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Soahl Music: A Collection of Fallen Earth Stories

 
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This is just what the title suggests, a collection of stories I've written about my characters in the Fallen Earth setting. If I ever do any actual Journal type entries then I'll preface them with "Journal -". Likewise, if anything is In Character then I'll mark it as such.

Characters Written About:

Naomi Quinn, Mikayla Vay, Ashley Scott

 

Disclaimer: Apologies if the formatting is off. Unfortunately this site doesn't like to accept formatting from other sites and I can't access the originals on Fallen Earth Roleplayers so it'll take some time for me to go through and figure out what needs to be fixed.

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Visions and Memories - Naomi Quinn


It was happening again. It was always a little different each time but she’d grown to recognize it when it started. Tonight she found herself in an old, long since looted house miles and miles away from the nearest town or settlement. It used to be a farmhouse back when anyone cared. Now, however, the fields were overgrown with weeds and grass, broken stalks swaying in the evening breeze. The blackened shell of a long-since burnt out barn sat a hundred yards from the dilapidated house.

The farmhouse had, over the years, lost all of its paint. Now it was just the color of old, dry wood. Half of the second floor had caved in long ago and each stiff wind brought a creak through the house that spoke of a rotten and threatening foundation. There weren’t windows anymore, simply holes in the mottled exterior, a few boards placed over them here and there from past occupants. Somewhere in the back of her mind, Naomi found it somewhat amusing that people would board up the windows before they’d try to stabilize the ceiling, which definitely shouldn’t be sagging like it was.

Tonight she found herself sitting back in a chair, if one could call it that. It was a chair in function alone, otherwise it was just a bunch of scrap wood that past scavengers had hammered together with a relatively flat bit in the center and along the back. The table that accompanied it was stuck to the wall, someone having decided once that it was easier just to nail it to the wall and use only one leg than try to find four sturdy, even legs. Along the table she had arranged a few of her belongings and tonight’s supper. A slice of dried meat sat on an unfolded cloth, a beaten old thermos full of what she convinced herself with every tasteless gulp was water beside it.

Along with her meal rest a journal she’d picked up at one of the last towns she passed through, a long, wide scrap of tough leather with a toggle and a throng on either end to lash it closed. Ragged, dog-eared bits of paper peeked out every which way from the depths of the journal with a newly made ‘pencil’ resting atop. She wanted to get an entry in before sundown. There was no way she’d build a fire in this building, it’d probably go up in smoke at the very idea.

Naomi looked over her shoulder towards the other side of the house, blocked off by the collapsed stairway and makeshift door that tried in vain to block the way. She heard running water falling onto stone, or perhaps tile. It was hard to tell. Just like every other time it happened, she knew it wasn’t real but that didn’t stop her from looking and wanting to investigate. With a sigh, she took a bite out of her meat and pushed out of her chair. It wouldn’t hurt to go take a look.

Her boots thudded hollowly on the floorboards, long since dried and curling. She’d given some Tech more chips than she’d admit for these boots, a replica of the pre-Fall ‘work boot’, complete with steel toe. Damn if it wasn’t worth every chip. Tugging at her jacket, a rugged thing of dark brown leather that was well made if aged, she slowly approached the door. Apprehension built up in the forefront of her mind each time she approached one of the sounds she heard, a desire to turn back, a longing to proceed. With a deep breath she placed her covered hands, adorned in dark brown leather fingerless gloves, against the door and gave it a shove. The accumulation of planks and combined debris fell back with a loud clatter made even louder by the dead silence all around. Dead silence save for the water, of course.

A strong gust of hot air rushed across her face, tugging at her loosely curly blonde ponytail as if trying to guide her back from where she came. It was humid and heavy with the scent of tap water, a strong familiarity tugging at her mind. Naomi stepped past the threshold, sharp violet-blue eyes intent on tile work all around her. It was a soothing mosaic of greens and blues amidst a sea of white, the same linear patterns repeating again and again. Benches lined the oblong room on either side of her, a foot and a half away from rows of dark gray lockers. There were no windows in the room, the light came from the florescent tubes along a ceiling covered with large, white faux-wood paneling.

The sound of running water from the far end of the room drew her attention once more, the warm and humid air starting to tease sweat from her and making her wish she hadn’t changed into the dark blue turtleneck already. Her off-black cargo pants rustled with each step, the contents of her pockets objecting to a silent approach. It wasn’t as though she was trying too hard to keep silent anyhow, her right hand reached under her jacket as she began to draw closer to the far room, her view blocked off by a tile covered wall with an opening on either side. The sound of running water came from right behind that wall, she knew.

Slowly Naomi drew closer to the enclosed space, her glasses beginning to fog up the slightest bit from the faint steam roiling across the ceiling as it searched for an exit. She kept her hand at her hip under her jacket, palm hovering over the handle to her pistol, thumb caressing its back. As she came closer, she could make out two sets of metallic objects in regular intervals along the far wall in the next room, one about six feet off the floor, the other about four. The one up top looked like a dispenser of sorts, the term ‘shower head’ blossoming in the back of her mind. Finally she reached the doorway to the room, the sound of running water loud and to her left, just past the wall. She paused for a moment and took a deep breath before quickly stepping in, pulling her pistol from its holster and bringing it to bare before her with her other hand cupping the grip.

She saw an old fireplace. There was no running water. There was no steam, no tile, no benches, no lockers. The evening sunlight illuminated the other room of the farmhouse in its weak light, displaying decades worth of debris scattered about. Plenty of people had used this room as a shelter before her. From the smell of it, someone hadn’t been here too long ago. She heaved a small sigh and slipped her gun away, turning back to move towards the door.

According to Madam Chloe, a woman who called herself a psychic that she tracked down months ago, these were memories resurfacing. The Madam had told her that it was part of being a clone, the memories of old rising to the surface like the detritus at the bottom of a stagnant pool after it’s been stirred up. Usually they only occurred while people were asleep, coming as dreams and little more, but to some they came in waking dreams as well. They usually came when she was the most relaxed, Madam Chloe called it a waking sleep state, a state when the mind is relaxed and let go.

Naomi made her way back to the pieced together chair and sat heavily, ignoring the groans and faint cracking that resulted from the sudden seat. She didn’t like the waking dreams, they always seemed to end right before she actually learned anything. One time she found herself following the sound of someone she recognized talking leading to a door with the words ‘Journalism’ and ‘Mrs. Chalker’ just below it. When she opened the door, however, the dream vanished like always. She didn’t understand what it meant at first but now she was slowly starting to piece things together.

She peered out the window to look at the sun, noting it’s inevitable collision with the horizon soon. Madam Chloe had suggested she write down each of her dreams so that maybe, one day, she could look them over and understand what it was that was resurfacing. Taking a bite of her meat, Naomi pulled her journal over, drew her pencil, and opened the case. Time to make another entry and see if she couldn’t make some sense out of any of it this time.

Characters: Naomi Quinn, Mikayla Vay, Ashley Scott

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Shoot the Moon - Naomi Quinn

The moon hung high in the sky, bright contrast to the bruised black sky. Tonight was a favorite of travelers, scavengers, and lovers alike; a full moon. It shone so bright that few of the stars had the penetrating force of presence to show beside it. Orion stood defiant to the moons radiant glow, keeping watch over the night skies. A light, continual breeze carried through the moonlit night teasing settled dust and guiding loose leaves.

Normally Naomi would be sitting in her camp by now, leaning back against whatever she’d found as a back rest, and getting ready to call it a night. Then again, normally she’d have her pack, too. However, the higher powers, if there were any, saw fit to have a small band of highwaymen catch her between settlements and unawares. While fortune favored her enough to only take a stone to the head and not a bullet, it didn’t favor her quite enough to let her keep her bag. For that, Naomi was displeased. Her pack held her journal, her journal held her life. It also held her rations.

For this reason she lay on her stomach in the sparse, tall grass near the top of a hill overlooking a small valley. A tall tree with sprawling branches clawed at the sky above her, bare branches raised in askance to the night sky. The color of the wood suggested that it was dead, but she was never much of a plant person. Plus with the way everything had been mutated, she wasn’t going to so much as guess as to what made sense anymore. As far as she knew, the tree might decide to eat her for dishonoring its pack or something. How was she to know? It wasn’t like she was a Vista.

Her bag lay at the base of a far hill, some fifty yards off. The dwindling campfire was little more than a speck in the cleavage of the two hills. Somewhere in the distance the echo of gunfire struggled to flee from its origins. Naomi drew her rifle and settled in, adjusting her hat to shade the end of the scope from the moonlight. As she sighted in the camp, its attendants came to life.

The crack of the distant gunfire awoke one of the men in the small camp, who sat up suddenly with a snort and a rusty revolver. His bald head reflected the moonlight, illuminating the scar that ran from the top of his right eye all the way over the top of his head. As fearsome as the scar made him, the walrus mustache he had detracted from it rather significantly. He had it oiled up so the stiff black hairs shone more than his head leaving the rest of him to look dull and mundane in comparison. Like the others, his clothes tended toward the cloth covered with random bits of whatever they could find category. The man lying beside the bald man had a soup can on his shoulder.

The bald man stood with a grumble, holstering his revolver in a cumbersome looking shoulder harness and wandered off out of camp. Naomi didn’t need to follow him to know what he was doing. The other two men were sound asleep. By the looks of it, they’d drank enough spirits to sleep through the second Fall. After scanning the two sleepers, she found the bald man again and trailed him until he crawled back in his bedding.

She stood, holstering her lever action rifle over her shoulder and brushed the dust off her clothes. Her dark brown duster had done a brilliant job keeping her white cotton shirt with the lightly dipping neckline free from travel’s grit, although lying in the dirt had somewhat been counter-intuitive to that cause. Her dark brown gun belt, a Glock 17 Redux accompanying each hip, secured her dark gray cargos. Flicking her blonde ponytail back over her shoulder and giving her hat a tug, Naomi made her way down the hill as nice and quietly.

The smell of spilt spirits and unwashed men clung to the camp like a plague, threatening to leech into anything that lingered too long within its cloud. She made her way into the camp silently, one of her strengths paying off and definitely not for the first time. The high possibility of bloodshed if she made one wrong move kept her highly attentive and careful. While she could hold her own if necessary, fighting wasn’t one of her strengths. She was a people person, not a dead people person.

It was times like these that Naomi wished she’d stayed with the Techs that originally found her a little longer. Maybe then they’d have taught her how to see in the dark like some of them seemed to. Silently she thanked the moon for choosing tonight of all nights to be so bright as she rooted through the camp in search of her bag. A nagging sense of déjà vu tickled the back of her head, but she pushed it off for now. Now just wasn’t the time for one of her dreams.

Finally, she found it. They hadn’t broken the lock she’d put on her bag yet and for all the effort they put into doing so, they hadn’t broken down and torn into the very fine leather that made it up. Someone would have to be very desperate to tear into such a fine bag, which naturally was one of the reasons she originally procured it. The Lightbearer it had originally belonged to was probably very annoyed at having lost it. Naomi hefted the bag and tossed a strap over her shoulder before turning to leave, slowly inching her way back out of the camp.

Just as she reached the edge of the camp an ember in the fire popped, the soft explosion as loud as a herd of stampeding cattle in the silence. The bald man sat up again quickly, rusty revolver in hand and sleep obfuscating the intruder briefly. Quickly evaluating her options, Naomi broke from the slow crawl of stealth and burst into a full sprint up the hill towards the tree. At first the bald man just stared, blinking his eyes in bewilderment before the gravity of the situation settled in his head.

The revolver belched fire as the bullet tore into the earth just in front of Naomi, the bark of the weapon startling the other two of the camp’s occupants awake. A second shot erupted from the rusty weapon, a small gout of dirt exploding near her once more. Small shocks of electricity rippled down her legs as she dug in for more speed, the left over nanites about her body setting to work on her muscles.

She tore away from the camp, up the hill towards the tree. The fifty yards that took her so long to sneak along shot by in a flash as gunshots rang out behind her from a variety of weapons. They may’ve used a stone to take her from the saddle earlier that day but apparently the highwaymen didn’t think too fondly of thieves. Just as she reached the tree at the top of the hill, silhouetted by the moon directly behind her, one of the bullets tore into the meat of her bicep. It was a lucky shot for both parties, all things considered.

With adrenaline pumping and blood flowing, the impact of the bullet did little else than emphasize the point that it was time to be gone. Just past the tree her horse stood waiting patiently in the moonlight. The reins were tied loosely to an unearthed root so that they could just be tugged free on a moment’s notice. It paid to be prepared. Grabbing the reins as she reached her horse, she launched herself up into the saddle, spun the creature around, and shot off in the opposite direction from the highwaymen. She’d have to see to her arm soon, but she wanted to get a little distance first. Then it was time for her journal.

Characters: Naomi Quinn, Mikayla Vay, Ashley Scott

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High Noon - Naomi Quinn


For some reason the sight struck her as cliché, like something you’d see in a zombie movie. She really hoped she wasn’t about to be attacked by a horde of shuffling zombies. She’d heard rumor that there really were some and she just really wasn’t too excited about meeting them. However, a small part of her was curious to see if the real zombies shuffled at a pace slower than a walk and constantly moaned and demanded brains in the same way someone who’s hung over protests when the you introduce them to bright light.

It was a gorgeous day, a bright blue sky staking its claim over this small stretch of post-apocalyptic utopia, threatening every wisp of a cloud that dared venture near like an old man on a porch. The midday sun bathed the house she stood in front of, the steady breeze tugging at her ponytail like a bored child. It was a very large, very dilapidated house. The correct style descriptor was plantation even if there was no sign of the suggested crops anywhere near by. Likely it had been built only a decade or two before the Fall, back when the white paint was fresh, windows inhabited their slots, and the roof wasn’t caving in.

The people she tracked here had obviously picked a nice place for a headquarters. Sure, it was a little big for four people but Naomi’s best guess was that only half the house was actually habitable. It was a shame, really. If someone had a mind, they could probably bring a crew out here and restore the building, even begin a small town around it. Her circuit around the property had shown a working water pump in the back along with a garage that’d fit two Tornados if anyone could ever find two to bring together.

Tugging her hat down to shade her eyes, Naomi trudged down the short path through the lack of anything interesting to reach the front door. It’d be impolite to come in the back, after all. She’d left her horse tied up a little ways back, out of rifle range just in case some genius thought it’d be a good idea to drop her mode of transportation on the approach.

Her duster billowed behind her weakly in the breeze, doing a bang-up job at keeping the dirt off her shirt. She’d decided it was a fool’s errand to try and keep anything white when she was going between towns. Today, a dark green tank top had the honors of hugging her upper body, khaki colored cargo pants dropping down to her black work boots. She didn’t care to keep the pistols on her hips concealed, nor was she making the slightest bit of effort to hide the rifle across her back. Not that she really could, but she’d seen people try. After that, she vowed never to be so stupid.

She didn’t bother knocking, she just freed her pistols and opened the door. The hinges had been oiled recently, a feat deserving of a silent prayer. The four currently occupying the building had broken a business deal with her, holding her at gunpoint and tying her to a post five miles outside of the nearest settlement after relieving her of all her chips and merchandise. They hadn’t made a move on her pistols and thankfully she’d left her rifle on her horse, which she’d hidden before the meet. Now she meant to conclude the transaction. They took the goods so she expected payment. She knew they wouldn’t pay so she had no choice but to repossess her good. Now due to being tied to a post, she was going to demand interest.

