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Recovery, Part 2

They’ve escaped the slavers, but Lezvie’s badly hurt. Will his mysterious friends in the Bunker be able to save him?

Jack and Rodrigo were already in the entrance hall when they arrived.  Rodrigo had a minigun strapped on him, the large barrel currently folded up beside the ammunition box on his back as he checked a computer on a wall.  “They’re coming.  Four Humvees, complete with fifty-cal turrets.”

“Any markings?”  Jack checked the safety on his rifle.

“Yes, but not one I’m familiar with.  Look.”

Lezvie followed Jack over to the screen, looking at the insignia on the side of the approaching vehicles.  “It almost looks like Crimson Talon,” Lezvie said, “it isn’t, as you can see.  There are four markings here, where the Talon only has three.  But it’s almost like they’re from the same family or something…”

The vehicles stopped about a hundred feet from the outer doors, and men in combat armor poured out, forming a semi-circle around it.  Two of them set up a heavy cannon in front of the door, aiming it dead center at it.

A man whose armor bore more color than the others stepped up to the door.  His voice was distorted by the helmet he wore, making him sound robotic.  Alien.  “You harbor fugitives.  You will surrender them to the Crimson Fang immediately.”

Lezvie turned to Jack.  “You ever hear of a ‘Crimson Fang’?”

“Rumors.”  Jack shrugged.  “A more organized, better equipped branch of the Crimson Talon.”

“While we’re swapping rumors,” Rodrigo interjected, “I heard that they’re both arms of a parent organization, Crimson Dragon.  Hence the names.  There’s also, supposedly, a Crimson Wing and Crimson Eye.”

“Unimaginative lot.”  Lezvie fingered his knives.  “But well-equipped, undeniably well-equipped.”

The men outside grew impatient.  “We grow tired of your disobedience.  Give us the fugitives or we will blow the door in.  You have thirty seconds.”

“Fugitives.  That would be the girls and I, yes?”  Lezvie chuckled.  “Well, Jack?  You gonna throw us to the dragon?”

Rodrigo pulled down the barrel of his minigun and gave the barrel an experimental spin.  “C’mon, Lez.  You should know better than that.”

“Good then.  Should we let them shoot first?  Give ourselves the moral high ground?”

Jack grinned.  “Always.”

“You have chosen to defy the Crimson Fang.  On your own heads be it.  The Crimson Fang shall destroy your feeble installation and kill all of you.”  The man stepped back behind the semicircle of soldiers, gesturing to the men behind the cannon.

The first shot splashed harmlessly against the powerful doors of the Bunker.  So did the second.  And the third.  Right after the fourth, Jack gestured to Rodrigo, and the security officer flipped a switch in the wall, causing the massive door to slide open.

Jack threw a grenade as the door opened.  By the time the massive gates had stopped moving, the grenade latched on magnetically to the cannon.  It exploded violently, tearing the cannon apart and sending shrapnel into the Crimson Fang soldiers nearest it.

Rodrigo and Jack followed the grenade with a volley of lead.  Jack’s rifle sounded rhythmically, each shot bringing down one of the soldiers manning the guns of the Humvees.  Rodrigo’s tactics were simpler; spray and pray.  The Crimson Fang soldiers went down like flies.

Despite the heavy losses they were taking, the red-armored soldiers came charging forward, those that had guns firing them, those with melee weapons trying to close the distance as fast as possible.  While outgunned, their numbers allowed them to endure the brutal damage the Remnants’ guns inflicted while still getting closer to the Bunker.

Lezvie stepped forward, drawing his knives.  He still looked agile, but Angela could tell that every movement pained him, and his usual grace came with much more effort than usual.  She stepped up beside him and kept the invaders from reaching him, putting each one down with a single shot to the head.

Even her sharpshooting could only slow the tide, and Lezvie had to fight.  His dance of death flowed as smoothly as it always did, and the soldiers’ blood stained the ground at his feet.  Eventually the ranks of the Crimson Fang were depleted, and the few survivors piled back into their trucks and fled.

