What Little Remains (The Fallout Trilogy Book 1)

BOOK: What Little Remains (The Fallout Trilogy Book 1)
12.31Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads
 

What Little Remains

By Gabriella Wise

 
 

The Fallout Trilogy:

Book 1

 

Text copyright
© 2015 Gabriella Wise

All Rights Reserved

 

To my brother,

you
know why.

 

April 1

Chapter 1
 

“They aren’t back yet,” I say, pacing in front of the gate
that leads out into the world. The gate doesn’t look like much, but it is made
up of thick, six-inch planks of wood with metal backing on either side.
Different pieces of sheet metal were welded together and then bolted down into
the wood.

The sun is starting to set, casting a hazy glow on the
world. They should be back by now.

“They always run late, and you always freak out,” Daren
responds, looking bored. No one else would notice the tension in his mouth and
eyes. He has a good poker face, which comes in handy as second-in-command.

With tattoos covering his dark brown arms, chest, and upper
back, he looks like the kind of guy who has a criminal record. That is the
attitude that he likes to give off, but I know the truth. He’s actually very
intelligent.

“Charlie, you’re making me nervous,” he says, leaning back
against the wall.
 

“We should be nervous,” I say, resting against the wall
across from him. “Ricky is always
back
before dark.”

“He’ll be here,” Daren promises.

It’s hard to believe him. I know how dangerous the outside
world is. Six months ago, a series of natural disasters took out much of the
world we knew. We have no idea how many people survived “the storms”. Only two
people walked out of Appleheart, my small town of two thousand: Ricky McQueen
and me.
 

Ricky and I grew up together, and he is the reason that I am
still alive.

Before the storms happened, I was a daughter and a sister,
and my biggest worries were college applications and finding a date to prom.
Over a period of two months, the storms killed almost everyone, including my
parents and my little brother, Danny. I thought I would live and die in
Appleheart. There are days I wish I did.

No one was safe from Mother Nature. She brought down
building after building, town after town, life after life. There was no place
to hide, and only a few lucky people survived. We were forced to find a place
to regroup after the storms claimed the lives of everyone we knew. People, like
Ricky and me, headed to Fort Lee because we thought we would be safe there.

When we arrived here, right after the storms swept through,
there were very few survivors, and the military base was destroyed. The only
thing that was left was an underground bunker where a few survivors waited out
the storms. Most of the survivors from Fort Lee weren’t much older than me and
I am only eighteen. Everything that I see has been built over the last seven
months.

No one was prepared for a natural disaster of this scale. People
who came to Fort Lee were looking for security, but the soldiers that survived
were looking for a leader. That’s when Ricky stepped up and eventually took
charge of our community.

Outside of the compound, surrounded by its own wall, is
farmland. We grow what we can, including tomatoes, carrots, and broccoli.
Mostly, we rely on whatever meat the hunters can bring back. We don’t have the
space to keep many farm animals, but we do manage to keep a chick coup with
nine hens and one rooster.
 

“What if—,” I start, but Daren stops me.

“Don’t go there. You know Ricky. He loves to make a dramatic
entrance,” he says.

I bite my lip, unconvinced. Without a government to keep
people in order, some people have decided to live a more dangerous life, taking
things from others. We call these people scavengers. I have never seen one, but
several people who Ricky has brought back tell stories of their encounters with
them. Each group leaves a signature mark after they raid an area.

Some burn down everything. Others hang the bodies of those
they kill from trees or buildings. One twisted group cuts people they capture
into pieces, scattering the pieces for animal scavengers to feed on.
A circle-of-life type thing.
 

This is a world I never imagined living in.
A world without my parents, without a government, and without all
the modern conveniences that I took for granted.
Knowing what I know
about the world and the people that are in it, it is hard for me not to fear
the worst when Ricky leaves.

“I see someone coming,” one of the guards shouts to Daren.
“I think I see Jack, but I can only make out five people.”

My heart sinks and my vision blurs. Six people left four
days ago.

“Which way?” I ask the guard.

