Read The Revival Online

Authors: Chris Weitz

Tags: #Juvenile Fiction / Action & Adventure / General, Juvenile Fiction / Action & Adventure / Survival Stories, Juvenile Fiction / Dystopian

The Revival

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For Athena

THE STEADY DRONE OF HELICOPTER blades and military jargon might put me in a meditative frame of mind, if my heart weren't beating louder than any other sound, because New York, beautiful New York, hideous New York, is stretched ahead of us, the thick ribbon of Manhattan joined loosely to the mainland and the nub of Long Island by thin threads of bridge.

Somewhere in those canyons and alleys, I hope, is Jefferson.

The damage is hard to see from up here. We dive down for a lower pass, and Colonel Wakefield talks to me over the headphones.

Wakefield: “It doesn't look too bad. I don't see a problem with Zone A.”

Zone A is Central Park.

Me: “I'm telling you, it's better to go to Randall's Island.” I search my mind for the correct jargon. “Zone C. There's no way of knowing what's going down in the park, I mean Zone A. You could have loonies with bows and arrows hiding out in the bushes. Things get pretty real down there.”

Wakefield: “I think we should just about manage.”

This is the British understatement thing, which is cute and all, but it doesn't fill me with the confidence it's supposed to. I get where he's coming from—these are some major ass-kickers I'm traveling with. SAS stands for Special Air Service, which sounds like they're really great flight attendants or something, but in fact the SAS are the most killer-y of killers selected from the British armed forces, a group already loaded chock-full of working-class guys with attitude problems. People like to think of the Brits as sophisticated and everything, all umbrellas and tea and stuff, but a pint glass smashed into your face at closing time is probably more representative of the population as a whole. The officers are even more scary because they
seem
all genteel but they're every bit as ready-to-eat-bugs-and-jam-their-thumbs-into-your-eyes as the rest.

I look down the line of jump seats and see the Gurkhas. Little smiley guys with big curved knives. By reputation they're the most dangerous of the lot.

Rab catches my eye and holds up three fingers, which means
channel three
. He wants a private moment on a separate channel from the others.

I've been ignoring him so far. But it's getting to be more trouble than it's worth.

Me: “Yeah?”

Rab: “I just want you to know that I agree with you.”

Me: “Well, as we used to say, that and three bucks gets me a ride on the subway.”

Rab: “Getting back into a New York state of mind, I see.”

I'm not really in the mood for banter.

Me: “What do you want?” I can't even say his name.

Rab: “You're thinking about
him
. Jefferson.”

I'm annoyed that he's even bringing this up. Maybe I'm a little ashamed. Maybe he's putting it out there, like,
If we
do
find Jefferson, I'm going to tell him we've been sleeping together, and spoil your little reunion
.

I look over at Rab, the honey trap, the muscley shoulder to cry on. The government informer. The spy. The liar.

Rab: “I'm sorry. They made me do it.”

Me: “Not half as sorry as I am.”
They made me do it.
That's nice.

Rab: “I wanted to tell you. I still—”

I jump back to channel one. No interest in rehashing that stuff. I suppose you have to admire the guy for trying. What does he want? Is there something else he can get out of me? Or does he really want to make amends, to, what, “get back together”? I look away, which takes a little doing, since he's nice to look at. But it's so over.

Poor Donna, deceived by a dude, all alone in a box of bros. Working for the Man.

My mind turns again to the gender politics of this race to secure the nukes. I'm thinking how all up and down the line, the guys running this show, not to mention the Reconstruction Committee, are, you know, guys.

I used to think I was a feminist. I was all,
Girl power!
and stuff. Figured that if I didn't take any shit, that pretty much counted as, like, my contribution to society. But when I look back and examine my actions, I was mostly going with the flow. A lot of the time when I thought I was being awesome and
Equal
? I was just making token resistance, a sort of Aunt Thomasina.

I look around the cabin, full of broken noses and swollen knuckles, and I think,
Maybe men and women are individual, but symbiotic, species?
I mean, what if back in the primordial soup, before sexual reproduction, everything was just fine and then that Y chromosome snuck in and made half the population brutal and slutty?

