[size12 [i [#FF0000 "Honestly, I am waiting for your kinds of folks to get the message that society has moved on from these kinds of tactics,"]] Maddox tightened his grip on a man, who barely had a grip on himself. Blood was pouring from the mans mouth as Maddox, once again, slams him into a wall, crushing his head in for good. It was like Maddox got a thrill from taking care of idiotic raiders and misfit gangs that still believe in the old ways, after the bombs had destroyed most of the Earth.] [size12 [i [#FF0000 "And you, you filthy piece of shit,"]] Maddox spat, yanking on, what he assumed, was the leader. He had the nicest armor and the best weapons, so his assumptions were probably true.] [size12 [i [#FF0000 "I have been dealing with you for a pretty long time. You knew this face was eventually going to be the last thing you saw,"]] Maddox hissed, yanking him all the way into a pile of destroyed furniture.] [size12 Maddox's line of work evolved old ways. He murdered people for a living. Something that he had gotten quite good at. Occasionally, he did some caravan and escort work since he did have a perfect track record of getting people where they needed to go, safely. Throughout his time, he had met some pretty interesting people. People who were in underground vaults until either they malfunctioned or eventually, society had advanced far enough for them to feel comfortable. He had escorted his fair share of them, especially to one of the largest settlements, Eastborough.] [size12 [i [#FF0000 "Now, before I finally give you the sweet release of death, would you be so kind and tell me where the rest of your pitiful gang is? I have been tracking you stupid, fuckheads for almost 6 months now and there is half of you gone!"]] Maddox got a little upset, slinging the man half way across the room. He watched the man slid across a blood soaked floor into a pile of his friends. The man let out a yelp, sniveling and fumbling over his dead brothers. It was like he was making an attempt to escape. Maddox chuckled, it loudly echoed from his chest.] [size12 [i [#FF0000 "Oh no, no, no, buddy,"]] Maddox stomped on the mans foot, crushing it to nothing, but a meat pile which prevented him from getting away. Most mercenaries will leave one left alive for them to tell all their little friends what happened to his friends, but Maddox did not play that game.] [size12 [i [#FF0000 "Don't think for one second I am going to let you leave with your life,"]] Maddox grinned, listening to the man scream out in pain, begging for his life.] [size12 [i [#FF0000 "Who are you even begging to? Don't you realize who I am?"]] Maddox pulled out his hunting knife, snatching the man up to his feet. His dull, darkened eyes looked deep within the raider's eyes before plunging the knife in, over and over again. Maddox pretty much gutted this man in less than 5 stabs, ripping his insides to shreds before dumping him on the ground.] [size12 [i [#FF0000 "Too bad that I couldn't get the information that I wanted. Too busy sniveling like a baby to talk like a man,"]] Maddox scoffed before putting his knife back into its holsters. He pulled a dirty rag out of his coat pocket, wiping his hands as best as he could before walking out of the room.] [center [pic https://i.imgur.com/79MzQv7.png]] [size12 Light filtered in through tattered curtains, Maddox's honey coloured eyes were brightened by the light as he glanced around. He was still up tight from the other day and hasn't caught up on his sleep from the 6 month journey, but he needed to get back to work.] [size12 Shuffling around the shack, Maddox bumped into a few things. Knocking most of his collectibles over. Collectibles meaning, pieces of teeth, skull fragments, and other various body parts that he taken from raiders in the past. It was a hobby, as well as a job. Most people would consider Maddox a true monster, if they had a chance to get to know him. To most everyone in Weston, the settlement that Maddox chose to settle in, considered him more of a gloomy individual. Most people avoided him unless his skills were needed. Everyone was polite to the giant menace though.] [size12 As Maddox exited his small shack, people said their hellos and good mornings as he made it to the main building in Weston. Where he went, every morning, to see if he had a job of some sort. Most of the time, it was small, part time gigs of escorting small families and caravans to their settlements. They especially wanted Maddox on caravans that had higher prices goods like water, food, medications, and especially weapons and ammunition.] [size12 [i [#FF0000 "Good morning, Ms. Escar. How are you?"]] Maddox yawned as he pulled the door closed behind him.] [size12 [i "Good afternoon, you mean? There has been a lady here, waiting for an escort all morning,"] Ms. Escar mildly scolded Maddox with a disappointing look that she casted from over her glasses.]
