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View Full Version : Tales of New Solace Vol.1 (3000 words)



hhourani
June 12th, 2015, 09:22 PM
Bradley looked closely at the eggs as they simmered on the camping stove, under the blanket of dust that permanently covered the sky. He felt safe; the protection of a perimeter of booby traps that he had set up, same as he always did, made sure of that.

The eggs were sunny side up, just like the bounty hunter liked them and they smelled good. Really good. Uninfected eggs were a rare delicacy these days. Most chickens got irradiated early on and wouldn't lay normal eggs anymore. Their eggs would come out spongy and rotten.

Not these ones, though. The smell of these eggs was so delicious that Bradley considered using a pinch of black pepper on them, which was an even harder to find commodity so far out into the desert.

Just a pinch of pepper won't hurt, he thought, haven't had fried eggs in months.

"I'm hungry too," the prisoner said.

Tied up to a wooden pole, the prisoner was being a pain in the ass. He had been awake for around half an hour from his tranquilizer induced sleep and Bradley was already considering putting him under again.

The prisoner had been hustling cold fusion farmers near New Solace by pretending that he was a prophet, supposedly a harbinger of the end times and a servant of Baal, an ancient god of something. Dressed in white robes with his long brown beard hanging out of his face, the prisoner certainly looked the part - it was surprising that had not frozen to death in the sub zero temperatures out here. As the farmer would later tell Bradley, the prisoner knew everything dirty little secret about him although it was the first time that they had met.

The way the prisoner knew that farmer's secrets was not because he was a prophet, romantic as that would have been. Judging by the accent, the prisoner was nothing more than some bum who had made it out of New York when the bombs were dropped five years ago, when the commies finally "did it", on that fateful night of April 1983. Bradley remembered that night very clearly , how everyone he knew was glued to their TV, listening to the speech of Ronald Regan with so much hope. The last president's speech spoke of how "wrongs would be set right" and how "the empire of evil was going to be cleansed". That night was hell on earth.

After the bombs fell, all sorts of crazy things popped out all over the place. Bandits, cannibal mutants with overgrown muscle mass and spontaneously combusting flora and fauna to name a few were a common occurrence now, side effects of the radiation and the nuclear winter. The first thing to go after the bombs was hygiene, the second was morals and the third was fucks - no fucks were left to be given, Bradley smiled to himself. The world had become a cold barren wasteland.

So, given the circumstances, it wasn't as surprising to Bradley to hear that there had been a psychic around New Solace as it would have been a few years ago. When he heard the news that there was a princely reward being offered for the capture of the psychic, he packed some supplies, his revolver, a few tanks of gas, his cold-proof gear and his tranquilizer gun. He then paid a visit to the local brothel and then the local chapel and drove off into the desert.

Bradley had taken down marks that ranged from crime syndicate leaders to mutated Siamese twins.
A few days after leaving New Solace, he knocked out the psychic with a tranquilizer gun just in time to save the cold fusion farmer from being parted from his saving.

And now, the psychic was nagging.

According to the fella at the New Solace sheriff's office, a psychic would fetch a good price at the Mission for Science and Reconstruction up in Brand New, New Jersey, the city that inherited the glory New, New Jersey, which was destroyed by a rogue nuke that some bandits had set up. (New, New Jersey had in its day inherited its glory from New Jersey, which was one of the first places to get nuked when the commies finally did it.) Due to the multitude of nuclear blasts in the Jersey area and the strange genetic pool of the original inhabitants, the Mission for Science and Reconstruction always found interesting subjects there and had built a fortress-lab on the nuclear wasteland. Most importantly to Bradley, the Mission was always looking for specimens to analyze and they paid well.

A gust of chilling wind blew across the desert, peppering the eggs with sand.

"Ah goddamnit," Bradley said, "Do you know how much I paid for them eggs?"

"Seventeen dollars," the psychic coughed.

"Smartass," Bradley scratched his blond goatee, trying to pick the sand out of his food with his thick gloves on.

