Written by: Nemesis
If there is any period one would desire to be born in
And is it not the age of Revolution; when the old and the new stand side by side…
When glories of the old days can be compensated by the rich possibilities of a new era?
(Ralph Waldo Emerson)
Episode 1 – A New Era
The Guardian closes his eyes, feeling the burning midday sun on his skin. The sound of the rotating airplane, the deep vibrations that seem to touch him through the air. They have arrived - the true bringers of chaos
“Guardian?” It’s Luke’s voice.
“You sound worried”, the Guardian answers calmly, without opening his eyes. Not now, he can’t commit his visual senses, his full attention to the presence of mortals now. Now that Zoot’s spirit is filling the air with power, power and deep, destructive chaos.
“I am worried.” Luke’s voice gets louder. He has stepped closer. “These people might be our enemies. They have technical knowledge and resources beyond our imagination, and they haven’t even landed yet. Wouldn’t it be safer to retreat to the boats, leave this area and send spies when we know they have landed?”
The Guardian opens his eyes and smiles at his old Lieutenant. “So you’re joining us.”
“Yes, I am.” He sounds sad, but determined. The Guardian can see it in his eyes, this old yearning for order, for a believe he can mantle his devoted personality around. Luke likes to plan, he likes to have clarity and order, other than power and chaos. Maybe this is why they made such a good team, and why they fell out in the end.
“So you accept Zoot as your master again?”, the Guardian tests him.
“I do. I always did.” Luke looks up to the airplane again. “But I fear these people might be Zoot’s enemies.”
“He could have send them”, a Chosen in the background speaks up.
“Yes, but why, Emmanuel?”, Luke turns around to him. “He could be testing us, our ability to see our enemies, our abilities to stay alert for dangers of our cause. Don’t forget, Zoot was a great warrior.”
“What if he’s testing our faith?”, Emmanuel replies stubbornly, his eyes seeking the Guardian’s for approval. The approval he wanted from his methodistic parents when he grew up, his teachers, the priest in his church. It’s what every word of his aims at, and he will never be at peace, until someone gives him an approving nod, a clap on his shoulder.
Luke shakes his head. “We don’t know that. I suggest we keep a distance, let Zoot guide us the way to wisdom, Guardian.”
The Guardian smiles at both of them, a gleaming in his eyes that worries Luke deeply, that is the main reason why he wants to rejoin the Chosen splitter fraction of his, to keep a close eye on him. Just in case.
“Welcome back, Lieutenant!”
“They were headed this way”, Pride points out. He helps Cloe down from a fence over which they climbed to save time. “There’s footsteps. I suggest we keep going until we reach the farm houses down the hill, call for them and move on to North, if they already moved on.”
Tai San shields her eyes from the sun, trying to get a clearer view. “Why north?”
“The Eco camp is in the north. It’s where Eagle would go.” He seems certain of this.
“Eagle is not Amber”, Tai San reminds him. “And they might not come far. I sense great danger for them. Amber hasn’t been well for days, her pregnancy is in it’s last weeks. The child will be there any day now, I just know it.”
“It’s only been thirty-eight weeks”, Trudy disagrees. “I had my baby after fourty and two days. That’s normal if you’re having a baby at our age. The time frame doesn’t shift much.” Her desperate voice sounded insecure, almost disbelieving of her own words. She was clutching onto straws, and she knew it. Tai San smiled at her encouragingly and put one arm around her.
“Bray said it can happen at any time from thirty-seven to fourty-two weeks”, Cloe said thoughtfully.
“When did he say that?”, Trudy answered, surprised that Bray would discuss such a topic with Cloe.
“After you had Brady, I asked him how long it takes. He said he read books about it, to help you.”
“That’s very considerate.” Tai San nods firmly.
“It’s good for Amber.” Pride looks grim. “But if we don’t find them before dark, it might be all Eagle… Amber can rely on. And it’s not enough. Amber’s situation is severe. She’s been badly nutritioned and treated during your kidnap”, he looks quickly at Trudy, “and she must be traumatized. Not to say terrified to be away from a state of safety. If we can find them and bring them to my tribe in a day, Amber would have all the medical support she needs.” With that, he starts walking faster.
