Life as a StrandedMature

Chapter 14

Tai, Lilley

Word Count: 1930

The slow rumble of the massive metal doors being pulled open thundered up Tai's legs as he stood at the front of the huge Juggernaut, the walls were a testament to the ingenuity of his people. Nearly ten feet thick the mass of black wall dwarfed nearly everything in the street it crossed, the buildings on either side were the only things taller than the wall and even they were lined with sniper holds, improvised artillery turrets and the occasional mortar cannon. Tai new the wall stretched around twelve miles in diameter, every fifty feet was a lookout tower and every three miles there was a gate that was manned twenty-four-seven by armed guards. In the pitch black his guards had reacted exactly how they had been trained, flood lights on first to blind attackers, guns at the ready second then and only then did you identify the target. It was clear to everyone on guard at the gate that this was Shark's truck, but with it's blacked out windows and armoured sides anyone could have been driving so it was now protocol for them all to step out before they entered.

'Orite' Sir!' called one of the guards on duty, his sniper rifle hung across his back and muddied face smiling broadly. It was Carmichael, an Englishman that had apparently been visiting his in-laws when the world fell apart.

'How's it been?' Tai shouted over the grinding of the huge metal doors as they were pulled open by two workhorses from the inside.

'Quiet as a mime at a funeral. How was Jersey?'

'A sh*ithole!' Tai smiled.

'Oh yeah! Jersey's got nowt' on the Big Apple...but to be honest Sir I think the Apple's had a few bites out of it!' laughed Carmichael as the doors were finally opened wide enough for the massive truck to get through. Waving Shark on Tai walked steadily into his home in front of the truck, Even amongst all the death...this place does have a strange beauty. The homes were nothing but shanty homes, built from whatever scrap and rubble the people could find amongst the wreckage of the city. But even so...he ruled over a group of three thousand civilians, over six hundred of them children, this place wasn't just a shanty town. It was hope, it was survival, it was fighting against the odds and it was standing beside one another as a family. The compound had dozens of names, New Jerusalem, Concrete Mecca, Black Reach named after the black unreachable wall. But Tai's favourite was one that was started by the children. Sanctuary. Little happened in Sanctuary without everyone immediately knowing about, his and his team’s arrival was no acceptation.

People poured from the darkened streets with smiles and joyful cries, children ran to get a glimpse of him and Shark's massive truck, which ended up completely covered in children by the time it stopped and the gates had closed. Shark stepped out into the gaggle of kids with whoops and smiles as he lifted them into the drivers seat and let them wander around the cabin. 'Juliana!' shouted Tai spotting her in the crowd. Jules was a tall, elegant blonde woman with bright blue eyes a nice smile and a rather laid back attitude when she wasn't in the field or on duty. But tonight Tai had charged her with keeping Sanctuary running smoothly without him, a task she had done several times and excelled each and every time.

'Good hunting Tai?' she asked placing her hands on her hips just above her duel desert eagles.

'The New Jersey water hole's empty. I don't know what happened but we found a group of Blood Skulls Scavengers sneaking around,' as the massive cargo hold opened Marcus, Phoenix, Azreal and Shadow jumped out carrying the tiny body of the man between Marcus and Azreal. 'That's one of them; he gave us a location of the Blood Skulls HQ.'

'And?' she whispered excitedly. Tai shook his head.

'They've holed themselves up in New Jersey General, those hospitals are built to survive a damnside worse than what we've got. Add to that all the additional upgrades they've made since being there we'd be slaughtered before we even tried to hit the front door.' Jules's disappointment was evident on her face but she managed to move on from it fairly quickly.

'Please tell me we got something from this apart from a massive fuel bill?'

'We got something,' Tai nodded looking back to the armoured truck as Abigail jumped out into Marcus's arms. Looking at everything with huge round eyes.

'Tai!' thundered Jules. 'We can't support anymore people! Our food supplies are running low, the water even lower, not to mention...'

'Jules. She's staying. End of conversation.' With that Tai walked away from her and back to his men, the bag was still over Hatchet's face but Tai ripped it off quickly. 

'Holy Mary Mother of God!' blasphemed the tiny man as he looked at the mass of buildings and people that lived in this one small section of Sanctuary.

'Welcome to our home, you run you'll die, you cause trouble you'll die, you try to do anything other than what we tell you to do you'll die. Clear?'

'Clear.' he parroted in fear.

'Good. Take him to the Sky Cages.' Marcus laughed loudly and smacked Hatchet around the side of the head.

'Oh yeyah! Hope you like heights biattch!' With that the two men carried him deep into Sanctuary, his feet dragging along the floor. Oasis was suddenly at his side.

