The country that housed Marsev could hardly be called a country. It had many names that varied depending on the region. There was no overseeing government – there were stories of one having existed hundreds of years ago, but now there was no single power player. There were zoned territories that had their own form of government, though most seemed to run on an anarchic basis with gangs and crime syndicates ruling the streets.
Marsev was by far the most impoverished, crime-riddled, and forsaken zone. It had reached an all-time low approximately ten years ago when police brutality and increased taxes caused citizens to revolt by relying on gangs for protection, outsourced goods, and general order. Without enough military personnel to patrol each street, the government became a laughing stock and was disregarded as an entity altogether.
It was during these times that Jericho Jennings slithered into the government like a viper. He had waited patiently, biding his time until the government lacked so much control that nearly anyone with money and political ties could weasel their way into office.
The man was an intimidating six feet seven inches tall. He was in his forties at the time and had jet black hair with a few lingering gray strands combed back into the obsidian locks. He was always clean-shaven, and while not the most attractive man in the world, his confidence, money, and power often gained him favor with women.
No one was entirely sure of his upbringing. He told semi-lucid tales of growing up in an upper class home. Through his younger adult life, he was a member of the police force. Due to his diligence, scary level of intellect, and ability to demand respect, he was quickly thrust upward through the ranks.
When Jericho was introduced into office, reforms sprung forth immediately. He quickly instituted a city-wide curfew and increased military spending, thus affording the country approximately two thousand more policemen who were placed on border patrol, and he began cracking down on and targeting known gangs around the city.
And for the past ten years, a war had been waged between a government trying to gain back its position and the gangs that had stolen it.
TEN YEARS AGO
Amoretta had always been smaller than other girls her age. Her skin was taut across her bones, and the clothes she wore were two sizes too big. Her hair was so blonde it looked white at times, but since it was rarely clean, it appeared a dark golden brown.
She had found her mother dead nearly a month ago, and her father had been arrested in the same day. With no foster care system in Marsev, Amoretta was left to the streets to fend for herself. She wandered aimlessly, stealing bread and digging through trashcans for scraps. She slept on the sidewalk like most of the other homeless.
On an especially cold night, Amoretta found refuge inside a trashcan pushed against the side of a small house. She was small enough to fit inside with the lid closed. There wasn’t much the container had to offer, but it was dark and enclosed; these were two things she had learned to appreciate in life.
She remained in the trashcan for hours, hugging her knees to her chest and trying to fall asleep. But she did not think she slept anymore. The image of her mother’s corpse haunted her every time she began to drift. Cold, white, and covered in blood. Eyes wide open, staring up lifelessly. Amoretta shuddered, and she more or less zoned out when she was tired. But she never drifted to sleep for longer than twenty minutes at a time. The deathly image of her red-stained mother made sure of it.
In the middle of the night—maybe it had even been early morning—the lid to the trashcan was removed. The blonde child glanced up and saw the face of an olive-skinned boy staring down at her. He blinked curiously at her, and the two locked eyes for several seconds. He dropped the bag of trash he had brought out and frowned. “Why are you in our trash?”
Amoretta crossed her arms stubbornly and returned the frown. “I can do what I want.”
“Don’t you have a house to sleep in? It’s dirty and stinky in there.” He disgust was obvious.
“No. And I don’t have a mommy or daddy, so you can just butt out.” She held out a hand, her fingers extending above the trashcan and into the open air. “I’ll take that bag if you’re done with it.”
The look of disgust on the boy’s face melted into sympathy and understanding. He stared at the girl who scowled and stretched out her hand, and even though she tried so hard to frown and look mean, he could see the masked solemnity in her eyes. Finally, he turned his head toward the house. “Mom!” he yelled. “Mom!”
Amoretta heard the creaking of a door opening and slamming as it closed. “Aiden?” a voice called, though from inside the can, Amoretta could see nothing. The boy turned to face someone, and he gestured inside. That was when Amoretta saw her face.
