Rory was bartering for an alternator for Hawk’s main prop when she saw them. Like sharp, angry bloodhounds, her two previous captors stood at the Market’s entrance, interrogating the security guard. Memories of her imprisonment rose, unbidden, and she felt her legs lock up as she remembered the misery she endured at their hands. Jhan - the tall one - and Roy - the short one. Roy was violent, and frequently struck her, while Jhan tormented her with stories about her parents’ death. She knew they were still alive, of course, but his descriptions were so graphic and horrifying that they still kept her up at night, even all these years later. She took a small satisfaction in seeing how thoroughly the hydroplague had ravaged the two’s bodies before the severity of the situation shocked her back to the present.
Why would they be here? She wondered, but it didn’t matter. They were, and she had to flee. Numbness receding, she grabbed her satchel, dropped a pair of plain rations at the merchant’s feet, and dashed for the back exit. Luckily, Jhan and Roy were still occupied with the guard, but they would find out where she lived soon enough. Rory sprinted towards her house - almost three miles away - the adrenaline rush keeping her at full steam. Rough terrain separated her small apartment from the market, so they should take some time to find it.
As Rory closed in on her home, a billowing cloud of smoke covered by the ruined buildings near the airport stung her eyes. The acrid odor of burning paper and sulfur burned at her nostrils, and she panicked, taking the wide stairs to her building two at a time. When she arrived, Rory found nothing but a broken, torched room, all her belongings burned. All of the plans for Hawk, her carefully curated maps, notebooks, and plans… destroyed. The world darkened as she felt her heart break, the dream of saving her parents crushed.
Rory grimaced. I’m not gonna let this break me, she thought, I’m gonna get them.
She walked across the shattered room to the hidden cubby she had carved into the floor slats and retrieved the knife, rations, and illegal sludge she kept for bartering. Knowing they would expect her to return to her apartment, she closed her door and laid in wait.
A few hours later, two sets of footsteps made their way to the entrance. Heart beating rapidly, Rory held her knife at the ready and prepared to strike at her hunters. As the door opened and Roy came through, she lunged, surprising him and slicing savagely through his shoulder. She pulled her blade back and swung across his neck, going for the kill.
Rory had no problem killing these bastards, as they had not only ruined her young life, but when she finally had a routine and somewhere she could call home, they had to screw that up too. She was fighting for her life and knew she could win - she was better equipped and smarter than those morons.
As she swung for Roy’s throat, he brought his arms up and absorbed the blow. He lowered his fists and jabbed her in the chest, knocking the wind out of her. She recovered and slashed at his exposed arm, causing him to recoil and drop his guard completely. Rory leapt onto him and held the knife at his throat -
Suddenly she was on the floor, world spinning.
“Bitch almost had ya there,” she heard Jhan say before he whipped her in the head with his revolver. Everything went black.


Rory woke to the rasping cloth of a sack on her head, across Roy’s shoulders.
“Let’s get her back to the damn camp before people start asking questions,” she heard Jhan say.
“Our ride is blown, gotta buy our way back. Lucky she had this drug shit we can trade,” Roy cackled, “don’t mind if I take some for m’self. Tower’s black market’s the best bet.”
Rory, hearing the quiet sound of distant conversation, struggled, shouting, “Help me, s-” before being cut off by Jhan’s wrist. Black again.


This time, Rory woke up to loud arguing. Realizing she no longer had a bag on her head, she looked around quietly as her eyes adjusted, hopefully before the two slavers noticed. She recognized Vivian’s voice before seeing her, one of the few people who consistently came out to the Scrap Yard for Rory’s work. She was engaged with Jhan, demanding that he sell… what? Vivian was trying to buy her?
“Hey, kid,” Vivian said, noticing Rory’s awareness, “just thought I’d grab myself a new mechanic.”
“I’m not selling her, lady. Our boss has been looking for her for too damn long,” Jhan stated.
“Maybe I can make it worth your while to just walk away?”
“Not gonna happen.”
“Come on, Jhan, we could get a coupla those nice rifles… with the scopes,” Roy whined, “get rid of the bitch.”
“I’m not for sale, damn it, and I’ll kill you when I get out of these damn binds,” Rory kicked at Roy, earning her a slap in the face.
Vivian unhooked her handgun’s strap, “That’s no way to treat a kid.” She glared at them, clearly ready for a fight. “Give her up. I’ve got friends from the Heathen ready to help me out if you really want to go about this the hard way.”
Jhan lazily stroked the handle of his revolver and loosed the restraint on his belt.
“Let’s just cut her loose, Jhan, and get the hell out of here,” Roy complained.
“Move to the side, Roy. Once I gun this bitch down, we’ll be on our way with some better equipment and more.”


Roy dragged Rory out of the line of fire before she kicked him away and scampered behind Vivian. Jhan and Vivian circled each other with narrowed eyes, each not wanting to act before the other. Jhan draws first, pulling his pistol out of its holster and squeezing the -
In a flash, Vivian draws, blasts Jhan, and reholsters her pistol. The scent of gunpowder fills the air. He falls to the ground, not dead but severely wounded. She walks over, kicks him in the chest, and glares at Roy. He crumples and falls back, terrified. “Let’s go, kid.”
Rory pretends to ignore Vivian’s shaking hands and follows her back to the Tower.