I'm back, after experiencing major, computer problems. Back with another update, although somewhat different from the most recent ones. Technically I had a plan to update all my works (one at a time) with releasing a new chapter of "Dragon Blood" with each submission, yet this time around I couldn't finish DB 025 in time… heck, I barely started it (something tells me that's gonna be one of THOSE chapters ^_^'), so in stead I've decided to do something different.

This tale was swimming in my head for ages and I wrote this chapter over a year ago, only I haven't submitted it, because I had too many stories on this site already. But since it lingers on my PC and takes up space, I figured 'time to do something about it' and… well, TADAM.

The style of this stories is similar to most of my manga tales, meaning the writing may be a bit simple and there's gonna be a lot of battles, but some major differences are also present, for one thing I think the story is more detailed and elaborated on then in other pieces of mine on FictionPress. Also, the fighting, while still there and still spectacular and detailed (at least I hope you'll find it that way) will be pushed a little back by comparison. Whether its good or bad, I'll let you guys decide on your own.

Also there'll be much less humor then in most of my stories (more on "Final Magic" or "Far Out" level), but I like to think drama gained in the exchange.

Anyways, if you'll like the story, please let me know through review, as that'll help me decide whether to continue this tale or concentrate solemnly on my current works, pushing this one to a much, much, much, much, much later time.

And now, without further ado, here's the first chapter of "Wasteland Warriors"!:

Chapter #1: Welcome to the Wasteland

Volume Cover: Jessie (check chapter below) is standing in the middle of a wasteland desert with her arms crossed

Title Page: Jessie is walking through the wastelands with her back turned towards the 'audience'

War. Mankind's greatest disease. The only, known cure for this cancer, human compassion and understanding, was one thing that we, as a species, always lacked. And when it comes to reasons for conflict… well, one could always be found; be it resources, territory or simply conquest. We done it all. The sad part is that after everything, we still fail to notice how pointless and devastating it all was. Everyone worked on extending their military strength, changing warfare into something even more grotesque and deadly then it already was. And what for?

Weapons were made. Ones so terrifying, that they were banned from usage. But human mentality is always selfish, blind to everything besides our own well-being. What's the point of having power, if you cannot use it? A reason. Find one that'd justify it and you can feel free to do whatever you desire. At least that is what we, fools, always thought.

That time was no different. For petty reasons that history forgot, another conflict broke out. One named the War of the End. Suitable, for it was the end. At that instant, everything humanity was so proud of disappeared. Nuclear warheads filled the sky, crossing mountains and oceans, each going to their final destination, each ready to eradicate everything at the moment of impact. No-one knows who was the first to fire. It matters not. What matters, is that within minutes, oblivion became unavoidable.

A flash of light. This is the only way to describe humanity's final moment. Like the Holy Fire, the missiles fell from the sky, annihilating everything miles from their landing spot. And then, there was silence. And why should there not be? What words could justify this stupidity… this horror… this crime against life itself?

But there were survivors. The few, hardly making one percent of the world's population, managed to find their way to specially prepared bunkers, located all around the globe. Those were the lucky ones that lived on with their petty lives, carrying the shame of their kind on their backs. Others, who miraculously didn't disappear on the judgment day, were much less fortunate then it'd appear: exposed to radiation that wrapped around the Earth, they changed, mutated, often twisting their bodies into shapes that could be called many things but human.

Yet the horror did not end there: the planet, once so beautiful and full of life, now could only be described as a wasteland, a desert with dry ground. The few places untouched by the flames have became toxic and clean water became as valuable as gold once was. Truly a place nightmares are born.

But as long as there's life, there's also hope. Humanity could start anew with their technology lost and weapons destroyed. Towns began rising in the desert, often on the ruins of former, titanic structures; fields started growing to feed the hungry and soon enough work on development began. Mankind was given a chance, chance it paid dearly for. But will they make the right choices this time around? The funny thing is people cannot live without conflict: they always want more, always wish to be better then others. Will humanity choose the path to destruction yet again?

For where there's life, there's hope. But, if there's life, there's also death…

Jessica shielded her hazel eyes from the sun, looking into the distance. The sheer monotony of the landscape became quite frustrating with nothing but cracked ground under her feet, sporadically diversified by a single, dry bush or a cactus. The same as what she's been seeing for the past two days. The teenager allowed herself to let out a sigh, lowering her head: I'm slowly running low on supplies she noted mentally with worry: If I won't find some sort of civilization soon, this could become greatly troublesome…

With another sigh, she adjusted her backpack. Jessie was eighteen years old and had long, brown hair, dyed black at its bottom. She wore a sleeveless, white tank top, which exposed her navel and very short jeans, ripped high, exposing her legs almost entirely. Her feet were hidden in brown, military boots, perfect for long and hard journeys. One could also notice a bronze medallion with number '6' curved on itaround her neck.

