Chapter 3

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Heart is pounding, gotta move, sliding across the floor I place myself behind a nearby desk, the damn desks are proving more useful than anything this trip.  As my heart rate drops, the dull moans of the creatures can be heard echoing throughout the building, where are they.  Instinctively reaching for my revolver; the sound of the metal sliding across the street enters my head.  Never went back for it; the weapon now rests in the middle of the roadway like so many of the lost souls who came before.  Damn! How stupid can I be?  This trip was a mistake never should’ve come, doing fine, got greedy.  Nothing but one thing after another gotta learn to leave well enough alone.  Ok, need a plan, no use offering myself up on a silver platter, man if I could find one of those I would never have to come back to the Wastes.  Get your head in the game, carefully I edge around the corner of the desk, ensuring not to surrender my position; see what I am up against.  Sun streams into the area highlighting key points, takes several moments for me to zero in on the source, two of them standing in the door.  Flesh is burned and melted; any resemblance of clothing is worn twisted and ruined much like their skin.  Metal claws made from scraps laying about the badlands serve as weapons.   Statues, they don’t move, standing a symbol to the humans they once were.  Time alone in the Wastes and exposure to the radioactive zone mutating them, changing.  No longer requiring masks to breathe; the poisonous atmosphere is no threat to them. 

Strange, seems they thrive on the stuff, as if somehow nourishing them.  For the creepers the air is pure and clean, for everyone else death.  Something odd about this, don’t like it.  Stop drifting, this is what happens when you let emotion take you, you’re stupid.  Can’t get over leaving the revolver; with a weapon this wouldn’t be a problem, need to think outside the box to survive this.  Not much time before they swarm, gotta think on my feet here.   Why aren’t they swarming, they just stand silent.  What are they waiting for; Creepers aren’t the site seeing type.  From my experience with Creepers are driven by one thing, hunger!   They don’t know where I am, wish I had my revolver.

Ok enough kicking myself about the revolver, need a plan to get out of this.   Maybe if I make a distraction, sneak past.  In unison they turn their heads, staring precisely at me.  The found me, but how.  Dark sunken eyes penetrate through the desk, smell that is how they found me.   My gut sinks at the awareness of what they are picking up, how they found me to begin with; my hand lowers down to my leg; the bandage is covered in dry blood, live human blood.  Escape; my eyes take in the scene, there has to be a way out.  Only one thing I can do, I press myself against the desk and take a couple of deep breaths, do the only thing I can think of, jump through a window.

            My jacket protects me from most of the glass, the warm trickle of blood alerts me that several pieces found their way into my flesh.  Pain burns throughout the wound; no choice, ignore the pain.  After several blocks the pain overwhelms me, recent activity has reopened the wound, blood now flows freely, got to stop; the loss of life is too much.  The wound is starting to fade, shock will take me soon, I need to think and move quickly, headfirst I plunge behind a nearby car, I was lucky the Creepers didn’t initially see me jump through the window.  Only a few blocks separate us, but it will do.

Blood, probably been searching for me since last night, ok, I can use this.  Only have one choice here, stand and fight.  Too weak to make a break for it, be down on the ground before they got to me.  Besides can’t hide from them now.  No fighting is my only option, I can survive this.  Need to turn the situation to my advantage.  Got it, sliding my pack from my back I remove a large shard of glass.  This will have to do; wish I had a knife, live in the moment right.  The dried sticky blood now stings as I pull the bandage from the wound.  The dressing now is foul; tossing it across the street I clench the glass.

Growls echo throughout the streets, the Creepers are moving fast.  Adrenaline starts to flow into my body; once again I am full of live.  The first of the creature’s heads straight for the diversion, the scrapping of metal can be heard above me.  My body instinctively moves, without thinking I reach for the legs pulling the monster down to the ground.  The glass pieces its chest, pressing harder I stare into its eyes watching the life drain from within.  There isn’t much time to react; the other Creeper has turned its attention back toward me.  The thing lunges for me, turning to face it blood sprays across my mask.  There is much time for me to realize what has happened, the loss of blood finally takes me, placing my weight against the car the disfigured remains of the Creeper haven crashed upon the ground.  Through the blackness and smears of blood spattering my mask, I can make distinguish two figures making their way toward me.  With my last bit of energy, I manage to raise the shard of glass before I slam face first into the asphalt.

