Fugitives
By: James Bates

This ten part Science Fiction series has to do with the impact of global warming on one family.

The story so far:

Episode 1 – At the Biodome
We meet Quinn an engineer at a wind farm and his son Matt on a field trip and learn about life in the year 2220.

Episode 2 – The Test
We meet Karen and learn about Quinn and Karen's life together.

Episode 3 – Millennium Microbial
We learn about Karen's job as a biochemist working on improving the world's food supply.

Episode 4 – The History Center
Quinn kidnaps Matt on a field trip and went on the run.

Episode 5 – The Hideout
Karen visits Quinn and Matt at their hideout and made a big decision.

Episode 6 – Preparations Are Made
Jen joins Quinn and Karen and Matt and they get ready to escape from the city.

When Shield Number 3456 returned from his shift that night, the regional office was in an uproar. All of the shields were called into a meeting with the main man in charge, Commander Basil Langer.

"In no uncertain terms," Langer intoned, "this kidnapper must be brought to justice. The fugitive took his son from the safety of the dormitory and we now have reason to believe his wife and one other person has joined him. We are mobilizing in full force at 0100 hours this morning to look for them."

Shield Number 3456 glanced at his timepiece and listened with only half an ear. It read 2000 hours so he had five hours before going back out on patrol. Was the woman he'd talked to on the street earlier that day connected with the kidnapping? He should mention it to the commander and follow up, but the more he thought about it the more he thought, well, maybe not. The commander was under a lot of pressure to solve the case fast and might blow up and punish him for not reporting it sooner, maybe even take some time off his lifeline. He was already down from the World Order mandated forty years to thirty–nine years and two hundred and fifty days. He was only thirty–three and still had a few years of life left, so there no sense making waves if he didn't need to. No, he'd just wait until he went back on patrol in five hours and do his own follow up on the woman.

He yawned as the meeting broke up with the final admonishment from the commander ringing in his ears, "Set your laser guns to kill. I want this over with quick." Shield 3456 shook his head as he headed for the cafeteria to get something to eat and then try to rest in one of the sleeping pods at the station. It was going to be a long night.

While Commander Langer was wrapping up his meeting, Quinn and his family and Jen were making their way down the front stairs of the building where they'd been hiding. He checked his timepiece. It read 2030 hours. Darkness had set in and he was nervous. He adjusted his long hair wig and put on his oxygen mask. His wife Karen, son Matt and their friend Jen did the same with their masks. Being outside in the year 2220 was a dangerous proposition because the air was poisonous and required oxygen mask filtration. Everyone had to wear them. Right now, though, Quinn was glad that they did because the masks served another purpose – they covered their faces. He had no doubt the World Order Special Police, the WOSP, or Shields as they were sometime called by the citizens, would be out looking for them.

At bottom of the steps he held up a hand. "One last check. Everyone have everything they need?"

Karen and Jen both nodded. Matt, spoke softly, "Yes, Daddy."

Karen came to her husband's side and looked around the corner of the stairwell. The street was dimly lit and empty except for a few citizens hurrying by. "I think the best thing to do is wait here for a bus," she said. "If we can grab one to take us to the outskirts of the city we'll be safe."

"I think that's our best plan," Quinn said, "It'll get us away from here faster than walking." He knelt down to look Matt in the eye and whispered, "Hey there, buddy, from now on while we're outside you need to be very quiet, okay?"

His five–year–old son nodded solemnly and didn't say anything, immediately doing as he was told. In spite of the tense situation Quinn smiled and hugged his son, thinking how glad he was their little family was finally all together.

Jen had been keeping a lookout and her sudden gasp startled them all, "Oh, my god."

"What?" Karen asked. She made a move to join her, but Jen held out her hand.

"Stay back, she whispered. "I just saw two Shields come around the corner at the far end of the block. They're walking toward us!"

"Damn," Karen swore. She risked a quick peek, "They must be on patrol. I wonder if they're looking for us."

Quinn whispered, "This stairwell is pretty much in shadow. Let's crouch down under the steps and stay quiet and wait for them to go by."

The three adults and Matt silently moved under the stairs and waited. Unfortunately, while they were hidden a bus went by. Quinn made eye contact with Karen, both of them thinking the same thing, There goes our chance.

A few minutes later the Shields strolled by, flashing lights into recessed areas. They weren't paying much attention, however, talking instead about what they were going to do with their next paycheck. In a few minutes they were out of sight, having turned the corner at the end of the block.

Quinn stepped from their hiding place, took a quick look around and then turned to Karen, "They're gone. What do you think? Should we still risk waiting for a bus?"

Karen checked her timepiece. "It's 2100 hours, just three hours to midnight. It's getting late. I'm not sure how often the buses will continue to run past here. "

Jen spoke up. "I'm worried what will happen when the Shields get serious about looking for us, if not now, soon. Maybe we should make a run for it."

Karen looked at Quinn, both thinking the same thing; it was five miles to the outskirts of the city marked by an abandoned mine that was now used for food storage. It was heavily guarded, but the land beyond was an uninhabited wasteland. If they could get past the storage facility, they'd be safe.

Karen looked at her husband. "You decide," she said.

