Episode 03: B-17 The Bomber
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The night of the first day passed with little of note. I simply sat and contemplated matters with my severely reduced intellect before choosing to drift off to sleep well into the night. The next morning came expediently because of that, and Jack and I were free to resume our travels, which continued in a predictable fashion for the next two-and-a-half days.

We walked from sunrise to sunset, stopping at whatever shelter we came across during our travels, even if we had to settle on sleeping in a car last night. Little of note happened during this time until one afternoon when Jack and I found ourselves strolling through a coniferous forest. The trees were far older and taller than the young deciduous ones that filled the surroundings of my journey up until this point, but only about half of them were still alive. The other half either stood dead and decaying or had tumbled onto the forest floor, creating another hazard for Jack and me to wander through. As if the bountiful stones, pits, thick branches, twigs, and pine needles did not give us enough reason to express caution with each and every step. It was a tedious and slow trek, so I was not surprised when I heard Jack speak up from behind me.

“Abigale, could we please stop for a while?”

“Sure. Just do not take too long. We need to find shelter by nightfall,” I said in a plain tone.

Jack let out an affirming “yes, miss” before she began digging through her backpack for one of her remaining bottles of water and an apple she picked from a lone tree we found two days ago. I took this time to sit on a fallen tree and look at my surroundings. While the underbrush was unsightly due to the copious amounts of deadwood, the surviving trees held a distinct beauty to them as they reached high into the sky, some even surpassing the stone pillars that had been a common sight throughout my journey thus far.

I continued looking up at the partially cloudy sky to confirm that the sun was steadily sinking towards the western horizon. I had hoped we would have encountered some form of shelter along our path as we did every previous night, but that was becoming an increasingly less plausible idea as the forest went on and on. While I had doubts that Jack and I would encounter any predators in the night, I was not enthralled with the concept of sleeping in a forest.

Not because of me, but because of Jack. The word I kept going back to when describing her was submissive. She followed me without question, listened to my every word with great attention, and seemed at least a little hesitant towards the very idea of initiating a conversation with me about a matter I had not previously inquired about. At first, I thought she was intimidated, as I am and have always been an intimidating person. Yet as time went on, I began to suspect that it was not that simple. While it could be her personality, I suspected this was a deeper issue with her, but I lacked the mental fortitude to decipher why that was and did not feel right in broaching the subject with her at our current juncture.

I looked at Jack as she steadily chomped away at her apple, taking just enough time to chew it thoroughly, while forcing it down with her water. In her haste, she leaked some water on her fleece jacket. A jacket she obtained on the third night of our journey when we stopped by a deserted town that had been largely destroyed by a sinkhole spanning three kilometers in diameter. It was also where I found a backpack for myself and some far better fitting clothes than what I was squeezing into before. It was a simple outfit consisting of a leather jacket, a well worn green t-shirt, a pair of baggy jeans, and some tennis shoes. The clothes had belonged to a man, but I was no stranger to wearing male clothing.

We continued after Jack finished her apple, but with each kilometer we crossed, our hopes of finding shelter grew slimmer and slimmer. Yet, I had this feeling, this sense that we were growing very close to one of my children, and it drove me to carry on in what truly seemed like a random direction. As twilight began setting in and Jack’s exhaustion became audible through her panting, I finally saw an end to the series of pine trees. I fastened my pace in order to get a better look at what lies beyond this forest, leaving Jack behind by doing so.

As the trees came to an end, I was greeted with the familiar sight of a modestly sized town lush with displaced vegetation, dilapidated buildings, and stone pillars. We would almost assuredly find somewhere we could rest at for the evening, but before we valiantly ventured into the town proper, I wanted to scope it out as best I could. While I had the means of defending myself between the knife and gun I hat at my side, I wanted to avoid as much conflict as possible. And just because we have not run into any stragglers thus far did not mean this town would also be empty.

Once Jack caught up to me, I had her give me her binoculars. From top of the forest hill, I looked down at the town in detail, and while much of it was the usual fare that we had encountered previously, one location struck me as peculiar. Several blocks into town, there was a shopping plaza. The structure had suffered obvious exterior damage through an assortment of means and consisting of three massive stores, facing the north, west, and south. While the east side was barricaded using a wall that stretched on for several dozen meters long, enclosing the shopping plaza and prohibiting entry. My senses told me that my child was somewhere in that suspicious complex, and I had every reason to believe them.

