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Link Posted: 2/7/2009 4:36:16 AM EDT
[#1]
Originally Posted By Swindle1984:
Originally Posted By vanilla_gorilla:
Finish the fookin' story before you do that park ranger crap.



You mean the park ranger crap I started four weeks ago? And finish in another fourteen weeks? That park ranger crap?


Pay no attention to the gorilla behind the curtains. Good luck in your training. Snap some pictures if you get a chance. How strenuous are the physical requirements? I'll need another job when I'm mandatorially retired in 4&1/2 more years at the tender age of 57. Hope and change y'know. I was thinking about going to work for my son-in-law at the pawn shop he manages for Cash America. There is almost nothing you can say to someone who needs money badly that will offend them, so I figure my brand of humor will go over swimmingly.
Link Posted: 2/7/2009 3:49:06 PM EDT
[#2]
At your age, the physical requirements would be pretty light. The oldest person in my class is 48, just got out the army, is only required to do half as much as us younger guys, and he's so hard-core he can out-perform all of us, including the former marine and former navy guy.

I think he's secretly a Terminator sent back in time to place himself in a position to assassinate John Connor when he goes to a state park to camp out. It's the only explanation for how this guy who's literally twice my age is so unstoppable.
Link Posted: 2/8/2009 12:01:11 AM EDT
[#3]
What was the movie with Clint eastwood where he trains the soldiers ,they go running by him when the go on a PT run and later they are about to fall out and he comes jogging by not barely breaking a sweat.  Are you training with that guy?
Link Posted: 2/8/2009 10:16:02 AM EDT
[#4]
More great chapters, Swindle!

Thanks for writing when you get the time.  

Hadn't checked this thread in awhile so I could "catch up" with several chapters, and got my wish!

Good luck with the training!

Michael
Link Posted: 2/8/2009 5:44:54 PM EDT
[#5]
Originally Posted By Hawk_308:
What was the movie with Clint eastwood where he trains the soldiers ,they go running by him when the go on a PT run and later they are about to fall out and he comes jogging by not barely breaking a sweat.  Are you training with that guy?


I don't remember the name of it, but I remember that scene.

Yes, this guy (he's a student, not an instructor) is like that. Literally twice my age and he can outperform the entire class without even breaking a sweat.
Link Posted: 2/8/2009 6:00:30 PM EDT
[#6]
Originally Posted By Swindle1984:
Originally Posted By Hawk_308:
What was the movie with Clint eastwood where he trains the soldiers ,they go running by him when the go on a PT run and later they are about to fall out and he comes jogging by not barely breaking a sweat.  Are you training with that guy?


I don't remember the name of it, but I remember that scene.

Yes, this guy (he's a student, not an instructor) is like that. Literally twice my age and he can outperform the entire class without even breaking a sweat.


Heartbreak Ridge

Y'all need re-training. Turn in your mancards until the deficiencies are corrected.
Link Posted: 2/13/2009 8:09:03 PM EDT
[#7]
Dang it, I was going to post the next chapter tonight, but my wrist hurts like a mother fucker. During class (we were learning to subdue suspects), my partner was practicing a hold that involves grabbing the hand and bending it downward so the suspect complies to avoid getting his wrist broken. Apparently, I either have a very high threshold of pain or my wrists are just really flexible, because he couldn't get it to work. So the instructor demonstrated on me, and that time I felt something, though it didn't really hurt at the time.

Now it hurts like a bitch and keeps popping and grinding when I bend my wrist. I put an instant cold pack on it until the pack got warm, then I took a hot shower, and it still hurts. No visible swelling or bruising, but it hurts to keep it on the keyboard for extended periods of time.

If it's better tomorrow, then you'll get the new chapter then. Otherwise...
Link Posted: 2/13/2009 9:04:00 PM EDT
[#8]
I bet Clint Eastwood would post a new chapter even if his wrist hurt... j/k  Kids these  days!
Link Posted: 2/15/2009 7:21:00 PM EDT
[#9]
6 Days


and it will be a month since your last chapter.
Link Posted: 2/16/2009 3:29:21 AM EDT
[#10]
Tell the instructor that you are not only going to file a workman's comp claim for the wrist, but that you will also be filing charges of assault on him personally. These government bureaucrats had better learn with whom they are dealing. Don't suffer any backtalk. Inform them that you have already retained the services of an attorney. Use this incident to make a name for yourself. This is not just some random trainee they are trifling with, this is Swindle 1984. The sooner they start kissing up to you, the better, I say.
Link Posted: 2/20/2009 8:59:09 PM EDT
[#11]
Okey-dokey, let's see if we can't get the next chapter cranked out tomorrow, shall we?
Link Posted: 2/22/2009 5:11:12 AM EDT
[#12]
You da man Swindle. I'm just the man next to the man.
Link Posted: 2/22/2009 4:55:03 PM EDT
[#13]
I'm gonna make it up to you guys for going a whole month without posting a chapter, as well as not posting it yesterday when I said I would. Here's a long chapter, and I hope it's a good one.




Chapter 13

––––––––––––––––––––––––

Hope felt the tension in her chest increase and slipped one hand into the concealed pocket of her tunic where she had concealed her .22 pistol. Nick, Sam, and both dogs quietly piled out the driver's side door and swung it not-quite shut. She couldn't see or hear what was going on. She could hear the blood pounding through her ears as she strained to listen.

After what seemed like a long time, but had to have been less than thirty seconds, she heard a loud crash in the back of the truck and one of the dogs barked. The crashing sounds got even louded and she heard Nick cuss at something. She'd expected to hear gunfire, but none was forthcoming. There were more thumping and scraping sounds in the back of the truck, which Hope thought sounded like someone straightening up whatever had been knocked over. After another long period of silence, the door to the cab swung open again and the dogs jumped into the truck. The door shut and she could hear Nick and Sam speaking outside for a moment before they both got back in the vehicle.

"What was that?" Eli asked.

"Frickin' racoon got in the back of the truck. We chased it off. Go to sleep."

Hope's relief that the weird creature with the glowing eyes hadn't been in the truck was overwhelming. She hadn't realized just how disturbed she'd been by such an apparition. She withdrew her hand from her weapon and snuggled under the blanket again.

Just as she was drifting off to sleep, however, she snapped awake again when the truck engine roared to life and the headlights came on.

"What's going on?"

Nick waited until he had the truck back on the road before answering.