Quinn looked at Matt. A few days ago, all he'd wanted was spend more time with his son. Then he'd found out that some of the young children the in regional dormitory where Matt was being raised were routinely being abused by a few of the caretakers in charge. He'd made a snap decision to take his son, acting on emotion and his love for Matt rather than rational thought, and it had changed the course of their lives forever. Now, Karen and Jen were involved. If they went back and gave themselves up they'd be punished, probably killed. Besides, what would they be going back to? The life they'd had, Quinn as an engineer for the Regional Wind Farm and Karen and Jen as microbiologists for Millennium Microbial, well, that was no life at all. Not really, when you stopped to think about it. He didn't know what lay ahead, but it had to be better than what they were coming from. Plus, they'd at least be together as a family. For a while, anyway. That counted for something as far as he was concerned. Something big.

Quinn made his decision and looked at the three sets of eyes staring hopefully at him and said, trying to sound more confident then he felt. "Let's not risk the buses. Let's make a run for it."

Karen came to him and gave him a reassuring hug and said, "Good move."

So that was the plan, although running a bit of a stretch for what they did that night. Walking was more like it, but walk they did, for five miles though the semi–deserted streets all the way to the outskirts of town and the abandoned mine called The Regional Storage Facility or RSF for short.

An hour after midnight, at 0100, a force of nearly one–thousand Shields was deployed to hunt down kill the four fugitives. Shield 3456 was among them and he and his assigned partner for the operation went back to where he had talked to the woman earlier that day.

They arrived at the five–story building at 0130 hours. "I'll search inside, you keep watch on the street," he told Shield 8901, a young recruit.

"Okay, sir."

Shield 3456 searched the first two floors and found no trace of anyone having been in the building. He was starting to think he was mistaken to think that the young woman he'd talked with earlier that day was anyone to worry about. But the third floor was different. There he found evidence that people had recently used the space, mainly an empty water bottle, some food wrappers and spots on the floor that looked like dye.

He was about ready to call in the information when he stopped himself. What will Commander Langer say? he wondered. He didn't have to wonder long because he knew exactly what the commander would say. He would berate Shield 3456 for being negligent and maybe even demote him to teach him a lesson, not to mention take at least a week off his lifeline. No, he couldn't take that chance. Better to forget it ever happened and let the whole thing blow over. Besides, for all he knew, the young woman had nothing to do with the guy who kidnapped the little kid.

Downstairs he found the new recruit conscientiously keeping an eye on the street. He'll make a good officer one day, Shield 3456 thought to himself. Probably a lot better than me.

"Okay," he said, stepping through the entrance and taking a left onto the sidewalk, "Let get going."

"Find anything?"

"Not a thing," he said, checking the time. It was 0200 hours. "The building's completely empty. Let's check the next block over."

Quinn and Karen and Jen and Matt had found a pile of concrete slabs to hide behind. They were about one–hundred yards from the chain link fence that surrounded the food storage facilely. The land beyond was a bleak desert devoid of any human inhabitation. The facility was lit up like daylight and there was one main entrance with transport carriers traveling in and out non–stop. Armed security forces patrolled the perimeter. The place was guarded like a military compound. It looked not only menacing but dangerous.

Quinn shrugged off his pack and the others did the same. His timepiece read 0200 hours. Karen took out a bottle of water for them to share, and they all took off their masks to drink. The water was refreshing on their parched throats and it felt good to rest.

"What are we going to do, now?" Jen asked.

Karen looked at Quinn. "What do you think?"

"I don't know. There's a lot of…" he was going to say there's a lot of people around, but something stopped him. "Hey," he said, taking a deep breath. "I can breathe pretty good without my mask on."

Karen and Jen and Matt reacted the same way. It was true. Away from the heart of the city it seemed the air was better, less poisonous, easier to take in. The three adults smiled at each other, each of them thinking it was nice least one good thing had happened. Maybe it was a good sign.

They continued to share the water. Jen said, "We should probably keep our oxygen masks handy, though, just to be on the safe side. Right, Karen?" Jen turned to face her friend.

Karen had been quietly thinking. "What? Oh, yeah, sure," she said, distracted.

"What's up?" Quinn asked. Karen was a scientist with a brilliant mind. If she was thinking, it usually was a good thing.

"I was just thinking about how to get beyond the guards and how to get out of here. I think the further we get from the city, the better off we'll be."

Matt had been following the conversation with interest. The more time he spent with his mom and dad, the better he felt. "What's up, Mom. What's your idea?" he asked his little voice squeaking in anticipation.

Karen smiled and hugged her son. Then she said to Quinn and Jen, "Sometimes the easiest solution is the best one. We really have no choice, do we?"

"Yeah…" Quinn said, hesitantly, "I suppose…" He was unsure where she was going with this, "What are you thinking?

Karen smiled and looked to Quinn and Matt and Jen, "I think the choice is easy. We've got to get past the guards and the fence and get out to the land beyond it."

"In other words…" Quinn said.

"We've got to make a run for it."

"It's just a god forsaken desert out there," Jen pointed out.

"That's okay," Karen said, looking around at the huge facility and all the armed guards on patrol, "We've got no other choice."

And, in the end, they all agreed, it was the best plan.

So that's what they did.

To Be Continued…

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