Home > Creative Writing Exercises, Fallen Earth, NaNoWriMo, Writing > FE NaNoWriMo 2010: Installment No. 5

FE NaNoWriMo 2010: Installment No. 5

June 19, 2156

I woke to find Fern between me and the morning sun, maybe three inches from my face, her eyes squinting.

“Awake,” she said. “Good.” She thumped the blue Franklin’s Rider cap against the palm of her right hand and stood upright. “Look, Denton, we need to talk.” Her head nudged in the direction of the small fire that she’d built. A kettle hung suspended over the flames. “Help yourself to some tea, if you like.”

I couldn’t remember drifting off to sleep. Exhaustion must have overwhelmed my brain in the end. I borrowed one of the courier’s dented metal mugs and poured tea into it. Couldn’t drink it right away, however. That’d just make the infected tooth flare up.

Once I had my tea, Fern broke the news: “I gave it a lot of thought. Believe me, I did. Got no choice, though. I’m carrying cargo due in New Flagstaff just a couple of days from now. That stunt you pulled last night…look, I owe Pat Haskins a favor or two, but I answer to the Riders first and foremost. You’re reckless, Denton. I can’t afford the risk of taking you with me. You’re slowing me down and you’re making mistakes that could get both of us killed.”

I blinked. My mouth fell open. “You’re leaving me out here in the middle of nowhere?”

Fern shook her head. “No, sir. Like I said, I’ve got a debt to settle with the doctor. I’ll see you get somewhere safe. I just can’t take you all the way to Northfields with me. I’m thinking I can take you as far as Pass Chris. From there, it’s just an afternoon’s walk to Watchtower. You said you know people. Could they secure passage for you?”

“Maybe,” I replied.

“Tea’s getting cold,” she said.

“Good,” I seethed. When it stopped steaming, I would venture a sip. “Look, Fern, what happened last night…it won’t happen again. Can’t you give me another chance?”

The Rider-in-training sighed. “I wish I could. Really, I do. But let’s consider your recent track record, shall we? Even before you went down to that stream to play tag with a blight wolf, you ran into trouble with a couple of Gully Dogs who walked away with your ATV, your cargo, your weapons…”

“Shitty run of luck,” I insisted. “Good fortune’s just waiting around the corner.”

“Maybe,” she said. “Maybe not. Could be that you’ve got impaired judgment because of that infection. The fever. Might be it’s baking your brain just a little. I hate doing this, Denton, but I just don’t see any other choice. I’m not equipped to deal with your little bouts of crazy right now.”

Well, I guess I could take some comfort in the fact that she wasn’t just abandoning me on Dead Man’s Buttress to fend for myself.

I took a sip of tea. Winced. Not cool enough yet.

“I know a short cut,” Fern went on. “It’ll take us a little out of the way, up through the Falkenberg Hills to Murphy. Once we’re there, though, it’s just a short hop to Pass Chris.”

***

Scribbled in the right margin: Re-read Old LaRue’s pages sooner rather than later.

Scribbled in the left margin: GET GLUE.

***

The short cut didn’t work out quite like Fern planned.

We had just cantered into the dusty town of Murphy shortly after lunchtime when a trio of rickety-looking dune buggies came buzzing over the rim of the crater in which the scatter of pre-Fall buildings sat.

These vehicles were followed by riders on horseback, clad in studded black leather. The bandits whooped and hollered, howling like desert coyotes.

“Night Wolves,” Fern said, brow furrowed. She didn’t reach for her rifle just yet.

Residents of the sleepy little town shouted and ran around. Some looked for places to hide, while others rushed about trying to gather whatever valuables they could carry and then started running toward the northern edge of town. A few stood their ground not far from us, apparently taking some misguided sense of strength from the Rider-in-training and the fevered Traveler.

More than two dozen bandits mounted the rim of the crater on foot, gazing down at the town. They meant to take this place; meant to hold it. I didn’t think the stalwarts stood much of a chance.

“We should go,” I suggested, probably a little louder than I intended. Fern looked my way, but so did the citizens who clearly felt too proud to just flee the ground they’d worked to keep for so long. I shrugged at the courier. “It might just be the fever talking, but the numbers aren’t working out in our favor.”

She huffed, but agreed. Tugging on the reins, she brought her horse around. We started off at a trot toward the broken pavement of the ancient road. I didn’t look back. Fern couldn’t help herself. I saw her cringe. I heard the brief screams before the buggies plowed into the stalwarts, and the splashy red thumps when the wheels crushed their bodies.

***

The road to Pass Chris followed an incline northwest from the doomed town we had left behind. We stopped near a looming LifeNet bunker – one of the facilities capable of spitting out the clones that have been showing up in the Province in recent months.

We looked back toward Murphy. A column of black smoke roiled from the middle of town.

“We should have done something,” Fern said somberly. “Should’ve helped. They needed us!”

I shrugged. “Really? What about that package for New Flagstaff? Isn’t it supposed to be more important than any other obligation you might have? Like, say, making sure a guy with a nasty infection gets to Picus Ridge, even if he makes a stupid mistake? No, no. Think about it. We did the right thing. What’s the benefit of giving our lives to NOT save that town from an inevitable takeover?”

“My conscience,” she said.

“Not worth much when you’re dead,” I told her. “I didn’t like the odds. We’re alive now, right? We can warn the folks in Pass Chris and make sure that they’re ready to defend against the Night Wolves. That ought to make your conscience feel a little better.”

I could tell it didn’t, but she didn’t argue the point further. She just gave a nod before nudging her horse along. Our shadows stretched ahead in the afternoon sun.

***

“More water for us, then.”

That comment, plus a faint smile, pretty much summed up the attitude of the short, balding man who held sway over the people of Pass Chris. His name was Jacob Method.

I’d heard about him before, through Old LaRue. Method was a scientist and engineer who had helped devise and maintain the town’s drilled well system. He also served as their primary doctor. I asked if he could help with my problem. “I’m not a dentist,” Method scoffed.

For the past few years, since the downfall of Alec Masters at Hoover Dam, Method had kept an arrangement with the leader of Murphy, Beck Smalls, to provide that town with water in exchange for grain and other useful supplies.

Now that the Night Wolves had invaded, it was apparently time to cancel that arrangement.

“The survivors still need help,” Fern said. We stood in Method’s laboratory on a hill overlooking the small farm and the smattering of pre-Fall structures that made up the town below.

“Any refugees with useful skills are welcome to seek sanctuary here in Pass Chris,” Method replied. “They’ll get a fair share of rationed supplies.”

“So, let me see if I’ve got this straight,” I said. “If people from Murphy can make it here alive, and if they can do something you consider useful, you’ll take them in. If they can’t, they’re screwed?”

Method gave a vague shrug. “It’s a tough world, Mr. Denton. The strong and the clever survive.”

***

I don’t know why Fern expected any better.

She cried for a while, sitting on the steps of an elevated wooden longhouse next to Method’s lab.

“He’s an ass,” I said. “But he’s got a point. They’ve got limited resources here, just like everywhere. If he threw the doors open wide for everybody, they’d pick this place apart like vultures on a sandworm.”

Fern didn’t seem to find that comforting. I don’t know why I expected she would.

***

Yesterday, I couldn’t get her to shut up.

Today, I can’t get a word out of her anymore.

She didn’t even say goodbye before she galloped away under the bloody glow of the setting sun and left me standing on the road outside Pass Chris.

I wonder if I’ll ever see her again.

Surprisingly, I hope so.

***

Scribbled in the left margin: ONE DOSE LEFT.

Advertisements
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: