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Adenovirus 423

No Man's Land

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a part of Adenovirus 423, by CriminalMinds.

A vast amount of desert like area with dialect buildings, vast wastelands, and rogues (people that aren't in a gang). Violence is high here. Wild animals also roam the area.

CriminalMinds holds sovereignty over No Man's Land, giving them the ability to make limited changes.

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No Man's Land

A vast amount of desert like area with dialect buildings, vast wastelands, and rogues (people that aren't in a gang). Violence is high here. Wild animals also roam the area.

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No Man's Land is a part of Adenovirus 423.

1 Places in No Man's Land:

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Life as we knew it in the 21st century is over. World War Three broke out in the late 2070's and it wasn't long before things turned nuclear. Most of the human population was wiped out and not to mention the leaked radiation that effected, plants, animals, the air... it wasn't long before it started effecting everything and with the human population already weak it seemed that they weren't going to survive. But who could they blame? Only themselves.

After years, it seemed that some of the population was starting to make an increase. Places became populated with new life and there was hope - hope that the human being would live on through near extinction; hope that they could build up their lives to what it once was and learn from their mistakes. All of that soon came crashing down though. Hope was soon lost. Life soon followed. A deadly virus that targeted people in their 20's seemed to hit everyone. It would make people in their 20's older and weaker than what they should be. They'd be dead by 25.

It killed off all the older generations. Now no human seems to be older than 25. And with this virus came the hopes of a cure. Stories were past on and new hope was give. People split into gangs - each with a different motivation for finding the cure. Some want it for themselves, for power; others want it to help as an overall cure. War could be on the horizon again over 'The Key'.

Is a potential war over a cure worth it? Is the cure even real, or is it just another made up story to give children hope that one day they may lead normal, healthy lives once more.

Adelaide Norman - Somewhere in the City Ruins of No Man's Land - East

Some time after dark. Year 2204 (BWW3 - Before World War Three) Year 104 (AWW3 - After World War Three)

They'd walked for hours. That's what they did every day to find water, food and then protection. It was the same thing day in and day out. Adelaide knew that it would be different being part of a gang. She was sixteen and here she was, dragging her five-year-old sister around with her. It was wrong. They should have done what their father had insisted on doing - finding a gang that would offer security, food and medical care should they need it. It was his passion for his family to head to the West or the East and try to bargain a place within their compounds. Both wanted to find the Key and get the cure to this awful virus that had taken over, killing everyone that survived to their mid-twenties. She knew 'The Prophecy' by heart. Her father had recited it to her and her mother every morning, afternoon and evening. He'd lived to find 'The Key' and also died trying to find it. His last words to her had been 'The Prophecy':

Long ago, towards the end of the 21st Century, a third world war finally broke out. Man fought day and night against each other, killing only because of greed. It wasn't until man was on the verge of extinction, having completely destroyed most continents, leaving little. It was at the beginning of the 22nd century that they were forced to stop simply because no one could do anything any more. The virus had already mutated and people had started dying...

...There is one thing left to save mankind though. A Key. This Key can cure 1000 problems and also cause 1000 more, yet it doesn't fit in, nor open any locks or lead to any rooms. The tender love, and beauty crafted into making this Key, flows from top to bottom, to be seen by all. When staring at 'The Key' no one is any wiser, and neither is 'The Key' itself.


The virus had claimed her father's life first, then a few short months later it had taken her mother's life. Adelaide had been eleven and she'd been left with her baby sister, Charisse to care for. It wasn't easy. It never was. Adelaide was more like a mother to the girl than a sister, but she coped. She had to. Adelaide would never let anything happen to her sister. And that is why, at night, she always found someplace for shelter. It would be a death sentence for the pair to be out of a night.

"We'll stop here for the night. It's secure." Adelaide spoke, her tone hard and cold as she started to check the windows and doors of the ruined building - an old apartment complex in the middle of the city she'd come across that they were now inside. They were in a ground floor room, with two windows, a couple of rooms off to the side. Luckily the main door was still in tact though it didn't lock and just about closed. There were a few uncovered windows on each wall.

She needed to find a way of boarding up the windows. Wolves and all kinds of wild animals roamed the ruins looking for food. And worse, rogues like themselves were around. Adelaide and Charisse weren't dangerous. They weren't attackers, but there were a lot of rogues that killed and looted others. It was, after all, survival of the fittest. Attack or be attacked.

Adelaide and Charisse were just lucky.

"I have some meat we can eat. We'll have to start a fire though to cook it. But I don't want to attract attention. Are you hungry. Maybe we could wait until morning. It'll be safer to eat then." She explained to her sister. Unfortunately there was nothing to board the windows up. She would have to stay awake tonight and keep a watch. Charisse needed to get some sleep. "I'll stay watch tonight. Get some sleep." She glanced over at the girl to make sure she was listening before looking out of the window to see if anything could be seen.

Nothing. It was totally darkness. And totally silence. To her, that meant they were safe. For now. Adelaide wanted to tell herself that they'd be okay for now, that she too could sleep with her sister, but she didn't trust out here. They were still in the open. They still had no protection.

No, she wasn't going to sleep. Not tonight, anyway.

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Andrew Concepcion - Somewhere in the City Ruins of No Man's Land - East

In the dark of the night the city ruins seemed to cast shadows everywhere. Without the lights form streetlamps and buildings, one could only hope for a full moon if you had any intention of being able to see ten feet in front of you. Most people had the common sense to take shelter when the sun went down, the dark was a signal for the more dangerous wildlife to roam. And tonight was no different, as a large wolf stalked along one of the narrow streets through the ruins. It's lanky frame slowly creeping through the shadows until suddenly it stopped. It's head rose, ears perked up, pointed straight at the sky. It stood motionless for a moment, and sniffed the air. After what seemed to be a few seconds it turned around and darted quickly down the street into a small alley. As it slowed to a trot the wolf looked up to see a gloved hand come down at it's face.

"looks like Fang here smelled something." A voice came from one of the shadows in the alley and the wolf panted quietly as a man in dark grey and black armor pet his head.

"Jacobs check it out." Another voice emerged from the rear of the alley and the man who was petting the the wolf stepped to the edge of the alleyway's wall, peeking around it with a pair of binoculars.

"I got movement in a ruined apartment complex about five blocks down." Jacobs whispered as he clicked a switch on the binoculars. "Thermal picks up only two bodies."

"Armed?" Came the voice from the rear.

"Not that I can see." Jacobs answered. Fang trotted towards the rear passing several armored soldiers that hid in the shadows, weapons raised.

"Alright then, Jacobs, Keith, Robert, take point and make contact. Liza and Mike, set up the mortar in second level of that blown out store down the street to the south. Davids, your with me on over watch." The voice spoke sharply and fluidly. As Fang nosed his leg Andrew patted him on the head. "you go with Liza and mike." The wolf then spun around and followed after the others as they rose up and began moving to their positions.

Andrew was approached by a boy who wore armor similar to him, he looked about 15 with brown eyes and a small grin. He carried a M249, commonly referred to as the SAW, a light machine gun issued to Knight patrolmen.
"Where to sir?" He asked Andrew in a whisper.

Andrew looked at him, his silver eyes seemed tired, as the always did. "Up." He answered as he jerked a thumb at the ladder to a fire escape. With a good jump he grabbed hold of one of the rungs and pulled himself up. As he climbed his SVD jostled quietly at his side.

Soon they were both on the roof of a small apartment building and Andrew had his rifle scanning the streets below. He received hand signals from the other Knights that said they were ready. He then motioned to Jacobs and his team to move in and make contact. As they started to move, silent and slowly Andrew and Davids watched over them. It had been two years since Andrew had been made Knight Captain, the head of the Obsidian Knights, his men knew they could trust him.

Jacobs had his ACR raised and ready, he was 16, making him one of the older and more experienced Knights. As they walked past cars and alleys he swung his rifle around to check them. As the walked noiselessly along the side of the buildings towards the apartment complex, he checked the windows for any enemy that might ambush them. Soon, he was within ten feet of the door to the apartment, he pressed his back against the wall and slowly sidestepped over to the open door.

Keith's rifle was aimed up towards the roofs and windows, and Robert had his aimed behind them. As Jacob's hand closed on the door knob he took a deep breath and counted to five in his head before swinging it open and rushing in weapon raised followed closely by Roberts and Keith.

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#, as written by FizzGig
Jessie Roan--Somewhere in the City Ruins of No Man's Land--North

The landscape was nothing more than a hollow shell, a shadow of what used to be. Desolate, cold, and riddled with rubble, No Man's Land was exemplary of the power of destruction humankind was capable of. Shelled-out buildings formed a steel and concrete maze, hardly enough left of them to form shelters for what few animals managed to survive in a place like this. There was nothing green left. Dead trunks of trees stood up in random plots for miles around, but there were no leaves, no birds to nest, nothing but the hollow wind to give the branches some fake kind of animation.

Jessie Roan was running. Not a new concept for her. With nothing but a bowie knife clasped in her calloused, bleeding palm, the woman was running down an old block, her arms pumping at her sides, constantly glancing over her shoulder for her pursuers. A dirty, black patch obscurred one of her eyes, the other flickering about wildly as she searched for avenues of escape, for anywhere she could hide. Nothing. Everything was too open, the land too flat. As she returned her gaze to the land in front of her, her skewed depth perception prevented her from accurately judging the distance of a particularly troublesome piece of stone, and she tripped. Throwing her hands out to catch her self, the knife skidded away from her, and she scrambled after it on all fours in spite of her freshly bleeding hands.

Shaking, she wrapped her fingers around the blade handle, she rolled to her backside, hearing the footsteps, the shouts, knowing that it was far too late. They'd seen her. It wouldn't be long know. Looking down at the knife, she wondered if she should just slice at the carotid, bleed out right in front of them, soil the boots of the fuckers who had been chasing her for two days.

Chest heaving, she stumbled to her feet, only to cry out and fall back to one knee again. Her right leg was numb, preceding the sudden, sharp pain of an injured ligament. Great. Fucking awesome.

After forcing herself to her feet and limping back a few steps, she brandished the weapon, her jean jacket flapping around her hips as the wind picked up, tossing sand and grit into the air.

"I refuse," she hissed under her breath, "To go down quietly."

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The cassette tapes were a blessing, especially in the wasteland that they called "No Man's Land". Matthias steered the truck along the dirt path, tapping his steering wheel to the infectious beat.

"Carry on my wayward son, there'll be peace when you are done." He sang, at full volume. His voice was far too high, but he could carry a tune, something that the tapes had really helped with. With all four of his truck windows down, the wind in his dark, long, shaggy hair, and the medical supplies and bibles tucked safely in the back, Matthias was a happy man. Even when the truck that could go for miles lurched and wobbled on the uneven terrain. He felt free, he smelled the wild, he heard nothing but the power chords blaring in his ears.

He saw a girl running, pursued by people - looked like southerners, judging by the dirt on their face and the rainboots they wore. His fists tightened on the wheel as he changed course, humming to himself. "Lay your weary head to rest..."

He opened his driver door and sped past one of them, a straggler looking to surround the female. With a satisfying thump, the man was toppled over. Matthias swerved, the truck's tires gripping the loose sand and grime as it swung around, his Thompson Machine Gun already pointed out his window as the sounds of Kansas blared through his speakers, and the chorus started yet again.

"Don't you cry no more!" He shouted, firing over their heads. The southerners scattered, leaving only a few bullet holes in his truck. He kicked his door open and followed them a few paces, his big forearms rattling from outside of the white collared shirt, the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. After they had ran a sufficient amount, he walked towards the girl.

"Milady!" He said, cheerfully. "Perhaps you would fancy a ride in my chariot? It's far better than walking to your destination!"

Limping backwards, a challenging feat for someone with only one good eye, Jessie stared at the approaching figure with a slack jaw, glancing between him and the retreating Southerners. He'd just....did he really...yeah. He did. But who was he?

"I," she croaked. It had been so long since she'd had plenty of water to drink. "Just...hang on one second," she licked her lips, grimacing when her ankle twinged, and slowly lowered herself to the ground, resting her forehead on her knee. She was still panting, clearly exhuasted. She'd been running for a long time.

After another moment, she pulled back, squinting up at her rescuer. "Who are you? Uh..what..side are you on?"

"Side?" He asked, rolling his neck. One of the Southerners peeked over a nearby ridge. Matthias rewarded his bravado with another short burst from the Chicago Typewriter. "My dear, I'm on the Lord's side, and nobody else's. North, South, they all have their uses, and they all deserve to be saved, yes?" He laughed a belly laugh, his lanky six-four frame shaking in bony mirth.

"You look like you've had a hard ride. My truck has air conditioning, heating, and medical supplies. And these fine gentlemen," He said, turning to where the Southerners were lying in wait, "seem quite impatient to get their grubby little lady-lovers all over you. So would you like to take a ride?"

