Lady nudged the boy with her foot to wake him, her eyes on a hole in the building which she could see through the open door. It was still dark outside, but all her gear was already on, and a rifle was in her hands. "C'mon, kid… Get up."
Stranger grumbled a little, blinking away the sleep from his sickly glowing eyes. He looked up at Lady, smirking. "That time again, huh…? Whatever happened to sleeping in until school…?" He chuckled softly, pushing himself up. "It's odd… No emotions in my dreams other than mine tonight…"
"Quiet down. There's someone out there."
Stranger paused, closing his eyes. "Just a second…" He attempted to feel around the area for minds other than their own, but he was stopped by a light smack in the head from Lady.
She pulled him up by his shoulder. "C'mon, up. Don't just send your senses out like that unless you wanna be a beacon to any other psionics that might be around. We both know you're not the only one. C'mere."
Lady moved away from him to the hole in the building's wall, looking out. The sky was still dark; it couldn't be later than two or three AM. Stranger followed, rubbing his head. "I can try to be more subtle with my power to figure out what's out there."
Lady nodded, pointing down. "See that? Someone's moving around the base of the rubble down there. Humanoid, at least. Don't think it's a creature. I need you to see if you can tell me who, exactly. Can you do that for me, my friend?"
Stranger nodded as he followed her finger. He closed his eyes, sending his mind towards the person, inching into his mind piece by piece. The man didn't seem to notice at all yet, continuing to search through the rubble. Apparently he had no mental powers to speak of.
Stranger started to pick out information from his mind, though it resisted. Kyle Lucin. Male. Human, non-mutated, uninfected. Age thirty-six. Soldier of The Redeemers, otherwise known as the rebels. "Jackpot…" Stranger whispered softly. "You may be in luck…"
"Luck?" Lady looked at him. "Good luck for once?"
Stranger scanned the mind a bit further, checking if he had to report to anyone, or if he had any partners nearby. They seemed fortunate; he wasn't scheduled to report to anyone until the following afternoon, and no one else was with him at the moment.
"Come here…" Stranger whispered, suddenly attempting to fill the man's mind and bring him over to the pair. The man stopped, turning as if he had heard something. He raised his rifle, starting to walk towards the base of the building.
Lady blinked. "…What are you doing?"
Stranger ignored her, continuing. "Lower your gun… It's safe…" he whispered, his mind attempting to make the man believe he was completely safe as he moved towards the two.
"The hell are you doing?" Lady sighed, putting a hand to her forehead. "Fine, whatever. Do it your way…" She shook her head, knowing this was a mistake, as the man entered the building and began to move up the floors.
"You said before to use my powers when I found a rebel to find out. I'm finding out," he explained as he checked the man's mind to feel how comfortable he was with coming and whether or not he was ready to fight.
"I told you if necessary. I meant that if we found one, and talked to him, and he refused to bring us with him after talking, you should find out where their home is so I could go deliver the information. I didn't mean to mind control the first one we found."
"I don't take my chances with humans, generally. I've had to get a nine mil pulled out of my ass because of one, one claiming to be a part of the good guys," Stranger continued to explain as he 'watched' the man check each room carefully as he moved on his way up, being sure not to be surprised by anything. "I don't trust these rebels enough yet to know if they're not just more Wasteland thugs." He shrugged. "Besides… He seems to be calmer. My powers have only soothed him. He should be getting up here soon, why don't you talk to him?"
"Because it's not going to be fun trying to explain to him why we controlled him instead of trying to talk first, and then asking to come with him back to his camp. You need to learn more respect for people, kid…" Lady shook her head. "Come on… Let's go meet him."
Stranger shrugged. "As long as it works…" He waited for her to get a few steps ahead before following. He didn't want a fight, but he made sure that if there was one, it'd be her who did it.
Lady stopped two floors below, looking at the gun barrel that was pointing steadily at her. The man was a little scruffy, but not unkempt. He stood easily, looking past his sights at Lady. "Pretty heavily armed for a civilian…"
Lady raised an eyebrow. "Everyone's a civilian these days. Lower the gun, unless you want to bring the Lurkers in on us."
Stranger remained behind Lady, his cloak up fully. "The screams of combat are always bad due to the predators around us. We must all be careful in this hell of a waste."
"Aye, and that's what I'm doing, lad. Cloak open."
"He's a bit of a mutant," Lady interrupted, "a little shy about it, that's all."
"Ahh, right. Might be why my head's a little foggy, eh?"
Lady smirked. "That'd be why, yes. I apologize; we're just a little… untrusting."
"Aren't we all, aren't we all." The man slowly lowered his gun. "Bah… No sense standin' here forever pointin' guns at each other. Got names?"
"Lady, and Stranger."
