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 7 Months: A Prologue

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Mesh'la Runi

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PostSubject: 7 Months: A Prologue   Thu Jul 29, 2010 10:03 pm

Seven months. It had been seven months since the world had tried to end. Seven months since the start of nothing but the crudest survival.

Malorie was a farm girl from Nebraska. She knew how to cultivate a crop, how to herd a small group of cattle, how to ride a horse bareback. But that didn't mean she was trained for wilderness expertise. She'd still lived in a decent home her whole life, even if it had been in the middle of nowhere. A warm bed and three square meals was all she'd ever known.

Out here, though...

And that was another thing. Where was here? She'd gotten a map back in Idaho, but it had fallen apart in a river when she'd tried to cross and misjudged the depth. Surely she was somewhere in Oregon by now.

She hadn't eaten in days. Most of the shrubbery was too dense to yield fruit to begin with, but it was February and the frosts of winter still hadn't completely thawed, leaving even less to forage. To make matters worse, her mode of travel, a beautiful white horse she'd "borrowed" from a neighboring farm, hadn't survived the past night. She was fairly certain he hadn't died of the temperatures, as the biggest freezes were long over. They'd holed up in an abandoned lodge she'd luckily stumbled across in Wisconsin, but they'd run out of the few food things stored there within the first month, and she'd had to make trips out in the snow every morning to hunt for plants kept preserved beneath the drifts. It was difficult, and probably not nearly enough nourishment, but she knew what to look for at least. They'd survived.

No. Something else had killed her horse. Maybe it had just been old. It could have been any number of things. But now she was stuck walking; sick, tired, hungry. Cold. Her sneakers had worn out at the heels and she desperately needed a change of clothes.

Her stomach grumbled as she trudged, arms around her thin torso as if trying to shut in the hunger. The dawn was just creeping up through the trees, and she was more thankful for the sun than she'd been in a while. Cresting a small hill, she surveyed the land that lay sprawled beyond.

She'd reached the outskirts of a city, one that had been populous at one point from the looks of it, but she hadn't the slightest idea which one it might be or how close she was to her true destination. All this time she'd been heading for Seattle. She'd heard from a few passerby that there were supplies there, though they'd been going off in the opposite direction with very little in tow as if they'd avoided that city altogether. They'd moved on before she could ask more.

Skidding down the wet, snowy slope, Malorie picked up her pace a little until she came to a thick fence that seemed to line at least this side of the city, if not the entire thing. A bit of a walk took her about half a mile around until she noticed a seemingly unguarded gate. Cautiously, she listened for noise, and upon hearing nothing out of the ordinary, pushed on the gate.

She stepped through without incident. For such a big city, it was awfully silent. That worried her to an extent. Even in the small towns she'd been through, there were always signs of life, always pockets of stubborn locals who had refused to vacate their homes. This was just unnatural.

Click.

Malorie spun on her toes as the gate started to rattle closed. Before she could run through the narrowing opening, two pairs of hands grabbed at her from either side, one of them putting a dirty glove over her mouth to muffle her scream. She kicked and thrashed, but even one of them alone would have been much stronger than her. From her angle, she couldn't see their faces, only their filthy overalls and scuffed work boots. They stunk of cheap beer, cigarettes, and body odor; a nauseating comination. With a twinge of fear, she was shoved forward roughly, nearing the bed of a truck that had some sort of cage installed onto the bed.

Digging her exposed heels into the cold ground, she tried futilely to slow their progression, and was rewarded with a punch to the jaw that left her seeing bright lights in her field of vision, tears of shock welling in her eyes.
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PostSubject: Re: 7 Months: A Prologue   Thu Jul 29, 2010 10:52 pm

The tower was not old but it was dilapidated: In seven months a host of pigeons had taken over it and coated the place in shite so deep it'd take a few pressure washes just to see the blue of the carpet again. However the simple walls did offer protection from the cold during the night and during the day the collapsed wall and rubble pile offered a even more alluring prize: A vantage point. There, amongst the rubble, stood a man. He too wore overalls, dirty and shabby, as he leant against the wall heavily. A rifle was stood next to him, also balanced against the wall but there was a strange calm to the man's expression; a bizarre lack of reaction to the events going on down below.

That would probably be because of the small knife wound that cut in through the man's neck, slicing through the trachea. At his feet lay Evgeny, a pile of debris amongst debris. His own clothes were caked in dust and his rifle looked just like another broken support beam which kept Evgeny happy: Since the half hour ago that he'd taken the slaver's sniper down the two below had not taken much notice of the tower. They'd occasionally glance up and seemed satisfied in the propped up body Evgeny had left.

He'd spent all his time observing them, curious as to their actions. They'd got busy in preparing something since the fateful seconds before Evgeny had taken the sniper down and no wonder; observing beyond the city showed a prize of sorts. A young girl who looked both weak and possibly unarmed. Deciding that this was his best chance at taking down the two slavers Evgeny had laid in wait till the girl entered the city and the slavers pounced.

