It is a landscape she never expected to have to see, one she never expected to call home if one even could do that anymore.
|One of my beloved gas masks.|
(Not to be used as stock, image under copyright)
Her pack is heavy though the weight of it and her ammunition belt is comforting, it means she has things to rely on, weapons and food, a few extra articles of clothing not ripped to shreds or covered in blood. The gas mask she wears on her face has become like a second skin; there's no telling if the gases have abated since that dark morning when her country blew itself apart.
The wind blows a piece of tattered tarp hanging over a chain link fence and she lines her site up with it when it's movement alerts her. She sighs and lowers her gun as she relaxes, almost disappointed it wasn't one of those bastards she had come to love shooting holes into. After the blasts, bombs and gassing, the military and police officials were practically the only ones left and they had the weapons, power, and drive to take anyone down in order to steal what they needed to survive. "To serve and protect.", yeah right. More like "To murder, rape, and destroy."
She hadn't seen another "real" human being alive in over two weeks and the last time she had, the guy had tried to smooth his way into her good graces before trying to bludgeon her with a 2 x 4 and take her guns. He lost the fight and she had even gotten a pretty good shiner and a semiautomatic handgun out of the scrap.
'Sorry man, hope the bullet I left between your eyes doesn't leave you with too lasting a headache.'
Kills so far, 23 "officers" of the law and 7 "real" human beings. It wasn't exactly a walk in the park to blow someone's brain stem away but if it meant keeping her life then she would do it.
'I may have delicate hands but a trigger is only a little bit longer than an inch.'
That was their mistake, they underestimated her because of a few factors; she was young, a woman, and she was alone. What they also failed to understand that is was the fact that she was alone that had kept her alive for so long, it had been terrifying the first few days but after a while the solitude had shown her she didn't need anyone as a crutch to survive.
It hadn't been the most fun part of her life but it hadn't been the worst, she did miss her friends and her family, her comfortable bed. Surviving something so horrendous as the Almost-End of the World had really shown her how much she did value her life, the air in her lungs, and the way the sun looked so clean in the morning just after rising through the drifts of thick, mud green smoke.
Her watch beeps. Another hour had passed which meant screwing in a new filter to her mask. The air in her lungs was only breathable if the filters held out. She makes a note to forage for some extras and began a look out for military supply trucks; the five in her pack wouldn't even finish out the night.
She steps around a corner and as she does she hears the familiar sound of a rifle being cocked, she immediately crouches down behind a burned out Buick with some toasty looking skeletal remains seated inside.
She carefully looks around the back end of the car in the direction of the sound to find a guy sitting on the curb on top of a huge pack cleaning a hunting rifle. He has on a black tactical uniform like the Feds wear but he had a white (well it used to be white) armband with a medical cross on it. She had come to find that the medics were much kinder than just the regular grunts running around out there who wished nothing more than to use your body as a warm place to stick their cock for a few minutes before blowing your brains out and stealing your gear.
The lenses of his mask are smudged so badly with grease that she could barely make out his eyes. She edges out from behind the car a little bit more to get a better look when he suddenly looks up,
"Hey there. What's cooking?"
She readies her shotgun at her shoulder and stands slowly, keeping him in her sights,
"Nothing much cowboy, just taking a moonlit stroll. You military?"
Still he sits without the slightest inclination to arm himself against her hostile movements, he just sits there looking at her while he tapped the butt of his rifle tonelessly.
"I'm a corpman, so sure, that's military. Why do you ask? Wanna start a war or something?"
He laughs inside his mask, the noise of it sounding like waves from the distortion of the sound within the rubber. She doesn't laugh. Without lowering her weapon she takes a few steps cautiously toward him, her boots crunching on broken glass, shrapnel, and other detritus.
"So you have name? You hostile?"
"Gregory. I'm only hostile if someone else is hostile, seems to me anything else is excess. You?"
"I'm right there with you Gregory, the names Ace."
"Ace? Like the bandage? That's a pretty tough name you got there, sunshine." Again he laughs.
"It's a nickname and no, not like the bandage. Thanks."
She becomes a alert when he reaches down toward his pack,
"Don't move! I have you fixed, I will pull the trigger!" She blinks only once but keeps her eye peeled and directly on him, her finger eager on the trigger.
"I'm just getting you something, something you seem to need."
"I don't need anything, stay still!"
He ignores her and reaches futher down, unzipping a pouch on the outside of his bag. She shuffles forward, her gun pointed directly at his head,
"Drop the weapon, drop it!"
He laughs, then holds out his hand, offering her something in his open palm. She looks down at a bar of chocolate. She relaxes and lets out a small laugh, lowering her gun.
"You seem like you could use something sweet."
"I bet you use that line on all the ladies, huh?" She takes the chocolate bar and stows it in the pocket of her vest.
"Nah, just the ones that point shotguns right in my face and yell at me."
She smiles and reaches out her hand to him, and as he shakes it, two things happen; she realizes how long it's been since she's laughed and then hears a gun shot before seeing Gregory's face explode in a starburst of blood, skulls fragments, and flesh.
