Loosely based on the PS3 game, The Last of Us, by Naughty Dog “Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change. Mary Shelley, FrankensteinThe truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for. Bob Marley *** Lucy Porter looked twelve. Well, twelve-ish. Sometimes, she could pass for younger. Most of the time, even. But these days passing younger was only good until you were ten. After that, innocence was nothing more than make-believe, and you had hope to hell you passed as sixteen, because a twelve-year-old had nothing to offer. Or nothing that could be given more then once. So. Lucy Porter looked twelve. She acted twelve. If she had a birth certificate, it would probably say she was twelve -- twelve years, nine months, and sixteen days, to be precise. Lucy Porter looked twelve. But she most certainly was not. She'd been living in the Tacoma safe zone for almost nine years now, having arrived just before her fifth birthday, winter a little over ten years after everything had gone to hell. She only vaguely remembered the woman who'd brought her here. To hear the orphanage tell it, both she and her maybe-mother had been pretty fucking sick, enough so that Lucy's memories of the journey were all distorted technicolor, nightmarish dreams or a reality too awful to want to remember. Lucy had reached the camp with the woman and fallen asleep for a really, really long time. Way too long for any toddler to come back from. She had, anyway, waking in the early spring, beanpole skinny and on her own. The woman had died two days after leaving Lucy at the orphanage. And she'd learned, like every kid born after the Outbreak, that even the safe zones weren't so nice. Maybe not as bad as the outside -- not that Lucy knew -- but not great. Everything inside the quarantine zones was all food rations, curfews and militia made up of former cops and soldiers. Five years ago, the last of the Coast Guard had had a decent say, at least at what went on inside Tacoma. But once the Trojans sprung up, control had become veneer thin, a word grown-ups used to scare other grown-ups into giving up booze and guns before someone got hurt. And usually, those people ended up getting hurt, anyway. But Lucy was twelve now, almost thirteen. Older, if anyone asked, younger if they didn't. She'd left the orphanage a little under a year ago after it had changed hands. The couple who owned it were high more often than not, and got a kick out of beating the shit out of the older kids ('older' now meant fourteen, as they'd decided everyone aged out at fifteen, earlier if they had it in them to talk back, like Lucy did). They'd just as soon trade a five-year-old for a fifth, and while it sounded like a shitty thing to do, it was just sort of the norm. So, Lucy had ditched, gotten a job running small-ticket black market items between warring factions. After a while, you got to know which jobs worked best. Not everyone could run stealth-ops anymore. Lucy wasn't very strong, but she was fast and and small and smart, and she had a wicked shot with Harry, her pride and joy, her most prized possession, a refurbished bb gun, a real 'vintage' shooter, one of the last made before the Outbreak, that had been hacked to take everything from marble to pebbles to pieces of glass. It wasn't deadly by any stretch of the imagination. But from far away it looked like a gun. And anyone who got close enough to try and take would be half-blind in an instant, thanks to Harrison. It was how she'd gotten a decent position as a mouse for the Eclipse. They were one of the bigger gangs in Tacoma. Not as Big as the Black Suns, but a hell of a lot more forgiving. More generous with their food stamps, too, and no one ever asked Lucy how old she was. That was a plus. If she couldn't land a job with them, she could always try the Yakuza, or the Blue Dogs. Not the Trojans. Never the Trojans. You had to be stupid or crazy to mess with them. So, really, she probably could have known she was in trouble when Georgie came to find her that day. It would have saved her a hell of a lot of trouble in the long run.