Apocalypse Gift, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter…???

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“gray concrete building” by Paweł Czerwiński on Unsplash

Aleks walked out into the sun, smiling at the desert heat emanating from Berlin’s sky, its broken-down buildings and its asphalt. Finally, he was warm again. He thought that endless chill of that warehouse would get the last of him. Figuratively speaking.

What Aleks still wasn't, was hungry. He hadn't eaten or used the bathroom for the last three days, and apparently, he just didn't need to any more. He did feel sort-of dry though. Getting sweaty with that cat must have drained his vital fluids.

He walked in a random direction, grinning like a fool in the sun, until he hit a city train station, which turned out to be Alt-Reinickendorf. As soon as Aleks arrived, the only other inhabitant of the platform seemed to develop a sudden interest in something invisible at the station’s other end, as far from Aleks as possible. Aleks ignored him, and bought a bottle of mineral water from a badly cooled vending machine instead. He paid with some change from his pocket, and laughed out loud, when he remembered having spent that same change twice already.

Aleks was still grinning foolishly and sipping his water when he heard "You are under arrest", and saw a handcuff closing around his wrist in front of his face.

Surprised, Aleks turned his head to see a Private Security officer who was a head taller than him, and about twice as wide. The guy stank of overheated fabric and sweat. "Please come with us and don't make a fuss," said the officer, twisting Aleks' right arm, and pulling Aleks' other hand out of the pocket it was resting in. Aleks' heart sank as the second handcuff clicked shut behind his back, and he felt warm water running down his pants.

It took Aleks a moment to realize that he still had the open bottle in his hand, except now it was behind him, well above the waistband level of his old, worn-out jeans, and, thanks to the guy pulling at the handcuff link, it was upside-down, still open, and slowly filling his pants with water. In this weather, the water running down his crack was even kind-of pleasant.

"Why?" asked Aleks, tossing the bottle away from him -- at least as close to "away" as the handcuffs would allow.

"You don't get out much, do you," said the second Security person, who turned out to be female, and was standing a couple of meters off. She tipped an imaginary hat towards the end of the platform with her left hand, bowing her head slightly as if in thanks. Her right hand was occupied by the pistol grip in her belt holster.

The bottle hit the ground less than two feet away, splashing Aleks and the Security guy with piss-warm water. Aleks grinned with malicious glee, feeling a little less annoyed at his own stupidity now. Then he remembered the cat, and the whole scene suddenly seemed to him like a vacation trip from the madhouse. He pulled his hands apart, and vividly visualized the chain breaking.

It didn't. "Shit," said Aleks, somewhat surprised.

"Come on, your cell-mates are waiting," said the guy, pushing Aleks towards a tiny Security car, something modern, electric and awful. It looked like a late American knockoff of a Chinese knockoff of an electric version of the half-a-century old Ford Ka, whose name in Alex’ time was lovingly said to stand for “Kein Auto”, German for “not a car” — for a good reason. Walking towards it, Aleks wondered how the guy even fit in there. And whether his prison cell would be any bigger. Somehow, Aleks could not imagine spending the rest of his life, or whatever this was, in jail.

"Here I am, dead and handcuffed," Aleks thought bitterly. He wanted to cry and to laugh at once. Instead, he tried to run.

About half a step later he was hanging by the handcuffs, his face hovering above the asphalt at waist level, his shoulders hurting from being twisted that far back, and his feet barely touching the ground.

"Wooh, not so fast, grandpa," said the Security guy, catching Aleks' shoulder with his left hand and righting Aleks so that he could stand on his feet again. Mostly to relieve the weight on the guy's right hand, Aleks assumed. The woman didn't even bother pulling the gun, her face showing nothing but mild amusement, and maybe a little bit of pity.

They didn't even make an effort to search him, but just shoved him onto the back seat of their fake car replacement, taking off the handcuffs in the process. Their Trans' probably had some kind of scanners built in, or maybe they just thought that he was mostly harmless. They certainly didn't look concerned that he could have killed anyone. Which was the story in the press that was responsible for his current situation.

While they drove, Aleks looked around at the broken-down houses with buckled paint, bent light poles, crumbling concrete of the filthy streets, and dead trees on the other side of the train tracks. What a way to live. In the space-time he grew up, streets in Berlin were clean-swept, light poles worked, people had jobs, and random strangers didn't tip off PS to pick people up on the street right next to them. Of course PS was probably not going to shoot him in the back of his head, unlike that other organization that people tipped off back then, but still, ah, the good old days...

The trip only took eight minutes. By then, Aleks had made a decision. The moment his guard unlocked the car door, he kicked it with both feet, as viciously as he could, catching the big guy by surprise and hurting his arm with the door. Then Aleks ducked out of the car and under the guard's arms, and sprinted towards a small park across the street, ignoring a bunch of Taser bullets hitting his back and falling off, leaving itchy pockmarks behind. Their discharge would stop a normal person dead in his tracks. Apparently, not a dead person.

Only a couple of steps past the curb, Aleks stumbled down the bank of a five meter wide brook, running through the park parallel to the street. He turned around, trying to scramble out for a moment, when he saw the big guy looking down at him and aiming the Taser at his face. "Oh screw that," said Aleks, and let himself fall over backwards into the brook, wondering why the guy suddenly looked so disgusted. Then Aleks let his breath out and sank like a stone.

(This is a work in progress, Prequel number 2 to the novel A Trace Of Hope.)

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