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Lj Idol Exhibit A - Week 5 - Breaking News

Breaking News

“This is Hettie Mason and Bill Baxter with Station 41 breaking news.  North American Federation officials report that the Guardian gas has been successfully released.  It is imperative that you maintain your Masque and remain indoors.  Guardian is anticipated to dissipate from the atmosphere in 48 hours, however officials are recommending that all citizens remain indoors until an official release has been issued.”


Gabby and Milton were comfortable but alert in their underground lair.  They had enough supplies stockpiled and they could stretch them a few weeks with careful rationing.  The lair was difficult to find and they had added protection from the crude security measures they had been careful to maintain.  They had each eaten their rationed amount of food for the evening and were hunkered down waiting for the midnight release of Guardian.  Neither child had a time piece, but it had been dark for a while and they knew the time was close.

Milton had drifted off to sleep, his head leaning against Gabby’s shoulder.  Gabby was quickly losing the battle with her heavy eyelids.  The banging didn’t quite register in her almost dreamlike state until it got louder and seemingly closer.

“Milton,” she whispered.  “Wake up!  Did you hear it?”

“Mhmph.  What?” Milton rubbed the sleep from his eyes as the banging noise came again.  He looked at Gabby, his eyes growing wide.

“We got to check it out,” Gabby said and rose from the floor.

“Take the pipes.  We need protection.”


The banging grew more insistent as they reached the main ballroom where they had patched an old window with a wood board.  Milton scrambled up the wall to a pinpoint hole and peeked out at who was there.

Scrambling back down he told Gabby, “It’s just a bunch of kids.  About four.   Not a gang.  Singlies like us.”

“Who is that?!” Gabby called out.  “What do you want?  We got weapons in here and we ain’t afraid to fight.”

“C’mon.  Let us in.  We got nowhere’s else to go,” came a pleading reply.  “The gangs won’t help us, and the citizens topside want us dead too.  We got some supplies.  We can pull our own, just need a place to be.”

Gabby pulled the board and it crashed down.  There were four dirty, rag tag orphans, standing there.  Two appeared to be a few years older than her, the other two somewhere between her and Milton’s age.  She recognized one.  Althea was her name she thought.  Shrugging, she singled her out.  “Whatcha say?” she asked.

“Ain’t got nowhere else,” the girl replied.

“So we’re supposed to pity you and let you follow us ‘round?”

“Please Gabby?  Ain’t got nowhere else.  Six is stronger than two, way I figure.”

“Six is harder than two, way I figure it,” Gabby answered, but she had already decided.  “C’mon,” she waved them in.

“You two,” Milton pointed at the two boys in the group.  “Put the board back.”

Gabby led the group back to the storage room where they had set up their camp and handed each child one of the ancient gas masks she and Milton had found.

“Put ‘em on,” she instructed.  “May help, may not.  Better than nothing.”


“This is Bill Baxter with Station 41 Breaking News.  Hettie is on assignment.  Guardian is being hailed as successful.  Official measurements of areas highly infected with the Plague virus are being given an all clear.  In related news, hospitals and clinics have become overrun by large numbers of casualties and injuries due to defects in inauthentic Masques that were sold illegally.  While there have been no reports of violence NAF Officials are still advising citizens to remain indoors until the threat is assessed.  We go now to Hettie, who is at City General Hospital.  Hettie, what’s it look like out there?”

“Bill, it is mass confusion here at City General.  Doctors and nurses are trying to do all they can, but the vast number of people needing help is astounding.”

“What kind of injuries are people reporting?  Can you describe them?”

“The hospital has released a list of symptoms.  The first signs of Masque failure are dizziness, confusion and disorientation, followed by a burning sensation in the nose, ears and throat.  Facial and neck muscles may become stiff or droopy.  If you can get to a hospital or clinic within 30 minutes of symptom onset, then try.  If not, doctors are advising that you remain inside as increased exposure to Guardian will cause further harm and possibly immediate and painful death.”

Milton woke with a start, his breath coming in gasps.  “Gabby,” he rasped, waking her.

