The morning was dark and gloomy, as usual. Ever since the nuclear war, the mornings had been dark and gloomy, especially where Raul slept, in the alley between Comics Plus and the offices.
Raul wasn’t your average king of guy. Raul was the kind of guy to take things seriously. Much too seriously. The people in Portland called him a hero, he wasn’t. He had been volunteered for this mission because the officials wanted to find out how tough it would be, and afterwards send the “proper” men to do the job. He also looked older than his age. He was 32. He looked 45. His blonde hair did not match his dark Latin complexion. He was a freak, the only one in his family with light hair. He was born in Eugene. During the war, he moved to Portland for safety, with friends, for the war brought many things, hunger, suffering, and those damn mutants. Unfortunately, his family did not make it through the war.
Raul suddenly jumped to his feet. He had heard a noise.
“That wasn’t no cat,” he muttered to himself.
Across the street, a mutant emerged from the shattered glass doors of the Bon. Raul had seen their kind before, plenty of times. They were defined by a peculiar odor, that of rotting flesh and Alpo brand dog food. When the mutant saw Raul, it came rushing towards him. As it leapt for his throat, Raul unconsciously dodged the attack. He had great speed and agility for a man of his size, and excellent reflexes. the mutant did not have the chance to attack again. Before you could count to three, Raul had taken his shotgun and disfigured the mutant into a mushy, blown apart pile of stinking remnants.
“Bloodthirsty freak,” he muttered under his breath.
There wasn’t much time to think nowadays, even less time to sleep. It had been nine days since he had gotten even a wink of shuteye. There were just too many things to worry about. It had been at least a month since he had been sent here from Portland to rescue those thirteen prisoners. Things were better in Portland. You didn’t have to worry about the mutants there. There were only a few places in the world like that. Eugene wasn’t one of them. Well, anyway, he was here, and he would have to make the best of it.
He was not looking forward to the day when he would finally have to meet Ajax. Ajax was just a teenager, thirteen or so. Nonetheless, he was just as deadly as any adult, if not more. But to top it all off, he lived in Valley River Center, the deadliest place in Eugene. His headquarters were at the second deadliest place, Valley River Dodge.
“Well,” Raul said rather wearily, “I guess it’s time to get a move on.”
Travelling wsa hard. There were no motorized vehicles to get around in. Even if there had been, the mutants were sure to find a way to stop them. They were all working for Ajax, and Ajax didn’t want any normals to get away. Even if some of them weren’t working for him, they wouldn’t help you. They would go right for your throat. Blood is all they want, blood and Alpo. The only reason they were helping Ajax was because he fed them.
Before Raul could think, he was ambushed from behind by two mutants. He hit his head hard on the cracked asphalt at the cross-section of 8th and Charnelton. One of the mutants grabbed Raul’s shotgun from underneath him and aimed it point blank at his face.
“Make one move and you’re shredded meat, sucker!” the mutant growled in a hoarse, very rough voice.
Raul decided to play it safe and go along with them.
Two seconds later, yellow blood sprayed his face as the head of one of the mutants was blown into thousands of tiny, bloody particles by the four foot barrel of a full choke, 10 gauge shotgun. The other one was next, before it could even do anything. Sometimes Raul actually felt a little sympathy for for the mutants. Just a little.
Acting on instinct, Raul rolled over, grabbed his shotgun, and turned to face another oppenent. She was a young girl, about eighteen or so. He didn’t have much time to look at her face however, for his instant reaction caused him to pull the trigger.
Raul salvaged what he could from the dead body. As he did so, a grenade rolled out of her hand. He saw the handle fly off, but did not make much of an attempt to move. As the grenade went off, he felt intense pain surge through his body.
When he awoke, his body was filled with incredible pain. the whole front side of him was a bloody mess. He had no vision in his left eye, and his entire left arm felt completely anesthetized.
“Damn! That’s my shooting arm!” he thought. Looking around, he noticed his surroundings. He was in a metal room. The room had no windows, but did have one door in the corner. He tried to walk to the door, but couldn’t make it. A searing pain shot up his right leg, and he collapsed in the middle of the room.
As he was lying there, the door opened and someone entered. Raul’s vision was blurry, but he was able to tell that it was a teenager.
Of course! He thought. This must be a storage room at Valley River Center. “Ajax,” he whispered, and passed out.
