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Praesidium III

by Jade Stephens 11 months ago in Adventure
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James has Common Sense

Previously

Once their food was finished, Nixie packed away the stove. The flammable items went into Noah’s bag while the rest went into Nixie’s. And then, they were ready to go. James, once again, was setting off to find Praesidium and his new future. His destiny.

While staying on course was much simpler with Noah’s compass, even in the inexperienced hands of James, the journey did not appear to be getting any easier. They left Torrington Estate and entered brand new territory. Territory that James had never entered before. The area was less industrial. Clearly the outskirts of town. Fields were becoming more and more common and buildings were starting to become few and far between.

'Am I going in the right direction?' James questioned Noah, showing him the compass. James was slightly concerned about the change in scenery. For some reason, he didn’t think of Praesidium to be out in the middle of the fields. To him, Praesidium was a city dwelling. Isn’t the city where all of the power is or was?

Noah leaned over to look at the compass and nodded. 'Yes. Due North.'

'But there’s no buildings this way.' James commented.

Noah looked at James in a scrutinizing way. 'You have never left the city, have you?'

James shook his head ‘no’.

'Well, I suppose this new world doesn’t allow many opportunities for you to do so, but I remember what it was like before. I was just a young boy, mind. I was a Torry boy but I went to school in the next city over. One quick train ride and I was there. Back when I was a boy, you could catch a train anywhere. There’s a whole world outside of that one city, boy.' Noah told him.

James realized that Noah had lived through whatever catastrophic event that had happened to cause the world to become like this. This world was all James had known, and it had been the same for Isaac. Isaac had never mentioned if their parents could remember the old world. He had only ever mentioned that their father was also a Torry boy - a boy raised in Torrington Estate.

'My Dad was a Torry boy.' James commented.

'What was his name? I might have known him.' Noah questioned back.

'I don’t know.' James answered honestly.

'You don’t know your Dad’s name?' Nixie asked in disbelief.

'I didn’t know my Dad. I only know what Isaac has told me about him. I have a picture though.' James commented, finally pulling out the photo from his pocket. He showed it to Noah. Nixie leaned over to see the picture as well.

Noah chuckled. 'Oh, I know him. The climber. Didn’t know his real name'

'The climber? Why do you call him that?' James questioned.

'Social climber. He married a woman from Algarve Heights. She was from one of the richest families in the country. It was a bit of a scandal when she married a penniless Torry boy.' Noah explained with a fond grin on his face like he was reminiscing. 'I thought they left. He was always talking to whoever would listen about movin’ away from here. From Torrington and Algarve Heights. Guess he didn’t make it very far.'

'Guess not. Isaac and I have always been in Algarve Industrial. We were born there.' James agreed.

'Well, still better than Torrington, I guess.' Noah commented before falling silent.

They continued in silence.

As the day progressed, James began to see signs of a new town or city. Houses were becoming more frequent. These houses were nice. They were mostly overgrown but James could see the potential behind them if they were tidied up. If the plants were cut back and the grass cut. It would be beautiful. You could just about see the red tiled roof and brown brick walls. The windows were brown from years of dirt, but all of the glass panes were intact which was something these days.

'Welcome to Whitworth.' Noah said, waving his hand towards the town. 'If Praesidium have any sense about them. They will be here. This is where the money is or at least it was.'

'Money?' James questioned in confusion.

'Yeah, you know, money. That plastic stuff that you use to pay for stuff.' Noah elaborated.

James continued to look confused and couldn’t help but feel a little stupid when Nixie clearly didn’t share his confusion. Noah sighed as he looked at the confused expression on the boys face.

'Money was the currency that we had. Pounds. Did you never wonder why the shops had little numbers in front of each item?' Noah questioned.

James shook his head, 'No. The only time I was in a shop I was too busy trying not to be eaten by one of the beasts. We didn’t really hit shops. Isaac always said that the shops were the first to be emptied and any shop still standing was too good to be true.'

'Yes, he was right. The shops were all looted right at the beginning except maybe the mall in Algarve. They had all of the automated security. Nobody was getting in there without getting shot.' Noah explained, 'But that was neither here nor there. Money was what made the world turn. While now, we take food as much as we can carry, back then we took food as much as we could afford.'

