Around noon, we had all gathered in the Betty to have a meeting of our own, everyone was present, so there was very little sitting room. Timber Wolf relayed his feelings about the General to the rest of the group, and no one could argue that the man didn’t raise a few eyebrows that morning with his speech.
“I’ve decided that we leave tomorrow morning just before dawn, we don’t need to outstay our welcome..” Wolf informed us, and most of us were fine with that, so we just nodded.
“I for one, think you’re being a little rash and judgmental Commander.” Dr. Jhedav spoke up, voicing her disapproval. “After traveling on the road so long, We need the extra rest, and these people have been nothing but hospitable to us..”
“Yeah! Why leave food, water, and these walls so soon? You remember how it is out there?” Jerry chimed in, consigning her.
“Who are we to get offended at their efforts to survive this?” Karishma continued, looking around to all of us. “Who’s to say they couldn’t accomplish our mission for us? The endgame IS to find a cure..”
“But at WHAT cost? We all heard the General’s speech this morning, so I don’t get why there is even a dispute. Loki, and by extension all of us, could be in danger..” Bloodhound spoke up, and I had to contain my surprise, then again I could see Tzar was planted damn near in his lap, so I knew who was pulling the strings.
“If you guys need further motivation, earlier this morning, I decided to play detective and followed a group going out to scavenge the city.” I revealed, receiving an admonishing look from the Wolf.
“Loki, you know you aren’t supposed to go out on your own..” He said, in a scolding tone.
“I know, I know, that’s why I didn’t go alone, Buster came with me.” I replied with a wry smile, giving the dog at my feet, a good scratch behind the ears. “Do you guys remember that baseball field we passed coming into the city? Well I happen to follow a crew of the soldiers there, I immediately could see it was used to quarantine the populous, early on, in the beginnings of the incident.. It’s packed to the brim with the infected, surely enough to breach the wall, if they escape and begin to they pile up.”
“It might be where they plan to do the bulk of their tests and research..” Serafi interjected, sounding concerned with the new developments.
“I thought so too, but I think they might have brought a few of them here, to the academy.”
“Are you positively sure about that?” Bloodhound asked, standing to his feet, and I could see Tzar was more than terrified at the notion.
“Not 100%, but I’m pretty sure..” I replied, absentmindedly glancing at Serafi, as I thought of the soldiers crude conversation. “I was hiding from them when I heard them talking about it.”
“What else did they talk about?” Saint asked, breaking me from my thoughts, an intent look in his eye.
“They mentioned taking an appreciative eye to Sera but that conversation was quickly interrupted..”
“They better not get any slick ideas.” Husk said, cocking his shotgun.
The group quickly broke out in a minor riot, as everyone tried to talk over each other, it went on for a moment before the Wolf quieted us all down.
“Saint, I want you to see if you can locate any signs of infected within these walls, if so I want you to report back immediately, so we can get the fuck out of here.”
“Affirmative.” The man replied, rising to his feet.
“I’m going with you..” Serafi said, standing as well, looking at Saint with determination in her eyes. “Two eyes are better than one, plus I’ll be able to watch your back for once, instead of you watching mine.”
She gave him a pinch on his ass, and they both laughed, a few of us joining in. Wolf gave them a smile and a nod, which they returned as they exited the Betty with Buster following close behind them. The rest of us were commanded to pack up, so we could bugout at a moments notice, but otherwise, play like nothing was wrong to our hosts. The General had a keen eye, something told me he’d know if something was amiss, so we had to play the part right. I’m certain he had us under surveillance, one of his people were always around to keep an eye on us, it was almost blatant at this point and I’m sure I’m not the only one who noticed. I got up and left everyone on the bus, as it was getting too claustrophobic for me, It felt like we were all on top of each other.
Once I was outside, I had to wrap my arms around myself, from the crisp of the brisk wind. The sun was shining through clear skies, but the temperature drop that accompanied the winter season was upon us, and from the feel of it, this was going to be a brutal winter. I walked around the bus, trying to shield myself from the torrential winds, and was successful to some effect. Reaching in my pocket, my fingers played against the cool glass of Hunter’s bowl.
I felt a slight tremble, shiver involuntarily through my body, as memories of, what I now knew to be better days, flashed through my mind. I lost myself for a moment, My mind in memories embrace, letting it take me back ..back to a better time and place. I suddenly started to get a headache, and my free hand came up to massage my temple, but it really didn’t help. My stomach growled in protest, and I felt a bit dizzy, so I started towards the building hoping to find something to eat. There were already people sitting around enjoying their meal, and So, I made my way to the bread line to partake, looking over the options.
