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bitter     39d ago

What seemed like months of being trapped in a dark, dank basement, had only been a mere weeks of solid torture, Maddox spit a tooth out at the feet of his torturer with a soft string of curses following behind it. A hand took a hold of Maddox's chin, tilting it upwards with a sickly sweet chuckle as they looked into one another eyes. “I'm surprised that you have any kind of fight right now, Maddox,” the voice belonged to a man that Maddox had had his eyes on for a very long time. They had been rivals a long time ago before the man had gotten smart and began developing his own little settlement that was full of petty, pieces of shit that could be controlled by resources and money, a reasonable thing to be willing to throw your life away for in this day and age. Maddox never wanted to be a part of what this man had going, it was disrespectful to the mercenary culture, let alone being depraved and disgusting. No one was safe from this man's vile way of thinking.

“I'm sorry that your feelings are still hurt since I did not want to follow your shitty version of a cult, Devon,” Maddox slammed his head into the man before him, causing not only Devon, but Maddox to come crashing to the floor. Maddox wiggled free from his rope restraints that he had been casually loosening up through the time he had been trapped here. “When are you going to learn that I am a different breed of dog than you.” Maddox mustered what strength he had left to kick the man hard enough in the ribs to keep him down long enough for Maddox to search his person for something that he could use to get out of his situation. A set of keys and a load pistol, close enough. 

Maddox leaned down to Devon, running his fingers through the man's blond hair before yanking a fist full of it up to look him in the eyes. “I will never forget this, Devon. You could have left me the fuck alone, but now, you ruined what could have been a mutual respect thing,” Maddox did, obviously, have a history with Devon. Ran in the same group until it became a little too torture porn for him. It was no longer about the money, but to be depraved and cruel. Maddox was making a difference without realizing it because the highest payers tended to be good people, wanting to make the world a safer place. Maddox naturally followed the money, he had no use for anything else. “This is your last chance to leave me the fuck alone and keep your life. Next time, I will kill you,” he hissed quietly before pushing the man's face down into the dirt before spitting on the back of his head. Scum, he thought to himself before making his way out of the room.

Maddox turned the first corner and was immediately under gunfire. He had not forgotten that Devon only hired idiots, who had to concept on dealing with people, who were actually professional. He patiently waited until all of them were having to reload before he swiftly turned the corner, taking each guy he passed out until he got to the last one, who barely finished reloading. He nearly missed Maddox, who ducked and snatched the kid by his throat. 

“Where is my shit?” Maddox hissed before the kid pointed to the room to the left of them. Maddox, who still had a hold of the kid by his throat, walked into the room. The kid kicking to free himself, but Maddox gripped harder as he looked through drawers and cabinets, locating all of his belongings. He then pulled the kid to his feet and put the gun to his head. Pulling the trigger, he tossed him to the side and began reenforcing himself. 

By this time, the affects of the weeks of beatings had really started to weigh down on Maddox. He rubbed his forehead, looking at his hand at the alarming amount of blood that was on his hand. He had to leave fast. He could not pass out in the place that he had been trapped in. That would be embarrassing for Maddox. He cringed at the thought as he made his way out of the underground complex, taking the people out who would get into his way. 

At this rate, Maddox had to book it as far away from here before he even thought about sitting down or resting. He definitely struggled, dealing with the immense heat of the desert. He had forgotten how hot it would be, or maybe he was being dramatic. Once, he felt like he was at safe enough distance, Maddox finally took the fateful seat on a pile of rocks. He placed his head in his hands and let out a deep breath. He had never been ambushed, kidnapped, and tortured before. He had never allowed anyone to get that close to take him. The overwhelming feeling of being that close to death began to set in as well as the adrenaline wearing off. His eyes slowly closed and he felt his body free fall. He hit the sand with a soft grunt. 

Thankfully, a group of scavengers had not been that far off and had been watching the man, finally feeling safe enough to approach the mythical Mad Dog. But the state that Maddox was in was beyond surprising for the stories that people had heard about the man. They loaded him up on the cart that they used to drag their goods around to take him to the next settlement. 

FushenTessa Jones   24d ago

Tessa Jones

Tessa woke before the sun. She squinted in the darkness, sleep still heavy on her eyes. Seldom did she ever manage to get enough. Early mornings and long nights did not lend themselves to typical circadian rhythms, unfortunately. Yawning, she pushed herself into a sitting position atop her twin sized bed. While others in her position might’ve indulged by giving themselves more extravagant luxuries, Tessa’s quarters were decidedly conservative. The only things occupying the small room – and even that word was too generous to describe what was really a glorified closet – were the humble bed, a worn cardboard box for clothes, and a beat-up black fanny pack.

