Authors: Harold Bloemer
“We have bigger problems than that,” I say.
“What do you mean?” Boom Boom asks.
“Caesar isn’t going to forget what we tried to do. He’s going to come after
Krystal and Boom Boom nod solemnly. They know I’m right.
We just signed our own death sentences.
I look out at the countryside as Lance speeds along at nearly 60 miles an hour.
The cool breeze blows my hair back, and the air is still full of moisture from
yesterday’s storm. The fresh country air does wonders in calming my nerves.
I yawn and stretch my arms. We’ve been driving for what feels like forever.
After our botched apprehension of Caesar last night, we stole a car from some
shady junkyard. It’s not a flying car, of course, so we have to drive it the
old fashioned way. It makes me feel sorry for my ancestors. Flying is so much
We drove for a couple hours last night before stopping at a rundown motel for
some much-needed rest. None of us got much sleep, though. The motel was
crawling with bed bugs, Krystal swore she saw a mouse, the beds were covered in
stains (I don’t even want to know what kind), and we were constantly jerked
awake by an unending cacophony of gunfire and police sirens. We left at the
crack of dawn and have been driving ever since; all the way up Ohio, through
southeast Michigan, across the bridge to Canada, and all the way up toward
Sanctuary 7, outside the ruins of Toronto.
The overcast sky is growing darker and darker with each passing second,
alluding to the coming dusk. Lance turns on his headlights to illuminate the
“You can tell we’re close now. We’re starting to run into traffic,” Lance says.
I look around and sure enough, there are several cars off in the distance. A
few speed past us on the opposite side of the road. There are even more cars up
in the sky.
We drive for a little while longer. Pretty soon the massive walls of Sanctuary
7 pop up over the horizon.
By now we’re driving past the hundreds of thousands of tents and stick huts
that make up the Sanctuary 7 slums. Even though it’s dark, tens of thousands of
people stand off to the side of the road, peddling trinkets, produce, and
home-made clothing. Several outdoor bazaars are cram-packed with people.
Children sit off to the side, begging for money. I have to look away. Otherwise
I’ll break down and cry if I’m forced to look into their emaciated faces.
Some of the people walk across the street, completely oblivious to oncoming
traffic. Lance constantly slams on the brakes, causing us to lurch forward in
our seats. Krystal curses up a storm, but Lance keeps his cool. He knows these
people have it rough, and he has no desire to add to their suffocating misery.
I shake my head in wonder at all the people that are out and about. The
Sanctuary houses about a million people, but the population of the slums is
estimated to be well over ten times that. Sometimes I wonder why people choose
to live here. Crime is nearly 100-times more prevalent outside the Sanctuary
walls than it is on the inside, and the poverty rate is a staggering 99%.
But I do suppose it is slightly safer in the slums of a Sanctuary city
than it is in a non-Sanctuary city (like Cincinnati).
Speaking of the Sanctuary, it’s now beginning to tower over us. I look up at
the walled city in wonder. It never ceases to amaze me. The Sanctuary walls
were made to be impregnable, and for the most part they are. They’re well over
1,000-feet high and 100 feet thick. They’re made out of some weird, nearly
indestructible compound that’s supposed to be stronger than pure diamond.
Thousands of cannons and machine guns jut out of the walls, read to vaporize
any army stupid enough to attempt an invasion. Hundreds of guards line the top
of the wall. And of course there are thousands of hidden cameras keeping an eye
on the surrounding slums.
There are only four heavily-defended entrances to Sanctuary 7, and they’re all
tunnels that lead underground. No one is permitted to fly over the city walls.
If any vehicle flies too close, it will be blasted out of the sky.
We’re now only a few miles from the entrance to the underground tunnel, and
traffic is already backed up. Lance tries to speed up to close the gap between
us and the car we’re behind, but he’s too slow. A flying car drops right in
front of us, nearly clipping our front bumper. Lance curses up a storm and lays
into the horn. The driver in front of us sticks his hand out the window and
gives us the finger.
When we’re about a mile from the Sanctuary, traffic essentially stalls. We now
have to wait as each and every car in front of us is searched by the guards at
the checkpoint. And of course there are always a few people who forget the
password, which holds us up even longer. Those unfortunate people are usually
taken away for further questioning.
I totally understand why the guards are so cautious; the last thing any of us
want is a Canadian or Chinese terrorist smuggling explosives behind the
Sanctuary walls. Still, it’s a major pain in the ass having to go through this
every time we leave or enter the city.
After about an hour we finally reach the checkpoint at the front entrance.
There are four booths lined up in front of the tunnel. All four booths are
covered in bullet-proof glass, and each booth has an armed guard inside. Two of
the booths straddle the entrance part of the tunnel, and the other two straddle
After the jerk who cut us off is waved through, we take his place in between
the two guards. A silver, Frisbee shaped robot hovers over us, beeping and
blinking its little red light. After it realizes we are not smuggling in
chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons, the robot flies back on top of one of
the checkpoint booths, waiting for the next car.
The guard on our left leans out of her booth and smiles. It’s Becky, a good
friend of ours who lives in our apartment complex. She’s in her early 20s, but
she likes to hang out with us because she thinks we’re ‘cool’. (Her words, not
“Hey guys,” Becky says, brushing her auburn bangs out of her eyes.
