CHAPTER ONE

part II

“Zero...” a voice echoed in the dark. “Zero!”

Roe jolted up in the dirt. A panicked silver-haired woman knelt beside her, as W0RM ran circles around the two, clicking in excitement. “Oh thank god,” Bell Redrick exhaled, relief filling her kind eyes.

Roe sat up, reorienting herself, “Grandma...what...ugh.” She groaned, holding her pounding head.

Bell examined the streak of dried blood running into the flaking mask of algae caked over her granddaughter’s olive skin. “Zero, what happened?”

It came back to Roe all at once. The thieves. The fight. The generator. She scrambled to her feet and looked out over the farm. A quarter of the ponds were dark. “No, no no...”

“Zero, wait,” Bell exclaimed.

But Roe had already sprinted into the substation to find the empty base where the generator once rested. She kicked the severed security bolts and spotted the broken pieces of her cloaking disrupters scattered beside them.

Bell jogged up behind her, “Sweetie, slow down.”

Something came to Roe, and she started searching the ground. “Did you see my rifle?”

“What?”

“My rifle,” Roe exclaimed. She quickly scanned the ground, before taking off down the path toward the small house and garage resting between the last row of ponds lining the back of the property.

Roe burst into the cluttered garage. The space was littered with tools, machine parts, piping scraps, and screens that were strewn across multiple workbenches and packed onto tall metal shelves lining the walls. She immediately started tapping and typing on one of the benches’ screens. A schematic of her rifle appeared on the display along with the words “NO SIGNAL.” She sighed in frustration and tapped again. “NO SIGNAL” flashed again. “Dammit!” She slammed her fists on the workbench, knocking a few small things onto the floor. She fell back into a ratty chair, defeated, and sighed, looking over the dried green flakes coating her clothes.

Bell stepped into the shop, W0RM on her shoulder, “Roe?”

W0RM glided across the room and landed in Roe’s lap. She gave him a small smile and a few scratches under his chin. “Hey buddy. Thanks for the assist.” He chirped and fluttered his wings, as Bell walked up behind her and placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. Roe shook her head, frustrated. “I thought I could track them with the rifle, but it must’ve shorted out. I should’ve--“

Bell shushed her, “Come on, sweetie, let’s get you inside.”


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