Who say’s love can’t blossom in a zombie apocalypse?
Part three of Jeff and Harriet’s adventures in Biterland. The first two chapters can be found here.
The Game of Life, Part Three — Guinea Pig
Smoking rubble, piles of biters riddled with bullet holes, and trails of burnt rubber laid behind and around Jeff and Harriet’s gift from the government. Some might have thought it irresponsible and a waste of ammo, but this was their parting gift to the city they had called home for the past few months.
In a week’s time the city would be completely vaporized, wiped off the face of the map with cleansing fire. This was the approach deemed best by their leaders, the last bastion of what they could call America. Other countries had been hit harder. Some isolate small third world countries handled the infection well. They were the real survivors in this, already versed on living off the land and managed to continue their peaceful existence.
Some were close to the cities were overrun by overpopulation. No matter how resourceful, they could not route a mobile army of biters. The memory still lingered fresh. Jeff had seen the color drain from Harriet’s face as satellite feeds showed a wave of biters washing away poorly fortified African villages. He later learned that before all this happened Harriet had volunteered to work with children in some of those villages. Seeing a flaw in technology wipe those same villages out had broken her heart.
As far as Jeff could recall, that served as the last day they watched the news together.
On their arrival to the place they would call home, Harriet would set up a communication grid so she could listen in on what was happening in the world. Through the isolation of headphones. It remained the one thing Jeff stayed shut out of. He couldn’t help but feel she merely saw him as a salve for a festering wound that would not heal.
Jeff’s hands tightened around the steering wheel as Harriet flopped into the passenger seat. She had been on the turret for what seemed to be hours. Her easy smile had returned and she leaned over to steal a kiss from his cheek.
“I know we’re doing this for the survivors. But what if there aren’t any?” Jeff smiled over at her.
“Then I guess this was just stress relief.” Harriet grinned. Jeff couldn’t see her as anything less than gorgeous now. Some might disagree with her heavy frame, cheeks dotted with freckles and her short unruly burgundy hair. He could hardly picture the natural light brown hair she had when he met her; she changed it whenever she could get her hands on dye.
Jeff reached to shift the Humvee out of park and spotted a shifting patch of rubble. Harriet noticed it at the same time. She had already started out of the vehicle with her rifle at the ready.
“W…wait! I’ll cover you.” Jeff scrambled back to the turret and lined up the sights by the time Harriet had come to the rubble.
She stared down with wide eyes. He gun lowered.
“A Survivor?” Jeff called out, peering away from the turret.
She nodded dully and shouldered her rifle. She tossed aside a block of stone with a surge of strength and then another.
A hand shot up out of the rubble and grasped desperately. Harriet shuffled backwards and placed a hand on her firearm. She tensed, relaxed, then stepped forward.
Harriet grabbed a firm hold on the hand and tugged. A thin, exhausted looking woman came sputtering from the rubble. Her raven hair was filthy and bruises lined her fair features. Her legs were long and lean and she carefully settled past the rubble with a gentle grace.
At her bare heel however, Jeff saw blood. Even at that distance he knew one when he saw one, a biter’s kiss.
“Harriet! Get away from her!” Jeff aimed at the woman and let his finger settle on the trigger.
Harriet raised her rifle out of instinct and the woman let out a shrill shriek.
“W…wait.” The woman crouched. “Don’t kill me!”
Harriet gave her a quick once over and saw the bite. Her jaw clenched and she looked away in frustration and disgust.
“Stay where you are. We freed you. You can figure the rest out yourself.” Jeff kept the sights steady, aimed at her head.
“My name is Chae. Please… I’m not a monster.” She clenched her eyes shut. “I’ve been in there for days… please…”
“Yet. You’re not a monster yet.” Harriet said firmly. “We can’t help you.”
Jeff’s thoughts drifted. Could they not help her?
“Please! I’ve had this for almost two weeks. If I would have turned it would have happened by now.” Chae’s eyes shot open and glanced between Harriet and Jeff.
“Harriet. Come over here,” Jeff said, “I wanna run something by you.”
“All right.” Harriet kept her rifle aimed at Chae. “You. Don’t move.”
Harriet turned and ran at a trot. She stepped on the front of the Humvee to draw close to Jeff. “What is it?”
