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 A Gamble and A New Beginning, Intro: Northern California (WIP) [V]
Cromwell
 Posted: Dec 2 2015, 03:47 AM
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Written by Lockheart
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The air in the small room carried a strong pungent smell, almost like a horde of people ran a marathon and then chose to huddle in the small space. It was in truth a result from a lack of proper hygiene, which was more of a luxury these days due to the lack of running water. Well the general scarcity of water had a way of discouraging even the grungiest person from washing their face, let alone their body. Tristan and his father were held up in a small room of a roadside motel for longer than he cared to remember. Like always, his old man managed to find trouble one way or another.

Be it a drunken brawl with some passerby, or a struggle with something else entirely. Regardless of the source, he was always the dutiful son. No matter the injury Tristan would fix him up. He stitched his wounds, set broken bones, and heck he even reset the guy’s dislocated shoulder once. Tristan was eternally grateful for the knowledge passed on from his old neighbor. It certainly kept his father alive, and so long as he was busy patching the old man up it kept the fists from flying. He’d managed to get small amounts of sleep throughout the day. Mostly in preparation for later that night once the old man was passed out drunk.

It never failed, that man always managed to find booze somewhere. Even if he had to pry it from some unfortunate soul’s cold hands. Tristan witnessed that feat one too many times for his liking. With great care he slowly opened the closet door. Earlier that day he’d packed the essentials in his pack, along with anything else he might need. Inch by inch the door opened, with more than one frightful glance cast towards the bed where his father snored loudly. It was a wonder how the man survived this long. He wanted to laugh so bad. Of course he knew why the fool had survived.

No longer would he play the role of the dutiful son. It was high time that he set out on his own, and forge his own path. Regardless of the outcome. He’d rather die alone out there than stay one more night under his old man’s heel. His pack was slipped over his shoulder, and with a soft pat of his hand Tristan reassured himself that his pistol was safely secured in its holster. A small box of tools was secured to the top of his back, each one rapped in his socks and place under some spare clothes to keep them from making too much noise as he moved.

A large crescent wrench had been looped through his belt for easy access. He’d managed to filch ten rounds of ammunition for his weapon earlier that day. It wasn’t a full magazine, since the glock could hold fifteen in the magazine, but it would be enough so long as he used them wisely. The door creaked softly as if in protest to his rebellious action as he tried to exit the room. Tristan froze instantly. He didn’t dare look back towards the bed, he fully expected the old man to shout at him and tear across the room. He stood there frozen in terror and simply listened. In the dead silence his deep breathing might as well have been an alarm that blared for all to hear.

The thump thump of his heart as it beat in his chest was practically deafening. When no shouts of protest rang out, Tristan took a risk and quickly slipped outside. He pulled the door closed as he went, which closed with a faint click as he took great care to make as little noise as possible. His father was still snoring away, so he allowed himself a breath of relief. Slowly he moved over towards the car the old man had “requisitioned” only last week. That's what his old man called it when he robbed others. Tristan tried the door and let out a low groan. Of course it was unlocked. That blasted fool never heeded his advice to keep the car secure.

At least his father’s negligence served his purpose this night, so he couldn’t hate on the man too much. The hood release was pulled which gave off a pop that was a little too loud for his liking. It was too late to turn back now, so he moved around to the front of the car and propped the hood up. He could have risked taking the car. Usually it would allow him to cover more ground. However, the earthquake had left a good portion of the roads damaged, so he’d be at risk of trying to find alternate routes quite frequently. Rather than simply moving around the breaches on foot.

A quick survey of the engine offered a few options. The first thing he did was very carefully remove the belt from the fan. With a screwdriver he had retrieved from his toolkit, Tristan punctured the radiator which sent a steady stream of liquid that flowed to the ground. He then proceeded to cause as much damage as possible. The old man relied solely upon Tristan to keep the vehicles running. It would prove to be a fatal error. That is if he managed to escape. Tristan slowly closed the hood, so the old man wouldn’t notice the sabotage right away. He cast a quick glance over his shoulder and leveled his gaze upon the door. That small barrier that separated him from the greatest tormentor he’d ever known.

At first he didn’t move. It was almost like he didn’t know how to function without the constant threat looming over him. Eventually he did move, his feet carried him off into the night. A quick glance at a sign indicated he was just north of Chico, California on the 99. He’d spent some time studying the road maps. If he followed the 99 it’d eventually lead him to Interstate 5, and then hopefully up north. He’d heard the stories of the safe haven to the North. The so called Crow’s Station. Perhaps he’d find his refuge there. From the nightmares lay before him, and the one that remained behind.
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Cromwell
 Posted: Dec 2 2015, 09:20 PM
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Written by Lockheart
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The progress he made under the pale light cast down from the moon was less than he had hoped for. By his estimation, which may not be entirely accurate, he’d been walking for several hours already. Unfortunately, even with the limited visibility provided for him he wasn’t able to traverse the roads very swiftly. He’d tried at first, he really did. That haste, that inborn desire to put as much distance between him and his father, had nearly proved to be a fatal flaw. His eyes were fixated on the road before him, and in a dark patch he failed to notice a dead drop. A section of the road that most likely opened up due to the earthquake.

