Satisfied that Ghoul could be trusted at least for now, Cat called for the others to come out of hiding. Eric still hadn't checked his equipment for a bug, and there was still some more loot to be had. But that aside, Cat was anxious to get a move on. If some of the people here where Muthas, chances were that others would find them within a day or two if they remained in the vicinity. The only option was to keep moving until the next morning.
Wanderer of the Wasteland
"I have a question, dear." He faced the girl.
"What is your name? We haven't properly introduced." He said.
"One more question, if i may... Is one of these bodies still alive? If so, we could carry him with us and interrogate him for answers."
He ended with a wicked grin, staring at the bodies.
In this twisted world, I found myself slowly vanishing.
Twisted World - A story from the Apocalypse
It's been a long time, but I'm back.
Rob felt a sudden unease in the air.
This man just talked of torture, which this group had already done before.
The last man wasn't so lucky, though he was doomed to die anyhow.
He watched as one of the bodies moved, in horrible pain.
Though, he felt little sympathy for these men.
This is what happens when you mess with us
It was no accident that Eric had missed most of the group's parley with Ghoul. This stranger had an apparent sadistic streak that Eric found deeply off-putting. Instead, he had retrieved his plastic bag of electronics and begun stripping his phone and laptop down in search of a bug. After several minutes of frantic disassembly, he found the guilty device in his laptop: a GPS-based tracking unit cleverly stowed away in a bus slot. Most users would never have noticed the bug, but that fact didn't stop Eric from cursing his ineptitude for not finding it earlier. He reunited his phone and laptop with the Hiya Poopy backpack, insipid grin ever etched on its face, and trudged back to Cat and the others, tracking device in one hand, loaded sling in the other.
"I found the bug. It was disguised in the laptop as an accessory card." He then cocked his head back, beckoning the gang away from their latest prisoner. If they played along, there was a chance that Eric could both throw off the group's pursuers and stay an execution.
Cat noticed the look that Eric gave them and the prisoner… "Eric, that's genius. If the tracker is on him, then we'll be in the clear. I hope you're okay with us using your hostage for something other than torture?" She said, turning to Ghoul. "I mean, you know already that, whoever was after us, will find this guy, especially given his current condition. Personally, I don't think they'll be nice with him, once they realise they've been led astray"
"It's personal." He simply said.
"Yet again... If we leave him here, after both of us have some 'Fun', wouldn't that leave a message?"
"I'd rather tie him up and drag him to the city, then deal with him there."
He blankly stared the woman.
Rob stared at them both, whatever happens, he doesn't care, he had thought carefully for his decision.
Surrounded by people who want to kill, just like old times.
And though he wasn't a big fan of torture, he had the thought that he should burn the man they spoke of.
People like him killed my family, maybe even theirs.
Rob opened his pack, taking out the quarter of a bottle of oil he had scavenged from the lawnmower.
"I'll take a ques and say that fire is good for torture, especially if it's hard to put out," handing the bottle to Cat, if she would take it.
This evil stuff is fun, but this man is evil, so maybe I'm being good
Cat didn't like what was about to be a bandit roast… and Eric did raise a good idea. "Personally, I think we should give the beacon to this guy, then burn the area and these bodies so they'll be harder to recognise… Maybe whoever is tracking us will be thrown off and thinking that there was a wildfire and we got caught in our sleep…" It was a long shot, but at least they wouldn't torture the bandit for nothing…
Seeing as none objected, Cat nodded to Rob and Ghoul to get on wit their grizzly work. Fortunately, the last headhunter was so badly injured that he passed out within seconds, once the fire from the petrol started spreading.The wind was blowing in a suitable direction, and they were able to get a small wildfire going, enough to obscure their tracks.
"Let's get out of here, this smoke plume will be a huge signal to anyone out there." The others seemed to agree, and the group set forth quickly further on to the west.
