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Will was a dick, she knew that, even if he had a big heart that he guarded. He was still a dick, but she never figured him for flat out stupid. Yet here she was, inside of her workshop, stewing over how much of an idiot Will was. He had a rough night; she knew that, but she had warned him about getting too comfortable with Branch. Branch didn't become the ruler of their known wasteland by benevolence, he was the spark that led to this path of destruction. Branch created the powder keg, teased it, then lit it and watched the world burn, only to come back and say that he had all the answers.

That sort of malevolence was special. It took a certain kind of man to usher in the end of society and then rebuild it as a sympathetic god figure. Jordan Branch was one of the biggest villains in human history, playing world governments and old grievances like a fiddle for his own personal goals. Now whatever they knew was left of the world sat in his ivory tower, hanging on his every word and spending their nights killing what was left of the poor for sport for his group of elite survivors. Vera's skin crawled at the thought of her being a member of that elite class, even if it wasn't her choice and that classification was hanging on by a thread now.

Vera sighed while she routed around on her desk, looking for something to keep her mind occupied. Returning to the suite for some shut eye sounded like a good plan, but walking in on Jenna and Will fucking for the umpteenth time on a night like this just sounded like more of a chore than anything else. It was times like this that she wished she had something to sleep on down here in the basement, her workshop the closest thing to her own room and home. A knock came from her door, Vera cursing under her breath.

"Will, if that's you or your little stooge brother, I don't want to deal with your shit right now," she called.

Another knock.

"It's not funny," she stood up, jerking the door open. "It's not—oh, wow. I didn't, uh. Yeah, I'm sorry, you aren't Will or Stuart."

"No," TK Gabriel said. "I just had a run in with your boyfriend."

"Yeah, he's got a bit of a temper right now and no, he's not my boyfriend."

TK just stared at her.

"I mean, look, do I live with him? Do I sleep with him? Fucked if I know what we are, but he's usually fucking that ditz Jenna and... Ah, sorry." She felt self-conscious as he stood there without his shirt, blood staining the bandages on his stomach. "You probably had a pretty rough night out there."

"Something like that," he said.

"What can I do for you, then?" She motioned for him to come in. "This isn't much, but this is my workshop."

"Last night," he said, "you told me you created Farrington's gauntlet."

"Oh right, yeah. That's me, creator of the gauntlet."

"I need you to make something for me."

"You need me to make something?" She asked. "I'm not sure what I can do for you. That was just a simple charged up piece of armor, really. I'm an aerospace engineer, I make rockets."

"That gauntlet does well enough for Farrington."

"It does, I mean, thank you, but what could I make for you? Do you want a gauntlet of your own?"

"No," he shook his head. "Shin guards."

"Shin guards? I mean, doesn't Bill just have that kind of stuff?"

"Not the kind that I need, not the kind that keeps me alive."

"Ohhh," she said. "So you want something with some flair to it."

"Spikes," he said. "A charge like Farrington's glove, preferably left leg, although my right leg isn't bad."

"I can do that. It should be no problem. I dunno, I'm best at building propulsion systems, but here I am building these weapons and..."

"So you can do it?"

"Yeah, I can do it. I've got a backup gauntlet that Will never uses. I can just swap the casing and... When do you need it by?"

"I can wait," he said. "I suspect that I'll need it sooner rather than later."

"I guess so. Just... Look, I know that you and Will are going to have to duke it out at some point and he's a little rough around the edges. I get it, but could you possibly, I don't know, try not to kill him?"

"If and when I fight him, he's going to do everything in his power to kill me."

"I know, but..."

"You saw what happened out there tonight. I didn't want to kill those men. I did everything that I could to save them, but it wasn't enough. If your friend wants to try to kill me, then that's his decision. I'm not here to kill anyone, well..." there was an uncomfortable pause. "At least not your friend."

"I guess that's the best that you can do," she said. "He's gonna get himself killed out there and Branch won't care at all."

"We are all dead already," he chuckled. "We just haven't accepted our fate yet."

"That's a morose way of looking at our lives. We survived, that's more than most can say."

"We died when everyone else did. This here? A fantasy of survival."

"This is going to be a long night, isn't it?" She asked, not expecting an answer. "You should go get some rest, you are pretty banged up still."

He nodded.

With that, he was out the door, leaving Vera to breathe a sigh of relief. She didn't mind helping him out considering it was more sticking it to Jordan Branch than anyone else, but she knew she could create the tool that ultimately kills Will, which could be the end of her run in Branch Tower. No matter how much she hoped for a peaceful conclusion, she knew it was fruitless. She was now the creator of weapons, instruments of death used for the unfolding drama inside of Branch's idyllic society. Branch was the one that fostered the growth of this society, and Vera was the one helping it to thrive.

What other choice did she have? There was nothing else that someone with her expertise could do in this situation. They weren't launching anything into space or concerned with flight of any kind anymore. Instead, the concern was survival, of dealing with the steady influx of survivors from the wasteland, looking for redemption at the place that they were told was the last hope for humanity. Those people were then tossed into a pit to fight for their lives and their right to live among the elite, usually it being known that they'd fail. Building weapons was the only thing keeping her going anymore.

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A note from dvewlsh

Vera runs into an old acquaintance next.


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About the author

dvewlsh

Bio: I used to write about professional kickboxing. Trust me, I was good. Now I write science fiction.

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