The Coldest War
Thieves and vultures picking the bones of the dead
“Wot ‘appened is, we was gettin’ a thing for a girl so’s she could build a new gun, an her boy sees us an’ he’s all ‘ere comes trouble. An’ now I thought that was rude an all, but Nixie, she say Trouble’s just wot we should call ourselfs, seein’ as ’ow everyone already calls us that anyway.”
Trouble&co, LLC – more commonly just known as ‘trouble’ – has been around for… some length of time, since they came from… somewhere. Nobody really seems to be sure when they showed up in the Mountain, or where they came from, but they’re mostly harmless. Mostly. A band of castaways and cutouts, orphans of the madness. There’s a pair of them older than the rest, both extremely headstrong and gifted with enough base cunning to keep a sizable pack of urchins alive in a hostile world.
Rats always find a way to get by. And except when they give you the plague, they don’t really hurt anything.
“Ain’t nothin’ strange ‘bout wot all we do. We fin’ useful things wot people need, an’ we borrows ‘em so’s they can go to people wot’ll use ’em.”
“For a price, o’ course.”
“An’ it’s extra if Freckles gits wopped inna nose, ‘cause he always seems t’ be bleedin’ an’ he don’ like it none.”
There’s nine of them, altogether. And their leadership isn’t exactly cut-and-dry. And they don’t always seem to get along very well. And yet they’re all still together, still alive, and still far too clever for their own good.
Nix, a ratfaced girl of perhaps fifteen, is generally considered to be the smart one. The others usually follow her. Except when they follow Puck, who’s only a couple months younger, usually bruised and battered, and does the killing when it needs done. The middl’uns and pups think it’s totally gross when Nix and Puck get mushy. Which they only do when they think noone’s watching. It’s like they get stupid around eachother.
Soap and Crow are twins, ten years old, nigh-inseparable: Soap a sour-faced boy with a bad attitude and a suspect aroma, Crow a feral girl with a dart-gun and a killer’s instinct. Despite being older than around half of them, Freckles is the baby of the group, though he desperately wishes he wasn’t. Marci is one of the younger ones, a master of the adorable pout, and manipulative as almighty fuck. She’s never gone hungry in her life. And of course there’s Mouse, the innocent one. She didn’t steal it, and she’s offended by the idea that she might’ve, thanks.
There’s two little pups that tag along with them, too. Pillbox is the older – maybe five years old, he remembers his parents far too well, and misses them desperately, and cries often when he thinks the others aren’t paying attention. Waif is no more than three, but she’s ferocious, as her perpetually bloody nose and the bitemarks on her enemies attest to. She also seems to have some sickness, something that doesn’t want to let her go, no matter the food or medicine the others can get her.
“Don’ you try’n get smart wit’ us, mister. You didn’ see ‘er maybe, but tha’s Nix behin’ you wit’ the knife, an’ she don’ play kin’ly.”
“She’s right mean, Nix is.”
“Doesn’ like anythin’ at all! An’ makes Soap wash hisself, too.”
“She likes Puck plenty!”
“But don’ you tell ‘er any o’ us said that, or nothin’. She’d wop any of us wot said that.”