My urge to punch Mason fades, along with my urge to do anything else to him: kiss, admonish for breaking my CDs, teach to be less shitty. Instead I just feel a mild mixture of pity, revulsion and curiosity. How could someone so initially attractive be such a wussy jerk? I decide that there is only one way to find out.
"So what made you decide to be such a wussy jerk?" I ask as I turn another corner on the cracked and debris-filled road. Mason shifts away from me, trying to hide his look of shame.
"Keep your eyes on the treeline," Father tells me. "For more of those League bastards."
"Roger," I reply as Father clambers into the back with Mason's rifle. He looks like he's going to tweak it some more. "Hey. Masonjar. I'm talking to you."
"I told you I was going to die and you don't even care."
"Wow, I asked you a question and you didn't even answer. You are currently alive. So, following normal logic, you don't know for certain how and when you are going to die. And why should I care? You tried to trick, ambush and kill both of us. It doesn't exactly create a feeling of loyalty."
Past the abandoned rural houses, the road returns to the highway. I take it south, back to the big city at the bottom end of the island. We pass dilapidated gas stations and rusted-out cars as we go.
"I wasn't going to kill you," Mason insists.
"Oh, so you were bluffing? You were going to let your friends do the dirty work? Wow, you're just making yourself sound better and better, Jar-head."
"You think I had a choice?" Mason's face explodes into a fresh display of mucous, spittle and tears. Oh, very sexy, I think. "I try to leave, they'll kill me. I try to warn anyone, they'll kill me. I was going to try and tell you, but then you..."
"Let me stop you right there," I interrupt him. "First of all: if you want somebody's help, pointing a gun at them? Probably the worst way to ask for it. Sounds like your employers, uh...sounds like you need to change your...hmm..." I stumble over my words. "Hey, Dad? Help me out here. I'm not good with job-related idioms."
"Sounds like you should take out employment insurance," Father quips from the back.
"Ha!" I say. Mason isn't laughing, however. He's just leaking out every hole in his face some more. "...Dad, what do you mean by insurance?" Sometimes his pre-Doom terms go over my head. "Never mind," I say, turning my attention back to Mason. "You always have a choice. Unless you want to talk determinism." Mason looks at me like I'm speaking an alien language. "Determinism. Cause and effect. The belief that..." I suddenly remember that not everybody stockpiles books and data, and the literacy rate has dropped pretty sharply in some areas, post-Doom.
As I glance back at the road, the rest of the sentence dies in my throat.
"Dad?" I call out. "Code thirty-three. Point two."
"Roadblock? Are they armed?"
Even at a hundred metres, I can clearly see the firearms they carry. A dozen women and men span the highway ahead, carrying automatic rifles. One of them appears to be brandishing grenades. Behind them is a row of vehicles, blocking the way south.
"Shit," Father says. "Turn around."
"Fuck, I'm gonna die," Mason exclaims as I slam on the breaks and start spinning the wheel. I haven't tipped Charlotte over yet, but it feels like I'm going to, every time I pull this manoeuvre.
"There's no way your so called 'buddies' know you've semi-not-really-betrayed them already," I say through gritted teeth as the brakes screech. "Are you telling me your League made a roadblock?"
"No," Mason wails. "It's the Kawitzen." He can't see through the window from where he's tied up, but he sounds pretty certain.
"Oh," I mutter. Charlotte careens on two tires, just for a moment, before plopping back down. Anything not lashed down clatters around on the floor of the RV. "They won't shoot at us, will they?" I ask Mason.
"They will if they think you're League," Mason insists.
"Dad, we're going to negotiate," I call out.
"What? No we're not. "
"Yes we are." I start turning Charlotte around again.
"No we're not!" Mason shouts.
"Too late," I say, flipping the loudspeaker switch before Father can stop me.
"PEOPLE OF THE KAWITZEN TRIBE," I say, loving the way my voice booms. "WE COME TO YOU IN PEACE. WE ARE NOT FROM THE LEAGUE." I hit the brakes and come to a stop some thirty metres away from the road block, hoping that the tribe won't open fire.
Their shocked expressions are so great that I find myself wishing I'd brought my camera up to the cockpit. Dad is beside me suddenly, staring out the window at the assembled row of armed people in their piecemeal clothing.
"I said no," he mutters. I can tell by his expression that the admonishment is mostly an afterthought; Father is already calculating new plans in his head based on possible outcomes of my rash decision. Admittedly, it's not the first time something like this has happened. I think he's getting used to it.
A man with a woollen cap and salt-and-pepper beard approaches Charlotte while the other tribals keep their weapons at the ready. The guy with the grenades looks anxiously from the explosive in his hand to our vehicle, perhaps realizing that he's a bit too close for his weapon to be a good idea. Dejected, he lowers his arm and his expression goes from zealous to impatiently wary.
The man reaches Charlotte and – I can hardly believe it – actually knocks on the door. I can't help but laugh. Father doesn't think it's so funny. He signals for me to remain at the wheel and he goes to meet the man at the side door.
"Alright, buddy, no funny business!" I hear the man say through the door. I look at Mason.
"What does 'buddy' mean?"
"Like a friend."
"But they don't even know each other!"
I've missed a part of the conversation, but I hear the door of the RV open and the man step inside.
"Welcome to my home," Father says. "We've got a..."
"Help!" Mason cries, leaning over from his tied-up spot by the chair. He gives the man with the cap his best pleading expression. "These people are going to kill me!"
YOU ARE READING
Doom's DaughterScience Fiction
Seventeen years ago, The Doom spread across the globe, destroying civilization. Humanity survives now in isolated groups, trying to rebuild what was lost. Regan and her father are scavengers, salvaging technology and knowledge from forgotten cities...