The last bastion of the.., p.75
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       The Last Bastion of the Living, p.75
 

           Rhiannon Frater
Page 75

 

  “It always appears at the worst time,” Dwayne joked.

  Maria playfully glowered at him, then her hand returned to her belly. The full impact of what the return of her reproductive system meant struck her like a thunderbolt.

  Dwayne could see it in her eyes and lovingly traced his fingers over her cheek. “Your scars are gone. All of them. And you can be a mother, if you choose to be. ”

  Maria struggled to grasp it all. “I can’t go back because of what I am. . . ”

  He nodded.

  Maria all of a sudden understood why he had come so far for her. Out of fear that she was an Anomaly, he had come to set her free. Instead, he had found that the mad ramblings of Dr. Curran were true.

  “You came to kill me. ”

  Dwayne sighed softly.

  Maria licked her lips and drew his hand against her cheek. “And you weren’t planning to go back. ”

  “There is no life for me without you. I realized that tonight. My kids are grown and happy. I’ve done my best for them. My life is entangled with yours and if tonight I had to…”

  She had never seen him cry in all their time together, but a tear slipped down his rugged cheek. Brushing it away, she kissed the wet trail on his skin.

  “But just in case,” he said with a soft chuckle, “I had Petra secure everything we would need to escape the valley together. ”

  “I can walk among the Scrags…out in the world,” she said in awe. “Go anywhere…”

  “Yes, you can. ”

  Maria stared into his eyes, understanding. “What about you?”

  “Kiss me and I can join you,” Dwayne whispered, touching her lips with his gloved fingers.

  “Do you want that? Eternity?” Maria asked, her emotions making her voice soft.

  Dwayne didn’t hesitate. He leaned down and pressed his mouth to hers. She clung to him as they kissed. Her lips parted his and she licked the tip of his tongue.

  “Stay with me forever,” Maria whispered against his mouth.

  Drawing away long enough to gaze into her face, Dwayne answered, “I want nothing more. ”

  Epilogue

  The Inferi Scourge at their feet was silent. As they had slept, it had returned to torpor. Maria bent and touched its head. It didn’t stir. Dwayne squatted next to her and laid his hand over hers. The Scourge was silent, its eyes staring blindly.

  Dressed in the sleek black SWD armor Dwayne had brought her, Maria ruffled the Scourge’s hair lightly.

  “Goodbye,” she said, then killed it with a sharp blow to the head with the butt of her gun.

  Dwayne stood and in the light from his armor she could see that the gray was nearly gone from his hair. His scars were now a memory and the lines in his face were diminishing. After sleeping for nearly twenty-four hours, he looked younger and stronger than ever. Maria’s transformation had been slowed by her being killed before the virus was administered. Dwayne’s had been smooth and easy due to being alive.

  Stepping close to him, she rested her hand on his chest and he smiled at her warmly.

  “Where will we go? she asked.

  “Anywhere we want, I suppose,” he answered. “The whole world is ours now. ”

  Their helmets tucked into their packs, their wristlets updated and secure, Dwayne and Maria crawled through the tunnel. Stealthily, they scaled the rock face, moving higher and higher. The grips on their gloves and boots allowed them to climb easily and quickly. Strong winds buffeted them as they ascended the mountain, the air growing thinner, but their lungs easily adapted.

  A few times they stole looks at the city far below them. In the moonlight, it was dark and dreary. The valley around it spread out like a vast canvas waiting to be painted with the colors of rebirth.

  “Think they’ll make it?” Maria asked.

  “With Commandant Pierce busting heads, without a doubt,” Dwayne assured her.

  When they reached the snowline, they crunched over the icy drifts. Sometimes they found pathways, other times they balanced on narrow ledges. At last, they were high enough that the valley and the city were far below, hidden beneath soft clouds.

  Not even breathless or tired, they stood together, arms about each other’s waist staring down at the world they had emerged from. The cold wind flecked with ice pellets and snow nudged at their faces.

  Together, they turned and gazed outward at the world yet to be discovered. It spread out before them, white and serene under a vast sea of stars.

  “Ready?” Dwayne asked.

  A kiss was his answer.

  Together, hand in hand, they trekked into the unknown world.

 
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