Making of the Momma - Freedom Tribe prequel

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Cammytrice, Aug 20, 2014.

  1. The long night was finally over. Denise breathed a sigh of relief as the dark sky began to lighten in the early dawn. Her voice was tired, constantly talking to the little girl curled up in the blanket in front of her, trying to keep her awake. She listened and kept her body attuned to every slight breath, every cough, fearing each could be the last. But despite the shortness of breath, the energy-robbing coughing spells, the little girl stayed cheerful, speaking when she could, the head of a tiny rag doll poking out of the thick blankets next to her head.

    Once the sun finally began to peek over the desert sand, the convoy of bikes, trikes and jeeps pulled off the road into a tight huddle behind some tall rocks. They’d be safe and hidden there while they rested through the day. One of the party would go and fill up the group’s gas containers at the closest station that they had passed during the night, so they could continue the journey the next night. The remainder of them would eat and most would rest, a few taking turns as lookouts for trouble. They had to be watchful every moment. The Trade was never far away, and was on the lookout for anyone vulnerable, especially those who had escaped previously. Denise and her group refused to be part of the Taken again.

    Denise fed the weak girl, and they shared a few quiet moments together, their matching grey eyes and roped hair revealing how much they belonged to each other.

    “Momma, you look so tired. You don’t want to get sick too. You should sleep today…” she said softly, her own voice tired from coughing. She had to take turns to cough, breathe, talk and drink her meagre soup. It took a long time, but she valiantly drank it all down, knowing her mother would worry if she didn’t. And her body needed it in order to get strong again. She always believed she’d get better, so she never worried like her mother did. Her mother would take care of her, and she would get better just like last time. Fortunately, she couldn’t see the grey tinge around her lips, and the dark circles around her own eyes, and Denise didn’t tell her.

    “I just don’t want to miss a moment of seeing your face, Alena. My little angel…” she answered simply, smiling tiredly. She couldn’t remember when she’d last had a proper sleep, more than a few quick naps here and there, too worried about her daughter to sleep without fear. As it was, each nap ended with a panic as she awoke, checking to see the little girl was still breathing. But she was, oh so tired. Once the girl had finally finished eating, Denise gave her a tiny bit of the cough medicine they had been rationing for her, just enough to calm her coughing a bit so she could sleep.

    “Lay with me, Momma. Then you can rest too,” she begged her, leaning against the bedroll. It was too much work for her lungs for her to sleep laying down. She gave a small yawn and closed her eyes wearily, hugging her little doll to her.

    Denise finally relented. How could she say no to such a sweet face? She curled up with her and watched her sleep, eventually sinking into an exhausted sleep of her own.

    It was late in the day when Seb finally woke her. They needed to eat and get moving soon. Denise was slow to wake up, her body still craving rest. But Alena needed to eat. She gently shook her, but only the doll moved, falling from her limp hands. “Alena, wake up, baby…” she begged, the panic rising in her throat, suffocating her. “Alena, please. Open those beautiful eyes for Momma…” But they never would.

    She rode all night with the group. They couldn’t dare to stay in one place. They put her in the middle of the pack, keeping a careful eye on the distraught mother, talking to her child all night, the little girl wrapped in her blankets, the doll next to her. She could barely see the road. Her throat ached from crying. She promised the girl the running would stop. She’d never let running take the life of anyone, as much as she could help it. She blamed the Trade for taking her daughter. One way or another, they had managed to take her away.

    In the morning, they buried her by the side of the road. Denise lacked the strength to pick up a shovel. She lacked the strength to do any more than hold her baby and weep. When she saw Seb approaching her to take her precious bundle from her, Denise shied back, unable to face what was about to happen. "No, Seb, please don't..." she begged desperately.
  2. Little Alena was a frail thing; that much had been obvious from day one. And although Sebastian had kept his distance from most of the group for many days after, it wasn't easy to shy away from two stubborn females like Denise and her daughter. He couldn't lie - it had made him uncomfortable at first. But quickly enough, Seb had learned to relax, earning himself his first two friends since the end of The War, and with it, an even more troubled heart.

    He could never forget the look of a protective mother and especially not the look in Denise's eyes the first time they'd met. That wild gaze that promised to do anything in order to protect her daughter and just from that alone, Sebastian knew the woman was capable of even murder if it came down to it. Just from that look, he'd realized he'd found someone like himself...

