"It is of my firm and dutifully established belief that there are only a select number of individuals which can be saved in this world. The rest have fallen prey to this terrible, depraved world we live in. Those people, I have no interest in. The rest… I will never stop in my mission to save them.”
There was a range of acceptable temperatures to the amateur, consensus-defined doctor. Takistan's brutal desert heat, with its searing, scorching sun, its nearly lifeless deserts, streams upon streams upon swerving hills of sand and dust, rocks, and crippled trees, its cracking roads and melting paint on the unintelligible signs (for he knew not a word of Arabic) was beyond unacceptable. The thin, beige, colourless coat (which was more of a roughly designed assortment of light cloths) ruffled against the backs of his knees as he trudged across the foothills of the Takistani wasteland, little in sight in the distance distinctive from the miles he had passed before. The canteen stuck into the pouch of his Tortilla backpack, tiny, fibrous tears and mended scrapes across the waterproof material (a lot of good it did out here) the only details along the pale green bag. The "hood" of his coat hid his damp, dirty hair behind his ears and down on his shoulders. The colloquial doctor's mouth hung agape a mere few centimeters, unable to maintain a "normal" posture anymore; he had been walking for hours in the wasteland of Takistan. It amazed him still how such a barren desert could exist so closely to the temperate, cool weather of Chernarus. The marvel of climates still impressed him.
The self-proclaimed doctor walked until the painful orb of hydrogen decided to dunk its terrible face under the horizon of the mountains to the west, sinking underneath the spiky earth which he was slowly limping toward. Under the sound of his steps, the various medical equipment in his backpack and pockets, the sawn-off shotgun bore to him as a gift prior to his departure wriggling about on its sling on his left shoulder, the suppressed Glock 19 which shook up and down on the holster stuck upon his vest, and the occasional click sound of the gear system inside his prosthetic arm attached to his left arm via an assortment of straps under his clothing, wrapping around his shoulder and under his arm, the constant, uniform clack, clack, clack which emanated from his right leg every time his foot pressed against the sand once again.
Clack, clack, clack, the doctor moved, quiet, audible only to about 20 feet, but constant. Clack, clack, clack.
As the sky turned from the semblance of a burning wasteland to a tranquil midnight ocean, the hundreds upon hundreds of tiny flakes sparkling on the canvas of the sky, the med student turned doctor turned wanderer witnessed the expansion of what he initially believed to be a hallucination brought upon him by delirium and acute hyperthermia. Yet his initial hypothesis was dealt a serious blow as he approached closer to this object, which grew in size exponentially as he continued toward it.
This object, in fact, was not a mere singular object, but a collection of many; buildings, shacks, something like cages, as if there was an old animal processing farm ahead, and a heavy, wrought iron fence surrounding this facility. The facility appeared to be a fully functioning establishment, with immensely bright searchlights scanning both the interior and exterior of the giant expanse of sand, guard towers protruding many feet above the barbed wire across the top of the dozen-foot-tall fences, voices barely distinguishable as voices from the distance.
The doctor rose his lips in the small illusion of a smile, his ice blue eyes melting just a tad, yet it was a futile smile, if anything.
The traveling, popularly-proclaimed doctor was still incredibly naive, despite his time in Chernarus and the few weeks he had currently spent in Takistan, and chose to walk straight to the fences themselves. As he approached, the rising hills leading toward a plateau with a bare, dilapidated shack resting upon the top of it, a span of rising dunes of sand to the south, and a mostly flat piece of land to the west, until the mountains far ahead broke the uniformity of the horizon, the shouts became a little more distinguishable: some Arabic language, with the rare bout of a few incomprehensible English words, usually quick bouts of shouting between multiple parties. A lot of banging, metal being wracked against metal, more shouting. A high-pitched squeal, quick, sharp, but inhuman sounding. Alex came into sight of one of the spotlights, nearly blinding him and entirely disorienting him from his surroundings.
"Freeze! Trespasser!" A man wielding a stockless AK-47 shouted from his position on the guard tower, 30 feet above their intruder, spoke in a language the doctor could not understand, but he could infer what was being shouted at him. His hands (or, hand, being as one was simply a curved, notched semi-circle with a singular "thumb" separated by a few centimeters) rose just a little above his head, his face remaining low as to not be blinded by the searchlight.
"Wait! I'm friendly, I mean no harm to you! I'm a doctor!" The self-proclaimed doctor's voice did not shake under the pressure, its monotone, almost emotionless tone barely audible from the distance of the guardsman.
"What did he say?" The guardsman flicked his head to the right, to another man patrolling the top of the metal ramparts with him. They both stared down at the surrendering American.
"English?! Or Takistani?!"
"E-English! I'm American," the doctor replied.
"You say you're doctor?" The guard did not lower his rifle from the sight of the man's hooded head. His R's rolled off his tongue almost excessively.
"Yes. Your facility is considerably large. Do you have a resident doctor?"
"Resident... doctor...?" He turned to his partner on the ramparts, who exchanged glances with the searchlight-bearer, followed by a shrug of his shoulders. The other guard took to the other side of the searchlight (the left) and kept his eyes fixed on the man down below, keeping his gun to his waist. "Uh, no," the first guard yelled down to him. "We don--"
"Which means you'd require the services of one, correct?"
The guard looked back up to his friend on the other side of the light for a moment again, giving him a rather confused glance. "Do we need a doctor...? Uh... Y-yes, maybe so! Come to front gate! Keep your hands up, or we'll blow your head off, ya?!"
"Right..." He mumbled under his breath. The idle threats no longer fazed him. He moved slowly in front of him, following parallel to the iron fence and upper balconies used as a generic patrol route around the facility.
As he approached the gate (the searchlight slowly following his footsteps, giving him a heavy silhouette on the left side of his figure), the voices could be heard shouting in the foreign language once again, until they subsided along each other to make way for the heavy iron gate's wheels to slide across the sandstone ground, the bars and rebars of the gate crashing against the iron wall as it slid open, the heavy steel chain dangling from the open end of the gate, to allow the doctor access into the facility with about 20 feet to spare (and many more above him). The spotlight receded off of him, and the two guards at the front gate took a few steps toward him, motioning with the barrels of their automatic rifles for him to step into the facility. The most distinguishable qualities of them: they both wore respirators.
"You can put your hands down," one of the guards spoke to him. "Rest assured, if you try anything, you will die to regret it."
"That statement makes no sense, but I get you," the doctor sarcastically replied, to the chagrin of his escort, returning his arms down to his sides.
"What you're about to see may... displease you, but I assure you, it is better than it looks," a guard spoke with a heavy Takistani accent.
To his left were mostly the remnants of old village buildings, most of which appeared to be crafted out of sandstone or bricks, with a few shoddily crafted from sheets of tin and other various fragments of building materials, the overwhelming majority being only 1 story tall. To the right, separated by about 80 feet of open space (and varying collectives of defensible positions involving shoddily-placed barricades and sandbags and a few outhouses) were the cages, neatly laid out in patterns of 5x2, with 6 foot spaces between the blocks of iron bars with solid metal floors and ceilings. The cages did hold animals--not the kind which would be consumed for food or used for clothing or kept for companionship, but a particularly peculiar animal which believed it was justifiable to subvert its own kind and enslave its own.
