Pulse - Chapter 3

Hybrid

A two year old male pitbull, white with sandy patches and missing most of one ear, lifted his leg and pissed on the wall he'd just finished sniffing. There weren't any other dogs inside the compound enclosure so it was possible that he was answering his own messages just out of habit and for lack of anyone else to talk to in his native language. The dog panted and scratched at the ground happily with all four paws before running back to the prefab shack on bricks that he called home.

Outside the shack, the pitbull barked twice and waited patiently. After a few seconds, the door swung open and a man, six-two, dark skin, bald head, pointy goatee, allowed the dog to waddle inside. The man craned his neck left, then right, beyond the doorframe, then quickly closed the door and triple locked it before saying, "Ya done ya business Billy? That's a good boy. Want something from the fridge? Yeah, course ya do."

The woman showering in the next room floated her voice over the airwaves making sure she would be heard above the background noise permeating every corner of the shack; the trundling of a washing machine  with a propaganda-laden broadcast babbling through a speaker on the kitchen table.

"You spoil that dog more than you do me, Kal."

"I love you too, babe. You know that."

Kalen moved to the giant fridge, almost as tall as himself, lit by the warm afternoon sun drifting in through the skylight. With one hand already on the handle and Billy sitting expectantly at his feet tracking his every move, Kalen froze when he noticed something strange happening to the female avatar on the fridge's infoscreen. The image fizzed and twitched a couple of times, then the woman winked at Kalen and chuckled with the familiarity of an old friend. Startled, Kalen let go of the handle and stepped back shooting a look behind him to make sure his girl was still in the bathroom. Billy tilted his head to one side and whined.

"What the hell?" Kalen tried to keep his voice low but also loud enough to be heard over the radio babble. "You promised not to..."

"I know Mr. Rose, I agree, highly innapropriate, but I'll be brief." The woman on the infoscreen stared directly into Kalen's eyes. "Tonight is a go. Do I have your support?"

kalen and maya

i was raised to be loyal to my man. but you're pushing your luck hun.

and i was told never to lie. and i won't lie to you now. i'm not a man. i'm something else.

doesn't make any difference to me. i still see the man you were. and i still love that man.

Honey, i think i'm gonna try the mess hall tonight.  what dyathink. i don't wanna scare the local critters though so I'll cover up. that god awful flight suit you got me might actually come in handy. didn't think i'd ever get to wear it.

you know. i think that would be good for you. the others are just going to have to get used to it. you can't stay hiding forever. and don't you dare criticise my taste in suits. it looked great on the previous owner.

raised eyebrows - oh. really. well i hope you washed it at least. wouldn't want to stink the place out.

I'm just kidding. here i'll get it for you.

kalen mulls over his escape plan. he feels terrible but knows he must go through with it. and maya will be safe here at the base out of the way.

she returns with the suit and he puts it on. military green. with black detailing. not bad. i almost feel human.

I meet you there later. make sure there's some beer left. i'll bring billy so he can mingle.

yeah, sure, why not. it's home now.

are you ok hun. you seem a bit tense.

it's been a while you know... since i've... mingled.

well it's about time you let your hair down. go on. i'll catch you up when i'm finished here.

kalen steps out and heads towards the mess hall.

walks past mess hall towards the armory

tables outside bathed in yellow light

group of guys spot him and block his path

so which side are you on freak? are you with us or with the machines?

What do you think vasquez? This thing is practically a machine from the neck down. Rumor has it, he don't have no peepee! Is that right Freaky boy?

laughter

other guy. Still serious. sitting at table. The Freak has to sleep sometime.

Hey! Thats's enough. Show a little respect. The guy's a vet, just like you. Ain't no fault of his he got torn up like that. Coulda happened to any one of us. Shit, Ida put on the suit too if I came back looking like that. And all o you pricks woulda done the same. You let the guy finish his meal and he might remember that the next time you wanna bust his balls.

mess hall is old aircraft hanger with the front doors half open. a sign hangs over the entrance - better to serve and eat than be free and starve

Kalen reaches the end of a long dimly lit access corridor paused to threat assess scan the enormous mess hall made a mental note of petential threats then defiantly weaved his way through tables of seated men and women towards the nearest row of self service vending machines.

kalen takes juice from machine gets flashbacks remote viewing family north carolina. drops juice has electrical spike experience. threat sensors alert. laughter mockery food thrown. freak zombie look at him, he's a fuckin' zombie! confronted by Briden and two others. asshole jokes. we're gonna be sentients. pure. you're nothing but scrap now.

kalen leaves, collects his gear, talks to buddy at gate, tranqs him, opens main gate, things go wrong, maya steps in, helps out, asks to tag along. Kalen objects but can't refuse. kalen and maya run down back streets where PLUGS are VR halucinating on autopilot (junkies). kalen hacks bike and they slip away as alarm starts to whoop all around the base and floodlights tear through the darkness.

kalen electrical flashback remote view freak gone wrong military hospital blackout electrical storm bullies.

deals shock to bullies in mess hall. gets remote view experience when delivering shock.

kalen base scene

hey anything new?

nah the usual couple dimwits skipping checks. some gal selling permits to you nkow who. and a freak with a deathwish snoopin around where he shouldn't be. i mean no offense but you are pretty freaky if you know what i mean.