They always seemed to have allot of protein on the menu, and I had to wonder where they hunted their game, because it surely was plentiful. I had no taste for any of it, so I snagged an apple from the scant bowl of fruit they had. I had barely taken a few bites, when I heard a yell come from by the kitchen area, as I looked over, I immediately recognized Granny. She was fussing with one of the soldiers, over by the door to the back room, so I started walking in their direction.
Something serious was said between the two, because the man shoved her backward, almost causing her to stumble to the ground. My vision turned a deep reddish tint, and I bolted over to them, so fast I frightened the people I passed along the way. I grabbed the guard’s arm as he reached out to her again, my grip snapping his radial bone like a twig, his scream border lined on bloodcurdling and echoed around the room. I could hear more screams and yells in the background, but I phased them out as I twisted the man’s broken forearm at an odd angle, growling at him like an animal.
I could hear Granny and someone else calling my name, but I was trapped in a rage lust, and overwhelmed by the fire that coursed through me. I felt a firm hand grasp hold of my shoulder, but I swat it away like a fly, sending the man flying into the tables. Granny screamed, and it brought me out of what ever craze I was in, and I notice the man I hit had been the Wolf. He was slowly coming to his feet, and I looked around in shock, tears forming in my eyes. Everyone was looking at me with a fearful apprehension, the groans of pain from the man on the floor, a reminder that what they had witnessed truly happened. I turned to look at Granny, and she had tears in her eyes, she reached a hand towards me only to hesitate in fear. I put my head down, and looked to the man on the floor, he had passed out from the pain. I bent down and felt the break in his arm, it was clean and no bone protruded from the skin, I gave an inward sigh of relief as I went about setting the bone correctly.
I felt someone next to me, and looked up to see the old woman holding out some materials to make a splint, I gave a small sad smile as I gratefully accepted them. She knelt down next to me, as I did my best to rectify the damage to the man’s arm, all sorts of thoughts ran through my mind, I felt like a total mess. With some assistance from Granny, I was able to have the man all patched up by the time the General and his men, came bursting through the door. He walked up to us, taking survey of the scene as he approached, Wolf immediately intercepted him and they had words. It was hushed and I could hardly hear, as the General was filled in on what happened, the man was silent but there was evidence of the slightest smile as he was debriefed. His eyes suddenly shot to the soldier, Granny, and I on the floor.
I couldn’t help but avert my eyes to the man’s gaze, guilty for acting like the typical angry negro in front of these people, mainly white in attendance. The two leaders spoke a little while longer, and everyone waited to see what would happen, the General turned to the crowd bellowing out with his grandiose baritone.
“Alright everyone, break it up! Everything has settled down, an ol’ Bob is patched up good and nice, it was all just a little misunderstanding..” He gave that scowling smile of his and reassured the crowd that had gathered.
Granny grabbed hold of my hand, and we stood to our feet, she lead me from the mess hall pass the people staring in silence. The Wolf caught up, and began to walk in stride beside us, I faltered when pressed with the task of forming an apology. He didn’t say anything, but I felt his hand gently squeeze my shoulder once more, in the same place as during the fight. I looked to him and was greeted with a soft smile, but I couldn’t bring myself to return one of my own as we made our way outside.
The three of us boarded the Betty, to find her empty, save for the Doctor and a sleeping Jerry. He could be heard snoring softly from the top bunk, while the posh Dusky skinned woman seem busy with some of her old notes. Husk was outside with Patience, the two looked to be cleaning and maintaining a few rifles, the child watching carefully as he put one of the guns back together. Granny poured me some tea from a pot she had on brew, her shaky hands steadier than I remembered them, maybe because my own trembled from my jittered nerves. The Wolf sat at the bar, as Granny placed a cup down in front of him, he kept his eyes on me with a wary but sympathetic gaze. Karishma looked up from her paperwork, and could immediately sense the tension, it was thick like a dry biscuit stuck in your throat.
“Is there something I missed?” She asked, looking from them to me, neither of us wanting to be the first to speak.
“Further evidence of mutation has presented itself..” I replied in a cold low tone, the same fury from before felt as if it simmered inside me, just below the skin.
“Nothing to be alarmed about, it won’t complicate the missions status.” The Wolf said to her, catching the sting in my tone.
