While Wildcat and the others were praising the return of Trojan; Rocket, Panther, and Rebel were staring open-mouthed at the body of the tank. They had seen a few of the special infected, but they had spent most of their time in the safe house. Most of this was still new to them. The sheer size of the tank both amazed and scared them. Rocket began looking at Trojan and his group with profound respect, surprised that anyone could survive a fight with the tank.
He soon noticed that he was alone. Rebel and Panther had walked further up the road and stopped next to a body. Joining them, he saw that it was a woman who had been shot in the head, although she had injuries all over her body. Rebel knelt down and pointed to the ring finger on the body.
“This must be his wife. That’s why he was getting choked up when he was telling about the tank.”
Rocket looked towards the other group and saw that Trojan was staring at them. “Come on,” he said. “He probably doesn’t want us to be here by her body.”
The three of them walked over to where Trojan’s group was standing. A conversation had been going on before they arrived, but it stopped as soon as they approached. Wildcat looked at Trojan and asked, “That’s their story?”
Before Trojan could answer, Rebel looked Wildcat in the eyes and replied, “What’s yours?”
3 WEEKS AGO – DAYTON, OHIO
“Damn it,” Spartan yelled after he jumped out of the spitter’s goo. “We’ve been on the road for a week and we’ve already lost almost half our people. We’re not even out of the city yet!”
“Save your bitching until after we kill all of the zombies, jackass,” Irish scolded.
Wildcat shot the spitter before it was able to launch its goo again. Trojan and his wife, Raider, were forming a protective circle around their children, swatting any zombie that came too close with a baseball bat. Bulldog and the Bird Squad, named such because all four of them had taken on the names of birds, were off to the side making as much noise as possible to try and draw the horde away from the children.
After a few more tense minutes, they finally cleared the grocery store of all of the infected. All twelve members of the group huddled up, trying to catch their breath. “Is everyone ok,” Trojan asked. They all answered that they were, so he continued, “Ok, then here’s what we’re going to do: we’re going to rest here tonight. We’ve got enough food and ammo to last us for a little while, so we’re going to stop searching homes and stores for now. It’s taking too long and we’ve lost too many people while doing it. Wildcat, you set up a watch schedule while I go get my family settled down.”
Trojan, Raider, and their kids walked away. Wildcat began telling the others when they were going to take their turn on watch, but Spartan soon interrupted him.
“Trojan screwed up. We never should have left.”
“Don’t try to blame this on him,” Bulldog countered. “He put it to a vote and the majority said we should take the trip.”
“Don’t forget that we had nothing left to stay in either,” Irish reminded them.
As the group continued their discussion, Trojan, after putting his kids to bed, pretended not to listen to them. He knew that all of them, except maybe Spartan, trusted him with their lives.”
“He’s just mad that no one is kissing his ass anymore,” Raider said, putting her hand on his shoulder. “Don’t pay any attention to him.”
“He’s got a point, baby. Maybe we should’ve tried to stay where we were.”
Before they left a week ago, things had been going pretty good for the group. They had plenty of food, ammo, and a good hiding place. There were thirty of them, then. That’s when it all came crashing down on them. Literally.
A tank, which was chasing a survivor who wasn’t part of their group, came crashing through one of their walls. Two of them were killed by the falling debris. What happened next was a chaotic mix of gun shooting, people running, and zombies attacking. No two members of the group will tell the same story. Trojan tried to calm everything down as quickly as he could.
When the dust settled, three more of their people were either dead or missing, leaving twenty-five in the group. Their safe house was in bad shape, as well. With one wall collapsed, the other three were close to giving out as well. Trojan knew they couldn’t stay here anymore. A few of them suggested that they head for the Air Force base on the other side of town, but Trojan shot that down. Wildcat had come from there before joining the group and had reported that it was abandoned.
He looked over at his wife. She had talked to him before about trying to make it to Fort Campbell on the Kentucky/Tennessee border. Raider had a brother who was stationed there and figured that it wouldn’t be abandoned as quickly as Wright-Patterson was. While Trojan was willing to make the trip, he didn’t want to drag the whole group along if they didn’t want to go. So, he put it to a vote. They wanted to go with him.
They tried to salvage what they could from their old safe house, but it collapsed soon after they started. Luckily, nobody was hurt when this happened, but it also left them short of supplies for the trip. Now, they had to stop along the way to forage for food and ammo. This ended up costing people their lives. The zombies started picking his people off one-by-one. Only twelve were left and Trojan felt as if he was letting them down.
He never thought of himself as a leader, anyways. The only reason the others chose him to lead in the first place was because he had been in the group the longest when their last leader died. After the events of this past week, he now knew the other part of the truth, as well. Nobody else wanted the responsibility. It was a no-win situation. No matter what he did, even if he did everything right, some of his people were going to die. That’s just how it was against the infected. Regardless of how it happened, any loss of life would fall on the leader and none of the others were willing to accept that burden.
Raider had heard the argument from him before, and she had dismissed it then, too. She knew he was still dwelling on it, so she snapped him back into the present. “Nobody forced them to join our group. Nobody forced them to appoint you to be their leader. And you didn’t force them to follow you on this trip. They did all of that on their own. Don’t try to take responsibility away from those who made their own decisions.”
Trojan smiled at his wife. “You’re right, baby. Hopefully, things will be better by the time we reach Cincinnati.”