I have to laugh to myself, this girl will do anything to get an edge over a guy, and I like that. With a quick survey of the land, I decide that we are a few miles outside of the city ruins. My leg feels much better, but is still not able to bear its fair share of the weight.
“It will take about a day and a half to reach Haven.”
With a twist Fiona has pulled the ignition cap off of a flare and tossed it into the cab of the runner. I stand silently as the fire, fueled by oil almost immediately overtakes the vehicle. Fiona starts to walk away from the blaze “Let’s get moving, we don’t want to be anywhere near here when the Brotherhood shows up.” She picks up her pack and starts to walk.
After hours of walking the sun is starting to set, we have been walking for most of the day and I can tell the heat is starting to get to us, neither of us has been paying particular attention to our water intake and it is easy to spot the signs of dehydration. Velvet and Fiona almost drag their weapons. Their steps are slow and seem to slide across the sand and as for myself my injuries are starting to get the better of me I am lucky to have made it this far.
“We need to stop, were done.” I say.
“What’s a matter, can’t deal with a little leg pain?” Fiona plops down as she stumbles over the words.
“We will be dead by morning if we keep pushing like this.”
Velvet cuts in “He is right, we need to rest.”
“Come on” I extend my hand to Fiona, “There is an old building down the road we can use for shelter.”
Fiona grudgingly accepts my hand, within a few minutes we have made it to the building and begin to set up camp, this will not be like last night; tonight we will need to be on our guard. Between the Creepers and the half dozen or so mutated species of animal the roam the wastes, there are about a million ways to die out here.
“I’ll take the first watch” I say.
“Fine by me” Velvet manages says as she collapses against a wall within the building.
I dig into my bag and pull out a bottle of water “makes sure you drink tonight, it’s gonna be hot again tomorrow.”
“Thanks dad, I can’t take care of myself.”
“Fiona, he is our best chance of surviving out here, if he gives us an order we should follow.” Fiona recognizes the truth in Velvets statement. She grabs the water bottle and takes a seat across from Velvet.
“Fine, but once we get to Haven he can die for all I care.”
“Here” Velvet holds out her rifle to me.
“Thanks” I take the rifle and position myself outside the entrance to the building. I believe that place was once a gas station. To think that long ago before the bombs it was as easy as driving down the road to get fuel. Now, we are lucky enough to scrounge up enough fuel to keep the purifiers going. It amazes me that we have survived this long. Slowly I find myself drifting into my thoughts. What would my life be like if the bombs never fell, I can’t help but think of my parents? What were they thinking bringing I child into this world, what is anyone thinking when they have kids. There is no hope, just death. I once heard an elder say that the greatest thing mankind had was hope. Hope! Hope died when the bombs fell.
“You’ve been out here long enough” Fiona’s voice startles me back into reality; I must have drifted off into myself. She takes a seat across from me and stares out into the Wastes. We sit in silence for a while. I look up to the stars and break the silence
“They call that the big dipper.”
“What?” Fiona says.
“The Constellation of stars right there.” Pointing the stars I refer to out to her.
“Why would anyone want to know that?” Thinking about it in retrospect it does seem rather pointless.
“Well, you see that bright star there, it’s called the North Star, and people long ago used it to find their way.” For the first time since I met her I think I hear a slight laugh come from inside her mask.
“What, People long ago also dropped bombs that almost completely wiped-out the entire human race.” She says, “You sure you want to be listen to what they have to say.” For some reason the book jumps into my mind. Rummaging through my pack I quickly locate the thin paper bound book.
“They wrote this.” I toss the book over to her.
“Declaration of Independence” Fiona does not seem to impress with the title.
“Well I should get some sleep, enjoy the book.” With that I make my way back into the building, I find a corner to curl up in and stare off into the darkness. The thoughts from before enter my head once more. “What would it be like to live free of this world.” I whisper to myself.
The sun is warm against my skin, the grass cool under my feet. Is this what it feels like beyond the mountains, where there is no radiation, where life still lives? As I walk through the field, the grass sways in the wind. Wind, a cool breeze that feels good against the skin as it blows through my thin white shirt. The air is fresh, not stale like in the Wastes. This world is much different from the one I left behind. I can hear the sounds of creatures in the distance; however, these are not the dull moans of Creepers or the wicked howls of the Waste hounds. This is more like music, birds! Next, there is laughter; a small child now plays in the field. His mother chases him through the field; the child can’t be more than three or four. I can’t help but smile. Is this what it was like before the bombs? This must be it, beyond the mountains where the fabled paradise rests. It is over in a flash, like so many people before me the last thing I see is the flash.
“Are you ok?” I am awakened by Velvet. Her hands rest upon my shoulders. Cold sweat runs down my brow. My breathing is no longer rhythmic, but hastened as if I had been running.
