Episode 04: Zedaki The Zealous
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Before my child’s body even hit the floor, I turned my head to find their shooter. They were enshrouded in the darkness of this floor, but in the silence that followed the gunshot, their footsteps were audible. They continued towards me, coming closer to the light cast from the open doorway, allowing me to look over their person.

They stood at an average height, roughly 1.8 meters tall, and wore a foppish red jacket that would raise a brow even at the best of times, yet looked absurd given the current state of the world. They wore an elegantly decorated jacket that went halfway to their knees, colored a vibrant scarlet, and adorned with white trimmings. A wide-brimmed a flat-topped hat the same vivid shade of red. And a pair of black trousers and brown leather boots that looked to have seen much wear over the years.

Even when the entire outfit was drenched in rainwater, the figure held an elegance as they walked towards me. As they did so, I noticed that they had leather straps placed along their back, one that supported a rifle, presumably the weapon used to kill B-17, along with a sheathed sword placed along their waist. After taking in her outer appearance, I looked up past the shadow cast by the hat and at this person’s face.

She was a woman in her mid to late thirties, with fair and light skin, but a scattering of coarse and hardened features, as if the past few years of her life had taken a toll on her. Her eyes were colored greyish blue while her hair was a stark snowy white, with platinum blonde streaks billowing over her shoulders, looking remarkably long, wavy, and well-kempt considering the state of the world. It made her look substantially more feminine and more elegant at the same time.

As the distance between us narrowed, she adopted a suspicious smirk as she looked over my naked body, and then let out a small chuckle. Her voice was deeper than most women’s, possessing a distinctive roughness to her every word, and as she spoke, she did so with a subtle accent that I could only peg as Australian.

“It’s not every day I see a bloodstained beauty like you,” the woman said to me with a sly look. “I take it you’re Abigale Quinlan, right?”

My eyes widened as I heard her utter my name, and I immediately sought to arm myself, pulling my knife out of my buttocks and grabbing my pistol from the ground. I did not know if this woman was friend or foe, and considering the negative connotation the world would rightfully have of me, I could only assume that she would ask me such a question if she intended to bring me harm. As I looked at her with my hands clenching my weapons, I wondered how she could identify me so easily. But then again, how many immortal 7-foot-tall women with dark skin and red eyes are there in this world?

I opened my mouth to respond to the woman in red, but as her eyes drifted over to my side, so did mine, as I looked over the remains of my child, B-17 The Boomer. In the span of no more than a minute, their body had been reduced to ash. Ash that was dancing across the static air throughout this room and towards my person, where it seeped through my skin. Once the absorption process was over, I felt better, more complete, and more powerful. With my explosive Snap Burst ability regained, I would be able to better defend myself from any attacker, including the woman who stood before me. That is, if she revealed herself as a foe.

Upon seeing that process, the many silent observers in the darkness began to speak to each other, expressing confusion or concern over what they just saw. I wracked my half-functioning brain for a response before the woman in red spoke up and silenced the crowd.

“Everybody, calm down, it’s me, it’s Zedaki. I’m back, the kid is dead, and you have nothing to worry about. Go back to sleep, and we’ll clean up his mess in the morning. For now, I need to talk with this woman. You know who she is, you saw what she is, and you should know that she takes priority.”

Wasting little time, Zedaki walked past me to turn off the light in the room, immersing us, and everybody in this repurposed furniture show floor into darkness. Once she did so, she moved up to me, patting me on the back before commenting that I should follow her. I shot her a cold look in response.

“Relax, I’m not going to hurt you or anything. From what your little friend told me, I couldn’t even if I wanted to. Besides, you just helped me take care of that little bastard.”

“My little friend?” I reiterated with concern.

“The chick with the crowbar. C’mon, she’s in my office.”

Still housing some reluctance, I followed Zedaki past dozens of people immersed in darkness, silhouettes that murmured amongst themselves and stared at me like I was an art exhibit. Not that I could truly blame them. I was Abigale Quinlan. I was the person responsible for them being in this situation. I am the person who took everything away from them. And even if they failed to grasp that obvious detail, I was still a naked woman.

