Published: Nov. 27, 2016
Authors: L.A Richards, S.W Best
Words: 67,110
Language: English
ISBN: 9781370421985
Versions: Kindle, NOOK, iBooks
Publisher: Bowker - Silver Dog Publications


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Man’s Best Friend

From my hiding place, I listen as the footsteps fade down the corridor, merging with the creaks and groans of the old ship.
Once I know everything is clear, we move.
I pause to stroke Diesel’s head. I knew bringing Diesel on this particular mission was a risk, but we go everywhere together. We are a team.
I carefully open the door, keeping noise down to a minimum, and we enter the corridor. After a short stride down another grey passageway, I find the room used for storage. It is a big room that was used as a canteen in the past. Boxes, crates and sacks are stuffed full and piled ceiling high. Perfect places to hide if needed.
I lead Diesel between several large plastic tubs, but he knows the way. Diesel’s clever. That’s why he is my first officer.
“First things first. Megan’s medicine.” And this time I vow to steal double what I took last time.
I stop and remove an airtight lid off a large box. The air hisses as the lid separates, causing me little concern for giving away our position.
I search around inside until I find what I’m looking for. I grab three containers and stuff them in my backpack, along with bandages, medical wipes, and painkillers.
I replace the lid with a smile, but I am reminded of the seriousness of the situation. The last thing I need is for the gang to become aware and step up their security detail. That could make it all but impossible to get future supplies.
Again, I force myself to leave before my greed gets the better of me.
The urge to take too much is overwhelming, and every time I do this, the harder it gets to resist.
I turn back to the supply box . . .
Just one more thing . . . No. One more thing gets you killed out here. You would think I'd have learned this lesson by now, but when you're starving with a sick child, you reconsider your position on this messed-up earth.  I am not alone, I have a family to protect and feed.  They need me.
I fight off these thoughts as I turn and find Diesel sniffing a long, wooden crate.
I hiss, “Diesel, away! Come on!”
The dog continues regardless of my stern tone.
I step forward and stress the point. “Damn it, Diesel, you’re going to get us killed with your belly.”
I go over to restrain the greedy devil, but then I see the tins—and what wondrous tins they are . . .
Freeze-dried survival food.
I pull them out in a fury.
“Twenty-five-year shelf life?” I say in a daze as the slow realisation hits me like a truck of joy. “Chilli con carne and macaroni cheese!” I supress a hoot of delight and break into a private victory dance.
“Good boy!” I congratulate the dog. “Good boy!”
I hold the cans and grin like an idiot. It feels good to smile. In all the darkness, I’ve forgotten that feeling.
I’d never had the opportunity to check the other boxes since I was always against the clock. Time is a luxury I do not have. Whoever was in this crate before didn’t bother putting the lid back on, and I see a stain on the inside of the crate.  Someone spilt food. That is what Diesel could smell. “Not to worry, Deez, I will cook up a tin of this for all of us once we get back home.”
I smile and get ready to leave, but then I notice that the door on the other side of the room is ajar.
Strange . . .
On previous visits, the door has always been locked. In all my merriment, I can’t help fight the urge to see what the room contains.
We enter the windowless room, and a faint light shines from above the door. I paused, impressed.
"Wow, this old ship still has some electricity?"
I then stand in awe at the stockpile of weapons before me; a collection of knifes, bats and more.
“It’s Christmas, Deez!” I say as I look around in wonder at the Aladdin’s cave of weaponry, overwhelmed by the choice.
I try to take it all in, and then I spot a revolver on the desk.
I chose the gun first with excitement. I can’t remember the last time I had ever held a gun. Never. Not counting those adventure days held by the company to team build. This is a real gun, with real bullets. Six of them.
I stuff the gun in my pocket and search for more ammo. After a few minutes, I realise that my luck has run out. “Pity . . . six will have to do.”
Then my face loses its smile.
The dull thump of boots on the higher decks wakes me up to the crushing reality that I’ve been here far too long. “Come on, Deez. We have to go!”
As we leave, I notice a small fire axe in a red box on the wall. I pause to pry it from its red house and stuff it into my backpack, which is already bloated. I glance at Diesel, who looks worried. “Yeah, I know, I know. Let’s get the hell out of here.”


