“If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write things worth reading or do things worth writing about”
She sighed softly, the touch of her nine-millimeter drawing an appetite for combat that hadn’t been sated for several days. Lately she had been uncharacteristically hopeful that her lost memory would return, at least in some small part, as this location felt familiar in one way or another. Regardless though, it wasn’t too terrible a location to relax. The rough stone of the fallen pillar was warm against her body. The ancient pre-World War Three warehouse, with its hole-pocked roof and imploded walls had become a common shelter for her as the hot summer days ticked by. It was a safe spot, the only way in or out was either through the roof or through a small grate in the floor that opened into an abandoned sewer. She smirked crookedly as a tiny black bird landed on the beam across from her, pecking hungrily at the seed she had sprinkled. She liked the birds; they belonged to no one but themselves. They were free, just trying to survive. She lay on her back, staring at the bird and daydreaming. She had her chrome, nine-millimeter handgun strapped to her thigh, and an old carbon-steel combat knife strapped and locked in its sheath around her right bicep. Tiny strands of blonde hair flitted across her face as the breeze rolled in across the blue-green bay. As she lay there, her eyelids began to grow heavy in the warm fading sunlight and she drifted to sleep just as the small, black bird fluttered away into the dimming light.
Off in the distance the sound of gunfire resounded. Her ears perked and her hand snapped to the gun on her right leg, thumb flicking the holster lock open. She listened intently, the screams and gunfire creating a living image in her mind’s eye. Although they were colorless in her Sight she could make out that there were seven men returning fire at a group of ten. The echoing sound waves drifting toward her ears created a black and white vision of what a human would normally see with their eyes in color, however; if she didn’t open her eyes, she could only use her ears to see in the gray scale, not unlike a bat.
“All right,” She said in a hoarse voice. Opening her eyes to reveal irises of deep violet, she blinked several times to clear the daze of her brief snooze. Sitting up, she used her hands to pop up to her feet, “Let’s see what the hells going on.”
Reaching high, she stretched out like a cat leaving its tree before she jumped off of the pillar and onto the concrete dock whose long arm reached far into the bay. Landing softly and nearly soundless, she sprinted off in the direction of the fighting. The wind whipped through her hair as she ran, scattering the thin follicles and caressing her olive skin in a way that she relished. She moved quickly for her size, jumping and climbing shattered buildings and other misshapen debris. She leaped over piles of rubble, dirtying her green cargo pants as she slid across an old park table covered in gravel and grime. There was no hesitation in her headlong sprint at a nearby flagpole that overlooked a single story building; a small building that had lost its name decades ago. Feet first, she kicked off the base of the pole and propelled herself upward, going hand over hand as she scaled it to the top. The young woman balanced there briefly, coveting the sensation feeling of being a bird, peering down on the large world made slightly smaller by her ascension. Finally, letting out her breath slowly, the young woman jumped from flagpole to building, easily clearing the twenty-foot gap as if she were a child jumping the lines in hopscotch. She rolled lightly as her feet struck the ancient roof before pausing momentarily to listen and feel for any grinding within the structure. She couldn’t go falling through another roof right now. Who knows who else had heard the fighting and had come looking. Walking casually to the edge of the building, the gunfire had grown louder and much more intense accompanied by the percussion and wash of white sound of several grenades exploding nearby.
As she looked over the edge of the building she finally saw the two warring groups. She knew them both. The assailants and larger unit, a lowly group of gangsters called the Bloods that had somehow survived in the destitute streets of Los Angeles after the collapse of civilization and the fall of several atomic bombs. The other was a relatively honorable squad of mercenaries from a paramilitary group named Lance. They helped refugees and travelers with supplies and medical attention when they could. She liked Lance, for the most part. The leader, Tanner, was a good man and his men respected him, as did she. He was a gifted leader and an incredible soldier, topped off with the benefit of being a good man. The mercenaries were scared, she could smell it in their yellow color as well as the fact that they were now out-numbered two to one, the gang having eight soldiers still able to fight and Lance with only four.