The boy’s mother clicked her tongue and smiled sadly down at Amoretta. The woman had a soft, beautiful face. There were lines around her smile and wrinkles at the corners of her eyes, but she was still so pretty, and her smile betrayed nothing but warmth to the girl in the trash. “Hi there. My name is Leslie. What is yours?”
Amoretta looked up at the woman with skepticism. She felt vulnerable with both the boy and his mother staring down at her as she sat in their trashcan. “Amoretta.” No, not vulnerable… Pathetic.
“It’s nice to meet you, Amoretta. Would you like to come inside? I can make you something to eat, and you can warm up by the fireplace.” She held her hands out, and it took several moments before Amoretta stood up cautiously and allowed the woman’s hands to hook under her armpits and lift her out of the metal bin.
When she was set down, she followed the two inside, her eyes shifting from side to side constantly in apprehension.
“Mom, she stinks.”
“Aiden Mitchell, you watch your mouth. We’ll clean her up and get her something to eat.” Leslie smiled back at Amoretta and gestured for her to follow her into the kitchen. The girl obliged, taking in the sight of the small house. It did not even seem big enough for a mother and her son, so she was not sure why the woman had invited her in. It was dull and brown inside. There was one tattered sofa, splintering wooden flooring, and a lone picture frame on the wall that had unfamiliar faces in it.
“Arms up,” the woman told her. Amoretta twisted her lips but lifted her arms up above her head. Leslie pulled the dirty brown dress up and over her before tossing it to the side. After running some water into a bucket and grabbing a cloth and soap, she knelt before Amoretta. The mother dunked the washcloth in the bucket of warm water and soap and began to scrub the girl’s skin, starting with her arms.
Aiden stood and watched as the blonde girl was scrubbed raw. “Mommy, is she going to stay with us?” He watched with slight admiration as the girl stared forward coldly. As his mother scrubbed Amoretta, the young girl said nothing. She only looked ahead, her eyebrows furrowed and her chin held high. How she could be in such an embarrassing situation and still look so proud bewildered Aiden.
“If she wants to.” Leslie began working the soap into Amoretta’s hair. “Go get a pair of your pajamas, Aiden. She can borrow those until I make her some clothes.” Leslie glanced over and smiled as Aiden nodded and ran out of the room.
“How old are you, Amoretta?”
“Wow, you’re a big girl. Where are your parents?”
“Mommy is dead. Daddy is in jail.” There was no sadness in her voice, though it was obvious that the girl’s heart broke upon saying those words. She did not dare to look into Leslie’s face. She was too beautiful and too kind. She reminded her of her mother, and she could not bear it.
“My husband and daughter died. All I have left is Aiden,” she told the girl with a quiet voice. “You can stay here if you want, Amoretta. Aiden and I don’t have much, but we survive.” After what seemed like an eternity, she was finished washing the dirt and grime from the girl. She began rubbing her dry with a towel.
For the first time since she had been in the house, Amoretta spared Leslie a glance. A whisper, nearly inaudible, escaped Amoretta’s throat. “You won’t be my mom,” she told her, not out of malice but out of assurance for herself that her mother would not be replaced.
“No, of course not, sweetie. No one could ever replace your mother. How about you call me Aunt Leslie?”
Amoretta stared at her for a long while before nodding her head curtly. “Alright.”
NINE YEARS AGO
Assimilation into life with Aiden and Leslie was admittedly rough. Amoretta was, despite being only eleven, an independent girl who refused the help of others. Having had her parents stripped of her combined with the fact she had endured a life of poverty and watching her parents work until their feet bled just so she could eat had hardened her. She was a child in body, but one look into her eyes betrayed her maturity.
Aiden was a kind boy. Instead of giving into the initial jealousy of sharing his mother with another child, he accepted her and tried to befriend her. It took months before Amoretta would even give him the time of day, and he was surprised by the fervor his comment had elicited that one bright afternoon.
