"Jeurridam: Area 51" - Chapter 8


It was one of the most chilling things to see Alistair cry like this. Alistair was as tough as nails and showed very little emotion. It was unlike anything else to see him break down! He held his son’s stiff hand as tears just streamed down his face. He looked over to Swish, the boy also being like a son. June and Julio were nervous about this, unsure how Alistair was taking this.
“And Zanir’s…?” He asked, looking directly at me. His gaze seemed to burn…
I lost every ounce of composure I scrapped together to bring his son back to him. I shook my head, trembling at the very thought.
“I don’t know if he’s gonna make it…” I cried. Alistair’s gaze softened to sympathy, something none of us expected.
“That boy’s a trooper… I’m scared for Da Lagon when he wakes up because I know he’s coming for them… I guess it’s a race to it because I want to crack them open and make sure they NEVER do something like this again…” Alistair sighed.
“You know,” I began, “I’ll be more than glad to help you take them out…”
“I know Zanir will pull through… Just make sure he does nothing to jeopardize what he’s worked hard for… A set back like this tends to ruin people… When he comes around tell him to come see me. Things are no different than if Galveston were alive.” He said, very sad to have to say this.
“I’m sorry but I really don’t know if he can recover from this… He got messed up bad.” I said, steadily crying.
“Really?” Alistair asked, the news truly depressing.
“Yeah, he got it worse than when we shot him in Red Canyon…” June said, steadily holding me. Alistair gulped, even him knowing this wasn’t good.
“And I told him,” I cried, “To make sure he keeps something in his stomach incase something happened like this, but the boy never ate! How the hell is he gonna recover if he doesn’t have the strength…”
“Shhhh… He’s gonna make it!” June said, holding me tighter. He didn’t like seeing me this devastated.
“Can I see him then… incase I won’t be able to see… him again?” Alistair asked, the fragments of his heart tearing more.
“The people who are taking care of him,” June said, “Don’t like newcomers… I don’t know, Boss…”
“What people?” Alistair asked, perplexed.
“About seventy miles northwest, there’s a settlement in the valley with a lot of resources… a lot. They don’t want many people knowing who they are because for more reasons than not, they’re very susceptible to attack…” June elaborated.
“I got to see the boy one last time.” Alistair insisted.
“Let him…” I sighed, finally able to compose myself, “Um… I’ve come to get all of Zanir’s things. Right now he’s hooked up to an IV train and vital meters. I need his belongings, his skull prong… his nanite monitor… Without it, I’ll have no clue if he’ll truly make it. If he dies… the entire UCAC/UCNC force is lost…”
“As a big supporter of the United Cybernetic Military, I can’t let this happen…” Alistair said, firmly. The mutual exchange was all that was needed.
Alistair helped collect all of Zanir’s items, loading them into the back of June’s buggy. I booted up Orb and Big Daddy, the giant sentinel mech instantly detecting that Zanir was gravely wounded. The two were connected in ways I couldn’t possibly understand! After all, Zanir’s father, the late Dr. Aheem was inside…
The seventy mile ride back to the remote base was the most nerveracking thing… It was silent, filled with hopes that Zanir would be alright. Even June and Julio, two unlikely friends of his, didn’t wish this upon him! Zanir did selflessly help them and would do so again without question… Despite their differences, both boys knew that Zanir was just too miraculous to ever see leave this world the way it seemed he was going.
Upon arriving, we headed to the infirmary, a renovated hangar turned hospital. Just as we were about to enter, security came.
“No mechs…” They said. We spun around, looking at Big Daddy towering over us all.
“He’s not a mech. He’s a sentinel! There’s a person on life support in there!” I countered.
“Well tell the person on life support to get the fuck out and walk in there! That thing’s too big to fit in there…” The guard said, quite rudely. I gave him quite the menacing gaze. Big Daddy whirred, dismissing the young guard with the flick of a hand before walking if. The big machine was fuming!
“Sorry Big Daddy…” I said, truly feeling sorry for him! He couldn’t even see his gravely wounded son. It was crazy how such a powerful piece of machine gave so much respect to these people. If he wanted to, he could have barged right in yet he held restraint. He whirred in response, his form of words. Still though, it was too indistinct to tell what was being said.
We continued forth through the hospital. Zanir had be sectioned off in the back, Heaven and Zeek watching him closely. Before we were even allowed to go back, more young guards stopped us, their youthful leader heading them.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa!!!! Who’s this?” The leader asked,looking at Alistair, clearly not pleased.
“Basil, please,” I began, not in the mood to deal with the kid, “He can help… He’s helped Zanir before when he got injured…”
“If that’s the case then why’d you not take Zanir to him? You know we don’t like people we don’t know…” The boy said.
“Because we were much, much closer to this place and Zanir surely would have died if we would have tried to make it back to Jeurridam.” I responded.
“Again, we don’t like newcomers and you know it! I don’t care how much he can help!” Basil said back.
“Look, if Zanir dies, everything you worked for to get this place off the ground will be in vain! You know everything that’s riding on that boy!” I snapped. Basil stared at me, deliberating hard before stepping aside.
I sighed as June, Julio, Alistair and I ventured forth to Zanir’s terminal. As soon as Zeek’s eyes fell upon Alistair, he froze in a crude mix of fear and shock. The two locked eyes, exchanging a whirlpool of emotions before Alistair broke the intense gaze. He looked at Zanir who was now in a medically induced coma. All he could do was shake his head.
“This is like Deja Vu…” He sighed.
“Don’t remind me…” June said, cringing.
“Can you help me turn Zanir onto his side?” I asked, looking at Alistair.
