TyGently's Third Law Sandbox
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When the apocalypse comes, society collapses, and cable television is no longer available, there tend to be three types of people.

First, there are those who have been preparing for this their entire lives. They look out across the desolate, destroyed landscape, whisper something self-congratulatory, and then retreat into meticulously engineered bunkers filled with creature comforts and all the canned beans one can eat.

Second, there are those who have been preparing for this their entire lives. They look out across the desolate, destroyed landscape, jump for joy, and then don their bondage gear, fuel up their diesel motorcycles, and start raising hell.

Finally, there are people like Casey, sitting in pitch-blackness with a dead flashlight.

"Um," he whispered. "It's gone out again."

"Yeah, I can see that." Someone snapped their fingers, and then those fingers caught fire. The faint light revealed the face of Adam Rowe. "Is it the batteries?"

"I'm guessing it's the batteries, yeah." Casey knelt on the sidewalk. His heel crunched a piece of glass against the concrete, and he cringed. He fiddled the battery casing off and examined it as best he could in the fingerlight. The batteries seemed to be arranged correctly. Of course, if they weren't the flashlight wouldn't have worked in the first place, so Casey wasn't sure what exactly he was hoping to accomplish by performing this autopsy.

A hand clapped down on his shoulder. Vera Garcia was behind him, peering down at the flashlight. "See anything interesting?" she chirped.

Casey shook his head. "Nope. Just bad batteries. Why doesn't Eustace have one of those hand-crank flashlights, anyways?"

Adam crouched in front of Casey, making it an official huddle. "Does my dad seem like the kind of guy who owns a hand-crank flashlight?"

Casey raised an eyebrow. "Is that a distinct category?"

"I pegged him for it," Vera pitched in. "In my experience, there are three types of people-"

A series of monotone beeps interrupted Vera's budding nugget of wisdom. Adam fumbled for his belt radio with his injured arm, then held it aloft in non-flaming fingers.

A voice came from the tinny speaker. "Attention, all residents of Three Portlands. This is an emergency broadcast, from Special Agent Robin Thorne, of the FBI's Unusual Incidents Unit, Three Portlands Office."

Adam rolled his eyes. The radio didn't seem to notice, and continued undeterred. "All those with the capability to do so should relocate to the city center. An area of refuge has been established in Three Portlands Plaza. We have food, shelter, water, and the manpower to protect from raiders and wildlife. The edges of the city are not safe."

Casey was acutely reminded of his place in the world, not just metaphorically but also literally, kneeling on the ground in a pitch-black street, completely unaware of anything that might be lurking outside of the modest fingerlight radius. He shivered.

Thorne went on. "Additionally, as we have been receiving reports of temporal disturbances, I am noting the current time: 10:36 AM Three Portlands Time, August 31st, 2024. Thorne out."

Adam nodded as the radio faded to quiet static. "I'm glad they specified that this was Three Portlands. I was starting to fear we were in Cleveland. Now that would have been worth a broadcast."

Casey twisted his mouth. "I don't know why you're so upset by these updates."

Adam threw up his hands as best he could with one in a sling and the other on fire. "They're not updates! They're all the same!"

"Well, they do also state the time now."

"Great! That'll save all the people who lost their watches when the city started imploding."

"I don't mean to interject," Vera interjected, "but the sky seems to be coming back."

Adam blew out his fingerflame, but stayed visible. The darkness was lifting at last.

The light returned to Three Portlands the way it returns to a movie theatre once the credits stop rolling: sheepishly, as if embarrassed by the popcorn-strewn wasteland it had become over the course of the film.

From the street, almost the entirety of Three Portlands' bowl-like curvature was visible. the city looked like an intricate model that had been handed over to a particularly spiteful toddler. The formerly neat concentric streets that marked the city's rings were warped, great mismatches in the roads covering the city like scar tissue. Entire neighborhoods were obscured by thick clouds of scarlet, strawberry smog silently consuming the city. The places that weren't hidden laid their destruction bare: their paths lined by toppled buildings and uprooted bedrock. Th esky above flashed red and purple as it swirled angrily. A condo floating above their heads was caught in an eddy, and spun idly.

Adam shook his head. "I swear, it gets worse every time I see it."

"Likely because it's getting worse," Vera explained.

Casey glanced at his surroundings. The bombed-out art galleries that flanked them seemed abandoned, for now. "Can we get our bearings, please? Before it gets dark again."

"Good idea." Vera reached into the bag slung round her shoulder. From it, she produced a folded pamphlet that fanned out into a roughly octagonal map. She held it in front of her face for a moment, then peered over to look at the cityscape spread before them.

"That," she pointed into the distance, "is the Docks District, correct?"

The district was diametrically opposed to the group, but still visible. The dry canals that defined the area were filled with glowing white fog, and were even bigger than the last time they'd glimpsed the landmark. More branches were springing from the ruts, hairline fractures in the bedrock.

Vera traced her finger on the map, down from the Docks District to Three Portlands Plaza. The plaza was barely visible beneath a cloud of smoke that still lingered from the fire that had nearly consumed it weeks ago. If one squinted, they could just make out the clusters of tents that had popped up around it. At least some people were heeding the warning of the FBI-in-exile. Some people.

Bearings firmly attained, Vera extrapolated to their intended destination. "Then, we should only be two blocks corewards and about 30 degrees clockwise, give or take, from the building. Assuming it hasn't moved since we last saw it."

Casey peered over her shoulder. "How far away are we, then?"

She shrugged. "If the roads ahead are as bad as the roads behind us, it could take a few hours."

Casey sighed, and slotted his broken flashlight back into his belt. "We've been moving for two days. We can handle a few more hours."

The trio set off down the hill.

flashback, test

lunch, discussion of lies, raid, rescue

arrive at Oneiroi HQ, reunion

break into vault, climax, escape

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