“Can you hand me that trash bag?” Aiden and Amoretta had been tasked by Leslie to pull weeds in the back yard. Wordlessly, the blonde handed him the bag. For some reason, Aiden felt a small surge of irritation wash through him. He had dealt with her silence for a year, and he was tired of it. “You could be a little more grateful, you know.” He ripped the weeds out a bit more fiendishly now.
Amoretta stopped what she was doing and stared at him. “Do you want me to call you a hero? Is that it?” The deeply etched frown of her lips never seemed to fade.
“You were starving and dirty. You had no family. Now, you have a full belly, clean clothes, and a new family.”
“You are not my family,” she seethed before standing to her feet. This, in turn, caused Aiden to rise to his feet as well. Amoretta had already begun hitting her growth spurt, but she was still the same height as the biracial young boy.
“Why the hell are you so resistant to us? We’ve done nothing but help you!” Aiden yelled, though his tone breathed more hurt than anger.
Back then, Amoretta was not as well-equipped with words to describe how she felt. She wanted to call him a self-entitled asshole, but the only response she could formulate was, “You act like I owe you for making me live in this shitty world even longer. You haven’t helped me! And if you want to feel good about yourself, trying to get me to thank you for that isn’t going to work.”
Aiden snaked his fingers into his curly brown hair, pulling in frustration as his eyes widened with a growing fury. “You’re such a brat! Don’t you like us?! Why can’t you just be happy with us?! Look, I’m sorry your mom died, but that happened a year ago. People die all the time. It just happens. My dad died, but you don’t see me going around treating my mom like shit.”
At the mention of her mother’s death, Amoretta lunged forward and shoved her hands into his chest. She was surprisingly strong for her small frame. Her shove was powerful enough to push Aiden back and cause him to fall onto his behind. But Aiden was not a violent person, and even in self-defense, all he was capable of doing was yelling.
“Stop fighting me, Amoretta!” he called from the ground.
“No! You’re not my brother, you’re not my cousin, and you’re not my friend!” she spit. Childishly, she kicked the bag of weeds across the yard and huffed at herself.
Aiden’s mouth hung open slightly as he stared at the pugnacious young girl. Tears glossed over his eyes, but none fell. “You can’t keep being like this, Amoretta.”
The girl flinched. She hated that name. She hated that fucking name. Amoretta was the name her mother used to whisper tenderly to her at night when she was being tucked into bed. Amoretta was the name her father called when he was looking for her outside. Never once had her name been spoken in anything but love and tenderness. And now, it was only ever spoken in anger.
She stormed off.
EIGHT YEARS AGO
For a twelve-year-old girl, Amoretta got into a scary amount of fights. The past year had been rocky living with Leslie and Aiden, but she had begun to be a little nicer to the boy. She looked Leslie in the eye more often.
“You wanna act like a boy—we’ll treat you like a boy.”
Amoretta stared as four boys loomed over her. Her words were what often got her into fights, because they were always dripping with sarcasm and veiled insults. When confronted about her off-hand remarks, she resorted to blunt tenacity. She had no qualms telling someone what she thought about them.
Unfortunately, in Marsev, that meant blood.
“I wouldn’t want it any other way,” Amoretta commented boldly. Her face was shrouded in impassivity like always, but in certain angles, it looked as if she was suppressing a smirk.
Amoretta was a hell of a good fighter for being just twelve. She was fast and strong, often surprising her opponents. Her reflexes were almost inhuman, and she normally made quick work of a bully. But four boys was too much, even for her.
One moved to slide around her, and she was too preoccupied with the other three to turn her back to them to fend off the other one. The boy grabbed her elbows and yanked them behind her, effectively keeping her back pressed against him. Any time she tried to move away, he only tightened his grip and threatened to dislocate her shoulders.
The three other boys stood with their apparent leader in the middle, his lackeys flanking him on either side. None of the boys were older than fifteen or sixteen, but they were much bigger than Amoretta. The leader grinned malevolently and threw a swift punch into her stomach. This caused the girl to cough and bend over, but the boy behind her kept her upright.
