Fluid 1

Kent had to stop before the dogs collapsed — dangerous as it was for him to do so; weighing it up against trying to cross the flats without a sled team though it seemed the best option. Traversing the salt flats where the lakes had once been was always difficult and required far more water than they could comfortably afford, but what was there to do? The Swamp Rats had been hitting them hard for the past two months and the supply lines were soon going to be irreparably damaged if they didn’t get help. They would have to pay whatever mercenaries they found in H2O too, but the costs would be far less than losing to their enemies.

He placed some meat in the processor and waited for it to extract the liquid he needed to keep the dogs alive. It was frustrating that they always had to balance one resource against the other but it was a way of life now. He looked up at the cloudless sky and for a moment was transported back to the Pre-Burn days. How people had once complained if the sky got grey and rain fell to spoil their day? Wouldn’t happen now.

No nuclear holocaust had delivered them into this place, just greed. Not that people were any less greedy nowadays — no one had learnt any lessons or had any great revelations: people rarely did. Anyway, the dogs had had their fill and seemed ready to go again. He couldn’t afford to waste time.

He replaced his goggles and got the dogs on the move again. This white expanse was beautiful and terrifying at the same time. He was old enough to remember snow, old enough to remember when salt had been considered benign. Didn’t do to daydream too much. Hard as it was to believe there were people who lived out here — survivalists who’d adapted to the arid conditions and lived off what scant resources their aging tech could provide them with. Survivalists who would cut your throat and plug you into the Drains they had and drink your body’s water content like vampires would.

Time stretched out before him like the geographic amnesia he had been pulled across and he prayed for it to go quickly. Liftpoint was further than he remembered. Could the theories about the expansion of the salt flats be correct? If it were it didn’t bode well for any of them. What use were desalination plants if there were no water content there at all?

The dogs were starting to whimper again but they would just have to carry on. If any of them fell they were going to be used to assuage the thirst of the others; he hated doing it but that was the way it was going to have to be. Thank god they had got out of the habit of naming animals — they were just resources now. If he had to kill something that he’d named he wouldn’t have been able to do it.

The sun was low in the sky and the shadows were lengthening. If anything were going to happen this is the hour where he would expect it. He reached down to his side and brought up his gun and began checking it to make sure that everything was in order.

Grit: Sonshine 1

Twenty years ago he made a mistake – another mistake; some of them evaporate in an instance and the rest of them hang around to dog you ever after. Grit tried not to make too many mistakes because the ones he did make were fucking momentous. How the hell could he shake this one off? He never wanted a son; he never embarked on that path, and if the bitch had let him know he would have told her to get shot of it.
‘So, son, what exactly do you want from me?’
‘To get to know you.’
‘I’ll be honest, I don’t think that’s such a good idea. I mean I live, by most standards, a pretty fucked up life, and it’s just not safe to bring anyone else in on that.’
‘I know about you.’
‘Oh, and what do you think you know about me? What your mother told you? Son, I can tell you that whatever she thought she knew about me was pretty limited. I never spoke about my work to anyone; especially not someone that I was having a casual affair with. Why? Because it was dangerous for them and it would complicate things for me. I just don’t need the aggravation.’
‘That’s what you see me as?’
‘Yeah, it is. I don’t know what the hell you were expecting but this was never going to be some great touchy-feely reunion. Shit, from what little your mother did say she must have painted a picture of me that was in some way accurate? That I am, at heart, a cold heartless bastard who would sell his own mother out in an instant.’
‘She did say something along those lines, yeah.’
‘But you thought she might just be bitter about me leaving her high and dry, and you’d come and see for yourself, eh?’
‘Yeah, that’s about it.’
‘Well, she wasn’t being bitter – she was being honest. She never hunted me down in all these years and it isn’t that hard – look how easy you found me. Now, bearing that in mind you have to ask yourself why that was the case? The simple answer is because she knew that it was a bad idea to have kids around someone like me.’
‘But I’m not a kid anymore.’
‘Yes, son – you are. Juts because you have some hair on your balls it doesn’t make you a man, and most men are underqualified to exist in the world that I live in – you have to be a fucking monster everyday to survive. You don’t want that for yourself, and I don’t want to have worry about someone who I put in a place that they never belonged. What do you do with yourself most days?’
‘I paint. I’m studying art at college.’
‘Good – go back to it. Fuck off and never come back here again – this place is not for you.’
Grit got up and he left the cafe; walked away and did not look back once.

Grit: Fix 1

He looked into his son’s hollow eyes; saw the pooling fetid blackness of a decayed dream there and knew that without doubt it was his fault that the kid was so irredeemably fucked up. He was not a good father and he never had been – he hadn’t been interested; hadn’t wanted him in the first place; and now looking at the sorry sack of shit he was faced with he wished he could be rid of him and didn’t feel a nagging sense of duty.
A fucking junky – well, he supposed in some sick and twisted way it was what he deserved. Sure, he knew some people would say that he was being an egocentric prick to think that this was all happening to him, and for him not to be concerned with what was going on with his son at the moment, but they could go fuck themselves, what did they know?
When he’d seen the number flash on his mobile he had briefly considered not bothering to answer it – his son was never good news. He let it ring for a while but it became obvious that he was just going to get pestered by the little bastard. His son didn’t have anyone else, so what was he going to do? Grit had obviously given him the number for some reason, though on days like this he couldn’t for the life of him think why.
In his time Grit had seen drugs do a lot of damage and they were never something that he was interested in – drugs made you sloppy and in his line of work that was something that you couldn’t afford. His tea-total attitude had given him the edge on more than one occassion.
He grabbed Faron’s arm and pulled him up – he moaned as if it caused him some pain, and Grit wouldn’t have been too surprised if that were true; there was no meat on the boy’s bones. He was like a skeleton.
He wasn’t exactly sure what he was going to do with the kid but he knew that whatever it was it was not going to be easy on either of them. He’d seen people go cold turkey on the inside and it wasn’t something he would wish on anyone, and some of those guys were real hard cases – Faron wasn’t. To see someone who knew had shot the knee-caps off people crying and screaming for their mothers was distinctly disturbing. People would shout at them when they made so much noise but half of the inmates had some kind of intimate understanding of the workings of an addiction, so they didn’t put much heart into it.
So, he had some idea what he was signing on for. He had a couple of ideas of where he might stash Faron while he was coming off. He had a few ideas of the people he might be talking to in order to scare them off of his son.