The man raised an eyebrow. "You daft? Secrecy about a name's only the most suspicious thing there is."
"Like names matter in this world. Come on." Lady turned, starting to walk back in.
The man followed. "Well, I'm Kyle. See? Not so hard, is it?"
Stranger shrugged. "Not so hard for a human when the government in those big fancy suits of theirs don't try to put a bullet in you just for looking odd." He kept his eyes down. "I just mind my own business. Trying to help my travelling partner for now. Humans are a bit more difficult to trust than any of the other races."
"You're a human, boy. You were a human before this stuff happened, and you're one now, just a bit different. That's the only race there is, you know. Infected, they're still humans, just… dead ones. Mutants, they're humans too, some just forget. An' that's all there is. Don't try to give me a 'poor me' story, we're all seconds from death in the Wasteland. Ain't none worse than another. True equality, aye. Maybe people treat you a little worse, but maybe mutants treat you a little better. It's nothing thousands an' thousands of people haven't experienced before you."
Lady smiled a bit, reaching their floor. "Well said. Doesn't matter what you are, look like or do when a Behemoth appears, does it?" She laughed.
Stranger tilted his head. "Behemoth… I assume with a name like that it'd be like… What? Giant mutants like me? Or those… Infected mutants? I've only encountered a few types of mutants back where I came from."
"Count yourself lucky." Lady looked back at him. "They're city destroyers. Most think there's only one in the world, maybe a couple more. Rarely seen. But you're with me now, so even if we do run into something like that… Well, we'll probably still die, but at least we'd have more of a chance." She chuckled.
Kyle sat down, looking between them. "So… What are you two doing here?"
Lady smiled. "Ah… Looking for rebels, actually. We want to join them, or at least visit their home."
Stranger nodded. "I wish to see these rebels… If they're unlike the government, I might stay for longer than a few days. Maybe I won't be such a stranger then after all." He chuckled softly.
Kyle nodded slowly. "In that case you'd have to give your real name." He grinned. "Or just keep 'Stranger' ironically. I suppose I can tell you I'm a member of that group… but it's not as easy as just taking you there."
Stranger shrugged. "I'm sure there is some sort of catch or other… But I'm also sure Lady would do a lot to get in. She really wants to… do what is right." He smiled, shrugging again. "And I'm just the stranger tag-along."
Kyle's eyes focused on Lady. "Do what is right?"
"Yes…" Lady nodded. "I want to make up for what I did in the wars."
Kyle's eyes narrowed and he suddenly gripped his gun tighter. "In the wars… I see… I'm afraid we can't help you."
Lady paused, closing her eyes slowly. "Yeah… Figured as much."
Stranger growled. "See what I meant about humans? Unwilling to try, or care, because you are different. You want to atone and they won't let you just because of your difference. So much for the kindness and goodness you people are supposed to show, huh?" He looked at Kyle, his white face visible as well as his angrily glowing green eyes.
Kyle looked back at him. "We have a complicated operation… We're fighting so that the world can be rebuilt, but this time with true freedom, where we won't be killed in wars that are meaningless. You want me to allow someone inside who might ruin all of that?"
"I want you to try to show something that has been forgotten by many: forgiveness. As for her restarting the wars, she won't. If she threatens to I'll shoot her myself. After all, she might have leapt to her death if I hadn't talked to her." As he spoke he gently used his powers, trying to push a bit on the man's sense of good will.
Kyle sighed, rubbing his head. "…Damn it, kid, you make a good point. Alright… I'll try to give her a chance. But we're going to be watching her."
Lady blinked, looking up. "You'll… let me in?"
"Your past will be… our little secret," he sighed.
Lady just sat there, staring at him in disbelief. She obviously hadn't expected that. She glanced over at Stranger, silently asking if he'd done something. His look told her what she needed to know, and she smiled softly, gratefully, at him.
Stranger could tell it still hurt her not to simply be accepted, though, especially when she stood slowly, rubbing her arm and speaking softly, "I've gotta… take a walk. Get my mind straight… I'll… be back in an hour or two."
Stranger grunted. "I'm going to get pissed if you get eaten by those Infected creatures."
Lady smiled softly. "I'll be careful, kid…" She ruffled his hair affectionately before walking off down the stairs.
Kyle watched her go and waiting for a couple minutes before moving to Lady's bag, which she'd left where she'd spent the night. He knelt next to it, starting to open it.
"I'm going to tell her you did that, if you keep at it," Stranger spoke softly, his eyes on the man.
Kyle sighed. "Look, kid, I wanna help your friend, I really do. But I've gotta at least know a little about her, you know? Look, either way her bag is going to be searched when she tries to enter, this way I can just tell them I searched it. Does that make you feel better? You don't understand the rules I'm already breaking for her."
