To fight in a war is to risk everything you hold dear. The enemy will show no mercy and they will leave no survivors. To kill them is an act of kindness. One of them dead means one of your men that will survive.
It was these thoughts alone that helped the boy as he crept his way alone the burnt red ground, his boots heavy, splaying dust into the air with every step. This wasn’t the first mission that Jack had undertaken alone, but with the weight of his newest discovery weighing heavily on his shoulders, it was hard not to feel the panic of not returning home sneaking in. More than once he found himself watching over his shoulder, sure he’d heard someone scurrying lightly through the dry bushes.
The heat from the burning red sun was making him sweat, penetrating through his thick black jacket and his combat trousers, his feet slipping around in his over-sized boots.
A crack filled the air and Jack felt himself freeze, his joints seizing up like un-oiled cogs, any thoughts he had of returning home sifting away. His grip tightened on his gun, his breathing slowing down, almost instinctively, as he readied himself to turn and face his pursuer, but before he even had the chance to turn, he felt the cool gab of a gun barrel against the back of his neck, and knew all was lost. Dropping his weapon, he felt as the gun fell back against his thigh. Lifting his hands into the air, Jack turned slowly to meet what would most likely be his demise.]
Closing his eyes, he thought once more about the girl he’d left at home, imagining her long black hair as she tied it up messily, her soft, blue, almond shaped eyes and the way they sparkled as she rubbed her still flat stomach with joy.
With that last thought, he opened his eyes.
“Got’cha!” a voice said with a laugh, a slightly harsh, mocking voice that made Jack sigh both internally and externally.
“You’re a prick, Hannah, I hope you know that.” He said, relaxing his entire body as the girl in front of him laughed, the sound echoing around the baron wasteland.
“You didn’t really think I was going to hurt you, did you?” she asked, pulling the green bandana from over her mouth down around her neck, her eyes looking up at him mockingly. Hannah had always looked the same to him. She had the potential to be a very pretty girl, but the tough exterior and the ruggedness of her appearance gave off amore careless, sexy look. Her auburn hair was cut short, just below her jaw line, and jagged, like it’d been done with a blade (Which it most likely had), her body was slim, just like everybody else who worked in the resistance due to the lack of food, but she still curved nicely where she could beneath her tattered and baggy clothing. Yet the thing that truly made her stand out were her eyes, big and round, a blue-grey colour that were in a constant state of mocking of cynicism, never serious despite the harsh world around them.
“Honestly, I wouldn’t put it past you. But I didn’t know you were you,” He replied, running a hand through his scruffy brown hair, making it stick up at strange angles.
“Then you’re not as good a hunter as you think you are, Jackie,” she said, punching his arm playfully.
“Did Sam send you out to help?” Jack asked to distract from the throbbing pain now in his arm – Hannah his a lot harder than she thought she did. When she replied simply with her signature smirk he knew what was happening. “Of course he didn’t, he’s got no idea you’re here, does he?”
“Nope!” Hannah replied, throwing her arms out and popping the ‘P’ with her chapped and dry lips. “He doesn’t really like to let me out of his sight anymore.” She said with a half hearted shrug.
“So you snuck out? Why can’t you just spend time with Amy or Lucy?” he asked, clearly not comfortable with the risk that came with helping Hannah sneak out from her brothers radar.
“Because they’re only friends with me because they have to be. They cant possibly like me.” She said with a harsh laugh.
“Amy likes you! You’re both a similar age.” Jack said weakly. Hannah gave him a look that just screamed ‘dumb-ass’.
“That doesn’t mean you can put us in a play pen and make us play happy families.” She said bitterly. “I’ve never got on very well with other girls. I grew up with boys.” She said blunt enough that you could almost overlook the sadness in her voice – almost. “So what are we doing anyway?” She asked.
“I can’t tell you that,” Jack said, picking his gun back up so it rested comfortably in his arms and beginning to walk back in the direction he’d began.
“Then how’d you expect me to help?” Hannah said, skipping sideways awkwardly to try and catch up.
“I don’t,” Jack replied bluntly, “I expect you to go back and play happy families with Amy and Lucy.” He said, laughing at the way she scowled at him.
