Two happy-go-lucky friends head to London to pick up a Care Package to help with an upcoming anti-capitalism demonstration in Nottingham.
Their contact, a hard core veteran of demonstrations throughout Europe, offers them a gift; an extra package, hidden away in a beguiling trunk the colour and texture of fire.
One of the friends becomes seriously ill, leaving the other looking after the goods. One night, against instructions, and his common sense, he opens the fiery trunk. After, as Pandora discovered, nothing will ever be the same again.
A bittersweet story of friendship, family, belief and morality, Kid Atomic is both a comedy and a race against time thriller with the fate of the world at stake. What would You do?
In the final chapter of Part 1, and our first sample chapter, our heroes, Ricky and Kevin, return from London with the gift from the Pan-European revolutionary group.
Ricky came back from the service station to the van carrying two steaming hot cups of tea on a paper tray and two double quarter pounders.
He sat down. ‘Kevin?’
‘What?’ He replied.
‘We’re in deep doggy do. Very deep doggy do indeed.’
He took his eyes off Crash Bandicoot for once and sat forward. ‘Are we?’
‘I’ve just realised.’
‘I’ve got no idea where the lock up is.’
‘Lizardboy has all that detail. In all the unfortunate fuss this morning, I totally forgot to ask him.’ He took a sip of his hot tea and a mighty munch of his burger. Cheese oozed down the sides and onto his fingers, which he wiped with an oily builder’s rag.
‘That isn’t good, is it?’
‘I don’t even have his number. Not that he would speak to me.’
‘Have you tried Lance?’
‘While I was waiting for the burgers. His phone’s switched off.’
‘That’s funny. So is Rachel’s.’ Kevin felt a sinking feeling in his chest and the start of a burning sensation in his head, an uncomfortable feeling he’d been getting quite a bit just lately.
‘Don’t be paranoid, Kev,’ Ricky said, firmly. ‘What are we going to do with the trunks?’
Kevin switched, something he was very good at doing. ‘That’s easy. We can drop them off in my garage. Mum won’t mind. There’s nothing in there except the lawn mower, and an old chest of drawers Fothergill keeps in there because he’s got no room at his house. Mum never goes in. She sees the garage as a man’s world.’
‘A great idea, Kevin.’
‘I’m glad you think so.’
‘Anyway, aren’t Lance and the group down the Occupation tonight?’ Ricky said.
The penny dropped. Kevin had forgotten what the rest of the group was doing.
‘Of course. Ah! The Occupation…’
Lance and some of the others spent time at the tented village at the centre of the Market Square Occupation. Lance’s group was loosely affiliated with the hard core down there, but there wasn’t room for everyone who wanted to protest to stay full time. The Police and City Council ensured the protest was token and symbolic, kettled into a corner of the old Square, something that annoyed the organisers. It was the same with Occupation protestors all over the country. ‘I’m sure that’s where Rachel is too. You is safe, matey.’
‘I know. It’s just…’
Kevin had never felt like this about a girl and he was struggling to cope with his feelings. This was the first time he’d experienced jealousy. Ricky could spot it in his friend. ‘You don’t have to tell me. It’s nothing to do with Lance. It’s only because you don’t want to lose her…’
‘I don’t, no.’
‘…she’s well into you, mate. Don’t worry.’
‘Lance is going to be upset. First, we get Lizardface in trouble with the Police. Then we bring back an extra trunk that might be full of old rubbish, and now we don’t know where the lock up is. He’s going to be upset when he finds out.’
‘Nah. Don’t worry, Kev. I’ll talk to him. Anyway…’ He gave Kevin the big moon-cat eye trick again. “Don’t shout at us, Mestuh. We’re only kids. You wouldn’t shout at us kids now, would ya?” He sat back in the van driver’s seat. We’ll be all right, Kev. Eat your burger.’
It was close to ten by the time they arrived at Kevin’s house.
He got out of the van, opened the front gate, and guided Ricky back into the driveway up to the burgundy garage door. He then ran inside the house, shouted hello to his Mum (there was no reply), then entered the kitchen door to the garage and lifted open the door.
It took them less than five minutes to unload the trunks, taking them right to the back wall. He left Ricky to it for the time being and went upstairs to see if his Mum was alright. He guessed she was fast asleep and he guessed right. He didn’t wake her. At one time, she would have waited up for him but not any more: she was too tired. The smell of recent cooking alerted him to the prospect of a home cooked care package and he went back downstairs.
On the table was a pie – a meat and potato pie – in an eggshell coloured pie dish, with a note from Mum on the top telling him to use a warmed oven for thirty minutes rather than the microwave, which ruins pastry. He smiled. Ricky came into the kitchen.
‘We’ve got a treat.’ Kevin said.
‘Now, your Mum’s home cooking is a treat.’ He replied, taking off his coat, hat and gloves. ‘Where is she?’
‘Fast off. Upstairs.’
‘That’s a pity.’
‘I’ve turned the oven on. It’ll be about half an hour.’
‘Let’s go and watch telly for a bit. Turn that fire on and get warm.’ Ricky said.
‘I’ll just go and shut the garage doors.’