“Sure.” He said. We gently rolled the boy onto his right flank, his body still covered in blood from earlier that day, “Damn he’s a lot smaller than he looks.”    
“I know… The boy doesn’t eat…” I sighed, shaking my head.
I booted up the laptop, plugging it into the wall. It was so unnerving doing this without Zanir’s supervision. I reached for the long cable with the skull prong on the end. The prong was incredibly long and needle-like. It was truly stomach wrenching knowing this was going into the back of Zanir’s head. I began sifting through Zanir’s hair trying to find the tiny connection point. it was the smallest hole, almost too small for the prong to fit through.
Everyone watched as I inserted the prong into the back of Zanir’s skull.
“Whoa… what are you?” Heaven asked, seeing this as something very gruesome! The prong stopped two thirds of the way into the tiny canal.
“Hold his head steady.” I said.
“Sure…” Alistair said as I pushed hard to jam the prong in all the way. A loud pop caused everyone to freeze. It simply was the sound of the prong connecting fully but God was it awful! It sounded like more harm had come to the boy!
Suddenly, Zanir flattlined! His eyes sprung open, frozen in place. I knew exactly what this was. I rushed over to the computer as panic set in around the terminal. With a few keystrokes, Zanir was back in torpor with a normal heartbeat. A quick glance over his vitals caused me to collapse to the floor. Tears rolled down my cheeks as cries of joy erupted from me.
“Beth?” June said, getting to knee level with me. He was unsure why I was crying. He glanced at the computer screen wondering how grim this was.
“He’s gonna be,” I began, trying to compose myself, “Alright… The nanites are repairing all his wounds and his brain is functioning at one hundred percent. He is completely aware of us all around him, just in a state of torpor…”
The biggest communal sigh erupted from everyone. Not a single soul could say this news didn’t make them happy.
“Those little things in his blood are a work of a god.” Alistair said.
“You know Zanir was trying to find a way to synthesize them with a discovery made in the Acid Swamp. He said this place here had the answer…” I said.
“That’s amazing… But what now? What will Zanir do now? Is he still heading north to Labrador?”Alistair asked.
“I don’t know. I’d like to think of Zanir as incredibly driven and that nothing can stop him from accomplishing what he needs to get accomplished but…” I said, just not sure anymore, “He’s not a machine that can simply do a task… He’s still human and it’s like he doesn’t know it! I think this may have struck too close to home…”
“God, I hope not. Zanir is a miracle, a blessing to Jeurridam.. to the world.” Alistair sighed.
“Yeah and he has no idea…” I said, hating how blind Zanir could be at times.
“I’m just glad he’ll be alright.” Zeek said. Everyone looked at him coldly, blaming this horrid tragedy all on him. I know I was quite upset! It caused him to withdraw back into silence.
“I’m just sad my little friend isn’t here anymore. Swish was just the ride or die man to beat…” June said, not able to wrap his head around the death.
“Yeah, me too…” Heaven said, the boy sounding shattered. All but Julio shared sympathies for him, knowing that Heaven was quite fond of Swish.
“Sorry, bro.” I sighed, walking over to hug him.
“I mean… This is Jeurridam… Shit like this happens. It’s normal!” He shrugged with a smile, but the hurt just oozed out. Despite the smile, tears well in his eyes. Not even Julio could shake the heartache, having to turn to the window to avoid the tragedy pulling on his emotions.
“Yeah but let’s not pretend that this didn’t shake us all up. We almost all died back there…” I said, wanting Heaven to embrace more than just reality, to look at this more than something so gray.
“I think,” Alistair began, “This would have been the only time the Merchant Clan and the Logatti came together… If the tragedy would have been even the slightest magnitude greater, we would have wiped the floor with Da Lagon… Now though… it’s just business of the Merchant Clan and I can assure you, the death of my son will be avenged…”
“Um, Guys,” Basil said, looking at a clipboard, “The results for the blood test on Rion are in and… He had a lot of nimrod injected into his system… A LOT!!!!” It was a shock to us all.
Nimrod was a very deadly steroid-like drug, one often causing extremely irrational decisions to be made and uncontrollable acts of anger due to changes in one’s blood chemistry. Nimrod caused a build of corticotropin in the blood as well as a dangerous stimulant that keeps the rage hormone from raising the blood pressure too high. The lipid bi-structure of the dangerous chemical tricks the body into building more muscle mass, producing more blood, to cope with the higher blood chemical levels! Even the pituitary glands are affected! The body starts to grow, craving meat and calcium rich food, losing all sense of humanity. Eventually enough dosages would change the physiology of a mere human into something notoriously well known as a Necrotic Nimrod… It was a bullet proof, nukeproof, ocean pressure proof indestructable walking dead man that was damn near unstoppable. The only people to have ever stopped one was… the UCAC.
“I’m not surprised…” Zeek sighed, warranting a look from everyone, one of discontent. His presence seemed to be a sickness to us all. He got to his feet, having enough of it, “It seems my presence isn’t welcomed here…”
“You got that right…” I hissed. He wasted no time in walking out of the infirmary. It left us all at a loss for words, a path Zeek was known to never take! I followed along with everyone else, quite concerned, “Where are you going?”
He gave no reply, only walking faster and faster.
“ZEEK!” I screamed, “What the hell are you trying to do? Where the hell are you gonna go? There’s seventy miles between here and Jeurridam!”
“I don’t care I’ll find a way back…” He said, obviously upset. I grabbed his arm, not wanting him to to face the brutal climate of the the Mojave Desert.
“Stop…” I said. He snatched away from me, utterly irrate.
“I just wanted to see him wake up… That’s all!” He said, eyes welling up with tears, “THAT’S ALL!!!!! I was going to be on my way… I didn’t want to stick around and bother you all more than what I had to. It was the only thing I wanted… The ONLY THING… But it seems like I can’t even get that!”