The darkened sky loomed over a collection buildings. Nothing that stood in this place was exactly a marvel of architecture, but they served their purpose. Inside one of the sturdier buildings there was a room. There were no additional light sources there where Wren was holed up, steeping the blackness extra potent. Even still, no stars were visible in the sky through the singular window she was allowed. Normally it was eerily silent at this hour. Normally. Tonight, however, Wren could hear a commotion through the thick stone walls. She couldn't make out what anyone was hollering about, but they didn't seem happy. And that meant they were distracted.
With no way of knowing when she might have a better chance of getting the hell out of this place, the woman took to the window. This was the second story, not exactly a safe drop down, but there wasn't much of an option at this point. Backing her legs out first, she tried to find footing on the uneven stones that made up the walls of this makeshift fortress. Her hands searched for crevasses and cracks to grip. This worked to get her some five feet lower before the hold her feet found was too shallow to hold her. Fingers dug furiously into rock to no avail as she slid quickly down, down, down. She could feel the skin of hands being painfully eaten away, her nails nearing the point of tearing from their place on her fingertips. However, it was enough to slow her enough that her ankles did not break on impact. Her legs just gave way beneath her, leaving her knees to hit hard against the ground.
[+maroon “Tssssss.”] A sharp inhale hissed through her teeth. It was all Wren could do to keep quiet. The scrapes on her hands were not dangerously deep, but they stung frightfully bad. Unfortunately there was neither time nor light to tend to them and she took off running in the direction she had seen vehicles leaving. She hadn't a clue where she was, so she could only hope that the tracks they left would lead her someplace she could find help.
As she put distance between herself and the settlement, Wren intermittently looked back to make sure no one was giving chase. From afar, the village was bigger than she initially thought. Though to be fair, there hadn't exactly been a chance for her to see anything more than the room she just left. And she wasn't looking to explore it now. There was no telling how much time she had before someone came searching for her. Eventually, when she was confident the 'road' would remain straight, the blonde distanced herself from it and walked parallel to the path. This assuaged some of the worry that plagued her.
Time dragged slowly on and it was dawn before even the shadow of anything came into view. On the horizon lay the diminutive silhouette of a town. And while Wren wasn't a religious woman, she was praying that this would be where she found the help she needed.
The land here was flat, so the collective in the distance was deceptively far away. The beating sun was fully in the sky before she made it anywhere near her newly found destination: Weston. Not long after arriving, Wren encountered people scurrying here and there for their morning errands. And from them she received some odd looks. Dark eyes falling down over her appearance she understood why. The knees of her pants were stained with blood, her hands were torn six ways from Sunday, and she was guessing her hair looked a horrid mess. The wind had tossed it this way and that and the woman had needed to refrain from running her injured hands through it on multiple occasions. Despite all this, she was pointed in the right direction to request a travel escort.
From what she could tell, the large structure served as the center of Weston. The closer she came to it, the busier the atmosphere became, which was fine by her. That only made it harder to pick her out from the crowd. Though inside was a different story. Aside from the woman behind the counter, the reception room was barren. The bespectacled woman gave her quite the look over, but was kind enough to listen when Wren made her request. Apparently, she knew just the man for the job. Ms. Escar, as she came to know her, was even kind enough to let the younger woman use the washroom to clean up some while she waited. It felt much better not to be completely encrusted in blood and to have her hair at least somewhat sorted. From there she took a seat on a bench against the wall and her tired eyes did not manage to stay open for long.
A sternly taken tone woke Wren. She jolted, as it took a moment for the memory of where she was to catch up to her. Taking in a long breath, she held it a moment to calm her heart and take stock of her aching body. Most of her hurt, now with the addition of her neck from sleeping upright, and despite the rest her eyes were still heavy. There was no telling how long she had been out, but one thing was certain. It wasn't long enough to be fully rested.