She stared at him, lips parted, her eyes glancing from his face to the Southerners lying in wait for her. They were like wolves sent out on an errand, and she was the lame sheep, the one that got away, the one that couldn't be left alone. She couldn't tell if this man was crazy or perfectly serious. He talked about God. Anyone who referred to a higher power that wasn't currently in charge of one of the four quadrants that divided this country was obviously out of their mind...

But she'd be crazy to turn down his offer too.

"Please." she said finally, getting her good leg up underneath her before reaching her hand for his. She wasn't going to be able to walk to the truck by herself, after all.

"Nooooo problemo!" He said, cheerily. He grabbed hold of her hand with his left, his good old Thompson still held in his right hand. With very little trouble, he maneuvered her towards the high-cab truck, opening the passenger door and helping her into it. He then hopped onto the bed of the black monster, digging around for a minute before he found a bolt-action rifle, a Kar98 that he had retrieved from one of the rare traders that wandered these unclaimed wastelands. He hummed a few more bars of Kansas before hopping back down, finally closing his driver's side door and restarting the engine.

"We're headed east, if you don't mind." He said, still very chipper, absurdly so for a man who had just shot at a group of killers. As he shifted down and began headed in his original direction, the stereo began booming to another classic rock song. He sighed deeply, grinning over at her, his shaggy black hair twisting. "I love this song. Highway run..."

The music was unfamiliar, but it didn't confuse her nearly as much as the man himself. She was on his right side, within view of her one good eye, so she was able to watch him as he drove, that same, strange...even manic smile painted on his face. Yet, in spite of her discomfort, she allowed herself to relax. She hadn't been in a car in years, and it was so much better than walking to wherever the hell she'd planned to walk. "East." she said softly, closing her eye and resting her head back against the headrest.

Without opening her eyes, she swallowed, licking her dry lips before speaking again. "What's your name?"

The man cocked an eyebrow, one side of his mouth flickering upwards at her question. He bobbed his head, singing under his breath for a moment, letting her sentence hang in the air as he bopped. "They say that the road is no place to start a family... right down the line, it's been you and me."

He made a sharp turn to avoid a pothole, nearly giggling at the swerve. "My name, you asked? I'm Matthias. Matthias Ritger. Traveling minstrel, lover of music, historian of this land. It's an honor to meet you. This is yours, by the way. If you don't know how to use it, you'll learn."

He laid the bolt-action rifle across her legs, tapping the steering wheel maniacally while belting out the tune. "Faithfully!"

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Adelaide Norman - Somewhere in No Man's Land - East

"Char, don't argue with me. I'm not sleeping. Just go to sleep." She told the young girl who was grating on her nerves. She thought that she could keep watch. A five-year-old keep watch? They'd be dead in moments. She ignored her sister now as she looked out the window, trying to figure out what they were going to do. She was fast running out of options. She could only drag Char around with her for so long. But Addie was adamant that she wouldn't go to a gang. Maybe though, maybe it was best to leave Char with a gang. West perhaps? Or even East? They'd look after her. They were hunting for a cure.

Adelaide was shaken from her thoughts as she felt Char curl up against her for a moment. That was so unlike her that it through her off course. They normally fought and kept their distance from each other. Mainly - in Adelaide's case - it was because if she kept her distance from her sister then if something happened to her, or to them, then maybe it wouldn't affect Char too much. She was only five. Maybe it would be okay then. Maybe she could get Char to hate her enough in case something bad happened.

"I know it's cold. I'm sorry." Addie felt incompetent to look after her younger sister suddenly. It was a horrible feeling to feel, but that's how she felt. Char didn't seem to comment any more though because she went to sleep. Thankfully. Addie was exhausted but she was adamant about staying awake as long as she possibly could. If she slept they could be killed.

It wasn't long later that her body finally caved though. Within minutes, Adelaide was asleep with her sister.

The time didn't matter. All Adelaide knew was that it was still dark when something moved into the darkness. "Don't move." Addie might have been asleep at first, but she was now fully alert. Someone was in the apartment and Adelaide froze. Char was a few paces away. Immediately Adelaide went into protective mode and moved for Char. She had to protect her sister at all costs.

"We're unarmed. We've got no food or anything valuable. We're just here for shelter." She told whoever she was staring at. There were more than one person there. "Just leave us alone." She told them, making sure to keep Char behind her so that her sister wouldn't be shot at if they did chose to shoot. Her body was probably little protection but it was worth a shot. And she'd moved and they hadn't shot her then.

Maybe there was hope they wouldn't kill her and Char. That's all they had right now, hope.

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Andrew Concepcion - Somewhere in the City Ruins of No Man's Land - East


The Apartment


Jacobs stood very still as he looked down the sights of his rifle at Adelaide and her sister. Keith was at his side, his rifle aimed at Charisse, while Roberts scanned the corners and covered them. Jacobs lowered his gun's barrel toward the ground and stepped closer to the sisters. Jacobs was sixteen,old enough to have been in the knights for three years now, leaving him very experinced. It wasn't even close to the first time he had happened upon a group of wanderers and he knew it would not be the last. But he could not help but have a sharp pain in his chest as he looked at them, at the shape they were in.

"Relax." He spoke softly to the older blonde. He did not want to frighten the little one anymore then they already had. "We aren't here to hurt you or take your stuff, we just want t-" His sentence was cut off by the small walkie talkie like radio on his waist blaring static as it came to life.

"Jacobs." Came Andrew's voice in a whisper through the Radio. "Jacobs respond."

Jacobs pulled the radio off his waist and tossed it to Roberts. Before looking back to the sisters.

"You don't need to be afraid, we're the good guys." Jacobs smiled.

While Jacobs talked with the girls Roberts responded over the radio.

"Um Captain, this is Roberts," He said quietly into the radio.

"Roberts? Where is Jacobs? What's the situation?" Came Andrew's voice once more.

"Targets were two civilians, female, unarmed and without supplies." Roberts answered. "Jacobs is keeping them calm I think. Jeez Captain, one looks no older then five." Roberts was 15, and was known to be a good shot with his Su-16. He'd served 2 years as a guard on The Wall before being folded into the Captain's Scout Platoon. While he showed to be a good soldier in hairy situations,he lacked the stomach for the heart wrenching reality of No Man's Land.

"Alright Roberts. Tell Jacobs to get them calm and secure. I'll radio Keep for a pick up, hang tight."

Rooftop Overwatch posistion

Andrew sighed as he shut off his short range radio. this had been the third pickup in three weeks. The hell was the world coming too? It was hard to imagine life getting any worse then it was,yet for some unknown reason he was seeing more and more refugees out in the ruins. It annoyed him, it was what drove him.

"Davids, hand me the Long Range." He muttered calmly. After a moment he held the brick sized radio in his hand and pressed the transmitter. "Sierra Actual this is Wolf 1 acknowledge."

"Wolf 1, Authenticate." Came a harsh response after moments of static.

"Sierra Actual, Wolf 1 Authenticates with: Fang, 3, 2, 0, Zulu, how copy?"

"Roger that Wolf 1, Code authenticates. What do you need?"

"I need a civilian pickup at grid," He paused for a moment to look at the map Davids held out for him "4-1-7. How copy?"

"Civilian Pickup at Grid 4-1-7 good copy Wolf 1."

"Wolf 1 will mark pick up with smoke. Inform Pickup to radio in when they are in the vicinity. Send one fastback." Andrew turned the Radio off and handed it back to Davids. He then pulled up the smaller radio once again. "Jacobs get the Civilians packaged and ready to move, we move out in less then one mike."

"Liza," Andrew said with a sigh. "Break down the 224 and have Fang keep his ears open. Davids and I aremoving to street level."

"Copy that Captain." Came Liza's proffesional response.

Andrew sighed and began to slowly rise to his feet. "Come on Davids. We better get down there." He said with a nod to his companion before heading down the fire escape he used to get up to the roof in the first place.

The Apartment

"Jacobs get the Civilans packaged and ready to move, we move out in less then one mike."

Jacobs heard the order and nodded. It was standard procedure, he faced the two girls and smiled. "Listen, we arent going to hurt you but we want you to come with us. We're going to take you some place safe, warm, and alot better then this ruined building. We're going to give you some food and ask you some questions thats all I promise."

He let go of his rifle and let it hang off his shoulder, raising his hands to show he meant no harm. "Just come with us, and don't make any sudden movements ok, for your own safety." As he stared calmly at Adelaide another soldier entered the apartment and placed a hand on his shoulder.

This one carried a long rifle, and sighed before speaking. "Alright Jacobs, lets get them out of here."

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Adelaide Norman - Somewhere in No Man's Land - East

She didn't want to cooperate with them and follow them. She didn't want to trust them. She certainly didn't want to be questioned by them. Everything had gone by fast. It seemed that they were preparing to move them somewhere at the speed of light. Everything in Adelaide screamed for her to rebel, to grab Char and find a way to escape, to get out of there and flee. Unfortunately, they had guns, she had nothing.

Adelaide wasn't stupid. She knew that trying to escape would either get them both shot or killed. She wasn't prepared to do that. No, she'd have to be more calculating. Plus, maybe going to their compound would be good at least for Char - food, rest, shelter... It sounded good. First though, she needed to know exactly where they were heading.

"Which gang are you from?" She asked just as another male arrived and announced that it was time to get them out of here. Adelaide would follow for Charisse's sake than her own. "It's okay. Trust them." She told the girl quietly. "Just keep a hold of me and we'll be fine."

Sighing, she looked back that the men. She would go with them, but she wasn't going to answer their questions. It didn't matter what they were about, she wasn't going to answer them. It was none of their business. And Adelaide was sure that if they really were the good guys, then they weren't going to be imprisoned or killed for her not cooperating with them. Her father had been obsessed with bringing them to a gang - to finding a cure. She wasn't going to continue that obsession. Adelaide didn't believe their was a cure.

"We'll come." She told them eventually. "But you are not to hurt my sister at all." Adelaide wanted to make that crystal clear that they weren't to mess with her sister. If they did, then they'd get her back up and she wouldn't cooperate at all with them.

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#, as written by Raize
Charisse Norman - Somewhere in No Man's Land - East

"Which gang are you from?" She heard Addie questioning the people with the big guns. She found it funny. She had expected this to happen, but she hadn't expected it to happen so soon. So irritating when it caught her by surprise. But it hadn't really caught her by surprise. It was more like she had been anticipating it, but she hadn't been concentrating hard enough to realize the message hidden between the lines. These thoughts were far too complicated for a normal five year old, but Charisse wasn't exactly the equivalent of a normal child.

"It's okay. Trust them." Addie had said to her in a soft voice. Charisse nodded her head in an absent minded way. She wouldn't really trust them. Because she trusted no one besides her sister. She focused on her sister, and she saw that Addie's lips were still moving. She didn't even try to register what Addie was saying as she turned back to the men, and began to study them. An intense look of concentration came over her childish features. Her nose scrunched, and she crossed her arms over her chest, shivering lightly.

She hated this. She didn't like these men already. Despite their "polite" suggestion for Addie and Charisse to go with them, Charisse felt immediate discomfort when they entered the apartment. It was this sinking feeling that was pulling her down. Lower, and lower, and lower. Closing her eyes for a moment, she unfolded her arms, and wrapped one around Addie's arm. She clung to Addie, adding onto the attitude of a confused child. "Sissy, where are the men taking us?" She whispered to Addie. A vision hadn't come to her yet. Whether that was because she was subconsciously keeping the vision out, or whether the soldiers from the gang hadn't made a decision was not clear to Charisse. She shrank, making herself seem smaller than she was as she heard more words come out of her sister's mouth.

"But you are not to hurt my sister at all." Charisse felt just the slightest bit of warmth as she heard Adelaide -- Addie vouch for her. She really did care about Charisse. They had been together from the very beginning. Addie had been through so much for Charisse. But she still felt that indifference at times. That cold, detached feeling that you had to have in order to survive in No Man's Land. But Charisse pushed that feeling aside and tightened her grip on Addie's arm, it would probably even hurt Addie.

"I don' like them." She said. Her toddler's speech was something she had down perfectly. She could speak like an adult, but when situations like this arose, she would pull out a weapon of her own: a child's personality. Her eyes had widened, they looked like a frightened deer's. Sparkling, and dark with fear. Her bone thin fingers clutched at Addie's arm with a desperate urge, and she shook all over... It was very convincing.

Then again, Charisse had always been a pretty good actor. For a five year old.

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Adelaide Norman - Andrew Concepcion - Charisse Norman- Somewhere in No Man's Land - East


"Gang? Is that what we're called by you rogues?" Jacobs responded quizzically to Adelaide's first question. "I wouldn't call us that we're more of a-" His sentence cut off as he felt a hand placed on his shoulder.

"Alright Jacobs, lets get them out of here." came Andrew's order as Jacobs turned to face him. "Get outside, take Keith with you, make sure no one is lurking around to follow us."

"Yes sir." Jacobs said with and and exited with Keith to secure the perimeter. Andrew looked to Adelaide and Charisse questioningly, as he sized up their condition. After gettting a picture of their situation he looked to the older of the sisters.