The doctor did his best to hide his shudders and the all-engrossing terror which inhabited every neuron in his body. Each and every cage (save a few sparse empties occasionally within the groups, and the vast majority of the cages after the third row) housed a modestly-clothed, bloodied, starving, punished, or bleeding hunk of human bone and flesh in varying colours (yet the murky browns of native Takistanis appeared the most prevalent) occupied each of the cages, 2 to a 3 foot by 6 foot by 4 foot "house" for their captors, most of who had their hands tied behind their backs with any piece of restraining equipment that could be properly used--zipties, rope, handcuffs, multiple layers of duct tape--and their mouths caked in gross tones of varying shades of brown, gray, and milky whites--as if they were forced to eat solely with their mouths. The ones in superior physical condition were not provided with shirts, being allowed to "show off" their physicality, though rarely was there a woman given a top regardless of the shape they were in. The burlap-based clothing provided gave no comfort to anyone, and there was a distinguishable and overwhelming stench of human waste wafting from the cages. It now made sense to the doctor why every resident of this facility wore the respirators. The doctor reached behind him, grabbing into the back pocket of his backpack; this prompted the guard to his right to immediately point his rifle at his face, prompting him to quickly pull his hand up above his head.
"Just getting a mask for myself," he said to the barrel. Slowly, it receded, and his hand returned, shuffling out a standard blue and white around-the-ears surgical mask, wrapping the little white, elastic strings behind his ears, pushing the fabric of the mask to fully cover his nose and chin.
"What is your name, doctor?" The guard to his left looked over to the hooded (and now masked) visitor.
"Alex. Just call me Alex," he replied, unable to tear his eyes from the huddled bodies inside the cages in the distance.
"My name is Taklani. Taklani Mosedaek. You can call me errr... the, "big cheese" of this place, if you will." He gave an unsettling little chuckle, flashing relatively dirty teeth as he pushed open the doors of the only multi-storied buildings.
They appeared to be in a mess hall of sorts, though at the end of this long and wide room filled with tables and varying chairs (most of which appeared to be grabbed from a military barracks, judging by the material used and the overall minimalist, metallic design) was a stage of sorts, elevated about 4 feet from the ground, a relatively open area blocked off by long, bright blue curtains at the back. It was obvious that whatever was behind the curtains proceeded off further from view behind the walls. The hall was mostly empty, though a few armed men were occupying random areas among the tables, some snacking on cans of food, others counting bullets or loading magazines, others flipping playing cards and having a jostling, uproarious time.
"We could use a doctor, assuming, of course, you really are one, and didn't just say that to get a free ride into here. Visitation hours is normally when the sun's out," Taklani spoke as he walked among the tables, leading Alex and the other guard into 2 double doors on the right-end side of the room, doors which functioned much like a kitchen or warehouse's doors in that they flopped open and shut a few times after they passed. The room they entered into appeared to be a foodstuffs storeroom of sorts, with a makeshift kitchen far on the left wall of the room, where a few chefs were chopping up large hunks of meat, likely taken from a horse or another heavy animal. The door following along their path led into a small office, with a desk, a ham radio on the left-hand side of it, multiple stacks of papers with random scribbling that Alex could not make out from the distance (nor could he read the language they were written in). They had a chart-like look to them, as if it was an inventory. The doctor removed the hood of his coat from his head, deducing that the chart was likely an inventory of his human property on paper.
"I'm... not officially a doctor, technically. I was a medical student."
"Medical student?" Taklani repeated as he placed his AKS against the drawers on the left side of his desk, sitting in the tearing office chair; it squeaked rather audibly as he leaned back, pulling the mask off of his face and tossing it onto the desk in front of him, the sweat beads on his face which he essentially lived with rather visible as the light from the lamp on the table behind him illuminated his face. Working electricity, Alex thought. Rare and impressive. A well-planned facility with a relatively large number of talented individuals. You’d be dumb to try anything.
"Medical student," Alex repeated again, shuffling a few strands of his unnecessarily long hair from his eyes, shifting them back to his ear. "Though my knowledge and experience is considerably larger than that of a traditional... med student. I've had numerous occasions to practice my, well, profession out here."
The other guard took a place on the sidelines, hoisting his body against the wall to Alex's right. He could easily reach and block the doorway if he wanted to before Alex could reach it.
"Would you be capable of handling the wounds inflicted by the Undead?"
"Without a doubt."
"Able to identify within minutes of patient presence."
"Keep the prisoners stable?"
"Physically? Yes. Mentally and psychologically? You'd need a psychologist. And I'm no psychologist." Alex had had far too much experience with the mentally unstable to believe himself qualified in dealing with the incredible intricacies of their minds.
"Does what we do here unnerve you?" The question seemed rather out of place, but was likely a normal question, considering the circumstances.
"Honestly? Yes. But I'm sure not even you believe what you're doing is, well... totally okay."
Taklani released an airy laugh, pushing himself back to a normal sitting position, his elbows resting against the cracking wood finish. "Mister Alex... Doctor, Alex, apologies," his left hand raising toward him as a gesture of apology, "you probably imagine us to be a band of slavers, ruthlessly capturing anyone we can find to turn a pretty penny for by selling them to other... unsavory characters. Am I getting your mindset rather... accurately?"
"You're within the realm of my hypothesis, yes."
"It is an honest assessment of what you see. And I will not deny that some of the people we have captured may be... "innocent," as you'd call them. Many of our captives, however, are brought to us, particularly because they were... very bad people. Bad enough to want someone to catch them and "put them behind bars," as the American saying goes."
"That phrase isn't inclusive to America. But go on." Alex didn't necessarily have a desire to hear the man's reasoning. He sincerely doubted it would be justified in the end. But he would be denying one of his core values (never make a decision until all the evidence has been evaluated) if he didn't at least hear Taklani's justifications for his abhorrent human rights violations out.
"We have people bring to us, from all parts of Eastern Europe and the Middle East, people which have caused much trouble in their countries and cities. Sure, some decide to execute the criminals and evildoers, but others think that death is too... easy. Or, they simply want a little bit of... recompense, if you will." A tiny smirk, devoid of goodness, stretched Taklani's cracked, brown lips a bit. Alex's expression remained as it always seemed--blank, inquisitive, emotionless. Not to say that Alex had no emotions... he had just discovered it was best to keep them hidden.
"So, people bring their evildoers to you. And then you... keep them imprisoned here? Not until they die, though. Otherwise you wouldn't have asked me if I could stabilize a prisoner. If you had no desire for their well-being in the end, you obviously wouldn't want someone to assist them."
"Very keen of you, doctor." Taklani's fingers thumped against the edge of the table in a rather random, quick percussive beat, leaning back in his chair a bit. "We surely wouldn't be able to survive keeping a bunch of wrongdoers within our walls for no reason. No, the easiest and more assured way to break a man..." He returned to his original position, resting his chin against his interlocked fingers, "is to make him no longer feel like he is a man."
"By stripping them of their humanity and selling them to another man," Alex inferred. It was easy to deduce what this camp was--it was a slave encampment.
Taklani laughed rather hardheartedly, whistling as if he had witnessed something impressive afterward. Even the guard to Alex's right chuckled a bit under his respirator.
"It did not take long for you to decide that this was a camp for slaves, doctor. Maybe because your race has such a history of it?" Taklani burst into another fit of wheezing, airy laughter, his fellow guard shaking a bit in his convulsive chuckles. Alex merely stood there, rather awkwardly--as he often did.
"No race is free of guilt of their history of enslaving their fellow peoples. Europeans, Africans, Middle Easterns, Asians--we're all guilty of it. Nor did I explicitly say the word "slave"--you put that word yourself. So you admit. This is a slave camp."
