Warren looked around desperately, trying to find a gap in the circle he could make a run for it through, but he was surrounded. Ten guys in their early twenties or maybe late teens had him cornered. The leader grabbed his jacket and smirked at him.
"Since all the women are dead, you're the closest thing we've got," he said, still keeping that irritating smirk in place. "As scrawny as you are, it's not like you'd have ever been able to get a girl anyway. You were just put here to be used by real men like us."
Warren squirmed and tried to get away but the lead thug just casually backhanded him, sending him to his knees.
"Don't get up, kid," he ordered. "You're going to be spending a lot of time in that position, assuming you want to live." He shrugged. "With all the dead bodies in the city, one more won't bother anyone, especially a kid like you."
Warren looked up at him and then at the other youths. None of them looked like they were even slightly sympathetic to his position; he wouldn't get any help from them.
"You've got two choices, kid," the leader said. "You do what we want and we'll protect you from the other gangs, make sure you get food and a roof over your head; or you don't and we take what we want anyway and leave your worthless body in the gutter." He unzipped his pants and stepped forwards. "Open wide, pet."
Warren tried to scramble backwards but the thug grabbed him by the neck, pulling him closer until Warren had to put his hands up to stop his face ending up in the guy's crotch.
"How about we go with option three?" A voice came from behind the lead thug.
Warren looked past him to see two older men, both well built, not bulky but clearly very fit.
"What's option three?" the thug asked, turning to face them and zipping himself up. He obviously wasn't scared of them; he had his friends standing behind him and he thought he could win in a fight. Warren wasn't so sure. The two men looked like they knew how to handle themselves and the gang were all pretty scrawny and didn't look like they knew what to do.
"You let the kid go and get the hell out of here before we make you," the second man said calmly. "You're disgusting. He's a child and you're a pervert."
Warren crawled backwards as the gang charged at the two men. The fight was between him and the exit, so he settled for pressing himself against the back wall and trying to make himself as small as he could.
He'd been right about the two strangers. The gang piled into them and were mostly dispatched with a few quick blows, which either dropped them to the ground or made them decide to run away. Soon only the leader was left and the second man was beating the crap out of him. Warren pressed himself further against the wall. Despite their words, he couldn't think why they would rescue him if they weren't planning on taking him for themselves, and from the way he was beating the thug that had touched Warren, he wasn't sure it would be an improvement over being held by the gang they had run off.
He had been so busy focussing on the second man that he'd missed the first one getting close to him. He jumped when he felt a large hand on his shoulder and then tried to cover it up with bravado. "What do you want? You're getting my jacket dirty."
The first man smiled at him and he felt himself relax a little. "Just want to make sure you're ok, kid. We came into town to pick some stuff up but we've got a doctor out where we're living. If you come with us we can fix you up."
"What do you want in return?" he asked suspiciously, glancing nervously over at where the other man was still hitting the barely conscious thug.
"Leave him, Elliot, you're scaring the kid," the first man shouted. Elliot looked over at them and dropped the thug to the ground, walking over to them without looking back.
"Sorry," he said, not sounding very sorry. "Punks like him make me sick." He crouched down on the other side of Warren. "You're safe now, kid. What's your name?"
"Warren," he answered. "What do you want with me?"
The first man smiled again. "We don't want anything. You don't have to come with us, but we have a place. Out in the country. Lots of open air, plenty of food and water and we're building houses. There's a few of us there, even a couple of children. We can help Warren, that's all we want."
"Can I get my stuff first?" he asked, not sure he wanted to go with them but not wanting to stay either. Besides if they wanted him to go he wouldn't have been able to stop them, so the fact they were even asking made him feel a bit safer. It was his choice.
The first man nodded. "Sure, kid, anything you need and you'll have to help us load the truck too. We came in for supplies. You're just an added bonus." He smiled again. "Other than the babies, AJ's the youngest; he'll be glad we picked up someone younger so he's not the baby any more."
Warren looked back and forth between the two men. "I guess I could come. There's good food, really?"
A look passed between the two men that he didn't understand. "You poor kid," the first one said. "When was the last time you had a decent meal? Come on. We'll pick up anything you want and then load our truck and we should be back by dinnertime. And in the mean time we have some food in the cab. I'm Joe by the way." He held out his hand.
Warren hesitated and then shook it. "Todd Stevens IV," he said. "But everyone calls me Warren."