“We can use her.” Jeff pointed to the trunk. “She can test the stuff we found. We would just need to…”
“I don’t like it. You sure you’re not just thinking with your dick? That whole repopulation thing only happens in movies you know. I’ll kill you if you’re even thinking about it.”
“Come on. It has nothing to do with that.” Jeff scrunched his brow. “But If it cures her. It should work aces for us. Surely you see the benefit.”
“Yeah. I guess.” Harriet muttered to herself before turning to the woman. “Chae was it? How would you like to play a little game of give and take. Walk over here.”
“But I…” Chae stood uneasily. Her bit leg dragged with a bit of a shuffle.
“That’s not good. She can’t run.” Jeff frowned.
“Maybe her leg is just numb.” Harriet grinned. “You have to do better than that. We can’t really afford dead weight.”
“N…No!” Chae hurried against the pain in her leg, but fell forward with a painful crash.
Jeff and Harriet winced. This was a very bad idea.
“You might be right. It’s at least twisted. She’s gonna be useless.” Harriet frowned.
“Wait… I can help with other things… just don’t leave me…” Chae stood and rubbed her forehead
“She’s got good hearing at least.” Jeff shrugged.
“OK Chae, here’s how this is going to work.” Harriet jabbed a thumb at herself. “I’m the warden. You’re the lab rat. We have a cure for the biter bug in the trunk. Courteously of Uncle Sam.”
“A cure…?” Chae’s eyes widened. Hope lined her large grey eyes, but a shadow of doubt followed. “…lab rat?”
“Untested.” Jeff added.
“Oh.” Chae whimpered.
“But this is about to change.” Harriet hopped down from the Humvee and leaned on it. You need protection and a way to keep from turning into a biter. We have both. We just need a lovely little sucker to try it out. We’re lacking in the desperation department.”
“What are my options?”
“We leave you with a time locked gun, forty five minutes and a day’s worth of food.” Harriet shrugged. Though you’d probably want to save that last bullet for yourself. This sector is about to be purged.”
“Not much of a choice is it?” Harriet sighed. “On that leg you would need to move all day to beat it. The other one, you’re our prisoner until you fulfill two conditions. Or meet of two that makes us need to kill you.”
“Those would be, I turn or I cause harm to you and your husband…” Chae glanced away.
“Partner,” Harriet said, “You go free once your biter wound clears up or we find some reason to trust you enough to graduate to partner status.”
Chae glanced over at Jeff idly.
“So, we have a deal?” Jeff leaned on the Turret.
“Fine…” Chae said in bitter defeat.
“What?” Chae’s eyes widened.
“What part of prisoner did you not understand?” Harriet jabbed a finger at her. “If we drag your ass out of this city, the rules don’t change. Give and Take.”
Harriet caught the cuffs with Jeff’s easy toss.
“F…fine but don’t do anything weird to me. I have rights you know.” Chae begrudgingly turned and held her hands behind her back.
“Oh god. Don’t tell me we saved a lawyer…” Harriet scoffed. “Hands in front. I don’t want you crying about your hands hurting on the ride out.”
“No! I… worked as a clerk for a legal office though. I know a few things.” Chae sighed, he eyes drifted to Jeff pleadingly as Harriet cuffed her.
“Don’t look at me lady. Harriet’s the boss. If she say’s lock you in a box. I ask, how big of one?”
“Don’t be creepy.” Harriet glared at Jeff. “Just cause she’s our prisoner; I don’t’ want you thinking you can mess around with her.”
“Really Harriet? Why would I ever do something like that.” Jeff frowned. He understood why she didn’t want Chae knowing they were an item. Harriet wanted to bait Chae into being sneaky. If she tried to turn Jeff against her she would know that it wasn’t worth keeping her around.
Harriet shoved her into the Humvee and locked the door. She scrambled onto the roof and planted a deep kiss on his lips. His reward for his devious little plan. Chae couldn’t see them from the back seat. Harriet raised a hand and slapped it hard with her other hand.
The action startled Jeff, bringing out a small yelp.
“I’m watching you. Don’t try anything stupid.” Harriet said in a dangerous tone. Her face betrayed it, a diabolical smile that he had come to love.
“Y…Yes ma’am.” Jeff said and offered her a playful wink in response.