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We Fled. We Prospered.

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The evening wind nipped quietly at the cluster of women near the campfire. It raged in a large pit near the lake's edge, in a square well removed from the lean-to houses. The sun was low enough to leave the sky pink, and the lake dark.


Quiet nights affected all of them differently; they brought out the age in otherwise young ladies. There was Gina, hip to hip with a stout young brunette one year her junior, their inner arms around each other while their outers held sticks roasting marshmallow cubes over the fire. There was Gina's mother, Rebecca, just barely fifty but with a grey streak running through her golden locks, whose teeth chattered at the sound of a crackling fire. Gina wouldn't remember the way her grandmother burned, the way her mother's home turned to ash with Rebecca nearly still inside. The deep voices that bellowed laughter as the whole neighborhood became soot in the span of a few early-morning hours.


Gina was too carefree; after all, she'd hardly even been considered at the time. Rebecca was a pre-med, hardly time for boys-- children, ever, seemed almost out of the question. That's what a nineteen year old college student without loans would think; the world was her oyster. The survival of no one depended on her. Certainly not the female of the species, and the way of life these women knew once: with personal dignity, equal power, and love.


Gina was all that her mother could have dreamed of in a daughter, but that made this Medic's family one of the most naive gathered at the fire.


"It's wild raspberry season, you know." Gina smiled, rotating her soft mallow cube so that another face could crisp to golden brown. "The woods are thick with them, and they're safe to eat. I could go until my stomach's sick-- mmm~!" She clutched her non-existent gut and sighed playfully.


"If anyone's hungry, I'll escort tomorrow." Gina's smile faded from exuberant to peaceful. Tomorrow, many would be out combing the woods regardless of the berries. By the guide of the sentinels, the strong and the brave helped to find new women lost in the vast forest looking for refuge, or any nearby threats that ought to be neutralized. Women were rare finds nowadays, and it took a special kind of strength to help them back to civilization. Battered women, who'd known a sort of slavery for decades; be they old enough to be all but broken, or young and pathetically abused. Gina had tended to the wounds of a few in the past, but never for very long: her mother's request.


Rebecca frowned, but said nothing. Gina was getting older, and an able-bodied medic was the most valuable thing to have out there if any of the sentinels did find someone.


"I'll pack our biggest basket." The girl at Gina's hip grinned wide. "Who knows how many berries we could find!?"

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Marcella crouched behind the thick brambles and raised her nose to the air, sniffing quietly to take in the smells of the forest. But the forest wasn't the most poignant aroma in the air that night, a fire burned close by with the unmistakable stench of roasted marshmallow. For Marcella, such a smell was a sign that the village had become too careless in recent months, the extended peace goading them to mistakes. A small part of her mind told Marcella that it was simply women trying to forget about their current predicament and live as normal a life as they could; but such thoughts were always locked away again.


a murmur of voices caught her attention and she tilted her head to catch them better, stepping off slowly in their direction. As she moved, she splayed the toes on her bare feet to lessen the risk of making noise while moving; like a predator stalking its prey. Normally she would have allowed the beads that hung from the right side of her hair to rattle free, she found the noise pleasant, but she had tied them together at the moment to allow silent movement on her part. Soon enough, Marcella came to a break in the foliage and dropped to a low crouch, bending her neck around the corner to take in the sight of the fire and those sitting around it.


There were three of them altogether, and although Marcella usually stayed out of the affairs of the village, even she recognised Rebecca and her daughter. Women with medical skills were extremely valuable and the two of them held plenty of skills between them. Marcella shuffled back behind the bush completely and settled down onto her behind, one knee raised and pulled towards her chest to rest her chin on it, and the other lying on the ground below it. They were enjoying their moment and, despite her personal feelings, Marcella would ensure they were not disturbed; not by any of the creatures that may be hiding in the dying light of the sky.


With the ground fairly soft beneath her, Marcella closed her eyes and focused her senses of smell and hearing; they would be her friends this watch. 

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"One, two, three..." Christie began under her breathe, her counting slowly getting quieter until it could only be heard within her mind. She was counting their remaining stock of ammunition. The ammunition the community had was solely what they could scavenge and steal, it was an invaluable resource. Christie, Commander of the colonies Militia and general defense, hoarded the stuff. Safe guarding it for the inevitable day when they would need it to properly defend themselves. The women she commanded were highly skilled with spears, swords, and other more reusable weapons. But if the men were to find them, such weapons would be no match for their guns. So she hoarded away the bullets, counting the boxes each night, in anticipation of such an attack.


