The Penal Colony statistics

Year: 194 A.G.W. (After Great War)

Location: The former USA

Average Population: 493,000,000

Security measures: Daisuke Serizawa G-54 bio-organic Nanomachines.

Rules: The disobeidience of these regulations will result in immidiate termination of the perpetraytor by way of the G-54 bio-organic nanomachines.

1. Do not leave the boundries of the colony.

2. Do not use firearms.

There are no further regulations...

A Note about The Feed: The United Peoples of the Alliance would like to remind you that the G-54 Nanomachines constantly send Ultra HD video feed from anywhere in the colony for your enjoyment. To subscribe to The Feed tune into Holo Frequency 4800.

Just south of the grand City of Salt, on a long stretch of baron and desolate highway a lonely caravan of vehicles rolls over the cracked and blistered tarmac. Three armored vehicles in a spear point formation proceed and follow a large steel clad big rig complete with a heavily defended trailer which has been outfitted for living in. Within this nigh impenetrable trailer, among its exceedingly plush decorations and numerous amenities, sits a trio of women. In the harsh and violent landscape of the Colony, at this moment at least, they fear nearly nothing and want for even less… Except for maybe a working air conditioner that is.

Deloris pulled the thick mane of chocolate colored hair over her shoulder, allowing it to drape over the right side of her chest, decorative beads clinked together musically. Sweat was beginning to cover her tanned, bare, torso in a sheen as she leaned back against the cushioned wall of the trailer, "God, I wish Harlen would spring to fix the Ventilator," She grumbled and turned her gaze up to the ceiling. Scarlet strips of cloth dangled there and swayed back and forth with the rhythm of the road.

"Are you kidding me?" Sasha asked from her spot in the middle of the floor. She also opted for as few a clothes as possible attempting to cool her skin in the brutal temperature that the desert was providing, "That would require him to dish out credits, and he only does that to keep us up to date on our inoculations or to make sure that we have protection on our little field trips."

Deloris chuckled brusquely before saying, "Very true. What is it the little weasel is always saying, the only thing worse than a dirty whore is a banged up one," Deloris shook her head, thinking of the diminutive figure of Harlen, all gilded over in a tailored suit, huge aviators on his rodentesque features and gold chains that where bound to give the little man back problems later in life, dangling around his neck. "I guess he doesn't figure being drenched in sweat qualifies as dirty."

"Nah," Sasha remarked, "Ain't nothing that a sponge and some soapy water can't fix. Plus it could be worse you know."

She had a point there. Harlen may be a step over on the douchey side, but at least he was the kind of pimp that made sure his employees where taken care of. Well mostly. At least all of his customers went through extensive back ground checks and credit scores before Harlen would ever sign over one of his girls. Sure they had their fair share of freaks they had to stomach servicing but none like the ones that went to the other whore houses in the City of Salt, "Yeah I guess your right, we could be working for The Fuck Den."

"Agh!" Sasha pushed herself up onto her elbows and twisted up her face in disgust, "You mean that place down the road from us back home? Harlen took me in there once. He said it was to show me how good I have it at The Oasis. That was after I stabbed that one guy with a pen. And man let me tell you that once was enough for me. They have all sorts of shit that goes on there. Donkey shows, gang bangs, they have an entire floor called the Bloody Valentines which is all about violent psycho sexual fantasies, and apparently all the employees have to participate in each of the different venues"

"That place almost bought me." A quiet and high pitched voice chimed in from the front of the trailer drawing the attention of both Deloris and Sasha.

Marana was the only local, meaning born and raised in the Colony, out of the trio and many of her physical traits represented some of the most exotic features that could be found in the tribalistic wastelands of America. Her skin was a porcelain white and a shock of platinum blond hair seemed to erupt from her head and cascade down her back. She was fully dressed which didn't say much considering the revealing outfits of their trade but the bare skin of her arms, stomach, and legs where scarred in ritualistic fashion. A pair of intelligent, startling blue eyes, peered out at them. Tears where welling up within them and running down her cheeks to fall from her now dimpled chin. A sob escaped her and she bowed her head, raising a slender hand to her mouth in a vain attempt to keep the emotions from escaping.

A pang of guilt stabbed Deloris in the belly and judging from the look on Sasha's face she felt it too. The Colony had a way of dealing people a shit hand, no matter what color, creed, or sex you where and in Maranas case it had dealt a shit hand to a fourteen year old girl. Deloris knew that people had to grow up early in the remnants of America but it didn't mean you couldn't feel for those that had to.

"Oh sweety," Deloris said as she and Sasha moved over to where the young girl sat and both knelt beside her, "We didn't even think about it."

"Yeah sorry darlin, we didn't mean to upset you," Sasha said as she gently lifted Maranas' chin and wiped away the tears that streamed down her alabaster face, "But hey at least you don't have to worry about any of that kinda shit with Harlen."

Marana nodded and began to twiddle her hands in her lap, "I know, I really am thankful for being under Harlens control as opposed to the alternative, I'm just scared that's all."

Deloris couldn't blame her at all. If she had had a choice in occupation when coming over to the Colony it most definitely would not have been a whore, but often times life chooses your path and leaves you there holding a really short stick, "Trust us, it only gets easier."

"Its true," Sasha added, "After a while you just stop giving so much of a shit and keep thinking about when your time is up. Then you can head on out into the Colony and make your own way."

"I hear the first time hurts, is that true?" Marana asked looking from one then to the other.

Oh that changes things, Deloris thought. That changes things a whole bunch in fact. God, where to even start consoling this youngin. What a fucked up situation they found themselves in.

"Wait doesn't old man Filtch come and visit you regularly?" Sasha asked.