June stepped forth, ready to intervene only to be grabbed by Heaven.
“No… This fight,” He said watching as it unfolded, “Needs to happen…”
“I don’t want to hear that Zeek! All you had to do was stay home… and read!!!” I said.
“I FUCKING COULDN’T! WHEN YOU,” He said, poking me hard in the chest, “Left, dad kicked me out! I was OUT ON MY OWN WITH NOTHING TO SHOW FOR IT!”
“So you went back to RION???” I asked back.
“And you mean to tell me all of this happened because Rion couldn’t let you go?” I asked, this being simply too hard to believe.
“No, of course not! That’s only one third of the story! Drugs were the other and Rion’s lord completed this puzzle!!!! He’s the one that called a hit out for me…” He said, still very, very upset.
“Because when I first was out on my own, I was in Paradise! I promise you I wasn’t with Rion but still Rion found me and I was with someone else who I was trying to help out. I knew if Rion knew what I was involved with, he’d kill off anything that I occupied myself with so I could only be devoted to him! As a result I had to go with him, to protect my friend… Rion tried to get me back into that life but I had been clean for so long and I didn’t want to be trapped again so I panicked and pulled a gun on him…. His Lord was sitting in the room with us! After that, Rion began stalking me and I knew it wasn’t just him behind this. Someone had to push him to do it because Rion wouldn’t do it on his own… He had to psyche himself out to do it which is where the nimrod comes into play.” He said.
“You fucking idiot… How can you go back to any of that… How could you…”
“ARE YOU FUCKING NOT GETTING IT???? I had no CHOICE, BETH!!!!! There’s only so much I can do to get by and sleeping with a lot of people is one of few things I can do very well! I was out on my own with no place to go! IT WAS ALL I COULD DO!” He shouted before suddenly calming, “You know what… I’m not going to continue to explain myself to you… I’m not going to stand here and be villainized for something,” The tears started to come again, “I couldn’t help but let unfold… I simply can’t…” He began walking off into the smoldering desert.
“Zeek…” I pleaded, now seeing just how tough he had it.
“NO, don’t you even try to stop me because something else will happen… Do you know how close to home this was? You would have died! HEAVEN would have died! Your boyfriend would have died! We all might would have died right there in that desert! And I brought this upon you all… I just can’t change my luck for shit… I can’t be around you all… You all know I just hurt people even when I don’t try… I just can’t…” He cried, backing away.
“Zeek…” Heaven said, rushing forth.
“Boy, I will fight you myself if you dare walk out of this town…” I said through the grit of my teeth.
“Bro, just calm down, man. Everyone’s upset… tensions are high… just calm down.” Heaven said, diffusing the situation.
It was now clear that of all of us, Zeek definitely was taking it the hardest. He just stood there scowling at us all, not bothering to move. Heaven grabbed me, herding me back into the depths of the hospital.
“Do you believe him?” June asked, truly skeptical of the boy’s show.
“I do…” I sighed.
“After all of what he’s done?” June continued.
“I know Zeek well enough to know when he’s lying, when he’s honest… and all of that was real! We got to watch him though… That boy will do like he always does, blame himself and run away… I thought this hit us hard but apart from Zanir, Zeek got it the worst…” I sighed.
“Yeah, poor kid…” Alistair said, full of sympathy.
“I don’t even know how to talk to him after that… He’s so mad he could hurt himself” I said.
“I can’t believe dad kicked him out because we ran away… That man has gotten so wicked lately.” Heaven said, shaking his head.
“I feel like shit now… Zeek needs us and we’re treating him like shit.” I said, burdened with guilt.
“I just…” June shrugged, obviously not wanting to touch on his sour history with Zeek.
“Zeek was um… He was treated pretty badly by dad. He was like that neglected middle child that often felt invisible but taken to the next level. Zeek felt insignificant which was made all worse because dad instilled in us a sense of belonging and a need to be somewhere doing something important. When dad took a clinging to Zanir and Zeek couldn’t find that sense of belonging at home, he found it somewhere else. But he was young, stupid and angry and did a lot of young stupid and angry things. Whatever he did to you just please… let it go… please, he’s been through so much.” I said, clenching my head. June looked at me, obviously torn.
“Okay…” He said, letting go of all the anguish he held for Zeek.
Zeek though, still was very upset with us. He sat at the mouth of the hangar, curled up...trembling with rage. It wasn’t healthy…! Zeek had gotten himself sick before building up this much animosity. When he snaps, it’s just terrifying. Big Daddy walked over to the boy, putting him in a state of concern. The giant sentinel then sat beside him, staring at him before looking off into the sunset. It seemed to calm him.
Seeing this, I wasted no time in trying to make amends with my brother. I stood beside him, warranting a stone cold gaze from him.
“You know,” I began, “I don’t like bad blood between me and my brothers, so I’m just gonna say it! I’m sorry! I snapped, I lost it… I’ve been so worried about Zanir man… Oh my God, you just don’t know… He’s the only thing I’m able to think about.” Zeek didn’t respond, only absorbing everything I said.
“I wanted to kill him myself…” Zeek responded, “Rion? I wanted him dead for what he did to me… then he took it to another level when he put ya’lls’ lives on the line.”
“You did?” I asked.
“I worked so hard to stay clean, away from that life, even managed to get a job in Henderson but then Rion just wriggled himself right in the midst of it and fucked everything up…” He said, festering on it all.
“Darren said you were doing very well for yourself the other day. I don’t know, I guess I found it too good to be true. He told me you were seeing someone new. Where’s the new guy?” I asked. Zeek stared at me with those stones for irises.
