“Oh my god, Loki! There are other people alive! Where’s the microphone?! We should speak to him..” Tzar said, as he frantically searched for the microphone, I couldn’t help but to laugh. “This ain’t funny you fucking crackpot! We have to speak to them, he sounds so sexy too, bitch!”
“Thirsty much?” I asked, and we both burst out laughing, Tzar soon took a hushed tone as he looked to the back.
“I know I specifically saw the radio mic, Hunter had used it to call for help and tried to find the emergency broadcast.. don’t think it’s particularly inconvenient to be missing now?” he mused in reply, eyeing the back of the RV where the others were.
“We shouldn’t jump to conclusions, we can’t start speculating about each other.” I argued, in Caiden’s defense, playing devil’s advocate as best I could muster.
“Well, I’m just sayin!” He said, throwing his hands up. “Blondie has been getting a little comfortable with his new role as Alpha Numero Uno now that Hunter’s gone. He’s been so ‘comforting’ to you, all that fucking touching.. Straight boys don’t do that! They’d prolly dap you up in a bro hug at your momma funeral, and say no homo after.”
“You just think every man is gay, don’t you..”
“No, I don’t, but a seeing man ain’t blind. That motherfucker has had his paws all over you..”
“You’re such a weirdo, I’m done.” I replied, rolling my eyes.
I folded up my cover and grabbed my pillow, before getting up to leave. I refused to entertain this mess, and leave it to Tzar to spill any teas, or fan the flames of some salacious dramatics. He grabbed my arm, and motioned me close, all shifty eyed.
“I don’t think we should say anything about this.. Not just yet, let’s wait till we find the mic to the radio.” He said, in sort of a whisper, I just nodded to suffice him.
As we walked to the back I could hear Granny and Patience beginning to stir. Caiden was a different story, when I looked at the blond Adonis sprawled on the wrap around, he was still asleep and snoring softly. The cover he had was too small for him, so I threw mine over the uncovered length of his legs. I dropped my pillow on the chair, and stepped into the kitchen area, behind the bar. There was a gallon of orange juice we’d been able to swipe from the diner in the fridge. I poured two cups, and went back towards the front, I stopped at the cubbies and tapped both bottom bunks with my foot.
Granny opened up first, and gave me a shady look before snatching her orange juice, and closing the privacy curtain. Patience gave me a smile and a thank you, as she sipped her drink. I inspected her wound from the attack of the birds and could see it had scabbed over without infection, but the small section of scalp would probably never grow hair again, there were no worries though, she had more than enough hair to cover it.
I had to step out of the Betty for a moment, the desire to stretch my legs and catch a breath instigated claustrophobic feelings, so I needed the escape. I was confused at first, upon exiting the bus, because the sun was rising to the east of us, instead of behind. I figured Caiden must have just done it purposely, in his attempt to conceal us, and it was also really dark last night. There was a river stream not a couple feet from the bus, so I walked over to check things out, on the way, I came across a snarling and infected torso.
His flesh looked soggy and swollen with bloat, like he’d soaked for a while, and parts of his flesh had been eaten away. It looked like he’d been dragging himself for hours, ever since we’d parked the Betty here. The man clawed at me, I dodged and brought my foot down on its arm, I used my other to stomp his head in. The skull was hard to crack, but once it did, the rest was as delicate as an egg yolk. The flesh eater twitched to a stop, as I walked the rest of the way to the riverbed. I rinsed my boot in the water and the red stains washed away.
I looked up and let the morning sun rays beat down on my face, trying to bask in the warmth, but it would prove itself insufficient to warm the iciness of this cold cruel new world.
We didn’t make moves till noon, Caiden had come across the solar adapter in the Betty’s bottom carriage, and he wouldn’t let us move till he was able to piece it together. The solar energy would store within the battery, and power the vehicle efficiently up to 35 mph, any higher would require gasoline. We were finally on the road, at a steady pace. There wasn’t much to do on the RV so I sat in the back watching Patience going over a geography book with Granny, while Balthazar and Caiden were up front.
Observing the two females, I got to thinking about the future of the human race, where could humankind go from here? Things were at their bleakest point, who knew how fast this had spread, what pockets of humanity were left. Infection spread so fast, and with such efficacy, that I doubt anyone could have been prepared for it. Yes, there were others alive, but would that be enough? Who would be left to populate this world of horrors? Who would want to raise a baby in this type of environment, the crying alone, would be like ringing the Liberty Bell for dinner. I looked at Patience, watched her reading aloud to Granny, who took the time to correct her when needed, and praise her when she deserved it. I wished we had more books, there was only the geography book and my old medical texts.
