June 13th 2009
On Route to San Francisco
The drive to Seattle took Xenia Ivanov six hours travelling across the Vancouver-Blaine Highway.
She had left the evening of the 10th, having taken the advice that it was best to travel in the Occupied Territory by night to avoid Visitors and DeGens. The DeGens, an abbreviation of the word degenerates, were what the peoples of the Safe Zones were starting to call the raiders that scavenged the highways, robbing and killing citizens trying to escape north or in general anyone who had more than they did. With the Visitors in control, those who wished to escape their yoke needed basic supplies from other sources and unfortunately, the DeGens had solved that particular problem at the expense of their own. Most of these were composed of humans that were scum to begin with and now saw the total break down of law and order in some parts of the country as a license to create their little kingdoms based on violence and self-service.
Heeding the warnings that not all the dangers she would face may be alien invaders, Xenia headed out at dark to get accustomed to the notion of travelling by night. Although she would be in the Safe Zones till well after Oregon, Xenia decided to get use the idea nonetheless and by the morning of the 10th, she was in Seattle, having crossed the border in the United States after leaving White Rock, Canada. Xenia was able to make good time as the roads were somewhat clear from the cars left behind in the wake of the Pulse. Civil services still operated in the Safe Zones once power was restored with the militia being called into service following the devastation of the March 1st attacks. Still, Xenia had driven at a reasonable speed in case she needed to make a hasty stop in case anything was missed.
She arrived in Seattle before dawn and her first port of call was to pull into a caravan park where she slept for five straight hours. Upon waking, she drove to the local Safeway and stocked up on food and supplies, mostly tin food, water and as much fuel as she could carry. She stored these on a rack above the combi, properly covered in jerry cans that were sealed tight, taking instruction from the man she purchased the gasoline from at a price that was damn near a king's ransom, how to store them safely while travelling. Nonetheless, she purchased the 60 gallons needed to make the one way trip to San Francisco with fuel to spare, in 5 gallon cans.
He strongly advised her after she had made the purchase to go buy some guns because the DeGens would kill her a dozen times over for what she had. Xenia paid attention.
He directed her to Butch's Gunshop who was still open for business seven days a week.
Butch was a big burly man who fit his name. He had greying horse shoe moustache that reminded her of Hulk Hogan and was a bear of a man who looked at her like she was a little gun asking for a Gatlin gun. If it had fit in the van and had he owned one to sell, Xenia might have asked for it. Still Butch was a family man, with daughters and he looked at Xenia with genuine concern when she told him of her intention to travel into the Occupied Territory alone.
"You sure that's what you want to do Miss?" He looked at her beneath bushy eyebrows, his expression hardening with paternal concern.
"I have to," Xenia explained as she stood in the middle of the shop floor, her eyes shifting over the guns kept behind glass and mesh. "I need to find my brother."
"Pretty thing like you, you'd be a tasty morsel for anyone intending you harm." He pointed out, holding nothing back.
"That's why I'm here," Xenia said firmly, "I want something to keep that from happening."
"You know how to shoot a gun?" He asked, a brow rose dubiously as he looked at her.
"Is that a Glock?" Xenia walked past him to the counter, ignoring the question on purpose.
"Yeah that's a Glock. You want to take a look at it?" He asked, stepping behind the glass barrier that kept his customers away from his stock and promptly removed the weapon from its case and handed it to her. Xenia picked up the gun in her hand, examining it carefully before she started to break the weapon down, piece by piece, arranging the components neatly against the glass and then rebuilding once again, under Butch's amused gaze. By the time she slid the magazine into it again, he had started to chuckle.
"I guess that would be a yes to my question." He smirked.
Xenia smiled back, "I guess so."
"Alright then," he nodded in approval, "so let talk about getting you some guns."
She passed Bend, Oregon almost two days later, having driven down the mountains from Seattle, pausing at Longview for a few hours of sleep before getting on the road again. She chanced some of the trip during the day since she was in the Safe Zone. While things were difficult, it was nowhere the anarchy that was taking place in the south. Once she passed Bend and Portland, Xenia would be leaving the Safe Zone and entering the Occupied Territory. As she approached the border, she could see warning signs hastily put up, some little more than boards with painted message scrawled across the surface, warning people from going any further.