    The scraping of coarse dirt meeting a crude shovel pierced his thoughts. His pensive gaze began to refocus on the ground in front of him. At his right sat a pile of stones, the result of several people's laborious hunt across the wasteland. No one had complained. No one had to be asked - not even the two men digging the grave at that very moment. The stones were important. They would protect something precious from the wild beasts that roamed the lands.

    The air was silent, save for Denise's soft sobbing. Now, not even the gravediggers moved, just like the rest of them who stood very still with eyes downcast. This went on for several long minutes until finally Sebastian realized it would have to be him. He would have to do it, because he was going to be the only one Denise would listen to. The only one she would give Alena over to.

    Slowly he moved, turning to face the grieving mother as though she were a timid doe that would take flight should some noise or fast movement spook her. And as he drew nearer to her, he saw her visibly recoil. They all saw it and the collective sound of their hearts breaking lay think on the air like a heavy blanket, making each step forward feel like a fight for his life.

    "No, Seb, please don't..."

    He reached out with both hands...and gently placed them on her elbows. Tenderly he slid them up her arms and across her back, drawing her and her bundle into a hug. Like that, he held her trembling form. He couldn't deny that his own hands shook at that very moment. "It's time, Denise..." he said softly. "Let her rest properly..."
  3. Diana curled up in his arms, her body shaking with sobs. She gently pulled the blanket back one last time, kissing her baby on the forehead. She was cold and stiff now. No longer sleeping like Denise had tried to convince herself she was. Spotting the doll peeking out next to her in the blanket, Denise's hand closed around it, pulling it to her chest even as she slowly, painfully released her baby to Seb's arms.

    She couldn't look at first, only felt him take her and listened to his footsteps carry her away. When they stopped, she looked up in a panic. She couldn't explain what happened next. Something in her mind just snapped, seeing him about to put the bundle in the ground. She screamed, weakly trying to get up from the ground, stumbling up behind him and trying to grab her back.

    "No! No, not my baby! Alena, wake up! Please, don't let them take you! Wake up for Momma, please!"

    She couldn't do it. She couldn't live without her baby. Her angel. Either her baby needed to live, or she needed to die with her.
  4. She, who had always been strong and capable, felt so fragile in Seb's arms now. She was about to break; he could feel her defenses crumbling away with each tremble of her body, but he waited anyway, unable to take the child from her arms until she was ready. And when Denise finally did release Alena into his arms, his heart clenched into a little ball of sorrow.

    It wasn't just that he was sad for Denise and for Alena who had been a child to all of them. This unbearable feeling of lifelessness nestled in his arms was far too familiar. Old scars opened. And still Sebastian's melancholy expression remained unchanged as he walked toward the grave, not even when Denise ran after him, clutching at the back of his shirt, scrambling to hold on so that he couldn't put her baby to rest and make her passing indisputable.

    He understood her suffering. No one was without loss these days, but he understood that she had finally broken. To be insane with despair was a frightening thing to witness and much of the group shifted with discomfort, worry thick upon their faces. Seb, too, was worried, but he didn't let it show. If anything, he had to be strong for her right now. He had to be the sane one.

    Sebastian's gaze, however, flicked to the two nearest people, silently asking them to hold Denise back. They complied with much remorse. It took everything he had to pull away from the grieving mother then, every ounce of willpower, and place that child down into her final resting place. But he lingered a moment, silently bidding Alena goodnight.

    And goodbye.

    Then he returned to Denise, arms encircling her tightly. Let her struggle. Let her take her anger and sadness out on him. He would shoulder it because she was now the only thing dear to him in this life.

    And the gravediggers placed stone and dirt with heavy hearts.
  5. Denise fought against his embrace, her movements frantic and uncoordinated. She was just screaming now, her words an incoherent jumble as she tried to call out to her baby to hear her. When the last rock was set into place, Denise simply gave up; a whimper and a groan of utter despair were the last sounds she made as she simply went limp in his arms, shutting her eyes and her mind away from the sight of the fresh grave. Her angel's grave.

    When she finally came to, the sun was high in the sky. They'd set her in the shade, bundled in a blanket to protect her from shock, with water and soup next to her. Denise weakly untangled herself from the blanket and drank the water, but she couldn't bear the sight or thought of food. Instead, she stumbled out into the sun, blinking against the light, and dragged herself over to the pile of rocks. Flopping down next to them, she curled up on top of the grave without a sound. The rocks were almost too hot from the sun, but she didn't care. She didn't care about anything except being close to her baby.