“Didn’t May want to come?”, Cloe asks Trudy, but she’s sensitive enough to ask it quietly.
“No”, Trudy answers quickly. “She’s looking after Brady and Tally and Andy, while Lex and Jack keep the Mall safe. Come on, walk quicker.” She sounds worried, when she mentions Brady’s name. It would have been unsafe to bring her daughter out of the city, when a hostile tribe might land their airplane at any minute, but she still misses her baby any second she is not with her, she still worries. Keep it together, Trudy!, she keeps telling herself. This isn’t about her daughter, who is perfectly safe. This is about Amber and Bray, and their unborn baby. She owes it to them to be here.
“But why, doesn’t she care about Amber and Bray?” There’s a stubborn, almost repugnant note in Cloes voice. She hasn’t forgotten how May sold Bray out, the day after he sacrificed everything to give them one last, passionate speech, to remind them who they are. To Cloe, this feels as if May betrayed what the Mall Rats stand for.
“It’s a grown-up thing”, Tai San tells her, smiling. “May is aware that Pride still likes Amber very much. She’s hurt by that and we should show her some compassion for that”, she adds, careful not to let Pride hear her.
Cloe looks at Prides broad shoulders, his quick step, the long hair moving with the wind. It makes her heart beat faster to look at him, something she doesn’t yet understand, something that makes her feel silly and happy at the same time. This is what May must feel, and it must hurt very much that Pride does not feel the same about her.
“I understand”, she says quietly, not noticing Tai San’s knowing smile.
“I told you everything would be fine.” Ebony pours two glasses of aged Gin. She turns around to her ally, sending her a triumphing smile. “Don’t make such a face, we won!”
“You mean, you won”, Moz answers curtly, her arms crossed. She doesn’t touch the liquor, merely looks at it when Ebony gives her the glass. “You’ve maybe gone blind in the last hour, but have you seen something unusual, let’s say an airplane?”
Ebony let’s their glasses click together. “There’s something you don’t know about me, Moz. I see every new element in my life as a new possibility. And I know whoever’s flying that airplane must have enormous resources.”
“And power”, Moz adds, drowning her glass at once. “Not to mention technical knowledge. That’s a military plane, what if they have other military stuff, like bombs and guns. Do you know how hard those are to get around here? We’d be totally defenseless!”
“So you have… a gun?”, Ebony asks, her voice sounding a little uncertain for the first time. Bray and Amber have been nothing but a pacifistic threat. Tai San has her head in the clouds and without them, the Mall Rats are nothing. Pride’s there, but he’s a follower, a follower of Amber to be precise. He’ll be gone within a week. And Lex… Lex is just out for himself, as long as Tai San doesn’t push him in another direction. She can solve that with money. Some unknown tribe could become a threat, or a new triumphant alliance. But Moz, Moz with a firearm, that’s something real, something she should worry about. She’s given her more than enough reasons to distrust her, and Moz doesn’t scheme, Moz reacts with immidiate violence towards oponents.
“Relax”, Moz rolls her eyes. “If I wanted to shoot you I would’ve done it long ago. How about you worry about a real threat? It’s landed, you know.”
“What’s landed?” An uneasy feeling is coming over her.
“The airplane. It’s landed, that’s what I came here to tell you. I need cars, with petrol. Now!”
“To investigate”, Moz says as if that is the most natural thing in the world. “If they have weapons we can’t go there by foot. Do you want the whole group to be preforated with bullet wounds?”
Ebony hestitates. Pointing out to Moz that she doesn’t trust her one bit would be foolish, but she still can’t help but feel intimidated by her connections and influence in the city. That and the unbelievable short time it took Moz to become an indispensable ally in this city. She’s not as clever as Ebony, not tactical enough to take her place, but she’s mighty quick to cooperate with the most powerful person in the city. Even if that person just beat her in an election. Who says she won’t sell her out for a shiny new gun and some fancy food at the first opportunity?
Bray’s hands are shaking, when he roams around in his rucksack for another water bottle. When he finally finds it, he feels so weak and dried out that he drinks too much, too fast, starts coughing. He wipes the sweat from his face and looks over his shoulder at Amber’s shaking and moaning figure. This wasn’t normal, Trudy hasn’t been like that.
