Wednesday Fiction Is (Belatedly) Here: Post Apocalyptic Chapter 5

Sorry for the delay on this one, but I already gave my reasoning for that in my post I made yesterday. It is now, however, here and I am much happier with this iteration than I was of last night’s.

Things are really starting to pick up in this piece. Plots are starting to take form and serious things are starting to surface. Click here to go and read “Chapter 5: Weird”.

Also, 40k fans, do not worry! There will still be 40k Thursday today. I will be posting later on starting a tactica series for a new faction, partially because I’ve had enough of Space Marines and partially… Well… Mostly because I’ve had enough of Space Marines. When I come up with more army lists I will post them up, but I feel that there is a decent tactica base there for now. Next faction I cover will be… Well, I don’t actually know yet. We’ll just have to see!

Wednesday Fiction: It’s Not Here! (Yet)

I will make this post brief. I was writing parts of my post-apocalyptic fiction as I often do on Wednesday, but I then looked at the clock, realised that it was getting late and was not happy with what I had. Therefore, I will be posting it up tomorrow (well, technically later today) in addition to the impending 40k article.

So, not much else to say for now. Expect two posts tomorrow!

Wednesday Fiction: Post-Apocalyptic Chapter 4

Don’t worry, it’s a short one after the behemoth of a chapter that was posted last week. The intensity hasn’t quite toned down (made some minor edits to chapter 3 as well!) though there will be some plot consolidation next week. A lot of questions unanswered will be answered, or at least hinted to 😉

As always, you can find the chapter in its position in the Original Fiction section at the top. Or you could click this handy link. That works too.

Chapter 3: Old Business

Eleanor’s eyes flickered open into a bright light, bringing her hand up to shield her face from the sudden change in ambience. She felt like she had been run over or trampled by an entire gang of raiders. Her head throbbed with pain, her limbs ached as if she had just done the mother of all gym work outs and her chest felt as if her rib cage was pressing hard against her lungs and heart. Sweat had formed across her brow, though that could have been the heat as much as anything else.

“Shit,” came a male voice, followed by the shuffling of feet, “sleeping beauty’s finally awake.” The voice sounded familiar and the tone seemed to have equal parts light hearted to concern, like some sort of odd, exotic cocktail that she would rather be sipping on a pre-end of the world beach. Somewhere in Florida. St Pete Beach, perhaps?

“Unexpected, but nothing to fret over. She should be fine, there aren’t any wounds to speak of, so she probably just forgot to stay hydrated or something,” came another, different male voice. This one was tired and seemingly apathetic, though that was not the feeling that Eleanor garnered from the man’s tone. Tired, maybe, but not uncaring.

“Hey, Ellie? Can you hear me? Can you see my face?” came the first voice as a blurry outline of a man’s head came into view. Eleanor tried to focus, but the blurriness did not appear to fade.

“Zack? That you?” she hazarded as her eyes tried to clear away the blurry mass of out of focus human face.

“Oh thank God,” he uttered with a sigh of relief, his head hanging so all she could see now was his shaved head. “What happened to you out there? What was in the house?” he asked, looking back at her now, concern all over his face.

Eleanor paused for a moment, thinking back to what happened in the house. She frowned. “It was empty. Asshole who gave me the job had his information messed up.”

“So how come we found you a few blocks away just passed out on the side of the road? What happened to you?”

“Dehydration. I don’t fucking know,” she retorted in an irritated fashion, though raising her voice caused aches in her chest to flare up so she brought the volume back down to a quiet, calm level. “I went to the house, there was nothing there so I started on my way back. Collapsed a few blocks from here and that’s the fucking tale. I didn’t drink enough water, big fucking deal.”

“It is a big fucking deal, Ellie,” Zack replied, gripping the side of the table that she lay on so hard that the edge of it started to crack. He quickly loosened his grip and took a deep breath. “People die out there due to dehydration all the time. You would have too if I hadn’t decided to check up on you.”

“Check up on me?” Ellie spoke out immediately as he finished his sentence. Even though it pained her to do so, she pushed herself into a seated position, though the other man immediately rushed over and steadied her as she wobbled from side to side. “Check up on me?” her voice grew louder and more aggressive. “I’m not some fucking child that needs to be watched and checked up on. I’m a gun for hire! I settle my own shit so well that other people hire me to settle their own! And you presume that I need ‘checking up on’?”

“Ellie, you know I didn’t…”

“Didn’t what, hm?” she interrupted, locking eyes with his, though hers were still slightly wild and out of focus. She could at least clearly make out his features now. “Didn’t think before you opened that big, stupid mouth of yours? Didn’t think that I was capable because I’m a woman? Fuck off.” She shoved at his chest, her hand impacting with the cool surface of his metal armour, though she immediately withdrew it and cradled her forearm. She still ached all over and getting worked up over Zack’s words had brought no small amounts of pain and it showed in her face. She allowed the other man to slowly lower her back down into a lying position. She turned her head to face away from Zack.