"Very well. I'll add that to what I tell her- but I'm not going to lie to her when she sees her bag has been messed around with." Stranger smirked. "Didn't your mother teach you about going through a lady's unmentionables?"
Kyle lifted a silver cross on a chain from the bag, with a large ruby set into the center. The cross was only a couple inches long, but the sides were set in black steel, so it was heavier than it should've been. He raised an eyebrow. "Is this an 'unmentionable'?"
Stranger blinked, but shrugged. "You ask me like I should know, or care, what that is. I don't on either account. I just know she's trying to be better."
Kyle nodded, lowering it back into the bag and pulling out a small, worn book next, flipping through it a bit. "Bible… I guess you're right. This'll be a good point for me to use when convincing the others she's trustworthy, though." He looked on the back. "Looks like she's written some verses here… 'Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…' 'The Lord is my shield, he will protect…' Looks like you're right, kid." He sighed, putting it back in.
Stranger nodded, smiling a little at the confirmation of his faith in his friend. "Told you. Are you done rummaging through her things?"
"No. I have to be sure, right?"
"I'm going to laugh if she comes back and shoots you in the head."
"Well, if she did that, then you'd be wrong about her, and she wouldn't be the type of person to be let in."
Stranger muttered irritably, "What would you expect a woman to do when somebody is rummaging through something that could contain all sorts of personal things? Least you would get is a very cold stare."
Kyle ignored him, continuing to look and pulling out a scuffed silver pocket watch next, opening it. "Old watch… Apparently the company that made it is 'Genesis'. It's stopped though, at 6:13. Not working. Huh… There's paper inside with writing… '10/21/33. Alkalai.'? Does that mean anything to you?"
"No", Stranger responded simply, though he was a bit curious, recognizing the word 'Alkalai' from one of Lady's dreams.
"Huh…" Kyle closed the watch, putting it back in. The next item he pulled out was a cell phone, which he blinked at. "Who carries a cell phone…? They haven't worked since the bombs dropped…" He opened the phone, brushing his finger over the power button, watching it flicker on. "Least it's still got some life left… Three text messages. Lessee…" He clicked one, and then sat there, silently, not saying another word as he read, staring at the small screen.
This time, Stranger didn't let any moral obligations stop him. He attempted to look into the man's mind and copy the information he was reading. He needed to know if he would attack Lady due to what he read, and besides that, his own curiosity about his friend pushed him to learn more at the same time.
The first text message showed up in his mind. He noticed it was dated about a year before the bombs, which were dropped in December of 2033.
The Thing is getting out of control. The Truth is close to getting out, and we can't have that. Recommend termination. Respond soon.
Kyle's finger pushed the button, and a second message popped up.
Your parents and I got here this morning, at Alkalai. Where are you? I was pretty sure you were meeting us here. Hope you're not far. Call me? We're getting worried.
The finger pushed the button again, and the third message came up, dated two weeks after the previous one.
Where the hell are you?! COME FOR US! Things are going to hell! I can hear them… We can't get through this much longer. Are you just abandoning us?!
I never thought you could do such a thing… Fine. I'll leave The Faith here, in a safe place. You can come for IT if you want, if you're not coming for us. Don't bother calling. None of us want to talk to a traitor to her own family.
Stranger remained quiet, thinking. He also watched the other man's mind, trying to understand what he thought of it. He himself had no idea what that cross was; he knew the Bible from his time as a boy, but the cross with the ruby was new, and so he tried to learn information on it from Kyle.
All he got about the cross, through, was fear. Apparently, even the man himself wasn't sure why he was afraid of it. He shut the phone off, dropping it in the bag and staring at it. "…Now I'm not so sure…"
"What does that mean?" Stranger questioned, watching him. "Whatever it is you saw, does it prove her innocence?"
"It proves… the opposite."
"Does it show she is willing to change, I mean."
Kyle sighed. "I… don't know!" He set the bag down, walking back to his spot and sitting down. "None of it makes sense… What was she involved in…?"
"You're asking me like I know. I don't. Why don't you ask her?"
"I plan to…"
After a little while, Lady returned, looking a little more composed. She slowly walked to her spot, sitting down with a sigh and leaning her head back.
Stranger glanced between the two. "Well get on with it. This drama has to start in order to end."
Lady raised an eyebrow. "Drama…?"
Kyle shrugged. "Not sure what he means…" He lay down, and Lady shrugged as well, closing her eyes.
