One cold rainy morning, ten years later, in a small corner of what used to be the lake district of the great city of Chicago, Illinois, sitting in darkness, less than a mile off the coast, just past the third street pier, sat an old abandoned rusting freighter, the Lady Dora. She had run aground many years before. Street gangs had long ago stripped her of whatever cargo she carried.
Outside, at night, the air was now far less radioactive. Inside, ghosts of long dead sailors seemed to be everywhere on the ship, hiding in the shadows. As they stood alone on the deck of the old vessel, the north wind blew across the lake, entered the hull, and blew out the men’s helmet lamps. Then the full moon sat low on the horizon. Then, later that morning, the sun overhead was covered with clouds.
Adam Strong, sat in silence on the dock, waiting for the work skiff. Even before the boat arrived, and he began his shift, he was exhausted from his job, from lack of sleep, and from months without decent food He was fed up from frustration with the system, he was just run down, he had way too many issues to function normally, people were constantly winding him up, like a coiled spring. These days he was wound way too tight, and the once happy carefree young man was beginning to feel as though his life was spinning out of control. Sometimes, as he lay in his bed, still going over today’s events in his head, he wondered how things ever got so messed up. He was once so carefree, these days he felt like a puppet with ATI Corporation, his family, his salvage crew, and the system itself, pulling all his strings.
Last night, Adam, home from the silent war against AIT, it’s officers and it’s agents, spent most of the night fighting with his remaining two brothers, over his missing brother Mark. At first, both Jessie and André tried to blame Mark for his own disappearance, but Adam, knew better. As usual, this had all the earmarks of the of the Black Hand. Still, this morning, Adam’s mood piano, already a low ebb, was playing only somber notes only of late. The once happy man, felt his youth and his life just slipping away from him. He was clinically depressed. To him, these days, life seemed to have little purpose, at least none that he could grasp. Lately, Adam felt like he was pounding his head against a brick wall.
This morning, especially, with Mark gone, the usually cheerful lead salvage man was panting, short of breath. In fact, it was as if all his blood pooled in his shoes. His energy was spent. He could not focus. Adam could hear his heart pounding in his chest. His eyes closed every three or four minutes and he nodded off. He was having trouble breathing. The young salvage man wondered if it was just his imagination, but he thought his skin smelled like death. Lately, the former jazz band singer was constantly dizzy. Adam should have been in the hospital. He should have seen a doctor, but doctors were only for rich people, these days. No one even bothered to pretend this was equality anymore. The hard working young man ugently needed a day off work, but that was impossible.
Still, deep down knew that at least part of it was an occupational hazard, at least part of his symptoms, were due to his inhaling Acetylene torch exhaust fumes day after day. A lesser man would have just quit, but not Adam. He told himself, this too will pass. After all, his salvage crew depended on him. No one had anywhere near his experience. Ship salvage was dangerous work. the salvage crew chief worried about sudden onset of heat stoke, the weather, which could cause the old tub to capsize or sink, having to constantly fight with the bosses about low wages and poor working conditions, and about the safety of his crew. It was a lot of responsibility on the young man’s shoulder’s and if that weren’t enough, he was being groomed for a top job in the resistance.
As, the skiff reached the ship, those inside the skiff could see deep inside the hull of the Dora, a dark and foreboding old frieghter. Inside, the old ship, everyone in both the day and night crew sensed untamed sprits afoot. Each salvage man knew there would be Ghosts inside the hull, just waiting for one of the crew to join them. All it would take is one small mistake. Sharp metal was everywhere you touched.
Then, at nine o’five a.m. just as he and the rest of the crew descended the winding rusted metal staircase, they did not dare stop to relight the helmet lights as they continued down into the hull. Adam thought to himself, one or more of us might be injured or even killed in this old bucket of bolts, but every crewmember knew the risk, and still did his job in spite of possible death or injury.
“See that ghost lately, Joe?”
“No, not last night?”
“Ghosts are all part of the job.”
“I know, isn’t fun?”
“No ghosts, but the Rage whores are out tonight.”
“Yes, sex street pier, but who wants a disease to go with it.”
“Don’t you mean sixth street?”
“Ah, you are paying attention. It’s a joke. Get it.”
“Those drug pushers caused this epidemic..you know that.”
“You’re right, what are we going to do about it.”
“Have you joined yet?”
“No of course not them. I’ve been one for nearly thirty years. You know that.”
“That’s right, I almost forgot. You know what I am talking about.”
“I’m thinking about it.”
“Well we are meeting again on Saturday night. Why don’t you come to a meeting and then you can decide. It’s at Cross Street Church. Bring a friend.”
Meanwhile, back at the boat, “Would you believe it, now Bill Jones, my neighbor is missing. We have been searching for my brother Mark everywhere. We searched all levels of Palladium for Mark. We searched the planet’s surface around most of old Chicago, but found nothing so far. Mark would not harm anyone. After all, he is only a kid. He is Autistic and has the mind of a six-year-old child. I cannot imagine what he would have done at his age and in his condition to break the Code, and to offend the Corporation or the Dark Hand causing them to kidnap hm. We want him back, now!” said Adam.
Want to pre-order your copy now. Only $2.99