From the Future, to the future
By Chris Van Deelen
Gedoena tries but fails to hid a small grin, and a giggle bursts unbidden from her lips.
"What's so fireblasted funny?" Maverick asks, slightly mollified at the light laughter coming from Gedoena.
The mutant girl does her best to lose the grin, failing miserably. "Please Brett, forgive me." She takes his callused hands in her talons. "It's just your name. He was a character from a movie that I saw when I was living with the White coats."
Her smile helps fade away the slight anger he is feeling towards her. He pulls his hands out of her talons. "Well, was the vid at least good?"
"Yes, it was really good. Very funny, but a little hard to follow, so many twists and plots. And the star, Mel Gibson. What a man!" Her eyes close, picturing the actor's face in her minds eye. She opens her eyes and looks at Maverick, a little sad. "I hope that he died fast during the nukecaust."
He simply nods his head, not sure what to say to here. Sure, he's seen vid's and books about movies and stars from before the skydark, but no one does anything like that any longer, as survival is paramount and they simply don't have the time for such frivolous activities. Dark night he thinks as he watches her face. She changes moods the way the weather changes from minute to minute. With a mental shrug of his shoulder he turns from her and heads towards the doorway.
"My father named me after a character in a series of westie novels that he traded for just before I was born."
"Ah, I see." Gedoena answers in a small voice.
"Lets get moving Gedoena. We still have to check out some of the redoubt and see if we can pick up some supplies." He doesn't bother to see if she is following, as he can hear her oddly shaped feet brush along the floor.
"Maverick?" She calls, a little hesitantly.
"What about you? I really want to know your history, your past. I want to know the people you've seen, the battles you've fought." She pauses, letting her words sink in. "I especially want to know how you got the scars on your face."
He feels the blood rush to his face, the memories of that horrifying night come rushing back in, like flies to a dead corpse. His hand reaches up and touches the mass of scars crossing his once handsome features. He feels both shame and anger at the question, and embarrassment for these feelings. "Now's not the fireblasted time or place. Mebbe later Gedoena, but we have a lot of things to do."
She stops, very confused at what just occurred. Only a matter of moments ago, he was willing to tell her what ever she wanted to know. Now, he clams up, tighter than a baron's Jack pocket. She watches as the huge man heads into the corridor, his hand on the grip of the SPAS 15, knuckles white. She waits for a few seconds then follows him down the corridor.
The two spend nearly an hour looking around some of the remote area's of the redoubt. They find lots of evidence that the personnel inside the base tried to evacuate, as some area's are stripped totally barren, but huge sections were left untouched, including general equipment stores and clothing.
He carefully looks over the goods, selecting two heavy duty, metal framed military issue back packs, six two litre canteens for water, purification tabs, as well as four weeks worth of Self Heats. In addition he takes a lean to, a pair of all weather sleeping bags, two portable Geiger counters, a single pair of image magnification twenty power binoculars, four military hand held com units. As he pulls the equipment off the shelves, he packs it away in the packs, making sure that everything is secure. Just to be on the safe side, he pulls two large camper style flashlights off one shelf and several boxes of rechargeable batteries as well as a solar powered charger. Last but not least, he grabs several boxes of self lights and pyro tabs.
He tosses one of the pack packs to Gedoena, who catches it deftly and slings it on her back. "Is there anything else you think we might need?" He asks, all traces of the anger he felt earlier long gone.
She doesn't answer. Instead she walks around, looking over the goods stored on the shelves. She pulls down several items and sticks them under her arm. A few minutes later, she returns. "Here, we could use these items." She hands the items to Maverick.
He examines the goods, nodding his head in approval. A large coil of rope, at least two hundred meters, a grapple gun and two hooks, a small compass, and several sheaths of paper, pens, pencils and a water proof bag to carry the them in, a small tool set and a electronic tool kit. As well she picked up several weapon cleaning kits. He divvies up the goods between the two packs and smiles for the first time in over an hour. Last but not least he puts the small bag of medical supplies he took from the infirmary in his pack, making sure that it is placed near the top for easy access. "You did good Gedoena."
Her eyes lower to stare at the floor and she blushes. "Thank you Brett." She puts the pack back on her shoulder and catches his gaze. "I'm sorry if I offended you." She waits, studying him.
