tagSci-Fi & FantasyOne in Ten Ch. 11

One in Ten Ch. 11

byFinalStand©

*Editing magic performed by KJ24 and Shyqash, plus contributions by the regular gang of brigands and neer-do-wells*

*A frightened Mother Mouse will devour her young; similarly, a frightened culture will devour its future*


*****

From the final scene in the cabin in Chapter 10

"I'm begging you; understand that it isn't the end of morality to stay. When the madness ends, you need to decide if we will still be worthy of continuing on. You'll no longer be part of that equation if you go now," I declared.

"Are we supposed to ignore that he was a terrorist and she is a homicidal maniac?" Aniqua said.

"I'm not homicidal," Flame grinned. "I'm a psychotic sociopath. I don't randomly kill people. I do it with malice of forethought."

Jethro didn't show a desire to defend himself.

"Israel, Flame almost killed you last night," Venus pointed out. "Why would you stick around?"

Why was I sticking around?

"Israel, don't do this," Angel said. "You promised me you would stop running into danger."

"Angel, why do you have to be right and I have to be wrong?" I sighed.

"Because those two are dangerous criminals," Roni answered. Didn't Roni understand that I was a far more callous killer than either of those 'criminals'... and I didn't have to lift a finger, or look at a single grave?


[AND RIGHT WHERE WE LEFT OFF]

I had to take a different tact. I had to find another ...

"Roni," she was the one I had to prove myself to. Angel? Having betrayed me so often, even her convictions about Jethro and Flame wouldn't drive her from my side ... I hoped. Aniqua and Venus, no matter what moral core they based their argument on, wanted to live ... and that meant sticking with a larger group than just two people.

"Roni, I am asking you to trust me," I made furtive eye contact. I didn't want to die and that was the direction this talk was going. If Roni left, could I really let her, Angel, Aniqua and Venus go it alone?

My soul begged for trust ... trust in me for a few more hours.

'Let's see this through together'.

"Please ..."

'Please Angel, Aniqua, Roni and Venus. Please see all the pain I've endured caring so much ... carrying us all so far ...'

"Please, just a little while longer," my voice faltered.

One more hurdle? Was this one more hurdle, or the last one? My psyche reached into the last drawer in my battered cupboard of my sanity ... the dwindling larder of my hopes and dreams, miserly horded and so plentifully spent ... only to find a finger's trace of dust remained.

Was this all I had left? Would I be Debbie finally coming home from the nightmare which had become the only life I had been left ... a life I had still found the strength to live ... or was I Ethan Edwards, finished and spent; no longer welcome in the happy world I'd spent four long years to reach and which lay just beyond the portal?

Arms crossed, I was being pulled away from ... from home -- what I wished home would be like. The door outside to the van would take me down the road, yet it was just an allusion to my fate. Standing still ... taking that step ... both would lead me outside. The pretense of my companions would not matter. I would be alone ... forever more ... I would no longer have the strength -- the certainty of purpose -- to come back.

"Please ..." 'Please love me. Please trust me. Please give me one last chance.'

So damn hard ... for so damn long ... for four years I lived with the denial of hope.

I had discarded that comfortable certainty of hopelessness for love ...

"Please ..."

"No. Trust me, Israel. These are the 'wrong' people. They won't help you. They won't help you get better," she insisted.

I trembled. My chest felt too tight. I couldn't breathe. I wanted to run back into the cellar in my mind where I had run so many times before.

"For fuck's sake!" I snapped. "Don't keep fucking interrupting me!" No one said anything for a few seconds.

"Israel?" Angel whispered.

"Roni, why are any of you here today?" I persevered.

"We are here because we pitched in and worked together -- looked out for each other," she responded.

"Wrong," I trembled with ... was this rage? "We are all here today because everyone in this room has trusted me with their lives. You are here, with some hope of seeing next week, because of me and no one else."

"Israel," Roni started.

"SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP!" I screamed. "Without me, the rest of you would be living comfortable lives back in the city, safe in your preconceived notions about the relationships between men and women."

Angel put her hand on Roni's shoulder to forestall her friend's bitter comeback.

"Without me screwing up your live; without each one of you -- except Jethro, Paisley and Lavender -- putting trust in me despite knowing how screwed up I am, you would all be facing down the eradication of the Human Race. Me!" I seethed. "Me! Without you trusting me so much you would all toss your safe lives away, you wouldn't be here dropping your idiotic moralistic arguments on me. Every -- fucking -- one -- of -- you ... owes your life to you being able to love me beyond rational explanation. Tell me I'm lying ..." I petered out.

