I laid in my bed with Aurora in my arms. I returned to The Bunker just before daybreak and hadn't slept since.
Right now was about midday, and that meant I was required to meet up with Rocky at The Hangout as per the agreement.
I hadn't gotten a wink of sleep since the previous day, but such an occurrence was not uncommon.
Usually, Aurora would be wide awake watching movies on the holo-projector, or coloring using the Kinect Console.
However, it seemed that the previous night's incident had taken a lot out of her. Her chubby face was snuggled into my chest with a frown.
I thought back to the incident a couple hours ago and felt slightly distressed. I could recall every moment of the incident as I laid on the bed.
I stared at Aurora as she stared at the ear on the ground. Slowly, she moved her eyes to meet my own, and what I saw sent disappointment writhing throughout my body.
Aside from the look of trauma, there was something else hidden inside her eyes – a look of utter disgust.
I felt slightly offended by her gaze, but there was nothing to be done.
It was like climbing a banana tree to feed a hungry girl, but when you brought her the banana, she didn't like you anymore because you were sweaty.
Despite the fact that I did all that I did for Aurora, she could not yet understand the stresses that plagued me.
I guess I was partially to blame for her lack of understanding. Aurora thought of me like a prince in shining armor, and the cartoons she watched every day just reinforced the idea.
Still, she was not naïve and my parents made sure of that. The Bunker had a rudimentary educational system installed to teach Aurora right from wrong.
I took the exact same lessons when I first came to The Bunker, but eventually, I realized that the slums taught me more than virtual lessons ever could.
The first lesson was always to bid everyone the time of the day, but when I did that in the slums, I either didn't get a reply or was beaten by a group of kids around the corner.
Ever since then, I never took another lesson using the educational system inside the bunker.
Still, I remember that somewhere in the lessons was a brief review of cannibalism, and my parents spared no expense to vividly describe what a heinous crime it was.
Obviously, the lesson had done its job because Aurora was alternating her gaze between myself and the partially digested ear with great caution.
I could see her squishing her own cheeks a couple of times to check if she was meaty enough for me to eat.
Of course, she was a child so her mind directly wandered into the strangest of places. I thought Aurora would run away in fright at the possibility that I would eat her, but her reaction surprised me a bit.
Aurora's eyes began to tear up and she began shouting "You shouldn't eat people, big brother! Is it because I eat too much food? Am I too chubby?"
I couldn't reply to her sudden outburst because it was the opposite of what I expected. She felt guilty for being Chubby, and that was both distressing and cute.
Aurora stared at me with tearful eyes, and my heart could no longer bear seeing her in such a state so I chose the next best option.
Before Aurora could fully cement the memory of the events inside her childish mind, I dashed behind her and with a minor tap, she was unconscious in my arms.
I shook my head and slowly crawled out of the bed. Aurora spent the entire time tossing and turning so I was sure that my presence made her uncomfortable at the moment.
She was still a child, and that made her emotions honest, but that didn't mean that her disgust didn't irk me quite a bit.
Hopefully, when she woke up, she would think of the entire thing as an extremely vivid dream. Still, I knew the trauma was already there, and there was nothing to be done about it.
Free from Aurora's cuddling, I switched into more scavenger-friendly clothing and made my way into the kitchen.
My daily routine was repeated to the T.
I placed two nutrition bars onto the counter for when Aurora woke up and pushed my hand beneath the counter to remove the diet pills.
Two diet pills and a cup of water later, I was once again crawling up the slide to exit The Bunker.
I may have kicked the slide a couple of times to vent my frustration. Luckily, I stopped my useless aggression before the defense mechanisms of the slide were activated.
'My parents were truly paranoid people…' I complained internally.
Thirty minutes later, I was on the street that led directly to the Gang Hangout. Of course, I had to add a couple more twists and turns to my exit location, so I smelled like sewer water and medicine.
Despite what you may think, I was the best-scented person in the entire slums. Admittedly, there was not a lot of competition, but I still took pride in the fact.
I met Rocky outside the Hangout, and there was no need to exchange any words, we both dipped into an alley.
Rocky led the way as we ran through different alleys until we were sure that nobody had followed us.
This was paranoia once more, but being paranoid meant staying alive.
"Did you bring it?" Rocky asked a bit too enthusiastically.
It felt weird seeing the ever-stoic Rocky excited, and the smile he wore spooked me more than his angry face.
I observed our surroundings a bit before slightly opening my pants pocket to show him the Quartz-Crystal inside.
