tagSci-Fi & FantasyFall of Man Ch. 01

Fall of Man Ch. 01

byTara_Neale©

It was the end of the world...the fucking end of the world. The honest to goodness end of the world. How many stupid fucking movies had Emily watched about this shit? How many times had she laughed at the crazy story lines about asteroids, super volcanos and aliens. But it took a far sight less than that to end the world, society as we knew it. It was the same old thing...hubris, greed, man's own flaws did him in.

A fire sale as the stupid movies called it...they did not do justice to the damage that a few lines of zeros and ones, code, viruses could reek in this technological world. It had taken only hours to set us back from the species that went to the moon and built buildings to reach the heavens...to the base animals set upon survival that we all were.

When the banks failed and you could not get your money...if you had it. When planes fell out of the sky and trains and cars collided randomly because there was no one controlling them anymore. When the world of instant news and connection, hundreds of friends you had never met and constant barrage of pings and dings to alert you to the latest message died to silence. Silence that few people were comfortable in. When power and phones and Internet simply ceased to work. When walking and bicycles became the only reliable means of transportation. Well, the world was not a pretty place.

Emily had been stuck in the city when it hit. But she had watched enough of those damned movies to know that was no place to be. Besides her mom and step-father had a nice rural place a couple hundred miles away. But a couple hundred miles away might as well be the moon when you have to walk...in the middle of winter no less.

What she would have given then for her old bicycle or one of her daddy's shot guns? But she had neither. All she had was her wits, common sense and an unquenchable desire to live. That would have to be enough, she thought as she began to pack.

No need to carry bottle water with all that snow. It would just weigh her down, slow her progress. She had a box of energy bars for the gym at the back of the cupboard. That was a definite must. As were the small pot, a big knife, a couple bags of beans and noodles and all the matches and lighters she could find.

She thanked her lucky stars for the lessons that her step-father or daddy as she had long since started to think of the man had taught her about hunting, fishing and camping. At least she stood half a chance in this world turned on its head. She picked her warmest clothes...and layered those. Then she packed a spare set, but just one as she was mindful that she would have to carry everything herself.

She searched in the back of her closet for the sleeping bag and small dome tent had bought for the festival a couple years back. She had thought about giving those to the second hand shop dozens of times but now she was glad she had not. She smiled as she pulled out the pocket knife that her parents had given her for her thirteenth birthday. Her dad had that serious look on his face when he told her, "We think you are old enough for this now. But you have to take care of it and use it wisely...just like love and life."

She nodded and sighed as the first rays of dawn begin to filter through the drawn curtains. Unlike others in the city, she was not going to loot and stick around trying to fight for what few resources remained. Or wait helplessly in her apartment for some miracle from the government. If they could not manage to save a few thousand people in New Orleans, she sure as hell did not think they could tackle a worldwide collapse like this. No, she was out of here.

"I'm going home, Mama and Daddy, " she whispered as she tore open the bag of cat food for her beloved tabby. She opened the window so she could give it what chance it had. She could only hope that like her its natural survival instincts kicked in and kept it from becoming prey to the empty stomachs of men once the food began to run out.

***

Jordan fought through the thongs of people outside the police station. He had come here thinking that his military skills might prove useful to help re-establish order in the city that had been his home all his life...except for those lost years where he had gone where and when the Marines sent him. But the sad truth was...there was no help coming...and no order to be found. Well, not the kind worth having anyway.

He had just finished speaking with the local police precinct captain. The outlook was bleak. The news was not good, what little of the accurate kind they could get anyway. Short wave radio was all that worked...then only the battery or hand crank operated kind. And figuring out the source of the information was next to impossible. Was it terrorism? Foreign or domestic? Conspiracy theories too abounded.

To make matters worse, the police, who had battled inner city gangs to an uncomfortable truce when there was rules, laws and order to be had, were outnumbered and out gunned. They were losing the streets of the city block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood as these criminals took control and established a new order...of their making, with them as kings and turf wars unlike anything anyone could imagine.

The man had been honest. As much as he would like to accept Jordan's help it was a death sentence. The man himself stayed only because of his oath to protect and defend. But he was on the verge of calling his own men together, placing the situation squarely before them, and releasing those who wanted or needed to get back to their families. Only he and a few volunteers would stay and do what little they could...and it was little. Too little to be worth his life.