“We can’t let them escape.”  Jack’s voice sounded tired.

Rodrigo nodded and stepped back across the threshold, tapping a command into the console.  The barrel of a large gun extended out of the mountain above the bunker door.  It fired, one shot for every truck.  Every shot hit its mark.  Every truck became a pile of scorched metal.

“That’s the problem with this wasteland.  You can’t trust anyone.  If you get in a fight, you have to wipe them out, or they’ll come back with friends and wipe you out.”  Jack set his rifle down and closed the doors.

Lezvie cleaned his daggers and sheathed them.  “Yeah.  Terrible.”

Then he collapsed.

“Lezvie!”  Angela rushed to him, catching him before his head hit the ground.  “Stupid, stupid man…”

She stripped off his bandage, which had been soaked to the point of uselessness.  His wound had been reopened during the fight, and now his blood ran down his chest.  “Stupid, stubborn, stupid man…”  She turned to Jack and Rodrigo.  “Help me get him back to the medical bay.”

They carried him in, laying him in one of the beds.  Angela shooed the men out of the ward and began taking care of Lezvie’s wound.

“Stubborn, thick-headed, arrogant, prideful, stupid…”  She finished binding his wound and rested a hand on his cheek.  “Stupid, amazing man…”  With a sigh, she sank into the chair beside his bed, resting her head on his chest, her blonde hair tumbling across his pale skin, suddenly exhausted.


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Recovery, Part 1

They’ve escaped the slavers, but Lezvie’s badly hurt. Will his mysterious friends in the Bunker be able to save him?

Angela was able to summarize the story of her time with Lezvie in under an hour, with much of that time spent repeating herself when Jack expressed disbelief.  When she found herself repeating Lezvie’s decision to help her rescue Tabitha for the third time, her temper finally got the better of her.

“Look, I’ve told you everything, can I please go see him now?”

“It still doesn’t make sense to me.  You haven’t given him anything,” Jack gave her a once-over, as though that were inconceivable, “so why would he risk his life for you?”

“Because he’s a better man than you!”  Angela got to her feet and tried to go out the door.

Jack sprang to his feet, grabbing her arm.  “Hold on, you can’t-”

Then Angela punched him in the face.  He stumbled back in surprise, releasing her arm.  She rushed out the door, ignoring Jack’s cries for her to stop.

“Whoa, there!”  A strong pair of arms caught her, whirling her off balance and knocking her against the wall.  “You can’t go running off.  Jack’s orders.”

Angela glared at the redheaded woman holding her in place.  “Let me go to Lezvie!”

“You can’t go to him, he’s not strong enough for-”

“Not strong enough for visitors?”

Both women turned and stared at Lezvie, who stood in a doorway, leaning heavily on it.  His shirtless torso revealed a bloodstained bandage wrapped around his chest.  “I think Angela’s anger is more dangerous to me than a little early exercise, Ruth.”

Angela shook off Ruth’s grip and rushed to Lezvie, throwing her arms around him.  “Oh, you’re all right, thank God you’re all right!”

He grunted as she squeezed him.  “Easy, Angela.  It’s still fresh.”

“Sorry…”  She eased off, but didn’t let go, leaning her head against his chest.  “I was so scared, Lezvie…”

“I know, little bird.”  He wrapped his arms around her, gently stroking her hair.  “I’m all right.  We’ll all be all right now.”

Jack came out of the interrogation room, muttering and rubbing his jaw.  “Your girl packs a heck of a right hook, Lezvie.”

Lezvie grinned.  “I wouldn’t know, Jack.  What were you trying to pull that she hit you?”

“Trying to keep her away from you,” he replied, chuckling.

“That would do it.”  Lezvie ruffled Angela’s hair.  “She seems to like me for some reason.”

Angela blushed faintly and let go of him.  “Oh, I don’t know, I think I’m entitled to like the guy who’s saved my life and that of my best friend.”

“Yes, I suppose you are.”

Tabitha had followed Jack out of the room by this time, and looked at Lezvie.  “I never thanked you properly for saving me.  Especially since you almost died to do it.”

