I.IV: Tactics

Uno was unable to brush the dust from his face. Despite the chill of the night, he was sweating ferociously, and dirt was sticking to his face, clinging to his ragged clothes.

This mysterious leader, his stance displaying his anxiety to appear strong, towered above Uno, the ropes burning into his wrists, making them visibly red even in the poor light. His head was hanging low, as if he was falling asleep, but the fear and adrenaline pumping through his veins were enough to keep him awake.

Uno recognised the backpack in his captor's hand - his own. The marks were distinguishable. It bore the logo of a popular sports brand, or one that had been popular before the Blast, and with the recognisable repairs such as stitching that Uno had had to do himself, this bag was not to be mistaken for another.

'That's mine,' Uno moaned, breathing heavily through his terror.

'I know, kid.' The reply came quickly, and Uno saw a silhouette move, before squatting in front of him. Lifting his head, Uno allowed their gaze to meet, just for a second, before looking away once more, but keeping his head lifted. His eyesight drifted once more to the bag. It wasn't open, which led him to assume its holder was yet to look through it.

'Listen, Uno, was it?' No answer, but no doubt the question was rhetorical. 'I want to help you. I want to help my people, the Lost Boys. We want to survive, and to do that, we need to be overly cautious. As a scavenger, I'm sure you'd understand.'

'I wouldn't call myself a scavenger, but okay,' Uno half-argued, but realised he didn't have the energy, and was certainly in no position to do so.

'We need to be careful, because there are threats out there, as I'm sure you will have seen. And for all we know, you're one of them. Now, before you say anything to defend yourself, I just want to ask you a few questions. You give me the answers I want, then we'll let you go. Does that sound fair?'

It didn't. 'Yes.' Uno lied to this man for the second time.

'Okay, I just want to know what you were doing out and about so late at night. Can you tell me that, just to start?' The tone of his keeper seemed to soften slightly. Uno was starting to believe that maybe these people were not savages, merely survivalists.

'I move around lots. Staying in one place for too long is dangerous. People can keep tabs on you, and when people do that, they have an advantage. When people learn of a location, and the details surrounding it, the people, and so on, they become safer, but in turn, you become more endangered. And so I move around.' Uno gave an honest answer. It was a first.

'Fair enough. Logical, I like that.' Looking to his interrogator once more, Uno saw a small smile creep onto the face of the man leaning towards him. Whether it was a smile of progress, or a smile of respect, he could not tell in this light. 'Second question, do you travel alone? If we were to - strictly hypothetically - keep you because you were a threat, or - again, very unlikely - kill you because you were too dangerous, would we be digging our own grave? Are you worth our trouble?'

'Well, if it prevents me from being killed or kidnapped, then of course I'm going to say that I travel with a band of highly skilled mercenaries, eager for blood, and probably scoping you out with heat-seeking missiles as we speak.'

Again, the captor smiled.

'But if I'm being honest, no. I travel alone. Safety.'

'You don't believe in safety in numbers?' An intriguing and accurate point. Uno had contemplated this several times since the Blast. But with nobody else to worry about, he had nobody else to worry about. Safety meant loneliness. He repeated this to the silhouette.

'Good point. You're smart, sensible. I like that. I have one last question, and I can assure you that if the answer you provide is on the same pegging as the previous two, you will be walking free in no time.' Getting to his feet, the man held the bag out toward his captive. Shaking it, he asked, 'What's in the bag?'

The End

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