My quarters were empty except for the dogs. I slipped inside happy to be out of sight of prying eyes. I sat on the bed and removed my weapons, stuffing the Ka-Bar into the bag with my medical kit.
I kicked off my boots and slid my revolver under my pillow. I stared at the door and pondered what Preston had said. Why would Michael be making up stories about my past? What purpose did it serve? Between that and trying to figure out a plan to even the odds with the men of the camp my brain was working at full capacity.
I fell asleep without even realizing it.
There was a person laying next to me in the bed. My eyes snapped open, and I went into full alert. I caught a whiff of Paige’s natural scent. For a brief moment I felt her soft warmth pressed up against me and the rhythm of her snoring. I pushed myself up out of bed, my heart racing, layers of pathology suddenly reasserting themselves. It had been so long since I’d touched another human being for any purpose other than to kill I didn’t know what to do with them anymore.
Paige was rudely awakened by my movement. Her eyes popped open and she reached for her hammer. To me she whispered “What is it? Is something wrong?!”
I had my revolver in my hand and was sweating profusely. I lowered the gun, gently releasing the hammer as I did.
“Sorry” I looked at her. I hadn’t realized how attractive she was until this moment. “Bad dream” I shook my head as if trying to clear the lingering remnants of my dream. “What–what were you doing in bed? With me?”
Paige’s face turned a lovely shade of bright pink. “I don’t feel so good. I just wanted to lie down–I didn’t think you’d mind.”
My brain kicked into neutral for a moment as I examined her. She had a long graceful, almost swan-like neck with blonde hair that reached down past her shoulders. I guessed she must have weighed only a bit more than she did now since she didn’t look quite as ‘deflated’ as the other women in the camp, even given her current circumstances. When she’d lifted her dress to remove the hammer I’d given her it wasn’t exactly lost on me that she had, long, very shapely legs. I realized I was taking a mental inventory of her, breaking her down to component parts. I stopped when I thought of her breasts and how Michael had marked her. It didn’t actually serve to make her any less attractive, but it did stop my prurient line of thought when I remembered.
I felt my hand flexing on the grip of the revolver and forced it to relax. I suddenly became aware of an odd feeling below my waistline and quickly sat down. The last thing I needed right now was for Paige to freak out over a biological reaction I had little control over.
I tried to cover up more than my physical discomfort by engaging her in small talk.
“We haven’t really had much chance to talk since, ” I shrugged and looked around “well since we were thrust into this little arrangement.”
Paige nodded and smiled almost making eye contact with me.
I asked her the question I dreaded. “What do you do? Er, what did you do? You know, before?”
Ugh. I wanted to kick my own ass. I hated asking this question far more than I hated answering it. I took a breath and prepared to make small talk until the sun rose if it were necessary.
Paige smiled and rose to take the bait. We talked for hours into the night, and yes, I even answered the question about what I used to do back when there was a world and a civilization inhabiting it.
Paige and I switched places after a while, with me on the bed, Sako and Tikka curled up in my lap. I laughed, knowing that it would be considered incredibly stereotypical, but women really did enjoy talking about themselves, or failing that what terrible people their friends were.
I got a good chunk of Paige’s life story out of her before I drifted off again.
I was floating somewhere in between wakefulness and sleep. I didn’t believe the things my senses were telling me but they didn’t seem implausible either. In my own personal twilight I felt the warmth of a body pressed up against my own. On my feet were fur covered shoes filled with sharp little things that occasionally poked me in the toe or scraped across my ankle.
The scent of a woman was in my nostrils and it was enticing. Suddenly my feet were cold, my furry shoes gone and bouncing across the bed.
The movement of the dogs woke me up. They jumped off the bed and were sat in front of the door alerting to something there. My eyes snapped open as I saw the door begin to swing inward. I hurtled Paige’s sleeping form and threw a kick at the door frame slamming it shut with great force. Paige sat bolt upright in bed, reaching under the pillow for my revolver, handing it to me without being asked.
I gave her a quick smile and eased the door open. A red faced Donnelly was standing there doing his impersonation of a man about to die from some coronary event.
I let out a deep breath and surreptitiously handed the revolver back to Paige as I squeezed out the door.
I smiled at Donnelly as I approached him. No reason to make my prey bolt before I had a chance to kill it. As soon as I was within reach of Donnelly I seized him by the throat and drove him to the ground.
“The next time, Gene, you try and enter my quarters without permission will be the last thing you ever do. Have I made myself clear in this?” I asked slightly releasing the pressure I was applying to his hyoid bone.
Donnelly nodded. Flecks of spittle had formed at the corners of his mouth and stood in stark white relief to the bright red-going-purple of his face. I eased my weight off his chest and broke the hold I had on his throat.
Donnelly sat up hands at his throat and gasping for breath.
I looked at him. I had always been a fan of Wanderlei Silva and his propensity for soccer kicks must have rubbed off on me as I had to restrain myself from delivering my self-styled version of that kick to Donnelly’s head.
“Micheal or training?” I asked him in a voice that was almost a hiss.
He coughed more trying to calm himself and regain his breath. “Mi–Mi” he heaved.
I grabbed his chin and titled his face up to meet mine. “Michael?”
He nodded. and I let him go. Out of the corner of my eye I had seen Paige open the door, peaking out watching quietly with an almost joyous glee in her eyes. I stepped back into our quarters and began to get dressed.
I looked out the window and noticed how dark it was. I reckoned it to be around 0400 as I got my gear on and headed out the door toward Michael’s house. Donnelly was nowhere to be seen.
I kept my features expressionless but inside I was laughing, giddy as a school girl. Violence– it turns out–does solve problems. Must be in the application. Violence also cured what ails you apparently. As soon as I’d kicked the door shut my knee felt like a knife had been jammed into it, but know I was moving along at a decent lope, barely aware of any pain at all.
I reached Michael’s house and noted there were several guards there that had not been present before. There were in uniforms I probably would have laughed at at any other time being dressed in a combination of blue and black ‘urban’ camouflage patterns.
Two guards were on the door and those I did recognize. They waved me through without so much as a glance and into the house. I hadn’t seen the upstairs level of Michael’s house which was furnished in Early American-Creepy, complete with sepia toned photos of what I guessed was Michael and his mother. I had to wonder how much Norman Bates was charging to decorate a place these days.
I was ushered into a room that was darker than the rest, mostly due to the heavy velvet wall covering that seemed to drink in the available light. I heard the sound of a motor starting somewhere outside and was instantly blinded as the house lights came on.
“Ah, here’s our Brother Stephen!” I felt someone take my hand and place it on the back of a chair as I tried to rid myself of the afterimage while my eyes adjusted.
Michael continued “I’m so sorry, brother to have you woken so early. I know you have a full day of training and such to do today.” Something was placed in front of me. My sense of smell was working just fine. Coffee. I inhaled deeply of it. My eyes finally cleared enough I could make out Michael’s face as well as the guests seated at his table. One face smiled broadly at me, while the other gaped almost open mouthed.
“I wouldn’t have brought you here if it weren’t important. These two gentlemen are militia fighters like us. This is Adam Starke,” he said pointing at the Marine who was just a shot away from needing to hold his sides to contain the laughter “And this is. . .I’m sorry, was it Mr Toole?”
I shot Starke a look and the smile dropped almost instantly from his face, but it was too late. Michael had seen the recognition pass between the three of us.
I nodded and extended my hand. “Mr Starke. Nice to formally make your acquaintance. ” I turned and offered my hand to Tool who would not deign to shake it at first “Mr Toole.” I nodded to him. “Nice to see you both again.”