He smiled.  “It’s just a scratch.  I’ll be fine before long.”

A man in a lab coat came through another door, blinking through his thick spectacles.  “New people.  And Lezvie’s back.  Busy day, hm?”

Lezvie chuckled.  “I think introductions are in order.  Remnants, this is Angela, my traveling companion for the past several months, and Tabitha, her best friend, whom I rescued from the Crimson Talon.  Angela, Tabitha, these are the Remnants.  You’ve met Jack.  He’s the leader, and pilot, whenever they need to fly.

“The redhead is Ruth.  She’s the Remnants’ engineer and cook, the combination of which explains why her whiskey tastes the way it does.”

This got a laugh from all the Remnants, including Ruth.

“The good doctor over here is Neil.  He’s… well, the doctor, obviously.  And the one who is not here is Rodrigo, chief of security.  He was on the ship with Jack when we got picked up.”

Angela nodded.  She remembered him.

And as though his mention summoned him, Rodrigo came running into the room, skidding to a stop, out of breath.  “We’ve got company.  Not sure who it is, but they’ve got vehicles.”

“And that means they’re dangerous.”  Lezvie pushed himself off the wall he was leaning on.  “Come, we best prepare.”

Angela followed him as he moved through the halls of the bunker.  “Lezvie, you’re hurt!  You can’t fight!”

“I have to fight, Angela.  I’m here, I’m fighting.”  He opened the door to the infirmary and picked up his harness, slipping it on.

“You stupid, stubborn man…”  Angela watched him, seeing how even the small movements of dressing brought him pain.  “Let me.”  She walked around behind him and helped him fasten the straps of his harness and affix his knives.

He held still, letting her help.  “Thank you.”

She fastened the last strap, grumbling.  “I can’t believe I’m helping you go fight.”

I think you just can’t resist touching me,” Lezvie said with a cheeky grin.

Angela smacked his arm.  “Honestly, you’re impossible.”  She watched him as he walked down the hallway, still keeping one hand on the wall for balance.  “Completely impossible.  Going to get himself killed.”  She pulled the pistol from her belt and followed him.

If Lezvie insisted on protecting the Bunker, she’d be right there as well, protecting him.

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Slavers, Part 4; Conclusion

But not the end of Lezvie and Angela, don’t worry.

The trio managed to get into the shelter of a nearby cave just before night fell.  Lezvie, despite his initial bravado, slipped into delirium as the pain and blood loss overtook him.  It was a long night, with Angela and Tabitha trying to keep him cool and comfortable.

In the morning, he had regained consciousness, but still only had a fraction of his strength.  “We need… to go to the Bunker.”

“The Bunker?”  Tabitha looked at Angela.  “What’s that?”

“I dunno…”  She looked down at Lezvie.  “Nearly two months we’ve been together and you’ve never mentioned it.  Where is it?  How can it help?”

“There are more people there…  Good people…  I’ve never told you… because I don’t like being in one place…”

“It’s a refuge?  And you thought if you took me there I’d want to stay.”  Angela grinned, brushing a lock of dirty blonde hair out of her eyes.  “You don’t know me all that well.  Which way to the bunker?”

He pushed his sleeve up on his arm, exposing his wristwatch.  The press of one of the buttons switched the display to a compass, with a blue arrow pointing off into the distance.  “Twenty six degrees northwest, about thirty miles from here.”

Angela nodded, then paused, eyeing him.  “Can you walk at all?  Because I don’t think Tabitha and I can carry you.”

Lezvie nodded.  “Help me up?”

Tabitha and Angela got on either side of him, and he got to his feet, swaying, leaning on the two girls.  “Lucky… That we… travel light…”  He panted from the exertion of talking and standing at the same time, the wound in his chest sending sharp pains through him with every breath.

“Shut up and walk,” Angela said, supporting him as best she could.  The three of them began to make their way across the wasteland, towards the Bunker.

They couldn’t keep moving for long.  After only half an hour, Lezvie collapsed, cold sweat on his brow.

