FIRST CHILL

By Adrianna Colon

                [Authorís Note: Although this story is of my creation, the history of how this group of survivalists came together can be found in the stories of Chris Van Deelen starting with From the Future, To the Future through Timeís Enemy. I also want to thank Chris for the use of his characters, without whom, Gitana would have never been created. As well as for his support in writing this. Please feel free to comment at: tlcasap@hotmail.com

                PART ONE

            "Haul ass, haul ass, haul ass!" Exploding from the dense foliage of the dark forest, a tall, leanly built man screamed as he stopped and turned around. Pumping his left arm up, palm flat, he frantically indicated to the two men a short distance back. "Move, move, move!" he yelled out, his right hand's knuckles stark white as he griped the handle of his AK-47 assault blaster. "Shit." He muttered to himself as a dark shadow of a blur darted between he trees only a few scant feet wary from the last of the two men who made up their current group. He, Montez and Freedman were the last of ten people lulled into thinking they were free to go as the bitch had said they could. The tall man sneered, if he survived this, one-day he would go back and kill Azra and Baron Gila.

            Freedman's shout of surprise as something brushed his shoulder lightly, brought him back into the present. "God damn it Freedman, move!" he hollered at the young blond, blue-eyed seventeen year old. The youngest of their three-man scavie team, brought up hard, Scott Freedman had the lightest hands. Often relieving the unwary and at times drunken men of their jack he often kept the three of them in the nicer gaudy houses and cleaner sluts. Dark brown eyes squinting, Hank looked hard at Freedman. He noted Freedman's normally pale face was now dark red and he was breathing harder than a bellows. The boy was tired. But he wasn't going to give in.

            "What the fuck is it Hank?" Freedman screamed somehow knowing whatever it was that was chasing them was very close to him. Too damn close. Death close.

            His eyes went saucer wide as he watched Hank Coleman, his leader and friend, lift his blaster and aimed it back at him, head level. As Montez ran past Hank, Freedman yelled, "You gonna take this rad blasted piece of nuke shit down Capt'n?"

            Hank smiled absently at the title the young man called out, letting him know his trust in Hank was unquestioning. "You got that right, Junior." He called back, taking aim just to the right of Freedman's head. "You better know how to run a fucking straight line!"

            With a tight nod, Freedman pumped his arms harder as he dipped into the last of whatever energy reserves he had and ran faster. Not veering, he ran straight and true, eyes never leaving Hank's face.

            Hank's breathing slowed and he solidified his stance. He knew whatever the hell kind of mutie creature was after them was basically intelligent. And with the pattern it was now taking out his group, he knew that it was about to strike from the rear.

            Whatever it was, it knew to pick off the weaker members of their group right off. The only two children, two women, and one old man had been killed within a few hours the first day after they had left through Baron Gila's front gates and into the dense forest. It then changed tactics to surprise when it noted that the smaller group of four men and one young woman were not easily taken. And it knew patience. It bided it's time for the right moment.

            While planning how they would alternate watch that night, the group had come to the conclusion that the thing chasing them must be some sort of pet of the Baron's. And this was some sort of perverted amusement for them.

            "That bitch Azra must somehow control it." Danara, a young red haired woman about in her mid-twenties, had spit out. "Or else we would have been attacked on the way to Baron Gila's ville. I never heard anything about something like this. Thought I could make a living in the ville. Word is Baron Gila's very generous."

            "Yeah fucking magnamius." Hank sarcastically mumbled. "Gave us an hour's head start."

            "Brujeria." Carlos Montez had whispered rubbing his left pectoral absently.

            "Witchcraft my ass." Freedman snorted. "That Azra went after you like a bitch in heat. Regular female response. Maybe she's just some kinda mutie." The teen rubbed his stubbly chin, "Then again, maybe it was her response to you that got the Baron pissed. Maybe she's his slut."

            Hank nodded looking at his friend, "She said something like, "They have come back!" when she reached up and tore open your shirt. Her nipples were so hard, I'm surprised you didn't feel them poking you. I could practically smell her excitement. And you weren't too immune either. You had a raging hard on."

            Montez shrugged. Bowing his dark head and he looked at the crescent moon shape on his left nipple. "I don't know." He shrugged. "All I know was she had a similar mark, on her right tit."

            "Fuck that Spic!" Byron Simms the groups other remaining member had erupted. Stalking up to and standing face to face with the tall Spanish man, back to the dark forest, he grated, "When Azra walked into the room, you and she started and then stared at each other, almost as if you knew each other before. As if you..."

            Simm's scream rent the air as a sharp, almost tusk-like appendage stabbed through the front of his shirt. The four others just watched in horror as he was whisked back into the dark underbrush within seconds.

            The thing had taken advantage of their dropped guards and chaos and had lessened their number. There were no other disputes after.

            They had lost Danara earlier that morning. All of them were so conscious of looking hard at any shrub or cover a creature could hide in ahead of them, that when she stopped to relieve her bladder, she last in line, all their backs to her as she dropped her pants, what ever it was came up behind her and hauled her off. Her screaming abruptly stopped seconds after they turned and only saw the small puddle of urine mixed with blood and bowels.

            They had started running then.

            Two hours later, they were exhausted and Hank had his blaster trained on one of his own.

            "Come on you fucking bastard," he whispered low, "show yourself."

