Icarus thought long and hard about an alternate plan if the janitor-man didn’t show. It would need to be Beckett to take the reigns; the one who had knowingly, or unknowingly, subjected himself to the possible suspicion and suspension that may come along with all this. Maybe all of the above were in his future already. But no, the janitor must come. There would be no other way to fight this from the inside. He knew the barricades they were building in the streets would be useless by the time the first harvester was turned against them. Icarus was certain they would be utilized. He was aware of an underground group who had reverse engineered PD blast guns, but the group was small, and still…the harvesters.
Icarus sat on the edge of his bed on Harrick street. Part of him didn’t want the janitor to show. They had chosen a while ago that it would be he to go through. The perbitor opened two doors, one of time, and one of space. After activating it the city would be gone, but he would be left in its footprint, possibly decades later. How many years it would take for him to transfer was unknown. Some speculated only a few short months, while others said it could be millennia. The idea of coming out the other side after all humans had been wiped from the Earth was paralyzing. And more over, if the resistance were to somehow prevent the pushing out of those who wanted to stay, he would be surrounded by people who wanted to be out there; their lives blowing through the wind like the sand they stood on.
Hours and days were spent by the three of them—Icarus, Oona, and Anya—arguing about whether or not it was even worth going through with their plan. Would it even make a difference? was a common question. A perfectly acceptable nihilistic mindset in these times. But regardless, if it would make a difference or not didn’t matter, it was the principle behind it. They felt responsible to try their damnedest to cure some ailment no one else had the means to fix. The One Who Escaped knew of just the thing that could save them all: The perbitor.
Though it was Icarus who had knowledge of the tool to save them all, it was Anya and Oona who were the ones to plant the thoughts into his head. He was, up until that point, perfectly happy with living out the rest of his days down here, letting the world fall to pieces above. It was peaceful, the cloak dampened most of the outside noise, and he had all the time to do what he wanted. But meeting those two women changed everything.
What had brought the three of them together was a fond memory of hard times. It started when Icarus had finally sealed himself off at 25 Harrick street. It had finally sunk in that he may very well have to spend the rest of his days in a cell he constructed himself. Icarus had left them for a more novel life, but only when he knew he had enough time to run away and set up his new home before being found out he had left in the first place.
He had planned his escape from headquarters for months. That is at least how it felt—an escape. But the hardest part was picking the right time to, out of the blue, not show up for work the next day. Or the next. Or the one after that.
He knew what he needed first was a cloaking device, and maybe just as importantly, a foodbin. Both he obtained from the research laboratory by fabricating a document of review from the higher-ups. The look of sheer terror that washed over the face of the laboratory technician as Icarus handed over the documents for them to sign over a working prototype left him feeling weak in the gut. It was the foodbin he had obtained first in this way. While waiting the months before asking them for the cloaking device, everyday became a web of lies, and skin-tight, nervous apprehension that someone had figured him out. A loss of years, Icarus thinks. Every sideways glance or call for one on one communication from his cohorts was a moment of sheer panic. But he had to wait. He needed there to be no suspicion, especially since he would be handed over one of the most heavily protected and coveted tools ever created by man. The day he received it—using the same strategy as with the foodbin—was the day he never came back.
During those months of wait between he gathered together a bed, two chairs, a table, and books—easy to get, but hard to transport. This also included his carrier, given to him by his father while on his deathbed, buried in a nondescript weather garden some fifty miles west, where life seemed stagnant and worn. Though Icarus had long retired from carrying, it was something he could never part with.
Harrick street was easy to spot if you were looking for something hard to find. When Icarus had first turned the corner to walk down Harrick street, an overwhelming sense of calm flooded his ears. The street was littered with doors leading to basements where bots should have been tirelessly clanking their joints and pushing colored buttons. But in this alley there were no such sounds. Icarus stepped through hesitantly as if he would set off an alarm if he proceeded too fast, or the crunch of the pebbles underneath his feet were too loud. A latch built into the ground, like the kind you used to see bleeding pillows of white flour, had its doors wide open. Icarus, half expecting to see a group of savage men ripping the limbs from a bots bodies down below, wiggled his own through until he could see partially inside.
The lights were off.
“Hello!” he shouted feebly. Only his echo replied.
The bottom step came quick, and he instinctively reached to his right for a switch. It flipped on from his momentum. He was right about the bots. They had all been discontinued, is what people like to say. Their bodies lay contorted on the ground, or slumped over a set of panels. Something had shut them off. The rarity of finding something like this was unheard of. He checked the rest of the room for any other doors that may lead to the building above, but there were none he could find.
He removed the doors to the basement he came through, and a cloaking device was set up in a matter of minutes. Icarus took the next few weeks to very slowly gather the rest of his things, and clear out what was left inside. It was easy enough to get rid of the bots in the incinerator. But he made special sure to double-check the control panels to salvage any parts he figured could be useful later.
It was hard not to feel trapped. He could come and go only at night, and only then when he was sure there was no light from the moon—it was this he feared the most. Every second the moon is moving away from Earth, while slowly stopping our planet’s spin. Nothing was more directly powerful to him than that.
After a month of getting everything in order, he sat in the middle of his room on his one of two chairs, took a deep breath, and opened a book.
