The Agora Files – Part I – Online Edition – Chapter Thirteen

Eve takes charge by managing to stay at least a few steps ahead of me no matter how fast I run. Hotel Yorba by The White Stripes is playing. Eve seems to have lost all concern about listening to music while running. Well, maybe not all concern, but she’s allowing herself to enjoy it now without stopping every few minutes to complain about how it impairs her running.

“Hey, Eve,” I yell ahead of me. She slows slightly until I’m at her side.

“What’s up?”

“Any clue where we’re heading?” The music stops

“East,” she answers flatly. “Where else?”

“That’s it? Shouldn’t we be focused on a location to rest and get more supplies or something?”

“Probably,” she says as she bounces in place. “I’m sure we’ll find something along the way.”

“You can’t be serious, can you? The whole reason I even considered keeping you around is because you’re supposed to have all these safe houses and whatever for us to hide out in.”

“You decided to keep me around?”

“Fine, I didn’t have a choice. But if I’m stuck with you, I hoped you might have something to offer.”

“Evanston. There’s a place in Evanston where we can rest up.”

“How far is that?” I ask.

“Forty miles,” The Geek chimes in. “What have you got in Evanston?”

“There’s an old rebel storage facility there. Hasn’t been used in years. Of course, there is a slight issue with it.”

“What’s that?” The Geek asks.

“Well, we haven’t used it in years. I don’t know what state it’s in.”

“Seriously?” I yell. “You haven’t used it in years? What’s to say the SPs haven’t found it already? They could be all over that thing waiting for us to show up!”

“Cyrus,” The Geek reprimands me. “It’s not great, but it’s better than anything else we’ve got on the radar.”

“How’s that?” I asked, unable to contain my frustration. “It’s over forty miles away and probably littered with SPs. Sounds to me like the best way to get ourselves killed.”

“That’s not a bad point,” The Geek agrees. “Is there anything else you can think of, Eve?”

“I thought that was your department.”

“You two have managed to alert every single person on the continent to your presence. You’re lucky I’ve been able to keep you alive this long. The only people who may be willing to help us are the rebels, who just so happen to be the only people I don’t have an in with.”

“This is pathetic,” I state as I stop and plop down onto the ground. “What’s the point in running if we don’t have anywhere to run to?”

“I don’t see you coming up with anything helpful,” The Geek snaps back.

“Come on, boys. I thought you two were supposed to be a team. This can’t be how you two always respond to hard times, can it?” Eve asks.

To be honest, it usually is what happens. We’re really good at what we do, but I hate it when complications crop up. It’s not like I’ve given up hope, I’m too good at what I do for that to happen. I just hate not knowing where I’m going.

“Alright,” I say, managing to tame my temper, “fine. Is there anything nearby which would at least allow us a safe place to hide for a while so we can rest tonight? We can probably manage okay without getting supplies, but we’re definitely going to need a place to sleep. Preferably not Evanston.”

I hear The Geek typing away rapidly, trying to find any source of information on the wilderness in front of us. “Actually,” The Geek says slowly as he continues typing. “I think I might have found something.”

“Awesome. Whatcha got?”

“South of Evanston. I see an old railroad. Looks like there are some abandoned train cars out there.” And just like that, I love my little brother once again. The railway system has been all but closed down for years. They’re absolutely littered with abandoned vehicles.

“Sounds perfect,” Eve responds. “Should be safe from prying eyes. How far south of Evanston?”

“Ten miles.”

“That’ll probably work,” Eve says as she squints her eyes in thought.

“Probably?” I ask.

“Well, the further south we go, the better. The SPs wouldn’t expect us to go out of our way, meaning that the more out of our way we can go, the less likely they are to find us.”

“That’s not a bad idea,” The Geek replies.  “What do you think, Cyrus?”

“Since we’re already screwed for time, I hate to make it worse.  But I guess we don’t have anything better to go on for now.”

“Race you there!” Eve smiles before she runs off, changing her heading to the south. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say she actually knew where we were going.

Before long I identify her plan. We come upon a set of train tracks, which she follows. It’s been a while since I’ve had to think like a normal Runner. She decided since the tracks were south, this would be the easiest way to find them and then keep on them until we need sleep. Guess I’ll have to let her know about my GPS at the next stop.  It could save us some time in the future.