“Lezvie!”  Angela grabbed him tighter, cushioning his fall.  “Lezvie, are you all right?”

He groaned, clutching his wound.  “Can’t…  Go on…”

“We have to!  We have to get you to the Bunker!”

“Back… pocket… of my cloak…”

Angela looked for the pocket, and, finding it, pulled out a small silver cube.

“Take it… and go…”  He coughed a few times, blood flecking his lips.  “If you get… within ten miles… squeeze it… and they’ll come…”

“And they can come get you then?”

He nodded.  “Go.  Fly, little bird…”

His pet name for her made a tear run down Angela’s cheek as she considered the possibility that Lezvie might die.  She looked over at Tabitha, squeezing the other girl’s hand.  “Take care of him.”  At Tabitha’s nod, Angela took off, glancing at her compass now and again to make sure she stayed on the right heading.

She ran like the wind, making every effort to live up to Lezvie’s nickname for her.  Her side cramped painfully, and her breath burned painfully in her lungs, but she didn’t dare stop.  Every second that ticked by was another second that could mean Lezvie’s death.

Just when she thought she had reached the limits of her stamina, the cube started buzzing.  She fell to her knees, the air sucking into her lungs painfully.  “Oh, I hope that means I’m in range…”  She squeezed the cube with all her might.

Long moments passed.  Nothing happened.  Tears stung her eyes as she contemplated having to get up and keep running.  She slowly dragged herself to her feet, looking in the direction of the Bunker.  A small black speck, moving across the sky, drew her attention.

“Not a bird…  Too big…  Too steady…”

As she kept watching it, it grew larger, and she could hear a faint whirring sound.  “A helicopter?”

The large aircraft drew closer, something like a cross between a helicopter and an airplane, with a large rotor on top of each wing.  It set down near her, and two men in patchwork survivalist armor disembarked, jogging towards her.

“Who are you?” the larger one demanded, taking the cube from her, “and how did you get Lezvie’s emergency beacon?”

“He sent me…  He’s been hurt.  Shot.  That way.”  She tried to fight her fatigue, gesturing in the direction she had come from.  “He needs you to get him.”

“Lezvie’s been shot?”  The man grabbed her arm and rushed her back to the aircraft.  “C’mon, we’ll get him.”

She let him drag her, too tired to resist him, even had she wanted to.  When they got on board, she pointed them in the direction of Lezvie and Tabitha.  The two-hour run took less than ten minutes in the aircraft.

“There he is!”  Angela pointed out the tree she had left Lezvie under.  The pilot set down close to him, and then the pilot and his partner and Angela rushed out.  The men picked up Lezvie and carried him to the aircraft, and Angela pulled Tabitha along with them.

“How is he?”  Angela asked the other girl as they took off again, squeezing her hand.

“He passed out about twenty minutes ago, but he was still coherent then.”  Tabitha collapsed into a seat, shaking.  “I thought you wouldn’t make it for a while, there…”

Angela hugged her tightly, taking comfort in comforting her.  “They can save him.  He wouldn’t have had us go to them if they couldn’t pull it off.”

Tabitha nodded.  They flew in silence, holding each other for comfort, while the smaller of the two men examined Lezvie’s wound.  The pilot flew the aircraft in through a hole in the top of the mountain, landing it on a concealed platform inside.

As soon as the door opened, a man and a woman with a stretcher whisked Lezvie inside and away.  Angela and Tabitha tried to follow, but the pilot stopped them, directing them to a small room with three chairs and a table.  Once they were seated, he sat across from them.

“My name’s Jack.  I lead the Remnant.”  He leaned forward, his eyes dangerous.  “Now who are you?  I get no word from Lezvie for nearly four months, and all of a sudden you show up with his beacon, and tell me he’s been shot.  There’s a rather interesting story in there somewhere, and I will hear it now.”

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Slavers, Part 3

Tabitha stared at him, her gaze steady despite the fact that she shook.  “How do you know my name?  Who are you?”

