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Mo'Steel was a mess. His fingers and hands had been cut up by the sharp edges of his stolen Rider boomerang. His thigh boasted a gouge the size and color of a raw Mickey D's hamburger -- except for where it oozed yellow-green pus. Antibiotics? Not happening.
Face it, 'migo, Mo'Steel thought. If this infection doesn't clear up soon, you're toast.
The slash across his the front of his neck was maddeningly itchy, a good sign according to his mom, a sign that the infection was clearing. She'd stitched his thigh as best she could, using thread made from plant fibers and an actual sewing needle from the day before the rock, given -- secretly -- by a woman named Marina. She'd slipped the sewing stuff to Mo'Steel's mom with a warning against joining her son of such a dangerous journey with the Marauders. Olga had thanked Marina and gotten busy with her stitching.
Mo'Steel's neck had decided to close up on its own. Good.
Mo'Steel was no stranger to stitches, but in this very disturbing bizarro Earth, it was clear that those who were healthiest ruled. The fewer serious injuries, the better.
So, the Marauders couldn't know about the ache in his ribs where Hawk had sat on him, crushing his chest. Nor could they know about the pain caused by the popped shoulder joint, also courtesy of the big, bald, and seriously ugly Hawk.
Mo'Steel refused to let the Marauders know what real damage Hawk had done to him.
The Marauders' former leader. Mo'Steel's predecessor.
Man, this is so not good, Mo'Steel thought, not for the first time since waking up flat on his back in the Alpha bunker, surrounded by a rag tag group of Marauders, barely able to remember who he was, let alone how he'd gottten there.
And now, the dream storm had finally passed and he was starting out on a journey through the Shadow Zone, into the Dark Zone, where a battle awaited him. A battle that would solidify his leadership or kill him.
Mo'Majesty. Not yet, he thought. First, I got to deal with some beasts.
"J'ou be careful," Echo said. She touched Jobs's arm lightly, briefly, and he felt the familiar blush flood his cheeks. This Alpha colony girl looked only a few years older than him, yet she had the wisdom about her that made her seem like an adult.
"Okay," Jobs said, taking a small step away from Echo and her serious brown eyes.
"There are many dangers out there. We have seen some from our observation station. And the Marauders tell us so."
"Okay," Jobs said again. "Uh, like what? Besides the flaming gas and all."
And, he added silently, the awful nagging scritching of little feet, always just out of sight.
Echo didn't answer him.
"Can you tell us what else to steer clear of?" Jobs said, wondering if maybe he'd been unclear the first time.
Echo still remained silent. Instead, her eyes darted to the Marauders gathered at the back of the lowceilinged room.
Jobs got it. The other, unpspoken dangers lay with the Marauders themselves. Jobs had seen that they were unpredictable and brutal. So, if there was more to watch out for, he and the others would have to be on their guard at all times.
Which would, no doubt, be easier said than done.
Jobs felt very, very tired. The last thing he wanted to do was to go to the Dark Zone. But he had to. For Mo'Steel.