~The destination was old world city Las Vegas seven hours south west of the Shelter. It had never been swept in the cities centre; Sweep crews don’t like going too far into cities. Usually the closer you get, the more dangerous the mutants.
~After the sweep on Vegas they were scheduled to travel a further eight hours to Shelter 305 based in old world San Diego, now known as ‘Greysmoke’. S305 had tight relations with S567 and the ASMC acted as a trade cart between the two. The trip to S305 was always a nervous one because it meant you had to get close to Los Daemons (old world Los Angeles) and anyone who went to the L.D never returned.
We had been travelling for hours now en route to a place called Vegas. Dusty let me keep the little white device he called an eye-pod. Sounded like a stupid name for something that went into your ear and provided absolutely no eye stimulus what so ever. But I found out that 'the lost puppy' Harper was actually really interesting to talk to. She was a year younger than me, but pretty smart. She loved to tinker with things, I had to threaten to break her fingers if she tried opening up my new eye-pod toy. But other than that we got on well.
When I wasn’t talking to Harper or listening to all this crazy new music, which by the way is a perfect distraction for me (super loud sound blasting in my ear drowns out everything else). I spent the rest of my time taking in the passing scenery through the front windscreen. I could see why they called it ‘the wasteland’. I mean I have seen pictures of the Earth depicted in the museum, on that ancient machine the ‘Google Earth’. And the passing scenery looked nothing like it, everything was dry and brown. We would pass through small ruins that Maes called Waste-towns, usually just some collapsed frail looking structures half buried in rubble and earth. All in all it was like looking at the same picture for hours on end, it stopped becoming fascinating after the third hour.
Nester had come through the radio and announced we were getting closer to Vegas. Jon emerged from his bunk, this time with pants. And came down and sat in front of me and Harper, we both looked at him like we were waiting for him to say something but he just kept looking at us. The uncomfortable silence continued just one second to long and I had to put a stop to it. It was driving me mad.
“Do you want something?” I tried to sound as nice as possible, but also convey the fact that this was uncomfortable and weird.
“You two are new boots” Jon said, not as a realisation, but more like he was trying to inform us of the obvious fact. I honestly didn’t have a reply, people in the Shelter were never really this obviously blunt or dense. “And new boots” Jon continued “are not usually taken into hot spots like CBD’s” Jon pulled out a cigarette from his pocket. I had never smoked before and often wondered what it tasted like; it wasn’t a big thing in the Shelters.
“Ok” I replied with an undertone that said ‘fair enough Jon, we understand, could you please leave us alone now because you are creeping us out’ (isn’t it wonderful how you can convey that whole message with two little letters)
“I’m Jon, alpha team sweep sergeant” He finally introduced himself.
“That’s a weird name, I’ve never heard of someone called Jon before” Harper said in her ever so shy manner, but sporting a new found confidence from sitting next to me. Sometimes I just wanted to cuddle the cute way she talked and acted, other times I just wanted to shake the crap out of her and tell her to act grown up. And I’ve only known her for half a day, see how a relationship has grown over the past six and a half hours.
“Well actually, Jon was one of the most popular names before the apocalypse, well it was spelt with an ‘h’ but still sounded the same” Jon replied, I cocked my head a little and gave him a wry smile.
“Ah huh, so your one of those pre-poc annoying little facts type guys right?” I blurted out before I even thought it over. But they are going to find out what type of person I am sooner or later, I figure I’m just giving them a head start. Jon frowned and raised his left eyebrow at the same time.
“Wait am I annoying or are the facts annoying? Because based on the answer to that question dictates whether or not you were just trying to be clever or a bitch” It was time for my surprised raised eyebrow. Ok the guy had some sarcasm about him, and he got a chuckle out of me. He seemed alright, better sergeant that mindless Maes.
“Let’s go with the latter” I replied with a grin.
“Well you never know when a pre-poc fact might come in handy? For arguments sake how would you approach, say a lion for instance?” Jon randomly asked.
“What’s a Lion?” Harper replied.
“You’re making that up” I added referring to Jon’s ridiculous Lion creature.
“No no, there is such a creature. Pre-poc giant cat” Jon protests.
“Giant cat? That sounds stupid” I said, maybe he’s got some silly play on words like, ‘Lion because he Lying’ I don’t know. But it could be true, you don’t get much information on pre-poc animals in the Shelters, mostly because they are all extinct.
“Kitties are cute” Harper said dangerously drifting into a fantasy world inside her own head.
“Lions are a little different” Jon said with a discouraging emphasis on ‘different’.
“How do you know all this crap” I asked.
“I failed to remain ignorant as the order would have all commons be” He replied matter of factly.
“Anyway wouldn’t all your Lion creatures be extinct. What’s the chance of running into one in the wastes?” I thought I had him here, but what was quickly become a trend to ‘Mr. Alpha team sweep sergeant’ was that he was a quick thinker. Either that or he was in fact telling the truth.
“Well actually some mountain lions sought refuge in deep caves during the apocalypse. And they survived by preying on smaller creatures and even muties, there was no reason for them to not survive the Poc”
“Wait. You’ve never seen one?” I asked, now I really had him.
“Nope” He replied.
“Then how do you know they exist” I asked.
“Buddy of mine from S305 was attacked by one, true story. He was a 305 lone resy, got caught in the mountains West of Greysmoke and ended up confronted by a mountain lion, tore his arm straight off” Jon said straight faced. I looked at him sceptically for a second, scrutinising his facial expressions. He seemed sincere, I had to accept the fact he was telling what he thought was the truth.
“That’s disgusting” Harper replied screwing up her face possibly picturing the image.
“Ok fine, say I believe you. So what do you do when you’re approaching a lion then?” I finally asked.
“How the hell would I know? I’ve never seen one” He replied throwing his cigarette into his mouth from his lap. He got it in first time and seemed surprised with himself, I was stuck trying to work out how he managed to lead us down that topic in the first place.
~Jon lit his cigarette, smiling at the stunned pair as Myra and Harper were left wondering what the hell just happened. The APC started to slow down and Jon stood up and went back over to his team to get them ready for the sweep of inner city Vegas. Harper looked at Myra confused and Myra merely shook her head trying to forget the last ten minutes had ever happened.