"We aren't a gang, we are Knights, The Obsidian Knights of the East." He spoke calmly. "I can assure you of your safety while you are under our protection. Neither you or your sister will be harmed."

Adelaide frowned slightly, "You're still a gang." She pointed out just for the sake of being stubborn. That was Adelaide. "As long as you are not going to hurt my sister, we will come with you. My father spoke about the Knights. You're apparently the good guys trying to find this cure. He spoke highly about you. Not that it mattered, he died before he got us to you."

She turned and looked at her sister. Despite not wanting to be a part of any gang, or any battle that seemed to be brewing between the nations that were around now, she knew it was safer to be within one of the groups rather than scavenge in No Man's Land. "Father talked about the Knights. They're safe, okay?" She hoped that Charisse didn't feel annoyed at her for making another decision. They seemed to spend more time arguing nowadays over which way to go and what to do. And she didn't want her sister feeling bad because she'd never had a chance to know either parent.

Charisse returned Addie's gaze with little to no expression on her face. Her eyes were dark, and her nostrils flared for a moment. She didn't have a choice in the matter, and she knew it. But that didn't mean she had to feel safe, and that also didn't mean that she couldn't run away. But the idea of actually leaving her sister meant something different to Charisse. She felt like she would be leaving her sister to the hands of death if she left her. Her eyes flickered shut for a moment, and she turned her head away, she didn't respond to Addie's question. She hadn't known her father, or her mother. She didn't particularly care about knowing them anyway. But she didn't like when Addie did this to her. Addie would talk about things she had never heard of. She would talk about the past, where Charisse's memories were hazy, like a mirage in the distance.

She felt the urge to refuse going with the Knights. She knew what would happen if Addie and she went with these people. They would be interrogated. But this thought fought for victory with another. If they went with them, they wouldn't have to scavenge for food, and they wouldn't have to sleep on a cold, hard floor. They would be at the mercy of the gang, but they would also be "safer" than they were now, in a different way. Her eyes snapped open again, and her lower lip jutted out. She nodded in agreement with Addie, but on the inside she was boiling with fury. She bit the word "NO" in half on her tongue. She imagined that her lips were locked with chains, and that she couldn't talk, even if she wanted to. If she opened her mouth, everything she knew, that they didn't know would come tumbling out.

"Okay." She said. She sighed, and then she grew silent once more. The fun of using a child's personality was dying on her, she longed to be herself again. But she'd just have to wait.. Until the right moment. Whenever that would be.

Andrew watched as Adelaide spoke with Charisse and said nothing. He knew not of the feeling of having a sibling to take care of, he had always been an only child. Perhaps it was a blessing, that he was the only one who had to watch his parents die. That when the time came for a new Knight Captain, he was the one whose shoulders the burden was placed on. He dismissed the troublesome thoughts as useless and turned to Roberts. Roberts gave him only a slight nod, his rifle still pointed at the sisters.

"Put the gun down Roberts." Andrew sighed before turning back to Adelaide. He took a step towards them and extended his left hand. "Your father sounds like a good man. I am sorry for your loss. At least his goal of getting you to us was accomplished in the end. Forgive my partner here, he is not a bad man, just a good soldier whose seen too much bad in this world." Andrew then kneeled in front of Charisse and smiled. "You know I think you'll like it with us, we have cake."

Charisse shied away from Andrew. He was too close for her liking. But she hesitated, and slowly slipped back into her manipulated personality. Her eyes were still wider than possible, the size of saucers. Her hands shook ever so lightly, she was no longer shaking quite so vigorously as before. But her eyes were half glazed, as though she were here, and yet somewhere else at the same time. "C-.. Cake?" She whispered. She returned his smile with one of her own. It lit up her face, it made her seem like a different person. Instead of the gaunt, malnourished child, there was a brightness in her hazy eyes, and she seemed.. More like a child instead of a small adult. She didn't have anything else to say to him. She didn't know what to say to him. She relied on Addie during these times. Looking up at her sister, she looked back at Andrew, and nodded.

Adelaide watched Charisse shy away from Andrew. Him and the others that currently were part of ... well, whatever it was, gang, Obsidian Knights, whatever they wanted to call themselves - well it was the first time that Charisse had really interacted with another person. Yes, they'd seen others, but for the last five years they'd stayed away from interacting with people. You never knew what was going on in people's minds. You never knew who was who or what they wanted.

Part of her couldn't trust that these were Knights. Anyone could say they were. But it was the uniforms, or amour, that really told you who they were Knights. Everyone knew that the Knights were the most built up weapons and technology wise. It spread like wildfire throughout No Man's Land and through other gangs. You didn't mess with the Knights or you most likely ended up a dead man.

Finally, Adelaide took Andrew's hand to shake. "You may think that my father is a good man, but I don't believe in this cure. I think he was foolish for trying to follow it - for trying to unlock the riddle that everyone talks about. That's why we didn't find you sooner. But saying that, we can't stay in No Man's Land. You guys seem like the best place to be currently." She stated. "Plus, Charisse loves cake. You have cake and you've won her over." Adelaide let a brief yet small smile appear on her features before letting it disappear again and glancing back at Andrew. "I trust that you are telling the truth with everything, so we'll follow you. But just so you know, don't expect us to answer every question you may have." She warned.

Adelaide wanted to make it clear that even though they were cooperating, she didn't exactly like that her only option really was to go there, not because they were being forced, but because she knew that she needed to join a gang. They were getting into more and more trouble out in No Man's Land and Adelaide was not able to offer the protection they both needed. Adelaide couldn't even fight and she had no weapons either. They had no choice. But still she was letting them know that she didn't want to be grilled with questions. That was the last thing her and Charisse needed.

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"Shit!" Andrew heard Jacobs yell and break out into a full out sprint. Keith and Roberts followed. As they neared the pickup point they noticed that something was happening. Andrew pulled his rifle up to his shoulder and looked through the scope for a better view. It seemed like their pickup had been ambushed by two men. One of them had been by the front of the vehicle while another wrestled with what he assumed was the driver. As Jacobs and the others neared however, the man involved in the brawl stood up and got into the truck.

"Oh hell no..." Andrew muttered before the sound of an engine turning over could be heard. "Jacobs stop that truck!" Andrew yelled and broke out into a run, skidding to a stop as he remembered Adelaide and her sister. Someone had to watch them and make sure they were safe, in case there were others around.

Jacobs breathed furiously as he sprinted towards the truck. It had started and he only had a few seconds before it would be gone. "Keith, Roberts! Open fire!" He yelled and the two men behind him slid to a stop, raised their weapons and began firing at the truck only to watch it speed away.

Pissed Jacobs cursed and turned to run at the man who had been abandoned by his partner. As he struggled to his feet Jacobs, without breaking stride, tackled him back down to the ground, throwing his shoulder into the man putting his speed and weight behind the blow.

Trys was surprised when the guy in front of him yelled. He was taken completely off guard as suddenly the younger lad in front of him took charge, taking him off of his feet and knocking the air out of him as they hit the ground. They struggled for a good few minutes and Trys tried to stop him from grabbing the keys, he nearly did a few times, but in the end Trys hadn't had the advantage and the male had gotten the keys from his pocket.

He gave up the fight then, only to find that the Knights were now here as the guy took off in the truck. They tried to intervene and take the truck back but it was too late. He was going to be in a lot of shit. Knee deep in shit. All Trys could do was lie there and close his eyes. Why did this have to happen to him of all people? He was screwed.

He heard someone or something hit the ground not far from him and looked over to see Jacobs on top of one of his attackers. Well, at least they had one guy, maybe that would lighten the blow for losing the truck. He could only hope otherwise he was about he in some serious trouble when Andrew got a hold of him.

Honestly, Preston hadn't been entirely surprised by this turn of events.
That didn't mean he wasn't utterly pissed by all of it.

As he made sudden contact with the ground the first time, he bit back a scream, if only because he didn't want to admit that it was seriously annoying that Wyatt could still do that after all this time. As he got up, he heard the sound of the truck starting up and speeding away, but before he could register that, someone crashed into him again.
He muffled his groan of displeasure by biting his lip, but instantly regretted it - the force behind the tackle caused him to rather painfully sink into his lip and draw blood. Rather obviously, the boy couldn't buck the weight off his back if he'd been paid to, but Preston still made a show of flailing his limbs under Jacobs. He turned his head sideways to take what was around him, which wasn't particularly interesting - grey ruins and dirty boots. He'd have to wait until this obnoxious person - which, he had to remind himself, was probably only a couple years older than him - decided he or she had gotten their fill of sitting on teenage boys. Really, he thought he'd gotten used to it, but seriously, torso bruises and being sat on was pretty damn painful.

Jacobs put his knee against the base of Preston's neck as he drew his sidearm and pushed the barrel against the back of his skull. "Where is the truck going? Who are you? How many more of you are there?" He spat out the question's angrily and quickly. "You have four seconds to start talking before I put a 9mm bullet in your damn head."

As screwed as Preston was, Trys was even more fucked.

Andrew walked over to where Trys lay and stood over him. Adelaide and Charisse stood with Liza, one of the team's mortarmen. "You hurt pretty bad?" he asked calmly, extending a hand to help the boy up.

"Hope you enjoyed the little slice of soft you got from the Captain." Liza muttered to Adelaide quietly. "Cause he's gone now."

Trys groaned when he saw Andrew standing over him. He was ready to take what was coming to him. So, it surprised him when Andrew extended a hand and asked if he was okay instead of shouting at him. Trys took his hand and managed to get himself up, nodding slightly as he got his breath back. "Yeah, I'm okay. Just a bit winded. They caught me by surprise." He decided to leave out being unprepared, alone and out of the truck for now. What Andrew didn't know wouldn't hurt him.

Too bad he'd probably have to file a report of what exactly was lost with the truck. Unfortunately for him, and more fortunately for them, all that he'd be writing in it was the truck. Either way, he'd be screwed.

"Can't believe they took me by surprise, they were stronger than they looked," he mumbled, hoping to keep himself out of trouble. Maybe Andrew would be okay with losing a truck. He wasn't shouting at him... yet.

"Where's the rest of your unit?" Andrew asked as he watched Trys recover. His expression was plain and indifferent and his tone was calm. He didn't seem like he was going to let Trys have it over the loss, but looks could be decieving.

"Five bucks says I'm going to have to carry the poor screw up back to base." Keith grinned as he walked over to Liza, ignoring Adelaide and Charisse.

"No way," Liza grinned. "He's going to finish him off right here. What you think, Mike?" Liza shouted over to Mike, Wolf 1's other mortarman.

"Hmm," Mike shrugged, "I think he'll break a rib or two."

Trys looked at Andrew and frowned. "About that... I didn't really come with a unit. I figured it was just a simple pick-up, ya know? They caught me by surprise. It's just a couple of kids. No big deal." He frowned, shuffling on the spot uncomfortably now. It didn't look like Andrew was going to kill him, but Trys knew that you could never tell someone from their expressions.

Adelaide was listening to the bets that were suddenly going on and how violent they seemed to suggest Andrew getting. Would he really do that to one of his men? Adelaide didn't want to know. "Char, don't look at this," she told her sister, "play with Fang," she told the girl who seemed to do as she said for once. Adelaide had no doubt though that Char was secretly watching what was going on.

She then turned to the people by her. "He wouldn't hurt the man, would he? It wasn't his fault he was ambushed, right?" She frowned, watching to see how the scene would unfold.

"You left without backup...."Andrew concluded calmly. "A simple pickup eh? Didn't turn out so simple now did it?"

"heh listen Rogue, the last Knight Captain had a record for dealing out harsh punishments to anyone who broke regulations." Liza grinned. "Andrew there has to follow that example, not only that, but that screw up lost a truck, we don't have too many of those, and they're invaluable. That's why I say he's dead."

"Not likely." Keith responded. "We don't have enough operators trained for vehicles, he'll just break his leg."

"Not the Leg." Mike chimed in. "Too valuable, a rib, so he can still move."

Trys thought about everything for a moment, a hand running over the back of his neck as he tried to figure out the best way to answer Andrew so that the least amount of damage was done. "Well, we got the kid, right?" was all he could reply as he glanced at the boy that Jacobs was still on top of.

Adelaide frowned even deeper at the thought of violence. "But... hurting one of his own people..." she started, unsure of what else to say. "Surely he wouldn't. Can't he just be punished by doing more work or something?" she suggested.

Glancing at Charisse once more, she looked back at the men who seemed to be enjoying making the bets between themselves before her attention focused back to Trys, who looked really uncomfortable, and Andrew, who looked strangely calm still.

"Yeah, we got one, thanks to Jacobs." Andrew looked over to see Jacobs still interrogating the captured enemy. He looked quite pissed. Jacobs was one to keep his cool, this worried Andrew. Andrew looked back to Trys, expression still indifferent."You cost us a truck soldier, because you didn't follow regulations...."Andrew paused for a moment then sighed. "Lieutenant!" He called to Liza.

"Yes sir?" She responded.

"Sidearm." Came Andrew's cold response.

