Quarantine #2: The Saints (3 page)

BOOK: Quarantine #2: The Saints
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That one word,
, made Will’s mouth well up with saliva. He knew it must have been having the same effect on every other kid. None of them had eaten in two weeks, not since they raided Varsity’s food stores. The parent in the black motorcycle helmet waved his arms in a forward motion like he was directing someone into a parallel parking space.

The distant crane’s motor belched to life, and then chugged along with a dull drone.

“Whoa,” Will said in wonder.

A train-car-sized block of food and supplies rose into view from beyond the quad wall. Its plastic-wrapped bundles shined in the glaring sunlight. The block hung from the giant crane arm. The crane turned, swinging the block until it settled to a stop just over the center of the quad. Everyone in the quad leaned forward in anticipation. Food drops were something they understood.

The man plugged himself back into the amp with another loud squelch. “There is more than enough food for everyone. So, what I want to see, once we lower the food, is a nice, orderly line. Each box has everything one person should need for two weeks if rationed correctly. Please take one box, and move on.
Any extra can then be divided accordingly.”

Everyone in the quad stared at the block of food as it was lowered, an inch a second, swinging gently from side to side on its twisted metal cable. It was almost time. Soon, the cable would detach. The block would fall.

Except it didn’t. It kept on creeping down at a steady crawl. People looked at each other, confused. Geeks to Nerds. Skaters to Sluts. No one was sure what to do. Would everyone really line up and do this peacefully?

When it was fifteen feet from the ground, the Skaters broke into a run, and gathered under the hanging block. They climbed onto each other’s shoulders until one of them was able to grab the edge of a pallet at the block’s bottom. That Skater had long black hair on the back of his head, the rest of his scalp covered in an inch of white fuzz. He scaled up the block of supplies and climbed onto the top. He pulled out a rusted screwdriver and stabbed it through the shrink-wrap that bound a cluster of boxes together. He pulled the plastic open and tugged at the loose boxes, causing them to tumble down to the ground.

The Sluts ran next. Then Varsity. They converged in the center. They converged in the shadow of the hanging block. Kids jumped up with all their might, leaping like it was tip-off at the big basketball game. They hooked their fingers around the plastic straps binding the block together and hung off it,
swinging and swaying along with the heavy block, their knees knocking into the heads of the kids on the ground. Unlucky climbers, who’d made it to the top of the block, kept falling off and crashing down on to the crowd below.

“Stop climbing on it!” The voice came from above. “Make a line! MAKE A SINGLE-FILE LINE!”

The kids on the top began to rock the block of supplies like a seesaw.

“Stop that!” the man screamed.

The crane’s motor lurched. The block reversed and raised up toward the sky.

Kids below the block began to curse at the man in the sky. They clawed for the block as it rose out of reach. Most of the kids hanging off the bottom of the block were pulled off by the kids on the ground.

The higher the block rose, the more frantic the parents became. A Freak, still on top of the block, was beginning to climb the cable. When the man in the black motorcycle helmet saw the climbing Freak, he waved his arms wildly at the crane.

With a heavy click, the cable detached and the block fell. The heavy mass of food crashed to the ground, crushing the kids who couldn’t get out of the way fast enough. The lashes that bound the block together snapped, and boxes went flying. The victims of the falling block who didn’t die immediately wailed in vicious, broken-boned pain.

“No!” the man screamed.

Will and the small group of Loners charged toward the center. The other gangs that had held back did the same. Everyone swarmed the pile of food and fought for their share of the grub. The parents in the sky screamed at them to stop, but no one listened.


at them as she chewed her chili. The bodies of the kids who had been killed by the falling block had just been carried away by their gangs. It should have turned her stomach to eat while watching the spilt blood of other kids slowly sink into the ground and become a red mud, but it didn’t. She was that hungry.

It was hard to be moved by much of anything anymore. From the moment Lucy had seen her homeroom teacher paint the blackboard red with his lungs, it had been one tragedy after another. Kids dying. Months of misery and abuse in the Pretty Ones. Brad trying to rape her. The tunnel collapsing on David. The weeks of starvation after that. The dream of escape obliterated by a speeding school bus. And then the news from that kid, Gates, and then from these parents, that even if escape had been possible, all that waited outside was death.

