Deliveryman

by

Gregory M. Thompson

Colony Fan Fiction
All characters (C) by USA Network

 

Nick estimated the task of delivering the pickup bed full of bikes to the orphanage would take no more than thirty minutes. He had his transit pass, papers giving him permission to drive this rusted heap, and the invoice listing each bike ordered. Despite having all the right paperwork and identifications, Nick wanted to get rid of the bikes as soon as possible. As it was, his current timetable pushed the cusp of curfew; any miniscule delay would force him into what he and his friends called Night-Hiding.

And no number of passes and papers would save him from getting shot, beaten, or taken to The Factory.

Nick had spent most of the night welding together the bike frames, replacing broken parts, and switching out innertubes. He wanted to shine them up, make them look as if they’d just come off the assembly line. But these days, time was nearly as precious as coffee or fruit. And he had no time to spare last night, and he had no time to spare now.

He turned left on Burnside Avenue, the truck lurching, sputtering as it pulled the last of the gas through the lines. Any slight tilt or stop sloshed whatever gas was left in the tank below the lines to get sucked through. Nick saw the fuel gauge desperately bouncing as it tried to stay above E, as if going any amount past would result in its death. How much did he siphon from his neighbor’s car? He couldn’t remember, but he was sure he put enough in the tank to get to the orphanage. And that’s all he really needed.

Half a block behind him, a large black SUV screamed around the corner, the speed and angle threatening to overturn it. The pulsating siren pieced the air, and the spasmodic red and blue lights inside the cab flashed, turnings all heads at Starfish Sushi. A dark-haired woman on a bike, with a leashed dog at her side, stopped and glimpsed back. The vehicle bore down on her, it’s reinforced grille like the jaws of a shark. She moved as if to dash out of the way, but at the last possible second, the SUV screeched to a halt a few feet from the woman. It was obvious to Nick she tried too hard to be inconspicuous. Hey guys, her body seemed to say, just riding my bike and walking my dog on this beautiful day.

Nick followed procedure when within sight of a Transit Authority vehicle with its light and siren on: He eased his truck to the curb and stopped. And because he was curious—if they weren’t after him—Nick rolled down the driver’s window as he peeked into his rear-view mirror.

Two Red Hats leapt from the vehicle and bolted through the sidewalk tables of the sushi restaurant.

“You! Come here!” one yelled.

They violently made their way to a man sitting near the wall. His eyes bulged with shock and fear when one of the Red Hats grabbed him by the neck and shirt and hauled him effortlessly from the metal chair as if he were a paper doll. The Red Hats shoved the man towards the SUV, his shoulder-length hair flipping back and forth as he glanced between them, shouting desperate pleas.

“I haven’t done anything! You can’t do this! Please!”

One of the Red Hats jammed the guy into the backseat and slammed the door. With both Red Hats in the SUV and the siren blaring again, the driver jerked into motion and drove away. The entire scene took less than fifteen seconds. Nick snuck a glance at the woman on the bike. She shyly retained focus on the bike’s pedals and dog and slowly churned away. Nick could almost read her thoughts: At least it wasn’t me.

Nick was positive everyone else at the restaurant thought that too. Well, at least for a few seconds; everyone returned to their meals, conversations, and life around them as he guided the truck back into the street.

Some time slipped away there, but Nick had built into the trip twenty minutes to account for checkpoints, random stops, and business like he just witnessed. No doubt that guy was going to The Factory. Nick had seen it too many times. If the Red Hats came for you, you could be assured a trip to the one place that held so much mystery for everyone.

The route Nick planned had one checkpoint near the orphanage. When he turned down the next street and saw the barriers, impromptu shacks, and body scanners, and about ten Red Hats, he knew his goal was minutes away after he passed through.

Nothing is guaranteed in life -- the arrival of the Hosts proved that. If he passed through. One step at a time.

A Red Hat -- male or female, it was hard to tell with their faces almost covered -- raised their hand as Nick approached the checkpoint. No other cars or people waited to cross through, so this should be fast. Should be, Nick thought.

Nick casually rested his left elbow on the door when the Red Hat got close. Nick put on his best smile -- a smile that said, So proud of you guys and how you protect all of us. Glad to have you around! -- and said, “Evening.”

“I.D.,” the Red Hat commanded.

