Thursday, October 28, 2004

Chapter 3:

The trainman jerked her jaw hard, clamping her mouth closed between his grime coated hand, padded with a fingerless glove that let his bare fingertips clamp around her mouth and dig into her cheek, and the cradle of his shoulder that was covered in the shredded rags of what had most likely been a coat at one point in time. She rammed her elbow into his stomach, but didn’t even elicit a grimace from his lips. The smile widened and the rot of his breath was powerful when he spoke.

“ Looks to me like I caught a feisty fishy! “, he said with hisses and hushed voice into her ear. Where the hell had he come from? Had he been sleeping under some of the underbrush that was growing nearby? If she could have, she would have kicked herself for letting him get within six feet of her. For all the thinking she did though, all she let out were grunts as she struggled against him trying to break free of his grip.

She felt what was coming next before she saw it, and responded fast by bringing up her right arm just in time to brace his oncoming forearm. His had was gripping a short steel pipe that was sharpened on one end and looked like it would act as a blood letting device. Trainmen were never ones to have much pride in their craftsmanship as long as it worked, and sometimes, when you least expected it, they’d make something that worked out craftily well. It took a considerable amount of strength, though by all means not all, to brace his deadly strike at bay. It was clearly aimed for her torso as she wiggles back and forth and tore at his other arm with her left hand. She was strong, but he had the superior position and she wasn’t sure how long she could fight him.

Her legs kicked and she brought down the heel of her boot onto his shins, it didn’t her him enough to be let go. Sadly, it only seemed to make him all the more anxious to kill her quickly to stop the struggle.

“ Come on ye little fishy, don’t fight too much or maybe I’ll just stab ye in the gut and let ye die on yer own in the jimmies out here after I take yer stuff “, his arm pushed harder as he mumbled. His foul breath clouded her mind. She reached her free hand up to grip his attacking wrist in an attempt to lever the pipe out of his hand, it was a pretty desperate move, letting go of the arm that pinched her jaw shut, but it was a good bet. Sure enough she managed to work it till it fell to the ground

“ Ye filthy minx of a fishy “, he hissed as she felt his grip on her jaw and the pressure of his attacking arm relax and slip away. She tried to spin to face him in a more appropriate stance the kick was already almost there and it connected with her chest, knocking her backward and pushing the wind hard out of her torso. When her eyes were open he already had the pipe back and she rolled only just in time to avoid it stabbing in the ground, maybe where she’d just been, it was too close to think about and far too recent to care about the subtle mistakes and capabilities. She spun and connected her heel with his forehead in the moment his pipe was buried in the earth knocking him backward 3 paces as he jerked the pipe out of the ground and took it with him.

Free to scream at last she yelled out for john, realizing only too late as the trainman came after her again, that she might already be dead when he got back, and that she might only be calling him here to find himself as more food for the trainman. Although, she suspected he might be way too much for any trainman anywhere. Individually anyway, she was thankful they didn’t hunt in packs. That might keep her alive right now, she considered all this as she ducked down and drove forward piling her shoulder into his stomach, hoping that the work she had done on it earlier and the stronger blow would have a harder effect on him.

Sure enough, the pipe dropped a second time when his back, and then his head respectively struck a tree that she slammed him into, cracking against them with a good deal more force than they were quite properly designed to handle in an everyday course of events. He made it pretty obvious too by how loud he yelled out a line of profanity that didn’t make much sense.

“ Troublesome day-vile “, the words grunted out of his mouth as he brought his knee up into her chest, knocking her backwards onto the ground. He was quick as lightning to jump down onto her and straddle her till her arms were pinned to the hard ground beneath her.

“ I’m gonna make this as painful as I can you stupid little fishy “, his right fist connected hard with her left cheek, spreading stinging pain across her skin and spotting her vision. “ I’m gonna beat you till you bleed and scream and beg me to just let you out, like I was planen’ on doin’, ye little fish. “

This time it was his left hand and it flew with his whole weight into the front of her face as it tilted to the right. When it connected everything went red and a ringing started in her ears from the blow. A feminine grunt jumped out of her as she struggled underneath him till he kicked a leg and drove his heel into one of her ribs. She was starting to ache all over from the conflict and the ringing in her head was resounding to the point that she couldn’t think or see at all anymore. She hoped the next blow would knock her unconscious.

