“We should go,” Mikey says, standing by the window. He does this most every night. They live in a rather seedy part of the city known as Mechanic’s Corner. Nothing about the location is appealing except for the unobstructed view of the desert beyond the City walls.
Gerard collapses heavily on his bed. He’s already exhausted by his long day of work, he’s too tired to have this argument with Mikey, again.
“There’s too much radiation. Nobody can live out there for long.”
“You can’t do that,” Gerard gasps. “You’re an alcoholic.”
“Pot. Kettle.” Mikey mumbles and stalks off to their room. Gerard trails after him. They both collapse onto Mikey’s bed.
Mikey takes another swig and passes the bottle over. Gerard takes a few swallows and passes it back. They go back and forth like this until Gerard is certain they’re both pretty well hammered.
“Gee, why are we doing this?” Mikey asks.
Mechanic’s Corner is in the aftermath stage. Whatever happened it looks like it started here. On the edge of the district one apartment building is in flames, surrounded by firetrucks and other emergency personnel. Beyond that, the streets are littered with broken glass, downed signs, and spills of various natures that Gerard doesn’t even want to contemplate. He thinks one puddle might be blood. After that, he decides to carry Bandit the rest of the way home. They make it to their apartment building without running into anyone else.
Gerard doesn’t make it.
When he gets home, the door is unlocked and there’s a notice plastered on it from Social Services. It states that a child has been removed from the premises due to alleged neglect. There is no contact information.
The sun is hot.
That’s obvious, but Gerard was completely unprepared for how intensely, mind-numbingly hot the desert sun actually is. He wonders why he never noticed the heat in the City, then decides it doesn’t matter because he’s out here now, with the heat.
Gerard has been walking into the light of the rising desert sun for what feels like forever. Based on the angle of the sun, though, it can’t possibly be midday yet.
Gerard doesn’t want to know what midday heat feels like.
There’s something in the distance, a blot on the horizon. As Gerard gets closer the blot coalesces itself into a building. The trading post, he assumes.
The vehicle in the rear is a dune buggy, low to the ground with no siding to speak of. Two people are seated inside. The lead vehicle is a Trans Am. She’s graffitied all over with many designs Gerard doesn’t recognize, but one he does. On the hood is prominently displayed the Killjoy Spider. Two people climb out of the Trans Am. None of the four are Mikey. Gerard’s heart drops a little. He had hoped Mikey would be with these people. Maybe he is, though, maybe this is only a small portion of the group and Mikey is with the others.
Gerard raises his hand to greet them, but stops. Not as single Killjoy looks over the age of twenty. The oldest, a tall, dark-haired boy, looks to be in his older teen years. The youngest, a petite girl with hair the pale blue of a summer sky, looks no older than twelve or thirteen.
What makes Gerard second guess his greeting is that all of them are carrying guns. Most have handguns on leg holsters, but the oldest has an assault rifle slung casually over his shoulder. Gerard finds himself shrinking back onto the far side of the porch as they approach.
The others pass by without a second glance, but the small sky-haired girl walks right up to him. She’s wearing one of My Chem’s t-shirts, the one with all the Killjoy mug shots.
“You’re Party Poison.” It’s a statement, not a question.
Their mini-parade ends at the steps of a squat building. The word ‘Sheriff’ can still be seen on the side of the building, but all other identifying words have been torn off and graffitied over. There is another girl waiting for them. She, too, looks young and is easily a head shorter than Gerard, but her stance holds an air of command. He hair is a bright Party Poison red and the first thing Gerard thinks of is Val Velocity. She is clearly the boss.
They bring Gerard to a radio station in the middle of nowhere. Gerard supposes it was in the middle of somewhere at one point, but all the surrounding buildings have either collapsed or are leaning precariously.
Gerard is ready, dressed in full Party Poison outfit and waiting by the Trans Am as dawn breaks over the desert.
“Gee,” Andy calls and by his wrecked voice Gerard knows he’s found what they were looking for.
Gerard weaves his way over to where Andy is kneeling in front of one of the wooden crosses. Gerard kneels next to him. The crosses horizontal plank of wood is much wider than the vertical stake and the string holding them together is failing under the weight so that the big plank hangs at an angle. Still, Gerard can clearly read the name.
The station is on fire.
Gerard can’t believe it, neither can Andy.
A gunshot breaks the silence.
Gerard whirls around. The arsonist is sprawled on the ground. A mess of blood and brain matter fans out from where most of his head used to be. Nyx holsters her gun.
Nyx marches up to him. “I don’t keep prisoners, it’s a waste of resources. Besides,” she glances back at the mess, “you said you never wanted to see his face again.”
Patrick shrugs. “I’m not much to look at.”
Gerard smirks. “I disagree.”
“Where are we?” Gerard asks, taking in the small shack perched just yards from the river.
“Home, I suppose,” Andy says. “Temporarily at least. C’mon, let’s get you inside.”
Gerard is dragged through the dirt to the Square. He is left kneeling in the hot sand with his hands cuffed above and behind his head in a position that strains his still healing shoulder.
Night has fallen, Gerard’s not sure when. He’d fallen asleep at some point, his body desperately storing what little energy he has left. Sky’s face appears in his line of vision. She has to crouch down to make eye contact with him as he hasn’t lifted his head.
“That was really mean of those guys,” she says.
Gerard doesn’t respond. He doesn’t think he can respond. His mouth is so dry.
Nyx’s voice stands out, loud and clear. “Why, Kobra Kid. What an unexpected--”
“Get fucked,” Mikey snaps.
“Let them,” Gerard says. He gestures to Patrick who cuddles up to his side. Mikey crowds into his other side without needing to be asked. “The Killjoys belong to them now. I don’t want any part of it anymore.”
Sky is still staring out the window, though the mask is long gone. “Is it hard? Leaving everything behind.”
Gerard rests his head on Mikey’s shoulder, breathing in his familiar scent. “Not when you have a reason to keep moving forward.”