There was a brief moment of silence before she heard the sound of his metallic boots impacting with the floor of the house, before finally she head the door close. She turned her head again to look at the door, a lone tear streaking down her cheek before she closed her eyes and allowed herself to drift off to sleep again.

When she awoke, the house was empty. She pushed herself up into a seated position, despite the aches, and rotated so that she was sitting with her legs dangling over the edge of the table. Her vision had cleared up at least, she could identify medical supplies left on surfaces and in half open drawers, as well as what seemed to be a door that led to a bedroom of sorts. She got to her feet slowly, her quads aching as they took her weight. She felt at her waist, her holster was not attached to her thigh. Where the fuck did they put my gun? That should be the first problem to solve, she thought to herself. She pressed her hands to her chest, and my protective vest. Fuck. No sooner had she started to look around than a curious face poked around the corner of the bedroom door.

“Up and about already?” the face asked as the man rounded the door. It was the same man as before.

“Look, I just want my stuff and then I’ll be out of your hair, okay?” she answered, taking a step backwards, as if she was intruding on his property. The man smiled. He was older than her, age lines had long started to form on his face, with short, greying hair and a dirty lab coat. His appearance was smart, especially by contemporary standards.

“The man who was in here earlier is taking care of your belongings,” the man replied with a shrug, “if you want your stuff back, you should go talk to him.”

Great, she thought to herself, her expression dropping. She did not leave Zack on the best of terms when they conversed earlier.

“Oh, and don’t worry about the cost of care. Your friend took care of that too.”

Eleanor visibly recoiled from the statement, biting her lip and making her way for the door as fast as was comfortable. She opened the door and hurried out onto the street. She instantly knew where she was. Denver. Jameson ran his operation from Denver and had a lot of influence. This was a place where she did not wish to be. At least the problem was simple: find Zack, recover her belongings, get the hell out of dodge. Simple.

She made her way through what remained of the streets, weaving through side streets to avoid as much of the open area that she could. Reducing the chances of running into one of Jameson’s goons meant that the chances of him learning of her presence in the city were also reduced. There was not much going on, a few locals going about their daily routines, travellers bartering with merchants for food or ammunition, among other items though food and ammunition were the most valuable commodities that everybody wanted these days. She made her way to the local bar, the Denver Drop, with little problem or even interaction with others. The bar was fairly empty. Must be around midday, considering the number of clients, she thought to herself, looking around at each patron. It did not take her long to find Zack, his metallic armour made him incredibly easy to spot.

She pulled up a stool next to him, about to call the bartender over until she realised that she had nothing to barter with at the moment, so she settled next to Zack and rested her arm on the bar, staring at him. He continued to drink what remained of his beverage, placing the cup down on the bar with a heavy thud before returning the stare.

“Don’t give me that look,” Zack started, though Eleanor’s pent up anger remained evident.

“You have my stuff. I want it back.”

“Too bad.”

“Too bad?” Eleanor replied, her hand clenching into a tight fist. “What do you mean, ‘too bad’?”

“I mean, too bad. You’re not getting it.”

She considered punching him. The thought crossed her mind many times, but she held herself back and took a deep breath.

“Why not?”

“Because you’ll go off and do something stupid. Again,” Zack replied dryly, keeping eye contact with her. He was far more calm in this situation than her and his expression showed it.

“My affairs are my business. Not yours. Not anybody else’s. They are mine.”

“Yeah, well I’m making them my business too.” Zack sighed, shaking his head. “You can’t just pull this shit and expect your friends to stand by and watch you kill yourself. We’re obviously going to intervene.”

“You think I’m going to kill myself? Shit, Zack, you know I’d never hurl myself off a building or anything like that.”

“That’s not what I’m worried about. Your antics just outside of town are a prime example of what I’m worried about.”

“Look, I did something stupid, but not packing enough water is not exactly something that I’ll be repeating.”

The two of them fell silent, the conversations of other patrons filling the ambience with drunken words of jobs gone wrong or bad trades. The only people in the bar at this time were generally down-and-outs; failed entrepreneurs or mercenaries too injured to continue.

“Fine. Keep my stuff. Like I give a fuck; just stay out of my business in future,” Eleanor broke the silence, standing up from her chair with a pronounced thud from her boots impacting with the wooden floors. “My business is mine, and mine alone. Not yours, not anyone fucking else’s, ok?”

“Not strictly true, Ms. Carter,” came a man’s voice voice from behind the two of them. Unfortunately, it was one that Eleanor recognised. She turned around with a reluctant and nervous smile.

“Harley, long time no see, huh?” she replied with a forced, friendly tone. Harley was not a large man, around the same height as Eleanor but almost twice as wide with pasty, pale skin, blonde hair slicked back and empty blue eyes. “How’s Jameson doing?” she asked, keeping her distance from him. He was flanked by a larger man with a more tanned colouring and a shaved head much like Zack. They were both wearing expensive looking body armour with stock-less, pump action shotguns in hand. Harley rested his shotgun on his shoulder.

“Ask him yourself. You have an appointment right about now.”

