I wrote:A BEAUTIFUL PLACE TO DIE:
Petyr ran alongside Walker, ran for his life and the life of the child he carried.
It was the final evacuation of Point Resignation, a small stronghold in the Northwest. The Point had been one of the most promising bastions of humanity left on the west coast, with bustling trade thanks to abundant rain, rich soil and dense forests just inland of a fertile Pacific. Now, with its defensive force and fortifications weakened by an unsuccessful raid, and a hoard attracted by the smells and sounds of combat, it had to be left behind. The crops had burned in its last stand, after being trampled by desperate feet. The wooden palisades had followed, and that was when the evac had been started.
The Point had been abandoned twice before, once for a storm, once for wildfire, but all who were leaving now knew that this time, there would be no returning.
They reached the beach, where an ocean tug was waiting, the Nakoa. Survivors were already on board, safe just beyond the breakers. A Zodiac was closer in, already aimed for the tug. Petyr stopped. He set the child on the sand and told him to run to the smaller boat. He did not even know the boy’s name. Petyr turned to Walker when the child was out of earshot.
“My friend,” he said in his heavy Russian accent, “I want you to take this.” He undid a clasp on his leather armor. “It will do someone else a great deal more good.”
Walker looked at him, disbelief, shock, a million emotions flashing through his face, but he reached for the armor no less. He started to speak “You know-”
Petyr raised his hand. “Stop. I know things do not need to be like this. But you cannot save me. No one can on this continent. Not now.” He lowered his hand.
Walker looked at his friend. The bloody patch over his now missing left eye. The wrap around his right knee, where he had fallen from the walls of Resignation. The bloody bandages around his abdomen and his left hand, where he had been shot during the final conflict with the raiders. He knew his friend was right. Tears welling in his eyes, he hugged his best friend for the last time, and said simply “It’s been an honor, Colonel.”
“Likewise. We have fought well together. Saved a few lives, and comforted those we could not save.” He looked into his comrade’s eyes. ”In this life, my friend, you cannot ask for much more.”
The Nakoa sounded its horn. The men and child in the zodiac simply watched.
Petyr stepped back, and gestured to the boats. “Your chariot awaits.” He paused. “Live well, Walker.”
“Never surrender, Petyr.” Walker turned away, knowing he would never see his best friend again, and not wanting to have to see his comrade in the bloodied, broken state he was in.
“You know I shall die on a pile of brass!” Petyr shouted after him.
Petyr stood and watched the zodiac leave, the last to do so. Walker did not look back, but Petyr could see him stroking the circumpunct on his leather armor, the symbol of Resignations defenders, who had always been the few against the many. He watched until he could no longer make out the grey hull against the sea, and then he turned back towards the funeral pyre that his creation had become. He knew his friend and the child would be safe, that the tug would take them to New Boston, Umpqua, or even as far as Baja. He looked at the beach, the dunes, and the forest beyond. He said aloud “As beautiful a place to die as any,” and walked towards the flames.
The old soldier looked at the palisades burning across the fort. He ran his hand down the closest palisade, over the crude marks made by the drawknife he had used to peel the bark from a pine log years before. He could hear the pack closing in, their growls and slitherings unmistakable. This was at least three times the size of the pack he had fought at The Fist, in his younger days. He smiled at the memory, a true Oprichik, embracing death and introducing those who did not to it with a Tokarev in one hand and a hatchet in the other, a true warrior, gambling all in a battle he knew he could not win, but fighting anyway, for his family, his friends. For something larger than himself.
We Russians know sacrifice better than anyone else, he thought.
A nearby snarl brought him out of his musings. A flaming abomination stood before him, longing for the death it once knew. He was glad to oblige.
He leveled his PPSH, set the selector to single shot, and put a round into the beasts rotted skull. Even as it’s flaming, mangled corpse fell, it’s pack howled at the noise, at the smell of blood coming from the Colonel.
That’s it, come for me. I will take as many of you bastards to the grave with me as I can. Come, we dance one last dance of death.
He smiled. This was a fitting end for a man who had survived the Gulag, the collapse of his old country, and the death of his new country. He took a silver flask from his hip, a gift from Walker. It was filled with homemade vodka, tinged with cinnamon and honey behind its fiery kick. He took a long draw from it now, knowing it would likely be his last. He watched the pack inch towards him, and drank. He reflected on his life. His loves, his losses, his adventures and battles with Walker. The day that they had found Walker’s daughter, creeping through the forest with a bloodied axe in her hands, almost as feral as any stray dog. Teaching his goddaughter to shoot, some time later. Giving her her first gun, his grandfathers pistol, with “All hail Peter the Great” still emblazoned proudly on the side. Telling her about the battle of Stalingrad and how his own father had ferried troops and supplies across the Volga under cover of darkness to the Red October factory during the siege.
He had emptied his flask, and he looked at his own death, limping toward him on ragged limbs. My rifles are cleaned, my aim is true and my heart is pure. He laughed.
So long as I fight, you cannot win. You can end my life and pull the flesh from my bones, but for so long as I have blood in my veins and bullets in my magazine, I will never surrender. I shall die, as Walker says, with my boots on, on a pile of dead bodies and empty brass.
He shouldered his PPSH and began his last fight, never wavering. He dropped nearly seventy of them as they drew ever nearer. He laid his faithful rifle on the ground, and calmly drew his pistol. He fired, aimed, fired, with each shot another one fell. In this way 15 more met their end. Save one for yourself.
He lowered his pistol and watched them. They were strangely beautiful, in a terrible way. They had no cares, no needs or wants except for hunger. They did not know loss, regret, or pain. When they were at arm’s length, he pressed the barrel to his head, and closed his eyes. He squeezed the trigger.
The gun fired, and the Russian still stood, bleeding, missing pieces, but far from broken. His eyes blazed with a fury the likes of which he had never known. He drew his knife with his injured hand.
"I will never surrender! NOT TO THE LIKES OF YOU!"
He laid into the pack in one last blaze, hacking with his left hand and bludgeoning with his right. He carved a path through the clutching hands and hungry mouths.
When his pistol flew from his grip and his knife wedged in a skull, he used his fists. When his knuckles split and bled, he grabbed one of them by the head and started slamming it into the ground. He thought nothing. He felt nothing but focused rage. When he felt teeth digging into his shoulder, he slammed his body back and clenched his hands into fists, his blood streaming onto the ground, causing some of the freaks to bite at the stained dirt.
That’s it. One last meal. Just come a little closer.
He laughed. He did not feel the maws closing on his legs and arms; he did not even feel the fatal teeth at his neck, tearing away at him. He fell to the ground, and looked back towards the beach. He could just make out sand and salt spray through the legs of the pack.
He unclenched his fists. Two small metal objects flew through the air.
A beautiful place to die, indeed.
The grenades in his hands detonated.