As the punch connected with the poor woman Evgeny depressed the trigger. The shot was certainly not perfect: Although the distance was not great the punch had thrown his target sideways and so messed up his perfection but the bullet still pierced the man's aorta effectively. Hammering the lever back Evgeny took another breathe and gazed down the glassy scope: The other slaver was panicking now, reaching for a weapon. The bullet tore through his shoulder blade, sending him screaming to the floor.

Now the run was on, Evgeny was sliding down the debris pile and onto the floor below; his feet pounding through the dust and shit. His rifle was ready in his hand and he timed it waiting one...two....running through the open area and against a wall just before the truck. He kept himself low, moving slowly. There could be one more-the fire nearly ripped Evgeny's ear off as he hit the floor, bullets whizzing from the truck's passenger door as the final hidden slaver shot from behind it.

It seemed like a immensely foolhardy thing to do, taking on slavers, but Evgeny was no fool and neither was he a saint. He certainly wasn't doing it for the girl, he was doing it because there are a few universal truths about slavers: They have ammo and they have food. Both were precious in this world.

The bullets were still intense: The guy was firing in bursts to keep Evgeny pinned down. As much as he didn't want to he supposed he might have to use a grenade but the girl might get hurt if he did that and no matter what else Evgeny was he wasn't that cold or callous. She might have useful info for him. Evgeny whistled and suddenly there was a deep throaty bark, followed by the noise of footsteps. A black labrador, filthy beyond belief, hared round the corner and towards another building. The gunman next to the truck foolishly swung his rifle and let off a burst at the poor dog: Evgeny however simply popped over the low wall and shot the man through the door. The single bullet punched through the cheap metal and threw the man to the floor, gasping for breathe.

Evgeny walked round the truck slowly, taking great care to check the area. It seemed clear, but you never could tell. The slaver who he had shot from tower was on the floor breathing heavily, seeing Yev he began to beg holding his shoulder. "Please, I-"

The crack of the rifle ended his plea quickly and efficiently. Yev turned around to see the girl, more curiously his dog was stood next to her his tail wagging. Why is it always girls he likes? Evgeny began to search the bodies but did not take his eyes off of her; no telling what she might do next.

"Pretty stupid to walk into a city like this," he said simply in his heavy accent. "Could be bad men everywhere."

There, a packet of cigarettes. Evgeny had to admit he really wanted one now and it was light enough that the cigarette wouldn't give away his position anyway. He lit it and took a deep drag before continuing the search the man.

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Mesh'la Runi

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PostSubject: Re: 7 Months: A Prologue   Thu Jul 29, 2010 11:11 pm

Malorie thought it had been her imagination. Maybe she'd been struck again. The snap of a rifle had sounded against the chill morning air so quickly that she might not have recognized it had it not been for the fact that one of the men immediately loosened his grip and collapsed to the dirt, unmoving. Her mouth now free, she yelped at this new surprise and turned her head just in time to see the other man fall to the ground, clutching his upper arm.

Cringing, she fled to the corner of a nearby building, unsure if the next shot would come for her or not. At this point she hadn't a clue what to expect. The world had gone mad after all.

Indeed, not a minute later, a very determined man leaped from a neighboring wall and finished off the remaining slavers without mercy or hesitation. She blinked a few times as she rubbed her sore chin, unsure if she should thank him or keep her mouth shut.

He filled the silence for her.

As his canine companion walked over to her, she tried on a casual expression
. "How was I supposed to know? I've been in the woods for...oh I dunno. Probably a few months now. I've lost count. I just thought there might be food here..." she muttered, gently reaching for the dog's nose but prepared to retract her hand should it change moods on her.

When the pooch only continued to wag his tail happily and lick at her fingers, she relaxed a little, though found herself shivering from more than just her ordeal. The morning air was taking its sweet time to warm, and her thin longsleeve shirt had more than a few holes in it by now
.

"Thanks... by the way," she offered. What else could she say? No one really talked much anymore anyway.
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PostSubject: Re: 7 Months: A Prologue   Thu Jul 29, 2010 11:22 pm

"Not problem," he said puffing on his cigarette. "Just don't keep doing stupid things. You won't live long if you keep doing stupid things."

He stood, ammo and food gathered and placed it in his rucksack. He nodded at the girl simply, "Only way to get food now is stealing. Perhaps it'd be best if you go back to woods. Now, excuse me, but me and my dog have to go."

Evgeny turned on the ball of his foot and marched away from her, determined not to hold a long conversation. He paused for a moment as he realised his faithful companion was not following so he whistled simply. Nothing changed; turning round Evgeny saw the dog sat by the girl, it's face mournful. "No! No Morgan. We go now!"

The dog whined at him and Evgeny snarled, "No no no stupid dog. I am going now and you follow."

The dog didn't move and Evgeny swore, "I don't need you Morgan."