Eleanor laughed nervously, shaking her head and holding her hands up in a non-threatening manner. “I don’t know what you mean, Harley. My business with Jameson was concluded.”

“He doesn’t seem to think so. Word is that you burned him on the last job.”

“Look, Harley, it was simply business. He was the one who burned me, I just wanted the payment that we had already agreed on. I’ll just get out of Denver; Jameson won’t hear from me again.” She started to make her way around them and to the door when Harley lowered his shotgun and pointed it directly at her.

“That’s a no-go, Ms. Carter,” he replied, causing Zack to slowly move his hand towards the shotgun on his leg, though the other man instantly pointed his at Zack, causing him to stop and retract his hand, raising them in a non-threatening manner much like Eleanor had. “Jameson pens you in for an appointment, you go to the appointment or you get a chest full of lead. That’s how this works,” Harley continued, his tone far more threatening and sinister than it had been before. Eleanor stopped in her tracks, looking over at Zack who was obviously sizing up the two of Jameson’s goons for a fight. Stop me from doing something stupid, huh Zack?

“Fine. I’ll go.” She sent Zack a quick shake of the head as the two goons flanked her and grabbed her by the arms. She shook them off, glaring at them both before going along with them on her own accord.

The walk to Jameson’s dwelling was not long. Eleanor was escorted at gun point through the streets, earning sympathetic, yet wary looks from the merchants and their customers, as well as the locals. She was occasionally shoved forwards as a reminder of where she was and where she was going, every time replying with some snarky comment about how chivalry was dead or how ungentlemanly the two enforcers were.

They arrived at the front door and the enforcers showed her the way in. Jameson had taken up residence in what had obviously belonged to an affluent family before the end of the world, though it did not take long for the two enforcers to lead her to the door of Jameson’s office, open it and then shove her through before following in themselves. Jameson was a stocky man, his dark skin tone colliding with his off-white suit. It was clear that he was wearing some sort of protective vest beneath it. He had a lot of enemies, such as Eleanor, so the protection was perhaps a good idea.

“Ah, Ellie, I’m so glad you could make it on such short notice,” he started, standing over by the door that led on to the balcony outside and smoking what appeared to be a cigar.

Eleanor brushed herself off, a frown across her face. “Cut the bullshit, Jameson,” she retorted, glaring daggers at him. “And don’t call me that.”

Jameson turned to face her, flashing a yellow grin at her and beckoning her forwards. Harley motioned her forward with his shotgun and she started to walk towards him, eventually taking position about four metres from Jameson by the window. “Come on, Ellie. Is that really a way to greet a friend?” he asked, blowing smoke out the door and into the outside air.

“You are not my friend, you piece of shit,” she answered, earning her a hard smack to the back of her shoulder from Harley. She still ached and the hit to her shoulder did not help. Jameson frowned and shook his head.

“You see where I am now, Ellie? I pretty much run this place. Denver is my little slice of heaven in the wasteland,” he said with a proud tone, “I am its leader, its ruler; its president, if you’re feeling old-fashioned.” He flashed a toothy, yellow grin again.

“Yeah, well to me you’re still just street scum. Nothing but a fucking thorn in the side of honest people.”

“And you would classify yourself as one of these ‘honest people’?”

Eleanor broke out into a loud laugh at the concept.

“Fuck no!” she replied through the laughing, bringing her laughter back in check, “but at least I’m not a fucking parasite on society.” Jameson’s expression dropped, turning to face her with an anger all over his face. Eleanor grinned at him. “Tell me, how many cocks did you suck to get your position? Ten? Twenty?”

She was interrupted by a solid thump on the back of her head as Harley slammed the butt of his shotgun into the back of her head. “You dare speak to Mr. Jameson in such a way, you insignificant little wasteland rat!” he yelled as he stepped forwards for another hit, his shotgun raised. She fell forwards, bracing herself on the edge of the door, on the other side from Jameson, dazed and disorientated.

Jameson held a hand up, stopping Harley in his tracks.

“Ellie, you are trying my patience. If you keep this up, I will rescind my offer.”

Ellie was still trying to get her bearings as Jameson waited for a response. The blow would have been enough for her to lose consciousness in this state, but she held onto consciousness through sheer determination bolstered by her absolute hatred for these individuals.

“You still have a place at my side, if you can learn to behave yourself,” Jameson continued, walking over to his desk and stubbing out his cigar. He straightened his suit as he walked back over to the door where Eleanor had struggled back to her feet. “You would be the most powerful woman in Colorado. Think about it. Think about what I am offering you, despite your constant and unsolicited hostility towards me.”

“And all I need to do,” she spoke through the disorientation, her eyes out of focus for the second time that day, “is be an obedient, good little wife and kiss your nut sack twice a day. Fuck that.” Asher eyes came back into focus she shot him a hostile expression. “We all know how this is going to end, so just fucking get it over with and kill me before I hurt your pride even more.”