    The others watched her with worry from across the camp where they could keep an eye on her, but give her some space. Seeing her breakdown like that had honestly scared them. They didn't know what she might try to do if they tried to separate her from the grave. "Seb, what are we going to do when it's time to move on tonight? If she puts up too much of a fight, it'll be dangerous to ride with her. What if she jumps off? And we can't stay here, especially at night. We've barely got enough supplies to reach the next settlement." They cared for Denise too, but they needed to focus on survival as well.
  6. For a while, all Sebastian could do was hold her until she stopped fighting, until she stopped sobbing and slipped into an uneasy sleep. He was fully aware that they couldn't stay much longer, but there really wasn't anything he could do about that just yet. A tired sigh escaped his lips as he hefted the unconscious Denise up off the ground. The sun was rising higher in the sky and she was already so worn down that he just couldn't leave her exposed like that.

    It was in the shadow of a crumbling wall that he left her; the rest of the building had eroded years ago. And although he wasn't right by her side, that didn't mean he'd actually taken his eye off of her.

    "Seb, what are we going to do when it's time to move on tonight? If she puts up too much of a fight, it'll be dangerous to ride with her. What if she jumps off? And we can't stay here, especially at night. We've barely got enough supplies to reach the next settlement."

    Luckily he'd already been pondering those very questions while the group ate and rested, and after he brought his water canteen to his lips for a drink, he answered. "Put my bike in the trailer. I'll take hers. I don't think she'll put up much of a fight if we can leave while she's tired like this." His gaze shifted over to the grave, settling on Denise. "But just in case, get some rope ready."

    He had a plan. He just hoped she wasn't so broken that she actually would try something stupid.

    Another sip of his water was had before he tucked it away in his pack again and stood. His footsteps arrived long before he did, the sound of gravel beneath his boots alerting Denise to his approach. He didn't say anything, however. He just took a seat beside her, legs crossed, tall frame blocking the sunlight from most of her body. He reached out a hand and placed it softly atop her head - a silent gesture that he was there to protect her and maybe try to shoulder some of that pain.
  7. A soft sigh escaped her lips at the touch of his hand, and Denise allowed her eyes to drift closed once more. There was no fight against his touch, no anger towards him for his earlier actions. There was nothing but that silent gesture of resignation.

    It was getting late. The rest of the team had been stalling as they slowly packed up camp, not wanting to face this moment. But now it was almost dark. They couldn't wait much longer. Seb's bike had been carefully loaded into the trailer, his helmet and jacket resting next to Denise's things on her trike. They'd even set the blanket and doll there, just like they'd always done for Alena. She'd always ridden the more stable vehicle because it was safer for holding on to Alena. But now, someone needed to hold on to her.

    One of the guys brought over a canteen of water for her, and a mug of soup. Denise hadn't eaten since yesterday morning, she had to be hungry. He offered them to her, but she didn't seem to hear him. Other than opening her eyes, she didn't move. Not a flicker of recognition. He sighed and set them in front of her, where she could see them. He gave Seb a hopeless look and went back to helping the others finish packing up.

    "Just kill me, please. Don't make me leave her, Seb..."

    Her voice tired and hoarse, her words almost silent. But if her friend was listening, he would hear her plea, her cry for help. The light in her eyes had died, and her strength had given out. She was too tired to run anymore. She knew he wouldn't, but in her mind there was no other option. She was trapped between the impossible choices of staying and leaving, and she couldn't force herself to make either.
  8. The food was an offering out of kindness though Sebastian knew not a drop would be touched. The woman he sat next to was barely human. She was practically a shell of a person, not even working on auto-pilot at this point. She was broken but he would give it time for the fire to die and the dust to settle before he went searching for anything that could be salvaged. He'd build her back up again, but it would take time.

    Time the group didn't have. They had to move or risk being found and god help them if they were found by the wrong people...

    "Just kill me, please. Don't make me leave her, Seb..."

    Her voice was meek and pitiful, so much so that his heart ached a little the moment she spoke. It wasn't the first time someone had asked him that and those memories still weighed heavily on his mind from time to time. And maybe his answer was a bit selfish, because he couldn't take another life, not without good reason. And her reason was just as selfish as he was in that moment.

    "If I did that, she would cry," he murmured. Fingers callused from a hard life but gentle nonetheless stroked her cheek. "She would never forgive me if I did something like that." It wasn't that he was speaking as if the girl herself was still alive. It was more that her memory lived on in their hearts. "Take care of Momma." That's what she'd told him not more than four days ago. She knew. He knew. And to put a smile on her face and act normal for her mother, to worry more about someone other than herself... "Her final order for me. I won't disobey..."

