Chapter 1.4Mature

They watched from the relative safety of a buildings shadow. A few more feet and the floor disappeared, becoming a mismatch of dark tunnels and debris. One wrong step and the ground could move. If that happened then they were destined to be swallowed up by the old cities remains.

“We should head inside,” Justin said, motioning to the building they were next to. James was one of the only people insane enough to claim the few standing buildings in this part of town. If Luca was sent here, he would've stopped by this building first. Sebastian nodded and they went to the door. Sebastian put in the code and they went inside. This was where James stored most of his more valuable finds. In a way it was clever. The crazies among the rubble would protect it for nothing. Justin ignored the weapons and other safes, heading straight to the terminal.

“I'll keep an eye out,” Sebastian said, heading for the window facing the destroyed concrete. In the far distance a barrier rose from the floor. The lights blinking red. A warning that beyond that point radiation levels were dangerously high. Justin tapped into the camera feed quickly and rewound back to when Luca last checked in. Justin watched him talk on the phone before dropping off a load of gear here. He glanced behind seeing the same things on the table. Luca hadn't unpacked and stored any of it. He resumed watching the tape and felt Sebastian join him.

“What happened to the window?” Justin asked. Sebastian opened his mouth to answer but something started happening on the tape. A tall women with blood red curls walked into the flat, throwing the door open with enough force to make Luca jump.

“Where's the sound?” Sebastian asked, leaning in closer and tapping on the keyboard. Justin blinked and held his hands back as Sebastian did his computer thing.

“The things probably broken again. James isn't exactly quick to waste money,” Justin pointed out. Sebastian muttered his agreement, pulling out of Justin's personal space. They both watched the silent conversation, the video too grainy for them to attempt lip reading. Two others walked in and Luca backed away further.

“She's definitely the leader,” Justin muttered, eyes narrowing. Luca moved to the other side of the room reflectively, putting space between him and the others. The two were circling, moving closer. The woman stayed where she was, looking as if she was growing bored.

“I haven't heard of a rival gang round this part of the city with a chick in charge,” Sebastian said.

“Maybe she's a newcomer, someone rising through the ranks fast,” Justin suggested.

“I don't recognise the other two either. And there's no gang marks on them,” Sebastian pointed out. Their own marks, identifying them as belonging to James gang, were thick, steel black rings on their index fingers. The two guys grabbed Luca by either arm and pulled him towards the woman. At the angle they couldn’t make out much more than her hair and pale skin. She was dressed in dark blue jeans and and a long, black jacket. They could see the growing fear on Lucas face though. She gave a sharp nod and they dragged him outside.

Justin switched camera views fast, trying to track the movements but what he caught was a blur down the corridor to the door. He re-winded but it was the same thing. He glanced at Sebastian but he looked as thrown as he felt. Justin went back to the first camera and watched the woman. She traced around the room, looking at everything curiously. When she was finished her eyes locked onto the camera. Justin couldn't help feel his heart rate accelerate a little. Something about that woman sent chills down his spine. She smiled at the camera before turning and leaving. They saw her speak again. Then the video cut off, showing black and white static. Justin put a empty data unit into the terminal and transferred the footage across.

“They tampered with it,” Sebastian stated.

“Then why did they let us see the whole thing?” Justin asked, standing up and walking over to the camera. He couldn't see any signs of damage. “These guys aren't afraid of James, whoever they are,” Justin said.

“Do you think Luca's dead?” Sebastian asked, his eyes still staring at the static. Justin glanced around and walked into the corridor and onto the street. He heard Sebastian's following footsteps and the sound of him locking up. The street was as empty as it had been before. He glanced over the street edge, looking at the mass of craters themselves.

“We have to go in there, don't we,” Sebastian sighed, following his line of sight.

“No,” Justin said. “We get the video to James and let him take it from there. James will know who they are. They left that camera alone to send him a message,” Justin said.

“Been a while since anyone's been this direct with him,” Sebastian said. Justin nodded, echoing the worry in Sebastian's voice. James was the head round here. This woman, whoever she was, was either stupid or his equal. Justin got the foreboding sense she was the latter.

“Guess the crazies are all sleeping now,” Sebastian remarked as they left the area.

“Don't push our luck,” Justin said, his eyes scanning their surroundings each and every step.

The End

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