Chapter 2 - Loomie - Part 3

Loomie’s body ached. She was beginning to regret her decision to climb into the empty fuel container. Not only did it smell bad enough to make her head hurt, but she underestimated how rough the road would be. The container had been left at the back of the truck for loading and filling. Loomie quickly made her way over, climbed inside and pulled the lid shut. It wasn’t until after she had settled in that the realization hit her––the container would be filled with gasoline on their way out.

She wouldn't be seen since the fuel was filled through a cap in the lid, but she would have to jump out or drown.

As luck would have it, whoever loaded the container felt its weight and assumed it was already full. The barrel was slid to the back of the truck to make room for those that needed filled. It wasn’t too long of a stop, and the convoy was slowly lumbering its way across the open desert.

She knew the general direction the search party was headed. She had ventured out this way several times by herself to train. Out away from the town and into the wildlands where she could fire round after round from her weapon without being seen or heard.

The convoy made a few brief stops. She assumed it was to discuss where to head next, or perhaps they had stumbled on refugees wandering the wilds. Either way, Loomie was grateful. It gave her a chance to open the lid and breath clean air before the truck shuttered into gear and began rumbling down the dirt road again.

When able to peer out, there wasn’t much to be seen. The bed of the truck was walled with wooden slats, and she was in between several other containers that resembled hers. Thankfully though, she was able to raise the lid without being noticed,so she hadn’t passed out from the fumes that nearly caused her to vomit several times.

She could feel the truck begin to slow and placed her hands on the lid and waited. When she was sure they were not refueling, she opened the container just enough to take in a much-needed breath of air when she heard the chatter somewhere nearby her truck. A few men near her were engaged in what sounded like an interrogation of some kind.

“Who are you and why are you wandering the desert alone?” questioned a voice she recognized as Clark. There was a pause before another male voice answered, one she couldn’t recognize.

“My name is Rothbjorn Malaki. I am a refugee from Cermon City.”

“Many of the refugees we have found wandering from Cermon City looked much worse off than you do,” Clark paused briefly before continuing, “Many of them have had no time to dress their wounds, as it appears you have.”

“I would be dead by now if I didn’t take care of my wounds. It's not possible to flee if you’re dead, now is it?”

The stranger made a good point. Clark seemed to agree, as he barked an order to escort the man to one of the passenger trucks. She heard Clark ask one more question, “Nobody seems to know what happened in Cermon City. Do you?”

Another pause, longer this time. The response from the stranger made her cringe.

“A bomb landed near the center of the city. The explosion wiped everything out. There is almost nothing left.”

Clark didn’t respond, nor did anyone else. It wasn’t long before the convoy was moving again.

The rest of the trip was uneventful. The convoy made several stops which Loomie assumed were to gather other refugees before returning to the village. She waited as the barrels were off-loaded into the warehouse where they were kept. She held her breath as her canister was unloaded. “This one is still full,” came a voice, “Put it with the others that still have fuel. We have orders to head back out in the morning.”

She waited until she heard nothing before slowly opening the lid and peering out. Satisfied that the warehouse was empty, she climbed out of the barrel. Her body screamed at her as she began to move for the first time in hours, but she had to leave the warehouse before being seen. Painfully, she made her way to the back entrance and pushed the door open. The sun had set and night had begun to fall on the village.

Loomie continued into Central where many of the refugees that had been picked up fleeing the destruction of Cermon City were being sorted and cared for. They looked haggard and tired. Men, women, and children alike with various wounds were being tended to. As she looked into each of their faces, one thing was common. They all were lost and terrified.

Looking around, she saw her father and Clark walking with a man who leaned on a crutch that appeared to be made from a long branch. His leg was tied up in a splint that also looked hand-made. He was wearing green pants a size too small and a shirt saturated with dirt and sweat. This must have been the man she heard them talking to.

The three men walked up the steps to Silas’ office, the injured man being helped by her father and Clark, hands under each arm. They disappeared behind the door fronted by two guards.

Loomie’s curiosity urged her forward. She wanted to know who the stranger was and why her Father had taken an interest in him. She slowly navigated the crowd of wounded refugees before making her way to the office, the guards once again stepping aside and letting her in.

The room wasn’t nearly as full as it was when she was here earlier. There was only a handful of men listening to the stranger who recounted the events in Cermon City.

A few of the men glanced at her when she entered, including her father, but they quickly turned back to the stranger as he began speaking again. Clark’s gaze seemed to linger longer than the rest, and making eye contact with him, Loomie felt nervous. Did he know where she had been all day?

“Like I told your man here when he asked me on the road, the city is gone. There is nothing but ruins left.” The stranger was looking down at the floor.

Clark asked, “You said on the road it was a bomb. How do you know?” Silas’ head snapped up to look at Clark, “Bomb?” His mouth was now wide, “What do you mean a bomb?” He looked down at the stranger awaiting his answer.

“I am a mechanic by trade, in a small shop on the edge of the city. I happened to be outside when a plane arced overhead. Shortly after, an explosion. The sound was deafening. The ground shook so hard I fell over.” The man looked up at Silas as he continued, “The next thing I knew the majority of the city was burning.”

“Do you remember the direction the plane came or went?” Silas asked.

There was no hesitation in the man’s voice and he never broke eye contact with Silas, “It came from Manst.”

Silas again looked over at Clark, worry washing over him. Loomie didn’t have to see her father's face to know what he was thinking.

There had been conflict between Manst and the Wreene Nation for some time. Sparring among political figures was the norm that fueled several acts of war between each nation's military, but nothing as egregious as this. If what this stranger said was true, if Manst actually wiped out one of Wreene’s cities, war was coming, and their little village, which sat between the nations, would be in danger.

Silas looked down at the stranger again, “What did you say your name was, son?”

He looked down as he responded, “My name is Rothbjorn Malaki.”

Silas looked at Clark and said, “See that Mr. Malaki has his wounds tended to and that he finds his way to refugee housing.” Glancing down at Rothbojorn, Silas added, “If you are a mechanic as you say, we could use your help with the maintenance of many of our fleet vehicles.”

Clark helped Rothbjorn to his feet where he nodded at Silas, “There is nothing left for me in Cermon City. I would be happy for a new start.”

Silas nodded his head, “That’s what this village is all about, son.”

Clark helped the man towards the door. As he passed by Loomie, their eyes met. She wasn’t prepared for the feeling of curiosity that overcame her. Before she could process it, her father stepped towards her. He paused as he approached her, bringing his hand up to his nose, “What have you been into, Loomie? You smell like you took a bath in gasoline.”

Embarrassed, Loomie glanced around the room to see who had heard. Clark looked at her sternly, as if he knew the answer to the question but said nothing. Before she could protest, her father called out to Rothbjorn, “Rothbjorn Malaki. Your name will cause me fits, so if it is all the same to you, I will call you “Rothaki”.

Rothbjorn stopped just before the door and turned to look at Silas, “As I said, I am happy for a new start.”

Both men nodded at each other before Clark opened the door and helped Rothaki out. After the door was shut Silas looked at Loomie, who still stared at him in embarrassment. “What?” he said unaware of why she was still looking at him, “You really need to go wash up.”

Chpt. 2 Pt. 3- Written by Matt Henderson, Created by Micah Metz, Edited by Alex Gergely