Looking up from the bench to the counter, brown eyes caught Ms. Escar speaking with a man. Based off his build alone, the woman thought he might be the one up for hire. But she did not have to speculate for long, because the austere woman called her over. Standing, Wren made her way to them. The closer she got, the bigger he seemed. It was strange, she was definitely on the short side, but even still, she was not used to having to look so far up at other people. [+maroon “Hello,”] she interjected herself into the situation. [+maroon “My name is Wren Callaway and I am looking for an escort to Eastborough.”] Normally in this situation she would have offered a hand to shake, but in this state it felt awkward. Close to open wounds and all.
[size12 Maddox glanced down at the small woman, it was always the same. Some little girl, who is too scared to travel alone, or unable to handle it themselves. He did have a soft spot for people much smaller than him, despite his inability to actually have healthy relationships with most anyone. He kept his conversations short and sweet and to the point, as to not cause more damage than he normally does by opening his mouth.] [size12 [i [#FF0000 "Maddox, just Maddox,"]] he sternly replied, blinking at her a few times before nodding his head. [i [#FF0000 "Have you got any money upfront? I really don't want to get half way there and you die on me, then I have wasted my resources,"]] Maddox received a very hard slap to his back which made him cough.] [size12 [i "She came in with little to nothing, asshole. Here's your money,"] Ms. Escar huffed, shoving what seemed to be more than enough to cover all of the expenses for the journey. She then turned to the girl and smiled, [i "He might be an asshole, but he's good at his job."]] [size12 Maddox was still stunned by Ms. Escar's violent temper, but pocketed the money and waved his hand for the girl to follow him. [i [#FF0000 "We need to stop at my house to grab a few things and then we can be on our way,"] he spoke as they climbed a few flights of stairs that led to a single shack, which sat up higher than the rest of the settlement. It was a power play move for Weston to give someone like Maddox, a high vantage point in the case of a gang of invading raiders.] [size12 Maddox pulled his single key out, shoving it into the lock. A few clicks later, the door popped open. He had rigged his home with a complicated lock system to keep people from trying to steal from him, which he has dealt with in the past. Pieces of shit that didn't realize who he was until it was too late.] [size12 Maddox's home looked like a horror house, straight out of a movie. It smelt of sweat and death as the door opened in front of them, wafting the smell straight into them. As the shack aired out, the smell seemed to ease slightly. Various weapons set out, guns, knives, and all sorts of things that Maddox could kill people with. His home wasn't really suitable for anyone, but him to live there.] [size12 Maddox rummaged through things, pulling together a neatly packed bag of everything that he could possibly think that they may need during a few day journey. He pulled the straps over his shoulders, straightening his back with a small hiss of displeasure. He was still recovering from his previous 6 month journey. His back and knees still sore from all the exhausting stalking that he did.] [size12 [i [#FF0000 "So, why do you need an escort like me? Ms. Escar doesn't assign me to just anybody?"]] Maddox inquired, looking at her curiously as he directed her outside of his home. He knew that this was going to be more than just a simple escort job.] [size12 Maddox grabbed the girl's arm, looking down at her with an unimpressed gaze in his eyes. He examined every part of her, noting the faint bruises that were seeming to heal over a period of time. He could see it all. A brutal beating that she endured. He frowned and shook his head. He turned back to his home, pushing the door opened one last time.] [size12 [i [#FF0000 "I want to assume some sick fuck had you locked up for a while,"]] Maddox was familiar with girls like her and sick pieces of shit, like who ever had their hands on her. He pulled his rifles from above the couch, giving it a once over.] [size12 [i [#FF0000 "I can make people like that disappear,"]] Maddox quietly suggested as he locked up his home for a while, until he gets back to Weston. He gave the girl a wink before he motioned for her to follow him.]
Wren's stomach dropped a bit when he asked about a downpayment of sorts. It mades sense, anyone would want assurance that they weren't about to have their time wasted, but the woman behind the counter jumped in before she had a chance to say a word. This isn't what she expected when Ms. Escar said she would handle him if he got rowdy, but Wren certainly did appreciate it. She'd have to think up some way to thank her later, when she made it home safe or even if she didn't.