"Yes," Marana answered nodding, "But he has never touched me. He said that if I am spending time with him than I won't be defiled by anybody else."

Well, well, well, there are decent people in the Colony after all. Deloris made a mental note to thank the old timer next time she saw him and repay him for his good deed in some way, "So what do you guys do when he comes to call?"

A smile briefly crossed Maranas pretty little face, "We read books. Old ones. Like the ones you find out in the ruins. He demands that a girl of my age needs to be literate if I am to have a full life."

Sasha let out a belly laugh and slapped her knee, "I knew I liked that old bastard for some reason. So you have never been with anybody before?"

Marana shook her head, "No, it was forbidden in my tribe until our Eighteenth summer."

Deloris sighed heavily. It figured that you would be able to find decency out in the wastes and not in the pockets of civilization. So Marana was truly heading into the situation deaf, blind, and dumb. Poor girl, "You want to know a secret, that will make things a little easier on you?" Deloris asked.

Marana nodded her head vigorously and turned a hopeful gaze to her. Even Sasha appeared interested in hearing what Deloris had to say.

"Now don't get your hopes up sweety, this secret isn't going to be able to stop you from doing what's expected of you," Deloris stated holding out her hand in an attempt to dampen the young girls budding excitement, "You see when a man comes to you in our line of work he may seem like he has total control over you with his fat stack of credits, but he doesn't. In truth he only controls the money, you control him."

A knowing expression came to Sasha's face as confusion found itself firmly planted on Maranas own countenance, "What do you mean?" the young girl asked.

The big rig began to slow down...

Deloris shot a glance to Sasha, "You mind showing our young friend what I'm sayin?"

Sasha flashed a more than devious grin and stood up with a flourish, "Gladly," Sasha re-situated her top back on and tied it behind her neck in an easily undo-able knot. Casually she sauntered over to the side of the trailer where a heavy metal hatch was situated. This hatch led to the outside gang plank where Crossbow and spear armed guards patrolled. She placed a hand on the handle of the latch and glanced back one final time.

"Watch and learn little sister," Sasha said, a saucy edge mingling with her tone. With that she yanked open the hatch just as the Big Rig came to a halt.

Deloris and Marana watched as Sasha pushed out her chest and did nothing to hide her full pouty lips. A hot breeze flowed in through the opening and despite its temperature it did help to cool the interior a touch.

Heavy foot falls could be heard outside on the cat walk just before a gruff voice asked, "Can I help you miss?"

"Is everything ok?" Sasha asked as she leaned her upper body forward out the hatch a ways making sure to put her forearms under her breasts and push them upward to reveal a wealth of cleavage through the center of her two piece top. She batted her soft green eyes as she looked up at the man that stood before her. He was one of their usual transport members and was clad in dark leather armor reinforced with bits of interlinking rings of steel.

"Ahem," the guard coughed into his fist and next time he spoke his voice came out a full pitch deeper than before, "There's nothing to worry about miss, just some debris in the road, we would normally go around but there is a river to our right just at the base of that canyon wall, but don't worry we have men working to clear the road as we speak."

"Oh with strapping men such as yourself at our defense I don't worry one bit," Sasha said as she took in the sights around the caravan. Craggy ridges of sand stone slopped up and away into the azure, cloud spotted, sky. They started just a few yards away from the road they where on, but arched up out of the earth for quite some height.

"Is there anything else that I could help you with miss?" The guard asked. His words carried a special variety of inquiry to it, one that Sasha had been hoping for.

"Actually there is sugar, It is dreadfully warm in here and our water tastes like hot metal and disinfectant, do you happen to have some water that ain't been sitting in a drum for a week?" Sasha asked.

"Absolutely miss just a moment," The guard responded and turn slightly to retrieve his canteen from his belt giving Sasha just the opportunity she had been looking for. Quickly, with expert precision she reached up behind her neck and loosened the knot that held her top together. The guard turned back around and held out his canteen to the woman.

Alright time for the big reveal, Sasha thought and threw on her best come hither smile, "Thank you so much sugar," she said and reached up part way for the canteen. With a sharp, yet unnoticeable intake of breath, Sashas chest swelled more than what the loosened knot could handle. Her top was made up of two pieces of fabric that each attached to her belt on the lower side and tied behind the neck. With the knot released, both pieces of fabric fell away from her well round breasts.

The canteen clattered noisily to catwalk and the guard scrambled in vain to catch it, but in stead preformed a perfect imitation of a monkey suffering from a sudden and violent seizure. Thoroughly flustered the guard took a knee so the he was now totally visible in the frame of the hatch way and absently he tried to pick up the canteen that he had dropped, but he was having difficulty snagging it up on account that he wasn't looking at where he was placing his hands.

Marana let out a chuckle, but Deloris covered her mouth with her hand and shushed her as she tried not to laugh her self.

"Oops," Sasha squeaky as she busied herself with fixing her top back into place, "I thought I tied that better, I am so sorry. How embarrassing."

"Oh- uh- its reall- *ahem* really fine miss," The guard stammered and finally handed her the metal canister of water.

"Oh thank you sugar, you really are a lifesaver," Sasha chortled politely as she grabbed it, unscrewed the lid, and took a single dainty sip. As she lowered the canteen, warm liquid splashed her face and she reached up to wipe it away. It was dark red and thick.

The guard let out a gurgle, an arrow protruding from just under his chin. He fell into the trailer through the hatch. The arrow made a loud snap as he rolled over onto it breaking the shaft at the point of entry.

"Oh god," Sasha gasp as she stared down at the mans body. A cold surge of adrenaline coursed through her and she dropped the canteen. Water glugged out of the open lid and mingled with the blood that was quickly staining the cushioned floor.

