Chapter 1

Chapter 1

Valhalla Sector… it had been a total tease to Jeremiah for the last fifteen years. He had lain awake so many nights staring at the bright stars as they burned in the night sky. He could hear the crackle of the fire as it was beginning to consume the last of the dried wood he had placed on the orange flames. The smell of the smoke and the cool nip of the fall air took Jeremiah back to the fleeting tranquility of his lost youth. He could remember himself and his father. Before the Big Death, before he was left to care for his little brother… before…

--

"This is great dad!" The young Jeremiah smiled as he and his father sat around the crackling fire.

They watched as the marshmallows at the end of the stick grew more and more brown and eventually were engulfed in flames. The young boy brought the now charred treat to his lips and carefully blew the flames out. The smell of the burned sugar made his mouth water as he brought the charred sweets to his lips. Carefully he placed the darkened morsel between his lips and sealed them tightly around its now carbonized texture.

He could taste the flavor of the blackness of the carbon texture on the outside and then the succulence of the sweetness of the warm gooey inside. The combination of the two bringing a smile to the lips of the small boy as he and his father laughed through the carefree feeling of the moment.

"You having fun?" Devon asked as he smiled looking down at his eldest son. He wrapped his powerful arm around the youth's shoulders as if trying to hold him forever. He loved his sons… his little Jeremiah was so special to him that he wanted to hold him to him forever. To stay forever where the outside world would have no effect on his two boys, his wife, or him… he wanted this night to last forever.

"Yeah!" Jeremiah answered between bites of the sticky sweetness. On his lips were the remnants of the blackened marshmallow. He continued to chew on the sugary treat as his father pushed another on the end of the wooden stick.

Jeremiah liked being alone with his father. He savored the time the two of them spent together without his tagalong younger brother. He loved his brother too, but the time he had with his dad was his… his alone.

--

The wind was whistling through the trees when Jeremiah was prodded awake. He jumped, sitting up quickly to find himself face to face with a 9mm hand gun. Jeremiah watched as the large hand cocked the weapon as he shoved it closer to the groggy man's face. Jeremiah sucked in gasp of air as he lifted his eyes and saw the dark bitter eyes of the man in a ski mask. He didn't have time to react as something smashed into the back of his skull rendering the slighter man unconscious.

It was daylight when Jeremiah was able to open his eyes. His head ached as he slowly lifted it up. He could feel a trickle of something sliding down the back of his neck as he slowly regained feeling in his body. The feeling of thumping continued behind his eyes as he closed them in an attempt to stop the endless hammering. The bright sunlight reflected off of the roof across the street where he was chained to a large concrete pillar. Pulling at his wrists he found that they were secured to the other side of the massive stone block. He tugged futilely at his bonds. He looked desperately around the square as he began to become aware that he was shirtless.

"What the hell?"

He looked down at the sallow skin of his bare chest as it brushed against the cool, jagged surface of the limestone pillar.

"Where the hell is Kurdy and where the hell am I…"

Fear tore through him as he realized that Kurdy had never shown up with Marcus at the campsite. The two men had taken the Rover to a nearby town to make contact with a local group who had interests in joining forces with Thunder Mountain. They had left Jeremiah to finish up with a group of locals at the other end of the Snake River. Jeremiah had been able to get the message for the tribal council delivered and head to the rendezvous point where he was to meet with Kurdy and Marcus.

Marcus hardly ever ventured out of Thunder Mountain or The End of the World as so many liked to call it; so when he had volunteered to go with Kurdy and Jeremiah the two men had thought they were in trouble. They were sure that Lee had set them up for a fall. They knew they had done nothing wrong, but they also knew that Lee was out to burn them for something… they still weren't sure what.

--

The sunlight was getting brighter as it continued to glint off of the tops of the buildings and cut mercilessly into Jeremiah's eyes. He shook as the cool breeze cut across his bare torso sending ripples of goose bumps transversely on his pale skin. He debated on shouting for someone's attention when the first of a group of people began to trudge silently over to where he stood his arms raised uncomfortably at his eyelevel. He tugged again at the metal securing him to the rock pillar. He felt uncomfortable as the people stood pointing and watching the man as if he was an act in a circus side show. The once near silence of whispers soon evolved into full blown conversations. He couldn't make out single words all he knew is that they were pointing and discussing him. He continued to feel unnerved about the whole situation.

"I understand your from the end of the world."

The voice rang through the crowd. People hushed as they parted ways for a tall blond haired man with a square jaw line and sea foam green eyes. He had high cheek bones and a deep cleft in his chin. His eyes were clear and intimidating. He was as big if not bigger than Kurdy and defiantly taller than Marcus. The sound of the chill from his voice scared Jeremiah as he approached the helpless man.