    You're far too precious to me.

    Without another word, Sebastian stood to his feet only to stoop over and lift Denise into his arms.
  9. Silent tears ran down her cheeks as she allowed him to lift her from the grave, the despair that was holding her to it falling away as she put her trust in the one her Alena, her angel, had trusted. The side of her face was red and a bit burned from resting on the hot rock for so long, and the salt from her tears made it sting, but she didn't care. She was too tired and depressed.

    Denise sat on the trike and allowed him to dress her for riding: jacket, scarf, helmet. She swayed weakly, her body giving away just how exhausted and weak she was. But Denise wrapped herself in the blanket, hugging the doll, and sat ready on the back of the trike. She tucked her head down, forcing herself not to look at the grave. She'd lose herself again if she did.

    "Take care of Momma..."

    "Did-did she really say that?" she wanted to know. She had to know. She looked up in his face and her eyes begged him to tell her the truth. "Sh-she knew, didn't she?"
  10. "We always seem to know, don't we?" Sebastian replied, though it was more of a muttering directed at himself. "Even if it's sometimes just seconds before it dawns on us that we're not going to survive whatever we're facing. Some realize it sooner than others. Days. Maybe even weeks.... But we always..seem to..know..."

    He tugged on his leather jacket and zipped it up to the chin. Dust and sand was like razor blades when they were out on the road and it was unnecessary discomfort. Careful not to knock Denise with his long legs, he straddled the trike's front seat and let out a sigh. All around them, the other vehicles were roaring to life.

    "She was smart for her age," he said a little louder this time. "And yeah. She did say that. And even though I promised her I would never leave your side..." He twisted at the waist a little, just enough to settle his gaze on Denise. "I never planned to leave you away." He turned back around then, tugged up his skull handkerchief over his mouth and nose, and hit the ignition.

    "You haven't lost everything just yet," he mumbled, his words lost in the noise of the engine as he cranked the throttle and sped off with the convoy in tow.
  11. Denise snuggled into his back, both to hide her face and to rest, relying on his strength for now. She tugged up her scarf around her mouth as well and closed her eyes, still weary with grief. She didn't sleep, though. Seb would feel the vibration of her voice through his back. She talked all night, to the doll and to herself. By morning, her voice was quiet, and she was threatening finally to doze off behind Seb.

    The group pulled off the road at the shell of an old service station, pulling their bikes around the back to hide from the sun and from the roaming threat. When they finally stopped, Denise slipped off the trike and onto the dirt, curling up on the ground and staring out at the road, back the way they'd come.
  12. They still had a long ride to the nearest settlement but to come across a little place like this was a bit of a relief. There was a generator out back that surprisingly hadn't been stolen. Actually, it hadn't been touched in years by the looks of how much dust and dirt had settled over practically everything. It was as if this area had been quite suddenly vacated, which wasn't so much a stretch considering the last year of the war...

    "Check the inside," Sebastian told the nearest person the moment the roar of the engines ceased. He didn't need Denise seeing any more death today and he was worried that the people at this place might not have had time to evacuate. And while "Kyle" jogged off to scout the innards of the garage and attached station with a few others, Seb dismounted the trike and squatted beside Denise's crumpled form.

    For a moment he paused, looking over her face with a gentle gaze and then following her line of sight toward the road. If he tried hard enough, he could see Alena there, skipping down the road and singing a made-up song, ragdoll swinging from one of the girl's tiny hands. It was a happier memory, one he hoped Denise would recall sooner than later because it was better to dwell on the good times rather than the bad ones.

    "Alright. No more laying in the dirt," he muttered. He was about to do some things that she would probably fight him on, but a bath and food she would get regardless of her stubborness. Scooping the woman up into his arms, he carried her into the building. A few lamps had been lit and not far off he could hear the crackle of the radiation detector they'd acquired by chance nearly a year ago. By the sounds of it, the building was clean of both residual radiation and corpses. He could hear a few cheers coming from further in which could only mean one thing: working taps. It probably wouldn't be safe to drink but good enough to bathe in and wash clothing. "Bath or food first?" he asked Denise. "Either way, you're getting both."
  13. Denise whined as she was picked up and carried inside. "I can't see her..." she complained, a weak panic rising in her as tears started to streak down her dirt-covered face, stinging her burned cheek again. It was raw and dry and looked like it might blister. She would need some first aid on it soon. "I'm not hungry...feel sick..." she finally answered in a mumble. She knew it was because she hadn't eaten, but she just couldn't bear the thought of it right now. "I feel hot...dizzy...gonna fall..." she warned him, holding onto his shirt. She was about to faint. Seeing the grey creeping around the edges of her vision and hearing the roaring in her ears caused her more panic, which only hastened the darkness. "" she begged as her eyes rolled up, and the hand holding his shirt loosed its grip. She fell into a faint, still in his arms.

