A Fractured World: A Post Apocalyptic Adventure (Gallen Book 1)

A Fractured World

Laurence Moore

Book 1 of the Gallen Chronicles

Copyright © 2015 Laurence Moore

 

1
st
Edition 2015

 

ISBN: 978-1512081039

 

All Rights Reserved

 

The use of any part of this publication without prior written consent of the publisher or author is an infringement of copyright law

 

Also by Laurence Moore

 

(Gallen Chronicles)

 

A Fractured World

Escape From Tamnica

 

 

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http://www.amazon.co.uk/Laurence-Moore/e/B00XVRRJZS/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

 

Join in the conversation on Goodreads at

 

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/522384.Laurence_Moore

 

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Cover design by James, at Go On Write

 

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Dedicated to:

Angie and Alex

We all need heroes

Thank you for always being mine

One

Adam watched her in the rubble strewn street below, his gloved hands tightly gripping the worn binoculars trained on her.

“Is she one of them?”

Hugo was asking the question. He was fidgeting, shuffling from one foot to the other. He blinked up at the blue sky, ripped with streaks of crimson, the hot wind whipping around them on the sloping rooftop, tossing dirt and grit in every direction. The only sound was the relentless wind and Hugo hated it. He wanted this finished so he could return home. He was tired, hungry, and irritated with a hunt that had stretched into so many weeks that he had now lost count. The payoff would be good, incredible, in truth, but this was torturous. He missed his bed, his
life partner
and his children. There had been four of them at the beginning. Now there was only three. He wondered, briefly, what had happened to Bramble.

Six feet tall, he was the largest of the three men and bristled with an array of weapons; a curved wooden club across his back, a selection of blades hanging from the belt around his narrow waist, a rifle swung over his shoulder. His clothing was scruffy and worn, thick with layers of dirt. He wore a helmet, scratched and scarred, and a pair of rubber goggles pushed down over his eyes.

“Adam?”

Hugo scratched his unshaven jaw, waiting for a response.

“Adam. Are we sure?”

They had spotted her at dawn, the sun rising across a landscape blistered and forgotten. For several hours they had tracked her through the city, a place of no name, a dead city, abandoned to the scavengers and bandits. She had picked her way through the remains of a world no one remembered, or cared to, buried beneath a thousand years of dust. She had moved silently from building to building but there was nothing to be found. This city had been looted centuries before. No food, no weapons, no supplies, these places had mattered once but not now; memories had faded, they were husks, choked with debris and bones.

“I think so,” said Adam, his voice coarse from the dry heat.

A slender frame, little more than five feet in height, she skipped lightly across the fallen rubble. A brightly coloured scarf covered her face, goggles concealed her eyes, and a hood was drawn over her hair.

“What’s she looking for?” asked Rafa. “Nothing left.”

His voice was little more than a menacing growl, even when he was devoid of aggression. The youngest of the three, he struggled with words, often suffering from a blaze of redness as he painfully formed sentences. Out here, he felt less judged, free to speak and ask questions but as he waited for an answer no one volunteered any reply.

The wind sent another shower of grit through the air, causing Hugo and Rafa to duck. Adam remained unmoved, his gaze never faltering. He saw the wind flick at her hood and glimpsed dirty copper coloured hair. She stopped to straighten it, then adjusted her face scarf and lifted her goggles to wipe her left eye. In that briefest of moments Adam gasped as he witnessed the scars that criss-crossed her skin, saw a black patch covering her right eye, and then her head turned and lowered and Adam smiled thinly.

“She’s what we’ve been searching for,” he said.

She was a Pure One. There could be no mistake. The disfigured skin. The one eye. Female.

She was the rarest of rare things.
A miracle for the land of Gallen.

“Then let’s go,” said Hugo. “Come on, Adam, we need to get down there before anyone else spots her.”

“No one around,” muttered Rafa. “Us and bones.”

He had a choking laugh; it was as if he needed to clear his throat.

“Shut up,” snapped Hugo. “Adam?”

“Wait,” he said, lowering the binoculars, slipping them into his pocket.

“What are we waiting for?” said Hugo. “The most valuable thing on Gallen is walking around down there.”

