! That hurt!” Vanessa yelled.
“So? So? So? So? So? Did you miss me? Did you manage at home? Are you sick? Do you have a fever? Are you drinking? Are you on drugs? Because you look drunk and sleepy and waaaaaaaay beyond sober? So? Are ya?” Tor panted.
Vanessa blinked while Clark and Tec looked confused.
“Um. No for the first. Yes for the second. No for the rest.” Vanessa answered.
Tor leapt to his feet and jumped a foot into the air.
“That’s good!” He barked.
Vanessa chuckled and patted Tor’s metal head.
“Sup Tec?” Vanessa called casually.
Tec looked grim and almost haunted.
“I’m fine.” she said shortly.
“Hey! Van’s here!” a voice called from upstairs.
Tec’s two-story home was a simple building. The entrance room was Tec’s repair shop, and the second room was the storage behind a counter and next to the stairs. Upstairs was Tec’s house, including her kitchen, bathroom, and three bedrooms.
“Sup Van!” Tristian called.
Tristian and his best friend Chase came from downstairs. Tristian was a tall young man, and the oldest of the group. He was and orphan, living in the orphanage with Vanessa and Tec. He once picked on the two girls. But when the orphanage closed down, he followed and became a trusted member of the group. Tristian now lived with Tec as her sub assistant, next to Chase.
“What took you so long?” Tristian asked.
He ran a finger through his dark brown hair.
“I was sleeping.” Vanessa answered.
Tristian shoved Chase who sighed and pulled out a bill.
“You two betted?!” Vanessa moaned.
“Yup, and I won. I bet that sleeping would’ve made you late. Chase betted on drawing as an excuse for making you late.” Tristian laughed.
Vanessa rolled her eyes. But it was true. Drawing, and in particular, sketching was a hobby of hers. Vanessa had a natural flair for drawing, and she enjoyed it. She even had a part time job on drawing blue prints for Tec and construction workers.
“So, what do you want Tec?” Vanessa asked.
Tec sighed and shifted her weight.
“Van, look. I feel really guilty.” Tec said softly.
Vanessa looked confused.
“What for?” she asked.
Tec merely shaded her eyes.
“I’ll tell you later. But now I’ll tell you what I found out.” Tec interjected.
She paced around the room in a straight line.
“You know the dictator right? Well, he’s planning a new rule for us to suffer in again.” said Tec.
Everyone groaned. The dictator had many rules, and most was unfair.
“But this plan is particularly strange. He claims that he is searching for a particular ‘criminal’ by using sound waves.” Tec explained.
She scratched her head.
“But this is where it gets strange. I mean, how can you catch someone with sound? So he continued by saying that if anyone heard strange pinging noises, they will report to Sector 99 immediately.” Tec continued.
“So now what do you want? And if you don’t mind, hurry so I can hopefully fall back to sleep.” Vanessa moaned.
Tec laughed sarcastically.
“Oh I know you Van, and that excuse isn’t going to get you anywhere. You stay put; because, you are going to do the most important job of the mission.” Tec smiled.
Vanessa knew that this meant trouble. After all, Tec was the one who dragged all of the friends to this “Underground” business of spying on the dictator and trying to go against his plans. Not like any of their plans worked. But they did prevent the dictator from creating weapons of mass destruction after they showed the plan to public.
“You are going to be my main spy.” Tec continued.
“That’s right. I’m posting you in Sector 99.”