Chapter 3 - Malaki - Part 1

A couple weeks had passed since Rothaki had been taken in by the bandits. He marveled at the life they had made for themselves out here in the wastelands, a feat he attributed largely to the leadership of Silas Canning. 

Rothaki had witnessed his leadership in dealing with the people who lived in the small village as well as the steady stream of refugees coming from Cermon City. As with most leaders, Silas was a decisive decision maker. He seemed calculated in his commands, looking far beyond what simply lie in front of him. Unlike most leaders however, Silas showed great compassion, a trait Rothaki was all too grateful to be the recipient of.

Silas gave Rothaki a chance to serve the village without so much as a question about his past. Assigned to the group of mechanics responsible for keeping the small fleet of military vehicles in good shape, Rothaki committed to proving his worth by utilizing the knowledge he had gained in service to Manst. 

His knowledge was being tested with a project he had been given, to repair an old motor that had sat idle for months because nobody seemed to know what was wrong with it. 

“So you think you can fix this old thing?” asked the old man who introduced himself as ‘Silver’, because of his age.

The hood of a large truck sat open. Walking up and peering inside the engine compartment, Rothaki took a few moments to look everything over. It appeared to be like many of the ones he had seen while in Manst, so he felt pretty confident when he responded, “Sure! No problem at all.”

Silver chuckled before saying, “Nobody has been able to get this pile of scrap running for months.” The old grey-haired man turned to head back to his office. As he walked away he added, “I don’t expect you to either, but have at it.” He disappeared through a door and left Rothaki alone with the engine. 

Rothaki rolled up the sleeves of his shirt and set to work disassembling the engine piece by piece. As if on autopilot, his hands worked away while his mind recounted the last several weeks. 

It wasn’t long after his resolution to leave his old life behind that Rothaki came upon a farmhouse that, after some investigation, appeared to be abandoned. Rothaki found cans of food that appeared to be still good and clothes that seemed to fit him well enough. After eating a bit and dressing his wounds, Rothaki thought it best to move on. While the house might not have been occupied in quite some time, he didn’t want to risk running into anyone, so he cleaned up what he used and left. On his way off the property, he found a burn barrel with old trash in it. Dropping in his Manst military uniform, he lit a match from a pack he had found in one of the kitchen drawers and set the old trash––and his past––on fire. He didn’t wait around to see it burn down, though. He walked away from the old farm house towards the wildlands. 

He wandered through the night and into the next day before he was found by the convoy. Seeing the cloud of dust billowing into the air long before they saw him, Rothaki decided to keep walking rather than  hide, which may have drawn suspicion had he been caught.

The convoy slowed as it approached until it came to a full stop. Rothaki stepped off the road and waited as the doors to the lead truck opened and a few men stepped out and began asking him questions.

“Who are you and why are you wandering the desert alone?” The man who asked appeared to be in charge. 

Rothaki paused, grasping for a name he could use. He didn’t want to use his real name, so his brain tossed out the first thing it could think of. 

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

He was shocked at what came out. As if it was spoken from his subconscious. His brain mashed up the name of his childhood tormentor Osborn Roth. He couldn’t take it back now.

The questioning continued until finally it seemed they were satisfied and escorted him into a larger truck carrying other refugees in it.

Rothaki’s mind returned to his work on the engine as he tightened the final bolt and stood back wiping his hands on a rag. He tucked the rag into his back pocket and strode up the driver’s side of the cab, climbed in and turned the key. 

The motor fired up without any hesitation, and as Rothaki climbed down from the cab, the shop door flew open, and in strode Silver along with several of the other mechanics––mouths wide open.

“This piece of junk hasn’t run in months, and you get going on your first day?” Silver leaned over the front of the truck and inspected Rothaki’s work, then asked, “What was wrong with it?”

Rothaki shut the door to the cab and walked around to stand next to Silver. “All of the spark plugs were melted. No spark and it won’t start.”

Silver looked over at him, and then back at the group that had gathered. He eyed each one in disbelief. “Spark plugs. You mean to tell me this thing hasn’t run for months, and it was something as simple as replacing spark plugs?”

Before any of the group could respond, Rothaki added, “Well, there were plenty of other things that needed to be replaced and cleaned up, so it really wasn’t just one thing.”  The attempt to soften the mood didn’t help. Silver pushed through the group and stormed back towards his office.

“Great work Rothbjorn,” he called over his shoulder., “The rest of you, get back to work!” He slammed the door shut behind him, leaving Rothaki with the group of mechanics. 

Nobody said a word to Rothaki. They returned to their work.

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It was late. Rothaki had finished up a job a little later than he would have liked, and Silver left him to it. “Lock up when you’re done Rothaki,” he said as he left for the night. 