"Very well! If that's what you wish to call it, that's what it shall be called, doctor. I cannot change that." He slapped his hands against the desk, which made Alex jump a bit, almost imperceptibly, his eyes quickly blinking at the loud, reverberating thud that followed. It appeared Taklani wanted to change the subject. "So tell me, doctor. Are you going to cower out of here now, saying something about "morality" or "inhuman" something or another?" Taklani's hands waved about in front of him rather condescendingly on his emphasized words.
"I don't have to like what you're doing to understand that there are many lives here which need saving. The conditions you keep your sl--" He stopped himself, lowering the prosthetic hand which had rose to begin lecturing. "Prisoners... are, well, appalling. Cholera, dysentery, cryptosporidium, the threats of keeping your prisoners in a perpetual state of their own shit--pardon the colloquial language, but Jesus Christ, even the most basic knowledge of the body could tell you that each and every one of you are at risk for a plethora of infections and parasites! These masks serve nothing but to mask the smell!" His right hand pointed at his mask as if to emphasize its uselessness.
Taklani stared at the ranting doctor with curiosity. "You do bring a good point... But, doctor, we can't naturally have our... prisoners, as you call them, walking about with the freedom to do what they wish. With their numbers, they could easily overpower a helpless guard--" At this time, Alex scoffed in his disbelief he would call the armed men "helpless." "--and cause the deaths of many."
"Look. It's not my place nor my expertise to tell you how to run a slave farm. All I can say is the way you're doing it now... you risk the health and life of virtually everyone here, the prisoners especially. Are they to really remain in the scorching hot son for 14 hours a day with virtually no water? Even from an economic point of view, the people you keep here are likely so dehydrated and physically weak that anyone that would decide to "purchase" someone (he placed a relatively large amount of emphasis on the word "purchase," like it brought him extreme displeasure to even say the word in that context) would immediately regret it as their newfound "friend" collapsed."
"Then what do you propose, doctor? It sounds to me you have... true issues with how we run the place."
"Hah! The "running of the place" is the inherent issue, but if this is to continue, then... from both a moral and practical perspective, things will need to be changed. Drastically.
Taklani stared rather expressionlessly at the doctor, which appeared to be shoveling information to the compound's leader faster than he could process it. Their lock of gazes remained like so for several moments, until Taklani finally tapped his hands against the desk again and smiled, rather widely this time. "Very well, doctor! We will take what you say into account! I've honestly been thinking of something... new anyway. A shame that the brothers have to stand out in the heat to guard them all the time, too. What do you say, Amadi? Care to do some renovating?"
"Could be nice," the guard on the wall said from behind his mask. It was the same voice that botched the threatening statement at the gate.
"Now, if you are truly keen on actually accepting my help, then, well, we do need to establish a sort of... exchange of services here. Food and housing, and the protection that comes with it, until your renovations are complete. In return, I'll provide medical treatment to your people, any other visitors you may have while I am here, and your... prisoners. I am free to leave to explore as I wish for medical supplies in surrounding towns. I'll keep you, your people, and your... other people... as healthy as my knowledge, skills, and supplies allow me to. Do we have a deal?" Alex stepped forward, extending his hand toward Taklani, who stood up almost instinctively, expecting to be attacked at any moment. He stared back at the doctor, his weathered face and patchy, shadowy facial hair making him look 10 years older than he really was--still months away from being 21. He, of course, couldn't help but stare at the prosthetic hand which stuck out from the beige sleeve of his coat, but his hand grabbed the wrist of the doctor over the table in a firm "handshake;" Alex did the same to him.
"Very good, Dr. Alex! I am looking forward to it! You may eat, drink, sleep tonight as you wish. There is a natural aquifer just to the north of his building with a well. You may fill your canteen, drink what you need. We'll supply you a bed in the barracks; no one will bother you, besides the curious ones." He flashed him a smile and reached down for his rifle, slinging it back over his shoulder as he started out toward the door.
Taklani led Alex through the other buildings and through some of the cages that night, where Alex did his best to not vomit in his mask as he explained to Taklani once again that having people sit in mounds of their own waste as it festered under a boiling hot sun was a demonstrably terrible idea for more reasons than Alex could count on the five fingers he had remaining. From there, he drank a considerable amount from the well, pulling the bucket up several times to fill his canteen, wash his face, and drink fully from the bucket, then filling the canteen to the brim. From there, he went to the second floor of the mess hall, which housed the barracks, which appeared to be a natural military barracks. It then dawned on Alex that the building he was inside was likely a traditional military mess hall to begin with, and this facility likely rose up around here. As Taklani had said, the others housed in the barracks (the ones that spoke any English, at least) mostly only asked who he was and what he was doing there, and that was as far as their questions went. Any attempts by Alex to acquire information from them was met with extreme distrust and insulting words. After pulling his backpack off his back and resting it underneath the bed, he crawled on top of it, hoisting his right leg up with the assistance of his arm, letting his body go limp on the rugged green cot and simple gray blanket which was layered over the top. It had been days since he slept properly--weeks since he had slept on an actual bed. Regardless of who he was surrounded by (for he was by no means free of past alliances with unsavory characters), he was grateful for an opportunity to let his mind properly recharge.
Alex's morning was supercharged into action as the bustle of the others around him began to wake, throwing varied clothes on, and chambering their weapons. He rustled himself awake, pushing his legs off the edge of the bed, unable to understand any of the dialogue around him--it was all foreign and incomprehensible to him, the same as the Chernarussian and Russian spoken in South Zagoria was entirely unknown to him. It was times like this that he regretted not taking many more foreign languages in the latter years of his private schooling.
After slipping his backpack and vest back on, Alex descended down the spiraling stairs and walked into the soft sunlight of a Takistani morning that had just begun (it couldn’t be any later than 6:00 AM), able to examine the scene in front of him considerably easier with the natural light. Indeed, all of Alex's original conclusions about the state of the slaves' conditions were correct, but it seemed Taklani wasted no time in taking his suggestions into account; in the middle of the clearing were many piles of wood, timber, sheet metal, various other building materials, and collections of toolboxes and other various craftsmen tools laid in relatively neat piles along the walls of one of the buildings. It was amazing what having the title of "doctor" could do to one’s sway and reputation. Some of the cages on the far eastern end of the compound had been moved (most of which appeared to be empty that far away anyway, as the vast majority of the occupants remained within the first 3 lines. This camp appeared to be in its relative infancy by way of their human capital). Taklani was not far from a small group of people to Alex's left, huddling around a figure on the ground. The figure was on its knees and didn't appear to be offering any sort of positive help to the others.
The doctor walked with as quick of a pace as his permanently damaged kneecap would allow him to, hearing the Arabic shouts of the people surrounding what the doctor now realized to be a woman, half naked and bleeding from a grossly infected wound just below her neck.
"What the Hell's going on?" Alex lightly pushed his shoulder on one of the guards, who didn't take too kindly to being pushed.
"Hey! Watch who the fuck you go pushin' around here!"
"Keep calm, I'm a doctor. Taklani, what's wrong with this woman? Oh, Jesus..." He kneeled down beside her, attempting to stabilize the swaying and sobbing woman by resting his hands on her shoulders. Taklani spoke a few more foreign words, before directing his speech to Alex.
"Doctor, this woman was one of our... prisoners. She has appeared to come down with the case of a pretty bad wound sometime last night!" There were a few scattered chuckles and concerning giggles from the 4 men which surrounded them. Alex quickly examined the wound: approximately 1 inch deep, less than 2 centimeters in diameter. Jagged, badly torn flesh inferior to the wound. Superior damage is clean and standard. Infection has proceeded to excrete xanthral pus with the formation of chloral cysts, indicative of a moderate to severe infection.
