“So, you’re all Runners?” I ask.
“Used to be,” the woman says. “They call us Drifters now, because we choose to live a life outside of the rules and regulations.”
“I thought Drifters were all burnouts who spent their days drugged up in dark corners.”
“Yeah, pretty surprising, right?” a man from the group says. “Couldn’t expect people to do something with themselves outside of the government, could you?”
“Peter, be quiet,” the woman says. “Sorry. He’s been a little on edge ever since the attacks began.”
“I always thought the SPs were okay with just leaving the Drifters alone.”
“Those weren’t SPs,” the woman replies.
“Yeah!” Peter shouts. “Ever since you and your buddies blew everything up, people have been going crazy. Looters are everywhere and now these guys on horses show up doing whatever they want, making us–”
“Pete, if I have to tell you to shut up one more time,” the girl says. “Sorry, he doesn’t realize that what you’ve done is for the betterment of us all.”
I gasp. “I’m sorry. We didn’t even think…” I trail off, knowing that nothing I could say could make it better.
“Don’t worry about it. We’re getting by. There’s always a period of transition when you make a big change like this. I’m Mel, by the way,” she says, extending her hand.
“Nice to meet you,” I reply cautiously, shaking her hand.
We arrive at a gleaming silver building with the word “Flo’s” written in neon and positioned on its roof. Windows line the side of the odd one-story building with rounded corners and there is a small stairway leading to a revolving glass front door.
The Geek, Eve, and I exchange glances before deciding to walk in.
Upon entering, the entire establishment looks up at us. This includes the wait staff, the patrons from their booths with plastic blue cushions, and those seated along the counter which bisects the room from customer and staff areas.
Eve, without thinking, raises her pinky finger in salute. The Geek and I follow suit and the room goes back to its business, except for one lady working behind the counter, who returns our salute.
We walk to her.
“Hi kids, what can I do for you?” she asks.
“Hi Flo,” Eve replies. “I’m hoping you might have a message for me. The name is—“
“Oh, don’t worry, sugar. I know your name. Everyone in this here establishment knows the names of all three of you youngsters.”
“Yeah, I suppose you do,” Eve replies sheepishly. “So, do you have any messages for me?”
“As it so happens, there are a whole mess of messages for you and Mr. Rhodes coming from all over the globe.”
“Really?” I ask. “No one ever sends me messages.”
“I would guess,” The Geek offers, “your newfound celebrity may have bought you a few fans.”
“That’s kinda awesome, right?” I say. “Like, how many messages? And how do we get them? Do you read them to us, is there some sort of computer for them, or—“
“Not so fast there, soldier,” Eve cuts me off. “We don’t have time to sit around and enjoy the glow of fame. We need to find my parents.”
“Okay, right,” I say after taking a breath. “So, do you have any messages for Eve from her parents?”
“That I wouldn’t even know be—“
“Excuse Cyrus, he gets a little excited. Do you have any messages for me listed under course advisements?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Let me go in back and check.”
“Thanks!” Eve says cheerfully as Flo heads through the swinging doors into the kitchen.
“This is one mighty nice split,” I say, looking around.
“This isn’t a split,” The Geek corrects me. “This is the training grounds for all of the Flos. It’s the only place you’ll find more than one Flo on the floor at a time. I can’t believe we’ve found it. I’ve read so much about this place. Did you know that before the Flos ran the splits, they ran the government food subsidy program? “
“Not the right time for a history lesson, Geek,” I cut him off. “What are we going to do about my parents when we find out where John and Mary are? We can’t tell them, can we?”
“I’ve been working on that myself,” Eve answers. “And I’m wondering if we might still need them to help us get to my parents.”
“Aren’t you the one who said you didn’t trust them just ten minutes ago?”
“Well, yeah, but at the same time, we don’t really have much for other options, do we?” Eve debates. “I don’t even know where we are, much less how to get out of this cave and topside or how to get wherever my parents might be after we get there or—“
“Looks like you do have a course advisement,” Flo speaks over Eve as she reenters the dining room. “Here you go.” Flo hands Eve a small red piece of paper.
We all look at the piece of paper together.
“Winter storm warning at the Harbor Boulevard, Katella Avenue split. Consider course correction to the north.”
Go to Chapter Fifteen