The Captain, The Musician, and The Spy
A red moon rose over the destroyed city. Its name was forgotten, unnecessary; there were thousands others identical. Grey piles of rubble. Death was its only name.
This dead city had no purpose. Not even weeds took root. Anything alive knew it was unwelcome. A place for the dead, not the living. A dead society choked with dust, half-buried with forgotten woes and pointless mourning. Hollow, limp, levelled. A shattered corner of a building, ready to crumble with the next pummelling winds, stood sentinel marking the beginnings of the crushed city.
Hopeless, forsaken, rotting. It was not a place weary travellers traversed near.
Avoided more strongly than the plague from just a few years before, none thought to look beneath its broken ground. They had been too busy with the world falling apart and the planet turning on them: the acid rain that burned people to death; the melting ice caps, the rising seas; hurricane winds that tore apart mountains; mile-high waves that crushed costal cities. Food riots, collapsing governments, chaotic disarray. One more demolished place of dwelling for an individual palled in comparison to the death of a species. The focus became the survivors and the fight to keep alive the human race.
That focus, that adamant refusal of inevitable annihilation, ultimately resulted in the vast majority of the humans dying. Cramped conditions at refugee camps only promoted the spread of disease. Rallying missiles at ally countries caused nuclear fallout in the most densely populated areas. Rainout became impossible over entire continents. There was no one left to save and no one to do the saving.
The only people that had the capacity were unwilling to do it. They deemed the species unworthy of continuation. They had raped the planet like none other before, and none to come after. Mankind deserved this death.
Three figures stood overlooking the tangled sprawl of ex-metropolis. The one in the middle sighed.
"I never wanted to come back here."
The one to her left nodded; the one on the right didn't respond.
"I didn't want to see how it got this way. I didn't want to see it . . . didn't want to see it like this. The way it is later . . . it's beautiful. This . . . this. . . ." She trailed off, voice stuck indecisively between stunned and furious.
"Be glad you didn't have to live it."
The middle one snorted.
"It was a tough place to live," the one on the left said in a faint tone of reminiscence.
"You lived here?"
The middle one nodded, slipped chilled hands into deep pockets.
"We should go," the one on the right stated, looking at a small screen held in cold palms. "Coupla wraths coming from the south, and another windstorm'll pass over before it gets dark. We need to be underground."
The middle one snorted. "Shouldn't be too difficult. Half the city's there already."
They started down the hill of debris, in the same order.
"What do you call this place now?"
"Hell's Boneyard," the two outer members of the party answered at once.
A black crevice led them to what used to be a morgue. Cement from the floors about have collapsed in jabbed chunks. Enough debris had fallen atop the mess that it was stable enough to withstand the wind. The walls would be thick enough to shield them from the wraths' detections. The path down had not gone quickly; if anything tried to come in they would have enough warning to get their weapons ready.
Once the bones were shifted to the far end of the room, they settled in a rough line. In the same order as they walked, the same order they came through the crevice, the same order it had been for three days. Her in the middle, walking slightly ahead. The blonde one to her right, the quiet one to her left.
"So where have you guys been plucked from?"
She shrugged. "They scrambled our groups on purpose. But since we got there last, it was just ‘okay, you're with blank and blank, get going.'"
"Cerberus," the blonde one - a kid who didn't look a day over sixteen - offered. "The spy."
"London Kaizer. Musician."
She nodded. "Captain Von der Velden of the airship The Admiral." She said it was a note of pride.
"Duly noted," London said in a monotone.
Cerberus pulled the hand-sized scanner from his pack and flipped the protective cover off the screen. "Wind's coming up. F-120. Not that strong for this place."
Von der Velden snorted. "Not that strong? F-120 winds are enough to knock a two engine schooner to the ground. Wouldn't the rubbish blown away by now?"
Cerberus shook his head. "Building codes require structures to be F-200 stable. Tough enough to stand after the toughest hurricane on record."
"Are we able to contact base at all from here?"
Cerberus tapped the screen a few times. "Not unless you got a hawk hidden up your sleeve."
London sighed and leaned his head against the slab of cement at his back. After a minute of silence, he retrieved a packet of cigarettes and a pencil-thin lighter from the depths of his blazer. Von der Velden would swear on her ship that thing had a second dimension; she had seen him pull enough stuff out of it the fill an entire barrel.
"You'd have room for it."
"For what?" London said around the cigarette. He didn't look at Von der Velden.
"A hawk. That jacket's got a second dimension."
London chuckled. "Cold."
Von der Velden raised an eyebrow in question. "Three?"
"Gravity repelation and multi-face cushioning?"
"Fireproof lining, bullet-proof outer shell, all-weather seal, self-repair, self-resize, and an MDF coating?"
London smiled. "Dante's inferno."
Von der Velden whistled. You must have known someone in the Band, because that isn't available until thirty-oh-seven at earliest."
"Indeed I did."
Von der Velden sat up more and turned towards the dark-haired musician. "Were you in England before two-thousand-eight?"
"Then you would have met Balthazar!"
"He gave me this." He lifted one arm to indicate he spoke of the blazer.
A smile graced the captain's chapped lips. "He gave me my ship. And my crew." Her smile fell. "He gave me a name," she said softly. Cerberus and London couldn't make out what exactly she said.
London reached into his blazer and tossed something at the captain. She shook her head, amused. "I might just have to steal that jacket of yours." The can hissed as she cracked it open. The coffee drink was a welcome wake-up.
"I'll take first watch."
London gave her a two-fingered salute while Cerberus grunted acknowledgement.