Working synopsis: Because of the Tri-fold virus, the modern world has ended as everyone knows it. Years down the road, descendants of the original survivors try to carve a civilization out of the ruins.
Date unknown, 2040
The Hallows, Downtown,
Sequiem Sector in ruins of Memphis, Tennessee
She stood in the shadows of a deserted storefront just two doors down and across the street from The Golden Grit Pawn Shop, trying to look inconspicuous as she pulled up the one-size too big, dark-washed blue jeans to keep the cold air from dipping into unnamed places. This is ridiculous, she thought, as she eyed the empty street. At this time of night, only street crawlers and the biodrug dealers were out.
“Why did he ask me to be look out?” she whispered to no one in particular. It had already been five minutes since he tripped the alarm on the place. It was dinging away happily alerting everyone within a five square mile vicinity that there was an intruder. She brushed her fingers through the dark auburn hair that sat at the base of her shoulders, and pulled it back into a ponytail. Green-gold eyes looked out at the street once more.
But with the area, not even the most crooked cop was brave enough to go into The Hallows. The only people who came here were either looking for a fix or to die, and she was looking for neither.
“Who I am kidding?” she said pulling her coat tighter around her and adjusting her bag higher up on her shoulder.
A sleek car turned the corner, looking a dark crimson in the dim glow of the mercury street lamp. It was the third time it had made the round, and it made her nervous. She stepped away from the corner, and onto the sidewalk into the full lamplight.
“Damn it, I need to find me a darker place to stand,” she said eyeing a darker store front, but she knew she would be sharing a corner with a druggie looking for a fix of H967 morphine.
“He thinks you look like a hooker, Nickel,” a deep-graveled voice said behind her jarring her from her thoughts.
She took a quick breath and turned around at the familiar voice to look at Manna. He was two heads above her, even though she was nearly five-seven and taller than most of the women at the compound.
“Goddesses almighty, don't scare me like that again,” she said taking a deep breath to steady her heart. She looked at Manna, but his face was cast in shadows were he was not standing in the dimmed, yellow light of the lamp.
“Did you get it?” she asked, looking at him questioningly.
“Yeah, now we can head back to Headquarters,” he said brushing a lock of hair behind her ear that came loose from her ponytail.
“Let's go. The Hallows are starting to give me the creeps. I feel like something is about to happen,” she said heading further into the shadows at a brisk walk.
“What's wrong?” Manna asked catching up to her.
Nickel stopped in her place, and looked up at the dark sky. Oh, to be able to see the stars, she thought. Nobody had seen the stars or a blue sky since the Cleansing almost thirty years before, and six months before she was born. The world had been cast under a gray cloud that could not be penetrated by the sun when it happened. Humankind had been almost obliterated, and those that survived were put under marshal law by a new regime called the Interlanders Bureau, IB, a small faction of humans whose DNA had been completely changed by the Cleansing.
“A nickel for your thoughts, Nickel?” Manna asked looking at her with concern.
Nickel felt a sharp pain go up her spine, and she gasped looking around, and saw a dark alley behind her, “Manna, the alley! Runners!”
Both barely had time to run and jump into the alley before the crimson red car careened up onto the sidewalk and stop in the spot where they were standing. Nickel took a deep breath checking for broken ribs, and pushed Manna's arm off her stomach. The back of her head stung. She looked at Manna who was coming to. They both looked up at the sound of car doors shutting and saw the light from the car lights touching the ground barely inches from their tangled feet.
“Let's get out of here,” Nickel said jumping up from the ground.
Manna got up, but fell back to the ground when his leg gave out with a sickening snap.
“Nickel, I think my leg's broken. I can't go anywhere,” he whispered. He pulled a small, wrapped package from his pocket and pushed it towards her on the ground. Nickel looked at it confused.
“Run! They can't catch both of us,” he said smiling sadly.
Nickel grabbed the package, stuffing it into her bag, and grabbed Manna's arm to help him up before the Runners got to them, “I'm not leaving here without you. Use me for a crutch.”
He pushed her over, knocking her to the ground, yelling “Go! They're almost here!”
“Manna!” Nickel tried again.
“Nickel, I said go. Headquarters needs that package,” he said picking up a rusted tin can and tossing it towards the four black-suited men who were coming slowly down the alley looking for them. The clattering of the noise did not phase them as they kept stalking down the alleyway.
Nickel took one more look at Manna, and mouthed I love you. His eyes told her he knew. She ran down the alley and fell down into the next street. She heard Manna's scream as one of the Runners stomped his leg, four gunshots, and then silence. Why Manna? Why did you do that?, she thought as she picked herself up and ran as fast as she could away from The Hallows. She did not have time to cry, and pushed the tears that threatened to fall. Once out of The Hallows, and into the old Sequiem Park that was the boundary line on the south side, she got behind a tree and leaned against it sobbing hard. She slipped to the rough, rock-strewn ground and rested her head on her knees.
She took deep breaths to try to control herself, and tried to calm down. Dying is in the job description, she thought, But why Manna? It was not his time. Nickel pulled the small package from her bag. When Manna had asked her to be the lookout, he did not tell her what they were going after. The reputation of The Golden Grit Pawn Shop was in lower-level black market biodrugs, such as H967 morphine and Rasaphan, that helped the norms keep sane against the ravaging of their DNA.
“Why would they send us after H967?” she said looking at the brown box.