With a curt nod, the woman followed along as asked. The stairs were taxing on her tired legs, but she wasn't about to complain. They were in for a long journey and she had already mentally prepared herself for that. Besides, she would have a moment to regather herself while Maddox got ready. Or she thought she would, as soon as the door swung open her senses were assaulted by the acidic smell of sweat and decay. She wasn't sure if the scent of iron came from the blood lingering on the assortment of... knickknacks lining the shelves or all the weapons strewn about. Wren wasn't exactly keen on finding out. She ended up staying stood near the door, not more than a few feet into the shack.
It was unexpected when Maddox started talking to her, but the blonde was glad to have the distraction. [+maroon “Well,”] that was all she got out before he had ahold of her arm, analyzing it for himself. He was just about spot on with his conclusion too. She blinked up at him, wondering how he got so much from so little. Aside from that reaction in her eyes, the wonder didn't show much else on her face. Wren was not the most expressive of people. Often times it landed her in hot water when others assumed her indifferent, but she soon found herself very glad this was the case because Maddox's wink took her so aback she was essentially bewildered. The only real tell of her embarrassment was the reddening of her ears, mostly covered by her long hair. Despite his peculiarities, he was an attractive man.
Regaining herself, Wren was once again following closely after the man's long stride. [+maroon “I don't know...”] She wondered if the world would be a better place without men like her captors around. [+maroon “It would probably be for the best, but I don't like the idea of being the reason they 'disappear.'”] Her voice flowed softly as she spoke, the woman had a rhythmic way of speaking. Calm and quite, almost like a lullaby. [+maroon “Besides, it's probably not as bad as you are thinking. These,”] she motioned to the faded marks on her arms, [+maroon “were just from the first time I tried to escape. Rookie move, getting caught and all.”] She laughed lightheartedly, albeit awkward.
The two of them began the steep decent back down the stairs once more. [+maroon “They couldn't treat me too poorly anyway, since I was meant to be a hostage. The plan was to try and get my father in exchange for me from what I could piece together.”] It's not like anyone told her all the details, but she caught snippets here and there. Thankfully their plan never came to fruition.
The pair passed by the main request center and Wren caught a glimpse of Ms. Escar as they went. The dark eyed woman waved happily to the first of her saviors before turning back to Maddox. [+maroon “Hey, if something does happen to me, can you be sure to get whatever's left back to my dad?”] It was morbid to say the least, but judging by what she'd seen of this man, he wouldn't mind. [+maroon “I know it will probably be a hassle, but he'll really appreciate it. And I am sure he will compensate you for that and what you got already... I don't want that nice lady to be out any money because of me.”]
Wren took in the details of the town a little more readily the second time around. Later in the day Weston wasn't half as busy as it had been in the morning. There were still a few souls walking around, but nothing compared to the early hours. It wasn't just that that made it a different experience though. Everyone they passed seemed to recognize Maddox. The reactions of these passerbys could be divided into two groups, those who were happy to see him and greeted him thusly, and those who sort of scurried away, fearful. Either way, the man seemed infamous in this town.