'So, you let this money tell you how much you could eat?' James asked incredulously.

Noah chuckled. 'That’s one way of putting it.'

'If you spent it on food, where did you get it?' James questioned.

'You worked.' Nixie answered simply. 'It’s called a job.'

'But what if you couldn’t work and then didn’t have any money to spend on food?' James asked.

'There were some benefit and welfare schemes out there I guess to help you, but the simple answer is you starved. No money. No food.' Noah replied.

James didn’t know what to say to that. That sounded worse than what it was like now. James didn’t have to worry about gaining money to eat, he just had to scavenge for the food. Though, he wouldn’t have to worry about the beast turning up to kill him and have him as their own food.

'Oi' a voice called from behind them.

All three of them turned to see three large men walking towards them. They walked with a confident swagger that screamed trouble. James moved to stand slightly in front of Nixie, only to find that Noah had moved to stand in front of them both.

'Hello, gentlemen.' Noah replied, his voice having a hint of confidence but not as confident as the men approaching them.

'Your on our turf.' the central man almost growled as he spoke, his angry face scowling towards them.

'We were just passing through' Noah said, with his hands raised to show that he meant no harm. 'But we can go around.' Noah glanced back at James and Nixie and nodded for them to start backing away.

James and Nixie began slowly backing away, with Noah copying them step for step.

'No. You can pass through, for a price. Or you can leave, for a price.' the second man who was standing on the left told them, a wicked grin on his face. He was greedily eyeing the bags that Nixie, Noah and James were wearing on their backs.

'So, you want something?' Noah asked, still encouraging Nixie and James to keep backing away.

'Indeed we do.' a new voice came from behind them.

The three of them spun to find another four men stood behind them. The four men must have been hidden behind the houses as James, Noah and Nixie walked past or they had circled around the back gardens.

'Consider it a road fee.' the same voice, the second man to the right, said. He was also greedily eyeing the bags that Nixie, Noah and James were carrying. He had a smirk on his face, like most of the others. They were confident and they had reason to be.

Nixie, Noah and James were easily outnumbered. Not to mention the size and muscle that these guys had. James figured that each of these men could easily bench press his equivalent in weight and squash him like a bug under their boots. At the same time!

Noah slipped the bag he was carrying off of his back and handed it to Nixie saying, 'I’ve always loved an old fashioned throw-down.'

James was both worried and confused. A throw-down. Who said anything about a throw-down? What even was a throw-down? But it clearly meant something to Noah and Nixie as Nixie gained a determined but worried look in her eye. Nixie grabbed hold of James’ wrist tightly, her muscles tense.

Noah suddenly whipped out an old fashioned pistol, pointing it towards the man who was clearly the leader of the group and shot him cleanly between the eyes. Noah then shot the man to his left, equally as accurately. James froze as the murder happened in front of him so quickly and so efficiently, but Nixie did not. She sprung towards the newly formed gap in the circle of men and pulled James along with her. She pulled him away, sprinting away as fast as they could to the next turning.

Just as they turned and passed behind a building, James was able to glance briefly back to see Noah engaged in a brutal fist fight with the remaining men, before being pulled fully behind the building by Nixie. Nixie kept running, never looking back. She was focused purely on the direction that she was going. She seemed to have an idea of where to go in her head, or she just ran confidently all of the time while making spontaneous decisions. James couldn’t tell but he was leaning towards her knowing where she was going.

'We can’t leave him!' James called.

'You’ll just get in the way. It’s the plan. The throw-down.' Nixie replied.

'What?' James yelled, absolutely and completely confused.

Nixie pulled them into a sheltered alcove and finally stopped running. She turned dramatically to face him. 'The throw-down is a plan that Papa and I made a long time ago should something like this ever happen. He fights. I run with the supplies. We meet in a preassigned location.'

'You have a preassigned location here?' James questioned.

Nixie looked to him like he was an idiot. 'No. Three lefts. Two rights. One left. And then we find shelter and look out for friends and foes.'