Jordan had nodded as he felt the weight of this man's command. He knew that burden, knowing that you are sending good men to their deaths always was a heavy load to bear. He shook the man's hand and wished him the best as he left the building into the early morning sunshine glaring off the snow. How could the day be so beautiful when all hell was breaking out? That irony never failed to make him wonder what perverse power controlled this fucked up world. Cause it sure as hell was not good men like the him and the captain.

What now he asked himself? What now? Did he just go back to his tiny run down apartment and hold up? His own code prevented him from joining those who looted and took what they wanted. Some stupid, naïve part of him considered for a moment going underground...becoming a super hero avenging the innocent like in a comic book. But he was just one man...if the police could not stop it all, how could he?

Some survival instinct drove him back to his apartment. Where he packed what little he needed, mostly his guns and ammunition, a couple of knives and warm clothes. He might be against looting, but he knew how to live off the land. Bless the Marine Corps for that one too. But the question that still plagued him as he left via the fire escape was...where the fuck was he going?

***

Emily cursed...words that her daddy would wash her mouth out with soap if he heard her say. But they were richly deserved. Damn, modern technology for making paper maps virtually obsolete. She might have lived in this city for almost three years but she knew precious little of it. The areas around her work, the neighborhood where she lived and a couple of areas down town. But even those were not the same when you traveled by foot instead of car. Freeways were best avoided.

And now she was on the edge of a rougher area of town. Her general sense of direction told her that it was the shortest route south out of the city. But first she had to get through it...and that looked way more difficult than she had anticipated. She could see armed men, obviously not the good guys either, policing the streets on foot and occasionally in cars or trucks, using up what precious fuel remained. The people seemed to scurry and cower out of their way.

Emily shook her head. The last thing she wanted to do was draw attention to herself. Damn it, she had come to this place seeking to make her way as an actress and model. Her mixed race beauty that had gotten her far in that world was not going to serve her well in this one. She was not going to play the victim though. Play the victim? She smiled as an idea took root in her mind.

***

Jordan had barely made it half way across his old neighborhood, heading for the old highway that no one except history buffs had traveled once they built the Interstate. Then he saw them. A group of armed men harassing a woman. An obviously heavily pregnant one too.

He might have abandoned the foolish idea of staying in this city and playing hero avenger, but his code prevented him from just walking away and leaving her to be raped. "Fucking honor," he cursed as he looked around to get his bearings. His only hope with the superior force was a surprise hit and run attack. One weighed down with a pregnant woman too. Maybe he should have just stayed with the captain...even then he would have had better odds of surviving than this.

He frowned as he saw the glint of metal in the bright sunshine. Then the blood closest the woman was turning bright red as it spurted from the thigh of the man who had been holding her. He moved fast then, knowing that the others would want revenge. Even as he moved he admired the woman's fighting spirit as she fought lose from the man's grasp, turning on the others waving her knife like it stood a chance against their guns. He also had to admire the girl's aim as blood pumped quickly from her attacker's femoral artery...although perhaps she was just lucky.

He hoped that luck would hold as he came up behind the first of the half dozen or so thugs. He would not risk the noise of gun fire that would alert the other's to his presence and take away what little edge the element of surprise gave him. Instead he saved ammunition he might need later by knocking the man in the back of the head with the bunt of his gun. He might have felt some shame about such a sneak attack but that shit had no place in a fight where they were so badly over powered. Besides the bastard should live.

The next one saw him coming and managed a half scream as his knife sliced through his throat, stopping the rest of his warning. Luckily the man's screams were overpowered by the woman's except for the one other defender making up the outer perimeter. With warning that tiny bit of warning the man did what Jordan would have done himself...pulled his gun. Damn, there went his element of surprise as he raised his own gun and got off a round before his enemy could. A kill shot too...thank you once more to the Corps.

Now it was two against two...well, two against...one and a half. Maybe. Although the damned thing fought like a banshee, she was still just a heavily pregnant woman and more liability than asset in this fight.

***

Emily had seen the man in her peripheral vision before he even beaned the first guy. In fact when he had first run towards them, she had thought he was another one of them, coming to join the fight. But when he cut the second man's throat it was pretty damn clear...the Calvary had arrived. Now the odds were two and against two...and she was practically giddy with the smell of victory.

These men might be toughed and mean but they were not disciplined or trained. This guy obviously was. She had not seen anyone move like that since her daddy...and even he was no where near that fast or good...slowed by the years of life and her mama's good cooking. She was half tempted to make a run for it, high tail it out of there while she left the man to clean up the mess of those last two.

