This is my fuckin’ campus, yo. I was on it, watching for when the cops just stopped showing up at all. Me and my boys went in while the streets were going crazy. Stupid rioters offing each other, setting their own places on fire. Mobs at churches, screaming God did this! End times! Bullshit. We did it. And now we got to live with it.
I saw past when the cars died with no gas and the lights went black. I planned. And now we got the whole campus. It’s a fortress. We got our guns, got supplies. Got more than that: got the brains. The faculty we found who were still here. We own them now, and they help us. They brew fuel in their labs that makes our motorcycles go. Mobility. We can raid the city. There’s a generator, and the brains keep it going. Electric light. Plus all that wicked dope they cook for us.
I am the king, and this is my palace.
But…there’s the Professor.
He gives me a headache, but somehow I go on listening to him. He wants his project to keep going. His eyes get big and quivery when he talks about it. I get the very basics. But when he starts in about tachyons and nuclear resonance and all that shit, it slags my mind.
I let him keep doing his experiment. Seems harmless, even though it uses power. All the other leftover faculty thinks it’s a big deal. Besides…I like the Professor. He makes me think “father,” and I don’t know why. Sure isn’t like my deadbeat daddy.
“Cyril,” he says (and I don’t know why I told him my real name, or why I let him call me by it), “you don’t think this is going to last, do you?” He waves around, meaning the campus, meaning this whole kingdom I’ve made.
It makes me mad. “Just go play with your fuckin’ time telephone, a’ight!” And I stomp out of his lab.
Turns out, the Professor is right. The sky keeps smoking from the fires, and the dead bodies pile up on the perimeter. Adults, kids–people who were just people two months ago, now starving savages. My boys have had to pull back again and again. Ammo is getting low.
Even the teachers are on the line with us, fighting with cleavers, clubs, anything they got. One of them is throwing bottles of acid into the mob as we fall back toward the middle of campus, to the Professor’s lab. The last holdout. My sub is hot in my hands, and I’m about to squeeze the last shots I got. All around, my boys are going down swinging. Did the Professor get his message off? Did he send back the warning about fucking up the Earth, poisoning the oceans, shitting where we eat? Will anybody back then listen? I don’t know. I’m never going to know, even if this works, because I’ll be late if I don’t get these values assigned, a should-be-simple x and y, except that Prof. Navas is a wily old bird, and there must be something elegantly deceptive in this. I stare and stare at the problem, pencil tapping out the seconds until the start of class. The theoretical physics building is a three minute jog from my dorm, two if I pour it on.
The first twinge of a headache starts, then it comes to me in what is becoming a familiar revelatory flash. I jot the values, grab my books and go dashing out across the bustling campus.
©Eric Del Carlo
Eric Del Carlo’s fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Futurismic, Necrotic Tissue, Brain Harvest, Talebones, and many other publications. He is the coauthor, with Robert Asprin, of the Wartorn fantasy novels published by Ace Books. More info is at ericdelcarlo.com.
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