"She was stabbed!" He stared back at the men in disgust. "Likely with an extremely dirty combat knife." He pulled his backpack off his shoulders, removing the beige coat covering him and wrapping it around the woman, as to provide her with at least the modicum of dignity. "Miss? Can you stand?" She nodded her head, mumbling out something that sounded like "yes." She was weeping far too hard to create normal sentences. Alex helped her stand, wrapping his prosthesis around her back, pulling her right arm through the coat sleeve and across his shoulders, leaning down and picking the SPOSN backpack up with his hand. "Is there an infirmary?"
Taklani and the others were still chuckling at the condition of the woman. He turned, nodded, and pointed at the building to the left of the 2-storied mess hall. "Yes, a sickbay more than an infirmary, but it should suit you."
"I'm sure it will..." Alex limped along with the woman, taking her into the relatively dirty sickbay, with 4 beds (2 on each side of the wide open room), a small desk in the corner with a chair similar to the ones in the mess hall, and a few shelves and cabinets that likely held medical supplies on the other end of the far wall. He took the woman to the bed closest to the supply counters, dropping his backpack at the foot of the bed. "Lay down there, miss, let me just..." He opened the cabinets, wildly shuffling through the various supplies (mostly packages of gauze pads, disinfectant bottles, and a few random bottles of over-the-counter pain and allergy medication). "Try to find some... yeah," he said affirmatively, pulling a packaged syringe from a box of them. From there, he pulled a single bright blue latex glove from a box, clamping his prosthetic down onto it for him to push the fingers of his right hand through, unclamping it once his hand was firmly in. He took to his backpack for the rest of his supplies: a bottle of hydrogen peroxide, bandages, gauze tape, and a pair of scissors, taking all in his arms and placing it in a small pile on the table. He moved the cloth of his coat away from the bleeding, pus-seeping wound on her, quickly unscrewing the bottle of peroxide and pouring some rather sloppily across a piece of rag. "I'm sorry, miss, but this is going to sting a good bit..." He began dabbing the rag on and across the wound, which prompted her to wince and shriek rather loudly (he swore he heard a shriek similar to that before), prompting Alex to shush her calmly, his prosthetic pressing lightly against her arm. "This is the worst of it, promise..."
He balled the dirty, bloodied rag up and tossed it aside onto the table. As he continued to work, sticking the syringe deftly in the small cyst which was forming on the right side of the wound (this caused her to whimper nearly inaudibly), he spoke, attempting to keep her conscious and her mind off the wound. "What's your name, miss? Do you... speak English? I'm afraid I don't know any Arabic, so--"
"Lina," she interrupted him. "I do... Speak English." Her skin tone and accent made Alex certain she was Takistani. He was surprised to see how prevalent the language was in the country--though it didn't surprise him, considering the US's extensive involvement in the country.
"What can you tell me about the people here?" He pulled back on the syringe's plunger, the inside filling with a rather repulsive, sickly greenish-yellow liquid. Eventually, the cyst appeared drained; he set the syringe aside, careful to not shatter it. He poured a small amount of peroxide over another rag, continuing to clean the wound. He was excessively careful as to not accidentally brush against her anywhere he shouldn't.
"I... was brought here... about a day ago. 4 men came to the city I lived in..." She sniffled. "They asked some questions, then, pointed guns at some of us... they, th-they shot my brother... and tied me up--" She stopped, the tears beginning to well up in her eyes once again. This caused her to begin to convulse, as people that uncontrollably cried so often did, which made Alex's hand instinctively press against her chest, shushing her quietly again.
"Okay, okay... I'm sorry. You don't have to tell me anything uncomfortable." He took a prepackaged roll of gauze, beginning to unroll it, layering it over the wound. "Where is this city?"
"It is... about 10 kilometers north of here. Called Halmat. We are... mostly remnants of an old Takistan militia group. I was... a-a-a trooper in the forces. That's how we've survived. We've learned to defend ourselves. But these... these slavers... they took us off guard." Alex taped the gauze down securely, protecting the wound from further infection. He took a small package of pills out from a pocket of his black U.S. Army tactical jacket, pushing 2 out of the aluminum packaging, reaching over and grabbing his canteen from the backpack. He handed both the pills and the canteen to her.
"Tetracycline. Broad-spectrum antibiotic. It'll help fight off what remains of the infection." She mustered up the best smile that she could, uttering a "thank you" before swallowing a rather large portion of the canteen's contents with the pill. She gasped for breath afterward, handing the canteen back to him, smiling and giggling a bit, handing the canteen back to him. "S-sorry... haven't had anything to drink in... almost a day."
Alex couldn't help but to smile back, pushing his canteen back into its respective spot in the backpack. "It's fine. You need it more than I do. Er..." He pushed the coat across her chest, covering her more fully with it. She leaned down, taking the white surgical sheet roughly made at the foot of the bed, pulling it up to the bottoms of her shoulders. "How about I tell them you've come down with a fever and need to sleep for a few hours while the medication kicks in?" He blinked extremely obviously, a terrible way to convey a secret point to her. She smiled and shut her eyes, digging her head into the relatively flat pillow.
"Yeah... sleep... while the medication kicks in..."
Alex dug around in his backpack again, pulling another bottle out. "OXYCODONE HCL W/PARACETAMOL, 15/500MG," it read. He popped the bottle open with one hand, wriggling out 1 tablet into his prosthetic, recapping it and tossing it back into his backpack. "Here," he offered the tiny blue tablet to her in his prosthetic hand. It appeared to catch her off guard, though she took it, placing it as far back as she could and swallowing it down, cringing a bit at the incredibly bitter taste it left where ever it touched. "What was that? I ask... after I take it..."
He exhaled a tiny bit of laughter. "Pain medication. You won't feel anything for a while after it kicks in. You can sleep relatively peacefully."
"Thanks," she whispered out, settling into the bed more comfortably, as Alex began repacking his supplies and disposing of the dirty rags and the glove in a trash can beside the bed.
Halmat... 10 kilometers north...
The doctor exchanged his beige hooded coat for a light blue baseball cap one of the guards had offered to him, simply to keep the silent orb of light and heat off of his eyes as he travelled. The sands and roads he followed were as vague and unanimous as ever, yet with the two directional criteria he had been given—north, and about 10 kilometers—he could gauge his travel by his trusted compass, working off of landmarks and main roads.
At his limped pace, the travel took him a little over 6 hours, cutting through dried grass and shrubs instead of following the roads, yet even this gave him several hours of daylight left to make the trek back. He was considerably far from the complex; no one would come asking for him out here.
The tiny municipality of Halmat’s buildings and businesses appeared in the distance of the horizon, energizing Alex to speed up his trek to reach the boundaries of the town sooner. The lone man, in the vast, desolate sands, approaching the town would likely not be considered a threat to most, but he knew the inhabitants (assuming they were there) would be on edge after the recent attack.
He entered the limits of the city, peering around a few of the buildings at the southern end, rummaging about for something useful. He found an expired, open bag of packaged cakes that not even a drunkard would attempt to eat (or even smell) and an unopened can of soda that appeared to be marketed as an apple-flavoured soda. He stuffed it into the confines of his backpack, stepping out of the building. An infected stared dreary-eyed and curiously at Alex. He exhaled very slightly, loosening the Velcro strap holstering his pistol on his vest, pulling it out and swiftly administering a single suppressed shot to the infected human's forehead, the creature limply plummeting onto its back. He holstered the weapon, continuing into the main square of the town.
An old fountain which no longer ran appeared to be the main point of the town’s inhabitants, with several small camping tents, the remnants of a campfire with a cooking tripod resting over the ashes, a few large coolers (likely storing foodstuffs or ammunition), and several of the window holes of the buildings surrounding the square boarded or barricaded.