A few more miles down the tracks and we come across a set of abandoned train cars. Eve decides to stop and climb into one of them.

“Umm. . . I don’t think these are the cars The Geek was talking about, Eve.” At least I hope they weren’t. It’s still really early to stop running for the day.

“Of course they aren’t, dummy. We need a break.” She’s right, of course. I’m beginning to wonder how this run has gotten so far away from me. Usually I’m the one in charge. Now it seems like The Geek and Eve have taken control and I’m just along for the ride. I don’t like it.

I follow her into the car. From the amount of trash littered all over the interior, it’s obvious they’ve seen a lot of traffic over the years. Not from Runners of course, as Runners know better than to leave so much of a record they were anywhere. I also have a hard time believing anyone involved with the rebels would be so careless. If I had to guess, this would be the mark of drifters.

I’ve met a few drifters over the years, people who spend their days roaming the country. They’re usually former Runners who just couldn’t stop running. They don’t do it for money anymore, of course, because no one would pay them no matter how kindly they asked. They just do it to stay away from having to sit behind a desk.

They usually try to keep out of sight from the SPs, like Runners, but have given up on many of the more tedious aspects of that process, such as keeping things tidy, covering their tracks, and whatever else. Most drifters don’t last too long, either getting nabbed by the SPs along the way or, you know, dying from the lack of ability to keep themselves supplied.

There are a ton of things appealing about the life of a drifter. If it weren’t for my brother, I’d definitely take a stab at it.

I find a crate to sit on and open my pack. Eve eyes it up anxiously.

“You didn’t bring any provisions?”

“No. Didn’t want anyone to hear me leave. My parents hear everything.”

“Yeah, I found that out myself.”

“So, what’d you get?” I pull the brown bag out of my pack and dump the contents onto my lap. Mr. Gardner was obviously pretty familiar with what Runners survive on, as inside the bag was a perfect Level 3 provision pack. Two sandwiches, a couple apples, a banana, and two bottles of water. I’d be willing to guess he would have packed more if he had known his daughter was going to be waiting for me out here.

“My dad, huh?” she asks.

“What do you mean?” I shrug.

“My dad put this together for you, didn’t he?”

“I’m not saying anything.”

Eve laughs.

“So,” I start slowly, not knowing how to ask what I want to ask. “Why do you do it? Work for the rebellion, I mean?”

“Why not?” she asks in return. “I mean, the money was pretty good to start and I believed in the cause. Why wouldn’t I want to help the effort out?”

“I guess. The money you guys offered me was definitely pretty awesome.”

“Well, your situation was a bit different.”

“What do you mean?”

“The rebellion’s kind of running out of steam at this point. We’ve got the fewest supporters we’ve had since the movement started. The money they offered you was quite a bit more than they really could afford.”

“Why did they offer it?”

“Well,” she stumbles over her words and then blurts, “because I asked them to.”

“I don’t get it.”

“Look, I know you don’t run for the money or anything, but I knew it would clinch the deal.”

“I still don’t understand.”

“So, The Geek, how old is he now?”

“Are you changing the subject on me?” Eve blushes in response. “Okay, fine. He’s twelve.”

“Is he going to start running, now that you’re going to be out of the game?”

“That kid couldn’t run if he wanted to. Unless, I suppose, it was to the pizza shop or something.”

“Hey!” The Geek yells over my headphones. “I can still hear you, you know!” Eve and I laugh heartily. It makes the imposing threat of death feel a little less imposing. I know we are going to need a miracle to make it on time, but at the very least I could do it with a friend.

“Well,” Eve stands, “I think it’s about time we got moving again.” She jumps down from the train car onto the ground.

“Sure thing, boss,” I say jokingly.

“There you go. You’re starting to get it.” Eve laughs again as she bends over to tie her shoelaces.

I hadn’t noticed before, but she’s wearing a pair of Chuck Taylors as well, a pink pair. I jump down and land beside her, figuring I should probably tighten my footwear, too.

“Come on, slowpoke,” Eve says as she bolts forward along the rail tracks. I rush through my knot and move to catch up with her, sliding my headphones over my ears. Free Ride by Edgar Winter hits my ears. Eve glances back at me and gives me a wink and a smile before she speeds up.

Go to Chapter Fourteen

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