He walks past, taking her small arm in his hand, and pulls her along. "Never say your sorry. I told you that already." His voice is friendly, and he grins, letting her know that its gone and forgotten."
The mutant woman squeezes his hand and follows.
"Lets find the entrance and blow this redoubt. Been here too fireblasted long, and want to feel the sun on my face again."
She looks puzzled. Blow the redoubt? Does he actually want to destroy this place? She shakes her head at her own naiveté. No, he must mean leave the place. She smiles, her purple eyes twinkling. I guess some of the slang has never changed.
They pass several doors as they head towards one of the maps when she stops. She calls out to Maverick and he pauses as well, turning around to look at her, curiosity obvious. "What is it?"
She doesn't answer. Instead she turns the handle on one of the doors and steps inside, beckoning him to follow. Curiosity has always been one of his flaws, and this is too much for him to pass up. He steps inside the room.
The room is another one of the redoubts many store rooms. This one is filled with racks of military clothing, as well as body armor. He takes a moment to glance at plaque on the door. Uniforms and Armor.
"Gedoena, Ace on the line girl. We should grab some cold weather clothing, rain gear, and underwear." He pats her affectionately on the shoulder.
They pick out several heavy duty jackets, rain ponchos, winter pants, underwear, and he chooses a pair of liners for his worn combat boots, to protect his feet when it gets cold, as it is apt to do in the Deathlands. He also makes sure that they both grab several pairs of gloves, and a winter hat. By this time their packs are nearly filled to their capacity.
She goes over to the racks of body armor and picks out a vest for herself, as well as one that would fit Maverick. She hands it to him, as well as several insert plates. Finally she hands him arm, leg and joint guards. "Just in case we run into some serious trouble."
Body armor. He's seen it before, but never used it. One of the odd things about travelling with Trader and the convoy is that they never found very many redoubts containing supplies of the protection. The barons and their sec men usually snatched the few items they did find for prime Jack. "Dark night! I never used this before. Mebbe if I had, wouldn't have so many rad blasted scars to deal with." He grabs the armor, slips off his jacket and puts it on. He places the other guards inside his pack, knowing that they will reduce his mobility and agility.
"What 'bout you? Yer gonna need some boots for your, er, um, feet, you know." His hand motions to her strangely shaped, bare feet.
She looks down at her feet and sighs. "I'm used to cold feet Brett, besides, my feet are far more resistant to the cold than a norms, like you."
He glowers at the insult, but refuses to say anything else. He knows that she didn't mean it as it sounds. "Well, mebbe we'll find someone to make you a pair of custom fit boots." Lost in thought, his eyes close for a moment.
He opens his eyes and stares at her. "Maverick. Call me Maverick. I prefer that. I want you to go back to the dorms and tear up several blankets into strips. With a little work, I should be able to make some make shift coverings for your feet until we can find something more permanent."
"Ok, Maverick. I'll be back in a few minutes." She turns and heads down the corridor, stopping long enough to call over her shoulder. "Why don't you meet me at the main exit?"
"Main exit. See you there."
"One last thing Maverick."
"What? Time's wasting, day is getting older. I want to be out of this redoubt triple fast."
"How's your shoulder? Do you need the dressings changed?"
He rubs his shoulder, wincing slightly. It feels like its healing quite well. Just to be on the safe side, he pulls the jacket off the shoulder and inspects the bandage. It is still clear of fresh blood. "No, its good. The wound is healing nicely, and if I'm lucky, shouldn't have a scar." He grins, making his scarred features soften for a moment. "Not that another scar would make any difference."
With that, the young mutant girl takes off down the corridor.
A few minutes later he comes to the redoubts main entrance. A single fifteen meter wide door extends from the floor to the ceiling, five meters over head. The main entrance has several large corridors extending from the right and the left. He reads the signs, for both, seeing that they lead to the motor pool. He heads down the right hand corridor, double timing it. He comes to a huge open chamber, which is, much to his disappointment, totally bare of any wags what so ever. A few minutes later he finds himself in the left hand motor pool, which is as barren as he feared. With a shrug, he returns to the main entrance.
As he leans against the cold metal door, he hears soft footfalls coming towards him from the central corridor. A small figure carrying a pack waves at him. "Got what you asked me to Maverick!" Gedoena calls out to him.