"You've already considered that I would make a more valuable asset to you alive than sold off," the psychic said, "I just want to confirm that. There's more money in it for you if you work with me instead of selling me off. There's a better than average chance that I will get out of this on top anyway. Consider this a threat if you'd like."

Bradley threw a pinch of his precious pepper on the eggs and scooped a bite with his wooden spoon. Heavenly. He barely tasted the sand.
"You've always prided yourself on being a practical man Bradley," the psychic said, "do the practical thing."

Bradley quickly ate the eggs relishing the taste before they froze. What he wouldn't give for some crispy bacon though.

"Those eggs taste like the ones Cherry used to make," the psychic said, "until she was incinerated. The bomb victims did not have a chance to feel pain, mostly. They were ashes before they could feel anything which is something they can be grateful for."

Cherry was Bradley's wife. She had died during the bombing, incinerated while she visited her parents in Atlanta. Bradley had gotten over that. He had placed her in the past where she belonged, in a world that no longer existed, a world of bathing and shopping, of working 9 to 5 and social security.

"Atlanta. The bomb hit the outskirts of the city and Cherry was in the center wasn't she. She may not have died immediately. She had a better than average chance of surviving the initial blast unfortunately. This means that she died of radiation poisoning and heavy burns," the psychic said, "I think that she was most likely blinded and suffered and I... What are you doing?"

Bradley walked over to the wooden poled to which the psychic was tied up and grabbed his beard. He smiled when he realized that the bear wasn't a costume. Bradley's teeth were yellow and black.

"You've got a mouth on you, mister. It's too cold for threats and I wouldn't know how to talk back at you," Bradley said while he slowly tugged on the beard, stretching the prisoner's face which cracked in the cold.

The prisoner's screams echoed into the desert.

"I figure since you're a psychic you must be smart. I figure you're smart enough to keep your mouth shut. Am I on point about your intelligence, mister?"

"Yes! Yes! Please stop! PLEASE!!!"

Bradley let the black beard hairs fall off his rugged hand and went back to his camping stove. When he had learned about the Psychic's whereabouts in New Solace at the sheriff's office, he had been told that this psychic was a demon, that he could fry your brain and devour your soul. Bradley shook his head. Nobody knew what's what in this world anymore.

The psychic didn't speak again that night.

The Mission for Science and Reconstruction's headquarters in Brand New, New Jersey was a fortress - a massive concrete walled structure wide as a city block. It shot up from the nuclear wasteland and was very hard to miss. At the center of the concrete structure was a small gate, just wide enough for two lanes of traffic although there was rarely anyone driving in or out of there. It was the only way in or out to the fortress.

The Mission had also gone out of its way to build a skyscraper-like reactor that towered over the walls. This reactor acted like a filter that made the perimeter of the city inhabitable.

Once Bradley drove into the perimeter the following morning, he took a deep breath and smiled at his silent passenger. He had been running out of C-pills, the medicine that sustained life out in the cold nuclear wasteland and this would be a perfect opportunity to restock.

Guards, dressed in black colored heavy duty military attire and wearing a helmet that covered their face stood watch at the gate. They carried biometrically activated plasma guns. Bradley would have loved to get his hands on one of those weapons; rumors had it that those guns could shoot through walls like bullets through paper.

A guard waved the familiar rust colored Toyota truck through, nodding at Bradley who nodded back. There weren't many Toyota trucks which were geared to survive the cold and Bradley's truck was famous sight in this region.

The inside of the concrete fortress was a small piece of the past, kept together by a wall of technology. Between the quaint multicolored cabins which were repurposed and repainted cargo containers, all sorts of trees grew freely. Most of the trees were Singers Trees, genetically modified trees which didn't need any breeze to make their soothing sound. This was convenient because there were no natural breezes in this area, only storms and droughts. The combination of trees and containers spread as far as the eye could see. Distributed between the containers were electricity poles with cameras on top, monitoring the countless scientists in white scrubs that went about their business researching ways through which humanity could recover from the apocalypse. This was one of the rare places on earth where one could find running water and weather good enough to drink a beer outside (provided one could find a beer). It was also a sanctuary of the arts. The streets were lined with laminated painting that artists were required to paint in exchange for safe haven. This resulted in a lot of the artists going crazy from the stress, which gave the scientists more human subjects to study.

