Sy and Sirius and Sodom

(joint post GardensTale and LSP)
Sy didn't run but she walked fast. People were coming out of their buildings or were leaning out the windows. Some were running, a few were clutching each other. The smell of fear was in the air, of panic and despair. The only light was the sickle of Deimos in the sky, casting a cold and baleful glow, rendering people in shadows and shapes. Wailing, crying, and more disturbingly, sounds of fighting. Ahead of her, the noise of glass breaking, and the red glow of a starting fire. Sy swallowed hard and grabbed hold of the welding torch in her pack without taking it out.
The breaking glass had been a storefront up ahead. A few boys, barely out of childhood, were climbing in and out, carrying boxes of who knows what. Sy ducked into an alley to take a shortcut. Without the glow of the moon it was pitch black, and she had to walk carefully not to trip over discarded bottles or other garbage.

Then she almost tripped over something soft. Or rather, someone. The vagrant cried out in alarm at her accidental kick. She stumbled, then felt a hand close around her ankle. “Where you going, sweetheart?" The voice was barely more than a rattle. She tried to kick at him but lost her balance and fell on her ass. “It's the end of the world, love. Let's have some fun, may be your last chance.” Grubby fingers clawing up her thigh, grabbing at her pants. She tried to pull away, grabbing madly at her satchel. He tried to pull her pants off, his raspy breath getting heavier. There was no light to see what he was doing; listening, feeling and guessing were the only senses left to her. She felt her fingers close around the torch, the canister hard and heavy. Sitting up, she pulled it free and swung it as hard as she could at the source of the raspy breathing. With a sickening crunch it connected with the side of his head, the sound of rotten wood breaking. He uttered a surprised “Oh!", slumped to the side against a garbage bin and didn't move any more.

She pulled her leg out from under him and got up, shaking and sweating, panic gripping her like a vice. There was a knob on the side of the torch. When she turned it, the flame sprang to life, illuminating the scene with a cold blue light. The hobo lay motionless, his face mostly hidden under scraggly hair and matted beard. Panting, she felt around for her satchel and slung it over her shoulder, checking whether everything was still inside. By the light of the torch, she hightailed it through the alley and exited the other end without waiting to see whether her assailant would ever get up again.

Waves of adrenaline and paranoia still swept through her when she climbed the final flight of stairs to Sirius' apartment. Out of breath, she leaned on the wall for a moment, gasping for air. Her shaking hand was still clutching the torch so hard her knuckles were white. “I fuckin’ hope I killed that god damned piece o’shit," she spat, knowing it wasn’t true. She looked up at Sirius’ door, as if remembering what she went through this ordeal for. She straightened herself, walked up to the door and smacked it thrice with the flat of her hand. “Sirius! You in there?! You alright?!"

There was some rustling inside and behind the door there were a few sounds of wobbly foot steps, then half a word. “FU…!” before a slamming of something the floor. “Ow..damn it…” Sirius said, Sy could hear him picking himself up off the floor. Followed by the sound a the locks being undone. The door opened a crack before he peeked out holding a small touch powered by winding it up. “Sy?” he questioned in a groggy voice. It was clear she caught him during his rare sleeping moments. “Come in I guess.” he mumbled letting her inside, and quickly re-locking the door. The apartment dark all besides one tiny blue light on his computer. Though it was dim. “Are you…” before he could finish the light in his hand dimmed ‘Hold on…” he said moving the bottom of it in circles as it lit the room back up. “Are you okay?” he managed to ask.

