Chapter One: Enticement
First things first. A year had passed, the shadows had fallen, and thus far he’d done nothing. Too much had happened, too many people had died and dammit, the world had ended in a way. Nothing was the same, nothing remained of what he remembered, well, too little of it did, and even less could be said of the many people he’d thought mattered to him at some point. He’d been in a coma for nearly thirteenth months, on the verge of dying when he’d been found, before waking to this living nightmare. His limbs had atrophied some, though not nearly enough to incapacitate him. Someone had been keeping him healthy at least, for what it was worth.
The last thing he could remember, clearly remember, was the seedy little bar down in Bogota, Colombia. He could remember gunfire, smoke, flames, and blood. That was fairly usual for his life as a marine though, something he’d specialized in since he was just a wet-behind-the-ears rookie. He’d always had a knack for wetwork., it had been his niche so to speak. He might have felt a little more accomplished though if he hadn’t been in his mid-thirties. From what he’d heard and learned first-hand in his life, even the best of assassins didn’t always live long and fulfilling lives. It was just plain bad luck, and bad planning to even try.
But he had tried, and he’d done a rather damned good job at it. He’d found a woman when he was still a fairly young man, and despite the fact that she came with two kids, it had been good. Despite all his own faults, he’d done his best to form a family, something he could be proud of for once. Lord knew his own family was no prize.
His parents, or rather his mother and her former, retired green beret husband, were the type to drink themselves to sleep, claiming the need to souse themselves on a constant basis because it was their goddamned right. They’d worked hard for such a life, and it was theirs by choice and by dint of having earned it. His sister, a money-grubbing, spoiled little brat of thirty-some years now, if she was alive, wasn’t much better. His two nephews were good enough kids, but they were fast becoming like their mother, spoiled rotten and fully aware of it. His own family, his flesh and blood, was no prize, but he had tried to make something better. And like his stepfather had said, it had somehow imploded.
He didn’t know how really, he’d done every thing he could to make it work, hell he’d even taken the two boys under his wing for a time, whenever he was around. Though his missions often took him around the world he’d done his best to make sure that he spent enough time with his girlfriend’s kids, teaching them what he could and doing what he could to keep them and their mother secure. He’d loved his girlfriend, albeit the love was a bit one-sided at time and other times dependent on his ability to keep her well-stocked in cigarettes, booze, and enough money to party her pretty little ass off on the weekends. More than once he’d had to stay home with the two boys because their mother didn’t feel like watching her own kids, preferring to liquor herself to the gills and dance on the bar. Far too many times he’d had to retrieve her, leaving the boys with a neighbor or his parents, who simply sent the boys to bed more often than not.
It was no life for a child, but now that wasn’t a concern, of his, the boys, or his girlfriend. Needless to say it was rather disorienting to pass out from taking a bullet in the lung, but waking up after what amounted to a nightmarish blend of images he’d much rather forget in his hometown of Longview. Clinton had been born and raised in this town, but he’d never considered it home. He had always been a free spirit, much like his real father, and just like his real sire, he’d always been a bit unstable. It was easy to stay away from home when your mother and stepfather were alcoholics, and your real dad was a borderline psychotic bounty hunter. Clinton had learned a great deal about alcohol, illegal drugs, guns, and knives at a very young age. When you had to wake up and see your dad holding a gun to your mother’s head it left a big mark on your psyche.
Since that time his parents had divorced, his father moving all the way to Alaska, where he’d apparently forgotten about the fact that he’d helped to give birth to two kids. Clinton and Natasha, his younger sister, had gone with their mother, a turn of events that was just as bad as if they’d gone with their father. His dad had tried to make him a killer, his mother and her new husband had tried to make him an alcoholic. Both of them had succeeded in their silent endeavors.
In light of what he’d been through as a boy Clinton had still sought to find it within himself to become a good person, though he’d obviously failed somewhere. Otherwise he might have come home thirteen months ago to find his girlfriend watching television, not standing over the bloodied forms of her two sons. He’d seen a great deal in his life, he’d seen bodies dismembered and simply shrugged it off. Clinton had even seen children slain before; such was the price of war and combat so close to civilization. But when he’d seen Andrew and Chandler; the horror that he’d borne witness to had slammed home, causing him to freeze. And then Terra had struck.
“Finding everything you need?” The sound of heavy footsteps crunching upon the broken glass and other detritus covering the gun shop’s threadbare carpet was far more audible as his thoughts came back to the fore. Closing his eyes Clinton shook his head silently, mentally berating himself for his inattentive manner. As his instructors back in the corps might have told him, he was dead before he’d known it.
The ratcheting sound of a shell being chambered came from behind as Clinton let out a long breath. This was not what he needed right now.
“Turn around bucko,” said the voice, “Drop whatever little toy you’re playing with, slowly.” Clinton let his shoulders drop slightly as he listened carefully in that second, hearing only one set of lungs breathing in and out with the man’s words. Grinning to himself he didn’t hesitate as with his right hand Clinton brought the handgun he’d appropriated across his body, turning a bit quicker than he’d intended. He still had a little recuperating to do it seemed, but even at half speed he was pretty damned good.
One shot was all he needed as he fired from the hip, his aim nearly as good as the shot took his target just above the left eye instead of in the center of his forehead. The man, older than Clinton by several years no doubt, didn’t even have time to fire the shotgun in his grip. Instead the weapon almost flew from his hands as they jerked open, dropping to the ground only a split second before he did.
Clinton took a deep breath, snorting as he looked down at the man. The fellow was dirty, disheveled, unwashed, and quite ugly. For his own part Clinton wasn’t in much better shape, but at least he’d taken the time to clean himself up a bit, finding with some surprise that the plumbing within the hospital he’d found himself in still worked. There was still electricity, still workable plumbing, and there were plenty of firearms around the city. If the world had experienced the dreaded apocalypse that the religious nuts worldwide had been waiting for, well, it would appear that the good lord had a sense of humor.
Looking around the gun shop he inhaled deeply, taking stock of what was left. Only about half of what should have been there was gone, with many of the rifles, shotguns, and hand guns remaining. There was still plenty of ammunition, though much of this had been depleted, which was not too surprising. Turning back to the glass counter, which was intact surprisingly, Clinton continued to load his weapon, one of many he’d be taking with him. Narrowing his eyes he kept the safety off, figuring that it would only get in the way if he met anyone like the unfortunate fellow on the ground on his way out of the city. As he holstered the gun he stopped, looking down at the man again, his features turning thoughtful as he bent down.
The man’s stench was simply unbearable, but as he straightened up again, the shotgun in his left hand, Clinton found that it was better the farther away he got. Checking the breach of the weapon he found that it was still loaded, perhaps even fully loaded with four or five shells waiting to be discharged. He allowed himself a smirk as he began to peruse the shelves for the right type of ammo. Now all he needed was a drink and he’d feel almost normal.