"We're moving. I don't like it here. Sam and I discussed it, and we think it'd be better if we didn't wait until morning to hit the road."

Hope thought through that for a moment, then asked, "Did something happen?"

"Yeah, a frickin' racoon ate half a loaf of bread and tore open a bag of jerky."

"No, I mean- something that made you decide to move on?"

"Nah. Just... one of those feelings, you know? Kind of like when you're walking through the woods and you suddenly realize that everything is still and deathly quiet? And you get that feeling like you're being watched. You ever get that feeling?"

Hope nodded, then remembered that he couldn't see her and responded with, "Sure."

"That's 'cause you were being watched. Always trust your instincts and be cautious. If you're wrong, then it didn't cost you anything. If you're right, then you might have just saved your skin. Same thing here. It just doesn't... feel right. So we're moving."

Satisfied with the answer, Hope settled back and watched the road pass through the steady gaze of the headlights. It was a long time before she managed to get back to sleep.

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––-

Breakfast was the usual fare, which Eli complained was boring. Hope still made him eat it all. Especially after Nick had jokingly told him to always eat what he had since he never knew when he'd get the chance to eat again. Hope had the distinct impression that he wasn't actually joking at all.

This time, Hope had awakened early enough to see more of Sam and Nick's morning rituals. They did stretches inside the truck cab, then climbed out. The dogs were allowed to roam free, and the two took turns doing situps and pushups while the other stood watch. A handhold above the rear of the truck became a chin-up bar. The dogs returned after tending to their own business and the two took turns throwing an old tennis ball for them and running laps around the truck. Always when one was doing something, the other was holding his rifle and constantly shifting position, watching in all directions. The entire set of activities seemed honed by long practice. When they returned to the cab, it was time for breakfast.

Despite having stayed up for half the night driving, Nick seemed refreshed and cheerful once breakfast was finished. Hope tried to engage him in conversation, with Eli gamely trying to coax him into talking as well, but Nick wasn't having any of it. He just hummed to himself, checking his maps, jotting entries into his journal, and consulting a thick binder that someone had labeled The Post-Apocalyptic Almanac with a black marker. Finally, Nick left his own little world and returned his attention to the others.

"It's been unseasonably warm for the last two months, but it's not going to last. We're heading further north and gaining altitude, so the temperature is going to drop pretty rapidly from here on out. The way I figure it, we've got maybe three days before we start seeing snow. And once we really get up north, we're going to see nothing but snow. So whatever outdoor activities we're going to do, we need to get them over with now while we still have the chance."

Eli quickly asked if they could go shooting again, to which Nick laughed and told him that the .22 rifle was already loaded. Eli whooped as Nick retrieved the rifle and the little .410 Snakecharmer from the back of the truck. Hope grinned, and shook her head at the two of them. It felt good to see Eli so enthusiastic about something again.

Sam, she noticed, was walking into the woods with the dogs. Probably needed to go to the bathroom again. Hope watched Nick and Eli going through their marksmanship lesson, and found herself less unnerved when Nick's eyes were always roving in every direction, even when giving instructions. Survival out in the wastelands wasn't something that came easily, and one probably didn't last long without always being on the watch for an enemy who might be sneaking up from behind. Hope found herself nervously glancing in all directions too. She still didn't notice when Sam and the dogs returned, they moved so quietly. Nick, however, did notice and asked Sam if he'd found "it". Sam nodded and went to the back of the truck.

"Ok kiddo, time for a break. Hope, you wanna take Eli and get a towel or something out of your stuff?"

"A towel? What do we need a towel for?"

"There's a creek nearby. Sam tested it to see if it was clean. We're going to swim and wash ourselves off before it gets too cold. I don't know how you civilized people do it, but out in the wilderness, when it's the middle of winter, the only way you're getting clean is a sponge bath once a week. People, uh, get kinda ripe in winter when they can't heat enough water to bathe in."

"Oh. That's a good idea. I'll get a towel for Eli and you two can take him to the creek. I'll wait until you're done before I go down there."

Nick seemed to mentally stumble for a moment.

"Uh, can't you take him?"

"Not if we're going to be bathing! He's too old for me to take now. You're all guys, so I'll just wait until you're done washing up before I get a turn."

"Ummm... Well, uh, I dunno. I mean, that makes sense and all, but we, uh, Sam and I just... We like our privacy, and..."

"You're gay."

Nick seemed to go into total mental lockup for several seconds, his mouth hanging open. Finally, he blinked and replied weakly, "We're what now?"

"No, I understand. It's all right. You and Sam are gay. That's what you meant when you said everybody has their secrets, including you. That's why you turned up the music when we stayed at the motel; so we couldn't hear, uh, you guys."

Hope winked at Nick, who still seemed to be in shock, and continued, "My parents did the same thing when I was a kid."

Nick finally seemed to snap out of it and, still somewhat weakly, adopted a wan smile and said, "Uh, yeah, that's right. We're gay. I hope you, uh, keep this to yourself. That sort of rumor getting spread around tends to get a guy lynched in a lot of areas these days. I'd really rather we just kept it a secret."

"Sure. I understand completely. I won't tell anyone; it's not even any of my business. But, uh, about the bathing arrangements..."

"No, it's ok, we can do it. You just wait by the truck and we'll be back in fifteen, twenty minutes."

Nick went around to the back of the truck and, once out of sight, made the oddest choking-barking-snorting sound Hope had ever heard. A few seconds later, his composure regained, he came back around with Eli in tow and joined Sam, who had two towels and a cloth bag that presumably held soap slung over his shoulder. Nick made another sound like he was clearing his sinuses as he passed Hope and the three headed off to the creek, the german shepherd following with its tail wagging briskly.

Hope sat on the rear bumper of the truck and noticed the doberman had been left to guard the vehicle. She leaned over and scratched its ears, eliciting a deep-throated sigh of content from the massive canine. She leaned back and listened to the birds chirping and the trees rustling in the wind. It was so unusual that they still had so many green leaves on them this time of year. She heard a loud splash in the distance and Eli's high-pitched complaint that the water was cold and laughed to herself. The doberman titled its head to concentrate her scratching behind its left ear.

Suddenly, Hope realized that she'd forgotten to get a towel out of her luggage for Eli. She chastised herself for being so stupid and retrieved the towel. The doberman stayed where it was.