Bradley parked his truck in front of a red container with "1-HO" painted on it. The Headmaster's office.

The headmaster of the Mission, a frail, balding man with two oversized black eyeballs in white scrubs came outside to shake his hand. He had a smile pained on his saggy cheeks.

"Bradley, it is always a pleasure to see you," the headmaster said.

"Pleasure's mine, Professor," Bradley took the headmaster's frail hand, "I've got somethin' you've been looking for. I've got one o'them mind readers."

The headmaster's oversized eyes got even bigger.

"A mind reader? You mean a real psychic?" the headmaster looked around, "Let's go inside. Quickly. I've only heard rumors..." he trailed into mumblings.

The psychic was stripped and was strapped by his wrists and ankles to a rack-like contraption at the center of a white sterilized room. The neon lighting was blinding. Electrodes were attached to his chest, back, head, legs and arms to monitor him. Bradley, sitting behind protective glass along with the Professor, couldn't help but shake his head at the psychic's terrified face.

"This is extremely interesting," the headmaster said while typing on a keyboard and looking at a wide computer screen that was full of graphs , "Although there is traces of tissue necrosis on his body from frostbite, the mental capacity of this specimen is simply remarkable. I could look at these readings all day. He's a perfect candidate to test out the psychic amplifier on. I'm surprised you were able to catch him, Bradley."
The psychic could barely hear them but he could faintly feel their mental waves, which allowed him to eavesdrop.

"I shot him from afar," Bradley said proudly, "Enough sedatives to take out a bear. His him right in the butt cheek. How much do you reckon he's worth?"

"I'll give you thirty thousand dollars for him," the Professor said.

Bradley showed what's left of his teeth in glee. Thirty thousand dollars would be enough money to survive for three years without work with his current lifestyle. He wasn't going to plan for anything of the sort though; 3 years is forever. He's most likely go back to New Solace and hire the brothel for a month.

"No!" the psychic shouted (was he shouting or is this in my head, Bradley thought) from beyond the glass "He's ripping you off! I'm worth at least two hundred thousand dollars to him!"

Bradley's eyes squinted and the headmaster smiled at him.

"You ain't trying to rip me off, are you Professor?"

"No Bradley, I assure you."

"He's lying!" the psychic shouted again "He's been ripping you off on all the previous bounties too. That four armed mutant was worth ten thousand not three. The snake-man was worth nine not two. He's been pocketing the difference from the Mission's bank. "

"Enough or I'll make your life hell!" The headmaster turned towards the psychic, "I promise, Bradley, I am being honest. This psychic will say anything to get out of his dire situation. Understandably so."

"They why are you fidgeting, Professor? "

"I'm not fidgeting. I'm the Headmaster of the Mission and you're in my fortress. I do not fidget here!" the professor stepped back and placed his hands on the monitoring devices.

Bradley grabbed him by the neck collar and lifted him.

"Put me down!" the headmaster struggled, "You're insane Bradley! This place is surrounded by guards! Put me down and I'll forget this happened!"

Bradley ran the headmaster's head through the monitor. Intermittent sparks ran through the frail man's body.

"Please," the psychic pleaded, "help me down."

Bradley looked at his hands and shook his head.

"You ain't nothing but trouble," Bradley said, "You made me lose my temper. I could've been thirty grand richer and on my way out of here. What
have I gone and done now. Jesus what a mess."

"I know where the Professor kept his money. I know where his safe is and I know what the combination is. 865 258. Write it down before I forget. There's more money than you'll ever need in that safe," the psychic said.

Bradley stopped in his tracks. For a safe full of money, he might as well work with the sorry psychic. He had already paid for the gas and spent a few days on this assignment. Quitting now would be throwing this investment away. That wasn't practical. How the hell does he know the combination?