He drew his rifle, and shook his head with frustration.

“She’s young,” said Adam, drawing a curved sword from his belt. “And I reckon she’s fast.”

“Fast,” snorted Rafa.

“I bet she can outrun all three of us,” continued Adam. “And what will you do then, Hugo? Shoot her?”

Hugo raised his goggles and confusion filled his dull coloured eyes. His fingers clenched hard against the rifle.

“Who’s she going to heal dead?” asked Adam. “Herself?”

Hugo nodded, slowly at first. Then his cracked lips spread into a broad grin, baring yellow and brown teeth. He switched his rifle to one hand and clapped Adam on the back with the other.

“That was why we scouted ahead this morning,” he said, nodding. “We keep tracking her. You know what you’re doing. This will be over soon.”

Adam nodded and led the two men across the pitted roof and back into the building. They jogged along gloomy corridors, where shafts of sunlight punched through gaping holes in the brickwork. Climbed down stairwells with twisted metal rungs and dropped into a large open room scattered with broken furniture, buried beneath years of dirt. The air was foul and they coughed repeatedly until they emerged through an open loading bay into a narrow street. The road surface beneath their boots was a sea of dust coated bricks studded with twisted metal poles.

The three men moved carefully through the debris, continuing to track her.

She stopped abruptly, her skin crawling.

Slowly, left hand clutching the front of her hood, right hand reaching for the gun in her pocket, she turned quickly and looked behind her, sweeping the gun in a wide arc. There was no one around. The street was deserted. All the streets had been deserted. Her pale green eye, hiding behind the goggles, flicked from left to right. From building to road to building. Still no one. She scanned the upper stories, gaping holes in the walls with metal poles jutting out, twisted and jagged, but still she saw no one.

Last night, she had stumbled across a scavenger, curled asleep, slow witted and easy to steal from. He had been alone and that had troubled her because scavengers moved in large packs, nomadic communities, strength in numbers, far easier to overpower and kill drifters. She had believed it a trap, at first, to lure her in, but she had been born in the wasteland and spent the last eight months alone and was not that easily tricked. The scavenger had been alone, there was no trap, and she had stripped his pockets and a battered satchel whilst he snored and twitched and drooled. The haul had been a meagre one and already she had consumed the wrapped food the man had stolen himself from unwary travellers. An uneasy sickness filled her stomach. She was lost, hopelessly lost in this city, miles from anywhere, miles from anyone. She stared down the street for several more seconds, her single good eye narrowed; she was convinced she was being tracked.

With no alternative, she turned away, almost shrugging, throwing little more than a final glance at the buildings with giant holes blown through them, and then she gasped at what she saw – three of them, moving like whispers in the night, parallel with her, now gone from view - but they were there and they had been there all along and she knew she had been right from the minute she had broken camp this morning.

She
was
being tracked.

“She’s seen us,” shouted Adam.

The three men ran towards an alleyway, the rusted brown hulk of an ancient car slewed across its mouth. They vaulted across it and sprinted after her as she raced along the street, arms and legs pumping furiously, bearing to the right, then cutting back left as she found nothing but collapsed buildings and mountains of rubble. The sun beat down and the wind howled banshee like, tossing back her hood, revealing the grubby hair tied with frayed lengths of string. She reached another blocked street, angrily shook her head, and was forced to double back.

The hunters were much closer now, her wrong turns had cost her precious seconds. They yelled out for her to
stop
and
don’t run away
and
we’re not going to hurt you
but she was a
Pure One
and she knew the power they sought so she kept running. She had been cursed since birth and told the stories of what her value was in the world of Gallen. Chett had outlawed hunting Pure Ones, they had told her. Chett had vowed that the capture and use of Pure Ones was punishable by death, they had told her - but the walls of Gallen’s first and only city were a long way from here and their laws were meaningless in the wasteland.