As she headed off into the woods in the direction of the creek, she wondered how she was going to handle this. It would be a bad idea to surprise the boys since they'd not only be naked, but Nick and Sam would also presumably have their sidearms within arm's reach and wouldn't take kindly to being startled. It'd be best if she located them and then called out to let them know she was there; then they'd tell her where she could leave the towel.

She heard a splash to her left and turned in that direction. Just as she called Eli's name to let them know she was there, she stepped into a clearing that stood right beside the creek, closer than she'd thought. She saw only one person standing in the water with his back to her; she started to backpedal to give them privacy but the nude figure reacted faster than her and, in less than a second, had whirled around, crossed the five feet to the shore and drawn the Mauser c96 lying on top of a pile of clothing.

Hope froze, partly to avoid getting shot out of reflex and partly out of surprise. This person was lacking male anatomy. But she did have breasts, however. And was holding Sam's pistol and dripping on Sam's clothing.

"Are you kidding me?!"

––––––––––––––––––––-

Hope knelt with her head cradled in her hands.

"I am such an idiot. I completely missed the obvious."

Nick shook his head.

"I can't believe that I thought- and you! You were laughing at me!"

Nick smirked, then tried to maintain a stoic expression and failed.

"Yeah. I was laughing at you. But hey, you startled the crap out of me when you just decided that we were gay."

"Why didn't you say anything?!"

"What was I going to say? Like I said, we like our privacy and we have reasons to keep things to ourselves. You decided the reason for that was because we were gay, so I let you think that. Besides, it was... funny."

Hope buried her face in her hands again and tried to muffle the frustrated scream. She didn't succeed.

"Why keep it a secret in the first place? That's what doesn't make any sense. What's the point of Sam pretending to be a boy?"

"You have to understand, once you leave the so-called civilized areas, the only rules are the ones you can establish with force. Might makes right. And, sad to say, women just don't have the sort of power men do. Out in the wastelands, the most valuable things are weapons, food, fuel, and fertile females. The elements of survival. And if you have any one or more of those, then you're a target."

"But that still doesn't make sense! I mean, I understand what you just said, but how does pretending to be a boy help? It's pretty obvious that I'm a girl! Everyone back in... whatever that town we stayed at was, was obviously female! So why does Sam have to hide her breasts and keep her face covered out here?"

"In the middle of nowhere, she usually doesn't. It's just when we go into town or run into a caravan that she covers up. But since you guys are with us..." Nick shrugged.

"Why keep it a secret from us?"

"That's something you'd have to ask Sam. It's not my place to say anything."

"Sam doesn't talk!"

Nick shrugged again and said, "I'm going back to the truck to make sure Eli's not dripping on everything. Your towel's right next to the soap there. Take your time, we'll be here until after lunch."

With that, Nick walked away and left Hope squatting on the ground trying to make sense out of the world. She felt incredibly stupid and embaressed. Frustrated, too.

"You want to know why?"

The soft, quiet question startled her and Hope looked over her shoulder to see Sam perched on a large rock. She was barefoot and without her chest rig and coat, her feminine features were much more obvious. Sam gently rocked backed and forth, squeezing water from her shoulder-length hair, staring at the ground in front of her. Hope had to revise her estimate of Sam's age again; her face had made her appear much younger as a boy. She was maybe seventeen or eighteen instead of the fourteen she'd guessed. Her original impression had been much closer to the mark.

"Sure."

––––––––––––––––––––

She scrambled through the debris of a fallen building. Bricks, mud, broken glass, and sharp bits of metal tore at her hands, her feet, her knees, but she kept scrabbling on all fours up the mound of debris. She was wet all over and couldn't tell any more which was blood and which was rain water. She didn't care. She didn't notice it any more than she noticed the burning pain in her body as she gouged and cut herself all over. She didn't notice the pain in her chest and sides as her lungs labored to keep her blood oxygenated, didn't notice her heart pounding as hard as it could, didn't notice her lips had peeled back from her teeth in a rictus of terror. It had all become background noise to her. Nothing mattered except escaped getting away.

She was physically and mentally exhausted. She didn't know how long the terror had lasted. She had hidden inside an old furnace when she heard the gunshot. Her father's head exploded into a red pulp with white chunks of bone; the shotgun blast had taken him completely by surprise. The rain and thunder had covered the men's approach as they crept up on the camp site. Her mother didn't run; she tried to find her daughter instead, but she was already hidden. The men grabbed her and held her down while others began rummaging through their things. She had squeezed her eyes shut and covered her ears, but she could still hear the screaming and the rough laughter. Hours. It had to have lasted for hours before the shrieking finally stopped and all she heard was a terrible silence. The silence bothered her more than the screaming had. She tried to peek through a hole in the furnace door, but only saw the orange glow of the fire.

"Man, these pissants didn't have nuffin'."

"You'd think they'da  had a little sumfin, ya know? Jewelry, coins, somethin'? Maybe they stashed it somewheres in case they got robbed."

"Good thinkin'. Finn, check the furnace. Scotty, toss through their stuff again, see if we missed anything. I'm gonna check that workbench in the corner."

The furnace door swung open and she scrambled to get out, but a hand grabbed her by the hair and brought her to the ground.

"Weeee-hell! What DO we have here! Looks like they was hidin' a little somethin' after all, boys!"

The laughter and cheers from the men sounded ugly.

"Ain't she a cutie! I bet we could get a good price for this one. Don't waste her like the other bitch."

"Ah, c'mon Vince! Mommy didn't last long enough."

"Hey, I said don't waste her. I didn't say you couldn't have a little fun."

The whooping and hollering got louder.

"Now that's what I'm talkin' about!"

She screamed as they tore at her clothes, held her down. She bit a hand that was ripping at her shirt and that loosened the grip on her hair. She thrashed, kicking and flailing, until she managed to break free and darted for the door.

"Hey! Don't let her get away, dumbasses! If Morgan's crew finds her, we don't get the cash when we sell 'er!"

Three of the men ran after her into the rain, whooping as they ran. Her bare feet slowed her down on the rough ground and they taunted her, stooping to pick up rocks and throw them at her. She ran as fast as she could.

She blinked. She'd been reliving the same scene over and over in her mind. Her body had been moving on automatic. She was utterly exhausted and had used up her adrenaline long ago, her entire body was in pain, but she still kept moving. It wasn't enough. She could still hear them behind her, taunting her and yelling out what they would do when they caught her. She stumbled over a curb and found a hole where a slab of concrete had fallen; there was just enough space for her to slide inside and hide, if they weren't too close to see where she went. She tried to crawl in, but her limbs didn't want to move.