“Hey Becky. I like what you’ve done with your hair,” Lance says, doing his best
‘player’ impersonation. I see him smiling in his car door mirror. He just can’t
help but hit on girls. I think it’s in his DNA.
“What’s crack-a-lackin’, Becky?” Krystal blurts. She and Becky do a fist bump
and some crazy handshake I’ll never be able to replicate, even if I spent hours
“I’m having a party next Friday. You guys should totally come. My friends love
you!” Becky says excitedly.
“Sounds like a blast,” Lance says. “We’ll try to make it as long as the ole
ball and chain over here lets us.”
Lance jabs his thumb at me, which I immediately smack away.
“Yeah Boom Boom, don’t book us a mission that night,” Krystal growls. “You
always make us miss fun things.”
“Well excuse me for making sure we have enough money to pay our bills,” I snap.
Lance, Krystal and I suddenly start bickering. Becky laughs and says, “You guys
crack me up.”
The guy behind us honks his horn. The guard in the other booth looks up from
his holographic computer screen and says, “Wrap it up, Becky. You’re holding up
Becky frowns. “Okay guys, you know the rules. What’s the password?”
Even though we’ve known Becky for years, we still have to go through the same
security clearances as everyone else. I’m sure cameras are watching her. If she
doesn’t follow proper Sanctuary security protocol, she’ll be in huge trouble.
“Crap, I always forget this one,” Lance grumbles, stroking his chin. “It starts
with an S, I know that much. And it’s some lame battle from World War 2. Uh…
I sigh and say, “It’s Stalingrad! It’s been the same password for two weeks
“Whatever,” Lance says nonchalantly. His carefree attitude really irks me
“Don’t worry, Lance, you won’t have to remember Stalingrad any longer,” Becky
says, glancing at her holographic computer screen. “Starting tomorrow the
“What?” Lance and Krystal shout simultaneously.
“It’s a major battle from World War 1,” I say matter-of-factly.
“Your nerdy ass would know that,” Krystal says. Lance snorts as he tries to
stifle his laughter. I simply narrow my eyes and scowl.
Becky goes on to ask where we’re coming from. Lance and Krystal give a quick
rehash of our mission. They don’t go into too much detail, though, probably
because the jackass behind us keeps honking his horn.
While my partners are talking, Becky pulls up our files on her holographic
computer. I’ve done this enough to know what she’s doing. She’s
cross-referencing the reason we gave for leaving the Sanctuary. If our reasons
for leaving and entering don’t match up, we’re pulled into a room for further
interrogation. I’ve never had to endure it myself, but from what I’ve heard it’s
not particularly pleasant. Like I said, the Sanctuaries take safety very
seriously. It’s why people pay thousands of dollars a month just to live on the
The guy behind us lays into his horn again. It’s his loudest and longest honk
“Quit your yakking and move!” the guy shouts, his fiery red face poking out of
his window. “I have a freaking wedding to go to!”
The guard in the other booth flaps his wrist. “Seriously guys, wrap it up.
You’re inducing road rage.”
Becky gives us an apologetic look. “Okay guys, you can go.”
Lance puts the car in gear and starts to drive off. I suddenly remember I never
checked to see if Dorothy and Sally arrived.
“Wait!” I shout.
Lance slams on the brakes. The car behind us nearly hits our back bumper and
goes on another cussing rampage.
Becky steps out of her booth and walks over to us.
“Did you happen to see two girls come through here?” I ask breathlessly. “They
would have been on foot.”
I point to the long line of people about 100 yards away from us, waiting to
enter the pedestrian tunnel.
Becky frowns and shakes her head. “Sorry Boom Boom, but I’ve been working this
entrance all day. I can look them up in the database if you like.”
“Yes, if you wouldn’t mind,” I say gratefully.
Lance cocks an eyebrow. Krystal slaps her head and hollers, “Damn it, Boom
Boom, tell me you didn’t invite some more strays to our penthouse. You know we
can’t afford guests!”
“They’re not strays!” I snap.
“But they’re hookers?” Lance asks.
“Well yes, but…”
“Omigod, Boom Boom, you know we can’t help every prostitute you come across,”
I feel my
cheeks flush, but I bite my tongue. Krystal continues grumbling about how my
heart is bigger than my brain. Lance, however, doesn’t say a word. He knows how
I feel about seeing young girls used and abused. He’s nowhere near as
judgmental as Krystal, and for that I am deeply grateful.
Becky puts on a pair of goggles so she doesn’t have to run back to the computer
in her booth. I can see the green light emanating from behind her shades as she
scans the Sanctuary’s database. “So what are your friends’ names, Boom Boom?”
My heart sinks as I realize my response may not be very helpful.
“Well actually, I’m not entirely sure. I mean, I know their first names…
Dorothy and Sally… but I didn’t catch their last names. And Dorothy and Sally
could be their street names, not their real ones, so…”
Becky strokes her chin as the green light from her goggles grows brighter.
“Well, I’m looking at all the people in the holding room, which is where they
would have been detained until you arrived to claim them, but I don’t see any
young girls that fit your description.”
“Can I check?” I ask as a sense of helplessness washes over me.
Becky removes her goggles and uneasily says, “Er, yeah, I guess.” She
hesitantly hands them to Lance, who passes them to me. I notice the other guard
scowl at us from his booth. Becky is probably violating protocol by giving us
access to the Sanctuary’s database. I hope she doesn’t get in trouble.