"Good. Lets get your feet wrapped up and then get the hell out of this tomb." He answers, nodding his head. She sits on the floor before Maverick and pulls out the strips of cloth. The first thing they do is wrap one of the heavier blankets around her feet, making sure that they're covered completely Then he uses the strips of cloth to secure the blankets in place. When they are finished, he helps her to her feet. "Here, walk around a bit. See how it feels."
She walks around, obviously not used to having anything on her talons, but has little trouble. "It's going to take me some time to get used to wearing this, but, I think it'll be just fine."
"You ready?" He asks.
She nods her head and hefts the pack onto her back.
"Ok then. Get your blaster out and be on triple red. We have no idea what could be waiting outside for us.
She appears to be confused, but pulls out the Desert Eagle that he gave to her and clicks off the safety.
He looks at the small control panel set into the wall next to the massive sec doors. A simple lever protrudes from it, which can be pushed up, or down. He does the logical thing and pulls the lever up. The entire wall shudders before him and he hears the massive gears and weights groan and creak under the strain of having been used for the first time in nearly a century. Reluctantly, the door slowly begins to slide into the ceiling. He stands back, his new SPAS 15 held at hip level, ready to chill anything looking even remotely hostile.
The door slides into the roof, revealing a second chamber, measuring forty meters to another massive doorway. Several sec camera's stand a silent vigil to the long dead operators. A single corpse can be seen lying face down in front of the second sec door.
They both move towards the body, curiosity running rampant. Maverick reaches the corpse first and inspects the back. "Well, can't see any obvious blaster wounds. Wonder what killed him?" The question is more for himself than it is for Gedoena. He notices that a base ball style cap rests on the head. He reaches down and pulls it off. The skull, long since cleaned of all flesh, detaches from the rest of the body. It comes to rest facing the two of them, grinning it's death heads grin.
"I don't see any wounds on the head" Gedoena comments, bending over to examine the spectral head closer.
Maverick doesn't answer. He is inspecting the cap he found. It is pure black, fine quality. It has a single patch located in the centre, depicting a three-headed dog. He adjusts the strap and places it on his head.
Gedoena reaches out and flips the corpse over. She inspects the nametag first, then looks over the rest of the body. Without looking up she speaks, her voice calm and cool. "No obvious wounds here either. So that means that either a bio agent killed him, Radiation, or something as simple as a heart attack or stroke." She glances up and frowns. "Why are you wearing that hat?"
"I dont think that he'll complain. Besides, I like it." He notices her frown. "Why?"
"It's nothing Maverick." She turns her back on him, so he can't see the fear and anger it portrays. "I guess your right, he doesn't need it any more." Before he can push the point she moves over to the control panel, this one slightly more elaborate than the door's. It has the same lever, but in addition it has a number pad.
"You good with electronics Maverick?" She asks, shrugging off her back pack.
"Umm..." He hesitates, his face turning several shades of red. "Not Really. But let me try something." He steps up and looks at the pad. Without hesitation, he hits the code three five two. Once again, he feels, more than hears the machinery come to life behind the walls. He pushes the woman back with one hand, his other holding the scatter gun at the ready. Cool, fresh air enters the chamber and he looks outside. Surrounding the entrance is the thick forest he'd run through days before. Orange and Red clouds cover the sky, blocking out the springtime sun. He breaths in deeply and smiles. "Triple fuckin' A! That's good air."
He can hear the woman beside him breath in deeply, as this will be the first fresh air she has had in nearly a century. "Yes, I couldn't have said it better myself."
The two stand together in silence, one lost in thought, the other scanning the terrain, hoping to spot any signs of movement. They stand still for several minutes before Maverick breaks the silence. "Well, no signs of hostiles, but lets stay on yellow alert until we make it out of the trees.
He notices the confusion on her face and it dawns on him that she has no idea what he is talking about. "That means keep your weapon out and the safety off, and your eyes skinned." After spending so much time with the convoy and Trader, he simply took it for granted that she would know what he was talking about. Being frozen for nearly a century, that simply wasn't possible.
"Thank you for clarifying that Maverick."
