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Broken Dawn (Aisling and Other Stories)


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As Aisling reached the crest of the rise that looked down on her home, she was able to hear the whimpering sobs of the man she'd gutted. He was not yet dead. The adrenaline that had waned as she'd climbed surged anew with a rush of anger.

She rapidly made her way back down the steep incline, taking a different rout than the one she'd used earlier to get up. That rout was ideal for ascent, but not as good for descent. She picked her way back down to the leveled off shelf of rock that had been her "front yard" for most of her life, favoring her throbbing foot.

When she reached the bottom, she moved straight for the man. Sweat beaded on his brow and his skin was pale. He was still bleeding, but not severely, and she hadn't punctured any organs when she'd opened him. He was, however, going into shock. She knew she wouldn't have much time before he passed out and died from it.

"Puh-puh-puh-pluh-hees.." He sobbed, "I duh-duh-don't want tuh-to duh-duh-duh-die."

"But you're going to." She said flatly, "Unless you give me some information."

"Whu-whu.." He began, but she cut him off.

"What Crew?" She demanded. When he returned a blank stare, she knelt down and put her face in his."What Crew are you from?!"

"I cuh-can't t-tell you thu-tha-"

She reached down with her left hand and took hold of a clump of his exposed intestines. Slowly she began to squeeze and pull. He screamed. He screamed and screamed, and finally she stopped pulling, but she kept them in her hand.

"What. Crew." She waited while he panted, trying to compose himself to speak, then hesitated. She yelled, "WHAT FUCKING CREW! Bizzman's? Anarchist's? Poison's? You better tell me or I'll rip your guts the rest of the way out!"

"Derrik!" He cried, "Derrik! I swear, we're from Derrik's crew."

Derrik. Fuck.

There were many Crews that roamed this general area (an area covering approximately ninety to a hundred miles, no one was quite sure), each of varying degrees of ruthlessness. Most of their respective leaders had adopted the 'fashionable' habit of giving themselves names that sounded either dangerous or capable. Aisling thought it made them sound like childish morons. Even still, Aisling new how to play the survival game and never said such a thing where someone might hear and report back. Even the stupid ones were dangerous to a degree, except maybe Bizzman--who everyone called The Mole, for his one positive trait: the ability to ferret out even the most difficult to find information. It was Bizzman's and his Crew's ability to garner information that kept them from being wiped out by one of the tougher Crews.

Of all the Crews, Derrik's was the most ruthless and feared, and Derrik was the only Crew leader that used his real name. He understood that one didn't need a name to sound ruthless, but that one needed to be ruthless, and that ruthlessness would attach its self to whatever name one had. Other Crew leaders tiptoed around him or pandered to him. Only Peter didn't.

Peter and his wife Justine were unique. They were the leaders of Trade Town. Their forefathers had once been leaders of a Crew, but that Crew realized they could profit from free trade. Everyone had something someone else needed. Once they'd found a suitable town to locate in, and had fortified it, they opened for business. The once-gang members became traders of goods, or the security force that protected the goods, traders and town. When Peter married Justine and the two took over, the town only flourished more. Justine was an expert assessor of value, a master bargainer, and a razor-sharp business mind. Peter excelled in the security aspect, a trait he'd learned from his parents, who'd been law enforcement in the old world.

Trade Town was the one place the Crews, the Settlers and the Roamers alike could all go and safely barter with the other. No weapons, but for those belonging to Trade Town were allowed inside the walls. Trade Town stood the test of time in a world where nothing lasted. It had survived attack after attack by the more ambitious Crews, but none had ever been able to take it. Not that it stopped them from scheming to take it; it was a prime piece of realistate.

It was in Trade Town that Aisling had first met Derrik. She was no stranger to sex, and had as healthy a drive as the next. When the need or want took her, she often kept temporary lovers, usually among the permanent Trade Town residents, or a local Settler. And sometimes, if the bargain was right, or the item valuable enough, she would even offer her favors in trade. She was, however, a solitary person, and had no desire for permanent attachment, and in a world where every species was endangered, the urge to find a partner and propagate the species was strong with most, and sooner or later they all wanted more from her than she was willing to give.

