Krieger walked past many shops and stores in this district, but he paid no heed to any of them. He had only one in mind. After plenty of time to potentially talk himself out of it, he arrived at the old west saloon style door of an old familiar place. The rich paint he remembered had begun to peel and fade - now it was mostly bare wood.
Gunz’ Guns. The words were almost faded away above his head, but the memories were still vivid. He raised a trembling hand to the door, withdrew again as his inner self screamed that he didn’t have to do this! But he did, and he raised his hand again, and this time he pushed himself through.
A ding of a bell announced his entrance. A beautiful, dark woman was sitting and polishing a replica of a Kalashnikov. Krieger felt his stomach punch its way up and into his skull. She hadn’t aged even a minute.
Without even looking up from her task, the woman waved a dismissive hand in the direction of the door, “We’re not open today, friend.”
Her voice brought back an assault of memories to Vincent Kriegs mind. Seeing her words have no effect, she snapped the polished rifle up (which was probably not loaded) and pointed it at the Krieger – a trained eye stared down the sights as she sized the newcomer up.
“You deaf, asshole? What do you want?”
Krieger couldn’t speak at first, the lump in his throat had grown to bowling ball size, but finally he pushed it down and spoke. She was the LAST person he wanted to see here.
She finally looked up.
The woman jumped up from her stool, dropping her polished gun to the dusty floor, and she fell back against the wall. A million emotions splayed across her face in a second.
Krieger stood silently, staring into her eyes as she composed herself slightly. She walked towards him, and he towards her. She raised a trembling hand…. and punched Krieger hard across the mouth. Krieger recoiled, hand to his face.
“I deserve tha-” The woman punched him again, which would later become a beautiful shiner on his left eye. She then fell to her knees, sobbing wildly.
Krieger slowly knelt down to her, “I don’t expect you to forgive me...” Before he could finish his thought, she reached up and embraced him, tears still flowing freely. Krieger’s own eyes welled up then. “I missed you so much.”
Without word or warning, and without looking at Krieger, she sprang up and ran out the door. “Oh, Mara.”
Krieger hung his head and didn’t follow her. He sat down against the wall and just hated himself for what seemed like an hour. Finally, a voice pulled him out of his trance.
“You hurt her real deep, you bastard.” It was Gunz. James Garrison Serja. Krieger’s oldest friend. Krieger rose to his feet and dried his eyes. “Yeah, I know.”
Gunz walked over to Krieger and for a second, he thought he was going to get punched again, but instead Gunz put a hand on his shoulder.
“Why?” he asked Krieger. “Why?”
“I can’t protect her,” He bowed his head. “I couldn’t chance losing her.”
“Lace wasn’t your fault, Krieg,” Gunz sighed, “You are the toughest sonuvabitch I’ve ever known. You’ve done more to defend this city from raiders and monsters than the whole city guard. When you gonna face your own demons?”
Krieger looked Gunz in the eyes. “I can’t…”
“We thought you were dead, Krieg.”
“It was best that she thought I was…” He put his head in his hands. “When did she start working here?”
Gunz couldn’t help but chuckle. “Several years back. Been teaching her everything I know. My sister can almost outdo me now…
Krieger, What did you actually come here for?”
“I needed to have this built,” Krieger pulled out a piece of paper with designs on it. “It’s a new design I’ve been working on.”
Gunz whistled. “You always did have a way with designs.”
Krieger showed him a picture of the vehicle the group was now traveling in. “They are going to be for the mounted gun on here.”
“Right, right…” Gunz studied the paper some more, “…this I can do. Let me fire up the shop.”
“Thank you, Gunz,” Krieger finally smiled. “I missed you a lot you know.”
“You too, man. Feel free to crash here tonight, if you want.”
Krieger did just that. He stayed the rest of the day and helped Gunz work. He never saw Mara When he woke in the morning, Gunz was already up.”
“All done man,” he said, offering Krieger some coffee. “I don’t expect you might be talked into staying in the city for a bit?”
“Actually, I’ve joined a squad of people to go down south.”
“Your actually gonna look for it then? You ol’ fool.” He laughed heartily. “I only wish I was gonna be goin’ with you.”
“Your welcome to join.”
Gunz laughed again, “I can’t. I gotta run the store. And someone’s got to make sure Mara doesn’t get into trouble.”
The mention of Mara again made Krieger frown.
Gunz sat down on a stool. “She waited for you, ya’know? She still loves you.”
“I can’t expect her to forgive me for never returning…”
“She would forgive you. I’m sure of it.”
Krieger said with all honesty, “When I get back, I promise you I’ll be there for her.”
He finished the last of his coffee. He couldn’t keep running away from the past. “I’ve spent enough time alone in the desert.”
Krieger gathered his newly crafted ammunition, and saying goodbye to Gunz, headed back to the meeting point.