The ash danced like fall leaves, as if a thousand oak trees had surrendered their foliage to a meandering breeze. They drifted between the canvas tents and grew into piles of soot; an other worldly veil that floated through an invisible current even as ear-splitting sirens and explosions rocked the Trinity Forest Outpost. Staff shouted orders to automated vehicles as they were hastily loaded and evacuated.
Zeero ducked behind the recycling compactor, waiting for three figures, dressed in white from head to toe, to pass. She watched as they carried torches over the ridge and towards the mass grave she’d just come from. The Guardian on her wrist flashed a black plus sign, the symbol for death by RECCing. She twisted a link in the band and the screen returned to a false readout of her vitals and the name of its original owner, Arla Zee Roades.
Judging by their white clothes and masked faces, Zeero guessed these were the Anarchists she had heard about but never seen before. They had set off the first of several bombs half an hour ago. The blast ignited a boarded-up silo and three tents stocked with medical supplies. Then a mob of at least fifty people had emerged from the surrounding trees with makeshift clubs. Any of the camp’s scientists or medical experts that they could catch, easily identified by their blue camo scrubs, were beaten and left for dead.
Zeero had already seen their handy work as she crept through the cadaver prep tents. Her bright green coveralls, a uniform reserved for unskilled staff, didn’t appear to be among their immediate targets but she was not interested in testing her luck. The ground shook with another explosion as the water reclamation units to the west belched black mushrooms. A cheer went up from somewhere behind her.
“And that’s my cue,” she sighed, slipping around to the back of the recycling compactor and making a run for the latrines.
The rows of gray box stalls flashed around her, her dark brown ponytail lashing behind her as her navy-blue eyes never stopped searching for more figures in white. Suddenly, she lost her footing and went down hard, rolling into the wall of a decontamination shower with a grunt.
Zeero recovered quickly, popping back to her feet as if the entire incident had been a stunt. Ash clung to her coveralls, dulling the bright green to a muted shade of pea soup. She checked for injuries, while she watched for any sign that she’d been seen. She almost missed the arm that had tripped her.
The arm was connected to a body in blue-camo scrubs, lying in a heap behind the shower. “Hiccup” was barely recognizable under the bruises that covered his face. Only the strip of blonde hair, a mohawk that he always wore braided and the spiral tattoos on the rest of his bare scalp gave him away. The ashes around his face stirred.