Coming Home

New Hayshot - Date Unknown

Game Session: 03 Feb 2013

New Hayshot wavered on the horizon in the early-morning heat, pinkish through the lenses of Lise's goggles. The blasted things were making her sweat, and leaving an outline on her face after the sun had done it's work, but it was better than being dazzled all the time. She'd found it hard to get used to the frequent changes in light-level out here. Nightfall was easy enough, since they'd simulated it back home, but cloud cover, or the flare of stepping out-side from in-, or vice versa, or standing in the shadow of some metallic wall - all still caught her by surprise at times.

The holos had prepared her to a degree, of course, but there the changes were abrupt, sudden, and clean-cut. Outside (hell, even the concept of there being an outside was still a raw wound), the light was more subtle. It made sense, she supposed, given that everything was more subtle. A land where most people were strangers, to each other as well as Lise, was a land where the slightest word or glance could carry wildly different meaning, viewer to viewer. One person's 'hello' was another's 'fuck you' - just so with the light. Sunrise looked the same as the tinted windows in the Dusty Pearl, but it wasn't, not really, not if you really paid attention.

"Alright there, Lise?", Harry asked, to her left. The old schoolteacher seemed in cheerful spirits, to be asking after her. "You've been staring at the ground for a while now. Tripping over your own feet?"

She smiled sheepishly. "Nah, just looking forward to getting home." That got a laugh, even from Bob. Call it home, this sun-blasted rubble of a city; call it home, when their real home lay miles behind them; when their real home was only ever a holiday from the rest of the world; when they'd all changed so much in so short a time that they tacitly agreed they now had no home. This road-march was as much a norm now as their place in New Hayshot.

"Fucksake," she muttered, "I was doing it again wasn't I?"

Harry just chuckled, pointing up at the walls. The guns up there glinted brown and silver. A browner man leaned over the parapet, eyeing up the travellers as they passed under the entrance arch, formed from the side-wall of some ancient vehicle. The chap leered at her and spat, the gobbet landing perilously close to Harry's foot, earning the spitter a nasty glare. Beyond, the streets opened up away from the walls, ramshackle hab-blocks leaning towards one another like old friends. The over-familiar smell of human settlement crept quietly into Lise's clothes. It didn't matter; anything made a change from her own scent after weeks on the road.

As they'd approached the silent, forlorn part of town where they'd chosen to make their hideout (and what did that say, exactly, that it was, firstly, a hideout, and secondly in one of the least habited parts of Hayshot?), she'd raised the possibility of someone having stumbled across their place.

"Well then, we'll take it back!" Harry had said, one hand lightly tapping the sharpened metal ruler he used as a knife. Bob had been more pragmatic, pointing out that they'd left nothing there anyway, and for all its walls and armed guards, the city was in large part deserted, most life being clustered around the gates, the market, and the omnipresent tower which dominated the skyline.

Sure enough, when they climbed the blackened stairs and clambered over their barricade (why, Lise wondered, could they not have moved that before leaving?), the room was empty. It was never really empty though, their room. When they were there, by definition there was someone there, and when they were away, it just wasn't their room any more. So it followed, that for the times that it was their room, it was never empty. Shit, Lise. This is some faux-quantum bullshit right here. Get a grip! She giggled softly, ignored Bob's glance, and went to her corner to unload.

Travel gear, goggles, rifle, explosives, rations, spare clothes, and so on - she formed a neat pile of everything that a good citizen had no need to carry around on business. That didn't include - very emphatically didn't include - her pistol, nor her shock-gloves. They'd all learned quickly, even Lise, even Philious, that one did not simply walk around without a means of defence. It was no better for the lads than for her. She was a target for one thing, they were a target for (if not the same thing) robbery, their appearance, or the sheer joy of a fight.

Here, though, Lise felt safe. She settled down against her backpack, smiling as she reminded herself of the grey, crumbling walls, still patterned in places with ripped and curling paper - wallpaper, she thought, recalling Harry's lessons. Windows bare of glass or even wooden boards allowed warm light to stream in. Bob flitted in and out of one of those shafts of light, checking his own gear. Nobby dumped his shield with a crash, then stretched luxuriously, his shoulders cracking with the aches of the road. On impulse, Lise raised one of her earbuds - with the four of them being all together, she hadn't bothered checking the comms for hours, but habit died hard. Woah. She dropped the earpiece.

"Uhh. I could've sworn I just heard Philious." She looked questioningly to Harry, who checked his own comlink.

"Yep, that'll be the good doctor," he reported, grinning. Lise could hear the singing coming from Harry's link even from where she sat - the tune and words were barely comprehensible, but the voice couldn't be mistaken, and Philious was giving it some gusto. "Hey Philious!" Harry spoke into his link. Nothing returned but more nonsensical song. "Philious, hey, it's Harry, where are you?" Again more music - Lise thought it sounded suspiciously like the doctor was now singing about himself striding the road to Hayshot. Harry muttered something about the consequences of unfettered substance abuse.

"I think I can sort this out," Bob offered. He fished out his own link, and began to meddle with it. "I'll send a burst of static to get his attention."

Lise shrugged and dropped her earbud again, Harry and Nobby doing the same. Bob's creations were good, most of the time, but not always predictable. He wasn't the sort to warn you either - you took what you got, and if it worked, well that was just fine. The warning was in the details when he told you how to use the latest gadget, or so Bob claimed. That there, the mention of his plan, "I'll send a burst of static", was about as good as it got. You had to figure out for yourself that the chances were he wasn't going to limit the burst to Philious' frequency. On cue, there came a loud crrrssshhht from the comlinks, followed by the absence of any awful singing.

After that, it was a simple matter to find out that their doctor was indeed approaching New Hayshot, that he'd be happy to see them, that he'd be glad if they'd go down to meet him at the gate, that he'd love to see the new hideout, that it'd be great to catch up on the past month or so, and that he was most definitely, assuredly, gratefully, utterly - stoned.