Jameson sighed, shaking his head and walking onto the balcony. He gestured for his enforcers to follow and, naturally, Eleanor as well. The two enforcers dragged her out to the balcony, following Jameson to the edge. She could see for a long way from the balcony, overlooking the town square. Denver may have been a city once, but with the way it was it could no longer be defined as one.

And by contrast, most of the population could see her.

“Didn’t want to have to do this, Ellie, but this was your choice, not mine.” He signalled at his two enforcers who forced her to her knees. She gazed out to the streets below. People were starting to look up at her now. “Got to make an example of you.”

Great, she thought to herself, summary execution in front of a crowd. I’m sure my brains will make a fine decoration for the walls.

The two enforcers held her there. Jameson loosened his belt. Eleanor’s eyes widened with terror.

Oh. Oh fuck no. This isn’t happening. You’re killing me right here, right now you fucker or not at all.

She sent her fist hard into Jameson’s crotch.

Harley’s going to raise his shotgun.

Her hand other hand darted to intercept Harley almost instinctively. She grabbed the barrel and swung it away from her face, the shot taking a chunk out of the floor and shaking her grip from it with a jolt as Jameson stumbled backwards, holding his crotch as one may cradle a child, his face now covered by agony.

Harley’s holster is shitty quality. He still needs to pump. Big and tall should be swinging right about now.

She ripped Harley’s pistol from its holster with the hand she had struck Jameson with. She pointed it behind her, under her opposite armpit and pulled the trigger. A scream of pain. The clatter of metal hitting the floor. The sound of an empty shell casing hitting the floor.

Harley’s pumped.

She swung around, taking a stronger kneeling position.

They wear expensive armour.

She pulled the trigger. The loud bang that exploded from the muzzle of the pistol drowned out the sound as the contents of Harley’s skull sprayed from the back of his head and ran down the wall behind him.

Not finished yet.

She got to her feet, adrenaline had long since numbed the aches and pains. The other enforcer was reaching for his shotgun. Eleanor stepped on his wrist with a heavy stomp.

Not today.

She pulled the trigger. The enforcer’s brains exploded against the floor, fragments of grey matter and bone spraying away from the trajectory of the bullet and, fortunately, away from Eleanor. Her attention turned to Jameson, who had pulled himself up on the edge of the balcony. He was reaching inside his jacket.

Eleanor rushed over to him, sending a powerful punch across his jaw, forcing him to the floor. His hand was still in his jacket.

I’m going to make a fucking example of you, you pile of shit.

She reached inside his jacket, wrestling his pistol from his grasp with ease. The doors to the room inside swung open.

Like lambs to the fucking slaughter.

She darted to the door, both pistols in hand.

Two more.

She unloaded the contents of both pistols into the oncoming enforcers, the bullets impacting against the walls. Against the enforcers’ bodies. They dropped in pools of their own blood.

She looked back at Jameson who was still clearly in a lot of pain, blood now streaming from his lip where Eleanor had hit him. She dropped the pistols and picked up a shotgun as she walked past the now headless remains of Harley and the other enforcer. It was Harley’s. Pre-pumped.

“Hey, listen, I…”

Eleanor slammed the butt of the shotgun into Jameson’s chest, cutting him off.

“No. You listen to me you sack of shit!” she countered, slinging the shotgun across her shoulder and grabbing him by the collar. “You should have just fucking killed me. I should have just fucking killed you last time too, we all make mistakes.”

Jameson raised his hands submissively as she slammed his back on to the floor, his head now hanging over the edge of the balcony where the railing had broken. “I never meant…”

She punched him again, hard. A trail of blood exiting his nose as it moved out of place. Eleanor recognised the look in his eyes. It was the same look that he had the last time the two of them met. Fear. She would not be so merciful this time. Not after what he tried to do.

“Shut up!” she screamed at him, shoving him further over the edge so that his head hung backwards. “You see down there? Those are honest people!”

She pulled him up again, his eyes locking with hers once again. Murderous rage had long since flooded her and her eyes showed it.

“Me? I do the dirty work so that these people can continue living honest lives!”

She aggressively slammed his body down on the wooden floor of the balcony. A fairly large number of people could be seen down below.

“And you?” she started, stomping her foot down hard on his chest, again and again, as hard as she could. She stopped after a short while and took the shotgun from its position slung over her shoulder into her hands as she heard and felt his bones fracturing. “You are a parasite who preys on these honest people. Using people like me.”

She fired. His chest exploded into a mess of bone and sinew.

She was breathing heavily now, staring at the bloody mess that used to be Jameson. She felt a tear run down her cheek. She dropped the shotgun.

More footsteps, this time quieter than before. They were moving in quietly this time.

Shit. I need to get the fuck out of here.

The drop was not far from the balcony, but the fall would break bones for sure. She could probably survive it, but it would leave her at the mercy of the remnants of Jameson’s goons. That was not something that she wished.

One of the enforcers barrelled through the door, a broad shouldered woman with a black mohawk adorning her head. She eyed Jameson’s corpse, then Eleanor, horror spread across her face.

“I’ll see you dead for this, bitch!” she yelled, levelling her pistol and squeezing the trigger, sending a bullet that shot past Eleanor’s ear.

