Suddenly everything was dark. Landon held his breath and then a blinding light and a strong force overwhelmed him and tossed him from his feet. The shackles on his hands tying him to the crated floor were the only thing holding him from falling into the abyss below.
Then a rushing flame speed toward him in a myriad of colors. Landon stared in awe of the beauty of his oncoming doom. Time seemed to slow for Landon as he felt the heat from the blast engulf him and the sweat from his back began to dissipate into the air. He only thought of his mother who hopefully was heading far away from the hurling ball of junk called the Juncture. It was a junkyard, a hub for business; built with no thought for uniformity or aesthetics. Its miles and miles of debris now a danger to everything in the system.
As the colorful flame began to claim him, the day replayed on his mind.
A loud smack rang in his ears as a hand was smacked onto a table. A dish clattered onto the floor. “I’m serious Ms. Loran, I need you to convince your son to meet with me. It’s of the utmost importance.” Landon heard Karl, Head of the Fortunist, a cult-like group, say to his mother as she cleaned tables around the bar. The bar was set in the middle section of the Juncture. It was the commercial district where most people went to buy and sell. It was closed right now to make room for some cleaning and stocking. Landon was hiding at the bar with a hood over his head. His long hair up in a bun his face covered in grime and grit, he looked like he just came from the shipyard where he worked.
“I’m sorry but he is not my responsibility anymore and anything you want, you have to ask him directly.” His mother continued on cleaning each table, after picking up the pieces of the shattered plate and tossing it onto her cart. Karl grabbed her arm and turned her to face him. His eyes were wild.
“I need him now,” he yelled. His hair looked disheveled, he had dark circles around his eyes and he looked frail. His skin, usually taut and vibrant, now hung off his bones. His suit hanging off his bones. Landon reached for his knife in his pocket but did not move.
“Let go of me, that hurts,” said his mother sweeping her arm around the front and breaking his grip. She had started learning martial arts on her spare time to protect herself ever since she started at the bar. Karl rubbed his arm and stared at her in incredulity.
“Tell him to meet with us, Laura, or..” He paused, narrowing his eyes and straightening his jacket.
He turned to leave, slamming the door, making the dishes clatter over the bar. After a few minutes, she turned and walked over to Landon who eyed the door. She proceeded to place something in his pocket as she passed him and picked up scattered glasses.
“You okay?” he asked as she rubbed her arm.
“Yeah, I’m sorry for that.” she said sighing and leaning over the bar.
“Are we clear?” He asked taking a swig of his drink. His mother looked from the door to the camera and stared off for a bit. She was probably looking into the camera footage through her AR display to see where he had gone.
“There’s only one person in the back in the alley. We should be fine. Either way, make sure you make your rounds before getting to wherever you are going, okay Landon.”
“Leera has a place set up for me so I’m heading straight there” Landon felt at the contents in his pocket. “A chip?”
“I put some money, and information for you to use to get out of this place.” Landon eyed her and shook his head.
“I told you, I don’t need money. You need that to pay off the money lenders. You already have enough on your hands with Rocko and his gambling addiction and I’m not planning on leaving without you,” He said.
“I know, I just feel… helpless. It’s my fault. I agreed to let your grandfather bring you to them In the first place. Now they’ve been relentless to find you.” It had only been a few years now since the fortunist made their appearance again and Laura hadn’t been the same since. Her father once had power in the Juncture, but after taking the liberties of certain groups found himself in the middle of a coup. Landon still didn’t know the details but he had been taken as a child and brought to the fortunist by order of her father. Then her father escaped into obscurity and she and Landon’s father went into hiding.
“Ever since your father passed…” Her eyes grew watery. She looked worn and tired. He had never seen his mother so exhausted. She looked like the weight of the world sat on her shoulders. Landon understood how his mother felt but he didn’t blame her. She had to do what her father told her. He lifted her face by the chin and smiled.
“It’s fine, we are gonna be okay. I promise. We’ve made it this far haven’t we?” Landon grabbed the bag he left behind the bar. “I’ll see you soon, after all this blows over. You’ll see.” he gave her a kiss on the cheek, she smiled, and he turned and left the bar.
The artificial light signaling midday stood high in the sky and the streets were bustling with thousands of people going to and from work. Everybody was on a different schedule even with the light to determine days. Everything was skewed in space. What was thought as a normal day for someone usually wasn’t normal to someone else. People often travelled in and out of the juncture and when they came back they were on a whole new schedule. For those who lived on the Juncture, it made it difficult to find a moment of peace.
As he was told, Landon went around a few times making sure there was no one following him. He weaved in and out of crowds and through back alleys in an attempt to make it difficult for anyone to be following him. He even took the extra time to fly under the all seeing eyes of the city cameras, though it was nearly impossible without direct connection to the city’s mainframe to see through them. He thought it best to avoid them anyways. The fortunist had gone to great lengths before to contact him. Even sneaking onto the ship he worked on to try to convince him to come with them. Each time he said no, they got increasingly more desperate. There was no time to be careless.
Landon wanted to leave the juncture but he didn’t want to leave without making sure his mother was alright. She had married Rocko because she thought he needed someone in his life to look up to, but after Rocko lost his job and his arm in a work related accident, he turned to gambling and accrued a lot of debt. Thats when the money lenders got involved. Landon had to look for a job when he was ten in order to help his mother with the debt and because of that learned a lot about the ins and outs of a ship and even got to fly a few. All this he did without a license and under the table, but most people did that nowadays.
