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Will had stomped off, a blubbering, angry mess of a man, leaving Vera to her thoughts alone in her workshop. Will wasn't a bad guy, but she felt like she kept having to make excuses for being around him. If everything wasn't all fucked up out in the world, the chances of her even being around someone like Will were close to zero. He was so very far from the type of person who she'd associate with. It wouldn't even be a consideration. Things had changed, though. There was no room to be picky. He was a good guy, deep down beneath all the posturing, hair and booze, even if he didn't want to admit it.

Vera's thoughts drifted off to Demoreo and TK down in those cells. Demoreo was less and less himself over the past few months, to the point where she couldn't bring herself to visit him anymore. She had stumbled across his holding cell one night, maybe three months back, when she was looking around the basement for some copper wire. Stuart had told her that there should be some down in the labs, but in retrospect he was probably hoping that she'd get scared by Demoreo, the beast that they had called the Crusher, as some sort of sick joke. Stuart was like that. None of them saw him as a human being anymore, just a monster for whatever they had in store for him, but she had seen the humanity left in him, even if it was diminishing each day.

Was he a monster? At least in appearance, yes. His survival also hinged on eating the flesh of the living, something to do with all the chemicals that were pumped into him, changing the fundamental chemical makeup of his body and its needs for survival. She wished she had understood bioengineering better, having only a cursory understanding of the basics of it from the one class she took in college, but it wasn't enough to help him. At the time, she thought it was exciting, but that there wouldn't be much of a future in it, so it was just another detour into another of the branches of science on her road to shooting things off into space.

Thinking about Demoreo, it was difficult not to sigh. He embodied all that was wrong with the world and how she had squandered her life, working hard and studying all for nothing. All of those years studying hard, ignoring the outside world and being solely focused on being the best in her college felt like a waste now. Nobody was shooting rockets anywhere. Instead, her skills were merely ornamental, used for making makeshift weapons for men to kill each other for other men's and women’s entertainment. It was still early enough in the day for Vera to make her way to the lab with no one else being there. Well, Demoreo wasn't held in the lab, more in a cell behind it that had its own access and everything. She snatched up the shin guard she had made for TK just in case, as well.

She used the back door to enter, wanting to avoid the labs just in case there was someone in there working late. While it wasn't exactly off-limits to her, she didn't want any trouble for showing up in Branch's lab, or to have to with anyone else. Will kind of drained her in that way. The heavy iron door creaked open, unveiling the dimly lit room with a cell on either wall to her left and right. Demoreo was on the right, like he usually was, only he was sitting there staring off into space without making much of a sound. In the other cell was TK Gabriel, laying back on the cot with his jacket over his face.

"Demoreo," she said, holding onto the bars of his cell. "Demoreo, it's me, Vera. Are you in there?"

Crusher just grunted and looked over at her.

"Demoreo, c'mon," she looked down at his head, the metal pieces jutting out from it. They had implanted something in there, alright, and they hadn't done a great job of it, either. Whatever it was, it looked to be some sloppy work. Then again, this was the apocalypse. The scientific method wasn't at the forefront of everyone's minds.

"Who's Demoreo?" Gabriel's voice made her jump a little.

"What? Oh god," she said. "You scared the shit out of me."

"Sorry."

"This is Demoreo."

"Funny. I thought he was the Crusher."

"Well, yeah, but before that. He was just as human as you or I am. Fuck, I mean, he has a wife, had two kids. He's just another victim of this shitty world."

"His fist fucked with my plans last night, I'll tell you that much."

"Oh? I heard you tried to run off with some of Branch's property, whatever that means."

"That's one way of looking at it. When I showed up here, I had an arsenal of weapons and my bike. I found my bike and just took what I felt was mine. They weren't so keen on letting me go, was all."

"Now you are a prisoner, so I guess that didn't work out so well."

"I was already a prisoner, just like you are. Branch is the only one who isn't, although I'd argue that having all of this makes him a prisoner of sort as well. I just felt like it was time for me to get out of here."

"And go where?"

"Anywhere but here."

"But there is nothing out there. Nothing at all."

"This is what, the ruins of old Las Vegas? I was heading east."

"But to where?"

"Anywhere."

"You don't know that there is anyone left out there, though, or if they are if they would be friendly or not..." She shuddered remembering the van that picked her and the other girls up, the same van that Will and his brother had helped to save her from. "There are some fucked up people out there."

"I'm hoping to avoid them. If this is any sign of what's left out there, I'm not looking to be a part of it."

"So you'd just be alone out there?"

"Suppose so."

"How would you survive?"

"I've done fine this far, haven't I?"

"Sure, for a guy inside of a cage."

"This is only temporary. I'll either find a way out or I'll die trying. Same thing."

"You sure are a ray of sunshine, aren't you? Just ready to give up like that?"

"There aren't many more options."

"So you are just going to run away from here, then? Just like that?" He had lost his mind, if he hadn't already a long time ago. She couldn't tell, having only had a few brief conversations with him. He fell silent, laying back down, not seeming to mind her piercing questions. Vera fumbled around with the shin guard in her hands. "Oh yeah, I brought this for you."

"What? Oh, so that's it, then? Thanks."

"Yeah, no problem," she handed it through the bars. "Better be careful with it, though. They might take it away if they know what it is."

"Good call," he said, strapping it to his left boot. Vera was proud of the power supply on that one, it being thin enough to tuck into his boot. He seemed to figure out where it went pretty quickly, and it looked quite natural on him.

"Just make sure that it's off when you aren't planning on kicking someone's head off. That thing packs quite a charge."

"Can do."

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A note from dvewlsh

Sorry for the delay! I was finishing up INTERGALACTIC BASTARD at the time.


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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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