“Rasine, eh? Nice name,” Felix said as he caught up with Bernard. “How are you going to get her back to Roscoe? You can’t exactly carry her over your shoulder the whole way back. It might be uncivilized out there, but a man carrying a woman over his shoulder is still unusual enough to garner some attention.”
“I figure we’ll just steal a horse and take the back way,” said Bernard. “No sense making it easy to follow us if someone is so inclined.” He shifted the girl on his shoulder, making it easier for him to draw his gun if it became necessary.
“Fair enough, but we need to get a move on.” Felix stopped to look around before turning down another alleyway. “It will be dark soon and we’ve still got a way to go before we get to the shelter I found.”
Felix led the way through the twisting maze of the destroyed city, seemingly turning at random, but Bernard did not question his friend’s path. Felix had an uncanny ability to find what he was looking for, especially when their lives depended on it. Bernard often wondered why he kept the smaller man around, but he always came back to the same answer: Bernard was his only friend.
Friends had become an endangered species in Bernard’s world. The life of an assassin left little room for trust and it was hard to stay friends with anyone you couldn’t trust. Bernard didn’t really trust Felix either, but he understood the man and had been his friend back in the dark days when his father had been training Bernard to be the best. He had killed most of the people he had called friend before he had killed his father and escaped. His father had believed that to be the best you had to cut your ties with everything and everyone. He had never discovered Bernard’s friendship with Felix, or Felix would have been just as dead as all the rest.
They did not run into any more bandits or thugs, but the time spent walking through the labyrinth was tense and left them both weary as they approached the shelter that Felix had found. It was the remains of an old building that had somehow managed to stay standing despite all of the rubble piled on top of it. Bernard moved aside a couple sheets of pitted corrugated steel, revealing the open space behind them. They piled into the small space inside and Bernard set Rasine down in a corner where he could keep an eye on her and the improvised doorway.
“You stay here,” Felix said as he made his way back to the door. “I’m going to go scout ahead and make sure there are no major obstacles between us and the way out of this hell hole.” Bernard started to protest, but Felix waved him off. “You need to keep an eye on her. She’s a wild one, and more your type. You know I like my dates a bit more slutty and a little less radioactive.” Felix turned up his nose a bit before continuing. “She practically glows. She’ll probably be dead before we get to Roscoe.”
“She’ll make it,” Bernard said. “I don’t think she ever went into the hot zone. She’s just absorbed a few extra rads, and no mutations on her-”
“That you can see,” interrupted Felix.
“That I can see,” agreed Bernard. “I’ll make sure she gets there.”
“I think you should just kill her and be done with it.” Felix peeked around the edges of the corrugated then back at Bernard. “Just tell Roscoe she was dead when you found her. We can be out of here at dawn and home in a few days. Roscoe knows that shit happens. You won’t get paid, but you’ll be better off for it.”
“Perhaps, but I think I’ll use that as a lost resort,” Bernard said.
“Use what?” The girl stirred in the corner and sat upright.
“I’ll leave you to it,” Felix said as he left the shelter, letting the steel fall closed behind him.
“Nothing,” Bernard said, turning his attention back to the girl. He looked at her, the waning light of day providing little illumination inside their shelter. Felix was right. If she were a mutant there was no sense taking her back. As much as Roscoe wanted the girl, he wouldn’t want her at all if she were a mutant.
Bernard was a mutant of sorts, though he kept that information to himself. Not even Felix knew that about him. The radiation of the hot zones did not effect him, or at least they hadn’t so far. He had been through areas less than a kilometer away from a blast sight and had suffered nothing for it. He didn’t take it for granted, but he had seen bigger men than himself burn and die in such places. It was a minor mutation to be sure, but it was damn handy in a world so riddled with radioactive wastelands.
“Strip,” he said.
“What?” She wasn’t certain she had heard him correctly.
“Strip. I need to check you.” Bernard said.
“Absolutely not!” The girl stood up and crossed her arms in defiance.
Bernard walked across the space, his hand raised menacingly. “Be silent. Keep your voice low or we’ll be found. I am only going to check you for mutations. I could throw you out there,” he said as he pointed toward the doorway. “Whatever horrible you think I might be capable of I guarantee they will do worse and more often. Right now I am your lifeline and it would be wise of you to do as your told as long as you’re with me.” Bernard stood with his hands on his hips. “Now strip.”
Tears fell from Rasine’s eyes as she removed her clothing. She had never been naked around a man before. Her life had been sheltered up to this point. She knew she was being saved for something special, but she didn’t know what. As her dress fell to the floor the tears fell from her chin. She was exposed and the monster who had stolen her away stood there, within arm’s reach, staring at her.
“Turn around,” he demanded. His voice was not cruel, but it brooked no argument.
Rasine did as she was told. Her back was to him and she swore she could feel exactly where his eyes wandered as he looked her over. She let out a small squeal, which she quickly choked down, when she felt his hands on her hips. They were as unyielding as stone, devoid of human life, and he ran them over her body with cold, clinical precision. He inspected her breasts and between her legs with as much enthusiasm as he had her arms and legs. She knew she should have felt relieved that he was not raping her, but she couldn’t help but feel angry. Was she not good enough for him? A monster?
She knew his inspection was finished when his hands left her skin and she knew she had passed his inspection when he told her to get dressed and go to sleep. She shivered on ground, less from the cold and more from pure fury. Who was this man to take her from her home, hit her and strip her, without even being a little interested in her as a woman? Was she not pretty as she had been told? She had been told the stories about men and what they did when their passion was raised. She had not expected to survive the night with her virginity intact.
“Are you cold,” he asked from across the small room.
“No,” she said through gritted teeth.
“Then why do you shiver?” He watched her fight to bring her quaking under control the moment he said something. She was a strong willed woman and Bernard almost admired her for it.
“You wouldn’t understand.”
“No.” She rolled over and looked at him, his face made visible by the last ray of sunlight streaming into their shelter. “You’re a monster.”
Bernard sat still for a minute, looking at the girl lying on the floor before him, before he whispered, “I suppose you’re right.”
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