From what she’d seen during her small amount of surveillance, her quarry liked to huddle up on the second floor of the house. Maybe it made them feel superior to actually have a second floor all of their own, perhaps they were just idiots. Either way it made things a little easier on her part.

The interior of the house was just as ragged and rotten as the exterior suggested. What little furniture remained looked as if it had been sandblasted, slopes of sand and dirt piled up under the windows with a thin layer carpeting the floor. More than half of the furniture lay in various states of ruin, the rest likely one touch away from the same fate. Footprints led through the sand all around the house signifying a high amount of traffic. Naomi took a left as soon as she entered, reaching one of the larger, main rooms.

A small sound tugged at her as she paused for a moment, ever careful, ever wary, waiting to see if there was any movement. She heard voices coming from the other side of the house on the first floor. Her pulse took it up a notch at the realization. Had she miscounted? Did she miss someone? No, no. She was very certain everyone was upstairs. A creak of the floorboards above confirmed her suspicions. That meant someone else was there, which warranted careful investigation. She moved to the door to the hallway and pulled it open.

The floor, a beautiful and rich dark wood shone as if it had just been polished. Stepping into the hallway and onto the clean wooden floor, she slid the door closed behind her with a smooth, silent click. The walls were done in a modest green and white wallpaper with vertical stripes. Two lamps hung on the wall in the hallway, one at either end, both off for the time being as the daylight illuminated everything just fine. Tasteful landscapes of distant places in rich and relaxing colors lined the wall.

The voices came from the door at the end of the hall. Slowly Naomi made her way down towards the door, which hung just slightly ajar. It was painted white to match the doorframe and lining along the floor and ceiling although she could tell it was made of fine wood beneath. As she raised her hand to open the door, her attention was stolen by the view outside. Green grass rolled along the plains outside only cut off in the distance by evergreens. A few wispy white clouds dotted the sky, doing nothing but emphasizing the blueness of the sky.

Turning her attention back towards the door, Naomi paused once more before opening it. The people speaking inside were female, their voices incredibly familiar. She couldn’t quite place what they were talking about as their voices were muffled through the door. Apprehension kept her hand from guiding the door open the rest of the way, hesitation starting to gain a stronger foothold. She knew she should know the voices, one more than the other. With a deep breath, Naomi steeled her resolve and set her hand on the door. As she pushed, the doorframe near her head exploded in splinters as the sound of a gunshot echoed through the hallway.

Naomi dropped onto the sandy floor of the hallway and scrambled for the far door. The door she had been standing at was wedged closed by debris in the other room. The sand beside her exploded as another shot narrowly missed her just before she took cover in the next room. Two more shots pounded into the doorframe as she yanked one of her pistols free and took a deep breath to gather herself. “Told ya we shoulda shot her, Bill!” shouted the man at the other end of the hallway before yet another shot tore into the doorframe.

Already expecting it, Naomi leveled her pistol and took three quick shots at the open doorway not ten feet from her as a man stepped out with a shotgun lowering. The first shot went astray, burying itself into the far wall. However, the other two found their home in Bill, his response to his companion halted as the second shot went through his elbow, the third just under his sternum. Instead he just yelled in pain and dropped his gun, collapsing and cradling his chest wound.

Quickly getting to her feet, Naomi leaned out the doorway to take two quick shots before ducking back and running across the room. She leapt over the moaning Bill, effectively ignoring him for the time being. Another three shots from her pistol caused the man at the top of the stairs to hit the deck in surprise as he shouted, “What the hell’s goin’ on down th- shi..!”

Up the stairs she went, running as fast as she could while still keeping upright. The sand on the hardwood floors made for perilous footing while on the run and she couldn’t afford to take a spill just yet. As she reached the top of the stairs, her pistol was leveled at the man who still lay prone, covering his head. He hadn’t even made a move for his gun, opting to stay out of the fight before he even got involved. She laid him out with a running kick and skidded to a stop to grab his dull yet clean revolver.

She stood and looked up and down the hallway along the stair balcony, trying to guess where she wanted to go based on sound and footprints in the dirt. The floor was much cleaner up here, although there was still a thick layer of dirt upon the floor. The chief difference was the lack of sand. Stowing the revolver behind her belt for the time being, she took two shots at the door she had come from downstairs before picking a direction and striding that way.

A small sound caught her ear, giving her just enough warning to leap forward before the wall beside her exploded out and a thunderous shotgun blast marked the fourth and final occupant. She scrambled to keep moving as she heard the pump of the shell being discharged, the wall exploding out once more above where she’d been laying. A quick crawl brought her to the doorway when the third shot should’ve come. Instead, a high-voice woman called out in a voice dripping with malice, “You a’ight out there, sweet’eart? Don’ tell me I went and killed ya already!”

Naomi took a moment to gather her breath and assess the situation. Any moment she’d have the first guy coming up the stairs, so that way was cut off. She had a woman skilled with her shotgun in the room behind her just waiting for her to make a sound, so she couldn’t run for it anyways. The upside was her merchandise would be in that room. There wasn’t anywhere else in this house they’d be keeping that kind of firepower right now. Making her voice sound casual, Naomi called around the doorframe, “Can’t we talk about this?”

“Wha’s there to talk ‘bout, sugar?” the woman asked, pumping her shotgun.

Naomi heard the soft footfalls of the woman moving in the room and adjusted position accordingly. “Not getting’ shot, for one.”

The woman laughed, “That ain’t my call now, sugar. You shoulda knocked first! It’s only polite. Ain’t tha’ right, Marco?”

The man who’d first shot at her stepped out from the stairway, rifle swinging around to point at where he thought Naomi would be. Since she hadn’t stood back up yet, his shot caught only air before she returned with three more of her own. She never had been too good of a shot but it didn’t take much skill to hit someone ten feet away. The first two bullets hit his legs, knocking them out from under him. The third caught him just below the belly button, knocking him backwards. He stumbled back and stepped on his unconscious friend, his injured leg going out and depositing him down the stairs. A chorus of loud thuds and crashes followed before all went quiet. “I don’t think Marco’s available right now. Want me to take a message?”

The doorway exploded into splinters as shot after quickly chambered shot pounded into the stud. Naomi jumped, startled, and threw herself to the side. “Ya ain’t walkin’ out of here alive, sugar! I’m gunna make sure of that!” shouted the woman, firing that cannon of hers as quickly as she could pump a new shell into the barrel.

Naomi barely avoided a shot as the woman made her way out the door by rolling onto her back. Her glasses hung askew and her duster had twisted up underneath her not letting her left arm lift all the way but she wasn’t going to wait for another chance. Shot after shot rang out from that pistol of hers until she emptied the clip, four of the six remaining bullets hitting their target in the chest as the other two went wide.

Breathing heavily, she lay on her back in the hallway and just listened to the sudden silence. She wasn’t a big fan of gun fighting. Sure she had good reflexes, the man who’d trained her at how to use a gun told her that the first day. That didn’t mean that she liked being shot at, however. Some people lived off the adrenaline rush of a fight. Naomi could really live without it.

Finally pushing herself to her feet, she reloaded her pistol before holstering it as she made her way into the room the other woman had left. Inside a crude living space had been made, likely the woman’s alone. It was safe to say she was the boss of the outfit considering the spoils of war were all piled up in the corner. Naomi’s merchandise composed the majority of the stack, horse feed and gasoline. Two things never lost their value these days, fuel and bullets.

She rummaged through the rest of the things in the room before stepping out and looking down the hall. It’d take some time to scavenge as much from here as she could before she took off, so it’d probably be smart to go pick up her horse first. They hadn’t seen anyone for miles before they arrived here so she thought it’d be safe to leave everything as she went to get her horse. Considering how long it’d take to pack everything up and how far the closest settlement was, Naomi decided to make camp there for the night. She could use the rest after a fight like that and she wouldn’t mind some extra daylight for her journal.

First, however, she had a survivor to see to. She saw plenty of rope in the last room.

Characters: Naomi Quinn, Mikayla Vay, Ashley Scott

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Leftovers Part 1 - Naomi Quinn

5/15/2156

When I was a little girl my mother asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. I think the first thing I said was veterinarian because I loved animals. Horses specifically. After that I wanted to be an astronaut. Girl power and all that, sure women were in the program but the majority of astronauts were men still. I wanted to show them that girls could be just as good as boys. That’s probably why I got into sports, which led me to wanting to play soccer professionally.

I was a little girl, of course my life goal changed a lot. Around high school though, I wanted to write. Not just write, I wanted to uncover and explore. There weren’t really any new frontiers for humanity to explore, that is save for humanity itself. I wanted to plumb the depths of humanity, learn all of the little stories and show them to the world. There’s nothing quite as powerful as information. That’s why I went into journalism.

Not once, however, did I say I wanted to wander the post-apocalyptic American wastes over a hundred years after I started college. I mean, I suppose this gives me a unique chance to explore a whole new side of humanity no one had ever heard of before. At the same time, though, I would’ve passed on this opportunity had I the choice.

Like the Shirelles said, Mama always said there’d be days like this. Gotta love the oldies.



Naomi stowed away the pencil in her jacket before gathering up the loose leaf papers that made up her journal. Stacking them up and tapping the bottom edge of the papers on the table, she stuffed them in the leather case she protected so fiercely. She pivoted on her make-shift bench and stowed the journal in her bag. It was time to get moving even though the sun was just starting to go down.

It had been a long, frustrating day full of rushing around, hasty meals, and dodged shots. Apparently some people didn’t really approve of how she handled those who stole her bag several days back. Now they were hunting her down, hounding and harassing her where ever she went. She’d stopped by a small settlement about ten miles back for feed and food only to be run out half an hour later by men on ATVs waving around automatic weaponry.

Patting her horse on the back, Naomi stuffed her bag into one of the various saddlebags that rode on the animal’s back. She then moved to the opposite side of the horse and began digging through one of the bags on that end. If they were going to be riding through the wastes at night, she wanted some light. It got awful dark out there and all it took was one wrong step to break the horse’s leg and her neck.

That was why she pulled a harness out from the bag and made her way to the front of the creature. She set to attaching the harness to the saddle, settling the main of the contraption just under the horse’s neck. Pushing and holding a button just under the central unit for two seconds, she let go and turned on the machine. The core hummed to life, emitting a beam of light straight ahead. It was drilled into her head long ago when she took Driver’s Ed, always keep your headlights on when the sun starts to set.

She made another round around her horse to double check that everything was secured and firmly shut before climbing atop the mare and tugging the brim of her hat down forward a touch. It was going to be a long, hard ride tonight and she was already weary from the day’s pace. Naomi wished rather firmly that she had some music to listen to during the trip.




The sun rose to greet Naomi as she rode hard. Her horse wasn’t as fast as the ATVs that her pursuers drove so she didn’t want to waste any time at all. She knew she couldn’t outrun them for too long, nor did she want to. All she wanted to do was choose her own staging area. You can’t control how many friends they bring, so the saying went, but you can pick where you fight them.

Peeling off from the road, Naomi made for an outcropping of trees a mile off. She’d heard of the place a few times, a smuggler’s refuge. Sure, an outcropping of trees in this place stood out like a sore thumb but the theory went that they liked to hide in plain sight. It was also a place someone had to go to intentionally being so far off the traveled road, and those who knew about it knew that it wasn’t really a place that welcomed outsiders.

The Traveler’s Haven, a lovely play on words there, was a small building built among the thicket. Originally it had just been a safe place to camp, but that changed over the years. Some enterprising young man had decided that a small inn would turn quite the profit if he could get the materials out there. Now, instead of a campfire ring and some tents stood a squat two-story building that sat just under the tree-line. The thicket was dense enough to hide it from anyone just scanning the horizon but if you looked closely, the faded wood paneling would be pretty clear. It had a barely sloped roof with a hatch up top to give access for repairs as well as a way to the lookout station built in.

As Naomi pulled in, two men with long barreled automatic rifles stepped out from the trees, weapons crooked in their arms. “Mornin’ Jed,” Naomi said with her winning smile and dulcet voice, tipping her hat.

“Mornin’ Ms. Quinn. Ya look tired, been out long?” Jed’s baritone voice wasn’t exactly friendly. The man had cautious written all over him, even when he’d had a little too much to drink and was laughing with the rest of them. The inn was his life and he’d had far too many people try to evict him.

“All night,” she said with a nod. “Was hopin’ I could hole up here. I got some unsavory folk trying to track me down in some ATVs.”

“Of course. Family before Traveler, Traveler before everyone else,” Jed said with as close to a smile as he ever gave. He nodded towards the other man who stood far too stiffly and seriously. Naomi noticed the posture as being ‘at attention’. “That’s Eric. Ex-Enforcer. Turns out they don’t like it when their grunts try to make a little profit on the side.”

She gave a laugh and nodded once more, sliding off her horse somewhat heavily. “Well nice to meet you, Eric. The name’s Naomi. Welcome to the family.” She stuck out a hand, her smile welcoming.

Eric took her hand in a firm, almost painful grip and pumped it once. “Ma’am.”

“She don’t come ‘round too often, Eric, but she’s an honorary part of the family. Treat her right, now. She’s a friend you’ll want.” Jed spat to the side, a wad of chewing tobacco spraying across the dirt. “Now get yer rear inside before I tan it,” he said to Naomi, stepping aside and taking a hold of the horse’s reins.

With a grin, Naomi tore off a mock-salute and made a show hustling into the inn. Jed had hired her on when he first started building the place to network and bring in some investors. Her assistance had proved to be invaluable as she’d been traveling extensively at the time. Word of the inn spread throughout the proper channels and soon Jed’s family sent in help to secure the land and supply shipments.

Swinging the door open dramatically as she entered, she took off her hat and flourished an extravagant bow with her duster snapped back behind her for added effect. “Fear not my friends, for I have returned!” The few patrons inside paid no obvious attention to her, however the woman at the counter looked over and feigned a swoon with the back of her hand to her forehead. Naomi looked up and laughed, striding over to the bar.

“Naomi, you cad! You rogue! How dare you show your face in these parts again!” the woman at the bar exclaimed with a wide grin as Naomi approached. She had long black hair done back in a tight, thick braid and olive-tanned skin. With large black-brown eyes and a curvy figure, Jed’s wife Liz was definitely a catch.

The wide grin was reflected in Naomi’s face as she leaned forward, elbows on the counter and arms crossed. Her blonde ponytail dropped off her shoulders and dangled beside her cheek as she adopted a hurt tone. “My dearest Liz, I promised I’d return and here I am! Life called and I, but a humble servant to its siren song, could only but dream about fighting it. But look not to the past but the present, for I am here and we can once again pick up where we le-, “ her words ended abruptly as her eyes fell upon Liz’s wedding ring. “You actually made it official? And you didn’t send word? Damn it, Liz! You know I would’ve shown up for the wedding!”

Liz laughed and fingered the silver ring on her left ring finger, spinning it this way and that. “Jed didn’t want to make a big fuss out of it. Now do you want a drink, or is it a bed your after? You look like death twice over.”

“A room would be nice and a meal after. Jed’s probably got the guards set already, but you be careful. There’s some pissed off men comin’ this way who mean to put an end to me.” Naomi stood upright again and adjusted her glasses.

“That’s our Naomi, always making friends. Room 3’s open, it’s all yours. I’ll send someone up to wake you if your friends come asking to play.” Liz pulled the towel from her belt before snapping it towards Naomi. “Now get yourself upstairs. We can talk plenty later. Shoo!”

