Published on / 10 Chapter(s) / 2 Review(s)
A science fiction story, set in the near future. I started this back in 2001, so the first few chapters might creak a bit.
Chapter 1, Part 1
I'm not sure where to start this, so I'll start with Silver. When I first met him he couldn't have been more than twelve. He was an odd kid, with ragged silver hair and silver-grey eyes, and he always looked at you like he was expecting you to double-cross him. That last, though, can happen to anyone who spends too much time on the streets. He didn't talk much, and made it pretty clear to everyone that he wanted to be left alone. He also never gave a name, which isn't unusual for the kids who come here, and pretty soon everyone started calling him Silver.
"Here" is The Pit. It's one of those places kids go when they have nowhere else. It's not bad here. Everyone usually cooperates and we share what food and clothing we can find, which is more than most last-resort homes can claim. Because of this, The Pit usually has a good number of the local street kids, and has been the only place of its kind in the area for awhile.
We call it "The Pit" because it's the two basement levels of a warehouse. The men who own the warehouse run The Pit, and they give us jobs so we can earn our keep. Not always legal, but not bad, either. The younger kids are usually sent to rummage for food or anything else they can find, while the older ones are given different tasks. I'm one of the oldest.
It had been a year since I'd met Silver, and so far as I know, he did his tasks well and without complaint, and didn't bother anybody, as long as you consider skulking in shadows and generally being creepy not bothering anybody. Lately I'd been noticing him watching me, and it was really starting to creep me out. I wasn't the only one he was doing that to, but it seemed he was around me more than anyone else.
That evening my assignment was over by the docks. There was a shipment coming in that the bosses wanted part of. It wasn't anything I hadn't done before, but something was making me edgy. It might have been because after they'd given me my assignment, they'd asked for three pieces of hair. "So we can find you," they'd said, "in case something goes wrong." I supposed I should be grateful they cared enough to do that-I knew DNA tracking wasn't easy-but it didn't sit right. Maybe because I knew they didn't care that much. I'd put it out of my mind, though, and was playing a game of catch with some of the younger kids while I waited for evening.
Once again I noticed Silver lurking at the back side of the building, watching me, and it was really starting to get on my nerves. I tossed the ball to one of the kids and went over.
"Silver, if you want something, say it," I said, "but stop following me around." I think it came out with more irritation than I'd meant to let on.
Silver met my gaze and for a moment I thought he was actually going to say something, but then he looked down and turned away, his face hidden behind the bill of his baseball cap. Sometimes I think that's why he wears it. He just lit the cigarette he'd been holding and walked off without a word. I shook my head and went back to the game.
I put Silver out of my mind, too, as I went down to the docks after dark to wait for the shipment to come in. It should have been simple: go to the docks, get a certain part of a certain shipment, come back. The problem was, there were more workers on that shipment than I had been told there would be, and I didn't find this out until too late. I won't bore you with the details of what went wrong. I'll just say that I went onto what I thought was an empty dock and found myself facing three guys. Now I'm no wimp, but three against one is more than I can deal with.
One had me in a lock with the other two beating on me when I heard blaster fire. I couldn't tell where it was coming from. The two ran, while the one holding me pulled me around and started shouting, saying, I think, "You wouldn't shoot through your friend!"
I must have sagged forward at just the right time, because the next time the blaster fired I felt the heat of the blast. The guy holding me jerked back and fell, and I landed on top of him.
I was too dazed to notice much else until someone grabbed my arm and pulled me up, and it took me a moment more to realize that person was Silver. Two things struck me: Silver actually looked worried, and I had never seen him show any emotion before. And he's awfully strong for a thirteen-year-old kid. Then I noticed the blaster in his hand.
He hauled me over to an alley and sat down at the entrance while I used my shirt to try to stop my nose from bleeding. It didn't feel broken, but it hurt like hell, and my head was still spinning. Eventually I sat up and looked over at Silver. He was facing away, watching the entrance, sitting cross-legged with his back utterly straight and his hands on his knees. I could see the glow of a cigarette in one hand and the glint of a street light off the blaster in the other. For a long moment he didn't move. Then he calmly raised the cigarette to his mouth.
"You okay, Eddie?" he asked over his shoulder as he blew out the smoke.
"Yeah, I'll be all right," I said, even though I didn't feel that way at the moment. "What are you doing here? I thought you had a task tonight."
He waved the gun to his right. "It's further off that way. Our paths just happened to cross at the right time."
"Thank God for that," I said as I wiped more blood off my face. Even as grateful as I was, part of me was annoyed at the thought that Silver was still following me. Even though I was glad he did.
Silver took another drag on the cigarette, then stopped with his hand halfway down and was again still, with the smoke making some sort of weird aura around his head. Then, as quickly as he'd stopped moving, he brought the cigarette back up to his mouth and stood. "Hovercars," he said, "heading for the dock. We should go."
"Cops?" I asked. I wasn't thinking too clearly. Cops almost never come to this part of the docks, and I don't know how I expected him to know what the cars were. I hadn't even heard them yet.
But he surprised me by shaking his head. "They're not cop cars. It's probably the company who paid for that shipment."
