It’s been a fun month, and next up is Nanawrimo. Enjoy this suprisingly zombie free edition of the Game of Life.
Part 8 — This is goodbye
Jeff and Chae followed Harriet like well-behaved ducklings, while Harriet followed the strangers like a master walks a dog. The way she carried herself with such confidence left Jeff envious. It made her beautiful to him, more than her red hair or her face full of freckles at least.
The buildings surrounding their market hideout showed signs of bombing, bits of biters and scorched stone littered the streets while piles of rubble marked where buildings used to be. Jeff brought a hand to his mouth, he knew all too well what this meant. This city had been purged.
“Why the hell are you sitting at a purged city? That’s why the Feds send out the warnings—”
“There was no warning.” Richard said, clenching his teeth. “Let me make this clear. I don’t trust you. Even if you’re with Harriet, you’re still a dog of the government.”
Harriet raised a protesting hand. “I’m more of a cat person. Can I be a cat of the government?”
“This isn’t a time for bad jokes,” Richard said.
“Actually, yes, it is,” Harriet said, “Look here, Dick, the world has come to an end. If you can’t laugh there’s no reason to live.”
“Oh I got plenty of reasons.” Richard looked back at her. “You might be content to screw around, taking the scraps of our old lives, but I want to make a new one. A substantial one.”
Jeff rolled his eyes and hurried to walk alongside Harriet. “Right there you sounded like the villain in a video game. The whole remaking the world shtick? It doesn’t work. The government has done nothing but help. They send us food and weapons.”
“They also sent the cure that’s keeping me alive,” Chae said.
“Look around,” Richard said, “You see a dead city, a checkmark on the campaign to clean up. But this city had life when the bombs fell. We had a perimeter, a school, even rooftop farms. We had the plans to start a wall, and the materials. Now we live underground like rats.”
“Then just move.” Harriet said, frowning. “Jeff and I have moved a dozen times. We’re fine.”
“It’s not so easy with our numbers.” Richard’s hand tensed around his rifle.
“Give me a break.” Jeff gestured to the ruins. “You have nothing here. So what if you have a dozen or so people you—“
“We have five thousand.” Richard said, narrowing his eyes.
Harriet and Jeff gaped. It had been the first real moment of panic he had seen on her face since they had been together. Armed men filed around them, raising rifles and cold stares. Jeff and Chae threw their hands up without hesitation. Harriet cooled and turned her gaze to Richard.
“Apologies. We’ll be taking whatever weapons you have.” Richard held out his hand. “Your rifle and your knife, now.”
Harriet tossed her rifle on the ground. She pulled a knife from her belt, tossing it beside her gun. Stooping over, she pulled a pistol off her ankle. When she finished, a small armory of weapons lay before her including three blades, three firearms, and an improvised blackjack. Jeff threw his pistol and his knife onto the pile. Chae had no weapons.
Then and only then, did she raise her arms. “Want to frisk me?”
Richard gestured to one of his lady soldiers who gave her a quick pat down. Just like that, they were prisoners.
“Five Thousand,” Harriet said, “No wonder they bombed you, you’re an army.”
“Most of us are civilians. A Thousand of us are willing to fight. If you stay on behavior for a year or so, we may allow you to arm and join us.”
“What do you plan to do with us until then?” Jeff frowned.
“You will work.” Richard said, smirking. “Did you want to stay with Harriet? Or will you need separate rooms? We could always use more people.”
“Fuck that.” Harriet said, grabbing a fistful of Richard’s fatigues. “We’re not your slaves. We’ll be on our way once we get the Humvee back running.”
A chorus of rifles readying surrounded Harriet. She seemed non-plussed.
“Hey, Harriet, let’s not get shot alright?” Jeff put a hand on her shoulder. “It won’t be all that bad right? With all these people we can kick back for a while. That’s what we were doing before right?”
“We still got to kill biters.” Harriet gave Richard a shake. “Let us god or so help me God, I’ll rip your balls off.”
“That might be difficult, seeing as you’re unconscious.” Richard said, raising a calm hand. A tranquilizer dart landed clean in the middle of her back, sending her forward with a lurch.
Gunfire erupted behind them, breaking the silence of the city. A wave of biters put down by the fringe guard.
Harriet’s grip on Richard’s collar wavered. The tranquilizers did their work fast. Jeff moved forward, paused to pluck the dart from her, and pulled her away at the waist. She sagged in his arms.
“I’m glad you have more sense than her.” Richard straightened his fatigues. “You’re in charge of her then.”