Bad things would never stop happening to them. Lucy was sure of it.

She glanced up to the roof line. There were no parents standing up there watching them anymore, not that she could see. After the drop was over, they’d tried to apologize for what had happened, but kids on the quad hurled so many shards of pallet wood and small chunks of concrete up at them that they retreated out of view and hadn’t made an appearance since.

Lucy sat with the Loners by the east wall. Twelve kids with white hair, sitting on the ground and eating out of cans. This was everyone, except for Leonard, who was across the quad, talking to a friend in the Geeks. The rest of the Loners had escaped. The twins were gone. Nelson, Sasha, so many more.

“We’re the smallest now,” Lucy said.

It was an understatement; no other gang lost more than ten members in the escape. The Loners had lost seventy-seven.

“We’ve been small before,” Will said. He rubbed her arm. He managed a half smile. He was straining to keep his face light and breezy, but it looked drawn and malnourished. She knew he was putting on a good front for her, and it was very sweet. He had to be tired, and scared, and depressed just like she was, but still Will’s eyes sparkled with defiance. She loved that about him.

Mort’s twisted, ruined hand started shaking before he could get a plastic spoonful of minestrone soup to his lips.
“It’s not good,” he chanted. “It’s not good.”

“Chill, Mort,” Will said. “We don’t know what will happen. I sure didn’t expect to be eating beef ravioli under a clear blue sky today. Tomorrow, who knows?”

“We’ll be out of ravioli, I know that much,” Belinda said.

“Sixteen cans,” Ritchie said with disgust. “How are thirteen people supposed to survive on sixteen cans of food?” He was standing and eating, anxiously shifting his weight side to side. It made the scars on his face seem to wriggle and writhe in the sunlight.

“Calm down, ugly. We had one bad drop, it’s not the end of the world,” Will said.

Ritchie huffed and rolled his eyes, as he turned his back to Will.

“Look at how much extra food they all have,” Mort said.

Mort was looking at the two gangs on either side of them. The Loners were sandwiched between the Skaters and the Freaks, black hair on one side, blue on the other. There were close to fifty Skaters, and roughly a hundred Freaks. Both gangs were still eating, still tearing open new loaves of bread, and opening new cans of food. The Loners couldn’t afford to open any more cans until tomorrow.

Other than Ritchie and Will, they had lost all of their best fighters in the escape. Belinda was slow. Mort was half a cripple. Lucy herself was new to running in the drops, and she’d tried her best, but she’d only managed to get one can of
stewed tomatoes. Even the others, like Colin and Vincent, who had fought in every drop the Loners ever took part in, they hadn’t fared much better.

Belinda began to whimper beside her. Lucy hugged Belinda gently.

“It’s okay, Bel,” Lucy said.

“You know Freddy, that boy I told you about?”

“The Nerd you kinda sorta started dating?” Lucy said with forced levity.

“Yeah.” Belinda’s voice went softer. “Back in the processing facility, he said I could join the Nerds if I wanted …”

“He’s probably just flirting with you,” Will said. There was an edge of irritation in his voice. Lucy looked over and saw that Will had been listening to them.

“Sort of a weird time to flirt,” Belinda said.

Two guys came walking over from the Skaters. One had his head shaved except for black polka dots of hair, and the other had the top of his head shaved like he’d gone bald. Both of them had white roots. They wore braided wire rings that Lucy had seen Skater girls selling. They’d cut V-necks into their crew neck T-shirts. They walked right up to Ritchie.

“Wassup, bruiser,” one of them said.

“You were pretty impressive out there today,” the other said.

“Oh, yeah? You think so?” Ritchie replied.

“What is this?” Will said to Lucy. She could hear Will’s anger building.

“Listen, man, we were wondering if you ever thought about going Skater. We could use a solid fighter like you.”

“We got a half-pipe, rails, we have lots of in-gang competitions, you might like that. And we have lots of girls,” Polka Dots said.

“Girls?” Ritchie said. Even though Lucy didn’t like the idea of losing Ritchie, she couldn’t help but find it cute, the way Ritchie’s voice went up when he said the word
. Like a hopeful little boy.