He points, and I look at Daren. His poker face is on, but I
can tell he’s startled. Ricky has never lost someone before.
 

“Get everyone away from this gate,” he orders, pushing off
of the wall. “Keep people away. No panic.”

The guard nods and grabs another guard to help him. A lot of
the younger men here joined the guard to protect people. They go through
extensive training lead by the survivors of the military base to prepare for
the job. Very few men are skilled at using more than one weapon, but Daren and
Ricky are both exceptional in hand-to-hand combat and with a knife. Ricky
prefers a gun, though. There is more control when using a gun.
 

I see the look on Daren’s face. He wants me to leave.

“I need to know,” I say, crossing my arms. I mean it as a sign
of defiance, but it hides my shaking hands.

The guards behind me are calling everyone to dinner at the
bonfire, on other side of the camp. This is the first time Ricky has lost
someone, so it has to be handled carefully. People can’t be given the opportunity
to panic.

“Here they come,” Daren says, walking through the gate.

I follow, just a step behind him, anxious to see who’s back.
Jack is leading the group. It’s hard to tell from this distance, but I think
he’s limping. He’s been part of this group since the beginning, having been one
of the surviving military guys. His dark face hides any emotions, and his black
hair is plastered to his forehead. Alec, his blond hair coated with dirt,
follows with two other soldiers. My heart starts beating a little faster until
his face finally appears. Relief washes over me. I take off towards him,
blowing past Daren who doesn’t bother trying to stop me.

Ricky drops what he is carrying and opens his arms. I nearly
knock him over as his arms wrap tightly around me, lifting me off the ground.
Dirt and blood mask his usual musty smell.

“I’m sorry I’m late,” he mumbles into my hair.

I pull back to get a better look at him.

Slight bruising dusts his cheek, and an open cut runs down
his left arm, a slanted thick line from his elbow to an inch above his wrist.
There is blood on his uniform, but I don’t see any open wounds other than the
cut on his arm. Other than the dark circles that are always under his green
eyes, he looks okay. His dark brown hair falls just above his eyes, the back of
his head dripping with sweat. His strong jaw sits under a stubborn-set mouth
that is tight with emotion.
 

Chapter 2
 

I let him lead me back to the camp, his arm tight around me.
He’s leaning on me just enough to let me know how tired he is.

“How have things been on your end?” Ricky asks, surveying
the area as we walk through the gate.

I shrug, suppressing my own curiosity. “Quiet, except for
Daren. He wouldn’t stop pestering me the whole time you were gone.”

Ricky smiles as we progress back to our cabin. Daren follows
behind the others to the medical cabin to see John, who is one of the original
soldiers who was here when we arrived. To call him a doctor would be pushing
it, but he’s the closest thing we have to one. Ricky and the medic disagree a
lot, but I like him.

Ricky closes the door behind him, and we sit at our kitchen
table. None of the furniture in our cabin matches, but ours is one of the few
cabins that
has
furniture. The kitchen table is
stained and dented, but sturdy. Four chairs surround the square table with two
extras against the wall that Ricky uses for bigger meetings.

Ricky sits, and I get a rag out of a cabinet for the cut on
his left arm. Over time, I learned it is easier to just keep basic first-aid
materials in the cabin. It makes it harder for him to refuse medical treatment.
I sit next to him, handing him the rag and a water bottle.

“We were ambushed last night,” he starts, wincing as he
presses the rag against the cut. “Fifteen to six. We barely managed to get
away, taking out at least seven of their men. I think they were part of a
larger group.”

That catches my attention. Normally, scavenger parties
aren’t large. The largest Ricky had ever run across was twenty. If that fifteen
was a search party for a larger group, it means trouble. A group that big might
be able to ambush a compound like ours.

“Who didn’t make it back?” I ask.

“Brian. He surrendered,” Ricky says, closing his eyes. “He
got shot in the leg. I tried to carry him, but he refused. He laid down his gun
and surrendered. I don’t know what happened to him. We had to run.”

“What about supplies?” I ask.

