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Auction 38 We All Die

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The door clangs. Coolearly morning light and colder morning breeze rush in. I open my eyes and let out a piercing scream as I look into a terrifyingly brutal, bloodied face.

It takes my sleep-addled mind far too long to realize that it is Pharaoh. And he is not alone. He has come dragging Tore behind him. They are both badly injured, and my foolish shrieking has not done a thing to improve the situation.

Silver and Alexios leap into action. Tore is laid down on the stretcher I vacated. He does not look good. He is breathing, but only just, and doesn't seem to be conscious. His body looks like it has been haphazardly gift wrapped with blood-red bows, but I know they are tourniquets, attempts to stop further blood loss.

Pharaoh slumps down on the floor next to Tore. "I'm fine," he lies. "Help him."

Silver and Alexios do their best with the limited medical kit they have. They start an IV fluid drip. They clean the wounds. They try to find the source of the bleeding, and they find it in a few places.

It is messy. It is squelchy. By the time they leave him be, hours have passed and they are just as bloody as Pharaoh. Tore seems to be no better, but also no worse. He lies there, insensate, rasping his breath as the others try to wash the blood from their hands and question Pharaoh as to what happened.

"Everyone's gone," Pharaoh says. "All of them. They killed. Everyone."

"You sure..."

"I saw Keanau and Rick go down at the beginning. They ran toward the fire..." Pharaoh takes a deep labored breath. "Steve almost made it out, but they surrounded him. There wasn't anything I could do. Tore was bleeding out when I got to him. I did my best. But he's going to need surgery. Those rounds ripped through him."

Surgery? We can't do surgery here. This is a cross between a hole in the ground and a shack.

I stand back, stunned, trying to process what Pharaoh is telling us. The names he uses aren't ones I know. But I can deduct who they belong to. Rick. That must have been Cowboy's real name. I never knew it until he was gone. And Steve must have been Zen.

The silence in the room is heavy. People are dead. And not the small people, the ones we don't know. The ones who don't matter because we don't know their names. Our people are dead.

Alexios, Silver, and Pharaoh are utterly destroyed.

I feel grief. Their grief. My grief. Our losses rolled into one.

But that grief is not allowed to paralyze. After a few minutes, they begin to tend Pharaoh. He has a round buried in his arm, and one in his shoulder and another in his thigh. He lies, stoic as they dig them out and clip the skin closed over it.

The strength these men have is unbelievable. Nothing daunts them. Nothing stops them. Not even death. While they work, Pharaoh talks, answers their questions.

He and Tore had to hide overnight, so he knew what was happening around them.

"There's forces from San Antonio and Houston fighting over the city. And there's more coming. They're bringing everything they've got. It's war."

War.

The word makes my stomach churn.

My father told stories of war. I have not seen it in my lifetime, but the scars left from the previous conflicts are easily seen everywhere in our world.

There hasn't been a war in decades. Not since the city states were fully formed. The sheriff's death led to this. I led to this. I killed one man, and now many more are dead and many more will die.

"War never changes," my father once told me. "It never gives, only takes, and it ends only when so much blood has been spilled that both sides are too weak and gutted to taste another drop."

Mattias tried to warn me that what I had done wouldn't change anything, would probably make it worse.

But I didn't understand, and it was too late anyway.

He's dead. Elias is dead. Keanau. Zen. Cowboy. All dead. And Tore... the man who took the last of my innocence, he is dying.

I crawl up onto the stretcher beside him. I am very careful not to hurt him as I press a soft kiss to his bruised cheek and whisper, "I'm sorry."

He makes a soft grunt. His eyes open. Those beautiful blue orbs now utterly glazed with pain.

"I'm so sorry," I cry softly. "Tore, for everything."

"Is... okay," Tore says, his voice weak and husky. He is forcing words that should not come.

The others slip to the other side of the bed. We gather around the mortally wounded man and we watch, knowing what is coming. I heard them talking. He needs surgery. But there can be no surgery here.

"I don't want you to die," I whisper, hot tears running down my cheeks, dripping onto his skin, making a little rivulet of red run down the side of his face.

"We... all die," he rasps. "Live first. Live... first."
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