Authors: A.J. Winter
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Copyright 2015 by A.J. Winter - All rights reserved.
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Post Apocalyptic Dystopian Romance
By: A.J. Winter
It was a quiet morning after a quiet night. Damian came off the wall and stopped at home for coffee and a quick breakfast. Anne had the coffee ready and he kissed her cheek as he came in. “I think I will miss the coffee more than anything else,” he said. “How long do you think it will be before the trade network is back up and running and we can get fresh coffee again?”
“Not in our lifetime,” Anne laughed. “So enjoy it while you can.”
“Maybe I can send Eddie on a coffee run. How long do you think it would take him to get to Africa and back?”
Anne swatted his arm. “Eat up, I know it’s not haute cuisine but at least it’s not refried beans, and then you and I can turn in.”
“Can’t,” he said around a mouthful. “Teaching Eddie to shoot today.”
“You’re pushing too hard.”
“I’m fine. We’ll spend all afternoon in bed, I promise.”
“Maybe I don’t have time for you.”
“That’s cold.” He drained the mug and kissed her cheek again. “I’ll see you later.”
“Yes, you will.”
He grabbed his rifle and the spare and some ammunition and set out again. He was used to walking long patrols but he was impressed with how quickly everyone else had gotten accustomed to walking everywhere. It was just over a mile to the house Eddie and Violet were living in and in the cool of morning the walk was pleasant.
Matt’s sharp voice made Damian stop at the end of the driveway. The easy peace left him and he snapped to full attention. Eddie was on the step, face-to-face with Matt.
Mat was saying, “Damian’s going to let a fucking wolf in sheep’s clothing help guard this place? Sure, why not make it even easier for you to open the gate and let your friends in here.”
“I’m not a traitor,” Eddie said. “I get it, you hate me, but I’m not going to do anything to put the village at risk.”
“YOU ARE THE RISK!” Matt shouted back. “You aren’t even human. You should be shot before you hurt someone. You’re probably radioactive. You’re probably infecting us all. You got lucky, you’re big and strong because you got zapped but you’ll just give the rest of us cancer!”
The hurt was evident on Eddie’s face. “Get out of here, Matt.”
“No, you get out. Get out of our fucking village!” Matt’s back was to Damian but Damian could hear rage and hatred in the younger man’s voice.
“I said go away!” Eddie gave Matt a shove, hands on the other man’s shoulders, and Matt flew off the deck, skidding twenty feet down the driveway before he stopped.
Eddie stared at his hands, and then at Matt, the horror plain on his face. And then he looked up and saw Damian standing at the end of the driveway. Before Damian could say a word Eddie crouched and sprang up, leaping clear across the front yard, one of the few shows of power Damian had seen Eddie display. He hit the ground and took off running, disappearing from sight before Matt could pick himself up off the ground.
The front door slammed open and Violet burst out. “Eddie!” she shrieked. She scrambled down the stairs. “Eddie!”
Matt was suddenly on his feet. He caught Violet before she could take off across the yard. “He’s gone, Violet.” She struggled in his grasp. “He’s too fast. You’ll never catch him now.”
Violet shoved him away. “Fuck you, Matt. Don’t touch me.”
Matt wasn’t sure how Damian got down the driveway so fast without appearing to be out of breath but all of a sudden there was a fist gripping the front of his shirt and an angry face in his.
“You little piece of shit.”
“He shoved me,” Matt whined, struggling a little. “He could have killed me.”
“And you were going to stand there and provoke him until he finally hit you. I saw the whole fucking thing. You get your ass over that fence and you track him down.”
“But he’s some sort of mutant freak! He could be in Toledo by now!”
“Then you’d better start running.”
Violet watched Matt stumble off down the driveway through tear-blurred eyes. “He never hurt me, not once, not before I knew, not after. He’s good with the kids too.”
Damian held an arm out to her and she stepped into the comfort of his embrace. “I know that, Violet. One shove, even one that nearly broke that snivelling brat’s wrists, isn’t enough to condemn a man. If he comes to see you, tell him I’d rather kick out Matt than him. Will you be okay here?”
She nodded. “I’ll go spend the day with Sue and the kids. I won’t do anything stupid.”
She looked up at him with eyes that were too wide and bright with tears. “Will he come back?”