The dog continued to stare. "Fine. Fine! Come on girl, I'll take you somewhere warm and you can have some of this shit I managed to get. Boil in the bag don't taste great but it's filling."

He began to walk off and the dog stared at the girl again, waiting for her to follow Evgeny.

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PostSubject: Re: 7 Months: A Prologue   Thu Jul 29, 2010 11:41 pm

The dog brought something out of Malorie that hadn't been seen in over half a year; a smile. It was small, almost imperceptible, but it was a start.

She was surprised that the man with the broken English would offer her a place to hide from the weather and the other lurking dangers she still needed to discover how to avoid. But even if he wasn't doing it for her, he sure liked this dog well enough to want to please it, and right now all that Morgan wanted was to be with Malorie. If it hadn't been for all the dirt, she had to admit he would be a pretty cute pup. Maybe she could work on cleaning him up a little, assuming the man didn't mind.

Glancing around at every little crevice and potential hidey hole she could see, the girl followed slowly at first, wary of any other threats she might miss. The dog came up behind her then and nudged her leg before walking just ahead of her, so she picked up the pace, trying to catch up to the foreign man while still keeping her distance.

She was about to ask him his name but then decided against it, shutting her jaw. Names were a bad idea. Names meant you got attached to people. People never stuck around anymore. It was better off to stay silent, she figured. Besides, he would tell her about himself if he felt like it. But maybe he didn't want to and that was okay too. Maybe his story was the same as hers, maybe worse. Either way it didn't matter. All that mattered was that she was going to get food.

At least she hoped so. It could be a trap just like the last one, though all the more elaborate. She doubted it, but the chance was still there. Nevertheless, if she was going to die, at least it wouldn't be of starvation. That was an awful way to go.

The girl shoved her hands in the pockets of her jeans and followed along in silence.
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PostSubject: Re: 7 Months: A Prologue   Thu Jul 29, 2010 11:54 pm

Evgeny rounded the corner and entered a block of flats, his rifle at the ready. He climbed stairs steadily, listening carefully. As the girl walked behind him he found it hard to concentrate and found himself snapping. "Walk quieter!"

He turned off at what seemed like just another derelict corridor, climbed over a pile of debris and pushed opened a flat door with his rifle. There was no sign of anyone in the room so he moved over towards the window and pushed the large block of MDF back over it so the room became dark. Lighting a match he placed it in a small cut down barrel, letting a few pieces of wood start to burn. He placed his hands over it, warming them, before realising the girl was still here.

How does it go again? What do we do? "Evgeny," he said after a while, "Before you ask no, I am not Russian."

Uncertain of what else to do he felt kindness kick in through sheer embarrassment. "I stay here just for tonight, not safe to stay here to long. Over there," he gestured to a table, "is a map. I've circled where we are; I guess woods girl like you is lost. Through there," he nodded towards a smaller door, "is a bathroom. The water is collected from the roof but isn't very warm. Better then shitty woods though, right?"

Evgeny went to his backpack and pulled out a few boil in the bag ration packs, as well as a few saucepans. He went to the bathroom and filled the pan with water before placing it over the fire. With that strenuous part of cooking done he sat on a mouldy looking sofa, his rifle still within hand's reach, as he took out a bottle of foul smelling liquid. Taking a swig he winced before proffering it to her, "It's good if you want to sleep."

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PostSubject: Re: 7 Months: A Prologue   Fri Jul 30, 2010 9:59 am

Malorie hadn't even realized the noise she'd been making until the man fussed at her. Only then did she hear the gentle flapping sound her busted shoes made every time she took a step over something rough. She considered taking them off altogether but it was still quite chilly outside so she opted to just take more deliberate care in her gait.

After a few unmarked twists and turns, the trio arrived at what seemed to be a crumbling apartment building of little substance. Malorie watched as the man shut out all of the light that had been trickling in through the window whatsoever, and for a moment she felt that fear rise up in her again, but it was quickly dispelled as her companion brought illumination to the room once more with the striking of a match. The smell of burning wood drew her closer, and she reached out with stiffened hands toward the flames in the barrel.

For a moment, she wasn't sure if he had said something random or if he was introducing himself. She decided to just assume that was his name, though she'd be damned if she needed to say it back properly.
"I'm Malorie," she said simply, then listened to his explanation of the premises. Glancing over at the table, she wanted to go check out the map, but her feet were rooted to the spot as she was still trying to thaw out. For the first time in a while she could actually somewhat feel her fingers! It was amazing.

A moment later, Evgeny left her the firepit to herself only to return with a few pans that he intended to hold over her precious warmth. She grudgingly stepped back. Food was more important than heat at the moment.

As the pots began to simmer quietly, Evgeny plopped down on an ugly excuse for a couch and withdrew a flask of sorts. She wasn't exactly keen on taking strange liquid from strange people, but the wince he made as he sipped from it sealed her assertion.
"I'm good. Besides, sleeping brings back the dreams," she said somewhat cryptically, shaking her head slightly. "I'm just going to use the bathroom if that's alright with you. I won't use much water."

