CHAPTER NINE: CHAINS

You look around and carefully evaluate your option: you are five. Armed to the teeth. All experienced warriors, as your instinct suggests. And the journey to Rad City, as short as it may be, is still full of pitfalls.

Saul’s food is not enough, and you don’t want to depend too much on these strangers: the assault at the bunker seems like a reasonable idea all in all, considering that five hyenas are already dead. How many can they ever be? Admitting that the building is in their hands, of course … it may not be that way.

Your companions all agree, except for Saul who would have preferred to move as soon as possible but still accepts the decision of the majority without too much complaint. It takes you half an hour to go back, moving slowly and with the utmost prudence, after sacking all that was even less valuable from your dead enemies.

You and Beth are the head of the group, and you are marveled for  your companion’s unfathomable ability to wolk into the woods in total silence, surely gaining an experience matured in months, if not years, of explorations.

When you get to your goal there’s a bad news: three hyenas are patrolling it armed with shockers. And goodbye to the hopes of finding a neutral and quiet territory.

You are already thinking of how to act to neutralize the guards in silence, but your companion anticipates, putting a finger on your lips and winking. She turns back and signal Lance and Brandy to came near, always without a word. You are fascinated by their way of communicating with gestures and looks that only a long cooperation could create. The two make a nod of assent with their heads and pull out their weapons: launches for Brandy and a strange weapon for the small inventor, apparently a simple iron bat, but run by electric wires and connected to what it is to be a battery. When he press a red button on the handle, the bat emits a slight buzz, which your partner approves with a big smile.

The two do the last steps separating them from the bunker using the cover of the vegetation until it is too late for the unguarded guards: the first one is struck full by the Lance’s weapon, and see his body debunk for a second crossed by a powerful electric discharge. He falls to the ground as dead, without even realizing that he has been hit. His companions barely have the time to realize that something is happening when the Bride’s spear crosses the throat of the first one, killing him instantly, before being removed and used to decapitate the second. She doesn’t seems satisficed, the warrior turns to the guard stunned by Lance and, after spitting on him, pierces his heart. You don’t have the slightest doubt that the girl’s hatred for hyenas goes far beyond issues of survival: for her, it’s a personal matter.

You, Saul and Beth, get out and you move quickly to the bunker while Lance is already fiddling with the door: it’s an old lock locked by a heavy iron lock, an obstacle that the guy makes with an almost embarrassing ease: one of the many pockets of the backpack pulls a couple of trunks, and so many greetings. The group’s efficiency is telling you two things: you’ve been so lucky to survive so far, and having so many friends specializing in different things is a good thing. In fact, so far you have almost always traveled voluntarily or not with large groups tied to this or that faction, but a diverse association of people with different experiences but common goals can be winning.

Open the heavy door: the bunker inside shows a dim light, powered by a few lanterns and a dozen candles, and as soon as you open the entrance you are greeted by some alarmed cry. Your eyes take a few moments to get used into the darkness, and inside you see a scattered group of people, all thin and with no energy, with heavy metal collars. Around them, something that seems a workshop: machinery, wrenches, oxygen cylinders, and a strong engine grease.

– Please do not kill us! trade! trade! Do you want to make a trade?

Speaking is one of the men who stands out among the others for his very long white hair. Brandy takes the floor, advancing into the room with the spear rolled forward.

– Trade? What do you say, old man? You are free! Run! The hyenas will come back soon, you know it very well!

The old man, confused, seems to haven’t even heard the exclamation of the energetic warrior. After a few seconds in silence repeats:

– … Trade? Does the lady want a new Shocker? We have excellent … three cases, lady, three cases and we will give you a formidable weapon, a lightning dead, you can …

– Didn’t you hear idiots? Run out! Away! Cut off that chains, these people can’t stay here! Came on!

But the Prebellum doesn’t seems to want to obey that angry order. In fact, he approaches the desperate, and pulls out of his giant handbag a fistful of cases and a small electric device that you don0t recognize. One of the younger give a hint of a smile and approaches him with a basket of metallic objects and a bag full of food, especially ducks and dried meat, and the two begin to treat it as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

 You, Beth and Saul don’t know well what to do and remain as a spectator to this surreal business that is interrupted by another prisoner who approaches Brandy shaking like a leaf.

-My lady, I … we … don’t want to run away. We were a small isolated community, good with machines but too sick. The mutants had broken us apart. We … we survived only us. Hyena’s peace protects us. They feed us, they give us a safe place to stay, and in return we repair weapons and vehicles. My lady … leave us, please! We can trade! We have many beautiful things!

The Bride is forbidden, but you see that she is holding the spear  so strong that his hands are becoming livable for the effort: for her spirit, being able to choose to be a slave is an insult, a blasphemy.

You are starting to speak when you hear the noise of engines come close to you: other hyenas! It starts to become extremely worrying … and not just for you. The old man blemishes in his face and begins to shake, so strong that he almost collapses on the ground for fear.

-The masters … the masters are coming back. If they see you here, they will punish us. Oh no … we did nothing, nothing! We want just a trade, everybody want to trade.

Look at Beth and Saul, who point to the prisoners at the same time but you are quite certain with different intentions: Saul intends to protect them, the good Beth use them as shields to guarantee you escape.

 There is a third option: the bikes at the entrance. You can use them to escape before the reinforcements arrive, but you have to move really fast.

TO THE NEXT CHAPTER