When he woke up, there was no pain. He was lying on a countertop, and in the middle of it was a sink. It was then that he became aware of someone else in the room. He had guessed who it was, even before he rolled over. He was right, it was Ajax.
“Welcome Raul.” Ajax had a slight tone of disgust in his voice when he spoke the name. “If you weren’t crippled, I’d kill you in a second.”
Ajax’s voice tone had changed from disgust, to that of an energetic child who was destroying G. I. Joe action figures.
“I never kill a crippled foe,” Ajax spoke rather dryly. He slowly walked around the room, then said, “I’m ratherdispleased with your actions, Raul. I expected more out of a HERO like yourself.” He emphasized the word hero. “you’re very lucky that the grenade was an old one, otherwise you’d have been dead, and my battle would have been over. But, there won’t be much of one anyhow, not with you in your present state. Maybe I’ll just feed you to a couple of lucky mutants. It’d be over real fast. If you’re wondering why you’re not feeling any pain, it’s because I gave you a couple of Tylenol about an hour ago.” Ajax waited a moment to let the words soak in. “If you’re thinking about rescuing the prisoners, don’t. Even if you managed to move, you’d never get them out. Just to show you, I’ll give you a diagnosis on your wounds. Your left eye is blown out of the socket, your left arm is dislodged in two places and completely paralyzed, eight of your ribs are pulvarixed, your right leg bone is shattered in twelve places, and most of the outer tissue of your body is ripped to shreds. Pretty messy.” Ajax looked pathetically at Raul, and abruptly left the room.
Raul examined his surroundings more closely. He decided that it must be the bathroom. Hopping around on his one good foot, he managed to get to the door and open it. He looked out of the door, and glanced up and down the hall.
“So, this is the one and only Valley River Center,” Raul muttered. There seemed to be nobody in the halls at the moment, so he decided to make a hop for it.
Noticing that all of the stores were open, he went intohe closest one, J. C. Penney’s. Finding the appliance section, he made himself a crude leg cast out of iron piping. It was not pretty , but it was sturdy.
There wasn’t much of a weapons section, but it would suit his purposes. He loaded up to capacity, and started back towards the exit.
He failed to notice the mutant that was in the hall. He was seen.
“Get him!” the mutant screamed in his hoarse voice.
“Damn! I’ve been spotted!” Raul cursed under his breath.
The only way tooescape was the roof. He ran up the stairs toward the storerooms. Upon getting inside, Raul turned and locked the doors. Piling the boxes on top of each other, he made a stack big enough tooreach the roof. Using the butt of his gun, he broke the skylight. As he climbed out, he heard the mutants breaking through the door below. They distracted him enough that he sliced his leg open on the shards of glass, leaving a few telltale drops of blood and a couple strings of sinewand muscle behind. Nonetheless, he was free, temporarily. Running for the top of the Meier and Frank building, he heard the mutants chasing after him. Suddenly a voice shouted, “Stop!” The mutants obeyed the command, Raul did not. After reaching the top of the Meier and Frank building, Raul spun around. Facing him, was Ajax. Behind him were about a hundred mutants.
“You led me in quite a goose chase, Raul,” Ajax said rather calmly. “But it looks like I win after all.”
“And maybe not.” Raul said as he raised his gun and fired. It was not his shooting arm, so it was not a good shot. But, it hit. Ajax’s arm was pierced, and blood flowed out freely.
“That was a pretty good shot Raul, but it didn’t kill me.” Ajax’s voice was quieter than usual. “Now die!” With that, he lifted the 12 gaugeto his shoulder and fired. The shot hit Raul right in the stomach. His mid-section exploded into a bloody mixture of muscle ond juice. The intestines became tangled about the post on top of the department store. The body fell, and slowly tumbled toward the edge of the building. Then it fell off the edge and bounced once on the intestines that were entangled above. The intestines ripped, spilling out yellow fluids, as the body fell and became a pile of red debris.
“Go on, eat him up boys,” said Ajax to the mutants.
Later, Ajax dressed his wounds and got something to eat. He watched Star Wars on the V.C.R. The next day he made a long distance phone call to Portland, collect. “Hey, you know that guy you sent down here that was supposed ot be some sort of hero? He’s wasted. Oh, and don’t bother to send any more, cause, uh, they’ll get wasted too.”
At the Portland downtown mall…
“Seargent, send top rank men. Send all of them if you have to, I want those prisoners!”