            "Almost there Capt'n." Freedman's face broke into an almost euphoric grin.

            Neither of them expected the large dark blur to swing down from the tree and slam into Freedman with such force he flew back with such momentum there was an audible crack when his spine hit the solid wood of a tree trunk. Hank raced to where Freedman sank into a senseless heap. AK-47 lifted and held with both hands, he trained it upwards, eyes frantically scanning the trees. Finger light on the trigger as they only had a dozen or so shots left, and he would need to keep his firing short and make it count.

            "Did I make it Capt'n?" Freedman's weak voice broke through the sounds of silence and his own hard breathing.

            Looking down, Hank noted the blood flowing out of Freedman's mouth and knew it was over for the young man. Gripping his shoulder, Hank nodded. "You did good Junior. Now rest. You'll have recce duty in a couple of hours."

            "Yes, Hank. Wake me when my shift starts..." Freedman's voice trailed off into silence.

            "Come out you mutie motherfucker!" Hank screamed as he reached out to close Freedman's sightless blue eyes. His body tight as a bowstring as moments ticked by waiting for it to come and finish him off. "And I'll fucking chill your ass." He muttered.

            One minute passed.

            Two...

            Three...

            "Oh shit!" Hank's eyes widened as things fell into place. Standing quickly he raced forward hollering at the top of his lungs, "Montez!"

xxxxxxxxxx

            "Is he dead Azra?" Baron Gila's voice broke into the small woman's concentration as he continued to thrust between her wide spread legs.

            Bright green eyes opened and looked up into the Baron's gray ones. "No my lord. The one who bears the mark still lives." A ghost of a smile passed over her lips. "Although, not for long."

            Baron Gila grunted hips pumping harder. "You are too hard Azra. You could have pleasured yourself with that young stallion. He would have enjoyed your body as much as I do. Perhaps more. He was very beautiful. Even I would have lain with him." At the thought, the Baron moaned as he felt himself harden even more.

            "I would not sully my person with one of those pendejos." Her green eyes flashed. "It has been nearly thirty years since I have last seen one of them. Yet I still remember how they turned on me. Betrayed me." Azra's green eyes darkened with memories, "But I will find them all and I will make them pay." She smiled coldly. "I will make them all pay."

Baron Gila cupped Azra's naked breasts with his large, fat hands. Giving the large dusky brown mounds hard, rough, squeezes, as he knew Azra liked, he felt himself close to ejaculation. "How do you know he wasn't the last one?" he panted.

            "Because there is still a connection."

            "But he is not dead yet."

            "I feel another. Close yet I can not see who it is."

            "But you will play with them as you have with this one?" Baron Gila's voice was filled with a child-like glee.

            Azra's voice, dropped to sub-freezing tones, "Oh yes. And I am not even finished with this one."

            Baron Gila grabbed Azra's hips and rammed himself in deep. Her lack of any emotion drove him over the edge. As he spewed his seed deep into her, he knew that his fun would not end soon. Azra knew how to keep him entertained in ways that never bored him.

xxxxxxxxxx

            Montez ran as if all the Hounds of Hell were after him. After passing by Hank, he had kept on running. It was as if that thing was after him. He knew it was killing off the others, but it was some how to torment him. Terrify him. He knew it had his scent. That somehow he had been marked and could not elude it. He could hear his harsh breathing inside his head. "Madre de Dios!" he moaned, stitch in his side throbbing, "Dejame en paz!.

            Looking back to see if it was following him, Montez tripped over an exposed tree root. Landing hard, he felt the breath whoosh from his lungs. Rolling onto his back, he briefly closed his eyes, coughing. Why wonít it leave me alone? He thought to himself as his fingers curled into the dirt beneath him. For the umpteenth time he cursed Baron Gila for only giving the ten of them the one AK-47 with two spare mags. Feeling the tinge of fear again at the base of his spine, Carlos quickly got to his feet and began to once again move quickly.

            "Where the hell are you Hank?" He whispered to himself again looking back. He had not heard the automatic fire so that either could mean one of two things. Hank was dead, or knew that he needed to conserve ammo. Montezís mind latched on to the latter explanation. Hank had seen them through tough shit. He knew what was a lost cause. And whatever god there was, forgive him, but Freedman had been becoming a possible liability. Though Hank would not give up on the kid.

            "Shit but I need you now jefe."

            Running into a rock solid, hairy form was like hitting a brick wall.

            Falling back hard on his rear, Carlosís mouth went slack and his eyes wild as he looked up at what had been chasing and killing them.

            Standing on two legs, the massively muscled creature stood about six feet. Even slightly stooped over, nothing hid the huge proportions of his arms, hands and legs. Though the hair that covered his entire body was more of fur than human body hair. It was dark, matted and when the breeze wafted downwind, smelled as if something had died. When Carlos looked into the face of the creature, the flat, sloped forehead and thick brow bone seemed to indicate this was a stupid animal, but there was a flair of recognition in the deep set black eyes that made him shudder.

            The creature grunted as Carlos made a move to crawl backwards. Sliding itís lips back into a parody of a macabre grin, the Spanish man noted the slightly elongated canines. Squatting down to his level, it reached out to poke Montezís bent knee. Carlosí skin crawled at the anticipated touch and he moved back. In an instant the creature was standing at itís full height. But it made no move towards him.

