Scarred

Scarred

J.M. Snyder

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A young man in a dystopic future is constantly harassed and beaten by regulators, lawless men or outlaws who patrol the city on motorbikes. When a new regulator rides into town and takes an interest in the Dae and the surrounding territory, Dae is unwilling to believe that anyone who is a regulator can be a gentle, caring lover. Will Dae and Coby be strong enough when there's hell to pay in the form of McBane?

 
PUBLISHED BY: Aspen Mountain Press
ISBN: 9781601680303
PUBLICATION DATE: 2007
WORD COUNT: 45837
SEXUAL CONTENT RATING: 4 4 4 4
EBOOK READER RATING:
CATEGORIES: ManLove, Action/Adventure, Science Fiction
KEYWORDS: futuristic, dystopic, war, lawlessness, gay romance, erotica, horror
 

EBOOKS BY Aspen Mountain Press

EBOOKS BY J.M. Snyder

 
EXCERPT
COPYRIGHT J.M. Snyder/2007

The radio's low and the place is mostly cleared out this time of the evening when we hear the roar of regulators down the street. Delia looks at me, eyes wide with fright, and the knife she's using to chop the vegetables clatters to the wooden table. \\\\"Dae--\\\\"

\\\\"It's okay.\\\\" I'm the big brother; that's what I'm supposed to say, though she doesn't believe me. I busy myself with the bills and try to ignore the choppy thunder of motorbikes outside. Maybe if I pretend I don't hear them, they'll disappear into the night. They're just looking for fun, that's all, and there's none to be had here.

Only someone forgot to tell them that because the next thing I know, the bikes cycle down outside and harsh laughter punctuates the still night. Then the bell above the door tinkles out in the main room, heavy boots echo off our worn floor, someone whistles and someone else laughs and then Maeve scurries into the back of the diner to tell us, \\\\"They're here.\\\\"

Regulators. I remember a time when they didn't exist in my world, where a man trying to make an honest living could manage to get by without having to answer to such lawlessness. My da used to tell me stories before the terror attacks, stories I've told my sister Delia on the nights when she cries herself to sleep. It wasn't always like this and maybe that's all the hope we need to go on, to know that there was something more, there can be something more, if we can just get through this present strife to find it. We can get by, I tell her, when I hold her close in the darkness. We will.

But I can see she doesn't buy that--it's in the way her hands tremble as she scoops the minced vegetables up from the cutting board to dump them in the soup that boils beside her on the stove. From out in the dining room, a ragged voice calls for service, and I see the way she clenches the knife in one fist, toying with the idea of hiding it on her somewhere for protection.

I hate this fear in her. \\\\"Don't.\\\\" I place a hand over the knife. She looks up at me, her lower lip stuck out in a slight pout, and I shake my head for emphasis. \\\\"It'll just get them mad, Delia. You know that.\\\\"

\\\\"They'll touch me,\\\\" she whispers. \\\\"They'll want--\\\\"

\\\\"I won't let them.\\\\"

She stares at me a moment longer and then nods. She knows I'll not have that in here. I've stood up for her before, I have the scars to prove it--emotional scars that cut deeper than the scratches from McBane's belt that cross my lower back, scars that ache worse than the bones he crushed in my wrist that never quite healed.

When another of the men calls out for service, I nod at Delia and whisper, \\\\"Go on. The sooner they're fed, the sooner they'll leave.\\\\"

Maeve twists her hands in her skirts and watches Delia push through the service door that leads behind the counter. \\\\"I'll mind the soup,\\\\" she calls out, ever eager to please. She's only fifteen, Delia's charge, picked up from an alley not far from here one day some years back, and the child didn't want to speak or eat or even live until Delia convinced her otherwise. Another war orphan, like the rest of us.

I try to tell her my da's stories, too, to keep that world alive, but it's nothing she remembers and she thinks they're just fairy tales, she's said as much, make-believe things I come up with to get us through the day. She doesn't remember a mother or father or a time before all this. Delia doesn't, either--she's four years older than Maeve and all she knows of our da is what I can tell her, which isn't much anymore. But she wants to believe things haven't always been like this; ragtag rogues running the streets, shells falling in the night, the world crumbling around us like so much brick and mortar.

I want her to believe there can be so much more than this. Otherwise, what's the use in going on?

\\\\"You want I should go out there?\\\\" Maeve asks, breaking into my thoughts.

I sit at my desk by the walk-in refrigerator, not far from where she stands stirring the soup, and I can hear every word that's said out in the main room--the catcalls when Delia steps out from around the counter, the raucous laughter, the snickers and jokes. Five different voices, maybe six--regulators don't travel in larger packs.