"Heh heh" Liza chuckled quietly. "Just you watch rogue, he's going to do him right here." she pulled the Glock 17 off her hip and then tossed it to Andrew who caught it, and checked it over a bit right in front of Trys.

"Damn..." Keith muttered as he fished out a couple bills to hand to Liza. "Just had to go and lose a truck, didn't you screw up."

Trys had been expecting a shouting, a yelling... anything but what happened next. He paled as the male shouted for one of his platoon's sidearms. No. It was a truck, they had more, he could fix up more... Surely Andrew wouldn't shoot him. "I- I-" Trys stuttered unsure what to say as he glanced towards where Liza and Keith were handing money - obviously having some form of bet going if Keith's words were anything to go by. "I can fix up other trucks..." He stated, hoping that that would help his case.

Adelaide had decided that she couldn't stand and watch a man die. It was going too far. She took a step forward towards the pair. "Don't kill him! You can't just kill him!" She shouted at Andrew. "It was just a truck."

Andrew sighed as Trys made his case, seeming to be ignoring his words, he continued a lengthy inspection of the weapon.his finger slid over the slide. Andrew Looked up to Trys, before bringing the gun up, and pointing the muzzle inches away from the soldier's face. "You cost us a truck, which is now in enemy hands." He started,not listening to Adelaide's plea. "Now how can we make sure it doesn't happen again?" Andrew's finger squeezed the trigger.


A loud click was heard. While he had pretended to inspect it, Andrew had flipped the safety on the weapon and made sure the chamber was empty. "Follow Regulations," He said as he brought the weapon down and made it ready to fire. "And you'll be pulling night shifts to fix the trucks in the motorpool." He finished reading out the punishment he had planned and handed him the gun. "We have to walk back now. Keep your eyes up."

"Damn." Keith sighed but smiled at Liza's expression of disbelief. "Well Liza go on, rogue won the bet."

Roberts walked over and sighed. "You idiots, he never intended to harm him."

"Jacobs," Andrew called. "how's the capture?"

Trys was standing there with a gun pointing him straight in the face. Never had he had a gun pointed at his face before and here he was with his Captain right in front of him pointing the gun at him. He even ignored the civilian's plea for his life and if he ignored that then there was no way that he was going to listen to anything Trys had to say.

He could have sworn his heart stopped as he saw the trigger been pulled. His eyes closed as a reaction and he waited for pain to hit him - or for him to see the light and their maker - if their was such a person. At least he wouldn't succumb to the virus. All he heard though was a click.

No pain.

Or maybe that was what getting shot felt like. It was so instantaneous that you didn't feel pain. Slowly he opened his eyes only to see the gun still pointing in his face as Andrew spoke once more before bringing the weapon down and Trys let out a breath he hadn't realised he'd been holding. "Yes sir." Was all he could answer.

Adelaide had also sighed in relief as she watched the showdown. She'd even closed her own eyes when she thought he'd been shot and was glad to see that they weren't as cruel as she had thought they might be after that. "I didn't win a bet because I weren't betting in the first place." She snapped at Keith. "That isn't the kinda thing you make bets on." She scolded all of them for placing bets on Trys' life.

Preston hadn't expected to be so easily forgotten in the midst of what was going on. After whoever had decided to sit on him had placed a gun to the back of his neck (granted, that was quite intimidating at first, but after, well, not dying within the first five seconds he had pretty much gone over that) and attempted to interrogate him, the focus of the conversation had quickly shifted to the punishment for the man whose truck Wyatt had managed to make an escape with. Judging from what had just happened, the East was pretty soft in terms of that...

Suddenly, one of the men that had joined them called out towards the man that was still on him, and Preston attempted to remember what he'd been asked, with no success. He gave the man an incalculable expression and responded with a, "What?"

Jacobs cursed and got off of Preston, yanking him up by the collar of his shirt. "Make a funny move, and I shoot you." He hissed as Andrew walked over to them. Andrew stood in front of Preston and looked at him, observing the man's face. Andrew examined his features and his build. "Hmm...throw flexcuffs on him and we'll bring him back for questioning, no use interrogating him out here,everyone is tired, and if they send more to look for him, we could be out numbered."

Andrew nodded to Jacobs who proceeded to try and bind Preston's hands in flexcuffs, a hard plastic band that when it was pulled around someone's wrist, functioned quite well as improvised hand cuffs. Andrew returned to Adelaide's side and sighed. "I'm sorry about all this, but it seems we have to walk."

He bowed his head apologetically and turned to Davids. "Lead the way,and keep an eye on Jacobs." he said to him.

"Yes sir." Davids answered and walked ahead to lead Wolf 1, Adelaide and Charisse, Trys, and now Preston, back East, to the Keep.

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Edited out due to double post.

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Character Portrait: Adelaide Character Portrait: Thatcher Rivet
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Warning: The following post contains Mature Content. Read at own risk.

Thatcher Rivet (Southern Leader) and Adem Norvik (West Scout) - Somewhere in a Forested Area of No Man's Land

One week prior to Current Day:

It had been a hard night but it would be the first of many. Adem was out scouting for the West. It involved covering masses of area scouting for food or basically any resources that may provide useful for the compound. Yes, they were allies with the East, and the East were, well, simply put it, loaded with stuff, they still needed their own fair share of things. Adem had trained as a scout at the age of 6. His father had been a scout and taught him everything he knew now at the age of 20. He was one of the best.

So, once again he'd been sent out to No Man's Land to see what could be found a long with a number of other men. They each had different areas to cover and would come back when they had covered their area or had as much as they could carry. It was dangerous, but it had to be done. Most scouts were fine. One or two got killed - but that was a very rare occurence.

Adem had lost track of what time it was. All he knew was that he was on a hard, cold floor and it was sometime in the middle of the second night out here. So far he'd picked up a few ammo cases he'd found hidden in the abandoned building he was currently in, but other than that it had been an uneventful and fruitless search. He wasn't going to find much in this area, he could already tell. But Adem would continue on. Maybe he'd find something valueable, like information towards finding 'The Key' and the cure to the virus that was killing people like flies in their twenties.

Who knew.

Eventually he gave up on sleep and pulled a small torch out of his backpack and some papers that he'd found discarded in one of the rooms in an earlier search. They were papers about the Key. Knowing it was a risk to have the touch on at night, he decided against all safety regulations for keeping it off, switched it on and started to read through what he had found.

In the darkness, a boot crunched, shifting on dusty soil.

Three young men, all burly and muscular, Doc-Ops soldiers of the Southern Compound, stood in a nearby thicket of spindly trees, knees bent and one hand touching the dusty, cracked earth. Any motion they would take would force the dust to rise up around them in little swirling puffs. Their eyes had long adjusted to the darkness that covered No Man's Land like a thick blanket, smothering those trapped in the large open landscapes that had made more than one man circle in the dust, lost for eternity. These three men in particular knew the land like the back of their hands, and were well accustomed to the nature of their current mission.

They had tracked the scout to his current location, followed his meagre tracks. The going hadn't been easy, and they had almost used up their entire supply of water before finally managing to corner him. Across the way, below a sand dune, lay another two Southerners, proned low on the dust, their faces nearly hidden beyond mounds of ash from a burned out cluster of houses. The five of them had moved in like a pack, and had surrounded their prey.

All they were waiting on was a word.

The man in the center of the cluster of three slowly stood, making no noise. The moonlight streaks that rained down upon them, barely piercing the thick clouds and blanket of night, showed off his salt-and-pepper hair, moving stiffly in the slight but bitter chill of the open landscape. His eyes were narrowed into angry slits as he examined the glow through red plastic that he had molded into glasses, designed to allow him to keep his nightvision while looking at lights. All of his men had it. He didn't smile, but bared his teeth slightly, a piece of grass stuck between his pearly whites.

The scout seemed to be looking through documents, and for this fact he was intrigued. He noted any weaponry that would be hiding, and growled a single statement.

"Take him."

As one, the two soldiers broke into a sprint, closing the shallow distance to their prey. On the other side, the other two men leaped to their feet, drawing pistols in case the situation became unwinnable.

Behind it all, Thatcher Rivet started sauntering, closer towards his goal.

Adem heard them before he saw them. Damn his stupidity for turning on the torch! Nowhere out here was safe. He should have known better! Immediately Adem was up on his feet, looking to see where the men were. He knew there were more than one from the footsteps and soon they were within his sight. Anyone else would have thought of fleeing, there was an exit easily enough behind him. But that wasn't in Adem's nature. He was a fighter, not a man who runs away!

The men looked physically bigger than him, and older. He himself was just under 6 foot in height and though he had muscle, he wasn't built like a brick. Immediately he picked up a old hunting knife out of his pocket and drew it in his right hand. It would have been holding a gun right now, but the gun was in his backpack and even Adem knew there was no time to grab it. At least he had a knife, some form of protection and he knew how to use it.

"Who the Hell are you and what do you want?" Growled Adem.

He wasn't going to be intimidated by these men or thefact there was two against one, it seemed. He was going to stand his ground - which may have been stupid - but Adem was no coward. His father had accused him of been a coward in the two years leading up to his death when he was only ten - his father only 25 and eventually succumbing to the virus. That had taught Adem a lesson. He was never going to be the coward his father thought he was.

"I demand to know what you are doing here." He told them when he immediately had no answer, drawing his blade up to make sure the men could see it. He had no protection currently against bullets though.

Inside, Adem was mentally kicking himself for thinking that he'd been safe. No matter how well he'd checked the area, made sure he wasn't seen or followed, some people had seen him. And they were now in front of him. But Adem was ready to fight and in the commotion of being found, the papers and torch he'd had were still scattered on the ground around his backpack.

The men ignored the knife, as they were trained to do. They were bigger and stronger, and double in number. Still, Thatcher was cautious, waving the men with the guns forwards as he approached the small clearing that the scout was situated in.

One of the two burly men would attempt a tackle at Adem's feet, while the other one would wind up for a punch, straight at the smaller man's jaw.

Adem wasn't surprised as one man came in for a punch. And he's anticipated the other man doing something - like a tackle. He had been trained to fight for both attack and defense. You weren't allowed out if you couldn't at least hold your own in a fight. And Adem could very well hold his own in a battle. He'd often come out of the 'fights' they had in training. So it surprised him that while he just managed to duck out of the way of the punch, he'd misjudged the distance he had to move to avoid the tackle.

The body crashed and caught one of his legs, knocking it out from under him and causing him to fall to the ground. Dust rose and the papers flew in all directions. He was on his back by his back pack and one hand, once he'd gotten over the initial winding, dived into the pack to try and reach his gun. His hand was at an awkward angle inside though making it difficult to pull his pistol out.

Meanwhile, Adem swung the blade in his left hand wildly, attempting to stab the guy that had tackled him to the ground.

Hunter, the brute who had tackled the scout, winced heavily as the knife bit hard into his shoulder blade, twice in rapid succession. Naturally, he let go of his quarry and rolled away before another knife struck him. Lewis, the youngest of the group, suddenly surged forwards, his gun pointed at the scout's head, his footsteps loud and anxious. Beside the scout, Jared swung another meaty fist, aimed at the Scout's gun hand as it whirled towards his head, looking to get a quick shot, he assumed.

Thatcher himself began to saunter towards the fight, his own revolver drawn and glinting off of the weakening strands of moonlight. In his belt was a silver hatchet, dulled just enough to make what he planned drawn out, and painful. Sending a message.

Adem couldn't help but smirk as he got in a couple of gashes with his knife into one of the attackers. His glory didn't last long though as in quick succession - as he was trying to shoot the man that had tried to punch him before, who now hit the gun from his hand - a gun was put to his head by yet another attacker. Three now. This was an ambush now. He knew he'd been followed.

He'd lost. That was certain now. He was on the ground, a gun to his head. The knife dropped to the ground with a clatter as did the gun. He knew it was time to give in now. Especially when he saw a fourth man with a what looked like an axe attached to his belt and a revolver in his hand.

Thatcher stepped in front of the man's nose, turning his face with the toe of his boot to meet his eyes. His face was hard and stoic, a mask of utter seriousness that permeated every pore of the air around him. His men had the scout wrapped up; one on his back, one on his legs, and one pinning his arms. The leader of the south leaned down, holding the Westerner's head at the correct angle. "I see that you've stabbed my man," he said, through clenched teeth. "We can't have that, I'm afraid."

He dropped the young man's face into the dirt, and turned towards Hunter. "Patch yourself up, and then grab the documents." He said, in as kind a voice as the figurehead could manage. He walked a short distance, towards a thick log that had fallen in the clearing. He stepped on it, putting weight on it in small incriments, testing how durable it was as his soldier pulled out a bottle of whiskey and dumped it on his wound. When Thatcher was satisfied, he turned towards the three men, slowly pulling his hatchet from his belt, rubbing his thumb against it absently. "Over the log."

The soldiers began dragging the scout towards the log, as Thatcher waited, tapping a brown, dusty boot against the earth.