Closing the door to the diminutive stall, she noticed a nearly spent candle flickering in one corner, casting light onto the surrounding walls, toilet, shower head, and cracked mirror. Through the jagged glass she saw herself for the first time in several weeks: deep brown eyes, tanned skin, thick dark hair matted with leaves and other forest debris from weeks of stumbling through woodland. Her hair reached the middle of her back now, and it was tangled in all different directions. She had no comb or brush to straighten it, so she settled to rake her fingers through it slowly, pulling out twigs and leaves that lay intertwined between the strands. After a few minutes, she had a neat little pile and had mostly set her hair the way she wanted it. A bit of water to her fingertips calmed the most wayward locks, and she rinsed off her face, the cold water making her shiver before she reunited with the rest of the apartment’s occupants.

Morgan was curled up on the couch with his head in Evgeny’s lap, looking perfectly contented to snuggle against another warm body. Malorie looked at the dog wistfully.
“I used to have a dog like that. Good breed.” Her tone wordlessly conveyed that there was something more to the story, but she didn’t continue.

After standing there awkwardly for a moment, the couch cushions taken up by man and dog, Malorie moved back to the fire pit and stood near the radiating heat, watching the contents of the pans boil.
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PostSubject: Re: 7 Months: A Prologue   Fri Jul 30, 2010 5:21 pm

The pot boiled away in the silence, the slight tap tap noise of the metal disturbing Evgeny's thinking. It was a stupid idea to have brought the girl along, a extra mouth meant more food gone. Not to mention it'd screw up his reputation with various faction's, the moment you started going soft was the day that they'd all start fucking you over. Still....the dog was always right about people. The company might do Evgeny good too; he'd spent too long alone.

Evgeny stood suddenly and leant over the boil in the bags, poking them with a knife. They seemed like they'd done enough so he turned around and pulled out a few metal plates. "Seven months is a long time to walk without a gun in this country," he said casually. "It's a long time to walk alone. You should not travel like this, with no safety. People here will fuck with you for fun."

The boil in the bag were pulled from the bubbling water and opened with the knife, spilling their brown contents onto the plate. The food didn't smell appetising but that wasn't to say that it was horrible either: It was just plain bland. Evgeny passed over the plate to the girl with a spoon and pointed towards a few bottles of water below the window pane, "They're clean."

He put his bowl in front of Morgan and the dog started to happily chow down on the food, "I knew a girl called Mallorie once. She was a whore, but nice enough. But she wasn't half caste like you. What are you, asian?" There were no suggestions of hatred in the words but the casualness with which Evgeny used them suggested he was quite aware of the potential insult in them.

"Come a long way? Seven months is a long time to spend lost in woods. It's a very long time to go without much food."

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PostSubject: Re: 7 Months: A Prologue   Fri Jul 30, 2010 9:28 pm

"I know how to use a gun, but I haven't found any yet and it's not like there've been many opportunities to scavenge one. Most cities along the way from Nebraska have been picked clean, probably by the locals themselves. I was doing just fine for a while with me and Thunder," she said, accepting the plate gratefully. "If any trouble started up, I'd just gallop off into the woods with my horse so that no one could follow. Few people had horses with them, you see. Most people had cars or were on foot, so they couldn't chase. Eventually I got stuck in Wisconsin."

At that, she shoveled a spoonful of something into her mouth. It was hard to tell what it had been meant to taste like, but it was the most delicious thing she'd had to eat in probably five months now. After all the best plants were frozen solid and the supplies in her hiding spots had run out, desperate nothingness were her meals for a good length of time. This stuff was gourmet in comparison. Only once her plate had been completely cleaned off did she realize how thirsty she was too.

Another miracle. Bottled water that wasn't frozen. Perfect! She took a long gulp and sighed contendedly. When the man with the Russian name who claimed he wasn't Russian asked about HER race, she raised an eyebrow.


"No. I'm American," she said, sort of a double meaning in her words. She didn't define herself by one race or another. She was an American citizen, had lived here from birth, and both of her parents had taken great efforts to be able to call themselves American as well. It was something she'd always been taught to be proud of.
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PostSubject: Re: 7 Months: A Prologue   Fri Jul 30, 2010 9:44 pm

"America. America!" Evgeny almost spat, "Why are people so proud of living here? You're just as bad as the English, as the Germans, as the Russians, as the Georgians. You know what I am? I'm me. Nationality is just stupid bit of paper to let you put a person in a box. Pssh."

He waved the thought away, taking a swig of his drink. "I'm definitely not American. I'm a illegal, but don't tell anyone yes?"