“Bray? Bray! Arrgh!” Amber’s hand clasped to the one clean towel they had taken and positioned under her, so that the baby would not run the risk of touching the floor or having an infection.
Bray moves to hurry back towards Amber, when the door opens.
“Bray? Amber? Are you there?”
It’s Pride’s voice. Bray jumps up, rushes towards them and hugs the first person he comes across. It’s Trudy, who embraces him with a concerned look on her face. “Is everything okay? We thought we heard someone screaming in here. Are you guys alright?”
“Where’s Amber?”, Cloe demands to know, while Tai San and Pride have already seen her. They walk past Bray and hurry to Amber’s site, unpacking the clean sheets and fresh water they brought.
“How far along is she?”
“I don’t know”, Bray has a look of sheer desperation on his face. “The contractions are so close that she should already be in labour for over an hour. We’ve tried, I’ve tried to guide her, to help her, but it doesn’t work and there’s nothing I can do. I don’t know this stuff, Trudy, I’ve never done this before! Not like this!”, he adds desperately, pointing out the grave difference between Brady’s birth and the old shed they are in.
“Relax”, Trudy encourages him. “Just breathe, and drink some more water. You look dehydrated. We’ll get there. Amber must be holding back. It’s an instinct, you have no idea how painful it is to do the pushing part of a birth.
He looks up, not feeling particularly better by her words.
“It will be alright”, Trudy continues and maneuvres him back to his writhing girlfriend. “In a few hours you will hold your beautiful new baby and it will all be worth it. Amber? How are you feeling?”
Amber’s face is covered in sweat, her hair is messy and has straws in it. “I’ve been better”, she answers weakly and grips back at Bray’s arm the second he sits down beside her. “Don’t leave me!”
“Don’t worry.” Bray leans in, kissing her forehead. “I’m right with you.”
Pride leaves the barn silently, an impassionate expression on his skin. “I’ll stand guard”, is the only thing he says.
“Amber, do you think you can push again?” Bray asks carefully, making sure her head is resting on his jacket comfortably.
“I don’t know, it hurts too much!” Her eyes are filled with tears of pain, her hands clawed into the sheet and Bray’s arm. She’s breathing hard and her face looks waxy, too hallow for a pregnant girl in labour.
“Amber, you have to.” Trudy puts one hand firmly on her shoulder. “You need to drink something now and then you need to push, no matter how much it hurts. It’s the only way, believe me. And the faster we get startet, the faster you will have your baby and it will be over. Are you ready?”
Amber takes a sip from the water bottle Cloe holds for her, then nods. “Okay.”
Bray changes positions with Tai San, who puts one hand on his shoulder. “You need to let me help you”, she warns him quietly. “I know you’re more experienced than I am, but your energy level is low. We can’t have you lose strength during.”
“I won’t”, he answers brusque, without looking at her.
“Okay, Amber, are you ready?”
Amber looks up at Cloes comforting smile, her hands dabbing her sweaty face and neck carefully with a tissue, to Trudy who’s holding her hand now, to Tai San and Bray who are looking under the sheet that has been draped over her naked legs, but quickly remember to smile encouragingly at her. And then she pushes, with all the power that’s left in her body.
“Section II?” The first landed parachuter starts talking into his head-set. “Section II, are you there? Please come in.”
After a few seconds of static a voice answers: “This is Section II. What are your orders, General?”
“Move towards the airport carpark. Chose cars with silent motors. Fill ten cars with petrol, then meet up at the plane and start unpacking our supplies. We will move into the old Sports stadium after nightfall.”
“Understood. Should we start taking hostages in the concerned sector, General.”
“No”, the General answered. “That is not part of the immidiate plan. The plan is to take fourty hostages in the suburbs that are marked as Sector 15 by the end of the week. Noone can see it. And please remember everyone the official version is we’re just travelling through.” A short silence follows. “Be careful, Ved.”
“Aren’t I always?”, Ved’s cheeky voice answered. Then the static set back in.
