Tag Archive | this fucking apocalypse

Run Away

Fae Apoc, for my Hurt/Comfort card. After And Your Little Friends Too

Odile didn’t trust this whole set-up.

She’d been outvoted, and Callis and Candace had made very good points. They were hungry, they were dirty, and a couple of them had been sick for weeks. They weren’t in great shape. But it was their shape, the shape they’d picked and built and fought for, tooth and claw and knife and gun. There was nobody to tell them what to do, nobody to take out their anger on them. They might not be safe, but they were, well, safer.

But there was an adult with a van, which set off every alarm Odile had, and he wanted to take them somewhere, which set off even more alarms. She stayed near the back, with the little ones who didn’t trust him, either, and the older ones who were as cautious as she was. There was food, but she wanted to wait, to make sure it wasn’t drugged. There were blankets. Blankets could be a trap. There was a smiling adult, not even as tall as Callis, who looked over every one of the children as if he wanted to collect them all.

“Odie?” A toddler, Jenny, tugged on her sleeve. “Odie, hungry.”

Odile swallowed. Nobody was falling asleep; nobody was falling ill. She scooped Jenny up into her arms, noting that she didn’t weigh enough. Had she been this skinny last time Odile picked her up?
She carried Jenny over to the van. The thermoses were full of warm soup, and the man was dishing it out as if he had no fear for his own hunger.

“Just a little for this little one, please.” Odile made herself smile at the man. She didn’t use names. Most of them didn’t. That’s how strangers got you.

“Of course.” He didn’t question her, didn’t press food on her. He filled a small mug with soup and handed it to Odlie, along with a plastic spoon. “Careful, it’s hot.”

“You heard him, sweetie. Little sips, blow on it first.” She talked Jenny through eating the soup, an eye on the stranger the whole time. She didn’t want to trust him. She didn’t want to trust any of this. But she didn’t want to lose her people, either.

She caught his eye; he hadn’t missed her staring at him. “We can leave whenever we want?”

He hesitated, considering his answer. Odile found that interesting. “There will be a chance every day for you to leave when you want. This place, it’s a secure place, so you’d have to be walked out, but I give you my word, if you want to leave, you’ll be walked out within forty-eight hours.”

Odile’s ears popped. She wrinkled her nose at the sudden change in pressure and looked at the man. He seemed sincere. He seemed careful about his sincerity.

“You’re trying to make sure you don’t, uh, you don’t overpromise, aren’t you?”

“Trust is built slowly.” He looked as if he knew that from experience. “I don’t expect you kids to believe me right away. But if I lie to you, you won’t ever believe me again.”

“Smart man.” Odile sipped a little of the soup in Jenny’s bowl, just one spoonful. “Good cook.”
He smiled, like he recognized the challenge there. “A friend of mine made the food. She’s a very good cook, and I’ll pass along the compliment if you don’t come with us. She’ll be pleased to hear it.”

Odile found herself relaxing. She forced herself to stay strong, stay tense. “Good food, too.” She poked at it. “Fresh vegetables. Some sort of meat in the stock.” She gave Jenny back the bowl and got her settled, all while keeping an eye on the man.

He didn’t seem to mind all the scrutiny. “We have a farm, and a garden. We’re way off the beaten path.”

“And you came looking for us.”

There was a pause. The man was considering his answer very carefully. “I came looking for Callis. He is a, uh, well, we have a school, and it survived the, ah.” His voice twisted and turned bitter for a moment. “The ‘Collapse,’ I guess we’re calling it. The school survived mostly intact, and we have all our records. Callis was on our rolls since the day he was born, and so I, well, came looking for him.”

“You spend a lot of time combing the ruins for legacy students?” She’d heard the term in a movie. He looked impressed… and then he looked tired.

“I’ve spent all summer plucking students from the ruins. And… finding the ones that didn’t make it.” His whole body seemed to sag. “It’s not a fun job, but sometimes I get to save someone.”