I guess there's no point in standing out in the sun she sighed once more, taking a single step forward. But just then she spotted something with a corner of an eye. Immediately she stopped, turning in that direction. A small smile appeared on her face upon realizing that the object was a square shape: A house she concluded, walking towards: Looks like luck is on my side after all…

After a short marsh, Jessie managed to reach her new destination, which turned out to be a small town, not all that different from tens of other she came across throughout this accursed wasteland: the huts were small, square structures, mostly poorly done by just putting together few plates of steel by either welding or nailing them to one another so that they wouldn't fall apart too easily. Here and there tents were established, serving as living quarters for the citizens that were unable to build themselves a 'steel shelter'. On the outskirts of the city small farms could be seen, providing the population with merely basic vegetables, while on the opposite end pig pens and stockyards were located, though some of the specimen within got twisted in some way by radiation.

What did differ this town from others was a building placed roughly in the middle of the city. Not a structure, but an actual building made of bricks, painted yellow (A/N: though, most likely, it was once white and only time and exposure to harsh conditions made the color fade away) with its windows either broken or nailed with pranks and cracks visible in some parts of the wall. A relic of the old days, no doubt.

Next to it stood a wooden lookout tower with a watcher keeping his eye out at the surroundings, which was probably the reason behind the fact that when Jessie walked into the town, a greeting committee was already awaiting her with an old man out front. He was propping himself on a staff with a feather attached to its top. His dark skin was filled with wrinkles, while his long, grey hair fell freely down his back. Sharp, blue eyes scanned the girl a bit suspiciously from under a black and grey bandana that went across his forehead. The elder wore a grey, old robe, wide on the sleeves and had sandals on his feet.

"What brings you here, child?" he asked with a little hoarse voice, trying to sound as polite as possible.

"Sorry for disturbing your peace" the teenager replied automatically, bowing her head slightly. "I'm a traveler and when I saw your town, I was hoping that I could supply myself here. I do not intend to stay long" she added quickly, sensing the town's leader uneasiness. The man still eyed her a bit suspiciously, but final spoke up calmly: "Very well then. I'd advise you make haste with it though. It's best you don't get involves with this village…"

"Elder, someone's coming!" the watcher from the tower suddenly called out, drawing the villagers' attention to himself. The leader then turned in the direction he was pointing, noting a trail of dust getting lifted upon by something approaching the town at high speed: It's still too early… the grey-haired thought to himself, narrowing his eyes. It can't be the Skulls…

The dust cloud kept getting closer, finally making a small shape moving before it visible. For the distance it was hard to tell, but just the outlook made it clear that it wasn't human. No, that was something much rarer then that. It was what once peopled called 'a car'.

A loud squeak of tires echoed through the town as the vehicle came to a sudden stop, turning its side to the villagers. Only now did Jessie managed to take a closer look at the machine: it had four wheels, specifically made for off-road travel (A/N: not that there were many roads anymore) and an open cabin with just single, steel bars going over the top and two seats in it. There were no doors and the headlights seemed more like small reflectors, sticking out above the engine's resting place. In the back there was some space for a possible, third passenger who'd have to stand, allowing him or her to operate a machinegun attached to the roof-bars.

The vehicle certainly drew Jessie's attention as it was the first she has seen with her eyes, but what she found even more interesting, were people inside; the driver was a man seemingly nineteen years old with long, brown hair, clipped in a ponytail. His green eyes gave an impression o a person tired with life, albeit his young age. He had a rather masculine body, covered with a grey shirt with rolled-up sleeves and a drawing of a black, snake dragon, decorating its back. He wore blue, a little baggy pants and boots similar in fashion to the girl's. His right palm was hidden behind a black, fingerless glove and one could also spot a small, circle earring in the left ear.

The man's companion turned out to be a boy a year younger then him, surprisingly similar in looks. His medium-length, brown hair seemed to be gelled-up, while his green eyes were filled with pain and anger. He wore a blue t-shirt with the same, dragon symbol on the sleeves as his partner, but also had a belt going across his chest, enabling him to carry two blades on the back. These weapons were unlike anything Jessie has seen up to date and could only be describe as harpoons mixed with scythe. His grey, khaki pants were held by a belt, to which in turns the girl noticed a sheathed katana was attached. Black and white plimsolls on his feet completed the look.

