Alice checked the filter indicator on her wrist, and shivered. There were one or two flecks of green, and a yellow stripe down one edge, but it was nearly all ash-black. She had maybe an hour before her suit failed, and not nearly enough high-quality salvage to afford a replacement filter.
‘Hell,’ she grunted, as the front door of the building refused to budge. She flung herself against it, and again, and it gave way. She touched the side of her helmet to activate her torch, and began exploring the house.
At first it had amazed her – how much space there had been before the war. That didn’t matter now, of course: Alice had a time limit, and she sat to work straight away.
There was nothing but junk downstairs – pots and pans, dead electronics, a couple of long-mummified corpses – nothing that would be of interest to the military.
In what must have been a child’s room, Alice found a few picture books, full of animals. The covers were faded, but Alice knew of collectors of such things in the civilian habitations, so she slid them into her backpack.
In the largest bedroom, which had a double bed, Alice found a little box full of jewellery – but the box was not airtight, and the gems were tarnished.
He suit beeped; Alice looked down at the filter indicator on her wrist, and swore. All traces of green had turned yellow – and a dark yellow, too. She grabbed a handful of gold chains – even air-eaten, surely someone could find a use for gold – and moved. If she ran all the way, maybe she could get to Leicester Patrol Base – and then, maybe, if she begged, if she cried hard enough—