"It is not that simple," Aniqua took up the cause.

"Having trusted me this far, why are you stopping now? Don't give me any shitty excuse about Jethro -- he gave up being a terrorist thirty years ago, or Flame -- the vicious psychopath who dragged her very-wounded teammate to us ... plus figured out we were here in the first place -- proving she is also one of the most cunning people in the room."

"Say something besides 'gee, Israel, they scare me' ... because their approach to life might be the right one, given our precarious position and all our lives being on the line. And I'd rather be in the 'right', even if it leaves Kuiko dead at your feet," I speared her with my gaze. "And NO! I am not exaggerating. I trust Jethro and Flame. Until this point, you have had faith in me, so I want to know what I have done so wrong that your faith is now shaken."

"Gee Israel, why don't I simply shoot these pretentious bitches for you," Flame joked.

"Please," I looked down at my feet, fists painfully clenched. "Please Flame ... please don't."

"Be happy you are my only God-damn friend," Flame snorted. "Continue. Their excuses are going to be doozies."

"Israel, if we go, will you come with us?" Roni ignored everything I had just said.

"No. No, I'll crawl into a corner and die inside, Roni. I can't in good conscious do something I know to be suicidal and I can't abandon you. I trust you four. I do. I also don't trust you to keep any of us alive. You don't have it in you, and Jethro and Flame do."

"I spent every day for nearly three months in a basement with a serial killer. I know theirs is a madness I must embrace to keep all of us alive. I'm not a killer. I probably never will be. I KNOW for our group to survive, we will need to be capable of killing people. We can't stay here long; if nothing else, we'll eat Jethro out of house and home. For a variety of reasons, we can't go back into the city. That means we head into the countryside."

"With civilization going down the toilet, how do you expect us to find food and energy cells? I know where we need to go and our cars won't hold a charge for that long. I've seen the dark underbelly of human nature on a level with both Angel and Flame. If we go hat-in-hand, odds are extremely likely they will kill you and enslave me -- not because they know who I am, but because I've got testicles and men are a rare commodity."

"What are the rest of you going to do to keep the rest of us safe, fed and mobile? By all means, tell me I haven't thought this through in the same way I've worked out every other crisis we've been confronted with in the past two weeks. That's it ... my argument. You get to decide now. I hope you make your choice based on something more than knee-jerk reactions, understanding not one of you have ever had to test your morality against your 'will to survive' before now."

"Top of his class," Capri murmured. "Our kids are going to be geniuses."

"What do we do when one of them murders someone?" Aniqua asked. At least it was an honest question.

"We'll deal with it then," I replied.

"Please take into account: Flame, despite her long criminal history, has never been charged with murder and Jethro, despite his terrorist career, was so cautious he has retained both his freedom and remained free of drug therapy. You are assuming poor judgement on their part, despite every bit of evidence to the contrary. If they weren't both careful, we wouldn't be having this conversation."

"I bet you kicked ass in debate," Venus shook her head. She also crossed over from the 'departing' crowd to the rest of us.

"Roni, he has forgiven me every time I have betrayed him," Angel sighed. "Not only that, he has used my betrayal to advance his -- our cause." To me, "I'm tired of fucking up around you, Israel. I hope this is the last time I have to apologize." She came over to majority's side.

Aniqua crossed over without another word, leaving Roni alone.

"If you die, humanity dies," Roni shook her head. "I'll stay."

Latest crisis averted. On second thought; this was the first democratic conflict we had faced and it had been won with reason -- not threat, or fear of force.

I ran my hands through my hair.

"Angel, why does this keep happening?" I tried not to sound too desperate.

"We'll deal with that later. Sit back and savor your victory," she chided me. Sometimes -- more often than not -- listen to the woman who holds your health in her hands. I did.

"Wow," Flame looked over to Jethro, "I've never seen so much pussy tamed so fast in my life. He is truly fucking impressive."

We were all surprised when Kuiko hurled herself at Flame, even Flame. Unfortunately, surprise for Flame was measured in milliseconds.

Kuiko barely had her hands on Flame before Flame spun them around, slammed Kuiko into the ground with Flame on top, and began wailing on her. Samantha was the first to attempt a rescue. All it earned her was a judo throw which sent her head of heels over the two combatants. Capri, far more brave than capable, was rushing in when Angel shoved her aside and lit into Flame.