“Are you ok?” she asks again. This time I acknowledge her with a nod of my head. “You had me scared there for a second.” She states, “You just started screaming.”
“I need some air.” I make my way outside. Fiona rest against the wall her eyes follow me as I make my way into the road, into the darkness. I know it is dangerous out here but I need a moment to get away.
“Are you alright?” I can hear Fiona’s voice from behind.
“What happened?” Fiona asks.
“It was strange.” I say, “I was there when the bombs fell.” “That’s messed up man!” She pauses a moment as she tries to think of something to lighten the mood, “So, what was it like, you know being nuked? I respond the only way I know how.
My eyes draw down to the book in her hands. She holds the book out.
“Thanks.” My hand briefly brushes against hers reaching for the book. We both feel it, there is a feeling that starts in our stomachs, we both know what it is, we are both afraid to acknowledge it. We both retract in unison, there is no room in this world to get caught up in emotion, and losing control of one’s self equals death out here.
“I should get back to my watch.” Fiona says in an attempt to escape the situation.
“They have some good ideas in that thing.” She says, indicating the book
“You’ve read it?” I ask.
“A little.”Fiona responds with a nod.
“I can’t help but wonder what the world they lived in was like. I mean do you think that their ideas came about, or did they simple die like everything else in this world?”
Fiona lets out a slight sigh before responding, “Who knows or cares, best not try to think about it. Ideals like that died a long time ago.” She pauses for a moment “Ideas like that are best left dead. They only bring pain and suffering to people.”
“I was gonna sell the thing, when I got back, figured it would be worth something to someone.”
Fiona turns and starts to head back to her post, she pauses a moment, “Best keep that thing out of site and in your hands. Things of this nature tend to come back at ya, and not in a good way.”
I try to get some sleep, but it is no use, I am still worked up over my dream. About tonight, about a lot of things, I can’t wait till I get back to Haven and I can return to being on my own. The world is so much simpler when you have nothing to deal with, no one to interfere with your life. Before long the sun is rising, I kick Velvet softly as I make my way out into the Wastes. Fiona sits upon a fallen wall. I find myself wondering what her hair would look like in the morning sun. How it would shine, how her skin would reflect the earliest morning rays upon the ground. My eyes meet hers and I know we both have been looking at each other. Once again there is no hiding the strange feeling between us, and whatever it is, no good can come of it not here in this world, “We need to go, the sooner we get back the sooner we are done with each other.”
“Agreed.” Fiona says as she hopes off the wall.
We are packed and moving before the sun has fully risen. Hopefully, we can get a few miles behind us before the sun reaches its peak, and we begin to feel the day. If we keep up a steady pace we should be in Haven by nightfall.
“We should be there by early evening at this pace.”
“Quite don’t make a sound.” She pauses for a moment “Damn it, Stalker!” Velvet and Fiona start to run, trying to find anything they can to hide. That is when I see it come over the horizon. The black metal of the aircraft absorbs the sun’s rays, giving off heat in an unnatural way. The Brotherhood aircraft stands out completely against the white and tan backdrop of the Wastes. I take off after Velvet and Fiona.
“Wait!” I shout they are too fast for me with my leg in this condition.
“What did he say” Fiona yells in Velvet’s direction.
“I think he said wait, he can’t run.” Velvet stops. “We can’t leave him.”
“If they find us with him the will.” She pauses, “Look its better if we leave him.” Fiona says as she pulls Velvet behind the wreckage of a truck.
“We have to go back for him; we can’t let them get him.” Velvet Says.
“You know we can’t go back, we can never go back.”
The pain in my leg is excruciating. It has started to bleed again; I can feel the warm blood against my skin under my suit. I can do nothing but sit and wait for the Brotherhood. Within seconds they are on me. Dust and sand is sent flying in all directions as the Stalker makes its decent. Slowly it hovers down to earth and the sound of shifting metal can be heard as the landing gear makes contact with the floor of the Wastes. I am helpless; I wait for my pending death.
After a moment, an entrance walk lowers and two Brotherhood troopers emerge from the aircraft. There armor is heavy and black, much like the Stalker. A patch on the upper right arm of the troopers, a grey fist in front of two hammers set in a circle, can be clearly seen, the insignia of the Brotherhood. One of the troopers raises his hand to the side of his mask; both keep their weapons pointed at me.
“Understood sir.” The first one says.
It takes the troopers almost no effort at all to hoist me up and drag me into the ship. I have never seen anything like this in my life. Everything is clean and sleek. The inside of the Stalker is in stark contrast to the outside. Everything is bright, the doors are made of glass and slide open as your approach. After a few moments, I am dragged through a few rooms and taken to what I assume is the medical office. There everything is white and sterile. As soon as I am dropped off by the troopers the medical staff takes over. They move as one unit, quickly removing my clothing and bandages, they clean me and start to push needles and tubes into my arms. The world starts to go hazy as they scan my body with several machines of unknown purpose.