“Dead…” He said. It shook me to the core.
“Dead?” I asked.
“Rion had one of his goons snipe him right when we least expected it… I never lost anything before, but today… I know what it feels like to have someone carve out your chest with shards of their own heart to rip out yours. It feels sooooooooo empty…” Zeek sighed.
“I’m so sorry, Zeek.” I said, fully empathizing with the boy.
“What’s there to be sorry for? I got to learn how to stop falling so fast for people… That’s just a setup for impending failure.” He said, as depressing as ever.
“Don’t blame yourself for something like this… Just know that we might not have much but we got each other! You, me and Heaven… We all need to have each other’s back from this moment on.” I said.
“I don’t want the liability.” Zeek said as plainly as ever.
“Well damn, then. Maybe I do! Maybe Heaven does! Liability is unavoidable! Shit happens! All of this was incomprehensibly sad today! We couldn’t change it for the damn world and there’s no point in reflecting on it! We need to think of how to cope with what’s to come because we got a long road ahead…” I sighed.
“Okay…” Zeek shrugged, “So what’s the plan from now on out?”
“We patch Zanir up and cope. Our goal is to get him back on the road as quick as possible and make sure he completes what needs to be completed.” I said.
“You know,” He began, “I still don’t know what’s so important about him… like what he does…”
“No issue, bro. You weren’t as close to him as I was so of course you wouldn’t know. Zanir has the final puzzle pieces to something that could complete the United Cybernetic Military and a lot of people know it! The UCAC, Ravagers and Revivalists have been scouring the Earth trying to find these missing puzzle pieces. Depends on who finds it first who’ll have the real upper hand.” I sighed. Zeek looked at me shocked.
“Wait… So… Wait. The Revivalists, Ravagers, and UCAC are all after Zanir?” He asked.
“And the Ravagers and Revivalists are literally camped out here!!!” Zeek said, panicked.
“Not quite… They left when they had no leads. We had Zanir hidden right under their nose.” I clarified.
“I hope the Ravagers do not get a hold of him. They’ll just destroy him… They’ll treat him like a mech…” Zeek said.
“The Revivalists are no different. They will prong the boy, scour his mind to find anything worth using against the UCAC then dispose of him. They wouldn’t care about his practicality, only what he has. It’s why we need to watch Zanir carefully when he wakes up… He may do some things out of a broken heart without thinking.” I added. Zeek looked at me for a long time, something definitely bothering him.
“So Zanir and Galvy were a thing?” He asked.
“Yeah, they were. Galveston got Zanir to do things I didn’t know the boy was even capable of, pulled out so much humanity from that boy in the most… invigorating ways. The two grew quite close, planned on leaving for Labrador together…” I sighed. Zeek simply smiled, shaking his head.
“That’s not fair…” He sighed, sounding so defeated.
“Why?” I asked.
“I never even had a fighting chance with him… Every time I had a chance to spend with Zanir, I’d blow it because I hated him or just would treat him like shit… That wasn’t at all fair to him… Like I should have been what Galveston was to him but no, I was just being a lump of shit.” Zeek explained.
“You know you were going through your own personal struggle at the time. Why reflect on shit in the past you can’t change rather than try to build for a better future… a future with Zanir?” I suggested.
“You know god damn well Zanir won’t even look at me after this… You know he’s gonna hate me! He’s gonna blame me for this all!” Zeek said back.
“He won’t… Zanir’s not like that! He’ll understand the circumstances if you just explain yourself…”
“No he’s helped me too much with not enough to show for it. This right here… If I were him, I wouldn’t be able to forgive someone at this point…” He said.
“But you’re not him! You’re Ezekiel Micorẽ Xylan Quintli Jovan Logatti! You’re a hardened, no thrills kid that had to grow up fast… Faster than any of us, maybe except for Alistair. You’ve seen things that many people would break down into a nervous wreck over and just chof at it like it’s nothing… Of course, you’d be less tolerable of it all but Zanir is not that type of person.” I said, hoping to reassure him. Zeek steadily shook his head.
“Just take me back to Henderson to get my stuff… I dropped my safe off at the factory in A99 when I realized Da Lagon was stalking me…” I sighed.
“Your stuff?” I asked.
“Yeah, what I’ve earned over the past month of being out there in the desert. You know I still have my job in Henderson and I plan on going back to it.” He said.
“What was your job?” I asked, truly intrigued.
“I managed to get a job at the Henderson Justice office as a filing consultant… It’s part-time, just to start me off until I can work my way up, I guess…” He shrugged. This was shocking news!
“You got a job,” I began, “Because you can read????”
“Yeah.” He said, not feeling it was that big of a deal.
“AWE ZEEK!!!!” I squealed, hugging him tightly. He fought me off, not really wanting to be affectionate.
“Quit…” He sighed, getting to his feet.
Suddenly, the prancing Leer came in from the desert startling us both.
“What the hell is that?” Zeek asked, backing away.
“You remember the tiny little thing you stole?” I responded, “It grew up… It won’t hurt you.”
“Wow…” Zeek laughed.
The Leer entered the hospital, warranting strange looks from everyone. Even Big Daddy had to turn his head. The Leer simply laid down beside Zanir, going into torpor. It was crazy how all these machines were in tune with him. It was like they all cared for his well being! June, Julio and Heaven were all amazed by this.
“June…” I began, getting ready to ask him for this favor.
“Yeah?” He responded.
“Zeek left some things back in the desert and he needs to collect them so can we…?”
“I’m not all that sure about that… I just…” June said, having little trust for Zeek. It didn’t matter to me. His keys were on the cart’s tray so, I grabbed them without a second thought, “Really?”
