As promised a continuation of the Game of Life. A little bit of thickening plot and some new toys for our heroes.
Jeff curled up and enjoyed the warm bed; Harriet snored quietly next to him sated with ice cream and his company. He had forgotten about the day prior at least for a time. Morning light struggled to push through their boarded up windows along with the reminder of what was out there. There was a creeping sea of death around them, but he had managed to find life.
Truth be told, he had not even known Harriet before everything went to hell. He had been half starved, buried under rubble from one of the purification bombings they had resorted to early on. Harriet had found him, not the other way around. If not for her calls for life, at the risk of drawing the biters to her, he would have been dead.
Seeing her hand fishing around in that premature coffin of rubble was just the spark he needed to keep fighting. It was what he needed to keep living.
He rolled over and gave her a squeeze. He had almost forgotten she was in the buff, he blushed against her back and enjoyed her warmth for only a moment. He didn’t want to wake her. That was a tall order though, she could have slept through bombings if they came through.
Harriet had keen instincts, she knew when she was safe. Seeing her sleep so deeply was a reminder how much she trusted him. They lived in a world where the living was just as dangerous as the dead.
A noisy knock rang on the door. Jeff sat up alarmed.
“Census.” A man said through the door.
Jeff stood and hurried to it, he stumbled when he realized he was naked. He scooped up a pair of boxers and hurried through the hallway.
“Alive!” Jeff said screeching to a halt. He gasped as he tried to pull on his boxers.
“Two.” Jeff said, he rested a hand on his chest and peered through the peephole. A masked man wearing military gear stared back.
“Sex? Age? Fertility?”
“Me and my girlfriend. Twenties. And… yeah I guess…” Jeff struggled to remember if he had been careful the night before. It wasn’t like he had ever asked Harriet if everything was working normally. It was relevant though. With the Zombie infection the first thing to go was your sex drive, your will to procreate.
“You don’t need to open the door. In fact. I’d rather you not.” The man said in a cool tone. The biters were ignoring him. Something about the suit he was wearing.
“Ok. What do you want from me?”
“Do you have neighbors? How many alive are in this structure?”
“I…” Jeff hesitated. If he said they were all dead they might stop sending help to the area. He didn’t want to be written off. They needed those supply drops.
“Do you know how many neighbors you have?” The man said again.
“None…” Jeff said defeated, there was no reason to lie. He would confirm that anyway.
“We may need you to relocate.” The man said. “This city is dead.”
Jeff slammed a fist on the door. Just as he feared.
“Rest assured, the threat is waning. 72 hours from now we will be baiting the infected west. You need to push east.” The man moved from the peephole. “We anticipated more survivors so we brought you a gift.”
Jeff pressed his eye against the peephole in disbelief. It was a Hum-Vee stocked with Ammunition and steel cases, likely full of food and some for storage. Best still a M134D Minigun mounted on top.
“H…how much?” Jeff said, he licked his lips.
“Pay it forward.” The man said, the clink of metal hit the ground as he tossed a set of keys behind him. The zombies watched his deliberate stride with calm disinterest.
Jeff began to undo the locks slowly and took a deep breath. IT might have been a trap, or a lie. But the government was actually helping them?
He pushed the door open and lunged for the keys. The biters immediately caught scent and began to sprint. It took two grasps before it was in his hand and pulled back inside. The door slammed shut accompanied by the sound of biters slamming against the steel door.
“What are you doing?” Harriet was staring at him, naked as the day she was born.
“We’re moving.” Jeff said with a grin. He held up the keys and jingled them.
She looked at him blankly and stepped towards the door and gently pushed him out of the way. She leaned forward to look through the peephole and gaped.
“No fucking way,” she said.
“I don’t know if it works, but yeah.” Jeff slipped his arms under her breasts. “Sucks we have to move though. They know the area’s dead.”
“We can do a sweep before we leave. Losing the camera system is gonna suck though. We can pick up a few on our way out. Which way did the Census tell us to go?”
“East.” Jeff frowned.
“Shit. All the cameras are set up west. That’s where the food drops have been.” Harriet rubbed his arm idly. “I guess it’s the usual. 72 hour notice?”
“We leave in 48.”
“Why? He said he’s going to lure them west.”
“Just as likely they’ll just bomb us.” Harriet narrowed her eyes. “Let’s get dressed.”
Jeff nodded quietly and moved his arms from her. It was back to business as usual.
“Jeff.” She turned and draped her arms over his shoulders. “I love you. This is gonna be awesome, trust me. Even if that ride isn’t working we can make it work.”
He nodded quietly and kissed her.
They didn’t waste any more time, it was a quick gather of ammo and clothing. They had done it faster and with less notice ten times before. This had only been home for about eight months.
“I’ll bait. You check out the car,” Harriet said.
“All right. Stay safe. Only shoot if you need to.” Jeff pushed the door open slowly, the biters had scattered around the open lot.
“Come and get it!” Harriet hurried past him and smashed the butt of her rifle against the metal rail. The biters turned and ran immediately.
Jeff tucked away his pistol and hurried to the Humvee. He watched the train of biters chase after Harriet with mild concern, alleviated with his faith in her ability. There were three keys on the ring. One he recognized as a lock box key. The supply drops always used the same kind. One was for the Humvee and had an incredibly tacky sticker of Uncle Sam on it. The last one was pitch black and had no teeth along it.
“Pay it forward…” Jeff said as he rolled the key in his fingers.