"Hey gramps" the younger one greeted the village leader as he jumped off the back of the vehicle. "How's it going?"

"What are you two doing back so soon?" the elder asked, completely ignoring the boy's question. "You were here just two days ago. I thought we agreed that today you will stay out of this town. Haven't you caused enough trouble for us already? The last thing we need is complicating the situation even further. You're too thoughtless. Keep this up and our lives will get worse…"

"Worse?" the swordsman repeated with a mocking tone. "There's very little chance of that actually happening, skipping the issue you're willing to call what you do living…"

"You have your standards and we have ours" was the village leader's reply. "I already told you to let us live our lives the way we choose to. We're not like you! We actually care about what happens to our fellow villagers! You're free to choose your own path, but at the very least you should not make it interfere with other people's lives. Lisa understood that, but sadly: you don't!"

"Listen, you old fart" the teenager snapped, grabbing the other speaker by the robe. "I will not…"

"Vince!" the driver suddenly called out with an angry voice. The swordsman froze at hearing his name, while he glanced over at his companion. A frown escaped his mouth as he let go of the elder and walked back to the vehicle, crossing his arms. "Forgive my brother, Santo" the ponytail asked, bowing slightly towards the older man. "He has a short temper. We're terribly sorry for coming here today, but we're running low on petrol and we were hoping you'll allow us to borrow some from your storage. As always, I promise we'll make up for the favor…"

"The only thing I'd want is for you to stop this nonsense" the elder, Santo, replied with a sigh. Silence felt between the two as the leader seemed to hesitate for a moment, before he spoke up again: "Just make it quick and leave. We cannot afford your presence here when the Skulls come…" and at hearing that the older teen bowed once more, motioning with his head to his brother to follow him. The one called Vincent however was occupied with something else: "Who's the chick?" he asked, staring at Jessie.

"Just a traveling passer-by, much like yourselves" the leader responded calmly, shifting his gaze at the girl. Silence again befall them as the swordsman kept on looking at the female his age, seemingly especially interested in her medallion. Instantly everyone snapped out of it though as the watcher from the tower called out once more: "They're coming! The Black Skulls are coming!"

Without a second waste, the ponytail grabbed his companion by the collar and began dragging him out of sight. He then glanced at Jessie, announcing with a calm voice: "It's best that you hide too. Getting spotted here will only bring you trouble, along with posing a problem for this town" and as he pulled his comrade into a nearby house, the girl quickly followed.

The trio located themselves close to the window, each taking a cautious peek at the village entrance as another cloud of dust came closer and closer. Finally the ones watcher called Black Skulls arrived, revealing themselves to be a gang of several men, each wearing a similar, black attire with a symbol of a white skull decorating it one place or the other. Most of them came on green, military jeeps, out of which one already had a broken headlight and both cars being in an overall bad shape, however Jessie noticed that the driver of one differed somewhat from other members of the group: he was rather fat (A/N: a quite rare feat in the wasteland), dressed in a red t-shirt with a skull out front and a large hammer attached to his back. He had messy, brown hair and blue eyes, wearing baggy, black pants.

Aside from the jeeps, one more vehicle joined the gang: a three-wheeled motorbike, ridden by a man who was seemingly the youngest in the gang, being around his mid-twenties. He had medium-length, black hair, while his green eyes scanned the people gathered around as he got off his machine. He was dressed in a black t-shirt with skulls on the sleeves and a vest in the same color on top of that, also here a skull decorating its back. His pants were black, held by a belt to which a holster with a gun hung. Jessie also noticed a katana attached to his back, a burnt mark on top of his left palm and three, triangle, golden earrings in his right ear.

Upon seeing this man, Vince shoot up, but was immediately brought down by his brother, who putting his hands on the younger boy's shoulders, whispered to him in a stern voice: "Calm down. This is not the time nor a place for our vengeance. That bastard will pay for his crimes, but we cannot face him here, you should know this by now. I won't allow our recklessness to claim any more victims, you hear me?"

The young swordsman merely stared at his companion, as he seemed to calm a little. He shifted his gaze back at the group, but Jessie could still hear his heart beating a bit faster. Meanwhile, the man with the gun walked out front, stopping inches away from Santo: "So many people just to greet us? I'm honored, but not very interested. You know why I'm here. Where are your… taxes?" he asked in an emotionless voice, while the elder pointed to a small, steel structure. The group leader motioned with his head to his men, making the fatso and his lackeys get to work instantly.

