She woke up and had to swallow down a scream. There was a dead thing outside the window. It turned, looking down the street, took a shambling step and stopped again. Madelyn pulled her hands up to her mouth, forcing any sound back down her throat. She closed her eyes and forced herself to breath. After a slow count to three she opened her eyes again and looked around properly.
She was in a car, one of those small electric ones that only had the two front seats. She was curled up in the passenger side. There was a loaded backpack in the driver's seat and a notebook, her diary, was poking out of the top.
It was coming back.
They’d been going out to Krypton, her and her mom. Her dad was waiting out there since things were getting bad, with the virus, the ex-humans. She could remember the plane landing. Remember the soldiers shouting and being surrounded by the dead.
She bit her lip. Then how did she end up here?
There was more, it was fuzzy, like when she couldn’t quite remember someone’s name or the next verse in a song. There were people, A large black man, with a hint of a smile and an army uniform. A guy in a leather jacket with long hair and a really nice smile. A woman in black.
She sighed and slumped down in her chair. Didn’t really matter who those people were if they weren’t here. Wherever here was. It wasn’t the desert that was for sure. There were buildings out there, not high rises or anything, just apartments. Everything was overgrown. There were a dozen of the exes wandering around, but only the one close by, and it didn’t seem to be paying attention to her. It looked like there was a market on the corner. It was empty, looted a long time ago.
How did she know that?
Well, she didn’t, not really, but there was such a clear picture in her head. She remembered looking under the counter and behind a shelf that had come away from the wall. There was a laundromat on the other side around the corner she was certain of it.
She bit her lip again. She couldn’t remember how she got in the car but… if she was right about the store, maybe that meant the people she remembered were real too. Maybe they were over there, waiting for her. There was only one way to test her hypothesis.
She waited until the ex was on the other side of the car. Somehow she knew it wouldn’t see her, just like she knew about the market, but just in case. She reached for the handle, but the door didn’t open. Was there a child-lock she’d missed? Then the radio came on.
“Hey, looks like you’re awake. Good morning.”
Madelyn blinked at the radio. The voice had an accent, mexican or hispanic, she wasn’t really sure what the difference was. She glanced up at the ex. So far it hadn’t noticed the sound. She could still slip away. She tried the door again.
“Hey no come on,” the voice from the radio said. “We got to talk through this, what do you remember?”
“Are you talking to me?” she spoke in a whisper, with one eye on the ex. It still hadn’t noticed.
“Sure am. It’s me the Driver. I’m in the car.” The dashboard lights flashed.
“Cesar.” She knew it was right, like she knew about the rest of it. A face came with the name. He could control machines, mostly cars but there was something else too, some kind of robot. He went into them somehow.
A static filled sigh came from the radio. “Why does everyone go along with calling you Corpse Girl, but my hero name gets ignored? Oh shit, you remember that bit right?”
“I--” Madelyn stopped. Corpse girl. The name felt right, but there was something under it. A feeling, something sad. Her hands clenched and went white.
No, they were already white, bloodless.
She scrambled for the sun visor, but didn’t find a mirror. Then she shook herself and just leaned over so she could see her reflection in the side mirror of the car.
It was a shock, but not as big of a shock as it should have been. Her skin was the same pale deathly shade as her hands. Her hair was longer, pulled back in a loose braid. Here eyes were the biggest difference though, they were scratched down to a lifeless gray.
“Oh.” She slumped back in her seat.
“I’m dead aren’t I? My dad did something, and now I’m…”
The radio hummed, “As Zzzap would put it, you’re only mostly dead. You’ve still got the bits that count.”
She took a slow breath, then wondered if she even needed to breath anymore. Well, it helped her calm down anyway.
“Okay,” she nodded to herself, “ Okay, I’m sort of but not really dead.”
“The Corpse Girl,” Cesar confirmed from the radio.
“And you’re in the car. But there are other heroes too, and other people. Solders and a doctor and everyone.”
“So,” she paused, then went ahead with it. “What are we doing out here? I mean, why did I fall asleep in here? There’s a safe place right? With a wall?”
“Yeah, that’s right. The Mount. We’re on a scouting mission, sort of.”
She eyed the radio. “Sort of?”
“Well see, Danielle was complaining about some of the parts for Cerberus taking ages to fix. And we were set to go out on a scouting run anyway. We do that before big scavenging trips, you and me, ‘cause the exes can’t see you and I’m safe in here. We can scratch off all the obvious targets so the other scavengers don’t have to bother.
“Except I remembered Danielle telling me about how when she came down here, back at the start of everything, her team landed at a different airport and got killed. I figure all her backup stuff for the armor was still there. I mean, no one ever went to get it as far as I know, and once we know where the crates are, we can just signal St. George to come fly them back. Or I can jump into a helicopter or something.”
“Do you know how to fly a helicopter?”
“I’m the driver, how hard can it be?”
Maddi considered for a minute. “How far away is the airport?”
“We got about a third of the way yesterday. You wanted to still do the scavenger thing, so Stealth didn’t get mad. Which I totally understand.”
Maddi’s stomach sank. “Stealth doesn’t know?”
“Weeeeeelllllllll” His voice trailed off into static.
Maddi ran her hands over her face and kicked weakly at the door. “We are going to get into soooo much trouble when we get back.” She could barely remember Stealth and she was certain of it.”
“Hey look, it’s not like we’re risking anyone else. If we find the stuff then all’s good. If we don’t then, well it’s only one extra day. We can make it all the way out there and still have time to look, if we skip the last few shops we were going to check. And I’ve been sending the all good back to Zzzap the whole time so they know we haven’t run into trouble.”
Madelyn hesitated. Sure it sounded risky, but if Caesar was right and Danielle’s equipment was just sitting out there… They had to go check right?
She kind of remembered that her powers weren’t that great. Like it was cool she was still alive, and the exes couldn’t see her, but there wasn’t a whole lot she could do besides that. She had a feeling a lot of people still didn’t like her. This was better. This was a way she could really help.
“Okay, let’s do it.”
“Hell yeah!” Cesar revved the little electric engine and they set out into the dead city.