To The Limit: Chapter Eleven Of “The Crystal Ship”

Sara returns with eight more young girls. Teens. Or younger. I smile at her enthusiasm.

She smiles a lopsided smile. “They wanted to do their part. I couldn’t tell them no.”

I smile back at her reassuringly. “It’s OK. We can use all the help we can get. I started training at a much younger age than most of these girls. I was only four.” I turn my attention back to the group. “Since I only have a day or so to train you, I will have to push you beyond your limits. Do not take it personal. Just remember that we do not have time for soft and easy. Be ready to be sore and achy. But still able to fight.”

The group nods in unison. For the next eight hours, I put them through a training session ten times harder than any I had put Sara through. I have Sara take over and do some more throughout the night. I do, however, allow short rest periods. When I turn things over to Sara, I go and begin making their swords and knives. I do as I did with Sara’s. Then, I call each back for their fitting. Lucky for me, this shed had a ton of leather.

I form the right and left breast plates for each. I make their armored vests. Their undershirts. Their armored leather pants. And the protective breeches. And their special jackets.

I even have to make shoes for some, and stockings. But when I am done, we have a small army. I do not have time for the bows and arrows, though. And that is sad. Those would add a much greater arsenal to each warrior.

But time is of the essence. And a commodity we have little of. Whatever was following us is moving fast. And we must be ready to face it.

Twelve armored, leather clad warriors emerge from the barn into the morning sunshine. Sara and I are in the lead. we reach the porch of the house in time to see our followers come into view. Werewolves. I recognize one of them. It is Fenrir.

They approach cautiously. He smiles when he recognizes me. “Well, if it isn’t our Cris! How are ya?”

I smile. “It has been a while Fenrir. I am fine. And You?”

He stops his pack. “Been better, been worse. Don’t suppose you have seen my brother?”

I shake my head. “Nope. Sorry.”

He looks away. “Ah, well. He might already be across the river.”

I am still curious. “What news from back east?”

He shakes his head sadly. “Most of the northeast is now under Vampire control. Our allies are slowly retreating southward. We will try and hold the south as long as we can. Long enough for the humans to get to safety in the southwest and west.”

He turns and takes his pack on toward the south. I breathe a sigh of relief. I am glad it had been him following us and not someone or something else. Still. I need these new warriors.

We need to move on. I give the signal. The girls gather around me. “I want some of you to take the rear. Some will be in the middle. And the rest in the lead. Three to a group. We will switch positions periodically.”

They nod. Three remain at the door to the house until the last person is out. Three slip into the center of the main group. And I take lead with Sara and on of the two who’d moved to the front when the ghouls appeared. The last three skirt the outside of our group, checking to make sure nothing slips in along the sides of our line.

This is a much more efficient way of protecting our group. As we travel, we change our positions. My group changes with the side sentries. The middle group moves back and the back moves to the middle.

Later, we shift again. My group drops back. The back goes to the side. Middle goes to front, front to middle. And so one.

We continue this shift until we come to out next stop. As night falls, we come to yet another abandoned house. The girls search the house and find it safe. The group enters and readies for the evening.

Once again, I am left to my thoughts as the refugees all fall to sleep. The girls did good. Really good. I will let them know when morning comes. I, too, become tired. We are safe enough for now. I need rest.

***

I am up before any of the rest. The girls all waken and join me at the door. I smile. “You did good. All of you.”

Whispered thank-yous filter to me. And each goes to eat their breakfast. I eat a little too. Just to keep suspicions from being aroused.

We begin our journey southward after breakfast. We pause only once. And that is to eat lunch. Then we move on.

By evening, we are nearing an abandoned gas station. I believe these were once called truck stops. The shelves are still filled with goods. The racks still have coats, shirts and pants. We raid these shelves for supplies. Not the food stuffs. God, no.

But the clothing. The paper goods. The pencils. Whatever can be used and is in good enough shape, we grab.

No one will miss them. And we will be able to put them to good use. I explore the large expanse of the station. The pumps have long been removed for the metals and what have you. The gas has long since gone bad.

I slip back into their sporting goods area. Guns. Lots of them. And bullets. Not to mention bows and arrows. Crossbows. And knives.

Sara comes looking for me. I wave her over. “Send the girls up. One at a time. We will arm them with these. They work well on any enemy.”

She nods and leave. I look over the arrows. Papa called these razor-tip. Sharp. Stainless steel. Impossible to pull free from the targets without ripping hunks of flesh out.

Yes. These composite bows will do quite nicely. and we have extra stores of arrows for all. Now, we are fully armed and ready to fight. the smaller girls can use the crossbows. And the handguns. The rest of us will use the shotguns and longbows.

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