FAITH Chapter 2
By Renee Scott
“I have Faith, Sarah. I have Faith enough for both of us.” Heather said while reaching down and removing an auto injector from a small leather pouch strapped to her left ankle.
An insane alchemist-doctor created Faith almost a decade before. Faith contained a combination of at least forty different medications including marijuana, cocaine, chemotherapy drugs, opiates, barbiturates, anti depressants, anti bacterial, anti viral and more than one type of amphetamine. Another dozen or so small chain molecules existed in Faith that no one, not even the Medical Help Desk successfully reproduced.
All who tried failed even when following the late insane doctor’s instructions to the letter which included at least nine naked women dancing under a full moon, singing and chanting to three specific gods. Determining if these gods were real or just imagined by the insane alchemist fell far outside the capability of even the Medical Help Desk and no research was undertaken in that regard.
Unable to reproduce these small chain molecules previously never before seen on Earth, or anywhere for that matter, the formula for Faith was classified Super Duper Secret and declared property of Department of Transformed Humans, the only other global agency still left.
At first a large number of people at DTH knew they caused the Rot but those deemed a security risk were sent to the Medical Help Desk research centers and used as test subjects.
Now only a small handful of people knew DTH caused the Rot. No one did it intentionally of course. Like most terrible tragedies it happened through a series of small, easily correctable mistakes, made by intelligent men and women, doing stupid things with only the best of intentions, until finally a perfectly cooked disaster came out of the oven.
Heather held the auto injector up for Sarah to see, again saying, “I have Faith.”
Anyone using Faith had less than a 50% chance of being cured from Brain Rot. They also had a greater than 50% chance of mutating Rot into what people called the Veins. Anyone taken by the Veins would beg for Brain Rot back, if Veiners ever talked, which they didn’t.
Anyone taken by the Veins lived though that might be an overstatement. They lived for violence and cruelty. More than one third grade teacher now drove a vehicle without doors and with harpoons and flame throwers haphazardly welded on. The type of fashion sense showed by Veiners, ass chaps and skull helmets, indicated they might have unaddressed mental health problems. Confirming these mental health problems Veiners enjoyed eating human flesh, though in their defense, they always cooked it first.
The Medical Help Desk without hesitation classified the Veins as the most painful, horrible existence a human could live, though they were unable to reach a consensus whether anyone taken by the Veins still qualified as human.
Faith quickly became an illegal drug and difficult to find. Even facing their own extinction, humans showed real hesitation to be anything else.
Heather bought four doses when it first came out costing her three months pay. Until the previous week she kept it in liquid nitrogen. On a gut feeling, something she always trusted, she started carrying her Faith in an ankle holster the week before.
Heather asked Sarah, “You understand the risks, right honey?”
Sarah nodded looking at the Talon 12 between Heathers legs. “You won’t let the Veins take me?”
“I promise Sarah.”
The girl didn’t hesitate. “OK.”
Heather reached over and injected Sarah in her left thigh with Faith. Faith healing worked quickly or it didn’t work at all.
Immediately, Sarah’s breathing became shallow and rapid. She seemed disoriented and unable to focus her eyes. She began to twitch, making a low keening noise for almost ten seconds. Watching carefully Heather counted slowly to forty five. Once she got to forty five she began inspecting Sarah, quickly examining her arms, legs, face, neck and chest, looking for any sign of the Veins. When she found none she exhaled hard and waited a few minutes while Sarah came around.
Sarah’s eyes fluttered open. “My headache is almost gone.”
“It worked sweetie. You are going to be alright.”
Heather waited several minutes letting Sarah recover from being healed by Faith. She then took her Talon 12 and verified the output selected still showed hot. Placing it into both of Sarah’s small hands she said, “I’m guessing you never used one of these before. All you need do is point it at my head and press the trigger, this button right here, OK? Can you do that if you have to?”
Sarah nodded slowly several times as she hefted the weapon. “It’s lighter than I expected.” Then looking at Heather continued in a whisper “I’ll do it Heather. I promise. If I have to, I will.”
“Can you count?”
Sarah smiled proudly. “My mum and dad made me do learning. I can number and letter.” The girl had every right to feel pride. Literacy in this world hovered somewhere around thirty five percent. Mathematic ability even less.
Heather nodded at Sarah telling her, “It looks bad. Don’t jump to any conclusions and shoot first. Count to forty five and then look my body over carefully. Check my arms, legs, chest, face, everywhere. Only if you are certain the Veins are taking me do you shoot. OK?”
“I might be nine but I’m not dumb.” Sarah grinned.
Heather injected Faith into her own thigh immediately feeling her heart rate skyrocket. Like Sarah her breathing became quick and shallow and drool fell from her lips. She experienced several muscle seizures in her arms then felt nothing.
A few minutes later Heather opened her eyes finding her clothes a mess and Sarah looking over her arms carefully. “Sarah? Did I make it?”
Sarah embraced Heather in a tight hug saying nothing. Heather took that to mean she wouldn’t be shot with her own gun by a nine year old.
After holstering the Talon Heather activated the floater drifting up and headed to her own apartment. Landing ten minutes later on a third floor rooftop she and Sarah exited the floater and walked down one flight of stairs entering a small, single room apartment.
Despite its size Heather’s home was clean and well kept. A tiny refrigerator contained food. Pointing to the appliance she told Sarah, “Help yourself to anything you want in the Keep Cold.” Heather spent several seconds thinking, “Do you want me to call anyone? Your family?”
Sarah shook her head no. “My grandmum lived in the same building.” Sarah had no one else.
“OK, Honey.” Heather changed her plan.
