Friday, March 16th, 2029
The 2020 ZX Hybrid speeds along the emptied streets as if it were gliding across ice. The tires apparently are covered with this new kind of rubber polymorph that absorbs any bumps in the road, making for a nice smooth ride. That helps with the fact that we’re going about ninety miles an hour down the Pulaski Skyway.
We crossed over into New Jersey a few hours ago and we’ve been driving on the Pulaski ever since. It’s not used much anymore since the big earthquake that rocked this place pretty good four years ago. The people just kind of gave up on it, it is much too long for anybody to make on foot. The excess debris and stones would pop the tires of any surviving vehicle that had attempted to cross it. Not the ZX Hybrid, though. These tires that Andy told us about are basically the only thing letting us get through here and best of all we don’t have to worry about traffic.
“Do you think that Gavin and Iris will be okay?” I ask mainly just to ask. I know they know as much as I do, but it’d be nice to hear it from someone else.
Lindsey turns to me and puts her hand on mine. “I’m sure they’ll be okay. However much of a clown he can be at times, Gavin is a smart guy. That and I am sure Iris will keep him in check,” she says.
“He seemed pretty un-clownish back there for a bit,” I say.
Jay turns around and looks at us both, “He’s got a lot on his mind. I mean, we all do in one way or another.”
“I guess,” Lindsey says.
“Yeah,” I say, looking out the window.
“Sarah?” Jay asks.
“My boy…John, could you tell me a bit more about him?”
“I only knew him for a few days, to be quite honest with you.”
“Anything at all is better than what I have currently,” Jay pleads. I look into his eyes, they’re desperate for information on his son.
“Well, he was very…pensive. He was usually thinking pretty deep about things as far as I can tell.”
“He has his father’s mind,” Andy pipes in, looking at me through the rear view mirror.
Jay laughs quietly.
“He was-is…a good guy,” I say, catching myself. Jay turns to look at me again. “He saved both Iris and Me. We were in my car and we slid off of the road. It was this big accident, but he was the one who dragged us both out of the car. We were all scraped up pretty bad, but he managed to find the strength to get us out of there,” I say, thinking back.
I can see him smile and then he turns back around, “Thank you, Sarah.”
I look back out the window and see that we’ve reached the end of the long Skyway. We’ve turned onto the Lincoln Highway. It is once again barren like the Pulaski, but that makes it all the easier for us. I also see that the sun has begun to set, painting the sky a faded orange. The road rolls under us and I watch as the trees pass in large groups. The leaves had started to grow on the trees again. This past winter has been a particularly bad one in my opinion, the snow came in earlier than we’d expected and is taking forever to leave as it is.
“Hey, I’m going to pull into this inn right here for the night, hopefully there are nice beds in there. It’s called The Continental Inn,” Andy says.
“The Continental Inn? I’d heard a bit about that place,” Lindsey begins.
“You have?” I ask.
“Yeah, it’s this really scenic inn that is said to have a really good array of paintings inside. At least, it did,” she explains.
“An inn…known for its paintings…on the highway?” I ask. Andy pulls into the abandoned parking lot of the Continental Inn. The entire building looks alright, not totally run down, but not exactly the cleanest building. Its white base seems to be chipping in some corners, but all in all it is holding up together rather well. There is a large tree out front, its leaves completely fallen for the winter, it is more a skeleton of a tree.
I open my door and step out of the car, stretching as I do. The others join me as a nice breeze blows across our bodies. Not too cold, just nice enough to know we’re outdoors.
“I’d actually been to the place once before,” Jay pipes in.
“You have? Are those paintings as legendary as they seem?” I joke.
Jay begins walking to the inn and right after the rest of us begin walking as well to catch up, “I do remember a bit about them, yes. It’s been such a long time since I went, about twenty three years ago. I wish to see them again,” he says.
“Twenty three?” Andy asks.
“Around there, I believe it was sometime in 2006 or so. It was actually where I took my…my wife for our honeymoon,” Jay says, trailing off.
“Oh, I’m assuming she’s…?” I ask. Jay nods slowly.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
Jay reaches the door and then looks up at the building. He looks back down and grabs for the handle. With a loud creak the wooden door opens up and the orange sunset begins filling the dark hallway with light.
