A good thirty minutes into the flight, I figured out how to set autopilot up and charted a course for the Commerce District docks closest to Shady Shane’s hideout. For being my second time inside a cockpit, my first being an extreme-pressure situation, I’ve gotten a grasp on it pretty quickly.

Now that I don’t have to stand and steer the whole time, I decide to take inventory of the things they provided me with on board. Aside from the things I need to survive, like food and water, there are other ship supplies, like emergency fuel, ammunition for a cannon hidden underneath the cockpit, and some sort of energy shield similar to the one Slaphand’s ship had.

I’m still not entirely sure how that works. There’s a shield manual sitting on the dashboard, as well as a button to turn it on and off, but where did the technology even come from in the first place? It’s almost like science fiction.

Aside from that, I was given a few extra suits, some cash, two knives, and two pistols, as well as a more primitive version of the wrist device that Cho and the boss have. There’s a manual for that as well, but the words were blurring together when I tried to read it, so I put it away. That’ll be reading material for a more alert Luna, not three in the morning Luna.

From there, I hunted for the twin-sized bed that marked my bedroom and wasted no time curling up under the heavy comforter. As ready as I was for a nap, I couldn’t stop thinking about Mary and Freckles. I felt guilty sleeping in a bed knowing what had happened because I didn’t dig her out of the rubble. Eventually, exhaustion overruled guilt, and I drifted off into a restless slumber. Too many thoughts were swirling around in my head, infecting my dreams and filling them with trauma and memories.

I woke up an hour ago, at eleven. So much for that early morning start the boss wanted. Though the allure to stay in bed was strong, I knew I had to get moving. A suit change and a light breakfast later, and I’m standing on the deck of my ship, the sun hovering straight above me as I stare at Carmsborough’s rocky coastline.

That feels weird to say. My ship. The Constellation is one of the first things I’ve owned for myself in a long time, and it’s an entire frickin’ cloudship.

There’s a whole world in front of me to conquer, but my first order of business is to find Shady Shane and milk him for all the information on Slaphand and Bijabers that he’s worth.

Knives and pistols sheathed in various pockets of my coat and pants, I hop down the ramp of my ship. My first steps back in urban Carmsborough match my expectations. A fierce wind batters my side, setting the mood for the gray winter day.

I don’t think I’ve ever been this bundled in my life. I’m wearing a thick white parka, a white beanie and scarf, black jeans, and the cleats from the Lateral. While I don’t quite fit with the rest of the Commerce District’s aristocracy, I’m certainly not at the bottom of the food chain anymore.

Still, people are turning their heads to look at me as I pass by. It’s a strange feeling realizing the only reason I’m being noticed is because I’m no longer poor and homeless.

It doesn’t take long for me to reach Shady Shane’s hiding place. He lives in a small tent city with some of the other homeless of the area, nestled in between the courtyard of four tall commercial skyscrapers, although it’s hardly by choice. The tent city is one of the few safe havens for us left in the district, and it won’t be long until the police break this one apart, too.

I’ve never lived in a tent city, personally. The idea of politics and infighting within the homeless community isn’t my cup of tea. I’d rather tough it on my own than try to ration a loaf of bread for six people.

“Is Shane around here?” I call out, swerving through a small crowd of homeless men and women. Most people I come across would flinch or recoil at being so close to them, but seeing as I was still in their ranks as of a few days ago, I’m completely unaffected. Besides, they’re just human.

“Who’s asking?” I hear Shane reply, stepping out of his tent. He’s not wearing any thick winter clothes, which probably means he hasn’t found any yet this year. Or it was rationed away. At least he has something moderately warm on.

“It’s me, Luna,” I answer. “I was looking to maybe get some information from you.”

“Luna? Where’d you find these fancy new clothes on such short notice? Did that machine thing lead you to money? I was getting anxious not hearing from you, and I feared the worst. Also, where’s your cat? Are you okay?”

“Slow down, Shane. I hate to say it, but you were right to fear the worst. I ran into big trouble with Bijabers and Slaphand. They stole Freckles and forced me into slave labor for a few days, until the war began and I was rescued by some militia group. In summary, I’ve been to Hell and back.”

“Wait, what war?” He gives me a wide-eyed stare.

“What do you mean? Haven’t you checked any of the display televisions in any of the storefronts? There’s a war. Nazis invaded like ten countries, including Carmsborough.”

“Oh my God, I knew there was gonna be an invasion soon.” I can see Shane slowly falling apart, his paranoia kicking into overtime. “That would explain all of the airships passing overhead, too. How can I be sure you’re not a Nazi, Luna? Why else would they have let you escape? Are you here to kill me?”

“Believe me, Shane, they definitely didn’t want me to live. Like I said, there was a militia group that saved me, and I’ve been added to their ranks to assassinate Slaphand.”

He sits on the information for a minute. His mind is clearly racing.

“What militia group is it?”

“I’m not totally sure what they’re called, but they’re run by some guy named ‘S’ who wants to change things for the better in Carmsborough.”

“I’ve heard bad things about S, Luna. According to my sources, he’s not a good man.”

“With all due respect, Shane, I’m not sure any man in power can be a ‘good man.’ There are some that are less bad than others, but for the most part, the men with strength and authority rarely use it for good. Which is why I’m fully on the S train. He wants to help me take down a dangerous man and get Freckles back in the process. When I’m done, Slaphand will never hurt another soul.”

“I can’t trust it, Luna.”