Nickel wiped her eyes, and used the tree to stand up. She put the box back in her bag, and started to walk the rest of the way back to Headquarters on the old Mississippi side of the park.
When Nickel knew she was out of range of the Runners, she pulled an old two-way radio from the bag and turned it on. The batteries were almost dead, and she had to make them last as long as she could.
“Nicks to headquarters. Pick up requested,” she said into the radio.
She kept walking through the overgrown trees of the park, closer to the boundary.
“Head to Nicks. Position?” someone garbled through the radio.
“Sequiem Park, three hundred from south boundary,” she said quickly shutting off the radio.
They tried to keep radio communications to ten seconds or less so that Runners and the IB could not get a fix on their position. Nickel pushed through the brushes that hid the south boundary fence from sight. A black-painted jeep waited on the other side with headlights off, but engine running softly.
“Nicks, where's Manna?” a voice said from inside the cab. Nickel hoisted herself into the vehicle and settled in before answering the question.
“Manna was gunned right after the pickup. Runners got him,” she said over the wind as the jeep bumped along the old highway towards headquarters an hour away. The driver, Silver, looked at Nickel. He knew she was tearing herself apart inside for the death, but he could nothing to help as her superior.
“He was a good man, and a good seeker,” Silver said.
Nickel did not answer. She looked out over the land at the ruins of Southaven as they picked up speed to get away from the Hot Zone. Such promise and such greed destroyed, she thought. Manna was now far away from the suffering of the rest of the world and safe, which gave her some measure of comfort.
“Did you get the package?” Silver asked after a few moments of silence.
Nickel looked away from the ruined landscape, and nodded. She pulled the box out, and handed to him as he drove. He weighed the box in his hand muttering.
“Damn, not enough to do much with,” he muttered.
“Silver, what is it?” Nickel asked. “Manna wouldn't say anything.”
“Of course he wouldn't. He didn't know. We didn't want him to know if the IB got a hold one of you two,” he said quickly. “This stuff is lethal to Interlanders.”
Nickel gasped looking at the small box, “What is it?”
“Do you remember the drug that was used to suppress a mother's blood factor when she was pregnant?” Silver asked.
“You mean that rH factor can kill Interlanders?” Nickel asked trying to keep the surprise from her voice.
“It doesn't kill them, but something in it suppresses their DNA, and makes them like norms,” Silver answered.
Nickel thought about the druggie in the corner near The Gold Grit and knew he was a norm, “So this makes them like the druggies on the street?”
“Pretty much,” he said.
“Can we create it?” Nickel asked looking at Silver even though she could not see him except for shadows and angles.
“We could, but don't have all the materials to do it,” he answered. “Why don't you rest until we get to the building? You've been in for a bad night, and won't get any more rest for awhile.”
He held the wheel as he leaned in the back and grabbed an Army issue woolen blanket, and handed it to her. Nickel grabbed it, leaning her head down in a thank you motion. She unfolded it and curled underneath it in the seat and leaned her head back against the headrest. She closed her eyes, but saw the images of Manna's face when he told her to run. She decided to stay awake and look at the scenery pass by even though there was not much to look at.
She remembered his eyes telling her he loved her before she ran. Tears streamed down her cheeks as she remembered, and she tried to keep her sobs quiet. Silver still heard, but he chose to ignore them knowing that Nickel had just lost her lover, and needed time to adjust. At 28 and one of the first Lyc-O negatives, Nickel had seen her share of life's bad side. At ten years her senior, Silver and Manna had seen the world before the Cleansing, when they were still only Damien and James, and knew it for what it was meant to be, even though they were young when it happened. Silver settled into his own thoughts as he remembered his parents and two sisters before the virus set in. Only a sister, Jade, had survived besides him, and she was at the compound waiting for them.
It was because of things such as the black market that had caused the Cleansing in 2012. In 2011, a process cure, dubbed the Trifold virus, was discovered that mutated the genes that caused cancer and regenerated them into healthy genes. At the beginning of the year, the cure also became a remedy for AIDS sufferers and those with degenerative disorders. Dr. Simon Crick, the German scientist who discovered the process, had been heralded as the hero of the time, and he drank up the attention. Because of the new technology, money was poured into it from every developed nation.
Simon Crick became greedy, trying to find ways to get more money.
Within months, a lethal chain of the DNA cure had been made for bioengineered weapons with the US as the front runner, and was released in a black market exchange by accident. Not soon after, the DNA mutated becoming liquid and airborne, and by the end of the year, Earth was hit by a plague that was similar, but deadlier than the black plague hundreds of years before. Of the six billion humans of the world, ninety percent died.
Scientists who survived began to check their own DNA as to why they survived and why others did not. That was when they discovered a new gene sequence, dubbed the Lyc-O sequence.
Nickel was the daughter of one of the first people to survive the Cleansing. Her mother carried a weaker strain of the Lyc-O basic sequence, passing it to her daughter that carried a strain called Lyco-O negative which caused small changes in her DNA that made her senses better than a normal human and able to heal days faster. Those that had the Lyc-O basic strain ultimately died, like Nickel's mother, from the mutations unless they had a way to deal with the pain.
By the time Nickel was five and orphaned, the IB had taken control. Members of the IB had their DNA altered the most by the Trifold virus because of the gene sequence called Lyco-O positive. They became almost superhuman with the ability to read small thoughts from the energy they fed from, and having the capacity to not sleep. They too had the heightened senses and better healing ability.