“First off, Lucy is thirty-five years old; I don’t think she’s into playing games right now. And secondly, Amy’s too busy prepping for your happy family so I think you’ve got more to lose on this mission if you go it alone.”
Jack stopped still in his strides, rubbing his eyes tiredly.
“She told you?” He asked, looking down at the older girl that was only a couple of inches shorter than she was.
“She didn’t have to,” Hannah replied, besides, she tells me everything.”
“I thought you didn’t get along with girls?” Jack asked as she began walking again, this time not tying to outrun the auburn girl beside him, allowing her to walk normally again.
“I don’t. But there’s not a lot of options in our little ‘clan’” she said, air quoting with her hands. “We just love the ones we’re with.” She said with a shrug.
“What is it about the idea of someone actually caring for you that scares you so much?” Jack asked as Hannah became increasingly interested in her own gun, fiddling with the straps and checking the barrel.
“I’ve seen too many people I care about lose somebody they love, and I’ve seen how it tears them apart. I’ve vowed never to do that to anyone.”
“So instead of keeping yourself safe, you’ve decided not to let them care bout you?” Jack asked, abashed by the girls logic.
“Basically,” she replied with a shrug.
“Well I don’t think it’s working,” Jack said with a kind smile and Hannah even tried to return it before her eye’s caught something just over a ridge.
“Get down!” she said, shoving Jack so he landed harshly on the ground, a cloud of red dust flying up around them, the scent of Cigarette smoke and something muskier filling Jack’s nose from where Hannah was half laying on top of him, holding him to the ground.
“Are you insane!” Jack half shouted but Hannah covered his mouth with her hand, feeling the movement of his mouth as he tried to shout a string of profanities, only for the muffling effect of her palm to take hold. Only when he saw warning look in her eyes as she pointed silently over the ridge she’d shoved them behind did he finally stop. Slowly, they both began to get up, peeking over the ridge down into the valley below. It wasn’t a big drop, only about five feet, but at the centre of the dip sat what was clearly once an old warehouse from before the war that now had clearly been upgraded with silver plating against the windows and heavily armoured guards standing on each door they could see.
“Now do you want to tell me what the fuck we’re doing here?” Hannah hissed in Jack’s ear as his breathing increased rapidly. Jack tried to suppress it, but he couldn’t help but smile. Something about the way Hannah swore like a sailor always got to him, even if the others barely noticed it anymore.
“The other day I stumbled upon a warehouse like this one to the West, I think it’s where they’re taking the people.” He said and Hannah’s eyes widened in shock. People from the resistance had been disappearing since before the war had even begun. No one knew where they went or what happened to them when they were there, but what disappeared as a human returned a monster.
“Is that where they-” Hannah began, unable to finish her sentence, so Jack merely nodded. “Like Pat’s son?” she questioned and was greeted by another nod. “And we’re about to storm in on a hunch that they’re in there?” she asked and Jack nodded once again as Hannah’s already large eyes widened more so that the red sun reflected off of them, turning her iris’ a peculiar shade of orange.
“Bet you wished you stayed home now,” Jack said with a weak laugh, trying to hide his fear.” But Hannah smiled back widely.
“Not a chance.” She said.
“It’s going to be dangerous.”
“Too late to run back now,”
“We could get killed, or worse,”
“We’re sitting ducks anyway,”
“There really isn’t any chance in hell in deterring you is there?” Jack said with a laugh and Hannah found her self joining in.
“Hell is empty, Jack,” she said with a smile before pulling her bandana back over her mouth, her auburn hair falling so that only here eyes showed. “All the devils are here.” She said sincerely and he nodded. They may never have seen the monsters that had destroyed their once beautiful world, but they knew enough to be sure they were monsters.
“If we go down, Hannah, we go down-” he began but Hannah interrupted.
“Fighting.” She said determinedly.
“That,” Jack said with a laugh. “And we go together.” He said, holding his hand out towards her. He couldn’t see her mouth, but he knew she was smirking at him as she clasped her hand around his, her fingerless gloves scratching his palm.
“Together.” she echoed.