Safety Nation Chapter 10

If you’d been thinking the plot of Safety Nation was a little scattered, I wouldn’t blame you for it. The entire first arc serves to set up the world and the main characters. It isn’t really until this point, Chapter 10, where things start to move forward at a brisker pace, and with the pieces starting to move together. This chapter is the jumping off point for the rest of the main storyline. And, I’ve only got a couple more chapters remaining to share with you, so I hope I’ll leave you wanting more, and you’ll buy a copy of the book.

In case you have missed the chapters so far, here are links to them:

Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4

Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8

Chapter 9


Cover Art

As always, the chapter below, and entire novel, are copyrighted.

— — —

Safety Nation by Logan Riley


I lumbered out to the parking lot. Lowry was nowhere in sight. I stood beside my car with one arm slung across the roof, and watched stragglers trickle out of the Central Office. Most had already left for the day, on time, as there was no reward for extra work.

On the far side of the lot, a larger group of agents were filing into the building. The night crew. Their faces were far less enthusiastic than the ones who were going home.

After a good thirty minutes of waiting, I decided I wasn’t going to see Lowry. She must have slipped out before Zamyatan and I had finished our work. Now the only thing I had to look forward to was a night with my demon-dog and troll-wife.

I got in my car and punched in the coordinates for the diner I frequented. I ate alone, slowly chewing a bland piece of meat.

Once I finished choking down dinner, I trudged back to my car. I sat inside for a long time, the engine off. I watched the sun drop below the horizon. The sky turned fiery orange, then dusky purple, then dark black. Fluorescent lights continued to burn over every inch of the city. For the streets and sidewalks, it was always the middle of the day.

I started the engine. The electric motor whirred to life. I input a new set of coordinates. The vehicle maneuvered out of the parking lot and into the street, carefully minding all traffic laws.

Before me stood a solid brick building with an affixed sign reading, “Clothing Incorporated.” The windows were dark. I walked toward the dormant factory, looking side to side, making certain no one was watching.

The front door was locked. I stepped off the sidewalk and walked to the right, alongside the building. When I reached what I thought was the manager’s office window, I attempted to open it. It was locked, too. I headed to the rear of the building, trying, and failing, to open every door or window I encountered.

The back door didn’t budge. I would have been inside already if I had my multi-tool. I would have to take a different approach. There was a long vertical window, at ground level, just to the right of the back door. I took off my hat and pressed it to the glass. I punched the hat as hard as I could.

I reeled back, clutching my hand as it throbbed with pain. The window, meanwhile, stood proudly, undamaged by my feeble attempt to break it.

With my hand still aching, I searched the ground for something to use. It was easy thanks to the bright lights that perpetually shined. Between the seams of the faux grass, I pried a hefty rock out of the ground. I faced the window and chucked the rock like a shot-put.

The rock passed through the glass like it wasn’t even there. A dog began barking nearby. No doubt someone had heard that. I scrambled through the shattered window, stumbling inside.

I was in the factory now. The machines were eerie, shadowy hulks, devoid of life. I walked across the factory floor, headed for the manager’s office. His office had caught my eye when I was last there. The items it contained were from another time. With his position and salary, he couldn’t afford to be an antique collector.

After the manager’s arrest, no agents bothered to search his office. It wasn’t part of the routine procedure. Typically, offenders were caught in the act and prosecuted based on agent reports. There was little need for further investigation.

The wire cage fan on his desk was made of stainless steel. Its power cord stretched to some kind of homemade battery. I squatted down to get a better look at it. The rubber in the cord was frayed. It would shock anyone unlucky enough to touch it. The battery was necessary because an old device like this wasn’t compatible with the electromagnetic field. Why would someone risk owning such a blatant piece of contraband?

I rummaged through the manager’s desk. It was filled with all sorts of ancient stuff: pens, gadgets, snack foods, and other miscellaneous items.