Regardless, I followed Zedaki as she walked through the darkness, tracing the sound of her footsteps as they pressed against the tile flooring of the clothing store. Along the way, she grabbed a pair of pants and a shirt from one of the clothing racks and tossed them my way. I took a moment to put them on, and to store my knife and gun in the pants, before darting back to her as she exited the store. We then reached the moonlit rain washed parking lot, moments after the storm had ended. Without saying a word, Zedaki took me to the western building in this repurposed shopping plaza, which was once a hardware store.

Unlike the clothing store, the hardware store had large windows near the ceiling of the store, allowing the starlight and moonlight to illuminate the building, albeit slightly. Thanks to that, I was able to tell that the shelves were half barren and half virtually untouched since this store operated normally 7 years ago. Items such as basic tools, furniture, or materials like lumber and brick being hard to find, while flooring, paint, lawnmowers, windows, electronics, and the like all remained abundant on their shelves, with a layer of dust covering them. Surely due to the limited applications of these items and the fact that electricity was hard to come by.

Zedaki and I wandered throughout the entire store before reaching the back of the building, and a door that led into what was likely once an employee break area. It was shrouded in a veneer of darkness due to the lack of windows in the room, or at least it was before Zedaki casually flipped a light switch, causing a fluorescent ceiling light to come on. The room itself was barren aside from a few lockers against a wall, some chairs, and a conference table that Zedaki made her way to before sitting in what appeared to be her usual seat. After letting out a sigh, she spoke for the first time in the past four minutes.

“It’s all right, little miss crowbar, you can come out now!”

With that, a rustling came from a room connected to this one, and out from its door came Jack. Her clothes damp and hair doused in rainwater, while her signature crowbar remained firmly in her hand. Her initial look of worry soon dissipated once she laid eyes on me. Upon letting out a gasp of relief, she smiled and ran up to me, before suddenly stopping half a meter away from me.

“What are you doing here Jack? I thought I told you to stay in the bookstore.” I commented as I looked down at Jack’s face.

“Um, well, I was going to, but then Miss Zedaki—”

“It’s just Zedaki, little lady!” Zedaki commented as she leaned back in her chair.

“Zedaki came into the bookstore and found me pretty quickly. I tried hiding behind a chair, but she found me pretty quickly.”

“And then you told her about me before she took you back here with her?” I said with a dry disposition.

“Well, pretty much. I told her who you were, and that we were trying to kill your children… and that you went into Madeco. Erm, it’s the name of Zedaki’s village.”

“It’s not really a village, Jack Crowbar,” Zedaki rebutted. “It’s just a settlement where a bunch of people live, trying to survive without the trappings and luxuries of yore.”

“Could you please tell me why you brought me here?” I asked, tired of this back and forward.

“I brought you here to talk. I mean, who wouldn’t have a bunch of questions for the person responsible for all this? The person responsible for murdering what has to be billions of people, directly or indirectly, destroying most electronic devices, demolishing towns, reshaping the environment, and destroying modern human infrastructure as society had come to know it.”

“Well, I hate to break it to you Zedaki, but I don’t have the answers you seek. However, I will tell you what I do know as a thank you for murdering that trigger-happy child of mine. But first, I should start from the beginning.”

From there, I took a seat and regaled Zedaki with what excerpts I could remember of my life, how I existed for hundreds of years— basically reiterating what I told Jack on the first day of our journey. She was skeptical at first, but as the conversation went on, she steadily discarded any doubt.

“So that’s it,” Zedaki said with a sigh. “You destroyed the world and not only don’t you remember why you did that, but you also don’t even know how?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Then, afterwards, you were taken across the country so you could breed an army for this Flare Foundation thing?”


“So who exactly did they breed you with?”

“Myself. I possess both male and female genitalia. I assume they extracted semen from my male genitalia and artificially inseminated me using that.”

“…I got a pretty good look at your naked bod and didn’t see any dick. Or balls.”

“They are retractable. My primary sex organs can recede into my body. I am not sure why I have such biology, I simply do.”