He nods once. "I'll take point, you stay at least four meters behind me. If you hear or spot anything, quietly get my attention. If you see any muties like those I chilled in the redoubt, open fire. Since your not too good with the blaster, aim for the centre of the body. Don't try to be heroic and go for a head shot, as few can do that effectively." Maverick begins to walk forward, glancing over his shoulder only once to make sure that she is following.
"Umm Can we talk when we're on Yellow alert?" The sound of her voice makes it clear that something is on her mind.
He sighs inwardly. Talk while on yellow alert is only done when necessary. He was taught that you have to keep your senses fully alert. But, he is no longer part of Trader's convoy, and she really seems to need to talk.
"Ok Gedoena, what do you want to talk about?"
"You Maverick, your past, the scars, everything. For starters, how'd you get into the redoubt?"
As they continue to walk through the cool green woods he relates the story on how he and the other survivors of War Wag One stopped to pick up supplies. He tells her the details on how the strange muties with the banana shaped heads ambushed them, and chased him deep into the woods. She listens, interrupting only on the occasion to ask a question. He eventually brings her up to the point where he killed the mutie in the cryo chamber and woke her up.
"Who's trader?" She asks.
He was the leader of a convoy I used to be part of. Several months back we were ambushed in the ville of Mocsin, up in the Darks. The ville's sec man, Cort Strasser used nervers on the convoy, killing everyone in the wag train, but only used sleeper gas on the three main War wags. If it wasn't for Ryan Cawdor and J.B. Dix, I'd be as dead as the others. We had boobie traps on the wags, so that if anyone tried to take them, the wags would self destruct. That's what happened with the wag train, and War wags one and two. Out of about one hundred people, less than two dozen survived. Trader disappeared on night when we were in the Darks. We only just found out that he had rad cancer in his guts, so we figure that he left the convoy to die. He was a hell of a man. Good leader, but brutal to those who would cross hi. Taught me and the others a hell of a lot.
"What happened after that?"
"Well, Ryan took over the crew. He was Trader's war chief so it was only natural. We continued deep into the Darks, looking for a hidden 'Gateway' a woman named Krysty Wroth told us about. Was supposed to be a way out of the Deathlands. I guess that may be the same thing you mentioned that is inside the redoubt we just left, right?" He asks.
She nods her head, confirming it.
"Anyhow, Ryan Cawdor and the others left the Wag to continue their way on foot. When they left they told us to leave after one hundred hours if they didn't return by that time. I guess that they either found the gateway or they are dead." He sighs. "Well, after the one hundred hours past, we returned the way we came, and tried to continue along Trader's established line."
Without them realising it, nearly an hour has passed and he begins to recognise the surrounding terrain, knowing that they are getting fairly close to where he was ambushed. No sign of the mutants anywhere.
He stops and holds up his hand. Gedoena stops and waits, her eyes alert. "Ok, we are a lot closer than I thought. We're going on triple red now. Keep your weapon out, finger on the trigger. No talking, no questions. Got it?" She nods her head once. "Good. I want you to stay no more than two meters away from me."
With great care, all senses fully alert they continue forward. The forest is alive all around them, small animals going about their usual business, birds singing in the tree's. Nothing seems to be out of the ordinary. About a half-hour later they finally arrive at the cache site. A mixture of relief and anger nearly overwhelms him as they enter the clearing and discover that the War Wag is long gone. Simple crosses on the edge of the tree line mark two fresh graves. Who are in the graves he will never know, unless he manages to meet up with the others. The cache is open and empty. There are no signs of the mutants anywhere, but plenty of dried blood on the earth, marking where either the muties or his people met the ferryman.
Gedoena walks over and kneels beside the graves, speaking quietly to herself. He watches curiously, but doesn't bother to interrupt. He's seen religious people all over the Deathlands in his travels but never bothered to learn anything about it. He is pleased and feels a surge of affection for the mutie girl that she would stop and give last rights to people that she never even met before.
It was one of Traders most unbreakable rules. Never, ever leave the dead behind unless the risk of bringing them back was too great. He would always send a burial detail to retrieve the remains after every firefight and then have them buried. They would gather around while he would speak the last rights and then that was it.
He walks over to her and puts a hand on her shoulder. "Thanks Gedoena. That was really ace of you to do." She glances at him and smiles, reaching up and squeezes his hand with her talons.