James looked slightly less confused but still confused. 'So, you run three lefts, two rights and one left and then find shelter and then Noah will come and find you, if he survives a fight with whoever those guys were?'

Nixie nodded. 'Yes. It’s the throw-down plan.'

'What actually is a throw-down?' James asked with a confused look still on his face, though he was certainly calmer and less alarmed then he was before. He was still worried about Noah but at least there was a firm plan in place, even if he didn’t understand it.

Nixie shrugged. 'Something from the old world. Some sort of fight, I think. I’m not entirely sure.'

'I still think we need to go back.' James argued, poking his head around the corner and watching out for Noah.

'Like I said before. We’d only get in the way. Papa knows what he’s doing.' Nixie replied confidently but her tone was filled with concern.

James looked back at her and protested. 'He was fighting five against one.'

'Papa can handle himself, even five against one.' Nixie replied.

'We can’t just stand here.' James exclaimed, his frustration and concern building a bit more with every second that passes without any sign of Noah.

'We have to.' Nixie declared determinedly.

'No. I’m going back. I’m going to help him.' James declared before he spun around and rushed back to the alcove entrance. He rushed out and around the corner but he didn’t get very far when he ran straight into someone. Both of them tumbled to the floor. James let out a sound of surprise while the other grunted in pain.

'Get off me, boy.' Noah yelled in a pain laced voice.

James scrambled up to his feet with a bit of help from a tug on the back of his jacket from Nixie. Nixie dropped down to her knees besides her father. James lowered himself down on Noah’s other side.

'Papa…' Nixie began.

'We need to find some shelter.' Noah immediately interrupted her.

Nixie nodded, 'Of course. James, help me get him up.'

James nodded and the pair lifted Noah to his feet. They carried him towards the closest building. The windows and doors were all still intact. Nixie took all of Noah’s weight as James stepped forward with his crowbar. He pried the door open, holding it for Nixie as she hobbled in with Noah leaning against her.

James took half of Noah’s weight again as the three of them ascended the staircase in the house to one of the front bedrooms on the second floor. James helped Nixie lay Noah down before rushing back downstairs to prop the door back in its place and secure it with a barricade. He rushed back upstairs and into the bedroom. Nixie helped him barricade the bedroom door before they turned their attention to Noah.

He was lying on the bed. His breathing was uneven from the pain. Now that James had the opportunity to look at him properly, James could see that he was badly beaten. He was pale and sweaty. His eye was swollen and he had blood coming from somewhere just above his hairline. James didn’t have the ability to see through Noah’s clothes but he was sure that his body would currently be turning into a combination of bruises and cuts.

What worried James the most was the wet patch on the side of Noah’s stomach. James stepped forward and quickly pulled up the layers of clothing that was over the wet patch, revealing a bloody stab wound. James lightly gasped in shock. What did they do now? Was Noah going to die?

'Nixie' James called quietly, trying not to alarm Noah.

Nixie, who had been stood by Noah’s head, looked at James and then the stab wound that he had revealed. Nixie’s eyes widened slightly but then an air of practiced calm fell upon her. She quickly turned to her bag and pulled out a ratty shirt and thrust it at James.

'Press down on the wound with that.' Nixie told him, scrunching the shirt up.

James took it and did as she said.

'Harder than that boy.' Noah barked from where he was lying.

James glanced up to see that Noah appeared to be just as aware of his situation as Nixie and James. James realised that he shouldn’t be surprised about that. The stab wound must have hurt when it happened and probably still did. Noah was probably very aware of his own pain.

'Nix, prob my legs up.' Noah instructed.

Nixie nodded and turned away from where she was searching through Noah’s bag, to grab her own. She lifted Noah’s legs and placed her bag underneath them. She then pulled James’ bag from his back and placed it in between her bag and Noah’s legs, leaving Noah’s legs elevated. Nixie returned to Noah’s bag, pulling a series of items; a bottle of clear liquid, a bag full of cotton wool balls, a medical dressing, medical tape and a bandage. She turned to Noah’s side, opening the bottle. She placed a ball of cotton wool at the rim and turned the bottle upside down. The pale liquid quickly soaked through the ball and Nixie quickly turned it upright.

