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The Barrens

by Reynolds Jones 11 months ago in literature · updated 11 months ago
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Beyond the Corphives

Why here? Chrys wondered as she expertly set the flitcar down beside a ruined building, probably a warehouse at one time. So far from the New City that she could barely see the lighted domes of the corphives from the side window of her car. This was so far out into the Barrens that it might once have been at the edge of the legendary “burbs.”

Her eyes took in the various sensors. The atmosphere outside was not poisoned, there was no detectable trace of any of the various plague viruses, and the radiation levels were acceptable. She sighed. She had thought herself above this type of mission long ago. It was some time since she had last worn a full fieldsuit. Still, it felt natural enough as she slipped on the helmet and it sealed to the neck of the suit with an oddly satisfying sound. A heads-up display immediately occupied the upper quadrant of her visor. All of the readings were well into the green.

She sighed and checked both her sidearm for charge, 99.8%, and the locks on the special case she carried. Imagine, she reflected, courier duty again at her career stage. She had no idea what was in the case of course. Anything that would cause the CEO to send a senior defense analyst for the corporation out to do the exchange was not something that CEO would reveal to the senior defense analyst. She wondered idly what the contents were worth. An idle question because the case was sealed to the dna print of only two persons, the CEO and the recipient to whom the case would eventually be delivered. Any other person breaching the case would cause a brief, intense, very unpleasant explosion. Far more than the fieldsuit was designed to handle. The same would be true for the case that she received to return to the CEO.

In the upper right-hand corner of her vision the chronometer turned yellow. She drew a deep breath. It was nearly time for the meet.

Another quick look at the panel, none of the readings had changed. At the very edge of sensor range, however, another humanoid form had entered the area on foot. Her opposite number, she supposed. There was no sign of any other lifeforms, except for a colony of rats beneath the broken pavement in the remains of the old sewers and a few birds high above. Monitors showed no cyber activity either, so at the very least, there were no autonomous vehicles, either ground or air, present within sensor range at this time. Sensors would warn her if any entered range. Little good if a drone strike was planned, but a drone strike seemed unlikely as there was no way for any rival corporation to know what courier would be sent, only that they would be trusted.

“Open door”

Immediately the seal of the door released, and as air pressure equalized, the door itself rose like a wing from the side of the flitcar. Chrys emerged and strode from the car a few feet to await the other courier. She stood easily, feet apart.

She became more alert as she studied the approaching figure. The other courier seemed unsteady. They were not advancing at the pace she would have expected, or the one she would have maintained if she were the one approaching. Still, there seemed to be no danger from the figure. She waited.

The other courier stopped a few feet from Chrys. It was clear now to Chrys that it was another woman. The fieldsuit she wore, like Chyrs’ own fieldsuit had been stripped of the identifying seal of its corporation and was a deep grey. The case she carried was identical to the one that Chrys carried, though it seemed heavier. Chrys studied the other woman’s suit. It was not completely identical, there were cybernetic supports along the left leg. That explained the walk, the hesitancy, but why would another corp send an injured or crippled agent as a courier?

“In accordance with the agreement reached with your CEO.” The other courier laid the case she carried on the ground midway between the two of them. After a moment, Chrys laid her case beside it. The two exchanged.

To Chrys' shock, the other courier then pulled off her helmet. An old woman’s face emerged, wispy grey hair like a cloud around her skull.


More from curiosity than mercy Chrys watched then, unmoving, as the old woman also removed a glove, and allowed the lancet on the case to pierce her finger. Chrys nearly leaped back, but there was no explosion. The sound of the release of the case was clear. This then was the CEO of another corp. The advantage that could be gained if such a one just vanished. Of course, no one knew even the sex of any CEO, but still.

Curiosity still stayed her hand and she watched, as the old woman opened the case, and from it took out an old teddy bear, a heart-shaped locket with a red stone, and lastly a picture, an old picture, showing two couples, an older couple and a younger couple, and a young girl with them. In the picture, that girl was wearing the locket and held the teddy bear.

The old lady lowered her head and wept.

Disgust and revulsion coursed through Chrys, but yet, she could not raise the sidearm and depress the trigger. After a frozen moment, she turned and entered the flitcar, carrying the case with the precious treasure that her CEO awaited.

“Close door.”

The wing lowered and the seal was reestablished. A mechanical system cleaned and exchanged the air. Chrys removed her own helmet once it finished, and lifted the flitcar, heading back toward the corphives, leaving an old woman, weeping over a teddy bear, a locket, and a picture, in the midst of a broken street, in the Barrens.


About the author

Reynolds Jones

I was always a reader. It was Dungeons and Dragons that also made me a writer. While my career has been primarily in the academe, where I have worked for nearly 30 years, my passion has always been in fantastical worlds and in gaming.

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