My Crack At Being An Adventurer In A Modern World: A Ketten Story
The cool night air stunk of the different cold cut meats wafting from the building where the old man lingered. He watched as the armored shipment truck, resembling more of a tank, departed from the alley next to the meat shop. As always, the truck beelined for the same exit it used twice a week. Joseph was sure the truck was full of not just casual delivery people, but seasoned veteran hunters of the land outside the walls. The most exotic meats from the most disgusting beasts, as Arne, the shop owner would tell him every time he stopped in for a pound or two.
He watched as the cameras perched in each of the four corners of the door scanned the truck thoroughly. Though his boys, who were both guards in the Wall and City Security Protocol Soldiers, signed the mandatory NDA for their employment, they still informed their old man of operations behind the scenes. The technology was complex, but the system was simple, scans down to the bone of everything and everyone inside the vehicle on entry, and compares that image to another one taken on exit. Of course, this was a gross simplification, and it was for the most part understandable to Joseph. His wife, Karina, on the other hand, bathed in the most complex versions of technological and scientific explanations.
She was the leading designer of most of the modern standards, after all. Joseph began to trudge back down the street, but the sound of the door's security siren stopped him in his tracks. A large squad of about fifteen armed and armored men stormed out from the buildings neighboring the door's exit. Shouting ensued. Most times during a false alarm, it was because some adventurer decided to smoke a cigarette or chew gum on the way in, and discard it before leaving. Thus, the scans wouldn't match, and whoever was responsible would be taken into twenty-four-hour custody while they searched the person's belongings and scrub every second of security footage they were present in.
In Joseph's opinion, it was an intrusive system, but it kept everyone who stayed inside the walls safe from anyone who may mean harm, well as long as no one exploited any major flaw. He made his trek back home. It wouldn't take long, the city was big enough to be full of technology and people, but the walks were never too far. Joseph had told his sons that if he were still their age, he'd be able to run from wall to wall in eight minutes tops. Of course, they never believed him until they started running drills around the exterior walls of the city themselves.
It was only then that they realized the city wasn't so big after all. They were all just birds stuck in a halfway decent cage. What was impressive, however, was the architect's and engineer's ability to expand upwards. No matter how tall they built, they always found a way to also extend the sky shield with little to no accidents. Stars painted the night sky, but the electrical dome perched above buzzed with a visible discharge that gave him a headache.
Still, Joseph never stopped trying to steal a glance at the constellations. But this night, an unexpected tone came from his pocket. Joseph pulled out the vibrating device: an ancient phone. A glance at the screen showed the face of the woman who went through all the trouble of making this thing compatible with the city's modern technology. He answered the phone.
"Hey, Kari, what's up?"
"Have you seen Brad or Don?" Her tone was dry, quiet even, not her usual at all. He always expected a warming, "Hello dear," or a tempered, "Ya, ya," followed by a long explanation about how the day was going terribly. For as long as they'd been married, they knew each other's quirks and systems, but in recalling that, Joseph knew that Karina was purposely setting off alarms.
"No, I'm just on my way back from the shop, why do you ask?"
"I can't say much, they'll be checking my phone logs any second. You need to find them, Joe. Anthony too."
"What do you mean? Anthony's at home, he was sleeping before I even left."
A ruckus came from her end of the call, somewhere in the background. It seemed as though she tried to ward off people who barged in on her unannounced. To his knowledge, that'd never happened before due to her position as director of many of the city's projects. Anyone, no matter who they were, had to make an appointment to see her. The commotion happening in her workplace was starting to concern him.
"Kari? Kari! What's going on?" But he received no response from his wife. He tried steading his shaking hand as he listened to the voice of two or three different men and what sounded like rummaging of files and boxes.
Then, the phone was picked up and abruptly hung up, and nothing but a dial tone rang in his ear. Pocketing his phone, he put the hood of his jacket up and stuck to the shadows as security cars began to flood the streets. One after another passed him by as he made his way to the front door of their standalone house. This single-family home stood as a rarity in the city even before his wife paid for the high price tag. Joseph hurried up the stairs and threw the door open, making sure to lock it behind him.
He ducked into the closet under the stairwell, pulling the string dangling in the middle of it, lighting up the small nook. Though it was filled to the brim with boxes, he knew where what he was looking for was, diving onto the cardboard in that direction. Lifting a large backpack from under a couple of the stacked trash bags, he brought it into the hall with him, checking for any holes. Unlatching and flinging the satchel open, he began to fill it with nonperishables he found in the cupboard, making sure to lean a bit heavier on the peaches. After grabbing any supplies he could find within sight, he laid the pack down and started up the stairwell, quickening his pace.