Poking her tongue out, Naomi whirled around and went upstairs. Room 3 was the second door on the left, easily identified by the large numeral 3 carved into the wood above the door. Inside was a simple room with simple furniture. Jed was as good a carpenter as she’d found out in the wastes, the bed made out of wood that actually looked like it was cut for that purpose. The mattress wasn’t anything too remarkable, likely something shipped in from the Techs years back. There was a small table and stool along with the nightstand by the bed, but that was it. No one came here for a long stay.

Her bag went onto the table and her duster went onto the stool, her boots were sat at the foot of the bed, gun belt on the nightstand and rifle propped up against that. In short order, Naomi braided her hair and threw herself down onto the bed still mostly dressed. She didn’t expect to get that much sleep and wanted to be ready to go the moment trouble came calling. She’d have to wait until this was all finished before she sat down to another journal entry.

Characters: Naomi Quinn, Mikayla Vay, Ashley Scott

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Leftovers Part 2 - Naomi Quinn


5/16/2156

I had a dream last night. I remembered it so clearly when I first woke up, but now that sleep is releasing me from its clutches I find that it’s taking the dream with it. Already I can feel it fading back into the recesses of my mind. Perhaps I should get it down on paper before it vanishes completely.

The sky was a brilliant red-orange, the wispy clouds on the horizon underlined in a vibrant pink. It was one of the more spectacular sunsets I’d seen, or at least that was the feeling I got. The warmth of the setting sun enveloped me like a lover’s arms, caressing my cheeks as the cool summer breeze brushed the hair from my face. It was beautiful, peaceful, and tranquil.

I could hear children in the background. Well, the conscious me reads them as children however I remember reading them as peers, boys and girls from my own age group. Perhaps school was being let out, maybe I was at a park. My shoes were tight, just a little too small for me. I didn’t fit a size larger just yet, which felt like a good thing at the time. Those shoes were expensive. I didn’t feel the breeze on my legs, just my knees.

I turned away from the sunset, my shadow stretched on ahead of me and made me a giant. A giant among giants, I was the only one standing still. An adult voice, both mes recognized it as such, called out my name. I couldn’t make anything else out though, just my name. He wasn’t a parental figure, but he was authoritative. I respected him, liked him. What he said was positive, made me smile.

Ahead there was a noise. I think it was a sliding door to some sort of vehicle. A woman’s voice, maternal, said my name. I don’t remember what she looked like. I don’t remember what the van looked like. Was it a van? It’s getting harder to remember now. I walked towards the voice.

There was pride glowing inside of me like the warm embers of a campfire banked for the night. Satisfaction reigned supreme inside my young mind. The ground felt odd underfoot but I was used to it. I was walking on stone, concrete, the shoes weren’t made for that. They had very little traction and clicked as I moved. A breeze puffed against my back blowing my hair, pigtails, over my shoulders and into my face.

I can’t remember anything else. Maybe it’ll come back to me.


---

Naomi opened the door to her room, intent on heading downstairs to find a small bite to eat, only to find Liz standing before her with her left fist poised to knock. Her eyes flashed wide with surprise for a brief moment before she let out a soft chuckle. “Well damn Naomi, if I didn’t know any better I’d think you were a mind reader. Jed says they’re almost here. The boys are already takin’ position.”

“Thanks Liz. I’ll be right down, just gotta grab the rifle.” She returned Liz’s smile with one of her own before turning around and heading back into her room to grab her rifle and hat. “Let Jed know I don’t need to talk to any of ‘em, will you?”

Liz gave a nod, yet hesitated in leaving. “You sure you want to join in? The boys can handle it all on their own.”

Naomi plopped the hat down on her head, rifle held in the center hanging at her side. “What kind of lady would I be if I let the men do all the dirty work?” She flashed a wink as she slipped by Liz and hurried down the stairs. Liz always had a running boy to deliver messages or run errands as necessary around the place. He’d get the word to Jed easy enough, giving her more time to find a nice piece of cover.

---

The flashing of the small light in her collar annoyed her to no end. You could be the sneakiest S.O.B. and still stand out clear as day due to the damned thing. At least hers didn’t beep anymore. She nearly shot her collar before some Tech offered to fiddle with it. He turned the beep off saying it was just the collar’s way of asking for maintenance but said the light was part of the vitals. She knew enough not to go messing around with vitals.

The tree creaked around her as she lay on her stomach in the crow’s nest. Jed had read in some book about how ancient pirates used to have crow’s nests at the top of their ships to see far off and warn of impending attack and thought it was a great idea. She’d laughed at first when he said that some saw the Travelers as modern day pirates but she couldn’t fault his logic with the nest. There were three surrounding the inn, way up in the trees. The simple, thick platforms blended in with the trees nicely and were smartly constructed. A layer of two by fours on top and bottom to help it blend in better with a steel plate through the center for protection. They had a lip around the edge that was only a couple centimeters high to balance a rifle against.

The sound of the buggies could be heard in the distance, a high rumbling whine that far preceded the vehicles. She knew from experience that those buggies themselves weren’t armed but that didn’t mean they should take them lightly. Being run down by one of the things was no picnic, so the story went. She adjusted her scope to zoom in and scanned the horizon slowly to pick them out.

Not thirty seconds later did the first buggy fall into sight through her scope. Two more fell in behind the first, then a fourth behind them. They rode in a tight diamond formation, the drivers sitting back in their seat with one hand on the wheel as if they’d been driving for hours. They were approaching the cluster of trees indirectly. It seemed as if they didn’t know where she’d gone, just that she’d pulled off to this side of the road. The leader seemed to spot the cluster of trees suddenly as if he’d been lost in thought and turned toward them, gesturing grandly for his minions to follow.

Naomi’s walkie barked a chunk of static before falling quiet again. Jed hadn’t found a Tech to make him secure radios yet so instead of talking over his walkies, he’d just decided to use a system of static bursts. It worked well enough for his purposes. According to the bark, Jed was telling the four others, her included, to ready themselves and hold fire. No point in giving their point away just yet, after all.

She followed the leader as the buggies came closer. The other three drivers looked just as bored and lost in thought as the leader had, but now the leader seemed alert. Apparently the cluster of trees had roused his suspicions. She approved. At least she wasn’t being pursued by a pack of roaming idiots, that would’ve been insulting. The buggies closed in to approximately six hundred meters.

At three hundred meters the walkie barked again, weapons ready. Naomi continued to follow the leader’s buggy as it rolled and bounced towards the inn. Normally people outside of the family weren’t welcomed warmly unless they confirmed whether they were Traveler or not. Allies were hesitantly allowed in, outsiders were turned away. Some of the guards insisted upon killing every outsider who came along but Jed saw to that quickly. He wasn’t normally a violent man and held a live and let live idea. He also believed that the more people who lived, the more prospective business he had. He also didn’t want to make enemies.

At a hundred meters the walkie barked a final time, signally to fire. Staggered gunshots surged from the copse of trees, metal projectiles pounding into man and machine alike. The majority of Jed’s men had taken to disabling or immobilizing shots as opposed to kill shots due to Jed’s prior judgment calls. The rounds slammed mercilessly into the tires and frames, waking the drivers up rather rudely. The leader ducked down to hide behind his steering wheel, peering just barely over the steering column as Naomi’s bullet tore into the back of his seat where his chest was, grazing his shoulder slightly.

The driver of the rear buggy leapt from the vehicle, landing hard and rolling off to the side chaotically. The way he moved and bounced suggested many a broken bone. One down. The two in the middle copied their leader, ducking down behind the steering column until the free buggy in the rear clipped its partner on the right. Both buggies swerved out of control, wheels finding a bump just wrong and sending them tumbling out of control to the side.

The leader of the buggy crew pulled in front of his companion, shielding him a slightly as he adjusted his trajectory, aiming for the path between the outer ring of trees. Jed’s voice broke over the walkie, gunshots blanking out the occasional syllable. “-t of the way! G- to the inn!”

Naomi could see the men in the trees rappel down as Jed and his counterpart in the bushes made like bats out of hell towards the inn. Jed was fleeter of foot than his heavy set ally, easily and quickly outdistancing him. A moment later the two buggies tore into the copse of trees, twisting to the side at a sharp turn to stop quickly and spraying dirt before them. Naomi shot to her feet and grabbed the rope beside the ladder on the tree and leapt down, rappelling to the ground. It was an entirely ungraceful movement leaving her glove burned and torn while her knees ached from the impact.

The leader of the attackers dropped behind his buggy, peeking out just enough to let his battle rifle spit fire across the front of the inn. His accomplice wasn’t quite so smart. Ripping his shotgun from the gun-rack on the back of his buggy, the man brought the butt to his shoulder and sprinted toward the inn. Naomi dropped low and brought her rifle to the ready, shuffling from her tree to the next rapidly. She timed her darting to be in time with the gunshots, hoping to use the sound as cover.

Taking a knee behind a fallen log, she settled her aim on the leader. He still had cover from the dune buggy, however he was too distracted by the others to notice her. Naomi’s iris danced with small arcs of blue electricity as she called the nanites in her body to help once more. Her eyesight grew sharper, more reliable, filtering out the glare of the sun off the buggy and ignoring the light smoke from the punished engines. She took aim just above where the leader of the attackers was hiding, evening her breath and waiting.

The shotgunner reached the doorway and charged inside, muzzle screaming death before him. Just before he disappeared out of sight Naomi caught a glimpse of a rifle butt from the shadows inside and beside the door. The shotgunner stumbled back, gun faltering before a flash from inside preceded a blossoming of red from the man’s back. As he fell back, the leader popped up to spray bullets across the open and now clear door. A yell of pain sounded from inside just before Naomi’s rifle joined in the fray. The back of the leader’s neck exploded in a mist as she timed his ascent, a second bullet tearing into his arm. She always liked to take two shots, just in case.

---

Naomi sat back heavily on the chair in her room. The buggies had been cleared away and the injured tended to. Jed’s son Mikal had taken a bullet just before the last man died. Fortunately for him, however, Liz had some skill with first aid. They said he’d be fine, he’d just have to take it easy for a couple weeks.

She’d come upstairs to get away from the clean up. Blood didn’t make her squeamish, she just didn’t want to look at a man being sewn up while she ate dinner. It just wasn’t her idea of a relaxing meal. When she’d made her way upstairs she’d closed the door behind her and sat the plate to the side on her table. She wanted to write before she ate, something was nagging at the back of her mind. Another day ended with another journal entry.

5/16/2156 – Continued

I heard a woman’s voice today. I couldn’t make out any words but I heard her voice. I know I wasn’t dreaming because I was still fully lucid. I wish I know what she said. I could almost place it, I know I’d recognize it if I heard it again. Perhaps I’ll remember with time. It’s not the words that were important anyways, it’s who the voice belonged to. I think I know who.

It was my mother.

Characters: Naomi Quinn, Mikayla Vay, Ashley Scott

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Memorial Day - Naomi Quinn

5/25/2156

They say you never know what you have until it’s gone. It also works the other way around; you never know what’s gone until you have it. These resurfacing memories confuse me at times, infuriate me at others, and make me run the gamut of emotions faster than a pregnant bi-polar woman. It’d be nice if they would just appear in my head, clear and simple. I want to say that the dreams are getting old but I actually find myself looking forward to them. I don’t like walking through life with blinders to my past on. I’m fine with not knowing about anything else but knowing about myself is important.

Naturally, I had another dream. It was powerful while at the same time not. Usually the stronger dreams have an emotion force to them like a punch to the gut. This one had a mix to it, potent yet not at the same time. Overall I’d have to say I felt calming. It started by a lake.


If she had to define this moment in time, one of the last words she’d use would be calming. Sometimes jobs had a way of biting you in the ass. If you paid careful enough attention to what you were getting into you could avoid the grand majority of them all. However, there’d always be one or two that came by that you couldn’t detect. Perhaps someone set a trap for you or maybe things just didn’t go how they were supposed to. Either way they had a way of stressing the employed out something fierce, putting them on the spot and demanding some pretty crazy stuff that, had it been in the job description originally, would’ve demanded a much higher price.

Naomi ran across the field at a dead sprint, duster snapping behind her as the light breeze was accelerated with her rapid movement. A baseball bat hung in her right hand, trailing after her like a loyal companion ready to do as it was told. She’d taken off her hat before starting. Hats were always a pain to get, at least good ones were, and she didn’t want to have to replace this one for some time. Due to this, her light blonde hair flew behind her, the ponytail being the only force holding it in some sense of order.

The sky was a brilliant blue, so blue she almost thought it was fake. The summer sun bathed me in warmth, the tall firs and pines around offering shade under their protective arms. A soft, comfortable breeze lolled off of the lake to caress against my skin. I could hear people laughing, shouting, and playing in the sunlight and water. Splashes were accompanied by the sizzling sound of meat on a grill, the aroma of spiced meat slowly cooking to perfection filled the air.

I lay back atop a blanket, heels pressed into the dirt and sand of the lake’s beach. I had chosen this specific part of the beach because of the indentation into the slope where a large stone had fallen free, making it a wonderful lounging chair. It felt like a favorite spot as if I’d been there several times before. A cool bottle lay cupped in my hand, only to be sipped from occasionally.


Six meters ahead of her the door slammed shut, the man she chased throwing it closed behind him as he sought refuge. Sometimes people stood and fought, other times people ran. She usually didn’t run bounties or anything of the sort, however when someone threatened your life and livelihood if you didn’t then she generally agreed to the terms. At least they were gentlemanly enough to pay her for it as well.

Naomi raced to the door, slowing down just as she reached it. She didn’t kill all of her momentum however, instead she shifted her balance to one foot and brought the other into a door stomping kick to the section right beside the handle of the door. While she didn’t have much weight to her, inertia was a wonderful thing and kinetic energy made life easier all around. With a loud shattering crack, the old door exploded inward, the top hinge pulling loose.

The sun was starting to set, turning the brilliant blue into a radiant mix of reds, oranges, and yellows. A male voice called out that food was done and all the sounds of play turned to sounds of charging. You didn’t want to get in the way of the family and friends when dinner was called, so I just lay back and waited. There’d be some saved for me anyways, always was. I never ran in with the crowd when food was called, there were too many larger people around, too many arms in the way reaching for various things. Patience paid off at times like these.

After food was gathered, everyone moved off to the bonfire. I joined the crowd shortly after the last of those getting food. Someone was playing the guitar and others were singing along between bites. The beer was good and the air was still warm. It was a very relaxing atmosphere with one of my friends pulling me further into the circle with an arm around my shoulders.


The door clipped the man’s heel as he tried to run from the door. He’d been watching through a crack in the door, hoping that Naomi would run around to the back to cut him off. No one really expected her to be so direct, which she took advantage of at every opportunity. As the man tumbled to the floor she surged in bringing her bat to the ready. Her left foot pivoted to the side as she shifted her weight back, right foot pulling behind in a wide stance some might recognize as a batting stance.

As the man tried to climb to his feet while running, she shifted her weight back onto her right foot as small blue arcs of electricity raced up her legs, through her core, and down her arms. Just as he caught purchase on the wooden floor, her full and enhanced swing caught him in the shoulder with a loud thud and audible crunch. The force of the impact swung him around as it knocked him back to the floor and onto his back.