"He went through your bag to see if you were trustworthy," Stranger explained, causing Lady's eyes to open. "He said it was either this, or you be searched at their base. He touched your cross, a necklace I think, and your cell phone, and Bible. I told him I'd tell you"
Lady looked over to Kyle, but the man didn't move. She narrowed her eyes, obviously rather angry, but then looked away from him to Stranger. "Thank you. At least I've got one friend." She shook her head. "Whatever… Let's get a little sleep, start off soon…"
Stranger nodded. "Right…" He leaned against his wall, closing his eyes and listened to the breathing of both of the people with him.
He didn't miss that neither of them went to sleep.
After a couple hours, Lady just stood, grabbing her bag. "Let's go." She ignored Kyle as he stood and stretched, instead looking over at Stranger. "Come on, kid…"
"Oh, to be pre-war, sleeping in on Saturdays… Eleven hours in a row." Stranger smirked, standing and wrapping his cloak about him.
Lady patted his head. "I'm sure you'll be sleeping in again soon… Come on. Ready to find what might be your new home?"
Stranger smirked. "I still have my doubts. Despite them being the 'best thing' out there, nothing is perfect, as evidenced by the way they treat you."
"Well… Hopefully I'm at the end of my road. Don't you want a home? I want a home. Maybe meet someone… start a family. That sort of thing…"
"After the radiation I figured people couldn't have kids. I know I sure as hell can't," Stranger grumbled softly before shrugging. "Lead the way. Let's see if this 'home' is any better than the road I've followed for the past two years."
"Maybe we'll live together, huh? At least you'd have one familiar face you like."
"That'd be nice, a good change." Stranger chuckled. "I'm used to having only my minions as my friends. It's a shame nine times out of ten they can't understand me."
Lady shook her head. "That doesn't matter. I can."
"That… means a lot to me. Out of all the Wasteland assholes- people- you've been the only one that's been kind to me. The others are just 'freak this', 'mutant that'. You're different and that's why I like you. It's why it pisses me off when these people treat you like crap."
"I did some things, I have to face the consequences, that's it."
"And if they want to kill you for it? Am I supposed to let the only person who hasn't treated me like a mutant so far get clipped because she feels guilty? Fuck that. I'm more likely going to…" He started to grumble darkly then.
Lady chuckled. "That's good to hear, Stranger… I hope… you'll still care, after all of this. After you see what they really think."
"Why wouldn't I? It's not like you dropped the bombs yourself."
"But I hate myself like I did. Couldn't I have stopped it somehow…? Or… prevented so much death? I don't know…"
"Or get shot by the President's men? Which is likely what would've happened had you tried anything."
"Well… Whatever. We'll see what happens. Who knows, maybe I'll finally be accepted, and all this worrying will be for nothing."
"Or you won't be and I'll get in the leader's head and he'll accept you anyway. Either way works."
"Don't… do that. I don't want you risking your place there."
"I said I didn't need it, didn't I? A home is one thing, but a home without the person who cared enough to tell me about it? That isn't right. So fuck it."
"I see… Well, I suppose it's your choice. We'll see soon enough…"
Kyle finally stopped at a point outside the city, looking back at them. "Are you two ready?"
Stranger looked around. "Hmm. If this were the movies, I'd assume we'd be surrounded by commandoes with sub-machine guns."
Kyle smiled a bit. "It's not the movies, and we're short on people. Come on…" He tapped a few things on his belt, and the ground opened up. "But we still have a few thousand here… Large complex underground, of course."
He walked down into the tunnel that opened up, and Lady blinked as she followed. "This is where it's been the whole time… hidden underground…"
"Well, then… Darkness…" Stranger muttered as he followed. "Lovely…"
After a short walk through a tunnel, it opened into a massive dome underground, circular in shape. People could be seen walking everywhere, and a few guards came up to them.
Kyle turned to the other two. "This is the not-so-fun part… We need to search you both." One of the guards opened a door to a room on the side, the wall of which held a large window, and Kyle explained, "Stranger, you'll go in here. I promise it won't take long or be too much trouble."
Stranger paused, looking in the room. "What does it do…?"
"It's just a room. We just separate you. It's a thing we started after a few… incidents."
One of the soldiers walked inside, and Lady looked at Stranger, nodding. "Go ahead, kid."
Stranger followed, and the guard closed the door behind them. The glass was thick and unbreakable, but Stranger could still hear Lady as she watched him. "Okay in there…?"
Stranger shrugged. "I'm fine. Nobody has tried anything stupid yet."
Kyle nodded. "Everything's fine."
"Sir…" One of the soldiers blinked, holding up a small, blinking metal orb from a side pocket in Lady's bag.
Stranger watched curiously through the window that separated them.
Kyle frowned, walking over and taking the blinking item. "What is that…?" Lady closed her eyes as Kyle lifted the item to his face. "It looks like a…"
"GPS tracker," Lady finished for him as she lifted a pistol to the back of Kyle's head.
His blood sprayed across the glass.