Commonwealth, XXXVII: Electric Breakdown

Commonwealth, XXXVII: Electric Breakdown May 29, 2020

Commonwealth: A Novel of Utopia, part 1, chapter 9

Author’s Note: This is an excerpt from my novel Commonwealth. The rest of today’s installment is free, but only on my Patreon site. If you want to read the next part today, it’s already up on Patreon as well. You can sign up for as little as $1/month, or $2 for exclusive author’s notes and behind-the-scenes material. There’s also a table of contents for all published chapters.

“I’m amazed you’re still here,” Vargas said. “After what Curt did to you, I assumed you had walked off the job. I would have.”

“It was worst the first day,” Rae admitted. “You should have seen me that night. Actually, I’m glad you didn’t. I had a meltdown in my apartment. But you adjust. It’s surprising what you can get used to.”

“I’ll take your word for it.”

“Besides,” she said, giving him a deadpan look, “of the two of us, I think you have it worse. I’m just shoveling shit all day. You have to be around Curt.”

Vargas snorted with stifled laughter.

“Seriously, Rae. Why haven’t you quit? I have a family to support. You don’t.”

“Just stubbornness, I guess. If I quit, then Curt wins.”

“But he could fire you at any time!”

She smiled.

“Yes, he could, but he hasn’t. That would be too easy. He wants the satisfaction of knowing he drove me to quit. I won’t give that to him. And besides, the subways still need me – no matter how hard Curt tries to make me feel useless. Aren’t you glad I’m here now?”

Vargas acknowledged this with a nod.

“Good point. By the way, was it true what you said about Anton Aerospace trying to recruit you?”

“Yep, that’s true.”

“And you didn’t take the offer? You’d rather stay here and clean up bat crap than be rolling in cash? You’re nuts, Rae.”

“It’s not that simple,” she said. “Will Anton and I used to date. We have a history.”

“Ah, I begin to see. So there’s bad blood between you two?”

“Yes, but there’s more to it than that. This is going to sound crazy, but some of my friends went to work for him, and they’ve vanished. Like, dropped off the map, no message, no forwarding address. Something weird is going on, and it creeps me out. I wouldn’t work there for all the money in the world until I’ve gotten some answers. What I think might be happening is—”

There was a sudden, violent screech of metal, followed a split-second later by a cataclysmic crash – less a noise than a wall of sound, filling the world. The tunnel floor trembled under their feet. A hot, oily gale of air swept over them.

Rae and Vargas looked at each other. They began to run.

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