They were travelling for about six hours, taking small water break in between and foraging berries on the way, when Cat stopped them all again. "From the maps, it seems as if we should be pretty close to a suburb around here. Might be good to shelter in." Following on from her lead, the group continued on their journey for another half hour or so, when they started coming across the remnants of the suburb Cat had mentioned. Destruction and desolation marked what was in front of them, with burnt out cars and run down RWs littering the roadside. The street was covered in potholes, some two feet deep. Most of the houses were still standing, but as nature reclaimed its place, they had become integrated in the local ecosystem. "Where the hell are we?" one of them asked.As if to reply, Cat removed some of the brush from something that looked like an old sign, on it, they read "Gyges CryoGen: Stay Fresh" with a small map in the corner, with directions on how to get there.
"Might be worth checking out. They could well have medical equipment there and even if they don't, sleeping in here will be about as safe as sleeping on a railway line. If we hurry, we might be able to get there before sundown."
Several hours passed since Ghoul answered his questions. Pushing his travois, now loaded with remaining fried deer meat, old Nails bow, several large and medium-size branches from the forest and few dozens bark pieces, Nails had ample time to evaluate Ghoul's answers and group's options. After the sign to Gyges and Cat's intentions to hole down in there were made clear, not much time passed before Nails approached Ghoul and spoke to him, not even considering if any others hear him or not.
"Alright, Ghoul, i have few things to tell you".
"From what you told me, it sounds that you are a ronin. So that's how i am going to call you from now on: Ronin. If you don't like this, then i'll probably kill you... Or you will kill me, and then others will kill you".
"The fact you didn't kill any of us proves nothing. You may have malicious intent requiring us alive - until some point may be. I'll watch you. If you will do something bad to this group, i or others will kill you - no offense to your sword or skill, but bullets and pellets tear through martial arts masters very much the same they tear through everyone else, and it's difficult to miss near sword-range distance. And, if we'll find out you lied to us about who you are - we will probably kill you, as well".
Nails' words were calm, and when he spoke threats, his intonations became somewhat melancholic, as if he was telling an old fairytale, with some sad pieces in it. "If you will be spotted covertly making signs, tracks, messages or alike - we will probably kill you, too".
"But if you are true to your words, Ronin, then i will fight for you, as long as you fight for us. I can't speak for others, but i think they will do the same. It's that simple. You don't have my trust, but you have my rifle covering you - for now. Cat is our leader. Talk with her if you want to know more about others".
"And about where we go. I can't get into details; not my position to do so. But know this. This group is planning to visit places which are not exactly friendly. I'd say, deadly unfriendly - we expect. And so, we may require you to cooperate and perform specific actions when nesessary - for the group and for your own survival. If you are not willing to perform Cat's orders, then leave today, before sunset. You will not be hurt, i believe. At least, i, for one, will not hurt you, if you decide to leave now. Because you did save Cat's life, and i remember and appreciate that".
"If you will stay, then i will assume you are ready to cooperate and follow Cat's lead. And if you will at some point be unwilling to do so, then... we will probably kill you. I just think that you deserve to know those things, Ronin. I think it's fair someone would tell you, and it happens to be me".
And then, in the same relaxed voice, as if things he just said were not about life and death, but some weather talk, Nails conluded with a smile:
"So, wanna some berries? Half of my duffle bag is still loaded with them, and they are best when fresh. Take some if you want; i can use a small weight reduction here".
... our lifestyles, mores, institutions, patterns of interaction, values, and expectations are shaped by a cultural heritage that was formed in a time when carrying capacity exceeded the human load. (c) William R. Catton, Jr
Rob couldn't hear what Nails was saying, but knew it was directed at the man.
"so Cat..." Rob said in a somewhat low voice, so that only she could hear "Thanks for patching me up, and everything,"
Rob was becoming attached to these people, they where like family, like the hunter.... Like poor Sam, his brother.
"Cat, exactly what is this Gyges place?" Now loud enough for the whole group to hear.
Cat replied to Rob, half with the intention to fill in the group as well, "I don't know, seems to be an old clinic of sorts. Back before all this, it was a big centre for experimental treatments I heard. In any way, it'll be a large complex, and given its somewhat far- out location, there's a good chance it's still intact enough to camp out in. Maybe it even still contains some supplies. Apart from that, I have no idea what we'll find."