“I’m fine,” she said, putting the torch back in the shoulder bag. “Shitbag on the way here got handsy. You aight? You didn’t…” She looked at his half-closed, dark-ringed eyes, slumped shoulders and wobbly legs, and her mouth fell open. “Didya seriously sleep through the whole fuckin’ thing?! Fuckin’ hell, how the cuntfuckin’ shit did ya manage that?!” She took the pack off her shoulder and dropped it on the floor with a clang. “It’s the fuckin’ end times is what it is. EnCorp plant blew up. Think Earth musta heard that explosion. Plant is fire and fuckin’ ruin an’ nothin’ else. Just gone. No power across O, entire fuckin’ city is goin’ rabid. Riots and lootin’ and rapin’ and murderin’. Tell you what, won't be any overpopulation issues by the time this shit dies down ‘cuz every single one of us gon’ be fuckin’ dead at this rate.” She caught her breath and looked at Sirius again, incredulously, and added: “And you were fuckin’ SLEEPIN’!”

“Yeah.” his answer was short and succinct. “Well maybe not the whole thing. I heard the pop and my lights went out. But I was asleep till you knocked.” he added after a pause, plopping down on the large down mattress on the floor. “Not much else to do with the power off.” he added, winding the torch again. “You can’t stop the end of the world. Might as well not sweat it.” Sirius added through a yawn. “You can stay here if you feel safer or whatever. But if you are going to sit on the bed ya gotta take those grubby clothes off. Sheets are hard to wash.” he shrugged still not seeming to grasp the situation, or he just honestly didn’t care as he kept the room lit in a dim halo of light.

Sy just stared at him for a moment. Then she put her palm on her forehead and burst out in laughter. His response to the citywide catastrophe was so antithetical to everything she had seen and experienced in the last hour, it was the only proper response she could muster. “You're the master o’cynicism, Sentry,” she said when her laughter had died down to chuckles. “Came to check on you an’ you want me t'feel safe. Truth be told though…” She trailed off, thinking about the hobo in the alley. “I prob’ly would feel safer stickin’ around for a bit.” She stripped off her pants and shirt, which were indeed still a tad greasy, and sat on his bed in nothing but socks and panties. She pulled her bag towards her and fished out the computer. “Just in case we don’t all die ‘fore the night is up, mind givin’ this a gander? You got more experience with the Grid than me. Hook these up to a monitor. I got a nuclear isomer battery in here, lemme finagle somethin’ up.”

Ten minutes later, they were both looking at the output of Heimdall, caught through a wireless transfer protocol she’d strapped around her wrist, the monitor washing the room blue with the dim glow of the criss-crossing lines, moving around with every twist of her hand. “How’s the Grid still this active without anything t’power it?” she wondered aloud. “'n Why is my reach so much bigger with the power down? D’ya think the wireless power been interferin’ with the reach befo’?”

Sirius scratched the top of his head. “RFI interference.” he said. “They line those little nodes with tech to keep knobsends from hacking it. Unless you know what you are doing it’ll keep you out.” he began to explain. “See thing is they are powered by the power lines, only thing that ain’t is the cables that send data. They are on another system not powered by the plant. Companies got their own little generators, not enough to power a building, barely enough to power a lamp for more than and hour, but sending data that’s cake. You could power those lines with the crank off this torch.” he said holding it up. “You’d need to be insane since your arms would fall off as much work as you’d need to do but you get the picture.”

“With the power down and those nodes not blocking signals you got a clear view of the world. It’s like all the buildings folded into the ground and all you see are the roads.” Sirius made a metaphor. “But no way of knowing what those signals mean. They could be informing all the cops of the happenings, moving data to a backup so once this all blows over they don’t have to start over, could be nothing. But right now I wouldn’t go outside if you paid me 100 credits a step.”

Sy chuckled. “No way of knowin’ what they mean, huh? Y’underestimate me, white boy.” She twitched her fingers, pinched the air. A datastream got locked onto the center, a small red target in its center. She pulled her fingertips closer to her palm and the image zoomed all the way into the datastream, until the image was replaced by a quickly scrolling mass of text. “Look like a basic unencrypted data transfer,” she said, zooming back out. “Could be a backup like you said, maybe the encryption’s just a piece a’shit. Might still be relyin’ on the RFI like dumb shits. When I was testin’ at home befo’, I could pick up on a cam’ra on the roof, got the feed an’ all. Still gettin’ the hang of it but I can pinch all sorts o’data with this baby.”

