(1 of 1. Originally posted on February 03, 2023 for the prompt “Rewind.”)
Gamma Colony, Solar Cycle 1287
Day 13, 4:57 AM
What do you do with the last two hours of livable conditions on the planet? You take a nap. That’s how Kent wanted to go. Peaceful. Quiet. No more conspiracy nuts shouting about destroying ‘The Matrix.’ No more rebels yelling for the overthrow of ‘elitist oppressors.’ Rich and poor. Wise and foolish. Angry rebel and happy family. Soon they would all be scorched into nothing. Because he’d failed.
Kent poked around the alley behind the defunct shield generator building until he spotted a pile of crumpled newspaper big enough to use as a pillow. He wondered briefly whether the heat would wake him before it killed him. No sense losing sleep over it. Kent allowed himself a dark laugh. He laid his head down for his final rest. Something hard pressed against his ear. He dug under the newspapers, and found an old, dirty potato sack, wrapped around a metal box.
Day 13, 2:44 AM
Driving through dark city streets without lights, by the time he saw the roadblock it was too late to stop. Kent floored it, hoping to break through. Two blocks short of the generator. The last hope of the planet, ambushed by a random gang. The impact threw him forward into his seatbelt. Debris clouded his vision as the truck lurched and spun. Something crunched, and the truck stopped moving.
I’m so close. I could walk from here. Kent had to throw his shoulder into the door to get it to open, but then it popped open and sent him rolling into the street. He used his shirtsleeve to wipe blood from his eyes.
He staggered to his feet, then immediately lost his balance and stumbled backward until he hit a wall.
A dark figure approached from the direction of the shattered roadblock, with some kind of long pole resting on its shoulder. “FREE THE PRISONERS! TEAR DOWN THE ILLUSION!”
Is that a rocket launcher? Kent dropped to the ground, huddled against the wall. A second later, his truck exploded into flame. And with it, the planet’s last chance of salvation went up in smoke.
Day 13, 2:30 AM
“Grumpy here,” Kent called in over his truck radio as he reached the downtown exit. He switched off his lights and slowed to a crawl, to avoid unwanted gang attention. “I’m about fifteen minutes away. Please confirm, you want me to deliver the package as planned? Over.”
“This is Snow White. You are confirmed.” The radio crackled. “A coordinated strike took out the warehouse that held our main backup circuit board, at the same time they hit the solar shield. You’ve got the only remaining replacement with you, and man, are we glad to hear your voice. If you don’t get here soon, we’re all gonna get pretty crispy. Over.”
“See you in fifteen, then. Over and out.”
A filthy pile of rags beside road uncurled itself to reveal a crusty man-figure. The stinking pile of dirty bones ran with unexpected stealth to catch up with the lightless pickup truck that had caught his attention. Anyone trying that hard to avoid notice must have something worth taking. The nameless figure climbed up the bumper and over the tailgate. He fumbled around in the dark, grabbed the first thing he laid hands on, and slipped out again without ever drawing the driver’s eye. He tucked his prize under his arm and ran toward the Awakener Gang’s territory. They always paid a premium for good stuff. He wandered around the area for half an hour before he decided to take a break. He’d taken a peek, and this thing looked like an electronic gold mine. Not something to pawn off on the first bidder. Fencing hot tech is long, thirsty work. You have to land the right buyer. So, he found a dark alley with a pile of garbage that seemed like a permanent fixture. He picked up an old, dirty potato sack, wrapped it around his prize, and hid it under some crumpled newspaper. Then he wandered off to find a drink.