She has seconds before she can drop to the ground behind a shipping van, her face, arms and chest covered in blood spatter and unintelligible globs of human matter. Her breathing quickens as does her pulse and she lines her gun up with her eye as she lays on her stomach on the ground, she sees two pairs of feet in beat up sneakers running toward her, the sounds of their clanging packs and ammunition ringing in the air.
"Come out girlie, come play. What were you saying to your Jarhead friend there? Are you civilian? Grunt? Come out!"
She immediately hates him for his voice and listens attentively as they come ever nearer to her. She keeps the feet in her sights but if she's going to waste a shell or two they had better be toward kills, not just wounding some son of a bitch on his big toe.
"I know you're there, I shot that fuck and let you live. I thought you might be a little more fun to get to know."
'Oh great' she thinks, 'another horny fuckface who thinks her purpose in life is to let him stick his unimpressive pecker in me.'
She shifts her weight and kneels up, trying to be a quiet as possible. She stands quietly and leans her back against the truck and side steps closer to the front end of it. She looks out cautiously through what used to be a window to see one teenage idiot without a gas mask wearing tactical armor with a shredded t-shirt pulled over the top and a semiautomatic machine gun pushed into his shoulder, the sight obscuring his face.
'One idiot? I thought I saw two pairs of feet?' she thinks to herself before feeling someone's breath on her neck,
"Hey bitch, you lonely?"
Before she can even think, he has her shoulders pinned to the side of the truck as her gun hits the pavement, and his mouth is on her neck as she struggles and curses ni his face. She screams out as he yells to his buddy,
"Come on dude, I got her!"
Footsteps sound as the little prick pinning her to the truck bites the top of her breast through the t-shirt she wears under her bullet proof vest. His saliva runs down her cleavage and makes her squirm in disgust. She growls at him as his buddy rounds the front of the truck,
"You bastards are going to regret this, stupid fucking kids!"
"Yeah whatever, shut your fucking mouth before we fire a bullet down your throat." The other says before pulling out a knife.
After pulling her pack off of her back and throwing it to the ground, he pulls loose the straps of her vest and rips it off, leaving her even more vulnerable. He uses his knife to cut into the neck of her t shirt, cutting all the way down through the fabric before it falls open, revealing her breasts snugly held in a black bra. His toothy grin instant makes her want to rip that satisfied smile right of his greasy face.
The first boy pulls duct tape from a roll hanging from rope tied to his belt and tapes her wrists together above her head before pulling her over to the street sign a few steps away. Using more tape he secures her wrists to the pole, before slapping her across the face illiciting an angry scream,
"You fucker! What is your fucking deal?"
They laugh as they come closer, their greedy hands on her body as she shouts curses at them. Her voice going hoarse, Ace kicks at one in the crotch, making him go down on his knees while the other pushes his blade against her throat,
"Hey bitch, you pull another move like that I and I will slash your fucking throat; we don't need for you to be alive to get off."
She shudders in disgust but pulls back against the pole, consigning defeat for at least the time being. The boy she kicked is still on the ground holding his wounded pride but the one with the knife drags the tip down her cleavage as he lick her neck. Feeling his warm breath against her throat sickens her but she tries to remain cooperative. Raped isn't dead afterall, if they keep their word that is.
She closes her eyes and moment later hears two gun shots near to her hit their targets. When she opens her eyes, a girl with short red hair is smiling at her. The boy groans from the pavement,
"Would you excuse me for a second?"
She smiles at Ace before crouching over the boy laying on the ground,
"What can I help you with? Does it hurt? It should you disgusting pile of filth."
She cocks her handgun and puts one bullet into the side of his brain before turning back to Ace with a warm smile,
"So now that that is all taken care of, let's see about your wrists."
As this red haired savior leans toward Ace, their skin touches and she looks down into her eyes. She smiles and the moon catches in them and the glow calms Ace and makes something flutter deep within her.
"Oh god, you're bleeding. We'll have to wash and dress your cuts when we get back to The Hole. You'll be more than welcome there, and safe too."
Her pocket knife catches the tape and frees Ace, the relief a welcome to her aching arms and rattled mind. As she rubbed her soon to be bruised wrists, the girl with the red hair grabbed up her pack, vest, and shotgun from where they had been thrown by the dead men.
"By the way, I'm Elle. You have a name?"
"Oh yeah, sorry...I'm Ace. Thank you so much, I can't even begin to even..." Cutting her off, Elle intones,
"It's ok, that was a pretty shitty thing to have to go through. I'm just glad I saw you down here. I was up in what's left of the hospital looking for whatever, you know? I heard you screaming and popped my head out the window." With a smile she helped Ace into her vest and pack before handing over her gun.
As she steps off the curb she stumbles, her heavy boot catching the edge of the cracked cement. Elle reaches out, grabs her by her pack and takes hold of her hand, steadying her. As Ace looked over to her right, Elle's huge clear eyes shoe back and her and she's caught breathless by the glow she feels deep within her. She smiles in spite of herself and as Elle smiles back she forgets for a moment that she's standing in a graveyard of a world that was nearly dead. She feels lifted from all the mayhem and ugliness.
"I guess you're not so steady, not that I don't blame you. Here, give me your arm."
As she takes Ace's arm and they began the walk to The Hole, Ace thinks that there's was change in the air, though she isn't quite sure what that means.
-TO BE CONTINUED -