For an hour James trudges through the sea of spores. In better conditions this walk takes half the time and a quarter the effort. Within his suit, muggy and already stinking of sweat, his eyes blink quickly as his arms push away swaths of the toxic fluff. A layer of waxed fabric rests between James and death, and his heart races. Unable to see his own feet, he trips, falls to his hands, and tries to remain calm as he checks his palms and knees for tares. Up he gets and presses on.
Strangely, the beauty of the spores dancing like sparks in the new born sunlight isn't lost on him. However, the pealing flakes of reality that fall in their midst is.
James, sterilized by an entrance chamber, enters a messy office attached to a garage. He removes his respirator and sucks in a breath of warm, oily air. Resisting the urge to wipe sweat from his forehead with a gloved hand, he carefully removes his suit.
Behind a desk riddled with papers and jars of smoking fungus lounges Clive, a raggedy man puffing a stale pipe with an amused frown. He's bald except a ring of gray wisps over his ears which seem to float like an insane halo. Clive is a runner, one of a small handful in Refuge.
"You, sir, look like you could use a drink." Clive grins showing off three or four missing teeth.
James nods and approaches.
"I'll grab you a glass, but be forewarned, I charge by the sip." Clive stands still attempting to surprise a mischievous smile. James stares him down. "Just kiddin', just kiddin'. Thought you might be one of those rare folk with a sense of humor."
"Not after that walk," James says and takes a steel cup of warm water from Clive. "Thanks."
"Weather a bit of a surprise this morning, eh." He sets the pipe within a toothless gap and rubs the stem against his gum.
"Yeah," says James and guzzles the water down. "Not ideal."
"Don't know what you're talkin' about. This is money making weather, son. The season of plenty is upon us. Heh! Now you're here for my truck. Why else'd you be her?"
"Maybe," James says. He steps out from his crumpled suit, pushes it to the side with a foot. "Can I see it?"
"Course." Clive spryly hops up, opens the garage door, and flicks on a light. James follows him, pulling his sweaty shirt from his stomach to let the air in.
On the garage walls hang organized assortments of tools, parts, and bits of machinery. In the corners are small separated piles of scrap, and in the center of it all is the intimidating truck. Whatever it was in a past life, the now it's heavily modified. Panels of metal are pieced together with thick seams of welding. The engine's enclosed in an air tight container in the back with four six inch intakes jutting out, bending over the cab. James walks to it, keeps his expression stiff against the feeling of awe. He walks around it, feigns an inspection as if he knew what to look for. Clive watches, holds back a chuckle.
"Thing'll get you anywhere, guarantee it."
"Storm won't be a problem?" James asks. He's hired a runner once before and it wasn't pleasant. This time he's done more research, spent a portion of the night consulting Allie on the reputation of each runner. Unfortunately, as reputations went up, so did cost, so James settled somewhere in the middle, on Clive.
"Storm? Not a problem," Clive says. "She'll need some maintenance, don't get me wrong. Judging by the weather, intake'll need to be cleaned every, oh I don't know, maybe half hour or so. Client does the work, I stay in the truck. If there're mechanical problems, client stays in the truck and I do the work." He raps his knuckles against the beastly truck which rings a metallic hum. "Knock on wood."
YOU ARE READING
Grim CurioScience Fiction
The world never ended. 500 years after the cataclysm, Refuge, the last city on earth, struggles to survive. James is rogue veil researcher. He seeks evidence that will prove parallel realities exist and potentially save humanity from the caustic, d...