The trip from Dayton to Cincinnati had been a grueling one. Trojan’s group had picked up seven more people on the road, but had lost all seven, plus two of the four members of the Bird Squad. This made Trojan a little uneasy as they hadn’t even made it inside the city yet. They were still on the outskirts. Raider could tell what he was thinking and put her hand on his shoulder to reassure him.
Before heading any further, Trojan huddled the nine remaining members of the group up. “We’re running low on food. Wildcat, You take the rest of the ‘animals’ and start going up the off-ramps we come to. Look for stores, gas stations, or whatever. Only check the ones visible from the highway, that way we can watch your backs. I doubt you’ll find much in them, but we’ll take anything you can get.”
The others nodded their head in agreement. Trojan grabbed his gear and they moved on. Nothing came of the first two off-ramps. Neither had any zombies or any stores with food. Spartan started voicing his frustration, but Trojan ignored it. He knew it was a long shot that they’d find food in these places, especially with them being so close to the highway. Once again, he pleaded patience to the rest of them.
As they approached the third off-ramp, Trojan dared to let his hopes rise slightly. There was a gas station that had all of its windows intact, which was something that none of them has seen in a long time. Wildcat looked at Trojan for orders. Trojan pointed to the store and nodded his head. The “animals”: Wildcat, Bulldog, Hawk, and Eagle, started walking up the ramp.
When they reached the top of it, Wildcat signaled a stop. He heard something, but it went away too quickly for him to figure out what it was. The noise came and went again before he could place it. He turned to ask Eagle if he had heard it, when he noticed that Eagle wasn’t there. Hawk and Bulldog noticed it then, too.
Wildcat looked back at Trojan, who was frantically pointing at the overpass. Eagle was walking towards it with a zombie on his shoulders. He had never seen one before, but he had heard of them. It was a jockey, and it looked like a hunchbacked midget. Wondering why Trojan, or any of the others, hadn’t taken a shot at it yet, he quickly realized that they couldn’t get a shot at it from their position. Plus, with the weapons they had, they would probably hit Eagle before they hit the jockey.
He brought his rifle up and adjusted his scope as fast as he could. Waiting a second to steady his breathing, he calmly pulled the trigger and fired the shot. The rifle kicked against his shoulder. In the brief second that it took for him to reacquire his sights, both Eagle and the jockey disappeared from view. That’s when he heard the children screaming.
Trojan knew he had messed up. They had seen the zombie approaching the group. He had wanted to call out a warning, but he was afraid that it would attract more zombies to them. When it jumped on Eagle’s back and began leading him away, he should have broken his silence. The part that was eating away at him was, for the life of him, he didn’t know why he didn’t try to help Eagle sooner.
Eagle was out of his line of sight before the other noticed he was gone. He signaled to Wildcat, and when Wildcat raised his rifle, he hoped it would be in time to save their friend. A shot fired. Trojan closed his eyes and started to pray. His prayer was interrupted by a thump and the screams of his children. Raider had taken them under the overpass as a precaution until the others returned. The direction the jockey had dragged Eagle right over their heads. Wildcat didn’t get the shot off in time. Eagle had been made to walk right off the overpass and he landed, head-first, right next to Raider and the kids.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t what the children were screaming about. They had seen many people die, so they were used to it. What they were screaming about was an approaching horde. Trojan ran over to help Raider protect them. He looked around for Spartan, but he was nowhere to be seen. He called out to him. From above, he heard Wildcat start issuing orders, including some for Spartan. The man must have run up the ramp when everything started with Eagle and he didn’t notice.
Irish moved into a position between the children and the horde. Raider and Trojan took up positions on opposite sides of them. There were quite a few zombies, but Trojan was confident that they could keep them from harming the kids. That’s when he heard Wildcat scream, “Oh, shit,” followed closely by Hawk yelling, “Look out!” Suddenly, something exploded behind him.
Immediately, he knew that a boomer had blown up at his back. The bile covered his eyes, but he could tell that the force of the explosion had moved him farther away from the others. A tall figure passed in front of him, but, since he couldn’t see who it was, he shoved it away. Or, at least, he tried to. The thing wouldn’t move. Before he could shove again, it roared and ran off.
Trojan swung his bat out in front of him to keep the zombies at bay while he cleared the bile out of his eyes. When he was finally able to see again, he looked back at the others to see how they were doing. Raider was next to their youngest child, their four-year-old daughter, swatting any zombie that got too close with a bat of her own. Irish was out in front, making as much noise as possible to attract the zombies. His oldest child, their eight-year-old son, was…
Trojan’s heart dropped. Their son was not with the others. Looking around, he saw that his son was in the hand of a large zombie. It was close to seven feet tall. One of its arms was massive, while the other was miniscule. The zombie was over by the wall of the overpass, slamming the boy into the ground repeatedly. This was the first time he had seen a charger. Rage built up inside him as he ran to where his son was being pummeled.
Each swing was backed by the strength of desperation that only a frightened parent can know. He was knocking the heads off of any zombie that was unlucky enough to cross his path. It took an agonizingly long couple of minutes to reach his son. His wife and Irish were in no position to help as the boomer bile attracted too large of a horde. They had too many to deal with on their own. Trojan would have to help them as soon as he rescued his son.
He swung his bat, hitting the charger in the spine below the shoulder blades. It didn’t react at all, just continued what it was doing. Mustering up whatever strength he had left, he took another swing. This time, he used an overhead chop that dropped the bat right onto the back of its head. The charger dropped dead.
Trojan knelt down beside his son, who was not moving. He quickly tried to find a pulse, but couldn’t as his attention was split because of more approaching zombies. Wanting to stay close to his son, he knew he couldn’t stay kneeling or they’d both die. Getting to his feet, he cracked the closest one in the face with his bat. “Wildcat,” he screamed at the top of his lungs, wondering why the other group hadn’t come to help them yet.
Wildcat had troubles of his own. After failing to save Eagle, he also didn’t see the boomer in time to stop it from going kamikaze off of the overpass. While none of his group had been hit by the bile, those zombies in his immediate area still had to go through them to get to those who had. They killed as many as they could and were getting ready to go to the others. That’s when he felt it. There was a vibration coming from the ground. All four of them knew what it was. Now, they understood why the gas station was in good shape. Nobody would come near it because there was a tank in the area.
As the tank came into sight, Wildcat looked at Spartan. “Throw your pipe bomb onto the highway below,” he commanded, “but make sure it’s nowhere close to them.” One of their former group members had shown them how to rig their pipe bombs with an alarm. When thrown, the alarm goes off and the noise attracts the zombies. “Hopefully,” he continued, “it will help clear them so they can help us with the tank.”
Wildcat raised his rifle and fired. He shot one more round before having to dive for cover. The tank had thrown a car at him. As the sound of the pipe bomb filled the area, he found himself wishing that Trojan and his family were safe before wishing that he would survive the tank attack.