“ Don’t you think maybe you should be wearing shoes, or are you just showing off? Cause if you are, then I wont be the one to spoil your parade “, she said.

“ I lost them “, he replied without even looking back at her. His mind was buzzing at the moment, and his feet hurt. And worse, how he had lost them the day before had been pretty stupid, as well as not absolutely necessary.

“ Want to talk about it? “, she spoke evenly as he hopped over a fallen tree trunk and landed sure-footedly on the other side only a few moments before she followed his lead perfectly.

“ Not really. “

“ Come on, Johnny boy, we’ve got an awfully long walk and I can’t think of a better way to spend it than hearing. “

“ Well, I would, but we have an awfully long walk, and the more we talk the longer it will take to get where we’re going. ” The words came out of his mouth, but he really didn’t know where they were coming from. He really was in no place to be speaking. His mind was sort of flashing red. Something just felt wrong.

“ Haven’t you ever heard of morale? That logic only works in the short term. “

He noticed that Gabby was doing her best to follow him at his pace. He was jumping logs and all but physically jogging as he marched his way forward to cover as much ground as he could. The way past the city, he knew, all the way around it and not just a part of it here or there, was a very, very long walk and he felt the need to get it done today. So much so that he was ignoring every signal his feet were sending him, he was oblivious to the difficulty she was beginning to have, to almost everything, even the discomfort of the sweat on his body was only background noise. Completely to his shock he found his mind and body working separately again and while he was working he answered her involuntarily again after a long pause, “ I have heard of morale. Trust me. Talking about it won’t do anything good for my morale. “

“ Fair enough. “, she said. Gabby then paused for a second or two before she said, “ I was trying to get a signal. “

“ What? “ This really did get his attention, because while his brain was great for following a consistent conversation automatically, it was no good at seemingly random interjections and subject changes, which required real thought to follow. Unless you wanted to just ask about it, which is what he did.

“ For the repeater, I was trying to get a signal, so that I could maybe have a few words from Gabe if I could get his attention. “

“ When was this? “

“ Last night. That’s where I was all night. I didn’t finish trying till well after four in the morning. “

Some thick underbrush sprang up in front of him and his hand moved without his permission, it loosed his knife and then blurred as it sliced vine and tree limb fiercely and with an involuntary speed that he rarely showed the world he had. It wasn’t the fastest he was capable of; it was the speed he moved when he was relaxed and passive. But a speed that he tried to hide, nonetheless, because it was still faster than most anyone else he’d seen was capable of, unless they’d merely been hiding their skills as well. He never asked, so he never knew. His nerves were on end, with the red flashes in his head, and the memories of the day before, he didn’t have the patience to watch himself. There were changes he felt within himself that would not go unnoticed.

“ Did you get one at all? “, he asked, his arm making long strokes at the cleaner brush that was blocking their path. He noticed her flinch at the question, she didn’t even notice it, he would have bet. People could be so unaware of the things their bodies did without them. He knew people did things subconsciously, but he just couldn’t understand not knowing that you did it.

“ Only a few minutes here and there. As far out as I went there was still too much interference from the city. “ She looked worried as she spoke.

“ Sounds disappointing, why so much work? “

“ We’ve been out so long, I wanted to know if anyone one else was in the area, I wanted news, mostly about Bobby. “ That flinch made its way across her face again. Faster this time, maybe she heard something bad about Bobby.

“ Any luck? “

“ Just enough to find out about Wicker party. Most of it was full of white noise from the city, but they had that info ready. Too ready, considering that I never got a clear enough signal to them to ask about that myself, scratch? “ With that, her expressions became absolutely clear.

“ Scratch, “ he spat. He understood perfectly now. John let his eyes harden. There was a very good chance that something was wrong with the Wicker party. The red flashes went away as he realized what was so tense, he had already known. William was leading the Wicker tent group. John couldn’t remember who was with Will, but all the same, no one was expendable, especially not to John, not today. Not after yesterday. After a second of thinking he slashed his hand out to the side and left the mark of remembrance deeply carved into the bark of a nearby tree. He hoped passionately that there was nothing wrong with Wicker. He could do the harsh work required to survive in the world. But he didn’t have to like it.

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