I opened a large filing cabinet and found something even more wondrous. It was a mechanical instrument, like something out of a science fiction story. It was similar in design to the terminals we used at work, except it didn’t have a screen. It was a fat box with a keyboard, and a long black cylinder in the back. I slowly pushed down one of the keys, feeling a weighty resistance. As I did, a thin metal rod levered upward. I pushed it harder and the rod clacked against the cylinder. I smirked, amazed.

I walked back to my car, marveling at the manager’s contraband. I wondered if Karp had been hiding any contraband with how strangely he had acted earlier. My instincts had panned out so far, so I thought I’d test them again.

Karp’s house was on the other side of the city. It took nearly an hour to get there. He hadn’t locked the front door when we picked him up, so entering posed no problem.

The inside of the house was clean. The kitchen was sparse save for a few bananas that had turned black with age. I opened the refrigerator but found nothing enticing inside. The living room’s furniture was threadbare. Even so, it was nicer than the stuff in my house. There was no artwork on the walls, and there was no TV. Karp had been living a rather Spartan lifestyle.

Just before I entered the bedroom, I heard a noise. I stopped and listened.




It had probably been my imagination.

The bedroom was tidy. He had a twin-size bed with a single nightstand and a small lamp. This room was as plainly decorated as the rest of the house. Karp either didn’t spend a lot of time here, or he didn’t need a lot of material objects to be happy.

A quick look in the adjoining bathroom revealed nothing. I went back into the master bedroom. I moved toward the closed closet and stopped. I decided against it. There would be no point. His clothes would be just as uninteresting as the rest of the house.

I turned away and faced the portal between bedroom and living room. My hands were slack at my sides. I had hoped to uncover something extraordinary, but there was nothing here. Karp’s only vice seemed to have been hot coffee. Too bad, because I had been in the mood for something excit–

My vision flashed bright white. The back of my head erupted like thunder. My balance was gone. I careened to the floor. For the second time today, my face hit the ground. Pain, so much pain. Footsteps thumped around me.

“Uuunnnhhh, hey,” I slurred, raising my head.

Two men raced out of the room. Their backs were to me as they flew down the hallway. They disappeared. The front door slammed shut.

Slowly, I gathered myself from the floor. I rubbed the back of my head until the throbbing abated. I saw the closet doors were open. The clothes were pushed off to one side. Karp must have had something, and whoever those guys were, they had come for it.

I swiped my palms around the inner walls of the closet. I banged hard at a couple of places. I searched every inch, slowly making my way to the floor. After another bang, a floor panel bounced. I dug under it with my fingers and pried it open. The slot was just wide enough for a person to fit through. It was dark beneath.

I went in, feet first, slowly lowering myself, and groping blindly for the floor. I slithered in, my paunch barely scraping by. Down and down I went.

My feet hit dirt. It was completely dark except for the shaft of light that came in from the closet above. After a few seconds, my eyes adjusted to the darkness. There was something hanging just before me, a thin chain. I pulled it. With a click, a naked light bulb brightened.

The dugout was approximately twenty square feet in size. The height was about five feet, and I had to hunch forward. The walls and floor were dirt. The ceiling was the foundation of the house. Karp must have excavated this room. It would have taken years.

I looked around, my stomach fluttering with excitement. If those two goons hadn’t attacked me, I never would have found this. I walked back and forth, taking in everything.

Shelves lined the dirt walls. Each shelf was carved out of soil with a thin piece of wood added for support. There were scraps of plastic wrapping and cardboard littering the shelves and floor. Whatever had been stored here previously was gone now.

As I made a final survey, my eye caught something. One of the shelves held a cardboard box. Part of the dirt shelf had given way, and soil partially obscured the box. Greedily, I pulled it away and ripped it open with my hands.

Inside, I found a dozen more boxes, colored blue and white. I lifted one out and read the label. They were boxes of salt. A single box was a ration for a family of four for an entire year. Karp had been storing contraband underneath his house.

And now it was mine.

— — —

To be continued!

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December 2016


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