Sirius quickly grabbed her hand. “Are you mad!?” he asked as the stream of data went dark, “Don’tcha think they are monitoring this data? You just access it from a remote node. One they didn’t know about until just now. My house.” he said. “I don’t know if you know but when you just go plucking data like that, especially stuff they are moving all frantic like. They come looking when people mess with it.” he said. “What did you pull. Because I need to know if I’m gonna have to abandon this place. If I’d known you were going to treat something so dangerous as a toy I wouldn’t have helped you.”

Sy went as white as her complexion allowed and drew back, a look of horror on her face. She looked down at her socks, momentarily biting back tears. She swallowed them and moaned: “Fuckin’ fuck. I’m sorry, I ain’t thinkin’ straight right now. Fuck, that was fuckin’ stupid. Shit. Ugh, FUCK!” She covered her face with her hands and shook her head, then ran her hands up through her hair. A little circuitry board bounced off the bed and fell on the ground. “Aight, well, y’should be pretty safe. My probin’ signal gets bounced all over the place, an’ I ain’t carryin’ location data. There’re ‘bout two dozen places it’ll look like it’ll be from. An’ this weren’t any o’the Megacorps. Jus’ some small fry downtown. Still... “ She bit her lip, looking deeply guilty. “If anythin’ does happen, it’d be mah fault.” She wiped a tear from the corner of her eye and said: “I’ll leave if you want me to.”

Sirius let out a long sigh and pinched the bridge of his nose. “I’m not kicking you out in to Sodom. I ain’t a monster.” he said. “That little welding torch of your’s will burn burn maybe one or two guys before they could grab and disarm you. But ain’t nobody getting through that door.” he pointed. “Ten locks, reinforced hinges, and the walls are soundproof. So only one wall ain’t a bunker and we’re ten stories up and I am staying away from the windows so we should be safe.” he said. “But just for now, until we have a better grasp on the situation outside let’s not play with the data. We might look like small fries but if what you said is legit and the power plant blew up. They could see this accessing data as part of the plan whoever started this had. I might not like ‘the man’ but I wouldn’t ever consider something like this and I’m not about to get the kill switch for something like that.”

“We ain’t the small fries I meant,” she clarified with something halfway to a chuckle, picking the circuit board off the floor and fiddling with it. “I don't think the data I grabbed was of any of the Megacorps. Looked like some mom ‘n pop store makin’ backups.” She looked him in the eyes. “But I saw the plant burn with my own two eyes. Ain't no bones about that. This city ain't gon’ have power fo’ a long, long time. Maybe ever. ” She fell back on the bed. “This could be the end of Oracle.” The words hung heavy on her mind. Absentmindedly, she reached for the computer and pulled the plugs from the battery. The monitor went dark completely, leaving them in total blackness. “Mind if I sleep here for a bit?” she asked. “Maybe things’ll be better by th’mornin’. If not, well… We’ll cross that bridge when we got to it."

“Nah it’s fine, get some sleep.” he said staring into the near pitch blackness of the room. Now he couldn’t sleep. He sat for awhile as her breathing slowed, looking at the small glowing button on his computer. He wondered if the backups were done, but as he thought this the screens came to life. The man was wearing a horror show mask and Sirius blinked once to make sure he was awake. When he realized he was he caught the tail end of what the man was saying before the high pitch sound started. Diving to hit the kill switch on his computer cutting it off from whatever power was being feed in to make this ‘announcement’. He clattered to the floor, making an awful racket.

“Hm?” Sy halfway sat up. “What’s goin’ on?” She rubbed her eyes, invisible in the dark. “I had the strangest dream… Some weird guy in a mask talkin’ 'bout Neophytes..." She yawned audibly. “Get some sleep too. We can cuddle if ya cold.” She slumped back down, and before he could say anything, her breathing had become slow and deep again, leaving Sirius in the ink-black room to ponder the apparition that had appeared on the screen.

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