“They stole everything that we found. We were lucky to get
away with our lives,” Ricky says. “I need to talk with Daren, but I’m pretty
sure that the search party was part of Razor’s group.”

Cold chills go down my spine. Razor has a reputation here.
Several people we have taken in have barely survived him. He’s a scavenger who
has claimed most of the state of Virginia. He takes over compounds, using up
all of their supplies before moving on to the next place. He and his men kill
almost all of the people that they come across, and the few who do get away
have permanent reminders of the encounter.

“So you will have to leave again soon?”

“Probably,” Ricky agrees. “Let’s worry about that tomorrow.”

Every time they go out for supplies, they look for gas,
weapons, and any food they can find. The gas is for the generator that powers
the bunker and the medical cabin. There is a lot of farmland within one hundred
miles of here. Even though they are mostly unattended, some crops are still
growing.
To make sure that the food lasts
,
everything is closely monitored
.

Another necessity they search for is scrap metal to make
bullets, arrowheads, and knives.

In the beginning, when there were around sixty people
settled here, the trips happened every two or three weeks. Now that the
population is over one hundred, they go once a week. They would be gone an
average of three days
;
two for shorter trips and four
for the longer ones. Eventually, there won’t be any more gas to bring back, so
Ricky monitors its use closely.

As the leader, Ricky is careful about everything that
happens on either side of these walls.

“Hey, don’t look so serious. Everything is okay. I’m okay.”
Ricky says.

I take a deep breath. “I know.”

His eyes meet mine. “Did you miss me?”

“Hmm,” I say, standing up and walking around the table. “Not
really. I didn’t even notice that you were gone.”

“Really?” he asks, raising his eyebrows and leaning back in
his chair. His hair is starting to dry and is sticking up in the back. A cocky
grin fills the corners of his lips. “Have a good time without me?”

I shrug, grinning. “Maybe. I’d tell you about it, but you
need to see John. And I know that Daren wants to talk to you. And I have chores
to do.”

“You’re going to leave? I just got back,” he says, leaning
forward.

I kiss his forehead; the bitter taste of sweat meets my
lips. “If you’d been on time, we would’ve had over an hour together. Nicole got
someone to cover for me in the kitchen and in exchange, I offered to clean the
dishes so that I could see you when you got back.”

He captures my hands, keeping me close. “Why don’t you stay?
Someone else can do it.”

“I already promised
Nic
that I
would help,” I say, swinging our hands between us.

Ricky rolls his eyes. He doesn’t like Nicole. She has a
tendency to push his rules. She is constantly questioning every choice he
makes, which drives him crazy. They don’t agree on anything; Ricky reminds me
of this on a daily basis.

She came here two months ago. She helps me in the kitchen
and in the gardens. She is one of the only women here who will talk to me. I
think it’s because my dating Ricky intimidates the others, or they’re jealous.
As great as Ricky and his friends are, I need girl time. Nicole challenges me,
always pushing me to be better.

She’s also helping me to realize how much I center my life
on Ricky. Before, when he left, I wouldn’t leave the cabin. I was paralyzed by
fear he would never come back. I would let my fear and anxiety rule my life to
the point where I was barely functioning. I wasn’t living, just existing. She
changed that. Something she said really changed my perspective.

“People live and they die. It’s what makes us human. How you
live your life, that’s what matters.”

So I’m working on a life outside of Ricky, pushing myself to
do more to help out around the community. It made me happier and helped me to
have fewer and fewer dark days. Occasionally the darkness creeps back, but I’m
stronger now.

Ricky squeezes my hand, and I wrinkle my nose, coming back
from my thoughts.

“I’m sorry. Listen, I know you and she don’t get along,” I
say. “She is one of the only people who helps me around here. Besides, it’s
good for you that someone questions what you do. It’ll keep you honest.”

I look up at him and smirk. He shakes his head, his mouth
set.

“I have you to do that for me. I don’t need anyone else.”

“Ricky, if I thought she was a threat, I’d be the first to
let you know. I spend the most time with her. She pulls more than her fair
share around here. So what if she’s a little rough around the edges? Who here
isn’t? Besides, you can’t throw her out. It isn’t safe.”