"No, ya don't girly!"

She felt herself lifted onto her knees, gasped in pain as the fingers in her hair yanked her back.

"Where do you think you're goin'? Fun time's just startin'!"

She tried to reach over her shoulder, scratch him, hit him, anything, but he casually slapped her hand away; she couldn't physically move enough any more to fight back. The man's laughter stopped when something THWACKed against his chest. He looked down as if confused, then slowly toppled over backward, taking her with him.

She tried to untangle her hair from his hand and caught a glimpse of a wolf or something streaking past. One of the other men yelped and she heard a muffled popping sound, three times in a row. She couldn't see, but she heard the wolf growling and a crunching, tearing sound. She finally got free from the man's grip and tried to get up, but her legs refused to support her. She settled for rolling a few feet away, stopping when she came up against another pile of ruined building.

The wolf- no, it was a dog, like the police used to have- returned, its muzzle dark and its fangs dripping. She pressed herself against the rubble, praying it would ignore her. It just wouldn't end. The terror would end, it just changed. Now she had to face the prospect of being eaten. She glanced at the man who had grabbed her. He was moving feebly, trying to reach a knife on his belt. If she could get it...

His head bounced off the ground in time with another muffled pop and a THWACK and he stopped moving. She looked up and the flashes of lightning lent a supernatural air to an already eery figure. Clad in a green crosshatched poncho with camouflage splotches, combat boots, and a backpack, it stood atop the concrete slab she'd been trying to hide under. The dog stood beside him, licking its chops. A rifle with a long suppressor on the end was clutched in both hands and he stepped down off the slab and knelt over her.

The gas mask he was wearing and the thunder muffled his voice, but she still distinctly heard what he said.

"Yeah, I've had better days too."

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

She woke up lying on her back, wrapped in blankets. She didn't know where she was. More disturbingly, the world seemed to be shaking. She sat up and realized she was in the back seat of a truck of some kind. A doberman puppy, already large, lay at her feet, watching her curiously.

"Hey, you're up. You've been out for two days. I gave you some antibiotics, but I think you'll be all right."

There wasn't a single part of her that wasn't in pain. It took her a moment to realize that most of the stiffness in her body was because she was covered in bandages and not because she was hurt. She was hungry. She was thirsty. And she was still scared out of her mind.

"Wh- Wh-...."

"You're safe. I'm not going to do anything to you. I rescued you from those guys, remember? There's food and a canteen full of water next to you."

"Where are we? Who are you?"

"I go by a lotta aliases, depending on where I'm at, but my name's Nick. I just sorta tool around in the wastelands, looking for stuff. Found you a couple days ago in what's left of Freeholn. You're lucky I found this truck a few months ago; I wouldn't have been able to move you on foot, especially when the rest of those bandits caught on that their buddies were dead. Uh, speaking of which, was there anyone else... with you?"

She nodded, then shook her head.

"Not any more."

Nick was silent for a moment, then asked, "Got any friends or family you know of? Anywhere that's safe I can drop you off at?"

She shook her head again. It was all she could do not to cry and start screaming.

"Guess you're stuck with me then, at least until we find some place you can stay at."

"What are- What are you going to... do... with me?"

"Keep ya fed, made sure you keep taking antibiotics for those cuts, and find a town or something you can stay at. What else?"

She didn't answer. She had the feeling he knew exactly what she meant.

"So, uh, what's your name?"

"Samantha."

"Nice to meet you. Though it could be under better circumstances, of course."

––––––––––––––––––––––––––

A week later, and she was nearly back to full health. The deepest cuts were still bandaged, but she didn't hurt any more when she moved. Nick had been as good as his word and had tended to her needs, without expecting any sort of payment in return. She knew from experience that such charity was rare, especially since he'd expended quite a bit of his medical supplies and food on keeping her healthy. It was hard to shake the idea that he was just doing it all out of the kindness of his heart.

The previous day, a man with a crossbow had tried to ambush them when they stopped for a toilet break. The german shepherd had alerted on him and Nick had dropped him with two shots from his rifle before the man realized he'd been detected. Nick had then casually retrieved his spent brass, policed the body for anything useful, and they had gotten back into the truck and on the road again. She was dangerously close to hero worship; her father had been armed and ready to fight to the death to protect his family, but he had never exuded the confidence, the casual competence, that Nick did. Nick was dangerous, deadly when he wanted to be. This was a man who was in the prime of his life and knew exactly what he was doing. That was power. She wanted that power for herself. If her father had been like that, the bandits would never have snuck up on them. If she could be like that...

They reached a settlement in the evening and Nick began making arrangements for her to stay.

"Ok Sam, I think we got a good thing here. I know this town pretty well and they're good folks here, so you don't have to worry about anything. The lady that runs the town thinks they can put you up some place, and so long as you find something you can do to earn your keep, you can stay."

She stared at her feet, wiggling her toes in the ill-fitting shoes Nick had given her to replace the ones she'd lost. She was wearing his old clothes too, ones too small for him to wear any more. They were too long and baggy on her, but they were better than the torn, filthy things she'd had when he found her.

"C'mon, it'll be ok. They're nice people here, they have a good harvest every year so there's plenty to eat, and bandits don't come out this way because the communities have a posse doing patrols all over the county. You'll be fine."

He hesitated a moment, then took off the Night Desert poncho he was wearing.

"Here, it's thin but it's better than nothing, especially since I waterproofed it. I bought a better one anyway, so you can keep it."

She took the light jacket wordlessly and put it on. It fit her like a trench coat. She flipped the hood up and continued to stare at the ground between her feet.

"Um... Nick?"

"Yeah?"

"Is it all right if I... if I stay with you?"

"What?"

"I mean, you're the only person I know now, and..."

"Look, I think it'd be better for you if you stayed here. It'd be safer, for one thing. A lot safer. And I don't have the resources to keep taking care of you like this. I dipped into my reserves pretty deep this last week."

"Then I'll earn my keep! I just... I just don't want to stay with people I don't know."

"Sam, you don't even know me. You just sat in my truck for a week and used up all my medicine. It'll be fine. It's better this way."