He realized what he had walked into.
“Hello?!” Alex shouted out, peering around into the open windows, expecting to find the barrels of rifles pointing down toward him at any moment. Everything remained silent.
“My name is Alexander Camille! I’m a medical student! I know where Lina is!”
There was about 15 seconds of eerie silence, followed by the sound of a door opening to his left. A man in civilian’s clothing, a tan shirt and gray jeans, with an ALICE vest and a Takistani police ballistic vest darkening his clothes, a G3 battle rifle tightly gripped by his hands, as if he expected retaliation at any moment.
“You said Lina’s name, traveler?” The voice called out to him from across the square. Alex nodded.
“Yes. I know who took her. A-are… are you it? I mean… is this the entirety of the town?”
“No,” the man who was approaching him replied. “The others are coming out.”
As he had said, about 4 others followed suit from varied buildings around the square. 2 more men and 2 more women, 1 of which appeared to be rather young--somewhere between 14 and 18, judging on her height and her rosy-coloured cheeks with a soft and harmless complexion. The Galil ACE battle rifle with an Aimpoint red dot sight latched onto the rails on the top removed any illusion that the girl was harmless.
"Who are you?" One of the older women directed to Alex, a tinge of English in her voice.
"My name is Ale--"
"LOOK OUT!" The young girl quickly rose her rifle, aiming directly at Alex. Alex heard the shrill, airy groan of an infected's scream just behind him, before she fired a quick burst of 3 shots, so close to him he could feel the air the bullets ripped through ripple his sleeve. He felt a few droplets of blood spurt onto his back, turning to see the dead infected on the ground just behind him.
The man in the police vest pulled back on the bolt of his rifle. "Oh, great. Get ready!" The others respectively checked the readiness of their weapons; Alex pulled the pistol in his holster back out, firmly wrapping his fingers around the grip. The young girl appeared both scared and disappointed.
The deafening cracks of the shots had attracted multiple of the hive-minded infected toward the square, but they had the advantage of the square being predominantly open. Each of them took to staring a particular direction, and the quick, precisely-placed shots ensued from the group. Alex aimed with one arm (as he had trained himself to do so since the nearly-fatal situation of him having his arm removed) and fired off singular rounds, the infected usually dropping with 1 well-placed shot to the head or chest. Only once did he need to fire twice, when his arm swerved to the left too quickly and he only tagged the charging monster in his right arm, immediately following with a bullet through the cartilage of his nose. The others picked their shots carefully, delicately tapping the triggers of their automatic rifles to make their perforating shots count and last.
The fire stopped only temporarily, for a man to shout loudly and shakily, followed by the curdling cries of an infected reveling in his success of drawing blood by viciously clawing and mauling at the man's arms and chest (though he was unable to pierce through the vest).
"HELP!" He screamed out to his companions, trying to hold the monster's gnashing jaws away from his body by keeping his hand pressing against the necrotic flesh of his assailant's neck, whilst trying to reach down for the pistol holstered in the large pocket of his cargo pants. Alex quickly turned and aimed, carefully lining the sights up as to not miss, yet too late for one of the older women to run up and promptly slam the tip of her boot into the attacker's face, causing him to recoil off and allow her to drop her rifle (which was on a sling around her body), reach into her back pocket, and pull the tactical knife from its holster, quickly reaching down and viciously jamming the blade through the neck of the disoriented infected multiple times, until her hand ran red from spray and the creature on the ground merely gurgled and twitched.
Alex and the others kept their weapons raised, ensuring that who they had taken down would be the last of them. The woman with the knife rushed to see how her ally was doing, who indignantly rejected her assistance off the ground. There were a multitude of scratches and tears in both his skin and the cloth of his shirt. The city became silent once again.
"It's over," Alex called out to them, holstering his pistol, then rushing over to the injured man with his trademark clack. "I'm a doctor. I can help doctor those woun--"
"We don't need any fucking help!" He bursted out, quickly reaching down to pick his rifle from the ground and storming off, holding his weapon by the barrel jacket as he pushed open the door of the building he had just exited from not but a minute ago. Alex stared at the remaining 4 survivors (who all appeared unharmed in the incident: they were, after all, extremely well-armed) with a tinge of confusion in his slightly raised eyebrow.
"Forgive him," one of the women said, as the others began to check their magazines and load them with spare rounds in their pockets and backpacks, going off to the camp to reload their weapons and lecture the younger girl about firing loud weapons so close to people--and firing loud weapons when the infected hadn't been cleared out of the area.
"I imagine he must feel pretty powerless considering one of his... partners in this world was taken from under him," Alex mumbled at a low tone, as if he expected to be assaulted by the others for saying such a thing. The woman beside him, however, seemed to agree with a bit of a smile. She was relatively energetic, shifting her weight between her legs, rapidly staring around the area, fiddling her fingers across the grip of her rifle and toying with the bolt.
"Yeah. His sister, no doubt."
"So he was the one that got shot," he recalled.
"Yeah. That's why he wears that vest now. Looks pretty fuckin' stupid if you ask me." Her accent was certainly not Takistani. She sounded (and looked) Hispanic. Most likely U.S. Special Forces leftover from our involvement in Takistan, Alex hypothesized to himself.
"What's your name?" Alex asked her.
"Maria." She pronounced it just as someone who had spoken Spanish their whole life would. "I already heard your name, Alexander."
"Yeah... Felt like that might make me seem more human and less like a slaver."
"Slaver?" Her head recoiled a bit, an awkward smirk raising. "Why... would we think you were a slaver?"
"Oh, right... You don't know." He started toward the others, sitting on the fountain. He overheard something about "dangers of hurting an innocent person" as he came forward, but their conversation dwindled off as he approached.
"The fuck do you mean, a slaver?" Maria followed behind him with a spring in her step, like she expected an answer immediately.
"I mean..." Alex turned, making sure he was within earshot of the other 3. "I know who has Lina. It's a... band of... slave runners."
This prompted responses between gasps, shuddering cries, and swear words.
"Those fucks!" Maria shouted as she stomped her boot into the ground, kicking at the ashes of the campfire, which caused thousands of tiny gray particles to spray into the air, fluttering away without a care in the breeze.
"Maria. Please..." One of the men stood up, going over to her. His hand touched against her waist rather intimately. She looked up at him with a glistening stare.
Alex attempted to break what he felt to be an awkward silence. "I can give you what information I can, but I will warn you... it won't be easy."
The man which was consoling Maria turned to Alex, looking at him squarely in the eyes.
"Nothing ever is anymore. Let's talk inside."
As Alex bandaged and cleaned the cuts and tears in Mohammad's (that was the man in the vest) arms, he relayed what information he knew about the compound: relatively large, fenced and gated, each of the guards heavily armed with automatic rifles, with approximately 20 to 25 guards present at the facility at any time, with others out hunting or scavenging. This was, so far, what Alex had gathered, seeing a patrol of about 4 leaving just minutes before Alex did.
"What about... the uhh... how you say... er... prisoner?" Jarrah asked. His English was extremely fragmented, having only learned what he had picked up in the past 10 months.
"Lina is fine. She suffered from a relatively superficial knife wound, but I managed to disinfect and stabilize her."
"No, no. The prisoner. Many."
Maria interjected. "He's asking how many there are in total. Or, at least, what state they're in."
