December something something.
Today, I woke up and nothing unusual happened. That was the most unusual thing since who knows how long. No strange noises? No stuff smashed over my head? No Captain staring at me? I started to wonder what was going on. This might be the calm before the storm. I grew suspicious, unable to believe that Captain actually would get off my back.
And lo and behold, I was right.
I knew it as soon as I glanced at my calender. Someone had added a new entry. It said "HIDE AND SEEK". I recognised Captain's handwriting straightaway. He had written a short instruction: "MINIONS, FIND ZEE CAPTAIN".
Well. At least it didn't sound like one of these made-up holidays of horror. To tell the truth, it didn't sound bad at all. Captain was hiding somewhere, which meant that I finally had some spare time. With no one to order me around, the day looked to be pleasant and peaceful. I heaved a sigh of relief. Who would be stupid enough to search for that idiot? Unfortunately, I knew the answer before I managed to finish reading the old newspaper.
As soon as Pilot showed up, I already sensed trouble. It was no surprise when he blamed me for Captain's disappearance. I patiently listened to his crazy theory of me being an outer-space double agent, then I explained today's task to him. It didn't make him any less angry. He called me a "selfish fish", probably assuming that I was going to look for Captain without him.
To avoid pointless argument, I tried to convince Pilot to go by himself. It was the wrong choice. When he heard that, he shouted "WE MUST GO TOGETHER, 'CAUSE CAPTAIN HAS REFERRED TO US IN THE PLURAL! IT'S CAPTAIN'S ORDER AND YOU KNOW WHAT CAPTAIN THINKS ABOUT INSUBORDINATION, DON'T YOU?"
Well, apparently I had been naïve to hope for some rest. Even if Captain wasn't there to screw with me, he made me deal with Pilot, so I was screwed, anyway.
Luckily, Pilot's naivety was much worse than mine. After thinking a bit, I hit on an idea. I agreed to come with him and search for Captain. We left our current headquarters, located in the remains of a cheap hotel. The cold, radioactive wasteland awaited us. Getting rid of Pilot turned out to be child's play. Before we went, I suggested splitting up and moving in opposite directions. Pilot appreciated that plan, taking it as a challenge. Soon he was on his way and everything was going smoothly.
I was on my own again, so I could return to the hideout freely. For the first time, I had a day off. While looking for our food supplies, I wondered what should I do for fun today.
There was not much to do, though. I ended up lying down on my bed, rather bored. Maybe I should have played hide and seek for a bit, just to pass the time? Nah, that would be a loss of my valuable energy. Who knew what Captain was going to demand when he came back?
But strangely, he didn't return and neither did Pilot.
How many hours had passed? I had no idea. We didn't have any working device that measured the time. It was getting late; I could tell because I started to get hungry. Suddenly I heard footsteps, and Pilot ran into my room. He looked nervously around and then he just stood, gaping at me. I couldn't tell if he was furious or not.
"Where's Captain?" I asked.
No answer. Instead, Pilot rushed towards me. Not sure what he intended to do, I prepared to protect myself, when suddenly he grabbed my arms and shook me desperately.
"WHAT SHOULD WE DO? WHAT SHOULD WE DO?" he cried, sounding genuinely horrified. "CAPTAIN USED HIS MAGIC POWER TO HIDE HIMSELF! HOW WE ARE SUPPOSED TO FIND HIM NOW? WE HAVE FAILED!"
Pilot's fingers dug painfully into my shoulders. I considered telling him that there was no "magic power" but under these circumstances it would probably do more harm than good.
"Calm down!" I told him, trying to push him away. It didn't work. Pilot seemed close to tears, trembling and mumbling incoherently about 'punishment'.
I shifted uncomfortably. Honestly, how could Captain get me into such a mess? Did I look like a psychotherapist? Not a bit, so why should I have to take care of his crazy worshipper, who seemed to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown?
Before the apocalypse, I used to have a personal online psychiatrist myself. People had considered me a freak of nature, unable to connect to the Neural Network. It was almost ironic how things had changed, but the result stayed the same. After the nuclear holocaust, I was the last sane person, but I still didn't fit in with this bunch of psychos.
I ended up babysitting Pilot. At least he didn't want to kill me for once. It was interesting, how easily he forgot that he hated me. All it took was a irrational fear of being left by his "God". Obviously, Captain would be back, as soon as he got tired of his hiding place. It was only a matter of time. We should just wait it out. But Pilot didn't follow my logic. He insisted that we went looking for Captain once more. And so we did...
While marching through the empty streets I wondered where Captain could be hiding. Radioactive snow covered almost everything. Spotting a man wearing black should have been a piece of cake in this whiteness. But it wasn't. The time passed and we still saw no sign of Captain.
"Where would I be, if I were an irresponsible idiot?" I asked myself. Maybe I should have asked Pilot. At moment, he was rather busy, running around like a headless chicken and calling for his Captain. Hide and Seek rules were beyond him. I only hoped that mutated monsters wouldn't hear the noise and track us down.
Slowly, the clouded sky turned from grey to black. The night made Dead City the most dangerous of places. By now, we should have been back in our hideout, but the Captain was still nowhere to be found. I wouldn't have been surprised if we returned to find him in the headquarters, drinking his tea like nothing had ever happened.
It was pointless to look for him in the dark.
I tried to convince Pilot to give up on our quest. Of course, he didn't listen.
"DON'T YOU GET IT, SNIPPY? WE'LL BE DOOMED WITHOUT CAPTAIN!" he cried, and I finally snapped. I'd had enough of his precious Captain and this stupid game.
"Haven't you ever thought that maybe Captain WANTS us to be doomed?" I yelled. I instantly regretted it. Pilot froze. He reminded me of a machine with a data processing problem. It was the first time I had seen him acting so lifeless. Not a good sign. I asked him if he was alright, but he didn't react.
It creeped me out.
Feeling guilty, I promised Pilot we'd look for Captain the next morning. He said nothing, but he let me lead him by the hand back to our base. The walk seemed to take forever.
When we finally got back, the hideout was empty. Captain hadn't returned. I started to worry.
Something could have happened to him. The Dead Zone was a hazardous place - every luck had to have some limits.
What would I do without Captain? What if he had left us for real? Nah, he wouldn't
but the question still remained. What if something had happened to him
I didn't want to think about it. Before I met Captain, I had travelled alone, memories chasing me constantly. Memories of tourists dying one by one, while I stood by, helpless.
Pilot was lucky, he had no such memories. But this oblivion cost him a high price. I watched him still sitting in the same position he had been in earlier. I recalled images of people being in shock as the result of a traumatic event. The police had always covered them with a blanket. I remembered seeing blankets somewhere in my room. Looking for them, I opened a wall closet.
What I found there stunned me speechless.
Captain greeted me with discontented sigh. He was sitting inside the closet, brandishing his mug in one hand.
"YOU KEPT ME WAITING ALL DAY LONG!" he said. "YOUR SEARCHING SKILLS ARE UNACCEPTABLE!"