“Make her suffer,” the leader told the other two, who then moved forward and began alternating in places they would punch. One of their hits socked her dead in the cheek, and a tooth went flying, a few drops of blood sputtering out of her mouth along with it.
“Ahg!” one of the boys gurgled as he fell to the floor.
Amoretta blinked curiously as the boy crumpled to the ground, holding the back of his head as it bled profusely. She saw Aiden standing there, legs spread shoulder-width apart and his fingers gripping a tire iron tightly.
It was at this point that the boys no longer cared for beating up on a little girl and instead turned their attention to what they perceived as an actual threat. The boy holding Amoretta let go in attempt to run and help his friends, but Amoretta would not let that happen.
She stuck her foot out and hooked it around the front of his ankle as he ran forward, and he fell flat on his face. When he rolled onto his back, Amoretta was on him like a leech. She straddled his waist and drove a fist into his face. “Fucker,” she muttered.
Everything was black for a second.
The girl finally saw again, but she realized quickly that she missed the darkness. Aiden was behind her, wrenching her off of the boy she sat on. His face was unrecognizable, and she realized that her hand was broken and covered in blood. Had she blacked out and simply went to town on his face? How had she maintained bodily consciousness but lost such a significant chunk of time?
What disturbed the young girl the most was not the horror of the boy’s bloody face below her, but the fact she felt no remorse. She had even relished a little in it. She would have killed him had Aiden not forcibly removed her, and she would not have lost any sleep over it.
Although Amoretta was not wildly flailing around, she was still struggling to break free of Aiden’s grip and go after the other boys who seemed to be scrambling to their feet and running away. Aiden knew she would not stop until they were out of her sight, so he tugged her away from the scene and down an alleyway. Once they were midway through, he let her go and stared at her with a mixture of curiosity and anger.
“What?” she bit out and spat some blood to the side. Her tongue moved to the back of her mouth and felt the groove of a missing molar. Bastards, she thought.
“Why do you always have to get into fights?” he asked as he scrutinized her battered form. “You would’ve come out with a lot more wounds if I hadn’t shown up. You might not have even come out at all, Amoretta.”
The girl huffed and leaned back against the wall, folding her arms across her chest and avoiding his stare. “They attacked first.”
“But you provoked them. You know better.”
“You want me to keep my mouth shut when someone is being a dick? Is that it?”
“Yes!” he exclaimed. “I want you to know that you telling them off is not going to change the world! It’s not going to make anything better for yourself!”
“You’re going to get yourself killed one day. And I know you may not care too much about me, but think about my mom. She would be devastated!”
“I know, okay,” Amoretta seethed. She slid down the wall and hugged her knees with a sigh.
It was at this moment that Aiden knew he was seeing a side of Amoretta he had never seen before. She was soft and vulnerable in this instance. His anger melted away, and concern took over in the contours of his face. Worry crept onto his eyebrows as they furrowed, and he crouched down next to her. “You don’t have to live in this world alone, Am. I’ll watch your back, and you watch mine.”
Amoretta peered up at him and squinted, trying to discern what his angle was. She thought back to the recent memory of him bursting into action and saving her. Aiden was not a fighter. No matter how many times she had shoved and berated him, he never hit back. For him to resort to violence meant he truly cared about her. She was not willing to gain a brother, but she could gain a friend. “Okay.” She paused. “I don’t like when people call me Amoretta.”
Aiden blinked curiously. “What? Why?”
The blonde girl sighed, and she averted her eyes away from the boy. “It makes me think of happier times.”
Aiden seemed befuddled at first, but he slowly grew to understand. She associated her name with the life before Aiden and Leslie. It was a life where she had both parents whispering ‘Amoretta’ tenderly. “Alright… What about Jessica?”
Amoretta jerked her head back to look at Aiden in disgust. “What the fuck kind of name? Do I look like a Jessica to you, bitch?”
Aiden stifled a laughter in his hand. “Okay, okay! Hmm.” He rubbed his face and sighed. The sight of Bullet slamming her fists rapidly into the thug’s face entered his mind. “Alright, from now on, to me—you’re Bullet.”
