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Broken Dawn (Aisling and Other Stories)


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Aisling had to move. Derrik would be coming.

She doubted he would be there this day, but knew he would waste little time. He would want to move fast, knowing she'd try to run.

She scooped up her weapons, sheathing the knife, and headed for the entrance to her cave. When she got inside, she cast the AK and the .45 on to her cot and stripped off her clothes. She was a mess of drying blood and vomit. She looked at her feet with disgust. Her mother would never approve. Hell, she didn't approve.

She made for the small stream near the back of the cave. The stream was part of an underground water source that eventually exited the mountains and supplied what was once a small river; one that was now barely a creek of undrinkable water due to the contamination of the soil outside. Inside, however, the water was fresh and cool and supplied her with a drinking and washing source. There was a small eddy in the stream in the cave, where the channel slightly widened, which provided an excellent bathing place. The current was weaker here (not that it was terribly strong to begin with, except in the rain seasons), and the slope shallow, the contours of the rock providing places to sit and submerge. A chill swept across her skin as she entered the cold water, and she immersed herself, allowing the slow current to rinse loose grime away.

She always had a sensation of being borne anew every time she submerged and reemerged from the water. This time was no different. The disgust and horror of the day washed away as she broke the surface. She grabbed a nearby bar of soap and set to work washing away the caked gore from her skin, then set to cleaning her hair. As she cleaned, some of the smaller animals that had scattered when she burst into the cave, reemerged and drank from the water upstream of her. She did not know the name for these animals, as her mother had not. They were her neighbors, of a sort, and often shared the cave with her. They had become so accustomed to her presence, that they rarely were frightened by her, but when she made sudden and drastic movements. Sometimes she even fed them. Small fish shared the stream with her as well, and she'd never felt the need to use them for food--none would have provided much but a very very small snack at any rate.

When she was finished, she left the stream and began moving about the cave, gathering supplies while she air-dried. She snatched her ruck sack and began filling it with necessary items. At the bottom she put multiple vacuum-sealed plastic bags of extra socks. On top of that she added dried provisions; cured meats and dried fruits. She filled multiple canteens with water and stashed two into outer pockets of the ruck, as well as adding three more in the main compartment. The rest she saved for ammo, as well as a tin of salt. She also filled a CamelBak with water and strapped it to the back of the ruck, running the long drinking tube up and through a band on the ruck's shoulder strap.

She moved to her clothing and laid out a pair of desert cammo BDU pants, and a 4-pocket BDU shirt, and a tactical vest. The shirt she folded and put in the top of her ruck, knowing she'd only need it at night when the temperature dropped. She grabbed a short-top "sports bra" and a pair of elastic exercise shorts, and lay them on top of the BDU's. Both were a beige color that she had then dyed a cammo-type print onto. To the side she tossed a desert-cammo Boonie hat and a bandanna.

She snatched a towel from a hook and used it to dry her hair as best she could, then tied it into a ponytail at the top of her head, folding the tail back through the tie to keep the hair near the top of her head. The she went and donned her clothing, the exercise garments as undergarments, the BDU pants and the tactical vest. On the inside of the vest, she strapped her knife, hilt down. She filled the pockets with ammunition for the pistol and AK, as well she slid her last water canteen into one of the pockets.

She reached under the cot and slid out a small wooden chest. Inside the chest were her two prized possesions: an M-18A1 Claymore and an M67 Grenade. She had gotten both from a vendor in Trade Town. The vendor, knowing their worth, had asked for the price of a night a piece with Aisling. She had managed to talk him down to one night for both, knowing her worth to the vendor; he'd been trying to trade for a night with her for some months, but never had anything she felt worth that trade til then. She considered it a bargain well struck, and had even been pleasantly surprised at the man's performance.

The grenade she slid into a pocket of her vest, the claymore she left on the cot.

She grabbed a pair of hiking boots and socks and moved over to the stream. She rolled up her pant legs and dipped her feet into the cool water, rinsing off any dust and sand from the cave floor off of them, then dried them with a towel and donned socks and boots.

She paused and eyed the hunting rifle that rested against a cave wall. She would probably regret leaving it behind, but knew that if she overburdened herself too much, she'd never be able to stay out of Derrik's reach for long. With regret she determined to leave it behind.

Once her boots were on, she grabbed the bandanna and tied it over her hair, then put on the Boonie hat.

Aisling strapped a holster for the .45 to her thigh and holstered the weapon. She snatched the AK and short-strapped it, then grabbed the ruck and slung it over one shoulder, collapsed the stock on the AK and slung it over the other shoulder. She grabbed the claymore and some fishing line and headed outside.

Outside, Aisling set the ruck and AK to the side, and moved for the cave entrance, picking up decent-sized rocks as she went. She deposited the rocks just inside the cave entrance and arranged them into a short barrier, then placed the claymore in front of it; facing the "This side toward enemy" side out. She took the fishing line and threaded it through the pin, then threaded the other end through the tied-together deadfall that comprised the "door" to the cave. She moved the barrier in place, leaving a crack she could reach her arm through, then reached through it and removed the safety. She slid the barrier the rest of the way in place, then--with extreme caution--pulled the line through until she felt tension. She cut the excess line off with her knife, then very carefully tied the end to one of the sticks that made up the barricade.

A little present for Derrik. If she was lucky, she might even end the chase before it began, but knew it'd be stupid to underestimate Derrik.

She rolled up the excess line and stuck it in a pocket, grabbed up the ruck, seated it on her shoulders and tightened the hip-belt, shouldered the AK, and set off.

She almost didn't look back.


The following morning, as the sun began to gain intensity and Aisling began to search for a place to rest and shelter through the extreme midday heat, she heard a loud boom in the distance. It echoed through the mountain passes and she felt the vibration under her feet.

"Merry fucking Christmas, Derrik." She mumbled under her breath, looking back the way she had come.
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