“I should help,” she thought. Flicking open the lock on her pistol holster, she drew the firearm and pulled back the slide, the draw and click sending a thrilled chill down her spine. Concrete dug into the palm of her hand as she turned and grabbed hold of the side of the wall, lowering herself down with one hand and dropping quietly to the ground. Breathing out slowly, she closed her eyes and re-opened them to see only the enemy surrounded by a dark red color. It was a color that she had come to recognize as the nature of a killer, someone that murders out of greed and self-desire. It was a color she had learned to hone her senses onto. It was a color to despise and a color to fear. The color of hatred.
Focusing her senses, she felt sight, sound and touch blend into one sense, and vision became a whirlwind of vibration, color and shadow. She saw everything as it truly was and was going to be. Her violet eyes mutated, developing a wicked yellow appearance and then she went on the assault. Her aim was precise and merciless as she unloaded round after round into the men. The fearsome woman had slain four red colors by the time the Bloods had realized she’d arrived.
“Shit!” One, a man decorated in scars and poorly designed tattoos, screamed as he caught sight of the lithe woman kicking his ally in the testicles. She bore a feral grin on her blood spattered face and continued to snap his neck. His limp frame hung in her unbreakable grasp as she utilized him like a shield and reloaded her pistol with a magazine from her pocket.
“Its Rogue! We gotta g-!” He was cut off by Rogue’s bullet piercing his skull. Blood and shards of bone sprayed onto the ground and his body slumped backwards. She cocked her head to the side and raised her gun arm, twisting almost inhumanely at the sound of the remaining two red colors firing in her direction. The projectiles narrowly passed by her jaw and side. The firing and sound stopped momentarily. The gang could only watch in mortified awe as Rogue dodged their bullets. She turned her head toward the two men and smiled wryly at them. Her cold yellow eyes trained on them without any emotion aside from hunger as she sauntered in their direction. She watched as their auras changed rapidly from red to yellow and their guns began to shake in their persistantly perspiring palms. The stone and steel piles of rubble that they stood behind hid nothing from the predator’s sight. Rogue’s vision was able to pierce the material and allow her to see the color that the men generated. If she could see, feel, smell or hear them, then she could see every move they made or would make with every one of her senses. Nothing and no one would escape her.
The men panicked and fired rapidly and sporadically as she encroached upon them. Immediately Rogue rolled to the side and behind cover in an instant. Squatting, back against a hard roadblock, Rogue felt bullets pound the concrete she hid behind. There came a slight gap in the gang’s fire and Rogue sprinted out of cover and into the midst of the enemy. Running and diving over the barricade one gangster hid behind, she fired a round into his chest before hitting the ground back first and rolling swiftly onto her feet. Swinging her gun arm around to the side, she fired from the crouched position and slew the last target without skipping a beat. Rogue stood, holstered her gun and took a deep breath before turning to face the mercenaries that she had saved from slaughter. Their colors were of fading light blue, relief.
When the mercenaries finally reached Rogue, the murderous smile was now void from her lips and her yellow eyes had transitioned to their abnormal violet appearance. The mercenaries were breathing heavily and covered in sweat and dirt. Several had mild gunshot wounds that would stitch up easily. Rogue noticed they had unfortunately lost three men in the firefight and frowned.
“Rogue, I’m glad to see that you were in the neighborhood,” exclaimed a middle-aged man with several days of hair growing on his jaw. He had short cropped hair that was rampant with thick with gray streaks.
“I owed you,” Rogue replied with a curt tilt of her head. Earlier that month another gang had found where she was living and surrounded her with over twenty men in her temporary home. She was good, but not good enough to come out unscathed. Luckily Tanner and Michael were out on patrol and managed, with Rogue’s help, to eliminate the bastards that had tracked her down.
“Well,” started Michael in his faint Texan accent. He shouldered his assault rifle and using a semi-clean rag to wipe his face before tucking it into his pocket, “The boys and I are going back to camp for some food if you’d like to come along. Just need to get these bodies back and buried right proper.”
“Sure.” With that she turned and made her way to the dead gang members she’d slain. Michael, smirking at the girl’s curt and decisive behavior, turned and began assisting his men with the bodies of their comrades.