About half of the group turned in early comparatively. The only light available was from the bon fire, only four people left around it. The others had gone to the tents already to get an early morning in or just to spend some alone time with their significant others. My friends and I lounged on the logs they’d gathered from the shoreline near the fire, bottles of beer in their hands and stories being shared.

I remember laying my head against someone’s shoulder, a strong feeling of familiarity and affection glowing in my chest as I watched the flames dance. The stories were amusing, I laughed frequently before offering my own to the mix. Some of the stories were experiences shared with some if not all of the others which brought everyone together in sharing the memory, usually at the expense of one person to whom it might be considered embarrassing. I wish I could remember those stories.


Even with his shoulder twisted and broken the man still had some fight in him. He reached for his gun, shouting obscenities as he fought to push back the pain. That was a rebel Enforcer for you, however. They had the military training that told them when was a good time to bask in the pain and when it was smart to try to kill your attacker first. Naomi really had no problem with the Enforcers or the rebels so long as they kept out of her business, but you did what you had to do to stay alive.

Her bat smashed into his wrist as he reached for the pistol at his hip, the momentum carrying the blow to land against his side. Towering over him, she brought the metal bat down on him again and again, two blows to the head to knock him out sufficiently, the rest to the body to end it. She knew full well that if she didn’t kill him, he’d hunt her down later. More than that, he’d have friends. It was self-preservation more than anything else. If they weren’t so close to the Enforcer camp she would’ve just drawn her pistol and made it quick.

She stood over the body of the man she’d been sent to hunt, blood dripping off the tip of the bat as it hung askew from one hand. Her blood-splattered face peered over her shoulder and back out the door, watching the sun begin to set. She wanted to be far away from here by the time the body was found.

It’s memories like that I wish would come back to me in detail. All the little stories, all the faces, all the voices. I find myself missing people I can’t even remember, longing to hold someone who I’ve forgotten. Perhaps days like that will return and hopefully not just for me. People need times like that, times of carefree enjoyment and fun. One day, I’m sure.

Characters: Naomi Quinn, Mikayla Vay, Ashley Scott

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Sales Pitch - Naomi Quinn

All things as they are, today was promising to be a busy, nerve wracking day. Public spectacles, while something she originally studied for and specialized in, were rather different now-days than back then. It was almost like stepping through a hole in space and time and emerging in the Wild West. Dirt roads, dusters everywhere, the probability of a gun-fight breaking out at some point during the event, even the method of delivery. There was no sound equipment, no stage techs running this way and that making sure the lights were set just right and that the sound was perfect. All there was was her, Naomi Quinn, a few items, and a cart. Actually, it reminded her of one of her projects back in school.

The streets of Oilville were rife with activity, the barely contained chaos of so many people going in so many directions all at once almost overwhelming whoever would simply stop to watch. A small area had been sectioned off, a cart pulled from the recesses between buildings to act as a stage. They were right on the edge of the town, the sounds of the mechanics at the old gas station resonating across the street. A small number of people were milling about the cart, making sure it was steady and that no one tried to pilfer what was placed in the back.

With a deep breath to steady her fluttering heart, Naomi climbed up onto the cart and stood still for a moment as she loomed over the river of man. Slowly, people started to notice the snappily dressed woman garbed in gray cargo pants, a clean, white blouse with a black cowboy hat, duster, and boots to finish it off. Her long, curly blonde hair had been pulled back into a ponytail to both keep it out of her face and give a more professional look to her. As people noticed her they slowed down and gathered around the cart.

With the brutal, relentless daystar burning in the clear blue sky, Naomi adjusted her hat to keep her eyes shaded and looked over the slowly growing crowd. Her helpers were finishing the touch-ups to the cart by stapling posters to the sides. The words 'Saints Incorporated' were large and dark upon the posters, making them easy to catch at a glance. “If I asked you to name the least abundant resource in the Grand Canyon Province, what would you say?” Naomi's voice lashed out at the roar of the town like a whip, sharp, sudden, and strong. She smiled at the people and shrugged, “Well? It's not a rhetorical question here. You, sir. What's the least abundant resource in the Province?”

The man she'd chosen, a rugged sort likely in his fifties, raised a brow as Naomi asked him directly. “Trust, I'd say. You can find anything else just layin' around.”

With a big, pretty smile Naomi would snap and point to the man. She was lucky, someone gave her answer on the first go. “Exactly right! Trust. You can find anything else out there in the wastes, just laying around and waiting for you to put it to good use. However, trust is just so hard to come by these days. I'd be willing to bet none of you trust me nearly as far as you could throw me! And, from the looks of some of you, that'd be a pretty long ways,” she snickered at her joke, indicating that it was meant to be laughed at. A few chuckles sprung from the audience to join hers.

“But that's what we at Saints Incorporated work with, trust. We provide reliable weapons and armor to keep you safe, we provide wholesome and good food to keep you fed. Our manufacturers produce everything from bullets to band-aids, Kevlar to ketchup, and it's all high quality. What's the trick, you ask? I know at least one of you is asking yourself that, at least! The trick is we're not trying to profit off of each item we sell. We're trying to earn your trust.” She'd pause, tapping her chin for a brief moment. “How about instead of preaching, I put my money where my mouth is?”

Naomi leaned over and snatched a Reconstructed M32 rifle from the cart, holding it up in both hands for everyone to see. “Shall we put on a demonstration?” As multiple people in the crowd encouraged it, she'd scan the audience before thrusting a finger out at someone in the back. “You, miss! How about you bring that rifle of yours up here and we have a little contest?”

“Bring it on, respawn,” the woman snapped with a snarky tone of voice. The people around the woman scooted away instinctively and she was given a narrow berth as she approached the cart. The air of the crowd took on a nervous tone as if they expected a fight to break out. After all, most people didn't insult a clone with a loaded weapon in hand. As the woman hopped up onto the cart, Naomi's runners jogged out to the wall that gated off Oilville and struck two cereal box sized targets atop it about 50 meters away. The woman unslung the Magnum Rimfire rifle from her back and chambered a round before brushing her hazel locks from her face.

Naomi only smiled at the woman, the insult turning the smile into a smirk. “Glad to see you have a competitive spirit. Now! We'll each take three shots at the targets with our own guns. Then, we'll swap, put up new targets, and take three more. The person with the best eye wins. And, just to up the stakes a little bit,” she announced, adjusting her hat, “If you win, miss, you get this gun of mine.” The crowd seemed to like the idea of adding a reward to the competition, as if the other woman wasn't going to do her best to not be shown up by a clone.

The competitor sniffed and raised her rifle, taking aim on the target. The crowd fell to a hushed quiet as it began, a few whispers and bets exchanging hands. The public loved a good spectacle, especially when one of their own had the chance to stick it to the showman or peddler. The woman's first shot was a little wide, nicking the edge of the target, while her second caught the top a little closer to the center. Her third shot blew out the lower right corner of the target, making it slump in an odd position. The crowd cheered for her, not a bad round.

Raising her M32 to her shoulder and taking aim, Naomi adjusted her hat to see better. She pinched off the first two rounds in quick succession, each slug tearing through the center left of the target partway in. Her third was a little off from the bundle, more towards the center of the target but elevated an inch beyond the 'bullseye'. She wasn't a great shot, but the crowd cheered for her as well. So far, it looked like she was winning. Naomi offered her rifle to the other woman with one hand, accepting the Magnum as it was passed forcefully over to her. Her competitor was in a foul mood and seemed outright determined to dominate this round.

The woman took a few moments to get used to the feel of the gun, sighting in and adjusting her positioning this way and that. Finally, she released three rounds into the new target that'd been put up during the rifle exchange, all three outlining the center in a near equilateral triangle. The crowd cheered louder than before, the tables had turned! “Nice shootin',” Naomi commented to the other woman as she raised the Magnum to her shoulder. The response she received was a stern middle finger pointing to the heavens.

Naomi took her time with the Magnum, the first shot clipping the upper left corner of her target. She raised her head to peer at where the bullet had struck before shaking her head and sighting in again. Her second shot tore a hole through the bottom center of the box, a puff of dirt and rock from the wall erupting behind the target as she skimmed the top of the wall. Her third shot took a little longer and a lot more concentration as she focused on being 'one with the gun'. Her finger ever so slowly depressed the trigger, squeezing instead of pulling, until the rifle discharged and slammed against her shoulder. Certain members of the audience expected her to claim a come-from-behind victory with a dead bullseye, teasing her opponent. Unfortunately, they were wrong. The final shot went high and to the right of the bullseye, a decent shot in its own right but ultimately losing the challenge for her.

The crowd cheered as the scores were brought in, Naomi's opponent flashing a large, arrogant grin as she was awarded the M8. “Excellent shooting,” Naomi said once the cheering started to die down. “I hope you enjoy your new rifle! But, tell us all, how was it?”

The woman's mocking grin faded just a tad as she brushed her hair from her face, clearly not pleased with having to say anything good about the clone. “It handled nicely, all 'n all, though I'd've expected a scope wit' all the braggin' you said earlier.” The crowd chuckled with the comment, the compliment not lost on them. “I'd prolly buy one if I hadn' jus' beaten your respawn ass.” With that, the woman hopped off the cart and walked away, both rifles slung over her shoulders. The crowd watched her leave for a moment before looking back to Naomi.

“Well, I guess that just goes to show that our merchandise is good! Feel free to place any orders you may have with my associates,” she gestured to her two assistants who stood in front of the cart now with clipboards and pens in hand. “And remember, you can always trust the Saints.” She'd wink to the crowd and tip her hat before hopping off the cart and walking into the building they were stationed outside, letting the public address their questions to her assistants.



9/8/2156

Today was my first big demonstration in Oilville. I think it went pretty well, all things considered. I lost the show rifle in the display competition but it really helped sell the fact that the Saints make quality items. I'm just hoping I don't have to focus on this aspect of the organization for too long. As nice as it is to get the business going, it feels wrong to just be peddling wares instead of working for my true goal. But perhaps that'll find its place in what's to come.

I just prefer the one on ones at the moment. It's so much easier to explain everything when you don't have to put on a show. I know I would've lost the audience if I'd gone into how the brand name is only the first step in our overall plan, how we're trying to bring cooperation between the factions or some semblance there of. People think I'm crazy when I say how humanity needs to unite to lift the world from its knees. Perhaps I am, or perhaps I'm just a child from an age long since burned away.

Characters: Naomi Quinn, Mikayla Vay, Ashley Scott

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Aeon - Naomi Quinn/Mikayla Vay

An excerpt from Clones, by Stanley Suebook.

Clones. Everyone knows one. They walk our streets, eat our food, do our work. We order them around, set them to task, have them do what we would not. But what do we really know about them? They’re the perfect military weapons, expendable soldiers grown ready with pre-set skill sets. No one really knows why they appeared when they did, no one knows what they’re thinking. Some of them claim to remember the days before the Fall, before the world went dark and everything went to hell. Four years ago the first one stepped out of its birthing chamber and into our world. Now they work for us. Or do they?


---

The sign above the door read Second Original in simple blue print on a white background. Replacing the ‘O’ was an iconic stick figure with a second directly behind it but a touch to the side. The door to the bar was closed with a tall man standing in front of it with his arms crossed. A collar clung to his neck, lights dimly pulsing. As she approached his eyes flicked down to her similar collar before he stepped aside and allowed her access.

Second Original was a Clone Only bar established a year ago to give the clones residing in town and traveling through a brief refuge. It was a dark, somber place that encouraged its patrons to sit down, have a drink, and just relax and reflect. Against the center of the far wall of the oblong building stood a stage elevated two feet from the ground. The paneling surrounding the elevation was a matte black, matching the booths, tables, and benches of the bar. She entered the bar to find a woman standing on stage with three men behind her while she sang. Two men held guitars while the third worked at a rebuilt keyboard, all three instruments wired to amps on either side of the stage. The amps had the volume set to ‘2’ yet the sound of the music filled the room completely, the strumming of the guitar’s somber music massaging the listener as they entered.

The singer stood out the most to her, a spotlight from the ceiling on her. Black clothing adorned the trim and built woman, a black corseted tank top hugging her chest with black cargos covering her legs. Her long black hair fell over her shoulders to frame a beautiful face as she sang. Her voice was high and airy, the hints of echoes following her words as she sang with an almost ethereal feel.

“There is something in your eyes flowing them over, stealing all the harmony which lives in me. Your hands are covering my tears. Oh, why?”

Naomi claimed a booth against the wall and slid onto the bench. The place wasn’t as nice as it would’ve been before all this but given the times it was a rather nice establishment. A waitress made her way over to her as she sat her had down on the table, a hushed word just barely audible over the music sent the waitress away with her order. In a place like this everyone spoke in soft, hushed words. It was a place of relaxation and reflection, remembrance and forgetting.

Some clones embraced their memories, fought to tear down the walls in their mind and pull them from the darkness. Others, most that she’d met, simply wanted to forget them. Those that did remember the old days were commonly depressed and downtrodden folk, the muted colors of the new world washing away their hopes and dreams. She had to fight the same thoughts every time a memory surfaced. Sometimes she wished they’d all just go away so she could salvage what she had left of a life and move on. Memories weren’t needed these days, they were just ancillary. No one paid you to remember the past.

“There’s a sort of inner dance trying to seduce me, feeling this anomaly which takes me.”

The music was bittersweet, another call back to the days before the Fall. It was an oldie as much as it chided the older people to admit it back then. If she remembered right, the original artist was a band called Lacuna Coil. The tone of the music fit the setting perfectly. It had a somewhat eerily detached sound to it that fell so well in line with how the majority of the patrons who came here felt in society. To most people, clones weren’t real people. They were just tools to be used, sent in to places too dangerous to risk real people to work and gather. No one cared if they died, they’d just step out of the LifeNet pod and get back to work. Because of that, few seemed to value their lives much at all.

The majority of the clones were accepting to this way of life. It was work, after all, and you had to make chips to survive. Even a clone could starve. While they were treated as disposable labor, the Normies or Nabis (nah-bee, Natural Births) kept a wary and distrustful eye on them. The same fact filled human history, people feared what they didn’t understand. When you take mortality away from the equation, people become detached and stop caring so much. Yet how can those who still retain their mortality completely trust someone who doesn’t?

“Your touch… You’re here… Your heart…”

Life goes on, as they say. Naomi didn’t know who They were but she rather sourly wanted to give them a nice punch in the head. They said a lot of things. Depression had riddled the clones for a long time, stymied only by work and assimilation into the communities or refusal to accept their memories. Some, however, were starting to stand up and try to fix the problem. That’s when places like this started to appear. The majority of them were underground. Not too many Normies or Nabis supported the idea of clones gathering in large groups all alone. These days paranoia ran thick.

The waitress returned rather quickly, setting the bottle of beer on the table before Naomi. She flicked a chip to the waitress before taking a sip as she watched the singer perform. It wasn’t just places like this that were starting to pop up. There were people too, clones who believed that their awakening in this world meant something. They viewed their cloning as a rebirth, a step towards something important. It wasn’t a religion but a purpose. Through-out history people have clung to purpose and ideas like a raft out at sea.

One of those clones had stepped forward to make a name for herself. Weeks later she had found some friends to support her and no sooner had they agreed on a name than they began performing. Renew, they called themselves, just a band of performers who traveled from venue to venue where ever they were accepted, singing songs of old that had been forgotten. The lead singer, Mikayla Bloodmoore, was said to have grown tired of how clones were being treated. She referred to them as ‘her kind’. Perhaps she was right, perhaps they were different than the Normies or Nabis. She didn’t preach that they were any better or superior, simply that they deserved to be treated better. Respected. Other clones thought they were superior to the Nabis due to their loose affiliation with immortality as they saw it. No one quite knew if clones could die of old age yet although Naomi suspected as much. Just because they’d wake up in a new body because they took a bullet to the head didn’t mean they’d be eternally young.