It’s now or never.

Eleanor dropped from the balcony, holding onto the edge. She heard the sound of the woman running across the wooden floor above.

Eleanor let go.

She dropped past the window below and grabbed onto the outer window sill, though she was unable to get a proper grip on it. It did its job, however, breaking the speed of her descent at that point. She continued to fall the last story, impacting with the ground with a thud. It was a jarring thud that hurt like hell, but Eleanor did not have the luxury of waiting the pain out. Another bullet impacted near her. The woman was aiming at her from above.

Eleanor struggled to her feet and ran into the crowd. She heard enforcers chasing from the house, but the crowd seemed to make room for her, only to fill up behind her. Jameson had few friends amongst the common people it seemed.

She ran as fast as she could back to the bar where she had left Zack. Her heart pounded in her chest. Her blood was pumping.

Zack was still there, this time playing cards with two other men around a small table. She darted to the table and slammed her hand down in front of him, her breathing was incredibly heavy now.

“What’s up?” Zack inquired, a cautious look on his face.

“I really, really need my stuff back. Now.”

Chapter 2: The Importance of Homework

The house was no better kept than any other house in the wastes. The walls were a patchwork of old woodwork and metal plates welded together where the original construction had not endured the harsh test of time. There was little indication as to what the original colour of the house was, patches of beige remained on the walls, though it was largely discoloured due to a combination of age and disrepair. The windows were just empty squares set into the walls covered by more sheet metal or wooden planks. It was obvious that someone lived here and that this certain someone did not wish to be bothered by others.

Eleanor rumbled up on her ATV and parked by the wide of the road, just beyond a waist-high wall that marked the edge of what used to be the front garden. The road was devoid of any life beyond the occasional pest scuttling across the street. The other houses were abandoned and in a similar state to the one that Eleanor had pulled up outside of.

“Creepy,” Eleanor muttered to herself, removing her goggles from her eyes and resting them near the top of her forehead, “you’d think that there’d at least be squatters.” She shook her head as she walked through the gap where undoubtedly a gate used to be. “I guess paranoid ramblings have more weight with some than they do with me.”

She took out her revolver as she opened the front door, slowly following the angle with the barrel of her handgun. The interior was empty, streaks of natural light penetrated the cracks in the walls leaving visible trails of clear light lancing through the otherwise dark interior. The interior was as dilapidated as the outside, wallpaper largely non-existent where it used to be. The furniture, or what remained of it, was quaint, mostly of wooden construction and covered in dirt and dust. She clambered her way up a mostly collapsed staircase to find that the upstairs was largely the same. It appeared as if nobody lived here.

Eleanor frowned. There were a few aspects of the house that did not make sense.

Firstly, she noted that the interior looked largely abandoned, though the exterior screamed of occupation. The patch job was a clear indicator that someone was living there. However, she guessed that there was the possibility that the previous occupants had been turfed out by raiders or some other gang of degenerates.

However, the second aspect was one that sent the shiver down her spine; or rather, it was the shiver down her spine that was the aspect itself. As soon as she had walked into the seemingly abandoned house she felt uneasy, it was a feeling that could only be described as intuition; a feeling that something was not quite right about this place. She quickly dismissed this, however, as nothing more than a unconscious reaction to the ridiculous rumours that had been spread around.

Thirdly, the area was totally abandoned and had an eerie silence about it. Had she arrived just after a raider hit? Some tribes had different methods of clearing unguarded areas, some left nothing in their wake but this kind of eerie silence. Eleanor concluded that was the case at least. On her way back downstairs, Eleanor decided to make a quick sweep of the house to try and find anything worth looting. If the job was a hoax or if the information was inaccurate, then at least she would get some sort of payment for her time.

The house was clean in that regard, for the most part, the upstairs containing nothing of value. The water still worked, but it was obviously coming from a supply that had not been cleaned, the level of corruption in the water made it completely unusable. She had no more luck downstairs either, no items of worth remained in the house beyond a pack of cigarettes that contained just one. She could barter with it for something small, perhaps, but nothing much. The kitchen was slightly better, containing a few cans of what looked like cat food and a few sealed packs of something. They looked like military ration packs, designed to withstand anything. A brilliant find.

Cheerfully, Eleanor started to leave, her leather satchel full of her new bounty. She stopped dead in her tracks when her boot clacked against the floor, uncharacteristic and different to the rest of her footsteps. Most people would not have noticed, the change in tone was minor, but Eleanor froze up for a moment. She looked at the floor beneath her boot heel. It seemed completely normal, no differences at all from the rest of the floor. She dropped to her hands and knees and started to feel around the area, knocking on the floor to see the differences as she moved. There was a metre square of hollow ground, but no obvious way to open it. Eleanor took out her knife, a thin, easily concealable blade that she kept in a sheath on her boot, and started to try and pry at the edges.

The square came loose.