With my destination set, I now had to determine what I would do with Jack. Her panting was audible, and as I returned her binoculars, I noticed that her face was flushed. She was too exhausted to continue traveling and would need to rest. In search of a proper rest stop, I looked down at the contents of the town, the tattered streets, desolate storefronts, crumbling office buildings, piles of unrecognizable rubble, and spurts of aggressive vegetation had all become a common sight over the past three days.

Unable to find a spot that spoke to me as the safest or most secure, I escorted Jack to the nearest intact building, maintaining a slow pace as we did so. I quickly informed her that I planned to explore these three buildings in an attempt to find one of my children and promised that I would come back shortly thereafter. She did not question my actions and let out an “okay” before she took off her backpack and sat on the musty floor. I thanked her for being so agreeable and then made my way.

Upon walking nearly a kilometer, I reached the repurposed shopping plaza and took closer note of it. While the buildings themselves were only buffered by wear and weather, the wall was very much cobbled together. It was assembled using an extensive list of materials, including lumber, bricks, metal, and even certain types of plastic. All of which melded together in a somewhat sturdy-looking barrier that was made intimidating with the inclusion of the barbed wire, nails, and various other sharp appendages haphazardly aligning the top of the wall.

I attempted to glance over the wall, but even with my tall stature of two meters, I could not get so much as a glimpse. I continued to trail the wall for any obvious door I could use to enter this facility, only to have my search interrupted by a hoarse voice that shouted in my direction.

“Who’s there?”

The voice came from the roof of the northern building, and while I turned my head to get a better look at the speaker, the setting sun obscured my vision and made this figure only recognizable through a sun-drenched silhouette.

“I mean you no harm, I simply wish to enter your dwelling. There is something inside that is of importance to me,” I said, projecting my voice as best I could.

“No outsiders. Leave. Now!” The speaker barked in an almost automated fashion.

I continued walking closer to them in spite of this, hoping I could somehow convince this guard to let me into this building. They did not appreciate this and shot at me accordingly. I could not see any weapon on their person and was caught off guard as a piece of hot lead embedded itself into my leg, fracturing bone as it did so. I grit my teeth as I fell on the asphalt road beneath me, while a pool of blood seeped out of my leg.

Powerless and with my mind clouded by the continuous pain of a bullet wedged in my leg, I was left with no choice other than crawling away and out of the sight of the gunman who went silent after seeing me draw blood. As I scrounged myself away, my wound healed, and whatever blood I shed returned to my body. I was frustrated with myself as I observed this process and felt the hole that had developed in my jeans, knowing that this would have been a non-issue for me in the past, but I lacked the abilities to mend my clothing, heal instantaneously, and most importantly, demolish the wall that stood before me. Once I regained my composure, I shot a look back at the gunman but found nothing. While this could have been an indication that they left, I decided not to risk it. Instead, I returned to the building I left Jack in and greeted her with a hello.

“How did things go Abigale?” Jack asked with a slightly confused expression.

“The place is guarded by at least one gunman.”

“Oh, my goodness! Were you shot, Abigale?” Jack asked as she jumped over to my side.

“Yes. I was shot in the leg but healed from my wounds soon afterward. Now, I just need another plan to infiltrate this repurposed shopping plaza.”

“Are you going in alone?”

“Yes. Unless you want to risk being severely wounded in a place without readily accessible food, water, or medical supplies.”

“Oh…. so should I just hide here?”

“No. This place is hardly secure, and in worse condition, than some other buildings I ran into. Come with me and we’ll find something.”

“All right. That’s nice of you, Abigale.”

“It’s nothing, Jack. Just say put, keep your head down, and everything should be fine.”

With that decree, Jack and I stepped out of the building, and I began darting my eyes around the tattered streets before us, trying to pick which storefront would be the best place for Jack to hide for the time being. In doing so, my eyes also drifted upwards, where I noticed dim grey clouds looming across the horizon, headed in my general direction. This would have been a bad sign under most circumstances, but when you plan on infiltrating any location, there is no situation more ideal than creeping in during a rainy night, when visibility is at its lowest, and stray noises are covered up by the relentless pitter-patter of a persistent downpour. As I realized this, a smile crept onto my face.

Jack, on the other hand, looked at me with a sorrowful expression, likely from my comment and handling of her. I had nothing against her as a person, but compared to myself, when standing next to an experienced immortal, she was baggage, something that I had to carry as I went on a journey I was not taking leisurely. I did not want to travel this world, and looking after another person made the process both lengthier and more tedious. Still, I was not one to go back on my promises. I said that Jack could join me, and while she has struggled to maintain a steady pace, I recognized her effort.