    Denise was only unconscious for a few moments, but when she started to come to again, Denise felt confused and groggy. Was someone shaking her? Where was she? She groaned, trying to force her eyes open, but they felt weighted down. She groaned again, her hand groping the air, looking for something to hold on to. "Seb..." she murmured. Where was Seb?
  14. He really wasn't all that surprised when she passed out. She'd been hard on herself these past few days. No, these past few years, really. He was worried, and it showed on his face just a little as he carted her unconscious body toward the showers. They could afford to stay a bit longer than just one night here. With the way she was now, there might not even be a choice in the matter because traveling with her in this state was too dangerous.

    "Hey," he muttered, giving her a little jolt once they were alone in the shower room. Only two faucets jutted out from the poorly tiled wall, the knobs rusty on the surface but operational nonetheless. There were a few lockers on the opposite wall and a wooden bench that had almost rotted right through. It was here that Seb woke Denise again, heart sinking a little as he listened to her pitiful frail voice calling for him. "I'm right here... Don't get mad, but you really need to bathe."

    He set Denise down on the floor, propping her up against the lockers as one of their group entered the room. Seb took the packs the woman carried with a "thanks" and a small smile and set them down on either side of Denise so he could rummage through them. Cloth, soap, towel, clothes. He had to dig through some of Alena's clothes to get to Denise's and it contributed to the painful knot festering in his heart...but he had to stay strong. He'd promised.

    Off came Denise's boots and that was just to start. If it had been any other time, Seb probably would have earned himself a punch to the face. When she was down to undergarments, he sat her under the showerhead and turned it on. "I've been thinking," he voiced while he scrubbed her arms and hands with the washcloth. He was squatting beside her, barefoot, pant legs rolled up to mid-calf, wild hair tied back with the same hair elastic he'd been using for years, so much that it'd long since lost the majority of its elasticity. "When we get to the settlement, we could stay a while." And by 'we' he meant Denise and himself. The others would never stay in one place for long. Not without a good reason.
  15. Denise nodded groggily, her limbs feeling heavy and leaden. "I don't want to run any more...I promised her..." she answered. Her voice was tired, but she seemed to finally be lucid again, ready to talk and actually make sense. "I'm so tired, Seb. I just don't know what to do now. I forgot what we're supposed to be looking for. Were we supposed to run forever?" She was starting to ramble, but it was a thoughtful train of speech. There had to be something out there that they could call home. Home. She'd known one once. Alena never had. Her breath caught, and she took a shuddering gasp, looking back at Seb. Her eyes were red, she could feel the sting on her cheek again from her salty tears. "She never knew what home was. Home for her was that trike. She never had four walls she could call a safe place...d-did I fail her? Does that make me a bad Momma?" she wanted to know. She didn't want that. She had tried to keep her safe, and being safe meant to keep moving, but she just wished for something her baby would never be able to have.

    "I want to go home...I'm so tired of running..." she wept.
  16. "You're wrong."

    His gaze was confident, yet still he looked upon her with a gentleness not many witnessed. She was mistaken, blinded by the pain of her loss. Otherwise she would have known that she had been the best mother anyone could have asked for.

    "Home wasn't the trike for her," Sebastian said as his hands reached for the woman's arms. Long, callused fingers wrapped around her forearms and squeezed gently. "This was 'Home' for Alena. Her mother's embrace. That's all a child really needs." Yes, their constant running had made it impossible for the girl to recover, to become healthy again. But it also kept her from the dangers of settling down somewhere these days.

    A hand lifted from Denise's arm to lay against her jawline and tilt her face up so that their eyes could properly meet. And as he inspected the burned cheek with a furrowed brow, he murmured, "She was free. That was the best thing you could have done for her and you did it."

    She'd said she wanted to go home, but Seb didn't know where that was. His no longer existed. She was tired of running and if he was completely honest with himself, so was he. "I'll follow you wherever," he muttered.
  17. Denise weakly scrubbed at her eyes, trying to clear the tears from her vision. She nodded, not trusting herself to speak and honestlly, not knowing really what to say. She felt...oddly calm. Still shattered by her loss, but a small measure of peace had been granted her by his words. They didn't have to be alone.