She pulled it up and out after placing her knife back into its sheath, revealing a small ladder that went into a dark, but seemingly illuminated area below. Revolver in hand, she dropped quickly through the hole and onto the dusty, concrete floor below with a clack. There was a man with thinning, blonde hair standing by a table in a black vest and a pair of khaki trousers. His shoes were worn and mirrored the state of the house above quite well. His skin was pale. He looked as if he hadn’t seen the sun in years. Perhaps he was a surviving vampire? If that was the case, she was in trouble, but flight was not an option considering it would take her a while to get back up the ladder and this man undoubtedly knew that she was here after her drop into the basement. There was only one course of action available to her.

Also, vampires were generally a lot more subtle as they did not have the luxury of magic to protect them like their persecuted friends.

Eleanor grinned, raising her pistol and taking aim at the man. This bounty was going to be a cake-walk after all.

She pulled back the hammer, took aim and squeezed the trigger.

There was a loud bang, then nothing. The man still stood above the table, working on whatever it was that he was doing. There was no impact. Eleanor felt like her heart stopped abruptly in her chest. She squeezed the trigger again. And again. Nothing.

Three bullets. Three bullets and nothing. I bet you’re really fucking proud of yourself you smug bastard, she thought to herself, squeezing the trigger again and again until all that happened was the gun clicked with each successive pull of the trigger. She wanted to pull out her knife and finish the job that she had accepted, but she couldn’t move her arms. The man turned around. His vest was caked in blood on the front, though his hands were spotless. He grinned and ran a hand through his wispy blonde hair.

“Didn’t believe the stories, eh?” he beamed, confidence radiating off him almost as permeable as the actual aura that radiated from him. She could see the six bullets that she had fired hovering in mid air, just in front of his chest. “You really need to do your homework, Mrs. Carter.” He chuckled quietly to himself at the irony of the statement, since Eleanor had been a University lecturer before the world ended.

She dropped her revolver; again, she did not want to, but regardless she did. She tried to move her fingers, but her hands remained motionless. She felt the compulsion to drop to her knees; she resisted with every fibre in her body, causing the man to look at her with a curious expression for a moment. She eventually fell to her knees.

“Should I call you Mrs. Carter, or is it technically Miss. Bennett? You’re not exactly an official divorcee after all,” he grinned at her once again.

She was totally helpless. All she seemed in control of was her face and voice.

“Not surprised a fuck-up like you doesn’t understand how relationships work,” she spat at him, her tone venomous. She knew that she was going to die, an unprepared wastelander like her could not fight against a sorcerer who had managed to survive until this day. Weak magic users had a tendency to meet an unpleasant end, whether at the hands of an angry animal, a mob riled up by a religious cult or a gun for hire such as Eleanor. This one, however, was way out of her league.

He frowned for a moment, observing his would-be hunter with a patronising air about him.

“Uh huh. Says the woman who abandoned her children. Says the woman who gives an absolutely wonderful example to them even after having abandoned them. You’re a great role model to them, getting pissed at the local bar, starting fights, using your friends like they are merely a material asset to be used and discarded once they have been used up,” he replied with a largely sarcastic tone to his voice. He glared daggers at the woman, who merely returned an apathetic expression.

“How about you shut the fuck up about shit that you don’t know anything about,” she ordered aggressively, though the man just sighed and shook his head, walking up beside her, then behind her. She could feel her hand reaching down to her boot and taking out her knife. She wanted to pull it out, but this was not of her own volition; if it was, the movement would have been a lot faster and would have been placed firmly into this man’s neck by now. The movement was slow, almost lethargic as she drew the blade up to her neck, pressing the steel against her tanned skin. She was breathing faster now.

“You speak as if I haven’t already been inside your head and taken everything I want to know about you. You speak as though I’m not still in there, stringing your body along like a puppet,” he crouched behind her as she pressed the knife against her neck harder, beads of crimson blood running along the blade. “I could make you kill yourself right here in an instant. I could force you to kill yourself slowly whilst playing Mozart on your nerve endings to make you feel everything ten times stronger. I can make you do anything and you still try my patience.”

He placed one hand on her back and one on her forehead, holding her firmly with her head against his chest. “So I’ll just get this over with now to spare us both the embarrassment.”

She dropped the knife to the floor, her neck still bleeding mildly from where she had pushed it against her skin too hard. She felt nothing as her arm went limply to her side.

Then an excruciating pain that started from her head and lanced through her body. She screamed in agony, though there was no one around to hear. It was unbearable.

It did not take long for everything to go dark. Her body shut down.

Chapter 1: Whiskey in the Wastes

Gratuitous amounts of clothes shopping (well… online window-shopping. I can’t afford to buy myself more clothes just yet) has led me into a post-apocalyptic mood. This is in the same world as my modern day fantasy that I am working on (the one where I am at about 21k words so far. Watch this space!) but is a few years in the future. I will try to post up a chapter each week, but knowing me that may not happen. Regardless, I’m going to try it. Here is the first chapter! I stayed up late to write this and need to be awake in 6 hours!