"Oh. The prisoners are in destitution beyond anything I've ever seen. I managed to persuade the leader of the compound to improve the conditions some, and he's working on that now, but--"
"Wait, wait, wait a fuckin' minute," Mohammad cut in as Alex snipped and taped the gauze down on his right arm, finishing his bandaging. "You're with them?" His eyes narrowed and glared at Alex, completely visible in all their rage even in the relatively dim light of the room (due to the windows being boarded up, little natural light could seep in).
"N-no, I'm not with them!" Alex defended himself, backing away from Mohammad's clearly enraging self. "I offered to provide medical assistance to them and their prisoners only because I believe the help I can give to those they've enslaved is far greater than any assistance I may provide to them!"
"So you are helping them, you son of a bitch!" Mohammad quickly leaned in and punched Alex across his right cheek over the table before he could react, causing him to fumble out of his chair and onto the ground. He pushed himself up with his arm and his prosthetic, returning back to the chair rubbing at his cheekbone with his right hand; Mohammad's 2 knuckles were now scraped and bleeding, though he still appeared ready to punch him again. The others were shouting and clamoring at him, urging him to stop and to calm himself.
"Will you calm down the fuck down?!" Alex cried as he stood back up, expecting to be attacked again. "I am not--with them! Why the Hell would I come here to tell you where your sister is if I was involved with them?!"
"To get some more slaves? To lure us all into handcuffs like I bet you wanted to do last time? But no, one of your partner's "fingers slipped" and shot me in the fucking stomach, and so you all left, with my sister in CUFFS!" He lunged forward like he was about to grapple Alex, which prompted him to raise his arms defensively and back away, but Maria grabbed him and restrained his arms back.
"Mohammad, calm your stupid ass down!" She shouted into his ear as he struggled against her. "This guy has helped you, he helped us with the undead, he's given us info, and he hasn't even tried to put your ass in the ground yet, which, trust me, amigo, I've put dumbfucks like you down for far less than just punching me! Now come on! Are we in this together or not?"
Mohammad eventually settled down, his arms no longer violently flailing to be released as to unleash his fury on Alex's face once again. He sat down, which prompted Alex to do so as well. They were as close as they were when he was bandaging him again.
"You want to save Lina, yes?" Alex asked the group as a whole. They unanimously nodded and agreed. "That's not going to be easy."
"Fuck easy," Maria retorted. "Ain't nothin' in this world easy anymore."
"And I'd agree with you on that. But if you rush in there with your assault rifles blaring bullets, you'll probably accidentally kill innocent prisoners and you definitely won't make it out alive. No, you need to give it a few days. Wait until the new shack... building... whatever they're building to house the prisoners in is built. That way you'll have a way to create chaos inside the building, and I'll be able to use that chaos to unlock Lina's gate and any other gates I can in the madness. Alright?"
"So we just gotta sit on our asses a few days until you come back, telling us it's okay to go save our friend?" Of course, this antagonistic remark came from Mohammad.
"Actually, I'd suggest just the opposite. Find reliable, automatic weapons, with high-capacity magazines, a lot of them. Something like... AKs, you know, those Russian rifles with the orange wooden handles and--"
"We know what AKs are," the younger girl, Safiya, retorted.
"Right," Alex continued. "No time for reloading magazines in a firefight, right? So get as much ammo as you can. I'm sure there are old military bases, or... storehouses, or something out here."
"We can do some searching," Mohammad constructively added.
"Good. I'll be back in... oh, a week or so. If I'm not back in 2, walk 10 kilometers to your south and look for a rather high plateau. You'll see the compound right after it, it's all by itself. Okay?"
They nodded and replied in relative agreement. Alex stood up, hoisting his backpack over his shoulders, and nodded his goodbye to the others, setting out back to the compound.
6 days had passed since Alex's encounter with the sparse population of Halmat. The progress made on the slaveholding building was remarkable; it was amazing what could be accomplished when 20 to 30 strong-willed (and, all things considered, when their lives depended on it) people got together on a task and worked around the clock to accomplish it. The large wood and metal building, far surpassing the size of any other building in the compound, took up almost half of the compound's eastern end. The cages holding people had already been moved to the interior of the holding room, the large, open center which was the overwhelming majority of the building. The rest was simply the "check-in" at the front, where an armed guard would introduce a prospective buyer to their "no guns inside the cell room" policy, and a few pathways to go up the ladders to the balconies being constructed for guards to stare down at the cages and feel superior. Alex had come on good terms with the majority of the "staff" in the compound, providing general medical attention to the guards and having performed more extensive physicals on each of the prisoners. It was on the 5th day, however, that Alex had come into contact with something extraordinary and something he never thought he would see.
Alex was utilizing the sickbay/infirmary of the compound as his examination room, where he asked the prisoners generic questions about their health and examined their bodies for any signs of overt infection or diseases. Those that spoke no English had the questionnaire omitted. However, as one prisoner (at gunpoint, of course) was escorted out of the office and another one brought from his cage, he saw a face he never expected to see:
The guard dragged the man, across the floor, seemingly being unable to walk on his own. "Doc, you really got time for this hunk'a shit? Can't even walk."
Alex stood up, and nearly fell back down again. The face staring up at him, under the cuts and bruises on his face, the bloodied, dark skin, the clearly fractured tibia which morphed his left shin into something not nearly as straight as it should've been, was none other than Roy Kalo.
"D... doc...?" Roy's voice was barely audible.
"Takin' that as a no. Next one comin' up." The guard grabbed Roy by the burlap shirt and began to drag him out, but Alex interjected.
The guard stopped, turning around. "Look, doc. I know you wanna help everyone, and that's real nice and all of you, but you gonna be fiddling with this one for hours, I can already tell. You gotta use your time wisely on the ones we know we're gonna sell. This one..." He looked down at Roy's bloodied face, one of his bottom teeth visibly hanging out from the gums. "... he probably ain't gonna make it."
"Well, don't kill him! He can still... recover, maybe..."
"We don't kill them ourselves! That'd be like puttin' down a cow just 'cause it gets sick. They can get better and make more milk." He continued dragging Roy's nearly lifeless body across the stone floor; Roy looked back at Alex, specifically staring at the prosthetic arm which poked out from his jacket. The doors flung open and Roy disappeared behind them.
The doctor collapsed into his chair, holding his head between his hands--real and fake. This... this is what happened to Roy. This is who took him. The U.P.S. never would've considered searching out this far, Alex's head swirled. What if Bobby knew this is where Roy was? I can only imagine the Hellcats descending on this camp and murdering everyone here, just to--
"NEXT!" The guard pushed the doors open, butting the next "patient" through the door.
"I get it, Christ," the prisoner replied. Alex swore he had heard that voice before. He stood up, looking past the curtain of the bed which obscured his vision, and nearly collapsed again.
He didn't have to imagine if Bobby Kalo knew where Roy was, because Bobby Kalo, too, was right in front of him.
"This one and that last one look kinda alike, don't they, Doc?" The guard chuckled under his respirator. At least Bobby could stand, but he did appear to be in better condition than some of the other prisoners. It didn't seem like he had been here very long, though, as he didn't seem too malnourished and didn't have nearly as many old, dried, caked-up stains around his mouth.
"They do..." Alex's train of thought was completely broken.
"Ho-ly shit, Doc?" Bobby's eyes widened and, if he weren't restrained and essentially held at gunpoint, he would've probably hugged him. Alex snickered and smiled a bit, beckoning for him to come to the desk, where he was taking notes on essentially every prisoner, marking how many were "physically nominal," "susceptible to severe harm," or "mortally compromised." He immediately marked Bobby as "nominal."
"I don't know how you feel about coincidences, Doc, but..."
"I'm not the biggest fan of them," Alex replied, chuckling to himself. Their conversation was displeasing the guard which watched over Bobby.