            "What the fuck do you want you mutie bastard!?" Carlos yelled.

            The creature again peeled itís lips back in a bastardized smile. It then made a move with itís huge, ape-like hand.

            Carlos recognized the movement with dread.

            The creature was indicating it was telling him to run.

            "Fuck you!" Carlos spat. He was no triple damned rat in a maze.

            With a roar of rage, the creature lifted itís arms, clasped his hands together and began a downswing in a powerful blow.

            An answering roar of autofire countered the creatureís action.

            "Die you goddamned, son of a mutie bitch!" Hank screamed at the creature. Bullets ripped open the hairy creature with about eleven deadly bites to itís body.

            As it staggered, then fell, Hank calmly walked up to itís head and put the last bullet through itís head, between itís eyes. "Thatís for Freedman." he grit out as the creatureís head exploded into a ripe mush.

            Hair and brain matter splattered over his still fallen form, Carlos smiled in genuine relief. 

            "What the hell took you so long Coleman?" He mocked as he took Hankís extended hand help up.

            "I was out strolling in the woods and thought Iíd smell the rad blasted roses."

            Both menís laughter was tinged with desperation and overwhelming tiredness.

            "And Scott?"

            Hankís eyes clouded. "Chilled."

            "Shit. Eight people." Carlos kicked the huge foot of the creature. "Fucking mutie."

            Hank nodded. "And we still need to get out of here. No time to rest. Day is wasting."

            "Iíd sure like to go back and kill that bitch, jefe."

            "Me too. But we are in no shape to take on Azra. Or Baron Gila. What we need to do is find a place to rest, eat and recover. Not to mention plan. I..."

            Hankís voice broke off in surprise as something jumped down from the branches overhead. A foot taller then the creature Hank felled, it was just as massive, but lacked the thick matt of body fur. Instead he was covered by thick body hair over pale skin.

            "You kill pet." It grunted and swung the tusk-like club at Hank. The thick trunk of it caught him unaware and the strength behind the swing threw him back. The side of his head met solidly with a tree. Everything went black.

            The creature looked over at Carlos, whoís obvious fear was marked by the wetness in the front of his pants as he stood rooted to the spot.

            Grunting in neutral response, the large creature pointed to the dead beast. "First we bury pet."

            xxxxxxxxxx

            Gitana stopped. Something was not right. With a low, muffled whistle mimicking a bird's cry, she attracted the attention of the tall figure who was at the head of the line of five, to use the term loosely, people. Lifting a hand which he clenched into a fist, the dark man called a halt to the line. With a light lope the dark haired, muscled and scarred man tossed his SPA 15 up on his shoulder and moved to the end where she was picking up the rear.

            As he passed each member, Gitana watched as he nodded at each. Looking at the group, she did a quick sweep with her amber eyes and evaluated each. She started with the man who was coming towards her.

            Brett Maverick. He was the leader of their group and her lover. Tall, heavily scared and muscularly built, the deep scars on his face and the road map of them all over his body attested to his hard life. A life that, from the day he and Gedoena had rescued her from the hands of raping slavers until now, was all she knew of him. His wounds were not only the ones visible on the outside of his body; it was the ones that she couldn't see that still pained him.

            Gedoena. A genetic experiment. Awoken by Brett from a cryo-sleep, she was a creature of terrifying strength and when riled, a bloodlust that rivaled the savagery of any crazed mutie monster that could be found in the Deathlands. She easily dissected her attacker with the sharp claws at the tips of her hands. As well as with her Styre Scout sniper rifle and Glock 17A 9mm automatic. But though she was adult in size, she was only a child of seven within. Brett considered the strangely beautiful creature as more of a daughter then anything else. The slight movement of her tail showed how anxious she felt being left alone at the head of the line as Brett made his way back.

            Gitana's eyes then moved next to Joe. Fellow prisoner of the slavers, Joe Benett's strongly built large body masked the boy he was within. Easy to smile, Joe often lightened the somber mood that would arise when they camped. A bit of an enigma, no one knew of Joe's background, yet Gitana trusted him unquestioningly. Somehow, there was a bond between them that even she could not identify. An instant friend, her gut instinct when she was tripped and fell on him in the slaverís cage was one of basic trust after the superficial fear. He was like an hermano, an older brother. But not only that, there seemed to be an instant kinship between him and Maverick.

            Gitana watched the unspoken communication between both men. Maverickís slight nod and tilt of the head toward Gedoena understood as Joeís need to take point as they waited. Easy with Maverickís command, Joe sometimes seemed as eager to follow him as a green boy. But somehow unlike a green boy, Joe knew the price paid in the Deathlands and Gitana knew, Joe was man when it came to chilling. Not his first choice, he did not hesitate when needed. Seemingly knowledgeable in all weapons they had come across, the twelve gauge pump action Mossburg shotgun that he carried was more of a cannon then a blaster. She smiled wryly. Yet in the end, he was still a man. And a man with regular needs. Gitana knew of his attraction to the next member of the column, even if he didn't acknowledge it yet.