“Well I hope you are documenting all of this commander, We need to know every symptom he experiences.. even the littlest detail could be key to a major breakthrough.” She stressed, looking at me with those eyes, the ones that made me feel like a lab rat in a cage.
“I have my eye on everything, don’t you worry about it..” Wolf replied, with his sights set on me as well, but his gaze was unreadable.
Suddenly the side door opened, and Caiden stormed onto the Betty, a bit out of breath like he’d ran here.
“What happened?! People are saying you turned some guys arm into a pretzel? Then, they claimed you knocked Wolf damn near across the room with no more than the flick of a finger?” He asked, shooting off answers immediately, like his mouth was an automatic.
“The situation has been handled..” Wolf replied, in an even tone, only to receive and incredulous look from the Doctor.
“I thought the ‘evidence of mutation’ was nothing to be alarmed about? You gave your assurances the subject’s condition was nonthreatening..” Her tone was stern, as she chided him. “These new developments are most concerning.”
“So he IS dangerous? Can I have an ‘I told you so’ moment?”
We all looked behind Caiden to see Jerry had woken up, still in his boxers and a tshirt, scratching himself near the groin.
“Jerry, stay out of this!” The blonde replied sternly, then turned around to me for answers, but my only reply was to remain silent.
“He was only protecting an old woman, the incident was entirely unintentional..” Granny said, speaking up for me, giving the Doctor a severe glare.
There were three rapt knocks on the side door to the Betty, and the conversation lulled to a hush, as one of the Generals soldiers climbed aboard. He had some quick words with the Wolf and Caiden, it seemed the General had requested the Doctor’s presence, and she was only too happy to oblige. Caiden looked my way when they left, his eyes telling me this wasn’t over, on his way out the door. Jerry sauntered over to the bar and poured himself a drink, consisting primarily of bourbon, Granny just shook her head and sighed at him. I remained silent and looked away, damn near ready to have a drink myself, but I knew I needed a sober mind for the day ahead. Not long after they left, Patience came bursting through the door, Buster behind her barking.
“Something’s wrong! We have to help them!” She screamed, her eyes wide with fear.
“Calm down, sweetie, just start from the beginning and tell us what happened?” Granny asked, as she rubbed her shoulders, and tried to sooth her.
“Buster says Sera’s in trouble.. Loki, he wants you to follow him!” She replied with earnest, the hound seems to howl in agreement.
“So she does talk to the dog?” Jerry mused, as he sipped his drink.
“Not now, Jerry!” I scolded, looking back down at the young girl. “I need you three to act like nothing’s wrong.. Granny, when any of the guys get back, fill them in as best you can, and I’ll try to be back with Sera and Saint before they call for dinner.. ”
“I don’t know about all this Loki, are YOU going to be okay? Maybe you should wait for Balthazar..” The old woman asked, with a look of concern, as she clutched the young girl tight to her.
“I don’t know if I’ll be alright, but we haven’t the time to wait, stick close to Husk ..and if I’m not back by the end of dinner, you guys need to get the hell out of here!” I replied, as I followed Buster off the bus, and trailed behind him in a sprint towards the building.
The dog had lead me through a side entrance I hadn’t noticed yet, and now, through several dark passages and back hallways. I didn’t realize how big the academy really was, a person could get lost for a day or two, trying to navigate the place. After about ten minutes of countless lefts and rights, accompanied by a few close calls with the soldiers on patrol, we came to what looked like the back of the kitchen area. The first two doors were to the pantry and the freezer, a third went directly to the kitchen, but Buster continued down the corridor coming to a stop by steps that lead down to the basement.
“Oh fuck, I’m not trying to go down there..” I told the dog, as I looked down fearfully into the darkness, and his response was a growl as he started his descent.
I gave an involuntary small whine, as I reluctantly followed him, the stairs echoing with each step I took. It went down two platforms, till we reached the bottom, the fluorescent lights overhead flickered from a spotty connection to the generator. The passage split off into two hallways, and Buster seemed to have lost their scent, his ears were erect and he sniffed the air. While we stood there trying to decide which way to go, a door on the left side opened, and I could hear voices. I ran to the right and picked a door, it was open, so I ushered a whimpering Buster inside as I closed it gently behind us.
I took a few steps back and turned around, there was a sudden swipe to my throat from an infected hand, and I had to dodge swiftly. I placed my back to the door, and held back a gasp, as I stared into familiar eyes, now tainted with death.