"It was the least I could do for your friends."
Something is bothering him, but he can't put his finger on it. He pulls away his hand a brings the SPAS 15 to bear and scans the surrounding forest. Gedoena, seeing his reaction gets to her feet and begins her own scan.
"We've got company" Hisses Maverick through clenched teeth. He finally figures out what it was. The forest sounds disappeared, meaning the presence of someone, or something potentially deadly. He grabs her elbow with his free hand and pulls her back, away from the tree line. Sure enough, seven of the strange muties that he encountered days before step out from the tree line. As before, they are all armed with primitive spears and knives. He raises his scattergun and is about to pull the trigger when one of the mutants raises a hand and speaks.
"Outlander, no chill."
He hesitates, his knuckles white on the trigger. Only the tiniest amount of pressure will send a wave of death at the creature. His blaster holds six rounds, as well as one in the chamber. If he is lucky, he might be able to kill the entire group. But he's hoping that Gedoena may be able to chill a few on her own. Reluctantly, he waits. "What the fuck do you want mutie?" He growls, his voice harsh with anger and hatred.
"Give us female, and you free. No give female, we chill, then take for mate." The mutant answers in its guttural voice, pointing at Gedoena with its multi digited hand.
Gedoena turns and looks directly at Maverick, her eyes filled with fear. "Maverick?" Her voice filled with barely controlled terror.
"Well?" The mutie growls.
Maverick's answer is direct and to the point. He adds the last tiny amount of pressure to the trigger. The scatter gun roars. The mutie, which was speaking, catches the entire pattern along its stomach. The pellets, travelling at super sonic speeds rip through the thin wall of flesh, puncturing the heart, stomach and intestines. The damage is so severe that the flesh ruptures, spilling its hot coils to the ground. The creature is thrown back several feet where it crashes against a tree, already dead.
Before the others can react he turns and fires twice more, blowing the left leg off one, and removing the face of a third. After the death of three of their tribesmen, the others finally wake up. One throws it's spear, the aim slightly off, but none the less effective. The spear was aimed for Maverick's chest, but as he swung it around to fire at the spear thrower, the spear ends up striking the SPAS 15, just above the trigger. The force of the impact causes the weapon to fly out of his hands, landing several yards away at the feet of one of the dead mutants.
One of the mutants, moving with nearly impossible speed rushes into the fray. It slams into Gedoena, knocking her to the ground. She and the mutie begin to struggle. A second rushes Maverick, who spots the attack at the last second and is able to side step it. He strikes out with his elbow, smashing it into the muties spine, just below the neck. The strange mutant is thrown to the hard ground, unconscious.
From the corner of his eye he can see Gedoena struggling with her attacker, but is too concerned with the two mutants still standing. One is clutching a crude machete and is advancing towards him. He grabs at his own blade, sliding it from its worn sheath. He tosses it in the air and catches it by its blade. The knife, due to its size and shape, is not the most ideal weapon for throwing, but he launches it over hand at the mutie none the less. The blade spins in flight, and connects hilt first, right in the mutants wide mouth. Nearly all its frontal teeth are smashed out and it drops its machete, both hands clutching at its ruined mouth, effectively taking it out of the fight.
He chances a glance at Gedoena and her attacker and nearly stumbles in his surprise at the sight that greets him. Gedoena has bodily lifted the mutant and slams it into the ground, her talons firmly gripped on its wrist. With a savage twist, she rips the limb right out of its socket. She then begins to beat the mortally wounded creature to death with its own arm, smashing the skull like it was a rotten tomato. He isn't sure but he thinks that her eyes are glowing in her blood lust.
A primal scream of fear and rage pulls him away from the horrifying scene. The final mutant, the one who knocked the weapon out of his hand is advancing towards him, its clawed hands held out before it, looking to tear out the eyes of the norm before him. Maverick considers pulling the HK, but decides that he has had enough of this. He slips the pack and the weapon off his shoulder and lets both fall to the ground. He briefly shakes himself, loosing up and gets into a classic fighter's stance.
