Her eyes were wide, terror filled, like a rabbit backed into a corner by a fox. Bernard was no fox, but he was certainly a predator of some sort, a wolf perhaps, but even that was far too limiting. Bernard fancied himself as more of chimera, a beast of ancient legend, singular, but possessing the attributes of numerous creatures. It was as close a comparison as he could imagine.
“Don’t run and I won’t have to kill you,” Bernard said as he stepped over the dead man at her feet.
“Don’t hurt me. I didn’t do anything wrong,” she whimpered. She was young, not much more than eighteen, but you had to grow up fast this close to a hot zone.
“No one ever has,” he said as he grabbed her by the wrist and dragged her after him. Bernard wound his way through the maze of debris, eager to find Felix and get the hell away from the deathtrap they found themselves in.
“Why are you doing this to me?” she asked, tears streaming down her face.
“Its just part of my job,” Bernard said. “It’s nothing personal.”
“Nothing personal?” she wailed. “You’re going to kill me and it’s nothing personal?”
They rounded a corner and stood face to face one of Ivan’s henchmen. Without thinking, Bernard pulled his gun and pulled the trigger. His aim was true and the man’s head rocked back moments before he fell. Bernard grimaced in disgust. He didn’t mind death or blood even, but he didn’t particularly like guns. Dragging the girl behind him was becoming a problem.
“Shit! Shit! You killed him!” she screamed.
Bernard slapped her across the face, hard enough that it would certainly leave a bruise. “Yes, I did and you will be next if you don’t shut the hell up.”
They ran down through the maze, searching for a way out, but finding none. Bernard was able to steer them clear of any more thugs, but they were making little progress. The factories of Detroit had been turned into a labyrinth of steel and brick that spanned most of the city’s length and breadth. The center of the mess had become a haven for mutants and death seekers. The radiation was near lethal there and no one sane ventured anywhere near it. The fringe of the Detroit hot zone had become a no-man’s land between chaos and order, ruled by warlords and petty bandits. Ivan was the strongest warlord in the southwest section of the city, but even he had no more than a fingertip grasp on his domain.
Bernard had been sent to find the girl, for what reason he did not know. He didn’t like bringing back people. He was a killer, saving someone, even someone who would most likely die at someone else’s hand, was unnatural. Bringing her in was a complication he did not need.
“Damn it, how does anyone find their way out of this place?” Bernard cursed.
“They hire a guide,” the girl said. She flinched as Bernard turned on her. “I’m sorry,” she whimpered, “I thought you were asking me.”
“Fine, where do we find a guide?”
“The easiest way is to fire a flair and a guide will find us,” she said.
“Out of the question,” he said. “A flair might attract a guide, but it will most definitely attract Ivan’s men and I think that’s the last thing we want.”
“Then we’re doomed to be lost here unless you’re willing to climb to the top of the mounds.” She smiled, knowing that he was not so foolish. Standing on the mounds was as good as committing suicide since it offered a clear view from all of the guardians of the wasteland. Ivan was a pompous ass who ruled his portion of the Detroit with a viciousness that was unparalleled, but he was no idiot and he controlled his little empire by monitoring the area above the maze, not within it.
“Perhaps. Let’s keep going then. We’ll find our way out of here yet.” Bernard’s words were confident, but he did not feel it. Death waited for them within the walls of debris and he was afraid they would meet there end there.
He dragged her behind him, searching for some sign of the familiar, but finding nothing. “Bernard, over here.” Felix’s voice was as welcome a sound as Bernard could have hoped for.”
“This way,” Bernard said as he dragged the girl down another lane. “My partner is down here.”
“Partner?” she asked, confused.
“Be silent,” Bernard said as he pulled her behind him as he walked up to Bernard. “Please tell me you have a way out of here.”
“Well of course,” said Felix. “Follow me and we’ll be free of this hell hole.”
“Good.” Bernard dragged the girl behind him, chasing after Felix, eager to get away. “How did you find us?”
“I could hear her from a mile off,” Felix said as he tilted his head in her direction. “You know me. I have a natural sense of direction.”
“Right. Just get us out of here.”
“Will do Bernard, but I’m afraid we’ll have to stay the night inside Detroit.” Felix looked around a corner before proceeding. “The way we came in is on fire now.”
“What do you mean it’s on fire?” Bernard asked.
“What’s on fire?” asked the girl.
“Shut up,” both men said through gritted teeth.
“Ivan filled the storm drains with fuel and lit it on fire,” Felix said. “He really didn’t want us to get away for some reason.”
“God,” Bernard said. “What a waste.”
“Agreed,” Felix said as they turned another corner. “So who is this chick?”
“Don’t know. Roscoe wants her, that’s all that matters,” Bernard said. He peeked around a corner and quickly pulled back. “Two guards with their backs turned to us. Hold her.” He threw the girl at Felix and charged around the corner. The two guards died swiftly as Bernard slipped up behind them, silent as death itself. His blade slit the throat of the first and plunged into the neck of the second before the body had fallen.
Bernard turned in time to see the girl disappear around the corner of a corridor in the opposite direction they were travelling. Felix was on the ground struggling to get back up. “What the hell happened?” Bernard asked as he ran past Felix.
“She hit me,” the smaller man shouted as Bernard turned the corner.
Bernard seethed as he chased after the girl. Could this job get any worse?
A piercing scream answered the question almost as soon as it was asked. Bernard drew his gun and rounded another corner at full speed. He crashed unceremoniously into the girl and a small crowd of bandits, taking them all to the ground in a heap.
It became a race to see who could get free first, but Bernard didn’t wait until he was free to start killing. He had lost his gun in the collision, but he always had a knife or two at hand. With a flick of the wrist he had a short blade in his left hand and he struck out mercilessly. By the time he was untangled from the pile one of the men was dead, his throat cut neatly, the blood still pumping out since his heart hadn’t yet realized the man was dead. All of the others sported cuts on various parts of their body, some of their arms hug limp from severed tendons, but all of them were angry. The girl sat on the ground crying, the dead man’s blood covering her clothes.
Bernard looked the group over and was surprised to see that none of them had Ivan’s color’s on them. “You’re bandits,” he said.
“What’s it to you, slummer?” asked one of the men. He was probably the least hurt, but the nervous look in his eye told Bernard that the man was no leader.
“It is nothing to me,” Bernard said as he pulled out another knife, “but it may mean everything to you.” He pointed down at the girl with the smaller blade. “I’ll take her with me, you’ll forget we ever came this way and I’ll let the rest of you live.”
“Fuck you, slummer! You killed Aleksy. We’ll take the girl as a gift, to show how sorry you are for killing him,” said the tallest of the bandits. He had a gun on his hip, but the arm that would have drawn it hung limp.
“Your lives are the only gift I’ll be leaving you with today,” said Bernard. “And that assumes that you cut the bullshit and back off. If I have to say it again I’ll kill every last one of you right now.” He lifted the larger blade up and looked down its length at the bandits one at a time. They all flinched in turn. “Now get out of here. Come back in ten minutes if you want to collect your friend, but if I see you again I’ll kill you.”
The four men backed away until they felt they were out of reach of his knives then they turned and ran.
Bernard sheathed his blades and turned on the girl. “I told you not to run.” He grabbed her by the wrist and pulled her up. “I was hoping we could be civil about this, but I see now that you are incapable of civility.” Without warning he punched her in the face, knocking her unconscious.
He threw her over his should and turned in time to see Felix rounding the corner. “Did you kill her?” Felix asked.
“It would probably make things easier.”
“Probably, but being the best rarely means things are done the easy way,” Bernard said as he started walking back toward the exit.
“What’s her name anyways?”