He opened the door of the Humvee with little effort. It was old, but well maintained. Military over stock must have been pretty firm now. While the residential areas had been overrun there was plenty of materials and fuels to accommodate the smaller population.
He slipped onto the bench like seat. This wasn’t a civilian vehicle, this was a tool of war. It’s sturdiness brought him unparalleled comfort though. There was a mixture of new and old parts, those that were worn our had been recently swapped. This was not a pristine vehicle by any means.
It started like a dream though, no hesitation no struggle. One twist and it sprung to life.
“Fuck yeah.” Jeff grinned. The roar of the engine drowned out the cries of the biters chasing Harriet. The needle for the fuel gauge was neatly on the ‘F’ and several gauges sat alongside it.
“Twenty Five Gallons… and auxiliary tanks.” Jeff leaned against the seat and exhaled. “Yeah this will work.”
He slammed the door and jammed on the gas pedal. The Humvee sprung to life and he tore out of the parking lot. It didn’t take long before he could see where Harriet had led them. the Humvee handled well, even bloated with cargo. Harriet had done well even without firing a single shot from her rifle. She smiled down at him.
“You moved quick! How’s she handle?”
“Come down and see for yourself.”
“Nah. I’m enjoying the ambiance.” Harriet leaned over the banister above, grasping arms reached for her desperately impeded by a sturdy gate. “I have a few friends over I hope you’re not jealous.”
“Not at all.” Jeff left the engine running and stepped out.
“So… what sort of supplies did we get?” Harriet donned a coy smile.
“I hadn’t checked…” Jeff hesitated, he held up the black key. “Hey. Do you know anything about this?”
The blood drained from Harriet’s face. She stood up slowly.
“It doesn’t have teeth on it.” Jeff pulled it back to his face to investigate it.
“I’ll be right down! Just don’t do anything hasty!” Harriet hopped over the rail and lowered herself.
“Hasty?” Jeff turned his eyes up to see her falling form. He abruptly caught her and fell over. “Ah! A least warn me next time!”
“I did.” Harriet seized the key from him. “What part of I’ll be right down did you not understand. “We have time. It’ll take a bit for them to go around. This key is…”
“What? You know what it is?”
“Yeah. It’s a medical case digital key. Look for a blue box in the supplies.” Harriet rounded to the back hatch of the truck.
“Medical case?” Jeff watched as the biters ran from the gate, an explosion rocked the building. Jeff covered his face against the rain of rubble. Harriet hadn’t so much as flinched. “Harriet!”
“What. I didn’t shoot anything. That’s totally different. Now we have lots of time.” She smirked and started to work through the supplies. “We’re moving soon so we can blow up whatever we want!”
“Yeah until you draw a pack towards us.”
“Details. Ah! Here is it.” Harriet held up a small box. triumphantly. “This is what it should open… and there!”
A pleasant beep came from the box as it split in two. A small video pad sat on top of a satchel. The two exchanged a nod as she activated it.
A man in a white coat appeared on the screen.
“Hello! And Congratulations on being selected for the flagship program of Cure America!” The man on the device oozed enthusiasm. “Inside you will find supplies enough to apply vaccine to ten adult humans. This is a forty-treatment daily program, and as such the treatments should be numbered.”
“I knew it… it’s the vaccine.” Harriet pressed a hand against her lips.
“Excited?” The man went on without further delay. “I know you must be. This is quite an honor. It is an oral application, easy to swallow and completely safe. Only a 1% failure rate.”
“Only…” Jeff mumbled.
“Side effects may include dry mouth, diarrhea, hives and acute combustion of hair follicles. “
“Lovely.” Harriet plucked one of the pills from the container. “Still–“
“You can’t be seriously thinking about using it? It’s not even tested. It’s not tested. Flagship means they’re using us as guinea pigs!” Jeff took it from her and eyed it. The number 1 was inked onto the pill itself.
“Fine. We’ll just hold on to it.” Harriet frowned.
“Please select yes or no to the enrollment options. Enter verification code ALIVE following your vote. Failure to enter a vote will trigger a localized nuclear explosion to ensure the vaccine does not become ingested by the undead and adaptation may occur.” A glowing button lit under the panel. It read ‘Yes’ and ‘No’.
“What?!” Jeff’s eyes widened. He tightened his jaw. “Pay it forward…”
“Pay what forward? Just hit yes and we can figure it out later.” Harriet hit the button and punched in A-L-I-V-E quickly on the device’s keypad.
“Oh? You wanted to explode? That works too.” Harriet elbowed him.
“Point,” Jeff said.
“So…. Joy ride?” Harriet closed the Humvee’s back door.
“We should save ammo and fuel.”
“Oh come on. We have plenty of both. I checked the fuel levels at the station. We barely use it. The feds have been keeping us juiced so the generators have been dark for weeks.” Harriet snuggled up against him. “I’ll let you pick. Drive or man that monster on the top hatch.”
“…I’ll drive. You’ve been drooling at that minigun since you set eyes on it.”
“Good man.” Harriet cooed. “You certainly know how to treat a girl.”
Jeff slipped the device back into the blue box and snapped it shut. Harriet had already stated climbing atop the swivel mount.
“Nice! Gyroscopic rotation controls up here. State of the art too!” Harriet tossed him the keys.
“Fine. Joyride it is.” He set the blue box carefully in the dividing compartment between the driver and passenger seats. That was a battle left buried for now.