Adem clenched his teeth as the person who seemed to be the leader of this ambush forced him to look him in the eyes as he commented about stabbing his man. From the man's tone, he was pretty sure he was about to be executed on the spot. There was so much he had to tell his leader about what he'd found... The documents. The man had told his men to collect them. If they killed him now then he wouldn't get back West to tell Twitch and give them an advantage to finding this 'Key'.

His attention was soon called back to what was going on around him and panic soon set in as he watched the leader pull the axe from the belt and ordered his men to haul him over the log. This was going to be painful and messy and Adem was pretty sure he was going to be fighting a losing battle as the men dragged him towards the log and Adem struggled, trying with all his might to break free from their grip. It didn't work though. They had him in a tight hold and now, as they got over to the leader, all Adem could imagine happening was a long painful beheading ensuing.

"You won't get away with this!" He called out, not that it mattered what he said or did as he struggled. "The West will find me, and serve out punishment to you all!" He threatened, despite knowing that such men wouldn't care about an empty threat. The West might find him, but they'd have no way of finding his killers.

Adem was screwed.

The men paused when Adem yelled out his threat, threats of the West, the most elusive of the four gangs on the map. Everyone, including Thatcher, was silent.

Then Hunter began to laugh. Suddenly, all four men were howling with laughter as they brought their captive towards the log, as if he had told them the most hilarious joke they had ever heard. As they laughed, Jared grabbed the man's right wrist, hauled it over the log, and stepped on his hand with all his weight, pinning it in place. Hunter, having collected all of the stray pieces of paper, took over holding the gun to the back of the now-kneeling scout's head. The other two southerners stood back, one of them holding the man's other arm tight behind him, and Lewis watched passively, marveling at the sweat that dripped down Adem's neck.

Thatcher came into the scout's view, then, unhurried and unruffled, as if this entire thing was taking place over a calm walk in the woods. Putting his hands on his knees, he leaned forwards, his eyes meeting Adem's with darkness in them. His eyebrows, from this close up, were bushy; the deep crow's feet around the corners of the leader's eyes were filled with grime and dust, from a lifetime of little water and even less time to bathe. The serious, unchanging, stony expression still surrounded him.

"You stabbed one of my men." He said, flatly, slowly revealing his hatchet. "And we can't have that."

In a flash, and with a nimbleness that few knew he posessed, Thatcher leapt over the log, having it situated between his legs as he aimed carefully with his eyes. The axe came down, biting deep into the man's flesh and bone, severing the skin in a jagged, dusty gash.

"It's cute, how you think your west will protect you." Another axe fall, biting deep into bone, the crunch sickening, satisfying. Jared and Hunter looked away, the smile on their lips becoming bigger as they watched the mutilation. Lewis still watched, fascinated, his eyes boring into the back of the scout's skull.

"It's cute, how you think that they'll avenge you." The axe came down again. Again, the sound of rending flesh and snapping bone met the ears of the assailants, dealing out the punishment for the one true crime in their fearless and bloody leader's mind; hurting anyone in the south.

"It's cute, how you think they care about you." His arm was a blur with each statement, and this one cut through bone. Only a patch, one small strip of skin, remained on the scout's hand, the scout who so bravely stood against his attackers, the scout who had done nothing but been born on the wrong side of their little world. This thought was heavy on Thatcher's mind, but he didn't listen. Not today. Today, he had an example to keep.

"It's cute. But naive." With one final swing, the hand was severed, dropping to the forest floor with a wet thump. Thatcher stooped, picking up the hand, and facing the barely-conscious soldier, his expression still stony, still unflinching.

With a quick, jarring action, he slapped the man with the severed limb, before tossing it into the woods behind him. "Cauterize the wound. We'll take him with us."

Lewis moved forwards, a blowtorch in his grasp. Thatcher slipped the blood soaked instrument back into his belt, examining the gore on his hands and face with disinterest. "I'm going to find a stream. Keep him awake, until I get back."

He turned, and headed into the forest, as the sounds of sizzling wood and the smell of burning flesh traveled into the night sky.

Laughter.

They were laughing at him, mocking him for his idle threats. It had been worth a shot and he'd renewed his attempts to break free in a hope that he'd catch them at a weak moment and offguard. It wasn't to happen though.The firmly got him to their leader and ready to position him.

It was only with his hand being pinned by the foot of a soldier, did Adem truly realise that he wasn't going to be dying. Not now, and not execution style. He wasn't going to be spared with a quick and painless death. He was going to be tortured. Adem hadn't given in with his struggles until someone was behind him, holding his hand firmly behind his back and the man he had stabbed was pointing a firearm at his head.

Adem returned Thatcher's look with one of pure determination and strength. Something within his eyes telling them that they wouldn't crush him with whatever they had planned. He'd be strong and get through it.

That was until the first bite of the axe had hit his wrist. Adem's whole body spasmed as he let out an ear-piercing scream. Agony rippled up his arm as blood spurted out from the wound. Adem felt nauseous and with the second cut into the bone, Adem had been sick through the scream. Whatever Thatcher was saying, Adem wasn't listening, his body in too much pain as the axe drove to cut through his bone, severing his hand.

His body was going into shock with the fourth cut through the bone and his hand hanging off. He was barely conscious and the previous screams had turned into painful grunts as his body spasmed and struggled against the pain. There was no point in trying to fight back. Finally, his hand fell to the ground. Adem wasn't upright anymore, only managing it because of the position the soldier behind him had forced him into as his hand was severed.

He barely registered the hand slapping his sweat covered face before being thrown away for the ravenous wildlife to maul. He just wanted to collapse to the ground and be swallowed up by the darkness threatening to consume him. He wasn't even granted that though. His eyes opening wide as searing heat burned the wound that had been created only seconds ago. Another set of screams escaped his mouth as he struggled against the captors in a bid to end the pain and suffering.

He was granted no mercy.

All his strength and determination had left him and he was now a wounded mess, unable to take the severe punishment that was being given out to him by the men.

And as his body continued to go into shock, but refused to let him slip into an unconscious state, he heard the sizzling of the wood and the smelt his flesh burning.

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#, as written by dig17
PETER GREGORY

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There’s a big hill overlooking my wheat field where my son, Connor, likes to play. He calls it the Blue Ridge because of all the Texas bluebonnet flowers that grow there, and they usually grow the most at the end of spring. There are so many of them there that it makes the whole hill look like it’s covered in a big, blue blanket that Sarah made with little flower designs here and there. Connor tried counting them once, but he got lost when he got to number 99; he’s still got some learning to do when it comes to numbers, but don’t get me wrong: him and his brother are smart fellas. Charlie’s even reading these little books with big words to his brother, but sometimes they fight when it comes to pronunciation of certain words because one heard me say it one way and the other heard Mr. Bridger say it a different way. I try to read them as many books as I can, just like Grampa did for me, and they really seem to be catching on. They’re intelligent boys; I thank God every day that they turned out the way they did, all healthy and together and perfect. I’ve heard about a lot of other women try to give birth around these parts, and sometimes the babies aren’t breathing, and sometimes they don’t live past toddler-hood, and sometimes they’re feeble-minded. For the most part, though, the babies of Earbob Road are healthy pups with strong heartbeats and stronger grips.

Sometimes, when I watch my sons playing in those fields or learning those words, I wish I could be them. I wanna run around in the bluebonnets and chase ghosts til I fall on my pants, and I wanna ask Mama why guitars make sounds and where the sun goes every night. I wanna help Daddy in the wheat field and go hunting with the 20 gauge Dad taught me how to use and chase after the game when I spook it up, and I wanna play in the garden with Mama and wonder why the tomato leaves are so green, and why the tomatoes are green until they turn red. Of course, I know I can’t go back to all that; a small part of me doesn’t want to. Seems like all my youth, I wanted to get big like Daddy and Grampa, and now that I am, I wanna shrink back down to my sons’ size. I guess us humans aren’t supposed to have exactly what we want, or else we wouldn’t have to do anything. I suppose that’d be nice, but I think that I like working too much to ask any other philosophical questions. Maybe it’s the smile my sons have when I fill them full of food or their Mama tells them a funny joke. Maybe it’s even Sarah, how SHE smiles when she eats the food I grow for her, or how she affirms my faith in our life. I know that there’s love somewhere inbetween, and that’s good enough for me.

Speaking of my Grampa, he was a smart man. Although Dad did most of the teaching, Grampa did the raising when I was a kid. He talked a lot; he always had something to say, and he stood by everything he said to the word. Dad made me spend a lot of time with him because he wanted me to learn things; Dad never really thought much of himself. He had his own nuggets of wisdom to impart, and I really wish he’d talked more before he died, but he seemed sad most of the time. Even at the festivals and the feasts, he didn’t talk much and had trouble connecting with people, like he was distant and wouldn’t try to come back. I always wondered why, but Grampa told me that Gramma was the same way. So were my older brothers, and that’s likely why they left the farm when I was young, but I don’t believe it. I think they were looking for something. All of us Gregories are always looking for something, it seems like nothing’s ever good enough. Well, that can’t be true, because I love my life, and it really is good enough; maybe we just want more. That’s understandable, right? I guess I just don’t understand why people settle for what they have, or what they’re born into. I believe that a person’s true worth is measured by how much they earn for themselves. I have no more answers than that.

I know I earn my worth every day. I work my corn, my wheat, and my cows every day so that I can give it to someone, whether it be my family, my neighbors, share it at the seasonal festivals, trade it to passing merchants, or give it away to travellers passing through Earbob Road, food is a commodity more than any other, and a good person will never refuse to feed another. This is just one of the ways you can create your moral character, it’s just the way I try to do it. I react to the conditions of the world. I guess that’s what everyone should do, and you could certainly say that we all do. It’s CREATING the conditions of the world that really bothers me. Grampa talked about the old world like he’d been in it, and how the Yankees ruined such a good thing they’d set up for themselves. He talked about an empire that stretched from one ocean to another, like stretching a blanket from one end of the barn to the other. He says we got too big, too thin, and we broke when we got hit in war. He said that his Grampa wrote a short history about the war, but I’ve never looked at it. I’m too scared. I’m really scared of seeing what’s inside, of learning about things that can’t be possible now and getting ahead of myself. I think I wouldn’t understand a lot of it, too, just because that life was so different from what we know now. The day that Dad told me about airplanes after one passed by our house, I was so shocked that I got sick. I’m in no hurry to find out how we killed each other in an age that Grampa says we could annihilate entire cities with a single bomb.

You know, a lot of people out this way are afraid of violence spreading onto our road. They say that most of it is happening in what they call ‘No Man’s Land’, mostly over fuel and some of the groceries that still haven’t been found by the big groups of people in the city. There’s not much left now, but they’re still looking. I think they’ll always look, no matter how many bones they find out there. That place is death. I’ve been through there before, and it’s no place for my neighbors, these people don’t deserve that kind of business, all that grief that hovers over everything in the wasteland. Now, don’t get me wrong, because the citizens of Earbob Road will always fight for what belongs to them. I’ve seen men, women, and plenty of kids take up arms against troublemakers before. I once remember, when I was ten years old, a large group of bandits came roaring up Earbob causing trouble on a big truck, shooting at houses, taking livestock, I think they either killed or hurt a couple of folk too. By the time Daddy had gotten his guns ready, the bandits were in a fighting retreat back the way they came. Their truck had flipped after the driver got shot, and they were pretty much cornered by all my neighbors. It seemed like everybody came out at once and started shooting; those bandits didn’t stand a chance when an army of hunters came crashing down on them. The survivors were shown mercy and banished from this place with enough supplies to get them back out to NML, which I thought was a great move on our part, and that was the only time on Earbob Road I remember a significant show of violence. I don’t think they’ve come back because the survivors spread the word.

Now, I am not a violent man when it comes to my day-to-day dealings with folk. There typically isn’t that much to worry about out this way; sometimes we get a really desperate thief who rummages through my corn or tries to lead a calf away, but otherwise things are quaint. I’ve only ever had to kill two men in my whole life. The first one was out in the cow pen, I couldn’t figure out what, but the cattle were sure stirred up by his presence. I went out back with Dad’s Enfield and told him to come up out of wherever he was hiding. I never even heard his voice or anything, and he started shooting at me. No provocation, no threats, no nothing, I simply said, “Heya out there, who’s that then?” He had this little pistol, this revolver, and he fired three times before moving out from behind the feed shed. I put my gun up and crouched down, found him in the gun’s scope, and he suddenly stopped. I don’t know for what, I guess he thought I couldn’t see him, but he was down and prone behind this teeny, tiny berm. He looked right at me and was trying to put both of his hands on his gun to make himself more steady, he was shaking like a rabbit in winter. I popped that trigger and put my bullet in the top of his head; nobody shoots at my home and gets kindness from me.