“What is it?” she asked, but she knew.  It was his Masque.  It was failing and the old gas mask they had found had slipped from his face.  It was just too big.  Gabby slid over closer to Milton and frantically pulled on the straps to the outer gas mask, tightening it the best she could.  Only after she was sure it was secure did she glance at the other children they had let into their makeshift camp.  She was sure that two of their chests had stopped their gentle movement up and down.

“Gabby,” her attention was pulled back to Milton, “where’s Mama?” he asked her.

“She had to go.”


“I don’t know, Milton.  I don’t know.” Silent tears rolled down her cheeks.

“Why are the rats still alive?”

“I don’t know.”

“Two of them aren’t though, are they?”

“No.  Two of them died.”

“Guardian made them dead.  It was supposed to help, but it didn’t.  It made them dead.”  Milton rested his head on Gabby’s shoulder as if he was going to sleep.

“Milton!  Wake up!  You can’t go to sleep right now.  You can’t let Guardian make you sleep too,” Gabby said as she pushed his head off her shoulder.

“I’m Bill Baxter.”

“And I’m Hettie Mason with Station 41 News.   NAF officials have given the all clear for residents to leave their homes.  Guardian has fully dissipated.  However, the Health Task Force is advising that Masques stay in place until all clean up procedures are fully complete.  The stench from casualties littering the city is quite strong.”

“Well, Hettie, we knew there would be casualties.  It’s amazing that the Health Task Force has been able to get so much of the clean up underway in such a short time.  Estimates put full clean up to be complete within the next 5 days.”

“It truly is amazing Bill.  Even with the added casualties from those who obtained their Masques illegally.  Reports indicate that up to 250,000 people in this city alone have died because their Masques were obtained on the black market or were not properly fitted by authorized Masque surgeons.”

“They’re coming back to life!” Milton jumped up from his sitting position, eyes wide with fear.  “They’re gonna get us!  We’ve gotta get outta here!”  He started running toward the door and tearing at the metal bars they had slid through the handles.  He was out the door before Gabby could reach him.  Gabby watched, terror clutching her chest as he ran to the end of the corridor, stopped for a moment, looking both ways, and headed for the staircase.

“Milton!  Stop!  Come back!  It’s not safe!” she shouted, but he no longer heard her, confused jumbled thoughts taking over his mind.

He started up the stairs.  Later, Gabby would wonder how time altered so it seemed she watched everything happen in slow motion.

In his confused state, Milton forgot to stay to the right side of the staircase where the steps were sturdier.  Halfway up, his foot slipped.  As Gabby, and now Althea and Yussef - the other boy who had survived - watched, Milton fell through the stairs.  Gabby ran toward the stairs, stopping when she saw Milton’s motionless body, his leg at an unnatural angle.  Yussef stopped beside her, frozen in place.   

Pushing them both aside, Althea took charge, “His leg is broken.  Bad.  We gotta get him back.  We need a way to carry him.”  It was enough to snap Gabby and Yussef into action.  They found a board and gently loaded Milton on.  The three of them half carried, half dragged him back to safety.

“Is he gonna be alright?” Gabby asked as she paced back and forth.

“I’m not sure,” Althea answered as she cleaned Milton’s wounds with some of their precious water.  She bandaged the scratches and bangs he had.  She had already tried to straighten his leg the best she could, but knew she didn’t have the strength or training needed to make it all right.  “We’ll take turns, set up a watch.  He’ll have to be kept as still as possible and his wounds will need to be cleaned.”

“I’ll take first watch,” Gabby volunteered.  “What are we going to do about your friends?” she asked Althea and Yussef.

"I will take them," Yussef replied quietly.  "I knew them the longest, even if it was only a few days.  I will find a place for them."

This is and entry for LJ Idol Exhibit A - Week 5: This is your brain on... [Guardian].  It is a continuation of my "Insignificants" story.  Other parts, if you're interested, can be found here and here.  Concrit is welcome.


( 27 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 20th, 2013 05:04 pm (UTC)
No zombies - not traditional, brain munching ones anyway. I haven't worked out all the details of Guardian's fallout yet so they're plausible enough. I'm really enjoying the freedom of writing in a futuristic universe (it's my first foray into this genre). It opens up so many possibilities.