The mutant finally reaches him and grabs at his face. With blinding speed he launches his counter attack. His father taught him everything he knew about a brutal form of martial arts known as Kempo. Maverick was a fast learner and absorbed the passed on knowledge like a sponge. He is not the best martial artist there is, but he is good. In less than three seconds he lands over a dozen blows on the mutants chest and stomach, knocking the mutant back several paces. He stands back and waits, giving the creature time to recover, ignoring one of traders most crucial phrases: get in, strike first, strike hard, and strike to chill. He is pissed off, and angry at the loss of two of his friends. He wants to enjoy this.
"C'mon fucker. Lets dance." He taunts, holding his hands out to the mutie, waving his fingers towards him.
The mutie once again rushes in. Maverick side-steps it, and lands two round house blows, one from each hand on the side of its head, rocking its world. The mutant stumbles and falls, groaning in pain. It shakes its head, trying to clear out the cobwebs caused by the double blow. The mutant tries to regain its footing but stumbles. It shakes it's head, trying to clear it. He catches movement out of the corner of his eye, figuring it to be one of the other mutants. He pulls back his steel-toed combat boot and drives it with all his force into the mutant's temple. The bone crushes like an egg shell. It fouls itself and is dead in seconds, a loud rattling sound coming from its throat. He turns to face the movement and sees Gedoena advancing on the mutant with the ruined mouth.
It takes one look at her and turns around, making a break for the tree line. She takes off after it, lost in her blood lust. He races forward and picks up his SPAS 15. He barely takes a chance to aim and pulls the trigger three times. The first round misses the fleeing mutant entirely. The second blast catches its left arm, but only a few of the pellets penetrate. The third finds its mark, catching it directly in the back, right between the shoulder blade and the spine. It goes down in a fountain of blood and gore, its left arm nearly taken off by the shot.
"Hey Gedoena!" He shouts, trying to grab her attention and break the blood lust. She ignores him and pounces on the dead mutant.
"Fuck." He hisses. "Gedoena! Dark night, Gedoena, listen to me." He sees her hesitate, her hands coated in dark blood, steaming in the cool air. She turns around and glowers at him. The fury and rage he witnesses causes him to take a step backwards. Once again he swears he sees the eyes glowing.
"Hey, Gedoena. It's me, Maverick. Come on, relax." He tries to make his voice sound calm, gentle, soothing. "Come on girl, its me. Relax, they're chilled."
Slowly the intense light in her eyes fade and she stands up. It's as if she just came out of a trance. She looks down at her blood coated hands and begins to tremble violently. Her knees give out and she collapses to the ground.
Maverick rushes to her, stopping only long enough to drive his foot down with all his might on the neck of the unconscious mutie. He gets to her and then kneels down beside her, taking her small form in his arms, placing her face against his shoulder as she begins to cry. Great racking sobs, her shoulders heaving. He strokes her hair, whispering soft words of kindness and gentleness into her ear. It takes time, but eventually the sobs stop and she sits, her face buried in his shoulder. Finally she looks up, her eyes red rimmed and puffy from the tears.
"That's the first time I have ever taken a life." She whimpers, her voice shaking.
He Maverick doesnt say a thing, just sits on the ground holding her close. For a woman who has never chilled before, she sure knows exactly what to do. My god, what a blood lust! He realises. If she can't control it, with her strength and ferocity, she could very well send him on the last train to the coast if he gets in her way.
After several more minutes she finally pulls away from him, wiping her eyes on the sleeve of her jacket. "Thanks Maverick. I needed that." She tries to smile, but fails miserably.
"Ok. No problem." He gets to his feet and takes a moment to help her up, then reloads his SPAS 15. He sorely wishes that it had a larger magazine capacity than it does, but likes the weapon none the less. "Get used to the chilling Gedoena. In the Deathlands, its either them or you. No such thing as coming in second in a fire fight. Those who do are maggot food."
C'mon, lets get that blood washed off." He first retrieves his knife, HK and pack then leads her to a small stream nearby. Using rags taken from the bodies of the mutants he helps her clean the blood off her face, hands and clothing as best they can. She is silent the entire time.
Checking his wrist chron he sees that its nearly noon. "Well, we best get moving. Half the day is done already and we're only a few miles away from the redoubt. Lets see how far we can get before night fall. Lets stay on yellow alert and keep your weapon ready."
With that, the two companions head off towards the long black ribbon of an old highway, towards her home.
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