But how to even up the score? How to be a real feminist, post-apocalyptically speaking?

The chopper makes a hard right toward Central Park, the cabin tilting, the squaddie next to me practically crushing me. “Sorry, miss,” he says, but he cops a feel as he slides back down the bench.

For the past few years of my life, this has been the deal—a lot of people with dicks and guns doing whatever they like.

Life back at Washington Square, our tribe's home, had been, again theoretically, more fair. I mean, there's nothing like the end of civilization for a reboot of society. But even there, it was a bro running the show. I loved Washington as much as anybody else. But still. Sometimes I think a girl like me might have run things better, nome sane?

The helicopter backs and hovers, whipping up dirt and chaff from the ground through the cold air, and the SAS guys give their kit one last check, all their nylon war-fetish gear, their matte-black knives and carabiners and nylon loops and snub automatics.

Maybe this is how it works. Maybe the road to equality is not paved with good intentions and laid on a foundation of law and gradual social change. Maybe it's seized at gunpoint.

The helicopter sets down as light as can be, the rotors flattening the tall brown grass outward into an undulating crop circle. Out pour the commandos, ten from each of the two troop choppers, plus myself, my gigantic minder, Titch, and my lying-sack-of-shit ex-briefly-boyfriend, Rab. A third helicopter, a giant number with two rotors, disgorges its cargo like big rectangular poops and heads back to the east, where the carrier group is waiting in the Long Island Sound.

The moon is only a semicircular gouge of light, so the world is dark gray, with the lumps of granite and shaggy outlines of trees giving way to blocky rectangles of apartment buildings shouldering over the park walls in the distance.

I know who lives there.

Uptown.

The helicopter has given away the game. By now everybody above Fifty-Ninth Street has probably seen us and realized that, contrary to what they thought, the rest of the world is not mired in a post-apocalyptic goatfuck like they are. I can't imagine they're taking it in stride. They will be awakening, with a jolt, from a nightmare into a world of infinite possibilities.

Sheep Meadow is even more sketch than it was the last time I was here. Overgrown and stuck in winter, it looks like the landscape equivalent of a drug-addicted drifter who hasn't showered in a month.

Last time—those were the days! Jefferson and I were young and infected and Not Dead Yet, trekking north, stalked by Uptowners and polar bears. Aiming to save the world, or at least ourselves, with a cure for the Sickness. And damned if we didn't do it, minus one or two fatalities.

SeeThrough. Kath.

Wakefield: “So far, so good.”

He means that he was right and I was wrong, and the shitstorm of Hurricane Sandy proportions that I had been expecting hasn't materialized. The park does seem quiet.

Wakefield: “We'll make our way east to the UN and, with any luck, the football.”

“The football” is the launch codes and activation device for the US Strategic Nuclear Arsenal. So, you know, kind of a big deal.

That's what we're here for. It's a big black leather satchel,
very
dowdy and unstylish, like total substitute teacher gear, with a leather loop attached to the handle that goes around your arm. Or rather, a military officer's arm. It was that person's job to hover in the vicinity of the president at all times, waiting around just in case somebody felt like setting off a global thermonuclear war. At such time, the president had his handy-dandy launch authorizations nearby to call in to CentCom via a special satphone—“the biscuit”—and authorize the end of the world, or at least the next best thing.

Wakefield continues, “We should be able to fend off any sporadic attacks in the meanwhile.”

Me: “Colonel, everybody on this island is gonna want to find out who you are, and how you managed to live this long, and whether you've got a cure for the Sickness. That means
thousands
of desperate, armed people.”

Wakefield: “Children.”

Me: “Who have survived here for years. Unlike you.”

He looks at me skeptically, as though making a Mental Note in his Mental Notebook, which is probably, by the way, Mentally Matte Black. I wonder how many generations of military types have ignored the advice of their native guides—which is more or less what I am—and how many people have gotten killed as a result.

Wakefield: “That's not my concern.”

It is, I understand, beyond the scope of his interest, which is to say it has nothing to do with the mission to get the football.