After several minutes of travel, we happened across a small bookstore that resided between the husks of two other and far larger buildings. Its wooden doors had been tattered and windows cracked, but I was not against dwelling within it for the time being. The important thing was that it was a form of shelter, one that held a palpable musk to it thanks to a mix of old books, decaying animal droppings, and dampened carpet, but it was better than anything else I had happened across.

Unfortunately, for as stable as the store was, it was deprived of the books it once sold, with its library only consisting of a scant assortment of disorganized and battered-looking books, though that was not too surprising. Given how the complex I came across had armed guards, I could only assume that it contained a large group of people, and with all electronics fried on account of the solar flare, books were the most effective means of preoccupying someone’s free time with something meaningful or entertaining.

As I concluded my survey of this building as best I could, it began to rain. The sky darkened, and I was given my best opportunity to infiltrate the facility and murder my second child. I told Jack to stay put, left my backpack with her, and only took my pistol and knife with me as I left, walking out into the darkened streets as the downpour began settling in

Within a minute of walking through the rain, the water had thoroughly weighed down my clothes, and my entire body was soaked. I struggled to see as the rain pelted my face and I could hear nothing other than the sound of raindrops clanging against the ground before me. My tennis shoes became soaked, while my ill-fitting clothes began hampering my movements as they both clung to and dropped off my body. Nevertheless, I grit my teeth and continued my trek through this dark and stormy night to reach the facility once again.

I arrived at the southern wall, a tall concrete structure devoid of any windows, and while it did have doors, they were both sealed beyond my current capabilities. Abandoning this means of entry, I went over to the more obvious choice, the cobbled-together structure that was the eastern wall. I walked alongside it, scanning the tops for a lack of structural integrity before coming across a section made of brick, and with a top adorned by staples and rusted nails. The prevalence of these metal spikes was enough to dissuade any normal person from trespassing unless they wanted an infection or deep puncture wound. I had no reason to worry about such things, but I still took care in positioning my hands against the top of the wall, brushing my fingers against the tightly placed metal spikes.

Unfortunately, due to many factors such as the immense rain, my damp clothing, my reduced arm strength, and the awkward placement of my fingers, I could not clearly cross the wall and wound up slashing my left leg against sharp and rusted metal. I lost my balance, my hand slipped, and I fell to the damp asphalt below, pain and blood gushing from my torn jeans, and my hand was wrecked, with muscle torn, skin ripped, and bone exposed. The pain was intense, but it was nothing that I had not felt before.

Within a minute, my hands once again resembled what they should, my leg was fine beneath my tattered jeans, and whatever blood that exited my person either returned to me or washed away. Once I regained my composure, I stood up and examined my environment as best I could through the rain and darkness. The area between the three buildings that stood before me was, unsurprisingly, a repurposed parking lot. One that contained a few automobiles, several gazebos strewn about, and many plastic chairs scattered seemingly at random.

I chose not to inquire or ponder about what these were for and instead moved across the flat asphalt to a gazebo in order to escape the rain for a moment. Once protected by a roof of some sort, I concentrated as best I could with my limited mind and the persistent sound or rain. I had come this far; I was technically in this settlement; and now, with three buildings around me, I had to rely on my senses to pinpoint where exactly my second child was. And my senses told me to venture north.

I jogged through the rain and past the wooden doors that marked the entrance to this building. An intense darkness sprawled before me as I walked through the vestibule, and I immediately regretted my decision to not bring Jack’s flashlight with me. The only thing I had to illuminate this dark windowless room was a series of emergency lights that shined despite the lack of any running power grid as far as I could tell, and from what little light I was given, I could tell that this was once a clothing store of some sort. Various racks of clothing lined my peripheral vision, and while most of them appeared to be empty, others were still full of clothes.

After seeing so much destruction over the past few days, it was actually quite eerie how well maintained this location was. From the exterior, the intact parking lot, and the inside of this building. I wondered if there was any specific reason for this, though it was most likely just coincidence and luck, that this place was left standing while other buildings were not.

With an ample selection of clothing available to me, and my current outfit drenched, I discarded my current clothes and exchanged them for something else from the racks before me. Due to my poor visibility, I settled for whatever I could find, and what I found was a light hoodie to cover my torso and a pair of ill-fitting trousers for my lower half, as it was always difficult for me to find pants that fit a woman of my stature. As for my shoes, I removed them after realizing how their damp soles let out a very audible squeak with each step they made against this tile flooring, and proceeded barefoot.