Kevin did so and came back into the front room. His friend had already turned the gas fire on and made himself comfortable on the sofa. Casualty was on the telly, so Ricky channel surfed until he found something they both agreed on – a rerun of The Matrix on ITV 4 – and they settled down in the warm.
‘What do you think is in the o
range box, Ricky?’
‘Mate, you ever seen Basket Case.’
‘Course I have. Got it upstairs.’
The young men looked at each other and simultaneously said the classic sentence together – “what’s in the BASKET?" – and then they laughed, heartily.
‘I really don’t know, Kev.’
‘Let’s go and have a look?’
‘Why aren’t you curious about the blue trunks?’
‘I know. Boring stuff, right.’
‘I’ll bet it is.’
‘I’ve been thinking about leaving the protest group behind, " said Kevin. 'I’m not cut out for protesting. I’m not all that interested in it.’
‘Course you are, mate. You’re just wound up about Lance. A good run about on the City streets with the Police lobbing rubber bullets at us will get your juices flowing. It’s only just started. We could go down the Occupation now, if you wanted to.’
‘It’s bloody cold.’
‘Too right it is.’ Ricky had immediate second thoughts about his rash comment.
Kevin summed it up for both of them. ‘I’d rather have some of my mum’s pie in the warm and watch The Matrix.’
‘You’re right, mate. Smell that pie. It’s going to be wonderful.’
‘So, shall we go and have a look what’s in the o
range trunk? Kevin
‘I’m too cold. I’ll come round in the morning and we’ll have a look then.’
‘I’ll go and get the book, see if I can find the code.’
‘I have it here…’ Ricky had stored it in his jacket pocket. ‘And no, we’ll look at it tomorrow, Kevin.’
‘Tomorrow, Kev. Alright?’ He got assertive. He was like Kev’s dad sometimes.
‘Tomorrow, then.’ His friend replied reluctantly.
Later, after the pie, in front of the TV, the central heating roaring, Ricky was quiet.
The magnificent gun battle in Matrix headquarters played out before them and usually he would have made some comment about how brilliant it was, but not this time. Kevin looked over. His friend was wrapped up in the sofa throw despite the heat. He looked pale. ‘Alright, Ricky?’
‘Don’t feel too good, mate. Might have a cold coming on. I think I’d better get my arse into gear and get home.’ He stood up; it seemed to him, with great difficulty. ‘Must get the van back. Feel as if I could sleep for a month.’
‘Long trip there and back.’ Kevin said. ‘UPIG got a fair share out of you today.’
‘That’s not work. I’ve had fun, mate. Just feel…a bit crap, all of a sudden.’
‘Make sure you don’t miss the fight in the subway between Smith and Neo.’
‘Even though I’ve seen the Matrix a hundred times, I shan’t miss a second of it. It will always be just like the first time with The Matrix,’
‘I know. It’s great.’ Kevin replied, missing Ricky’s irony by a mile.
‘I’ll be round tomorrow. I’ll contact Lance in the morning about the gear. By the way, don’t you dare look at Santa’s magic boxes without me!’ Making the mock warning appeared to be an effort for Ricky. He really wasn’t looking too good.
‘Nice one, mate. We’ll have a laugh tomorrow – if I feel like it. I’ll put the boss off and we can drop them off on Monday. I reckon it’ll be just like looking round Peter Friendship’s toybox.’
‘Be nice if it were.’
‘It will be. Now I’ve got to get off before I faint.’
Ricky put on his coat and the two young men walked out through the garage. They stopped for a second to gaze upon their day’s handiwork for one final time. Then, he jumped into the van driver’s seat for the last time that day and started the engine. Said goodbye and reversed the van off the garage.
Kevin pulled down the garage door and locked it from the inside. Baltic winds lashed
Edward Street and it seemed several
degrees below to him. Frost would welcome the dawn tomorrow. He shivered, rubbed
his hands together and scuttled back into the warm like a hamster in a cage. He
took one last proud look at the packages they had driven back from . He felt like it
had been a job well done. A satisfied glow descended upon him. Then he turned
off the light and left the garage. London
There was no way on Earth he was going back out there again tonight, even though he was curious in particular about the trunk, the colour of fire, and the hidden treasures residing within.
In fact, thinking about it, Ricky was right.
Kevin wasn’t curious about the blue trunks at all.
He couldn’t care less about those.
They were Lance’s trunks.
He didn’t like him much and he didn’t even want to look inside his stuff. He knew that they were full of stuff he wasn’t even interested in inspecting. Things that had nothing to do with him, if the truth was told about his feelings.
Yet, he didn’t feel like that about the orange trunk.
Not at all.
He didn’t even feel like the orange trunk was Lance’s property.
For some weird reason – he couldn’t put his finger on precisely why - he felt that giving the brightly coloured trunk to Lance Brando wasn’t the right thing to do at all.
If felt to him like it was their trunk.
He knew that he would be talking to Ricky about this in the morning. He wondered whether he felt the same way. He wondered whether he felt the same pull that Kevin did.
He turned off the garage light, locked the access door and went back into the front room.
On the telly, a helicopter gunship strafed the top floor of Matrix headquarters. Machine gun shell cases cascaded to the ground in dramatic fashion.