Lezvie pulled his knives out of the slaver’s back, cleaning them on the man’s shirt.  “My name is Lezvie.  Angela sent me.”

“Angela?  She’s still alive?”  She watched him, eyeing the knives.

“Very much so.  She’s waiting outside of town while I get you out.”

“Have you and her…?”  Tabitha made a suggestive gesture, watching his expression.

“No.”  He shook his head.  “Our companionship is purely one of company and convenience.  Strength in numbers and all that.”

“Yet you’ll brave the Crimson Talon at her request.”  Tabitha arched an eyebrow at him.

Lezvie had to admire her spunk.  Not two minutes ago she’d been at the mercy of a brutal slaver, yet she could make pointed remarks and cunning observations.  “I can see why Angela likes you.  Come on, someone will probably check on this lout eventually.”

She flushed.  “Could you give me a minute?”

“Right.”  Lezvie slipped out the window and sat on the ledge, looking out at the wasteland as Tabitha put her clothes back on.  She tapped him on the shoulder and he turned back towards her.  “Ready?

“Ready.  How are we going to do this?”

He hopped off the windowsill and grabbed onto the bricks of the wall.  “Wrap your arms around my neck and hold on.”

She obeyed, climbing onto his back and holding onto him as he climbed down.  On the ground, he chuckled faintly.  “It might be easiest if you just stayed there and let me carry you out.  Even with the extra weight, I can move more quietly than the two of us individually.”

“All right…”  She tightened her grip on him, settling into position as he began sneaking from house to house.  Just on the outskirts of the town, a sudden cry from the slaver’s camp made him whirl.  They had been seen.

With a mild oath, Lezvie set Tabitha down.  “Run to the cliff and climb.  I left marks on the path I took.  Angela’s at the top.  I’ll slow them down.”

“But you’ll die!”

“Only if you stay here, distracting me.  Go!”

She scrambled towards the cliff, climbing up it.  Lezvie turned towards the slavers who charged him, drawing his longsword.  “All right, you buggers.  Let’s dance.”

He charged them, meeting them amongst the fires and the dead, his sword reflecting the angry orange lights.  Set against the brutish swings of the slavers, he was a ghost.  Surrounded, outnumbered twenty to one, he remained untouchable.  They fell under his sword, gaping wounds appearing on them.

One of them, draped in the garb of a chieftain, charged him with a pair of katanas.  He was no mere thug.  His opening feint nearly fooled Lezvie; the follow-up strike nearly cost him the fight.

Lezvie, however, had other advantages than his skill.  The slaver chieftain swung, a powerful overhand swing, and Lezvie blocked it.  His sword, made of alien alloy, shattered the chieftain’s blades, leaving the slaver exposed.  Lezvie spilled his guts over the hard ground.

However, skilled as was, he was not invincible; the slavers had firearms.  A bullet grazed his arm, then his leg.  He backed out of the fight, moving towards the cliff.  As soon as he was free, he turned and ran, zig-zagging, trying to avoid the bullets.  He didn’t entirely succeed.

A lucky shot hit him in the back, punching clean through him.  He bit back a cry of pain and scaled the cliff, becoming invisible against the brush and rock.  The slavers kept up their fire for a few more seconds, but soon gave up.

Lezvie dragged himself over the top of the cliff, weak from blood loss and pain.  Angela and Tabitha awaited him, and they pulled him up onto a bedroll they had prepared.  He managed a weak grin.  “Mission accomplished.  Crimson Talon wasn’t so bad after all.”

Part 4

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Slavers, Part 2

The smell of New Phoenix reached them long before they saw it.  The scents of fire and decay swept over them, carried on a cloud of noxious smoke.

“No…”  Angela ran up to the edge of the cliff, staring down at the city.

It was destroyed.  Most of the buildings had been gutted and burned, and the few that remained were surrounded by the tents of the slavers.  Even at this distance, the crackling of the fires and the wailing of the survivors could be heard.