Sam clenched her fists and tried to hold back the tears. She didn't succeed. She didn't know why it was so important to stay with Nick. It was her only anchor of stability since the attack, the only thing left that she had any familiarity with, and she didn't want to leave it for a bunch of strangers in a community she'd never heard of. She heard Nick sigh and she resisted the urge to wipe the tears off her cheek. She didn't want him to see.

"How old are you?"

"Fifteen? I think?"

"Fifteen. Well, that's about the age I ended up on my own. I guess... All right, fine. You can stay. But you're going to earn your keep. You can start by helping me train Daisy. And you're going to have a lot to learn if you want to be useful and survive out in the wastelands, got it?"

Sam didn't say anything, she just lurched forward and grabbed Nick in a tight hug, crying into his chest.

"Ok, this is, uh... this is kinda awkward. Uh, Sam? You wanna let go? Sam?"

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––-

"You're getting pretty good. If we're ever attacked by a rabid horde of buckets, you're gonna be lethal."

Sam stuck her tongue out at Nick and finished stowing the AR-7 she'd been shooting.

"When do I get a gun of my own?"

"That's a good question. The biggest component of firearm safety is personal responsibility, and you can only learn so much of that shooting someone else's guns. All right, you'll get your own gun. You gotta learn how to use it, how to maintain it, and how not to shoot me in the ass when I'm setting up targets."

"I said I was sorry!"

"Tell that to my ass. All right, I think I know just the thing. It's complicated enough to make you really learn how to handle it, but not valuable enough that I'll be heart-broken if you break it or drop it in a river or something."

Nick climbed into the back of the massive Tatra truck and rummaged around in one of the dozen or so crates he had in there. He emerged carrying a brown leather holster and, after checking that the pistol was unloaded, handed it to her. Sam had never seen a firearm even remotely like it. It was almost like an alien artifact.

"What is it?"

"It's a Mauser c96 broomhandle. This one's been rechambered to 9mm, so it's easy to find ammo for. I have a stock for it somewhere, I'll have to look for it. This pistol's different enough that I think once you've mastered it you'll find other guns easy. Now you take care of this thing, understand? It's not worth enough that breaking or losing it is a huge loss, but I'm kinda sentimental about it."

"Why's that?"

"Eh, I kinda got in a situation like you did when I was about your age. My dad was a survivalist, had a ton of stuff. Unfortunately, people knew about it and when the war happened, they came to take it from him. My dad and the other guys in his group mowed down a bunch of 'em, but there was a whole mob of people, from the city nearby, and they were desperate enough they just kept coming. Too many for five guys to handle even with the hardware they had. I snuck out from an escape tunnel and went into town for help, but nobody care. They had their own problems. So I broke into the town museum; it'd been closed since the war started and nobody thought of the antique guns there as useful. I grabbed that Mauser from a display case, loaded it with ammo from a spare magazine I had on me, and snuck back to my dad's place. Most of the looters had left by then and they were too stupid to find the real caches of stuff, so I snuck back in through the escape tunnel, killed or chased out the ones who were still there, loaded up with whatever I could carry, and left."

"Wow."

"So don't lose it, understand?"

"I won't."

"Now go set up the can again, I gotta load some stripper clips."

She walked over to set the old paint can up again, clutching the ancient pistol in her hands and staring at it like it was a holy relic. This was power. A teenage boy got revenge and the necessities of survival with an obsolete piece of steel and wood. Now she held that power in her hands. Never again would she have to run for her life, helpless. Never again would she be a victim because she was weak.

No, that wasn't true. She still looked weak. She was still an enticing target. She pulled the jacket around her uncomfortably, clenching the pistol tightly. Then she noticed. The jacket was as baggy as the rest of her clothes. And even when they got clothing that would fit her properly, it would still cover her up. She took off the cap she wore to keep the sun out of her eyes and tucked her hair under it. That was it. Strangers were dangerous. But if strangers thought she was a boy, then they would have less incentive to hurt her. And if she were as dangerous as Nick...

"Ok, now let me show you how to load this. It's really simple, but you gotta get the hang of it."

She listened as if they were the most important words she would ever hear.
Link Posted: 2/22/2009 5:57:44 PM EDT
[#14]
Your the Man Swindle

Love the story!
Link Posted: 2/22/2009 8:43:16 PM EDT
[#15]
Nice addition
Link Posted: 2/22/2009 10:09:00 PM EDT
[#16]
I was expecting Mark to be in here yelling "I KNEW IT!"
Link Posted: 2/22/2009 10:40:53 PM EDT
[#17]
Great Story Swindle
Link Posted: 2/22/2009 10:56:24 PM EDT
[#18]
Thanks for the fix man.
Link Posted: 2/22/2009 10:57:18 PM EDT
[#19]
Great chapter, Swindle. How's the hand/wrist? Don't take my career advice seriously, you know I was just being tongue-in-cheek on that stuff. You're doing well young man. Keep it up.
Link Posted: 2/22/2009 11:40:54 PM EDT
[#20]
Originally Posted By Markypie:
Great chapter, Swindle. How's the hand/wrist? Don't take my career advice seriously, you know I was just being tongue-in-cheek on that stuff. You're doing well young man. Keep it up.


Wrist is fine. It's everything else that hurts now.

Link Posted: 2/23/2009 12:36:37 AM EDT
[#21]
So, when's the next one?  
Link Posted: 2/23/2009 3:07:18 AM EDT
[#22]
So damn good.
Link Posted: 2/23/2009 12:37:12 PM EDT
[#23]
Originally Posted By nick89302:
So, when's the next one?  


Are you people NEVER satisfied?!
Link Posted: 2/23/2009 12:56:23 PM EDT
[#24]
Great chapter.  Thanks

Ron
Link Posted: 2/23/2009 4:14:29 PM EDT
[#25]
Morgan's crew? I'm a bad guy? ALLLRIIIGHT! If you bring me back into the story make me just shy of fifty with a peg-leg, a scruffy beard, a sawed-off shotgun and an attitude! (But handsome in an evil way...) Keep it goin'!
Link Posted: 2/23/2009 4:32:33 PM EDT
[#26]
Originally Posted By Morg308:
Morgan's crew? I'm a bad guy? ALLLRIIIGHT! If you bring me back into the story make me just shy of fifty with a peg-leg, a scruffy beard, a sawed-off shotgun and an attitude! (But handsome in an evil way...) Keep it goin'!


