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Entry #10 - Wild Animals
The vibrations and echoes of warfare continued to shake the walls of the canteen. It had not died down since Cmd. Jackson had gone running off not some five minutes ago. One of the hunters volunteered to watch over the POWs while the others and I sat at one of the round lunch tables sharing stories in a hushed tone so the POWs wouldn't hear us. One of the Hunters had brought an old tattered deck of playing cards so a few had gathered what money they had left in their pockets and played around or two of poker.
Money surprisingly still had lots of value despite the collapse of any central government. One of the first things we did was gather up all the pocket change people still had on them and dispersed it out to people. When people wanted food they would hand us a few dollars and we would give them food. Whenever we wanted people to do something we would pay them. It was a crude system with countless problems but for the most part, it worked. It kept people on track and working.
After a few more rounds of the card game and a story or two one of the POWs leaped from the ground and grabbed a piece of rebar. One of the cuffs that were holding him down had been opened somehow. He charged at the closest hunter with the bar. The hunter desperately tried to ready his rifle but before he could do anything the frenzied POW was already swinging wildly at him.
The POW swung the rebar over his head and it connected with the hunter’s jaw. I could hear the crunch of bones and see a crimson stream spewing from nose and mouth. The others and I jumped to our feet and ready our rifles but before we could get off a shot the POW had pulled the dazed hunter back to his feet and swung him around. He held the sharper edge of the broken rebar to the hunter’s throat. It nicked his skin and a small trickle of blood ran down his neck.
“Drop them! Drop your guns or I swear to God I will paint the floors red with this man’s blood!”
The POW shouted as the veins in his neck began to bulge. Without hesitation, some of the hunters slowly dropped their rifles. I followed suit. A few showed some hesitation but slowly placed them on the floor. All except for one. This kid couldn’t have been older than 20, with the coldest dead expression on his face. He was standing at the head of the crowd with a death grip on the trigger of his rifle.
“Are you deaf, kid? I said drop it! You want your friend here to die?”
The POW pressed the rebar a bit deeper. The hunter let out a whimper as the metal went deeper.
“Come on Ketan let’s be reasonable here, mate.”
The hunter hostage pleaded. Ketan slowly lowered his rifle and carefully placed it on the ground. As he stood up he placed his hands on his hips. I could see him sneakily stick his thumb into his back pocket and fish something out.
“All right, good, you do have some brains in there. Now all of you are gonna slide your riles away from you with your feet. And you. Ketan, is it?”
The POW calmed slightly and pulled the rebar out of the man’s skin, but still had it close to the man’s throat.
“Yeah, name’s Ketan.”
“You're gonna slide your rifle over to me.”
“What about that one?”
Ketan gestured over to the hostage’s rifle which was about three feet to the POWs left lying on the ground.
“I like yours better.”
Ketan lightly kicked the rifle over his way and it barely moved, laying in the strange no-man’s-land where neither of them could reach it.
“You little shit!”
The POW Pushed the rebar back into the man’s throat as he let out a scream of pain.
“Sorry mate my bad… would you like me to go kick it closer?”
Ketan began to move closer. At this point, the POWs face turned red with anger.
“Don’t take another step!”
He looked at the others in the room, for another hunter to harass for their rifle but all of them had kicked them away just like he asked. He nervously eyed the room until his gaze fell onto the rifle Ketan pointed out earlier. The POW pushed the rebar all the way into the man’s throat and leaped over to the rifle. The Hunter fell to the floor trying to hold the wound shut to stop the blood gushing from it. The piece of metal was still lodged in his throat as he fell to the floor. The POW fell to the floor and grabbed the rifle and began readying it. Ketan then flipped the pocket knife he fished out of his back pocket earlier and went rushing over to the POW. Before Ketan could get to him the POW had the rifle ready to fire and was pointing it in his direction.
