The Rat wasn’t easy to find, not in this city. He would used the underground to move around and if the law happened to take the search below he would take to the roofs. There was always a way for the Rat to escape, especially when he felt the ship beginning to sink. ‘Sinking ship’ was a great way to sum up London in this age, but with the help of people like the Rat, it felt a lot easier.
I was walking towards the alley behind Ben’s Bar, a frequent meeting point between me and the Rat as well as the only one he didn’t spread to the local public in need. The Rat was good for anything that had been made illegal, tobacco and alcohol were easy buys but I was looking for electronic parts. Something that most didn’t see the value in, but with that technology I could create machines that would help a lot of people. The Rat could see that, so I became a prized customer.
“Smith?” I heard him whisper in the alley. There was darkness there, just an echo of a voice. He was smart to do that, because if I wasn’t Smith he would have disappeared in a moment.
“It’s Smithy,” I replied, my response always as it was code for him to know who I was.
To this, the Rat appeared, a short man with a rodent-like face. Large front teeth, sparse whiskers of a beard and a nose that could shelter a small child. Black beads for eyes, but lacking eyebrows. He was the ‘Rat’ in every sense of the word, but he was the saviour for the downtrodden in this time.
“What have you got for me, buddy?” I asked simply.
“Four micro-capacitors, basic plastics, solder and that wire you wanted,” he replied handing me the package that looked to contain baked goods. “It wasn’t hard getting wire of that quality, plenty of it around, but the solder would raise some eyebrows, so don’t get caught with it.”
“I will try not to,” I replied taking the box and handing him the money.
We both walked deeper into the alley and he lit a cigarette. I didn’t ask for one, knowing I didn’t have the money for it, although the smell was intoxicating.
“This world is falling, Smith,” the Rat told me. “I have seen too many people disappear in this district, some of my men as well. It’s getting harder to take some route in this city.”
“The war did a lot of harm to this side of the world,” I replied. “It is going to take some time before we get back on our feet.”
“That’s the thing you don’t understand. No amount of technology will save us. Look at all it has done to this world. People are dying because they can’t afford the technology and it is the only thing that can save them with the new restrictions. The government is killing the poor and the poor are everyone who isn’t in a palace.”
“I still believe there will be a change for the better. There has to be, the resistance can’t have died out just yet.”
“Smith, I was in the resistance and let me tell you, it died a long time ago.”
“What about the generals? The leaders who grew so brave they fought the bobbys in broad daylight?”
“I know of two generals, Clint and Roxy, who are still alive. Alone they are useless and I’ve been around. There is nobody who can bring them together for another resistance.”
The Rat mouthed the cigarette and gave me a shifty look.
“I miss them, you know?” the Rat told me. “There were good people, great people in the resistance, but all it takes is one piece of lead to bring a man down. Clint and Roxy were the strongest, they could take more than one, but their spirits are long since dead for the cause. So take my advice now, work for the safety of your family, not the safety of the world. We lost that battle a long time ago.”
With that, the Rat flicked the cigarette into a puddle and walked off into the shadows. Soon his steps could no longer be heard and I made my way home. It wasn’t a heart-warming conversation, but I still believe that there was hope. I knew so many people who would give their lives if it meant saving London, but they just needed a leader. It could never be me, I can’t even lead a dog to his dinner and that’s exactly what I had to do.
When I returned to my apartment building I stared out at the city. There were always dark clouds and more days of rain than not, but something about this night felt different. It felt like change was beginning to happen and all I needed to do was welcome it. Entering my workshop, I sat down at my desk and continued my tinkering.
I was creating a machine that could destroy all that the government built with a flick of a button, but to the Rat I was building a water purifier that would clean this toxic rain that the government sent. Never had the heart to tell him it was impossible, because this rain had nothing in it we could drink.
The apartment was silent as the metal of screwdriver clicked within the machine, carefully adjusting every bolt knowing that a mistake would be a quick, but at least painless, end to my existence. It was then that I heard the footsteps in the hallway, it was then I turned on my seat in fear as the armoured-enforcer entered my room. His black uniform and red eyes only promised me death, but when he removed the helmet I felt a sense of relief and awe.
“Smith?” Roxy asked.
“It’s Smithy,” I replied instinctively.
“We’re going to need your help with this one kid,” she replied. “Get your coat.”
Be sure to follow!