“I don’t know but I hope he does.”
By the time Matt reached the perimeter fence he’d gone through a jumble of emotions. The initial fear and panic of having a fully trained soldier grab him and bark orders in his face gave way to embarrassment when he thought about the way he’d run, snivelling, and with Violet there to watch too. Embarrassment was too painful and it quickly shifted to resentment.
“It’s not my fault,” he said, kicking a tuft of grass. “They should never have let that freak in here. No one asked me. No one ever listens to me. And now Eddie is some fucking super hero, even when he’s the one who put the entire settlement at risk.”
He was well on the way to talking his resentment all the way up to anger and he stomped through the trees in the general direction Eddie may have gone.
“How the hell am I supposed to find him anyways? I can’t run that fast. He could have changed directions at any time. This is a waste of my time. He’s gone and that’s a good thing. They’ll see.”
He was still crashing about the bushes when movement on the edge of his peripheral vision made him stop and turn. There was nothing but trees.
He moved on, slower now, and wary. A snapped branch behind him made him spin around but again there was nothing.
“Eddie, if that’s you, you can stop it. Damian wants you back.”
There was no answer.
“If that’s you, crazy mutant lady, Eddie isn’t in the village anymore. You can all just go away.”
“Great, I’m going crazy.” He turned to resume his search and screamed. Two young women stood in what had been an unoccupied expanse of bushes not a minute earlier.
The women were taller than Matt by several inches and they were drop dead gorgeous as far as he was concerned. They were both blonde with slender faces marred only by the smears of dirt on their pale skin. One was wearing a plaid button-down over a tank-top that had seen better days while the other wore a plain long sleeve. Maybe it was shallow but Matt was captivated by them both and like a light switching on, all of his romantic attentions were suddenly focused on these two. All thoughts of Violet vanished.
“You know Atlanta?” said the one on the right.
“Maybe,” Matt said, snapping out of his reverie. “I met one of you very briefly; taller than either of you, all leg, no chest, black hair. She wanted Eddie.”
“Atlanta,” said the one on the left, nodding. “I’m Rebecca and this is my sister Rita.”
“Are you looking for Eddie?” Rita said.
“Yeah. Did you see him go by? Did this Atlanta grab him?”
The girls looked at each other and then back at him. “Are you working with Atlanta?”
Matt sighed. “I don’t like Eddie, so I sort of told Atlanta where he was. But now he’s not there anymore! God, this is complicated. Aren’t you two with Atlanta?”
“We don’t want to be. Atlanta and Khan and the other Alphas, they want to find all the Alphas and use them as an army to take over the world. We don’t want to be thugs or soldiers.”
Matt knew he was in a bind. He couldn’t promise them safety, only Damian could really do that and Matt wasn’t sure Damian would listen, not after what had happened with Eddie. “I may not be your best advocate,” Matt said. “You’d be better off walking up to the gate and pretending you never met me before.”
“They’re watching the road,” Rebecca said. “And if we just ‘break in’ your leader, Damian, won’t trust us.”
“He’s pretty damn trusting,” Matt muttered.
“Please. Can’t you take us to him?”
“Damian and I don’t get along all that well, especially not right now.”
“Please, we know things about the other Alphas. We’ll tell him anything he wants to know. We just don’t want to fight anyone.”
‘How can I refuse? They need me.’
He nodded. “Come on, I’ll take you both back with me. Just don’t expect this to go well.”
The meeting was smaller than Matt expected with just the girls, Damian, Anne, and him sitting around in the living room in Damian’s house. Not even Ryan and Sean were there with their grim faces and their guns. Matt explained how he’d come across the girls in the bush around town and how they’d asked to come back with him.
Damian frowned. “After your actions with Eddie these last few days I find it hard to believe that you would invite dangerous strangers into our home.”
“They’re not dangerous.”
“We said the same thing about Eddie, you didn’t believe us. What makes you suddenly so eager to trust Alphas?”
“I thought you’d be happy I had changed my attitude. You yelled and I listened.” When Damian only glared in silence Matt sighed. “I was jealous of Eddie and Violet, all right? Violet and I were the only ones in our twenties, I thought she’d just fall for me the way I had fallen for her. There was no one else for her to fall for, right? But she didn’t, she fell for Eddie.”