When you’re making a dash grab for necessities, you don’t think to put Baldwin or Max Brooks on the priority list, right now, I would have even settled for a damn Zane novel. I resigned myself to looking out the window, to say the landscape views in middle America was lacking in certain places, was an understatement. Once we’d left Pennsylvania and moved on into Ohio, plush forest gave way to vast dry plains. I decided to take a nap, but couldn’t really get comfortable enough to sleep very long. I awoke sometime in the afternoon to see us leaving Ohio, that’s when I caught sight of the ‘Thanks for visiting Michigan’ sign on the other side of the road. I immediately popped up, and out of my seat, startling the older woman and young girl. I stormed my way to the front cabin of the Betty, my eyes red with rage, it was nothing but lie after lie from this sneaky bastard.
“Why the fuck are we in Michigan?! I clearly remember you saying we were supposed to be heading south west.. it was around the time where you also told us we need to wait a day or two to leave!” I yelled at Caiden, he didn’t say anything, didn’t even have the nerve to look shocked at my accusations. “You know what motherfuhka’, stop the bus!”
I grabbed hold of the wheel, and cut us sharply to the left side of the road, he hit the break, screeching us to a hard stop.
“Are you fucking crazy?! You could have flipped the bus and killed us!” He exclaimed, looking at me, then to the back. “Are you girls okay back there?!”
We heard a yes from the back, it came from Granny, and Caiden rose out his seat. He slid past me, and went to the door, motioning me outside. He didn’t need to, cause I was right on his tail, and Tzar was right on mine. When we got outside, I did a visible sweep of our surroundings, and saw no noticeable dangers. Balthazar and I trained ours eyes right on Caiden, waiting and wanting answers without delay.
“I wanted to tell you the truth after everything happened, but I could never find the right moment where you you wouldn’t blow up like this.” He had his head down, and he ran a hand through his hair, it had started to grow out a bit.
“Well now is the time to spill all you know, and if we’re not satisfied you’ve told the truth, we’re gonna leave you right the fuck here!” Tzar told him, all seriousness in his voice, I looked at Caiden and nodded to concur.
“Ok, calm down.. I never meant for any of this to happen, I wanted no part in it. The truth is complicated..” He started to say, as he paced a bit, but we never took our eyes off him. “They gave me an assignment, one unlike the others, most were dispatch to clean up after mistakes made by failures of state. This was my first solo recon mission, and the objective was to find a boy in Washington D.C., that came up positive for a gene needed for a highly classified government funded experiment, something called the ReGen project. I didn’t want to take the job, but I found out Oracle Co. had obtained the contract to receive the funding. I would be able to see Zachari, and work close with him, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Well, safe to say, the mission was a bust, the boy had been killed serving a prison sentence, of all things. The irony of searching for someone who’s already in our custody, and finding him too late, didn’t escape me. They sent me out on several other missions, but the person I had to find would always die before I even got to them. I was starting to think it was fate stepping in, preventing me from finding these people.. Then, I came here on a two month leave, and the world goes to shit!”
“That’s where I come in, huh? I’m the ‘replacement’ for all those never acquired test subjects for some Corporate Government collusion experiment..”
“Not exactly, I had no idea this outbreak would occur, nor that you would be immune. That was a chance occurrence, and for all my word is worth, I really was on vacation.. then the day before you guys arrived, I received a memo from a team on recon, it was from guys that I knew and had personally served with, They needed my help. They were transporting two scientists from Canada all the way to the command center in Virginia, I was troubled with the decision, especially seeing the state of Gran, but I knew I would have to go. I was just gonna steal the Betty and leave Hunter with the house and the responsibility for once! But, then you were bitten..” He gave me this look, like the very first time he recognized who I was, like something alien. “I’m sorry my brother died, I really am, he didn’t deserve it, but there are things in the works that are bigger than us individually, especially when the fate of the world is at stake.”
I looked at Tzar, and his eyes were still deadlocked on Caiden, I knew he didn’t trust him outright. Tzar was always a skeptic, and if he didn’t believe him, then neither would I.
“Did you take the mic to the radio?” Tzar asked, in a monotone voice, breaking the tense silence.
“Yes, I did, I couldn’t have you guys calling out and making contact, it would have blown up my lies..”