It was, as far as jokes go, not a great one. But it was a attempt. "So you came all the way from Nebraska? Why? Why keep walking this way? The closer you get to Seattle the more slavers you get, the more fucking factions with their stupid ideas to run the world, the more religious crazies...." Evgeny's brow narrowed, "You're not one of those vault dwellers are you? They're the real crazy ones."

Evgeny felt a tug at his foot and when he looked down he saw Morgan was pulling on his trouser leg, in a kind of insistent manner. As usual the mutt was trying to tell him something but Evgeny would be damned if he could figure out what-Oh. Although only a dog Morgan could still pick up hostility in a atmosphere and his nervous chewing had started to trigger the oft neglected parts of Evgeny's brain; the social complex. He'd hardly being treating this girl with much respect, even if he wasn't sure she was worthy of such. He let out a deep sigh. "Look. I apologise," he said through tensed muscles, "I have not spoken to a person in a long while. At least not properly; only people I deal with are faction people and you have to be shirty with them otherwise they cut you a short deal on everything. But you have to be careful just walking around like this, do you know how easily you could have been killed? You can't just walk around without protection. Go join one of the stupid factions; they'd love someone like you."

Yev took another swig, "Stupid fucking factions. Heh. Oh, dog's name is Morgan."

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PostSubject: Re: 7 Months: A Prologue   Fri Jul 30, 2010 9:56 pm

Evgeny went off on her, but Malorie held her tongue, letting him rant. He did have a gun after all, and typically it's best not to argue with people with guns. Finally he switched from insulting her nationality to insulting her intelligence, and only when he tried on the bad taste of an apology did she lift her face from her shoes.

"Look, I didn't know what was out here. I've probably seen less people since that day than you have. The few I did run into told me that there was food and other supplies in Seattle, so that's the direction I went. I didn't have a plan. No one plans for this kind of thing. No one plans to be the last one left..." she countered, biting her lip as she pointedly looked in another direction. She was breaking another of her rules. Never go back to that day. Not verbally, not mentally, not ever. Move on and forget. The more she thought about it, the more the dreams would come the minute she closed her eyes. She shuddered.

"I'm not joining any "factions"; I'm not even sure what you're talking about. And now I don't even know where I'm supposed to go. You say it gets worse by Seattle. That kills my plans. I can't go back either. Most of my town isn't even standing anymore." She moved to sit by the dog, Morgan he'd called him, and scratched behind his ears. At least the pooch wasn't judgmental.
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PostSubject: Re: 7 Months: A Prologue   Fri Jul 30, 2010 10:06 pm

"No, you look!" Evgeny said trying to keep his voice under control, "You don't have the right to talk to me like this, you know nothing about me, you're just...just....you...."

Evgeny frowned and reached into his bag slowly, swearing silently to himself. As he withdrew his hand it was bunched around something...grenade shaped.....he pushed his hand out towards her, showing it. In it sat one whole potato, "Look....peace offering? I am sorry; I am grumpy. I am breaking all rules in letting you have food and it makes me confused. Have it, I was not really sure when I was going to eat it anyway."

He sat back on the sofa and placed the rifle on the floor, more towards Mallorie. It occurred to him that it was a bit unfair to keep it so close to him and thus scare her; if she did try and grab it and shoot him he was almost certain Morgan would take her down first. Almost certain.

"Seattle is....Seattle is dangerous. Dangerous ash in the air means everyone has to wear gas masks and with there been more people close by...well more people mean more fights. But if you can survive it there is lots of supplies. You should not go there alone."

He went quiet for a while, his face still grumpy. "It is not breaking rules of survival if you are useful. If I teach you things and get you a gun you'll help me gather supplies? When you are ready we can go to Seattle. Yes? No?"

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PostSubject: Re: 7 Months: A Prologue   Fri Jul 30, 2010 10:25 pm

Malorie had wanted to snap back with a "you started it!" but thought how childish it sounded and kept quiet until Evgeny suddenly sobered. Still, when he reached into his bag, she tensed, muscles subconsciously preparing to spring her backwards if he withdrew something threatening. When all that was presented to her was a simple potato, she relaxed. This guy was an odd one, for sure. Then again, he'd been drinking whatever was in that bottle of his, and she figured it was probably fairly strong if he recommended it for "sleeping."

Looking him in the eyes to try and discern if he was going to try and yank it back suddenly or do something else entirely, she reached out and picked the vegetable out of his palm with no resistance. Flipping it over between her hands for a moment, she heard his explanation of Seattle's true state of disarray and her disheartening deepened.

But as she stood to walk back to the fire pit so that she might crudely cook up the potato lest he change his mind, Evgeny proposed his newly hatched plan. She glanced back over her shoulder, a half-smile stretched over one side of her mouth.


“Deal.”
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PostSubject: Re: 7 Months: A Prologue   Fri Jul 30, 2010 10:38 pm

"First lesson," Evgeny said lying down on the sofa and taking a deeper swig of the foul smelling substance. "I sleep. You stay awake and make sure we don't get killed. Wake me in two hours and then I'll take over watch. Always sleep during the day and operate during the night: Less likely to run into bad people that way."