Eric trudged along behind the group. Even though he was traveling pretty light by most standards, his pack was starting to weigh him down. Eric made no comment about the group's latest inductee, but the sideways stares he cast towards Ghoul spoke volumes about his distrust.
Ghoul exhaled deeply at his words, slightly frustrated.
"I understand that you want to protect these people." He turned his head to the man walking next to him, in a calm tone.
"It's a bit... How do I put this... Refreshing. To see that someone would protect a group and trust them without thinking just what they can offer to benefit himself."
He smiled warmly giving a calming exhale to the road and sky in front of them.
"I trust you, even though you may not trust me. Have my word, I will help you achieve your goal. An eastern warrior's word is breakable only by death."
He ended with a serious look.
"With the name Ronin however... Is somewhat true and at the same time, false." He thoughtfully scratched the stubble on his chin.
"It does mean "wanderer" and yes, in some times they were also mercenaries. But they originally come from a Samurai who has lost their master, and did not honor the rule of death. Which is, if their master has passed, they will pass too." He said with thoughtful eyes.
"I don't have a master. But technically that master is myself. I may, per say, 'Lend' that privilege to whomever I trust."
"So calling me a Ronin would be misleading, and, in a way, inappropriate."
"Ghoul works better for me, but if you can't remember that name, or choose not to use it, I can't force that will onto you to not use 'Ronin'."
"As for the berries..." He smiled heartily
"It wouldn't hurt. Though I definitely need meat to my diet, or else my stomach would disagree with me." He chuckled. "It seems to be the only thing that truly satisfies me." He ended.
"Though it would help extinguishing that constant nagging tug in your stomach." He piped up again.
He ended with a thin smile. He continued to stare calmly into the road in front of them.
When the team finally reached the cryo facility's doors, Eric surprised everyone by taking point and entering, sling and crowbar at the ready. Regardless of the hell awaited them next, his fear took second place to his morbid curiosity about what they would find in the facility.
Eric's scan of the lobby yielded nothing of interest. Pens and paperwork were strewn about the receptionist's desk, and in one corner of the lobby, a long-dormant water cooler featured a half-full tank with a repulsive biofilm on its water surface. Nobody in their right mind would drink from it unless they were truly at the end of their rope. Before continuing into any of the facility's corridors, Eric glanced over his shoulder, to make sure his traveling companions were still there, he supposed. He knew quite well that they couldn't have gone anywhere in the ten seconds he spent facing away from them, but the futile gesture made him more comfortable.
Cat was surprised at Eric's eagerness to explore. He has come a long way since this started. She was glad for him though, although taking a bit more care could potentially save him in the future. Tearing herself away from these musings, she climbed through the propped open doors and started exploring down the corridors with her flashlight and crowbar at the ready. "Make sure we're at least in twos, it's dark in here, could be all kinds of nasties hiding out." Let's reconvene here in the Lobby in half an hour and discuss what we found. priority number one is a safe place to sleep, then any useful things you see around that could help us."
Ghoul walked through the eerie hallway, His flashlight flickered and began to die. It was very dim when it did, but he strained his eyes to see through the darkness, fumbling through his bag to find an extra pair of batteries.
"Cover me will you?" He turned to the person accompanying him.
He turned back to his bag, groaning as he checked pockets and ending up fruitless.
Eric wasn't sure how he could cover anyone with a sling, but he strained his eyes into the darkness and brandished the crude weapon as menacingly as he could. Feeling a bit silly, he wondered how many Neolithic men had anxiously performed the same gesture, and felt a humbling closeness to the scores of generations that came before him. Then he remembered he had a smart phone.
"Umm, here, let me..."
Eric slung the crowbar back over his shoulder and reached into his hoodie's marsupial pocket. He retrieved his "Universe" phone and, with a deft tap of the touch screen, shone the phone's camera light on Ghoul's bag to aid his search. Occasionally, he diverted the light to ensure that the hallway was still clear. Eric may have had a bad gut feeling about the group's newest member, but that was certainly no reason to be unhelpful.