I don’t really want to talk about the second time; it was a bit more scary than I like to recall. The long and short of it is that I found the guy in my house, and I thought my kids and wife were upstairs. I shot him down like I shoot deer in spring, but I gave him a chance like I did the other guy. I also made sure to shoot him where Sarah wouldn’t have too much trouble cleaning the blood out; I can’t ruin her favorite rug with some punk’s “cherry pie” spatted in the threads. It also looks bad when we have guests; despite the seven times in my lifetime that we’ve been visited by bad guys, we always like to bring travellers in for supper and a night of rest on fresh linens and lots of pillows. We’ve always had more than enough, and Sarah tries to make our guest room look nice and homely. I’ve had so many people sit at my table with me and my wife and sons, and some folk out here don’t understand why I do it. It’s a hard thought to imagine that kindness is an uncommon trait, but there’ve been more ‘home invasions’ out on Earbob than I care to think is statistically correct.

They tell me about life outside of Earbob, and it makes me wonder. They tell me about roving gangs and disease and poverty. Whenever they tell Charlie and Connor about eating food out of cans or plastic, they don’t understand. Grampa knew that people were dying before they were 25 in the city, and knew a little bit about what ADV-423 did, but he always said that they were killing themselves by eating that preserved crap leftover from the war. He said that they were killing themselves with it even before the war, and with this new disease running around that infrastructure and those towns, anybody who wanted to stay didn’t stand a chance. His theory that life could be sustained on an eat-what-you-grow diet proved right when he died a week after his 42nd birthday. Travellers we invited in couldn’t believe it when they met him, or my father, who died at 34 years old. I’m only 20 myself, but I can’t help but wonder what their real stories are. This fascination usually brings me to turn on Grampa’s old CB radio and listen for signals. The only one I can find is running on a closed loop and I can’t make any sense out of it:

< e-c-2-7-2-7-1-f-6-d-0-7-0-6-d-3-f-d-6-0-7-4-c-a-7-4-9-6-9-b-6-f: unknown. >

Now, I’m not a radio man by any means, but Evan Bridger has a CB and says he’s heard it, too; he tells me that It might be an old civilian emergency broadcasting signal from the war. He says he’s heard a couple other loops juts like that when he used to go take his crop to town to see if anyone wanted to trade for something interesting, and that he heard from OTHER people that they’re actually coordinates. Coordinates of what, they don’t know, and neither do I, but if I was a betting man, I’d say it was of one of the camps that Grampa talked about. If it wasn’t, my second guess would be that it was coordinates representing the main area of Earbob Road, and that’s why we can pick up the signal. Sarah’s told me that she thinks it might not be coordinates at all because it’s such a long message, but rather a series of codes strung together to report something. All we really know for sure is that it’s a war-time message that no longer has any purpose except to entertain the cowboys out here.

I recently turned on the radio to listen to the code again, hoping to unlock its mysteries by analyzing the man’s voice, and instead, I heard a female voice broadcasting. There was a new message being looped, and I listened to it over and over. I even wrote the whole thing down to make sure I was hearing exactly what was being said, and hopefully make sense out of it:

“Long ago, towards the end of the 21st Century, a third world war finally broke out. Man fought day and night against each other, killing only because of greed. It wasn't until man was on the verge of extinction, having completely destroyed most continents, leaving little. It was at the beginning of the 22nd century that they were forced to stop simply because no one could do anything any more. The virus had already mutated and people had started dying...

...There is one thing left to save mankind though. A Key. This Key can cure 1000 problems and also cause 1000 more, yet it doesn't fit in, nor open any locks or lead to any rooms. The tender love, and beauty crafted into making this Key, flows from top to bottom, to be seen by all. When staring at 'The Key' no one is any wiser, and neither is 'The Key' itself.”


It festered on my mind; I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I wasn’t eating, I could barely work, I didn’t play or read with my sons. I was as useless as I felt, and I couldn’t explain why no matter how many times Sarah asked me. It must’ve been the exact same way for Evan Bridger, because he packed up some necessities and left Earbob Road to find ‘The Key’. He said he believed in it, that it was out there somewhere and that people were suffering. People were always going to live in cities, no matter how many come tumbling down, and he wanted to help them. He didn’t like watching travellers pass by who were hungry and scared of the fact that they had up to 7 years of life left. Evan knows the area pretty well anyway; he likes to take his biggest crops around the city to see if anyone wants to trade. The whole community watched him walk down the road, away from his neighbors and kin, and toward what’s likely a mess. I can’t blame the man. If I was a little braver, I’d have left before him, or even gone with him if he’d asked. Unfortunately, my bravery is tied directly to my sense of moral necessity, and I’m a pretty simple man. But I’m not stupid, and Evan’s not crazy.

That was a week ago. My big excuse for leaving is that someone needs to bring Evan back; his kids miss him, and his wife isn’t exactly a farmer. Her family’s from a coal mine camp up north that got shot to shit by a gang and the mine was exploded shut. One of Evan’s brothers from one of the southern roads came up to help them out, but there’s a good chance that Evan’s gonna get himself in trouble looking for something that neither of us knows exist. It’s a hard line to straddle, because on one side, we don’t know anything. Nothing is certain; we have no truths, only relics. On the other side, I don’t want to have to deal with one of my sons asking me why we only live as long as we do, and why he has to die that young, too. What I think about the most, though, is what my Grampa said to me when I asked him about death. He said, “We only live as long as Fate paints our final moments. We go to him to pick up the final product when the paint finally dries.” Evan striking out the way he did made me think that maybe we don’t have to answer to Fate’s watercolors; it was like he was making his own painting, and he was racing Fate, or God, or Whoever/Whatever to finish his own painting first. It’s an odd analogy, I’m sure of it, but it sure made sense to me when I saw the look in his eyes. I think I was the only one he looked at that way; like he knew this has been on my mind, and maybe he was urging me to go with him. He sure as hell couldn’t right out and ask me to go, especially in front of his family and mine, but we both know what’s at stake.

When I was loading up my rifle for the trip that Charlie’s calling “The Long Hike”, I thought about an old Civil War song Grampa taught me on guitar. It’s called “I’m A Good Old Rebel” and, although I can’t really sing it that well, I usually play it at Earbob’s festivals and the little feasts we have. I sure like the song, it’s a snappy tune and a fun listen, but Grampa told me that it has a very serious meaning. He said that when the Confederates surrendered at the end of the Civil War, they thought about running to Mexico, another country south of the US, and trying again. That’s what he means when he says:

“I’m heading for the frontier soon as I can go,
I’ll prepare a weapon and start for Mexico.”


For all I knew, I was going to Mexico. I don’t know anything about the world outside of Earbob Road. There could be anything out there; aliens could be in charge, there might be monsters and strange creatures who hunt people, the Southern Confederacy might rule the world, people may have already found ‘The Key’, or everything could just be on fire. I don’t like any of those answers, but I doubt the real ones will be just as depressing.

I think about the idea of my sons growing to be 100 years old a lot. Boy, that would be a neat party! Everybody in the county would come out to see that; my boys, the first 100 year-old men on Earbob Road. Sarah’d be the first 100 year-old woman, too, and she’d wear this pretty dress that Linda Donovan would help with, maybe from some fabric that I bring back when it’s all over, and maybe that cute bow she likes to put in her hair so much. Maybe Mr. Umgad would help make a huge butter cake, the size of a manhole so everyone could get full on it, and with chocolate on it; he’s grown cocoa beans on his plot before, and he says that if he had some milk from my cows that he’d be able to make something really delicious. I’d help him make the milk chocolate and we’d spell out “HERE’S TO 100 MORE”. I imagine Sarah would be wrinkly and have this short gray hair, and her skin would be so soft and look so heavy on her bones. She’d still have these big dimples under her cheeks every time she smiled, but you could still make out hints of youthfulness in her eye.

After my first day of travelling, I came across the old church we use for the winter festival. The weather’s usually a bit too much to handle when we have our seasonal gathering, so when I was twelve years old, Mr. Garrety suggested we switch from the old hunting cabin up the Pine Court road to the pretty-intact and comfortably-spacious but somewhat-distant church farther up Earbob than we usually travel. It’s always worth it, though; that’s the best time a person can have. There’s a ton of food that we all bring, from my corn to Roger Carter’s chickens (which is always a hit; we’re always experimenting in lots of different ways to prepare and serve it) to Tommy James’ cheesy potatoes. That’s got to be my favorite dish we have out there. I love potatoes, in every single form. Mashed up, boiled and sliced, fried, baked; hell, I even eat some raw like fruit sometimes. I’m working on finding another plot on my farm so I can grow some myself, because the potato is a treat in my home.

I love the winter gathering; in addition to eating lots of goodies, we commune and play games, and usually myself and a few other fellas play music up at the front of the church. I play the guitar real well, and Evan Bridger has a fiddle that he can make do things I never even heard of. I can make Grampa’s guitar sing pretty well, but I’ve got nothing compared to Evan’s abilities, although he says otherwise. Tommy James can play guitar too and sometimes he accompanies me, or I accompany him, and he can sing, I tell you what. He just doesn’t like singing some of the Southern tunes that Grampa taught me, he says some of the lyrics make him uncomfortable. Tommy’s one of those old school guys who believes in the United States and the Constitution and the President and whatever else, even though we can’t see them, hear from them, or get help from them. I tell him he’s a bit foolish to believe in all that, and he tells me the same thing about God.

Speaking of God, I even married my wife at the winter festival four years ago, coming up five. I can’t tell you what kind of guts she’s got in her, but she’s a pretty feisty lady. Every festival that came around, she’d ask me to dance with her when the music was going, but she never wanted anything to do with the other boys. Roger Carter was kind of a ladykiller, or so I thought at the time, it seemed that all the girls wanted to show him the patterns on their dresses at the festivals. Even I thought it was strange when I was a younger man, unfamiliar with the female going-ons and how they operated mentally; I was a master of my corn field, but Sarah just struck me dumb every time she wanted my attention. The more time we spent together, the more I realized that I loved that girl. She wasn’t some bimbo milkmaid like Mr. Garrety’s daughters (I’m a peaceful man at heart, but those little whores make me mad as hell), she was intelligent, and she wanted to help work my corn with me. I figured out later she meant something else by that, but let’s just say for now that she’s an excellent farmer in everything she grows. It turned out that she loved me, too, and I asked her to be my wife. I gave her Gramma’s ring that Grampa gave me with explicit instructions to only give to a woman worthy of the Gregory name. I like to think that both he and Dad would say she earned it.

I slept inside the old Ford truck by the church that first night, I guess because I wasn’t ready to go that far from home yet. The church gave me comfort, and I was raised to have some faith in the Christian religion, but more faith in my neighbors and my community. I guess I was also seeking guidance that night. The next morning, as the sun came up through the thin threads of trees to the east, I looked out the rear window of the truck at the main road. It was a beautiful morning; I could hear birds singing, probably from a nest up in the church roof somewhere, and I could almost hear the grass breathing. The Earbob Road sign was the only thing my eyes wanted to look at, though.

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I wondered what the first Gregory thought when he first saw that sign, going off to look at land that he owned, or was going to own. He had to have come from somewhere; made a conscious decision to leave the place he was from and, out of every single place on earth, chose that farm to make his life. We haven’t lived at the farm forever; we had to find this place. He must have been some kind of pioneer who couldn’t find what he was looking for. That’s pretty ironic, considering my best chance of finding ‘The Key’ is in the city, exactly the place that my family’s been avoiding for years, the place that they. Grampa used to say to me, “Son, the lights are too bright for our eyes. The buildings are too big and bring us down; we’re not from there. One day, your great-great-great-Grampa just had enough. It’s no place for people like us Southerners.” Grampa talked about the south a lot; he taught me Confederate songs and talked about its generals and its soldiers. He told me what it stood for and why you can’t see it in the cities.

“Peter, the Southern spirit’s something you earn. It’s in the music, the food you eat, the folk who talk to you and how you talk back to them. It’s in your Grandson’s skin and in the calluses on your hands. It’s doing good in the face of the history of the world and being the man that makes whatever comes next. We earned this, son, so don’t you lose it. Make it better, and give it to someone who deserves it.”

Now you know why I’m looking for the cure.

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Character Portrait: Paul Julius Holmes
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Paul Julius Holmes - A ruined building in No Man's Land - Southeast

He had finally traveled what he deemed a satisfactory distance, and as a bonus had found the perfect shelter: a basement. Disuse had all but destroyed the upper parts of the building, and the basement was of course filthy, but Julius was satisfied with it. He could live with filth. He'd lived with filth his whole life; he could cope with another disgusting, critter-inhabited hide-away for the night.

That was his constant rationalization. It's only for the night, Paul repeated in a sly silent whisper. Only until tomorrow. Tomorrow we'll find a new gang and start over. We'll make it. We did pretty well in that other gang.
"Yeah," Julius muttered aloud in useless reply. "We did great. I still have nightmares about them. Almost daily abuse from every other member of the gang. It's a goddam wonder they didn't cut my throat when they abandoned us. That's the people you want behind you. A-plus choice of friends there."
Okay, sure, they didn't like you. They never did and probably never would have. That's why I came in, Paul wheedled, to protect you from them. You need me, and I need you. Don't we have an understanding?
"I don't even...you're a nut-job, did I ever tell you that? You wanted to kill them when we next saw them!"
Wanted? Paul was almost condescending. Julius hated when Paul did this, but could do nothing to express his anger but slam a door and fume as he gathered various items from the basement to furnish a small space in which to sleep. He growled to himself as Paul continued, I still want to kill them. They're bastards, every one. The day we next meet them will be their last.
"Or ours," Julius muttered.