"AMBUSH!" Some one outside the truck yelled as another one of the guards fell in front of the hatch, his own fletched shaft sticking from his chest. At that moment a pair of back to back explosions rocked the air with stifling force, one from the front of the Big Rig and one from the rear.

Sasha was nearly knocked off of her feet by the blasts and found herself stumbling and trying desperately to regain her balance. The hatch, she thought and threw herself forward to grasp the handle of the sliding door. Briefly she caught a glimpse of black clad figures swarming down from the canyon wall, engaging their escorts in the age old dance of violence. Dark acrid smoke that stank of burning condensed fuel and synthetic motor oil wafted across the hatch blocking her view of the chaos, but not before she saw one crucial detail.

Each man that she could see of the attacking force had a well known symbol emblazoned on their chest plates. It depicted a crimson eagle snatching up a golden serpent within its grasp. It was the symbol of a notorious group, prolific amongst the Colony known as the Red Talons. This group specialized in a very dark form of trade…

"Slavers," Sasha whispered as she slammed the hatch closed and swung the large bolt across its frame. Deep inside a frightening truth gnawed at her core, it won't be enough to keep the bastards out.

"Its the fucking Red Talons!" Sasha yelled as she turned back to Deloris and Marana her hands shaking and her lips tight across her teeth.

Colony Profile: Red Talon Slave Company.

The Red Talon Slave Company, despite being one of the new kids on the block, has made quite a name for themselves across The Colony®. Stretching from the Savage Kingdom Of L.A. all the way to New Arkansas this ruthless band of flesh traders have pushed out or snuffed out all other competitors with brutal efficiency. Numbering 5,000 strong across 200 HQs dotting the wastes, they are a force to be reckoned with. Any body that finds themselves within the clutches of the Red Talons better beware for statistical analysis proclaims that the chance of escaping is a measly 15.7%. Info on the Red Talon Slave Company provided by The Feed®. Now a word from our sponsors!

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"Oh sh-," Deloris gasped but quickly caught her self from showing the fear that welled up within her like a geyser that was ready to blow. Beside her was a young girl who needed her to remain calm and composed and not turn into a panicked mess, as was totally reasonable for a woman in her current situation, "Come on we don't have a lot of time sweety."

Marana looked at her with her intense blue eyes, "What do you need of me?" She asked, concern was plainly evident in her voice, but not yet fear. This made it plain to see that the full brunt of what was happening had yet to hit the young woman. Deloris wished she could keep it that way.

Out side the sounds of violence intensified. Terrified and enraged screams came from all around and a cars fuel cell motor could be heard winding up, just before another cacophonous explosion shook the walls of the trailer. The sound of the motor was no more.

Desperately, Deloris looked around for a decent place to stash the young girl. First her eyes fell upon the Wardrobe in the corner, but she quickly nixed that idea as she figured that it would certainly be raided for anything of value. There was under the sink toward the rear of the trailer? No that could get messed up if they try to cut their way through the back door which Sasha was diligently locking down with every security measure it had.

Just than a memory flitted across her mind. The maintenance hatch under the cushioned flooring. She had once seen one of the mechanics climb into it to fix up something with the suspension. Deloris sprang to her feet and instantly busied herself with tossing aside the layers of, plush, velvety cloth. It didn't take long for her to find the three foot by three foot panel of metal. With a little elbow grease she moved it aside.

What was revealed was a dark, cramped crawl space that barely had enough room for one person to slip into. She wasted no hope on the thought that it could hold all three of them. Beside someone had to lead the Red Talons away, "Ok Sweety, come on, climb in."

"But," Marana started to protest, but was quickly cut off by Deloris.

"No arguments now. Just climb in and don't make a sound." Deloris ordered and ushered Marana down into the hole. Begrudgingly she obeyed and the pale skinned youth slipped into the crawl space without another word.

"Everything is gonna be ok, alright don't worry," Deloris affirmed to her than slid the panel back into place. Her and Sasha, somewhat haphazardly, re-positioned the pillows over it.

Please if there is a god out there, Deloris silently prayed, don't let them find her, she's just a girl and don't deserve what ever they have in store for us. She finished her prayer just as the sounds of violence, which was their only comfort, ceased. As long as the sounds of blade against blade and men shouting in pain could be heard, that meant they had a chance. But as a dread stillness filled the air that meant that one side or the other had won, and deep down she knew that it had not been their security force.

In the upper right hand corner of the back door to the trailer, a small quarter sized section of metal began to glow red hot, followed shortly after by sparks that began to spray inward. Somewhere in Deloris's mind she absently pondered about how cruelly poetic it would have been for the slavers to accidentally light the cargo they so viciously sought on fire.

"OH fuck, this is them, huh? They're comin in aren't they? Agh, what do we do?" Sasha was pacing back and forth the trailer interior as if the answer to her questions had fallen from somewhere and landed on the floor. Suddenly she perked up as though she had remembered something of great importance and said in a low hostile tone, "We got to find something to fight with."

She was gonna get herself put in the dirt with that attitude no matter how admirable it was. Deloris stepped in front of her and grabbed Sasha by the shoulders. There was no violence or domineering nature to the gesture, just a gentle maneuver of a friend trying to get their companion to listen to reason, "No, don't Sasha. Listen to me."

At first it was obvious that Sasha wanted to hear none of what Deloris was attempting to convey and she attempted to pull away to continue her search, "Deloris let go-"

"SASHA listen..Please," Deloris implored with a glance over at the door. The gouge of red hot metal had reached down the entire side of the frame and was now appearing on the other side. Sasha stopped to listen but still felt like a coiled spring under her hands, all full of tension and ready to shoot toward the roof. Deloris continued, "These guys are skilled fighters with armor, weapons, and a no fuck around attitude. They aren't a bunch of perverts that you can stab with a pen."