At the gangster whose neck she had broken, she began digging through his tattered jeans to see what she could find. There was nothing of value apart from a rusted razor blade and a packet of snuff that felt waterlogged. Stuffing the items into the thigh pocket of her cargo pants, she moved onto the next body. This one, missing a piece of his head, was a gruesome sight, but it didn’t have any effect on Rogue who had spilled blood since she could remember. Again finding nothing of real value, she tucked the strips of copper and a few rounds of pistol ammunition that would fire from her gun into her pockets. Reaching over she took hold of the man’s gun and turned it over in her hands. It was a small sub-machine gun, it was damaged and the grip was slightly dented which would throw off its accuracy, however the fire-rate would be worth a decent trade at the market. After quickly checking the other bodies and only finding a couple of items worth taking, she made her way down the destroyed freeway path, nodding to Michael and his men as she passed them collecting their fallen allies. The men varied in natural Color, or the aura that their personality most often projected. Michael himself was surrounded in light brown. He was an honorable man that had seen much since The War.
The war battered path to the nearby refugee camp was littered with stone barricades to stop armed vehicles from making their way into the camp and market, as well as was patrolled by several guards to prevent what Rogue and Michael’s men had just dealt with. The Camp was a safe haven for mercenaries and refugees so long as they didn’t fight or break the rules. Anyone who went against the laws within the encampment had to deal with Lance; the mercenary group that was ran by Tanner. A few of the mercenaries had taken to acting as a police force within the vicinity. The locals were fairly accepting of this, as Tanner’s men were generally good men and did the right thing when it came down to it. Those that took their authority too far would often be dealt with as the ones Rogue had killed. Mercilessly.
The Camp laid several days travel outside one of the main cities where a large portion of what was left of the western United States people made their homes. It was a heavily fortified city, surrounded by large walls and armed soldiers that would kill any outside force without hesitation. They were always recruiting mercenaries, and had managed to track down Rogue several times in the wastelands in an attempt to ask her to join them. She had become renowned throughout the area as a deadly force with incredible abilities, and was well sought after by wasteland militia and gangs who would use her power to their own selfish ends. So Rogue traveled alone and only stepped into affairs and battles if she deemed it necessary.
As she arrived at the massive barricade that blocked the entrance to the Camp, an african, giant of a man greeted Rogue with a battered light machine gun slung over his shoulder.
“Rogue, it’s good to see you! We could hear the fighting from here, what the hell happened?”
“Wasteland gang fight. Michael lost a few men. If you could send one of the Riders with a cart, it'd help.”
“Damn... Those guys were good soldiers. Good men. I’ll send someone out right away,” he replied, stepping aside to allow Rogue to slip by him into the encampment.
“Thank you,” Said Rogue with a tilt of her head. “Oh, and Grant?”
“Yeah?” Grant looked curiously at the petite young woman standing next to him. They had hardly ever spoken other than small talk as he let her through. Rogue was slightly pleased to see that a man of his size still bore hesitation around her.
“Your zipper is down,” She smiled crookedly as she continued onward leaving Grant fumbling embarrassed with his zipper.
On the other side of the gate the camp was a bustle of activity. It was home to hundreds of people and was one of several dozen camps in the area of what used to be Los Angeles, California before The War tore the country apart. The market was abuzz and individuals of various ages and ethnicities were making last minute purchases before the shops closed. People with baskets full of food, trading items they have found outside of the camp or spending real money that still held value as a viable currency. With no real centralized government, it was difficult to set a standard currency rating. However the most common form of trade was through trinkets and other such oddities that held worth such as water bottles, wet naps, or firearms. It all depended on what the vendor was interested in taking off your hands for their goods. The camp itself was called Kennedy, but the mercenaries just called it ‘Camp,’ because it was the only one within a respectable distance. Kennedy was quite large and was entirely surrounded by concrete and sheet metal walls that kept outsiders from a simple invasion and causing harm.
Past the market were homes where all of the refugees and townspeople lived relatively easy lives, as they all tended to work together to keep everything running. There were small farms and gardens where people grew vegetables and a few fruit trees. Fishermen had a few boats in the nearby bay and brought in fresh fish daily and hunters would sell the wild animals that they managed to trap or shoot. However, knowing she couldn’t afford anything too extravagant, Rogue headed directly for the young woman selling bread. On her way she passed several other stands. One was a hunter that had several fox and a few rabbit hanging from his stand, as well as a few rats gutted and laying on the counter top. Rogue’s stomach growled loudly at the scent of the seasoned meat and she padded quickly to the bakery stand.