"Thank you!" Ghoul piped, turning his head to the side to face Eric.
He quickly turned attention back to his bag then picked four batteries out of a small cloth pouch, then briefly tying it up and placing it in a more accessible place.
He then dumped the empty batteries in a pocket in the bag, then replaced the batteries in the flashlight.
With that done, he flicked the flashlight on and it cut through the darkness illuminating the hallway in front of them.
They both were about to continue exploring before Ghoul turned to Eric curiously.
"You intend to cover me with a sling? You're brave, i'll hand you that, but I doubt a crazed attacker would be intimidated by a sling." He chuckled.
"Of course if that said attacker is a bird or small animal, maybe." He smiled mischievously. Akin to a prankster who has been caught in the act yet is trying to suppress that urge to burst out laughing.
"I simply jest, Eric. No need to take it personally." He gave a playful squeeze on his shoulder combined with a smile to cure the embarrassed look he gave.
"But I all of a sudden remembered something..." he said, brows slightly furrowed in thought.
"You called yourself a hacker, correct?" He grinned. "I suppose with that name you have no problems "hacking" an attacker correct?"
He leaned closer to Eric giving that Cheshire grin for a moment with a sinister look in his eyes when he said the last part of the sentence.
"I kid on that one too." He said with a sigh.
"I suppose it's time to move on, and if there's any kind of problem, tell me." He said empathetically.
With a shrug, Alexander stands outside the doors to the Cyro facility, opting merely to watch for anything outside.
And to think the controversy surrounding these cyro facilities were rampant back before this hell broke out...
Rob stumbled in after the others, noticing a large room with 2 doors, and a few frozen bodies.
He slowly gathered as much paper as possible, "These are gonna be good for fire... and arrows," he stumbled around again to one of the doors, reading a faint label at the top: Exam floor 2
Then opening them into yet another room, filled with busted medical cabinets, and on further examination, two bodies, both seemed to be middle aged, the gender all though would be harder, though he knew they hadn't died of blue rot, and he quickly moved on to a large console in the middle of the room, then reading the labels.
But what really caught his eyes was a button with the label: Emergency cryo eject
Rob crossed his fingers.
This better work!
Rob slowly pushed down the button, hearing the crackling of two doors open, he knew that the only two pods in the room had opened, but where the subjects still alive?
Suddenly, with a large thud, the bodies fell.
"Well that was disappointing," said Rob, "Maybe I can find some detail on these people," turning his head
"Then again,", "Looting is fine to," Rob stumbled over to the cabinets, perhaps overlooked by looters as empty, but Rob knew better.
And so Rob began to rummage in the cabinets, finding 3 pain killers, in a bottle, but the label was distorted from age.
Along with the pain killers he found what looked like a hand held blood pressure checking device.
"Now for the bodies," yet again stumbling over to a body, this time it was a cryo patient, Rob noticed a wrist watch on one of the bodies, digital of course, from a modernizing world.
Rob was then hit with an idea, running over to the console he had used previously, then turning around to it's back.
"Ahh ha!" Rob said enthusiastically, pulling some wires from the machine, which now appeared to be dead.
Rob quickly went to work making a makeshift explosive, though it wouldn't do much damage, it would scare the sense out of an enemy.
Knowing that the watches battery might be about empty, it was perfect, the wires where attached to the watch, and running to the blood pressure device, all he had to do was pump up the blood pressure device, set the watch to a time, and when it hit that time it would course energy to the blood pressure device (Since the wires where hoked up to the part of the watch that would blink when the battery was dieing), and cause it to explode.
with this done, he crept back to the main room where the others would be waiting...or maybe he would be waiting.
Ghoul walked down the labyrinth-like halls of the facility.
Not much was found except an empty antibiotic container and a bag of tongue depressors.
Eric seemed to wander off and examine other things while Ghoul searched containers and places where things might be missed or hidden.
As they were walking down the hall to search the next room, Ghoul turned to Eric and asked him a question:
"What were you looking for back there?"
