Bridge - Chapter One (Nano Novel!)
Posted November 2nd, 2017 by Zelda
in a perpetual predicament
A/N: First day of Nano everyone! Yay!
The first time Hatchet saw Finn, she was running for her life. Her knees were covered in blood that didn’t belong to her, and she couldn’t see straight for lack of air and energy.
The running started earlier that day, in the muggy, oil-stained third-day afternoon. The city was buzzing, low-class Seykra constantly teemed with thousands of people scratching a living from the grime. Hatchet was working in the garage that Bolts and Argon ran, the huge sliding doors that took up the entire north wall were wide open to let in customers and breezes, the sun was beating down hard, as it did most days of the dry season. Outside, intrepid weeds were poking through the cracks of a pile of useless scrap tires, a striped cat skittered from shadow to shadow on the packed dirt street.
Hatchet watched the cat, it was feral, but she and Argon bribed it with chunks of meat from their stew and in return it slinked around the garage chomping on the vermin. Occasionally it left a dead rat in the middle of the garage floor, Hatchet chose to interpret it as the cat’s special demented way of saying both ‘thank you’ and ‘stay away’. The cat paused in it’s undecipherable shadow-jumping task to turn its yellow eyes on Hatchet. She stared back, it blinked one eye at a time, then sprinted away. She wondered what it saw when it looked at her, she knew what humans saw but did cats see the same thing? She was a relatively tall girl, her skin was dark, made darker by the staining of the dirt and oil and the heat of the sun, her eyes and hair were both grey. The hair thing threw most people off the first time they saw her, she was constantly explaining that she’d gone grey early naturally; a trick of genetics. The only other grey-haired seventeen year olds floating around were cybers, and Hatchet wasn’t one of those.
“Hatchet honey, can you pass me the socket wrench?” Bolts called from her place bent over the open hood of a land vehicle. Hatchet snatched the wrench from its place on the massive rusted tray where they kept handheld tools. She spun it once, listening to the rapid-fire clicks before handing it off to Bolts.
The garage was devoid of customers, not odd considering the time and day. They picked up the most costumers on eight and ninth day mornings, when vendors came in to get repairs for parts and machines that broke during the week. Most work during the rest of the week was on polishing up or stripping down things Argon scavenged, and taking the occasional emergency repair for a vendor who’d opened up shop only to find that a long run of hard labour had done in an important piece of equipment.
The air was thick today, moisture from the canals dampened everything. Hatchet mopped her sweat-soaked forehead with the corner of her apron. The rubber band she’d used to tie her hair back barely managed to contain the humidity-ridden mass of grey. She grabbed the broom from beside the door that connected the garage to their house, and began sweeping. She turned just in time to see a man with yellow-tinted goggles sneaking up behind Bolts. The man grabbed Bolts by the waist, causing the woman to shriek. Both Hatchet and the man laughed.
“Argon you balja snake!” Bolts hissed, turning in his arms to face him. She wrapped her blueblack arms around his neck, tilting her chin to glare up at him. Standing next to Bolts, with her dark dark skin, could make almost anyone look pale by comparison.
“Watch your mouth, there are children present,” Argon chided teasingly, he adjusted her round spectacles and rubbed away a smear of grease on her cheek with the pad of his thumb.
“Maybe you should watch it for me,” Bolts grinned mischievously.
“Maybe I should,” Argon agreed. They shared a quick kiss, then Bolts turned around and continued stripping the land vehicle. Argon receded to the back of the garage to find something to do, he ruffled Hatchet’s hair as he passed her. Bolts and Argon were innately affectionate people, Hatchet could count on one hand the number of days she had seen her parents’ go without flirting with each other. She’d gotten used to it pretty early on.
Out of the blue, her stomach growled. She patted it and glanced out at the sun. It was well over it’s peak point, at least an hour into its slow descent to the western horizon.
“Are you getting hungry, my loves?” Argon asked form hi new place by a crud-ridden cast iron stove.
“Starving,” Hatchet replied.
“I second that,” Bolts called, the clacking of the socket wrench nearly drowning her out. Argon set his cleaning bristle to the side and wiped his hands off on his apron.
“I’ll go scrounge up some pikes then.”
The door connecting the wide open garage to their tiny scrap house squealed open and banged shut behind him. A moment later, Bolts straightened briefly to wipe the sweat from her brow and fix the bandana that held her massive puff of hair out of her face.
“We should oil those hinges,” she commented.
“I got it,” Hatchet said, propping the broom against the tool tray.
“Hold on, come here.”
Hatchet obeyed, as soon as she was within arms reach Bolts started picking at something in Hatchet’s hair. The picking went on for a moment, with Hatchet bowing her head to let Bolts do whatever she was doing more easily.
“You had a fuzzy,” Bolts said, finally pulling the offending ball of white fuzz from Hatchet’s head. She dropped the fuzz, gave Hatchet a quick pat on the back, and went back to the land vehicle. “Have you been using your birthday soap? Your hair looks nice today.”