Guja: “Miss Donna, you are doing okay?” He's a little man—shorter than me, at least, and I barely top five feet—with a wide and ready smile. Calling him
little
might make him sound less than formidable, but Guja is a Gurkha, from this brigade of Nepalese soldiers who've served in the British army for over two hundred years.

Story was, the British, who in that particular century were traipsing around the globe trying to subjugate anybody brown they found along the way, hit a speed bump when they came across this one tribe. The Gurkhas hadn't opened the e-mail about cringing before the awesome spectacle of Victorian tech and discipline. They were all, like,
Come at me, bro
. The Brits were so impressed they hired them.

Guja and the other Gurkhas are hacking away at the long grass of Central Park with their kukris, which are these long, curved knives that look like sharpened metal boomerangs. Now he's taken a break from punishing the local flora to ask after me.

I like Guja, but I also know why he and the other Gurkhas make up half the team. It's because they take orders and kill without question and have just about zero sense of connection to teenage New Yorkers who, to be fair, probably have zero affinity for Nepalese tribesmen.

Me: “Okay, Guja.”

But really, nothing is okay. Okayness is definitely in short supply. I'm back in the suck. After a brief interlude in Cambridge, where for a while I had even convinced
myself
that I was just a normal survivor of the American diaspora, stuff got, once again, F'd up, like beyond F'd up, practically G'd up or H'd up.

I glance at Rab. He's pushing back his magazine-shoot hair and hefting crates and boxes from the helicopter to stack them outside, trying to fit in with the Gurkhas and the hard-faced SAS commandos. I could almost feel sorry for him, pretty boy among all these stony military types.

When I met him in Cambridge, I thought he was part of the student Resistance, protesting the social controls that the government and the American Reconstruction Committee had placed on the populace. Restrictions on speech, movement, ideology. Behind a façade of normal life, they had eyes and ears on everything at all times. You were even monitored from your own pocket—every cell phone an informant.

And me? I was just a little citrus fruit they wanted to squeeze for information. I'd been at the UN, you see, the day that the president died. So they figured I had information about the football.

Anyway, Rab wasn't working for the Resistance after all. He was working for the government.

He smiles at me, shrugs, like
Who am I kidding?
and saunters over from the piles of gear. His face registers determination. Once-more-into-the-breach kind of thing.

Rab: “I never thought I'd end up here. Did you? That night in the bar?”

The scene: the college bar, a lonely American girl far from home, nursing a Budweiser. In steps Rab, all raven-haired and copper-skinned beauty, limestone-green eyes, the whole package. Begin a friendship tinged with attraction. Cut the cord connecting the girl to her friends, telling her they're dead. American girl falls into the ready arms of the new friend and tells all—everything she knows about her dark past in post-catastrophe New York. Government gets what it wants.

Rab is still waiting for an answer to his question.

Me: “No, I guess I never thought I'd be back in New York.”

I was ready to stay in Cambridge. On some level, I
knew
that Rab was too good to be true. I was broken and falling and looking for a soft place to land. Someone to listen. A good time. A little happiness. So sue me.

His hand wanders toward mine. There is a thrill—but it's just some stupid emo neurons that haven't gotten the memo, firing for no good reason. I pull away. Turn my back.

Jefferson is somewhere out there. I hope.

Me: “Cut it out.”

Rab: “Donna. This is the right side. Us.” I'm not sure if he means him and the rest of the Brits, or him and me.

Me: “See, that's your problem. The moment I think you're getting real, it gets all political.”

Rab: “I want you to be safe, that's why. If Jefferson is alive—” He's taken aback by the contempt on my face. “And I hope he is, for your sake,” he adds. “If he's alive, then he's in the company of some dangerous, irresponsible people.”

He means the Resistance. Specifically, Chapel.

Me: “Wow. You really drank the Kool-Aid, huh? Or did Welsh tell you to say that?”

Rab: “You think the Resistance wants to save everybody. I get it. That's why they used you. But they don't care about distributing the Cure. All they want is the nukes. And if they get them, they're going to send the world back to the Stone Age.”

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