CM2.06 - First Night Alone

Rusty breaks in on this scene (somewhat to the relief of Aubrey). "You done with that thing yet, Aube?"

What to say about Rusty? There's precious little to say. Think Abraham Lincoln with something to prove. He's taciturn without being unpleasant. Few questions, but always listening. You ask him, and he says he wants to be a tech for a corp, any corp. That doesn't bother Punter, and it explains why he spends his spare time studying intrusion countermeasures programming techniques.

Rusty ("just Rusty") responded to the advert by handing Habeas Punter an anonymous credstick with barely enough on it to interest him. Punter couldn't find a single bit of data referencing the kid. He asked Rusty where he was from, and Rusty said something about the Sprawl, which Punter couldn't make sense of, and that was the end of that conversation.

Must be a street rat.

So this is probably a good time to describe the Academy itself. Punter's sense of irony has landed them all in an abandoned elementary school. It's probably fifty years old. Cinder-block, with chipped pastel-green paint; rough, rasping blackboards; desks too small for anyone to feel comfortable sitting in; broken seats of learning. The flourescent lighting is bad, and the halls echo. You can hear the rats panhandling in the next room. There's the occasional faded edu-decor: cursive alphabets, dented globes, dried modelling clay, gutted spiral notebooks, useless pencil stubs. Hands are always dry and ready to crack from the chalk dust that time and structural breaches have evenly distributed throughout the campus. The cafeteria is pretty much off-limits by common consent; it smells putrid and is probably diseased.

It's all strange to these kids. They never attended anything in this sort of setting before (certainly not "school"), and they can't imagine what it must have been like to be herded around in such small groups. They sleep in classrooms they've staked out for themselves. They don't go into the area that Punter has marked off for himself. They can't even go in there now, since he's somehow reinforced that area (the principal's office, of course). It's locked down hard. They all know this because they've all tried to get in during the short time he's been gone.

The Wilson Memorial Academy is located in a forgotten suburban waste, surrounded by many crumbled structures, few of which were designed to last more than thirty years.

Of course Mason Rey has known all along where the Academy is. Don't be silly.

And since we're telling secrets here (if you have to know), Punter's Cognito unit isn't in the reinforced area he's been using as his private living area. It's in the basement under the cafeteria. The kids all think he lammed it out of there. They're supposed to think that, so it's just as well.

Right now, Rusty and Aubrey and Jayne think of this as their First Night Alone. They're scared, but they can't admit it to each other. They do manage to figure out how to sleep all in the same room and still save face. They (by which I mean Aubrey and Jayne--Rusty mostly listens) talk well into the night, cheering each other up, and make plans, and manage to finally drift off to sleep.

But what it really is, you see, is their last night together.

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