'What are you doing?' James asked.

'I need to clean the wound. Ease up and move out of the way.' Nixie instructed, swatting James’ arms with her free hand.

James did, moving himself and the ratty shirt away from Noah’s stomach so Nixie could clean it with the cotton wool ball.

'What is it? The liquid?' James questioned curiously.

'Alcohol. The purest form we could get.' Nixie replied.

'Alcohol?' James questioned with a puzzled expression. What use would it be to them? James was wondering what it was that he and Isaac obviously didn’t know about alcohol that Noah and Nixie did.

Nixie nodded but didn’t look up from where she was cleaning Noah’s wound. 'Yep. You know alcohol. The stuff you drink and get absolutely wasted. And I mean wasted, especially with this stuff.' There was no reply so Nixie glanced up to see that James was still looking puzzled, 'You’ve never had alcohol?'

James shook his head, 'No. But you’re not drinking it now.'

'No. The alcohol kills the bacteria in the wound. It should help to prevent infection.' Nixie told him. 'You should always clean the wound as best as you can. Alcohol is the best we’d be able to get unless you tried raiding an old hospital but Papa said that they got slammed pretty early on by the druggies looking for a fix.'

If anything, James looked even more confused after that explanation. Hospital? Duggies? A fix? He would have asked for clarification but Nixie had moved on. She had taken the medical dressing, another item that James’ wasn’t familiar with, and placed it on the wound, carefully taping it down with the medical tape.

'And that?'

'Medical dressing. It must always be new and clean. Don’t put a used or dirty one on an open wound. It will just get infected.' Nixie explained to him. 'Oh, and shiny side down. You don’t want to put it on the other way round.'

'And that’s a bandage right?' James asked for clarification.

Nixie nodded. 'Yep. Wrap it round and tie off. You need to make sure it's firm but not cutting off the circulation. Again that will cause more problems.'

James nodded, silently filing away everything that she was telling him for future reference. For a split second he wondered if knowing this stuff before would have made any difference, before he decided that no, it wouldn’t. A wound on the stomach is a far cry from a bite to the neck.

'What do we do now?' James asked.

'We wait.' Nixie replied. 'We rest. We eat. We sleep. We’ll have to hole up here until Papa’s okay to move.'

James glanced up at Noah who had fallen asleep, or at least, he hoped that Noah had simply fallen asleep. 'How long will that be?'

Nixie shrugged her shoulders. 'Depends on how bad the stab wound was. How deep was it? Did it avoid all major organs? Is it bleeding internally? There are so many different possibilities. We just have to wait and hope that it will be a quick recovery.'

X - X

Noah was asleep for a long time. James was worrying by day one. Nixie started worrying as the second day came to an end. Staying asleep for any real length of time was dangerous. While it was asleep, the body wasn’t getting the nutrients or water that it needed. Nixie would occasionally try pouring some water down Noah’s throat but only a tiny bit at a time. It wouldn’t be enough to sustain him.

Neither James nor Nixie would leave. Nixie wouldn’t leave James alone with Noah but she was also reluctant to let him leave alone. However, they were both aware that at some point one of them would have to go and get supplies. Nixie and James had been eating through the stock pile that James had gotten and it wouldn’t be long before they were all gone, especially when two mouths became three.

As the sun reached its highest point on the third day, Noah finally stirred. Nixie and James were both sitting at his bedside. Their dishes from their most recent meal were placed beside them. They had skipped breakfast as neither of them had had plans to go out anywhere so the dishes were from their midday meal.

A groan was the first hint that he was waking up. His bruised and cut face had healed slightly since he had sustained the injuries. The bruises had faded to a green color that suggested that they would be gone within a day or two. The small cuts had scabbed over and in the past two days had reduced slightly in size. His stab wound was still partially open. Nixie had done her best to keep it clean and covered. If they’d had a needle and thread, Nixie would have considered ‘stitching’ it shut, whatever that meant? James, however, was just happy to regularly change the medical dressing and bandages. Nixie had a whole stash of them. Apparently Noah had them high on his supply list every time they went out to gather some supplies and now James could see why.