“Oh, yeah, bro. Tons of chicks. Unless you’re dating a Loner, y’know, I don’t know what you got goin’.…”

“Fuck no,” Ritchie said. Lucy went back to not finding anything about Ritchie cute.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Will said. He’d gotten to his feet and strode over to Ritchie, pointing his finger in his face as he yelled. “Are you serious, Ritchie? Skaters? You don’t remember our run-in with them in the commons? One of them set your arm on fire!”

“I had a jacket on,” Ritchie said.

“That’s not the point. You think you can trust them?”

“Hey, that was a special situation,” one of the Skaters said.

“How’re you gonna skate your half-pipes when we broke your boards?” Will said.

“We’re making more,” the other Skater said, crossing his arms.

“Get lost, garbage men,” Will said.

The Skaters put up their hands and backed off.

“We’re gonna bounce. Think about it, huh?” one of them said to Ritchie before they walked off.

Will focused back on Ritchie. “What do you think you’re doing, man?”

“You’re mad at me? Look at Leonard,” Ritchie said.

He pointed across the quad to where Leonard was standing by the Geeks. Leonard had a lock of purple hair clipped into his own white hair, and he was checking himself out in a mirror shard that a Geek girl held up for him. Leonard was laughing and smiling, happier than Lucy had seen him in a while.

“I don’t get it,” Will said. “Does Leonard not remember Zachary holding a knife to David’s throat? Belinda, did you forget that the Nerds ambushed us in the library? I feel like I’m going crazy here. You don’t want to be Loners anymore, just like that?”

Silence settled on the quad, and at first, Lucy thought that Will’s words were so powerful that they’d brought a hush over the crowd, but then she saw that a group of the kids from the outside had just walked onto the quad. They all had white hair, like Loners. For the first time, none of them carried any guns. They stood by the hallway, squinting up at the sky. The one with long hair and one red eye stood at the front of the rest.

“I can’t believe that dude, Gates, is here,” Colin said with a wet belch. Typical. Colin was the grossest.

“The one who told us about the outside?” Lucy asked. “You know him?”

“You guys don’t?” Colin said with a roll of his eyes. He let the moment hang.

“Oh my god, will you just tell us?” Will said.

Colin smiled, satisfied. “My cousin went to St. Patrick’s. Gates is, like, a legend there. He was wild. Didn’t take any shit, not from his parents, not from teachers, not even the cops. I heard that when a cop tried to shut down one of his parties he straight punched him in the face.”

“That sounds like bullshit,” Ritchie said.

“Well, his parties aren’t bullshit, everyone in Denton knows about ’em. I went to one. No joke. It was in an abandoned Kmart. Yeah, that’s right. Fucking epic. And you know how I can barf on command?”

“Yes, we do. Please don’t show us again,” Lucy said.

“Yeah, well, he thought it was great. My cousin had me do it for him, and he loved it. Gates brought me around the whole store and made me do it for everybody at the party. I’d never barfed so much in my life. I had to keep chugging 7UP just to keep fuel in the tank.”

Belinda sighed. “The things you’re proud of, Colin, I don’t, I don’t understand you.”

Colin made a vomiting noise and doubled over. Belinda cringed and looked away, shaking her head.

“Here’s your chance to do it for him again,” Mort said.

Lucy looked over to see that Gates was walking toward them.

“Saint Gates, the party king,” Ritchie said sarcastically.

The outsiders had already been nicknamed the Saints. McKinley used to play St. Patrick’s Academy in football, and that was their team’s name, the Saints. Other names for them were floating around, but she could already tell that the Saints was the one that was going to stick. It sounded great when you said it with disgust.

Gates approached with a friendly smile. He held his hand out to shake as he neared Will.

Lucy went cold. She saw Sam out of the corner of her eye, running toward Will from the south wall, holding a chrome-plated pistol out in front of him.

“Look out,” she yelled. But Sam wasn’t going for Will, he was heading for Gates.

Gates whipped around fast, but it was too late. Sam was upon him. Sam pressed the gun’s barrel hard into the middle of Gates’s forehead. The machined lines of the gun gleamed in the sun.

“You’re coming with me,” Sam said. His sweaty, pale yellow hair was matted down across his forehead. His eyes were blasted wide open. He was breathing fast.

BOOK: Quarantine #2: The Saints
8.63Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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