by Jeff Mueller

Chance stretched back in his chair, his feet propped up on the table. Looking out the window he did his best to rationalize putting off the maintenance he needed to do on his motorcycle. Lacing his hands behind his head he looked up into the sunny sky and grinned, maybe a joy ride would be better. Just as he settled into the warmth of his procrastination something bolted past the window, snapping him out of his reverie.

Sitting up, he looked out the window searching for what caught his eye. It took a moment, but he focused in on a child hiding beneath the collapsed remains of the next-door building's fire escape. Chance sat there watching out the window for a few minutes. The child stayed crouched down in the shadows of the structure, occasionally peeking out looking toward the street.

Chance slipped out the backdoor of the Pink Nipple and quietly crept around to the alleyway. Peering out into the street ahead he saw nothing at all. Relaxing, he began to stroll towards the kid's hiding spot. As he drew near he called out, "Hoi there, is everythin--"


The explosion threw Chance back off of his feet. Stunned, he slammed into the pavement. As the dust settled, he caught a glimpse of the kid running off further down the alleyway. Sitting up, he coughed, wiping the now present blood from his upper lip. Standing up, he steadied himself as a wave of pain washed through his head. Man that hurt... he thought to himself as he took of down the alley after the kid. As he rounded the corner he saw the kid's foot disappear into a derelict building.

This is probably going to hurt, Chance sighed to himself as he peeked his head into the doorway. He squinted slightly, bracing for the impact that never came. Taking a breath he took a moment to let his eyes get accustomed to the lack of light. Looking around all he saw was the rubbish left from years of emptiness. Then he heard a noise from above. Looking to his right he noticed the broken down staircase leading up, walking slowly towards the stairs he spoke out. "You gave me a little bit of a scare there kid."

No response.

He tentatively started up the stairs slowly, "You know, I was just coming out to see if everything was alright."

Still nothing.

"You looked like you were hiding from someone. I just wanted to make sure everything was okay," he called out as he came to the first landing.

"Look, all I was going to do was offer you a place to relax and a hot meal." He continued up the stairs. "No funny stuff. Honest." As he came to the top of the stairs he looked down the hallway and waited for a minute. Slowly a hand appeared on one of the doorjambs down the hall, followed by the face of a very scared boy.

Chance grinned as he watched the boy wolf down his second bowl of stew. "So what's your name?"

Looking up from his meal he mumbled, "Aaron."

Leaning his chair back, he let Aaron finish his food in silence. When he was finished, Chance took the bowl from him and dropped it into the sink. "So Aaron, how old are you?"

"I'm 12—why?"

"No reason, just being curious" Chance replied, flashing him a smile. "It 's just not the nicest part of the Zone for a 12 year old to be hanging around."

Aaron took a swallow of water from his glass and shrugged, "I was hiding, that's all." Chance leaned forward slightly and raised an eyebrow inquisitively. Wiping his mouth on his sleeve, the boy continued. "It's just this Whiz gang that's been bothering me—ever since that crazy Teek went off."

Chance sat there, a look of confusion on his face. "What am I missing here?"

Lowering his eyes slightly, the boy explained. "Ever since that day, I have been getting headaches. Sometimes things blow-up when I get scared or madů" looking up he continued "I got mad at one of their members. Know what I mean?"

Grinning, Chance reached out and tussled the boy's hair. "Don't worry, we 'll take care of that."

Walking down the stairs, Chance heard giggling from the lounge area. Poking his head around the corner, he grinned at what he saw. Two of the girls were wrestling around with Aaron, laughing up a storm. Tying the bottom strap of his holster to his leg, Chance grinned at the scene before him. Realizing that Aaron would be in good hands for quite sometime Chance made his way out the door quitely.

"Time to find me a Whiz-gang," he sighed to himself.

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