Evgeny rolled over so he was facing the sofa back and muttered something more quietly, "Do not feed the dog, he does not need it."

Morgan meanwhile was sitting besides Malorie, waiting for a piece of potato be united with his mouth.

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PostSubject: Re: 7 Months: A Prologue   Fri Jul 30, 2010 11:28 pm

Malorie rolled her eyes, but let the man sleep. He was coarse and harsh but he had saved her life and then fed her and given her a place to stay relatively safe. She owed him this much.

Careful to stay quiet, she went about the business of searing the potato in the same pan that had cooked their earlier food, then cut it in half with a clean-looking utility knife. Wrapping it in one of the empty boiling bags, she left one half by Evgeny’s discarded backpack, but out of reach of Morgan. Checking that the man was still sleeping, Malorie looked down at Morgan’s puppy eyes and shook her head
. “Okay you, but don’t tell him or you’ll get me kicked out,” she whispered, slipping a tiny bite of her potato half to the dog.

Once she’d eaten, she perched herself by a tiny slit in the window and kept an eye on the outside world. Nothing really moved aside from the sun, and as she watched its sloping path into the sky, she figured it had been about two hours and moved to wake up Evgeny. The man grumbled at first but took over as he’d promised and she settled onto the couch in his place.

The sofa smelled pretty bad but she kept her back to it and stared at the ceiling. She hated sleeping. It didn’t always bring the dreams, but when it did, she found the entire process of sleeping to be a waste as she never felt rested afterward. So instead she tried to think about anything and everything other than her past, just in case she did fall asleep. Maybe it would help her dream of something else.

But no one can escape their past.


---------------

Coming out of the storm cellar was like ascending into hell. Ash and sooty debris rained down onto the fields in droves, the air smelled of burnt material of all kinds, organic and artificial. Malorie coughed into her shirt collar as she shielded her eyes with one hand and staggered toward the house, or what was left of it.

There was nothing left but a few support beams and the foundation. The roof had been blown off and now rested in pieces in the lake. Scattered everywhere were pieces of sturdier things that hadn’t melted instantly in the blast. A heavy refrigerator was sunken into the hood of the empty husk of the family’s truck. A plow lay on its side by what used to be a tire swing, twisted worse than the tree itself, which had simply splintered into a million tiny wooden shards.

Malorie knew it was useless to call out for anyone. They weren’t there. Nothing was left. They had all been in the house. The house was all but completely gone. She was alone.

Sinking to her knees, she looked around at the wreckage in slow motion; it was always slow motion in her dreams. Nothing moved except for the flames in the cornstalks which sent light flickering over her face through the dust-filled air.

She couldn’t stay here. She had to get out or she would be in about as good condition as her family shortly. The ash was suffocating. It filled her lungs with every breath as she stood up, drawing strength from somewhere deep inside. It was a survival instinct now; as much as she wanted to just turn to dust and mourn her family, she wouldn’t let herself give up. She had to survive this somehow.

So she ran. The dust blinded her as she tore off down the deserted dirt road; it coated her dark hair in a gray film and it inched its way into every exposed surface. By the time she made it to the closest town, almost two miles away, she looked positively ghostlike, the only distinguishing human feature being the sobs tearing their way out of her forcefully as she curled into a ball at the first building she came to.


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PostSubject: Re: 7 Months: A Prologue   Sat Jul 31, 2010 5:30 pm

Evgeny stood by the window silently, watching out of it from a crack in the wood panel. He stayed in this position for the best part of five hours, moving only to drink. The girl obviously needed sleep and had proven herself willing to do her fair share of the work by simply staying awake for the first watch. Evgeny munched on his potato in silence, taking extra care to watch the small figures on the other side of the city. They were moving in a very meticulous way, a curious pattern of fanning out to investigate the area before meeting back up again in the center. From the way that they searched the buildings Evgeny had already gleaned a insight into their motives. Bandits.

Evgeny moved quietly towards his backpack, repacking it. The sun was starting to set which meant the Bandits would be looking for a place to stay. It was definitely time to leave. "Pssst. Sleepy girl. Wake up! We leave now."

Evgeny picked up his scope rifle, passing the more hardwearing AK-47 over to Malorie. "It is dark and we have to leave the city. Come. We go to..." Evgeny glanced at the map and frowned, "Amity? Amity. Yes."

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PostSubject: Re: 7 Months: A Prologue   Sat Jul 31, 2010 11:48 pm

Malorie was still completely immersed in her dream-world when Evgeny called out for her to wake up. His voice was distant, registering somewere in the back of her mind but at first being ignored by her subconscious as it discarded it as something that didn't make sense in the context of the dream. Only when Morgan began to lick her face did she stir suddenly, lurching upright and feeling dazed.