Thank you for reading and commenting. :)
Feb. 20th, 2013 05:51 pm (UTC)
Good on you for finding a way to work your continuing story with this prompt. I hope these kids make it to safety. They have been through so much!
Feb. 21st, 2013 04:02 am (UTC)
I almost giggled with joy when I read the prompt and knew exactly how well it fit.

I'm rooting for them too.
Feb. 20th, 2013 07:10 pm (UTC)
Those poor kids. It'll be interesting to see how things change from here on out. I liked how you interspersed news reports with the action -- that really helped emphasize everything that was going on. :)
Feb. 21st, 2013 04:03 am (UTC)
I'm glad you think it worked. I wanted to compare/contrast what the kids were experiencing with what was going on above ground.
Feb. 20th, 2013 08:44 pm (UTC)
Interesting, but a bit confusing as a stand-alone. :)

Edit: I went back and read the first two parts, and this is the best of the three.

Edited at 2013-02-20 09:11 pm (UTC)
Feb. 21st, 2013 04:04 am (UTC)
I was a little worried about this one being a stand-alone. I knew I needed to explain somewhat, which is why I used the news reports.

Thank you for reading, and thank you for going back and looking at the others as well. :)
Feb. 20th, 2013 10:25 pm (UTC)
This was fabulous! And terrifying! I hope you continue the story. I want to know more.
Feb. 21st, 2013 04:05 am (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad you like it.
Feb. 20th, 2013 10:47 pm (UTC)
I really, really love this story and these characters.
Feb. 21st, 2013 04:07 am (UTC)
Thank you. I'm glad you like them.
Feb. 21st, 2013 08:16 am (UTC)
This was so intense. I hope Milton is all right. :(
Feb. 23rd, 2013 10:06 pm (UTC)
Thank you.
Feb. 22nd, 2013 01:36 am (UTC)
I really feel for these kids and find this whole world terrifying.
Feb. 23rd, 2013 10:08 pm (UTC)
I'm glad they're sympathetic characters.
Feb. 22nd, 2013 01:57 am (UTC)
I really liked this installment. It's so full of feeling, and alternating the dispassionate news reports with the children's fearful POVs struck such a strong chord.
Feb. 23rd, 2013 10:09 pm (UTC)
I was really hoping the news reports would provide that contrast. Thank you.
Feb. 22nd, 2013 04:13 pm (UTC)
Poor kiddos. The fear and desperation of the situation came through really well in this piece. I'm glad you've been able to continue the story. Interspersing the news reports in between the segments of story was a good way to fill in people who may not have been following, too, I think.
Feb. 23rd, 2013 10:12 pm (UTC)
I'm glad the emotion came through. Those news reports served a double purpose, first to contrast what was going on with the privileged who had the Masque and second to fill in readers who might not have read the previous installments. Glad it worked.
Feb. 23rd, 2013 04:46 am (UTC)
This is awesome! Oh, Hettie and Bill, you are so privileged and clueless. Poor Milton :(
Feb. 23rd, 2013 10:16 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad you picked up on their privilege and cluelessness. That's totally how they were in my head and I'm glad it came through.
Feb. 25th, 2013 07:40 am (UTC)
I like the media reports -- it connects what's happening inside with what's happening outside. And I'm glad they've found more people -- there really is safety in numbers. :)
Feb. 25th, 2013 03:22 pm (UTC)
Thank you. I was hoping to connect the two. They'll slowly start connecting with more people, some safe, others not.

Feb. 25th, 2013 08:35 am (UTC)
I can't decide if the new people are a good or bad thing.
Feb. 25th, 2013 03:25 pm (UTC)
I think (because I haven't written it yet) they'll be good in the long run. There will be some trust issues first, but these four will likely make up the core of the story as it continues.
Feb. 25th, 2013 01:35 pm (UTC)
I liked this one. The interspersed news reports worked well here. It will be interesting to see how things play out after the events in this story.

Also, I think "Bill Baxter" is a great name for a clueless, privileged reporter.
Feb. 25th, 2013 03:32 pm (UTC)
Thank you. I'm glad the news stories worked.

Heh, Bill Baxter and Hettie Mason were a spur of the moment thing and the names just fit. The kids names have some meaning behind them. Gabby and Milton were accidentally relevant (an omen for a good story?), but I put a little thought into Althea and Yussef.
( 27 comments — Leave a comment )


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