A Meeting of Souls – Installment #2
This is the second installment of A Meeting of Souls – A Tale from the Wasteland. The first installment is here.
If you enjoy this story and would like to own a copy of your very own, you can purchase it from Amazon/Kindle here and Barnes & Noble/Nook here. The e-book includes a full-color cover and a special, steamy, NSFW bonus chapter at the end of the story that won’t be included on the blog. Every romance needs a “happy ending,” right?
Sickle and Saber trained their weapons on the retreating truck, preparing to fire. Assaulting an Elite Guard was a bannable offense and they were ready to retaliate on Lash’s behalf when a voice boomed out from somewhere atop the wall.
“Hold your fire!” It was the Captain of the Guard. Sickle and Saber complied immediately while two other Guards—Lady Ares and Menace—ran from the gate to Lash’s side, helping him to his feet. He winced and sucked air, trying to catch his breath. His armor had taken the worst of the damage, but he felt like he’d been hit with a sledgehammer and trying to move his arm set off white-hot shards of agony. His neck and jaw had been peppered by metal fragments and were bleeding from small breaks in the skin. He had barely settled onto a bench inside the wall when Chilli descended upon him, fussing and worrying as she started trying to remove his shoulder piece.
“Hold still, honey. Let me see how bad it is,” she said, lifting the armor up, which set off a fresh string of curses. Chilli was a cross between a cook, a nurse, and an aide-de-camp for the Guards. Her history with Lash went back many years, and although their relationship was purely platonic, in some ways it was stronger than a marriage.
“Get off me, Chilli! I’ve got to go after her. Argh! Christ!” he swore again as her fingers probed the huge welt and bruise that was growing on the front of his shoulder.
“I’ll be damned! It didn’t break the skin. That’s some good armor, to take a point-blank shot like that.”
“Goddamn flintlock. Lucky he didn’t hit what he was aiming at.”
He winced and touched the bridge of his nose. Chilli shook her head and continued poking and prodding his shoulder as Lash gritted his teeth and pulled away from her. He made it to his feet and was reaching for his armor with his good arm when the Captain dropped in on them—literally—from atop the wall. Dust plumed as he stomped over to them.
“LeSabre! What the hell was that?” The Captain—bearded, and taller than Lash by several inches—was a soldier through and through.
“Sir, I think one of the women was being held against her will. She asked for my help.”
“Of course she did. It’s part of the act. You know that.”
“This was…different, sir. She was sincere.”
“That may be so, but you know the orders: Leave the slavers alone. Let them conduct their business. That comes from well above my pay grade.”
Lash opened his mouth to retort but thought better of it and clenched his jaw instead, turning away with a disgusted snort.
“You got something else to say, Sergeant?”
“Yeah. Yeah, I do. Contracts and arrangements be damned. If this woman is being held against her will, then somebody needs to do something.”
The Captain and Lash faced each other for a long moment, both unwilling to budge, when Lash saw something behind the Captain’s steely, hard-ass expression. It was the look of a man who understood, sympathized even, but was bound by duty to carry out an order he disliked intensely.
“Sergeant LeSabre, you’re relieved,” he announced loudly. “Get off the wall and don’t come back until you get your shit together.” Then, leaning in close so none of the other Guards would hear, he added, “What you do with your time off is your business. Just don’t do anything stupid.” He turned on his heel and walked away.
Pretending to examine Lash’s armor, Chili had overheard the entire conversation. As Lash snatched his gear away from her and stomped off, she trailed behind him.
“Wait! Where are you going?”
“Not now, Chilli.” He tried jogging a few steps toward the barracks, but that set off a fresh wave of pain. He opted for a half walk-half trot, with Chilli right at his heels.
“You are in no condition to go anywhere. Your left arm is going to be useless for the next couple of days and I’m not completely sure you haven’t chipped a bone.”
“F’godsake, it’s a scratch. I don’t have a couple of days. He said they’re leaving in the morning.”
“How are you going to rescue her with a bum wing? If you wind up dead, you’re no good to anybody.”
“What about the cannibals?”
They made it back to the barracks and Lash immediately changed out of his guard gear, placing his mohawk in a place of reverence on a shelf. He donned sturdy, well-worn clothing in earth tones and blacks so he would blend in with the desert and with the night, and wrapped a long piece of muslin fabric around his neck. When he was finished, he looked like any other Wasteland wanderer—with the possible exception of the twin bullwhips hanging from his weapons belt. But then, unusual weapons were the rule and not the exception out here.
He stuffed supplies into his saddlebags, ignoring Chilli as she fussed and clucked behind him. She followed him outside to where his motorcycle was parked. “If you do this, the Captain will kick you out of the Guard. He won’t have a choice.”
Although Lash was the Sergeant of the Mounted Guard and the battered 500cc dirt bike was his duty ride, it belonged to him. Taking it wouldn’t cause additional hassle he didn’t need. He fastened the saddlebags to the bike and slid his shotgun into its scabbard on the handlebars. Putting his worn leather jacket on with one hand proved to be the most difficult task; his left arm wasn’t fully immobile but it was almost unbearably painful.
“What will you do if you can’t be a Guard anymore? Where will you go?”
In his frustration he rounded on her, his six-foot frame towering over her much shorter one. “Shut it, Chilli! I’m going to save her. Help me or get the hell out of my way!”
She recoiled at his outburst, and her disapproving expression softened into concern tinged with sadness. She took his jacket from him, pulling it gently up over his arms and shoulders and tugging it closed across his chest before tilting her head back to look up at him.
He blinked. “What?”
“Why her?” Chilli repeated. “Why risk your life for this one girl you don’t even know?”
He shook his head. “I don’t know. I just … there was something. Something ….”
She reached one hand up to gently caress his cheek. “You know, you put on this big, tough guy act, but you’re really just an old romantic at heart.” Then, with a sigh, she added, “Go save your girl. Bring her back safe, okay?”
Lash clasped his fingers over hers for a moment and then pulled her hand away from his face with a wry smile. “I will. Nobody else in this godforsaken world can make a decent cup of coffee.” He turned and straddled his motorcycle, working the kickstarter until the bike roared to life. With a furtive wave of his hand, he rode away from the barracks and out the main gate.
Chilli watched until she couldn’t see him anymore, then turned her attention to the preparations for supper, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand.