Loyalty

March 6, 2014

Working on another post about the bleed between player and character for later, here’s a very quick flashback for my Dystopia Rising character. The pacing is shite, but it’s a quick exercise more than anything.

—————————

“Late night?”

Wolfram looked up to see Pavlo coming down the stairs. “Early morning, every morning.” The two smiled. This had become their daily ritual, going out on the dawn scrap hunt, looking for what they could find before day time scavenging looted it all. Wolfram would scavenge the remains of the time before the fall, Pavlo helped watch his back.

They walked down the building’s ramp, most their block still asleep, save the last night watch guards. The guards waved as the two set out, at ease both with the Yorker they’d known for years and the new member of the block. Pavlo had come in, having helped rescue a group of their scavengers and traders from a pack of bursters they run afoul of. Since then, he’d been taken in as family. He’d saved Wolfram’s life that day, and probably a few others. He’d been pulling his weight hard, and they’d come to treat him as any they’d known for years or life. It was a matter of loyalty.

The scavenger froze at the end of the block, checking left and right. Pavlo watched the rear.

“Pavlo, heard that?”

Pavlo turned and leaned down by Wolfram, listening hard. “Yeah. Voices. Not too far. A lot of ’em. Another gang?”

Wolfram shook his head. “Naw, in our turf? When theys some neutral ground a few blocks away? They’d have to be idiots, we too good with the hoods around us. Must be outsiders. Not raiders, sound smart. And laughing. Trade caravan, prolly.”
The two looked at each other. They could go get more people, but the unknown group could get closer. Going alone was stupid, but better not to possibly lead them right home. They nodded to one another, donned their best pleasantly-unassuming expressions, and walked towards the voices.

After a block, they met the other group. Wolfram scanned the small crowd. Professionals, the lot of them. Common colors, style, good mix of weapons. But they didn’t flinch seeing the two headed towards them. The scavenger called out first.

“Yo! What’s good?”

“S’all good. We comin’ through, lookin’ to trade and find someone.”

Pavlo tensed and Wolfram followed suit, keeping as calm a face as he could. “What you lookin’ to trade? Ain’t got much on me just now.”

Three guns leveled on them and Wolfram and Pavlo drew their weapons.

“You. The Yorker. Relax. We don’t need you. Lucian… you’re coming with us.”

Wolfram glaced to his right. “Pavlo” was sweating. He never sweat. In the worst of York’s summer, he didn’t sweat. “Pavlo, the fuck he mean?”

The speaker for the well-armed group smiled. “His name isn’t Pavlo, it’s Lucian. He’s a slave, he’s worth quite a bit, and he’s a fast runner. And he’s coming back with us. You don’t really figure unless you stop us. Or buy him off.”

Wolfram’s mind cranked into gear. He had to stall for time. “How mu-”

“More than you got.” The leader smiled a razorblade grin. No negotiating, then. They’d have to fight, run back to the block, make a stand on the ramp.

“Wait!” Lucian dropped his weapon, something he’d not done the entire time Wolfram had known him. “This can go differently.” Wolfram grabbed his shoulder.

“Pavlo, no. We can get back.”

The other man that Wolfram had come to call friend shook his head. “You can’t understand. Sorry, man.” He walked towards the other group, slowly, carefully. “They’ve got a poorly defended building. Enough cash, scrap, and food to cover my cost, and enough people who’d make decent slaves to triple your cut of this deal.”

Wolfram’s mind reeled. Pavlo had been like family, and now, this. Anger boiled over and he charged into Pavlo’s back, sending them sprawling into the mercenaries, weapons clattering all over, guns being cocked, general chaos. Wolfram grabbed onto a merc and pulled himself upright, and felt a weight in his hand. Without thinking, he pulled the pin, dropped the grenade, and ran.

The three who survived the blast he finished off, the bleeders he put down. Then he got to Pavlo.

“Lucian, huh?”

Lucian nodded, holding what he could of his guts in his stomach. “Y-yeah. Sorry, man. I-I couldn’t go back. You don-don’t know what it’s like.”

Wolfram sat down next to him, looking him over. “If I don’t shoot you fulla this,” he held up an adrenaline shot, “you gunna die.”

Lucian looked at it, then at Wolfram. The scavenger was threatening him? No, he was…

Wolfram pressed the needle into Lucian’s leg, emptying the brew into the veins of a person he’d called friend these past months. Lucian’s eyes lit, his heart raced as his veins opened up and blood pumped hard and fresh. The infection began working to mend what had been torn apart. The yorker helped this person to his feet, uncertain what even to call him. “You standin’?”

“Yeah, yeah I’m good. Guess I should leave, huh?”

“Yeah, you goin’.” The crunch of bone and flesh and blood against steel ricocheted off the old building walls, and Pavlo fell to the ground, his skull caved in. Wolfram slammed his bat into the body three more times, ensuring that he’d not be getting up – at least, not as himself.

The yorker wiped blood from his face and hands, smears staining his clothing and skin.

At the complex, the guards ran to him, his sister was called, people crowded. Where was Pavlo? What happened? What was that explosion?

Mercenaries, he told them. Mercs that came for slaves. They were all dead now, but Pavlo was killed. But he died on his feet, and that was all that mattered. It was all just about loyalty.

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