            Feral was exactly what her name implied. The sleek, tall, lean young woman was a mix of wildness, Deathland savvy, and, strangely enough, childlike innocence. Brought up in a dense forest, Feral's constant companion through life was her Cat. Kitty was a large mutie cougar who shared a psychic bond with it's mistress. Feral often kept near Gedoena because her scent didn't bother Feral. And neither did Joe's. Often she would trail behind the large man, a look of slight confusion on her youthful face. Gitana suspected it was only because Feral was intrigued by the group that she stayed. Her ability to mentally link with animals the only reason why Brett tolerated her and her four footed companion. dispute her proficiency with her Detonics Scormaster automatic.

            "What's wrong Babe?" Maverick asked concerned as he stopped in front of her. His shadow covered her face as he looked down. He knew that the small, compact, Spanish beauty was not one to stop their travels frivolously. She was as much a product of the rad-blasted Deathlands as he. A lethal opponent when need be, Gitana's full breasted, shapely body had already born the brunt of multiple rapes and abuse as well as, his jaw clenched, her having to use it once in trade for food to survive. Yet her hip length, ink black hair, and deeply tanned caramel of her body was that of an angel. And through it all, her amber eyes still smoldered with the passion she lived with in her soul.

            Raised since the age of four by a nomadic band of Gypsies, who taught her the art of the con, Gitanaís life was vibrant to say the least. She fought with passion. She laughed with passion. Brett's eyes dilated as he remembered, Gitana loved and fucked with a wild passion that left him breathless and spent. She knew time was jack, and that they didn't have much of either so she lived life to the fullest. He knew that she would take the last train to the coast filled with the passion that she lived. And if she couldn't, he would make sure of it. He would never let her suffer. He would put a bullet in her brain before that.

            She held up a slim, deep olive tanned hand. Shrugging slightly, her eyes looked all around. "No se, Amante. I don't know. There is something not quite right here. I can't put my finger on it." She lifted the muzzle of the CAR 15 carbine a notch. "I just know there is something out of place."

            "It isn't that triple blasted Cat of Feral's?"

            Gitana shook her head. "Kitty would not cause thisÖ" her delicate black brows frowned, "Öthis feeling ofÖ"

            "What Babe?"

            Gitana lifted her shoulders in a tense shrug. "It's as if I have been here or have done this before."

            "But we've never been here." Maverick looked about. Cocking his head to one side he listened. There were no sounds out of the ordinary. Whatever kind of birds and creepy crawlers lived here continued their noises, uncaring of the five intruders within their space.

            "I don't knowÖ maybe it is just Cat. I haven't seen her for a while." Gitana shook herself. "Ah, it's probably nothing Amante. Just me."

            Maverick's eyes looked up and down Gitana's body, briefly resting on her breasts, the dark caps of her nipples faintly seen through the thin white cotton of her shirt. "I think we can fix that when we camp." He promised sensually and turned back to return to the head of the group.

            "You need to mate, Amante." Feral stated baldly as she sniffed at the air when Maverick passed by.

            "Shut the fuck up, Feral." Maverick growled, "You just concentrate on keeping that furball you call Cat close.

            "Why?" Feral questioned flatly. "There no danger here. Or Cat would not leave side."

            "Just do it." He tossed over his shoulder.

            "You no tell Feral what do. Just because you no can mate and you need to makes you angry, AmanteÖ"

            Maverick turned on the balls of his feet back, "Stop calling me that!" he snarled.

            Joe looked up trying to hide his grin. Unlike Gedoena who was laughing.

            Feral continued on non-pulsed, "No danger here. All calm. I feel no danger. Cat hunting."

            Maverick shook his head in aggravation. Taking a step forward, he lifted a finger to point at the small wild woman. "YouÖ"

            "Amante," Gitana walked up and put herself between Maverick and Feral, "she still does not understand the difference in why I call you that. To her itís your name."

            Brett looked into Gitanaís pleading light eyes. "But I," he cleared his throat gruffly on the next word, "care for you. She can go and get triple fucked."

            Gitana tilted her head to one side. With a slight smile she said, "You donít really mean that Brett." Caressing the side of his face with her palm, Gitana soothed, "You donít wish harm on innocents."

            "Iíd make an exception in her case." Maverick grumbled but succumbed to his loverís soft tones. "What the fuck ever." Shrugging and resuming his place at the head of their group, he managed even to smile at Joeís teasing whisper of, "Pussy." under his breath. Responding with a grin, "At least Iím getting some."

            Joeís rich deep laughter booming out seemed like a catharsis and all the individuals joined in. For such was the unusual yet cohesive nature of the band of survivalists. Separately they were an odd assortment. United, they were a strong team, using their strengths to fortify any weak points in the others.

            "Daddy Brett," Gedoena called out tiredly after she stopped laughing, "are we almost wherever weíre going?"

            "Soon Geddy." He replied.

            Still chuckling slightly, Joe asked, "Do we have a destination in mind Mav?"

            Shaking his head, Brett answered, "I heard there is a ville about two days out from here, I figure we have," he looked up at the sky squinting at the sun, "about four hours of daylight. Right now Iím looking for a place to camp for the night."

            Joe nodded. "Sounds like a plan. Standard order for night watch?"

            Maverick agreed. He appreciated his fellow maleís mind for its almost military precision and thinking. He would take the first four hours of night century duty, accompanied usually by Gedoena, and then Gitana would take the second four hours leaving Joe with the last four, which Feral always seemed to join him in. There were no slackers in his group.