[size12 Maddox gave a small wave to Ms. Escar before turning back to the girl, who was speaking as if it was an actual possibility that she was going to die on this trip. He chuckled to himself. Maddox's track record was perfect, in escorts and bounties. He will get his money, no matter how hard it could be.] [size12 [i [#FF0000 "Escar has more money than me and that says a lot. She won't miss any of her money,"]] Maddox passively waved off the girl's comment. He took note of some of the people that they passed. He could see the unsureness in a lot of their eyes, but there were a few that understood and respected someone like Maddox.] [size12 [i [#FF0000 "Plus, my record is perfect and this time won't be any different,"]] Maddox assured as they got closer to the large, metal doors that protected Weston. They opened with a loud, long creak as Maddox waved up to the group of guards that took shifts for the city's protection.] [size12 [i [#FF0000 "But yes, if anything was to happen, I will return what you have back to your father, if I can locate him,"]] Maddox agreed to soothe the girl's mind as the door fully opened. He took the first step into the wasteland, beckoning the girl to follow suit. He did want to pick her brain some more about the people who had kidnapped her.] [size12 [i [#FF0000 "We are going to be spending quite a bit of time together, so why don't you tell me about the people who kidnapped you?"]] Maddox curiously pondered, looking at her from the corner of her eye. He knew it was probably too soon, but he did not know if these people were still actively looking for her and he would like to be prepared.] [size12 [i [#FF0000 "I would just like to be fully aware of the threats that might come with you,"]] Maddox clarified, taking a deep breath of the opened, but yet static feeling air. Something still wasn't right about the Earth since the bombs dropped.] [size12 Maddox, of course, wasn't alive when it happened. The Earth was still repairing itself almost 100 years later. The desert already looked like a wasteland before the bombs and now, it just looked like a bleak, vast wasteland with little to no vegetation. But there were select people that had a special, green thumb that lived in Eastborough, that have been working for decades to give life back to the Wasteland.]
Hearing Maddox had a spotless record brought a wave of relief over Wren. He had scared her a bit earlier, and she still was to some extent, but his confidence made her feel better to be walking out of the protection of Weston. She was happy he would at least try to contact her father in the event of her death. [+maroon “His name is Basil Callaway.”] A name should have been enough to track him down in Eastborough, he was a very well known man. But she still hoped it never came to that. [+maroon “Thank you.”] The appreciation was given a bit late; better late than never.
Silence just barely settled between them before the giant of a man started back to his questioning. She could see how it would be important to have as many details on the enemy as possible in Maddox's work, so Wren tried to push through the discomfort that pooled in her stomach thinking about her time captive and those who held her there.
The woman let out a sort of humming sound as she tried to recall anything of importance. [+maroon “The place I was being kept was some ways south of Weston.”] She couldn't say certainly how far it was; she hadn't been paying attention while she walked. [+maroon “It was a bigger settlement than I was expecting and the building I was kept in was well armed.”] Memories of passing military grade weaponry kept in what basically amounted to an armory came to mind. [+maroon “Conversations I overheard made it sound like they were trying to expand too. More in a power grab way than a desire to help anyone.”] Even in the most established towns resources could be scarce, that left a lot of people scattered across the wasteland fending for themselves because there simply wasn't enough room for them in the safer strongholds. However, there were those who preferred that lifestyle as well. It never sounded like Wren's cup of tea so she thanked her lucky stars she was born where she was.
[+maroon “When I first arrived, I spoke with a man. He told me to just behave and be quiet until they could make a deal with my father. He's the one they are really after, and it sounds like they've been trying a while. Eastborough is very secure and dad doesn't really leave, so they snatched me up in hopes that might lure him out.”] A plan that would have worked if her father didn't have quite so many sensible people around him. Wren was glad for that, because she really didn't want him trading his life for hers or whatever.
Looking down at the dust beneath their feet, Wren wondered what this place looked like before life as humanity knew it changed forever. Was this land viable? She bet they could make it so, if they put in the effort and resources. Which was exactly what these kidnappers were after. [+maroon “My dad, he's the lead agricultural biologist in Eastborough. I think they want him to help them start producing food here.”] Since technology had been developed to produce clean water in excess, whoever controlled the food, controlled the people. Even Eastborough used it to leverage peace for itself. No one wanted to risk being on unfriendly terms with the largest food exporter for hundreds of miles. [+maroon “That's how that guy made it sound anyway... what was his name?”] She pondered quietly to herself. [+maroon “Devon Fin, or Finch... something like that.”] He hadn't been so kind as to introduce himself, but he seemed like a leader and she'd caught the name of the boss a couple of time prior to that solitary meeting.
Devon Finch was not a name Wren recognized. She wasn't from here, but it was certainly one Maddox would know. This barren waste of a world had many a band of brigands and bandits, but the Finch's were the closest thing it had to a syndicate since days of before the bombs. The family had wealth and power in the underground. Hell, they'd basically built the underground. But now it seemed like they were looking to sprout up into the light of day and grow their influence there as well.
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