'Papa?' Nixie asked gently as Noah struggled open his eyes.

'Nix?' Noah questioned in return.

'I’m here. How are you feeling?' Nix gently probed.

'Like I fought five people and won.' Noah replied. His tone of voice suggested that he was trying to be funny, but neither Nixie and James found the situation funny in the slightest. Noah simply sighed, 'You youngun's have no sense of humor.'

'We apparently have more common sense.' James responded.

Noah let out a fake sounding laugh, 'Oh, really? Now that's funny. You have more common sense? Ha!'

'You decided to try taking on five guys on your own. Is that showing more or less common sense than me?' James protested.

'You think they would have let us all run?' Noah questioned in return.

'You could have died.' James replied, shaking his head in disbelief.

Noah shook his head in return, 'But I didn’t.'

'You almost did. If you hadn’t woken up when you did.' James protested frustrated.

'Papa, you’ve been asleep for two and a half days.' Nixie added, in a gentler tone than the one James had been using. 'We were starting to worry.'

Noah looked between them in surprise.

'I tried giving you some water but I couldn’t pour too much in or you’d choke. And we couldn’t give you any food.' Nixie commented, her tone revealing just how worried she was that they had come up against those problems.

Noah reached out and placed a reassuring hand on Nixie’s arm. 'Well, I’m okay now. I’m awake and I’m healing. No more worrying. Okay?'

Nixie nodded. Noah glanced over to James so he knew that he was included in that too. No more worrying. James nodded in understanding but it didn’t stop the worry. Not really. Noah was still injured and if he had done a sacrificial play like that then that meant that he was likely to do so again. James found that very worrying. Noah was the most experienced and knowledgeable person in their little group. They needed him.

The first thing they did was cook some food for him. He had gone two and a half days without eating anything. He had to be hungry. He ate and then he fell back to sleep. To say that that worried James was an understatement, despite Nixie reassuring him that it was perfectly normal. Noah was hurt and weak and he needed to rest to recover but James could only worry about him not waking up for another two and half days.

Thankfully, Noah woke again as the sun was setting, which was good news but it came along with some bad. Nixie and James had just used some of the last few cans of food to make a suitable dinner for the three of them. There was enough for morning meal, but that was it. One or two of them would have to go out for supplies. James mentioned this to Nixie and Noah.

'We can’t leave Papa alone.' Nixie commented.

'One of you cannot go alone.' Noah protested. 'I will be fine.'

'You're hurt.' James protested in return. 'If anything came by. Human or beast. You are a dead man. You wouldn’t be able to fight them. I’ll go. Nixie can stay here and look after you.'

'If you go and something happens to you, there goes our invitation into this Praesidium place. Then Papa and I have left our safehouse for no reason.' Nixie argued.

'I don’t think they’ll turn you away if I am not here. If I don’t make it back then keep moving North and look for the bear.' James reassured her. 'They seemed like nice people. They’ll take you in, with or without me.'

'And how do we know that you’re not just going to run off without us and leave us here?' Nixie questioned.

James paused for a minute and wondered how he could prove he wouldn’t. He pulled out the compass that Noah had given him and handed it over to Nixie.

'Here. I wouldn’t be able to find Praesidium without it.' James commented, glancing at Nixie with the sincerest look on his face.

Nixie didn’t look convinced and lifted the compass, 'You wouldn't have had this if it wasn’t for us. This is ours. It’s not much of a guarantee.'

James paused. What else did he really have to offer? He would be fetching the supplies so he needed his bag. He needed his crowbar to fight off any beasts and to get into places to scavenge so he couldn’t offer them that either. James hesitated for a moment before reaching into his pocket and pulling the only thing he had left of Isaac. The photograph.

He offered it to Nixie while saying, 'This is the only picture I have of Isaac and my parents. I would never go anywhere without it. You can hold on to it while I go and get supplies.' Before Nixie could take the picture James pulled it slightly back out of reach, 'Promise me you will keep it safe while I am gone. It’s all I have left of him.'