She stopped, hands lingering on the last box of her collection. The sound of gun shots rang through her mind and she quickly closed her eyes, willing the memory away. Not tonight, she did not need to remember tonight. Turning away from the ammunition, she went over to the small mirror she had hanging on the other side of her room. She ran her fingers through her long dark hair and pulled it into a neat pony tail. Composing herself, she exited her building and walked down the road towards the forest. People in this colony knew who she was; she had been a part of the community since her youth. And they all knew not to approach her when she looked like this, fierce, determined... vulnerable.


The forest approached quickly, and she entered it without a second thought. She needed to clear her head. Tomorrow was another day of training some new recruits. She needed to be calm and steady so as to teach them the proper way to fight and defend themselves. Christie also needed to have a meeting with the colony sentries, to see how close the men seen scouting the area recently had gotten to the colony. To know if she needed to prepare her troops to fight. It wasn't until she had been making her way through the forest for 30 minutes that she noticed she had been running. The woman slowed to a stop and sighed, she was too worked up to possibly sleep tonight. She sat down, leaning her body against a tree trunk, and stared up at the sky. 

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Henry Wilks straightened his already immaculate suit and navy blue tie, admiring the mirror in front of him. With dashing blue eyes, careless yet meticulous hair and a disarming smile, Henry was the epitome of a brilliant politician. He had risen to the top, not shoving aside only one opponent on the way, and did not regret a moment. Power was his, the admiration was his and no one could force it from his hands. Sure, there was a president, but everyone looked to Henry for guidance in this country... Or the closest thing to a country these days.


Since the war began in the States 30 years ago, anarchy had spread across the world, the last standing country being Great Britan. When Henry first arrived in the States the amount of chaos was astonishing to him. Political leaders had risen up, but they were incompetent, emotionally-driven primates. No, until Henry had arrived, organization and order was absolutely impossible. It's what allowed the females to keep their camps and even fight against the men. Now, it was a bit different, but there was still much work to do. Now, diplomacy was a requirement if any semblance of peace could be found in major cities. The females, now adept guerrilla warriors, would scavenge whole cities until nothing was left. Order had returned, innovation was beginning, and something of an organized military was being formed. There was something of a government now, national television and electricity was back, even running water had returned.However, because of the lack of order, the females had gained more strength than they should have logically gained.


And it was all because of Henry.


Henry's own city, what was left of Washington DC, was constantly under construction. Buildings were beginning to rise up as men worked to rebuild the world they had lost. 5 years prior, it had been a collection of tents and shacks, now some government buildings had been restored becoming hotels, refugee homes and brothels. The brothels always amused Henry as men hated the one thing they couldn't stay away from. It was imbecilic.


Henry walked over to the broad bay window on the east side of the room, watching the sun's ascent into the sky. Pinks and purples still stroked in the blueness of late dawn. The shadows of ancient, white buildings stretched across the industrious city. My city. Henry thought, smirking to himself.


A soft knock at the door interrupted his reverie, "Secretary Wilks?"


"Enter." He said cooly, leaning against the wall.


"Sir, the meeting is beginning soon. Also, I brought the files you requested."


Henry pushed off the wall, walking with masked eagerness toward the manila folder the other man held. Jeremy was a good lad, 18, ginger haired, simple and morally grey; he was perfect for Henry's assistant.


Without a word he gently took the envelope and gave Jeremy a smile, "Thank you, Jeremy, I appreciate it. If you would tell the President that I will be only a minute, please."


Jeremy blushed, "O-of course, sir."


Quickly the young man rushed off. The fact that Jeremy had feelings for Henry certainly helped him convince him to do some of the more... shady parts of business.


Henry shut the door, swinging around to his massive desk chair across his modern, clean cut desk. He didn't have much time to look into these, mere minutes before he needed to meet the President. Yet, he couldn't bring himself to open it. It wasn't thick, as thin as his little finger, yet the name stopped him from moving an inch, Lucy Milburn.


It had taken forever and a day to locate these files, red tape tying them to only officials with unlimited access to sensitive documents. Not to mention they weren't digital making them nearly impossible to track down and requiring a trip to Bristol.Yet, finally, he had done it...And now he couldn't even bring himself to open it.


With a frustrated grunt, Henry pushed himself away from the desk, crossing the room in several quick strides and shutting the door firmly behind him; his time was up. It was time to meet with the President.




President Moore was as daft as men come, in Henry's opinion. Vast, boisterous and rude Moore was the epitome of the American "good ol boy". Best of all, Moore despised women with a furious passion which, naturally, won him votes among the men of this country.


"Henry!" The man boomed, earning a well rehearsed smile from Henry, "How 'er you doin'?"


"Very well, sir, thank you. Yourself?"


Moore nodded emphatically, "Swell, swell! What business do we have for this morning, sport?"