Amber yelled in pain, while Trudy switched hands with Tai San, who was now sitting at Amber’s side and leaving the barn for a few minutes of fresh air. She squeezed Bray’s shoulder in comfort and gestured to Cloe to follow her, but Cloe shook her head stubbornly. She kept sitting, Amber’s head in her lap, humming another calming song into her ears, like her own mother used to do it after she had fever dreams after a child.
Trudy walked out of the barn with shaky legs. “Do you want some company?”, she asked Pride, smiling exhausted at him.
He tried to return her smile, but the grim look didn’t disappear from his face. “Is she doing alright? It could be dangerous if we stayed the night here.”
“Did you see someone? From the airplane?”
Pride shakes his head. “I thought I saw more parachutes earlier. But it’s been very quiet since then. Too quiet.”
“Tai San’s worried, too.” Trudy crossed her arms. It was getting quite cold out here. “Do you think they’re planning some kind of invasion?”
“They could be.” Pride nods. “They have the means, from what we’ve seen. But whether or not they’re armed is another question.”
Amber yelled out again, louder than before.
“The baby should be here very soon, Bray says he can already see the feet”, Trudy tried to make more communication. She noticed how Pride’s face shut down at these sentences, how his eyes got narrow.
“That’s good”, he replied. “We should get moving soon!”
“She can’t leave today!”, Trudy replied in shock. “She’s just having a baby! Do you know how exhausted she’ll be? I say, screw Ebony, we’ll bring her into some house in the suburbs. It’s still safer than out here with airplanes and parachutes!”
“They might be heading for the city, have you considered that yet?”, Pride answered thoughtfully.
Trudy wanted to answer, when Tai San appeared in the doorway and grabbed her arm. “Something’s wrong”, she whispered.
“Why, is somebody coming?”, Trudy asked in panic.
“No, it’s… it’s Amber!” Tai San was breathing heavily, sweat on her face and shoulders. She had taken her coat off hours ago. “Bray doesn’t want to say something to scare Amber, but… I see it in his eyes, something’s really wrong!”
Trudy pushes both Pride and Tai San out of her way and runs back into the barn. She sits down by Amber’s side, trying to look careless and excited. “You’re almost done”, she whispers to an exhausted Amber. “You’re almost done, just a few more pushes.”
It’s Bray’s eyes that do it for her. He doesn’t have the calm, collected attitude that helped her thorugh Brady’s birth. His eyes are a mirror of pure panic, his face expressionless and his lips pressed together to a very thin line. He doesn’t even react when Amber starts screaming louder, when Tai San is kneeling down by his side, helping him do… something. Trudy can see Tai San’s face go from worried to horrified, while Amber throws back her head in pain and screams.
“Is everything okay? What’s happening?” Cloe demands to know.
“Nothing. Keep going”, Bray lies smoothly, his face ashen. He’s trying to do something, Trudy just can’t figure out what it is. His hands are shaking up to the shoulders and even Cloe can sense that something is wrong now.
“Is it over?”, Amber asks quietly, shivering in the cold wind that comes through the open barn door.
“You have to keep pushing”, Trudy advises her, her voice shaking violently. “There’s still the afterbirth. Keep pushing, it won’t be long now.”
Amber nods, obeys. She seems close to losing consciousness now and Trudy remembers that it has been about an hour since she last had something to drink. She wants to move, but Bray’s face keeps her sitting there in shock, waiting, counting the seconds.
“You’re done”, Tai San informs Amber in a soft, warm voice that is barely shaking. “You can rest now. Try to sleep.” A single tear rolls down her cheek, but Amber doesn’t see it anymore. Her eyes are closed in exhaustion, her breathing gets more even with every moment.
“What’s going on?”, Cloe asks, tears running down her face, too. The exhaustion, the suspense, Amber’s screaming and now Tai San and Brays facial expressions – it is just too much for her.
“The umbilical cord was around the baby’s neck”, Bray answers, looking at Amber, who looks almost peaceful now, in all the sweat, straws and the tears on her face. “The baby couldn’t breathe during… we managed to cut it, but it’s too late.” His voice is breaking, but his face still looks strangely empty, lifeless. “It was a boy”, he whispers, while Tai San puts her arms around him in comfort. He doesn’t move, doesn’t return her embrace. It is as if she’s not even there.