The bar is on the edge of Old Dover, Connecticut, in a town so small nobody’s bothered to name it yet. It serves the scavenger community, a bunch of rough-and-tumble idiots who would rather live among the ashes than rebuild. There’s a rumour that somebody out here found a stash of Earthforce technology and we could damn well use that right now. The Garridans are gone but they’re not all gone; half our problem is humans.
Alcohol is flowing freely in the semi-lit rathole, as expected. What surprises me is the almost festive atmosphere. I doubt they’d tell a stranger what’s going on regardless; maybe some music can break the ice.
It’s karaoke, heavy metal. The latest tone-deaf moron finishes his song and steps down. I take the mike and strike a pose. I pick a song; one my sister wrote.
The morning after
The tears and laughter
There’s nothing left of the world that we knew;
A man in a duster stands and walks toward me, joining in for the second verse.
The morning after
It spirals faster,
I lived a lie but I know now what’s true;
He’s rugged and kind of handsome, maybe twenty years old tops. Just being near him causes my heart to flutter in a way it never has before. I wish Mindy had warned me about the whole sexual thing. He whispers softly in my ear, “I’m Connor.”
The morning after
Start a new chapter,
The morning after my life without you.
Connor pulls out a gun; his first shot blows the karaoke machine to parts. Other people's guns are coming out as he drills the bouncer at the back door.
“This way! Rescue mission!”
My Earthforce training calls this a ‘rapidly-evolving situation.’ I've shot down two hostiles before my brain registers it. Moments later we’re out the back of the room; Connor is barring the door. I’m about to ask him what’s going on when I hear the noise.
It sounds like a coffee maker boiling down the last quarter-cup, but I know it isn’t. It’s a Garridan, one of the aliens that nearly wiped out the human race a few years back. It's severely dehydrated. I heard it a lot of that sound on the Garridan lab ship where I grew up.
“What-the-asteroids is going on here?”
“Poolbrod is from a Garridan remnant living in the radiated zone. The locals captured him three days ago and have been slowly boiling him alive. I was asked by... friends... to rescue him. Seeing you here was my big break.”
“Thanks. So glad to be your pawn.”
“We can talk later. Nobody, not even a Garridan, deserves what they’re doing.”
Not even a Garridan. That burns; I’m half-Garridan, born in a lab and rescued during the war. Life on Earth is bad enough without the survivors killing each other.
The locals are already trying to break down the door.
“Okay, I’m with you. How do we do this?”
“Two more guards and out the back door. Simple.”
Famous last words. Two guards turn out to be five, but that’s not the issue. Poolbrod has no exoskeleton: he’s just thirty kilos of semi-mobile goop.
I scan the room. “We need something to carry him in. Nest two of those garbage bags and get him inside. I’ll take care of the rest of the plan.”
There’s nobody in the back hall; that means they’d grabbed a brain cell and gone behind the building. I kick at the back door and get rewarded by several gunshots. No stunners here; no surprise.
I activate the remote and fly my 23 in. When I can clearly hear the whine of the turbines I hit the PA.
“This is an Earthforce Mark 23 Ultra-Mech; it has enough firepower to level this entire town without depleting ammunition or power significantly. Move away from the bar. You have two fucking seconds to comply.”
One. BOOM! Two. BOOM! Nobody’s stupid enough to stick around after that.
The 23 does not have a two-person cockpit. I have to tell Connor to hold the bag and keep his feet to himself. Once we’re airborne I call in, then address my passenger.
“You know we’re going back to my base.”
“I figured. But be nice to Brod, okay.”
“He’ll get medical attention, then questioning. What about this colony you talked about?”
“They’re monks. Old Dover is some kind of holy site to them; they just want to live out their lives in peace, and sing.”
“Sing? Garridans don’t sing!” I and my sisters are the only Garridans who don’t see music as a form of torture. Or so I’d thought.
A faint tinny sound emerges from the bag, more like a recording then real speech.
“There’ll be blue birds over the White Cliffs of Dover,
Tomorrow, just you wait and see...”