“Sure, sure.” Nick reached over with his right hand and slipped out his I.D. from the clear pocket on the bicep of his sleeve. The plastic card had his designation, address, job, and a picture taken shortly after the Hosts showed up.

The Red Hat took the I.D. and scrutinized it, comparing the photo with the real thing. Nick watched the eyes, making sure to maintain that friendly smile. Not a smirk or a grin, but a smile.

“Nicholas Smith,” the Red Hat said in a way that gave Nick’s stomach a jump. Maybe that I.D. had enough of a mistake for him or her to notice. One letter out of place. A corner bent just so to arouse suspicion. “Bikes?”

Pushing a subtle sigh out of his nose, Nick realized the Red Hat perused bicycles in the bed and not the I.D. “Yeah, for the orphanage.”

“How nice,” said the monotone voice under the mask. “Move along. You’re clear.”

“Will do.” Nick put the truck in drive and slowly made his way through the checkpoint. The other Red Hats looked bored. So bored that any one of them could stop Nick again and do another check.

And that was additional time he absolutely could not afford.

With the checkpoint fading behind him, Nick concentrated on the building straight ahead. It rose six stories and was made mostly of brick. A section on the backside of the structure was more modern, with cement and glass facades. Nick thought the orphanage had been built in the 1940s. For as long as he could remember, the place had housed orphans.

Nick slipped the truck underneath a sheet-metal canopy, purposely leaving some of the pickup bed sticking out. He grabbed the invoice and made sure he left nothing in the cab that could tie the bikes and truck to him.

Satisfied, he made his way to the front door and pounded on it. The low thuds echoed on the other side. Nick wondered how many of them were inside, and which one of them would answer the door.
He found out less than twenty seconds later.

A middle-aged man popped open the door a few inches. His white hair—probably earlier than expected from the stress of always on the run, on the lookout for who’s after me today—was matted to his head, the bangs falling into his eyes like strings.

“Yes?” the man whispered.

“Your bikes are here.”

“Bikes?”

“The ones you ordered.”

Nick saw confusion wash over the man’s face like an ocean lapping against a shore. Nick had been expecting that confusion.

“Sorry, you must have the wrong place.”

“Nope.” Nick thrust the invoice through the crack. “Invoice says otherwise. Eleven bikes to Brower Street Orphanage.”

“Hmm.” The man examined the invoice, but from his facial expressions, that wasn’t helping. “I guess leave them in the parking lot.”

“I put them over there.” Nick pointed to the truck. “You can keep the truck.”

This forced the man to open the door further, stick his head out, and see where Nick had pointed. “That’s odd. To give us the truck.”

Nick shrugged. “Not really. The Transit Authority has allowed me to get a bigger truck. An actual delivery van.”

“They do that?”

“Apparently.” Nick held out the truck’s keys. The man took them without further comment or questions.

“Thanks,” he said as he closed the door.

Nick turned, then strolled away from the orphanage.

The problem was there were no orphans inside. Recon had counted fourteen Resistance members. Nick had received this information while eating dinner last night, and with that information came orders to terminate as many as possible in that building. Not even a chance for The Factory. So Nick had some up with a plan. A plan he was unable to tell his superiors about -- he rarely spoke about the plans he conceived while undercover. His job was usually simple: receive orders, formulate plans, execute plans.

Three steps for any Resistance cell.

When Nick calculated he was far enough away, he removed a palm-sized detonator from his pocket. It had one red button on it. He flipped the protective plastic over the button to expose it.

Nick pressed it.

The pipe bombs slipped into the hollow parts of the bike frames -- six high-intensity bombs -- exploded, rocking the ground like giant subwoofers vibrating deep bass. A wave of air rolled over the street, and Nick caught the tail-end of it. He wasn’t knocked down, but the blast jostled his hair and clothing.

A fireball lifted into the sky, sending debris and smoke everywhere. Rubble rained down on the adjacent buildings and sounded like a thousand hands clapping. When the clouds of dust disappeared, Nick was pleased to see the building had been demolished.

He didn’t understand why the Resistance continued to plot against the Transit Authority and the Hosts. If they’d give in, they’d see how much better their lives would be.

But it wasn’t his place to try to understand. He had his job to do.

And it was time to go home, have dinner, and wait for his next orders.

Gregory M. Thompson
Feb. 2017

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