He turned then and offered me his hand. I must've out weighed him by a good thirty pounds or more, but you'd never know it by how easily he pulled me up. He said to wait a moment and turned back to the docks, and my eyes fell to the gun he held so casually. I hadn't even known he could shoot, much less that he owned a blaster, and from the look of it, not a cheap one. I couldn't get over the fact that his last shot had come within inches of the top of my head.
"Hey, Silver," I said. He turned. "That was some great shooting back there. Thanks for saving my ass."
Then he did one of the last things I expected him to: he lowered his eyes and turned away. He tried to cover it by dropping what was left of his cigarette and grinding it beneath his heel. "We should go," he said, still hiding under his cap.
I puzzled over his odd behavior as I followed him through a series of alleys and streets that took us away from the docks. He finally stopped and pocketed his blaster, then took a running jump and caught the end of a fire escape ladder. He pulled the ladder down and I stopped gaping and climbed up after him.
He sat down on the edge of the roof and pulled out another cigarette. I sat down nearby and tried to see how badly I was hurt.
"You sure you're all right?" he asked me after a moment. I was again amazed that he sounded concerned; Silver was such a loner that I wouldn't have thought he cared about anyone else.
"Yeah, I'll be fine," I said with more confidence than before. "Where's your task?"
He waved his cigarette at a warehouse across the street. "I have to wait until everyone leaves." He took a drag, then said, "You're going to have trouble doing yours now, you know."
"Yeah," I agreed. I hadn't even thought about what I was going to do about it.
A long moment passed while Silver smoked and I tried to determine how bad of a black eye I was going to have. It was quiet for so long that I almost jumped when he spoke again.
"Hey Eddie," he said. I looked over and found him watching me with those strange silver-grey eyes of his. "Do you know what was in those boxes they wanted you to get?"
I looked back across the street, because his stare was starting to give me the creeps, and shook my head. "Bosses told me what labels to look for is all. Why?"
He didn't answer for awhile and I finally looked over. He was looking at the end of my braid with a thoughtful expression. I looked down at it, saw nothing odd, and finally asked "What?"
"Did they ask for pieces of your hair?" he said without looking up.
I frowned. "Yeah. Why?"
He turned forward and brought the cigarette up to his mouth. "They've been doing that lately," was all he said.
I frowned again and watched him as he watched the warehouse across the street. "What's this all about, Silver? And why have you been following me around lately?"
He blew out a long stream of smoke and before he answered. "What it's about I'm still trying to figure. I've been noticing that they've been getting more and more equipment that could be used for DNA tracking and gene tracing. And other things. The company whose shipment you were supposed to take makes that sort of thing, but their real money is in genetic manipulation. That's what part of this shipment was. Equipment for that."
"I thought that sort of thing was illegal."
He smirked around his cigarette. "So's stealing," he said through smoke. "That's why nobody ever does it."
"Right, right, point taken. But how do you know all this?"
"I picked up bits and pieces here and there. Some of it I've known . . . for quite a while." There was an odd catch in his voice that I almost missed. "Some of it's more recent." There was a long pause before he spoke again. I couldn't quite figure out where this was going. "From what I've seen, you're the third one they've taken genetic material from. All of you over twenty. Then you get the . . . more dangerous tasks."
"Like finding three men where there weren't supposed to be any."
"There were two more about to join in, but they ran back to the ship when I started firing."
"Shit. So what does this all mean?"
Silver shrugged. "I haven't quite figured that part out yet. There's plenty the bosses could do. It all depends on what other equipment they get. But whatever it is, I don't like it. Erin almost got killed the other day on her task. That was right after they asked her for pieces of her hair."
"They're deliberately trying to get us killed?"
"Looks that way. But only the oldest ones, and only after they have some genetic material from you." He paused again as he ground out the cigarette.
"So you thought I might be next. But you've been hanging around me for a week or more. Why not tell Erin and the others, too?"
He jabbed the butt into the rooftop one final time and then spun around and stood, folding his arms. "Because I thought you would be the most likely to actually listen to me," he said curtly. He had his back to me now. "You might've noticed, I'm not real well liked, or well trusted. Erin would probably just ignore me if I tried to talk to her. Mike would tell me to buzz off. Jake, if he's feeling kind, would look at me like I'd grown another head. None of them would listen, even if I told them their lives might be at stake."
I stood and walked around to face him. "I can't say it would surprise me, Silver. You don't do much to make yourself likable."
He shrugged, but didn't look up. "I don't like people. I don't like being around them. I wouldn't be here at all if I didn't like having a roof over my head. I don't need anyone."
I started to chew my lip but stopped when it reminded me how bruised it was. "So what do you want me to do with what you've told me?"
He looked up then. He had an expression I couldn't quite place. "Just watch yourself. Keep an eye out. And tell the others, if you can. They might listen to you."
"I can't even make sense out of what you've said. I wouldn't know what to tell them."
He shrugged. "I don't know. Think of something." He jerked a thumb over his shoulder. "The building's empty now. I have to go do my task." He walked past me and down the fire escape without another word. I shook my head, thinking about what a strange kid he was, and trying to make sense out of everything that had just happened.
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