part IV

Roe walked swiftly ahead of the hauler between the glowing ponds, as it grumbled up the main drive leading to the house tucked in the back of the property. She suppressed the emotions swelling behind her tired eyes and had to redouble her efforts, as the darkened, powerless ponds scattered across the farm came into sight.

“Zero--Roe, please, just--” Ari’s voice called out behind her.

Roe did not look back, as Ari jogged up behind her, W0RM gliding at her side. “Look, I understand how--crazy--all of this must be,” Ari continued, but Roe wasn’t listening.

Something up ahead in the farm’s small electrical substation had caught her eye. “What the...” Roe squinted, looking out across the ponds. A figure was hunched in the neon glow where the generator had been until the previous night.

The color drained from her bruised face.

“What--” Ari asked, noticing her sudden pale expression, but, before she could finish, Roe had bolted ahead towards the station with a squawking W0RM darting after her.

Fury flooded over her pallid face, as she sprinted between the ponds shouting, “Hey! Hey!” But the figure didn’t move or give any indication that it had heard her at all.

Her feet pounded against the dirt, as she fought through the aches and pains burning through her bruised body. She passed the last pond before the substation, yelling, “Hey!” once more, before breathlessly sliding to a hault across the gravel behind the figure. “What the hell do you--”

But she stopped, completely thrown, as, one by one, the darkened ponds across the farm began to light up.

The hunched figure stood up with a groan and nearly jumped, as the silver-haired man turned to find Roe standing open-mouthed behind him. There was a worn yet handsome quality behind the lines age had etched in his face, and, after a split-second, he chucked and sighed in relief. “Whew, scared me there. I thought I heard someone calling, but I thought it was Bell calling from the house.”

At that moment, W0RM landed on Roe’s shoulder and brattled at the man. “Ah,” he said with a note of realization, looking between her and W0RM, “So you must be Roe.”

Still thoroughly surprised, Roe said nothing, just staring at the man for a moment before leaning over to look behind him. There sat a purring generator bolted to the very spot the stolen one had rested less than 24 hours ago.

“Uh, oh, yeah,” the man said, turning to follow Roe’s gaze. “It’s an older gen model I had sitting in my shop. Not as efficient as the 355 you had, but it’ll get the job done in the meantime.” He looked out to the fully-lit farm with a grin.

“Who--” Roe began, shaking her head, but was interrupted by a voice behind them.

“Zero?” They turned to find Bell walking up to greet them.

“Hey,” Roe said, tentatively.

The man smiled at Bell, as she joined him by his side. “Just finishing up over here.”

“Great,” Bell said before looking back to Roe. “So,” she smiled, “I see you’ve met Myles.”

Roe looked to the man who grinned then extended his hand, “Well, not properly yet, but, yes, I’m Myles Musa.”

“Oh... oh!” Roe said, the situation finally dawning on her, as they shook. “It’s nice to--nice to meet you.” She gave Bell a tired smile.

Taking note of her weary state, Bell asked, “Are you okay, sweetie?” But before Roe could answer, she glanced over her shoulder, “Who’s that?”

“Hey Doctor--I mean--Bell,” Ari greeted as approached the group, the hauler still crawling up the main path a few ponds behind her.

“Ari?” Bell said, exchanging surprised glances between her and Roe.

“Yeah, I’m about as surprised as you are,” Ari said before extending her hand to Myles. “Hi, I’m Ari.”

Bell looked to Roe perplexed, as Myles introduced himself to Ari, and, after a tired sigh and another glance at the newly installed generator, Roe said, “It’s a long story.”