1. a structure or place made or chosen by a bird for laying eggs and sheltering its young.
2. a place filled with undesirable people, activities, or things.
Inside the truck were stacks of small wooden crates, from floor to ceiling, packed in so tightly that you couldn't easily tell how big the space would be without them. At a glance it looked full, but there was a small space through which you could just about squeeze, which led a zig-zagged path to the front of the container. From there you were entirely concealed from the outside world. Anybody looking in through the doors at the back would have no idea you were there.
Marv immediately had questions. "Aren't we going to run out of air?"
Furey shook her head. "There's an air conditioning unit hidden underneath. Very low emissions so it's unlikely to be spotted, but it'll keep us breathing."
Back home I'd read news stories about people trying to cross borders in the backs of trucks. Entire container lorries full of twenty, sometimes thirty dead bodies, just parked up and abandoned by the side of the road. "Never thought I'd be doing this myself," I said.
"Yeah," Furey said grimly, "nobody ever does until someone takes their home away."
She was cold and distant, this Rose Furey who we'd been lumped with about five minutes after meeting. We knew literally nothing about her, other than her name.
"So," I ventured, risking a smile, "is 'fury' a nickname or your actual surname?"
She gave me a withering look. "It's Furey, with an 'e'. No, it has nothing to do with my attitude. I'd be like this even if my name was 'flower'."
Marv sat up straight. "Rose flower?"
"Whatever," she said, "that was just an example. You get my point."
Furey stared at Marv in silence. I looked from one to the other, biting my lip. He was ballsy, but I really wasn't sure that she was the type to do humour. At all.
"I'm here to protect you," she said. "Nobody said anything about having to listen to your shit jokes."
She stood up and edged through the gap in the crates, heading back towards the rear doors. As soon as she was out of sight I turned to Marv and grabbed his hand. "I really don't think we should be annoying her," I said.
Marv grinned. "Since when have you cared what other people think?"
I wasn't sure what he meant by that, exactly. "I just mean we've only just met her. So just don't be, you know, silly."
"Are you aware," Marv said slowly, still grinning, "that you wildly over-use the word 'just'? And besides, humour is the first test of a sophisticated culture. If a civilisation can't laugh at itself, it's in trouble. That's my theory."
He had stood up and was exploring the tiny hiding space. Crates formed an irregular wall on one side, while the other three walls were the hard metal of the truck's container. A couple of bulbous, battery-powered lights sat on the floor, one of which was turned on, and the floor was covered in thin, rather threadbare sleeping bags and blankets. Around the base of the walls were various smaller boxes filled with tins of food and bottles of liquid. It looked like someone could survive in here for days, if they had to. I hadn't yet asked about using the toilet or washing, but I assumed it wasn't en suite.
Movies always skim over that bit. One of the least pleasant aspects of being stuck in the desert with Marv while Cal went gallivanting about the multiverse was taking care of one's sanitary obligations. Fortunately Marv was unconscious at the time, having had his arm vaporised, which avoided some embarrassment. It's important to recognise these small mercies when you're on the run.
"Pretty smooth ride," Marv said, standing up without any trouble as the truck continued on its way.
"They've got cars that drive themselves," I said. "If this place hadn't entirely fucked our whole world it'd be ace."
"Sure, they've experimented on us and manipulated us," Marv said, stretching his arm out and touching the wall, "and performed unauthorised limb removal. But robot cars, am I right?"
"Not quite enough to forgive and forget yet."
"Not quite. Almost."
"Yeah," he said. "I just need time."
There was a noise from the crates and Furey slid back into the hiding space. "OK," she said, "I've decided not to kill you."
"That is step one of protecting someone," Marv said. He punched the air with his good arm. "Yay."
Furey sat cross-legged on the floor next to me. "Here's what I don't understand," she said, opening up one of the bottles and taking a small sip. "What was your plan? At any point, what were you intending to do?"
"Since this started," she said, waving the bottle in an arc. "When you attacked the Aviary. What was your big game plan?"
"Get arrested: go to jail," Marv said. "It was audacious."
"That's my point," she said, "it was a shit plan."
I'd been thinking about this a lot. It felt like I had big, dark holes in my memory, where I couldn't quite recall how I'd come to a particular conclusion. "I think we'd just wanted to make a difference," I said. "That was me, anyway. They'd tried to kill Cal, and I didn't think that was right. I wanted to find out what was going on, and try to stop it."
"Using your pointy tongue."
"I'm not saying it was the best plan ever," I said, "but we had purpose. There was a point to it all."
"You know what I think?" She closed the bottle and put it back in its box. "I think he had a plan, and a purpose. That other guy you were with."
I stared. "Well, yeah, but he's the one who's been hunted his whole life. That's how I ended up meeting him. That's not news."
"You're not understanding me," Furey said, slowly, as if she was speaking to a child. "Don't you think it's a little coincidental that this Cal guy got you guys to help him break into what was essentially a fortress, and it just so happened that at the centre of that fortress was a magic device that gave him more power than anyone's ever had?"
"I'm saying, Kay, that Cal knew the diviner was there the whole time. That was his end game. He didn't need an escape plan, because he knew he'd just teleport out of there, with or without you two."
A hundred retorts sprang to mind then faded away pathetically, each one equally limp, each only serving to confirm what she was saying. I wanted to deny it. I wanted to tell her she was wrong, and that we were all in it together and that it was about justice, or truth, or something grandiose and fancy.
"You know," Marv said, "that does make a lot of sense."
"Now here's the second thing I've been thinking," Furey continued. "Cal isn't here. I'm here. But I'm not going to be telling you two what to do. I'm not going to be holding your hands. I'll guide you, and protect you. But now that he's gone? You need to get on with making up your own plans."
If only I'd gone straight to sleep, and hadn't gone to check what was in the shed.
The truck rumbled onward.
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A Day of Faces (complete novel)Science Fiction
WATTY 2016 winner! In Kay's world, weird is normal. Girls have tentacle dreads, there's a ruling class of flying angels, some folk have fur or horns and others can see heat signatures through walls. All of this made total sense to Kay until she met...