“Yes really! My brother needs me and I’m gonna help him…” I said. He looked to Alistair who only shrugged, completely understanding my stance.
“Go with her…” He shrugged. June sighed as he me followed to Basil.
“We’re going to go collect some stuff… I promise you we’re not bringing anyone back.” I smiled.
“Okay…” Basil said, very unsure of us all.
I didn’t blame him. He was a leader of a very unorthodox civilization in the middle of nowhere and if anyone without the best of interest at mind discovered this place, it would mean certain doom! This place was a very fragile operation, beautiful even, kids coming together from every stretch of the desert to depend on each other. It’d be sad to see this place destroyed right after it’s birth… However, June didn’t share these sentiments.
“I don’t like that damned kid.” He said.
“I’m not surprised you’d say that, Mr. Brood…” I teased.
“No I’m serious! He seems… off.” June noted but couldn’t put his finger on it.
“Like he’s exhausted, spread too thin and having to deal with all these strangers?” I asked, warranting an eyeroll from June.
“No I mean, like he’s only helping for his own gain… He seems always calculating, always trying to get over! I don’t like sleazes like that!” June said.
“Bruh, he organized a ring that cut travel in the corridor so he could steal resources without as much as a trace! You’re looking at this wrong! He’s a bad guy for all the right reasons, a hero to many with a vision to uphold!!!!” I laughed. It gave June something to think about.
“But still…” He said, just not sold on Basil.
“Get used to manipulative people! They’re everywhere!!!!” I said with an eyebuck. June chuckled.
He and I took Alistair home, dropping me and Ezekiel off in The Outskirts. My truck had been hidden in the hills of rubble for months, now. June didn’t leave though, following as I drove Ezekiel to Henderson. Upon arriving, his truck had been terribly pillaged, almost beyond repair. The already upset boy was now incredibly frustrated. We got out to assess the damage.
“They stole my water tank, my cooking stuff,” He said, climbing onto the back where his truck box was, “And busted this open and stole my guns…” I popped the hood, this not looking so hot either.
“They stripped the engine of all the wires and I think they stole the gasket head, turbocharger, fuel injector and vacuum line.” I sighed.
“FUCK!!!!!!!” Ezekiel screamed, kicking the truck.
Even his windows were shattered, the things clothes he had inside all stolen as well as an assortment of other things. June stood back, silently laughing.
“They pulled one on you, didn’t they…?” He said, not feeling sorry for Ezekiel at all.
“So sorry bro…” I shrugged, hating all his stuff was stolen.
“And it couldn’t have been anyone other than Da Lagon because no one in Henderson would dare steal something from someone else… This is… Everything I’ve done is just catching up with me…” He said, truly feeling defeated.
“Zeek, stop that! We still gotta get your safe…” I said.
“All things considered they probably found that and busted that open too. They were watching my every move, OUR every move!” He said.
“But still!” I insisted.
“Whatever…” He sighed, climbing back into the truck. We rode out across the Hoover Dam to the Sonoran.  The mill could be seen in the distance, looking like a mystic city in the evening dust. We arrived, Zeek going right to where he hid the vault. The vault was still where he left it, completely unscathed. He quickly put in the code, checking his contents.
Both June and I were surprised at how much money was inside… Hundreds of thousands of desert dollars and pesos were neatly stacked inside. Still though, the boy cried as though this wasn’t good, as though having that much money was a tragedy! He reached inside pulling out a gun.
“Easy…” June warned. Zeek looked at him menacingly before chucking the gun at him.
“SHUT THE FUCK UP!!!! I wasn’t going to do anything… The gun wasn’t even mine. I gave it to my friend Luke so he could take care of himself. They boy put the gun in the safe thinking as long as he was with me, he didn’t need it. Then Rion came and took him from me…” Zeek said, “June, I know you don’t like me and quite frankly I don’t give a fuck!!! I don’t like you either… Just pretend you’re invisible and don’t say shit else… This is between me and Beth…”
It was then and there June realized that this wasn’t the same Zeek he knew years!!! This Zeek was just as cold but far less treacherous, far more about his business and less about getting over on people. Hell I was shocked as well. Zeek had changed a lot in a matter of months but it seemed like everything was trying to keep him back where he was. As long as I could help it, I wouldn’t let that life pull him back in.  
Zeek closed the safe, picking it up and placing it in the bed of the truck. We rode back to Area 51, it being pitch black out by the time we arrived back.
“You know,” Zeek began, “It’s still incredibly dangerous to be seen out there. Rion’s Lord placed a hit on us and we Logatti may be in some serious danger. I just don’t know… Maybe you and Heaven should go home…”
“And leave you out here to face all of that?” I asked.
“Beth, you’re my little sister! You think I want something to happen to you?” He responded.
“Dad may be one wicked man, one that pushed all three of us away, but one thing he was right about is that we’re nothing without family! I’m not leaving you to deal with Da Lagon by yourself! I’d rather deal with the entire Da Lagon band than hear my father’s pointless rhetoric if I go back home.” I said, shaking my head.
“Beth, you don’t know fucked up Da Lagon is! What Rion did earlier today was just a mere  taste! I lived with them for nearly half a decade!” He insisted.
“Not to intrude,” June said over the radio, “But Beth outran our fastest most deadly buggies in that very truck you’re sitting in and killed several of our goons… That’s someone you want to have on your tea….”
“WHO ASKED YOU?” Zeek interrupted, screaming, picking up the radio badge before shutting it off. I looked at him, wondering why he and June were not on good terms. Zeek just sat there, staring out of the window as the truck parked in the lake bed. June pulled up right beside us.