While I could faintly see things in front of me, the process of searching my child was still a slow one. Because I knew not what laid in the darkness, I had to proceed with caution, looking out for potential traps while honing in and following my senses, which directed me to travel upwards, taking the non-functioning escalator up to the third floor. Almost immediately, my nostrils flared with the scent of body odor, and my ears fixated on the sounds of quiet breathing from what had to be dozens of sources. I had wandered into some form of barracks or bed chambers, meaning that it was all the more paramount that I remain silent in my movements. I laid prone against the floor, crawling and brushing against various beds and couches as I followed my senses towards the direction of my child.

As I did so, I could not help but remark how lucky these people were to have found a place like this in a ruined world. A closed building with thick walls, a proper place to sleep, and blankets to keep them warm. It truly was no wonder why they erected a wall, as I am certain that this, along with whatever remaining goods were in the other two buildings, made them a prime target for scavengers. Not unlike myself.

Regardless, I trod lightly enough to avoid disturbing these people as they slept, traveling all the way across this room to a metal door that stood opposite of the broken escalator. It likely originally led to a back room for employees or managers, and now, it was the last barrier between me and my child. I moved my hand to the cold metal handle of the door and turned it, only to be met with a distinctive click. The door was locked. I could not reach my goal because of a simple lock, attached to a door I knew I could not open using my kitchen knife or handgun.

“Pathetic,” I thought to myself. “Utterly, humiliatingly, sickeningly pathetic. I cannot heal my wounds properly. I cannot run for days on end. I cannot even reliably lift myself over a wall. My mental capabilities are elementary compared to what they should be, and I cannot even open a lock. I’m pathetic. Not even a shadow of what I once was. How can I so much as view myself as Abigale Quinlan? I’m a disgrace to myself. A goldarn disgrace!”

As I finished that thought, I heard a concussive noise from near the door. I had unconsciously clenched my hand into a fist and pounded it against the metal door. The firm sound echoed through the floor, but it did not seem to attract the attention of, or even wake up, the people resting. Probably because, as far as I could tell, there was not any bedding even close to this metal door. Regardless, I cautiously moved away from the door, and prepared to hide away while formulating an alternative plan. Then, after securing myself behind a piece of wooden furniture, the door opened.

As the door was unlocked, it released an artificial light that illuminated this blackened room. Once the door was fully open, the light was only blocked by the occupant of the room, a very short occupant whose presence was accompanied by two things. The sound of snapping and a series of sparks that filled the air around them, making it momentarily difficult to make out any of their features. However, I already knew who they were. They were one of my children.

Based on their height and general proportions, they looked to resemble a five-year-old. Their skin had a soft mocha coloring, jet black hair was in wild disarray, and what would have been a cute face with a liberal amount of baby fat was given a more sinister look to it thanks to a pair of crimson eyes. Beneath their head, they were a somewhat pudgy child wearing nothing more than a pair of panties, colored Seafoam green and adorned with a cartoon bear head placed right in the center. The panties possessed a distorted color, likely owing to a few ‘accidents,’ while the cartoon bear head adorning the panties was pushed outward by a prepubescent penis.

However, the child’s physical details were far from my concern. Instead, I focused on how they were snapping. While limited by unrefined motor skills and pudgy little hands, they were snapping efficiently several times a second. Each snap was met with a familiar noise, but also a small explosion. An explosion that popped up in the air, seemingly from nothing, and appeared around them in a seemingly random location.

“All right, ya dumb fuckies,” the child said in a juvenile and high-pitched voice. “Who went and banged on my door? I get very mad when you wake me from nappings. And you know what happens to people who make me all mad ‘n’ shits? Bam! Bitches get got and they die!”

Their words were punctuated by a larger explosion that illuminated the entire room, as opposed to the controlled small explosions that popped around their person. It was far too obvious what ability this child of mine inherited. Snap Burst. The ability to send small yet powerful explosions throughout the air with a mere snap of a finger. Explosions powerful enough to stop bullets, deflect blades, eviscerate muscles, and shatter skulls.

It was a very useful and deadly power, and it was at the disposal of this child of mine. That is to say, a foul mouth little brat who made it sound like they had murdered several people before mastering the art of verbal articulation. While I contemplated sneaking around and ramming my knife in the back of their head, the regular sparks that appeared around their person made it clear that such a thing was a poor idea. With my mental processes left dim by the standards I was accustomed to, the best idea I could come up with was among the most obvious. To approach my child directly.

