Chapter Two: Praefectus
Hoarse and dry, Aubrey tried to drain some final drops of water from her bottle as she walked along with the still nameless man. To be quite honest she was already regretting her choice to leave Katie behind and go with this man, what kind of lunatic was she? There was no telling where he was taking her and the only comments he seemed to be capable of making were ones that were trying to persuade her to jump into the nearest bush with him and tear off all of her clothes. Needless to say, there was little conversation to be had between the pair as they continued on their magical mystery tour of the nearby streets.
Oddly, she felt something cold pressing to her arm, turning, Aubrey raised her eyebrow when the man handed her his own metal canister full of water. Although she was obviously suspicious of the action at first, she took the canister and drank, too thirsty and dizzy to really protest much about the fact he had given her his own drink, it just seemed so out of character for what she had gleaned from him in this journey. In reply to her expression, the man only scoffed and snatched the canister back from her hands;
"If y'all don' wan' it then I'll 'ave it bac'." He smirked, slipping it back into the loop on his belt, much to the annoyance of Aubrey, who had been in the middle of taking a sip when the man had snatched it away from her.
"I didn't say I didn't want it." Aubrey scowled, wiping the drops of water from her t-shirt where the water had spattered down her, although, it wasn't all bad, it made her just a little bit cooler.
Both of them had been walking for what felt like hours, and what struck Aubrey was that there was not a walker in sight, not even a dead body. She couldn't help but wonder why…maybe this group had taken them all out in a bid to make it safer? It is possible, however, there must have been more than a fair few in the surrounding area, she knew that her group couldn't have done something like this on their own. Perhaps their group was bigger than she had initially thought, which, made this idea to go and meet with their 'leader' all the more crucial, and all the more intimidating the more that she thought about it.
Like any twenty year old girl, Aubrey had a bad habit of putting her foot in it when she shouldn't. She just hoped that she wouldn't do so in such an important situation.
"If you don't mind, can you tell me how far we have left to go, it's hardly the best time of day to be out and about right now." Aubrey inquired, wiping her brow with her cap, the sun was going down, and it was easy to see that dusk was beginning to approach.
"Aw now don' you worry Blueberry. There ain't nothin' to be scared of 'ere." He chuckled, almost scoffing at her concern "We clear'd all t'e walkers from the area yesterday."
Resisting the urge to roll her eyes at the man, both for the blueberry comment, and also because he hadn't told her how long they had left to walk, she was about to berate him for the lack of information given to her when they approached what seemed like a small barricade. It was not very developed, but, it certainly hadn't been here when she and her group had scouted out the area some weeks beforehand. Their group must have been its creators, and thus, they must be nearby. A chuckle from her guide broke Aubrey from her own thoughts of devising something similar for her group, and she tilted her head up with a cocked eyebrow, almost questioning the reason for this sound.
"I ain't ev'r seen a girl stare so 'ard at a barricad' before. W'at you don't know how you pile sh't on top of each other?" he laughed, before striding over to the barrier and beginning to climb over it with ease.
Of course the insulting tone of the comment made Aubrey bristle; did this guy have any manners whatsoever? Apparently not. Although she was here now and that was all that she really needed him for, it seemed obvious that he wasn't involved in the politics in this camp; Aubrey believed that this man would rather be punching men in the gut and decapitating walkers with the odd sort of knife that he had attached to his stump. Did he not know that he was making it even more hard not to ask him about it, when he drew more attention to it like that?
Sighing softly, she followed him, picking her way through the barricade in the same way that he had done not moments before. It would appear that he was not used to being ignored because he was on the other side of the barricade smirking at her as she hopped down;
"Here I was t'inkin' wom'n could fuckin' multi-task."
"What?" Aubrey asked, her deadpan voice, and dull narrowed eyes seemed to only make the man in front of her more happy, as he slapped his hand against his leg and laughed again, probably at some private joke he decided not to let her in on, as he didn't answer her question at all.
"Com' on sweetpea, t'e Governor is t'is way." He grinned, still laughing and muttering to himself obscene comments which Aubrey chose to ignore, it would be easier that way she assumed.
Around her, the town seemed much more interesting than the arsehole who had lead her there, it was completely free of walkers, at least, it seemed to be, and that barricade back there could be really effective if it was added to when there was more light and such. Whoever set this up, must have some real skills, maybe they were even a part of the military, or the police force before the world went to hell. It made it even more important that they were able to speak on good terms. Something however, did not sit well with her, the fact that the leader was introduced to her as the Governor, she didn't know why, but, something just felt off with it.
As she was lead towards a nearby large building, one of the ones she would have loved to have owned when she was younger, Aubrey steeled her expression and seeing a few other humans around the entrance looking at her oddly and eyeing her weapons made sure that she fixed them with her best steady gaze, which seemed to have the desired effect. Rather abruptly they stopped at the door, and Aubrey almost walked straight into the back of the man but she managed to stop herself just in time. He turned to her, that large lecherous grin on his face, and immediately she thought that she wasn't going to like what he said to her.
"Ya'll need to give me your weapons." He stated, holding out his large, rather grubby hand in order to take her hatchet and her handgun.
"No. I think I'll be keeping them with me, if that's all the same to you." Aubrey replied, in a calm even tone, aware of the people around her turning to see the interaction between her and the man that they knew and accepted as part of their group. She knew that she would have to tread carefully, but she was not going anywhere without her weapons, and that was fact.
"Sorry lil' Miss Blueberry, you ain't goin' nowhere while you still got t'at piece o' yours."