“And that’s what this is? Saving us?” She was prickly again, looking for the trap.

He didn’t get defensive. That was interesting. “You’re starving, and many of you are ill. Your hide-out is safe as long as you don’t run into anyone as strong as, say, a grown man. What I can give you — what my place and my friends can give you — is a safe place free of predators, food, and a way to start a garden, clothing, and medical care. Callis bargained for an education, including a practical education, for all of you. I can teach you how to fight, or my son; he works well with women warriors. When Callis is done with school, you can stay, or we can help him and you find a new place, a safe place.”

Odile looked at his face, and at the way his shoulders were held, and at his hands. “You’re serious, aren’t you? Just because this school wants Callis, you’re going to give us all a place to live? I mean, nobody does that. Not without wanting something in return.”

He was still again. “You’re children,” he protested, then shook her head, like he knew that was bullshit. “Okay. Here.” He sat down on the back edge of the van, so he was on eye level with her. “When you’re grown and educated, healthy and fed… I’m going to ask you to help me help other people. Other kids, other people who need help. Lots of ways you can do that — be a doctor, be a soldier, be an arbitrator, someone who helps people figure out disputes. And you’ve got a while to figure that out.”

“Grown-ups don’t do this,” Odlie protested. “They don’t. They just, put you in poxes, put you in, you know, where they want you, what they want you.”

The man frowned at her. “Maybe,” he said carefully, “the world changed enough that some grown-ups do. You figure out what you want to do, all of you, and then you can figure out how you can help me. “

Odile took a breath. “You don’t sound like a grown-up.”

He snorted. “Wouldn’t be the first time I’d heard that. We have a deal?”

“You’re gonna make sure we’re safe fed and educated, all of us, until we’re, what, adults?”

“Call it twenty, as near as we can estimate, for the ones that don’t know.

“–and then help us set up again out, somewhere, in the world?”

“Yep.”

“And, in turn, you want us to help other… uh. other kids?”

“Other runaways,other refugees, other people who need it.”

She’d never said runaway. None of them did. Say that word and the grown-ups knew you didn’t have anyone. But even as she took a step back, he leaned forward, his voice soft.

“I know runaways. I’ve helped them before. Now, I don’t know if your parents survived this ‘Collapse.’ But if you don’t want to go looking for them, I’m not going to, either.”

She hadn’t seen her parents since something like a year before the world ended. Odile swallowed against something stuck in her throat and nodded. “You–” She coughed, clearing her throat. “You have a deal. I can help other kids, no problem.”

“And I can make sure you’re all fed and sheltered.” He stood and stretched, smirking a little bit at himself. “No problem.”

She still didn’t trust this whole set-up, but Odlie was willing to try.

This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1200826.html. You can comment here or there. comment count unavailable

Of the Forest

This is rix_Scaedu‘s commissioned continuation of In the Forest and Through the Forest.

Keita made her way down to the ground, landing with a thump in front of her pursuer. “Do you know what happens to people who chase me deep into the forest I live in?”

Her voice sounded hoarse to her. She’d meant it to sound intimidating, although the truth of the matter was that mostly she spooked them off or they got lost.

Solomon raised his eyebrows. “I imagine that you tend to discourage them. Keita, if it was within my power to leave you here, I would. It’s clear you’re happy here. More than that, it’s clear that, for the moment, at least, you’re safe here.”

“What do you mean, ‘for the moment?’” She glowered at him. “I survived winter. I survived creepy monsters screaming overhead. Whatever that was, the dragon apocalypse or something. I survived the freaking army making a base in my backyard.”

“It’s impressive. Am I correct in guessing you ran away before the, ah, ‘dragon apocalypse?’”

“What, do you have a better name? Dragons, monsters, things go weird, next thing I know the army’s stomping through.”

“Well.” He sat down on a nearby log as if he was in someone’s living room. “I hope you don’t mind if I sit down?”

“Free country.” She shrugged. “Just don’t expect me to bring you tea and crumpets or anything.”