He took the chip out of his pocket and examined it. It was an older memory chip. Chips were an all encompassing tool. It could hold anything from account information to voice recordings. The newer ones where able to hold higher model AI’s and that could be plugged into your ship or Artificial Reality head sets, or AR sets for short. This would directly project all information from the world into your head set. It would make sense that his mother would buy on older model since the newer ones where almost as pricey as an old ship, but he hadn’t seen this model in a long time. He took out his headset from his bag, which had taken years to save up for, even though it was still the base model. He removed the chip he already had and went to place the older one but unfortunately it didn’t fit. He dug the chip back in his pocket and put his headset on. He didn’t have an AI but he did have a simple program chip that gave information like heart rate, time, and location services.
Landon started down the main streets once more hiding himself amongst the crowd. His AR headset feeding all the latest deals of the day from all the different shops he passed by. He would have to drop by Leera’s shop and see if she had anything that fit the chip his mother gave him. She ran a mechanics shop fixing up older freight models so there was a chance she might have an extra port to plug in his chip. She had been like a second mother to him only a bit rough on the edges. She liked to pick on him calling “little Landon.” Not as though he wasn’t already self conscious about his name being Landon. He thought it fit a kid, but now as an adult he wished he had been given a tougher sounding name.
He walked into Leera’s shop and took off his hood. He eyed the shop making sure there was no one around before heading around the front desk and then to the back. Leera was welding a plate onto an old T-model freight. The T stood for the shape of the freight. From over the top it looked like the letter T though that was only because of the dual engines. They were the most popular model ships.
“Little Landon,” she said peeling back her face mask and smiling that familiar crooked smile. She walked over tossing her mask on the floor over a tool box which looked like it never had been clean. The grease on her face made her look tanned but really she had an extremely pale complexion. she wiped her hands with the dirty rag hanging from her pants and smacked him as hard as she could on the back.
” How ya doing kiddo, I thought you were all incognito or what not,” Landon could still feel her hand print pulsing on his back. Her voice was thick because of all the time she spent smoking. Though smoking was now considered a thing of the past, she said that it made her feel young again though it did look like it did the opposite.
“Yeah I was going straight there.” he rubbed at his shoulder.
“I just needed to see if you had anything to plug this into,” he pulled out the chip from his pocket. Her eyes went wide and she snatched it from his hand. She quickly turned around and made her way to bench on the other side of the garage. Landon followed.
She pulled out a few crates throwing them on the floor until she apparently found the one she was looking for. She popped out an old headset with an antennae. He hadn’t seen one of those in a long time. They were so old that he thought they were obsolete.
“So I see she’s finally given this to you, it was about time,” Leera said her eyes welling up full of tears.
“What do you…” Just then, Leera’s eyes went wide and a door slammed behind him. Without a second thought Landon threw himself to the oil slicked floor, twisting around just in time to see blaster fire fly over him. He landed behind a box around the other side of the ship Leera was working on followed closely by Leera. There was a massive uproar of movement and shouting as Leera got something else out of the crate she was holding and lobbed it over the ship and towards the door.
“Get down,” someone shouted as a deafening explosion ripped through the air. What in the world was Leera doing with a grenade in a box full of tools, Landon thought. Leera grabbed him by the hood, now slicked with oil and yelled, “come on!” Landon followed her into another room just as the goons that were after them turned the corner and fired. Leera closed the door and locked it just a shot rang inside and short circuited a computer by her.
“They are using stun rounds, they aren’t here to kill us.” Landon said voice shaky. There was shouting in the other room as a few footsteps ran on up to the door and fumbled to try to get the door open. Landon was shaking, his body was screaming to run but his mind was not letting him. He stood there staring at the door until Leera smacked him gently on the cheek.
“Listen, Take this,” she handed him a gun, the old headset and the chip his mother had given him. “you need to leave now, or they will catch up to you,” she moved around the room swiftly from one place to another grabbing something from her and another things from there until she opened a door that led them into another room that was filled with junk. She locked the door and started moving the junk aside to get to the other side.
“but what about you..” he said slowly moving again and helping her pull the heavier objects out the way.
“I’ll be fine, I already set off the alarm. The Auto force should be here any moment but you need to leave now and get a head start.” she said grunting moving the last bit of junk revealing a door sized crate.
“Who were those guys?”
“We don’t have time for that,” she kicked open a crate and leaned inside. “You only have a few minutes head start. Go to the warehouse I had for you and grab the supplies inside, but don’t stay long. They will definitely know you are there. There will be a key to an old t-model I keep in a junkyard not far from the warehouse. Take it and go. Don’t look back.
“but what about my mom,” Landon said finally getting his wits together.
“I’ll take care of her. She’ll be fine, now go!” Landon looked into the shaft and then turned around to Leera. She gave him a nod and he gave her one too, then started running down the exit. He turned on his AR set and set the location of the warehouse. He had so many questions he wanted answered like, Who were the people that were chasing him? The fortunists were not known for their use of violence. They were a relatively annoying group but never violent. Something had to have happened. There was something else going on that he didn’t know about but one thing was certain, he was not going to leave without finding out.