She sat her bottle down to join the applause quietly as the song ended. The woman had a downright angelic voice. It had been four years since the first clone stepped out of the pods and they were slowly starting to come together. Ever so slowly they were coming together, communities and ties forming. Already the way Clones spoke to Clones differed from how they spoke to Normies. They could reference things from first hand experience that the Normies only heard about in story and legend, they knew things that the Normies couldn’t remember. The world had changed but had left them the way they were.

The small sign on the end of the stage read Renew in red on white letters. The hum of the inactive guitars faded as Mikayla turned around to her band members and spoke quietly. The soft smile that had brushed her lips at the end of the song had lingered as she turned her back to the audience while the band discussed the next song to play. The somber atmosphere lingered as well in the silence and dim light as the patrons mulled over their own internal dialogue while watching their drinks or the occupied stage. For better or worse, the world had left them as they were. That’s what made them different from the Normies, not their mortality.

Characters: Naomi Quinn, Mikayla Vay, Ashley Scott

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Path of Decay - Naomi Quinn/Mikayla Vay

6/10/2156

When I was in school I took a Psychology class or two. My logic was that if I was going to be reporting upon the modern human condition I should understand what caused it, that way I could make the proper investigative assumptions and leaps. Really, I just wanted to take it but I had to justify it to the Board so that it'd count towards my major.

Anyways, in one of those classes I learned that memory never works alone. It's always affixed or related to one sense or another, usually smell or sound. I forget the word for it, but that's why people remember seemingly random things whenever they pick up certain smells or certain songs. I used this fact to my advantage during school. Whenever I was studying one subject I'd listen a certain album on repeat, a different band and album for each subject. That way when it came test time I could turn on the music and certain lines or refrains would remind of me something I read.

I think that's why I like the Second Origin so much. It reminds me of a time before all this. Nostalgia.




“Life brings nothing for the same. Keep searchin' new days on the horizon while time just seems to slip away. I'm leaving no trace along the way.” The sound of the strumming guitars seemed disembodied as it pounded from the amps in rhythmic melody. The singer, Mikayla Bloodmoore, stood isolated in a sea of near-darkness on an island of light as she dominated the stage. Her voice carried an angelic, ethereal tone as she sang an eerie, up-beat tune, her hips swaying to the beat of the song.

Her long black hair hung loose, tucked back behind her ears and baring her alabaster neck and shoulders. The black tank-top she wore had a flattering casualness to it and left a half inch of bare stomach before her black pants began. She held the microphone inches from her lips as her sharp blue eyes washed over the audience, seeming to focus on each and every occupant of the bar individually. “Seems like I'm falling deeper, deeper inside myself. Feels like I'm growing weaker, much weaker each day along the path to decay.”

Naomi turned her gaze from the stage and back to the woman sitting across the table from her. The band, Renew, had a mesmerizing quality to them, an energy she was willing to bet everything on that the world hadn't seen or felt in years. Not that that particular fact mattered to anyone inside the Second Origin, considering it was only five years ago at most when they'd last heard something like it. That was, of course, assuming they could remember it. She believed that anyone could remember their past if they tried to, though. The only limit was one's mind.

“Do you remember those days, Rebecca?” she asked, leaning back in her chair while she ran a pair of finger tips along the rim of her glass.

Rebecca was a hard woman. She could likely drive nails with a look. The woman always wore her hair pulled back in a ponytail so tight it seemed to be trying to keep her eyes open. It gave her a severe look which was only aided by her sharp, dry green eyes. No one would call the woman beautiful but her angular features gave her a mature charm. Her voice fit her persona. “I do.”

Sipping from her glass, Naomi watched the woman's face carefully. Her own face had a casually neutral cast to it although her eyes held a focused intensity. “Life was better then, back before everything went to hell.”

The other woman didn't so much as shift her weight. “Just because it was easier does not mean it was better. I always said you should have to fight to survive.”

“That's not what I refer to. The ease of life was a biproduct of humanity's laziness. I don't think we'll have that problem for quite a long while to come,” Naomi said.

“I wouldn't be so surprised. The Techs are remaking new advances every day. Before long we may find ourselves right back where we started.” Rebecca twisted her mouth as if at a sour taste.

She shook her head and sipped her drink once more before setting the glass down on the table, leaving her fingers loosely coiled around it. “The Techs do what they believe is right. What I meant, however, was that humanity wasn't nearly so segmented like it is now. Once upon a time people believed in the free trade of thoughts. Now all they believe in is what they find at the end of a gun's barrel.”

“Right by conquest. That seems to be one of humanity's oldest beliefs,” Rebecca commented with a trace hint of amusement.

”The lights are fading day by day. No cure for the lost, there's no ascending when life could not become more pale. A new dawn is here, another day.”

Naomi nodded towards the singer as she spoke. “A new dawn is here, another day. Right by conquest served us well for a time and will forever be useful, but now is not a time for that. The free exchange of ideas would benefit us far greater. Imagine what could be done by just a small few like-minded individuals in a world such as this.” Rebecca sipped at her own drink and gestured for her to continue. “There was a time in our history when humanity was sequestered from each other, every nation and every idea its own lonely island. Then, one day, someone had a different sort of idea. What if all of those ideas got together and collaborated? What if they worked together?”

Rebecca scoffed and interrupted. “Are you trying to unite the factions?”

“Of course not,” Naomi replied. “That'd be ridiculous. You can't change people. People are selfish creatures, by and large. They only travel in groups to protect their own hide. There are some people who think differently, think of the people and not the person. It's those people I'm looking for. It's those I'm attempting to unite, if in communication alone. All I wish is for an open dialogue, a free flow of thoughts.” She smiled at the woman opposite of her, her voice casual and light. People learned more to the sound of someone's voice than they did what was actually said.

“Seems like I'm falling deeper, deeper inside myself. Feels like I'm growing weaker, much weaker each day along the path to decay.” Mikayla stepped back as the guitarist began his solo.

As a waitress walked by, the older woman raised a hand to catch her attention before gesturing to her empty glass. The waitress nodded and went to the bar. “So you want to get people talking. Why?”

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

“Ghandi,” Rebecca said with a nod.

“Very good.”

The older woman leaned back in her chair and accepted the drink as the waitress stepped forward to present it. After a long, thoughtful sip of her drink while she listened to the music she nodded. “You don't see many idealists these days, Ms. Quinn. I'll participate.”

Naomi smiled and raised her glass. “In which case, a toast. To the new world.”

Rebecca tapped her glass against Naomi's, “To new opportunities.”

“Seems like I'm falling deeper, deeper inside myself. Feels like I'm growing weaker, much weaker each day. Along the path to decay...” The singer's voice faded into applause as the song ended.



6/10/2156 – Continued

Another thing I learned in school was that humans are symbiotic organisms on a social level. In the end, people need other people to go on. As much as people spit venom back and forth and fight, they still need each other in the end. Good needs its evil. It was an idea that struck deep when I heard it and one that strikes me anew every time I remember. We need one another. We can't go it alone.

Characters: Naomi Quinn, Mikayla Vay, Ashley Scott

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Wolves of Wool - Mikayla Vay

An exerpt from Wolves in Wool by Eileen Throughbrook:

Humans and Clones are not the same thing. They may look the same, they may act the same, they may even sound the same but they are not the same. One of the intrinsic differences is that Clones do not have souls. Souls are what make us Human, given to our as we’re born. Thus why they call us Nabis, short for Natural Births. They resent our origin and theirs alike. Clones are Human made, they are machines. They are nothing but carbon copies of people long dead.

Take a look at them for a moment. Clones are incredibly violent and heedless of the safety of themselves or others. They hold little to no sense of self-preservation in any sense, which can be attributed to the fact that they cannot die. Whether old age and entropy can claim them or not is yet to be seen but what’s to stop new versions from being unloaded into the world when the previous models die?

Clones are not people but monsters. They’ve infiltrated our towns, been assimilated into our populace. Right now they work for us but who is to say when that’s to change? Already they gather together in their own exclusive groups treating we Humans as outsiders. What if they’re plotting to take control from the inside?



The sun sat high in the empty sky, the burning yellow orb radiating heat down onto the parched earth and sweltering road. A hundred years of wear and tear on the road with no maintenance had left it seeing better days, tufts of brown grasses and bushes struggling to claim the bare patches of earth between the cracks. It was a dog eat dog world and even the plant life was trying to shoulder a way in.

Off in the distance the high-pitched rumble of a smaller engine grew louder and louder, a stark contrast to the otherwise silence of the wastes. A few moments later, a woman on a dirt bike built out of scrap and modified to take a hit or two shot down the road with reckless speed. Her path ran straight ahead and she took each bump and jolt with an aggressive ease, practically challenging the road to throw something new and different at her.

Her long black hair hung strung out behind her like a silk curtain in the wind, a pair of sunglasses keeping the air from her eyes. Even though the heat hung thickly in the air like a cloud of insects the rider wore a dark brown leather jacket over a black tank top with a modest neckline. She didn’t give the impression that she was the sort of woman who flaunted what LifeNet had given her. Her collar pulsed softly to a rhythm all of its own. An ear bud sat cradled in each ear, a cord leading from them down to a unit strapped to the waistband of her low-riding brown cargos. Black boots and fingerless gloves finished off the ensemble, the dark tones of her clothing contrasting with the relative paleness of her skin.

The motorcycle held only three unique features if armored plating was considered unique. Otherwise it held a box on the back of the seat, welded onto the frame for cargo space and a sheathed sword beside the box on the left side of the bike. The sword had a straight four-foot long blade, a generous hilt, and a pummel set to accommodate one hand as well as two. The vehicle was pretty much a solid matte grey, weathered and beaten. Not a hint of the metal shined or reflected and probably wouldn’t without a serious buff job and some industrial tools.

The rider wore a wide grin on her face as she shot down the road at break-neck speeds, the sound of what some might consider ancient music pounding in her ears. It wasn’t nearly as good of quality as she could replicate with her own particular skill set but the Tech who’d built the device for her had done a good job. She’d be the first to admit there was nothing quite like blasting through a post-apocalyptic wasteland at seventy-five plus with AC/DC’s Highway to Hell pounding in your ears.

Her destination was another two miles ahead, half of that off road. People out here didn’t like building right on the side of the road. Sure it brought in more commerce, but at the same time it made it so much easier for raiders to decide to ransack the place just because they were passing through. Raiders were growing popular in this region, specifically of the Clone hating variety. A few Clone settlements had tried to spring up away from the Nabi populace what with tension what it was, however a few puritans decided to band together and take things into their own hand.

It was just such a group she was seeking out now. Normally she didn’t take recovery jobs because she didn’t like having to watch where she stepped were a fight to break out but she couldn’t turn this one down. A Clone family had had something rather important to them taken by a small group of militant Nabis. They thought that just because the couple weren’t ‘real people’ that they didn’t deserve to have real things. That kind of outlook got under her skin.

She didn’t hate the Nabis, after all she used to be one until she’d been reborn. She just hated the ones that treated her and her kind like artificial beings, tools and nothing more. Her people were just like their people just hers actually remembered where they came from. There were also the Clones that were convinced they were nothing but tools as soon as they came out of the Pods. Those were just as bad as the Nabis if not worse for they didn’t understand why the other Clones fought against that treatment. Some even fought to bring other Clones to their understanding. It was an ugly thing.

From what she’d been told the raiders that had hit the couple weren’t that well equipped, they were just menacing and more than willing to deal out a bit of violence to get their point across. Lawnmower blades strapped to hockey sticks, baseball bats with nails and razor wire, pipe with pieces of jagged metal welded on. All of the above and more were the type of arsenal they carried although they likely had at least one pistol or rifle between them. After all, everyone had a gun these days if just to look cool for the women. Or boys, as it were.

She took a right off the road, catching a piece of upturned concrete on the crest of a hill just right and using it as a ramp. The relatively light-weight bike caught the air, her hair flying behind her before it hit the hard and arid soil with a thud and a clang. She let off a laugh and revved the engine, looking to catch the raiders off guard. Her past experience showed that nothing took a group of raiders by surprise quite like a motorcycle through their front door. Followed, of course, by Mikayla Bloodmoore.

---

The difference between a good man and a great man is that a good man tries while a great man does.
-Dr. Jeffery Woods, Professor of Philosophy at New Flagstaff University 2030-2057



The camp, or hide-out as some of the raiders referred to it as, was an old barn that had been reinforced over the years in a battle against time. It still looked as if a stiff wind would topple it over, long wooden planks throwing patchwork designs over holes and old windows where metal plates hadn’t already been affixed. Fortunately, the barn had been built near a steep hill face to keep the wind off of it, likely the main reason why it still stood.

A fire burned in a fire pit in the center of the room. They always kept it fed, always roaring. While the heat may get to be pretty harsh inside, it was their only real source of light. None of them wanted to waste any of the group’s money on glass or plastic to cover the windows in case the rains came by. There were already was a make-shift grating directly above the fire pit so the smoke could escape and that made the freak rains all the more uncomfortable.

Four men sat around the fire, ATVs parked in a row along one wall. Above the ATVs was a shelf with half a dozen gas cans full and ready to refill when the need arose. They always made sure to pick up new fuel when they went out. The last thing they wanted out here was to have their ATV die in the middle of nowhere. Another wall was decorated with their weapon supply. It was mostly a collection of melee weapons, easy to repair and with no ammunition to worry about. A rifle graced the top of the weapon load out, an old lever action that looked like it had seen better days. A pair of pistols hung in their gun belt on a peg, six shooters with plenty of punch.

The remaining walls suggested this further that this was a living environment. Stacks of food in a variety of cases littered one wall just beside barrels of water and alcohol alike. Slabs of meat were impaled upon spikes on the wall like primitive artwork left to drip dry. The final wall had a row of four cots laid out in various states of disorder. Various trinkets dotted the small barracks, marking each bunk as personalized in whatever small way they could manage.

Around the fire the men laughed and spoke, “All right, all right. So there I was, lookin’ at this ranger’s lodge right? Right there on the side was this huge old picture that looked like they tried to maintain it. It had this bear with a hat on pointin’ at you, you know, if you were readin’ it, and said ‘Only you can prevent forest fires’.” The laughter erupted again as one of the men pounded his knee roughly in amusement, spilling a bit of his drink in the process.

“So I look at it, right? Look at it long and hard, make out what it says under all the dirt and grime they let grow on it. When I finally make out what it says, I say ‘Yeah? Well I can start ‘em too!’ and throw my bottle of gin at the sign. Huge crash and there were shouts from inside, all a-“

“Wait wait wait. You mean to say you wasted good gin and you didn’t even check to see if anyone was in there first?”

“’ey, shut up! Who’s tellin’ the story? Yeah, me. Anyways, where was I? Oh, right. So they’re all shoutin’ inside tryin’ to see what’s going on. Well, I’d drank like half the bottle already so I kinda forgot to run away after throwin’ it. Since I got everyone’s attention, though, I figured I should follow through. You know, for completions sake.” He winked and the others chuckled between spoonfuls of food.

