Re: Ascension – A Community Development

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This passage was co-authored by myself and Herr D.

As soon as Terrence Anders put away his pad and pen, it became apparent that they group wouldn’t be leaving quite so soon after all. Squabbles had broken out between this survivor and that, with no clear consensus. Should they stay or should they go? So, thinking this as good a time as any, he decided to light up one last cigarette for the road. If those abominations at the street level, or the threat of a wall of ocean drowning them out weren’t going to kill them, second hand smoking probably would. He decided to take his chances. I chill came across his shoulders as he surveyed the room from behind his veil of nicotine. It was getting cold down here. His blood-stained business shirt did little to warm him, physically or mentally. Never the less, he pulled it tighter. He had been trying to make assessments of each of those sharing his experience down here in the blood vessels of Hong Kong city. There was the street urchin who had arrived in the last hour, quite an entrance indeed, he had somehow managed to bring with him a detached arm of one of the soldiers, and his upper torso armour and helmet. How a boy of that size had managed to carry that here, who knows? But, Terrence thought to himself, knowing is half the battle, and if we’re able to analyse what exactly these things are, it could give us an edge. His last smoke had burned to its butt. It was going to be a long night.

The entire night had passed before the decision came for them to move. Terrence had found little sleep, few else did, but he filled this time trying to actually talk to the others in the group. No more sitting in the corner alone, feeling glum. Thinking of the girl he left behind. Time to be social. His effort proved reasonably fruitful. Everyone had something to offer, and everyone seemed to be trustworthy, even the Triad. What’s more, nearly all of the survivors seemed to exhibit some form of special talent, like this was the official Party Trick Convention of 2013. They each dealt with this in their own way. He was still trying to come to terms with his own. Whatever the case, he felt comfortable, considering the circumstances.

No more cigarettes, Terrence habitually twirled his pen between his fingers, as his attention turned that one woman, sitting across from him, who he just couldn’t sum up. The one named ‘Gina.’ As if she knew his thoughts, he noticed the mysterious woman was staring right back at him.
“I need your help” she spoke suddenly, with perfect diction and controlled words, like she had been planning for this conversation her whole life. “I am making-a list. Someone here will die, soon, if you don’t prevent it. I can’t do it alone.”
“A list?” He breathed. “I don’t, I don’t understand?”
As if her very actions were whispers, she removed a small diary from her pocket, along a flashlight, which she then ignited, replacing the blue ballpoint pen in his hand with it. “Please, hold the light for me.”
The Triad spoke next. “Ting, deng yixia. Wo xiang ta bu hao de yisi. (Wait a minute, I don’t think she’s quite all there.)”
Terrence, realising the native Cantonese speaker was probably about as good at mandarin as he was, pieced together a response. “Mei guanxi, wo yao ting yi ting. (Give her a minute, I want to hear what she says.)” He took the light from her hands, doing his best to hold it steady above the paper as she wrote. Minutes passed, and his ‘smokers shake’ made the beam increasingly unsteady. “Who’s going to die?” he asked, wearily.
“Most of us. This has to be done quickly and right.” She tore the page out and passed it quickly to Terrence. “Wait one moment,” she uttered as she pulled a well-worn and cracked digital watch off of her arm, fiddling with the alarm settings. “When this beeps, be on the left side of the tunnel.” She placed it on his wrist. “Please lead us that way, to the Causeway Bay Station.”
“What happens in,” he paused to look at the dimly illuminated LCD display, “17 minutes?”
“And thirty-one seconds.”
He nods. “Yeah.”
“Those of us who are unhurt and alive will be on the left side of the tunnel.”
“Sounds legit.” It didn’t sound legitimate to him at all, but pushing logic aside, somehow he felt like he could trust her, like he needed to trust her. “Okay, but you lead,” he insisted as he raised the little torch to shine the way.

The tunnel-dwellers decided safety in numbers was the way to go. Not without squabbles, a consensus was reached, and they were off on their way. Nobody had taken a proper head count, a task which Terrence reminded himself he should probably get to. The rumbles above reverberated along the walls of the tunnel, bringing dust and usually small debris down with them.