Henry pulled his iPad out of the inner pocket on his coat, bringing up the notes he wanted to bring up in this meeting. Naturally, the President was completely unprepared.


"Nothing too severe, sir. Some of the militia made contact with a female colony yesterday 30 kilometers outside of DC. They could be easily crushed-"


"Excellent! Let's crush them, eh, sport?" Moore smiled widely.


Henry chuckled good-naturedly, "Well that would be ideal, of course, sir... However, I propose a different course of action while, not ideal in satisfying our ravenous blood-lust, will improve the pressure on smaller settlements."


Moore frowned, but stayed silent.


"Of course, sir, this would entirely be your decision as you are the President. I merely suggest that we initiate a... business relationship, of sorts, with these females. They know our strength, they know where they stand. They cannot win and, should they resist, we can crush them immediately. I propose, sir, that we use them, instead, to our advantage. Persuade them to provide us with goods and we provide them with protection."


"Why can't we just crush them?"


You truly are a complete idiot, Moore. Henry stood and began pacing quietly about the room, "To the females, sir, it will seem as a diplomatic relationship... A consensual relationship in which we show sympathy to their plight which will quench the flames for a bit or, if we are very lucky, fuel them further."


Moore rolled his eyes childishly, "Why on earth would I want that?!"


Henry smirked, grabbing the back of his chair and leaning toward Moore, "Because, sir, they will not fuel their fire against us, but instead each other. Most female colonies will be infuriated by this new colony being affiliated with us and it may encourage them to react rather violently..."


Moore grinned wildly, a crazed light coming to his eyes revealing a violent past, "You are very wicked for a young man."


Henry laughed, "No, sir, I am just very good at what I do."


Moore held out a hand, "Do it, Henry, and crush those whores from the inside out."


Henry gripped it tightly, "Gladly, sir."

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The morning mating cries were still chirping through the lofty leaves when Gina hit the bushes. Her berry-picker's satchel was loaded with a lot of things no berry-picker would need: thick gauze, antiseptic ointment, a needle and thread. She had a basket on her arm as her only accompaniment; the sentries were about as thick as they could cover (which wasn't very) but Gina herself was alone.


All the better, she supposed. Her sweetheart had been too timid to wander far from camp, which was fine. She puffed up her chest, inflated with assuredness that she was going to be a gold-star sentry today and rescue like, five refugees and, like, even save some wounded squirrel from an early death, or something.


Gina had honestly never felt so frightened.


Lying still in the light brambles, a scratched and scarred-up person took shallow breaths. Their hair was kept fluffy around their ears, scattered in front of their face, and matted here and there with some sweat. It looked like they'd dropped from exhaustion some time during the night, given the inconvenient bush mattress. Her lingering to assess the damage yielded a soft peep from a velvet tenor of a voice.


"I can't believe I really found you." The battered boy was staring up at her. Battered boy. Boy.


"AAAH!" Gina screamed before covering her mouth desperately. A male in the woods, so close to their home? Was he a spy? Why would he be so lightly dressed, so unprepared as to collapse in the forest? Her mind was a deluge of questions from her own safety to her medical curiosity. Was he here to kill her? Was he some sort of intersex pariah from the outside world? Would he let her see... it? For... medical reasons.


The birds around had scattered when she'd shouted, and the doe-eyed look on the boy she'd found said he wasn't expecting that sort of response either. He wasn't doing much about it-- actually, the longer she examined him, the more she knew he was either woozy from something bad, or really, really tired. It would be hard to diagnose if she only kept staring him down.


"You... you're going to have to tell me what you mean about that, but um... are you hurt?" She knelt down. The sentries had probably heard her, meaning she wasn't going to be alone with this boy for too long. Business first.


"Particularly. I've been limping on a sprain since yesterday morning, which gave out on me about here..." Ah, so the scratches were all from this bush, where he'd apparently given up on going any further. Well, everyone had to quit somewhere, she supposed. She scooted down to the boy's shoes (so much sturdier than anything still left around the colony... she was jealous) and gingerly removed his footwear to get a look at the swelling.


"And you were just... lost in the woods looking for me?" Gina twisted his foot a hair less than kindly and watched him to get a good grasp of the pain he was in. Also, torture begot honesty.


"Hnn... well any females, really, but I'm glad you're pretty?" He grinned, and Gina corrected his foot to the right position a bit too fast. "Ugh! I mean, feminist men just... aren't really popular anymore, you know?" He shifted to try to sit up, and Gina wrapped up his foot just to give it some compression. She helped him get his boot back on. He continued.


"I told my father I wanted a woman as free-spirited as I am." He was definitely past puberty, Gina could tell as much from his voice and adam's apple. He was maybe even a year or two older than her, but they had to be around the same height. She honestly wasn't familiar enough with males to know...