“I understand that, Shane. I’m not asking you to join me on my mission. I’m only wondering if you might have information regarding where Bijabers or Slaphand are operating in Carmsborough.”

“Physical location? No. But stories get around, passed on from both their goons and their victims. It sounds like on top of loan companies and banks, they’re going more and more into real estate. Word is, Bijabers has heavy hands in the northwestern portion of the Housing District.”

“What kind of housing? Apartments or actual houses?”

“My guess is a bit of both. You find one of the companies he’s running, you find him. If you’re looking to draw him out, he’s sure to get mad if you do some damage to his prospects.”

“Is that really all you have for me to go off of?”

“Unlike you, Luna, I like to stay away from the bad men with bad plans. It never does me any favors to get in the way of someone with a lot more power than me.”

“Alright. Thanks, Shane. Stay warm.”

“I won’t.”

“Oh, and here. Take this.” I hand him a twenty from the stash I was provided. “Don’t say I never did anything for you. And don’t tell the others. The last thing you need is for this to be rationed.”

“Yeah, I’m bouncing, anyway. Someone stole a piece of tech I traded for yesterday and it’s the last straw for me.”

I step out of the tent city and use my high-tech watch to relay the information to the boss.

“I’ll keep my informants busy trying to get more intel,” S says, his voice crackling through a speaker on the face of the watch-like band. “They might have more intel about his schemes that will help you.”

“Roger that. I’ll keep my eyes and ears peeled for anything that might have to do with—”

Beside me, on the patchy asphalt road of the Commerce District, a dark blue box truck with the label “B Realty” drives by, heading due west towards the Housing District. The “B” has the exact same design as the one on the beeping key I found in the scrapyard.

“Hold that thought, boss. I might have a lead already. I’ll keep you updated.”

I don’t wait for his response. With the box truck gaining ground on me, I sprint off in that direction surprisingly fast, considering my extra bundling and weapons jangling around. It’s traveling on a main road, which is why it’s asphalt and not cobblestone, but that also means it’s a straight shot to the Housing District.

All I have to do is not lose sight of it and pray there are enough stop lights to slow it.

The first light turns red, but the box truck speeds right through it, closely tailing the car in front of it. I ignore the crosswalk right of way and dart across the busy afternoon street of the district. I still have eyes on my target, but since I can’t run at twenty miles an hour, it’s getting some good distance on me.

Finally, another stop light turns red, and this time the truck is too far to run it. My lungs are beginning to feel sore, but now’s no time to stop. The crosswalk signs generally stay on for a minute, which means I have one minute to run roughly a third of a mile.

That’s possible, right?

The answer, unsurprisingly, is no. I barely make it a third of a third of a mile before the light turns green, and it’s on its way again. It’s almost hopeless… unless…

I run up to a taxi and tap the passenger side window. The man inside rolls it down and gives me a nasty look.

“Excuse me, sir, I need to get to the Housing District as fast as possible.”

“Why should I help you?”

“I’m willing to pay?”

“Yeah, but you’re a black kid, and I don’t do business with your kind. Scram.”

Oh, yeah. The other reason people would stare at me. Pure racism at its finest.

Against his wishes, I get into the back passenger seat of his taxi and strap myself in. “Take me to the Housing District.”

“Hell no. Get out of my taxi.”

I reveal one of my two pistols and point it at the man. “I’m not gonna ask again, you racist old prune. You’re lucky I’m still gonna pay you for it.”

Overcome with fear, the man switches into gear. “Where at?”

“Just follow that blue box truck ahead of us. They’re doing something illegal, and I’m here to stop it.”

They’re doing something illegal? You’re the one who has the gun aimed at me!”

“Well, that’s because you’re racist. I don’t discriminate with who I classify as evil, and I don’t hesitate to shoot.”

It’s a lie, but it’s a lie that keeps him quiet. He doesn’t need to know that I’ve only fired a gun once, at the ground.

He picks up speed, swerving to avoid cars when he has the chance, and slowly but surely, we approach the B Realty box truck from behind. After a few minutes, he breaks the silence. “We’ve entered into the Housing District. How much farther do we need to follow this thing?”

“As far as we can go. I’ve gotta see what they’re up to.”

He sighs worriedly but keeps pace. Eventually, when the box truck makes a right turn onto a quieter cobblestone street, he joins them. If they’re suspicious of our taxi, they don’t show any signs.

Three minutes and two turns later, the B Realty truck stops in front of a newer looking apartment complex. The taxi driver’s shoulders relax, and he turns to face me. I replace the gun in its holster.

“Alright. Fare’s five bucks, but I’m adding another twenty for the emotional stress.”

“You’re lucky you’re getting five, pal. Don’t try to extort me.” I pull the five out of my coat and hand it over.

“It’s not extortion. You literally held a gun to my head.”

“Maybe if you weren’t racist, life would be easier for you, bud.”

I leave his car and stretch inconspicuously on the sidewalk. Two men exit the box truck, each dressed exactly like the guards on Blood Moon Island.

My hunch paid off. Bijabers is running B Realty, and these two unfortunate souls are my way of getting in.


About the author


Bio: Michael has always had a love for writing that stems from writing a short story about turtles on his family computer in second grade. From there, he never stopped writing, and wrote his first ten-thousand-word book in the third grade, igniting his passion for storytelling.

Now, the only thing stopping Michael from writing more is his schedule. Ideas like LUNA ON THE RUN and THE GHOST OF THE HINDENBURG keep him up at night, plotting his creative path forward.

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