Having realized how good Rothaki was at finding a problem and fixing it, Silver began passing all the harder jobs to him. If one of the other mechanics spent even a few minutes scratching their head at a problem, Silver would call over Rothaki and ask him to look at it. Before long, Silver just passed all the work through Rothaki to diagnose. If it was something that could be done by anyone, Silver would give it one of the other mechanics. If it was anything but routine, he trusted Rothaki to fix it. 

Within just a few short weeks, Rothaki had become the lead mechanic. At first he worried this promotion would cause a problem with the other techs, but it seemed nobody complained about it. The others were happy to pass on the harder jobs so that they could focus on the easier ones that took less time.

The sun had long since set when Rothaki finally locked the door to the garage and headed back to the room he was staying in. It was dark, and the streets were mostly empty, which he welcomed. He tried hard to keep to himself. He avoided as many people as he could, a task that was easy considering how long he stayed at the shop.

Rothaki could hear men laughing and joking loudly ahead. As he approached, he saw a small group of them gathered outside the tavern.Men he worked with. They had been drinking, and likely, cut off by the barkeeper and escorted out into the street. 

Wanting to avoid any interaction, Rothaki began to cross the street, but he must have been recognized, because one of them turned and called out, “Hey! If it isn’t Rothbjorn Muh-canny” 

Rothaki ignored the man and continued walking. An action that was not well received. 

The man began to trot towards Rothaki, crossing into the street without so much as a care if anything was coming from either direction. “Hey! I’m talking to you!” 

The man reached out and grabbed Rothaki’s arm, pulling him around to stare face-to-face. He was more than a head taller than Rothaki, and his breath reeked of alcohol. Looking over his shoulder, Rothaki saw the rest of the group, four in all, now crossing to join their friend. 

“You think you can just walk into town without paying your dues and take over our shop?” The man said, glancing back at his friends. He let go of Rothaki’s arm and took half a step back. “It just occurred to me, that we haven’t properly welcomed you to our shop.” He looked back over his shoulder, “Boys, let’s give our man here a proper welcome.”

If it wasn’t for the alcohol, the punch the man attempted to deliver to Rothaki’s face would have landed. Even drunk, he was quick, but Rothaki seemed to know it was coming and easily leaned back out of the path of his arcing fist. 

Taking advantage of the man’s momentum, Rothaki pushed him in the direction his fist was travelling, causing him to nearly spin around and face his friends. 

Rothaki backed away. “Look fellas, I don’t want any trouble,” he said. Raising his hands in surrender, he continued, “I’mjust heading home for the night.”

Furious now, the man turned and lunged at him, “You should have thought about that before coming to town.” 

Rothaki side-stepped quickly enough to miss his attacker’s out-stretched arms. He reached up to grab the back of his head and drove his knee up into the sprawling man’s face. There was an audible crunch as his nose exploded into a mess of bone and blood, sending him screaming to the ground and clutching his face. 

Rothaki had no time to breath as the remaining four men began charging hard at him. 

Running away was no option at this point, so Rothaki’s military training kicked in. He dispatched the first man with a quick kick to his stomach, leaving him time to asses the two that now approached from his left and right. Ducking below the first man's arms, Rothaki caught him in the stomach with his left shoulder, lifting him up,over and onto his back in the middle of the street. The man landed with a thud, air escaping from his lungs. Rothaki was safe to engage the third assailant, who seemed less drunk than the first two. 

The man slowed as he approached, but only enough to set his feet. He began swinging his fists furiously, yet not skillfully enough to hit Rothaki. Catching the man’s  last attempt in his left hand, Rothaki spun himaround and pulled his wrist up between shoulder blades until he screamed in pain. 

Before Rothaki could do anything further, a voice called out from somewhere nearby, “Stop this at once!”

A girl Rothaki recognized as the daughter of Silas Canning stepped out of the shadows and into the street. She approached the group, most of whom were still writhing in pain on the ground.

“I am not sure what started this idiotic display of drunkeness, but I suggest you all dispurse before you end up spending your night in containment.”  

Rothaki let go of the man he was holding, who quickly grabbed his shoulder and stumbled away alongside the fourth man.. The other men, including the first who was now covered in blood, stood up, nodding at Loomie. None of them looked at Rothaki as they left.

Rothaki watched the men walk away before turning to look at Loomie, who was now staring at him with her hands on her hips. “I apologize princess. I didn’t want any trouble.”

Loomie eyed him for a moment before responding, “First, it’s just Loomie. Don’t call me princess. Second, where did you learn to fight like that?” 

He replied, feeling a bit more at ease, “That wasn’t fighting. That was self defense.”

Loomie glared at him, not responding. 

Sensing his response may have been a bit inappropriate for the person he was talking to, he added, “I had a brother.”

Rothaki didn’t want to talk anymore. He just wanted to go to sleep. “Thank you for stepping in before anyone got seriously hurt.” 

Without waiting for a response or letting Loomie continue, he turned and walked away. The streets were quiet again, but he could feel her watching him.

Chpt. 3 Pt. 1- Written by Matt Henderson, Created by Micah Metz, Edited by Alex Gergely