'What do you want me to do with Abigail?'

'Take her to Mama. She's always up for fostering another kid.' he said moving off. Mama's real name was Jessica Bright, but after she offered to look after all of the orphaned children her name quickly changed to Mama after all of her thirty odd children started calling her it. Walking through the maze of buildings people smiled up at him as he passed, They look almost dead. He thought looking down at them all, ragged clothes hanging off their thin malnourished frames like colourful curtains. Their smiles were ones of gratitude but also of fear. They feared him.

'Hey Tai!' shouted a familiar voice. Mech was possibly Sanctuary's greatest asset, when the refugees started gathering Tai organised them into work forces, the strong cleared rubble and fought, the medically trained ones became the Medican's, seamstresses were set to making warmer clothes in preparation of winter, everyone was given something to do. Tai remember Gerald, an old Jewish clock maker who's profession had changed from making time pieces to making and repairing guns. But Mech was on a whole new level, the young man was tall with dark shaggy brown hair and deep thoughtful green eyes. He looked more like a doctor than an engineer in his white coat but the tools and trinkets that hung from bits of old string around his neck and belt left nothing to the imagination of what he was here for. A graduate with honours from M.I.T he could make a toaster into a bomb and a truck into a tank with nothing but time, coffee and a spanner.

'Hey Mech, look we found some old circuit boards on our way back here. Thought you might be able to use them.' Tai said smacking the young man on the shoulder. He liked Mech; he was an innovator and a great source of moral when he did his weekly stand up routine for everyone.

'Brilliant but I wanted to talk to you about something,' Tai gave him the nod to continue as they made their way to the General Headquarters. 'I remember reading about an old military base when I worked for the Government, really top secret stuff but I thought if we go there the tech we would be able to salvage will be invaluable.'

'OK...where is it?'

'Long Island.' Mech looked at him as he said it.

'That's Silver Moon Territory.'

'I know and we need them but I thought if we could strike a deal with them...Tai I'm telling you this instillation will have everything we need! Radios, computers, processors, weapons caches! Food stores!' Food. Stopping Tai considered it for a moment, it was true the Silver Moons and Stranded had formed an alliance between each other, but it was strained. Felicity ruled her people with an iron fist and didn't take fools likely...but if they could strike a deal...

'Let me think about it.' Mech's smile grew slightly. 'I'm not saying we'll do it, let me speak to the General's about it. We'll decide in the morning.'

'OK, thanks for the circuit boards Tai!' he said disappearing back into the shell of the apparent block that was his home and workshop. When he finally reach HQ Tai passed clear through the guarded doors and entered the sub-terrain world. It was dark for several long strides until the unearthly blue glow of the computer screens began to pour into the tunnel. When he finally stepped out of the darkness he found the HQ nearly empty, the computer screens just on standby, only one worker on the communication station. The rest had been cleared for the night while he met with the General's. He had three and they were all stood around a large granite table waiting for him, the first was Elizabeth McDonald, a doctor from her past life turned field medic. She ran all the the hospitals under the Stranded's protection. A total of twelve in a city of over fifty.

The other two were twins, old friends of Tai back from his army days. Stuart and Daniel Thorn were identical brothers who had served under Tai in the SAS, he had no idea they were even in New York until one day they scoured a fallen building to find them alive amongst the rubble. Each turned to look at him as he stood at the head of the table. 'How're the hospital's Ellie?' he asked getting straight to business, only because he was exhausted and wanted to go to sleep though.

'Running well at the minute big man,' she said pointing at the map on the table. 'Saint James and NY General have had several hundred new patients and attacks from Scavengers or the Blood Skulls have fallen since we moved in.'

'Supplies?'

'Holding for the moment but we'll soon run out of painkillers if these quakes keep up.'

'OK...Twins, status reports?'

'Sanctuary's outbreak of cholera is finally under control but pneumonia is the new threat with winter approaching,' said Stuart.

'We got Com chatter over the radio that says a local Blood Skulls colony in the far south of the city is suffering from Porphyria, it'll only be a few weeks until they're all mad and killing each other.' finished Daniel.

'The city fights for itself sometimes.' Tai said softly looking down at the map. A blue circle he didn't recognise stared back at him. 'What's that?'

'A grocery store Scout Team Delta found on one of their patrols, they say it looks complete. Could have good food supplies in there.' smiled Daniel. Tai had to agree. The chance of finding a store that hadn't been picked clean was close to nil, if this one was intact it was a resource he had to exploit.

'Alright send out Shark in the juggernaut tomorrow morning with a ten strong team of workers, fill up the hold with as much food as they can find...we're going to need it.'

 

 

The End

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