“So I ran up to the sign and pulled out my matchbook, that’s why I had to bum yours Rick.” One of the others nodded in understanding with a big grin on his face, knowing exactly where this was going. “So I pulled out the matches, ripped one out, struck it, and lit the gorram sign on fire. The thing lit up like, like, well like a box of matches! Hah! Dirty Vistas!” The group exploded in laughter and congratulated him on a job well done.

As the laughter started to die down, one of the other men mumbled, “Only you can prevent forest fires,” into his drink. The laughter exploded out, renewed once more. They were much too loud to hear the sound of a motorcycle in the distance.

--

Sure, the wastes were quite a bit bumpier off the main roads but that only made it more fun. That’s also why she had the Tech that built this baby work on the shocks a bit more. She knew she was going to punish the bike like it’d never been punished before and didn’t want it to crap out on her.

In the distance Mikayla could see the top half of a barn peering over the crest of a hill. The grin on her face shifted to something more pointed and meaningful as she set her shoulders and kicked up the speed. The most important element in any fight is surprise. She’d been told that a long time ago, although she couldn’t exactly place from where or who. Nonetheless she kept that single rule of engagement close in mind every time she had to pick a fight. It didn’t matter how big of a gun or how many people they had if you thought about your approach and caught them off guard.

Minutes later she reached the slight incline of the hill. Considering the low incline but the depth of the barn before her, she knew right away that the hill ended abruptly. Shifting back in the seat just a bit, she accelerated further and gunned right for the second story loft doors that were held closed by a single, ancient two by four. With a wide grin, Mikayla turned at the last moment and threw her weight to the side. The bike shot off the edge of the hill like a bullet, a wide comet tail of dirt following in her wake.

The laughter inside the barn was cut off abruptly as the loft doors blew apart, pieces of wood flying free as the motorcycle burst through. The rider kicked off the bike just before it hit the ground with a loud thud, the engine shut off before it hit the door. The rider flew from the bike, hair leaving a black streak as she pivoted in mid air to hit the ground running. Steel flashed as she abandoned the bike, her long sword drawn in the same fluid motion. She landed at a dead run, blade out to the side with her sights set on one of the raiders.

The men burst from their seats at the initial crash, running for the wall of weapons a moment later when the situation struck home. The bike landed hard on the packed dirt, skidding through the beds and cots, throwing them aside like children’s toys before coming to a stop. The armor was good but she’d have to check it out when they finished to make sure she didn’t screw it over too badly. Repairs were all part of the game, after all, but she wouldn’t be too happy if she broke it.

Mikayla caught the first man right as he ripped a baseball bat covered in rusty razor wire off the wall. She skidded to a stop, using the forward momentum to swing her blade forward at the man’s exposed thigh. The sword cut through flesh like butter, eliciting a sharp cry of pain from the raider. Ducking low, she dodged a haphazard swing from a pipe with metal pieces welded on just barely, her sword snapping out to knock the clumsy swing from the bat aside.

She caught herself from losing balance due to ducking with one hand and used it to pivot back and out of the cluster of now armed assailants. An old tire iron slammed into the ground where she had been standing, narrowly missing her hand before she pulled it back. Her boots bit into the packed dirt, spraying dust behind her as she slowed to a stop and stood quickly with her sword brought back to bare with both hands.

The man who’d taken the gash in the leg was still against the wall, bat in the dirt and hands trying to keep pressure on the wound. The two of the other three closed in quickly while the third leaped up to snatch the rifle from the wall. She slapped an awkward swing from the tire iron away before taking a quick slash at the man with the pipe. He hopped back on nimble feet, a scowl on his dirty face. She followed the slash with a second to the man with the tire iron which met with a wet, solid thunk in his gut. While she’d attacked the other man, he’d stepped in to try and grapple her. His mistake.

As the man died on her sword, Mikayla tugged at the blade to pull it free only to find it lodged in the man’s spine. She hadn’t expected him to step into the attack so hadn’t followed through with the cut. Silently she cursed herself for the mistake. Abandoning the sword, she dove to the side, narrowly missing a direct hit by the heavy and wicked pipe. Instead, it only scored a glancing blow, digging a nasty trench into her jacket and leaving her shoulder to bleed.

She rolled on her good shoulder to her feet, plucking two immaculately kept steel knives from the back of her jacket as she did so. Behind the man with the pipe she saw bullets being rapidly chambered into the rifle. She knew she didn’t have much time before things turned ugly quick and she didn’t want to have to run out here again, especially not without her bike.

Having learned from his friend’s example that it wasn’t a good idea to rush her, the man with the pipe stayed back a fair distance and waited for her to approach. His eyes were wary, his stance balanced, his hands spaced evenly along the pipe. He knew how to use that thing which worried Mikayla. There were some weapons that people just shouldn’t grow used to using and a metal pipe with heavy bits of jagged metal welded on was one of them. She took a quick moment to take stock of the situation and noticed how limited her options were.

Just before she stepped forward in a charge, she pulled back and hurled one of her knives at the man with the pipe. She’d spent a small fortune in having some truly balanced knives made and every time she threw one she knew why. The blade bit into his cheek, bounced off his cheekbone, and slid home into his eye. He dropped his pipe in shock as he cried out in pain as she ran forward, twirling the other knife around in her hand so the point was down. As she closed the distance on him, she brought the other knife down in a brutal stabbing motion to the top of his head, burying the blade deep. Instead of stopping, she jumped and used the knife in the top of the man’s head as a balance point, flipping over him and ripping the one out of his face. As her feet found the ground once more behind the man, she pulled the knife from his head and let him topple forward.

With her speed only slightly diminished from the acrobatics, Mikayla continued her charge forward toward the rifleman. Both knives trailed blood behind her, both pointing down and held in fists as the rifle raised to level on her. The rifle’s barrel barked in anger as the trigger was squeezed. The bullet caught Mikayla in the shoulder where she’d been hit with the pipe, the impact and pain knocking the knife from her hand. A grunt of pain escaped her lips but she was too focused on the task at hand for the pain to fully occupy her mind just yet.

As the rifleman chambered another round, she reached him. With her right arm injured and empty she just used it to knock the rifle out of the way before she threw a solid left hook with all of her weight behind it. Her fist flew to the right of the man’s head, his eyes showing a flash of relief until the knife in her fist caught him under the chin and scoured through the side of his neck. Her body’s impact against him sent him backwards with her on top.

She rolled off of the man as he bled out and flopped onto her back, breathing heavily and taking a moment to center herself. With a deep breath, she pulled the radiant gamma in her body together and focused it on the bullet wound, hoping that it’d boost the healing process if just a little. It definitely did something for the pain. With another deep breath, she hopped up to her feet and went around the various bodies, gathering up her various weapons and whatever chips they may have on them. It looked like it was about time to go look for what brought her here.

---

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
-George Santayana




The radio barked to life. “Songbird to Skirtchaser, do you read? Over.” Kssht.

“What's up, Mika?” Kssht.

“You suck, Jacob.” Kssht.

“Don't tell me you just called ta flirt. Wha'cha need?” Kssht.

“Go to hell. And on your way here, get the twins.” Kssht.

“Did you die again, Mika? I thought you were going ta try and be a bit more careful these days?” Kssht.

“No, I didn't die again you ass. I just can't carry all this crap myself. So get the boys and haul ass out here to pick up the swag.” Kssht.

“You know just how ta talk ta a man, Mika.” Kssht.

“Keep it up and you're loadin' the truck.” Kssht.

Jacob chuckled into the receiver before hooking it on the catch beside the main console. Turning around in the salvaged swivel chair, he cupped his hands to his mouth and shouted out of the room. “Oi! Time ta get yer butts in gear, boys. Mika rang and she needs a pick up. Get both trucks and trailers going.”

As the sound of quickened footsteps picked up outside, Jacob turned back around and went back to monitoring the radio frequencies. Just because the world had ended didn't mean no one needed help, and not many people remembered the old CB Radios. In fact, it seemed like it was only the Clones that did, whether they knew it or not.

A knock on the doorframe several minutes later pulled Jacob from his scanning. Time to go pick up Mikayla. “She probably thrashed her bike again,” he mumbled to himself with a chuckle as he stepped out the door.



It was silent inside the barn save for the crack and pop of the bonfire in the center under the smoke hole. Mikayla squatted beside her bike with one of the side panels pulled off, fiddling with the frame of the armor and the fasteners. The damage to the vehicle was superficial, the impact had just ripped the bolts out of one of the frame's crossbars. She didn't have the tools on hand to fix it so, while she waited for her pick up team she just wanted to make sure nothing else was broken.

The bodies of the four men she'd met earlier lay in a pile in the corner, stripped of all valuables and weapons. She'd left their clothing and what little armor they wore on, partially because she really didn't want to seem them in the buff and partially because you had to be picky with what you scavenged. Someone else would be by after they left to pick at the remains anyways. Nothing went to waste in the waste.

Her leather jacket was thrown over a stack of debris against the wall where she'd originally started fiddling with her bike. Vibrant black ink peeked from beneath the shoulder straps of her black tank-top, the outlines of feathered wings on both shoulder blades. She was well muscled even if she was still slight of frame. A better term might have been wiry, but no one really got that impression when they looked at her. She had a presence about her that made her seem bigger than she really was.

The sound of heavy engines rumbled from the south, going unheard as Mikayla fiddled away with her bike, exploring the depths as far as she could. Her ear buds blocked out pretty much anything but the closest or loudest noises when the music ran, which it did now. Singing along with To the Edge by Lacuna Coil, she swayed her hips while keeping her center of balance firmly in place. A girl had to keep entertained somehow.

Ten minutes and two and a half songs later, the big front doors of the barn rumbled open. The movement in her peripherals snapped Mikayla's head up, her squat turning instantly into a crouch, toes digging into the dirt and ready to propel her forward. The sight of Jacob guiding the two trailers back through the door dropped her guard and brought a grin to her lips. She plucked one of the ear buds free as she stood, walking towards her partner.

“All right, stop 'er there. That's good. Okay, lets load 'em up boys! Double time. We want ta get back before sun down.” Jacob clapped his hands twice in encouragement. Old habits die hard. The first Jacob had been a football coach at New Flagstaff High School and he treated the twins as though they were his team.

The twins weren't really twins. Sure, they looked a little similar if you forgot the fact that they were completely different. Alex was a very large black man, standing at six foot four, weighing somewhere around two-fourty, and bald. Mike on the other hand was short and white, towering under Alex at an impressive five foot two and barely clocking in at a hundred and ten. No one in their right mind would consider them twins until they started talking. They'd woken up the same day in the same pod at the same time. Ever since they'd been inseparable, always finishing the others sentence or else wise acting like life-long brothers. Which they were.

The twins climbed out of the trucks and walked into the barn bickering. “Damn it Alex, learn to drive. You almost backed into me!”

“Me? Me?!” Alex exclaimed, looking at Mike indignantly. “I need to learn how to drive? You practically ran m' ass off the road!”

“What road?”

“See!”

Mike pulled back as if he was going to haul off and sock Alex before the twins caught sight of Mikayla. “Hey girl!” Alex exclaimed with a big grin on his face as Mike said “What kicked your ass, Mika?”

Mikayla rolled her eyes with a smirk and thumbed to the pile of bodies in the corner. “Already stripped 'em. The pile of salvageable stuff's by my bike. Mike, could you fix up the frame? I took a bit of a fall. There's also four ATVs.”

Shielding his eyes as he peered up at the big hole in the top side of the bar, Mike raised a brow. “A bit of a fall, eh? You're lucky you didn't break anything important. Yeah, I'll go grab the kit.” He turned around and went back to the cab of his truck.

“I thought I told ya ta be more careful, Mika?” Jacob chided, crossing his arms like a father trying to look stern.

“I was careful. I jumped off,” she stated matter-of-factly. Alex laughed as he pushed the first ATV onto the trailer and began to strap it down, earning a brief look from Jacob.

“One of these days yer goin' to get yourself killed, you know that?” He tried to give Mikayla a very serious look but it was hard to hold the severity in your voice when you realized you'd just made a very stupid point.

Mikayla flashed Jacob a rogue grin and patted him on the shoulder. “Don't worry, coach. If I die I'll clean up the mess. Now why were you on the radio and not Richie?”

“Because I don't have my head shoved up my ass.” Jacob grumbled, stepping around the woman before him and moving to the pile of 'valuables'.

“What he means is Richie was off indoctrinating a new girl who'd just woken up,” Mike explained as he squatted over the exposed motorcycle and opened his tool kit.

Mikayla rolled her eyes and walked over to grab one of the ATVs. “Do I need to have another talk with him?”

“Doubt it'd do any good, Mika.” Mike said as he slipped a tool inside and got to work.

“And why's that? He actually paid attention last time.” She grunted as she got behind the ATV and started pushing it towards the other trailer. Sure, they could drive it on easily, but that'd waste gas.

“He wasn't payin' attention ta yer words.” Jacob said as he sorted through the pile. Mike and Alex snickered almost identically, minus the differences.

Mikayla stopped pushing the ATV for a moment as she raised her head to look at Jacob. “Then what the hell was he paying attention to?”

“You were wearing that white top of yours and you'd just gone running,” Mike explained.

“You could practically see through that top,” Alex chimed in, chuckling.

“You're a dirty pervert, Alex. Dirty as hell,” Mike admonished, shaking his head sadly.

“You're the one that took the pictures you little twerp.” Alex gave Mike the finger. Mike responded by suddenly becoming very interested in his work.

Mikayla shook her head with a laugh and went back to pushing the ATV onto the trailer. Once she got it in place, she set to tying it down. “Then maybe Alex should have a word with him.”

“Good idea,” Jacob agreed, shoving various items from the pile into a sack. He'd tossed the various melee weapons to the side already deciding they weren't worth the effort.

“Yeah, and make sure you go for a run first.” Mike grinned into the bike as he pulled the tool out and gave the frame a good thump to test. Alex gave him the finger again as he finished securing the second ATV into his trailer. Mikayla laughed.

“So long as we can make it back to the Origin by Wednesday then I don't care how you do it. Just leave him in good enough condition to play.” Mikayla stood and rubbed the back of her forearm across her forehead. She glanced over at Alex, “You got the last one?”

“Yeah. Go grab a bite, there's a sandwich in my glove compartment.” He thumbed to the truck as he moved toward the fourth ATV.

“What kind?” she asked as she vaulted over the side of the trailer and opened the passenger side door.

“Philly cheese steak.”

“I'm not going to ask how you made that,” she stated simply.

Jacob chuckled this time, “Probably a good idea. I didn't want to know either.”

Mikayla leaned into the truck, cracked open the glove compartment door and snatched the sandwich. “You know what they say. Ignorance is bliss.” She turned around and sat down on the seat with her legs hanging out of the truck, digging into the sandwich.



Half a mile outside of the convoy's destination Mikayla pulled off and continued down the road, accelerating and letting the wind claw at her hair. The sun was starting to set behind her, giving her the feeling of racing towards the darkness. She just had one errand to do before she could return to camp and call it a night.

Several miles down the road she pulled a hard right and took some air off a sudden drop where something had made a rather sudden hole right beside the road. The old farm house in the distance had a dim light glowing in three of its four front windows. The family had said they'd keep the lights on at night until she returned so she could find her way in the dark if necessary.