SEVEN YEARS AGO
“Happy Birthday to you, happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday dear Aiden, happy Birthday to you!”
Aiden stared down at the small, chocolate cake his mother had prepared for him. Homemade sticks of wax with wicks buried inside them were lit, but they looked more like molten globs of white than candles. Bullet stood next to Leslie, watching the boy.
“You’re taking too long!” the young girl bit out in impatience.
“I’m trying to think of a good wish, okay?” Aiden responded acridly, glaring at her. A pointed stare from Leslie shut them both up, however, and after a second, Aiden blew his candles out.
“What did you wish for?” Bullet inquired.
“It’s a secret.”
“I can make you tell me,” she added off-handedly, stepping forward with a balled-up fist. Aiden liked to believe this was her way of joking, but sometimes he could not be too sure. Leslie merely laughed it off and began cutting the tiny cake into three pieces.
Bullet stared as Leslie and Aiden laughed and joked with one another. The sound in her ears became drowned out as she focused on the feeling of happiness that was swelling inside her. She forced herself to forget about it, however, as she knew this happiness would end one day soon.
SIX YEARS AGO
“Amoretta, we’ve lived together for almost four years now. Can I trust you?” Leslie smiled sweetly down at the young teen.
Leslie was the only one allowed to call her by her real name anymore. The young teenager nodded quietly, curious as to what her aunt was about to ask of her.
“Follow me. It’s time you see what being a part of this family truly means.”
Trailing behind the slender woman, Bullet wondered what had changed in her aunt so suddenly. Leslie was somewhat of an enigma, now that Bullet really thought on it. With Bullet and Aiden both being fourteen, they were trusted to handle all household duties by themselves. The two children cleaned, cooked, and took care of the garden from which most of their food came from. Meanwhile, Leslie was gone almost every day. Bullet had never asked where she went, always assuming she worked as a seamstress or something similar in a shop in town.
“Where are we going?” Bullet finally asked after thirty minutes of walking. It was now getting dark out, and they were surrounded by nothing but shrubbery and trees. The younger girl skillfully navigated around the tree roots that threatened to make her trip, but Leslie walked without looking down, as if she had walked this path a thousand times. When Bullet received no answer, she sighed and scratched the back of her head.
“My husband owned a small business. His line of work was…not appreciated by the police.” Her eyes slid over subtly to Bullet. “They killed him.”
Bullet swallowed. “And your daughter?”
“Wrong place, wrong time for her, I suppose,” she answered cryptically. She had never shown this side of herself to Bullet before. Quiet, serious, distant. Bullet felt closer to the woman than she ever had before.
“Why did they kill him? What kind of work did he do?”
Leslie stopped once they reached a small cabin in the woods, and she turned abruptly to stare at Bullet. They were roughly the same height now, and she easily stared into the girl’s eyes. “The government is not all it seems, Amoretta. You must know that. You must know that the ones responsible for your mother’s death are men of a more uniformed kind.”
The teenager seemed shaken by her words. Never had Leslie brought up her mother before. “How do you know? And why? My parents did nothing illegal. They were manual laborers!”
Leslie pet the younger girl once, letting her hand slide down and cup her neck. “Then you did not know them very well. You’ve been watched constantly since you first showed up at my house, Amoretta. And the only reason they would spy on a child is if she had some previous affiliation to the black market or criminal world in some way.”
“Then why not kill me? I don’t understand.” Bullet could maybe believe that she did not know her parents as well as she thought she did. But this was still so much information, and it was delivered so quickly and so casually that Bullet felt sick to her stomach.
“Because you’re with me, now. And they know what a terrible mistake that would be.” Leslie smirked—for the first time since Bullet had known her, Leslie smirked.
Bullet was too thrown off to respond. Her mouth hung open in a slight part, and an inaudible word came out that neither could decipher. Before too much longer, Leslie grabbed her lightly by the wrist and led her into the cabin. As the door swung open, she stepped inside cautiously. Leslie pulled up a trap floorboard door, gesturing for Bullet to descend. When she did, her eyes snapped open wide.