Eric inhaled sharply and swiveled on his back foot to face Ghoul, startled by the inquiry. "I don't know. Nothing, really. I think someone cleaned this place out a while ago." He paused. "I mean, I was looking for supplies, but I guess I was hoping to find paperwork." Preempting the obvious question, he continued. "Documents. Something historically relevant about the people who worked here. I find it incredible how people used to live, you know?" The "hacking" quip had rubbed Eric entirely the wrong way, owing to the grisly execution he had to carry out not two days ago. Nevertheless, he was trying to be politely sociable. With no sense of direction or purpose beyond his failed scavenging efforts, Eric followed Ghoul's lead to the next room.
"Ah. Yes, Documents. Knowledge. Knowledge is power, no?" Ghoul said spinning slowly around where he stood, head up to stare at the ceiling.
He stopped, and with one fluid motion he faced Eric.
"It would be interesting knowing what they were working on down here, but I don't see any point unless our goal was to do a little light-reading."
"Don't take that too hard, of course... Say, I'm sure you're good with electronics, why not salvage whatever is in these?"
He tapped a computer monitor on a nearby desk. A clear 'Thunk, thunk' was heard when he tapped the screen.
"Anything useful in these things? I'm pretty sure whatever's in them was left untouched."
He sighed and turned away from him.
"Well, you keep searching here if you want. I'm going to look for something like a map to help us determine the next place to look."
Clearly getting bored, Rob started to pace.
After a little while, he noticed that there was a set of desks where they obviously shouldn't have been, it was ridiculous how he didn't notice earlier.
"Strange..." moving over to the desks
Stepping closer he could hear the thud of his feet, suddenly noticing that the ground would have to be hollow for this to happen.
With that in mind he slowly moved away the desks.
"Finally," Rob sighed, but he had done it, revealing a metal latch, no doubt that it would lead to a basement.
But, basements would usually have generators in them, this he learned from his brother, on a scavenging mission, so this wasn't his first time finding this sort of thing, although this could just be another level to the cryo-genetic lab.
He didn't enter, despite his curiosity, he would wait for the others to return so they could enter together...they might not be alone.
"Ohhhhhhh... Guess I'll just gone in alone," Rob searched his pack for his flashlight, then turned it on.
A beam of light cut through the dark corridor, Rob pressed on into the basement.
The dusty smell was every where, if anyone had been down here, they would be long gone.
Rob shrugged into the first room, labeled Lab/Study.
Rob moved in, when he entered he found himself in a rather odd position, in front of him was a dead man, wearing a lab coat.
To on side of him there was a chemistry set on a table.
To the other side was what seemed to be a lounge.
Yes, this was rather odd, Rob thought he might find a generator but instead there was just more rooms, more cryo-pods, and more bodies.
Rob slowly walked over to the dead man, turning him over so Rob could see his face, when this was done Rob examined the man, he was wearing a gas mask, which Rob took, sliding into his pack, now Rob could see his face.
The man would have been in his twenties, short black hair, and many freckles doted his face.
"Must've died recently, but why the mask?" Rob pondered the question, perhaps he had been near people with the Blue Rot.
Rob thought for a moment, then went back upstairs to the others, Rob didn't want to know why the man was wearing a gas mask, so leaving was the best option.
Rob felt a breeze from outside, quite warm actually, giving the cool insides of the cryo facility.
"That's what I need, some fresh air" Rob did feel a bit nauseous after seeing the bodies, both upstairs and down.
Though he didn't notice, Silent was still outside.
Rob froze, this man could have gotten the group killed or hurt, did he really want to be near him?
Just go, hes' just a normal guy in this world.
Rob stepped outside, and leaned on one of the walls just outside the door, both to rest and get clean air.
After a few minutes Rob went back inside, not quite a ill-feeling, then decided to start making a new weapon, this time made of metal.
He weaved his way to a chair, and slid his multi-tool out, and took the legs off the chair.
Rob know had four metal chair legs, with the caps taken off.
He used the screws that had been holding the legs in to put two of the legs together, working only because the legs where hollow, this being true, the legs where quite strong.