With eyes darkening incredulously, Sasha asked, her voice straining to stay steady, "What the hell are you suggesting than? You want us to just give up?"

"Yes," Deloris responded, "That's exactly what I am suggesting. Our one hope is that a guard sent a message to Harlen as the ambush was taking place, and you know he will do whatever he can to get us back home safe."

A spark of resignation and a smidgen of hope flitted across Sashas features and Deloris could feel the tension give way in her body, "I hope for all our sake that you're right," She stated as the doors to the trailer fell inward and Red Talons rushed in.

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Four hours of sitting in a Red Talon slave cage had a way of making a person think that things can't get much worse. As usual a person that thought thus would be proven wrong.

A storm was rolling in.

Clouds the color of a blazing fire reached across the western horizon, turning the sky into a volatile myriad of shapes. To Deloris it looked like angels fleeing from a vast all consuming darkness. A darkness that was the Colony. With a heavy sigh she leaned her head against the bars of their cage and gripped the cool metal as tight as she could. No amount of wishing would give her the strength to bend those bars, nor give her the ability to melt them away. Hell it wouldn't even give her captors a sense of mercy. It would do none of these things but that didn't stop her from trying it. What a cruel thing wishing was. A cold and empty effort that yielded only one result and that was the squandering of hope.

The Caravan had stopped to set up camp the moment that it started getting dark. Deloris had heard from passing slavers that it was because of not wanting to draw unwanted attention with the vehicle headlights. They now sat atop a large desert plateau with the vehicles parked in a circle around a central camp fire. Why had they started a fire if they where worried about someone seeing headlights, was beyond Deloris.

A pained gasp came from behind her and Deloris turned to see Sasha cradling her hand as she had been ever since one of the Slavers had taught her a "lesson". To her credit she had screamed far less than Deloris would have at such a blatant and uselessly cruel gesture. Well it wasn't totally useless. Sasha didn't try to go for that slavers keys anymore.

Deloris crawled to her side and reached out, "Let me see your hand," she said softly.

It appeared at first as though Sasha was going to deny her demand, her pride forcing her to deal with the injury alone, but she complied and gingerly swung the mangled appendage toward Deloris.

Deloris swallowed hard and tried to keep her expression stoic. It was bad. All four fingers of her right hand where bent in all manners of ill angles, and what had once been healthy pink flesh was now pulpy to the touch and dark purple. A shiver ran up Deloris's spine as she remembered the ghastly sound the hammer had made when it connected with her hand.

THUMPCK!

"So what do you think," Sasha asked, her face was pallid and slick with sweat, a common sign of shock. Her breathing wasn't exactly ideal either but her eyes where still alert and focused. She winked and forced a smile, "A splint'll fix it up, right?"

"'Fraid not darlin'," Deloris said as she gently moved her arm back to Sasha. A brief bit of desire to lie to the woman swelled within her but she decided against it. Last thing that either of them needed was false hope, "Chances are they are gonna have to amputate it. That is if an infection don't start soon."

"Fuckin' figures," Sasha grumbled and regarded her hand with a critical eye, "And hand jobs where one of my strong suits."

"They still can be," Deloris said, "Remember we live in the Colony, a lovely place where cybernetics are a reality. They can rebuild your hand or make something creative instead."

Sasha shrugged and sank lower into herself, "Yeah I guess your right. I'll have 'em make me a martini shaker and start working at the bar back home."

"Ha, you wish bitch," There came a gravelly voice from the edge of the cage. They looked to see one of the slavers looking in from the far side, a snarl plastered on his rugged features, "The last place your gonna go is home, do you hear me?"

Deloris felt another surge of fear chill her body and she leaned protectively in front of Sasha, "Don't be so certain about that. Our pimp don't take kindly to his property being fucked with and I can guarantee that he will come for us."

The Slaver smiled wickedly as he began to circle the cage like a shark sizing up prey. A silvery glint caught Deloris's eye and she noticed a large blade in the mans hand reflecting the light of the surrounding camp site, "Oh? You really believe that huh?" He slammed a meaty hand against the cage rattling the entire thing back and forth. The resounding clang drew forth the other slavers from the shadows of the quickly darkening camp, all of them gathering around to see the animals in the cage get harassed, "Reality check whore. Ain't no one comin'.

"Boy, your gonna look stupid when he shows up with the cavalry," Sasha countered aloud, much to Deloris's dismay. She wished her friend knew when to leave well enough alone.

The slaver came to a halt just in front of the door to their cage and he leaned his ugly mug in between the bars, "Oh wake up!" he said a halfhearted chuckle stumbling into his words, "Your pimps already lost enough with all them dead security guards back there. Not to mention the fact that buying new bitches is much less costly than sending more men to die. Your ours know and more importantly that sweet pile of dough is ours too. You know speaking of which, you two must have vibrating couches or something, cause holy shit the paycheck. In fact you know I am half tempted to climb in there and see what all the fuss is about."

Please just leave it be, Deloris willed her friend to remain silent.

"Hey you do what ever it is you need to do to feel better about not being able to get it up guy," Sasha blurted far too loudly. Deloris tensed and prepared her self to do what ever she could to defend her friend.

The slavers eyes glowed with a burst of sadistic glee, he was obviously hoping for that. His hands went down to his belt to retrieve his keys, "Oh your gonna regret every word that just spilled out of that cock holster of yours. I'm gonna show you up close and personal that I can get it up."

As the man fidgeted with the lock, hands fumbling in his enraged state, Sasha pulled Deloris down with her good hand and whispered quickly and deliberately, "Now's your chance When he's busy with me, make a run for it."

