Welcome all to another fine chapter of [Hell Gates]. Hope you all had a fine time with whatever you were previously doing! I do have some extra time in my hands, so I decided to try and pump out another chapter, hope this one also attracts more visualization for the story. Original work takes a bit more time/inspiration to come out, but I'm thankful for those who are following along.
Critics and suggestions are always welcomed too.
However, for now the time for talk has pass; the Lord's work must be done, and as such I must write! See you, RyujinMaou out!
Chapter 03: [Finding Work]
The next morning lazily came to him.
The weariness and tiredness that had previously gnawed on his bones was gone, so Noah quickly stood from his rickety bed. The room had one window that was covered with cardboard, so it blocked most of the early morning sunlight. It still let some slip by the gaps, which had been enough to wake him up.
He immediately glanced to his right, finding the desk and his backpack untouched. It seems that for now I won't have to worry about security, he mused to himself as he sat on the edge of the bed, running his hands over his eyes to clean up the crust built up during his sleep.
Sleeping in a foreign bed meant that his rest hadn't been optimal, but between sleeping under the open sky and risk getting robbed or shanked, Noah was rather thankful for having four walls and a roof between him and the elements.
He had to start his work and being lazy would get him nowhere near ready, so he quickly left his bed to stretch his body for a few moments. It took a short while for him to fix the messy bed and run the usual check over his gear, making sure everything was in place and functional. The check revealed that his things were in place, so the young adult took a deep breath to fill his lungs with air, the somewhat musty scent of the place reminding him of the loss of his safe house.
It irked him, but Noah managed to push his annoyance down. Shouldering his pack, he unlocked the door and made his way out of the corridor and into the "reception". The bouncer by the stairs-barricade barely acknowledged him, and Noah did the same, heading straight to the counter.
The woman from yesterday was there, busy eating what he supposed would pass for breakfast. She was holding a canteen cup that lightly released steam, the warm liquid inside a mystery to him. She also was breaking a piece of a hard-looking biscuit to eat, her eyes wandering until she found him.
"Had a nice sleep, Drifter?" Her voice held light sarcasm, the woman most likely aware of what would be his answer. "All meals are your business," She popped the piece of the biscuit in her mouth. "Though I wouldn't mind offering more…"
Noah rolled his eyes at the woman. He could fix his own food so there wasn't need to pay any extra.
"I'm fine." He muttered his answer back, easing one of the straps of his backpack off to allow him access to its contents. Pulling out one of the nutrient blocks he acquired from those newbie traders back a few days ago, the man placed it atop the counter.
Unwrapping the tin foil around it, he found it to be appetizing enough. It was properly baked and carried a nutty scent, its appearance much better than the hardtack-looking meal the inn owner had.
Breaking a piece to eat, Noah glanced from the corner of his eye the woman go from smug to annoyed, then coy-looking as she no doubt wanted some.
"So," He began a conversation, eating as slowly as possible, so as to give her some light payback for her previous sassy act. "Anything new?" He prodded.
The woman looked at him with an annoyed scowl. "Kid, it's – like – barely been a damn day since you came here. If you're so desperate for a job, why don't you go out hunting or scavenging? Maybe you will find something of worth out there." She grumbled, turning away to avoid staring too much at the fragrant nutrient block.
Nothing, huh…He let the thought swim in the back of his mind, the teen packing off his food, seeing the woman become defeated.
"Come on, can't you be kind to a woman in need for once?" She whined, drool accumulating at the corner of her mouth.
He scoffed. "You think I'm running a charity or something?"
His remark made the bouncer narrow his eyes, but so far nothing he said could be taken as anything more than light barbs.
The woman dropped her head atop the counter. "You try eating this cement mix." She complained and whined, dropping the mishappen food atop a plate and shoving it towards Noah.
He raised a brow at her. "Food getting hard to acquire in the zone?" If foodstuff or basic supplies were this scarce then he might need to relocate immediately.
She groaned. "I told you, remember? Some big-shot bandit leader named Bishop has been raiding settlements around here, so it makes getting good food hard. Only the Marshal, his soldiers and big people get access to food made in the city's indoor farms, so unless the soldiers are feeling very generous, we ain't getting a scrap of the good stuff." Her complains ended up once she buried her head between her arms, laying defeated on her side of the counter.
Noah hummed, taking in the information. Most likely this Bishop had been the one to attack his hideout. If he was being a bother to the safe zone, then the Marshal of the zone would sooner or later put a bounty on the bandit's head. Threatening a safe zone's food supply was rather serious, especially a large zone such as Tallahassee.
