32 Chapter 31: Laura Opens Up
Joshua found himself sitting on a precarious walkway as rain poured down on to his face and a roaring fire slowly died down in the building at his back. Laura was sitting right next to him occasionally sending glares in his direction clearly mad at the situation they found themselves in. Although Joshua had come up with a way to kill the monster on the fly, he hadn't exactly accounted for how they were supposed to get back down afterwards. While sitting near the top of the burning building they were safe from the poisonous fumes down below, but they wouldn't be able to leave until the rain completely put out the fire and drowned out the poison in the air at the base of the building.
Thus they were completely stuck waiting for the next few hours out in the rain. Joshua had already told Madalyn and Natalie to head back and inform the others that they were successful. He had also found out from Nathan and the Carsen brothers through the mental link that things back at camp had gone well. Although there were several zombies that had come into view of the camp the people on guard duty were able to take care of them from behind the fence. When the sub-boss class creature started letting out its blood lust while Joshua and the others were fighting it, all of the zombies started to flee as far away from the area as possible. That might not be good for when they decided to grind later, but for now it gave people back at base a good respite.
Now Joshua found himself trying to think of ways to pass the time without upsetting his partner in the predicament. "Look I'm sorry for getting you caught up in this with me, but we were all starting to run low on steam the longer that fight dragged on. Even now you look like you can barely stay awake." Joshua said as he took notice of how red her eyes were. A combination of having been close to smoke and her exhaustion from using so much of her power in the last fight.
"I know, it's just annoying." Laura responded before once again looking away. Joshua tried to wait for her to say something more, but instead was met with silence.
"Well did you at least gain a level after all of that?" Joshua asked with interest.
"Yes, in fact it feels as though I've not only leveled up once, but am nearing another one." Laura said as she continued to stare straight ahead. "In fact it feels like I may have gained a new way to use my power, but I'm too exhausted at the moment to test it out."
"That's good to know. We'll have to take all you girls out to test out any new strengths. I guess killing this thing was worth it in more ways than one." Joshua said with a smile.
"I would agree. We're getting stronger, but our time is also running out." Laura replied causing Joshua to think along the same lines. If the sub-bosses were starting to awaken now and some people out there might have killed one besides them then it probably wasn't going to take long for the main bosses to start awakening. The moment that happened they would have to make their move on the one in town, because if they wait too long and it grows too much in strength then they will be stuck in this apocalypse until everyone here died out. He didn't want to know what would happen to his family if that happened, because usually the consequences aren't good after failing a test.
For a while the two of them went back to silence as they busied themselves in their own thoughts. Joshua decided to take a seat near where Laura had. He made sure not to lean up against the most likely hot metal of the granary behind him and instead stretched out his arms and legs until he could hear some satisfying pops. He knew he would probably have quite a few bruises from the times he had been hit by that monster so he stretched now when it wouldn't be such a pain.
Laura on the other hand coughed behind her mask as the rain was starting to get to her. Joshua looked over and noticed that she was still wearing that medical mask over her face even though it was now drenched from the rain. It looked odd to him so he decided to finally gather some courage and try to get Laura to open up to him a bit. Asking about the reason she tended to wear a mask seemed like a good first step. "So Laura, I've been wondering something for a while now. How come you're always wearing that mask? Even now it's drenched and you refuse to remove it. That could get you sick you know." Joshua questioned with an inquisitive tone.
Laura looked back at him as if he were stupid for saying she might get sick from the wet mask instead of from all of the rain pouring down on their heads. When Joshua didn't budge from his statement she pulled it off and tossed it over the railing. When Joshua was finally able to get a clear look at her face he was mesmerized for a moment at how beautiful she looked. She still had that cold detached air about her, but getting a clear view of the rest of her face besides her eyes was enlightening. "I always wear one because at first I didn't know if the purple haze itself could infect us if we breathed too much of it in. I guess that is no longer necessary." She replied as she looked towards Joshua. "Why are you staring at me?"
"Oh nothing, I just wasn't expecting for you to be so beautiful is all. Usually you'd expect a girl to show off her looks, not hide them." Joshua replied honestly.
"Maybe when you have a backing or something, but for someone like me looks can only make things worse for you in the end." She replied before once again going silent on the topic.
"Well, we've been working together for a while now." Joshua started to say. "In this time I haven't really gotten to know you very much. So I thought maybe we could have a little heart to heart or back and forth. You tell me some things about yourself and I'll tell you some things about me."
Laura simply stared at him for a moment and noticed his sincerity in wanting to get to know each other better. She took a deep breath before responding. "Fine, I know I can trust you at this point. You go first."
"Cool. Well then first off where are you from?" Joshua asked.
"I'm from New York. I've grown up there ever since I can remember." Laura replied. "My turn. How did you learn to fight so well?"
"Well my father was a professional MMA fighter in his younger years. He's retired now, but he still has a large gym back in Austin that he trains up and coming fighters. I've been training with him since I was little and of course sense he wanted me to have a better career than even he did, he trained the hell out of me. I also learned sword fighting and other weapon usage from one of my friend's father. He owns a dojo and me and my friends learned under him for a few years." Joshua explained.