Damn it Sasha, She thought. This had been her plan all along. Cause a row than let Deloris escape in the distraction. Well she was wrong. They where in this together and Deloris had no intention of leaving Sasha behind to this animal.

"What the fuck!," Deloris whispered back, "I ain't leavin you."

From the surrounding crowd emerged a large powerfully built man wearing a long black duster with gold trim over his chest plate. He carried himself with a serious amount of confidence and his handsome features where set in an authoritative manner like an adult among children.

The gate swung open and the Slaver started to climb in through it, Saliva spilled from his grinning lips, "Time to see what you got in ther-"

With a splendid show of physical power the man that had emerged from the crowd yanked the other slaver back through the door and sent him tumbling backward away from the cage.

"Store that shit Dak," he said his voice rumbling loudly over the congregation, "Our benefactor demanded that they be in good shape upon delivery, and I already have to come up with an excuse for the one whores hand."

Dak lifted himself from the dusty ground, indignant but confident. He held in his hand a large machete like blade. Where in the hell did that come from, Deloris thought, "Its like that Richard?" he growled menacingly, "Your gonna stand up for these fuck holes?"

Richard stood his ground in front of the cage, "You got it all wrong Dak. Ain't no credits in deliverin products that are all dinged up. You do what your thinking and our bonus money dwindles even more. You want that?"

Dak prowled forward holding his hands out by his side in a condescending mockery, "Oh right the bonus! How could I forget that." the large blade glinted in the nearby firelight, "Remind me again who much of the bonus goes straight to your pocket?"

Richard showed no sign of physical distress as Dak walked right up to him until they stood a foot apart between the cage and the rest of the slavers, "Now ain't the time for this shit Dak," Richard said, "But I'll be damned if I stand by and watch you ruin another pay day for everyone because you can't swallow your pride. Everyone else might be scared of you by I sure as hell ain't."

Again that wicked smile flashed over Daks' face as he retorted, "No of course not. Hell you aren't scared of anything are you?"

Palatable tension filled the already electrified air. Above a storm was brewing as was one right here at ground zero. Two men stared at each other, both ready and willing to stand for their position how ever they saw necessary and Deloris knew enough about these feudal gang systems that only one thing would be considered necessary. Violence.

Deloris held her breath as she watched the proceedings unfold, each moment seeming to drag on for an eternity, but even the briefest moments always did feel painfully long when your fate was delicately hanging in the balance. Not to mention the fact their relative safety or lack there of, depended on a couple of militant men and their pissing contest.

Daks blade shot up toward the bottom edge of Richards chest plate. It was a disemboweling strike, one that ended fights quickly and decisively, leaving nothing but greasy loops of intestines piled up in front of a standing corpse. It wrote the death of Richard in an instant.

At least it would have, had it connected. Richard's hand caught the blow, stopping the tip of the blade a mere fraction of an inch from hitting its mark.

Daks eyes widened in disbelief as Richards fist crashed into his nose. Rivulets of blood gushed forth over his stubbled chin as his head snapped back.

Richard yanked hard on Daks knife arm, lifting him clean off of the ground and hurled him back toward the cage. Dak hit it horizontally, blasting the air out of his lungs in an agonized groan then crumpled side ways to the ground.

In came Richard striding with purpose directly for Dak, who at the moment was struggling to right himself using the bars of the cage as leverage. As soon as he was up he pushed off the cage and made a wild swing for Richards throat.

With practiced ease Richard slipped back out of the way then rushed forward and brought his fist crashing down onto Daks wrist, knocking the knife clattering to the ground. Before Dak could react to his lost weapon Richards vise like hand clasped around his throat and forced him upright.

Eyes bugging from their bruising sockets, Dak lashed out viciously and attempted to wrench that powerful hand from his windpipe but all to no avail. Richard's grasp was steady as time and harder then a coffin nail.

CRACK!

Richards forehead collided with Daks right eyebrow, splitting the flesh, allowing another welter of crimson to spill down Daks face. He howled in pain and threw out one arm in a feeble attempt to stop Richards head from crashing in again.

Though Richard didn't go for another head butt. Instead he reached up his other hand, placed it next to his right on Daks throat and started to squeeze. In only a few seconds Daks face began to turn a deep shade of purple and spittle dribbled forth from his slackening lips. Both of his arms flopped about in front of him like a pair of limp noodles, his eyelids started to flutter, but just as he was about to go out Richard let go.

With a ragged gasp, Dak fell to his knees and withered against the lower part of the womens cage. His hands raised in an attempt to beg for mercy or perhaps in a last ditch effort to defend himself. Though mercy would not be found here. Taking a fist full of Daks hair, Richard drug him forward and tossed him onto his belly in the dirt.

"Please- ugh, agh, Please don't ki-" Dak choked out but stopped as Richard knelt down on his back. The knee drove the air from his lungs and Richard reached down with both hands and wrapped them around Daks face. A powerful wrench upward snapped the mans neck with a loud series of pops, and Daks body flew into a violent set of convulsions that was very akin to vibrating.

Richard stood and looked about the crowd to see if anybody else wanted to go against his word. Silence hung like a pall above the slavers and all made sure to avert their gaze, "Dispose of his body and make it quick, and anybody that ain't got watch duty head to the barracks truck to get some shut eye."

Deloris watched the majority of the men stride off into the shadows while two of them came forward to scoop up Daks corpse and carry it away. Richard waited until the last of them where out of ear shot than turned to her.

"Sorry about that," He said as he peeled a bit of skin from a scuffed knuckle and tossed it away, "How is your friend?"

Taking a moment to steady her breathing Deloris answered wearily, "She's horrible to be honest. Chances are she is gonna loose it or get sick from her body trying to get rid of it on its own. I guess I should thank you for intervening."