"Why the fuck are you two so talky-talky compared to the others?"
Alex looked up to the guard, snickering to himself. "You... wouldn't even believe me, but... we actually know each other, kinda."
"Awwww!" His cry out sounded fake and sardonic. "Best friends reunited! I'm so touched!" His tone suddenly changed to its more serious, deepened tone. "Get to fuckin' work! Do your doctor health magic shit!"
"Not exactly magic, but..." He examined Bobby's physical condition, which was, as he had already noted, significantly better than most he had seen so far. "How long have you been here?"
"Maybe a week. Maybe less. I forget."
Alex wrote some notes down. "Any signs of extreme fatigue, loss of vision, sudden loss of consciousness?"
"Sometimes. Usually I just drown everything out and wait."
"What are you waiting for?"
"Somethin' to happen."
"Have you suffered any intense itching or burning sensations anywhere in the past week?"
"Yeah. Down there, after fuckin' yo' mama."
All 3 of them couldn't help but laugh and snigger, the guard included.
"He got you good, Doc!"
"Yeah, yeah... used to it by this point," he muttered to himself, scribbling down a few more things. "Er, guard, do you mind fetching me a package of bandages from the cabinet just over there?" He pointed behind the two, to the cabinets. The guard stared at Alex from under his respirator for a brief moment, but eventually complied.
As soon as he had turned, Alex tore the piece of paper from his notepad and held it up for Bobby to read, keeping himself angled just so it was not possible for the guard to look over and it appear like he was passing a note.
In a few days, a group will assault this compound to save their friend. When the chaos begins, we'll get you and Roy out of here.
"Any stomach pains or bowel cramps?"
"Open wide, say 'ah?'" Alex stood up and awaited Bobby to do so. He looked rather displeased in doing so, but eventually followed the doctor's orders.
"Ahhhhhhhhhhh." Alex peered down his throat, seeing no signs of inflammation or damage.
"Good. You can close now." Alex sat back down, the guard returning with the bandages; he tossed them haphazardly on the desk. "Thank you." He pulled a package of the gauze out, unraveling it and wrapping it around Bobby's left shin, where there didn't appear to be an apparent wound, but Alex simply wanted to make it appear as if he were using his order of the guard properly. "That should be fine in a day," he grunted out as he returned back to his chair. "This one's fine. Top shape. Keep him that way, okay?" He looked up at the guard and gave a rather doctor-ly smile.
"Yeah... sure, Doc. C'mon, joker. Get fuckin' movin'." He butted Bobby in the back with the stock of his AK, causing Bobby to stumble forward a bit, walking out of the infirmary. Alex sighed heavily, shaking his head slowly before thudding it against the top of the desk.
On the seventh day, Alex trekked out once again, this time in the cover (and cool) of the night. He made the long, multiple-hour trek back to Halmat to delegate his gathered information to them. His assistance was met with smiles and a bottle of rum, followed by Alex regretting having taken any number of shots, as he was relatively staggered and dehydrated for his journey back to the compound.
The others had gathered a multitude of weapons during the week, each of them utilizing the same ammunition and virtually the same rifles--AK-74s and several variants, all utilizing the same 5.45x39mm cartridge, would allow each of them to provide magazines for the other at any time. Some were the short-barrel variant, others had high-powered scopes mounted on the sidemounts. All had at least 2 magazines at their disposal. They were to attack at sundown the following day, as that was when the fewest guards were in the compound (as a hunting party would return about 1 hour after sundown--perhaps longer if they caught anything--and another scavenging group would be preparing to depart about that time as well: additionally, the guards would be considerably more fatigued as their shift came to an end and the night crew readied for their posts).
The slave storage house had been all but completed, with only parts of the roof remaining to be finished (they were in no rush to close the top, considering it almost never rained in Takistan). All the current prisoners were housed within the "open-air market" now, with the exterior now being used as a storage area for the extra cages. If the facility ever became too full to hold their current capacity, they would consider building another facility (or simply allowing their lesser prisoners the "freedom" of being housed outside to brace the brutal elements of Takistan's summer days).
As Alex returned to the facility, he readied himself mentally for what was to come tomorrow as he slipped into a bed in the barracks. It was his mission to save as many of the prisoners as he could in the chaos, but Bobby Kalo particularly--it would be almost impossible to save Roy, being that even after Alex went back to Roy's cell and reset his fractured tibia, it would take weeks before he could walk on it.
As the sun tickled the tops of the mountains to the west, spreading the fiery colours across the sky, Alex stepped out of the infirmary and sighed deeply. The guards and engineers (who were working on fixing an electrical issue in the mess hall) were quietly going about their day, attempting to beguile a traveler which had come through with intent to purchase one of their "fine specimen." He recoiled mentally at the actual prospect that people truly did wish to purchase other people, and one was in front of him, in person, casually conversing with Taklani about his desires and intentions. He had been lucky enough to miss these individuals so far; he forced himself to not draw the shotgun off his back.
He looked up to the plateau to the north, seeing the ever-so-faint movements of what appeared to be a head. He nodded his head slowly, starting for the prisoner storage building. As he walked in, the eerie silence of each prisoner sitting almost motionless (save for those who were weeping, either from wounds suffered by the brutalities inflicted upon them by the others, or from realization of their condition and position. He walked through the dimly lit sectors, peering into the cages of the frightened, horrified faces looking back at him, their trembling limbs and sparkling eyes dampened with tears, fearfully covering their indecently exposed bodies. Blood and scum trickled down their legs and bodies from cuts, scrapes, and gashes inflicted upon them, and of course, the wretched smell of human waste collecting in the buckets the guards so selflessly provided. (Whoever had to empty them was likely the most hated member of the compound's workforce.) Alex swore he could make out the smell of decaying flesh, but the putrid odours emanating all around him were almost too much for even his nose to handle.
He was grateful when he finally found the cage which held Roy and Bobby Kalo, a cage far to the right end of the room. Alex crouched down and tapped his prosthetic against the bars to wake Bobby up. He whispered as loud as he could through the clamouring of the bodies moving around, the guards shouting obscenities at their captives, and sounds of hammering at the roof (which shed only enough light to make out what the immediate surroundings of a person was at the floor).
"Bobby! It's almost time! Get ready!"
"A'ight..." Bobby stood up onto his knee, crouching down in the cage. Roy wheezed, curled up in the corner of the cage. "We can't take him, y'know. I hate it, but we can't."
"I know, I know. Neither of us could carry him out of here. But they're he--look, just... be ready. I'm gonna shoot the lock open once the shooting starts."
He stood up and walked away inconspicuously, peering around the room, pretending as if he was examining the physical condition of the slaves for his notes, or some other medical circumstance that the others clearly would not understand.
Then, he heard it. The crack and the loud ping of the metal projectile ripping through the metal wall. A few more followed. Suddenly, shouting ensued from everywhere, both inside and outside. The captives began to whimper and wail considerably more, shouting and rattling their cages as the gunfire turned from singular cracks into furious, trilling cacophonies. Shouts and screams were heard outside, and bullets could be heard penetrating the walls of the building they were housed inside. Footsteps were heard above them, as the guards on the balconies rushed to try to find a vantage point inside the building: as it was completely walled off, there was no way to peer outside without leaving the building. Alex immediately shot the lock which held Bobby and Roy's cage open, and Bobby pushed the gate open, which squeaked loudly. Suddenly, the shots began to emanate and echo throughout the building, causing the shrieks and screams of the captives to cause total audio chaos, tumultuous clamouring overwhelming the senses of everyone. It sounded as if some of the "liberators" had sneaked or broken through the gates and made their way into the building.
