I trudged along in the sewers for what seemed like hours. In reality, it was only about half of one. But it felt longer because of how far I had to go, and I was fairly sure I had broken at least one rib. Eventually, I exited the sewers and emerged from a hidden entrance, onto an abandoned subway line. Again, once a greener solution was found for the subway cars, most of the subway lines were shut down. I hopped down onto the tracks and walked a short ways until I came to a hidden maintenance door. I pressed my hand onto a crack in the wall, just right of the door. The door silently slid open and I slipped inside. The door slid silently shut behind me.
I flicked on the lights to the entrance way. I stood there for a second listening to the hum of the printing machine. I poked my head through the doorway of the entrance. I saw the person, I most wanted to see in the world. Jess. I trudged into the room, Jess heard me and swung around in her swivel-chair.
“I was worried about you.” She said in a calm voice. She didn’t get up to hug me. I knew her well enough that wasn’t how she showed fondness. I smiled slightly, then winced, my side felt like it had been stabbed again. She saw my pain, she stood and helped me to a low workbench. She sat me down on it and reached underneath the table for the first aid kit. Setting this on the table, she walked over to the refrigerator and pulled an icepack out of the freezer. As she walked back she asked,
“How did the cops pick you out?”
“That’s what I don’t know. I was just walking to the Big Buy, to get groceries. There were three cops, with dogs outside and as soon as they saw me, they gave chase, screaming: Get her, fellas. Or something to that effect.” I winced as Jess tested for broken ribs. Sure enough, I had broken not one, but two ribs. I held the icepack in place as Jess wrapped a bandage around my middle to keep it in place. We both sat in contemplative silence as we listened to the hum of the printer. I broke the silence asking, “How many copies?”
“Not many,” she replied. “We can barely afford Big Buy’s clearance groceries.” She sat back down in her swivel chair and turned to the computer. “Thanks to Mayor Scham, your job at the Super Save Grocery is now terminated.”
“What! Why?” I spluttered.
“According to Mayor Scham, there was a health code violation and a pollution code violation. You know, he’s closing down competition for businesses that bribe him. Mark my words, you’ll have a layoff letter at the post office.” I would have wilted in despair, but as I started to, my rib stabbed me again, and I regained my good posture. This would mean funds would be even tighter for printing, running the website, and the new secret radio station. Even food and the post office box. But I was also a little relieved. With my rib, it would be suspicious why it was broken, and I would probably be in pain all day. But I thought about my face, did the news get it?
“Jess, did they film the chase from the police helicopter?”
“Yes, they couldn’t catch you going into the manhole, though. I assume it was the manhole.”
“Yeah, they didn’t find me. Did they catch my face, did they know my name?”
“If someone reviewed the footage and enhanced it, yes, I think someone could get our face. From there it’s only a few steps to put it into the government’s database. Considering it would probably be the government trying to identify you.” I groaned and closed my eyes. I pressed the heels of my palms into my eyelids and sighed.
“I can’t go out, without a disguise.”
“Right,” said Jess. “I’ll stop by Big Buy, and by the cheapest hair coloring they have. Do you have any makeup left?”
“We’re going to get jobs tomorrow. And don’t hesitate to use the makeup heavily. And you can’t go out tonight. How about you bundle the copies, and we’ll get them to the distributor tomorrow. Remember, the one down on Aravall street threatened to report us if we asked him to risk his neck distributing again.”
“So that means, only three others can distribute. I got a message for Leonardo, down in Echo street, he can’t distribute. The cops are watchin’ him pretty closely. So until he’s not in the hot seat anymore, he says he’ll probably pick back up.”
“That’s good news, but I don’t know. If we can’t get jobs, we can’t print copies.”
“Right. You’d better get started. I’ll get on bundling the copies.” Jess pulled on a black hoodie and a dark green baseball cap. Her short wavy brown ponytail sticking out the back of the cap. She locked and shut down the computer, server and all. She then walked into the entrance and clicked off the lights. I walked slowly over to the printer. Only about a hundred copies had printed. And just looking at the rest of tonight’s printing, I estimated we would only get about fifty more copies. I picked up the scissors, roll of twine, and small plastic baggies. Began to roll up the copies, bag it and seal with twine. When the last copy rolled out, I picked it up and stared at it a long time. This was the one hundred and fortieth edition of The News Uncensored.