Matt felt his cheeks heating up and he hoped the sisters wouldn’t notice.
Damian nodded and turned to the Alphas. “Tell me more about where you came from, and how you ended up with this group of thugs.”
Rebecca nodded. “We’re from New Mexico. We got hit with a nuclear warhead, ground zero was only a block or two away. You probably heard a similar story when you questioned Eddie. When we got free of the rubble it was absolute hell. The whole state got hit hard. Everyone was either dead, or dying of radiation sickness. We headed north.”
When she stopped Rita jumped in. “This group of travellers took us in, they said they knew what had happened to us, why we had survived when so few others had. They had survived too. At first things weren’t so bad but they made us train to fight. They said it would help us gain control of our new strengths but later we found out that they were training us as an army.”
Damian nodded. “Eddie mentioned plans of world domination. What does that have to do with us?”
“You lied to them, you protected Eddie, and they’re coming to get him.”
“He’s not here,” Anne said.
“They don’t know that,” Rita said. “They think he’s here. They’re convinced he’s here.”
Damian shook his head. “We were careful. How could they possibly have known?”
“They have these Alphas who mutated differently. They’re faster but not crazy fast and they have noses like blood hounds.”
“And I told them,” Matt said, staring at the floor. He shifted uncomfortably under the weight of their stares. “I already said I was jealous, okay? While I was out on patrol that night she appeared out of nowhere, she said they’d take Eddie away and leave the rest of us alone. What was one stranger compared to the safety of the village?”
“Especially if it was one stranger that you didn’t like, right?” Damian shook his head. “Damn it Matt, did you really think people like that would just walk away from us?”
“I wasn’t thinking! I just wanted Eddie out of here so things could go back to the way they were. I thought …” he stopped and sighed. “I thought if I could prove Eddie was a bad guy that Violet would love me. The way she looked at me today … she won’t love me now, no matter what happens; she never would have loved me, even if Eddie hadn’t appeared.”
“We need to get the village ready. I need time to talk things over with everyone and lay some plans. Do you two know when they will attack?”
“Probably not tonight,” Rita said, “But it will be soon. They will want you to lower your guard again so they will wait until you’d be certain they were gone.”
“So we have some time but probably not as much as we need. Figures.”
“What do you need us to do?” Matt said.
“Do you really think I’m going to let you help with this? I can’t have you on the wall and I can’t give you a gun. I need people I can trust absolutely to do what I need done, not whatever they feel like doing.” Damian ran a hand through his hair. It had been a long time since it was anything other than military short and it was still a new sensation. “Look, I want you to take our two guests to one of the empty houses. Get them fed, offer them a shower, and keep them there. I’ll come by later to let you know what the verdict is. Do not leave that house, understood?”
Matt nodded. “Yes sir, I understand.”
“And Matt, if you betray us again I will have you shot.”
Matt beat a hasty retreat from the living room with Rebecca and Rita close behind. “That didn’t go too badly, all things considered,” Rebecca said.
“You’d say that; he didn’t threaten to shoot you,” Matt said.
“And he didn’t shoot you,” Rebecca replied. “So we’re under house arrest then. Lead the way.”
“They might listen to reason,” Anne said as they went to round up the people Damian needed to talk to. “If they come back we’ll just tell them the truth, that he’s gone now.”
“After we lied to them once? I doubt it. Besides those girls made it sound like revenge as well.”
“I thought the war was over,” Anne said. “I thought the fighting would be over now. Why is there always someone so eager to kill for a taste of power?”
“I don’t know, Anne. I asked myself that a lot while I was in the service. It kept me employed, but I didn’t like it.”
“So if they won’t leave us alone I guess we have to defend ourselves.”
Damian nodded. “If that’s even possible. We have almost no idea what we’re up against and what we do know stacks the odds in their favour.”
“But you have a plan, right?”
“Right now? Not much of one. We have to finish that wall. I don’t know if it will slow them down, but it makes our boundaries visible. We need to train a few more people to handle guns, Sue is top of that list.”
“Why Sue? She’s not going to like being forced to fight.”
“I won’t be forcing her to fight but if I’m leaving her to guard the children she’d better know how to defend them.”
“Do you think they’ll hurt the children?”
“I don’t know, but we have to be ready. Come on, let’s get this done.”