"Sounds interesting. How come you act as though you don't want to become a fighter like your father?" Laura said after noticing how he seemed to think of all the training as more of a hobby than a future career.
"I do love fighting, it's one of the most fulfilling experiences out there, but I've always looked up to my mother even more than my father. I've always wanted to be a doctor like her. So even though I'm great at fighting I've always seen it as more of a hobby than anything else." Joshua said as he thought hard over his response. "I guess it's a good thing I went through all that training in the end huh. Otherwise I'm not sure how well I could handle the current situation. How about you, what did you want to do in the future before this all happened?"
Laura took another deep breath before deciding on whether not to answer that question. Eventually she turned her full attention on to him before responding. "I didn't exactly have an easy childhood so for the most part I didn't think about that type of thing, but instead focused more on surviving the day to day."
"What do you mean?" Joshua asked a bit surprised at how much she was telling him, but if it was something she was willing to say then he was more than willing to listen.
"I was raised as an orphan ever since I was young. I never knew who my parents were so I couldn't tell you who my parents are, but the person who raised me was an old nun at a small catholic orphanage." Laura started to explain. "Well when I was little I was like most other orphans hoping to get adopted. Unfortunately I was a frail kid and had to spend a lot of time in the hospital. It didn't turn out to be anything to serious and by the time I had reached my teens I had pretty much grown out of it. Sadly at that point people don't tend to find kids all that attractive for adoption. By the time I had turned fourteen I had pretty much given up on the idea of getting adopted."
"That must have been hard." Joshua responded.
"It was, but after figuring that out I spent most of my time working hard on my grades in school. I wanted to be able to go to college and with my situation I would need a scholarship or else I would end up in enormous dept by the time I finished. The problem at the time wasn't my schooling though, but was instead the fact that the orphanage was closing down. A lot of the younger kids got moved to other orphanages, but us older kids were given a bit of money to fend for ourselves." Laura said frowning at the memory.
"Is that even legal?" Joshua asked in surprise.
"I doubt it, but it didn't seem to matter. The second it happened I grabbed the few things I owned and left to find shelter elsewhere near my school. I was lucky I did too because some of the nearly full grown kids beat up the younger teens and took the money for themselves. If I had stayed behind panicking I would have ended up like them." Laura said with a venomous look as she thought of some of the people that she had considered friends willingly doing such horrible things. "For the next couple of years I moved from shelter to shelter and worked some odd jobs outside of school. Of course I had to lie about my age to get a couple of the jobs, but it was either that or get caught up in whatever some of the local gangs were up to for money."
"I take it that happened to some of the other orphans." Joshua said with a frown.
"A lot of them. Most of the guys ended up in one gang or another while some of the girls got into good shelters like me, but some ended up in…well less savory businesses than me. Anyways until I finished high school I had to work hard to stay at cheap hotels whenever the shelters were closed and to pay for school supplies. I didn't have many friends sense I didn't have much time to spend with them in the first place." Laura explained. Joshua nodded to let her know that he was keeping up so she continued.
"When it came time for graduation I was fairly high up in the rankings for my class, but with all the working I wasn't quite the top of the class. So when it came down to scholarships I missed the bill. Of course I was accepted to the colleges I applied to, but none of them were willing to give me anything more than a loan. The funny thing was another kid from school who had far worse grades than me and had done horrible in testing got a scholarship. Of course he was from a well off family so the local college welcomed him with open arms. I still remember crying my eyes out that night. At that point I had thought I had known how cruel the world could be, but it just kept getting worse."
"What do you mean?" Joshua said looking a bit confused.
"You asked me earlier why I wear a mask to hide my face. Well for the most part when you're a beautiful poor girl on the streets things could go horrible for you. I still remember someone I had known for a while get taken away outside a shelter late at night…the next time I saw her she had dead eyes and ended up killing herself later that night. From that point on I always covered my face up and wore baggier clothes. It didn't matter to me if I looked like a slob when going to work, until I was in a safe environment I wasn't risking it. For the next two years I spent all that time that I used to have to spend going to school working to save up for community college. I was hoping from there I might get another shot at a scholarship, but even so I knew it was a bit of a long shot."
Joshua noticed that she was pretty much done explaining so he asked something else that had been bothering him. "If that's the case why did you decide to participate in the first phase? From what you've said so far you didn't seem to have any experience with handling this type of situation."
"One thing you should know about me is that I'm a survivor." Laura responded as she stared directly into his eyes. "Through all of my life I have fought to survive whatever circumstance I've been forced into. I didn't do it just to continue living in the dirt for the rest of my life Joshua, I did it so I could rise up above where I was, so if I ever had a kid I wouldn't have to leave them in an orphanage so that they wouldn't end up living with someone in the situation I was in. This was a chance for me. A chance to change everything about my future in one fell swoop, and I agree with you by the way. We need to be the ones to take on the Boss in the end, because there is no way I'll ever rely on someone else to do something for me ever again."
The look Laura gave him wasn't that of some poor street urchin, but instead of someone who saw herself being above others in the future. It showed her ambition and Joshua only smiled back knowing that he had someone with him that completely believed in the same things that he did.