He was not but four sentences in when a women came crashing down through the cloaked doors. His immediate reaction was to reach for his PD issued blaster and incinerate her on the spot. But as he watched the lady scramble to her feet, and to her senses, a sudden worry that she may be injured replaced it, so instead jumped up to assist her. Her mismatched shoes and sloppy haircut made her seem all that much less harmful. It was Oona. She stared at Icarus with a wide-eyed anticipation, bracing to get clobbered, or worse, raped. But she saw his gentle eyes; creased from time, look reverently down at her. She pulled away.
“Are you okay?” Icarus said, caring not that his hideout was discovered so quickly (He would need to set up a mental diversion at the end of the block to deter people from wanting to walk down). He could tell she was in trouble. The kind of trouble only those who lived on the ground could get into.
At first Oona didn’t dare answer. She only looked around. It seemed to Icarus that her legs were going to give out.
“What the hell is this place?” she asked.
But before Icarus could answer he heard a cry from above. He cringed at anyone bringing more attention to his spot.
“Who’s that?” he snapped, pointing up.
“My friend. She’s looking for me.”
“Get her to shut up, and get her down here, quick!”
Why in god’s name would she ever pull her friend down into a strange, old man’s literal hole in the ground? A pervert’s den for all she knew, riddled with rotted women’s corpses, shoved into the small spaces behind the walls. But there was something about his eyes. She could tell he was harmless.
Unsure of how is was she was meant to leave, she tried speaking: “How…” The cloaking device made it such that the three stairs leading out looked to end where the bottom of the sidewalk begun.
“Just walk through and get her down here! Please! I can’t have any more attention drawn here.”
She walked up to the steps like a scared dog, reaching her hand up to a depiction of metal trapdoor.
“Go on.” Icarus shooed her out.
She felt the cloak wash a cool-liquid air over her face and down the back of her neck.
She was halfway down the block, frantically looking for where Oona had gone.
Anya looked over and almost passed out. Oona noticed what was happening and pushed the rest of her body through: A disembodied head talking your name couldn’t be a pleasant sight.
“C’mon, I found us a hiding spot!”
Anya mouthed the words what the fuck, and ran over to with her bag full, dangling from her shoulder.
Oona had to push Anya onto the steps to get her to go down.
“Just close your eyes!’” Oona said as she pushed Anya through the trapdoors.
There was Icarus, standing tall with his cane, looking feeble and hesitant about what he had done: Invited in the first two strangers that came across this place.
He stood in front of them, trying to look as stern as he was able. “Now you tell me what kind of trouble you girls are in, and you tell me now! After you feel as though you are safe, you will leave here and never talk of this to anyone. Is that understood?”
“Sure,” Oona said rubbing her arm.
A slight ripple, like behind glass; so very difficult to place where she’d seen something like it before.
“Oona,” Anya whispered, “What the fuck is this place?”
Oona was already off, slowly circling the perimeter, careful not to turn her back.
“Uhh…Oona,” Anya said nervously, darting eyes from the old man Icarus to Oona, and back again.
Icarus laughed nervously, feeling more exposed than he’d expected to.
“Now please,” his hands flapped, “we can all just relax, can’t we?”
Tensions met and collapsed over the floors center.
“P-please don’t touch that,” Icarus said rushing over to Oona who was running her hands over his maps on the table.
Oona backed off and looked over at Anya still standing like a deer caught in headlights.
“So what kind of trouble are you two in?” he said straightening out the edges and creases in the maps. “Usually it wouldn’t be any of my business, of course. But seeing as though you’ve found out about this place, it may now be of my concern.”
Anya clutched at the strap of her bag.
“I could ask you the same thing, old man.”
“Seems like we aren’t the only ones who need hiding.”
“True, very true. I’m assuming it’s got to do with whatever’s in that bag though?” He pointed a long finger towards Anya.
“Maybe you’re right. But you’re gonna have a hard time getting through me.” Oona was back by her side.
Icarus laughed. “Oh child, I am in no way interested in what’s in that bag, believe me. Everything I need is right here.” He motioned around the room.
“You see Anya, nothing to worry about.”
Anya was too busy trying to wrap her head around how she had just walked through a trapdoor to respond.
“But I have to know, just for my own peace of mind. What do you have in there? Something of value I assume?”
“Value is relative,” Anya spoke out, reaching her hand up the stairs and towards the door.
“Fair enough,” Icarus said, taking a seat, a little more at ease.
“If you’ve really gotta know…” Anya rips the bag off her shoulder and tore it open to exposed dirty pants and a pair of old combat boots.
“Ah,” Icarus said, very uninterested. Anya zipped it back up in a hurry.
“I guess you are wondering about my cloaking device.”
Oona’s eyes lit up.
“I heard they existed, but I never walked through one before.”
“Imagine walking through one without even knowing you were.”
“What the hell do you think just happened to me?”
“Well sure, I know, but I mean…”
Icarus enjoyed their youthful bickering, and found it comforting to be around other people after all. Only when he stopped feeling it did he realized how lonely he had been. It was inevitable now, Icarus would share the truth of why he had trapped himself down here, only time was stopping him.
The women listened with wild fascination when he finally did talk. He knew things. They began to look at him as a hero. He told them about the administration, the aliens on course to destroy the city, the administration’s plan to kick out almost one third of the entire city’s population, and finally, to cloak the entire city so they could hide from the threat in peace.
Icarus came to realize that the same things could be known whether you are at the very top, or the very bottom, and so they began to devise a plan. They were going to save the city.