 

The wastelands of the old United States of America were a curious place. The harsh, unforgiving climate could kill an unprepared individual, primarily through dehydration. The wildlife could kill an unprepared individual, creatures that used to be harmless having mutated and changed into far more threatening visages of their former selves. The locals could kill an unprepared individual, no shortage of bandits and raiders in the large absence of law enforcement who would murder and rob as they desired. More dangerous than the rest, however, were the dimensional instabilities that could kill anyone who strayed to close, reckless usage of magic and the occult sciences by the world’s governments had destabilised the entire planet. However, even in such a hostile environment, the human race trundled along as it always had. People banded together into convoys or settlements. Traders and merchants travelled around peddling their merchandise to those who needed them. Volunteer militias fought back the perils of the wastes, keeping the less physically capable as safe as they can. Human society still functioned, more or less, in spite of everything fate had thrown at it.

“So I told him that if he wanted to leave with his pride intact, he’d cough up double the original fee,” Eleanor laughed as she spoke, taking a sip from her glass of whiskey once she had finished. She was a fairly small individual, a petite woman in her late twenties with tanned, olive skin, chestnut eyes and shoulder length brown hair tied into a messy ponytail. Her voice was soft and well-spoken, her English accent rather out of place in the messy, American wasteland tavern. However, for all of her differences to the rest of the clientèle, she had an equal number of similarities; she was dressed in a pair of fitted black trousers and a ragged grey short sleeved t-shirt lay underneath a black protective vest. Black, leather combat boots adorned her feet and her right hand nestled inside a black leather glove; her left hand was wrapped in a red fabric and on her forehead was a pair of biker goggles. At her waist rested a Colt Python, stainless steel with a six inch barrel. Her demeanour was crude, though with subtle, refined undertones in the way she acted and spoke.

“And? Did he?” Zack inquired curiously, his dark blue eyes meeting hers. He was larger than Eleanor, slightly older too, though he was far from imposing in stature, his head completely devoid of hair though one could tell from his eyebrows that his natural colour was not that different from Eleanor’s. Unlike Eleanor and her well-spoken English, his Minnesota accent not too alien in what used to be Colorado, though nobody paid any attention, too busy with their own companions, alcohol, problems, or all of the aforementioned items. He wore brazen, metallic armour from his neck down to his feet that looked like it had been largely cobbled together; well cobbled together, but cobbled nonetheless. He had a sawed-off shotgun at his hip and a tan Scar-H slung across his back, both of which looked used, but meticulously maintained.

Eleanor grinned as she placed her glass down on the counter. “He almost threw the money at me. He was a desperate man indeed.”

“You know his reputation, right?” Zack warned, swirling his scotch and peering at the bottom. The glass was dirty, old drink stains along the bottom, though by the standards of the wastes it was not of Zack’s concern. “Jameson’ll come after you like a man possessed. He’s got the resources to just throw hired goons at you until you’re dead.”

Her grin did not fade as she shrugged. “Don’t care,” she replied crisply, holding her now empty glass up to get the bartender’s attention and ultimately refill her glass. He was a fat man in a simple, hooded coat and white slacks that looked like they had seen better days, even by contemporary standards. “I got to punch that arrogant son of a bitch in the face. I can die satisfied,” she continued as the bartender walked by to fill her glass again. She pulled a small box of hand-loaded shotgun shells to the bar and slid them across to the bartender with a smile. “Should pack enough punch penetrate most armour and severely mess up any trouble makers underneath. Just keep giving me your empties and drinks at your bar and I’ll keep you stocked up.” The bartender took the small box with a grunt and walked off in the other direction. Eleanor faced Zack once more, his expression far more serious than hers.

“Ellie,” he started, his tone dropping to a sombre one, “if you keep being as careless as you have been, you’re going to drive yourself to an early grave and leave your kids without a mother.”

Eleanor froze up at the words, staring into her drink. It was not a subject she wished to discuss.

“Ellie?” Zack pressed the matter, though he was met by an angry glare from Eleanor.

“They already don’t.”

An awkward silence hung over the pair like a bad stench as they both faced the bar again.

“I got another job lined up, you know?” Eleanor eventually broke the silence as she took another sip from her drink. “Some nut-job is holed up in a house to the west, near the ruins of Denver. Being paid to put a bullet in his head.”

“What has he done to piss your employer off?” Zack inquired quickly, eager to avoid another awkward moment.

“Apparently it’s a rogue wizard. I reckon it’s just some asshole with a hard-on for fire.”

“What did,” Zack started, though he bit his tongue. “What if it really is a rogue wizard? Do you have a plan?”

“Yeah.”

“What are you planning on doing?”

“I plan on putting three bullets in his head.”

“Ellie…”

The pair were interrupted as a tattooed man in a leather vest barged up to the bar next to Eleanor, causing a large amount of her drink to relocate to the front of her vest and trousers. She turned slowly and deliberately to face the man, an irritated expression on her face. He was scruffy, long, dark hair and a bushy beard hid most of his face, though she could make out what seemed to be the man’s eyes and fixed her gaze on them.

“Excuse me?” she uttered aggressively in a bid to get his attention.