The signs sent a chill down her spine but as the headlights of her van strobed past them, she knew she would not stop. She had to keep going. Leaving behind Portland, Xenia braced herself for trouble and avoided the main highways, even though she knew that it would only lengthen her trip. The highways had become death traps since the Pulse, with uncleared cars still causing major obstructions to anyone travelling down them. They were also ripe for the picking and the DeGens scoured the highways, rifling through the abandoned vehicles, scavenging anything useful. She drove in the darkness, killed the headlights when she thought she spied another vehicle and parked the van in a secluded place where she could see someone coming from miles away.
Xenia travelled through most of Oregon this way, always keeping a cautious eye on her gasoline supplies and chancing a stop at a gas station when she happened along one. In some places, she was able to fill her tank up, in others, she was able to siphon it out of vehicles abandoned there since the Pulse. The Visitor presence was heavy as her journey was broken up the sight of those city sized ships suspended impossibly in the sky. Travelling at night helped her to avoid them although she knew her lack couldn't last indefinitely. Furthermore, she had been seeing growing evidence of the DeGens and their crimes strewn across the highway in the form of bodies and burnt out vehicles. It didn't make any sense why they'd destroy vehicles but then Xenia didn't presume to understand the behaviour of berserkers which was clearly what the DeGens were.
She'd parked the combi sheltered by trees on the Old Stage Road, shortly after leaving Weed. She'd been driving for most of the night and her resting spot was a thick brush of trees that grew close and thus provided good cover once she'd manoeuvred the vehicle into narrow gap between them. Exhausted, she was learning she tired much faster than she used to owing to the pregnancy, Xenia had collapsed into her sleeping bag for a few hours of well deserved rest as the sun peeked over the clear water of the Dwight Hammond Reservoir
She woke up to the sounds of begging.
The voice belonged to a woman and it was close enough that Xenia sat up abruptly and made a mad scramble for the gun she had stored within arm's reach. Armed, she stalked through the van, peering out the window and saw that her hiding place was secure. No one had happened upon her and the scene beyond her vehicle was serene, almost peaceful even. Except for the begging. It was a woman's voice coupled with a man's sobs. He was shouting profanities but as Xenia debated what to do, one thing was clear. The man's voice was filled with anguish and desperation.
The smart thing to do would be to get into vehicle and start driving, without looking back. What had it to do with her? Then she remembered Lukas at the Swiss-Italian border, how he had refused to abandon those people in the truck to their fate. He had died for his sacrifice but she loved him for daring to care enough to help them. Cursing to herself because this was a bad idea, Xenia got dressed and went out to investigate, carrying a Glock in the back of her pants and her semi-automatic Uzi.
She followed the sounds of tearful sobs and as she drew closer, identified the voices of men, laughing. It took a bit of effort on her part to move through the forest without making a sound but eventually, she found her spot behind a few trees and spied through a break in the trunks to view what was happening in a clearing, where apparently three men were holding court to a man tied to a tree and woman who was...Xenia stomach hollowed. Naked. She was on the ground sobbing, the bruises on her were so apparent that Xenia's courage almost failed there and she nearly ran. The features of the man tied to the tree were near unrecognisable as his face was a swollen pulp of broken and battered flesh.
"Jill," he called to the woman. "I'm sorry..." he sobbed and each apology wrenched at Xenia's heart because she didn't know what to do. She wanted to help but the fear in her pointed out that they were three of them. And if she didn't take them out...well she was seeing the consequences of that in Technicolour. Xenia felt like a coward, frozen to the spot.
"Yeah you're sorry," one of the three stepped forward from where they were ransacking a vehicle, an old Plymouth which presumably belonged to the savaged couple before they were waylaid by these animals. "Sorry you ain't man enough to take care of your bitch. But we showed you didn't we?" He laughed, his voice slurred enough to indicate the drinking that had probably propelled the act of brutality Xenia was witnessing.
"You leave her alone you fucks!" The prisoner spat impotently, his own word slurred through bloodied and broken lips.
"Maybe we'll do an encore," the DeGen sneered purposefully towards the woman who was gaining some coherence at seeing what was coming at her. "Show you how its done."
"LEAVE HER ALONE!" The battered husband's cry was an anguished howl of fury and outrage.
"No, no," Jill started to blabber. "Please! Not again! No more...!" She wept as her rapist grabbed her by an arm to lift her off the ground, crumpled leaves clinging to bare body amidst her screaming husband.
Xenia could bear it no more and lifted the Uzi to take aim, deciding what would happen, would happen but she couldn't let this continue when suddenly, Jill lunged for the weapon tucked in the man's pants and promptly emptied a bullet into his face. The police special she used to blow the back of his head out sounded with a loud crack.