“We’re too late…”  She fell to her knees, sobbing.  “Tabitha…  I couldn’t save her…”

Lezvie stepped up behind her and put a hand on her shoulder.  “She may yet be alive.  The slavers only hit a few hours ago.  If you wanted to save any of the men, I’d say we had arrived too late, but there’s a good chance your friend Tabitha is still alive.”

“Then we can still save her?”  Angela looked up at him, grabbing his hand for reassurance.

“It’s possible.  I’ll do a little recon and see what I can find out.  Describe Tabitha to me.”

“She’s… about my height.  With black hair, and green eyes.  Very pretty.”  She squeezed his hand.  “Please find her.”

He squeezed her hand reassuringly.  “I don’t know what I’ll find.  But if she’s alive, I’ll save her.”  He slipped away and began climbing down the face of the cliff.

As Lezvie climbed, he reflected on how insane this was.  He knew he didn’t stand a chance if he were caught.  The Crimson Talon was all fighters, unlike some gangs that let riff-raff in.  There were enough of them that even his skills and alien blades couldn’t save him.

“So why am I doing this?”  He reached the bottom of the cliff and looked towards the city, automatically plotting routes in and out.  “Because you’re crazy, that’s why.”

There were no guards.  Of course.  You’d have to be stupid or insane to attack the Crimson Talon.  Lezvie chuckled to himself as he slipped from building to ruined building, getting closer to the heart of the city.  Finally he reached a building that did have guards.  Two slavers, leaning against the outside, smoking cigarettes – Lezvie briefly wondered where they had managed to get those – and talking about the various slave girls.

They weren’t really on the lookout for anything, so it was simple enough to get on the far side of the building and slip in through one of the broken windows.  The building was what he had expected it to be.  A chattel house.  The room he was in had mats in one corner, and three young girls were huddled together, sleeping fitfully.  He could see welts and bruises through their tattered clothing.

All three of them were blonde, and, much as he wanted to save them all, rescuing even one was a huge risk.  Two would be impossible.  He crept silently through the first floor of the house, glancing at the girls.  Blonde.  Blonde.  Brunette.  Redhead.  Brunette.  Blonde.

He finally did find a room, the second to last on the first floor, that had three girls with black hair.  As he entered the room, he allowed a floorboard to creak, and clicked on a dim flashlight.  The three girls were startled awake, and whirled to face him.  Blue eyes, blue eyes, and hazel eyes.

The girl with hazel eyes stepped forward hesitantly, squinting into the light.  “You’re… not one of them.  You’re not dressed like them.  But you’re not one of us, either.”

“Right on both counts.  I’m looking for Tabitha.  Do you know where she is?”

The girl hesitated.  “Why?”

“A friend of hers sent me here.  If possible, I’m to rescue her.”

“Just her?”

Lezvie could see the tears in her eyes.  “I’m mad going up against the Crimson Talon as it is.  It would only get me and whoever I tried to rescue killed if I took more than one person.”

She nodded slowly.  “Tabitha’s on the second floor.  Reserved for the boss and his favorites.”

“Thank you.”  Lezvie clicked off the light and slipped away, creeping up the stairs like a wraith.  The second floor had a large central room with smaller rooms all around it.  A large man, presumably the boss, sat on a large chair, watching a slave girl dance.

Skilled as he was, not even Lezvie could move through a brightly lit room crowded with trained fighters without being detected.  He went back downstairs and outside, then climbed the rough brick wall up to the second floor.  Finding an open window was easy, for the night was warm, and the air conditioning probably hadn’t worked even before the Glassing.

He pulled himself into one of the rooms and found that it had two occupants: a young woman, and the man abusing her.

There was no thought, only action.  Lezvie didn’t even appear to move, but the man sprouted two knives from his back, piercing both lungs.  He couldn’t scream.  He collapsed, dead before he hit the ground.  The girl looked at Lezvie in terror, pulling the threadbare sheet over herself.

Lezvie hadn’t been looking at her body, anyway; his focus had been her eyes.  Eyes of piercing green, that looked out from under her long black bangs.

He smiled slightly.  “It’s all right, Tabitha.  I’ve come to rescue you.”

Part 3

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