Joe crunches over gravel to the firepit. Kicks a charred log. Kneels and breaks off a piece of a burnt log; his fingers blacken as they crumble the wood to ash.
Walks back over to his motorbike, Gorgon, a 1922 Indian Scout.
“We’re closing in on her.”
“How can you say that. Ashes are stone cold,” replies Joe.
“Just a feeling.”
Joe shakes his head at the bike’s naivete.
There’s a buzzing overhead, then. Drones flying low, looking for groups. One guy on a motorcycle is no big deal, so Joe is ignored. He opens his knapsack. Pulls out his Grundig shortwave. Hand-cranks it. Fiddles with the dial. Cocks his head toward the waves of static the radio spits.
“You think you can get her on that?” scoffs Gorgon.
“We’ve had this discussion. She’s got a converter. She converts her streams to shortwave, on the fly. Harder to trace. It’s how she stays ahead of them.”
“Right. I’m taking a nap.”
A few minutes later, Joe finds an air pocket: the static is suspended. His fingers relax, poised just above the dial. And then a voice fills the pocket:
“I know I’m not supposed to say the word. We’re not supposed to even know about what’s going on there. But it’s happening and it’s real. ANACOSTIA. This is Lulu and I’m on the way! Been on the road for a few weeks now. Bobbin and weavin. Keepin to the back roads. Sleepin on yer couches. Had a few tight shaves but every day I’m gettin closer. You know what it’s about. You know. None of us can make it these days. But them vets. Christ, they got it hardest. They were promised their pensions, and we’re rollin into Anacostia to make sure they get ‘em!”
Joe checks his watch; jots something down in a spiral reporters-style notebook; shuts down the shortwave; stows it away; hoists the knapsack over his shoulder; jumps on the Scout.
“Wake up. Let’s ride.”
A few minutes later, they roar down the blackened tarmac of an abandoned airstrip. On their left is a channel: ribbon of oily water running over concrete. Something at the edge of Joe’s peripheral vision: a spirit moving on the water.
“You would say that,” he grumbles to the bike.