“I’d say that’s weird… but that’s not even in the top three weirdest things I’ve heard or seen in the past hour. So now what? You’re going to go find and bury all your children?”

“I could not bury them effectively before their bodies dissolve into ash and return to me after I murder them.”

“Which happens because…”

“I do not know. But by murdering them, I regain the abilities they inherited. Meaning I can cause small explosions with just a snap.” I commented before snapping and causing a small concussive burst that rippled through the air.

“Gotcha… so what’ll you do when you get your powers back?”

“I destroyed the world, am responsible for the deaths of billions, and once my powers are restored, I will try to make amends for what I have done and restore the world to its former glory.”

“Heh. So even with all the power in the world, I guess you’re not really a selfish little git, are ya?”

“I have little reason to be selfish excluding the prolonging of my own amusement, which would be hard to come by when the world is in shambles.”

“You don’t need to tell me that,” Zedaki said with a snide smirk. “Being in charge of 51 people can be tough, especially when they get bored so goddamn easily.”

“So, you are the leader of this settlement?”

“Well, we try to do the whole democracy thing, but yeah, I’m pretty much in charge of this little space we like to call Madeco.”

“Um, excuse me, Miss Zedaki, how did you end up running this place?” Jack commented from the other end of the table.

“Oh, I almost forgot about you little miss Crowbar. Speak up more often, kid.” Zedaki playfully said.

“Anyway, I guess I could share my story, just so we’re even. Sadly, my origins don’t involve centuries of turmoil, great powers, or living a good chunk of my life in an underground bunker. I was a bright-eyed Swedish girl whose parents were relocated to Perth, Australia. Nice place, spent my formative years there, made some friends, went to Uni, got myself a degree, worked for about two years, and then got a job offer out in California. I was hesitant at first, but after looking at the salary they promised, my choice was clear. I said farewell to my friends and family before getting on the second-longest plane ride of my goddamn life.”

“I was set to arrive on March 20th, 2015 at 13:30 local time, but right as I was about to land, a bloody hurricane appeared out of nowhere and sent the plane crashing down. I somehow managed to survive, but was left stranded and alone in a foreign country as the world was going to total shit. After the worst— the absolute fucking worst— day of my life, I crawled out of a hastily chosen shelter to see a destroyed city, with dead bodies littering the streets like common refuse. I had nowhere to go, no idea where I was, and basically no hope.”

“Not wanting to fight for my life in the remains of the city I landed in, I decided to travel. Wandering from town to town, scavenging what I could, and trying to be civil whenever I met another person along my destinationless journey. Most of the time we simply passed by and said nothing, other times we briefly traveled as a pair, and a few times they tried to kill me. Needless to say, the killers all failed, and most of them died in the process. Why anybody would think a wooden baseball bat would beat a sword is beyond me.”

“Anyways, this went on for about two years before I stumbled upon Madeco. It seemed like the perfect place to prosper in the apocalypse. A shopping plaza with a massive clothing store, hardware store, and a warehouse full of preservative-rich food and other tat. There were only about 17 other people living here at the time, so they were happy to have me join their little makeshift society. In exchange for doing some work and handing them my sword.”

“Things were going just peachy for about two years as we survived off of semi-stale snack foods, a greenhouse that was converted into a garden, some makeshift solar panels so we could see at night, and filtered rainwater. But then some raiders showed up and started stealing our stuff. The leader of Madeco, former leader I guess, tried negotiating with them, but their demands were clear. They wanted everything we had and for us to leave with nothing, which was not gonna happen. We tried to create a wall to keep them out, but the project was a bloody crapshoot and the raiders kept breaking away at it, killing three people in the process.”

“With that failure behind her, the leader of Madeco chose to attack the raiders at their base, and, using a shoddily constructed propane bomb, lit those fuckers up… along with herself. It solved the problem, but someone else had to take reign of this place, and the privilege fell on yours truly.”

“All things considered, I’m pretty impressed this place has lasted for so long,” I commented while ignoring her loss.