He chuckled dryly. “I’m not British. And I’m intruding in your home, Keita; all I can hope is that you’ll listen to me. I don’t have the right to expect anything.”

She plopped herself down on another branch, well out of arm’s reach. “I don’t want to go anywhere with you.”

“I’m getting that impression. It’s unfortunate, but I think Addergoole could help you out.”

“Help me with what? Unless they were going to keep the occasional creep off her back or help her rig up something for warmth in the middle of winter, she didn’t need them. She had everything she needed in her forest.

“Well, hrrm. Did you see many of the creatures that were flying around during the ‘dragon apocalypse?’”

“Saw a bit. Some of ‘em looked a bit human; the rest looked like monsters. Why? Are they good eating?”

He shuddered. “They’re sentient beings, on part with humans, so I’m rather glad you don’t already know if they’re tasty or not.”

“I’m not stupid enough to try to take down a magical creature from another dimension.” She shook her head at him. “What do you think I am?”

He took a breath. “A magical creature from this dimension.”

Keita snorted. “Right. You’re crazier than the drugged-up idiots that wander through here sometimes thinking that they saw God.”

“They may have. A god, at least.” He looked far too serious. “Keita, what you call the ‘dragon apocalypse’ really was, for all intents and purposes, an apocalypse. The end of the world as we know it. Billions of people died, some at the hands of the military, some at the hands of the invaders – creatures that are, indeed, magical and from another dimension, or at least another world – and some of starvation and disease. It has been a hard couple years for the world, and I think it’s possible you may have had it easier than many, tucked away here in this forest.”

“And so, what, you want me to leave now?”

“It is my job to get you to come with me. That is a different matter than ‘want’.”

That sounded strange. She tilted her head and looked at him. “Someone sent you. But you don’t think it’s a good idea?”

“Someone sent me,” he confirmed. “Addergoole and its Director. And I think Addergoole could teach you a lot.” He looked around the forest. “It can teach you more about the plants and animals here so you know what you’re dealing with. It can teach you combat techniques so that, when someone does wander into your territory, you can fight them off. And, ahem, it will teach you magic, which can help in any number of ways.”

Magic. Magic. Well, it wasn’t like she could say magic didn’t exist. She’d seen the creatures flying across the sky. She’d seen the fireballs and the man walking through her forest, shooting lightning from his fingertips. Whatever the creatures had been, they’d come with some sort of magic.

But they were creatures, and she was a human kid. A forest-dwelling human kid who swung from trees like Tarzan, but still a human kid. Her parents, assholes that they were, were humans.

“Nice candy,” she answered, instead of telling him she thought he was nuts. “Where’s your van?”

“My… ah. I assure you, I’m not trying to drag you off for some nefarious purpose. And all of the signs point to you having the genes that allow you to do magic.” He coughed. “Your, ah, real parents certainly could.”

Keita glared at him. “My ‘real’ parents are assholes. I met them. I lived with them. They’re not magical at all.”

“You lived with your biological mother and a man she married while pregnant with you. Your mother had some small prowess with a few magical things, but not enough, it seems, to save herself when the dragons came.”

Keita swallowed. “They’re dead?” She didn’t want to care. She didn’t think she did care. But it meant there was no going home… not that she would have, anyway. She hadn’t even when the winter had been awful. She wasn’t going to now that she knew how to survive.
“I’m afraid they are, your mother and your step-father both.”

Keita leaned forward, holding on to those words. “Step-father.” The asshole of assholes. Wasn’t her father.

“Step-father,” Reid confirmed. “As of my most recent information, your biological father is still alive. We could track him down, if you wanted. If you come with me.”

It was tempting. It was far too tempting. Keita leaned back, scowling. “But if I go with you… this forest isn’t going to stay unclaimed until I come back.”

“Well, then.” She was surprised to see that he was smiling. “I suppose that gives us four years to find you a better forest, doesn’t it?”

This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1071052.html. You can comment here or there.