Five minutes had passed when a large blast above the surface brought several large fragments of the ceiling down, blocking their path back. They were lucky, they knew. If they had not have left when they did, they would have been sealed in. The Triad whispered of a Rat colony back in Wan Chai, which no doubt would have been all over them given the commotion. Perhaps this mysterious woman knew what she was on about. Terrence glanced down at the watch. It had been seventeen minutes. Panic struck, how had he forgotten to pay closer attention? A moment before the beep, Gina casually stepped to the left, covering her nose and mouth.
“Get to the left!” Terrence yelled, throwing himself against the damp tunnel wall. A single section of the tunnel ceiling thundered to the ground, centimeters from the group. In all it was less than a quarter ton, containing no other debris except for dust. The woman paused, momentarily before continuing on.
“Rats are coming behind us.” She warned, increasing her pace. The group was dismayed, but followed suit. They each knew that this was not the first indescribable thing to happen since this ordeal began, and likely not the last.
“Well,” Terrence thought, “guess there’s nowhere to go but forward.” He noticed the small urchin boy had not brought the armour with him. A pity, but one to be pondered over later. Terrence sped to a jog to reach the mysterious seer. “Um, Gina, right?”
She nodded.
“How is it you know these things?”
“What things?”
“It’s like you knew that the tunnel would collapse, you knew about the rats, I mean, the Tri..”
“You know the tunnel collapsed,” she interjected, giving him a quizzical look.
“Huh? Well yeah, I mean, it’s happened now.”
“Uh huh.”
Terrence looked back at the group, bemused. The one in the inmates fatigues, Shu Ji was his name, gave him a shrug, before waving at him to keep trying. “But how did you know before it happened?”
“Know what?” She replied whimsically.
“That the tunnel would collapse!”
She suddenly looked alarmed, and spun around to investigate. “The tunnel’s going to collapse? It’s not time for that yet.”
“No, the tunnel’s not going to..” He raised his eyebrows. “Wait, what, you mean it will later?”
She nods, and returns to walking. ”We’re behind schedule,” she whispers, increasing her pace.

Before long, they found themselves at Exit A of the Causeway Bay station. Terrence remembered this exit lead to one of the larger, more bustling malls on Hong Kong Island. It was where he’d found himself on his first day here, four years prior. “No time to dwell on the past now,” he thought to himself. As they crept slowly up the unpowered escalator to avoid detection, the horrors of the outside world became a reality.
“Big mall, big morgue,” whispered one of the American tourists. This was not inaccurate. Bodies lined the promenade, littered around in an almost orderly fashion, as if they were being used to spell out macabre messages to the warship hovering miles above. Being temporarily in the open worked as a filter for the group’s perceptions; getting to cover took priority, forcing them to think objectively, and disregard the bloodshed before their eyes. They tried not to notice the innocent casualties which littered the atrium, but in doing so they too did not register the unusual amount of dead soldiers scattered between them.
“We need to stay out of sight,” Shu Ji insisted, directing the followers to dart one by one up the second escalator into the mall itself.
Second to last to make the run, Terrence noticed that the urchin boy was now wearing the helmet, several sizes to big. Strange, how had he not noticed him carrying it?

Any hesitations on entering a closed off mall proved unnecessary. This once bustling shopping metropolis was a ghost town.
Without a word, the mysterious woman lead them upwards to the ninth floor. Without giving a specific reason, as they passed the Giga-sports store she stopped. “We are here.” She turned to gaze at Terrence. “Terrence has a list of my instructions. You must remain here and follow them precisely. Questions rose from the group.
“It is the only way you will survive. I must go, but I will return.”
“Maybe I should come with you, it’s not smart to go out there alone,” Shu Ji suggested.
“If you follow me now, you will die.” And with that, she spun on her heels and disappeared out the door.
Terrence removed the scrap of paper from his pocket. It read:

“Take all 18k gold and all silver from jewellery counter next door. You’ll find more around neck of the dead woman caught in the elevator between the 2nd and 3rd floor.
In the basement food court you will find some vegetable oil.
Next, go to level two and find:
One large aluminium pot
Wax paper
A tablecloth
Several potholders
On level three:
One case of masking tape from office supply
The Tiffany chandelier off ceiling of design store
Ladders, dustpans, hammers, tongs, and other tools can be found in a maintenance closet beside the restrooms on this floor.
Next, you will need to melt the jewellery in the aluminium pot. Don’t melt the pot. The Triad will supply the fire.
Lay out the wax paper. Crumble the broken colored glass from chandelier into the molten metal.
Remove clusters of metal-coated glass with the tongs and place on wax paper. About the size of a grape.
The paper and the floor will char, and the pot will scratch. This is okay.
Wave smoke into vents. AC is not working. That is okay.
Make balls of masking tape. Fist-sized. Wait until after dusk.
Go to roof. Point the Westernmost satellite dish due east. Stick tape balls all over surface of the dish. Use tongs and pliers to stick cooled balls of metal and glass to tape balls. Coat the antenna on the dish with vegetable oil.
Go to level 5 immediately upon completion. None must linger on any floor above.”

“Well, who’s keen for a little shopping?” Terrence joked.

From an electronics store a floor above, Rick Henare watched with his one good eye. His one human eye. Dried blood and the ooze of cooled solder coated the right of his face, where the ‘aug’ used to be, from where they used to see. He should have been in incredible pain, but he’d learned how to tune out, how to suppress. Somalia, yes, that was when he’d realised the pain suppressants were not only for physical anguish. But he no longer needed them, he didn’t need anything from Ascension. Not anymore. His new arms and his new legs still seemed to function, and his tracer beacon was safely soaking in the deep fryer at the KFC two blocks away. The stolen trench-coat from Zara a few floors down was merely for the aesthetic. He would be incognito, for now.

Those whom he watched were clearly organised. They could be a threat, perhaps more so than the squads being sent after him. Those that lay jumbled ten floors below. Perhaps an introduction was in order.