I went in; not to fight, but to drag Kuiko free of the battle. I shouldn't have bothered. By the time I had a hand on Kuiko's elbow, Angel had Flame pressed face first on the floor and her left arm twisted painfully behind her back.

"Get off me, Cow," Flame raged.

"Stay down," Angel warned her.

"I'm going to fucking kill you, Cunt," Flame seethed.

"Angel, please get off her," I requested. "This isn't Flame's fault."

Angel hesitated for several seconds before releasing her hold and jumping back.

Flame spun to her feet and glared fury at the assembly. She came right at me. At the time, I didn't know Jethro threw up a cautioning hand to Angel and I really wasn't sure why she took his advice, yet she did. Maybe her faith in me was growing. I shifted Kuiko's curled up body behind me.

"Get out of my fucking way!" Flame screamed at me as her boot slammed into my ribs. I refused to let go of Kuiko, or stop shielding her. Flame punched me in the ear. "Bitch, get out of the fucking way."

I looked up at Flame.

"I'd never let go of you," futilely spewing forth from my lips. I was terrified. Only the fact I was more terrified of how I would regard myself if I let Kuiko go kept me hanging on. My inner Monster was howling at me to escape -- hide -- evade. Flame slapped, then backhanded me. Flame's eyes were crazy-angry. For a split second they appeared to un-focus. When they cleared again, she was still certifiably crazy ... and then she started laughing.

"I am forever going to regret not killing you on that bridge -- Bitch," Flame snickered. She offered me a hand up.

"I'm a little busy right now," I smiled painfully.

"Okay," Flame nodded. She reached past me. Kuiko flinched before Flame rustled her hair. "Kiddo, keep in mind he owes me a fuck-stun, so don't get greedy."

"Meep," Kuiko responded.

With their bizarre exchange complete, Flame sauntered back to her seat as if nothing had happened. Most of the surrounding ladies were shocked, angry, and/or appalled. Flame didn't care. It appeared she barely gave a damn about my opinion, which was still a milestone for her. I turned to the Kuiko in my lap.

"Okay, what inspired you to attack Flame?" I hugged her tight. My ribs hurt -- again.

"I don't know," Kuiko mumbled. "I was so scared and you promised to try not to die anymore and here you were, trying to die on me again. Then Flame said something and ... I don't know what happened. The next thing I recalled clearly was her punching me in the face. Am I ugly?"

"Oh, you are a hideous little troll," I sighed.

"Really?" she nearly cried.

"Yep," I groaned. "Tonight, all night long, as we are sleeping together, we are going to have to keep the lights out so you don't scare me. Since I need to know where you are, I'll have to keep a hand on you constantly too."

"Oh ..." she blinked. "If I get Flame to punch me again, can I sleep with you tomorrow night too?"

"Bedtime," Jethro dispelled the gathering silence. "Lavender, make sure all the leftovers are put away. Paisley, check the locks and stove. Daddy will make it up to you for letting these sickos into our tidy shard of Paradise. As for the rest of you; Roni, you know where the first spare bedroom is. Venus, you know where the other one is and Capri, I showed you where the sleeping bags were stored."

People began moving about. The tension ratcheted down a notch now that we had something constructive to do which would keep us from dwelling on the last five minutes. Jethro almost snuck up on me (over the last 3 three years, I've cultivated a pretty keen spatial awareness.) He motioned me to step outside. We strode about a dozen steps into the night.

"Do you really think I won't waste one of your bitches if I feel she's stepped out of line?" Jethro asked without looking at me.

"Why do you want to know? The moment has passed," I replied.

"I think you know the answer to that too," I believed he sneered.

"You don't love Lavender, or Paisley, though they don't know it," I explained. "You aren't going to start shooing us because that isn't how you wanted to go out -- in some dumbass quarrel against people you've shared hospitality with. You have the look of a man who wants to explode into violence -- in your case, for a damn long time. I imagine every time you saw a cop alone doing some random shit, you contemplated killing her."

"You didn't, because killing just one wasn't enough," I mumbled. "You want some last, epic, tragic battle and to take as many of them to Hell as possible. I don't know why, not really. It is contrary to my mindset. I don't want to kill anyone so much that I'd die to do it. I certainly don't hate people I've never met enough to kill them."