He mentally noted the information. "Thanks," He spoke as he headed out. "You keep me informed, and I might share something with you next time." Noah left those parting words as he left the Black Cat inn.
The sun had barely shown up, but there were already a few people out and about. The hustle and bustle of a "city" could never be truly shut down without the full extermination of humanity, so even after the apocalypse brought out the infected and the supernatural, people still made their lives work.
Noah tightened his backpack's straps and headed towards the garrison of the safe zone, the same place that gave him access yesterday. He needed free movement between the wastes and the zone, and paying a toll every time would be both unreasonable and expensive, so no matter what he had to come with some sort of agreement between him and the guarding soldiers.
His feet were quick to guide him to the entrance, the young adult noticing that the larger exit gate had been opened, the traffic of people exiting the city being a small thing. A few individuals outside the gate tried to enter, though they were barred and stopped by the armed men standing watch there. A few others patrolled inside the gate perimeter.
He reached the garrison, observing the guards standing around and looking over the people.
I don't think they will find any contraband or anyone suspicious like that, but it's not like they can stop every single person, Noah mused in his mind. He approached one of the less busy-looking guards, the man scoffing and clicking his teeth.
"Tch, whatcha want?" Due to the helmet covering the man's head, the young adult had little to identify him.
"Nothing much, just some info." Noah leveled his voice. It wouldn't do to antagonize himself to the authorities of the place, specially since he had just arrived. He didn't exactly have a name to coast on, so for now he had to remain in line.
The man sighed in frustration, his gloved hands dancing close to the edge of a truncheon. "You fucken drifters…I fucken look like some tourist info booth?" He hacked at Noah in an angry voice, though the rotund belly gut he sported lessened the threat by several levels.
Fucking ey, momma's chancla was more threatening than some puto cerdo (fucking pig). He let the annoyed thought remain at the back of his mind, his face and voice devoid of any emotions. "No, sir." His reply was curt.
The man seemed a bit surprised at his attitude. "Playing tough guy, huh? Well, spit it out already Drifter. Whatcha want?" The guard still let a hand dancing atop the truncheon fastened to his waist by a belt, though it now seemed more out of habit than any true intent of clobbering the Latino.
"I plan to stick around, work a few jobs, but the gate toll? Ain't a fan of that." Noah's explanation remained respectful, though short and avoiding giving too many details away.
"You don't strike me as the usual vagrant type…huh, how about that…" The guard gave him a once-over, checking his gear and apparel. "What's your name, boy?" He asked, grasping the radio slung over his shoulder.
"Right…" The guard grumbled, whispering a few words to his radio. After the device crackled to life again after a few moments, the man nodded. "Your mug ain't pretty, but at least you are not blacklisted. No gate toll for a month for you, you paid enough for it."
Noah raised a brow, but didn't question it. Batteries certainly seemed to be on high demand if merely a couple of them had managed to buy him an entire month in here. Which also meant that the inn owner had ripped him off a bit. An oversight to correct once he was back.
The man fake-coughed, getting the drifter's attention. "Between you and me, it is better to remain in the clear with us. We get orders direct from the Marshall, so anything good comes our way we will be the first ones to know." The guard stated, Noah trying to figure out his angle. Was the man trying to get some advantage?
Noah hummed. "If I see anything good out there, I'll be sure to separate something for you guys. After all, what would become of the city without its guards."
The guard seemed pleased enough. "You better believe it."
The man instructed Noah on a few more matters; he needed to reach the garrisons before the sun went down, else he was spending the night outside the safe zone. Obviously, there was a rule against contraband (drugs mostly). At no point was he to think that he could attract a horde their way and expect protection, though one or two infected following him would be dealt with. And lastly, if he was found to have any ties with raiders or bandits, he could expect a swift punishment.
The instructions relayed, Noah was allowed to cross the big exit gate, the armed guards on the other side barely sparring him any glance.
There were some survivors outside, desperate for a chance at being allowed entry, though without anything to give as a toll, it was very unlikely they would be allowed entry. The safe zone already had enough problems with vagrants in the best of times. Now with the attacks from Bishop, things were looking quite a bit tense.
Noah was quick to move and avoid anyone that tried looking his way for help. He pitied those without a safe shelter, but that was the extent of his courtesy. He was not Atlas, there was no way (or reason for that matter) for him to carry them on his back.
He felt a few gazes fixate on his back, but it wasn't anything that he wasn't used to. If they followed him, he could lose them easily enough. If they didn't get the hint after that, then Noah would merely be defending himself after all.