I swiftly snapped my pocket shut after Rocky caught a glimpse of the crystal and we both stared at our surroundings vigilantly.
We were so on guard that I knew if the walls vibrated slightly, we would attack the wall with intent to kill without hesitation.
When you had something valuable in the slums, it was best to act like you had nothing, but Rocky and I were too excited to care about the norms.
After all, this crystal could feed us for many days to come. Well, it could feed Rocky because I didn't have much time left in the slums.
With my sister's trauma, I was left with little choice but to leave and search for opportunities elsewhere.
My parents had powerful enemies so I could not enter the cities even without any trauma. My options were limited to the Amazon Coalition or the Wastelands.
The Amazon Coalition was one of the few places remaining that had natural forests and jungles. While the wastelands were just as toxic and isolated as the sewers.
The Wastelands was my last option because I often heard stories about kids who escaped from the slums running there and coming back a year later with an extra eye caused by mutation.
I saw fine with two eyes, so I didn't want a third.
Seeing my unfocused look, Rocky asked "You okay?"
Even if the bruises were no longer there, Rocky could tell I was injured from my rigid movements and bandaged arms.
"You don't know?" I asked Rocky since nothing was really a secret in the slums. Everyone in the slums knew Johnny's wife was fucking a horse before Johnny found out.
The only thing in the slums you wouldn't know was that which concerned you the most.
"Oh, I know," Rocky replied with an eye roll that said 'obviously' "I just wanted to see if you'd tell me,"
Everyone knew Karl and Slim died while fighting me, but they didn't think further than an explosion that I luckily survived.
"Why haven't the 'Adults' come looking for me yet?" I asked, already knowing the answer in my mind, but wanting confirmation.
"Like you don't know," Rocky said, clearly irritated at my question "Raz is the boss, but Trion is up for promotion… the infighting means that neither can move on any talents right now… I also heard that someone important is visiting,"
I nodded, despite the mysteriousness within the ranks of the 'Adults', everyone knew Raz and Trion were the two big bosses.
Trion was usually the figurehead and Raz the background ruler, but recently people had been whispering of Trion's rise to glory.
The infighting created the time I needed to figure out the details of my plan. I calculated my chances of survival have increased from near nil to 30% in an instant.
Still, a question tugged at my mind.
"Why didn't you tell me about the Trauma-Masker?" I asked curiously.
"They spread that news for people like you and me, but we wouldn't be that dumb so it was useless to mention it," Rocky replied, but seeing my hesitation, the atmosphere turned a bit more serious.
Rocky's face turned grave and he stared me directly in the eyes and asked "Do you trust me?"
'I trust you as long as I can offer you benefits,' I thought, and knowing I could still offer Rocky many more benefits, the answer was pretty obvious.
"I trust you," I replied without hesitation.
If Rocky had asked if I trusted his character then I might as well have f*cked his mother to become his step-daddy, because that'd be the only way he wouldn't betray me…
Even then I wouldn't be so sure.
Luckily, Rocky and I were in the same hole since the 'Adults' would not leave him unscathed after they were finished with me.
Geniuses like me were put to work in the tech section of the 'Adults' but Rocky would be forced to fight, and only if he survived would he get suitable benefits.
Rocky nodded in satisfaction "So we trust each other, we have nothing to worry about. I am your lifeline and you are my future investment. We need each other so don't ask dumb questions,"
With the matter settled, Rocky led the way through the alleys and I followed closely behind. I could vaguely tell where we were headed and a grimace already edged its way onto my face.
"The Church of Zacar-I?" I asked with a grimace and Rocky nodded also grimacing slightly.
The church of Zacar-I was a relatively new but wide-spread religion that worshiped the God of Infinite Energy – Zacar-I. The religion had all but replaced Christianity, and it was mostly well-received.
Sadly, this was the slums and the church of Zacar-I had a major flaw… literally, the name of the Head Priest was 'Flaw'.
Flaw had many infamous stories, but the most stressed was about the ten females that came to the church one day with children in their arms.
They demanded child support from The priest in front of God since the girls were former Choir singers.
It was said that Flaw won his case with a short speech.
'You girls cannot give me the bastards because I am not their father…
All we did together in the backroom was praise God!
God gave you all those beautiful bodies, and I am a servant of God…
So you were not sleeping with me…
You were offering your bodies to The Lord through me – his loyal servant…'
Ever since then people believed that half the children in the slums were somehow related to Flaw.
The point being, Flaw was the best bullshitter in the slums, and I didn't like bullshitters.