She was, however, very selective in her partners, and when Derrik approached her to proposition her two years ago, she'd turned him down. He was, to be sure, attractive enough, but he was far too dangerous and unpredictable for her liking. Besides which, at that time, she'd been having relations with Joshua, Peter and Justine's son--a sweet and intelligent young man, far out of his element in this harsh age, but like his mother, a whiz with business.

Derrik did not take kindly to the rejection; he was very unaccustomed to it. He swore she would pay for the embarrassment, and she had no doubt that he was a keeper of his word. At the time, however, Derrik's attention was focused more on a new Crew that had moved into the area and was attempting to take dominance. He had all but forgotten her in the Crew war that had only just finished a few months ago; Derrik the victor. But now, now there would be no stopping him. Once again she'd shamed him by besting his men.

And now he knew where she lived, or would very soon. She was as good as dead.

She weighed her options. Run, fleeing as far and as fast as she could, but to get out of his reach, she'd have to leave the area entirely, into unknown and hostile lands. The other option was to take Derrik out. Pit herself against the most feared leader of the most feared Crew, and kill him. Both options meant certain death.

"What the fuck do I do?" She mumbled under her breath.

A gurgling cough broke her from her thoughts, and she looked down at the dying man. She realized she still had a hold of his guts and quickly let go, pulling her hand away in disgust. The man was even paler than before and his breathing was shallow and rapid; he would not remain conscious much longer.

Suddenly she decided, and having done so, moved into action.

She reached her hand out and pat him on the cheek, trying to catch his attention. His dilated pupils sought her face, but when his eyes landed on hers they wouldn't focus. His panting breath smelled like death and sour adrenaline.

"I... don't.. wha...want.. to.. die.." The words came in an exhausted whisper.

"Listen to me," she leaned in closer, "Where is Derrik's camp? Where does your Crew stay?"

"...uhhhu... ...uhhhhu.." Was all he could manage, then his eyes rolled back into his head and he passed out.

"Hey!" She yelled, slapping his face, over and over, "Not yet! Where is Derrik's camp! Hey!"

It was too late.

"Fuck!" Aisling screamed at the sky. Then she stood and kicked the unconscious man in the ribs.

It didn't matter, she knew other ways to get the information, but time was running out. Derrik would waste little time coming here.

She moved over to where the other two dead men lay, and grabbed the first one by the legs. She dragged him to the edge of the drop off and shoved him over. Then she did the same with the second one. With them disposed of, she moved to the deadfall that concealed the entrance to her cave. Long ago she and her mother had made this concealment, tying the bleached out wood together with twine so it could be moved back into place once they were inside.

Inside she grabbed a short rope, a stake and a short-handled sledge hammer and moved back outside. Near the edge of the drop off, she pounded the stake into the rock, and tied the rope to it. The other end of the rope she tied around the man's neck. He would be a little present for Derrik. She hoped it would anger him and make him think less clearly, but she had the feeling it wouldn't. She did it anyway; with a heave, she pushed the unconscious man over the edge, his intestines slithering after him like a snake.

As she moved towards her fallen-down blind and wooden lounger a wave of dizziness hit her. She sat down on a nearby rock, put her head between her legs, and vomited between her feet. It splashed up on to the tops of her feet, ankles and the hem of her skirt, but she didn't feel it. everything came crashing in, and she was overcome with disgust and dismay. The ruthlessness of it shocked her to the core.

She was a survivor, but she'd never been a coldblooded killer. Sure, she had killed before; three men (maybe four? She always wondered if that last one lived or died), on three different occasions. Only the first time did she react like this. "The first kill is always the worst," mom used to say, "but we do what we have to to survive, Ash." But what she'd done today was something different entirely.

Finally, she got up and moved. She needed to hurry.

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Life , Virtual Life