“Yeah. Let’s just say that the warehouse store has a lot of food that’s still good past the sell date, having three rooftop gardens is enough to feed a lot of people, and we’re lucky those solar panels came with a good installation guide. Things were actually going really well for a while, but then some shitty kid showed up and exploded five people’s heads before announcing himself king of this place.”

“After seeing his powers first hand, and being rather attached to my face and the idea of, you know, living, I ran away, hoping to come up with a plan to murder this twerp. From what I observed, the little bastard could deflect bullets, blades, or blunt objects with a mere snap of a finger. But his ability would not help him at all against another explosion. Or more specifically, a bomb.”

“That night, I returned to Madeco by using my keys to the hardware store and got to work on crafting myself a bomb. It was a pain in the arse to build, but after a helluva lot of frustration, I managed to make a small explosive that would mess that kid up something fierce. With dawn approaching, I left to make my move, but as I entered the car park, I was met with one of the most morbid sights I’ve ever seen in my life. And I say that as someone who once slept in a school bus full of kid skeletons.”

“A rank stench led me to a pile of unrecognizable fleshy chunks that I could tell was the remnants of at least ten people. I couldn’t stop myself from letting out a shout, calling out the little bastard, and demanding that he show himself. It was a brash and stupid move and might have given me away. Knowing I would not survive a direct confrontation with the little shitstain, I left Madeco once again, planning to return in the night and hoping that the pile of flesh wouldn’t be bigger.”

“Considering he was on the third floor, and behind a metal door, I doubt he would have heard you shout.” I pointed out.

“Yeah, you’re right,” Zedaki said as she adopted a dour expression, clearly upset with herself. “But I had no clue where that bastard would have been. I didn’t get to do a headcount, but I hope I didn’t get anyone else killed.”

“Well, that explains your absence, but how exactly did you meet up with Jack?”

“Maybe you should ask her yourself.”

“Oh, me?” Jack asked cautiously.

“Jack’s a common name, Miss Crowbar, but I don’t see anybody else here.”

“Well, in that case… about two minutes after you left Abigale, right after the rain began, a woman entered the front door, and I hid behind a shelf.”

“That is to say, an empty two-sided bookshelf that you could easily see through. So not a very good hiding spot.” Zedaki interjected.

“I, um, I then pulled out my crowbar and tried sneaking around her and running away, but then she spoke. I looked up to her, and saw that she had a rifle pointing at me. I put down my crowbar and asked her not to hurt me… which she didn’t.”

“I never had any intentions to. Especially since you started crying after I pointed the gun at you. Anyways, from there I began to question Lady Jack, and she told me pretty much everything I needed to know, and more. Admittedly, I was pretty quick to believe her story about an immortal woman on a quest to murder her children, but I was on a quest to kill a kid who could blow people up with a snap of his sticky fingers, so I was ready to believe anything.”

“We then left the bookstore and went to Madeco. Zedaki used her key to get into the back of the hardware store and left me in this room while she… um, I think you need to tell this part.”

“Ya think? Anyhow, I assumed that baby boom-boom was in the clothing store, ‘cos there’s a bedding area in there that my people usually sleep in, and as I entered the store, I found a trail of wetness lining the floor. Curious, I followed it up to the third floor, only to see the door to my repurposed bedroom open wide, lighting up a body that was being blown to bits before the child suddenly stopped. I waited until you started talking to the twerp and his guard was down. Once that happened, I lined up a shot with my rifle and hit him right through the ear.”

“Thank you for doing that Zedaki. And thank you for not harming Jack.” I commented, deciding not to mention how I was seconds away from stabbing B-17 in the brainstem.

“Speaking of Miss Jack Crowbar, what’s her story? If we’re all exchanging tales, that’s the least she could do.” Zedaki said as she leered over at Jack.

“Um, okay. I was left alone for about a year after the Cataclysm, making my way as I could, before I ran into the Flare Foundation. I helped them out as best I could, but then Abigale work up from her coma and I chose to help her instead… kind of abandoning my home in the process. That’s about it.”

“Damn, your level of detail is stunning, milady. Were you a novelist before things went to shit?” Zedaki said with a palpable quantity of sarcasm.

“Um, sorry, I just don’t like talking about my past as much. The Flare Foundation was, um, something.”

