Journeying to old Toronto was not the easiest of trips. With the correct licenses and documents, it could still take ages to get through the man made barriers in between the old and new cities. Rick was used to it though: being a hunter, he sometimes made his living going down there.
“Alright, I’m not sure how often you’ve done this,” he began, “but this process could take time. Make sure you’ve got all the documents that the CBI gave you to pass through the gate. Double check your equipment, get ready to answer questions, the whole deal. Ready?” He checked his companion.
She simply stared ahead, leaning to one side. Her pack was slung over her shoulder, her weapon clipped to her belt. She spared a glance his way, chuckled lightly, and started searching the pockets in her jacket. She fiddled in the side pocket for a minute, and brought out a small card. On it was her face, and an official CBI logo.
“You can keep the lines if you want. I’m skipping.” She stepped out of line and quickly made her way to the front. She was stopped shortly afterwards, but was let through almost immediately after they looked at her card. She sauntered on past the barriers, to the elevators.
Stopping, she turned and called out to the border security. “Oh, and bring the hunter with the coat. He’s with me.” Despite her incredibly feminine sounding voice, the people manning the border immediately took Rick, briefly checked his gear, and then waved him on after the Lady.
“What the hell kind of card is that?” he asked as he caught up with her.
“Apparently the good kind.” She put the card away in a secluded pocket of her rucksack. “We have special transportation too, it seems. The cops there told me to head this way.” She motioned to the far right side from where they were.
Ahead of them stood several gates for different kinds of transport. Some were elevators, going straight down towards what new Toronto considered the most hospitable areas of the old city, which wasn’t saying much. Other gates led to trains, which went to different elevator bays around the new city. The gate the woman pointed at however, was something different.
“I don’t know what strings the CBI pulled for this,” Rick started, “but it’s not every day you get to use the beacons.” Beacons were an old, pre-war technology that effectively shot the traveller at ridiculous speeds to their destination. It was useful for the war, as it allowed paratroopers to bypass the hazard of having to fall with a parachute, which was slow. Beacons, also called “drop pods,” took only a couple of seconds to travel great distances. The problems were two fold: first, they would be insanely expensive to use every day. Second, the trip was one way; once a beacon was used, it was practically demolished. It was definitely possible to salvage bits and scraps, but the current pod would be useless after use.
“You do realize this means that the CBI aren’t paying for a return trip, right?”
The woman scoffed. “You think they’d let a project like this go back down to the undercity without some means of getting back?” She raised her right arm. “I’m not just your guide, hunter. I’m a test.” A growl began to creep into her voice. “If this equipment keeps ‘working as intended’ then I’ll have been a success! Good for fucking them.” She spun on her heel and marched towards the beacons.
“I’m valuable. If I ask the big man for a ride home, I’ll get one.”
Rick followed her towards the beacons. He had an uncomfortable feeling that she left him out of the ride home equation for a reason.
The old city was made of the ruins of Old Toronto. The skyscrapers, large centers, and the broken CN tower all now made for an elegant and expensive tombstone marking the graves of the many who died there during the Third Great War. A mass, shadowy grave where light no longer touched and only the desperate and lost would choose to live.
New Toronto was built quite literally on top of the ruins: one looking up from the old city would see the bottom of the new. It was not a massive feat of engineering, really: the old city had been literally pulled down far into the earth due to the attacks. Building overtop the rubble simply meant repaving where the roads used to be.
As a result, light truly never touched the old city; new Toronto was a kilometer directly above it, hogging the light to itself. Anyone still living in the ruins had to make due with repurposed electrical systems to power decaying power grids, chemical fires, or simply learn to live in the dark. Toronto wasn’t the only city to be attacked, but it was the only city that had the reputation to be rebuilt to this degree. Many other Canadian cities remained ghostly wreckages of themselves.
Still, at least those ruins knew the light of day.
The sickening feeling of nausea and anxiety came full force once she boarded her pod. Like hell she was going to show anything in front of the hunter. He was full of himself and should find the nearest sharp edge and throw himself on it. She breathed deeply. Calm down, she meditated, he can help, you’ll be fine. She desperately hoped that was the case: she had never ridden the drop pods before, and she was not looking forward to going back to hell on earth.
She put her rucksack in the storage compartment at the bottom of what seemed like an upright table with arms. Breathing deeply, methodically, she placed her back towards the table and lay against it.
Suddenly straps sprung from the back of the table, securing her tightly to the surface behind her and knocking the breath out of her. Similar bands shot out and secured her arms to what were now obviously supposed to be arm rests. A terminal popped out from the end of the right armrest, and slid itself underneath her hand. A screen slid out on the opposite side. It blinked to life, and showed the hunter’s face. He was calm, and looked directly at the screen. After a brief flash of confusion, he cracked a smile and began to laugh.
“First time in a beacon I suppose? You really need to just let the machine do what it needs to.” Several strange thudding and clunking sounds came from behind the lady as the launching mechanism began to prepare for launch.
“How hard can it be? All you do is fall really fast.” She gasped for air, forcing the straps around her chest to expand. They were tight enough to be somewhat uncomfortable, and made it difficult to breath.
“You have to calm down, lady. Slow breaths.I saw you do them earlier, you have to do that now.” His expression had changed from bemusement to a hint of genuine worry.
Her voice took on a static hiss, which made everything she said sound as if it were spat out through clenched teeth. “Oh now you’re worried. Thanks a lot.” She did her best to concentrate on breathing, to calm down. No luck. She felt cramped, and the lurch of the pod as it made its way along the targeting rails. She smelled oil and sweat and her own fear. She heard the machines around her preparing to shoot her drop pod like a bullet down to the undercity. She felt rage, for being forced into this situation. She felt excitement for the chance to get back at whatever took her arm. She also felt terror, and remembered two gaping maws. Two gaping maws that, her fury reminded her, she would have the chance to break shortly.
This last thought gave her focus. Glowering, she turned to the screen on her left. “So help me hunter, when we get down there, you better not get in my way. I have a score to settle with that… thing. I will kill it.”
The hunter, Rick, shook his head. “As far as I’m concerned, that ‘thing’ only has a shot of being real because of you, and your new looks. If it’s real, then I probably have bigger problems than just you killing it.”
He had a point. Stuck face to face with a monster, when terrified, people were prone to do things that they might not do otherwise. Taking a creature alive might be on the top of his priority list were he being chewed on.
“LAUNCH IN FIFTEEN.” The speakers were loud, blaring things. The voice was neither kind, nor menacing: simply factual.
Rick shouted loudly to overcome the noise. “When we land, I’ll make myself easy to find by using a flare. Find me as soon as possible. Got that?!”
She nodded as the speakers blasted the five second warning. Breathe in. Four. Breath out. Three. Breath in. Two. Breath out. One. Breath in.
She needn’t have bothered: the wind was knocked out of her despite the dampening technology as she was launched at breakneck speed down to the undercity, launched back into the hell she had grown up in since she was a child.
I’m back, she giggled to herself, giddy from the adrenaline and fear, just as the drop pod slammed into the ground. Her world went black.
End of Part 5