Posted in In A Nutshell

In A Nutshell #13 – Three Rounds

I apologize for the length…but I’ve decided to not only do flash fiction with these posts. I think it restricts my creative ability. It’s not to say that flash fiction is without its merit, but there’s a time and place for it. In A Nutshell, isn’t always going to be that place.

Here it is…my latest WIP…hopefully coming soon to a book near you.

-1-

Three Rounds

“Isaak, where’s your head at?” Ashleigh Davenport said, snapping her fingers in front of his face.

He jumped nearly dropping the power core nestled in his hands. “Are you going to dismantle that or what? You know they’re only going to want the zeronium matrix in that thing anyway.”

Isaak nodded, looking at the device in his hands. They were scavenging like most Wasters had to do these days, and Isaak’s parents really needed the credits.

He turned his gaze back to Ashleigh, whose grease-smeared face softened into a look of concern. “I’m sorry. I was just trying to hurry up, we shouldn’t be here.”

Isaak absently looked around the area, and she was right. She was always right, at least, in his experience anyway. This wreckage was frequented by Soot Raiders and if they found you, no one else ever would again. They were miles from their home, Norra, and that was breaking the rules. But everyone knew this is where the real salvage lay hidden.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m distracted.”

But he wasn’t just distracted, he was hiding a horrible secret.

At first, he didn’t believe it, considering that it began with a dream. He shook his head, burying the thoughts deep. Better not to think of them now. He needed to focus. Focus was key in the Outlands. If you were caught unaware—it could mean death.

The troubled teen began stripping the delicate machinery while trying to think of other things. “Have you seen the latest trading rates for salvage, Ash? It’s abominable.”

She nodded fixing her emerald stare on him.”Abominable?” She broke down the piece of salvage in her hand without even looking at it. Machines were sort of her thing. “Seems like the Normandy Salvage Depot drops the rates every day. How do they expect the Salvaging Families to live?”

Isaac scoffed, it was the truth, but he knew his family had it worse. “Salvaging Families, huh? How do they expect the Working Families to make it in this screwed up world? At least you’re paid a premium for your parts. Us working class folk are slapped with a Hosting Fee to pay for our residence and rations at the market in Stall Square. Dad say it’s pretty much—”

“Slavery,” she finished for him.

Isaak nodded, a frown pinching his lips. He finished dismantling the power core tossing the unimportant bits into a bin resting on the transport they borrowed from the city’s hangar.

Littering didn’t exist anymore, everything was used in some way.

He turned his gaze to the piles of burnt trash, melted metal and rusted out cars on the remnants of the street they were scavenging on. Dilapidated buildings that once seemed grand were gutted, empty shells of broken glass, drywall, and concrete. It was eerily silent. A smoldering breeze blew lazily through his hair guiding his eyes upward at the tower reaching into the sky. Its height seemed endless. It was like a giant, bleached bone reaching into the heavens—a symbol of death.

It was the catalyst that made this world possible. The Torrent was what followed.

A screeching sound like nails on a chalkboard assaulted Isaak’s ears forcing his stomach into his throat, but it was just a street sign that had finally given in to the elements and toppled over.

He released the air from his lungs as he tried to ease the tension in his shoulders and limbs. Isaak couldn’t ignore the feeling of hundreds of eyes watching him, waiting for him to screw up. Waiting for a time to strike.

Isaak was about to return to his work when he saw it—the only word he could use to describe the monstrosity standing about fifty feet down the street opposite the way they came. Isaak froze as he took in the sight of the creature, but there was no mistaking it.

It was a Soot Raider.

Sweat glistened on the obsidian skin of the humanoid beast. Blood-red eyes watched with intent and foaming saliva bubbled around incisors that were clearly too large for its mouth. It was hairless and completely naked. The Soot Raider was unmoving clutching a massive pipe wrench in its freakishly long fingers.

Isaak’s mind moved sluggishly, the gears locked up with fear. “A-Ash. Go back to the skimmer.”

“What are you going on about?

Isaak flinched. It was like she was screaming. “Ash,” he said through gritted teeth, “get to the skimmer now, or we’re dead.”

“Isaak, what—” Ashleigh’s words were cut short as she choked. She gasped dropping a piece of salvage.

Isaak swore, turning his eyes on her. Her eyes were wide and unblinking as she stood half-crouched in an awkward stance. She barely moved a muscle as their eyes met.

“What do we do?”

“I don’t know.”

He turned back, but the Soot Raider was gone, not a trace of its existence left behind. Alarms sounded in Isaak’s mind, and his legs were moving before he knew what he was doing. A cold sweat enveloped his body and fear twisted his gut so tight he wanted to vomit.

Just as he hopped onto the skimmer, a roar broke the silence of the area. Isaak followed the sound, which was now coming from the direction they needed to go.

Now, three black forms blocked their path, but Ashleigh still hadn’t moved.

“What are you doing?” Isaak hissed.

It was almost imperceptible, but she was fiddling with something at her waist. That’s when his stomach turned somersaults because he knew exactly what she was doing.

Ashleigh removed a large, adjustable wrench from the holster attached to her belt. Deliberately, she pressed a small red button near the top. Instantly, the tool began to morph as pieces of it rearranged themselves like a Rubik’s Cube until she clutched something different in her hands.

A pistol.

At some point in her life, Ashleigh had designed the weapon with her father. On more than one occasion, the device had saved her life, but Isaak couldn’t see how it would save her now. Not against three of them.

“Ashleigh, don’t,” Isaak pleaded.

His best friend hesitated, but only for a moment, before quickly firing three rounds.

Photo credit: costy_cheloo via VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA

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Author:

Aspiring Writer, Avid Gamer, Green-thumbed gardener.

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