Before he could fire the wounded hunter with the last of his energy lashed out with his foot and knocked the rifle to the side. Ketan rushed in and jabbed the knife into the POW’s eye as he let out a painful scream. Ketan was on top of the POW and let out a flurry of violent knife jabs. At this point, the rest of the hunters retrieved their guns and were either rushing to help the wounded hunter or pull Ketan off of the dead man. After a few seconds the shock I was feeling had worn off and I was able to act. I walked over to Ketan and put a hand on his shoulder. He looked over to me breathing heavy and covered in his own sweat and the man’s blood.
“Howdy Mayor. Did I earn a Promotion yet?”
Hey let out a nervous laugh. Me and a few other of the guys joined in.
“I don’t know. We will have to speak to Phillip about that.” I helped him up to his feet.
“First things first we need to get you cleaned up and make sure no more of these guys get ballsy enough to make any more moves like that.”
At this point, shivers ran down my spine as I heard the sounds of the wounded hunter choking on his own blood. A few of the other hunters were trying their best to stop the bleeding and save the life of the poor man. Some were holding rags to his wounds while others were trying to calm him down. Nothing seemed to help.They weren’t trained on how to take care of a puncture wound that size. If only there was a doctor here to save him.
After a few seconds the sound of the man’s pain died down. There was an eerie silence in the room that even muffled the gunfire coming from downstairs.
“Jesus Christ, you guys are pathetic.”
I turned around to see who made the snarky comment and sure enough, it was the raider in aviators. She looked sadly at the scene that played out in front of her. Ketan rushed forward and socked her right in the jaw.
“Shut up. For someone who complains about a lack of sympathy you sure don’t have much either.”
“Oh trust me this makes me sad. See? I’m on the verge of tears,” She said in a sarcastic tone.
“But this tragedy could have been avoided had you guys paid a bit more attention and spotted my buddy lock picking the cuffs over there. He’s been doing since you guys started your little game.”
“That’s enough from you, I don’t want another word from you,” Ketan said brandishing his knife in her face.
Despite Ketan’s threats and everyone else in annoyance in this woman’s remarks, I allowed her to speak, which prompted a bunch of confused looks from my comrades and a death glare from Ketan.
“What do you want?” I asked her
“Excuse me?” She raised her eyebrows and I could see the confusion in her eyes, or at least the one I could see since the other glass frame was still intact.
“You clearly want something else. Why would you pester someone who can gun you down anytime they like?”
“The way you guys fight and operate is like a bunch of wild animals thrashing around trying to hit anything they can reach. Sure that kills a lot of people but that’s deaths on both sides.” She gestured to the two bodies on the floor.
“I want to teach you guys how to fight, how to really fight. That way more people make it out of this hell alive.”
A few of the hunters laughed at her remark, but in some way, it kind of resonated with me.
“I’ll tell you what. I’ll think about your offer and in the meantime we will just lock you and the rest of your friends here up. How does that sound.”
“That’s not gonna happen.” She shook her head.
“Oh and why's that?”
“Because the second Jackson comes back up here and sees what’s happened he’s gonna execute us on spot. I’m afraid you don’t have the luxury of time on your side.”
“You can’t be serious..”
One of the hunters chimed, “You're not actually considering letting this raider walk free in our town with us. She's gonna backstab us the first chance she gets!”
Ketan stepped forward with a grin on his face.
“Hold on. Think about it. She's offering us the chance to become professional soldiers. Imagine what that would allow our town to do. We could expand our territory and get our people the supplies they need. A group of 10 coordinated raiders could walk in and just cause havoc on New Hope this could be good for us.”
At this point the last echoes of gunfire stopped. Something was off.
“What’s with the sudden change of heart, Ketan?” I asked him.
“I simply see her point that this is the best way to save lives.” He gave me a comforting look.
I looked back at the other hunters and some seemed to agree with Ketan. Others… not so much.
“Jackson is not gonna like this, we can't afford to make an enemy out of him.”
“We won’t have to worry about Jackson if we can train enough of our guys. If we are fast enough we won’t have to worry about anyone.”
Ketan gave me an exciting look. I looked back at the woman, she gave me a questioning look
“So what’s it going to be, Mayor?”
Entry #9 - Wrong place.. Entry #11 - Jacksons wager