Satisfied with the sleeping space he had made, Julius unslung his blocky rifle from his back, ensured the safety was on, and slowly eased himself into the night's sleeping space with the rifle in his hands, ready to use. As uncomfortable as this would have been to any other, he was weary to his bones of walking, and fell into a restless sleep very quickly.

He would not know anything that would happen after he awoke. Paul would.

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Jamerson and Valintine - Scouts in No Man's Land - South West corner searching for Adem


Everyone had checked in that was scouting in No Man's Land. Everybody except Adem who was covering the South West part of No Man's Land. Currently, Jamerson was at base - set up half a day's walk from Western Territory.

"Adem, come in. Are you there?"

No reply, just the crackling of the radio.

"Adem. We request you check in as soon as you can. Everyone else has checked in."

Still silence. Something was wrong. Adem was one of the best scouts they had and he was never silent. He never failed to check in with them when out on routine missions. It had been two days now since they'd heard anything from him.

Sighing, Jamerson stood up away from the radios and found his commander. "Norvik has failed to check in. He never fails to check in. I am requesting to take a couple of scouts down to his last location."

His commander sighed and nodded. "Sure, Jamerson take who you see fit."

Valintine was looking over a table, his eyes had dark clouds beneath them, he hadn't slept for three days, he'd been looking for breeches in the walls of the Thanatos District, loud nu-metal played in the background as he scribbled on the map with red marker, circling and double crossing.

The tent he was in was red, there was a bedroll, a table with radio(which was playing nu metal from disc, if there were still radio stations, he hadn't heard of them.) Valintine swore under his breath as he realised he just double crossed a circle which he still needed to check out.

Fucking Adem giving him hard orders.

Jamerson saluted his commander and immediately left the big grey tent that was known as the main communications headquarters. He knew exactly who he was taking with him.

His eyes focused immediately on a smaller red tent as his long legs strode forward with a purpose. He didn't wait to enter, or alert his presence. He simply moved in and announced his presence with his order. "Valintine, no word from Adem in over a week. We're going to check his last known location. You're on my team and are coming. I want you to get a map together of his last known locations."

He paused for a moment, a frown at the man's choice in music. "We're moving out in 30 minutes. Be ready and meet us at headquarters."

Without waiting for Valintine's response, Jamerson turned and exited the tent so he could grab a couple more scouts and get himself sorted before the team of four left to see what was stopping Adem from communicating with them. A sick feeling was in the pit of his stomach. He had a feeling that when they arrived at Adem's last known location, they'd be bringing back a corpse.

Valintine replied with a "Sure boss" to thin air, surprising he could hear from the nu-metal's screeching riffs. Valintine started walking about the tent, picking up maps and collecting them, looking though and stuffing ones that didn't pertain to the mission back into their assorted drawers, or right onto the floor.

Then Valintine would get down on his knees, put a hand under the bedroll and pull out a glock firearm, pulling back the slide to see if there was any ammunition, which there was not, he put his hand back under the bedroll and pull out a magazine, slapping it in and putting it under his camoflague cloak.

Valentine pulled up his hood and went for the mess hall.

By the time Jamerson had rounded up two more scouts to take with them, gotten himself ready and made it back out to Headquarters it had started to rain. The gray sky was showing no signs of disappearing and he signed, knowing it was going to make conditions a lot worse. But at the same time at least they'd be camoflagued more if they happened to run into enemy territory.

They had 5 minutes before leaving when he got back to headquarters. They would be going by a truck, the only other truck West had, half way and then take the rest on foot. If they found Adem in a serious condition and no signs of ambush, they'd call the vehicle in. They didn't want to alert enemies to their whereabouts.

Once everyone was rounded up, he nodded. "Okay then." He explained what the plan was - half way in vehicle and halfway by foot. Once everyone was inside the truck, he got himself in the driver's seat and made sure that Valentine was in the passenger seat. "What was Adem's last known location?"

Valintine pulled out the folded up map in his pockets, pulling it out and unfolding it, the red marker was circled over a tower in the distance. "Around here, that's where was stationed, no patrols I think, just him." Valintine replied, responding to the issue of stealth by pulling his hood further over his head. "We should drive there, full breath, when you shut down a vehicle on a distance

"It doen't just disappear, we're better off walking if we want stealth. that tower overhangs a fair bit, they'll see us if we're in a vehicle before we see that tower, and I was better off grabbing a rifle, but if he ain't in a condition to watch, you'll need to leave me behind, take him back, then come back and drop off supplies."

Valintine nodded. "It's just impossible for him to disappear too, for fucks sake." He finally added, leaning back in the chair.

Jamerson nodded, listening exactly to what Valintine said. He was the best of what he did. "This isn't like Adem. He's the best scout we have. Something is wrong. Either he got caught out or he was killed by a sniper before it was even apparent one was there." He cursed under his breath. They didn't need this.

Jamerson continued to focus on driving, the two in the back kept watch for anything out of the normal. He let Valintine keep track of where they were. Sighing, he finally pulled up to a stop. It had stopped raining about thirty minutes before. He didn't know if that was a good or bad thing. "Right. We're going by foot now." Jamerson ordered. "Keep a watch. I don't know who is still out here.

If you need assistance, give the call." He told them. The call been a whistle like a bird. This area was heavily forested in places with few abandoned buildings scattered here and there. Anything could be hidden out there.

Valintine pulled on a pair of IR goggles from the vehicle, pulling them over his eyes and tapping the side of it until the whine sounded and everything turned bright as day, the pistol was out of it's holster and was held between his hands, feet sloushing in the mud.

"Makes you wish Twitch was still here, nobody fucks with us when Twitch is here."

Valintine grinned, not sure if Jamerson could see him. "And what do you think of our alliance with the other group? Personally I don't think they're right in the head. Too many weapons and tanks for me, y'know?"

Jamerson got the gear ready, making sure he had his own rifle and handgun on his being as they exited the truck. He ordered one of the scouts to stay at the truck and got his googles over his eyes. "I don't know. What I do know is that I'd rather be there ally than their enemy." He told Valintine.

"Right, we'll all head out North, spread a few feet apart. I want to make sure that we're all on watch for Adem or anyone else. If he is out here he won't be expecting us. This could simply be a lost of broken radio."

With that, Jamerson started to move out, expecting the others to follow.

Valintine split up, moving to the far left and looking up at the omnious tower in the dark, it was a relic from before the war, there were still mounted guns at the top, though the ammunition for them was long gone, used by Thanatos to fight off some of Loki's kin at the begining.

The camoflague cloak on Valintines shoulders was getting dirtier by the second as he trudged though the mud, wishing he'd gotten a better pair of boots, and maybe a water resistant cloak. These conditions were boody terrible, no map would survive this if it wasn't protected, Valintine loved maps.

That's probably why people called him Valintine, because he loved maps more than people.

Jamerson took the lead. His rifle was pointed ahead of him the entire time. The conditions were awful. It gave Jamerson hope that Adem could be found alive and okay. Maybe it was just a damaged radio. He shook his head. Adem knew the precautions to take while out in the field to ensure he never lost contact.

Something bad had definitely happened.

Finally, Jamerson came to some solid ground. It looked like it had stopped raining here or that the rain hadn't made it this far. Jamerson signalled to the two men with him to split up further apart. They were at a huge clearing. Two the left there were a few abandoned buildings.

Valintine jumped over a ruined wall, pressing though the ruined building, pistol moving like an extension of his arm, hand ready on his combat knife the entire tense time he walked though the house, breathing heavily as he stopped in the pitch black of the house, wood making creaking noises as it warmed up from being drenched in rain.

"No targets so far, boss."

Jamerson nodded though he was rumaging through a different part of the buildings. "Confirmed. Keep looking." He told Valintine. "Timmons, how you getting on?" He asked. The young scout was out searching the outskirts of the forest. "Sir,-" He then trailed off and heard the young scout throwing up. "Valintine. Outside now. Report to Timmons. He's foudn something."

Jamerson was moving back through the abandoned building with haste and was soon at Timmon's side. There was no body though. "What's wrong?" Then Jamerson caught what the scout had seen. A human hand, decaying and covered in bugs. He had a feeling that was Adem's hand. "I want the vicinity searched." Jamerson snapped, feeling sick himself. He assumed that Adem was dead and that he had been chopped up and spread out. Inside the building closest to them, a log would be found, and blood would cover several areas around the place but mainly on the log and surrounding it. Not enough to indicate the chopping of the body, but definitely for the hand.

Valintine moved out of the building he was in, going into the other one and muttering an expletive. "Fuckers, see this is why we need more people patrolling around here, these fuckers have probably killed him." Valintine said, clearing his throat as he patted Jamerson on the shoulder.

"I'm going after the tower, if there's any sign of being taken, it'd be there." Valintine said, cocking his pistol again to check for ammo, there was plenty, enough to shoot some assholes with. "We ain't seen nothing yet, I bet."

"If he's here. I want his body found. He has a woman and child. They deserve to have his body brought back." Jamerson ordered. "I'm going to continue searching the buildings. Timmons, you continue out here." With that, Jamerson left for the buildings again.

Inside, he found the blood. "Blood in this room, Valintine. I'd say enough to explain where his hand was cut off, but not enough to show that the rest of his body had the same fate."

"I gotcha'." Valintine replied, running though the mud, hood flapping in the wind as he held the gun down, ready to swing upwards if he need it to, he got up to the tower, trying the door, it was unlocked, now that was a bad sign along with the hand.

He kicked it open, the room behind it was apposed to be one circular room with stairs built going upwards.

"There's nothing else out here, Sir." Timmon's told Jamerson. "Norvik isn't out here. His body isn't out here." He sighed. "No sign of his body in there buildings. What about you Valintine? Anything up there?" He asked over the radio they all carried.

"I've got southern weapons around here, a radio and some other shit I don't feel like discovering, heck, do I look like the enclyopedia of southern's famous sex toys?" Of course they weren't anything of the sort, just other sourthener kit. Valintine grumbled under his breath, flipping weapons over and looking for more signs of inhabitation.

"Want me to check up top, boss?"

"Check up top. Maybe Norvik was taken there." Jamerson ordered. He moved back outside and took the hand, placing the almost rotten limb into a spare bag. They couldn't leave any part of a Western man out here. He stored it in his bag. "I'll come and grab the stuff down there with Timmons."

With that, he moved out to get the jobs done, wondering if Valintine would be asking for their assistance in bringing down a body.

Valintine scaled the tower, running up with his gun pointed upwards at all time, but when he arrived uptop, there was nothing, he leaned over the railing and scoffed. "Fucking what? There's nothing up here, absoulete jack all, fuck, we need to get Twitch on the radios, this is bullshit." The scout replied, double checking, heck, he even threw a chair up there down the steps, hearing it crash against the floor below. "Fuck man, what happened?"

"There was no sign of a possibly grave either." Jamerson sighed. They weren't going to be returning with Adem in body or as a course. All they had was a hand and they couldn't even tell if it was his. Jamerson figured it was. "Let's go back to camp. There I'll make sure that all scouts check in. I'll get a hold of Twitch and then send out one of the spies South." He told everyone as he left the tower making sure they had all the things they'd found at the bottom of the tower. "Let's get out of here, boys."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Preston and Wyatt Daniels Character Portrait: Areli Lovell
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Wyatt and Areli ~ No Man's Land

Wyatt had called in a few men for his team. Most were people he knew, that he hadn't particularly liked while working for them, and wanted to be the boss himself in return. He also knew the stakes of this, so they were men he trusted to do a good job.

"Listen up, men. I've got orders from Eve as to what we need to do." He called for silence. The group obeyed. "We're to go into the East, once a path has been made, and get Eve's sister out of there. Alive. Failing isn't an option here. We don't leave until we have her back with Eve. Got it?"

He looked around at the men, his eyes falling on Areli, wondering if the man would protest.

Areli was busy sharpening his boot knife while he waited for Wyatt to speak. He stopped as he heard Wyatt's voice. He listened intently as the plan was unveiled in a manner of speaking. Vague details that formed together to make the plan sound like it was going to be easy, fat chance, Areli thought as Wyatt finished up.

As Wyatt scanned the other men till his eyes came upon Areli, Areli clearly wore his distaste of being involved with his mission but he held his tongue. He knew the mission was going to be messy, a lot of the men won't come back alive. Areli just placed his knife back in its sheath and placed it in his boot without looking away from Wyatt.

He jumped off of the wooden table he'd been standing on once he'd given a clearer picture of what the plan was exactly, though he was still vague. He was hoping that Eve would give them a signal as to when they were to head inside. If not, he'd just keep a close watch. He wasn't going to screw this up.