Richard shrugged in the dim, "Eh don't. I did it for us not you. You two are in quite high demand, just so you know, but that demand goes down if your all fucked up."

Deloris forced herself to relax and focused on calming her rampaging heart, "Yeah I figured, but thanks all the same," Sasha was shivering hard and Deloris pulled her close and rubbed her arms to try and get the blood flowing through her clammy limbs.

"Your welcome I guess," Richard responded, "I'll have a blanket and pillows brought out to you guys and have our medic see to her in the morning, he's pretty good and will amputate it if its needed. We have some antibiotics we can spare but only if absolutely needed."

Relief flooded through Deloris and a savage knot in her stomach was untied at that moment. Deloris would count this a win if she could just keep her friends safe through this ordeal. She had done what she could for Marana. Now it was Sashas turn, "Ok, can I ask you a question?"

Richard nodded, "Shoot."

"You said you we're in high demand?" Deloris asked, "By who exactly?"

"Some high roller from the Neon Meadow," Richard answered as he stuffed his hands into his pockets, "Apparently he stopped by The Oasis and partook in some of your wears and then offered us a very high price to snag you up."

Deloris nodded, "I see thank you for answering."

"No problem. Good night." Richard said and walked off into the center of camp.

True to his word a slaver came forth and produced a thick blanket and a couple of decent pillows. He handed them through the bars and hustled off with out making eye contact or saying anything.

Deloris helped Sasha lay down and slipped a pillow underneath her head. She then tucked the blanket around her and lay down beside her to gift as much warmth to her as possible. It also felt good to have decent physical contact with somebody that wasn't attempting to cause them physical harm.

"So we got a fan I guess." Sasha stated, curling tighter into a fetal position, "I guess thats a plus isn't it? You know kinda a flattering when you think about it in a super f-f-fucked up way."

"Shhh, you should rest now. Sleep would do you some good," Deloris whispered, "You'll need your strength for tomorrow morning."

Sasha twitched at those words, "Oh yeah thats when their coming to take it off huh?"

"Don't think about that. Just focus on us getting home and sleeping in our own beds yeah?" Deloris offered, again wishing that she could do something, anything to change the situation.

"Yeah, your right," Sasha said her voice quivering and cracking, "But you know I sure am gonna miss it."

It was then that the sky began to weep, dousing the land in heavy sheets of rain. It pattered on the top of their cage in a steady rhythm. Deloris didn't blame the sky, for she started weeping too.

Deloris awoke with a start and looked around for the source of whatever had roused her from her fitful slumber. It was still raining and the sun had yet to rise. How long had she been asleep for? Minutes, hours, it was next to impossible to tell but the air held a, cool, fresh aspect to it which probably meant that it had been hours.

Fearfully she rolled over to check on Sasha. Luckily enough she was breathing steadily and her temperature had not risen too dreadfully high, although her body still quaked with the occasional spasm. Had it been her movements that had awaken Deloris? No she had heard something in the night. Maybe a pained moan from her friend?

"Where are the damn bodies?" A familiarly deep voice rumbled out through the pattering of the rain, Deloris caught a glimpse of a couple of flashlights approaching from the center of the camp.

Bodies? Had something happened while she had slept? Deloris shifted silently to the side of the cage and watched the approaching beams of illumination. At first she started to be able to make out certain details of the figures like booted feet then gradually legs, then torsos, and finally their faces. One was Richard wearing the same armor and long coat from before, his face a cringing mask of irritated annoyance. The other was another slaver also in full armor but with a much more fretful expression.

They stopped a few yards away from the cage where the crowd had gathered to watch the brutal beating of Daks earlier on in the evening. It was then that Deloris noticed as the two aimed their beams of light at the ground before them that something indeed had happened while she slept. Something horrible.

On the ground neatly lined up where three desiccated corpses with another slaver kneeling beside them, his hands on his knees, and his head bowed. It was hard to make out any details from this distance through the rain but the sheer amount of red that was visible made Deloris's imagination run rampant.

"Where did you find them?" Richard asked as he too took a knee beside the bodies.

"On the western watch," The slaver that stood nearby answered, "Just on the lip of Canyon wall. You think it could be Lurkers sir?"

Oh wonderful, Deloris thought. She had heard many a horror story of the things called Lurkers from numerous different source back in the City of Salt, and not one of them where good. From what she could gather from the stories was that Lurkers where a special breed of nasty developed in a lab on the outside and let loose in the Colony for entertainment purposes. According to the tales, they preferred to burrow in the sands of desert terrain and where drawn to the surface by noise. Deloris had never had to worry about things like this at The Oasis and she found it slightly troubling that she was missing the relative comfort of being a big city whore.

Richards light scanned over the bodies, "Did you find the missing limbs?"

It was the kneeling Slavers turn to respond, "No sir just their bodies and their weapons."

"Well then I would say its definitely Lurkers," Richard growled, "Bastards like to take the limbs in their burrows for midnight snacks. How many more people do we have on watch right now?"

"One, sir aside from us." Said the standing slaver, "You want us to pull out more?"

Richard stood, "No, that might bring out more of them. Just tell who ever is still out there to pull back toward the camp and to keep as quiet as possible."

An agonized scream bellowed out over the campsite from somewhere not far off, followed by an inhuman keening wail. It rattled the very soul and tossed the guts about upon hearing it.

To Deloris there was absolutely no question. What ever had made the noise had been something that went against nature itself. A vile thing that could only be described as monstrous. Instinctively her body tried to draw into itself, as the chill in the air seemed to drop several degrees.

"Damn it," Richard growled and drew forth a long sword from his hip.

"Load up," Richard barked throwing caution to the wind as far as remaining silent went, "We're getting the hell outta here."

