Thursday, 2 April 2009 - 11:07 am


Masterson is getting more confident with every passing day, and more reckless along with it. He got himself smacked in the mouth last night; it’s not going to be long before he pushes someone into something serious. He couldn’t have picked a worse time; we’re already tense enough. I can’t worry about him every second; I have enough people to look after right now.


Yesterday, once we had the kids subdued, it fell quiet while we eyed each other. My heart was just starting to come down from the fighting high, though not by much; it wasn’t time to relax yet. But I had to think about what to do next, how to handle the fact that we suddenly had prisoners. What the hell are we supposed to do with prisoners?

One of the teenagers kneeling on the floor spoke first. “So, you gonna kill us?” She was glaring at us angrily, one after another, daring us to try, as if they weren’t so much caught as resting.

“No.” That was Thorpe, I think.

“Of course not,” I said almost at the same time.

“Ain’t that what you do?” the girl asked.

“Maybe they wanna fuck us first,” one of the lads put in, spitting at Matt’s feet.

That they would even think that made my stomach flop over inside me. Sometimes, I despise this world that’s crawling through its own ashes.

Masterson just had to stick his nose in before anyone else could say something. “Why, are you offering?”

“Shut up,” I said even as the boy who had spoken started to swell up with outrage. I turned my attention to him and tried to look him in the eye. “No, we don’t. We don’t do that.”

“Sure you do. You’re the Pride, that’s what you do.”

I was so surprised – and relieved – that I smiled at him as I told him that that’s not who we are. They didn’t believe us at first, but then one of the smaller boys pointed out that we didn’t have any guns. I wasn’t thrilled to know that the big, vicious gang near here was armed with guns, but at least it was proof that we weren’t part of that group. They asked us who we were and we didn’t know what to say. With a shrug, I told them my name and started to go around the group, but the girl that had spoken first interrupted me.

“Oh, you’re the Seekers.”

I blinked at her. “The what?”

“We heard about you, too. You’re their leader, right?” Why does everyone think that? “The Seekers, travellin’ around trying to find families or somethin’.” At the mention of families, I couldn’t help but glance at Ben. He didn’t flinch, didn’t look my way at all. It was like he couldn’t hear them. It took me a moment to realise that the girl had said something else. “You ain’t nothin’ like the Pride.”

“No, no we’re not.”

“So, you gonna let us up now?” She was slick, this kid.

“Not so fast.” I didn’t need to look at the others to know that that was a bad idea. “You know who we are, but we don’t know anything about you.”

I saw the girl’s lips twitch and knew that she had been trying to get one over on us. I had to wonder just what she’d heard about us. In this strong-armed society, was a lack of a violent example a weakness? I suppose that a nasty reputation is a form of protection, but I can’t think about what we’d need to do to get one. We won’t do that. No-one here would do that.

“We’re the Rats,” the girl told us, her chin lifting with pride.

“Never heard of you,” Thorpe said flatly.

The defensive barriers slammed up again. “Yeah, well, we keep to ourselves.”


We tossed words back and forth for a little while longer. The kids had been holed up in the mall since just after the bomb went off, staying when all the adults left to find help, or hope, or someone else. They had never come back, but the kids had stayed. And they were doing all right, thank you very much. They had driven off a few groups before us, and they’d drive off anyone who came after, too; it was only because we’d surprised them that we had been able to get the best of them. That wouldn’t happen again; they were very sure about that.

I have to admire their resolve. They’re determined and strong; they’ve adapted well. They say they’ve got enough supplies to last ‘a while’ but wisely refused to be more specific about it. If anything, they were a little too smart, enough that we didn’t dare to lower our guard with them for a second.

We explained that we were there for supplies. They were quick to let us know that there wasn’t any food or water here, but that wasn’t all we were looking for. We needed to visit a chemist – I tried to ignore Masterson’s eyes lighting up at that notion – and fresh clothes would be nice. They didn’t like the idea, but they weren’t in a position to argue.

Eventually, we agreed to let them go on the condition that they stayed far aaway from us. Thorpe was quick to growl at them that if they tried anything – anything at all – we would hogtie them and take whatever we pleased. I saw some of the kids’ expressions grow angry, but their spokeswoman said that they wouldn’t try anything against us. I don’t entirely trust them, but at least it’s a truce of sorts. At least we didn’t need to tie them up at the outset.

There’s a part of me that wonders if we were too easy on them – I think one day someone we let go will turn around and stab us in the back. Is it okay to distrust everyone on those grounds, or do we keep going as we are until it’s too late and there’s blood on the floor?


We’re still in the mall now. The rain came before we were done yesterday, and there are more stores that we need to check for equipment. The Rats have largely left us alone, though I’m sure that they’ve been watching us. We’re keeping sharp vigils at night, just in case, and I’ve heard them moving around in the dark hours.

I’ve just noticed some blotches on my arm. I don’t think I spilt anything on it. I wonder how long they’ve been there.