Tessa dragged her feet over to the box on the opposite side of the room and shuffled through the limited wardrobe within. Although looks were hardly the most important priority in the world these days, she had to at least keep up appearances of being somewhat put together. Who would want to follow a shabby and disheveled leader, after all? Deciding on a simple white tank top, a pair of khaki cargo pants, and her usual combat boots, the young woman quickly dressed and snatched her bag from the foot of the bed before heading out to face another day.

While many still slept soundly within their assigned rooms, one soul had stirred and already stood waiting for her at the end of the dimly lit hallway. Jackson, Tessa’s right hand man, offered her a small smile as she approached. “Good morning,” he greeted her cheerily. Always an inexplicable pep in his step, that one.
“Is it?” she scoffed. “Hadn’t noticed.” Tessa tended to be more pragmatic than positive, but the corner of her mouth turned upward nonetheless.
“An uneventful night makes for a good morning in my book, yeah.”
“So all quiet?”
Jackson nodded as he led them outside into the early morning. “All quiet.” Although it was still dark out, heavy heat hung in the air of the desert landscape. Tessa immediately pulled her curly tresses back into a loose ponytail to keep herself cool. “Still no word about the scavenging party, though,” Jackson continued.
Tessa frowned. They’d been due back the day prior. She’d sent them out for more supplies five days ago since their stores were running low. Now, those same stores were nearly empty. “Okay. Half the rations for everyone today. That’ll give them another twelve hours or so to get back. And in the meantime, put together another group.”
“Search and rescue?” Jackson asked even though he already knew the answer.
“You know we can’t afford that,” she said flatly. They’d been over similar issues a thousand times before and it was always a point of contention between the two. “They volunteered and they knew the risks. Plus, we need the supplies more than we need the people. That’s the priority.” Her tone indicated that was the end of the discussion. Jackson didn’t push the matter, but Tessa could tell he wasn’t pleased with her either. However, she’d learned early on that pleasing everyone was next to impossible. So, she stopped trying.

The two walked in silence the rest of the way to the commissary. Together, they began the task of taking inventory. Food was first on the list as it was one of the greatest resources, and therefore stood the greatest chance of being stolen. They meticulously measured and weighed everything that they had on hand – from fresh meat to loaves of bread to individual grains of rice. Even the spices were accounted for. By the time they were finished, the community cook – a homely older woman named Bev – arrived to begin preparing breakfast for everyone. Tessa relayed that rations were to be halved that day and pretended not to hear the grumbling that followed from the elder.

Tessa and Jackson continued with the inventory rounds for the other supplies that they had on hand: weapons, medical stores, sanitary items, general tools, etc. It was tedious work, but it kept the mind busy. By the time they’d finished taking stock the sun was well up in the sky and the rest of the compound was alive. 

There were sixty-seven souls in the community that all ranged in age, race, and background. Some people, like Jackson, were there since the start – organizing together after things went dark, scavenging the land for a safe place to post up, fully renovating the deserted compound, and establishing order to keep the community running smoothly. Others then arrived at different intervals after that. Some stumbled upon the settlement, whereas some sought it out. Whatever brought them to Tessa’s doorstep, however, didn’t matter. She oversaw whether they would be allowed entry and, more than that, whether they could stay. She knew she’d never be able to fully scrub the blood from her hands after denying access to several people over the years. Be it inadvertently or not, she’d sentenced multiple individuals to certain death by barring them from the settlement. And, if it meant keeping the best interests of those within it in mind, she’d continue doing it a hundred times over.

Almost like clockwork, the universe saw fit to test that resolve once again.

A commotion broke out around midday at the gated entrance of the compound. Shouts of the scavengers’ return didn’t take long to reach the leader’s ears. Especially since the scavengers had come back with one more person than they’d left with.

Tessa pushed her way through the growing crowd at the front gate. There, she was met with the four scavengers and a wheelbarrow they’d filled with the hulking figure of a man who looked worse for wear. The young woman frowned. She knew who he was even without the hushed voices around her whispering his name; she’d heard the stories the same as everybody else. Unlike everybody else, however, she didn’t hold the infamous mercenary in such high regard.