Through the Forest

This is [personal profile] thnidu‘s commissioned continuation of In the Forest.
He was still following her. Keita didn’t know how that was possible, but every time she paused, moments later, there he was.

He was far too comfortable with the woods. People had tried to come after her before – first before the world started getting strange, and then later, their reasons less clear but their hunting no more skilled. None of them had moved like he did.

His feet fell with no noise. He broke no twigs. He left – when she double back – almost no track at all.

And he was still following her.

This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1067958.html. You can comment here or there.

In the Forest

written to [personal profile] wyld_dandelyon‘s prompt here. I’m still taking prompts if you have an idea!

There were footsteps in her forest. Keita shimmied up a vantage-tree and let herself slip into the foliage, camouflaged from the view of the few people that would think to look up.

A man walked through, skinny and wearing glasses, too clean for the forest, too tidy for the world outside. He looked around, muttering words to himself that Keita couldn’t quite discern, and then he looked up, through the foliage and directly at her.

“Keita Casarez?” His voice was still quiet, but it seemed like shouting against the noise of the woods. “My name is Reid Solomon.”

He knew her name. She didn’t move. She’d learned from the animals in the woods that moving was the dumb thing. You didn’t move until the predator showed that it was about to pounce, because maybe it hadn’t seen you yet.

“Keita, I’m not here to hurt you. I’m here from a school, a safe place, called Addergoole.”

She was safe here. She’d been safe here than she had been anywhere else, anywhere before she left. Keita stared at the man’s shoulder. His clothes were spotless. He looked like a scientist.

“It’s a small place, but it’s got running water and power still, and it’s safe. There aren’t any mobs, no falling buildings…

He seemed to have no problem talking to a blank spot in the trees. How had he found her?

“Your parents enrolled you, back before you were born. And you’re the right age to come to school now.”

Despite herself, Keita hissed. He nodded, as if not completely surprised by that response.

“All right, so your parents are not your favorite people. I can understand that. Nevertheless, they made a legally binding promise on your time.”

She scrambled down a few branches, still way out of reach but where she could see him better. “Screw that. Law’s dead. Nothing left of the government.”

“True. But fae law still holds.”

“Those freaks?” She snorted. “Nothing to do with me.”

He tilted his head. “How long have you been out here, Keita?”

“What year ‘zit?”

“2014, in August.”

“Season’s obvious,” she scoffed. She hadn’t spoken to another human in a while. She was surprised the words were still there. “Hunh.” He had to be lying. No, there’d been that first winter, which had been awful, and then the things – no, the things had started before that. Flying overhead. And she’d slept in a hollow tree with a stolen sleeping bag and prayed she didn’t freeze to death.

And then there’d been the second winter, and she’d been prepared. The camps around the woods hadn’t missed a few things she’d stolen, and most of them seemed pretty empty, anyway. It had been a colder winter than the first, but she’d stayed cozy in her nest, eating hoarded scraps.

The third winter, that had been mild, and she’d been hunting, but there’d been more people in her woods. She’d spooked some of them away and hidden from the rest…

…and it was the end of summer, so the fourth winter was coming.

“You’ve been out here three years?” The man in the too-clean clothes looked startled. Keita hissed at him.

“And I’ll be out here a lot more. Stay away, make everyone happier.”

She jumped up into the tree and darted away before he could answer, half-remembered fears jabbing at her mind.

Next: http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1067958.html

This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1066029.html. You can comment here or there.

The Good Hunt

Written to [personal profile] inventrix‘s prompt

The prompt call is still open! Leave me a prompt: here

I should probably warn: this is on the grimmer side of Addergoole stuff, not for AG itself, but for the apocalypse around it.

Shush had been following the hellhound since lunch.

The ‘hound was in three classes with Shush, only one after lunch, but the school was small and it wasn’t hard to figure out where the hellhound had gone. And after class, well, it was every man for themselves, and Shush had had no problem at all following the thing.

