careful, logical decision-making

It took him two days to make up his mind, and once it was made up he dusted.

The thing of it was, the reason it took two days, these guys were his family and what’s more they were right. He knew they were right, like you know that the earth moves around the sun or that gravity works because of magnets – everybody says so and you look stupid if you doubt it. He was just acting soft, not wanting to admit it. Sid was gone, and once you’re detained you don’t come back.

On the other hand, that gave the rest of the guys no right to act like it meant he’d been erased. By the second day Vitch was being farmed out to the guys on L Street, who ran with a jenny. It was the standard mutually-agreeable deal that Sid had worked out with them ages ago, Vitch’s amping for the jenny’s running extra to power things up at Grand Street, only this time everyone acted like Dog was proposing it for the first time. Vitch stood through the negotiations with narrowed eyes, thrusting his balled fists gradually deeper into his pockets; when he linked into the jenny, the other boy sparked.

On the walk home Vitch’s bristly demeanor was only accented by the staticky fly-aways in his hair. He hung back behind the others, pretending not to listen to suspicious mumblings that sounded like they proposed mergers.

There was no. Fucking. Way.

They had fought hard for their turf, and there was no way Vitch was going to give it over to L Street and spend all his time amping that jenny. Screw that, and screw those guys – he was out. He was going to go find Sid, and even if he fucked that up it would be better to try than to get sold to L Street’s jenny. His mind was made up by the time they reached home, and then it was just a matter of waiting.

He’d dusted out of housing when he was 12, and dusting out of the station was nothing compared to that. But with the lights charged in the underground thanks to the day’s activities, there was no reason not to stay up late; waiting for everyone to fall asleep seemed to take years, with Vitch a constant glowering presence in one corner. He finally deigned to play cards with Freak, who was the only one impossible to implicate, and although it turned out partway through that neither one of them actually knew the rules to crib it did help take up some of the time until beds began to be fallen into.

When everyone was asleep, and Delta had gotten up twice, and Poison had gotten up once because Delta tripped into her on the way back to her own seat, and everything had finally settled down, Vitch got up and started to pack.

He was already wearing a lot of his clothes just to guard against the cold. Even a few spare items left plenty of space free in his scav bag. He added one of Sid’s favorite t-shirts as an afterthought, and crept carefully down through the car to sneak Sid’s cigarettes in, too – they’d somehow found their way into Poison’s things. They had plenty of food after the raid, at least, so he took enough to trade with, made sure the pack was balanced, and tied his blankets rolled-up to the top of it. His crowbar slung across his back in its sheath, the backpack hung over that; their scavved guns, standard LEP pistols a little the worse for wear and painted up for show, were charging at the wallpak, and he slipped the one with the fullest meter into the pocket of his hoodie. He was ready to go.

Only patches of the red emergency lights inside the tunnels still worked, inset ropes of light at foot level broken into hypens by rubble and general disrepair. It was enough guidance for Vitch to find his way to Ency, especially with its name lit up on the sign beside the ladder.

The hatch slid open to an alley on the northern edge of their turf, and clanged itself shut at Vitch’s heels. He whirled at the sound, startled – he was used to running it in manual mode, having to yank it shut himself. Usually when they got L Street to power the underground, they’d switch off all the auxiliaries at the breaker to save the charge. They must have figured they wouldn’t need to do that – probably because, Vitch thought darkly, they could just keep pushing the amp over there forever until the gangs mergered.

Yeah, well, they could go fuck themselves.

He hopped onto the short chain-link fence that marked the northern boundary, scrambled up and over til his feet touched neutral ground. He unknotted the colors still tied around one arm and dropped them, kicked the scrap of yellow bandana into the dust against the bottom of the chain link, turned around to go. They weren’t his colors anymore. He was giving up on Grand Street. He was a solo now.

He came back after half a block and picked it up again, shoving the fabric down into the bottom of his backpack before moving on.

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