"Still, I assume you have your reasons. But I don't think you are crazy enough to kill the rest of us to get your wish," I concluded.

"If you thought I'd gamble with the lives of your ladies, you'd tell Flame, wouldn't you?" Jethro mused.

"Absolutely," I nodded.

"Good man," Jethro reciprocated. "Use the right tool for the job." By that he meant not telling Angel. Angel would want to talk it out. Flame would blow Jethro away without hesitation. "Let's get inside. I think you've put your Main Squeeze through enough for tonight."

"Did you stop Angel from jumping back in on Flame?" I inquired as we headed inside.

"Yep. That's part of being a man -- living with the choices you make," Jethro informed me. "If Angel had gone back in for Flame, your group would always be confused about who was in charge. It didn't matter that Flame busted you up."

"All your ladies saw you taking charge and respected you for it. Psychology is important come crunch time," he explained.

"I still got beaten," I sighed. Jethro held the door for me to go back inside.

"Doesn't matter," Jethro patted me on the back. "You took a beating for Kuiko and now they know you'd take a beating for any of them."

"Being a man is much more than kicking ass," Jethro chuckled. "You are a wimpy son of a bitch, but that will change if you live long enough. What matters is they think you care. Simple shit like a hug, a kiss, and asking them 'how they are doing' does wonders and doesn't cost much."

"How come you never got ... attached?" I asked.

"I have a fucking armory in my basement, Idiot," he laughed. "That doesn't mean my advice isn't time tested. You can't go wrong spanking that ass more often. They'll get used to it."

"Did you witness the beating I just took?" I mumbled.

"Some bitches, you tie up first, Son," Jethro teased me. "Some you tie down spread-eagle and use a ball-gag on. I suggest option Two for Flame until she gets addicted to that dick."

"Please stop," I begged. "I've had about as much culture shock, pain and mental anguish as I can handle for one day. By all means, light into me tomorrow, but right now I need to get some sleep."

"Good luck with that, Boy," I laughed again. "I smell some serious arousal and it's more than just my bitches." I froze up. "Say 'no' if you're not in the mood, Israel. Remember, you have what they want and they'll wait until you say 'go' because they'll want it again and again."

"Did you ever love anyone, Jethro?" I requested.

"Twice ... and I never told either one," he exhaled deeply. "One was an officer I served with and the other was the wife of a good friend. I've made all kinds of excuses for my cowardice and I regret them all. You are doing better with this than I was. Better yet, they give a damn about you."

That was it for us. For once, I didn't feel uncomfortable with the silence. We found Roni and Paisley in Silent's room. Roni was currently working on Kuiko and even kept her seated when Kuiko tried to get up and come to me as I entered the room. I looked from Kuiko to Silent.

"She's lucky," Roni answered my visual inquiry. "Five wounds. Nothing life threatening. Her armored vest saved her life, that's for sure."

"So, who are you going to sleep with?" Roni asked.

"How big is the bed?" I requested.

"Queen-sized," was the answer.

"Do you think anyone would be too pissed if I asked Capri?" I inquired.

"I don't see a problem," Roni smiled. Kuiko lowered her eyes and looked sad.

"Is Kuiko okay?" I questioned.

"She's fine," Roni teased. In some ways, Roni understood the undercurrents of my humor.

"Are you coming, Kuiko?" I looked at her. "I did say I wanted a hot, sexy, exotic troll sleeping with me tonight. You still game?"

She almost bowled me over she jumped on me so fast.

"I take that to be a 'yes'," Paisley remarked. I took my best buddy and went hunting for the room I had been gifted with. No one took my request for Capri poorly and the three of us crawled under the covers together.

The lights were out, all movement had ceased and I was fading into sleep. My old nemesis: proximity was crumbling under the rollercoaster of motions and fatigue.

"Kuiko, I'm going to lick his nipple," Capri whispered. "You game?"

"Can I?" Kuiko pleaded. I wasn't sure who she was asking. I'd like to assume it was me.

I groaned. Capri snuggled up against me and she felt out my left nipple in the darkness. Her tongue quickly followed. Kuiko was a few fingers behind her. I groaned again.

"Do you think a little lesbian action will get him turned on?" Capri giggled. "Up for it?"

"Okay," Kuiko chirped. I rolled over onto my stomach and started weeping into my pillow.

"That's okay, Israel," Capri murmured, "We'll stop this time, but don't ever be mean to us again, or the sexual taunts and innuendo will be much, much worse."

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