They were all things, of course. It hadn’t taken him more than a heartbeat to figure out he was in a school full of demonspawn. They were all around: the Pretty Ones and the Fierce Ones, the Fancy Pantsers and the Horror Shows. But a hellhound had killed Shush’s sister, so he was going after the hellhound first.

It looked like a girl. It looked like a short girl, not even five feet tall, with pretty blue eyes and warm brown skin. It had been trying to make friends with Shush the whole week, helping him find stuff in this maze, telling him secrets about the other students. Shush was already indebted – stupid, stupid, but he’d never known a demon to look so much like a person before.

The first thing he and his sister had learned about the demons was don’t get indebted. They’d watched their neighbor end up the thrall to one of those things, because Mr. Morrison had thought having running water and power was more important than his independence or his brain.

The second thing they’d learned was kill with rowan. A hunter had driven through, killed off the demon controlling Mr. Morrison, and left, leaving behind rowan daggers for Shush and Sahanna.

The third thing they’d learned was demons lie. They lied, and they hid their faces, and it wasn’t until they’d let the refugee women into their house – scraggly and feral looking, but human, he’d thought – that they’d turned into Horror Shows. They’d left Shush and Sahanna alive. They’d been after their parents.

He hadn’t had to learn that demons killed. He’d known that since the first day they showed up on TV. The hellhound that followed Sahanna home had been another page in a lesson book that was already too full.

Shush hadn’t been able to get his rowan dagger through security – no surprise, since the head of security was another demon, old-school bat wings and all. But the thing that had been calling itself Ema, the hellhound he was chasing now, she’d shown Shush the grotto. And in the grotto, it was a pretty simple matter to find the rowan tree.

The hell-hound rounded a corner. There was nobody else around. Shush followed the thing around the corner and stabbed his makeshift rowan blade through its chest.

This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1060848.html. You can comment here or there.

Addergoole in the Apocalypse: Prompts!

I have this prompt call open:

It’s 2013, 2013, 2014, 2015. The world started going to shit in 2011. Now, our characters are coming to Addergoole… or trying to get there. Or running away from it. Or just graduating. Or..??

It’s a pretty specific prompt-request, but have at it: Prompts regarding Addergoole students just after the apocalypse.

I’m still looking for prompts!

If you want, look at the tag for this and see if there’s some interaction you want to see. They should all be tagged by the year in which they occur.

Addergoole years:
Year 5 – 1999-2000
Year 9 – 2003-2004
Year 13- 2007-2008
Year 17- 2011-2015 * Apocalypse
Year 19- 2013-2014
Year 23- 2017-2018

This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1052659.html. You can comment here or there.

Coming to School

Written to [personal profile] inventrix‘s prompt

Mike hadn’t done many of these new student pick-ups – Luke didn’t quite trust him to be adult about it, and he didn’t have the travelling resources that, say, Laurel did – but Tzivyah’s extended, adoptive family were friends of his from his wild days in the seventies and eighties, and the girl herself was a strange case. There hadn’t been a peep on Shira’s radar, to the point where they’d thought that she wouldn’t Change at all without serious prodding, not a whisper from either of the sensitives they employed in the Village, and then all three of them, at once, had come to Regine’s office. Yesterday. Pounding on the door. Insisting that right now, right now someone had to go get Tzivyah.

When your clairvoyant, your clairsensitive and your precognitive agree that urgently, someone goes, right then.

Mike had enlisted the help of a teleporter to drop him outside of town. It was a risk – everyone was very touchy about fae right now, and teleportation was very obviously fae – but Shira had been breathing down his neck so badly he’d thought she might end up getting carried along in the teleport.

Ten feet away from the drop spot, he understood why. Screams were echoing through the small farm community, screams and shouts and pleas. Mike broke into a run. He should have brought Luke. He should have brought Shira. He should have brought an army.

He had himself. The screaming was too far away, and yet it was too close. His skin crawled. Humans could be awful, awful people sometimes – people could be awful people. Mike had broken into a run before he knew it.