Who are you again?
Link Posted: 2/23/2009 7:07:31 PM EDT
[Last Edit: Morg308] [#27]
Originally Posted By Swindle1984:
Originally Posted By Morg308:
Morgan's crew? I'm a bad guy? ALLLRIIIGHT! If you bring me back into the story make me just shy of fifty with a peg-leg, a scruffy beard, a sawed-off shotgun and an attitude! (But handsome in an evil way...) Keep it goin'!


Who are you again?
   Arrrrgghhh! Where's me pirate hat? Keep up the good work and thanks for the new chapter.

                 

Link Posted: 2/23/2009 8:31:42 PM EDT
[#28]
So, constructive criticism time:

What do you guys honestly think of the story so far?

How can it be improved?

What would you like to see in future installments?

What has already been posted that needs clarification/expanding upon?
Link Posted: 2/24/2009 1:35:29 AM EDT
[#29]
You back up to full speed now, after having learned the bent-wrist transporter?
Link Posted: 2/24/2009 4:10:02 AM EDT
[#30]




Originally Posted By Swindle1984:



Originally Posted By nick89302:

So, when's the next one?





Are you people NEVER satisfied?!




No.





But it's because you deliver.
Link Posted: 2/24/2009 9:28:46 PM EDT
[#31]
Originally Posted By vanilla_gorilla:
You back up to full speed now, after having learned the bent-wrist transporter?


Next week I'm off Friday and Saturday because I'll be at the range qualifying with a Sig P226 and Remington 870 the following Sunday through Friday. An average of nine hours a day at the range for six days, with two days of us staying out until 10pm for low-light shooting (in the middle of Ohio winter. Brrrr.).

So I'm thinking next Friday (not this Friday, for those who are chronologically impaired) I should be able to squeeze out chapter 14.

Meanwhile, where's my constructive criticism? C'mon guys, you can't just say "yay, thanks for the chapter" or "I loved it", I gotta have something to work with! What needs improvement? What doesn't need improvement? What do you want to see in future chapters? Help me out here!
Link Posted: 2/24/2009 9:53:12 PM EDT
[#32]
I love your stories.  Here an idea to move you forward:

A prolonged gunfight in a town.  The group has to choose from moving on towards the east coast or help the town (rid it of mutant infestation or a gang takeover).  This would show how Hope grows from an feeble girl to a strong survivaor.

The reason I bring this up is that everytown they come too seems happy go lucky.  With all of the bandits and mutants running around, at least one bleed heart liberal town that swore off guns must be in trouble.
Link Posted: 2/25/2009 7:28:45 AM EDT
[#33]
Originally Posted By LegionVI:
I love your stories.  Here an idea to move you forward:

A prolonged gunfight in a town.  The group has to choose from moving on towards the east coast or help the town (rid it of mutant infestation or a gang takeover).  This would show how Hope grows from an feeble girl to a strong survivaor.

The reason I bring this up is that everytown they come too seems happy go lucky.  With all of the bandits and mutants running around, at least one bleed heart liberal town that swore off guns must be in trouble.


A barter town and a community that's been turned into a fortress where everyone works from sunrise to sunset every day sound happy-go-lucky to you?
Link Posted: 2/25/2009 11:18:50 AM EDT
[#34]
Originally Posted By Swindle1984:
Originally Posted By vanilla_gorilla:
You back up to full speed now, after having learned the bent-wrist transporter?


Next week I'm off Friday and Saturday because I'll be at the range qualifying with a Sig P226 and Remington 870 the following Sunday through Friday. An average of nine hours a day at the range for six days, with two days of us staying out until 10pm for low-light shooting (in the middle of Ohio winter. Brrrr.).

So I'm thinking next Friday (not this Friday, for those who are chronologically impaired) I should be able to squeeze out chapter 14.

Meanwhile, where's my constructive criticism? C'mon guys, you can't just say "yay, thanks for the chapter" or "I loved it", I gotta have something to work with! What needs improvement? What doesn't need improvement? What do you want to see in future chapters? Help me out here!


I love the story, check every day for an update......   nothing to criticize.  Has made me go shopping for an armored Tatra, which I am sure I won't find....

I'd like to see more of Hope's back story and why she is heading east, but I am also certain you are planning to reveal it at your leisure....  

Have you explained where they are getting their fuel from??  seems a cross country trip (and back) in a Tatra would require a tanker of fuel........    

Keep up the good work, low light shooting is very informative on a persons shooting skills...

WDS

Link Posted: 2/25/2009 12:15:17 PM EDT
[#35]
How about something along these lines? Bandits overpower Hope who's watching the truck (it's camouflaged but they still find it) while Sam and the hero are teaching the kid to hunt. They come back and the truck is gone - they follow the tracks to an old oil refinery or such that the outlaw biker zombie pirates use as a base - and surprise, surprise, through the scope they see that it's Morgan's old crew ( ARRRGGGHHH!) That gives you an opportunity to fill some backstory about the outlaw gang he saved Sam from.  Sam has a chance for revenge, they save Hope and the truck from Morgan's rotten, syphlitic clutches and score a bunch of loot from the desert bandit pirates who have already loaded much of the most valuable stuff like booze, food and ammo, meds, onto the truck to transport it. (where?) Maybe the kid gets to drive when they're escaping? Don't forget the belt fed fifty the Pirates are welding mounts for on top of the truck when they find them...

The only negative I see was your transition into Sam's story she told Hope could be a little smoother. I found that confusing until I figured out what was happening. Good luck with your class. I grew up in NY & PA and don't envy you the long outdoor class hours, even if shooting.
Link Posted: 2/25/2009 8:16:24 PM EDT
[#36]
Originally Posted By WDS:
Originally Posted By Swindle1984:
Originally Posted By vanilla_gorilla:
You back up to full speed now, after having learned the bent-wrist transporter?


Next week I'm off Friday and Saturday because I'll be at the range qualifying with a Sig P226 and Remington 870 the following Sunday through Friday. An average of nine hours a day at the range for six days, with two days of us staying out until 10pm for low-light shooting (in the middle of Ohio winter. Brrrr.).

So I'm thinking next Friday (not this Friday, for those who are chronologically impaired) I should be able to squeeze out chapter 14.

Meanwhile, where's my constructive criticism? C'mon guys, you can't just say "yay, thanks for the chapter" or "I loved it", I gotta have something to work with! What needs improvement? What doesn't need improvement? What do you want to see in future chapters? Help me out here!