“Her name was Karen…” he begins. “She was the most wonderful person you could ever meet. She just loved life and everything about it. She was the kind of person who would tell you what she felt when she felt it and wasn’t afraid to celebrate the good things in life.”
“She sounds like an amazing person.”
“She was a leader and quite the damn good one,” Jay says.
He walks inside of the inn and I follow right behind him. I catch the door before it shuts fully and hold it open for Andy and Lindsey. “A leader? Was the like, the president of some organization?” I ask, letting them both pass me and then finally entering in myself. The door shuts behind us and the light leaves the room.
“You don’t need to hold office to be a leader. She was a leader because she wasn’t afraid to be one.” Jay replies, moving forward in the darkness on account of his voice growing farther and farther away. I walk faster through the darkness to catch up with them, but find it so difficult because it is pitch black. Finally, the room bursts to light as I see Jay in the back of a large rectangle shaped room near a light switch. “Good to know that this was still in this general proximity. I’ll be honest, I was guessing a little bit,” he says.
“What do you mean, about Karen, I mean?” Lindsey asks.
“She wasn’t afraid to take pride in herself, to claim ownership over her accomplishments. She would help others out when they needed it and she felt good about doing it. She’d always told me that one problem with our society is that doing good was never praised enough, never fully appreciated, which in turn causes people not to do it as often. People are expected to do good deeds without taking ownership in that good. They have to be modest lest they run the risk of being claimed arrogant and cocky. Karen would always say ‘Let good do good and be given good in return.’” Jay says, looking around on the different walls around us.
I follow his gaze as I enter the rectangular shaped room and I see a lot of beautiful paintings hung up on the walls. I recognize a few from artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Van Gogh, but there are also some artists who are foreign to me. Each painting seems to be better than the last and I find myself turning around on my heels to look at every single one of them.
“Wow, that’s really deep, I wish I could have met her,” Andy says.
“Yeah, she was the best. The world could sure use more people like her.”
“Might I ask…how was it that she…that she passed?” I ask.
“She had cancer. It was a tumor in her brain and it spread throughout the last few years of her life. She passed in 2014, but she’d been dealing with it all since 2006.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry.”
“She was given a ninety percent chance of living at the first diagnosis. It started out small, something that had been common in most people that survive. Of course, we were shocked, but we had been hopeful in her odds.”
“And it turned out that she wasn’t so lucky…” Andy says.
“No. No she was not. It was manageable at first. Things went along slowly, but we managed, we adapted, we survived. Then in 2013 the tumor in her brain grew. It grew immensely and she began losing bits of herself nearly every day. Some days she’d forget where she was, or even who I was. I then hand-made her a keepsake to remember me by, so every-time she would look at it she would see me.”
“What’d you make her?”
“It was a watch. It was a one of a kind watch that didn’t exist anywhere else. It came from my own two hands and I even personally engraved our initials into it, J+K.”
“Aw, that’s very sweet of you,” Lindsey says.
“I even built in everything you would need into it, local news, hologram projection, all of that basic stuff, but I also added an extra feature.”
“Extra?” Andy asks.
“I’ve always had problems with my heart and I used to live in Germany before I met Karen and moved here to America. Back in Germany they don’t…or didn’t, use the same kinds of generic pacemakers they use here. Each one is individually unique and given an electronic code on the inside of the machine. I’d known my code mentally for as long as I can remember and each of these codes is magnetically linked to one of earth’s poles for coordination. I fine tuned the watch so it could act like a GPS to that exact code.”
“So, it could locate you wherever you were?”
“Yes. It was synced onto my exact position no matter where I stood, barring magnetic interference.”
This watch he’s talking about sounds familiar, I think I heard something like this before. “Jay, when I first met John he wore a watch and said it was a Pulsar Mark II. Would this happen to be the same watch?” I ask.
“John still has it? That’s…that’s wonderful,” Jay says.
“So it is the same one?” Andy asks.
“Yes, once Karen passed away and I was left with John I had a choice to make. This was when Jack had gone off the deep end and forced us to test our children for a second time, this test being You, John and Sal Muhn’s two children. The one where you and John were the only survivors,” Jay says, looking right at me. “I had a choice to make, so before any further testing could happen and anymore damage done, I had to get my son out of there. I sent him to friends I knew in New York and with him I sent the watch.”
