[Here is the rest of chapter 4–the thrilling encounter with the Fixies and the mysterious figure in the woods. Dice’s and Mr. Sunset’s sections were kind of long this time around so I opted for a shorter section for October. I think that you’ll agree that that doesn’t mean it’s any less intense.
Hope you enjoy. Feel free to send me any feedback in the comment section or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org]
The Fixies ride past the garage and off the sidewalk. The soil of the Green Fire Forest is sandy, less than ideal for bikes. Dice hops off hers and grabs everything she can carry from hers.
“Looks like we’re walking from here,” she says.
She hands the rifle she took from Mr. Sunset to the youngest Fixie, Bits.
[Custom move: 6+1=Hit]
Dice leads them around the forest. They start at Lake Clare and then spread out in widening circles favoring the north. There is little conversation. Dice can’t help but be excited on the hunt. The last few days locked away with Mr. Sunset conspiring against the man she pledged to protect wasn’t fun for her. She glances down at her gun. This is much more her style.
They continue along their spiral for hours. She can’t often see the sun directly in the forest, but Dice can tell that it’s getting late. Probably a couple hours before dark. She knows they should probably leave, but she can’t bring herself to end it.
Dice doesn’t try to hide her smile when Bowdy yells over to everyone.
A bunch of them, led by Dice, walk over to a mound of earth, about half her height. Bowdy is on top of it poking around with a stick.
“Looks like a camp. Definitely a fire pit. Something’s still in here.”
He flips over a metal mesh. His hand covers his mouth. “Oh fuck.”
He backs away from whatever is in the pit and trips in the sandy dirt. He tumbles down the far side of the mound. The Fixies that had gathered around burst into laughter, even Dice, but they stop in an instant as a tree above them shakes.
A large figure jumps out of the tree and lands by Bowdy on the other side of the mound. Dice runs around the hill and pulls out her shotgun. She’s just in time to see a huge … man like creature holding Bowdy off the ground. One of its massive clawed hands grip Bowdy’s leg, the other hand has his arm. All at once it looks at Dice with eyes that are far too human and it pulls Bowdy apart.
She gives herself exactly one second to react to this and then lifts the shotgun up and fires. The monster twists around with the force of the shot and then runs off on all fours.
Dice looks over her shoulder. Her Fixies are dumbfounded. “What’s everyone waiting for? Drop this fucker.”
Dice runs off after it.
[Seize by force: 7+2=Hit]
[Fixies deal 2h,+1 terrible, -1 armor]
[Fucker deals 3harm]
Some of the Fixies, led by Partridge, cut the fucker off and attack it. Before Dice’s group can catch up to flank it, it swats Partridge and knocks him off his feet. It slams its way through the other Fixies and continues into the forest.
The last group, this one led by Iv and Iii, ambush it again. This one doesn’t go as well.
It picks up a Fixie and throws it into a tree. Then it swats a couple more. It doesn’t look like they’ll be getting up. It claws Iii and she goes down. Iv stops to help her and Dice sees that there’s just one last Fixie left in the group. Bits.
He shoots it with his new rifle right in the leg. It lets out a roar that sounds much too human and grabs Bits by the collar of his shirt and runs off again.
Its leg is pretty fucked up and Dice and Partridge don’t have much trouble overtaking it. When it finally hits the dirt Partridge keeps running and shoots it a couple more times in the head.
“Stop it,” Dice says. “You’re wasting ammo.”
Dice pries the fucker’s fingers off of Bits. He’s unconscious but still alive. Somehow.
Dice stands up as a handful of other Fixies catch up to them. She looks down at the fucker. It’s probably double Bits’s height with arms about as thick as his whole body. Bulbous, scaly growths protrude from various parts of its body. Dice rolls it onto its back, which is a bit of a struggle.
Its face was supposed to be human, but something went wrong. A mutant.
She’d seen mutants born before, but it was a generally accepting practice to put them out of their misery. What kind of monster would let one grow up?
Her head turns to the southeast. This was the Towers’s backyard. They had to have something to do with it.
October wakes up on a cot. Her head hurts. She tries to remember who she slept with.
She’s startled by a voice next to her.
“You know I wasn’t born in Uni City?” Peppering says.
October looks to her left a little too fast. It feels like she was stabbed in her forehead. Then she remembers that Peppering hit her in the forest.
Peppering sits next to October’s bed. She’s not looking at October.
“We came from a city a few days to the southwest. Millennia. There was the little boy there. Could hunt or fight, scrawny, shy. But smart. Real smart. Unnaturally smart.”
Knightro, October’s scalecat, jumps up into Peppering’s lap and she starts to pet him.
“When he got older people started to notice he had a way of getting what he wanted. He could convince people to do pretty much anything. And he knew things. Things he shouldn’t, couldn’t, know.”
October was studying Peppering. She noticed that her knees were wrapped in bloody rags and two old crutches were leaning against the wall beside her.
“They killed him of course. Hung him from a tree. They cut him down when the birds refused to touch him. They cut him into pieces and buried them in secret places. Each family got a slice to hide.”
October’s heart was pounding now.
“These are dangerous times. It’s hard enough to deal with what we know, but this boy, well, no one knew what he was. Something not normal. Your instinct is to punish them, the others, to fear them. But I wasn’t afraid of this boy. He was my brother.”
Peppering looks into October’s eyes.
“You’re like him. You did something to Tum Tum.”
“Yeah,” October says. There’s not much point lying.
“Pretty much everyone you give a second look falls in love with you. I bet you’re ruined a lot of people that way.”
October nods. It’s not quite guilt that she feels. Closer to pity, but that might be giving her too much credit.
“It would just take one person to connect the dots for the people here, and then you’d be hanging from a tree.”
“You might be right,” October says.
Peppering gently pushes Knightro off her lap and stands up. “Stay away from Scrib.”
October stares at her blankly. “Ok.”
Peppering puts the crutches under her arms and hobbles to the doorway. “Aitch said you should take it easy for the next few days, but otherwise you should be fine.”
Then Peppering leaves October alone with her thoughts.