            "How do you think Chance and Matt are doing? They didnít look to pleased to be left back at the redoubt."

            Maverick shrugged. "Couldnít be helped. This is a straight supply run. We need to get to a ville as soon as possible to get the parts for the wags. They are both still to green not to jeopardize this trip."

            "They are going to have to learn sometime."

            "I know, but for now, they will be safe. Until we can get a marker and location of where we are, they can bitch all they want while weíre away."

            Joe laughed, "Youíre a hard son of a bitch sometimes Mav."

            "Comes with the territory." Maverick grinned. "Gotta take the bad with the worse."

            "But some things are pretty cherry though." Joeís smile widened. "I bet youíre looking forward to getting between ĎTanaís legs." He observed plainly. There was no jealousy or mocking in his tone, it was a simple statement of fact.

            Maverick let out a deep masculine laugh. "Oh yeah."

            "What does he mean Brett?" Gedoena piped up. "What do you do between ĎTanaís legs?" She frowned, "Who is ĎTanaí?"

            Both menís cheeks flushed. Despite her size and looks, Gedoena was a quiet girl that one often forgets she usually around listening.

            "Uh, ĎTana is short for Gitana, Geddy." With a forced cough, the survivalist leader changed the subject, instructing, "Why donít you go and see if Gitana needs someone to talk to. She seems a bit edgy."

            Face brightening, Gedoena nodded, "Okay Brett." A small teasing smile curled her lips as she turned saying, "I bet it will be one hot lay!"

            "Gedoena!" Maverick called out shocked. But the young mutant continued on.

            Joe laughed. "Sheís one spunky kid."

            Eyeing Gedoenaís retreating back warily, Maverick shook his head, "Sheís getting a tad too sassy."

            "Must be a bit of Feral rubbing off on her."

            "God forbid." Maverick stated sourly. "The last thing we need is another raggedy pain in the ass leech. At least she doesnít have a pet." He grumbled and returned to the head of the group.

            "Feral isnít so bad."

            "Your kidding right?"

            Joe shrugged. "Nah, she keeps to herself. Very quiet."

            "Are we talking about the same Feral?"

            "You just ride her ass too hard. She canít help what she is."

            Maverick frowned. "Am I the only one who sees the danger she can represent. Sheís practically a mutie and only she can control that cougar of hers. What if she gets pissed at us if we donít do something she wants."

            Joe remained silent.

            "I know you have some feelings for her."

            "No I donít." Joe denied a bit too vehemently. "Sheís practically a child. She just doesnít know how to relate to people. Sheís curious."

            "And Iím curious about how Stickies fuck without killing each other. But Iím not about to go and live with them to find out."

            Joeís jaw clenched. "Sheís no threat."

            Maverick opened his mouth to respond, but something in Joeís face told him to hold his tongue. Turning he picked up his point position muttering to himself, "Fucking screwball crew I ended up with."

            At the rear of the line, Gedoena fell into step beside Gitana. Her sharp purple eyes taking in the small womanís tenseness.

            Frowning, she asked, "Whatís wrong Gitana?"

            "Nothing Chica." Gitana smiled briefly, not quite reaching her eyes.

            "You seem tense about something."

            Inhaling, the small Spanish woman sighed deeply. "Itís just that I feel I have been here before."

            "Deja vu."

            "What?" Gitana looked confused.

            "Deja vu. Itís a sense like you been or done something before but you know you havenít. Sort of like a dream."

            "Si, eso es!" Gitanaís amber eyes cleared and widened, "Thatís exactly it! Itís almost like a dream and itís driving me crazy."

            Gedoena smiled. "Are you sure youíve never been here before? Even as a child?"

            "No." She shook her head, "Tio Juan and tia Rosa did not travel this way. In fact the gypsy band that raised me never went this way. Ever."

            "The band that raised you? What happened to your parents?"

            Gitana shrugged and looked off into the distance. "I donít know."

            "What do..."

            "I donít know Chica." Gitana cut the young mutie off rudely. Closing her eyes briefly, the petite Spanish woman took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. "Lo siento, Iím sorry Chica. I did not mean to be cross." Glancing at the exotically beautiful mutant, Gitana explained, "My first memory is of a bazaar at a place called Chapacu...something when I was about four or five. I think I was lost. Next thing I knew, tio Juan and tia Rosa found me and started caring for me. The whole gypsy band seemed to adopt me."

"A bazaar?"

            "I think so. I can remember fireworks, bright colors, and people everywhere." Gitana frowned. "And the noises were deafening."

            "And your parents, they never came back to look for you?" Gedeona looked saddened. "Didnít they miss you?"

            Gitanaís face softened, "Chica, I was a tiny child. More than likely I was abandoned. As I see it, tio Juan and tia Rosa saved my life." Placing her hand gently on Gedeonaís cheek, the small woman soothed, "My life wanted for nothing afterward pequena. I was loved. I donít even remember what my mother or father looked like."

            "I wish I could remember my parents." Gedoenaís eyes filled with tears. "I..." She broke off.

            "Brett loves you Chica. I hope you can at least think of him like a father."

            She nodded, wiping frantically at her eyes. "Thatís easy! I love him too!"

            "Que chevere!" Gitanaís eyes brightened and she smiled easily. "Because I know he can be difficult to deal with!"