Once on the deck, we hide behind the metal wall of the ship next to the entrance and wooden ramp that leads to the concrete below.
I comfort Diesel as I watch the guard’s movements, waiting for him to turn in the opposite direction as part of his patrol.
So far, we’ve been very lucky, and both of us know it.
I can’t help but feel excited at having found more than we had ever dreamed of finding.
I’m armed . . .
Maybe things were looking up for us at last.
As time creeps on, my previous happiness begins to fade as my concern shifts to the Asian guard. He will soon be returning from the other side of the ship as part of his patrol. The guards timing has changed, and the situation is now highly dangerous. The added weight in my backpack gives me extra cause for concern. Precious seconds will be added because of this indulgence.
I move forward, keeping my eyes on the guard, but my foot hits a loose piece of metal and sends it skimming across the deck. It crashes into the bulkhead like a dinner bell damning us to hell.
It’s too late . . .
The guard is alerted to the sudden noise and starts shouting for back up as he notices our position. I feel my heart skip a beat as I see the other guard charging towards the wooden ramp with his blade drawn.
I pull the gun from my pocket and cock it without a second thought. After a few deep breaths, I squeeze the trigger, firing at the first face that appeared. It’s a lucky shot, and the bullet passes through the guards head. His body crumples, now out of the game for good. “DIESEL!” I yell, springing him into action.
As a team, we run down the plank as bullets ricochet off metal and concrete. I dive behind the steel mooring bollard, the shots ringing in my ears as I pull Diesel close. I notice that it isn't the Asian guard that's shooting now, but the bald man standing outside the captain's hub. He's shooting and yelling to his comrade, who seems to be having trouble with his own gun. I pray it's jammed.
Diesel is shaking. We need to get the hell out of here and fast, before this little trio becomes a party. An execution party.
The bald guy is next to die. It is the only chance we have of escaping with our lives.
I allow my previous lucky shot to impair my judgment, and, to my horror, the bullet misses by miles.
I steady my hand and take the second shot determined on a kill. The bullet goes wide, shattering the glass window of the door and making the bald guy duck for cover.
My third shot hits home. The bald guy crashes backwards into the door and falls out of sight. “Got the bastard!” I grin, relieved. I check the gun. Two shots left. Not much to celebrate.
A new bullet ricochets close to my head, adding to my already-ringing ears and forcing me to action.
I look up just in time to see the Asian teenager running for the wooden plank. My last two shots had better count. My family’s faces flash through my mind. It's all or nothing. I steady my aim and shoot. The Asian takes the bullet, stopping his decent to the deck as the gun falls from his hand. The guy is still alive, but with an injured shoulder, and in all the chaos, we make eye contact.
Approaching voices alert my senses and break the spell. The other gang members must be returning. “Diesel, NOW!”
Diesel doesn’t have to be told twice.
In a fleeting moment of panic, I consider leaving the backpack behind, but it’s too precious. There may never be another chance to repeat the find. We need to—
I am taken by surprise when I see Diesel riving in pain on the ground. His leg is caught in a rusty bear trap. “NOOOOOO!”
Our time is out, and the gang members will soon be on top of us. In my horror, I turn to see the Asian guard watching. He is smiling now; black toothed grin of humour at my change of circumstance. Ain’t life a bitch?
I want to strangle the life out of the bastard.
Tears fill my eyes as I try to approach Diesel, but he’s gone, lost within the pain and thrashing around, bleeding badly. He needs medical attention quickly, or he will die. But where can you find a vet in these times, let alone a clinic?
In that moment, I make one of the hardest decisions of my life... leaving Diesel. I don't have the tools to free him, and the others won’t hesitate in killing us both.
I look down at my best friend in these fleeting seconds of madness, the calls of the gang members distorting in my ears.
No . . . I am not leaving Diesel for these psychopaths to carve up for their pleasure. No, we are a team.
The Asian guard's smile fades, and he seems surprised at my actions, but I convince myself that they are noble.
There’s only one thing to do.
I level my gun at Diesel and fire.