“I know, I know,” he says.

Ricky stands, pulling my hands behind his back. He smiles as
he leans down towards me. I close my eyes as he kisses my forehead and then my
nose. Behind his back, he clasps my hands together before wrapping his arms
around me. I go up on my tiptoes as he presses his lips against mine.

I smile against his mouth, and he backs me towards my
bedroom, one of the few areas off-limits without an invitation from me. Having
my own separate bedroom was the only reason that I agreed to move in with him.
There are only two rooms in the cabin, this main area and mine. Ricky sleeps on
a mattress in this main area so that I can have the privacy that comes with a
room.

My back hits the door, and I laugh as he fumbles for the
knob. That irritating, rational part of my brain remembers that I have a job to
do, and that he needs to go see John. But when I’m with Ricky, rational
thoughts get pushed to the side.
 

The door behind me swings open with a bang against the wall.
His hands leave me for a moment and his bulletproof vest drops to the floor. I
sit on the bed, watching him move. His movements are graceful and precise. He
takes off the assortment of guns and knives, putting them on the ground.

“Where were we?” he asks, breathless. He puts his arms on
either side of me. He presses his lips against mine.

I wind my fingers through his hair, not caring that his dirt
is getting all over my clean bed. He scoots me back, lying on top of me.
Running my hands over his back, my fingers grazing the raised, rough scars.
Most of them are from scavengers. Around the campfire, he tells stories to the
kids about fighting. His stories are outlandish and exaggerated, but the kids
love it. The boys take what he says to heart; he is their role model. The
little girls have huge crushes on him and giggle whenever he walks by.
 
Most of the men roll their eyes at his
stories, but no one challenges him.

Ricky pushes his hand under my shirt, resting it at my
waist. His kisses me from my jaw to my neck, and trails his way back to my
mouth. Someone knocks on the door. Ricky shakes his head before planting his mouth
against mine to keep me from protesting.

“They’ll go away,” he mutters against my lips, shifting me
further back on the bed so that we are both completely on it.

The knocking continues in a rhythm. I know who it is, and
Ricky won’t be happy about it.

A deep growl rumbles from his chest as he pulls his face
away from mine. “Everything better be burning to the ground,” he grumbles, and
I bite my lip to keep from laughing. Then he shouts to whoever is banging.
“What do you want?”

“Charlie,” a muffled voice calls back.

“You don’t have to go,” Ricky says to me, closing his eyes,
his frustration clear. “Let them handle it by themselves.”

I kiss him on the lips, and then push out from underneath
him; he falls off with a sigh and flops on the other side of the bed. “I’m
coming,” I holler to Nicole.

He stands with me, clearly not happy. I touch his face and
give him a mock pouty face. “I’m sorry, babe, but you have your duties, and I
have mine.”

“I don’t like having to share you,” he mutters, wrapping his
arms around my waist and pulling me close to him. “I want you all to myself.”

I kiss his forehead. “I have responsibilities. That is part
of life. And life doesn’t care what anyone wants.” I wiggle out of his arms and
open the door to the large room, straightening my shirt as I walk. I glance
back at Ricky, who is leaning against the doorframe with an unreadable look on
his face.

Looking at him, my insides tingle like a million little
fireflies are fluttering in my stomach. I’ve been with him for seven months,
and he still makes me nervous. The look in his eyes is what concerns me. He
wants something I’m just not ready to give.

“Go see John. Have him look at the cut,” I order him,
pointing a finger at him.

He raises his eyebrows, smiling. I hope he listens to me. He
is horrible about asking for help and even worse when he has to ask for it from
John.

BOOK: What Little Remains (The Fallout Trilogy Book 1)
12.31Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Unbound by April Vine
Mystery at Saddle Creek by Shelley Peterson
Secret Kiss by Melanie Shawn
Midnight in Berlin by James MacManus
The Jigsaw Puzzle by Jan Jones
Randall Renegade by Judy Christenberry
My Almost Epic Summer by Adele Griffin
Time Rip by Mimi Riser