“Good afternoon, what would you like today?” The dark haired woman across the counter asked cheerfully. Rogue smiled faintly and pulled out the razor as well as a few quarters that she had found on the gangsters she’d killed.
“Is this enough for a loaf of bread?” Rogue asked uncertainly. She didn’t purchase things often, but she hadn’t found any food to eat today or the day before and she was starving. Plus she didn’t want to eat too much of what limited food the mercenaries had.
“Of course sweetheart, how about I just take the knife and you keep the change?” The woman smiled, handing Rogue a loaf of bread that was still warm from sitting next to the stone oven.
“Thank you,” said Rogue, handing over the knife before reaching for the bread.
She nodded to the woman in thanks and continued on her way. The bread tasted amazing compared to the fox and rat that she usually had to catch and cook for herself over a spit. The occasional rabbit or deer was a rare treat, but she never kept her hopes up. Passing through the mildly busy shopping area, Rogue scooted around loaded carts of fish and vegetables and passed through several rows of shacks and a few damaged buildings from before the war. The buildings were small and would last quite a while. The mercenaries had been sure to demolish all of the larger buildings that seemed like they would crumble and endanger the residents. As a result, much of Kennedy’s gates were made from large slabs of concrete that were sealed together by some odd, gray compound Rogue didn’t know the name of.
Rogue quickly made her way to the tent where some of the mercenaries would go for dinner and to relax after a patrol. They had watered down wine that one of the men made as well as cots to sleep in. All in all it was quite nice compared to the cold, abandoned buildings, fox holes and ditches that Rogue generally inhabited. The people on the street were beginning to disperse and make their way to their homes as dusk set in. Rogue passed by a few stragglers and a handful of children playing with old toys outside of a group of shacks who waved at her. She waved back smiling shyly and ducked into the large canvas tent across the street from them.
Inside, many of the mercenaries recognized and knew the young woman. Or rather knew her as much as anyone else would. They knew her name, and they knew she could kill most of them, if not all of them, if she had to and they were glad she was on their side. The men smiled friendlily at Rogue, who nodded hellos as she passed. A few of the newer mercenaries refused to make eye contact, their colors showing a wavering yellow hue. Rogue shrugged and made her way to the back of the tent where she heard Tanner’s color with his nasty beer at the bar. Tanner was a man of average height, slightly taller than Rogue. He was in a green shirt and digital camouflage cargo pants. Rogue spotted his short, blonde hair and peaceful color amongst the rest of the men and moved to sit next to her old friend.
“Rogue, to what do I owe this wonderful occasion?” The man asked with a smile. He appeared about thirty years old or so, with a weathered face and strong features. He was always friendly, but his eyes were calculating and hard. He had the eyes of someone that had seen the world burn. The man was smart and quick which put Rogue at ease when he was around. He could handle himself and she wouldn’t have to protect him or get herself hurt due to lack of skill on his part.
“I helped Michael out on the road. He said I should come eat, but I bought some bread. So, I’m fine just hanging out if that’s alright?” Rogue said politely.
“Hell no! If you helped out my men then I would be offended if you didn’t let me treat you to a real meal,” Grinned Tanner. “Can we get this young lady a bowl of that shit you call stew? Oh, and a glass of wine,” He said to the cook who was stirring a pot across from the bar, glass being a word of habit.
“Whatever ya say, Chief!” shouted the cook, pouring a ladle of stew into a wooden bowl and grabbing a clear plastic cup from the shelf nearby. He set the bowl down in front of Rogue whose stomach growled at the scent of the hot meat swirling within the thick broth. Before walking away, he flipped Tanner a teasing middle finger that earned a chuckle from the respected leader of Lance.
“Thank you,” she said uncomfortably. She didn’t like taking things for free, but if he insisted then she wouldn’t turn down a hot meal.
“'Ere ya go, Rogue,” said the cook, setting a cup full of red wine down in front of her. She lifted the cup in thanks before taking a small sip.
“So,” said Tanner, turning toward his small, female companion, “What has Michael gotten himself into?"
“I was sleeping nearby and heard gunfire just-“, Rogue started through a mouthful of food before being cut off.
“And she saved most of our asses!” Michael’s voice bellowed from behind them. The aged man came and patted the two of them on the shoulder, “Thank you again Rogue. If you hadn’t shown up we’d all be dead. I owe you one.”