Too far, too far. He muttered one Working after another, making himself faster, tougher. He could get there. He had to get there. The screaming was only getting louder and more intense. Someone was panicking, someone was in pain. Not the same someone, probably.

He skidded into a clearing between three buildings. The noise was unbearably loud here, something like twenty people gathered together and all of them panicking. The last time he’d been here, there’d been a quiet fireside orgy going no. Now…

He pulled himself up to his current full height, muttered a Working to deepen his voice a bit, and borrowed Luke’s best teacher voice. “What is going on here?”

He was only a little surprised when it worked. Four people stood up, two worried and reaching for weapons, the other two looking for someone to fix things. He recognized one of them as Tzivyah’s adoptive father.

“Can you help? Someone has to help, please. Make them stop. Make it stop.”

Mike walked towards them with a brusque stride he’d borrowed from Luke. “What’s the problem?”

Tzivyah’s father – Donald, his name was Donald – and the other concerned-looking man began pushing and cajoling the crowd out of the way. “This is Mike Linden-Flower,” Donald explained. “He knows about this sort of thing. He can help.”

“‘Knows about this sort of thing.’” The weapon-wielder on the left was snarling and unimpressed. “You mean he’s one of them.”

Donald raised his chin in defiance. “No. I mean he’s always been one of us. And he knows about this sort of thing. She’s hurting. And they’re…”

Mike’s stomach twisted. Three women were holding down another woman, a young woman that had to be Tzivyah. A fourth was leaning over her with a saw. “What the hell?” he shouted.

The woman with the saw stood up. “They’re hurting her. And they’ll kill her. The horns, the protrusions, they’re causing her pain. And if we don’t cut them off, those people, people out there, they’ll kill her.”

Mike muttered under his breath, both swearing at the madness of people and making himself stronger. “So you’d maim her, torture her? No.” He scooped the girl up in his arms. “Hang in there, kiddo,” he murmured, just loud enough for her to hear. She had bony protrusions coming out everywhere, and the ones that had been cut were leaking ichor. “I’m going to get you somewhere safer, and help you deal with this, okay?”

He waited only long enough for a tiny nod before raising his voice for the crowd. “She is coming with me. And nobody is going to stop me.”

There were benefits in being able to sway the mood of an entire mob. If later they told themselves that the devil had taken Tzivyah, that was fine. Tzivyah would have been taken, and she would be safe.

Mike cuddled her as carefully as he could, muttering Working after Working to heal her ills as he strode out of the village.

This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1052378.html. You can comment here or there.

Don’t Stick Out

Written to [personal profile] clare_dragonfly‘s prompt. Before Year 19 of the Addergoole School.

Shira Pelletier was having a bit of trouble.

“No, this is ridiculous.” The girl would not come out of her house, and had settled for talking to Shira through the tiniest crack in the door. “There is no way. I’m safe here. I’ve got food, water, the people don’t hate me… If you go away soon, that is. I don’t want to stick out.

“Maressa, I’m sorry, but if you don’t come with us, in a few months you are going to stick out far too much. Your parents -“

“My parents are dead. My parents are gone. They went off to fight the war. They left me, okay? So fuck whatever they wanted for me.”

“…I’m absolutely certain they wanted you safe.”

“Yeah, well, then they shouldn’t have left me here alone. They should have stayed.”

“Your parents…” Shira sighed. There were things she couldn’t say, not standing here on a formerly suburban street. “I’ll save that for another time. I know that you are safe here at the moment, but how long do you think that can last? Food, water – I don’t see many crops being planted, and you have no meat animals.”

“This is the burbs. Nobody knows how to plant crops.” Maressa threw up her hands, the gesture barely visible through the doorway opening. “Or, like, butcher animals, or anything. But they know how to store food okay. And everyone that ran off left something. We’ll be fine for another year.”