“If John has the watch, do you think that he could use it to find where you are?” Lindsey asks.
A look of sudden surprise crosses Jay’s face. It takes him a full minute to finally react again, “Oh. My. God.”
“What, Jay, tell us what it is?” I ask.
“Stupid! I have been so stupid, if only I’d known he’d kept the watch!” Jay says, pacing around the room.
Andy stops him in his tracks and places both of his arms on Jay’s shoulders.
“Stop, what are you going on about? And in English, please,” he says.
“The watch’s detection doesn’t work just one way, if I could build another receiver like the one in that watch I could find the exact coordinates of that watch’s location.”
“Wow, really?” Lindsey asks.
“Really, that watch is both constantly transmitting and receiving the electronic code that is synced up to my pacemaker. If I can get that receiver, then we can find out exactly where John is and how close we are to him,” he says.
“Jay, that is genius.” Lindsey says, fondling her hands in her pockets.
“It is, but we’ll need to balance it with making the gun to neutralize the Radical-9. Tons to do and so little time to do it in. We’re going to be of no help to John and the rest if we’re all dropping from exhaustion. We need sleep and seeing as this place is abandoned for the time being, I say we take advantage of that,” Andy explains.
“I agree,” I say.
“Let’s go scope out the sleeping situation,” Lindsey says, she takes her hands out of her pockets, there’s a slight hesitation. “It hurts,” her runaway thoughts say.
What? I can actually hear hers? That’s odd, I haven’t been able to hear the thoughts of anybody here. Maybe it’s because the others have Radical-9 in their system and it acts as a sort of deterrent? I nod my head and we check the different doors around the inn. There were four doors in the main rectangular room we were in. Two of them lead to a back room which leads behind the main desk and the other two lead to two single rooms. There’s a small staircase which leads up to the second floor which has seven rooms with king sized beds.
“Well, I guess we don’t have to worry about room sizes being an issue,” Jay says.
“I’ll take the bottom one here on the left,” I say.
“Just a single? You sure?” Lindsey asks.
“Yeah, I’m sure. It’d be more comfortable for me anyway, I sleep-er…slept on a single back at home and it will make it easier for me to adjust to this whole deal,” I say.
“Fair enough,” Andy says.
“I guess I’ll take the first door on the left of the second floor there. Lord knows I can use a good night’s rest on a king sized bed,” Jay says, laughing.
“Andy and I will take one on the second floor as well, most likely the one next to yours then, Jay,” Lindsey says.
“I don’t want to be woken up by any…activity, you two,” Jay says. Lindsey turns beet red and then punches Jay in the arm. “Ow! It was a joke! Jeez…we’ve been in each other’s company for seven years now, you’d think you’d know when I’m joking,” he says.
“Then you should know what to joke about around me,” she says, her face scrunches up. “Especially after what happened,” she thinks.
“Well, I’m exhausted. I’m going to get some rest right now and I suggest that you all do the same,” Andy says.
“Yeah, I was planning on it,” Lindsey agrees.
“I’m going to check some things out first. I’ll see if I can use some of the things left around here to make another receiver. I’m not very hopeful, but who knows? Maybe I’ll get lucky and find some scrap metal and electrical bits,” Jay says.
“Okay, good luck with that, but don’t stay up all night, you’re going to need your energy.” I say.
“I know, I’m only going to search for about an hour or so, not too long.”
“Alright, good night to you both, we’ll be heading upstairs now,” Lindsey says, looking from us to Andy. He nods his head and smiles at me before turning around towards the stairs. I turn around myself and begin walking to the door that I’d chosen. Jay at the same time moves off in his own direction. I open up the door and step inside the dark room. The light from the main lobby spills into the room, revealing a small, delicate bed and a desk beside it, a lamp resting on top. Once turned on I can see that there is a small fireplace on the other side of the room, the innards completely hollow, though. I shut the door behind me and begin unzipping my coat. Memories of my mother come flooding back to me as I toss the coat onto the bed. The memories overcome me and then I’m surrounded by darkness.