Nixie nodded seriously. 'I will keep it safe. It won’t leave my person. I’ll keep it in my pocket.'

James hesitated for another moment. This picture was all he had of Isaac. He knew he would be back. He had no intention of leaving Nixie and Noah but this was all he had. Could he really leave it with Nixie? Could he really separate himself from it? He finally offered it out again and Nixie gently took it before he could change his mind.

James watched intensely as Nixie gently placed it in her inside jacket pocket. She patted it while she said, 'It will be safe there.'

James nodded and finally turned away, already feeling regretful that he had given it away, even if it was just a guarantee that he would return to them. He shouldn’t feel so bereft about a picture that he would get back shortly, but he couldn’t help it. It was everything to him. He would happily give up everything that he had in his possession for that picture.

X - X

When the morning came, Nixie prepared a meal for the three of them, while also reassuring James once again that his picture would remain safe with her. As soon as they had eaten, James departed.

Noah had glanced over his map the night before. There was a residential street not far from where he figured that they were. Noah was hopeful that they would contain some supplies for them. That was the direction that James headed.

There was a residential street. A small one but one nonetheless. It has ten houses on the street and James figured that he would have time to do most of them. Any that he didn’t get, he could return to the next day if needs be. He started on the right side of the street. Isaac had always started on the right.

He used his crowbar to get in. Each house was locked up tight. Who had time to lock their doors when whatever happened happened? James certainly knew that in an emergency he wouldn’t lock a door, especially a beast emergency. What a waste of time. What was in there that was worth locking away? Or were the people expecting to come back but never made it?

There were a few cans each in the first three houses. It wasn’t a massive haul of supplies but it was better than nothing. The fourth and five houses were more promising. They had cans of food and some medical supplies. More bandages and medical dressings. Noah would need those while his wound heals.

James entered the sixth house. The difference between this house and the others was apparent immediately. This house felt colder. James could feel a definite breeze coming through the house. Leaves and branches were on the floor. Water had also gathered in areas on the ground. The reason why was apparent as he walked towards the back of the house. The large double bay doors in the back had been smashed in. But that wasn’t all. The worst thing in the house, the thing that made James want to run and never return, stood out clearly on the ground.

Huge, wet footprints. Beast footprints.

James ignored the instinct to run and bent down to look at the footprints. A jolt of fear ran through his body. The footprints were fresh. A beast had been here recently and had walked through the house until the water on its feet had dried. The footprints were going into the house.

James quickly stood. The footprints went into the house. There were no broken windows or doors at the front of the house. Nor was there any footprints coming back out of the house.

GRRRRRRR!

James spun around, his heart hammering away in his chest. Stood in the doorway that James had just entered through was a beast. It was oddly coloured in comparison to some of the other beasts. It was not built for nighttime hunting. It wouldn’t camouflage with the darkness like the others would. This beast had white leathery skin and bright red eyes. This one had a ridge of spikes on his forehead, circling the face where you would expect a hairline to be.

James froze for half a second before leaping away from the beast and out of the house through the shattered window. He could hear the beast bellowing and the thudding of his paws hitting the ground as he chased after him. James found himself following the beast’s entrance path to escape. The beast had broken down fences to get to the house so James used those holes to run undeterred away from the beast.

James glanced back was horrified to see that the beast was much closer than what the noise of the footsteps would suggest. James turned his head back forward and tried to increase his speed. Unfortunately for him, flight speed only had one speed - run as fast as you can until your legs start falling out from underneath you. James realized that he would have to change things. He wouldn’t be able to outrun the beast.

Unlike his usual haunt, this area didn’t have a fire escape for him to escape up. He would have to get creative. His anger and grief about Isaac was growing in his head. It was starting to override his fright. The anger towards the beast that killed Isaac was dominating. That beast wasn’t here, but there was another beast fully available.

James diverted slightly so he was heading straight for a brick wall. He quickly turned on the spot, just before he hit the wall, so he was facing the beast. The beast was propelling himself forward, and as he leapt into the air to tackle James to the floor. James dodged and rolled to the right. The beast slammed forcefully into the brick wall, leaving cracks and a large dent in the wall. The very center brick actually fell out inside the house.