“Jeff… Please. We could be safe here.” Chae said, her voice quiet.”
“Not quite.” Richard deepened his glare at Jeff. “Harriet mentioned she’s the reason we will have to bow and scrape to you.”
Think Jeff… Think. “Well the truth is she— Chae is a detonator for a nuclear blast.”
“What?” Chae’s eyes grew wide.
“The explosives are in the Humvee. To be honest you’re lucky you didn’t set it off when you tossed a grenade it.” Jeff glanced down to Harriet. “…and you just tranquilized the only person that knows the override code.”
“You’re bluffing.” Richard narrowed his eyes.
“He’s bluffing,” Chae said, disgusted.
“Ha. You think that’s a cure we gave you?” Jeff said, keeping a straight face. “We just injected a nano-machine into you that would blow us sky high a few minutes after you die. Of course, if you pissed us off Harriet could just say the magic word.”
“You’re so full of shit,” Chae said, “There’s no such thing as Nanomachines. You’ve been reading too many science fiction books.”
“That’s not entirely true.” An older man approached them, adjusting wide rimmed glasses. His short unkempt blonde hair splayed out in all directions surrounding his oversized head. His considerable height kept him at eye level despite his stooped posture. “My name is Doctor Gabin Stevenson. I make it habit to see that our new people are not infected.”
“So you’re saying he might be telling the truth?” Richard frowned.
“Odds are low, a fifteen percent chance. They came into the city in a High tech military vehicle. Scanners show it contains enough explosives to destroy the entire section of the city. Odds of diffusing it with our equipment are an abysmal two point three percent.”
“See? Listen to doctor Egghead.”
“Kill the girl. She’s infected. The couple shows immune.” The old man said, turning to leave.
Chae ducked behind Jeff. “What?”
“If it must be done.” Richard nodded. “But what about the claim about—“
“Irrelevant. If he is telling the truth, we only need to wake the other girl.” The old man didn’t miss a step. “Torture her until she gives us the override code.”
“Wait. I lied.” Jeff gave Harriet a squeeze. “She’s showing infected because of a medicine we gave her. Something the government gave us.”
The old man stopped walking.
“But you still need to let us leave. That Humvee will go critical if we don’t go back to it.” Jeff tensed. “Don’t kill Chae. Please.”
“Thank you, Jeff.” Chae said, her voice small.
Doctor Gabin Stevenson turned, fiddling with his glasses. “Step away from the boy, Chae is it?”
She nodded and stepped forward. An uneasy feeling sank to the bottom of Jeff’s stomach. Chae walked with her arms crossed. The Doctor looked over her from head to toe, considering.
“Richard,” The Doctor said.
“It is as the boy says. A foreign agent has rendered her a different class of immune.” The doctor turned to Jeff. “Is there more of this substance in your vehicle?”
“I will offer a compromise.” The doctor shrugged a shoulder. “Give us three doses of that chemical, and we will help you repair your vehicle. Then, you may leave at your leisure.”
Jeff paused to consider, biting his lip. “And Harriet?”
“She may go.” Doctor Stevenson raised a hand, anticipating Richard’s protest. “The other girl stays; she is ill-suited for the life of a wanderer.”
Chae glanced back, nodding quietly. “You’re right. I’m tired of running”
“Yes. That won’t be a problem anymore. We will take care of you.”
“As long as you don’t mind staying,” Jeff said, shaking his head. “Alright Doc, you have a deal.”
The doctor offered two small nods, one to Jeff and another to Richard accompanied with a spindly finger pointed to his temple.
Richard raised his pistol, aimed and fired. Chae’s body toppled from the impact of slug, the look of hopeful relief still etched on her brow.
“Ninety percent chance of yielding better results in a necrotic state.” The doctor offered an approving nod.
Jeff let out an anguished cry, falling to his knees. “You said you—“
“I Would take care of her, yes,” the doctor said. “None of my words entertained the notion of leaving her alive. Would you like to reopen negotiations? I feel I have been extremely reasonable with the terms.”
Jeff forced his gaze on Chae’s fallen body. I’ve always been terrible with negotiations. Harriet wouldn’t have made such a bone head mistake. “No.”
“Good then.” The doctor turned away. “Richard. Bring the body to my lab, we should get these two out of the city within forty-eight hours. There is a seventy percent chance they will seek retribution for the death of their friend.”
You need to run your numbers again asshole. It’s a hundred percent guarantee.