The way. Part 3

A drop of sweat began its journey in the region of the collarbone, crept up to the chin, lingered slightly in the weekly stubble, but fell off and rushed to the ceiling. Only sweat was red for some reason, and a chair and an unknown person in a respirator, usual for these places, settled down on the ceiling, violating all the laws of physics. Troy’s brain didn’t want to realize that, in fact, everything was in its place, and he was hanging from the ceiling, like a carcass of an animal. Hands dangled helplessly, unable to help their master in any way. Something hurt him in the area of the ribs and he tried to look in that direction, but it was impossible to raise his head. But the attempt was noticed and from the stranger’s side came a quiet and calm, perhaps even a little tired:
— Who are you?
There was no strength to answer, the tongue didn’t obey Troy, joining the resistance of his hands and head. Chest pain became worse.
— Why are you interested in Route 66? - not a single change in the questioner’s intonation.
The pain became even worse and Troy was able to squeeze out a moan or a wheeze, but it seemed enough to attract the stranger’s attention. A subtle movement of the hand somewhere to the side and the pain receded.
— Answer these simple questions and the pain won’t come back. Never.
He even leaned forward slightly, looking forward to hearing his captive. He tried to say something, but when the words were about to be pronounced, darkness swallowed him.

Whoever retold this story afterwards - everyone tried to insert a remark here depending on what they believed in. Someone said that in moments of unconsciousness Troy introduced himself to Mei, someone talked about light and tunnels, and someone talked about memories. We’ll focus on the option that these were the gaps in consciousness.

On the second interrogation he lost count of how many times he came to. He wasn’t sure whether it was day or night outside. His whole life was centered around a spot of light in which a stranger sat on a chair and asked the same questions. The pain became a constant companion of his consciousness and it hurt all over the body. He started thinking pretty quickly about a way to end it all. He would be glad to answer all the questions and break out of this hellish circle, but his throat was too dry, and he couldn’t muster the strength to say anything. Most likely, having ended the story there, for the public he would have become a hero who was silent until the last moment.

This time, it wasn’t pain that brought him back to reality, but a sharp flash and screams. Something was clearly happening around, but Troy couldn’t look around and could only wait for what would happen next.
— Cap, we got an alive one here — a voice could be heard very close.
— Get him down — there was a whisper or a rustle.
The chain clinked and the ceiling began to approach, within a few centimeters from him, several hands grabbed Troy and gently, as far as the strangers’ ideas about neatness allowed, laid him on the floor. But even with all caution, a wave of pain swept through his entire body, ending with a groan in the throat.
— Give him water and put something under his head — said a quiet voice again. — And then let him sleep. Call me when he wakes up. The rest - set up a camp, we will live here for the next couple of days.
Magellan’s stayed in an abandoned warehouse for almost a week.

Troy was able to hold the spoon only on the third day, and from that moment on he spent almost all the time in conversations with his savior. It seems that they had time to discuss everything: from the history of the village in which Troy lived, to the way with which it was possible to supply even more weapons on their squad’s vehicles. In the same conversations, Magellan talked about their accidental meeting.
His squad went on an expedition and their initial path ran about ten kilometers from the place where Troy was kept. And if it were not for the sleeping guard, whom they encountered late at night, their paths would never have crossed. And then - they talked to their captive for one evening, and he told them about everything. About the atrocities that were happening here, how to find this place and the amount of guards. All that remained was to strike. The guard was returned to his post. He was returned in 5 different cars, but still — returned. Several days were spent on reconnaissance and one night was spent on the operation itself. They managed to catch the raiders by surprise, but two armoured vehicles rushed off somewhere in the direction of Rock City. Troy’s “acquaintance” was among those who fled.

— I don’t know why you need that freak, kid, - Magellan’s voice sometimes sounds like chirping, - but be careful, I see that you’re not a killer, you’re different.
— I owe him a favor. - Having said this, Troy touched the bandage on his ribs, which his tormentors poked with something sharp.
— Well, it’s up to you, my job was to warn you. You can just come with us, look for something interesting, and scare such freaks off. - his eyes were shining when he talked about that. This is the third time he has offered to Troy to go with him. And the third time when he was refused. — Of course, we will not leave an armored car to you, so take care of what the raiders had — we’ll leave in the morning.

The farewell was quiet. There were no parting words or strong hugs, just the paths of several survivors crossed in the Wasteland and there was a chance for a good ending for one of them. Troy silently shook hands with each of his rescuers. One of them handed over a piece of paper with the characters Z39TFV36MOJ written on it. Many then tried to solve this riddle, and perhaps someone even succeeded. But not in this story.

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6 January 2021