He did not acknowledge her, merely ordering a beer from the bartender.

“I said, excuse me!” she raised her voice, grabbing onto the man’s arm. He turned to meet her gaze, shaking her grip from his arm.

“What’s your issue?” he replied nonchalantly.

“I believe you owe me a drink,” Eleanor replied curtly, holding up her almost empty whiskey glass.

“I don’t owe you shit,” the man snarled, picking up his own drink.

“Ellie,” Zack started putting a hand on her shoulder, “let’s just go.”

She pushed his hand from her shoulder. “No, that’s not how this works.” She turned back to the bearded man, her eyes still scornful. “See, you barged past me and knocked my drink down the front of me. Therefore you owe me a drink.”

“I said, I don’t owe you shit, bitch,” the bearded man responded, taking a sip from his beer and looming over her. He was larger than Eleanor, though that was not a feat in itself.

Eleanor threw a punch at the man’s face, causing the man to drop his beer, the bottle shattering on the floor as he staggered backwards from the blow, sending old wooden stools cascading to the side. “I believe that makes us even,” she mumbled, downing the rest of her whiskey and depositing the glass back on the counter.

“I’m going to wreck that pretty smile of yours!” the man yelled as he charged at her, fists clenched and angry expression on his face. Another individual had also started to make his way towards Eleanor, his stride aggressive and his glare menacing.

“Now look at what you’ve done,” Zack muttered quietly, stepping in between the new combatant and Eleanor.

The large, bearded man grabbed onto Eleanor and swung her around with little effort, slamming her down onto the surface of the bar with a dull thud. As he raised his fist, Eleanor brought her right leg up forcefully, kicking the man in the groin as he loomed over her. In that instant he let go and stumbled back again, holding his crotch and staggering in pain. As she got to her feet once again she could see that Zack was having no problem with the additional two that had rallied to the large bearded man’s side, one already out cold and the other pinned under Zack’s armoured gauntlet.

He turned to face the now standing Eleanor and shook his head. “I don’t care the predicament, but that ain’t a place to kick a man. Ever.”

Eleanor chuckled quietly as she approached the bearded man, who was now propped up against a table, his pained expression visible even beneath the mass of hair as he tried to recover from the blow. “Fighting honourably is for gentlemen and wannabe knights. Do I look like either?” she asked rhetorically as she approached the man who was now holding up a hand in submission. Eleanor smirked briefly before bringing a strong right hook into contact with the man’s jaw. He collapsed to the ground, out cold. Zack had ended his fight moments earlier, his eyes fixed behind Eleanor.

She turned to see the bartender, pump shotgun raised and pointed straight at her. She raised her hands and smiled.

“Robbie, baby,” she started with a nervous chuckle, “you wouldn’t shoot a lady with her own ammunition, right?”

The bartender shrugged, his gun still trained on her. “Why not?” Zack’s hand had found its way to his sawed-off shotgun.

“Come on,” Eleanor continued, a friendly smile on her face, “that’d just be wrong, you know?”

“Would it? Do I look like a wannabe knight to you?” he glanced at Zack with a frown, “I need to test out the penetration on these shells. After all, you guaranteed it.” His gaze went back to Eleanor. “Reckon it’ll go through that fancy vest of yours?”

Eleanor turned to Zack and shook her head, her face awash with fear, motioning for him to stand down and take his hand off the grip of the shotgun. With a sigh, Zack removed his hand from the shotgun, putting his hands where the bartender could see them, assuming a non-aggressive stance. “Well? Will it?” the bartender asked again, causing Eleanor’s gaze to snap back around to the barrel of the gun.

“Hey, I said nothing about honour there,” she replied, a smile back on her face, “it just wouldn’t be right. That’s not honour, that’s just right and wrong.”

“Sounds like honour to me.”

The bar went silent, tension so thick it could stop bullets. At least, that’s what Eleanor was hoping for at that moment.

“Come on, the situation’s resolved and we didn’t damage your property. When these poor bastards wake up they’ll want to buy more drinks to soothe the pain, so it’s a win-win, right?”

The bartender lowered the shotgun and shook his head. “You’re a real handful, you know that?” he admitted, placing the shotgun back under the counter. “Just get out of here, I’ve got some clearing up to do.”

Eleanor flashed another friendly smile at the bartender before quickly making her way outside.

“You’re a fucking idiot sometimes,” Zack called to her as the pair made their way outside.

“Love you too, Zack,” she replied sarcastically, pulling her goggles over her eyes as she reached her ATV, a dark blue chassis with a heavy metal box on the back and an engine nestled under where the seat was.

“Are you trying to kill yourself? Really, I’m curious as to what would drive you to do these things!”

“And why should you care what I do with my life?” Eleanor snapped back, getting onto her ATV and starting the engine. The two stared at each other in silence for a moment, the only sounds present were the sounds of the engine and the ambient sound of the wastes. “Yeah, I thought as fucking much.” Eleanor gunned the engine into life and sped away from the bar. She had a job to do, after all.