Keeper of the Colony
Keir crept to the end of Fisherman’s Alley, careful to stay hidden in the shadows of the crumbling buildings. He had less than five minutes to get home. He froze at the sound of the nine o’clock curfew bell. Fear rose in his chest. He still had two blocks to go. Now he was really in trouble!
He glanced nervously down Wharf Street and then back at the docks, trying to make out shapes in the mist. Thankfully there was no sound of the curfew patrol. He listened carefully, but all he heard was the gentle lapping of the seawater against the boat ramps and the occasional blast of a foghorn offshore. All seemed quiet in the Dark End of Javeer, but on a cold damp night like tonight he couldn’t be certain.
Be careful, Keir, he reminded himself. You’re a runner for the Underground and many people are depending on you. Don’t take a risk when you’re nearly home.
He took another look around the corner. A sprint up the street should do it. He pulled his knit hat lower over his wild black hair and turned his jacket collar up against the icy wind. Heart pounding furiously, he bravely stepped into the open.
What just moved across the street? Keir threw himself back against the wall in panic. Instantly the skies above rumbled. Gunships! Their detectors had obviously picked up movement and now the curfew patrol was on its way. Had they seen him? He fought to keep calm.
The sky was suddenly ablaze with flashing red lights, and a deafening roar signaled the approaching gunships. Moments later the lumbering craft landed in the street. Blaring sirens sent shivers down Keir’s spine. He stood against the wall and clenched his fists in preparation for combat. Who am I kidding? he thought. I can’t fight Gulden Guards armed with ST29s! He held his breath as he waited for the Gulden Guards to show up and cuff him . . . but no one came.
He heard a scuffle in the street close by and dared to look around the corner. Several Gulden Guards surrounded an old man in a dark shirt and baggy pants, who was struggling to free himself from chains around his ankles and wrists. “Who are you people? Where are you taking me? Why don’t you answer?” he snarled, snatching at the cuffs.
Doesn’t he know about the Gulden Guards? thought Keir. He didn’t recognize the man, although it was hard to make out faces on a night like tonight. Perhaps this was a stranger who didn’t know any better, but he couldn’t imagine anyone choosing to come here. No one in his right mind would visit the Colony of Javeer. He watched as the Gulden Guards shoved the old man into one of the metallic green gunships. With engines thundering, it took off as quickly as it had landed.
Keir’s legs were still shaking as the engine noise subsided. He sat against the wall until his heart resumed its normal rhythm, and once again he considered the short run home. With any luck the curfew patrol wouldn’t return to his neighborhood for at least fifteen minutes.
He drew in a deep breath and tore across the street to the abandoned buildings on the other side. The most dangerous part of his journey was over. The rest should be easy—as long as he stayed in the shadows.
Suddenly something bumped him from behind. “Hey!” Keir shouted, turning to see a boy about his own age in the middle of the sidewalk. “Watch where you’re going!”
The boy shrank back. Keir instantly realized he’d been too loud, and shoved the boy sideways into the doorway of the old First Bank of Boro.
“Hey! Get your hands off me!” said the boy angrily.
“Shh!” said Keir, his heart racing again. He slapped his hand over the boy’s mouth and checked around for the curfew patrol. He listened for a few seconds. Except for the distant foghorn, the night was still quiet. No rumbling skies or flashing lights this time.
Keir sighed heavily and pulled his hand away. “What do you think you’re doing?” he whispered angrily. “Do you want the Gulden Guards to catch us?”
“Who? What are you talking about?” replied the boy, his teeth chattering.
Keir studied him, hardly knowing what to think. The boy wore only a thin jacket and shoes that weren’t fit for winter weather. He was just a little taller than Keir himself, and was probably about the same age. “You must have heard the bell,” said Keir. “There’s a nine o’clock curfew in the Dark End and we’ve already broken it. Go home. Now!”
The boy seemed confused. “The Dark End? Curfew? But I don’t have anywhere to go . . . I just got here . . . and I’m already half frozen.” He shuffled from foot to foot and rubbed his hands together.
Keir stared at him for a few seconds. This didn’t make any sense. This was the second stranger he’d seen in just a few minutes. One thing was certain, it was too risky to stand here and interrogate this boy further, but his gut instinct told him that the boy was lost and needed protecting. Keir wouldn’t leave anyone to the fate of the Gulden Guards. He’d have to trust him. “You’d better come home with me,” he said, grabbing his arm.
“Thanks for the offer,” the boy muttered, shaking him free,
“but I’ve got to find my friends . . . and fast! Don’t suppose you’ve seen an old man and a thinboy about our age, have you?”