Prologue

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I looked at Tegan, and sighed. "I'll be back. Okay? I always am."
Her tiny face nodded up at me. I don't think I'll ever understand quite how she only has a slight tan, how she isn't always exhausted, how she's always clean. I'm constantly deeply tan, blistered, bruised, tired, filthy, and full of fear.
Not that she or mom know that.
"You be back before sunset, okay?" Mom said firmly, yet her voice was shaking.
"I will be. Always am." I nodded, finding the conversation tedious. Then I pulled my baseball cap over my cropped hair, low in my head so it covered most of my face, and left the tiny shack we were staying in.
Then I left, and got my gun and knife to hand. When I saw a deer, my eyes lit up; I could tell without seeing. With a shot from my silenced gun, it was dead, and I left it to bring back on my way home.
As I walked around the woods, I picked the occasional plants or berries, putting them in my small backpack. Suddenly, I heard a voice behind me.
"Hey son," a man chirped, "how you doing?"
I span around, and looked at the man, seeing he was surrounded by at least half a dozen more men. My grip on the gun tightened.
"Now now, little man. You can put that down. We're not going to hurt you. Yet. As long as you don't do anything stupid, we won't." The man smiled, and I was petrified at his smile, his calmness, his obvious power. Without a doubt, I kept a firm grip on the gun.
"Drop that, sonny." He repeated, his voice firmer still. Suddenly, a man was behind me, and ripped of my cap, then grabbed my gun.
"Well well," the leader smiled, "I should have been saying lassie."
Slowly, I raised my middle finger to him, and he scoffed. "Sweetheart, that ain't gonna get you anywhere. So let's be polite, and tell me: where's your group?"
"Who the fuck are you?" I spat angrily, and he laughed her again.
"I'm Joe, but some people call us the Claimers."
"Where's your women?" I asked tentatively, remembering the reason why I prefer to look more like a boy. Being a teenage girl is dangerous.
"We don't have none. Where's your group?"
"I don't have one." I retorted.

I should have known not to say that.

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