            The air is warm; slowly I drift back into this world.  At first I allow myself to lie motionless taken in the warmth, finally I open my eyes completing my journey back into this reality.  The surroundings come into focus, a tent?  How did I get here?  Someone saved me, but who and more importantly why.  The doorway is sealed by an airlock, which means it is a bio-tent.  Bio-tents are rare and expensive, generally only the few Brotherhood expeditions to the Wastes have them.  Was I saved by the Brotherhood?  Doesn’t add up; the Brotherhood doesn’t save people, especially Wasters.  What were they doing this far north, the Wastes offer nothing to them, scientific perhaps?  Besides that I can only think of use they have for the Wastes, the potential profit from desperate half starved Wasters.

 Thoughts drifting away I return to my surroundings, this isn’t a medical tent; a small foldable desk is pressed against a wall.  The bed is more of a cot then anything, still, feels good to be out of the Wastes.  Clothing has been removed and placed neatly upon the desk, care has been given.  The wound haven been cleaned and stitched hardly aches, my wrist has been wrapped, and a cold press rests upon my head.  A small pinch circulates throughout my arm as I sit up, the catheter slipping out, the short line being over extended.  I sit on the edge of the bed trying to figure out what is going on, where I am and why I was saved.  Well whatever it is, one thing is for sure, I need to put my clothes back on.  The clothing is old and worn, blood stains the various articles.

            “You’re really going to put those rags back on after everything I did to clean you up?”  A young girl stands in the doorway, a slanted smirk upon her face.  Short strawberry blonde hair falls down over her green eyes, from the look of her she seems to be around my age. Her small frame blocks the entrance; she is shorter than me, even with boots on. Upon her left forearm is a wolf with a rather hefty looking knife in its mouth, black armor hangs from the other.  This is the symbol of the Brotherhood Hunter Corp, Soldiers for hire.  Mercenaries contracted to do the dirty work of cooperate figure head.   Skin like snow, she stands a moment starting back, she lets out a slight laugh before tossing the armor upon the bed.  Placing a boot at the foot of the cot she begins to untie it, I can’t help but stare. 

“Hey don’t get any ideas” She tosses the boot at me.

 “Oh sorry, I just wanted to say thanks for saving me back there.”  I say as I continue to put my pants on. 

“Don’t mention it, besides it was just a bet, didn’t think my partner could blast that thing out of the air before it ripped you to shreds, and I said don’t put those on.”  She throws the other boot.  Brushing pass me she reaches into a small container.  Strange meeting someone like her out here, not the type of person one would think would make the Hunter corp.  She knows I am staring; she says nothing and continues to open the trunk, removing an olive colored jumpsuit and tossing it to me.

“This will help out there.  Get dressed, or would you like to stare some more.”  

  It’s a survival suit; we get them out here from time to time, expensive.  Generally only people like Hyde can afford them, not that he would be able to shove himself into one.  They are designed to provide protection from the elements and regulate body heat.

 “Fancy”, I say as I pulling the thing on “Why are you helping me?  Usually Brotherhood hunters don't care about anyone but themselves.” Her present nature fades from her green eyes. She takes me by the throat and forces me into the wall.

 “I’m not with those bastards, got it.” 

I clear my throat “Sorry, it’s just that.”  I stop myself “never mind.”   The suit conforms to my body. 

“Turn around.”  She indicates for me to spin, not fare, she got to see me change. “Dinner is in fifteen.” don’t even see her leave.

            The suit immediately starts adjusting to my body temperature, providing a temperate cooling effect.  To think about how many times I traversed the Wastes and could have used something like this.  The boots fit nicely over the suit; even they have been designed for comfort.  The tent, it turns out, is actually a series of tents connected together allowing a person to travel around without having to put on a mask.  Stumbling around I eventually make my way into what must be the mess area.

 “Well, well, well, what do we have here?”  The voice though female is not the one from before.  Between her shaven head and pale skin her blue eyes seem out of place, as if stolen from someone.  She is older with a bigger build, more like what one would expect from a hunter.  Tattoos cover both arms; the hunter symbol is almost hidden amongst them.  Her ink extends up the back of the neck toward the head, several piecing adorn the face.  She has long ago made the decision to turn herself into a walking canvas, covering it.

“Hello” 

“Velvet, Velvet Star is the name!”  She extends her hand. 