My rhythmic breathing has returned once again reminding me that I am alive. Only this time it is not from my mask, but rather the machine next to me. The oxygen it feeds me is clean and pure unlike the poorly filtered air that we breathe back in Haven. Next to the oxygen machine is another that seems to move in sync with the beating of my heart. There is some sort of brace on my wrist that is emanating a warm pulse. For this first time in two days I feel no pain.
It is clear that they are feeding me some sort of pain killer through one of the tubes they have stuck in me. My leg, too, has a similar brace. The feeling of warmth it provides is comforting. I imagine it is much how the sun would feel against one’s skin.
“You’re up, that is good.” I can hear the voice of a girl behind a screen. “Just give me a moment and I will be right with you.” Her voice is soft and sweet, “Just finishing up my report, have to send it off before I can do anything else!”
A moment later she appears from behind the screen. She has long hair, curly and blonde. Her Eyes are a deep blue. Skin is fair and perfect; this girl has not missed a meal in her life. She is fit and firm. “So how are we feeling?”
“Much better.” I respond.
“I was worried for a moment there.” She says.
Why would she worry about me; she doesn’t even know me; she is Brotherhood. They don’t worry about anyone, “Let’s see here, wrist was shattered, leg was infected and not to mention severe dehydration.”
I knew I was hurt, but wow, injuries like this would have cost quite a bit of creds back home to get fixed up.
“Where are we?” I ask.
“Oh sorry, we are back to a settlement called Haven; Commander figured that is where you are from.” Why would the Brotherhood catch us only to fix me up and drop me off as if we were old friends? Something is wrong here; I am missing something. “We should be there shortly, so why don’t you get some more rest; oh and if you need anything, the name is Nurse Cassidy, but you can call me Cara. Before leaving me she presses a button one of the machines I am hook up to. I know she has given me more drugs because once again I slip out of reality.
I awake after what has to be hours, what’s taken them so long? If we were going back to Haven we should have been there by now. Especially by air, that means only one thing; we are not going back to Haven. I have to escape, I can’t lay here waiting. I look around for Cara; she is busy on the other side of the screen, probably sending another report, most likely about my status, needs to keep me alive long enough to be interrogated. I need to make a break for it, now or never. I almost stumble off of the table; it takes next to no effort for my momentum to pull the tubes from my body, blood trickles down my arms and alarms can be heard over the intercom. The door is only a few feet away; I can see Cara moving from behind the screen, I have to make it to the door. She can’t catch me, I am lucky in that everything on this ship is automated; the door opens as soon as I get within a few feet of it. I move through the corridors of the ship with new energy, I feel like my old self, as if I never got injured. I can make it, just need to find a way out. If we are airborne I won’t be able to get out, damn it! Then I feel it, everything tingles my body twists and convulses as I collapse to the ground. Teasers are strange to me; one would think having electricity surge through your body would allow you to move faster, instead they do something to your muscles, make you lose control. Before I knew it I was on the ground, twitching, trying to make sense of it all. Within moments the troopers are on me, their weapons pointed directly at my head. One wrong move and I will be nothing more than a spatter against the wall.
“Stand down men. Leave him be. He has had a long day.” There is something about the voice, it is comforting, yet at the same time there is something not quite right with it, something untrustworthy. As if it is hiding something it does not wish you to know, or understand.
“Please, take our guest to my quarters.” With that I am whisked away.
Within a matter of minutes I found myself lounging in the room that belongs to the mysterious voice. Well lounged out is a bit of a stretch. In truth, I was still feeling the effects of the teaser; I really had no choice in the placement of my body. No sooner do the troopers leave then he enters. Tall and slender, that was my first impression of Mr. Kazimir. His clean cut brown hair is cut close to his head, indicating his military status.
He had a sinister smirk about him, as if he was up to no good, “It is good to see that you are better. You are lucky to be alive you know.” He places his hands palm to palm and slowly brings them to his lips.
“Thanks for fixing me up.” I nod; it is all I can do at the current moment.
“Oh, I am not talking about that, you’re lucky they didn’t kill you.” Is he talking about Velvet and Fiona? Are they dangerous? What is he talking about?
“Would you like some water, clean, not that recycled stuff you are use to.” He pours two glasses before bringing one over to me. He holds it out waiting. “Oh, I guess the effects of the teaser haven’t quite worn off yet.”
He places the glass on a small table next to me and takes a seat besides my head. “You see, the two individuals you were with are very dangerous, a lot of people were hurt because of them.” He slowly begins to stroke my hair back.
“What did they do?”
He stops and smirks slightly. “They didn’t tell you?” I shake my head. “They started a revolution.”