As the bandits began loading the jeeps with food and water, the Black Skulls leader kept on staring at Santo, his face still rid of any trace of emotion: "By the way, wrinkle-face, you have any guests?" he questioned with a gaze that seemed to penetrate through everything. The elder didn't look away however and looking straight into the speaker's face, he replied with calmness: "What makes you think that?"

"Don't take me for a fool, asshole" the gunman replied, slightly annoyed, pointing to the vehicle which Jessie's hiding companions used to come into the town. "If you're trying to hide someone, at the very least get their transportation out of sight. It's those two brats, isn't it? Where are they? Tell me!"

"I do not know" Santo responded without hesitation, calm still filling his voice. "They asked for gas for their… jeep, but we said 'no'. After all, they're your enemies, are they not? The last thing we would want is to cause you trouble. Besides, you know we do not have anything that'd make these old cars move. The petrol-tank was empty, the machine stopped running, so they left it behind. I have no idea where they went…"

"Is that so?" the man asked with a wicked smirk. "Should I have my men search the town then?" he added with a warning tone, yet quickly looked over his shoulder, completely ignoring the elder, as he heard his fat subordinate call out his name: "Ian, we're all packed and ready to head out!"

"Good, lets go then" he shoot back, shifting his gaze back to Santo: "And you keep in mind that even my patience has it's limits. Don't misunderstand your situation: I allow you to live, because you're useful, that's all. Killing one of you would effect my profits, but if I'll learn you really do support those two, I will not hesitate" and in a flash he picked out his gun, sticking its barrel to the elder's forehead. "Keep this up, and someone's gonna die… again."

Without another word, he retreated his weapon and hid in back in the holster, jumping onto his bike and quickly following the jeeps that already rode off. Santo allowed himself to let out a sigh of relief, once the gang was out of sight, while the brothers and Jessie walked out of their hiding place.

"Sorry for causing you trouble, old man" the older one apologized respectfully, earning a glance from the elder.

"Please, just get the petrol and leave. You know where it's hidden…"

Again, the ponytail bowed his head and disappeared behind one of the steel structures. Vince however didn't move. He only gazed at the village leader and spoke up in a serious, almost accusing tone: "You're making a big mistake, gramps. Eventually they'll get bored or you won't be able to 'pay' them as much as they'll want. Once that happens, they'll burn this town to the ground…"

"We are not fighters, Vincent" the man responded, turning on his foot. "And there's way too many of them for us to try and fight them. James and yourself cannot protect us, I believe we all learned that the hard way these six months ago… also, our petrol supply is running low. Soon, you'll either have to find some other source to keep your vehicle running or you'll start traveling on foot…" and with that he walked off, towards the yellow building.

"Lets just re-fill and get lost" the older brother, James, proposed, holding out a small tank. The whole operation took only a few moments and as the two jumped onto their transportation, the ponytail turned to a girl, seemingly his age, and spoke up in a calm voice: "We'll get back in three to four days with some supplies from another town. Pass that message to Santo, will you Vicky?"

The girl with long, blonde hair, clipped in a ponytail just like the speaker, merely nodded in reply. Jimmy copied the gesture and in a flash the motor was running, making the machine rid off into the wasteland with a trail of dust following it. The girl then glanced over her shoulder, stopping her hazel eyes on Jessie: "You wanna know what's going on, don't you?"

The traveler only managed to nod her head as a 'yes'. The girl, Vicky, let out a sigh, before continuing in a much quieter voice, almost as if she was afraid someone would hear her: "If you'll learn the truth, you might get involve and trust me that it's really best that you don't. You'll just get in trouble…"

"I still wanna know" Jessie responded without hesitation, making the other girl look around cautiously before grabbing her hand and dragging the traveler to her 'steel shelter': "Very well, I'll tell you all about it. Just be advice that once you do know what this is all about, you should leave, for your own sake. Also, if you're counting that it'll be a happy story, then you're gravely mistaken. This tale… is only about losing everything that's dear to a person, one after the next…"

---to be continued…---

And with that the intro ends. So, what did you think? Good, bad, mediocre? Please, let me know, so that I'd have a clue as to what to do with this piece in general. If you liked it, don't hesitate on letting me know.

Hope you liked the installment and until next time, hopefully.