She grabbed a large chunk of debris and hurled it at the nearest hunter, a hulking monster of a man, several years older than her. It struck him in the chest and he stumbled backwards, losing his footing, the broken ground beneath him causing him to fall more than the blow she had inflicted. He began to clamber to his feet as a second man drew close, wildly swinging at her with a rifle. She ducked, rolled, and shot out her boot, catching him hard below the knee, causing him to cry out in pain. The first one was on his feet once again, lunging at her, a weighted net in his huge fists, hurling it suddenly through the air. A third was coming up behind them, shouting orders at them both, a long curved sword in his grasp, a furious look across his face.

She ducked the net and it sailed harmlessly onto the ground. Panting, sweating, she fled into the darkness of the nearest building.

She sucked thick dust and the stench of rotting bodies into her lungs and spluttered. Her foot twisted and she lost balance, righting herself quickly and cursing as the men spilled into the building. She afforded a fleeting glance at them and then sprinted across the rubble. She sprang over a wall and scrambled up a slope of bricks, gritting her teeth as she ripped the skin on her left palm. She kept climbing, legs aching, head pounding. It was becoming darker as she moved higher and higher, almost impossible to see. She was wheezing as she collided into a ceiling. Frantically, she searched for a way through and breathed a deep sigh of relief as she clasped her hands onto the rough edge of an opening. She tried to lift herself up but her energy was draining rapidly. Months of limited food and poor sleep were taking their toll. She could hear them behind her, closer than ever, debris sliding everywhere as they climbed towards her.

“Stop running,” panted Adam. “We won’t hurt you. We promise.”

Grunting loudly, fear pushed her up through the ceiling, into a smaller area with barely any light.

Her left hand was a bloody mess. Hurriedly, she unwound her face scarf and tied it around the shredded skin. She looked around, her nose twitching at the faint smell of a recent fire.

“We know what you are,” called Adam. “We won’t hurt you.”

Rafa was the first to emerge through the hole, the net slung across his broad shoulders.

“Gone,” he said.

Hugo followed, looking around and complaining. Finally, Adam found himself in the confined space, the light poor, the air thick. She was nowhere. He pushed past his companions, sword held out, sweeping it left to right, heading near blind into the gloom. Dust floated in the grainy pockets of daylight that slanted through the cracked roof. Outside, the wind howled and the building rattled and groaned. Deeper and deeper they went, passing several blocked corridors. The room began to curve to the left. There were heavily rusted metal boxes and broken tables and chairs. Had she found a way back past them? Had she not gone through the hole?

And then a shallow cough echoed from the darkness.

Excitedly, Adam quickened his pace. Hugo and Rafa fanned out either side of him. There was no escape for her.

Floor space and walls took shape as the light improved. She was hiding in the shadows, amongst fallen bricks, shattered tiles and splintered beams. Her back was pinned to the wall, a pistol in her right hand, a blood soaked scarf wrapped around her left. Her grubby hair was loose and tumbled onto her shoulders. Her pale skin was heavily scarred. Her goggles hung around her neck. Rafa and Hugo grimaced at the sight of her.

“You’re too valuable to hurt,” said Adam.

She aimed the pistol at him. It looked old and flat, with an odd shaped handle and slim barrel.

“You don’t need that,” he said.

He stepped closer to her, easing his sword back into his belt, offering his empty hands to her.

“I’m sure it’s empty. Not many have guns. Even fewer have bullets.”

Her hand was shaking. He stared into the black muzzle, the metal heavily scratched. Hugo held his rifle waist high, finger against the trigger. Rafa began to swirl the net gently in his fists. Adam moved fast, much faster than she had expected, suddenly yanking the gun from her grip. He ejected the magazine and saw it was empty. He dropped them both to the floor with a hollow clatter. It was all over for her. It was all over for them all.

“I promise we won’t hurt you,” said Adam. “But you have to come with us. We have to take you…”

She flinched and let out a deep gasp. She had sensed it, first, and now it was tangible, there in the corner of her eye, something hunkered down in the dark. Adam glanced back at Hugo and Rafa, suspecting they were gesturing or making silent threats behind his back, but both men had fixed their gaze in the same direction as the girl. Adam felt the hair on his skin tickle and his hand moved towards the hilt of his sword.

In the dark corner of the room, amongst the rubbish and debris, a long haired, bearded man was staring back at them.

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