“Does Aiden know about this?” she asked quietly.
“Hunny, Aiden is the one who’s been protecting you from Jericho Jennings since the day you began living with us.”
FIVE YEARS AGO
Bullet heard something in her wrist snap as Aiden’s leg connected with it. For the past year, Aiden had begun training her in self-defense. She was naturally tough and quick, but she had no actual training or knowledge of how to fight other than street scraps. To her surprise, Aiden was a mixed martial arts expert. What was even worse was that he showed no mercy.
“Stop being a pussy, Bull.”
“I mean, I’m pretty sure you just sprained my fucking wrist, but okay.”
“And? You think an opponent cares about that?”
“Are you an opponent? No. I know you won’t legitimately hurt me, so I’m not in fight-or-flight mode right now. It’s just not the same.”
Aiden frowned. “You know, huh?” Quicker than Bullet could follow, Aiden was rushing at her and grabbing her face with one hand. His fingertips tightened into her temples as he brought his lips to hear ear. “Who said I wasn’t going to hurt you?”
The next thing Bullet knew, her back was slammed into the wall, and all of her breath escaped her lungs in one rough exhale. She fell to her hands and knees while coughing, the back of her head split open and bleeding. After a second, she glared up at the teenager and growled. “What in the actual fuck?!” she yelled before scrambling to her feet, sacrificing all form, and entering a blind rage. She swung at him repeatedly, and he dodged or parried with his own limbs accordingly.
He sighed while he defended against her onslaught of melee attacks. “You’re so reckless, Bullet. Like, Jesus Christ. Can you—!” He was interrupted as he had to parry yet another blow. In a bout of frustration, he snatched up her wrist and jerked her body toward him, his other hand going around her throat to keep her in place. “Can you listen to me for a second?!” he barked. She still tried to break free and retaliate, but he was too pissed to give into her childish ways. “Do you want to actually do anything in this world? Do you want to avenge your mother? Free your father? Run the government into the ground? Does any of that interest you?”
She tore her eyes from his, pouting.
He shook her. “Does it?!”
“You know it does, Aiden! But this isn’t me. I don’t fight like this. I’m not a trained assassin. I’m a tank. A motherfucking tank built for dealing and taking damage while other, more skilled people go for the strategic kill.”
The brown-skinned male grit his teeth and pushed her away from him. “You don’t get it. I’m not asking you to fight like this. But this training is going to help you in more ways than one. It’ll teach you some discipline.” He rolled his eyes and mumbled. “Lord knows you could use some of it.”
Bullet rubbed her injured wrist in agitation. “Fine. I’ll fucking do it your way.”
FOUR YEARS AGO
“It might be wise to start creating some connections,” Aiden suggested.
A year of training was all it had taken for Bullet to hone her natural prowess and surpass even Aiden in his adept maneuvering skills. “Fuck that. We need an actual gang. We need ride or die people, not ones who will sell us out for a profit.”
“Oh? And how do you expect to gain intense loyalty so quickly from strangers?”
“Easy,” she responded. “We take them from other gangs.”
“So you want people who have betrayed their gang to join yours? And you expect full loyalty.”
“Don’t get it twisted. Those people join those gangs because they were either forced into it or had nowhere to go. I’m going to destroy their leaders and offer them freedom or a place to stay.”
“Eh… I dunno, Bull. Two sixteen-year-old kids taking on full-blown Marsevian gangs?”
Bullet grinned. “Have faith in me, bro.”
“Tch. You got it, sis.”
“First thing’s first, though. We gotta make ourselves look a little more intimidating.” She turned around, grabbed a grocery bag, and then emptied it onto the table in front of them. Scissors, hair dye, and some clothes now sat before them. Aiden looked skeptical at first, but he could tell he had no say in the matter as she moved behind him and told him to kneel down. She began cutting away at his curly brown locks, each one falling soundlessly to the floor. Aiden stared at the growing pile of hair wordlessly. He could do this. He could take on this life with Amoretta. Leslie had been missing for six months now, and he knew that she was probably dead. In order to keep from falling apart, he clung to the project he and Bullet dubbed, “City of Wolves.”
