(Transcribed from Natasha’s pen-and-paper diary at a later date)
Friday, August 24, 2277:
I know I haven’t written to you in a few days now, and I’m sorry for that; but things got kind of bad there for a while.
I got captured by slavers. I know, you always told me to stay off the highways; that they were too visible and all… but I was wet, tired, sore, hungry… and just wanted to get to Canterbury and find a job so I could buy something to eat. I was tired of having to scare away or kill molerats or bloatflies every ten minutes. I thought it would be okay – that I’d see anyone coming.
I ran, for what it’s worth. Hid, too. Didn’t do any good. They had dogs – trackers, I guess. I managed to stay hidden for a couple hours; but eventually they found me hiding under some downed rafters in a burned out house. I wish I was a fighter, like you and Dad were. I wish I had made better plans; not let being tired and hungry get to me. I wish I hadn’t been alone.
I… lost your old pistol. I’m sorry. One of the slavers took it from me; I got my journal here back, but the rest of my things weren’t with it.
They weren’t as mean to me as they could have been, so I suppose that’s something to be thankful for; but I did get hit pretty hard at least once. I sort of… blacked out after the first hit, so I don’t know if they hit me more while I was down. I don’t think anything’s broken, though; and I still have all my teeth, even if one’s a little loose, now.
I got auctioned; forced to parade around on stage in an outfit that would be degrading to a stripper. It was humiliating. I got sold, too. Four thousand caps was the winning bid. I can barely conceive of that much money, Mom; and this guy blew it on… I don’t know. I never found out what I was supposed to be. Can’t imagine someone would spend that kind of money for a maid – and you and God both know I never did learn to cook well enough to even be a good wife; let alone worth that kind of money…
…Yeah, I suppose it’s not hard to figure what he paid that kind of money for, is it?
I never saw the guy. Didn’t even get his name. Some agent of his bid in his place – I guess the rich guy couldn’t be bothered to buy people in person. It must be so hard; having to put up with having more money than one person can spend.
When he left to make arrangements for my transport I misbehaved. That’s when they hit me. I woke up in some kind of dark cage. Solitary confinement maybe; like in the old stories about jail?
I was waiting in the cell, trying not to cry, when I heard a din you’d like to think was the Four Horsemen themselves.
So much screaming, yelling. Gunfire. Explosions, maybe – I’m not really sure.
Few minutes later, the door opens… and there stands this woman. I thought it was you, Mom – come back from the afterlife to save me. Like one of those winged warrior women in the old Norse stories.
It was Irina. God, Mom, but she looked just like you in that old picture taken of you when you were a teenager. She even wears her hair short, just like you did. Mismatched, blood-splattered armor; and a look in her eye that’d send the dogs of Hell themselves running scared.
Behind her was Miss Maeva – you remember her? The nice lady I mentioned a couple weeks ago? I swear, she was even bigger and scarier than I remembered.
There was also a guy; but he was sort of hunched over, and not looking too good. I found out later he had been shot on the way into the compound. I haven’t had a chance to ask, yet, but I think he’s Irina’s boyfriend – she attends to him like he’s the most important person on Earth.
Irina… wasn’t happy that he got hurt rescuing me. She didn’t go as far as blaming me openly (and I don’t know what she thinks about it privately – I’m afraid to ask), but I get the definite feeling that there’s some resentment there towards me. Maybe it’s just frustration. I hope so. I’d hate to have found her (been found by her?) again after so long only to be driven apart by something I had no control over.
On the way back to the main building to rest, I got a look at what they did on the way in. It was… brutal. They cut a path of blood and death that would’ve made most Archangels proud, I think. Fewer dead slavers than I remember seeing alive on the way in; but between Irina and Miss Maeva, I can’t blame them for running away. I know I would have, too.
Once we were safe, and Irina was on watch, I asked Miss Maeva to tell me what was going on; how they had found me. Apparently, she ran into Irina and the guy a few days ago, and immediately recognized her as my sister. I don’t know that I’m capable of looking like Irina does… but Miss Maeva insists we look very much alike. Miss Maeva was under the impression that my roaming was dangerous, and apparently they have a semi-safe place where she thought the four of us could stay a while. She remembered where I had been going when we met; and from there apparently they asked around until someone had seen me being led away by slavers.
I still can’t believe three people would assault Paradise Falls… for me. I don’t know whether to be touched, or assume that they just don’t care whether they live or die.
I’m… not thrilled about spending the night here. I know the slavers are gone, but this room – and the bed especially – smell funny. I’m not sure what it is, exactly…
There’s also the bed, itself. Bed. Singular. All four of us have to share one, because it’s the only one in the building, and Irina won’t let the guy be moved any farther until he’s had at least one night’s drugged-up sleep.
I tried to get them to find somewhere else – the barracks, maybe – but Irina and Miss Maeva started talking like soldiers. Something about ‘not having the manpower to secure a larger structure’; and then they decided on a ‘four-on-four-off rotating watch’, and some other stuff about ‘choke points’ and a bunch of other stuff I didn’t really understand. They’re apparently not willing to let me stand watch, though; and the guy is out of it – so it looks like it’s going to be the two of them switching off all night.
Even though she was supposed to be ‘off’, Irina just headed for the front. I heard her and Miss Maeva talking for a few minutes; then the door opened and closed. I guess one of them went outside, though I can’t figure why they’d bother. A bit later, I thought I heard a scream. It sounded like a man, I think; but it was cut off real fast. I hope another fight didn’t break out…
Well, all’s quiet now again, at least. I guess I can trust the others if something does happen – they seem to be pretty good at this sort of thing.
I wish Irina would stop blowing me off and talk to me, though. I want to know so much: where she’s been, what she’s been doing, what happened to Dad.
I hope… this works out with Irina. I know you’ve only been gone a few months; but I miss having a family so much. It’s been so lonely.
I think I’m going to go to bed now, Mom. The front is quiet, whoever left before still hasn’t come back, and the guy (I can’t remember his name…) is still out cold. He’s breathing at least, so I don’t have to worry about explaining to Irina how I let him die. Maybe by tomorrow night I’ll have gotten her to open up and tell me what’s been going on over the last decade and a half.