Dicer ran the barrel of his Shotgun along the bottom of the window pane, smashing the remaining needle sharp shards of glass and sending them scattering like diamonds to the ground, before swinging himself through the now empty window. He crouched, instinctively and peered into the corners of the room, his shogun instantly drawn level, waiting impatiently for his eyes to grow accustomed to the gloom now that he was out of the afternoon sun.
There’s no one here, he reasoned, or they’d have shot me by now, and he edged forward into the room. As it had appeared from the outside, the building was largely made up of this single room, and as he had hoped the large windows and faded, overgrown sign might indicate, it almost certainly had been a shop of some kind. Aisles of shelf units dominated the space, and in the far corner, a till and a doorway to a back room. The shelves were largely full…a bad sign, and, as he scanned the floor Dicer’s experience as a scavenger told him why in an instant. Dead rats. A chemists. No good.
“Empty!” he yelled to his associates, who would now be working their way through the rest of the village. He waited for a response, but heard nothing. They were probably jamming their pockets with tins of food or gold jewellery.
Sighing in exasperation, Dicer lowered his shotgun and strolled more casually towards the till and the ancient “Staff Only” adorned door. Maybe there’d be something worth taking in the staff room. He pushed the door open and walked straight into a rifle butt aimed squarely and accurately in the middle of his skull, knocking him unconscious instantly.
Jackson stepped over the scumbag scavenger and aimed the assault rifle at his head.
” Lieutenant Jackson! For State’s Sake is there any need for that?” Barked his Commanding Officer, Gray, strolling confidently through the main entrance of the chemists.
“They are scum, Sir. We are tasked with eradicating them,” replied Jackson, despondently.
“We are tasked with spreading the word of the glorious and democratic rule of The State outside of the Capital, Jackson. If you kill all of them there will not be anyone to spread that message TO.”
“As you wish, Sir. You’re in charge,” the second in Command answered, saluting sharply, despite the slight hint of sarcasm the other felt he detected in the Lieutenant’s voice.
“Yes I bloody well am, Lieutenant, and it’ll be many years before you’re in charge of this unit yet,” Gray finished, making a point of emphasising his subordinate’s rank, “Now get here and report!”
Gray strode out to the centre of the village and waited for Jackson and the other State troopers to line up in front of him to give their reports. Three of the troopers pushed a couple of sorry belligerent scavengers before them, their hands bound before their backs, their weapons discarded or destroyed as carrying bad luck. Not for the State to scavenge from scavengers. Gray noticed Jackson spit on the floor as the prisoners were brought forward, and rolled his eyes.
It was a small village, of the type that was probably sleepy even before The Last War. Although it sat near the banks of the Thames now, it had probably been many miles from the estuary before the waters started rising. A nowhere village, like so many others they had searched the further they
travelled from New Venice and the gleaming State buildings of The Capital. A handful of buildings, more reclaimed by nature than not. Still, they’d run into a filthy Gang here, stealing from The State to feed their own selfish, greedy mouths.
“Just the one clumsy oaf I knocked out in the chemist’s, Sir,” reported Jackson. The next trooper in line took his turn:
“There was a couple more scavengers out the back of the school house sir, but Jackson picked them off before we could get there…”
Jackson grinned for a second, then quickly resumed his sombre expression.
“Oh, and them, Sir,” he replied, saluting sharply again.
“Look here, Lieutenant…” began Gray, but his sentence was never finished, as at that second a bullet ripped through his skull in an explosion of red, and he fell instantly to the ground, moving no further.
The troopers looked around them in disarray, searching for the origin of the shot.
“You damn fools! ” shouted Jackson, and striding towards them despatched the prisoners quickly with a shot to the head each before pointing into the trees, “go! That way!”
The startled troopers instantly obeyed their new commanders instructions and hurriedly disappeared into the undergrowth.
Quiet. Stillness. Jackson swung his assault rifle over his shoulder and drew his knife. It was a seconds work to ensure the scumbag in the chemist wouldn’t be waking. Then Jackson took his knife to the four chevron insignia on the shoulder of Gray’s jacket. Blood stained. A shame.
“The other half, Lieutenant,” came a voice from behind him, where half a second ago, had been no-one. He turned. The red head didn’t smile. Her sniper rifle now shouldered, she trained a pistol on Jackson.
“Subhuman scum like you deserve death, not reward,” spat Jackson.
At this the read head did half-smile:
“Well, Lieutenant, you didn’t have to hire me.”
“It’s Captain, now, Crimson,” replied the other, “and I needed a clean job.”
He reached into his jacket pocket and reluctantly thrust a bundle of paper points, signed by the Head of The State himself, at the mercenary. She took them wordlessly, and they disappeared about her person.
“A month’s bloody wages!” he grumbled.
“Oh, come now,” replied Crimson, and she walked backwards away from him, her gun never lowering, “a fortnight’s surely, Captain?”