"What if somebody sees our headlights?" One of the guards asked his voice was strained, maybe even frightened, "We don't want to have to deal with a war-band of Raiders, or even worse maybe their rescue party?"

Richard had been calmly walking over to the slaver that spoke and the very moment that the word party had left his lips, Richard was on him. Both hands took to shaking the man violently, sending the mans spear clattering to the ground and Deloris could hear the rip of fabric. In vain the man attempted to break free of Richards powerful grasp but instead found him self getting hip tossed to the ground.

Richard stood towering over him sword poised above the slavers throat, "Next time you speak your opinion after I give you an order I will cut out your fucking tongue and use it as a doorstop to the shit house now get up and get the camp ready to move out NOW!"

A rush of satisfaction warmed Deloris as she watched her captors hustle away dragging their bruised egos in their wake. Yet again Richard had had to show the group who was top dog and it was obvious that neither him nor they where happy about it. Good, she thought, With any luck they will kill each other off. It was a stretch but hell weirder things have happened.

Deloris laid back down next to Sasha and watched them scurry about smiling to herself.

Kabloom!

A thunderous blast rent the air far louder than thunder and one of the vehicles across the way was consumed by a flash of raging flames. The vehicle which looked like some form of armor outfitted bus raised six feet off the ground causing a rush of smoke and fire to curl out around it. Enough heat was generated by the flames that the rain soaked ground instantly took to steaming in great curls of vapor. When the vehicle crashed back to down, the night air was suddenly filled with bellows of agony accented by the thumps of the dying men within. Richard and the remaining slavers where caught halfway across the camp starring like startled cockroaches at the sudden and violent destruction.

Sasha jarred awake beside Deloris with a gasp and several expletives spewing from her cold numb lips. Afterward she found herself staring open mouthed next to Deloris as the burning wreckage took on a new intensity despite the deluge.

Again that same keening wail split the area, but this time what ever made the noise was right on top of them.

That same soul wrenching howl was enough to break one of the slavers and he turned to and ran the opposite way of the wreckage. "Fuck this shit," he shouted as he slipped beyond the reach of the fires light.

"Get back here you idiot!" Richard shouted at his fleeing form. A few seconds later the man returned. Well at least his head did.

The slavers head came soaring back into the light then bounced and tumbled through the mud only to come to a halt several feet away from Richard and his last remaining crony. Deloris watched on, horror struck by the sight of the slavers mouth opening and closing, his eyes blinking against the rain.

"We got to get out of here!" The crony shrieked as he grabbed at Richards jerkin his weapon falling from his fingers as fear took total control. Richard shoved the crony away and stared down at the head with fire in his gaze. Deloris couldn't tell if it was simply reflection from the nearby blaze, or some internal furnace that had just been sparked.

"Boss come on lets ge-," The crony began to plead but Richard silenced him with his gaze. There was an intensity to it that was beginning to border along the daunting depths of madness.

"Shut up," Richard barked coldly, "And go get the Cage Car started. I'll cover you."

Without a moments hesitation the slaver started over to the SUV, that was attached to the front of the pen in which Sasha and Deloris currently sat watching and waiting for some sign of the threat that lurked in the shadows. Waiting to see what manner of death awaited them once their "at the moment" defenders where taken out of the picture.

Richard stalked about behind the man his sword held tightly his face set in a grim and restless expression. To Deloris he looked like a cornered wolf on the prowl. Which she reminded herself was a pretty close approximation of the man. She found it odd that moments earlier she had wished him death, and now she was hoping beyond hope that he would remain to defend them.

The cage lurched back and forth drawing Deloris's attention and she swung her head around to see if she could figure out what had caused this. With her stomach sinking she saw that the cage shaking was merely a byproduct of the SUV heaving to and fro. A moment later it stopped and the driver side door opened with a creak. Something looped and moist tumbled out of the door, splashing into the mud. It was hard for Deloris to tell exactly what it was. Rope maybe?

Her question was answered as the crony fell out of the vehicle. It wasn't rope, but intestines, greasy loops of grey intestines. The crony fell forward onto his hands and knees spilling the rest of his guts into the mud then promptly face planted.

Richard turned to look, his final man lay prostrate, guts squishing out on both sides of him. At first his face was contorted in a countenance of rage, but when his gaze rose to look into the SUV it quickly turned to one of quizzical shock, "What?" he asked his voice losing the gruff huskiness for a moment, "Fucking impossible."

From the drivers door of the SUV emerged a frightful sight. A filthy wraith, straight from a nightmare. Slowly the lithe figure slid out into the rain storm, water carving rivulets through the muck that caked it. It held something. A short blade about the length of a mans hip equally doused in filth. There was a certain grace to its movements that spoke of wild living in the wastes, and watching it stand to its full height sent a chill through Deloris. Wait not an it, a who.

"Marana," Sasha gasped weakly from beside her. The young blond woman was leaning with her face against the bars.

Oh my god, Deloris thought, shes right. Had they caught her and kept her away from view all this time. Her fear shifted gears, "Marana!" Deloris shouted as she pushed her face between the bars as though it would help her be heard, "Run sweety, don't just stand there! RUN!"

Marana looked, her head lilting to one side, a playful and confident grin playing across her face while her bright blue eyes had almost taken on an unearthly glow. Slowly a hand raised up to her lips and with her index finger she shooshed Deloris quite. It was at this moment that Deloris realized a terrible truth. They hadn't caught her. The dead slavers, Oh God, she thought and with a gulp fell silent.

Richards' head cocked and his sword point lowered slightly, "No way," He said at first as he attempted to wrap his mind around the very concept Deloris had just realized. He glanced back at the burning wreckage then at the corpse at Maranas feet, "Just you?"

