Part One (1/3)
It was a long, lightly treed expanse cleared around a double asphalt strip, an old road out of town rarely used by the city’s working commuters… and on any other day Donovon thought he might welcome the drive. On the last inspection, however, the foremost hilltop was peppered with a half-dozen sentries blocking the road via the aid of massive concrete barriers and the tall musket-looking rifles they carried. Continuing forward on their half-packed motorbikes meant a definite confrontation, but moving on without the provisions they carried or the speed they provided could mean missing a rendezvous with the only person who could shed light on their situation.
Why had this become his lot in life? What the hell was happening to this place? Why was his companion still sharpening and shaping that makeshift sword?
“Trevor, this is hopeless,” he managed after a few moments of inward pouting. The young prepper just grinned beneath his beard and kept working, now fastening a chunk of iron from some broken-off item in his rucksack into an improvised crossguard. The handle, nothing more than hammered smooth rebar, had been pounded into a hook and wrapped in leather twine for comfort, and it’s “blade”, after an hour of shaving and hammering, was now razor sharp and shaped in a curve more worthy of being called one. Trevor shook it roughly and slapped the new piece around a bit, then held out the handle to its rather unkempt and in doubt owner, saying haphazardly, “You’re a natural, Donno, embrace it. And don’t fret over losing parts – no sense crying over spilt milk.” Then, with a wink and a groan, he pulled himself off the floor of their tiny hideout and crawled a short distance away to survey their way forward.
Camp was little more than an oversized pile of debris, layered solid inside and dug out to accommodate the two of them lying side by side. Their bikes were stashed both further from them and closer to the road than they would have liked, but they had hardly been in a position to have preferences, and so they made do. It had been a long, stressful wait until sunset, a time at which they had both agreed their odds of undetected passage would significantly increase, and in an attempt ignore the sweltering yellow hourglass bobbing and weaving from break to break in the roiling, dark clouds, Trevor had, among many other subjects, imparted upon Donovan the basics of military sabre fencing. It was a sparse explanation and full of holes, not to mention the prepper’s inability to answer a single question left little confidence in this newest of practitioners. In the end he felt it made sense, however, and so with his new weapon in tow he headed to the small clearing around their tiny dugout to test it out. “It’s sheer logic and improvisation Donno,” said Trevor from behind behind him. He was already hearing the echoes of earlier and becoming annoyed…
“It’s a metal stick, with an edge. What’s to know? Stand upright now, it’s like any other fight.” He did so now. “Keep your feet light and your weight centered, make sure what’s between you and them stays that way… so bring the damned thing out in front of you! No, tuck the elbows in, you just got the damned thing between you and what wants you dead, don’t play whack a mole with him…”
Donovan practiced a couple cuts, making sure to drag the blade along his imaginary target. “You either cut vertical or horizontal or crossways. The blade’s either up or down or forward or back and on one side or the other or up top or down low. Everybody else operates the same way too, mind you, assuming we’re all human-” he had paused to look almost embarrassingly over his shoulder at that. Another round of pretend blocks and cuts; another slew of reminders. “Cut to hit, cut to block, cut to feint. Grab him. Or stab him. Or put your sword in his way and then stab him. Or…” Donovan shook his head. He may have been a bumbling fool of a first impression, but Trevor had quite the metaphorical dungeon of dusty tomes lingering in that alternatively-educated head of his.
While still pondering the nature of his newest endeavor as a swordsman, he failed to notice the sun dip below the horizon, leaving him in a deep, impenetrable blue. He also failed to notice the pair of black-clad officer-types topping the hill behind him, as well as Trevor’s fervent whispers to dive into their bunker for safety. But thank god for Trevor, for without his incessant hissing Donovan may never have broken his wide-eyed trance. The men were calling out now, not only to him but to their comrades over the rise, so, without much time for planning, Donovan ran off at full speed into the growing dark and over the next hilltop.
Without hesitation chase ensued. They blew past Trevor, scarcely breathing in fear of detection, and pulled out their large muskets to take aim on top of the next hill. As they flexed their suits into position and placed the scopes to their eyes, the attack came. Donovan, springing up from his prone position only a few feet away, went straight for their exposed stomachs and saw the adequate work of his new companion first hand as the stiffer, sharpened metal cut clean through black canvas and into flesh. He drug the blade, as he had been forewarned to do, as far across their midsections as he could – so far, in fact, that he had to take another step to continue the draw – and then ran off to the side and slid to the ground, still crawling, pushing his limbs until they ached as a volley of projectiles whizzed above his head.
The two bodies atop the hill fell awkwardly into a heap, and as they settled the butt of one of the rifles lurched into view from the shadows. He scrambled without hesitation, still on all fours lest he be shot, and lunged for it blindly, turning his head at the last instant towards the commotion beside him.
All he saw was blinding light. All he heard was a deafening ring. All he felt was pain, and all he tasted was blood; and as he gathered his senses, focusing on the smell of the dirt and grass against his cheek, he felt pain again. And again. And finally, he felt nothing. Just warmth, comfort, and… pain.
His vision cleared and his mind grappled with wave after wave of reality as it crashed down upon him. All the sensations came back, most noticeably the pain in his side, and he pushed it back to fight onto one knee. To his left, Trevor grappled with one man in black. Above them, another closed to lend assistance his own – Donovan’s hand tightened around his new sword and his legs tensed. To his right was a third, raising his rifle for a clear shot, and so Donovan bit back his eagerness to jump towards the men beating his accomplice and instead stuck the blade point-first as deeply as he could manage into the chest of the distracted shooter. A hollow whoosh and a coarse cry accompanied the maneuver, but his bloodlust, or something suspiciously like it Donovan would later surmise, made him ignorant to the grotesqueness of his acts. He simply looked over his shoulder at his next victims and pulled the blade behind him, leaving his foe to crumple in a heap.
The next leap was more animalistic, and he thought for an instant how much he could have regretted it had either of them looked over, but instead he crashed into the nearest man’s back, the long sabre’s edge preceding him in a diagonal arc. As he tumbled forward on top on the falling pray, Donovan leapt again, but out of the way as his last attacker turned baring a third gun and fired at empty space. Trevor was up in an instant, his hands around the last opponent’s chest, and he dove to the ground, causing the gun to drop. Already on the way over, Donovan saw the exposed head of their final attacker and picked up the pace. He was never one for sports, but he had played soccer for years. Crack!
Everything was terribly still. Nobody moved. No insects chirped or buzzed. Even the breeze, it seemed, had stilled in the bitter aftermath. “Trevor-” he began, but couldn’t think of any words to fit the situation. Sorry? You’re welcome? Maybe a little of both? He felt guilt and excitement, pride and doubt all at once, and he doubled over with the intensity of it. Trevor, covered in blood, his face a swollen silhouette of its former self, came into view and clapped a hand on his shoulder. “You did well, man. The shakes will wear off soon enough.” Had he done this before? “But you’ve seriously got to get this weak stomach under control. You’re starting to affect me.” He made as if to gag and Donovan laughed, then gagged again and doubled back over for another round.
Trevor just laughed and looked around. The carnage was evident, and it seemed to the other that he was trying his best to downplay a heavy undertone of awe in it’s most original sense. “By my count,” he ventured eventually as he wandered from body to body in search of worthy belongings, a practice that eased Donovan’s misgivings about his own inhumane acts, “that leaves only one left at the barricades Donno. Considering we have something of a schedule to keep, what do you say say we try out these new rifles and bring our bikes back on the road?” Still breathing heavy from his bout with their assailants, or perhaps from his bout with nausea, Donovan failed again to produce words and settled with a nod of approval.