Rob used one of the other legs to bend the top legs front into a blade, and the last three fourths of the forth leg into a blade.
"Nice," Rob said happily, admiring his new metal lance/spear, and machete.
"Well, it seems we're done here." Ghoul said to Eric as he walked back to the group.
He stepped outside and saw Silent scanning the landscape ahead for any potential threats.
He noticed Rob a while back, carefully examining his creation.
Silent and Rob was here, Eric would surely follow soon. Where were Nails and Cat?
"Rob." He called out to Rob to get his attention.
"Have you seen Nails or Cat? They're not here."
"No," Rob replied
"But if you want, you could help me scavenge a lab I found downstairs, they might have gone down while I was outside," Pointing at the path he had made to the basement
"Sure, but I have to ensure that Eric is safe before I go with you."
Ghoul stared at the hallway.
"He's not here yet and it's been a while. Wait here. I'll be back."
Rob stared as the man ran into the hallway.
Better do as he says, you don't want any angry people.
Cat didn't find anything of interest. Frustrated, she was getting ready to return, when she noticed a filing cabinet. The cabinet itself wasn't what drew her attention, it was far more the fact that the lock was clean. In this place that was covered in dust and dirt, seeing a clean lock was a clear indication of someone recently having used the filing cabinet. She stepped over quickly and using her crowbar, bust open the door.
At first she was disappointed when all that spilled out were pages and pages of handwritten notes. "Probably some looney diary", but when she started noticing sketches of molecules and other chemical formulas, she became curious and started looking over the pages. "This... if this is true then, that means... It can't be..." Shocked, she stuffed as many of the papers into her backpack and then turned to the half- empty locker. In the bottom right- hand corner, their was a small vial with a biohazard sign on it. she also found two packaged syringes and a map of the surroundings, unfortunately before the End, but someone had written over it and made their own comments on the features surrounding their current location.
With the things she found, Cat decided to return to the lobby and see what else was discovered. It was already late afternoon and this seemed as good as any place to bunker down for the night... Then again, the lock seemed to suggest that there was at least one other person who knew about this place...
"Find anything?" Rob asked as Cat entered the lobby
"Also, I found a basement area, had a fresh dead guy in it,"...
Cat was still visibly shaken from her discoveries earlier. "Yeah, I think I did..." she stammered, but then, suddenly jerking back into reality, she spun her head around and asked, "where are all the others? And what did you do with the body?2
"Silent is still outside, Nails is... somewhere, and Eric is scavenging someplace, the new guy went to get him," Rob pointed down the hallway that Ghoul went down.
"As for the body, I left it where it was, down in the basement," Rob was about done talking, insisting to himself to add more details about the body. "The dead guy must've been some sort of scientist, in his mid twenties or early thirties"
"What did you find?" Rob was a bit worried that the man downstairs might have been killed by people, more so about why they would block off the basement.
"Eric? Eric!" Ghoul called out searching for Eric. For all he knew, the worst could've happened.
He wanted to find him and find him soon, since he knew this place was dangerous and Eric could be in danger.
"Eric? Eric!" Rob heard the echo from the hallway ahead.
"Cat, is there something we all need to know about, what did you find?" Rob was rather shaken by all this, first the dead bodies, now Eric was missing.
"Maybe we should go help," Making sure Cat didn't notice, even though she probably did, Rob slid the 9mm out of his pack and placed it in his pocket.
Might need this.
Rob also held his makeshift metal weapons in both hands, this didn't hinder him much as the crutch did barley anything now.
"Now's not the time, let's make sure Nails and Eric are fine. Any idea where they are?"
"Ghoul went that way after Eric," Pointing to the hallway Ghoul had gone down
He knew what he had seen down in the "basement" and upstairs, come to think of it, this whole place had the same smell, like disinfectant.
The guy downstairs was probably long since dead, but this smell was fresh, he knew it, and the guy downstairs didn't look like he was attacked, not buy anything larger than a few inches maybe.
A group of scientists? Perhaps, but... what if, no, it had to be scientists.
Still though, Rob held his make shift spear in one hand, his gun in the other, ready to kill if he must.