Joe was enjoying a sweet dream for once, then his collar started demanding his attention. Beeps, buzzes, it was even vibrating annoyingly, which was a function he didn't know it had.
Anyway, it was enough to wake him up.
Joe slid out of bed and groped his way to the bathroom.
"What?!" He hissed, stabbing at the collar. "Who is it?" All sorts of scenarios were presenting themselves as his eyes squinted against the sudden brightness of the brilliant white tiles.
Everything from a warehouse fire to open warfare with an army of, well, take your pick.
The various collar alarms stopped, and the clever nanite-built wiring bypassed his cochlea to tweak his auditory nerve directly.
It was a voice Joe had to think about to put a name to because his brain didn't function best when kicked into action in the wee small hours of the morning... at least not anymore it didn't.
The man's name, however, became unimportant as the anxious voice delivered its message.
"Mister Spivey? She's escaped. I'm not sure how yet, I've only just been told."
A bottomless pit opened up where Joe's stomach used to be and for a moment the room spun. Joe sat down heavily on the toilet.
In his ear, the voice, now barely keeping the panic at bay at Joe's lack of response, grew louder.
"Mister Spivey? Mister Spivey?! Did you hear me? She's out Mister Spivey. Miss Brown has escaped. Mister Spivey...?!"
Joe forced his act together. He started asking questions, partly to get information but mainly to give his shocked consciousness time to take in the enormity of what was happening.
When he had all the details, Joe ended the call and sat in silence for a while and built a mental list of things that needed to happen and in what order.
There was no definite proof that Miss Brown, would come for him or the ones he loved and cared for, but it was high on the list of probabilities.
Consequently, Joe had a long-standing plan, created soon after finding out that he was, against all expectations, to become a father.
The project involved getting Kirsten and Anneka to a safe location should the need arise. Well, the need had just arisen in spades and now all he had to do was to get Kirsten to go along with it.
Then there was Tuki. Joe sighed. Why were all the women he knew as stubborn as bloody mules? There was no point contacting Tuki directly, she'd just ignore the danger.
Probably wouldn't even mention it. In Tukiko's world, everything was ponies and rainbows and she was indestructible as long as she just smiled at everyone.
Even when 'everyone' was armed to the teeth and their favourite colour was red... Mind you, she did have a baby now.
Joe reached for his cigars, then remembered that he was in his underpants and vest. He sighed again and caught up with his train of thought.
But she always took the bloody kid with her, even to the bandit camps that surrounded Hope Springs. So no guarantee she'd even think too hard about...
what was the kid's name again? Itchy? Stupid bloody name. And Taiyoko would be about as much use as a chocolate teapot. Under the thumb for sure that one.
That left Joe with the unattractive option of contacting 'that bloody woman' and letting her sort her daughter out.
Which Joe had every confidence she would do, and pack her off to Haven or somewhere safe in short order. He smirked. Now that was a conversation he would love to listen in on.
Joe checked his watch. Three thirty-five. He reached up to the coms tab and just hoped Hyle would be sober.
A few minutes later, and with his ear still warm, Joe took a deep breath and went to gently wake Kirsten.
The previous day had been a busy one. A larger than usual contingent of refugees had kept Hyle and Tuki busy for most of the day and well into the evening.
In short, by the time Hyle got to her bed, she was knackered.
Which was probably why the first two attempts by Joe to contact her failed.
Beep, beep, beep. The sound invaded whatever dream it was Hyle was enjoying and slowly dragged her back into the waking world. Emerging from slumber, Hyle groaned.
"For helvede." Finally, she opened the channel and mumbled into it. "Her er Hyle...."
The voice was agitated, this being Joe's third attempt. "Hyle? It's Joe. Joe Spivey!"
Still muffling into the pillow more than the mic, Hyle was still trying to get her mind around the event. It was dark outside, after all.
"Joe? Hvad fanden kalder du efter? Det er midt pa natten...."
"What!?! Oh, fer chrissakes....." The sigh and the pause which followed betrayed Joe's frustration. "Hyle! Speak English!"
Hyle groaned and swung her feet out of bed, sitting upright her brain repeatedly tried to force itself into 'English' mode.
Joe was speaking in hushed tones which didn't help, but as he went on Hyle realised that this stuff about Miss Brown was in fact very important, nay dangerous.
The point was reinforced when Joe mentioned the keyword. Tuki. That woke Hyle up.
As she scrambled about finding her clothes. Hyle considered her options. Firstly, why was Reavy never around when she needed her.
Hyle tried several times to call her despite the fact the small town's law-enforcer had said she would be gone for some time and would be uncontactable for 'operational reasons'.
By the time Hyle descended the stairs she had a half-formed plan which involved persuading Tuki to take shelter at Haven, with Ichiro, naturally. Hyle opened the under-stairs cupboard.
She took her jacket, then paused. She looked at her rifle for a long while. Hyle hesitated; finally, she sighed and picked it up, checking the magazine.
She had not held the gun for a long while, but at least Reavy always kept it in full working order for her. Just in case.
Five minutes later, Hyle was banging on the door of the little house next to The Clinic.
Meanwhile, back at Chez-Spivey.
"No, Joe, this is our home!" Kirsten was wide awake and furious. "How many times do I have to tell you? We belong together, me at your side. Always!"
Joe paused from stuffing some of Kirsten's clothes into a case. He faced down the almond anger emitting from Kirsten's eyes.
Usually, he would let Kirsten have her head and search for compromise but this was different. Joe put his foot down and it shocked Kirsten.
"But it's not just you and me anymore is it!" Joe was adamant.
"There is Anneka now, and believe me, Brown will use her to get at me, and there's no way on God's green earth I'm gonna let that happen so...."
Joe saw Kirsten's eyes drop, and it hurt him. But all the same, the point had gotten through. Kirsten got up from the bed.
At the same time, Silja appeared at the bedroom door in her PJ's, alerted by the raised voices so early in the morning.
"What's going on?
Silja's interruption had the effect of stopping the discourse. Joe looked at Kirsten, Kirsten looked at Joe then she looked at Silja. Kirsten took a deep breath.
"Would you wake Anneka, please? And pack a bag for you both." Kirsten looked at Joe, Joe nodded. "We'll be going away for a few days. Tell Anni it's a holiday."
Silja drew breath to speak, Kirsten raised her hand. "I'll explain on the way, just do as I asked. Quickly. Ok?"
Silja glanced at Joe and read the thundering seriousness on his face. She nodded and made her way to Anneka's room, closing the door behind her.