All the raiders had knowingly left them with were candles. Of course, the family had been smarter than your usual sort. The man of the household remembered a movie from Pre-Fall where a guy had buried his important belongings before leaving so no one would find them, so that's exactly what he did. He'd toiled for weeks building a hidden underground shelter in their backyard, covering the mouth of the hole with debris so no one looked at it twice. It was down there they'd stowed the majority of their food, water, and valuables. They'd left just enough out so people thought them just terribly impoverished.

However, he'd had one oversight. And it was that he'd asked Mikayla to retrieve for him, knowing full well that she and the rest of her crew would help out any Clone in need. In these dangerous times they had to support one another and stick together. So she'd gone out and retrieved the old, battered briefcase. She didn't ask what was inside, didn't look. That wasn't the job.

As she pulled up to the house, she cut the engine and coasted the rest of the way in. A name plaque hung on the front door reading 'M. Wallace'. It brought a chuckle to her lips. Parking her bike, she hopped off and opened the case on the back to pull out the briefcase. Another case sat under that but she ignored it for now. She didn't need to pull that out tonight. Case in hand, she strode towards the door quietly.

She strode toward the door and sat the briefcase down in front of it. She delivered a quick but loud knock to the door before turning around and returning to her bike. She hopped on, turned got it running, and was heading back the way she came before the front door opened to receive the package.

Characters: Naomi Quinn, Mikayla Vay, Ashley Scott

Soahl's picture

Liberation - Mikayla Vay

An excerpt from The Clone Wars, by Martin Nobliques


It's only been four years since the clones first started to emerge from the LifeNet Pods, however they're already quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with. Many people, who are starting to be known as Natural Births or Nabis (derogatory) to keep them separate from the Clones, believe that the Clones will threaten to overpopulate the area if they keep pouring out as steadily as they have been. Extremists have even begun to suggest destroying the LifeNet Pods and rounding up the Clones.


One group of extremists is known as the Purists, believing that Clones are impure and an affront to God. They believe that man shouldn't attempt to play God and that their creation of Clones is blasphemy. The Purists proclaim that the Fall was brought to Man by God as punishment for this blasphemy and that the path of redemption lies through a Culling.


---

There are times to fight and there are times to run. Generally speaking, at least. Mikayla tended to lean almost exclusively towards the prior. While running was good and all, she had no reason to. Running was for those afraid to die, for those who could die. This, however, was not the case for her. She was a clone, a product of man built to defy the one constant in an ever-changing world: Death.


Mikayla did run at times, however. Convenience was the main factor in those decisions. She may not be able to die but if someone shot her down it might take a long time to travel back to that spot from a Pod. Who knew where the target or enemy might've gone by then. Efficiency had its price. Most of the time she ran, though, she ran straight at her opponent.


The full moon irradiated the urban scene with its light, it penetrated the blanket of darkness that claimed the shells of civilization past and revealed what the night tried to hide. Suburbia U.S.A. used to be one of the most common cookie-cutter templates used to develop real estate pre-Fall. Every suburban area had a downtown of some sort or another. This particular one had tried to bring the big city out to a little town with vaguely gothic architecture, alley ways, and a grid-pathed street system.


As was common with most other towns, this one had been looted so many times that even most of the street lights were missing. Windows had been broken in long ago, dust and dirt left a thick carpet upon the cement, carpeting, and what remained of tile-work inside the buildings. Grays and browns dominated the scene with the occasional blue, black, and off-white to try and maintain balance. The hollowed out husks of old cars littered the streets, one hanging out of a street-side building and covered in the debris of the crash.


She kept her back to a drab gray stone wall and gave the barrel of her FN FAL a quick kiss. Stalin had always had her back. It looked like he was going to get a chance to do so again tonight if the hushed sounds of footsteps and whispered words were any indication. From the sound of it she'd have to move soon, cover only lasted so long when you gave the enemy the freedom to maneuver. She'd given them enough time to get into position, now it was time for her to do some herding.


Dropping a pair of polarized, wire framed sunglasses down over her eyes, Mikayla burst out of the alleyway and into the bright moonlight with the battle rifle lowered and ready. With a little urging from her finger, Stalin began to bark fire in immensely bright muzzle flashes. She had the weapon's stock clicked back and nestled against her shoulder but even then she only let off a single shot at a time. The recoil was enough to relocate your shoulder and the volume of each shot would've drowned out her music if she'd bothered to have brought any. The first two shots trailed a man as he made for the cover of a car, the misses calling up showers of pulverized stone and mortar from the building behind him. The third shot caught his thigh and knocked his legs out from under him. With each gunshot, Mikayla's irises adjusted to the bright light before readjusting to the darkness with a hint of blue electricity around them.


She got three shots off before the others began to return fire, gouts of dirt, dust, and sparks erupting around her as Mikayla took off for some cover of her own. Instinct swept her feet out from under her just before she slid into the alleyway across from where she exited as if she were trying to steal home. As she dropped, a bullet found its home in the wall where her shoulder had been, a second where her head would've been just before she disappeared behind the wall.


The shouts of her opponents rang out in the night as the bullets died off, orders to follow her, others to cut her off. She rolled her eyes at the telegraphing of their movements as she climbed to her feet and jogged down the alley to the other side. It was pretty clear that they were going to do it anyways but shouting it for the whole world to hear was just unprofessional. She doubted the leader was Enforcer, if any of them were.


As she exited the alley she cut a hard left, her elbow lashing out violently at the expected ambush. Bone met cartilage as she found home and broke the sneak's nose. She spun around as he stumbled back and emptied two rounds into the other ambusher's chest just as he shook himself out of the surprise and raised his AK model. Turned back to the sneak who'd stumbled away a few steps while clutching their face, she dropped Stalin knowing the sling would catch him and charged forward the few steps, drawing a knife from the inside of her coat as she moved. The blade flashed as she brought it down at the base of the sneak's neck, a second swing of her other elbow catching them across the temple to knock them out. Bleeding out was a bad way to go, but she couldn't take the time to speed it up.


The knife disappeared back into her jacket as she took up Stalin once more and hurried behind the building to the back door. Jacob had told her the prisoners were held on the third floor and that this group was pretty densely populated. He'd wanted to send in Alex and Mike as well but Mikayla had told him she'd do it on her own. After some furious arguing they'd settled on sticking the two as support fire on the roofs of nearby buildings. The briefly silent night was shattered by a sudden crack before another ambusher fell from the shadows of a neighboring alleyway. Mike was in place.


Her thumb flicked Stalin into full auto as she reached the back door and took a step back. She knew she was going to regret this already but certain precautions had to be taken when storming a building. With a grunt Mikayla drove her foot forward into the door, the flat of her foot catching the old wood near the door knob with a heavy thunk. The ancient wood of the door was no match for her violent outburst, the screws on the hinges ripping out of it like staples from wet paper as it crashed to the floor inside. No sooner had the door hit the floor than did Mikayla hold the trigger down and sweep the room twice as she charged in. The percussive force of the recoil on her shoulder promised a stern talking to in the morning if she wasn't gunned down first, but she held the rifle steadfast.


A pair of guards dived for cover at the sound of the door being kicked in, trying to find anything thick enough to hide behind. It didn't particularly irk her at all though. The way she figured it they probably would've been just as safe if they'd stayed completely still. With Stalin's recoil in full auto she felt like a Stormtrooper attempting to gun down a Jedi. She held the trigger only long enough to enter and take cover behind an old counter herself before letting up. Just before she ducked down behind the counter, Stalin clicked on empty.


Tossing the spent magazine aside, she yanked one from inside her jacket and slammed it into place. Two shots from outside followed by another quick two were echoed by the cries of the two guards who'd decided their best cover was right in front of open windows. With Alex having cleared her way, Mikayla stood and bounded through the small room and up the stairs. She slung Stalin over her shoulder and drew her knife again. Battle rifles weren't exactly the best in closed quarters combat, after all.


She paused just before ascending the stairs enough to see through the open doorway. With one hand on the staircase and the other holding the knife ready she strained her ears to pick up any indication that she was charging headlong into a trap. When only silence greeted her, Mikayla climbed the last few steps cautiously and silently, slipping through the doorway and into the long hallway. Jacob's reports said that the building had been an old hotel, so he'd warned to be cautious of the rooms on either side. They gave the defenders excellent places to hide.


Keeping low, Mikayla crept her way down the hallway, pausing every now and again to listen. When she was about halfway down the hallway she heard the sound of comm static approaching her from the other end. A quick glance suggested the only choice for cover was to dive into one of the rooms before the man turned the corner. One of the doors ahead of her was even partially ajar, almost welcomingly so.


Dismissing the idea as quickly as it came to her, Mikayla broke from her crouch at a dead run, attempting to make every footfall as silent as possible. She'd had some training in stealth, but no one had ever bothered to teach her how to sprint and keep silent. Generally it was thought that if you had to break into a run, stealth likely wasn't an option. Sure, she knew how to creep around at a brisk walk, even jog with little noise, but a full sprint was something different.


As the guard rounded the corner, Mikayla pulled back and released. Her knife sailed through the air and narrowly caught the woman in the eye. The guard's head snapped back and she kept running forward, sliding on the moldy carpet and catching the harness crossing the woman's chest. It softened the fall a small amount but the thud was still easily audible. Wrenching the knife out, she quickly wiped both sides off on the woman's jacket and ran upstairs.


Gunshots from outside suggested that reinforcements had been cut off as she barreled through the doorway at the top of the stairs, a second knife drawn and ready. Negotiations were far from possible and she was of the opinion that she'd spoiled her sneaky approach enough to warrant giving it up. The moment she cleared the doorway, she threw herself to the side of the hallway. A pair of guards stationed outside of one of the rooms unloaded quick three round bursts right where she had been.


Continuing down the hall at a dead run, Mikayla silently wished she'd thought to pull Stalin out for this. He would've made it a lot easier, definitely. Sometimes, though, you just had to play with the cards you were dealt. A snap of her wrist sent one of the knives flying towards one of the guards who simply knocked it away with the butt of his rifle. Her other knife went sailing towards the other guard, also easily knocked aside. Fluidly she drew another pair of knives from the back of her jacket in the same motion as she used to throw the last, leaping that last few feet at the guards with knives bared.


The guard in front didn't have time to lower his rifle on her before she connected, the first knife finding a home in his chest while the other caught the side of his neck. She tucked her feet under her and, instead of rolling over him with her momentum she kicked his feet out from under him, using him as a shield as the other guard snapped off another burst in her direction. Her shield's armor caught the brunt of the attack, keeping the bullets from tearing all of the way through. The impact on the vest against her knocked the air out of her as she rolled to the side to knock the body off her and free her blades.


Prone as she was, she was at a distinct disadvantage. On the bright side it freed up her legs and she wasn't going to bother spending the time trying to stand when her opponent only had to correct his aim a small amount before finishing her off. Mikayla pushed off the wall and spun on her back, her heel darting out to sweep the guard's feet out from under him. She twisted on the floor with the spin, curling her other leg under her as she pushed herself up with one hand before launching herself at the now prone guard. The impromptu leap dropped her atop the guard, her right hand holding the dagger high above her head and pulling it down with all she had.


The guard started to raise his rifle to block her attack but she cut it off abruptly with a quick, blind slash deep into his forearm. Her knife sunk through his vest with ease before the hilt ended the weapon's journey abruptly. She spun her other knife in hand and swung at the man's face, punching him in the side of the head with the pummel of her knife. As he went limp she ripped the knife out and climbed to her feet. Jacob hadn't been able to tell her whether there'd be any guards in with the prisoners or not.


She knew she'd made enough of a noise that anyone inside would know she was out there and be ready for her so she didn't take any time to clean up. Kicking the door open just like she did before, Mikayla stood ready with a knife in each hand, each blade dripping with what coated her chest and arms. She was a grizzly sight, her black hair hanging limp behind her, her bright blue eyes sharp with menace, blood covering her. Looking back on it later she felt bad for the prisoners.


The group of men and women huddled in the corner of the hollowed out hotel room trembled in fear, the men attempting to cover the women protectively while still looking meek. One of the women sobbed openly, trying in vain to keep it quiet while one of the others tried to shush her. All six wore rags not even fit to be burned, barely covered at all and dirtier than a Vista gardener. The cleanest pieces of cloth on them were what looked like old bandages wrapped around various limbs; arms and legs, one even around one of the men's forehead and covering an eye. The one thing they all had in common, however, were the collars around their neck, the lights pulsing in unison.


Mikayla entered the room slowly, her eyes scouring the dark room and challenging someone to break from the shadows and attack her. Quietly, she asked, “Is anyone else in here?” The prisoners shook their head meekly, their attitudes practically screaming, We're innocent, please don't kill us! Mikayla glanced over at them and nodded before slipping her knives away. It was going to be hell to clean them later but now just wasn't the time for that. She didn't need to scare them any more than they were already. “Okay, then I'm getting you out of here. My name's Mikayla. You can trust me.” As further emphasis, she tapped the collar around her own neck.


The prisoners glanced at her collar incomprehensibly at first before nodding quickly and rising to their feet. Two of them couldn't stand on their own, so the other four split up into twos and helped carry them, an arm around each shoulder. Mikayla moved over to the window and knocked the old boards out of the way so she could stick her head out and wave to Alex. She then pulled herself back inside and took the radio off her belt, flicking it on. “Songbird to Twidledee, do you read? Over.” Kssh.


“I read you loud an' clear, Songbird. We need new damn names, by the way. Over.” Kssh. Alex's voice sounded just a little annoyed in that amused fashion.


“Save the whining for another time. I've got them. Several are injured, we're going to need some transportation. Over.” Kssh. Mikayla gave the now liberated clones a brief smile which was only returned by cautious ones. Trust came hard to people these days, even after something like this. Especially after something like this.


“Twidledum's already waitin' for you in his truck, Songbird. Over.” Kssh.


“I heard that!,” came Mike's voice over the radio. “Why am I the 'dum' one? Over.” Kssh.


“Ain't it obvious?” Alex asked matter-of-factly as Mikayla clipped her radio back on her belt. She motioned the clones to follow her quickly as she led them out the door and down the hall from where she came. She paused to gather her knives and tuck them away as well before pulling Stalin from over her shoulder and leading the way. “They obviously know you! Over.” Kssh.


Mike replied with a brotherly 'I'm so going to kick your ass when we get home' tone, “Hey. Hey. At least I remember which key starts which truck! Over.” Kssh.


“I took the Jacob's key ring by accident, damn it! Over,” Alex snapped. Kssh.


Mike smugly replied, “Exactly. Over.” Kssh.


The clones shared confused, skeptical looks as Mikayla led them down to the floor level of the hotel and to the back door. She stepped outside first before stepping to the side and gesturing them to follow. “Hop in the back of the truck and lets try to get out of here quickly. I'm sure all the gunfire'll have scavengers down on us anytime now.” She snatched the radio off her belt as she clones started climbing into the back of Mike's truck. “Twidledee,” she said, “we're done here. Lets wrap 'er up. See you back at base. Over.” Kssh.


“Aye, ma'am. Returnin' to base. Still say we need new names, though. Over.” Kssh. Mike snickered and nodded to Mikayla in agreement. As the last of the clones got in the back of the truck, Mikayla joined them and sat on the tailgate, Stalin at the ready. It was finally time to get the hell out of that place.

