The bartender was yelling at the top of his lungs. He didn’t like getting shortchanged, even if it was by those asshole Ravagers. What, did they think that by sending teenagers to do their dirty work he would not harm them? No, that’s not how they work. These two were bottom of the pack. The Ravagers wanted them hurt, wanted them to be toughened up by the wasteland around them.
The bartender grabbed one of the mismatched mugs from his sink, drew back in exaggerated anticipation and chucked the rather solid chunk of glass.
A single dark brown hand caught the mug and flung it to the floor smashing it into pieces. The stranger stepped forward crushing pieces into smaller chunks beneath his boots.
“You might want to get that cleaned up before someone with barely a pair of slippers on their feet steps on it. Who knows what kind of diseases can be found on the floor of this… establishment.”
The bartender eyed the stranger incredulously, “Oh yeah, and your going to pay me the extra money I am owed? Besides, these slave brats for the Ravagers need to be toughened up some more. The world is a harsh place, as I’m sure you must know. I need to let loose, burn off some steam. Surely a man is able to do that on his own… establishment?”
“Then maybe you won’t mind trying someone your own size–” and before he was even finished he was up and over the counter; smashing the face of the bartender into the makeshift metal box he called a cash register. The bartender’s nose was mashed flat and started gushing blood everywhere. Before the bartender even had a chance to cry out, the stranger picked him up and threw him over the counter into the seating area of the bar. He picked up the register and hoisted it high above his head. He stepped forward about to bring it down with the entirety of his strength–.
“Zwain?” spoke up a tiny voice from the crowd.
Zwain froze in position, his muscles burning to hold back the weight of the register. He looked in the direction of the voice and saw the two Ravager slaves. A girl with light brown hair and a slightly shorter boy with jet black hair. Their eyes knew him, and as Zwain looked back into their eyes he recognized them. Connie and Lenny, two of the youngest children that his father had encountered in the wasteland. Since they had the greatest number of years separated from all of the other kids, they always played together. Connie was only a couple of years older than Lenny.
Zwain was taken aback. He lept over the bartender and scooped them up in one smooth motion. They hugged him back as tightly as they could.
“Oh my god, I found you! I finally found you! Where have you been, where are the others? Don’t you all worry, I’m here to save you all!”
“Save us?” asked Lenny, “We don’t need saving. We were saved ten years ago when Sir Lexington saved us from that jail of an orphanage.”
“Yeah, ever since then we’ve had food and shelter; we even have little jobs to keep us busy,” said Connie, “Idle hands are the devil’s playthings. That’s what Sir Lexington always tells us. He said that’s why you and Mr. James were so greedy and only kept yourselves busy in the hopes that the devil would see one of us instead and spare your souls.”
Zwain slowly returned them to the floor and looked into their eyes once again. On the surface this was Lenny and Connie, but a look deeper into the eyes suggested that something had changed deep within them. This “Sir” Lexington had brainwashed them into enjoying being slaves for him. Zwain knew he had to free them from that place.
“Is it just the two of you? What about are the others?”
Connie and Lenny took turns telling Zwain what had happened during the years spent with the Ravagers.
“Well, since there is so many us Sir Lexington thought it would prudent to scatter us all over the wastelands.”
” It allows him to get more bang for his buck.”
” A few of us have died here and there but mostly of accidents caused out in the wastelands.”
“Sir Lexington would tell us that Mary died of dysentery–“
“–or that Tim died from a rattlesnake bite.”
” We’ve never even seen a rattlesnake before it’s a shame that Tim died once he got to see one.”
Zwain was fairly certain he had never seen one before either; outside of books in the library.
“The worst loss would have to be that one time we lost Sarah, Peter and Michelle.”
“They tried to ford a river, but didn’t make it to the other side.”
” That was a sad day for us all.” Both Lenny and Connie looked at the floor in sadness at this.
Zwain had no idea where the nearest river was, or how big it could possibly be, but all of this sounded somewhat familiar to him. It reminded him of the library and computers, but he was not sure why. It made whatever “Sir” Lexington’s claims of what happened to these children sound all the more fake. Zwain sighed, hoping they all weren’t as brainwashed as Lenny and Connie. He might have to kill Lexington causing the Ravager group to scatter, so that he can take the kids and repair this mess of a situation.
“Don’t worry, I’ll still save you. I’ll still save all of you.”
“Like we said, Zwain, we don’t need to be saved.”
“Yeah, we already have been. It has been nice talking to you again, though.”
“We hope to bump into you again in the future.”
With that, the two of them turned and exited the bar. Zwain waited a few seconds before following them.
* * *
“This time I made sure not to lose their trail. They were so brainwashed that they never even noticed I was tailing them. I guess an unobservant drone would be a happy, more obedient drone,” said Zwain leaning back on the couch. Everyone else was keen on paying attention; their first beers still only half drunk. Duece looked particularly deep in thought.
“So what happened next?” asked Mandy, hoping the day would be saved, but knowing that would probably not be the case.
“I snuck into their camp to try and find where Lexington, this so called “Sir” spent most of his time. These Ravagers had taken over what used to be a University Campus, so it was pretty massive and I was able to find plenty of hiding places. Which was a bonus, because I could fake being a Ravager to the Ravagers, but I wouldn’t have been be able to hide myself from the kids.”
“Was the dude playing The Oregon Trail?” asked Duece, scratching his head at the mere concept of post apocalyptic computer games.
“Indeed. I once played it a couple of times on the computers in the library near the orphanage. Sure as shit, Lexington had a computer in his main room. He would use to come up with excuses for the children he had condemned to death.”
Mandy was horrified, “What a twisted fucker! I hope you killed the asshole.”
Zwain nodded, “He actually came upon me as I searched his desk. I found the notepad containing the names of the children who were killed that week, with a reminder to get gas for the generator so that he could fire up the computer. He actually had Lenny and Connie’s name circled with a question mark. He knowingly sent them to get roughed up and possibly killed by that bartender.”
All three of the listeners shuddered. Tears began the well up in Mandy’s eyes again, both in sadness and anger.
“I was unable to remain silent while killing him, so he alerted the whole camp. And that’s when…”
Zwain took yet another deep breath before continuing.
“That’s when the killing began.”