“No problem, Michael,” she replied respectfully.
“What happened?” asked Tanner, overwhelming curiosity and concern obvious in his expression and color.
“This incredible young woman,” Michael gestured toward Rogue, “Just killed eight of those Bloods fellas in just over a minute, single handedly. We lost three men, but we would have all been killed if she didn’t step in.”
“Jesus... Have the bodies been taken care of?"
"They have, yes. I'm sure the men would appreciate a few words," Michael affirmed. Tanner sighed and knocked back the rest of his beer with a long gulp. He stood from his chair and turned to Rogue.
"I don’t know how you do it Rogue, but I'm glad you showed up,” Tanner said, his eyes seeming to calculate something she couldn’t pin point. His normal color of a similar brown to Michael’s was now rimmed with a hue of faint green curiosity.
“It was nothing,” Said Rogue, frowning and staring down into her stew. She never took compliments easy. It meant that someone was too close to her or was willing to be and that terrified her. People died too easy. These men were friends that she had come to respect. She could handle losing them in this war torn world so long as she didn’t grow too close.
“Quiet as ever I see,” teased Tanner. Rogue smirked awkwardly and continued eating her stew; it was delicious. Plus, she had saved a few pieces of the bread she had bought in her pocket for something to eat tomorrow. It would be stale, but that was better than nothing and if she caught anything in her traps she could make an actual meal, a rare treat for her apart from tonight.
“Well, I hope that you’ll sleep here tonight. We have an empty cot that you’re more than welcome to and a warm shower while the fires are going.” Said Tanner, with an expression that showed he wouldn’t take no for an answer.
“I will, thank you,” said Rogue, relieved. She really didn’t want to have to walk all the way back to the warehouse in the middle of the night. It was several miles away and with the clouds disappearing it would be a very cold night. Tanner smiled, and made his way out of the tent with Michael in tow. Finishing her meal and wine, Rogue made her way to the portion of the tent that was hidden from the tent community by a long curtain. Inside were several empty cots for those that needed a place to stay for the night. She grabbed a tattered towel from underneath the rack and slipped into the restroom where a neck high stall was set up for a small amount of privacy. Above the stall was a steel pipe with a grate fixed to it so that the water would spray instead of pour onto the occupant. It was all connected to another pipe that ran through the fire pit and warmed the water so long as the pit was aflame. Pulling her shirt and pants off she stood in her underwear and inspected her clothes.
“I’ll have to wash these tomorrow,” she thought to herself. It had been over a week since she had been able to clean her outer clothes. Her undergarments she cleaned every other day so long as she was by a river or the ocean at the time.
She then slipped out of her underwear and into the shower stall, cranking the lever that blocked the flow of water. It was warm and she stood there relaxing blissfully for a moment as the water poured over her naked body, washing dirt, blood and grime away. There was a small bar of soap that she rubbed between her hands before placing it back. She then proceeded to clean her face and behind her ears, then down to her breasts where her bra had trapped dirt and sweat. They weren’t large by any standard, but Rogue was fine with that. She then proceeded to her arms, under arms and then legs. She found it odd at first when she lost her memory. She couldn’t grow hair anywhere but her head, so she never had to shave her body like all of the other women that she knew and she had no idea why. That and she was pleased not have grown any sort of facial hair as she had seen on more than a few women. Nor did she have her period. That worried her at first, but over time she came to find this as a blessing. She never had to worry about having a problem with that sort of situation. One woman told her that it meant she could probably never have a baby of her own, but Rogue was unaffected by the information. She would never be able to raise a child and take care of it the way she lived. It was better this way. Plus she had never met a person she was sexually attracted to.
Finishing her shower after rinsing some soap out of her shoulder length hair, she cranked the lever shut and wrapped the ratty towel around herself. As she stepped out of the stall she stood in front of the cracked mirror one of the mercenaries had found and took a look at her now clean self. She was young, probably nineteen or twenty; her eyes were never the same color, always shifting from violet to yellow to green. Right now they were violet, she was calm. Her body, decorated with countless small scars from who knows how many years of fighting, was slender, but clearly hard with muscle. Twisting to the side she took a look at her back where a long, fading scar that cut into her skin nearly a centimeter ran from her left shoulder to the middle of her spine. Over it however, was a large, black tattoo that ran down the length of her back. It looked almost like an upside down plant with a thorny root curling down to her lower back. Four leaves branched out diagonally from the corners and in the center of it all, a burning sun. She had no idea what it meant and couldn’t remember how she had gotten it or the scar.