"Don't shoot the slaves," a Takistani voice called out in the chaos. Even in the madness, they still cared so deeply for their human capital. Alex continued running down the cages, shooting each of the locks off of each and every one he could, pulling the cages open and beckoning for the inhabitants of them to run. Many of them gave him a skeptical or terrified look, but eventually followed suit.
As Alex rushed down a pathway, shooting the locks until the slide on his pistol snapped back to signify his magazine ran empty, the prisoners, in their complete lack of clothing, huddled and rushed for the door, to be caught by a turban-wearing, respirator-donning guard to see them rushing for the door. He instinctively hoisted his rifle up and pulled the trigger back, unleashing a flurry of rounds into the crowd, causing those in the front to be ripped open by the stream of bullets, and those in the back to curl up or huddle down in fear. Alex quickly slipped on his feet and dove to the ground behind them, crawling frantically out of the hallway as to not be seen as the obvious perpetrator. As his rifle ran empty, he began to push the magazine out and reach for another one, only for Bobby, stepping over the bodies and the pooling mess of blood on the ground, to quickly rush the man. He staggered, fumbling at his pocket for the magazine, only to be body-slammed by him, beginning to punch him in the face with utmost force, before being pushed off by the guard, who quickly stood up and kicked Bobby in the thigh to keep him on the ground. He slammed the heel of his boot into his stomach, causing him to recoil up and vomit a small amount of a sickly-white paste, going to reach down for his rifle and load the magazine. Alex fumbled and slipped, eventually returning to his feet, pulling the sawed-off shotgun from its sling on his shoulder, quickly snapping his prosthetic arm around the barrels, aiming, and firing at the guard before he could place the new magazine into the port. He stumbled back as the pellets ripped through him, causing his body to thud against the wall behind him, slipping and tumbling to the ground, unconscious from the shock and bound to bleed out as the half-dozen holes in him seeped his life's liquid onto the ground. Alex nearly slipped on the large pool of blood coming from the bodies which were at the entryway, going to offer his hand to Bobby to help him up.
"Ain't this some badass Black Rose-style fun?!" Bobby said as he took Alex's arm, hoisting himself up; he immediately went for the AKS and loaded the magazine, chambering a round.
"I thought you were The Hellcats!" Alex pushed the doors of the building open, holding the shotgun up to be ready to fire. The chaos had caused the guards to take cover behind the barricades and various cages, with the infiltrating ex-soldiers and militia members slowly making their way up and around. "C'mon! We'll sneak behind the cages and run out the gate while they're busy!"
"A'ight! And nah! We're the Black Roses now!" Bobby stayed low to the ground with Alex (who did his best to crouch down considering his knee), as they used the stacked up cages to their right and the fence to their left, with the chaos of the gunfire ensuing across the compound. It appeared to be lessening, however. They quickly crouched along the fence, Alex running up to the gate, taking his shotgun to the padlock which held the chain after taking a few steps back. The pellets tore into the chain more than the padlock, though not enough to completely destroy it.
"Agh, dammit! It didn't--" Alex pushed the barrel lock button down, the two shells inside ejecting; he reached down into the cargo pocket of his pants, but Bobby interjected as he was working on reloading.
"Step the fuck back!" He pulled the trigger back and released about 6 rounds into the padlock, which caused it to unravel, the padlock thudding into the stone below. This garnered the attention of some of the guards, who were mostly keeping their eyes behind the buildings (where it was assumed some of the intruders were currently taking cover at).
"Oh, shit! Get down!" Alex yelled to Bobby as he quickly dived back in front of the cages, a few of the guards spraying in their direction. One stray bullet clipped Alex on the back of his left leg, but only enough to draw blood and tear a small amount of flesh; his adrenaline prevented him from even feeling it.
Their distraction, in turn, gave the intruder behind the mess hall (Mohammad, to be exact) time to place suppressing fire down, planting 2 bullets into one of the guards, who began to shout and squeal in uncontrollable pain as he gripped at his torn-apart arm. The two escapees used this frantic chaos to stumble up and push the gate open just enough for them to pass through. The gunfire from the mess hall caused a guard to fire back, a bullet impacting Mohammad's skull just as he extended out to unleash another storm of bullets their way; his body twisted and fell into the sand, motionless.
Alex and Bobby both limped (Alex due to his knee and now his other leg, Bobby as he walked barefoot on still scalding-hot sand) for over a mile away from the compound before finally stopping to rest at a single, withered tree in the open, quiet, somber darkness of the Takistani night. The full moon above shone as bright as it could, though barely pierced the seemingly engrossing darkness. The two panted and huffed, groaned and winced, laughed and snickered, smiled and sighed.
"Did you... just break me out... of a fuckin' slave camp... all by yourself?!"
"Not by myself! I had help.. indirectly..."
"Nah! You did that by yourself, man! Those... other people, whoever the... Hell they were, they didn't help you or me."
Alex chuckled to himself, realizing now that he had left the shotgun on the sandy ground of the compound. There was no way he would go back to get it now; Irish would have to find another one.
"I guess so, then..."
"That was some straight up action movie shit there, man!" He slapped Alex in the arm in amazement and congratulations. "You sure you don't wanna join the Black Roses, man?"
"Ye-yeah. I'm... pretty sure. I wouldn't fit in. Plus, I don't like feeling... tied down to one faction."
"Ain't nothin' tying you down, man. Come and go as you please."
"Similar to our original deal?"
"I'm okay with that." His head thudded against the trunk of the tree, exhaling rather heavily once again. "But I'm not going back... not yet."
"Why the Hell not?" Bobby sounded agitated that his newfound partner wasn't going to be returning to Chernarus with him.
"It's just... far too hellish there right now. Those damn anarchists make my mission far too difficult. I shouldn't have to fear that every man or woman that walks into the city or that I bump into might rob me or kill me." The emphasis on "anarchists" appeared to be cynical sarcasm.
"Well, where will you go?"
"Maybe I'll stay here, in Takistan." Maybe stay in Halmat for awhile.
Bobby didn't seem entirely satisfied with his answer. Yet, he settled for it. "A'ight, then... you know you're always welcome with the Black Roses." He stood up with a pained groan, clenching at his stomach as he looked off to the southeast, where a small village appeared to be housed into the edges of a hillside. "Think I'm gonna go check out that town for some shoes or some shit. I ain't 'bout to walk back to Zagoria lookin' like fuckin' Tarzan."
Alex chuckled as he stood up, sliding a new magazine into his Glock, releasing the slide lock to have it jam forward, before holstering it and placing the empty magazine into a pocket in his jacket, under the vest. "I'm gonna... get going. Back to my allies."
Bobby turned, the relatively disappointed expression on his face visible as the moon shone onto him. "Man, Doc, I won't forget this. You know that." He stuck his hand up, which Alex took; Bobby brought Alex in, patting him on the back (Alex simply stood there, not knowing how to react to a handshake he had never received before). "I owe you my life."
"If we're going on the notion that people's lives I've saved now owe me it, then there's a lot of people in debt out the--"
"Man, shut the Hell up and take the compliment," Bobby half-jokingly retorted.
"Alright, alright." Alex smiled and looked back to the north, the general direction Halmat would be. "I'll be back... someday."
"Keep yourself safe 'till then. Try not to lose another frickin' limb." Alex nodded, turning his head and waving to Bobby for a brief moment, before starting back up toward the north. "The Hell are you gonna do in this shitty desert, though?"
Alex did not answer directly to Bobby, but did answer aloud.
"Heal when necessary."