No offense taken.

hey kalen, wasn't you last night was it? up to your old tricks?

well shit. ya got me. take me to the brig corporal. holding out wrists.

heh heh. you're alright kalen. I mean sir. not like the brass round here. permanent stick up their ass, if you ask me, but don't tell 'em I said that.

relax henry. you're secret is safe with me.

kalen puts henry to sleep. gets what he needs. another guard returns unexpectedly to find henry slumped and kalen looking guilty carrying weapons and other gear. Shit!! he runs hits the alarm as kalen pulls gun shoots misses. opens gate and exits with two walkers carrying bags.

Santiago Romero reached for the alarm on the wall.

I wouldn't do that if I were you. the barrel of the gun in Kalen's hand was trained directly at Santiago's forehead. I won't miss.

Santiago raised his left hand defensively. Easy cowboy. Let's work this out.

Nothing to work out. No one needs to get hurt. I'm just going to secure you and then leave. That's how this is going down. Now, get on your knees, hands behind your head.

Wait. I...

I won't ask again Santi. kalen interupted. you stepped on a mine here, but it doesn't have to go off.

Santiago lowered his hand

maya turns up and metal bars the new guard (male) on his head

kalen and maya stare at each other.

kal... i... i don't understand. why are you...

oh shit, hun. shit. what did you do?

i... i just... what are YOU doing Kal?

look... i don't have time to explain. i have to leave. you'll be safe if you stay here.

what do mean? where are you going?

I can't tell you that. I just have to leave. Shit. I knew this would get messy.

Messy? Kal, what are you not telling me? I'm here now, so tell me.

It's complicated. i'm needed somewhere else for something important. i didn't want to get you involved. and anyway... who would look after billy?

i'm coming with you.

oh hell no. that's a negative. this could be dangerous. it WILL be dangerous. you and billy will be just fine here until i get back.

Billy can stay. But I'm... coming... with you.

Whoop. the sound of a guard truck in the distance.

Well shit. i guess i don't have a choice now. look, do exactly as i say. we need to get out of here NOW. so help me load this gear on the walker.

ok. what is this stuff? where are we going?

Honey. No questions. This is not a vacation. Where I'm going... where WE'RE going... there'll be stuff there you can use. Where did you leave Billy?

He was just running around. I left everything on in the shack. Didn't think we'd be gone for long.

That's the least of our worries now. Billy'll be fine. C'mon, lets go.

Right, right.

Maya lowered her hand in a pacifying stance, tilting her head to one side. it's ok i won't do anything stupid. Just... take me with you.

kalen winced. what a mess. he checked maya's eyes, her body language, his thoughts racing. still pointing the gun he said, you sure.

Maya sighed, yeah i'm sure. sick of this place. i want out.

kalen stepped briskly in maya's direction, lowering his gun arm, his eyes burning imaginary holes in hers. Grabbing her by the upper arm, he pointed her in the direction of the open gates beyond the patiently waiting walker. You see that? That's a shitstorm waiting to happen. You step out there, there's no coming back. You understand?

Maya tugged her arm away and shot a dirty look at Kalen. I get it. Jeezuz. no need to be such a fucking dick about it asshole.

Just making sure you know what you're getting into. This place may be a shithole but it can be a whole lot worse out there. So no bitching about it later, right?

Hijo de puta! You're up to your neck in some real deep shit amiright?

You could say that, yeah.

Look Kal, I'll take my chances with the assholes running around out there over being locked up with the ones in here, any day. Besides, I got you. What could go wrong?

kalen softened. gently held her shoulders. But that's just it. Being around me is dangerous. That's why I wanted you to stay here.

You can't get rid of me that easily, Kal. You're gonna to have to try harder.

They escape.

Maya spotted a couple of Dust junkies up ahead. They were pissing against the wall of an old building, all boarded up, the cracked sign swinging from a hinge in the cool night. It read: The Lighthouse Cinema. Under the sign were various labels: Now Showing, Coming Soon, Culture Night. Below the labels someone had spray painted: WE ARE THE FUTURE, THE FUTURE IS OURS.

The PLUGS were laughing in unison now as they shuffled off on autopilot, their minds totally captured by the VR entertainment beamed directly into their Dust-addled brains. They were obviously sharing their experience feed. At least there was that.

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