For whatever reason, it seemed that fortune was on his side. When his foot failed to find a stable surface his weight carried him down. The sudden shock elicited a loud gasp. That is until his slammed into the ground. He wound up with a skinned knee, and more than one bruise along his upper torso. He lay there for several moments with his hand firmly clasped over his mouth. Tristan dared not breathe as he looked around. The silence that followed was almost overpowering.

When nothing happened he continued to lay there. It took a while before he finally worked up the nerve to drag his leg out of the hole. A brief examination revealed little true damage. He’d skinned his knee and shin, and very likely bruised his ribs. They weren’t broken at least, and he could live with discomfort. In fact it was like an old friend really. Tristan had certainly been in worse shape. A sudden urge to laugh came over him then. Of course he stifled the urge before it took root. By placing pressure on his left leg, he made sure he was able to walk on it normally.

Once he was confident he could, he started to hobble along. This time he took greater care to check the ground in front of him before he moved along. Thankfully it wasn’t too heavily overcast this night, since stumbling around in the dark wasn’t exactly his idea of a fun time. The shape of an old car loomed before him. Tristan approached it slowly, as he let out a low curse. He should have taken along a flashlight. That old man had acquired a nice little collection. He’d left it behind out of fear it’d give him away.

With each step he took more of the ruined vehicles came into sight. A few were partially consumed by the ground with only the end of a hood or trunk visible. Many others remained virtually intact. Dirt caked the window which made it all the more difficult to see inside. With the edge of his sleeve gripped in his hand, Tristan rubbed it against the glass. He took an involuntary step back the instant he noticed the vague shape of a person in the driver’s seat. When the person didn’t move he risked another look. The slight scent of decay clung to the air like some horrid air freshener gone wrong.

He knew the people inside were dead, just like everyone in the cities he passed through when he was with his father. If there was one good thing his father had done, it was the fact that he never made Tristan go near the things. He snorted suddenly. Things? When did he start thinking of the dead as things? Slowly he shook his head as he moved away from the car. He wasn’t about to touch a corpse, much less sit where it had for no telling how long. Had it been two years already since this all started?

Tristan found himself lost in his thoughts, and it nearly cost him. A flash of light from farther down the road pulled him from them and back to reality. Two beams of light flashed from one ruined car to the next only a ways up the road. He could just make out the voices but they were too distant and soft to truly make out what they said. “Shit,” he muttered under his breath. Tristan quickly ducked off the road and laid flat in a depression on the embankment. His pack was dropped to the ground above his head.

So long as nobody looked too closely he should remain concealed or so he hoped. He heard their heavy footsteps before he saw them. Their voices quickly followed. “I heard it around here,” one of them called out in a hushed tone. He was obviously male. The second had a softer tone that almost sounded like his mother. Which was entirely impossible. She’d died horribly a couple years ago. Why he and his father were spared was a constant conundrum. “Are you sure? I didn’t hear a damn thing.” The man made a sound that heavily resembled annoyance. “Of course i’m sure.”

They came into view as they walked passed the car that offered him his last shield against their flashlights. “I don’t know,” the woman continued as she shined her light around. The man, clearly not listening to his companion anymore, took a forceful step forward. “Hello?” He called out with a louder tone this time. “If you’re scared don’t be. We won’t hurt you.” The woman shook her head and turned around. She quickly left Tristan’s field as she was blocked by one of the cars. “We have food,” the man said before he quickly added, “and water. Safety in numbers right?”

His light flashed from one car to the next. The beam that could very well mean his end encroached upon his hiding place more and more with each moment that passed. Tristan was just about to make a run for it when movement from the other side of the highway made him freeze. A kid, no older than twelve, stepped out from the shadows with a tentative look. The kid shied away as the man shined his light directly on his face. “It’s ok,” the man called out in a reassuring tone. The woman walked back into view. “Ty, he’s just a kid.” Her voice carried a sort of sadness that Tristan couldn’t quite place.

Ty, as she called him, held his hand up to stop her. Which she did. Slowly he started to ponder of if Ty spoke the truth. There was safety in numbers after all. He was just about to stand up and announce his presence when the woman turned to walk away. Something in the man’s hand gave off a glint as her flashlight lowered. Tristan held his breath as he recognized what it was. The man had a knife!
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Cromwell
 Posted: Dec 3 2015, 02:37 AM
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Written by Lockheart
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The boy covered his face to block the light from Ty’s flashlight. Which meant he was more or less unaware of the knife. Tristan could have called out and revealed their deception. That would mean he’d reveal his location and that could very well place him in the same situation. Silently he struggled over the dilemma that played out before him. He hated seeing someone in need and not acting, but he wasn’t one to put himself in danger either. Slowly he shook his head and pressed harder against the ground, as if he meant to sink right in. In a way it was similar to how an ostrich buried its head.