We walked from the lakebed to the hangars. Everything was silent between us as we entered the infirmary. Zanir was still in a coma, lying on his side with the prong connected to the back of his head. Heaven and Julio sat on the tarmac of the hangar, bored.
“How’s he holding up?” I asked.
“Stable…” Heaven yawned, quite sleepy.
“You’re sleepy?” I asked, “We can camp up in here, I guess…”
“Sure…” Heaven sighed.
We got the camping gear we had for the trip to the wasteland and set everything up in the terminal Zanir was in. Everyone was beyond exhausted at this point. Heaven waste no time in catching some shuteye. He didn’t even make it to his tent, collapsing into his sleeping bag just outside of it. Julio just watched him, sitting back in a corner of the terminal steadily watching. I noticed he spared too many glances at Heaven before but this was damn creepy.
Not wanting to put the boy on blast, I sat in front of him, away from everyone else. He looked on, lost.
“What?” He asked.
“Why is it that everytime Heaven’s not paying attention, you’re busy staring at him?” I asked plainly. The boy looked at me shocked, defensiveness ready to pour in to push away my insistent prodding.
“Really?” He asked.
“I’m just curious. I won’t utter a damn word… Just a bit of advice though… Don’t try to pounce when he’s going through a hard time like this. It won’t be fair to either of you in the end. I don’t mind it if you and my brother become something more than just awkward glances and strange conversations. Just treat him right because I am the sister of Ezekiel Micorẽ Xylan Quintli Jovam Logatti and four times as crazy…” I said.
“What the hell are you talking about?” He asked, refuting the claims.
“What you mean what the hell am I talking about? I’m talking about the fact that you’re sitting here staring at my little brother with thoughts you can’t explain but feel are wrong… when they’re not… Let me ask you something… Do you think I’m straight?” I asked back. He looked at me surprised, unsure where this was heading.
“I mean you’re with June… I guess you are.” He shrugged.
“I’m bi-sexual… I lost my virginity to a girl, bruh. I remember it as clear as day… Don’t you sit here and beat yourself up over your sexuality because you don’t understand it. Don’t try to understand it… Just embrace your sexuality as though it is a principle of as basic a function as it goes! I don’t care if you’re gay, straight, pan, bi, try, metro, demi, sapio, pyro hell...even necro! Embrace it…” I smiled.
“Wait, wha….whaaaaaaa? I just thought there was gay, straight and bi... What the fuck is try? And….”
“Shhhh….” I interrupted, “You’re thinking too much about it. Breath… and embrace it!”
“Breath and embrace it!” I said.
“Beth!” He began laughing, “I can’t. How are people going to look at me when they find out?”
“For one, it’s none of their business. Secondly, you think people will judge you over something as insignificant as your sexuality when murder, money and might are the only things people care about? Thirdly, who’d guess? Look at Zeek! Do you know him?” I asked.
“Not well… I just know no one likes him.” Julio chuckled.
“He’s the gayest piece of gay on this side of gayness! Try him… Wait… Don’t do that!” I said.
“Really? He doesn’t really come across as gay not in the slightest…” Julio said, surprised.
“Well, he’s not really gay. He’s bi but damn… catch him with his guard’s down and you’ll see what I’m talking about!” I laughed.
“I just don’t know, Beth. Like, June is my best friend! I’ve been keeping this secret from him for the longest and I don’t want it to ruin our friendship! I don’t even know how he’d react if he found out so please chill with that shit, man.” He begged.
“June doesn’t give a fuck about anything… you think he’ll care about you being what ever the hell you are?” I asked.
“I mean he’s said some pretty hateful things about gays and that just fucking turned me all off from telling him. Like if he has that level of disdain for them and he’s like my brother, the only real family I got, why would I dare sacrifice the relationship…?” Julio countered.
“Because living this lifestyle isn’t healthy. Living a lie will result in a breaking point and lashing out. We had the same talk with Heaven not too long ago, before you two got acquainted and every concern you have right now, he had…” I answered. He stared at me for a long time.
“Why are you doing this?” He asked.
“Because, I love my brothers… I love you guys! You’re like family in an odd way and family needs to function as efficiently as possible and I was getting some weird vibes from you. I’m the type of person who just can’t help but nurture so bare with me. I just couldn’t help myself. If you want to continue to admire my brother from a far, feel free. I mean this was as much as I was willing to do anyways before I step out of it… This matter is truly out of my hands as you so plainly will state. Just know that no matter what you decide to do, I will accept you for you, June will accept you for you, my brothers will accept you for you… Anyone who’ll ever care for you in the future will accept you for you! This war you’re having is with yourself and yourself alone. I can only advise…” I responded. He shook his head, all of this being too much for him.
“Please don’t.” He said.
“Fine…” I shrugged, getting up and heading to my tent.
He watched as June and I boarded together, obviously longing for something like this for himself. Still though, he had much to think about tonight. It’s not like I didn’t like Julio. He was one gorgeous boy, standing about five foot eleven, with glowing honey toned skin. He had very chiseled and distinguished features, a strong but narrow brow that gave way to a narrow nose, thin but plump enough lips and high cheek bones. His hair was quite coarse and curly, compared to most other Mojave natives, the boy having some African in his blood somewhere. Like most Mojave natives though, he had the same striking green eyes.
Looks aside, he was the nicest person. He didn’t have the same streak of crazy, cold, muder-full-ness as June and was quite a bit more sympathetic! However, it was clear that Julio was very, very emotions driven and could make rash reactions based upon how he felt. That was something I was concerned over but he was quite young… Nineteen, twenty, maybe? Yeah, he was twenty one because he and June were born exactly at the same time. He still had a lot of self reflection and humbling to be done and if he did end up with Heaven, it surely would happen!
