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New Dear Hearts and Gentle People (M)

Kreed · 80 · 6185

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Offline Jabbathejack

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Joe frowned, considering Lucy's words.
"I don't know if he was either." He shrugged. "If they were a threat right then and there, then he would kill them, without hesitation. But if he'd taken what he had come there to get, then he wouldn't go back to finish off the job."

His frown deepened and he looked back up the slope, towards the house.
"To him, they were just loose ends and he left them for other people to sort out."

Joe fell silent as he led the way up the slope. He kept vigilant; there was always the chance that, even if the farmers had not survived, their place had been taken over by raiders looking for a place to hole up in.

He stopped as Lucy spoke up, turning to look at them. He was surprised at their sentiment, not really sure how he would form a reply, yet he felt the need to do all the same.
"We can only guess about what could have happened, if I'd acted differently. Maybe I could have made a difference."

He fell silent, grimacing. Lifting his rifle, he moved ahead into the fields. They were overgrown, clearly untended since the last time they had been through here. Silently, he approached the house, moving from cover to cover.


Offline Kreed

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"You take a man's kids away, it don't matter how strong he is or what kind of firepower he's got on him at the time. If he wants that kid back, there's a good chance he's gonna make an admirable effort." Akuma replied. They paused and considered before adding, almost as an afterthought slipping out of the corner of their mouth, "Ain't much gonna keep a father away from his kid for too long if he can help it any."

The silent was doubly heavy, as though somehow there was a hidden weight to their final words that they weren't willing to share. Or perhaps there was nothing to say; there was a definite sense of finality to Joe's words. It was the way the world had become after the war, and - in many ways - the way it had been before, and probably would continue to be so long as humans were alive to crawl around on this crumbling rock.

Quietly, the pair moved through the shaggy fields of razorgrain and tatos toward the farmhouse. The closer they got, the more Akuma was certain that it had been abandoned. The weathered front door, which was white once upon a time, swung lightly back and forth in the light wind that seemed to have been roused from its sleep in the golden crop. When another tendril of a breeze trailed through the fields, Akuma raised his head slightly and took several sniffs of the air. With their respirator, the scents were pretty heavily filtered, but they watched as Susana did the same and huffed deeply in her throat. In a fluid motion, the masked stranger took the safety off their pistol and slunk toward the decaying front porch.

"Something's dead in there," they rumbled as they passed Joe. Lightly, they tapped Susana's haunches with the tip of their boot.

"G'head", they grunted. The yao guai gave Akuma a sidelong glance over her shoulder before shuffling forward. The steps of the front porch groaned under her weight, but did not - by some miracle - collapse. She pushed the door in with her nose and ambled into the building. When the sounds of her shuffling faded and there were no gunshots or shouts of alarm, Akuma rose to their full height. They gave Joe a single look before they moved forward after their animal friend.


Offline Jabbathejack

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Lucy's words made Joe frown, but he made no reply; family wasn't really something that he knew enough about to be able to comment on. As they approached the house, all seemed to be silent, but even so, he was fine with letting the yao guai go inside first. After a moment or two without any noise other than the faint creak of the door on its rusted hinges and the dull thud of the bear's footfalls, Joe pushed forwards.

It was dark inside, with only a little light coming in through the partially boarded up windows. The stench hit him the moment he set foot inside and he grimaced, but he forced himself to push on. It wasn't long before he found the source of the stench. A raider, judging from the crude armour that he wore, lay on the floor, his head shattered from a shotgun blast.

The floor was stained with blood, dried to a muddy brown. The blood left a trail, leading to the back room and Joe followed it. Leaning against the wall was the body of a man, clutching his stomach. He was bloated, his skin dark and blotchy with decay.

"Poor bastard." Joe muttered and he turned away, knowing that Beckett had ravaged the farm by taking the sons away. There didn't seem to be any other bodies hiding, so either he was the last or the raiders had dragged off anyone else. "They didn't stand a chance."

Wordlessly, he left the farmhouse, leaving Lucy to pick up anything useful if they were inclined. Around the back, he found a shed and some tools. Taking a rusty spade, he began to dig in the yard; the least he could do would be to give the man a burial of sorts.


Offline Kreed

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It may have come to a surprise to Joe Fulbeck, but for all their stoicism, Lucy had a care. They checked the home with a quietude that many others would not, being careful not to upturn anything. As they walked, they did quite the opposite; misplaced and fallen items were gently replaced and secured or neatly circumnavigated. It was just as well the masked person didn't ransack the whole place and turn it upside, for there was very little left to find. Even the floor safe under the bedframe appeared to have been blasted open and emptied of valuables. By the look of the layers of dust about the place, it had been a few weeks if not months.

They exited the house with no new supplies, and when they emerged, they made sure that they were in Joe's line of sight as not to sneak up on him. For a man so soon out of a tragic situation, it was best to make their intentions and movements as evident as possible.

Quietly, Akuma moved to the shed themselves and found the fragments of an old shovel. They took the head into their hands and returned, moving in a wide, obvious circle to Fulbeck's side before silently kneeling and beginning to dig alongside him. If nothing else, burying the man was practical. It would keep animals out of the home and would provide them with a marked shelter in case they came through later.


Offline Jabbathejack

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Joe focused on digging, his spade cutting through the hard ground. It was tough work, but he felt obligated to get it done. He looked up as Lucy aproached, blinking in surprise as he realised that they had come out to join him. He nodded, acknowledging them, but he didn't say a word.

By the time the grave was half decent, he was sweating from the exertion. Setting down the spade, he headed back to the house. He found an old sheet in the bedroom and then he took a deep breath, heading back to the body. He threw the sheet over the body, wrapping him crudely.

Gingerly, he took the man's protruding foot, still encased in its blood stained boot and he pulled, hoping to get the body flat enough to roll over and properly wrap. The stench was horrible, flies buzzing around the body and beetles crawling all around him. Joe fought the urge to gag, but he knew he had to get this done.

Hiding his face in the crook of his arm, Joe forced himself to reach down the man's leg to take a hold. He turned him over onto his front, onto the sheet. As the body rolled, there was a sickening squelch and if the stench had been bad before, that was nothing to what it was now. Joe's insides heaved and he was powerless to stop it. What little remained in his stomach came rushing up, spilling out onto the floor.

His eyes watering, Joe straightened up and wiped his mouth with his sleeve. Still, he had a job to do and he was going to do it. He turned back to the body and bent down, taking the edge of the sheet to pull it over the back of the body. He dragged it back out of the house, leaving a foetid trail.