Characters: Naomi Quinn, Mikayla Vay, Ashley Scott

Soahl's picture

Fading Light - Mikayla Vay

Sarah Brightly: Dr. Tagart, LifeNet Industries has been utilizing and perfecting cloning technology for over ten years now and all of their facilities have been locked down for months now. Their latest press release stated that due to the Shiva Virus reaching North America they're distributing cloning pods throughout the Grand Canyon Province with the intention of rebuilding humanity were the worst to happen.

Dr. Erich Tagart: Yes, this is true.

Sarah Brightly: The public is nearing a panic, Dr. Tagart. The question on everyone's lips is will these clones be human?

Dr. Erich Tagart: Of course they will. They will be just like you and I. In fact, they
will be you and I, Ms. Brightly. I do believe I saw your name on the List.

Sarah Brightly: Now, I've heard that there will be a system in place that will recreate any clone that's killed once they're created. One might say this would make them practically immortal. Much of life today is built around self preservation, ensuring the survival of mankind. My question, Dr. Tagart, is how will these immortal replicas view death?

Dr. Erich Tagart: I honestly cannot presume to put myself in their place, Ms. Brightly. You'll have to ask them.

- Exerpt from MSNBC News with Sarah Brightly interviewing Dr. Erich Tagart, March 25 2056


----

Dusk, the transitional period between light and dark. That special time of day when light fades from the Earth only to be replaced with a darkness. Most of the time the friendly moon steps forth to bathe the world in her soothing silver light. Tonight, the moon hung low on the horizon as the sun raced for greener pastures. Even the sun wanted to be rid of the wasteland as quick as it could be. Tonight, the moon seemed hesitant to shine its comforting rays upon the new world.

The sky was a rich, velvety bluish purple as night made its push to conquer day. The stars hadn't stepped out from hiding yet as the sun still lingered there on the fringes of the wastes, taking one final look over its shoulder before continuing on. A breeze tugged at Mikayla's clothes as if urging her to follow the sun, to be rid of the Province and all its troubles. The breeze's touch was soft, a lover's caress letting her know she wasn't alone. In moments like this she could almost understand what the Vistas saw in the world, in nature.

It was also during moments like these that memories found ways to slip free from their cages and bounce around her ankles like a flood of excitable terriers. Every now and then one would claim her attention, draw her away from the beautiful evening sky and guide it towards...

Pitch blackness. In the distance deep bass thuds echoed like a broken record trying to keep tempo. Staccato cracks emphasized the silence as they bloomed all around her, brief bursts then more silence. She was moving, step after step, in a low crouch position with something cradled in her arms. The world was black chaos all around her yet she found solace in what she held in her hands. A flash of light overhead illuminated the world around her, just long enough for her to catch her bearings. She knew where she was. She was surrounded by...

The memories fought rabidly around her, each demanding her attention and each desiring to keep it just long enough to play all the way through. But just as one would get her attention, another would undermine it and it would all start again. Mikayla pushed the memories away for the time being and focused on the sky, the breeze, the earth. There was no sound but the sound of her heart beating and the wind. It was silent, serene, peaceful.

As the light dimmed and the sun gave ground, night began to lay claim to the world. The stars began to peek out like children afraid they'd be caught sneaking out of the house. Slowly they emerged, one or two at first and then more grew the courage. They twinkled in merry excitement, a whole night to play in the velvety black with nothing and no one to chase them home. The moon climbed high into the sky slowly, meaningfully, protective. No one was going to harm her nocturnal wards while she stood guard, ever vigilant.

The memories surged forth again, more like predatory fish than terriers, leaping up all around her and attempting to find something to latch onto. They fed on attention, on focus. Nothing sated their hunger more than full, undivided attention. She tried laying very still, letting the memories leap and search, seeking something to latch onto. Just as she thought she was in the clear one of the memories made a lucky leap and...

She snatched the ball out of the air with her glove thrust high above her head. Hitting the ground running, she nearly toppled over from how off-balance she'd thrown herself but she made the save none the less. The parents sitting on her team's side cheered along with her fellow teammates as she spun around and tossed the ball to the shortstop. The game was as good as over now, the Devils only had one out left and were down by five points. She knew that the perfect weather of bright blue skies, a soft wind, and just the right heat was a good omen for her team. Now they'd make it to...

The moon seemed further away than she remembered it. Everything seemed a little further away, come to think of it. Actually, thinking was starting to get a little hard but she didn't really care. She was tired, the ground was comfortable, the stars were welcoming, and her head was feeling fuzzy. Mikayla tried to remember why she was laying in the dirt and watching the moon and stars but she just couldn't. The more she couldn't remember it the less she cared. Everything felt so good even if she was starting to get cold.

Come to think of it, she also felt something else. She couldn't really put a word to it and she couldn't really say where she felt it, but she knew she felt it. It was cold and distant, almost like it was happening to someone else but she was sure it was happening to her. Well, fairly sure anyways. It wasn't like she could feel anyone else, right? Could she? She couldn't remember. It was getting harder to think. The memories had stopped swarming her, they'd retreated back into their cage. She could tell they were still hungry, still eager for attention but for some reason they sat back in their cage all docile. She thought it was, what was the word? Oh, right. Cute.

That's what she felt! Wet. Like rain, except it wasn't raining. She remembered what it felt like to be rained on and it felt like that a little bit, except more warm and not from the sky. She couldn't feel the wet anymore but she was sure she felt it, it felt like something of hers was covered in the wet, like the breeze was drying it all out but all it was doing was getting stickier, harder. Not that she could feel it anymore. She couldn't remember what she couldn't feel anymore.

The sky was so pretty, a rich purple-black canvas that the stars danced and played upon. They spun around in big circles above her as the breeze continued to caress her cheek. "Come join us", it whispered in her ear as the stars and sky started to get darker. "Come on Mika, it'll be all right." The last thought that went through her head was a question laced with confusion. She recognized that voice. Dad?

The darkness consumed her.

---

A brief yet very powerful string of obscenities erupted from inside the pod before the doors were kicked open and Mikayla stormed out. She snatched the radio off her hip and held down the send button. "They're gone, Jacob. Get me the coordinates to their safehouse. Over." kssh

"How far out are ya? Over." kssh

"It'll take me a couple hours to get back to my bike. Those [censored] left me for dead, Jacob," she growled. "Over." kssh

"Chill, Mika. You'll get 'em. I'll get right on those coords. And Mika?" kssh

She tapped the send button impatiently as she stormed out of the village, her dark countenance and determined gait making anyone near her grant a wide berth. "What?" kssh

"Welcome back. Over." kssh

Characters: Naomi Quinn, Mikayla Vay, Ashley Scott

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Balancing Forces - Ashley Scott

04082157-0447 - Journal of Dr. Ashley Scott

It’s difficult being a doctor these days. I find myself constantly torn between survival and the code of honor you take upon when you gain the title of doctor. Every day I have to deal with the conflicting worlds and it does start to get to me. I’ve sworn to do all I can to save lives regardless of political affiliation but there are times when you’re forced to die or take a life. And, when that situation arises you don’t really have time to think about it.

The bass thrum of the engine flipped to a shrill baritone as the dune buggy found the top of the hill and broke free from gravity’s grip for the time being. The large vehicle sailed through the air, biodiesel fumes trailing behind it like the tail of a comet. Wind tore at her hair and inertia held her tight against the back of her seat. There was a moment of weightlessness, a unique kind of freedom that you didn’t encounter very often in the wasteland. Then it was as if all those forces the buggy was defying caught up to it at once when it hit the ground. The vehicle clattered about as it connected with the dirt and grass, the thunderous clamor briefly overriding the loud hum of the engine that propelled it.

Ashley gave the steering wheel an adjusting twist here and yank there to maintain a straight course before glancing behind her to see if she was still being followed. A moment later two motorcycles shot over the hill, the riders leaning back to keep the front wheels higher than the back so the bike stood as a shield between themselves and the buggy. She cursed under her breath and turned back to watch where she was going, scanning the horizon for some place nearby to go for a respite. They were going to cut her off soon and she needed to choose her ground. There was likely no peaceful solution to this.

I’ve come to the conclusion that in this world there is a mercy in death. It’s a pretty wide-held belief that if you’re trying not to kill someone with a gun then the best course of action is to shoot them in the limbs. That couldn’t be more wrong. I’ve seen what gunshot wounds do to people out here. We don’t have the sterile, clean medical facilities of yesteryear. No, the best way to avoid killing someone with a gun is to not shoot them. But when it’s you or them, well, a quick death is the closest you’ll come to mercy.

There, to the right about a hundred and fifty meters away, a mass of stone that protruded from the hillside indented enough for a campsite. A fire pit even sat in the center, empty and waiting, a ready and open campsite to any wanderers in need. Ashley put her foot down as the engine revved and gave it all it had. She was barely picking up speed as she kept driving straight ahead but the sound of her engine had the desired effect. She knew she couldn’t outrun the motorcycles so she was going to try to out-maneuver them. Not that she could do that for very long either, but hopefully just long enough.

One of the motorcycles pulled up on her left, twisting this way and that to maintain a straight line while avoiding rocks, bushes, and other things a motorcycle doesn’t like getting intimate with. She couldn’t tell what the other was doing but it didn’t matter too much. Waiting just a moment longer, right as the biker to her left was reaching to point a gun at her, Ashley hit the breaks and put everything she had into a sharp right turn. As hoped, the ass end of her buggy swung around behind her as the nose turned to point at the campsite. Dirt, grass, and stone sprayed behind the buggy as it spun. The stones and dirt battered at the biker that had been to her left, a lucky break causing one of the stones to dent the biker’s helmet and send them rolling off the side. The other biker swerved and hit the breaks hard to stop from colliding with the buggy. Ashley pounded the gas and prayed to no one in particular that she’d make it to the campsite before they did.

I don’t like killing. I avidly seek to avoid death however possible. Whenever a patient of mine dies I feel like a failure, I know I should have done something different. Most of the time it’s simply a lack of equipment or supplies. I try to make everything I need but I just can’t carry a clinic worth of equipment and supplies with me at all times. However, I’m finding I’m getting more and more numbed to death. It used to really bother me. Now? Now I’m getting used to it. It never gets easier to lose someone though, even if it’s to save my own skin.

As the buggy slid to a stop she threw the buggy’s door open and leaped out. She was turning to get to the trunk of her buggy before she even touched ground. Throwing the hatch back, Ashley yanked the assault rifle from its slot in the trunk and flipped the safety off. A quick glance showed the bikers coming in fast, a moment away. They weren’t going to try to pepper her while driving, she’d taken the advantage of mobility away by coming to the site.

Closing the hatch Ashley took a knee and brought the rifle to her shoulder. Peering through the sight while wearing those ‘hard target goggles’ she’d picked up had taken some getting used to but she understood how they worked now. The gloves the Vista Rangers had given her after completing her training courses were wonderful for this sort of thing, her trigger finger was left uncovered while the rest of her hand was covered in a neutral brown-green like the rest of her outfit. All this ran through her head as she followed one of the bikers through her scope, zoomed in close enough to watch their body language.

She only waited for them to close a little more distance before she gave the trigger two light squeezes. The first three round burst hit the rider in the chest, sending them rolling back off their bike. The second made a trail up their back with the final bullet hitting the nape of the neck. The bike hit the dirt with a loud clang, the sound of stone and metal scraping loud until the machine hit one of the many upturned rocks. The second biker, the one she’d knocked over with the buggy, swore audibly and twisted the bike in a controlled fall. Sliding on the ground with the bike as cover, the biker pulled their pistol and took a couple shots with no chance of hitting. They had the desired effect of making Ashley duck for cover.

The biker stood and ran for the rock the other bike had hit as Ashley brought her rifle up and took aim again. This time she just held the trigger down as she sprayed a line of ammunition after the man. A couple of the bullets caught the biker in the leg armor, one found a way through and tore through the calf. The man fell with a shout, unloading round after round into the buggy as he shouted a new and more colorful insult with every shot. Ashley took cover and waited until the shooting stopped and the only sound was painful shouting. With her rifle in hand, she stood and approached the fallen man.

After the fight is done I tend to the wounded. I even attempt to tend to the people who were trying to kill me. It’s surprising how compliant some people can get after they realize you’re trying to help them even if they’re wondering why. I find I always end up having to say this to every patient of mine, I’ve even had to tell a few of my co-workers this. As long as you’re on my table you’re safe. My job is to tend to the wounded, not kill them.

The man was still holding his rifle as he clung to his wounded calf. Blood oozed through his fingers as he shouted and rolled about in the dirt. His armor was black, utilitarian but not military. It was a hodge-podge assembly of leather, bits of metal, and layered cloth all dyed or painted black. The pockets, what pockets he had, were on his belt. As she approached the man pointed his empty pistol at her and said in a quavering voice filled with pain, “Stay back! I’m w-warning you!”

Ashley kept the rifle lowered as she reached the man before releasing it and letting it hang from her neck. She held both hands out, palms to him, and spoke in soft and comforting tones. “I’m a doctor. If you’ll let me, I’ll see what I can do to fix that up for you.”

“You’re a f’kin’ Vista,” he spat. Still, he seemed to do the math in his head and let the pistol fall. “Why you helpin’ me?” He watched her with a hunted, cornered expression. The way he saw it, she figured, he was dead no matter what and couldn’t stop her anyway.

She shook her head and put the rifle on her back before squatting down to look at the man’s leg. As she did so she reached behind her into her knapsack and pulled out a roll of bandages. “I’m a doctor first and Vista second. All people have the right to live.” As she put pressure on his leg to begin the wrap she glanced up at his face, “Even people who try to kill me.”

The man let out a grunt of pain from the pressure as she bandaged his leg, watching her with wary and untrusting eyes. “Bullsh’t. You’re goin’ to interrogate me ain’t you? Well I’m not tellin’ you sh’t! Ow, damn it!”

“Hold still,” she ordered in a firm tone as she shifted her weight, pinning his leg down with a knee while she worked. “I don’t care why you were coming after me. I’m just sorry someone had to die today. Now take a deep breath, you may get dizzy. It’ll feel like a head rush when you stand up too fast.” Before he could object she had her right glove off and held her hand just above the wounded area on his leg, barely not touching the bandages. As she concentrated her palm began to emit a soft white-blue pulsating light. The light engulfed the wound as the man gasped, squirming beneath her knee. After a moment it was done and the light was fading away. “Keep the bandage on for three days and by Gaia try to avoid strenuous activity. Understand?”

He stared at her through eyes hazed in equal parts wariness and appreciation. His response was just to nod while she helped him up. Just to top things off she handed his pistol back to him and helped him to his bike. When he was mounted up he looked back at her. She was already getting back to her buggy, slipping the rifle back in the trunk. “Oi, Vista. Got a name?”

She looked up at him and gave him a small smile. “Doctor Ashley Scott, Saints Incorporated. Try to remember that, hm?”

The Vista speak of balance. Everyone seems to think all the Vista focus on is nature but my take is they’re just trying to fix the planet and bring it back into a sense of balance with humanity and technology. Either way, I’m learning about balance myself. I think it’s something of an idea people should live by. You can’t have only good or only evil, you can’t have only right or only right. There’s a balance in everything, even in healing and killing. Perhaps that’s why I was given the gift of healing, so I can better learn this lesson and grow. I like that idea.

Characters: Naomi Quinn, Mikayla Vay, Ashley Scott

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This entry's just a link to the RP Thread White Noise: The Missing Saint that illustrates the RP of Ashley Scott's disappearance and eventual freedom.

Characters: Naomi Quinn, Mikayla Vay, Ashley Scott



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