In another year, Maressa would have Changed. Shira swallowed, and dropped her voice even lower. “Maressa, do you remember your parents telling you stories about f—

“We don’t talk about those things here. We don’t talk about anything like that. We’re all normal. Human. Here.” She punctuated that with kicking the door. Shira sighed.

“Then come with me. I can’t promise everyone will be normal, but we can teach you how to plant crops, and how to husband animals – how to take care of them, that is, how to herd them and how to use them for food. And then, if you want, you can come back here and teach these people.”

Those that would have survived.

“Why me?” Maressa’s voice was still edgy, but she was about to give in. “Why not anyone else here?”

“Because your parents are the ones who set this up. And although you may hate them, they took some measures to provide for your future.”

“Why do you sound like that?” The door opened a bit further. “All fancy, like something out of a book?”

Shira allowed herself a small smile. “Because I am a teacher. And I would be honored to teach you.”

This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1044971.html. You can comment here or there.

And your Little Friends Too

Written to [personal profile] rix_scaedu‘s prompt

Callis had finally gotten the last of the babies to sleep when someone knocked on the door.

He didn’t so much sigh as slump with his entire body, and even that he only indulged in for a half a breath. He gestured to Mike, nearly as old as he was, and to Candace, who might only be twelve but was murder with a rifle. Odile would have to watch the babies, and then they’d have to go through the whole process of getting them to sleep again. But that was later. Right now, there was the threat at the door.

Callis leaned his body over from the side to peek out the view port. They’d learned that the hard way, in their last hide-out. They’d learned a lot of things the hard way.

A man was standing in front of the peephole, his hands up and empty. “Callis Avondale? I’m just here to talk.”

Callis looked back at Mike and Candace. They were frowning, worried. The babies were stirring. Colby, the youngest, had started crying. If he stood here and shouted through the door, the kids were just going to get worked up. “Stand back and keep your hands where I can see him.”

Candace stepped up into position. Callis might not survive this, but their attacker would last about three seconds after his first strike. He took a breath and another breath and steeled himself, then pushed the door open.

The man standing on the other side was shorter than Callis, but muscular like he’d never missed a meal. His t-shirt was clean and his jeans didn’t have any holes, and neither did his sneakers.

“Callis?”

“That’s me.” His skin was itching just standing here, looking at this clean guy with his perfect shoes.

“My name’s Luke Hunting-Hawk. We have a place for you in a school, a safe place with food and water.” His gaze clearly took in Callis’ ripped clothes.

“All of us?”

“All… Your friends?”

“The kids. I’m not going to leave them. They’re just kids. They’ll die out here.”

Luke raised his eyebrows. “You want to bring your friends with you.”

“What, is this sort of exclusive bunker?”

Luke shifted a bit and coughed, looking embarrassed. “You could say that. It’s a school. But I can come up with a safe place for all your friends.”
“But not in the school.” Callis frowned. “That doesn’t seem fair. Who’s going to teach the kids to read and write and hot-wire a car and all the other useful stuff?”

He thought the man might be getting a little exasperated, until his slightly twisted expression settled into a chuckle. “All right. I’ll get your friends set up with a full education, hotwiring included, full meals – and help finding their own place when and if they’re ready to go out on their own, or when you graduate school. In the meantime, would you settle for someplace warm and safe for them while I get you settled in school and make arrangements for them?”

“Just like that?” Callis took a step back. “What’s the catch?”

“The catch is, the school wants you to attend. There’s been a spot reserved for you for a long time. So you come to Addergoole, and your friends are warm and safe.”

Callis huffed quietly. “How do I know I can trust you?”

“I can’t give you any guarantees. But I give you my word that I will help your friends as best as I can, and that you’ll be free to visit them at least, say, once a month.”

The food supply was running low and one of the babies had a bad cough. Callis sighed. “All right. But the ones old enough to understand get to make up their own minds, all right?”

Luke smiled gently. “Of course. There’s a couple thermoses of soup in the van and some blankets; we can get started as soon as you’re ready.”

This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1039345.html. You can comment here or there.