“Relax, I won’t pry. A lot of bad stuff has happened since the Cataclysm, and a lot of people don’t like to talk about it. I mean, there’s a lot about my past that I’d never end up telling you guys.”

A small silence settled over us after Zedaki said that.

“So, where are your ‘senses’ saying your next child is?” Zedaki asked.

“I can feel multiple children, but the feeling is both vague and faint. I believe I was lucky that B-17 did not stray too far from the Flare Foundation, but my other children have traveled far further.”

“Wait, B-17? That’s the bastard’s name?”

“It was an abbreviation for an utterly asinine title that I deliberately chose to forget,” I commented.

“Okay… So, your next destination must be pretty far then, huh?”

“I can only assume it is. It may take me months, if not years, to find all of them. Especially if they are traveling themselves.”

“Hmm… Miss Quinlan, what if I told you that I had a way to quickly travel across the land?”

“I would be skeptical.”

“Heh. Then follow me, and I’ll shatter that skepticism of yours.”

Zedaki then stood up from her chair and began to leave the room, beckoning Jack and I to follow her. We walked through the darkened hardware store for about a minute before Zedaki stopped and pulled out a flashlight from her scarlet jacket.

The light revealed a sedan with an almost retro-futuristic look to it, harkening back to the 1960s with its more circular design, yet holding a sense of modernity to it that was exemplified with the presence of solar panels adorning the roof of the car. Beyond that, the car was painted a very eye-catching red, a slightly more saturated hue than the colors Zedaki dressed herself in, and it possessed resilient-looking tires.

Naturally, the sight of a vehicle like this, and one that looked to be kept in a rather pristine condition, was surprising to me. Jack shared in my surprise as her jaw hung open upon seeing the car, much to Zedaki’s delight.

“She’s a beauty, isn’t she?”

“How did you come across a vehicle like this? I was not even aware that solar-powered vehicles were available to consumers.” I remarked as I took a closer look at the car.

“A week ago it just showed up a couple of kilometers from Madeco. Not sure what kind of Gods I pleased to end up with something like this, but I’m not one to question this sort of thing.”

“Why exactly are you showing this to me though? Surely you’re not going to just give me something so valuable.”

“I’m not. The car’s mine, and seeing as how you’re the best bet people have of, you know, rebuilding civilization, I figured I should give you a hand. I’ll drive you where you need to and put a few bullets between your kids’ eyes. All I want in return is for you to make things better. That, and to see Madeco become a proper town… and maybe a statue… or three.”

“Heh. I’m not one to make extreme promises, but I think I can manage that,” I said with a lighthearted smirk.

I then exerted my hand to Zedaki, which she shook firmly. We exchanged smiles before turning to the vehicle and seeing Jack looking at its engine.

“Jack, what are you doing?” I called out to her with a sense of distrust in my voice.

She then immediately retracted her hands from the vehicle and redirected her attention to Zedaki and me.

“Oh, sorry. It’s just that I… I recognize this car.”

“Wait, what?” Zedaki exclaimed while I thought something similar.

“Ah, yes. Miss Flare actually took me on a few drives in this car. She used to call it the Blazing Beelzebub, though I’m not sure why.”

Zedaki let out a laugh as she heard Jack’s explanation.

“Man, how incompetent were those Flare Foundation fucks if they just left something like this in the middle of nowhere?”

After Jack responded with a nervous laugh, Zedaki took both of us to the back room we were just in and through a door to a room that was repurposed into a small sleeping area. She left us there for the night and promised to return in the morning, advising us to get to sleep sooner than later. After using Jack’s flashlight to examine the small room, Jack and I fell asleep on the fully furnished beds left out for us. Jack fell asleep rather quickly, smiling as she wrapped herself up in a thick blanket, while I stayed up for a short while, cautious about both Zedaki and whatever would come next.

This all felt a bit too convenient, and even though things were indeed going my way, something about how well things were progressing left me a little paranoid. Regardless, I lacked the fortitude to ponder things in as much detail as I would desire, and instead allowed my dark surroundings to lull me to sleep.