Quickly getting dressed, she flopped onto one of the cots and lay there a while, trying to remember what she had forgotten. She could only remember to about two years ago when she had woken up inside a church a few days travel north of where she was now. An old nun had been stooping over her, an expression of worry on her face. Rogue had sat up startled and demanded to know where she was and, as she began to realize she didn’t know, who she was. The nun, or Sister Clarice as she had come to know the woman, had no idea, but had found Rogue lying with a dislocated shoulder and leg, a knife wound in her side and a major head injury that was bleeding profusely. Nearby was also a dead man in military gear that appeared to have been crushed to death. Sister Clarice had told Rogue that she was lucky to be alive. She had seen many others die of much less serious injuries, let alone two gravely fatal ones. Rogue had stayed at the church for several weeks before she was fully recovered and able to use her injured leg again without pain. She tried desperately to remember who she was and why her senses were so much different from everyone else. It was maddening for her to explain what was natural for her, but in time she came to accept her unusual gift, hoping one day she would be able to remember at least a bit of who she was. This became her bedtime pastime over the years. Rogue would lay and contemplate while trying to remember even the slightest detail, but never to any avail. But she would go at it until she passed into sleep. Just as she was now, flitting through every memory she could bring to mind, visualizing places that she had been and seen, hoping to jumpstart some memory based on new ones. She went at this for a time, until she slowly drifted into a sleep full of vivid, horrific dreams. It was a nightmare this time. It was one she had often.
Sister Clarice was kneeling in front of the altar with some of the other orphans, praying to god and asking forgiveness from their petty sins. Rogue found this a menial task that bore no purpose. Yes, she would pray when she felt that she had performed a great wrong, but otherwise felt she had done nothing at the time. She was sitting in the pews, reading a book she had found in an old, destroyed bookstore. It was one of knights and battle, elves and dwarves and humans. She loved the violence and the bravery and how honorable the characters were. They felt fear but fought regardless to protect the ones they loved. Rogue looked up from the pages and smiled warmly at Sister Clarice reprimanding one of the boys for sighing while she recited a prayer.
Multiple times since Rogue’s arrival the church had succumbed to attack by pillagers and gangs demanding refuge or money for “protection.” It surprised Rogue the first time she saw their hateful color, such a dark red of their desire and spite that it made her angry. She abhorred these men, and knew they deserved to die. That shade of red was the color of killers and evil. She slew them mercilessly, first with her bare hands or the steel pipe she found, and then with the large knife she had taken off of a body. Clarice was terrified by the animalistic behavior her shy and quiet Rogue would display in such surprising bursts. But Clarice soon realized it was done in love and grew to view the girl as a guardian, an Angel of War sent from heaven. Clarice one day came to Rogue and handed her a heavy gift wrapped in cloth.
“A passing mercenary gave this to me a few years ago, but I’ve never used it, none of us were willing to. I figured that someone like you might make good use of it.”
Curiously, Rogue opened the gift and found a stainless steel, Beretta 92fs pistol inside. A cross had been etched into the grip on both sides and the slide had a long, ornate cross engraved on top of it.
“It’s beautiful, thank you Sister. I will take care of it,” said Rogue, a crooked smile breaking across her face. It was the first time Sister Clarice had seen the poor amnesia stricken girl smile in joy and it warmed the old woman’s heart. But as fate would have it, it would be the last time as well. Rogue’s dream grew dark and twisted, revealing the horror scoured into her memory.
That night the church was attacked by a large group of mercenaries that belonged to team of men Rogue had fought off only days before. The residents of the church thought it would be the last of them for a while, but they were vengeful. Rogue had sensed the presence of the attackers before they had fired, rolling off of her cot reflexively as bullets tore through the walls. She scrambled for her gun in her clothing box and sprinted into the children’s room. She saw no dense Color on her way down the hall and her heart skipped in fear. Rogue burst through the door, gun aimed directly in front of her. Looking over she gasped before falling to her knees, screaming in horror at the four lifeless bodies of the children and the color that faded from their still, motionless forms.