Heaven was after all one dry ass kid who was no frills. He was short, sharp and to the point, capable of telling a person some serious truth without a sign of animosity. It kind of was his calling card. It’d be like a miniature version of Galveston’s and Zanir’s relationship just less to that extreme. Hell, maybe I was being too optimistic. From the tiny glimpses I’ve seen of Julio and Heaven’s interactions, the boys were just so awkward and barely got a long. Who knows…
This turned into a very restless night. The only time I managed to get any sleep was when June’s strong arms pulled me in close and I felt his warmth. It seemed everyone woke up at the same time, around eight or nine in the morning. All eyes fell upon Zanir, hopeful he’d wake up. No, he was still resting in cybernetic torpor, blissfully aware of all going on around him yet unresponsive. I sat next to him.
“You know,” I sighed, “Everything’s still the same. Everyone’s here for you and we’re all rooting for you! Even Zeek… Um, when you wake up, please talk to Zeek… You know he’s um… been through a lot after you left. He’s lost… It’d be easier to let him explain it to you, just promise me you’ll be all ears when it comes time to talk…”
“Where is Zeek?” Heaven asked. We all looked around the terminal trying to locate the boy.
“Please don’t tell me this boy has left…” I sighed.
June’s eyes homed in on the trays with the keys, seeing they all were still there. He checked everything around the terminal, seeing nothing was stolen or out of place. It left us all perplexed.
“Where the fuck is this boy?” June asked, scratching his head.
“I hope he hasn’t ran away…” I sighed, ready to begin searching for him. I walked over to a practitioner, “Have you seen a tallish Olmec looking dude with dark brown hair, light brown eyes, wearing some high cargos, a marriner T and a bucket hat?”
“Yeah…” The practitioner responded, “He said you all would be looking for him. He’s outside…”
“Why?” Heaven asked, quite confused.
“Hey, I only see patients… I don’t care about personal affairs.” The practitioner sighed. Heaven gave the girl one hell of a smoldering gaze before walking off.
We all headed out of the Hangar, looking for Zeek. He was around the side of the Hangar in a secluded section of the base where the ruins of a titan class mech were. He was contorted into some strange position hanging from a pipe, dozens of feet above the ground.
“Wow…” June gasped, surprised.
“ZEEK!!!!!!!” I screamed out.
“Leave me alone… Don’t come out here and harsh my good mood…” He said, quickly shutting me down.
“Let’s just leave him…” June said, grabbing me gently in his arms.
“Okay…” I responded, worried about my brother. He and I left, leaving only Heaven and Julio remaining. While Heaven marveled at Zeek’s acrobatic abilities, Julio marveled at Heaven’s aesthetics. Catching himself, he looked at Zeek which he didn’t find as mesmerizing as looking at Heaven. He left Heaven to be alone with his brother, well… remained out of site. He lurked somewhere he could watch without being spotted.
Zeek looked at his little brother from his perch.
“Why are you still here?” He asked.
“...Because, what you’re doing is awesome and I want to learn…” Heaven smiled.
“You already know how…” Zeek said, losing patience.
“Not like that.” Heaven responded, wanting to learn how to contort like his brother.
“Look Hev…” Zeek said, sliding down the long rail, back to the ground, “I learned all of this stuff to do some very, very bad things! I just don’t want to teach you this, man…”
“Well why’re you’re doing it then?” Heaven asked.
“You really want to know?” Zeek responded.
“I wouldn’t have asked…”
“I do it because I like testing the limits of how far I can push my body… It’s like a thrill for me…” Zeek shrugged.
“Eeeeew,” Heaven frowned, “I wanna try, though…”
“WHY?” Zeek laughed.
“The shit looks awesome and I can’t do anything really special so I wanna try it…” Heaven said plainly.
“Boy, you can cook and you’re like the best marksman in the family…” Zeek sighed.
“I hate cooking and guns are boring… Teach my how to to do acrobatics and fight and stuff! I wanna kind of be able to fend for myself without the need of a gun…” Heaven persisted.
“You’re still an aggravating little gnat, you know that?” Zeek teased.
“I won’t be aggravating if you just teach me.” Heaven smiled. Zeek stared at his brother for a while before giving in.
The boys didn’t know June and I had only relocated to the upper platform of the hangar, watching from several stories. It was about to be quite a show.
“June…” I said.
“Look,” I responded, pointing to Julio who was watching from behind a pile of rubble, “At your bro…”
“What the fuck is he doing?” June asked, surprised.
“We need to talk about him…” I sighed. June looked at me, not sure what this was going to be about, “Have you noticed anything in particular about him..?”
“No…” June said shaking his head.
“Before I tell you this promise me that you’ll accept Julio no matter what…” I demanded.
“Of course!” June said.
“Julio is,” I said trying to find the right words, “Is have a major internal conflict with himself… I can feel it, I um… I tried to talk with him about it last night and he shut me down completely. I’m pretty sure the only reason I got as far as I did was because I’m a girl, an unexpected perspective to hear it from…”
“Beth, what are you talking about?” June asked, wanting me to cut to the point.
“Okay, you know how Julio’s been having a little side mouth about Heaven and Swish?” I asked.
“He hasn’t had a single thing to say about Zanir and Galveston’s relationship. I’d turn a blind eye to it if it was just a general detest for you know… gay people but it’s not that simple. Every time Heaven isn’t paying attention, Julio watches him, like he’s doing right now! At first I didn’t know what to make of it but now, I’m certain.”
“You think Julio might be gay?” June asked shocked.
“I know it! Watching him was like watching my brother… It’s the kind of frustration in his eyes that I know all too well. He’ll just sit and be silent, building… and building… and building. I just think you should know but please don’t let him know I told you… Don’t even show a sign you know. I just think you should know that your best friend, your brother is going through a struggle that has defeated so many.” I said.