Ty was by the boy now and was down on one knee. He spoke in a soft tone to reassure the kid. Tristan tasted bile in the back of his mouth as he remembers his old man once saying that it was easier to catch a fly with honey than vinegar. Suddenly he felt angry at his weakness, and he wasn’t very surprised to find out there were other men who preyed upon others. Much like his father. He leaned up and fully intended to shout, but what happened next shocked him to the core. Ty turned towards the woman, who Tristan still couldn’t see, and smiled.

Before he could say anything, Tristan saw a flash of metal as the boy brandished a blade. The woman called out but it was too late. The sharp blade caught Ty in the throat even as he moved his blade to strike. Blood sprayed across the boy’s now concealed face and Ty fell onto his back. The gurgling noises coming from his throat might have been his attempt to scream. To cry out in protest at having been played, but Tristan couldn't decipher it. For all he knew it was just the sound of air and blood escaping the new pathway in Ty’s throat.

With the desire to intercede all but extinct, Tristan quickly fell back flat in an attempt to be as small as he possibly could. The woman screamed something that was lost on Tristan in his current state. Silently he was thankful his father had spared him from the violence, as much as he hated to thank him for anything. Even when he was in prison he had someone to protect him, and all it took was to patch them back up. Similar situation, but that guy proved to be a friend. A friend who didn’t beat him down on a regular basis.

A sudden earsplitting pop snapped him out of his delusional state. Someone had just fired a gun. He cast a tentative gaze over the lip of the depression to see if it was the woman. He looked just in time to see the woman fall. Her flashlight crashed into the ground and rattled around until it came to rest with its beam focused upon the woman’s face. Short red hair and fair skin. If it wasn’t for the hole where her left eye used to be, and the blood that flowed freely, he might have found her beautiful. His shaky gaze quickly moved to the boy but he didn’t have anything other than his knife.

Another figure, much taller than the boy, stepped into the light. The glint of the steel barrel in the light drew his gaze immediately. With nothing else to see, Tristan quickly lowered his head back to the ground. He heard the boy’s faint voice. “Someone else was here.” He didn’t see the other person but he must have shrugged. The sound of the boy’s footsteps grew closer and with each step Tristan’s heart bumped more intensely against his chest. How the sound didn't give him away he may never know. “Leave it,” the boy’s accomplice called out. “He’s probably long gone by now if he’s smart.”

Tristan closed his eyes. He always considered himself to be smart. That is until right at that moment. The boy didn’t protest as he turned and the sound of his footsteps grew less pronounced. The two picked through their victim’s gear before they finally strolled off down the road. Fearful that it was just a trick to get him to reveal his location, Tristan remained motionless. He wasn’t sure how long he stayed there, but when he finally worked up the nerve to stand up his back and neck hurt in protest of being kept at odd angles.

He groaned softly as he crouched behind one of the cars. There was no longer any light, so he figured those two pilfered both of the flashlights. Silently he cursed as he moved over towards the Ty and his companion. He reached out and touched their necks. He knew he wouldn’t find a pulse but he had to try. The feel of their ice cold flesh against his fingers sent a shiver through his body. Almost like they were trying to steal all of the warmth from his body. When he shifted his shoes it made a faint squishing noise and he realized he was most likely standing in a pool of their blood.

Suddenly he felt sick to his stomach and had to get away. Tristan started to move down the road away from the two corpses. Silently he wrapped his arms around his shoulders as if suddenly overcome with a chill. He was likely in shock, his mind acknowledged this fact. The only problem was his body refused to listen as his feet continued to carry him off into the night. He’d gotten around twenty paces away when another sound disturbed the silent air. Tristan froze as the low growl rumbled on the breeze.

His body remained planted in place, but his eyes shifted. A short distance away a small shadow broke free from the darkness from underneath a ruined truck. White fangs glistened in the pale moonlight and the wild dog’s eyes seemed to reflect that light right back. There was a feral look there, one he clearly recognized. He’d seen it in his father’s eyes right before he set off to capture the flies with vinegar.
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Cromwell
 Posted: Dec 3 2015, 10:56 PM
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Written by Lockheart
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No,” he muttered as he kept his focus upon the hound. Its hackles raised as it bared its teeth. That low rumbling growl sent a shiver down Tristan’s spine. “No no no,” he continued to mutter. He’d escaped one beast only to be cornered by another. “Nice doggy,” he said in as calm of a tone as he could muster. A light sheen of sweat glistened on his brow and he dared not breathe in too deeply lest he risk provoking the dog. His hand brushed against the pistol secured in its holster on his right hip. He didn’t want to risk discharging the weapon since he had no idea where that child and his accomplice was. If they were nearby they’d certainly finish him off if this dog wasn’t able.