It had started as a conversation about Marsev and its true name. Jericho Jennings had just been placed into office and his name made known, but they had heard that name for years from Leslie. He was an alpha on the prowl, desperately trying to claim more territory. What he did not know was that a wolf like Bullet lingered in the shadows, waiting and building her army.
When she was done with Aiden, he rubbed his spikey hair and brushed off the loose strands of hair. He then began helping his best friend with her hair. Why she had chosen electric blue as a hair color, he would never know. He liked the blonde. It represented innocence to him. But he supposed it was fitting now. Nothing innocent about Amoretta remained anymore, because truth be told, Amoretta no longer existed. There was only Bullet.
Styx was a smalltime gang that mostly thrived off petty crime. Its leader came from a somewhat wealthy background but had left home with all his parents’ money in order to fund his and his friends’ bad habits. Rapidly, they had recruited vulnerable teenagers into their ranks. They had no bigger picture, however. They were simple. All they wanted was control over more territory.
Bullet entered their base like she owned the place. “’Sup, bitches?”
Immediately, men armed with handguns stood to their feet. “Who the fuck are you?” one called.
Bullet glanced around the warehouse. It was too large for such a small gang. And there was so much unused potential for trafficking contraband… What a waste, she thought. She could tell she made the others nervous. Her hair was bright blue, her ears were pierced with countless rings. She wore tan cargo pants and a loose tank top, and her combat boots made her two inches taller. Oh, and she also had a customized fully automatic assault rifle strapped to her back. Maybe that was why everyone seemed so on edge. “I wanna talk to Moth.”
“What the hell do you want with our leader, eh bitch?” a scrawny, pale-skinned teenager asked as he approached her.
“Hey, didn’t you beat me up once when I was a kid?” Bullet asked curiously, scrutinizing his face. Without vacillation, she twisted her strap around and fired from the hip. Three bullets sunk into his chest, and he hit the ground. Her eyes quickly swept the facility once more, almost as if she was ignoring the yells of the others. Without even looking at them, she demanded their leader again.
“Who’s firing in the warehouse?!” roared a stocky man. He tore out of his private room and into the main lobby. “Who the fuck are you, you weird-lookin’ bitch?”
“Moth?” she presumed before aiming at his head, leaving plenty of distance between the two.
“What are you dipshits waiting for?! Kill her and take the weapon!” It was hard getting ahold of assault rifles in Marsev. How a sixteen-year-old, skinny, eccentric-looking girl got one amazed him. Rather than be smart and detain her, however, he went for short-term gratification instead.
“Wrong.” Bullet shot him mercilessly, and as the other members aimed their guns at her, Aiden stepped inside, twirling the ring of an inactive grenade in his hand. “All you fuckers need to listen up. I’m not here to kill you. But I will if I feel threatened enough.” She could tell no one wanted to be involved in this mess to begin with. “I just killed your leader. You’re now free to go do whatever the fuck you want in this goddamned city.”
Glances were exchanged between members. Tension fell and rose constantly as everyone felt at a loss for what to do. Things had gone down so fast, but Bullet had no intention of babying them. “Or you can follow me. If you’re tired of the way the world is, you can join me in creating a new gang that puts this shitty little one to shame. I have access to firearms you didn’t even know still existed. I have information on a certain government official no one else does. Jericho Jennings—ever heard of him?” More looks were exchanged, but this time, a few “fuck that guy” variants followed.
“I know what I’m doing, and I can get shit done. I won’t abuse you as you’ve been abused your entire lives. I won’t abuse your trust nor your dignity. I’m not stupid. None of you liked that guy. You were only here for the money and the security of a home.” She kept her assault weapon raised. “But I can give you more.”
