Daedalus brought out the little pouch hanging around his neck, and slowly pulled out the source of his trip. Drew whistled, “a storage drive. Congratulations young Daedalus, you have found something truly rare in these parts”. He paused. “Your father also brought a drive with him when he came by years ago, didn’t he?”
“Yes,” Daedalus said. He placed the drive on the table in front of him.
“Did you check out the specs? Does it work?” Drew asked.
“May I?” Drew motioned to the table.
“By all means.” Daedalus replied. Drew’s warm welcome towards the siblings had given Dae a sense of safety from the man.
Drew pulled out a grey rag from his back pocket and used it to pick up the drive. He looked at it closely, taking in the scratches on the outside, and the apparent intactness of the inner metal. He gingerly placed the drive back on the table and stood. “I’m going to fetch my laptop, please wait a moment.” He abruptly turned and left the room.
Daedalus shrugged and grabbed his juice. Calypso put her glass down, half empty, onto the table. She leaned into Daedalus’ side and said, “I like him. The juice is yummy.”
“I like him too, lil’ sis.” Dae replied honestly.
Calypso sighed. Daedalus looked at her, and gently wrapped an arm around her small shoulders, as the warm room, comfortable couch, and sense of safety enveloped her in an embrace of sleep. Drew appeared in the doorway as she nodded off.
The buyer quietly sat across from Daedalus again, and opened a black laptop on his lap. He raised his eyebrows at Daedalus, and Dae nodded, giving Drew permission to plug in the USB. Drew again revealed the grey rag and used it to plug the USB into the computer.
After a few moments, Drew’s eyebrows went up. Then down. He squinted at Dae. “Where did you get this?” He said in a low voice, in consideration for Calypso.
Dae started at the tone full of suspicion. “I found it Scavenging,” he said defensively. “Why?”
“Did you look at the contents?” Drew asked gruffly, still squinting suspiciously.
“I looked to make sure it worked.” Daedalus replied. He shifted his arm around Calypso slightly. “How much is it worth?” He asked curiously.
Drew looked at Dae for a long moment. His eyes slowly lost their squint, as he took in the two siblings sitting on his couch. Drew gazed at the ceiling in exasperation, struggling with something. Daedalus, utterly baffled, sat silently, while Drew appeared to fight an internal battle. Calypso’s quiet breathing was all he heard as the seconds ticked by.
“I’ll give you three hundred for it.” Drew finally replied. Daedalus did some mental calculations. That was around forty times his daily pay. Or what he could make in two to three months. It wasn’t enough. But Daedalus remembered Drew’s look of surprise when he saw the contents of the drive. He guessed that Drew wanted the drive. Badly.
“That’s not enough.” Daedalus shook his head. “I’m trying to get out, and my sister and I will need a lot more to leave.” He felt he could trust Drew with that information, although he didn’t know why.
Drew looked at the small girl sleeping in the crook of Daedalus’ elbow. She looked innocent, small, and fragile. She looked like a breath of wind could wake her up, and like the grime of the world outside wasn’t meant to touch her. He looked back up, holding Daedalus’ eyes with his own. “How much?” He asked simply.
“Enough for two flights out of the nearest airport, a modest home, and some left to tide us over until I can find work. That’s how much we need. We have enough saved for everything else.” Dae replied. He hoped that Drew would be able to better calculate the numbers, and he knew that the cheapest flight out was $150 each. Dae needed enough to give his sister a roof when they got where they needed to go, and he was going to use Drew’s kindness to do that.
Drew smiled slightly, understanding. It wasn’t about the drive for Daedalus and Calypso. It never was. He sighed inwardly, relaxing a little, knowing that the siblings had no interest in the contents of the USB still plugged into his laptop. Better yet, they had no idea what the drive held, or what it was worth. All they wanted was to leave. “Fine. Three thousand.”
Daedalus tried not to let the shock reach his eyes and failed. He tensed, wondering if he should grab his sister, and run from the exorbitant price. Drew smiled, seeing Dae’s shock. “You guessed right. I want this drive. And I want to help you two too. You won’t find a better price anywhere in this town.”
Daedalus nodded mutely. Not even in his dreams did he think that he’d get a thousand dollars for a find that he found stuck inside a broken husk of an ancient pc on The Waste. Let alone three. He knew that the drive was expensive, but his father had gotten only $300 for the old one so long ago. He asked for more only on the hope that Drew’s new kindness would help them. And he hoped right. Three thousand dollars was more than what Daedalus could make in two years working hard and getting lucky every single day, and Scavengers were paid better than many in town. But now he was worried. Why did Drew offer such an insane price? It was ten times the price his own father got for a similar drive. What did Drew have to gain?
“Why?” Daedalus asked. “Why help us now? You didn’t help my father like this back then. What changed?”
“You lost your parents. You have a kid sister, and you are barely more than a kid too. Why shouldn’t an elderly man want to help two kids that come asking at his door. She shouldn’t stay here, you know that as well as I can see.” Drew flicked his chin at the sleeping Calypso. “Look, Daedalus, I don’t know how much you have saved. Or where you plan to go. The nearest airport is in the next state. But I do know that even three thousand American dollars is going to dissolve in a matter of weeks because of what you plan to do. Getting out isn’t easy.”
Daedalus knew it was going to be hard. People didn’t stay in the broken city of Chicago because they wanted to. They stayed because they had nowhere else to go. America was broken, and although places like Utah and Idaho still retained remnants of twenty-first-century living standards, they were slums compared to what nations abroad had upgraded to. “Why are you still here, if you can throw this kind of money at two kids?” He asked Drew.
“I have my reasons.” Drew took out the grey rag again and pulled the drive out. “Who says I’m here all the time too?” He smiled to himself. “Besides, I like it here.”
Daedalus laughed at that. The multitude of locks, grimy exterior, and terrible neighborhood didn’t seem like the place to find a man like Drew. It didn’t seem like a place to find juice, plush sofas, and kindness either. And yet here they were.