“Riley Quinn” Her hands are rough, she hasn’t lived an easy life.

“Well, it is a pleasure to meet you, pull up a chair, we got Waste dog for dinner.” I do my best to hide my distain for Waste dog, grew up on the stuff, always foul, always bad.  “Have you met your illustrious savior” Velvet states welcoming her partner into the room. 

“I didn’t get her name.”

“Fiona Kaie” She says taking a seat. 

“Well now that we are all friends, dig in.”  Velvet practically jumps out of her chair on her way to the burner unit.  Never seen anyone get the excited over Waste dog.

Don’t know how she did it, but she has managed to make the meat somewhat palatable.  Thought at this point I would take anything over dried meat, and stale crackers.

  We don’t talk, just eat.  Finally I break the silence, “What is your angle, no one helps out a stranger not without expecting something in return” Heck, people don’t even help their friends out without expecting something in return. We all sit in silence once more.

“We need a place to go and get away, most of the maps we have of the Wastes are useless, and we need a guide, ok.” I sit back in my chair for a moment leaning to one side resting upon my chin. 

I think for a moment, Like I said before, the Brotherhood never really comes deep into the Wastes, though this is a reason I have never thought of “Your one the run.”

“Look, will you help us or not?” Fiona barks.

I think for a moment “Ok, ok, you need me and I needed you, I will get you to a settlement and then we are even.”  I can see that they are pondering the idea; they clearly planned on getting some sort of payment out of me for the medical attention and clothing. 

“Fine, it’s a deal.”  Fiona grudgingly states.  She is strange; there is strength about her, a fighter much like myself.

“Good, guess that makes me the leader.” I say a wide smile upon my face.

“Go to hell.” Fiona yells, pushing her plate away, “I’m done.”  Fiona storms off leaving Velvet and I.

“Well I guess dinner is done.” Velvet says.  After dinner Velvet leads me back to my room, Fiona is nowhere to be found.  Velvet has an awkward smile upon her face, don’t know why but I can tell the thought of Fiona and I during dinner tickles her. “She was planning on getting some of the reflective glass as payment for the medical attention, hoping to use it to start over.  She doesn’t like being outsmarted.” 

“And what do you think?”   I ask.

With a wink and a smile Velvet comments “I think she likes you.” Velvet says stopping at the doorway, “Get some sleep.”  This is going to be an interesting trip. 

            Good idea to get some sleep tomorrow is going to be a long day. Not sure if it was the food or the events of the day, maybe just a comfortable place to sleep, but soon morning is upon me. The morning is off to a good start, a very agitated Fiona stands over me.  Guess she is still sore about last night.  “Get up we are moving out.”  She turns and leaves the room without saying another word.  Since I spent the night in the survival suit it doesn’t take long to get ready, I take several breaths of the purified air before placing the mask upon my face.  All at once the dream of this world fades; the mask brings me back to the curses reality.  The thick brown jackets rests next to my old clothing, reaching for it my eyes drift toward the blood soaked remains of my past.  Today is a new day; everything is going to be different, just got a feeling. 

The others are already outside.  The light armor carried by Fiona the day prior now adorns their bodies.  The metal plates cover the vital areas, limbs and backs.  Masks bare metal plating riveted into certain key areas for protection.  The smell of fresh paint lingers upon them, now painted a light tan, an attempt to cover the Brotherhood markings.  Behind me the tent, huge is an understatement.  “How did you guys get this thing here?”   

“That.”  The Land Runner is a small enclosed off-road vehicle designed to cross the radioactive zone.  Things are starting to look up. 

“I was expecting to walk; we should reach Haven in a few hours.”  I throw my bag into the runner.

“We are walking.”  Fiona says thrusting the bag back into my arms.  

“Why would we walk when we have a perfectly good runner?”  Defiantly I shove the bag back into the runner.

Fiona grabs the bag “I swear I will shove this thing.”  Velvet steps in.

“It’s got a tracking device, by now they will have noticed we took it, we use it we are dead.”  

“Ok, we can’t just leave it here then.” I say, eyes fixed upon Fiona.

“We Burn everything.” Velvet says.

“Ok, how do we do that?” I ask.

Fiona turns to me hiding a wicked smile behind her mask “Simple, with oil.”  Damn it, knew the bag felt too light.

 

The End

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