I love the story, check every day for an update......   nothing to criticize.  Has made me go shopping for an armored Tatra, which I am sure I won't find....

I'd like to see more of Hope's back story and why she is heading east, but I am also certain you are planning to reveal it at your leisure....  

Have you explained where they are getting their fuel from??  seems a cross country trip (and back) in a Tatra would require a tanker of fuel........    

Keep up the good work, low light shooting is very informative on a persons shooting skills...

WDS



*COUGH

Link Posted: 2/25/2009 8:58:27 PM EDT
[#37]
I think the story is going great. Please keep writing.
Link Posted: 2/25/2009 9:42:38 PM EDT
[Last Edit: WDS] [#38]
Originally Posted By Swindle1984:
Originally Posted By WDS:


I love the story, check every day for an update......   nothing to criticize.  Has made me go shopping for an armored Tatra, which I am sure I won't find....

I'd like to see more of Hope's back story and why she is heading east, but I am also certain you are planning to reveal it at your leisure....  

Have you explained where they are getting their fuel from??  seems a cross country trip (and back) in a Tatra would require a tanker of fuel........    

Keep up the good work, low light shooting is very informative on a persons shooting skills...

WDS



*COUGH



Looking back at page 1, I found the error that kept making ne try to find the armored Tatra that matched the description in the story:
"The one in the story is a fictional cross between the standard truck and the up-armored version used as self-propelled rocket artillery."

Guess I'll have to settle for this, Plus it has a turret...:

  But in reality, I would probably get along ok with:

Link Posted: 2/26/2009 6:44:29 PM EDT
[#39]
Congratulations...you just made me want another handgun...now I want a C96 Mauser.

My dad is gonna be pissed (thinks I have too many firearms as-is)
Link Posted: 2/26/2009 7:57:38 PM EDT
[#40]
I always wanted a BMP 2 .... buts thats just me.
Link Posted: 2/26/2009 9:48:52 PM EDT
[#41]
Originally Posted By Swindle1984:
Originally Posted By LegionVI:
I love your stories.  Here an idea to move you forward:

A prolonged gunfight in a town.  The group has to choose from moving on towards the east coast or help the town (rid it of mutant infestation or a gang takeover).  This would show how Hope grows from an feeble girl to a strong survivaor.

The reason I bring this up is that everytown they come too seems happy go lucky.  With all of the bandits and mutants running around, at least one bleed heart liberal town that swore off guns must be in trouble.


A barter town and a community that's been turned into a fortress where everyone works from sunrise to sunset every day sound happy-go-lucky to you?


No, that town is tough, good to go.  I'm talking about one that they enter along their trip to the east coast.

How about this:
They encounter a convoy escorting a VIP to the east coast too.  They ask our crew of heroes to join (safety in numbers).  But there's a mystery:

WHo is this VIP?  A savior, an emerging leader, a cure for a desease?  Or a meglomaniac and narcissist, one that is headed to hell on the roads of good intentions?  Or one of Americas former leaders hiding a secret that led to the Amercian / global tragedy.
Link Posted: 2/26/2009 10:33:47 PM EDT
[#42]
I actually didn't want ideas for plot elements, I wanted ideas for telling the story better. I've already got the plot basically worked out all the way to the ending.

I'm not going to spoil things, but one of you came SORTA close regarding a future plot point, but I'm saying who.
Link Posted: 2/26/2009 11:03:22 PM EDT
[#43]
Originally Posted By g3shooter:
Congratulations...you just made me want another handgun...now I want a C96 Mauser.

My dad is gonna be pissed (thinks I have too many firearms as-is)


This'll make you mad then:

I bought mine for $350 out the door.

Of course, the magazine spring is broken and the previous owner not only lost the extractor but had the pistol parkerized (yes, I own what is probably the only parked Mauser broomhandle in the world. ), so it's gonna cost money to replace those two parts and get it reblued, but hey. I always wanted one and now I have one. It's a 1920 Bolo. By the time it's restored, I'll have spent around $500 on a gun I could easily get at least twice as much cash for if I ever sold it. I also plan on getting a reproduction stock for it, replacement grips (gotta keep the originals; they're not only the originals, but are serialed to the pistol.), and a leather holster for it. Probably be a good idea to get stripper clips and some 7.63 Mauser ammo for it too.

I stuck the one Sam carries in the story as sort of a tribute to one of my favorites, and I decided early on when I was working out everyone's background story that Nick would, after losing all other weaponry, retrieve one from a shut-down local museum because there's just such a thing near my university. It's the old city jail, now converted into a museum, and they have two small rooms full of antique guns (mostly WWII American longarms, with some older stuff, some Russian WWII stuff, and a case with a semi-auto FAL, a Glock 17, and a cut-away CZ-52), including a Mauser c96. I figured, if the SHTF, that little museum would be locked up (for lack of business and because the people running it would have better things to do) and since almost no one visits it, the few people who even remember it has firearms inside would dismiss them as useless antiques. Obviously, Nick remembered a pre-war visit to the museum and decided to raid it for a weapon, found the Mauser (which had fortunately been converted to 9mm), loaded it from a spare magazine he still had on him, and went a-killin'.

I didn't come up with the back-story (or the 9mm conversion) until after I'd decided Sam would carry the Mauser as a back-up weapon and needed a reason for such an unusual (and, let's admit it, impractical) choice of BUG and then needed a reason for her to carry such an oddball firearm. It didn't even occur to me until much later that it could also serve as a tribute to the original Mad Max, where one of the villains carried a Mauser c96 (which we saw Max himself carrying in Beyond Thunderdome.).



Now, while I gave you guys a good chunk of Sam's background story and a teaser about Nick's, I want to make sure everyone understands that Sam, who is sparse with words when around people she WILL talk to, gave Hope a far more condensed version of the background story than you guys got. I don't think I did a good job conveying that since I went straight to flashback mode, so when I get around to posting the next chapter I'll probably have to explain it.

In case you didn't realize, Sam has some SERIOUS trauma issues messing with her head, and we've only covered part of it. Living in the wastelands isn't conducive to a sheltered, comfortable life with emotional stability. It's amazing she and Nick are as well-adjusted as they are.