"Woah dog, you scared the crap outta me," she said, trying to catch her breath and shake off the nightmare. The worst dreams she had were always the ones that took her back to that day. Any other time in her life, before or after, fine. But not that day.

Rubbing her face for a moment, she stood up and stretched as she glanced at the man before her. He handed her an AK-47, which she looked at briefly before shouldering it. When she'd said she knew how to use a gun, she meant "certain" guns. This wasn't on the list. But the safety was on and she figured the rest could be figured out later.


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PostSubject: Re: 7 Months: A Prologue   Sun Aug 01, 2010 11:47 am

Evgeny threw a spare empty backpack at Malorie and pointed to one of the water bottles, "Take only one. Long way to walk so we don't need too much weight."

Evgeny almost bounded out of the door, his feet seemingly silent as he bounded down the stairs, long range rifle in hand. Peering out the door he could see no one so exited silently and began heading northwards. Coming towards the edge of the block of apartment's wall Evgeny peered round curiously-the bandit were not that far away. Certainly within range to hit him with a lucky shot; he leaned back round the wall and pointed to another building parallel with the block of apartments. The bandits would be heading down the alleyway between the two buildings meaning they had to cross it now and get out of the way before the men turned up.

"Go," he muttered to Morgan and the dog sprang forward, belting across the gap and to the wall on the other side. He sat downm, panting, watching and waiting for Evgeny. Confirming to himself that the bandits had not seen the dog go running across he turned towards Malorie, "First rule of survival: Never fight unless you get something out of it. We don't gain enough here so we run."

He leaned round the wall again, watching from the shadows the bandits approaching. "Second rule of survival: Never approach people unless you outnumber them or are absolute sure they will not hurt you."

He held out his hand behind his back, counting off the seconds on his fingers. "Go now, go, go!"

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PostSubject: Re: 7 Months: A Prologue   Sun Aug 01, 2010 7:59 pm

Malorie nodded and shoved one of the water bottles into her new pack. It felt good having the weight of a backpack over her shoulder again, as she hadn't been able to claim much of anything of her own ever since she'd lost most of her stuff in that river incident.

Following Evgeny, the girl kept quiet as much as possible, taking care not to make as much noise as the first time she'd followed him only a few hours prior. As they came up to the wall, he abruptly stopped and held up a hand. Malorie held her breath as Morgan rocketed across the gap, but released it when he'd made it over to the other side without incident.

Then Evgeny looked at her and she hesitated. He urged her on and still she didn't want to move. What if they saw her? What if they shot at her? Sure she was fast, but she wasn't the most dexterous. She was apt to trip on something and fall flat on her face. That would just be perfect.

But she couldn't sit here either. She didn't doubt that Evgeny would go on without her if he had to. So she took off, not as speedily as the canine but making it between the two points in good time. Cringing, she crouched down by Morgan and resisted the urge to peer around the corner and find out if she'd been seen. She glanced at Evgeny to see if he'd seen something she'd missed while fleeing over the divide.
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PostSubject: Re: 7 Months: A Prologue   Sun Aug 01, 2010 8:20 pm

Evgeny peered round the corner carefully, things looked okay. Kind of. Well, the bandits were not looking at him at the very least. Confident of the fact he ran across the gap, grabbed Malorie's sleeve and dragged her forward. "Come Malorie. We go now, before they realize we were here. Go, go!"

----------------------------------------------------------------------------
One month later

"No, no!" Evgeny approached Malorie in the snow, as they sat atop the small hill of snow outside another nameless town in Oregon. "Do not look down the sight, look through it! We do not have many blanks in rifle, use properly! Concentrate!"

The target sat in front of Malorie, flapping slightly in the light wind as she held the sniper rifle. Evgeny had originally cursed up a storm when he found the useless practice ammunition but had quickly realized their use for Malorie. It was just a shame they were going through so many. "See how breath affects you? Concentrate!"

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PostSubject: Re: 7 Months: A Prologue   Sun Aug 01, 2010 8:46 pm

"Well if you'd quit hollering at me like that maybe I could! It's impossible to "concentrate" when you keep breathin' down my neck! Seriously, just a little gentility wouldn't hurt you, would it?" Malorie countered, rolling her eyes. She was starting to believe that maybe Evgeny was physically damaged every time he had to say something nice, the way he avoided it so. She knew that somewhere inside of him was a nice guy -- she had dug that much out of him over the month they'd travelled together -- but every time she made even the slightest blunder or showed any lack of progression, he refused to get off her case.

Any moment now he'd probably explode at her for being snippity in return, but that usually meant she'd get a slightly larger portion of the rations later. It was his way of making up for it, though she knew he'd never admit to it.
"Knife just slipped," she could imagine him saying in that thick accent of his. Yeah, like hell. He had the concentration of a surgeon when he wanted something done right.

Which brought her back to what she was doing. She'd have to try and enjoy the half-second of silence while he thought of what to curse her incompetence with this time. Closing her eyes, she inhaled deeply then opened them in time to depress the trigger just as he opened his mouth again.