But damn Daddy and his code...leave no man behind. She might not have gone down that road but she had been tempted. Hell, she had almost signed the papers. Until the big fight with the man. Damn him and his chauvinistic views. Women could and were Marines. But that fight had taken the air right out of her sails on that one. Instead she had returned to her first love...acting and the stage. And turned her back on her Daddy and his code...or so she had thought until the past few days.

Some things a girl just did not forget...and lessons of a lifetime like honor, family and love were top of that list. When all was said and done, her fame and money had been wiped out by a string of ones and zeros but those morals could not be.

She watched the man fighting hand to hand, struggling with the one closest to him. The man had been caught in 'shock and awe' as Daddy would call it. He had not had time to get aa shot off as the other man rushed him. Now the one closest to her was standing there. Just standing there with his back to her, waiting with his gun raised for the outcome of the tousle. Without training he could not risk shooting and injuring his friend.

But she could not believe her luck...or his stupidity. He had thought her just a woman, helpless and too squeamish to attack. It was not a mistake he would live to make again as her knife found its way into the side of his neck. She pulled it out quickly. There was a loud sucking noise for a second then the spurt of hot, red, viscous liquid caught her right in the eye.

She cursed as she stepped blindly back. She heard a gun shot. But the damned shit was too thick had gotten into her eyes until it burned like acid, hot tears trying to wash it away prevented her from seeing it the victor was friend or foe.

Then she felt the hand about her upper arm, pulling and dragging her away. She hit out blindly at her assailant...she could not take the chance. Though she tried hard not to go for anything lethal in her incapacitated state.

***

He smiled as he deflected the woman's blow. "Hey, it's me...the hero...the idiot that saved your bacon. Or is trying to at least. But right now we need to get the hell out of here or things might get worse. I am sure these shits have friends close by. So how about you trust me for five more minutes until I can get us some place safe."

He felt the woman relax inn his grip even before he saw her nod her head or heard the words, "Deal."

It was all he took as he scooped her up in his arms and carried her towards the alley he had scouted before running into the fray. He knew the damned place well from his childhood. And what most people did not think about was the drainage pipes that carried rain water to the lake. There was a decent sized one not to far down that alley near the overpass. If they could make it there then everything would be okay...for a while.

Damn, even virtually popping pregnant this one did not weigh a thing. Hell, he had carried packs heavier than her. Baby and all. He had to admire a woman that could fight like that...pregnant and all. If... But ifs were like wishes...they simply did not count.

He smiled as he covered the last twenty yards to the culvert. Not only would it provide a hiding place but shelter from the wind that was beginning to pick up. Wind that blew her hood back to reveal...

Emilee. He shook his head. No, fucking way. It could not be. Damn, the woman was a every man's walking, talking wet dream. With her soft caramel skin and long hair that just begged a man to fist it and pull her back as he kissed those full pink lips until they swelled up even more.

The sun off the fucking sun must be getting to him. Blinding him. No fucking way...

***

When the man dropped her to her feet, Emily's senses came back to her. This was not Hollywood...damn, why could she not have been stuck in nice warm Los Angeles when this shit happened? But she knew if the gangs were bad her then LA would only be worse. And the distance home over ten times more.

Besides what ifs were pointless. Right now it was about making it home...inn one piece. And while she owed this man a debt of gratitude she was no man's door mat. Her Mama could stick to the sweet little submissive shit and play the damsel in distress. She was a fighter...and damn it, the man should know that.

She dropped to her knees, searching for snow to help her clear the blood from her eyes. But where he had taken her did not seem to have any. Solid ground? Concrete? She could not tell. "Water. Snow. something so I can clear my damned eyes."

But even as she waited for the man's assistance, she fought her way free of one arm of her long coat...okay so fake fur had been a poor choice for stealth's sake...if an excellent one for warmth. She slid the heavy back pack free of one shoulder before putting her arm back into that sleeve and repeating the process on the other. She felt blindly inside of her back pack for a tissue or clothe that would help her to wipe the stuff away before it congealed even more in the freezing weather.

"Here," he said as he pressed something wet into her hand. She nodded and said her thanks as she began the task of clearing the man's blood from her face and eyes. Oh my god, this was blood. Real blood. From a man she had killed. She had killed a man today. Not a deer, though those were always bad enough. But a man. Two men. Two men that despite being bad guys were somebody's sons and brothers and fathers? And she had killed them.

She tossed the cloth back at the man as she turned her head and vomited what little food was inside of her until her whole body shook with drive heaves and sobs. She was a murderer.

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