He had the wrench that was looped through his belt on his left hip of course, but the thought of that dog getting close enough for him to use it... well it wasn’t exactly in his best interest to get into that position. Use the pistol to deal with it at a safe distance and risk drawing in new dangers, or allow it to close the distance and smack it with his wrench? Which would allow it to be close enough to tear into his flesh. Each plan had its risks. The wild dog must have sensed his hesitation, because at that moment it lunged forward. Tristan yelped as he grabbed for his wrench on instinct. The dog leaped, most likely going for his throat and the quick kill.

The force of the dog as it slammed into Tristan took him clear off his feet and he landed with a huff as the air was knocked from his lungs. New pain coursed through his muscles along with renewed pain in his bruised ribs. Tristan lay at an odd angle due to the fact he still had his pack on. If only he had the foresight to have dropped the blasted thing. The dog’s hot breath washed over his face as nausea threatened to overtake him. By some miracle he’d managed to get his wrench up and against the beast’s throat. Tristan gripped it madly with a hand on either end as he fought to keep the dog’s snapping maw away from his face.

The dog had more weight than he’d guessed just by looking at it. Hot saliva dripped on his face, which incited a slight whimper from him. “No,” he called out a bit louder than he should. The struggle continued for several minutes. The dog pressed forward as it snapped its teeth only a mere inch from Tristan’s nose. He pushed with all his strength in an attempt to fend off certain death just one moment longer. He wanted to scurry away. To push back with his feet and slide across the ground on his back. Perhaps he’d find some way of getting away. Unfortunately his pack kept him rooted in place.

Tristan’s whimpers were drowned out in the savage growls that rumbled in the dog's throat and vibrated through the wrench and down the length of his arms. His muscles burned and slowly that snapping maw gained ground. Gravity was his own worst enemy at this point. The dog simply needed to press down with its weight and be patient. Eventually it’d get him and then it’d all be over. “Dad!” Tristan had called out for his father on instinct. Something he’d hate himself for later assuming he survived this. The old man had kept him alive if nothing else.

It was like some sick twist of fate. Here he was finally free, and he suddenly wished the old man was here to save him. The anger that surged through him for having that thought fueled his effort with adrenaline. A slight growl emanated from Tristan’s throat as he gritted his teeth. “Get… off… of me!” With a great deal of effort he pushed the dog to the side and quickly rolled over. It didn’t take long for the dog to recover and pounce on his back as he frantically tried to crawl away.

It’s teeth tore into his pack and dragged him back to the ground. On instinct Tristan slammed his elbow back and felt it connect with the dog. He wasn’t certain where he hit but it caused the dog to yelp and let go. In a mad attempt to be free, Tristan swung his heavy wrench around blindly. Everything went dark as his eyes closed, more out of fear of seeing the dog launched itself at his face. A muffled yelp mixed with a sickening crunch as he felt a sudden jolt jar his arm as his wrench hit something solid.

Without a second look he jumped to his feet and bounded down the road before taking cover behind a ruined mini-van. Each breath he took was labored and his body protested as it ached with each movement he took. Tristan fully expected the dog to be right on his heels, but when it never rounded the corner of the van he became puzzled. Had it given up? It took several minutes but eventually he’d regained enough composure to risk a look. His face peered around the side of the van and he immediately noticed the dark shape on the ground. It lay there motionless.

Immediately he ducked back behind cover and covered his head with his hands as another whimper escaped his lips. Yet nothing happened. Slowly he moved around the van with his wrench held up high in both hands, fully prepared to strike should the dog decide to renew its attack. However, it remained still. Once he was close enough, Tristan nudged it with his foot and took a quick step back. The wrench rose as if he meant to strike it down. Gradually the light of the moon was increased as a wayward cloud continued on its path across the night sky.

It was then that he noticed half of the dog’s skull sunk in and was caked with blood. Tristan blinked several times as he cast an unsteady gaze at his wrench. It was caked with blood. Several tendrils of blood snaked their way down to flow onto his hands. The warmth of it startled him enough to drop it as it clanged against the ground. One look at his hands was all it took before Tristan started to rub them frantically against his pants in an attempt to clean away the evidence of what he had just done.

He knew nobody cared, but it was more for his benefit than that of others. He’d never killed anything in his entire life. The event was a bit traumatic in truth. Suddenly aware of his surroundings dawned on him, and Tristan quickly picked up his wrench and started to walk away. Silently he cursed his weakness and how he had reacted. He’d even called out for his father! Moisture brimmed along the edges of his eyes as he slid the wrench home back into the loop on his belt.
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