Going to a counter Heather put the auto injector back into a small canister of liquid nitrogen. She turned saying “Kompter, activate the wall.”
A calm, male sounding voice answered. “Are you looking for anything specific, Heather?”
“Live video feed of the city. The Rot’s here.”
“That is disturbing news, Heather, though not unexpected. We have been preparing for many years.”
One entire wall of the small apartment came to life giving Heather and Sarah a clear view of the city they just left.
Heather looked closely at the display wall, watching the city for any sign of chaos. She understood the risk but her plan had changed. She needed to go out one more time.
After several minutes Heather said, “Kompter, can you find any working whirleys in orbit? If so, please download a Watch-Me appropriate for a nine year old child. In fact, if you find any whirleys download everything you can. This might be our last chance. I’ll return in less than two hours. When I get back fold yourself into a Take Me Along.”
“Is it that bad Heather?” asked Kompter.
“Yes. New Masschester is already dead. People just haven’t figured it out yet. We aren’t waiting and Sarah is coming with us.”
Heather turned to Sarah and took her gently by both arms. “Listen to me, Sarah, I have to go out.” She looked Sarah in the eyes. “We are going to leave New Masschester but I didn’t expect company. I need to get things for you, clothes, vitamins, things you will need. Don’t open the door for anyone. Don’t talk to anyone. Do you understand? And after we leave, if I tell you to move your ass, you move your ass, OK?”
Sarah looked directly into Heather’s eyes. “If you tell me to move my ass, I’ll move my ass. I’m not a dumb kid in a Watch Me that gets everyone killed doing something stupid.”
Heather smiled at Sarah. “OK Honey. I will be back soon.” She took her BitChip which contained her entire net worth of three thousand plus or minus streetcreds. She knew she would have to haggle, slowing her down, but if she were careful it would be enough. She placed the remaining two doses of Faith into a large duffle bag by the door and before leaving told Sarah, “Go through my apartment. Anything you think we might need or you want put in the duffle bag. If it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t go.”
Heather couldn’t explain why she was bringing Sarah along. She never once thought about motherhood or raising a child. She knew by the time she turned seventeen she couldn’t have children. Half of males and females were sterile.
Before today Heather thought a child seemed more like a punishment than anything else. Now she felt as if someone blessed her, in a divine way, by bringing Sarah into her life.
Almost two hours later Heather returned. Sarah stared at the wall as a very old Watch Me played. Something called a toon, something about a frozen princess.
“Kompter, how much could you download?”
“I found only two functioning whirleys in orbit. One connected to a data storage center though. I downloaded several exabytes of entertainment and educational material. I added it to the three terabytes of Older culture data explaining their technology and the point nine zettabyte of various additional data we previously collected. Some….much….most … of the entertainment is unsuitable for a nine year old. I locked viewing for Sarah until you decide differently.”
“C’mon Sarah we can watch the rest later. Kompter, fold yourself into the Take Me Along.”
Heather removed a small square storage device, the Take Me Along, from a cabinet. Then she took Sarah by the hand saying “Don’t let go until we’re in the floater.”
With her other hand Heather grabbed the duffle bag now filled to bursting and together they went back to the floater.
Leaving the rooftop they floated for almost an hour, heading east the whole time. Heather’s Talk To Me rang. She answered it hearing Walter begging for help telling her the entire city had started to burn with Rotters and Veiners everywhere. He went on begging for help offering as incentive, “No one has seen a single two percenter, yet.”
Heather didn’t bother answering Walter. She had nothing to say and turned her Talk To Me off then tossed it out the window. She wouldn’t need it where they were going.
Thirty minutes later Heather landed the floater next to a building that stood on the western shore of a river. She got out telling Sarah, “OK honey we don’t have much time. I need you to help me get all the crates and bags loaded up. This tek comes from Olders. It might seem strange but it’s more durable than anything we have and I can repair it. Older tek is easy to maintain. I have to get Kompter unfolded first though.”
Heather went directly onboard the vessel. She placed the Take Me Along in a port watching a screen come alive. She then helped Sarah load the stored supplies. Twenty minutes later they finished loading the numerous crates and bags onto the vessel and both boarded.
Handing Sarah a body harness, Heather told her, “Put this on”, showing her how. Sarah did as she was told and Heather clipped a long safety line from the harness to a metal eye. “Can you swim Sarah?”
“No, I never learned. I never knew anyone who could swim.”
“OK, tomorrow I’ll start teaching you.”
Most people lived in denial about Rot thinking the Medical Help Desk would arrive and save everyone or the infection would take months to spread. But again, giving credit where credit is due, humans were excellent deniers. Anything they didn’t like they denied.
Heather never found the door to denial. She knew the Medical Help Desk couldn’t help, knowing also when the Rot came, after the first infection; it only took days to destroy a city nation not months.
“Kompter, are you here?”
“Open the door.”
A huge door opened showing the river.
Heather cast off lines tied to the bow and stern. She started a small diesel and slowly piloted the vessel out of the boathouse into the river. Once safely in the river she shut the engine down. She only had two hundred gallons of fuel and didn’t know if she could find more.
“Kompter raise the mast and sails.” Automatic winches came to life pulling a seventy eight foot mast upright, locking it in place; headstays, backstays and sidestays all tightening down. A large mainsail then went up the mast. A jib unfurled and the fifty foot catamaran began picking up speed.
“Heather!” Sarah hollered in terror pointing across the river.
Looking where Sarah pointed Heather could see Veiners, lots of them on the opposite shore. They were getting onto water hovers. Water hovers were fast and maneuverable.