"YOU BITCH!" The man's comrades screamed at her and fired. The bullet struck her in the chest as Xenia fired at the same time. He didn't get a second shot off but the damage was done. The crimson stain spread across her chest where her heart would have been as she tumbled to the ground, her husband screaming her name behind her.
Xenia's shot took out the first man in the shoulder, forcing him to drop the weapon next to him. Without missing a beat, she shifted her aim and this time let a rip of bullets escape the Uzi across the second man's legs. He went down screaming in pain.
Stepping out of the trees, she saw the downed man going for his comrade’s gun and immediately pulled the trigger, letting a surge of bullets tear the earth in front of him. "Don't!" She hissed. "I've never killed a human before but I am willing to make an exception for you bastards."
In truth, she didn't even know if she had it in her to do that but she wasn't about to find out. She went to the man clutching his shoulder, glaring at her with rabid eyes. "You bitch!" He growled. "We're going to make you wish you weren't born."
"Maybe," Xenia said coolly, "but not today." She fired a bullet into his knee cap, hearing bone crunch as she shattered it.
She didn't want to kill anyone but these two now had bigger problems than catching up with her. She let her eyes scan through the clearing and saw a pick up truck near the Plymouth. Picking up the guns she could see, she went over to the two vehicles, ignoring their screaming and cussing at her as she shot the tires to both vehicles, to ensure they were able to follow her in a hurry. Once they were disarmed and for the moment, incapacitated, Xenia went to the woman. She had died with that first shot. Her desperate bid for freedom had yielded results but most likely not the one she wished.
"Oh Jilly," the husband was still crying. Xenia hurried to him, saw the grief and anguish in his eyes and knew all too well what he was feeling. She wanted to console him, wanted to tell him that she was sorry she hadn't acted sooner but suspected he was past caring. She dropped to her knees behind him and unsecured the ropes that kept him bound, that made him the front row audience to the brutal violation of his wife.
As soon as he was freed, he lunged forward, his legs unsteady and as he scrambled across the dirt towards his wife's dead form. Xenia watched his back, kept the Uzi aimed at the injured men, ensuring that they did not try to escape or cause further mischief. She allowed the man his chance to say goodbye, understanding with far more empathy than she'd like, his pain. The two who had caused the complete destruction of this man's existence showed fear, perhaps realizing now what it was like to be helpless and at the mercy of those who would not hesitate to mete out punishment, deserved or not.
"Jilly," his dirt covered fingers examined the wound and Xenia noted that he did so with some expertise, despite the fact that his fingers were trembling and h anguish palpable. "I'm so sorry," he sobbed holding her in his arms when he realised that she was gone from his life.
Xenia walked over to the two men and glared at them, whimpering and licking their wounds like the dogs they were. Shaking her head, she said to them. "How could do this?" She asked.
"Fuck you bitch!" One of them hissed, her words having little effect on his conscience. Then again, Xenia had a feeling it never had a chance of doing so anyway.
"I'm gonna bleed to death!" The other pleaded, "I need a do......"
He never had a chance to finish because his words vanished in the boom of a gunshot, straight through the head. He fell backwards, his face an obliterated mess of flesh. Xenia jumped at the sound, turning to her side just in time to see Jilly's husband empty the rest of the bullets into his companion’s chest. The anguished man pulled the trigger until the gun was spent and there was nothing left to fire, until the click-click sound of an empty chamber was all the sound in the world. When the weapon fell from his hand against the dirt with a soft thud, did he finally sink to his knees, weeping.
Xenia hurried to his side, feeling the urgency to leave before someone happened along that was just as bad or worse yet, comrades of these men who would be just as ruthless as they had been. Killing those men, taking bloody revenge on those who had defiled and ruined his wife had sapped the last of his will and Xenia saw surrender to his grief. She hurried to his side and took his arm, hauling to his feet.
"We can't stay here," she spoke urgently as she lead him away from the grisly scene. She wanted to take his wife's body, to afford her the proper burial but there was no time for that. Someone could investigate those gunshots and she had no desire to be here when that happened. He did not protest and merely continued to sob, offering no objection when she took him away from his Jilly back the way she came, until finally they were back at the van. She deposited him into the back, having no time to attend to him now, now that he was in much shape to accept her ministrations.
Starting the engine, Xenia didn't care if it was daylight or not. She just wanted to drive and get the hell out of there.