The cocky tone to the man's voice made Aubrey want to slap him again, and it was going against all of her better instincts, but she was on the lower hand here whether she wanted to admit it or not, and she needed to be able to accept that she was going to have to adhere to the rules that this group had lain down. It was not reassuring to hear the small murmurs through the group of about five or six that had gathered not far away. Aubrey wasn't so naïve to believe that they weren't murmuring about her. She knew that they would be, and accepted that, her group would be much the same if someone new had come into their fold.
"How about a compromise?" Aubrey suggested, her crossed arms about her chest loosened and she dropped a hand to the loop of her belt, slipping her handgun out she dropped it into the hand of the man and tried not to punch some of his teeth loose for the smug satisfied expression he was currently wearing "I'll leave my gun with you, but I want to take my hatchet in with me, call it force of habit." Aubrey stated, with a sweet smile on her lips, trying her best to wind him up like he was doing to her.
"I suppose t'at's good enough." He shrugged, slipping her gun into his belt loop "Don' worry Imma take real good care of your pretty lil' piece while you're in t'ere."
Rolling her eyes, not being able to resist this time, she stepped into the house and looked around, before she heard a rather smooth voice calling her into what appeared to be the living room. Immediately she thought that this was a voice of someone kind, someone she could trust, but she didn't know why. Of course, she would not be so swayed as to take the man, the Governor at first glance. Aubrey liked to think she was a little bit smarter than that. Softly, she stepped into the living room and cautiously allowed her eyes to wander around; it had been a long time since she had seen somewhere that appeared so untouched by all of this.
No tell-tale buzzing of flies.
No corpses littering the floor.
Not even a single drop of blood.
It was like a place from the old world, and, Aubrey felt herself wishing they had been able to keep more of the furniture in the plantation house, but it had been splashed with blood, and walker slime. There was no way they could keep it in there and not bawk every time they walked past it.
"You'll have to forgive Merle for taking your weapon, it's just a precaution, after all, we don't need weapons in a civilised conversation now do we?" the man, presumably the Governor stated with a rather warm smile, it was working wonders on disarming Aubrey's resolve already "I'm the Governor, the establisher of this small settlement here."
"Pleased to meet you, I'm Aubrey Kipling. I have a small settlement myself not far from here, that's why I'm here to speak with you." Aubrey replied, setting her hatchet down near the desk he was sitting behind.
After being offered a seat, Aubrey took the one in front of the desk. It reminded her of the interview she had in order to get into college last year, oddly, this was not a very reassuring image, her interview had not gone well at all. The Governor seemed to appreciate Aubrey setting down her weapon, whether that was because she appeared to be allowing herself to trust him a little bit more, or, like herself merely felt more comfortable without a stranger with a hatchet standing rather resolute in front of him.
"I have heard about what happened. My apologies, our scouts were a little rough in the retrieval of their supplies, I believe they took them from your group." The Governor sighed, pouring himself a drink of what Aubrey assumed was whiskey from a decanter on his desk, he offered her a drink, which she refused. Not like she was one for drinking at the best of times, but in a strange place with nobody to help her…she thought it was even better if she kept her wits about her.
"The man, Merle, told me you had already used the supplies that we gathered. That's unfortunate, because you'll need to replace the ones that you took from our group." Aubrey stated, with a neutral expression, she didn't want to give anything away, or make him aggravated with her. She did not know him, did not know how he would react, and she had nobody here to help her if things decided to get ugly.
"Although it is regrettable the manner we took them from you, even if we hadn't used them, you would not be getting your supplies back." The Governor chuckled, shaking his head as he took a sip of his drink, she could smell the strong alcohol from where she sat across the table "Our group needs them just as much as yours."
Gritting her teeth, Aubrey took a deep breath and didn't let her anger manifest. It appeared that the Governor was not going to be one of those men who went through with an act without something to gain from it. What could she offer in order for co-operation between the two camps? It seemed that this group had everything theirs had, if not more in fact!
"I came here in the hope of striking a deal with you, Governor." She admitted, deciding that honesty would be the best policy "It is impossible for our groups to live in harmony and share the supplies of the area, there simply are not enough to go around."
"So what would you suggest? What have you to offer?" The Governor asked, sitting back down in his chair, reclining, like he was a cat ready to pounce on Aubrey herself, who was no doubt the mouse in this game. Already she was regretting not coming here without a solid plan, a solid offer. Would she come across as some sort of inexperienced idiot? Aubrey had to admit to herself, that she probably had already done that.
"The only solution I can see is if we provide some sort of service for you, in order to allow us to equally share the supplies so…how about we help you finish the barricade you have begun to create?" Aubrey offered "A member of our group is able to weld and work with metals, maybe we can make it stronger, more fortified."
Unable to still her pounding heart, Aubrey bit her lip, her nervousness was uncontainable to such a degree she was concerned she would start bouncing on her seat. Eyes raising to meet with the Governors, she felt her heart sink when his own looked back into hers with mirth running through them, it appeared that her offer was one he found was amusing, and so, was probably not going to accept it. Would Aubrey give up? No. She would not move her group again if he refused, they couldn't do another move, they were low on ammo and needed a rest, they required time away from the horrors they had seen to recover their strength, and themselves. Surely this was a concept that even a man like the Governor, who seemed to only want to pursue his own self desires, could appreciate. No doubt he had gone through it himself.
"Not that your offer isn't compelling, but, the only way you get this area's supplies, is by joining our group. As you can see, we're low on fighters – warriors- most of the group are no dab hands with weapons, you join us, help us protect this town and these people, and you'll get the supplies you want. Put your life on the line for us, and we shall accept you." He smirked, finishing his drink "This is my offer, you have two days to consider it, or we shall consider you and your group a threat to this town and it's safety."