Aiden glanced apprehensively as a black girl stepped forward. She was their age, and even though she frowned, she looked too innocent to be here. “And we’re supposed to just take your word on this? You just walked in here and killed two guys. You think we’re okay being taken over?”
“Are you stupid or deaf? I can’t figure out which.” Bullet rolled her eyes and approached the girl. “I’m not taking over shit. You’re free to leave. And you’re free to stay. You decide. You can go do you, or you can join me in purging the government.”
The smaller girl scoffed. “Purge the government? You?”
“Yes, me. And anyone else who joins.” She directed her attention to the others. “Like I said, you’re free to walk. But I’ve got more than just big guns and explosives; I’ve got information.”
The girl who had previously spoken stared at the blue-haired assailant. There was something too believable about her presence. She was young, but she looked no less dangerous than a trained army general. Finally, she looked toward her friends who seemed to be at a loss. Silence sat in the warehouse for too long. Really, where could she go now? She had been robbed of a home by this woman. Her friend’s life had been taken by this woman. And yet… She felt the impulse to follow her into the pits of hell if she had asked. “They call me Mango,” she said, and this caused Bullet to look at her again. Mango stuck a hand out. “I’m not promising my allegiance just yet, but I’m too curious to walk away from someone like you.”
Bullet smirked and clapped her hand into Mango’s, grasping it tightly. “Sounds good to me.”
“Augh, Mango. You know if you go somewhere, I gotta follow yer ass to make sure you don’t go dyin’ and shit,” said a new voice from the small crowd. A tattooed man stepped forward and stood next to Mango. He held out a hand and stared nonchalantly at the blunette. “Rizi.”
The rest more or less followed, but a few did decide to leave. And before the day was over, Bullet had accrued ten or so people willing to give her a chance and build a gang with her.
“But what are we calling ourselves?” Mango asked later that night as everyone sat downstairs conversing.
Aiden spoke up as he polished a knife set. “Well, Bull and I really have a penchant for wolves. The symbolism is just too striking to pass it up, no matter how cheesy it sounds. So we were thinking Wolf City.”
Mango stared at Aiden and glanced away coyly, nearly blushing. “I like it,” she said, trying hard not to stammer.
“Well, that’s ironic. Wolf City trying to overthrow a city of wolves,” commented another new member.
Bullet relaxed in an armchair, watching silently as everyone talked amongst each other. They all had adrenaline still pumping through them due to the new change in leadership and lifestyle. Ten people. That’s all they were right now. But it was a start. And soon, she began envisioning the empire she would build. The empire that would take over everything and return Marsev to the democracy it was rumored to have once been a part of.
“Mr. Jennings, is it really okay not to send people after them?”
The exceedingly tall man who had ascended to power held a cigarette to his lips as he watched the warehouse of Wolf City burn. The flames were loud and crackling as wood snapped all around. He kept his eyes on the fire as he spoke. “We don’t have the resources right now to capture her.”
“Capture? You mean kill, sir?”
Jericho slid his eyes to his subordinate playfully. “Kill? No. She’s more valuable alive right now. Besides, I want to see if she remembers my face or not. It’s been nearly eleven years since I last saw her.”
The lower-ranking official merely stared up at the man, not knowing what was going on but fully aware Jericho had something planned. He dared not to ask, however. Even speaking to the man this much terrified him. The way Jericho calmly flicked his cigarette forward and stuffed his hands into his pockets was horrifying. His entire presence was horrifying. The things he was capable of…horrifying.
“Don’t you worry that pretty little head of yours,” Jericho added as he turned and began walking off. “We’ll be seeing our Wolf City queen soon enough.” He stopped walking once he reached a corpse that had been bagged and zipped up to the chin. Jericho bent down and grabbed part of the material in order to begin dragging it as he walked. Only briefly did Jericho even look down at the pale corpse of Aiden.
The smallest twitch of a smile tugged at Jericho’s lips. He took one last deep inhale to smell the sulfur before heading back to Central.
“Until then, my queen.”