I was surprised at the the truthfulness, but I still felt hesitation, this man had been withholding the truth from us, this whole time. Hunter had been right, and I should have believed him, a fresh tear burned it’s way down my cheek. I turned around and started to walk away, but then I felt two arms wrap around me from behind. The strength in those arms, made the tenderness of my flesh, melt into his embrace. My chest felt light, and I felt a stirring in my loins, reminiscent of days long past. He rested his forehead in my shoulder, and his arms prevented any escape from his grasp.
“I’m sorry, please.. I need you to forgive me, my brother meant so much to me, and he told us to love each other.” He whispered into my neck, and I felt my shirt dampen, as he cried silent tears.
“It’s okay, I forgive you.” I replied, turning in his arms, and hugging him tight to me. “We have to honor Hunter’s last wishes to the best of our abilities, We ALL have to stick together..”
“We heard a distress call, this morning, we think it might have been your Merc team.” Tzar said, thankfully breaking up the awkward moment, and Caiden lifted his head in rapt attention, his jade eyes were bloodshot.
“Yea, the Bloodhound was his tag, he mentioned that he has the Quail and Duck in custody, safe and sound.. whatever that means, he also said they also lost three people..” I mentioned solemnly, these people were this guy’s friends, clearly they were deep trouble.
“He estimated they were thirty hours from the rendezvous point.. but that was around sun up when we first heard the transmission.” Tzar chimed in.
“Well, right now, we’re thirteen hours from the checkpoint.” Caiden said, looking at his watch.
“So that leaves plenty of time, and that way we can take it easy on the Betty, I don’t want to overexert her.” I replied, looking at the sleek black beast on wheels, she was as much family as the the people she sheltered within her.
“So, um.. Caiden, what can you tell us about Bloodhound? What’s he look like?” Tzar asked with this innocent look on his face, but I could see right through it.
“Obey your thirst, bitch!” I said to him with a laugh, and a few snaps, walking back towards the bus.
We had been in Michigan for several hours now, and what a beautiful state she was, I especially enjoyed the views of lake Eerie, that I got to peak at a few times. It was getting dark now, and the last town we’d past looked as if it were burned to the ground. The smokey air prematurely blackened the sky, and the soot cover the ground as ash fell from above like snow. Caiden had gotten tired, and you could see it in his eyes, so I opted to switch with him.
Now that it was dark, we needed to find shelter, the Betty would be wasting gas from now until sunrise, and it was too precious to spare. We were still a few hours from the shores of Lake Superior which was the closest point to the Canadian border we could get, and that would be where we needed to meet the Bloodhound. I could see the freeway up ahead was blocked with cars, so I turned looked to Caiden’s sleeping form next to me, and decided not to bother him and take the side roads. There were more cars, but it was manageable enough, that I was able to keep on course. I had been traveling that way for an hour or so when suddenly I could see headlights behind me, and they were closing in fast, trying to match our pace.
“Caiden! Get up, get up! we have a problem here!” I screamed, and shook him violently, keeping one hand on the steering wheel.
“Wha.. what is it?”
“There’s someone behind us, and they’re chasing us down!” I yelled, revving the gas, pushing the Betty as fast as she could go.
“It could be bandits, don’t stop!” He yelled, running to the back to get a better look, suddenly the back panel window got shot out.
“Everybody get down and away from the windows! Granny take Patience and get in the cubby, stay there until I say come out!” Caiden yelled, ushering the girls from the back.
He handed Tzar the shotgun, and took the sniper rifle for himself, then he cleared the glass from the window and eyed his scope. I turned back to the road, nearly clipping a SUV that was crashed into a tree. My heart felt like it was thumping in my chest, as I gripped the wheel tight, and hit the next corner sharply. The road made us detour around the upcoming hill, so I had to lose some speed, or fear tipping. I could hear the bullets flying, the carefully timed blasts from the shotgun and rifle, plus those hitting the back hull of the Betty. As we banked around the curve, I could see something burning at the top of the hill, it was a car. I could see the silhouettes of the men pushing it to gain momentum, and it soon started barreling down the steep hill.
I knew it would cut us off, and we were never gonna make it at this pace, so I pushed harder on the gas. It was either crash or tip over, risky odds, but it was final call to make bets. I didn’t hear Caiden run up behind me, and the edge in his tone frightened me a bit, he didn’t think we were gonna make it either.
“Go faster, we have to make it!” He yelled, eyes wide as saucers, set on the fireball rolling towards us.
“I have her floored!” I tersely said, through grit teeth, I knew we had to make it, dammit, I wasn’t a fool!
I could hear Balthazar letting off the shotgun in the back, so I screamed for him to brace himself under cover. Both Caiden and I couldn’t help but scream, as we got closer and closer to what looked to be our incipient demise.