“Relieve him of his weapons and get him locked up,” she ordered immediately.
Jackson, who was also one of the first on the scene, grabbed her upper arm none too gently. “Tess, c'mon, look at him. He needs medical attention. Badly.”
“I am not wasting our resources to save the life of someone who take them regularly,” she hissed, lowering her voice so only Jackson could hear. She wrenched her arm from his grip and crossed both over her chest so he couldn’t grab hold of her again.
“You lock him up in this condition and he could die.”
“I could leave him to the desert instead and ensure that he does. That what you want, Jackson?”

In truth, that’s exactly what she wanted to do. The world would be better off with one less merc in it. But Mad Dog was too well known and there were too many people at the scene. Leaving him to die in the desert wouldn’t win her any favors. Still, maybe she’d get lucky, and he’d die in holding instead.

“Get him locked up,” Tessa repeated. “That’s an order.” Once again, Tessa had angered her right-hand man. But once again, he did as he was told. It was a couple hours before he spoke to her once more, and it was only to inform her that their newest prisoner had begun to come back to consciousness. He delivered the news swiftly and left her to it even faster after that. She knew that he’d cool off eventually but couldn’t help rolling her eyes as his temper tantrum worked itself out of his system.

Tessa visited the place where they kept the mad dog kenneled. It was a barren room that looked akin to a classroom or office space, except it didn’t have any windows or furniture. Well, there was one single furnishing: the chair to which the mercenary was securely handcuffed with his hands behind his back. Tessa stood before him with her own hands resting on her hips as he shook the weariness from his head.

“Welcome back to the land of the living,” she said flatly. “Though I don’t think you’ll be sticking around long with your injuries. So, I’ll keep it brief – my people tell me you got roughed up by some of Devon’s men. What beef you got with them and what’d they manage to get out of you? Think carefully now. If the information’s good, I might be able to keep you from knocking on death’s door a bit longer.”

bitter.maddox.   14d ago


Barely conscious through the whole ordeal, Maddox found himself inside of a blank room before he rested his head against the wall. His body felt heavy, he slumped into the chair and closed his eyes. At least he was protected from the elements and any harm that may come for him. He slept, or passed out which ever you would call that for a brief period of time before his eyes opened. They were hollow as he stared at the woman who decided his fate was once more in front of him. He recognized the angry sounded voice, the soft touch of venom as well as he tried to focus in on her words as she spoke to him. 

“I used to work with him way back in the day, lady,” Maddox knew that wouldn't win favors by itself, obviously she had beef with Devon, as well. Most people did, it no longer surprised him. “But, I quickly abandoned the endeavor and decided to be solo because I did not want Devon's name to taint what I had going on. Peaceful job, secured money, and most people left me the hell alone until he caught up with my ass. Didn't think he would, nor am I happy that he ambushed me,” Maddox continued to explain, staring back at the harsh woman in front of him. He had never met such a distrusting person such as the woman in front of him. She obviously knew who he was, or at least of him. He was a mad dog, the nickname came from the manner in which he attacked his prey that he would stalk for weeks. Like he was taunting himself for the big fight to allow the attack to be more vicious. Most people, who were not on the receiving end of that, tended to like Maddox since he was usual meek and mild mannered, not one for conversations or people. 

“I also told the motherfucker if I saw him again, he is dead meat. So if that clears up an suspicion that I may be working with him, you can let that go,” Maddox hissed, spitting blood on the ground in between them. He was still mad about going from one chair, being tied up to another one. He hadn't slept on a flat surface, whether a floor or a piece of cardboard, or if he was lucky, a bed in months. His body was crying for some kind of relief. He only looked at the woman for some kind of relief at this rate. Rather to be freed from the chair or be told that he would be killed on the spot. 

FushenTessa Jones   11d ago

Tessa Jones

 Tessa listened to the merc mouth off with an impassive expression. She wasn’t surprised that he’d worked with Devon before. The man tended to attract a certain breed of people to his purpose – those with a penchant for pain and power. And she’d heard all about the mad dog’s methods: stalking the unwitting, barely making his presence known, driving them insane with paranoia, breaking down their defenses before going in for the kill. Needless to say that Tessa did not approve. Someone like Devon, on the other hand, would’ve only been all too pleased to add someone with that sort of skillset to his roster.