"865 258. The headmaster isn't brain dead yet," the psychic winked.

At worse, he'd sell the psychic off somewhere else.

Bradley grabbed a blue ballpoint pen from the professor's desk and wrote the numbers down on the back of his hand.
He undid the binds and let the psychic down from the rack.

"So? Where's the safe?" Bradley asked.

"It's in the office, in the back," the psychic said while putting his robe on, "This way."

The professor's office was in the same container they were in. Sure enough, there was a metallic safe, hidden behind a painting of the last supper and packed full of money.

Bradley filled a small garbage bag full of notes. There was at least four hundred thousand dollars in cash here .

"Fifty fifty?" The psychic smiled.

"Twenty eighty," Bradley smiled back and stroked the revolver he was packing below his leather jacket, "Eighty's mine."

The psychic didn't bother arguing.

Outside, the guards were none the wiser about what had transpired. Bradley and the psychic quietly got into the rusty truck.
They drove slowly through the front gate and out into the wasteland.

"Well damn," Bradley giggled, "Ain't this a great gig. I feel we can work together after all Psychic. What's your real name?"

"Eli," the Psychic said.

"Eli. I'm sorry about your face. "

"It happens."

They stopped when they were out of the Jersey area, out of the cover of the reactor.

They got out of the truck and Bradley brought the bag of money out to count it, a rotten toothed smile on his face.

One Benjamin, two Benjamins, three, four ... Bradley's vision blurred.

"Fifty fifty, right?" he heard a voice inside his head. He looked around and the psychic was nowhere to be seen.

Something felt wrong. Bradley pulled out his revolver and cocked the hammer.

Sell him off somewhere else, Bradley heard his own voice although he didn't speak. It was as if someone was playing back a recording of his thoughts.

Eighty's mine.

"Show yourself you yellow bellied scum!" Bradley shouted.

I'm a straight shooter, Professor.

The sun seemed to be getting closer. The heat was unbearable now. Bradley felt feverish.

Eighty Twenty. Eighty's mine.

Someone walked towards him from the cold desert. A woman. Cherry. Her hazel eyes cheerful as ever and her dark hair flowing. She smiled.

"Cherry? Honey?" Bradley stepped towards her.

Her face began to lose shape, as if it was a canvas dripping paint. She was melting. He skin was coming off and all that remained was the flesh. Her hair burned but she was still smiling. She ran at him and screeched.

Bradley fired all the rounds of his revolver at the sand and kept firing after the ammo ran out. He then fell to his knees and wept. His cheeks cracked as his tears streaked through them.



Two fried eggs simmered on the camping stove. Eli hadn't had eggs in a few weeks, since he left New Solace. He had paid a man at the New Solace lodge to send an able bounty hunter after him, a bounty hunter that would take him within the walls of the Mission without too many questions being asked.

A week ago he had decided to pull a heist against the most fortified location in the state. All he needed was a way in.

He smiled at Bradley who was shaking on the sand, catatonic and blinded by his own tears.

The bounty hunter had been right about one thing. The uninfected eggs with black pepper were heavenly.

3blake7
June 14th, 2015, 07:32 PM
whens volume 2?

hhourani
June 15th, 2015, 09:46 PM
I expect that it will be ready within a month or so! I'll be going on holidays soon and too many projects to focus on at the moment :)

T. John. C.
June 16th, 2015, 04:21 PM
I like it! Seems like just another apocalyptic story but you add some very creative aspects that make it very interesting. Definitely want to read more.

Etherhibba
July 18th, 2015, 02:27 AM
Very nice take on sci-fi writing.

ACB
July 25th, 2015, 04:04 PM
Must have read or watched about a thousand post-US-apocalypse envisionings - yours truly stands out, due to the quality of your writing. Characters were human and relateable, likeable and intriguing, and for all the benefit the piece would gain from a keen editor's eye ;), this has all the makings of a much more involved and expansive arc. More please!