One leader, usually the roughest of the bunch, mean enough to scare a handful of others into following him. They tear through the city on their motorbikes like postmodern desperados. Nothing more than street gangs, that's all they are. There's so many, too, I can't keep track of them. They ride in here like glory and shake us up a bit until they lose interest and we just have to hope we can hold together that long.

McBane's group is the worst of the bunch, but I don't hear his voice out there in the main room. Thank God for that. He'd have called me out there to him by now.

\\\\"Dae,\\\\" Maeve starts.

\\\\"Shh.\\\\"

I want to hear what's said. The regulators quiet down. Delia must have approached the tables, and then I hear her low voice telling them the daily specials, probably passing out menus and trying to avoid their hands.

Maeve bites her lip, stirs the soup, and asks again, \\\\"Should I go, too?\\\\"

Out in the main room, Delia's voice rises in anger amid wicked laughter.

\\\\"Stay here,\\\\" I tell the younger girl as I stand. The chair scrapes out behind me and she jumps back, startled. \\\\"It's okay.\\\\" I don't quite believe that myself. Pushing through the swinging door, I repeat, \\\\"You stay here.\\\\"

There are seven regulators altogether, a sordid and mean-spirited group, taking up two of the largest tables along the windows by the exit. Beyond the glass I see their bikes lined up single file, gleaming in the floodlights that illuminate the small stretch of concrete I like to call a parking lot. We'll not have another customer tonight with those hogs out there. Anyone passing will just keep on going by. Already the couple we had sipping coffee at the bar stands by the register, anxious to pay their bill and leave. An older woman and her husband--neither of them look at the regulators.

I watch the men from the corner of my eye as I ring up the coffee. They don't wear McBane's signature bandannas and I've never seen them around here before, but that doesn't mean anything. A rival gang, then, or someone new looking to score this turf. That means fights in the street, a new reign of terror until McBane backs down or manages to run these punks out. I'm not looking forward to this already.

One regulator stretches along his side of the booth, across from two of his men, and I assume he's their leader. He's a young kid, no more than a boy, really--Delia's age, if that. But there's a hard look about him, his eyes are like flint in his stony face, and a smattering of healed scratches crisscross his nose like freckles. His hair is buzzed down to just a hint of darkness that clings to his scalp, and as he drinks the water Delia's set before him, I notice his knuckles, battered and scraped. He glances at me with mercurial eyes that look almost silver from here.

I look away before he wants to start something. Just go, I pray.

When I dare to glance back at him, he's still watching me, and he's got that look on his face that I recognize all too well. I see it every time McBane rides up in here looking to score. It's a hunger, a lust that has nothing to do with Delia and everything to do with me.

Dread curls in the pit of my stomach and I tell myself I'm going to ignore it, pretend I don't notice the weight of his gaze on me as I wipe down the counter. I keep an eye on Delia; she's handling herself very well, asking each man for his order and not rising to any of their barbed comments or implied threats. When one of the bastards flips through the menu and asks where she's listed on the thing, I twist the towel in my hand to curb the anger that eats at me inside.

She catches my eye and I can see how frightened she is. We're all terrified here; the sooner these regulators leave, the better. It's okay, I want to tell her, even though it's not. Instead, I just nod her way and that's enough to make her turn back to the customers--at least she knows I'm here.

The next table's worse, the one with the guy I'm assuming runs this show. He doesn't say anything to her--I don't expect him to, he's the type to corner me if I let him, she's safe as far as he's concerned--but the men he's with, they scare me. The one on the end's as big as a bear, burly and gruff, lank hair hiding his eyes and a foul mouth beneath an ill-kempt beard.

\\\\"Hey, doll,\\\\" he bellows as Delia comes up to him. I swear the windows shake when he speaks.

Before she can answer, he has a hand on her waist and he's pulling her into his lap, a flurry of flailing arms and kicking legs. \\\\"Let me go!\\\\" she cries, dropping her order pad to the floor.

The more she struggles, the more the regulators laugh. They think this is funny, even the one by himself, he's got a smile on his face and he's watching me again, waiting to see what I'm going to do. I'm wondering the same thing.

\\\\"Dae--\\\\"

I come around the counter, wiping my hands on my apron. Unarmed, of course--this is my place, I don't carry weapons. I'm not one of them. I'm not much to look at, I've got muscles but they're from lifting stock and I wouldn't know how to throw a punch if my life depended on it, but it's not me at stake here, it's her, and I promised I'd not let them touch her. I swore I'd watch out for her, it was the last thing I told my da, I'd be the big brother and keep her safe. That's the only thing steadying my voice when I approach the table . \\\\"Let her go.\\\\"

Silence. It's shock value I'm riding on here, and the few moments it takes for the lug to notice me is enough for her to wriggle free from his grip. Straightening her skirts, she cowers behind me, her hands on my back.

 
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