He knew that Areli wanted to say something though if his look was anything to go by, so immediately approached him. "So spit out whatever it is you want to say." He told the other male.

Areli watched as Wyatt jumped off the table. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He did not like this. He did not like this one bit. It was vague and he had no idea what to make of what they were going to do.

After Wyatt spoke, Areli just smirked, "Nothing to say, SIR." He knew better than to say anything. Wyatt would try to make an example of him to the others. Areli wanted to live. He wanted to live to fight another day and to see the Key. There was more he wanted to do with the Key but living to see who or what it is was the first priority.

Wyatt rolled his eyes, folding his arms over his chest. He was determined to find out what Areli thought. He felt like he had something to prove to the man. Yes, he was only young, but he could do this. He knew he could. Problem was, Wyatt was too cocky and let things go to his head. "Come on, tell me. Maybe it's in my interest to hear my soldiers thoughts on my plans." He told Areli.

Areli smiled a cheeky smile as he heard Wyatt say 'my plans.' He doubt they were really his plans at all. Areli had plans. He had no idea if he would live to see them through but he had them and they were all his own.

Taking a moment before speaking, Areli looked at Wyatt and spoke, "Just wanted to make sure everyone remembers to watch each other's back, we are going in and probably won't have much help. Watch our backs for enemies and don't fight unless necessary. We do not want them to know where we are. They were probably have her guarded heavily when we find her and make sure each of us has restraints so if someone falls, she probably will fight." Areli looked around at the other men with a small smile before looking at Wyatt and adding, "That is all I wanted to say.... SIR."

The way he said 'sir' made Wyatt want to kill the man standing in front of him. He did his best to control his temper, figuring the man just wanted to humiliate him and make a show of their new, young leader. "You don't think I know all of what you've just said? I will be watching your backs. You will be watching my back. And Eve will watch our team. She wants her sister. She'll make sure we get her out safely." Deep down he wondered how true his words were though.

He looked back at Areli. "So you better start treating me with a little more respect. I expect myself to be staying in this position of power and I'm not going to let you, or anyone else, make me look like a fool in front of Ev-- our leader." He quickly corrected. He didn't want to make it seem like he was on a personal level with Eve. Everyone knew they were sleeping together though.

Areli was having fun playing mind games with his former squadmate. He knew that Wyatt only wanted to prove himself to Eve and please her. That could get the rest of this new squad killed. Areli just watched Wyatt as he spoke and made sure not to let his body language give away anything that he was thinking. Eve did want them to succeed but he doubted they would have help from her or make sure they could escape alive.

Areli looked at Wyatt in the eye as he spoke. He could not help but chuckle a bit at Wyatt. He did not speak but he made it clear that Areli respected Wyatt's position and only that.

Wyatt stood his ground. "You better watch yourself, Areli. I'm in charge now, and what I say goes. Eve'll listen to me." He had doubts about that, especially after what Eve had previously shown him. The thought of the children made him feel sick still. Yes, he often abused his brother, yes he'd often teased him and caused him pain for no apparent reason and yes, he left his brother in the hands of the East. But that was different. He didn't care much for Preston.

Young children though, that was a different story. He looked back at Areli once more. "Remember, watch yourself. I might stop watching your back if you continue." Like he'd been watching his back in the first place, right?

Areli walked back to where he was sitting and sat down again as Wyatt spoke. He knew better than believe that Eve would listen to anybody besides herself. Most people were either too in love with Eve or too afraid to say anything different. Areli was in neither category. He noticed that something changed in Wyatt like something came to his mind.

Areli raised an eyebrow at the statement that came from Wyatt's mouth. He hoped Wyatt was smarter than that but he knew that Eve was playing with Wyatt's strings. He just took his last empty clip for his FAL and began to load the rounds.

Wyatt took one last look at Areli before turning on his heal and storming out. He had last minute plans to make before they went into battle.

---

Several hours later, Wyatt and his team were lying on their stomaches watching as the children approached the Eastern gates. The men lay watching and waiting for the right moment to move. They needed to be patient. They needed to wait and strike at the right time. The wrong time would get them all killed, or worse, have them come back empty handed to face Eve.

All they were waiting for was one signal. One signal from their leader.

Wyatt was on his stomach in the dirt, a few feet ahead of the other men. Under his breath he was chanting the same sentence over and over again.

"Failure is not an option."

"Failure is not an option."

"Failure is not an option."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Preston and Wyatt Daniels Character Portrait: Areli Lovell
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Wyatt and Areli ~ End of East's Minefield

Wyatt sat and watched the hoards of children lined up in entrance to the East's minefield. They were ready to move across it as Andrew tried to come to some resolution with Eve. Like that was going to work. He was getting impatient now. He just wanted to get in, get Jessie, and get the hell out of there. Then, once successful, hopefully he could be rewarded with Eve between his legs in bed once more.

Turning, he glanced at the small group of five men with them. They had everything they needed and Wyatt had assigned himself leader despite there being more capable men of the job.

He still had a grudge with Areli though. He almost wanted something to happen to the man so that either he didn't come back with them or did something that resolved in him getting killed by Eve. God, Wyatt would love to watch that. So much so he started fantasizing about it. That was until he heard his brother's pathetic voice begging for his help.

So they'd kept him alive. Wyatt smirked. Big mistake. If he could he'd get to Preston and shoot him dead himself. Or maybe that would be too merciful. Maybe he'd leave him to suffer at Andrew's hands.

So many options...

Areli knew that Wyatt was still sore about Areli's little show in front of the men earlier. Areli did not care but knew that Wyatt was probably going to try to do something about it later. No matter if Wyatt was screwing their leader. He was still a kid in Areli's eyes. A kid who now had power over him. Areli sighed softly then noticed the little kids near the minefield. Looking at Wyatt, Areli wondered if he knew about this plan.

Damnit, Areli thought, Damn you, Eve. It was sickening thought of how she came up with that whole idea. Areli looked away as the leader of the East spoke. Areli felt his stomach do a few flips and twists as the thought of the kids blowing up played in his mind. Areli looked up to Wyatt as Preston began to talk though there was no real use for him doing so. Eve had made up her mind.

Areli turned and tried to take his mind off what was going to happen while waiting for the battle to offically begin.

Wyatt blocked out all thought. He hated the idea of the children being used as weapons but he knew better than to argue to Eve about it. He was already in the shit with her for showing emotion in front of her. He sighed, trying to think of something else now.

"You're team in place?" A voice came over the radio.

"We're in place and ready to go." Wyatt replied.

"Good. We'll give the word when it's time to move."

"Got ya." Wyatt looked at the others and forced a grin in the dire situation. "We've gotta get ready to go so make sure you are. When we're in we're getting the girl and getting out. If you happen to see my brother on the way, kill him."

Wyatt showed no emotion with his words.

Areli listened as the radio came to life. Areli was only laying down a man over from Wyatt. He purposely laid there in order to be close enough to hear anything but far away that Wyatt can't shoot him on and call it an accident.

Rolling his eyes at what Wyatt said till he mentioned his brother, Areli was surprised to hear the lack of emotion. Preston was a bit annoying but he was Wyatt's family. Apparently the change of Wyatt becoming the leader of the squad was not the only change in Wyatt, he no longer cared for his own flesh and blood.

As the thought of flesh and blood came up, Areli thought of the kids again. He wondered how Eve would react if her own daughter or son was out there. It was curious that their leader had not tried to sire a replacement by now. She was getting old and the virus was likely to strike soon meaning the window of her having a kid was getting short. Areli sighed as he also realized that his window was closing as well.

Pushing the thought aside, Areli loaded a round in the chamber of both his pistol and FAL as he waited for the word to start their little 'rescue' operation.

"Does everyone know what they're doing?" Wyatt asked. "We need to make sure we're all on the same page. Don't want anything to go wrong, do we?" He chose to look at Areli as he said the words.

He wanted to make a point. The point exactly he wasn't sure about right now, but he was going to get his authority across. He knew that Areli didn't trust him.

"And do you, Areli, know what you're doing?" He made the point to ask.

Areli listened as Wyatt asked the men if they knew what they were doing. Some of the men nodded and one of them spoke up saying yes. Areli knew his job. He would not let the mission fail while he was still breathing. Nothing would stop him.

Areli popped his head around the guy in front of him as Wyatt addressed him. "I am the pointman. I position in front of the rest of you, I call out targets and also check for potential ambush spots." Areli answered, "I also am most likely be the first one to die because I am the most exposed." He looked at Wyatt defiantly. It was also Areli's job to help figure out where Jessie could be.

"Good. So you know not to fuck up then." Wyatt told him, before listening to the other men give out their positions and what they were supposed to do. He nodded but in reality he wasn't really listening. He'd just wanted to take a snap at Areli.

"She's in there somewhere. We're going to get in, get her and get out. Kill whoever you have too. I don't care. Shoot anything that moves. Man, woman or child unless you identify that person as Eve's sister Jessie. That's a direct order from me." Wyatt told them. "And Eve."

That was a little lie, but he was sure that Eve would agree with him.

Areli shook his head as Wyatt snapped at him. Still a kid, he thought to himself. Areli listened as Wyatt added the rules of engagement. After Wyatt finished saying there were basically no rules, Areli spoke up, "Ummm.... Sir... We are supposed to sneak in and take Jessie. Would it not be the smart thing to only fire when fired upon so we do not give away our position and have more troops try to kill us than we need?"

Areli grinned a stupid little grin. "I mean once we have Jessie that rule of engagement you have would be nice but until then why cause a firefight when we could slip by a group without much hassle?" It was clear that Areli knew what he was talking about compared to the inexperienced Wyatt.

"We're doing it my way. I don't appreciate you butting in with how you'd do things." Wyatt frowned. "Just stick to your own damn job and do as I say." He went back to watching the children and everything that was going on. He was tense, waiting for the envitable to happen. He hated the thought of what he was about to witness. But it was part of the job. He had to harden himself to it.

Areli moved over and grabbed Wyatt bringing him close to make sure he will get the message. "THIS IS NOT SOME DAM MEASURING STICK OF WHOSE IS LONGER. MY JOB IS TO PICK OUT TARGETS WHO ARE A THREAT TO US FAILING THE MISSION. UP UNTIL WE GET JESSIE, WE DO NOT WANT TO GET INTO EVERY SINGLE FIGHT THAT WE CAN EASILY AVIOD. THAT WILL END UP WITH US FAILING THIS MISSION AND EVERY ONE OF US WILL BE DEAD." Areli pushed Wyatt on his ass. "GET THAT THROUGH YOUR FUCKING HEAD. WE FAIL. YOU DIE ALSO. DOES NOT MATTER YOU ARE SLEEPING WITH EVE. YOU WILL DIE ALONG WITH US." Areli growled lowly to make sure Wyatt got the point. "We will do it my way as far as rules of engagement are concerned. You can control everything else but let the man who knows what the fuck we need to do in order to make sure this mission succeeds."

Areli glared at Wyatt as he took up his position in front of everyone, adjusting the straps on his vest and getting ready for all hell to break loose.

Wyatt was shocked when Areli suddenly had him by the shirt and was giving him the orders. None of the other men were surprised though. They knew Wyatt had it coming to him. Him and his wreckless thoughts.

"Fine. We do it your way." Wyatt growled finally giving in. "It doesn't work though, or I see reason to change tactics, then we do things my way." He told Areli. "Now get the fuck off me."

When Areli pushed him down, he stumbled before making his way back to his things, checking to make sure everything was in place and once again sulking over how Areli had suddenly and easily taken control of him and the situation.

Finally he looked up as the children started to move. Shooting started and chaos erupted. It was time to move.

"Let's go." Wyatt gave the order and started moving. "Try not to do anything stupid or get yourselves shot. Stay mixed up with everyone and see you at the other end." WIth that Wyatt disappeared within the crowd, determined to get to the other end unscathed as everything exploded around them.

He blocked out the screams. He blocked out the cries. He blocked out everything but the thought of getting to the other side alive.

Areli shook his head from his spot. Areli expected Wyatt say that. Not that it mattered though, It was more likely to keep most of they from dying than Wyatt's way. Chaos started gunfight when off. Areli turned his attention to the minefield just in time to watch a helpless child get shot down. Areli's face hardened just as Wyatt gave the order to move out and disappear into the crowd till they reached the other side.

Wyatt left and Areli began his run. He ran fast enough to make sure he was a hard target for the enemy but slow enough that he could avoid the dead bodies and probably places for mines. Areli came close to a few mines. He knew because 2 seconds after gettting past the place he was at exploded. Areli ingored almost everything around him as he ran. This could help him if they finish the mission with success as much as it would help Wyatt. Areli began to hum an old song his mother liked and sang to him to help him sleep.

The fight is over your souls, Sons of Thunder, Calling the fire down, Burning with hope, Sons of Thunder, My only weapon is truth, hatred's more powerful or so it would seem, sapping my belief in all the things you have shown in the secret, song played in Areli's head the way his mother sang it.