What did surprise her, however, was the fact that her prisoner claimed that he left Devon. One thing she knew for certain was that once someone was his fold, there was no easy way out. It was a lifelong commitment…something she found out the hard way herself. She’d never heard of anyone else managing to break free of his grasp, let alone live to tell the tale. Assuming anything that came out of his mouth was to be believed, anyways.

As if he sensed her skepticism, the mad dog added testily, “I also told the motherfucker if I saw him again, he is dead meat. So, if that clears up any suspicion that I may be working with him, you can let that go.” Then he spat a wad of blood on the floor between them, just missing the tip of Tessa’s boot. She remained silent for a moment, mulling over his words. Then, with a cool carelessness, she simply retorted, “It doesn’t,” before turning on her heel and leaving.

Tessa startled as soon as she left the holding room; Jackson was leaning on the closest wall waiting for her. “I thought you were ignoring me,” she grumbled, pushing past him.
“I was. But I’m done now,” he said easily, following in her wake. “Only cause I feel like you’re about to do something stupid.”
“What’re you talking about? I’m not about to–” Tessa cut herself off, taking a deep breath to calm herself. She wouldn’t let him get under her skin. “It’s not stupid,” she continued evenly. “It’s common sense. If what he’s saying is true, that merc back there is gonna have Devon’s target on his back. If we harbor him here, it’ll only be more trouble for us, and we’ve already got enough to deal with without instigating a full-blown war between our settlements. I want him gone. Tonight.”
“I dunno, sounds pretty stupid if you ask me.”
Tessa halted in her tracks and whirled on the other man. “Well, I didn’t ask you. I don’t need your opinions; I just need you to get it done.”
“No, no. You don’t want my opinions, but you do need them.”
She scoffed incredulously. “The hell I do! Fuck off, Jackson. I’ll find someone else to–”
“You mean to tell me you’re really about to toss out one of the best killers in the region who just so happens to have it out for our biggest threat? That is textbook stupidTess!” Jackson snapped loudly. “This guy could be the thing that finally turns the tide in our favor!”
“You know we don’t do dealings with mercs!”
“Yeah, well, maybe that’s why we’ve been losing this thing for years now. Think, how many have died, Tess? How many lives lost because you won’t –”
“You’re right, I won’t! We’re not working with their kind. They’re violent, they’re greedy, they can’t be trusted! He can’t be trusted! He was one of Devon’s!”
“So were you!

Tessa was stunned into a sputtering silence for a moment. All she could do was blink at him rapidly as she felt her face beginning to redden. “That wasn’t – you know what happ… Jesus, Jackson that was – we said –”
“I know, Tess,” he said, his voice softening. He knew he’d crossed a line. But he still fixed her with a hard stare. “But if you don’t do this, you put the lives of everyone here at risk. Look, there’s no guarantee that he’d even agree to help. I know I fucking wouldn’t if you put me through the same shit as him.” He lightly punched her in the shoulder, trying for humor. She didn’t even crack a smile. “So, let’s just ask. See what happens. We’re running out of options here; I think we can afford to bend the rules a bit.”
Tessa didn’t say anything for a long time. She had half a mind to walk away and leave Jackson standing there. But his words had struck a nerve and she knew he was right – as loathe as she was to admit it. The young woman let out a single continuous sigh before fishing into her fanny pack. She pulled out the key to the mad dog’s handcuffs and tossed it to Jackson. “On your head be it, then.”

Jackson watched Tessa until she left the building. He ran his fingers from the front of his sandy hair to the back of his neck, scratching it uneasily. While he could respect that the leader of the complex was one tough bitch, he still at times thought that she was a bitch, nonetheless. Usually, he avoided picking fights with her. He might offer some push back though if he thought she was severely in the wrong, but those times were few and far between. This was one of those times. He’d meant what he’d said, truly believed that their prisoner could help them out of their predicament. Jackson only hoped that he wouldn’t be proved wrong.

The man walked back into the holding room, smiling sheepishly. With the walls as thin as they were, there was no doubt that the mad dog had heard every word of their little disagreement. “Sorry about that,” Jackson said, crossing the room and kneeling behind the chair to unlock the handcuffs. “Usually, she’s a ray of sunshine.” Sarcasm dripped heavily from his words. “Anyways, the name’s Jackson. You’re already well acquainted with Tessa. She’s…yeah, well, a piece of work. But don’t worry, she’ll warm up to you. Probably.” Doubtful. “C’mon, let’s get you patched up in the meantime.”


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