“I have,” Hatchet answered, spinning on her heels. “You could try it sometime, it really helps with the frizz.”
“Thanks hun,” the rest of her reply was muffled by clanging from whatever she had freed from the rusty innards of the hood.
Hatchet strolled over to wall of shelves that took up the east side of the garage. Wooden crates of parts, a pail of old clothes turned into rags, scavenged cartons of nails, nuts, screws, and washers, and little squeeze bottles of different fluids were all piled on the shelves. Everything was clustered in a way that sort of resembled organization, but only if you knew what you were looking at. She reached for the oil squeeze bottle, the red container felt suspiciously light, and when she shook it only the barest of sloshes greeted her ears.
“Great,” she muttered to herself, then called over her shoulder, “we’re out of oil.”
“Check the closet,” was Bolts’ reply.
The storage closet was tucked in the far southeast corner of the garage, squeezed right up beside the shelves in such a way that if you opened the door so it was flush with the shelving, no one could even tell there was a closet back there. It was the ideal place for eavesdropping, not that Hatchet eavesdropped much anymore.
She jimmied the forever sticky door until it gave and let her in. The shelves in the closet were considerably neater than the main shelves, mainly because Hatchet was endlessly returning to the closet for top-ups and had spent three days sorting everything in the small space so she could find it. She left the door wide open, and leaned down to read the homemade labels off the gallon buckets on the floor. There was gas, antifreeze, and in a much smaller container there was grease. She nudged a bucket out of the way, the choking odor of chemicals wafted around her.
Out in the garage she heard Bolts greeting a customer. Hatchet paused to listen for a moment, it was strange to have a drop-in at this time of day, but not unheard of. Sometimes there was a repair to urgent to put off until close-up, or a traveller stopped by on their way through the sector. The garage was well-known as one of the best repair places in the sector, people asking for a place to get anything put back together often got referred to here.
“How can I help you?” Bolts chimed in her smile-for-the-customer voice. Hatchet didn’t catch the customer’s response.
“I’m sorry, we don’t offer that here.”
Hatchet returned to her hunt for oil, it looked like they didn’t have a customer after all. The oil, it appeared, was well hidden. Argon must have used it for something, maybe he hadn’t put it back.
“We don’t offer that here.”
Hatchet stilled once more, suddenly straining to hear what was happening a few yards away. The cheer had washed out of Bolts’ tone, now she sounded tense, spring-loaded. Hatchet set down the squeeze bottle on the nearest shelf and sidled over to peek out at the scene in the garage. There were precious few things that shook Bolts, but she sounded close now.
Bolts stood facing the open face of the garage on the side of the land vehicle farthest from the closet, whoever she was speaking to was hidden from view. Hatcher only saw a glimmer of motion, too fast to discern, before the explosion.
The crash was like thunder right there in the garage, it masked Hatchet’s surprised yelp. She jumped out from behind the closet door in time to watch Bolts stumbled back, clutching her stomach, her mouth gaping.
A second crash, even louder, and Bolts collapsed.
“Bolts!” The scream tore from Hatchet’s throat, an invisible force propelled her towards the fallen woman, acid exploded all over the inside of her chest. This wasn’t right, there was no reason behind it, no purpose. This was wrong. She fell to her knees next to Bolts at the same moment that Argon poked his head out the door. He got half an unheard sentence out before a bullet shattered the wooden doorframe right above his head and he ducked back inside with a gasp.
A pool of dark red was growing rapidly around Bolts, her wire glasses had landed a few feet away, the circular lenses were shattered. Little bubbles of red sputtered out the corners of her mouth, her stare wavered between vacant and pained.
“Mom, mom hang on, you gotta keep breathing, keep breathing,” Hatchet babbled, pressing her hands to one of the bullet holes. “you’ll be okay, it’s just a scratch, right? Just a scratch, keep breathing.”
Bolts would be alright. Bolts would live. She was too tough to be taken down by two little bullets, two clumps of metal. At least, that’s what Hatchet managed to convince herself in the three seconds she had left.
At the end of those three seconds, there was a final shuddery exhale, and Bolts was gone.
Suddenly another crash, this one much closer, snapped Hatchet out of her shock.
“Hatchet, run.” Argon barked. She looked up to see him advancing out the door with a shotgun at his shoulder, he unloaded another round at the mystery shooter. “Go, get out of here!” He shouted again, spurring Hatchet to her feet. She hesitated, not wanting to leave her remaining parent alone with the vicious attacker. Argon dropped his shot gun for just long enough to give her a solid shove on the shoulder to get her moving. The force of it was bruising, but it served its purpose.
She spun, her boot slick with blood, and fled the garage with all the speed she could muster. Ringing gunshots chased her down the street, and she could only hope that none of them rang out Argon’s death.
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