Before the beast could recover, James took the opportunity and pulled out his crowbar. He held it so the sharp point that would usually be forced between the door and its frame was pointed down. James swung it up into the air before thrusting it down into the skull of the beast, just as Isaac had done in the shop. The beast yelped and whined in pain.

James pulled it out, splattering red blood, skull fragments and brain matter out around the ground, before thrusting it back in slightly to the right. The breast whined pitifully as it dropped down to the ground. James pulled the crowbar out again only to thrust it back down once again, this time to the left. The ground underneath the beast was started to turn red as the blood spread.

The beast had fallen silent. The only sound was James’ heavy breathing as he struck the beast over and over again. It’s head. It's body. James didn’t care where he hit, just that he hit it. Slowly, with every hit, his anger vanished, until finally he stopped. His heart was still beating out of his chest and his breathing remained heavy, but out of exhaustion now, rather than anger.

He dropped his crossbar before he too dropped to the ground beside the beast. He curled up on himself. Without his anger, his emotions returned to sadness. That gaping hole that Isaac’s death had left in chest was agonizing again. The companionship of Nixie and Noah had put a bandage over it but the appearance of a beast had ripped it painfully off.

He sat for a while, simply drowning in his pain, before he remembered that Nixie and Noah were waiting for him. He couldn’t sit and wait, he needed to get back to them with the supplies he had gathered. He had gathered enough for a day or two but he would have to come back out after that.

James stood, collecting his crowbar and began his trek back to where he had left Nixie and Noah. James was silent as he walked and the area was silent around him, until a familiar rumble echoed around the area.

A motor.

Praesidium.

James couldn’t think. He couldn’t isolate the direction of the noise. It seemed to echo around the area, reverberating against the various buildings. James had to make a choice. He had to take a chance. He went left but the sound simply faded away.

He sighed, before turning back the way he came to continue his way back to Nixie and Noah.

The door was open.

He paused just outside of the house that they had chosen to stay in. He was sure that he had closed the door after he left. In fact, he was sure Nixie had said that she would barricade it again, after he had left. He should have had to throw a small stone at the window to signify that it was him that was trying to enter.

James rushed into the building. The door had been forced in. The items that had created the barricade were strewn across the ground. James hurried up the stairs. That door was open too. The barricade to the room was also strewn around the room like a great force had thrust it from its place. The room was in tatters. There were bullet holes in the walls and on the bed that Noah had been using. There was only destruction in the room.

There was no sign on Nixie or Noah. Their bags were gone and everything else that they had carried with them. James checked every room before leaving the house. He stopped just outside and looked around for any sign of Nixie and Noah.

There was no sign of his only companions. They were gone and with them the last thing of Isaac that he had had. James knew he needed to move on. He couldn't stay. He needed find shelter for the night. He couldn't stay in this house after it had been raided. There was obviously people nearby. But he also didn’t want to go back to the houses that he had been scavenging in. However, he had heard Praesidium. He must be close if he had heard them.

He couldn’t turn back now. He had come too far. He had to continue to find them. He had no idea which way was North so he took a best guess, based on the direction that he and Nixie had approached the house the night before.

James continued to walk until the sun was starting to get low in the sky. He sighed and dropped himself down onto the curb. He placed his head in his hands and let out a pitiful sound. It was dark now. It was getting cold. He had some supplies. On the other hand, he had no shelter. No safe place. No companions. No hope.

How could he find Praesidium without Noah’s compass?

Just as he was about to collapse completely onto the ground, a bright light appeared in the far distance. It lit up, like the darkening sky was its trigger. James looked up, glancing through two houses towards the light.

The lights were on the top of a large building, lighting the building up against the darkening sky. And underneath was something that made James’ heart rise.

There, painted on the side of the building in bright white paint, was a bear.

To be continued...

in

Praesidium IV: Good thing I like Red

Adventure

About the author

Jade Stephens

Hey, just a small town girl with big ambitions. A school librarian by day and an Author by night. I love entering new worlds and sharing them with other, whether it be a book I'm reading for a book groups or a story that I am telling.

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