The practice round flew from the weapon in the tiniest of bursts and whistled near-silently to the target. The next moment, the bullet burst through the back of the paper almost directly in the center. Malorie suppressed a triumphant smile. She wanted to hear what Evgeny had to say about THAT.
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PostSubject: Re: 7 Months: A Prologue   Sun Aug 01, 2010 9:05 pm

Evgeny bit his tongue as the shot flew out and hit the target heavily, piercing it dead centre. She'd hit it perfectly, a great shot. So Evgeny tried to congratulate her. "Finally! Took long time! Come, come, we should go back and get warm soon. I hate drawing attention to ourselves in field like this."

Evgeny looked around at the landscape, he had to admit it was pretty here. Almost peaceful. It was in this field of relaxation that he found himself saying things he knew he possibly shouldn't but were none the less important if he was to take the next step in making a strained friendship. "Later we must barter with those other travellers we have been observing for food. They will want ammunition. I want you to oversee this one with the rifle whilst I negotiate."

There was no doubting the seriousness of what Evgeny was saying; Malorie would be trusted in making sure Evgeny was not shot from afar whilst Evgeny used his weak social skills to trade weapons for food. It was a challenge for both of them.

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PostSubject: Re: 7 Months: A Prologue   Sun Aug 01, 2010 9:42 pm

Five hours later

Malorie held a dampened cloth to Evgeny's forehead, wiping away a bit of dirt from a nasty scrape there even as he waved her off. She felt nothing but guilt for what had happened; if she'd just been paying more attention to the seemingly least threatening of the group, maybe she'd have been able to sight him up in time to snipe his brains out before he'd had the chance to bring his elbow crashing down on Evgeny's neck. She'd been too focused on the man he was speaking to and the brutish goon beside him, had been scoped too far in. Stupid.

Apparently the dealings had gone entirely wrong, the wayward travellers demanding that Evgeny give them all of his ammunition for only a fraction of the food he'd asked for. They evidently hadn't been too fond of his reply. Although he'd only gotten a sore neck and scraped face from the situation, Malorie still couldn't help but think that maybe he'd put too much faith in her. Sure, she managed to take them down when it came to that, but it was so completely botched. The first guy was out before he could bend over to loot his "kill," but the second man, the hulking devil, had been harder to take down.

He'd taken a shot to the shoulder, and then a shot to the leg, before bellowing in rage and actually ducking behind his comrade. By the time Malorie was able to retract the lever again, the initial speaker had drawn a weapon of his own and was hurriedly trying to sight down her location amongst a tree's leaves and branches. Hands shaking, she forced herself to take a breath and hold it before looking down her own sight again, then fired, sending her last shot through the leader's chest. As he slid backwards, his own shot ricocheted through the greenery and sent her ducking down, unbalanced to the point of actually toppling the rest of the way to the ground.

With a groan, she scrambled to her knees and crawled over to the rifle. Its scope was mangled but luckily she'd only managed to bruise herself up a bit with her fall. Still, Evgeny wasn't out of danger yet. To make things worse, she was a good ways away and had now made copious amounts of noise between the yelling of the only guy still able to yell and her tumbling to the ground. Cursing, she took off down the slope while trying desperately to see if anyone else was coming to the aid of the bartering party. Thankfully, they were alone.

Before the last man alive could grab at one of his friends' discarded weapons, as he had none of his own, he seemed to finally succumb to his bleeding wounds and collapsed, whether from shock or blood loss she wasn't sure.

Now Malorie was left with a broken weapon and an even more fractured sense of pride as she had dragged Evgeny into a nearby building, then barricaded it with a refrigerator she'd toppled over in front of the door. The noise had woken Evgeny and she quickly stumbled into an apology, wringing her hands as she fumbled for a cloth to wet with her water bottle.
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PostSubject: Re: 7 Months: A Prologue   Sun Aug 01, 2010 9:56 pm

"Enough, enough!" Evgeny moaned, trying to pull himself up. "They are dead. Yes ammunition used but we have food now for no trade."

He picked himself up slowly and began to rub his head, before standing slowly. "Do not panic. Yes we both fuck up, but I am not dead, so you did not fuck up the second time. You did well. Now....get me a drink. My head hurts a bit."

For once Evgeny's almost permanent frown faltered and he began to look confused, ".....which way is camp?"

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PostSubject: Re: 7 Months: A Prologue   Sun Aug 01, 2010 10:10 pm

Furrowing her brow, Malorie bit her lip. "Are you sure you're okay? Maybe you should sit down...just for a few minutes. Camp's back through that patch of trees to the south; it's a good bit of a walk. And you've been out of drink for the past three days, remember?" She looked more than a little concerned, as it was so unlike him to question anything that it really did unsettle her.

She fiddled with the gun in an attempt to put the scope back in place properly, though it also served as a way for her to avoid looking at him.
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