Jeremiah bit his lip as the man continued to move towards him. He had an entourage of men carrying semi automatic weapons, machine guns, rifles and handguns behind him. The town's people watched in amazement as the man jumped up onto the platform which supported the pillar. He was followed by six other men and one man who was nothing but brawn. He was a spectacular sight to behold. He reminded Jeremiah of a Greek statue that he saw pictures of when he was a small child. Tall… lean… and cold… his eyes were empty and void of emotion. He simply stared Jeremiah down as he circled the prisoner.

"Hello and welcome to Langston." The tall man stated. He was overly friendly never taking his green eyes off of his prey. I have a few questions I want to ask you about The End of the World; then I'm going to give you one chance to answer me. That's when Nick here is going to do his best to convince you that it would be easier to just answer me."

Jeremiah closed his eyes in an attempt to calm his nerves. He wasn't about to betray Marcus, Erin, Elizabeth or anyone else at Thunder Mountain.

Oh GOD Kurdy please get here soon. Please find me soon.

Jeremiah knew that he could take nearly anything that was thrown at him. He just wasn't at all sure how much of a beating he could take from this man before he lost all control and gave into the man holding him. He could feel himself begin to shake as he watched the muscles ripple in the powerhouse of a man named Nick as he picked up a brown leather whip and snapped it effortlessly in the air.

"Now stranger… what' your name?" The man asked coldly.

"I share mine if you'll share yours." Jeremiah snapped back.

"Fair enough… I'm Roger Parker. I'm the mayor of this whole and you are."

"Jeremiah." The words came out coldly.

"Well Jeremiah… I'm not going to beat around the bush. I want answers and you're going to give them to me."

His voice rang in Jeremiah's pounding head. He knew this wasn't going to be pretty. He just prayed he could keep up his denial of Thunder Mountain or lose consciousness before they beat it out of him.

"Where is The End of the World?"

The question was so simple. It would have been so easy to tell him. To even give him directions to the secrete facility. The home base where they had running water, heat, food, warm beds to sleep in, the secrete base where they were planning on making contact with people to form an alliance against a possible attack on Thunder Mountain. This should have been so much easier on him… but he couldn't let them down… not even Lee Chen… no one.

"It… doesn't exist." Jeremiah spat back.

Roger narrowed his eyes as his bored straight into Jeremiah's. It felt like he was penetrating him all the way to the depths of his soul. The two continued to maintain their heated eye contact until the frayed tip of the brown leather whip tore through the tender flesh on Jeremiah's exposed back.

Jeremiah gritted his teeth as the leather shredded the sensitive skin on his back for a second time. He felt it as it burned at the raw skin on his back. It was the third slash at his back that caused the man to scream in tortured agony. There was a fourth, fifth and sixth slice at Jeremiah's already excruciatingly sore back when his knees started to give out. Jeremiah shook involuntarily as Roger stuck his hand up in the air ordering a cease to the abuse that Jeremiah was being inflicted with. The tortured man tried to hold himself up as he flexed his wrists, splaying his fingers as he attempted to find his footing again. After what felt like an eternity Jeremiah regained his footing resting his head against his burning arms. The stress from his body pulling on his wrists was hurting him nearly as badly as the whip tearing at his flesh.

"I'll ask you again… Where is The End of the World?" The intimidating man asked through tightly clinched teeth.

Jeremiah lifted his head from his arms crazing it lightly on the pebbled edges of the pillar. Perspiration glimmered on his pale face. Weekly he closed his eyes and then opened them again as he took a short ragged gulp of air.

"It… d-dose not… exist." He stuttered.

Roger smirked as he nodded to Nick who stood read for his assault on the already brutalized man.

Jeremiah cried out again as this time something thin and flimsy slammed into his lower back. It collided again and again with the soft tissue of his lower back. The man writhed beneath the pain of the abuse. Again Roger stuck his hand in the air stopping the onslaught. Jeremiah couldn't find the strength to get back on his feet as Roger watched him quake beneath the torture he was being forced to endure.

"You could make this easier on yourself… Jeremiah…" Roger stated as he grasped a handful of Jeremiahs light brown hair.

"Go… to… hell!" Jeremiah spat between clinched teeth.

"You might beat me there." Roger hissed as he slammed Jeremiah's head into the surface of the pillar rendering the man unconscious.

"What do you want to do with him sir?" A young woman asked snapping to attention as Roger turned to survey the bloody man hanging limply by the wrists.

"Leave him there… I'm not done with him yet. Maybe we'll get lucky and find the other two… the scouts said there were two more in Clear Water Creek. Perhaps he'll be my bait." Roger hissed as he snapped his attention to the brunette in front of him. He reached out and grabbed the young woman by the arm pulling her supple body towards his own taut frame. "Let me show you how I take a girl to heaven." His words dripping with desire; with that the group yielded returning to their homes until they were given the chance to watch the now cataleptic man receive another beating later.