    "W-we could make one..." she idly thought, her eyes starting to close as she relaxed, letting her head rest on his hand, feeling heavy. She was so tired, but she still needed to eat. Wearily forcing herself to sit up again, she started talking, trying to keep herself awake. She told Seb what her home had looked like, how it had been destroyed in the war, along with the rest of her town. She talked about Alena being born in a slave camp, and escaping with some of the others, the tiny girl wrapped to her and zipped up in a coat. She talked about everything, things she hadn't talked about in years.

    When they were finally out of the shower and Seb had helped her into her fresh clothes, she wandered back into the main room, leaning heavily on her friend.
  18. She was talking and coherently, even. It eased Sebastian's worried heart just a little, even if some of the things she told him about were pretty heavy. And while he was relieved to see Denise's improvement, he was also feeling guilty because he couldn't open up to her in return. Both of their pasts were dark ones, but her story was about being the victim...

    It was fine like this, he told himself. She was doing most of the talking anyway and he wasn't about to stop her.

    A few heads turned when they returned to the main room, some showing a bit of surprise while most just showed relief from hearing Denise's voice and seeing her animate face. But the soft murmur of conversation around them never falter for even a second and Seb could tell that everyone was happy to be camping in a building for a change. It was the sweet smell of oatmeal being cooked in the middle of the room on a camping stove that he took note of more than anything else and of course how Denise's stomach declared a great desire for said oatmeal. Seb couldn't help but chuckle just a little as he helped her take a seat on her bedroll. He nodded at another traveler when the man held up a bowl with raised brow, silently asking if Denise was actually ready to eat something. "Eat first. Then we'll talk more," he told her as he handed the bowl over. Then he went to retrieve her pack from the showers and fish out the first aid kit so he could tend to the burn on her cheek.
  19. Denise nodded, holding the bowl in her lap. She ate hunched over, barely having the energy to lift the spoon. The tears fell silently as she ate her first meal without her Alena, but she held comfort in the fact that she no longer had to labour over her meals, getting out of breath just by swallowing her meals. It was a small comfort that just edged out the selfish desire of wanting her little girl with her again, but it was enough. She needed the food more than she was consciously hungry, and ate got her oatmeal a bit salty. At one point, she swiped at the tears on her cheeks and hissed a bit in surprise, only now really registering the pain on the skin of her cheek. She knew when she'd done it, but hadn't thought it had hurt that badly.

    She gave Seb a weak, somewhat sheepish smile when he returned with the first-aid kit to find her crying again. She let him medicate and dress the wound before she was finally allowed to lay down. She was talking again, this time more about Alena, and the small things the girl had managed to joyfully live her short life. She didn't mind that Seb didn't share his story. Nobody had a good story about the war, no matter what side they were on. What mattered was that they were on the same side now, and looked out for each other. And he was definitely looking after her. Denise talked until her words began to slur with sleepiness, and bursts of chatter and fluttering eyelids finally closed and fell silent with a sigh.

    She slept, really slept, all that day and through the night. Her body recovering mercifully put more healing time between her and her pain.There would be rough times still, while she continued to mourn, but she was on the path to recovering herself and learning to start her life anew.
  20. By the looks of this settlement, it probably would have been more comfortable to have stayed at the garage. Everywhere he looked, there were filthy people living out of the backs of their vehicles or sleeping under crudely made lean-tos. Even after six years, mankind was struggling to survive and Sebastian wondered how long it would take before they regained that sense of society, or at the very least community. For now, everyone was wary of each other, always trying to cheat each other and get the better end of the stick. The only benefit settlements had to offer was the promise of something more to eat than soup or oatmeal. Buying kit or necessities here was just a step down from chopping off your own arm as payment. But people still paid anyway. These were the kinds of people that Sebastian was not very fond of. They were thieves. Murderers. Rapists.


    Any one of these people could be a trafficker. And maybe that was why he kept Denise close to his side while he had a disgruntled conversation with one of the checkpoint guards. Or maybe he was just still a little concerned about her mental wellbeing. She was doing better though, with each passing day she would grow a little stronger but for now at least she was walking and talking.

    Finally their group was cleared to pass through the second set of gates and Sebastian returned to the trike with a sigh of irritation on his lips. The first thing the group would do is set up camp and discuss where to head to after leaving the settlement. Sebastion would announce his and Denise's decision then. But for now, rest from a long ride and some food was higher on his list of priorities. "You doin' okay back there?" he called over his shoulder to Denise, who was seated behind him on the trike.