As they continued to shout at the waking occupants of this room, I revealed myself from my hiding spot. We soon locked eyes, and I slowly made my way towards their stubby body. While continuing his perpetual snapping, the child looked up at me with a sour expression, and wasted little time before questioning me.

“Who the fuckdaddy you be? I ain’t never seen your face ‘round her ‘fore. Act-ly, fart that Bismarck. You’re an intruder, and nobody enter’s B-17’s place without his permission. ‘Cos ‘o date, ya gonna die. Bye-bye bizatch!”

Before I could utter another syllable, the child’s snapping was redirected at me. Small explosions, their impact the size of a marble, burst across my being. My kneecaps exploded, the nerves to my arms were severed, and my eyes were both decimated. Blood began gushing from every orifice and my mind was too overwhelmed to do anything beyond concentrate on the pain that followed every concussive burst of searing hot agony. I crumpled to the ground as the explosions persisted, and as the relentless onslaught continued, everything went to black.

Once I regained my senses, I found myself laying on the floor, soaked in my own blood. My wounds had largely healed themselves, but my clothing had been reduced to mere scraps. I had died and come back, like I had thousands of times before. I moved my head to see the once smug little brat who murdered me now staring at my naked body in horror. His snapping momentarily ceased, giving me an opportunity to find my knife or gun and strike him while I could. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to put two and two together on account of having my brain exploded and repaired, probably several times. So instead, I approached the child gently.

As I looked down at the frightened little child, I noticed that there was a small puddle of a liquid residing beneath them, one that was dripping from their newly dampened panties, and held a distinct odor.

“Lovely,” I thought. “I caused one of my children to piss themselves with fear. I would almost feel bad about this if they hadn’t tried to murder me.”

“Now then,” I said as I looked down at my meter-tall offspring, “if you’re done trying to murder me, perhaps we can talk.”

“Heh,” the child began. “You think you’re so tough just ‘cos you can survive anything. Well, I… um… I’m B-17 the Bomber! I’m that Boisterously Bodacious, Big, Bad, Braying, Burdensome, and Brain Bursting Brown Baby Boy who goes, Bonk, Boom, Bing, Bang, Bop, and Bamf and Imma kill yo stupid ass to death!”

With as much hesitation as one expresses when swatting a fly, B-17 resumed their frantic snapping and sent me on the painful path of unconsciousness. Eventually, I felt myself get up, my senses partially restore, but I was soon met with nothingness afterwards. They were truly doing their best to explode me until I stopped regenerating, and if my first child’s endurance was any sign, I could not survive deadly wound after deadly wound.

How long had this been going on for and who long I had left were both questions I could not answer. I didn’t even have the mental fortitude to ponder them. The only thought I could focus on was that this child was trying to murder me, their own mother, and how they might stop if he learned that. I don’t know how I conveyed that information to the child, but eventually their snapping stopped, and I reformed my body from viscera to something better resembling a human, clothed only in my own blood. Before standing up to speak with the child looking at me in awe, I felt my way across the bloodied floor and located my equally bloody knife. Which I grabbed and placed between my buttocks as I stood up.

“What do you mean you’re my mommy? I ain’t got no mama!” B-17 said as they continued to snap.

“You do, child,” I responded, adopting a more melodic tone of voice. “I gave birth to you, and you inherited my power. Snap Burst. The ability to cause an explosive blast through the air using only a snap of your fingers is a powerful skill that you were lucky enough to be born with. I’m the one who developed it and the one who gave it to you along with your life.”

“Well, how do I know you’re not just a dumb stupid bitch liar?”

“Please. Do you not see similarities between us? The eyes, the skin, the hair? Surely you can see something like that… my child.”

“I… I don’t need a mama! I can do just fine all on my own. I mean, I got all of these fuck-bitches to do what I say. I’d say that’s pretty good. Even if ya gave me this power, I’m still more powerful than you. All you can do is die a whole bunch, but me, I can bust bitch’s heads like they Californy poopers, I can stop bullets with just a snap, I can–”

“I understand… I understand that you don’t need me. But could I just get one hug? I’ll leave you to live your own life however you want, but, please, I want to feel you in my arms before you leave my life.”

As B-17 contemplated my words, which I used in order to lure the child close to me, their frantic snapping stopped and he moved closer to me. I prepared to grab him up, lock him in an arm, and stab him through the back of their head, but something put a preemptive end to my plan.

A concussive noise echoed through the darkened room, followed by a spurt of blood that erupted out of my child’s forehead. Their body then fell to the ground, dead by gunshot.