Only Ash~ Chapter Three pt. 3 of 3
Posted January 3rd, 2017 by Zelda
in a perpetual predicament
A/N: I appreciate all of you who are reading this :)
Part Three of Three
The cold sun shines on everything. I have to squint against the brightness. Mid-spring in Russia is always like this; too-bright and borderline cold. Every other step my left knee twinges. My joints do that every time the barometric pressure goes down, always beginning with my knee. Part of it is the fibromyalgia, I think, but the knee only started aching after I shattered my legs. My breath no longer swirls in the air, which is a positive, but with each passing minute the pain pills are wearing off. I pat the pockets of my sweater, searching for the bottle. It’s not there. The scraps tied around my chest and over my shoulders are beginning to feel like shackles. The fabric is like sandpaper against my burned skin, even so I get the idea that the pain pills are blocking most of the pain from my burn. That means when the drugs wear off, well, I’m going to be in six kinds of hell. I guess that means I’ll have to rescue Elle all that much quicker, which is fine by me. The sooner I get her back, the better.
“Trick! Wait up, man.” A familiar voice calls. I ignore it and press forward. The terrain is rocky, and foliage is sparse, just a towering oak or pine here and there. In the distance, angled to my left, the trees are much thicker. “Come on man, you know you can’t outrun me.”
I sigh, and slow down. Maverick jogs up beside me, matching me stride for stride. Behind us is the clomping of four other sets of feet.
“What do you want?” I ask, trying not to sound too bitter. I’m calm enough now to realize that Pasty had a good point. I wouldn’t be that surprised if the others followed his reasoning over mine, in fact, I’m not sure I want anyone with me for this. What if more of us die?
“Did you think I was gonna let you run off on your own?” He scoffs.
“I don’t need help.” I grumble, though we both know that’s a lie.
“You don’t know where they took her.” He points out.
“And you do?”
“Give me five minutes.”
Because this is Maverick, and only because this is Mave talking to me right now, I slow to a stop.
“Shouldn’t you be with your group?” I ask, crossing my arms over my chest for warmth, but then dropping them because the motion stretches the burn injury in painful ways.
“I am.” He says, and nodes his head in the direction we came from. Not far back is the rest of the group. Right, that would be what the other footfalls were. Pasty trails behind them, and I can’t help but notice with a measure of both smugness and self-loathing that the entire left side of his face is bruised an ugly gooseberry purple to match his black eye. Lower, my gaze finds blue-ish, finger-shaped welts on the soft flesh of his neck.
“We’re gonna rain hell on those military guys, together.” Maverick intones pointedly, “Catch my drift, Trick?” He raises both eyebrows. I dip my head and run my fingers through my short hair.
“Loud and clear.”
Maverick is making us all a team, regardless of whether we want to be one or not.
“Great.” He holds a fist out towards me, something in it rattling. “By the way, you forgot these.” I grin half-heartedly, and take the bottle of pills. They rattle pleasantly in my hand.
“Thanks.” I say.
“What’re friends for.”
I pop the lid on the pills and shake one into my hand. I down the pill dry and slip the bottle into my sweater pocket. I turn to get a better look of everyone here, and catch Pasty eyeing the top of the pill bottled. Unsettled, I shove it deeper into my pocket.
“So, directions.” I say, turning back to Maverick. He holds up a finger.
“We’ll have them in a moment.” He assures me. Sure enough, not more than a minute later a blur zips into our midst and skids to a halt. A spray of gravel kicks up under the blur’s feet. I step back instinctively, but Maverick remains impassive.
“Trick, meet Skyelar.”
The blur, now that it’s not moving, has become a person, a panting, sweaty, ginger guy.
“And while we’re doing the name thing, this is Piper,” Maverick points to the Asian dude, “Delilah,” The only girl in the group, “and I hope you at least remember Bakari and Dieter, since you saw them both yesterday.” The names all sound vaguely familiar, which means I’ve probably met them all before, except for Skyelar.
“Sky, this is Trick.” Maverick draws an invisible line connecting me and Sky, confirming my suspicion that we’ve never met before.
“’Ey, how’re you doing?” Sky holds out a hand. His accent is distinctly British.
“Pretty crappy, yourself?” We shake.
“Not too bad, bit parched from all that running.” He shoves his hands in his pockets and looks to Maverick. Mave shrugs.
“Sorry man, no water.”
Sky rolls his eyes.
“I fail to see how he can help.” None other than Pasty himself pipes up. His voice is nasally. I definitely broke his nose, and possibly his cheekbone too. Maverick claps Sky on the back,
“Speedy here has been trailing our guys since they made their escape.”
Suddenly, I’m all questions.
“He has? Did you see Elle? Where did they take her?” I blabber. Sky holds his hands up.
“Woah, mate, breathe.” He says, eyebrows disappearing under ginger hair. I clamp my mouth shut, desperate for answers. Sky points a slender finger in the direction he came from.
“There’s a camp fifteen miles due east. I’m not going to lie, there are at least a hundred people there, all military, not too friendly looking.”
“Sky,” Maverick interrupts, “focus.”
“Right, at any rate, you could make it there easy enough, just not before nightfall, and some of the terrain you do not want to be navigating in the dark.” Sky drops his hand to his side, finished delivering his news.
“Any good campsites?” Maverick asks, already thinking ahead.
“I might’ve seen a few right before the traveling got real nasty. That’s a big might, mind you, it’s not easy catching details when you’re going that fast.”
Maverick nods thoughtfully.
“Okay,” He says after a moment of quiet, “Here’s what’s happening; we’ve already hiked at least three miles, and we’re all tired from last night and this morning. So, we’ll go as far as we can today, set up a camp, scavenge some food if we can, and get as much shut-eye as possible.” He looks from face to face as he speaks, his way of addressing both the individuals and the group as a whole. “Tomorrow morning we’ll hike the rest of the way to the camp, grab Elle and whatever else we can, and get out as fast as possible.” Maverick clasps his hands together and rocks back on his heels, “Question, comments, complaints, concerns?”
In response, Pasty starts to shake his head, only to stop sharply. Probably because his head hurts like hell. He settles for a scoffing noise instead.
“Dieter?” Maverick thumps back onto flat feet, meeting Pasty with a level gaze.
“Is no one concerned about the fact that this is a suicide mission?” Pasty fumes. Piper let’s out a low whistle.
“Cheerful bugger you are, mate.” Sky quips. Dieter shoots them both glares that could curdle milk.
“My man, you don’t have to come with us.” Maverick, forever the peacekeeper, steps in before things can escalate like they did on the hill. Dieter shifts his angry gaze to Maverick. They stare each other down, and endeavour that Maverick inevitable wins. “You’re free to go whenever you like, just don’t come back.” His answer seems harsh, but it’s necessary. We can’t afford to have any loose threads. Dieter holds his tongue.
“Uh huh.” Maverick turns to address the rest of the group. “That offer stands for everyone. I’m not going to force anyone to come on this little mission of ours. A quick glance around shows that nobody is keen to take him up on that offer. Delilah’s eyes flare with wild determination. I doubt that a rescue mission is the only things she has in mind for the military camp.
“Alright, now that’s settled, let’s go.” Maverick claps his hands together, “If you’re thirsty, grab some snow, if you’re hungry, well so is everybody else.”
I stoop to scoop up a handful of snow and pop it in my mouth before picking up a brisk jog. The snow numbs the roof of my mouth and tastes like dirt and pine needles. It’s a source of water though. I try not to focus on the grit in the snow, or on the discomfort that’s rising in heat-like waves off my burn. Just think, by this time tomorrow, I’ll have Elle back.
See more stories by PaperRe