I also notice nobody has said diddly-squat about the relationship between Sam and Nick. They obviously were having sex in the hotel room, Nick is in his mid-to-late twenties, Sam is seventeen or eighteen, and they've been together for a couple years by this point. I know I haven't expanded on when and how their relationship developed yet, but, this being Arfcom, I was expecting at least one person to comment that Nick is a pedo and/or horrible deviant who is going to hell for sticking his dick in the vulnerable, emotionally-dependent, underaged girl.

I gotta figure there's one of four reasons for that:

1) Nobody caught that little gem.

2) People noticed, but didn't comment as they're into the story and figure it's just part of the plot.

3) People noticed and didn't care because, well, when it's TEOTWAWKI and two people surviving on their own have consensual sex and one happens to be under an arbitrary age limit established by a civilization/code of laws that no longer effectively exists and 99% of human history had no such rules, who gives a rat's ass. It's part of the story, deal with it.

4) People noticed and are all going to hell because secretly they'd like to nail some teenage booty too.

Note that one or more may apply, depending on the individual reader.




Also, while the next couple chapters will largely be back story and character development, I'm going to spoil a future plotpoint juuuuust slightly: Remember that crate Nick and Sam dug up early on? Yeah, that's important later.
Link Posted: 2/26/2009 11:59:27 PM EDT
[#44]
3 and some days 4  Dang my good voice in my head.
Link Posted: 2/27/2009 12:20:57 AM EDT
[#45]
Originally Posted By Swindle1984:
Originally Posted By g3shooter:
Congratulations...you just made me want another handgun...now I want a C96 Mauser.

My dad is gonna be pissed (thinks I have too many firearms as-is)


This'll make you mad then:

I bought mine for $350 out the door.


Bish...



Yeah, I saw pictures of it...nice piece.

What kind of dumfuck would parkerize a Mauser?
Link Posted: 2/27/2009 12:37:29 AM EDT
[#46]
Link Posted: 2/27/2009 12:42:22 AM EDT
[Last Edit: icedfire] [#47]
Originally Posted By Swindle1984:
I actually didn't want ideas for plot elements, I wanted ideas for telling the story better.
...


It would be nice to have some measurement of how far they are going and what day they are on. Maybe a journal with information like: Trip Day 14, 1,008 miles traveled, or 479 miles as the crow flies to the east coast. Say every few chapters have Nick's journal or once in a blue moon have Sam's journal so we could get more of each of their back stories.

Also I hope your eventually are going to explain how Hope got all those vitamins and how she has an inhaler.

Link Posted: 2/27/2009 12:53:11 AM EDT
[Last Edit: icedfire] [#48]

....

I also notice nobody has said diddly-squat about the relationship between Sam and Nick. They obviously were having sex in the hotel room, Nick is in his mid-to-late twenties, Sam is seventeen or eighteen, and they've been together for a couple years by this point. I know I haven't expanded on when and how their relationship developed yet, but, this being Arfcom, I was expecting at least one person to comment that Nick is a pedo and/or horrible deviant who is going to hell for sticking his dick in the vulnerable, emotionally-dependent, underaged girl.

I gotta figure there's one of four reasons for that:

1) Nobody caught that little gem.

2) People noticed, but didn't comment as they're into the story and figure it's just part of the plot.

3) People noticed and didn't care because, well, when it's TEOTWAWKI and two people surviving on their own have consensual sex and one happens to be under an arbitrary age limit established by a civilization/code of laws that no longer effectively exists and 99% of human history had no such rules, who gives a rat's ass. It's part of the story, deal with it.

4) People noticed and are all going to hell because secretly they'd like to nail some teenage booty too.

Note that one or more may apply, depending on the individual reader.

...


3 and

5) It is Survival FICTION there are certain things I am willing to overlook... like this truck that doesn't even exist or like how the hell they would find a working truck like this in those times or how he is getting so much fuel for it.

6) She is 18 she is an adult
Link Posted: 2/27/2009 7:18:43 AM EDT
[#49]
Originally Posted By icedfire:

....

I also notice nobody has said diddly-squat about the relationship between Sam and Nick. They obviously were having sex in the hotel room, Nick is in his mid-to-late twenties, Sam is seventeen or eighteen, and they've been together for a couple years by this point. I know I haven't expanded on when and how their relationship developed yet, but, this being Arfcom, I was expecting at least one person to comment that Nick is a pedo and/or horrible deviant who is going to hell for sticking his dick in the vulnerable, emotionally-dependent, underaged girl.

I gotta figure there's one of four reasons for that:

1) Nobody caught that little gem.

2) People noticed, but didn't comment as they're into the story and figure it's just part of the plot.

3) People noticed and didn't care because, well, when it's TEOTWAWKI and two people surviving on their own have consensual sex and one happens to be under an arbitrary age limit established by a civilization/code of laws that no longer effectively exists and 99% of human history had no such rules, who gives a rat's ass. It's part of the story, deal with it.

4) People noticed and are all going to hell because secretly they'd like to nail some teenage booty too.

Note that one or more may apply, depending on the individual reader.

...


3 and

5) It is Survival FICTION there are certain things I am willing to overlook... like this truck that doesn't even exist or like how the hell they would find a working truck like this in those times or how he is getting so much fuel for it. The truck COULD exist if someone was willing to pay to chop up and splice together the cargo and armored versions of a Tatra 813. And in barter town there were a number of running automobiles. Not ALL the infrastructure is gone, you know.

6) She is 18 she is an adult She's 17 or 18 by Hope's guesstimate, and even Sam isn't quite sure how old she is (as evidenced in the chapter) because, well, not many people keep track of the day or even month. And they've at least been together for a couple years, though we don't know just how long this part of their relationship has been going on yet.





Originally Posted By icedfire:
Originally Posted By Swindle1984:
I actually didn't want ideas for plot elements, I wanted ideas for telling the story better.
...


It would be nice to have some measurement of how far they are going and what day they are on. Maybe a journal with information like: Trip Day 14, 1,008 miles traveled, or 479 miles as the crow flies to the east coast. Say every few chapters have Nick's journal or once in a blue moon have Sam's journal so we could get more of each of their back stories. Way too specific. I've been giving generalized locations for the trip, but I don't want to get bogged down in mileage, the exact length of time passing, etc.

Also I hope your eventually are going to explain how Hope got all those vitamins and how she has an inhaler. That's a major plot point.



Link Posted: 2/27/2009 9:41:13 AM EDT
[#50]
taggity
Page / 11
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