            Maverick turned and smiled as he heard the mixed laughter at the end of the column. Something within him lightened with the sounds made from his lover and someone who was like a daughter to him.

            After three more hours of scouting, Maverick located a clearing to camp for the night. The solemn column followed. Conversation at a minimum, each survivalist set up their bed around a smokeless fire Joe built. On a spit roasted two small rabbit like creatures.

            "Damn Iím hungry." Joe grumbled sitting on the ground. "I donít think those things and our self heats will be enough." Sighing he added, "What I would give for a thick medium rare stake, potatoes and gravy."

            "I would love my stake smothered in onions and mushrooms." Gitana wrapped her arms around the large manís neck and laughed. "Or maybe some rice and red beans."

            "Iíd prefer a wonderful bowl of chicken soup." Gedonea piped in.

            "You all stupe?" Feral asked brow furrowed in confusion. Sitting down just outside the circle of people, off to Joeís left, Cat joined her. Stroking the silky fur, she questioned, "Why ask for something you no have?"

            "Sometimes it makes looking at what we do have a bit easier, Feral. We are only kidding." Gitana offered as an explanation. Sliding around she sat on Joeís lap. "Since Joe here is very hungry, and he has last watch, I thought if we could make him feel like he will be filled that his attitude would lighten up." She laughed and tweaked his nose. "Povere bebe!"

            With a deep chuckle, Joe lifted Gitana easily from his lap and swapped her on the rear when she stood. "Brat." he laughed as the Spanish woman moved to avoid the second swipe of his hand.

            Feral fell silent.

            Maverick watched the interplay with an amused grin. In a few short months it seemed as if his entire world was turned topsy turvy and he realized it didnít really mind. Though Trader would have had a conniption by now.

            Turning to finish gathering extra wood around, he frowned as he passed Feral who was absently stroking her pet and staring intently at Joeís and Gitanaís interplay.

            "Whatís wrong Feral? Cat got your tongue?" Maverick grinned at his own pun.

            "I no understand something."

            Maverick frowned at the serious tone of the lean woman. Gone were the usual barbs she used when he was around. "What is it you donít understand?"

            "Joe and Gitana."

            "What about them?"

            "I know you and Gitana mate. You mate many times and only with her." Tilting her head she looked at Gitana who was now tossed over Joeís lap and he was pretending to spank her. "Why you not take her away from Joe? Heís touching her. Are you not her Alpha?"

            Brett smiled slightly. Quickly he covered his mouth with his hand because if Feral saw the slight curve of his lips he knew she would go ballistic. Clearing his throat he crouched down and stated, "Yes, but heís only playing with her. Joe had no desire to mate with Gitana."

            Feral grimaced as she watched as Gitana kissed Joe loudly on the cheek. Kitty growled as she felt Feralís thoughts.

            Knowing that he could not explain the concept of jealousy to someone potentially volatile as Feral, Brett shrugged and stood. He would make a point to tell Gitana of Feralís feelings later after they had made love. She had a knack of smoothing over misunderstandings.

            To pacify the wild woman, he offered, "Donít worry about it Feral."

xxxxxxxxxx

            It had been toying with him. Now in the cover of the night, Carlos Montez knew his time was up. Looking over at the still out cold form of Hank, Carlos hoped that he would escape alive. Somehow warn...something touched the edges of his mind. Almost a recognition...of...someone he should know...

            "Now you come. Time die slow now." the huge Sasquach-like creatureís voice grated through his mind like fingers scratching futile against stone.

            "Fuck you!" Montez stood and spit at the creature. Taking steps out and away from his fallen leader, Carlos laughed sarcastically and wielded the spent AK-47 by itís nozzle. "Vete a carajo!" He screamed and swung. "You and I have a date in Hell."

            It was over in seconds. The creature easily deflected the attack and to complete itís full fluid bodily motion, brought around the tree limb he held easily crashing down on the back of Montezís head. It watched as the young Spaniard crumpled, to the dirt. A faint, "Dios...ayudame... " breathed out as he succumbed to the oblivion of unconsciousness.

            Grabbing Montez and heaving him over his massive right shoulder, the creature headed back in the direction of where he was sent from. Grunting, he told the limp body, "You wish, see Hell soon."

xxxxxxxxxx

            Hours later, the ill feeling still remained with Gitana. She had not been able to sleep all during Brettís watch. When he came to wake her for her shift, he found her sitting up on her bedroll looking into the fire. Even his sensual kiss and promise of hot love making did not warm her chilled skin. She had absently waved and went to take her post. His husky, "You okay, Babe?" Did not elicit more than a brief nod from her.

            Walking the perimeter with heightened senses, Gitana could not stop the, what did Gedonea call it? she thought, feeling of deja vu. The CAR 15 carbine felt heavy in her grasp. She inhaled deeply. Fear tingled at the base of her spine. It was as if something was watching her. She could feel itís eyes.

            "Calmate Gitana." she whispered to herself. "Do not frighten yourself. No hay nada aqui. Nothing."

            The slight rustle of underbrush caused her to swing violently around. Sweat beaded on her forehead and she felt sweat trickle down between her breasts. Only years of self-discipline kept her from squeezing the trigger. Her amber eyes wide and nearly wild.