Marana nodded slowly.

"Not bad for a little shit," He commented, "I take it I'm next?"

Again Marana nodded.

Perhaps Richard was thinking of someway out of the situation for he looked about again and his weight shifted from foot to foot. A slow drawn out sigh escaped him and he tapped his sword against his leg, "Eh Fuck it." He said and charged, his blade ready to lop the girls head from her shoulders.

Marana reacted with almost preternatural speed and in three bounding steps forward had gained enough speed to slide through the mud on her knees below Richards chop. Using the combined speed of her slide and Richards' charge, Marana drug the short sword she held across his shin, opening up a seeping wound.

"FUCK!" Richard exclaimed and lashed back around wildly trying to score a blow before the child was out of reach, but the swing missed by a mere few inches as Marana rolled forward onto her bare feet and spun to face him.

Limping a few steps to the right as his leg threatened to buckle underneath the strain of the attack, Richard raised his blade across his torso just in time to turn Maranas short sword away with a spray of sparks. With perfect form Marana used this opportunity to place her foot against his injured leg and used it to propel her self into a back flip from which she landed in a crouch before him.

This was too much for his leg to take and it gave way, dropping him to a single knee. Drastically he thrust his weapon at her trying to drive her back and buy him a few seconds. What it did buy him was a bleeding stump where his sword hand had been. Marana must have seen this coming for she juked quickly to the right and used all the weight in her small frame to bring her blade down onto his outstretched wrist. The bones within made a snikkt! as they where severed, and a gout of crimson spurted from the stump.

Before Richard could instinctively recoil his limb and try to staunch the bleeding, Marana slashed her edge across his throat with a wicked and efficient strike. Another violent gush of blood erupted forth from his body as Richard fell back into the mud to twitch and jerk in his final moments of life.

Deloris found herself shying away from the bars in disbelief and more then a little bit of fear from what she had just witnessed. What the hell had she seen? Less then a day ago she was consoling this sweet young girl about losing her virginity and know she sat and watched her stand over a man that she had dispatched with a beautiful brutality. Not to mention the other slavers that had obviously died similar deaths. Who the fuck was this girl.

Richard twitched for what seemed to be an eternity to Deloris all the while with Marana standing over him, regarding the scene with a cold detachment. Then when he stopped she knelt beside him and dug into his right front pocket and produced a set of keys. Leisurely she flipped through them until she found the desired one then ran over to Deloris and Sasha to unlock the cage door. When the door swung open, Marana smiled brightly and just like that she was the young sweet girl Deloris knew from back at the Oasis. Or at least she looked like the same little girl, but now Deloris wasn't so sure

"Hey guys time to go," Marana said that now eerie smile stretched across her pretty little face, "Wait you know how to drive right?"

For a long time they drove it silence.

Sasha slept in the backseat her hand freshly dressed and warm blankets wrapped around her. Deloris sat behind the wheel still feeling cold despite the heater that blasted away on high. In the passenger seat Marana cleaned herself with a bottle of alcohol she had found in the medical supplies they had looted from the slavers, she even wiped down the short sword that had once belonged to one of their guards.

"Marana?" Deloris finally said her voice quaking slightly.

"Yes?" Marana replied.

"Where did you learn to do that?"

The young girl stuffed the alcohol back into the duffel of pilfered goods and pulled out some gauss Oddly she had only cleaned part of her legs and arms. Testing the edge of the short sword with her thumb she continued, "Back home," she said matter of factually, "I was a fighter."

Deloris glanced her way and saw Marana using the tip of her blade to carve several new scars into her upper thigh. This tradition was not unknown to Deloris but it definitely wasn't for scared little virgins. Was it? "So each scar means somebody you…"

"Killed? Yeah." Maran covered the fresh little cuts with a couple of gauss pads then moved on to her upper arm, "Why do you ask?"

"Just wondering," Deloris answered bashfully and she found herself nervously shifting in her seat. She had never counted all of the scars that decorated Maranas flesh before. Hell she never thought she had to, Never thought they meant that. Another shiver coursed through her.

"Are you ok?" Marana inquired. It sounded as though she was genuinely concerned.

"Yeah Marana, I'm fine," Deloris lied.

Maranas seemed to wilt in the passenger seat, deflating ever so slightly, "You're scared of me huh?"

Oh busted, Deloris thought, and quickly thought of something to say, "Uh no no no. I am not scared I am just, um."

"Its ok," Marana told her, as she took to wrapping the new wounds with a dressing, "I understand kind of, but if it means anything I would never hurt you, you are my friend."

Her words did very little to put Deloris at ease, "I know that Marana," Deloris replied, "Its just you think you know somebody here in The Colony, and… Its just… This place always ends up surprising you one way or another. So you think they will send more for us? Slavers I mean."

Marana seemed pleased with the explanation Deloris had provided and nodded, "Yes they will," she stated, "And when they do I will be waiting for them."

A half hearted smile came to Deloris as she tried to figure out if that statement made her feel better. True, with what she had seen she could not ask for a better guardian than the girl that sat beside her but it didn't change the fact that she was only fourteen. She should be worried about school and fighting with her parents about staying out later, not considering what she will do if more assholes come to take them away. She deserved better. and at least a chance at normalcy. She would never find normalcy in the care of Harlen. In fact after he found out what had happened to the slavers he would more then likely double Maranas duty to not only whoring but also security... Fuck it.

Deloris hit the brakes, cranked the SUV around, and gunned the throttle in the opposite direction.

"What are we doing?" Marana asked confused, "This is the wrong way."

"No sweety," Deloris said as she looked at the young girls blood encrusted face, and offered her a smile, "This is the right way."