"And he told me if I wanted to be slave to-- listen, I won't repeat the pejorative-- slave to women, I could just go ahead and find a wild one, and I didn't have to worry about his opinion, because I wasn't any son of his any more."


Gina stared at him a long second. He'd started to smooth his hair back from his damp forehead, though his eye contact hadn't faltered. Warm, amber brown eyes, no less... Gina looked away before he did.


"Hey, I'm going to help you stand up... and I think we're going to need to hustle. There aren't any women in these woods that'll fall for a sob story besides me, so... just, let me get you back to somewhere I can patch you up better."


"You're amazing... but what's the rush?"


"...You really don't get how much females dislike your kind, do you?"


A silent gape was tacit understanding; they hurried.

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With a deeper intake of breath then she would have taken if still asleep, Marcella awoke from her doze and focused on her surroundings while keeping her eyes closed. Morning light pressed against her eyelids as she heard the chirping of birds, the feint sound of the breeders floating in the background. Marcella pulled herself to her feet slowly, glancing back to where the others had been buy the fire the night before, and checked her knife was still fastened to the back of her belt; it was. Untying the strip of fabric that was holding her beads together, she swung them lightly and calmed herself to the sound of their clicking.


A couple seconds later and she was off; her morning sentries should have taken over the watch by now and she had to make sure they were doing it correctly and were in the correct positions. Marcella knew they needed more volunteers, but her last venture into the settlement had come up with nothing. So instead, she decided to focus on training the current ones to be at least a little bit good at spotting things in the thick brush and scattered trees.


Within a minute or so, the first sentry came into view and Marcella sped up as the sentry looked at here. Without saying anything, she passed by, the sentry raising a hand in greeting, and proceeded onto the next one. She passed two more with no problems, but when she reached the place where the next one should have been; she was not there. Immediately, Marcella dropped to a crouch and slid to a stop, her ears open to any sounds not of nature. Sure enough, the sound of breathing filled her ears and Marcella crept towards it slowly. She found the sentry propped against a tree, her breathing slow and steady, with her eyes closed.


From where she was standing, Marcella did a visual check to make sure there were no obvious wounds and when she found none, she reached behind her back to rest a hand on her knife and tapped the sentry on the shoulder. The sentry jumped awake and started to scrabble to her feet. Marcella stepped forward and rammed the forearm of her left arm against the sentry’s breasts, pinning her to the tree, and laid her knife against her throat.


“I presume you want to die, then?†Marcella growled, her voice low and threatening. The sentry opened her mouth to reply but Marcella pressed the blade closer and a thin sliver of blood appeared. “If I had been a man, you would be. Then everyone in the settlement would be. If you haven’t got a death wish, I can only presume you are a traitor; so which is it?†Marcella loosened her knife and the sentry spluttered into excuses.


“Neither, Marcella, neither! I was up all night with some of the others, since we haven’t been attacked in ages I thought I could catch a quick nap to rejuvenate!†She started shaking again as Marcella’s knife closed in again, a clear indication for her to stop speaking.


“Since I am currently low on sentries at the moment, I won’t cut your throat. But if I find you sleeping on duty again, I will throw you into the wild and then hunt you down myself. Are we at an understanding?†Before the sentry could reply, a woman’s scream echoed around the area.


Marcella spun around and looked at the top of the trees in the general direction the scream had come from. As she had thought, the loud noise and scared the birds and they were taking flight, telling Marcella exactly where she needed to be. “Stay.†She said to the sentry as she dashed off in the established direction. It took about 2 minutes before a woman and another figure came into view; seeing as they were clearly talking and there was no apparent danger, Marcella decided to see what was happening before acting. A large tree stood between her and her target so she sprinted towards it with no hesitation.


As she moved, the fabric strip came out again and she fastened her beads into silence, and when she was a foot away from the tree she leapt upwards into its clutches. Then, like some sort monkey, she used her strong arms and legs to pull her light body into the branches above her. The tree was fairly luscious and she estimated it would conceal her adequately to allow her to watch. Sure enough, this was the case as she settled in the canopy and glanced down to see a woman and another person together.


Marcella recognized the woman as Gina, the local medic’s apprentice, but it was the second figure that caused a cold anger to rise in her chest. It was clearly a male, judging by his state of dress and obvious lack of breasts; his voice was just another mark against him as Marcella gazed down at him. Her initial thought was to drop down and slit his throat where he stood, but then she thought about how he wasn’t currently murdering Gina so decided that she would wait and watch. If Gina was a traitor to the settlement, Marcella would take her to the settlement to be judged; maybe with a couple of broken legs to prevent her from escaping.

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