The Captain exited the former library by way of the upstairs balcony, surveying the destruction of a horizon that was now blanketed in the darkness of night. Light poured from the building behind her, creating a soft glow around it that served as a barrier against the creatures that lurked beyond its protection. She always felt a sleeping dread that their power systems would somehow fail, that she would fail, and their camp would fall into the darkness as so many others had; that her people would be ravaged and shredded by its demons. But it was a fear she had to keep to herself, particularly now. They had a visitor.
In her heart, the Captain knew that not all visitors were bad. Some simply had managed to survive and needed a place of refuge. However, others were daring infiltrators from other camps who came to scout out supplies they may be able to steal. Some had no interest in joining their clan, but rather overtaking the location for their own group – some people didn’t like sharing, though there was likely room enough for all. Still others had been driven mad by the darkness, and those were the most dangerous.
People who had been lost too long out there, thinking they could survive in a world that was no longer their own, no longer the world they’d once known, they became confused. The fear gets to you, after a while – the fight that keeps you alive takes over. Some could be saved from this trauma, if given the right treatment, but most were too dangerous and a threat to her people. The Captain and her crew had enforced strict policy against people Wanderers, as they called them. She was convinced, as most were, that these rules were what had kept them alive.
She could already see the man as she descended from the balcony, the steps rising to meet her boot-clad feet, those platforms she’d already utilized swinging from back to front, descending with her as she continued. If she’d stopped, they’d stop as well and hold her suspended in mid air. It was a simple magic, but quite useful. The stranger appeared to be wearing a modified Navy uniform with those distinct blue camouflage pants, a blackened protective vest, and a dark beret. He looked strong, with a determined set to his jaw, as he stood confrontationaly before one of her own soldiers. If she did not intervene soon, there would be a fight; and that would be good for no one.
“Have you come with a purpose, or did you just want to pick a fight?” She directed her question, obviously, to the stranger, then shifted to her own man, “Jones, stand down. I don’t want everyone coming here thinking that we’re rabid dogs in need of putting down.”
By the time she finished speaking, she’d reached the bottom of the enchanted stairs and stepped onto the cold cement of the light-flooded plaza below. The planks that had constructed the steps flew up, returning to their resting spot beneath the balcony, as she extended her arm to the stranger and gave him a wide smile. She was aware it probably wasn’t a warm one. He straightened, shoulders back, and eyed her skeptically.
She said, “I apologize if my comrades offended you. We don’t take kindly to those who may be Wanderers, as I’m sure you can well imagine. I’m the Captain. You asked to see me?”
The man took her hand and gave it a firm shake, still eyeing her skeptically, “Butler. Jermaine. Formerly of the 182nd, Bravo Company.”
The Captain gave a curt nod, still smiling, then extended her other arm toward a make-shift lookout tower where one could observe the darkness beyond, “Shall we, then?”
Jermaine Butler, former navy man, crossed in front of her. Before she followed, she dropped her smile and gave a meaningful nod to the group of soldiers that had detained him. They dispersed, returning to their duties, confident that the Captain would handle the matter appropriately.
To be continued…