            Gitana waited. Ready. The sound was not repeated. Night creatures still continued their nocturnal callings. Their chirps, trills and whistles accompanied her hard breathing. Cursing under her breath, she noticed how her hands shook. She almost felt as if she were being cornered. Stalked and backed into...what, she did not know. Leaning back against the nearest tree, she closed her eyes briefly. She thought she felt something reach out and touch her mind. Shaking her head violently, she tried to get rid of the fluttering feeling while she berated herself.

            "Carajo, Gitana! You are not helping. Brett and the others need you to stay calm." she scolded, but could not control the fear that began to embrace her. Her fingers tightened around her blaster as she felt a cold grip surround her. Tears prick the back of her eyelids. Squeezing them shut, Gitana crossed herself as she whispered in a childlike voice, "Help me...please..." But the silent terror seemed to overwhelm her. She felt helpless. Waiting for, her eyes widened at the thought, death. It was coming from all around her. Ripping, tearing, screaming.

            The CAR 15 carbine slipped from her nerveless fingers to silently fall at her feet as slowly her back slid down the tree. Rocking forward and back, Gitana whispered over and over, "Dios mio ayudame...ayudame...ayudame..."

            Something was wrong. He could feel it. Instantly awake, Joe sat up touching the katchina around his neck. He looked around the small camp and noted that Gitana was still on watch. Her bedroll next to Maverick empty save for his armed draped over where Gitanaís waist would be. Looking up he noted the position of the stars, then glanced at his chron. By his calculations, Gitana would be only on her first hour on watch. Yet things were not right.

            Standing, Joe picked up his Mossburg and turned to his right.

 "Where go Joe?" Feral whispered as she lifted her head from her cougarís body.

 "Gitana watch still."

            "I know Feral." Joe nodded indicating the darkness, "But something is wrong."

            "Me no feel." the wild womanís eyes narrowed as she hissed, "Amante deep asleep, you can mate with his woman."

            Joe turned to look down at Feral. "What the Hell do you mean? I..." he began, but then stiffened. Spinning on his foot, he trotted out into the darkness.

            Feral sat up, dark eyes glittering. Absently petting Kitty, she ground out, "Gitana bad for pack."

            Kitty growled softly.

            "She going make Amante and Joe fight. Amante just does no know." Curling her fingers into the large catís fur, Feral sneered, "I will no let that happen to Joe.

            Joe crept slowly in the darkness. Mossburg held at the ready, dark eyes sweeping the tree line. Gitana was in trouble. He just knew it.

            "Gitana," he whispered harshly, "where are you? Damn it, answer me!"

            Stopping, Joe listened to the night. Only the night creatures responded. Closing his eyes, he concentrated hard, sweat beading on his brow. Silently his lips moved as he lifted his right hand palm up from the Mossburg. Old Amerindian thoughts flowed within his mind.

            A faint, "Ayudame." floated on the breeze towards him.

            In a flash, Joe was up and running. When he caught sight of the small woman slumped down against the tree, he slowed, first noting where Gitanaís blaster was before walking to her.

            "Gitana?" he frowned as he squatted in front of her. The blank stare with in the mask of fright on her face made his blood go cold. Reaching out he touched the smooth skin of her face. Even in the darkness and the muted light of the setting moon, Joe saw how pale she was. He pulled back his hand swearing. Her face was like marble ice. Placing his hands on her shoulders, he tried to stop the frantic rocking movements. But though her body stilled her mantra of "Ayudame...ayudame...ayudame." continued unabated.

            "Shit Gitana, come back." Putting down the Mossburg, he rubbed her chilled flesh with his hands. "From where ever youíve gone, come back to me."

            "I thought she Amanteís woman."

            Joe whirled around, hand snatching up the Mossburg as he rolled to the side, dragging Gitana with him. When his eyes focused, he swore. "Christ Feral!" Righting himself and laying Gitana on her back, her dirge non-stopping, eyes still wide and glazed, he turned to glare at the untamed woman. "What the hell do you think you are doing. I could have killed you."

            "No you slow. Your eyes only on her." Feral sneered and motioned towards Gitanaís inert body.

            "Well if you opened up your goddamned eyes and looked at whatís going on instead of having a triple damned titty fit bout of jealousy, you would see somethingís wrong with Gitana.

            Feral wrinkled her nose, her canines showing. "It looks like you getting ready to mount and fuck her." she snapped using terms she had heard other norms use through the years.

            "Fucking fireblast Feral." Joe cursed. "Gitana is sick. Very sick. And for what the triple fuck itís worth, there is something within Gitana that draws me to her like..." Joe broke off frowning hard. He looked out into the darkness. Grabbing Gitanaís CAR 15 carbine and his Mossburg, Joe secured them before lifting the slight woman high into his arms and against his chest. With long purposeful strides he headed back to camp.

            "Your cat around Feral?" he tossed over his shoulder as he passed the lithe woman.

            Feral stopped and concentrated, "Yeah Cat near."

            "Have it tool around, thereís something here."

            "There nothing. She feel nothing...I feel nothing..."

            "God fucking damn it Feral, "Joe roared swinging around, "Why do you always have to question a simple fireblasted request? You are not the only one who knows the Deathlands. You need to climb off that triple fucking mutie high horse and get with the program. If you keep on with your independent ways of doing things around us, you become a liability. And liabilities get us chilled."

            At Joeís harsh tones, Feral froze in her tracks. She looked at the big man with something akin to sadness and confusion in her eyes.

            As if sensing her mixed feelings, Joe inhaled deeply. "Listen Feral. I like you. Gitana likes you. We all like you. You are a great asset to our group. As long as you realize you need to work as part of a team." Joe speared her gaze with his. "You are beautiful, smart, and resourceful. And your Cat is a great guardian. We will get far with your help."

            Feral smiled slightly. "You like me Joe?"

            The big man turned and resumed walking back to camp. "Yeah," he answered gruffly, "like I said. We all do."

            "Even Amante?"

            Joe chuckled despite himself. "Yeah, Maverick does too. Heís just as triple hard headed as you are in realizing it."

            Within moments, Feral, Joe and the unconscious Gitana stepped into the warm ring of light from the campfire. Carefully, with the tip of his boot, Joe poked Maverick lightly in the stomach.

            "Hey Mav, wake up. We got trouble."

            Due to years of honing his life for survival, Brett rolled briefly and, while reaching for his blaster, rolled to the balls of his feet. Alert and ready.

            "Itís just me Brett." Joe whispered as he bent and laid Gitana down on her back on her bedroll.

            "Ayudame...ayudame....ayudame..."

            Brett looked down at his lover, his skin crawling at the deadpan words that whispered through her bloodless lips. He swung his head and speared Joe with his eyes. "What happened?" he looked down at his chron. "Sheís been on watch for less then two hours."

            "I donít know." Joe began to take Gitanaís clothes off.

            Reaching out, Brett helped disrobe his lover. He knew Joe would be looking for any hidden marks, scratches, or anything that would indicate Gitana was under some organic or non-organic influence.

            "You found her like this?"

            "Yeah. She was sitting back against a tree rocking back and forth."

            "Any signs of a scuffle or visitors?"

            Joe shook his head, "No. It was triple creepy."

            Brett took Gitanaís hands in his. His brow knit in worry. He began to rub her hands with his calling gently, "Lover, itís me. Wake up." The large man reached down and shook her lightly, "Come on Babe."

            "Nothing." Joe muttered sitting back on his heels. "Nothing out of the ordinary on her body."

            "Then why doesnít she snap out of it?"

            "I donít know."

            "Whatís wrong with Gitana, Daddy?" Gedonea walked over, her tail swishing in distress.

            "I donít know Geddy. But go back to bed, everything will be ok."

            "But.."

            "Geddy I know you want to help, but thereís nothing you can do right now. Ok little one?"

            The large mutie girl nodded solemnly, "Okay Daddy." She walked over to her bed roll and sat down watching every move.

            Joe shook his head. "I have heard about things like this, but never seen it."

            "What Joe?" Brett looked at him, eager for any clue to his loverís predicament.

            "Well I heard about a gaudy slut who was new to the business and she got ganged banged first night out. Her mind fried. Halfway through she was just a zombie. They still fucked their moneyís worth out of her, but she never moved. They said her eyes glazed over and her face was as fragile as glass. All she would do is blink and drink liquids when forced down her mouth. She died a few days later. They said she lost the will to live." Joe shrugged, "Either that or what had happened to her was too much for her to handle."

            "Fireblast!" Brett swore under his breath. He then shook his head, "Thatís not Gitana. Sheís stronger than that. Besides, sheís already been gang raped. And she is fine."

            Joe looked hard at Brett. "What do you mean Maverick?"

            Brett looked into Joeís astonished face. "Back at the slavers camp."

            "She was ganged raped?"

            "Thatís what usually happens to a woman." Brettís voice was razor tight.

            "But there were so many men! When did it happen?"

            Gedoenaís voice broke through filled with quite horror. "When Brett and Gitana were captured."

            Maverick bowed his head and clenched his fist. A wave of helpless frustration flowing over him. "I woke up in some dark room with her come over to me. I knew she was in pain. Figured Greaves did what he had wanted to do. And gave his men a turn out of spite." He looked over at the tall mutant girl, "Iím sorry you had to see that Geddy baby."

            "I didnít look. I got sick a lot."

            "Thatís why she was afraid of me when she fell on me in the cage." Joe frowned and looked down at the small woman. "But youíre right Brett, if she got through that, she knows we wonít ever let that happen again.

            "I just wished I knew the hell what was going on."

xxxxxxxxxx

            Carlos moaned. His body was on fire with pain. Frowning, he struggled to lift the heavy weights on his eyelids. He moaned again when a sliver of light penetrated the slit he managed to open.

            "Benvenidos cabron," Azraís voice broke through the haze of confusion he was experiencing. "Now you will find out what happens to people I loathe."

            "Make it last Azra!" Baron Gila clapped his hands in glee.

            As Carlos dragged his consciousness up and opened his eyes wide enough in time to see Azra approaching him. Her hands holding something low, just out of his line of sight.            He felt a white hot burning heat on his crotch and screamed.

xxxxxxxxxx

            "Papa dijo que no hay monstros..." Gitana heard a young boyís voice whisper in her mind. But she knew he was wrong. There was a monster out there chasing her. She felt it. Itís very presence burned white hot. She could feel it touch her....and it burned.

            She screamed.

 

End Part One 

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