“How the hell am I always blind to this type of shit. I had no idea Zanir or Galveston was gay, or your brothers for the matter and now my best friend is gay…? How the hell can I help him if this struggle is so bad.” June asked, truly perplexed.
“When shit hits the fan,” I sighed, “You just got to be there no matter what happens. He thinks that people will ridicule him over his sexuality and if someone ever does, it’ll damage him and that is what we do NOT need. He’s definitely gonna need a support system. He thinks this could jeopardize his friendship, brotherhood with you and isn’t worth risking.”
“He’s my goddamn brother, not just a friend! We were raised in the same household, our families, one! I’d never…” June said sternly.
“That’s good to hear because Julio scares me…” I said. June looked at me surprised.
“He scares you? Am I hearing this right. The most lethal girl in the Mojave is scared of little ole’ Julio?” June asked, almost drawn to laughter.
“One thing you must learn about the queer. When you live in fear of ridicule, you’re ten times as cutthroat as anyone who thinks they’ve been through some shit. How people make a big deal about sexuality can produce some of the most stone cold people and I’m afraid to see Julio get to that point. Look at what they turned Ezekiel into…”
June looked down as he saw Ezekiel and Heaven use their upper bodies to support their lower halves as they were suspended on a rod in the ruins. For June it put a lot into perspective. Everything Ezekiel did was out of what people have made him become. Probably the thing that made June sympathize the most with Ezekiel was just how cold the boy was. He couldn’t tell if Zeek was unapologetic about the things his past or haunted by them.
“Yeah he’s….” June said trying to find the right words, “Something…”
“What happened between you and Zeek? Where’d the bad blood start?” I asked.
“He, Rion and Galveston were still good friends at the time. Galveston didn’t like the way things were headed between them all so he flaked. I had just started running cartels and was building my business with the ties I had around the desert. I was trying to become reputable and I needed help, was juggling a lot on my own. Zeek was the only one to help me build and was there every step of the way. I um, was grateful. We rode across the desert shipping booze and anything of high value to high paying bidders. It was a complete blow when he stole all my money, tapped my sources and hit the road. With no one else to help me, I couldn’t manage by myself anymore. I thought it was the ultimate betrayal and I was all… by… my… self!!!!! That was when Galveston and the Merchant Clan stepped in and supported my failing infrastructure. They couldn’t get back what Zeek had stolen from me but I was apart of theirs forever… I um, I didn’t know Zeek was strung out on drugs and the type of control Rion had over him. I just thought Zeek was a bad guy…” June responded.
“Oh. Where was Julio at the time?” I asked.
“I had ran away… I wanted something of my own so I left the North Mojave for it. When I finally got it, of course I came back for my brother!” June smiled, “I told him I was…”
“Seems everyone runs away these days.” I shrugged.
“It’s the teenage trend I guess… We’re in an entire city filled with runaways.” June laughed, pointing at the surroundings.
“I still can’t wrap my head around a place like this. And these kids are running this bitch better than any adult. They don’t fight, don’t fuss… nothing, just order and peace… I’d want to sit and see how Basil manages it all. Zanir likes him quite a lot.” I responded.
“I think Zanir likes him because he saw something here he wanted to use to further his research… You know Zanir. He’s quite, quite crafty… He’d think of something that can aid us all but steadily getting what he wants. He’s good like that.” June chuckled.
“Yeah, the way he thinks is just beyond me. I can’t wait for him to wake up. He’s gonna lose even more weight than the nothingness he already has…” I sighed shaking my head. June laughed.
“Speaking of food, I’m hungry…” He said, leaning back across the platform.
“Me too…” I sighed, “Let’s get to cooking and call the boys up when it’s finished…”
“Okay…” He smiled.
We headed back down to the terminal where all our camping gear was.
“You think we can cook in here?” June asked.
“I don’t really care. I was gonna do it regardless.” I sighed. June just looked at me smiling, as I prepared the meal. Together we fried some short ribs in some bourbon June had. In the fat left behind, we sauteed beans, rice and pickled vegetables. The smell was intoxicating.
“Hey!” Someone called out from down the hall. It was a very young guard, the same rude one from yesterday, “You can’t cook in the hospital…”
“Sorry… didn’t know.” June shrugged.
“I’m going to call the boys in…” I said.
“Alright.” June responded as I walked past the guard. I headed to the rear of the hangar where Julio was still standing behind a heap of ruined crates.
“Hola…” I said. He turned to me startled.
“Beth… I was just…” He quickly said, trying to think of something to ward me off! I just smiled at the boy, finding this all rather… cute.
“Food’s sizzling in the terminal.” I said with an eyebrow furled, looking at him without much discretion. He rushed back into the hangar, head bowed in shame. I laughed, heading over to Zeek and Heaven who both still were working out.
“Hey! Food… Come eat! Now!” I yelled, heading back into the hangar.
The boys were close behind. We all sat down, eating the rich tasting food, all very hungry.
“Damn this is good…” Heaven chuckled, scooping up a big chunk of rice and beans with his fingers.
“Yeah ya’ll showed out in this little terminal…” Julio laughed. June looked at him, his best friend in a new light. Not wanting to draw any suspicions, he went back staring aimlessly around the terminal.
Suddenly, his eyes fell upon something startling!
“Guys…” He said.
“Yeah?” I asked. He pointed to Zanir whose eyes were open, slumped to the floor, blinking periodically. He moved a bit, startling us all. Everyone looked at each other, not a single person holding back their shock.
“I think the smell of burning bourbon broke my coma…” Zanir murmured.  


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