PRESENT DAY – ERLANGER, KENTUCKY
“Wow,” Panther said as they sat around their safe house. “Our story is pretty boring compared to that.”
“Yeah,” Rocket continued. “As soon as the outbreak started, Rebel’s boyfriend started turning his semi’s trailer into this safe house. He was a big hunter, so he already had all of these rifles and shotguns. I have no idea where he got all this ammo, though.”
“We’ve been in here ever since he finished it,” Rebel picked up. “A couple of times we’ve had to go out and pick up some food, but we’ve pretty much been in here the whole time.”
The semi trailer-turned-safe house sat in the parking lot of an apartment complex. Rebel’s boyfriend had done some fairly extensive work on it. He had reinforced the walls, changed the doors so they could be opened and locked from the inside, and had even installed a trap door on the bottom, in case the zombies were able to get in through the main door.
While the two groups exchanged stories, Wildcat, Irish, Spartan, and Bulldog were loading up on ammo. Trojan sat back and listened to the others talk. It never ceased to amaze him how quickly people came together in this new world. The petty differences of the past rarely came up now that the more pressing matter of the zombies was out there. He was wondering, and not for the first time, if maybe they shouldn’t kill all of the zombies, just so they’d always have something to keep them together.
Rocket broke away from the others and sat down next to Trojan. “So,” he began, seemingly unsure on how to continue. He looked over at his wife and her sister before asking, “You fell on purpose, didn’t you?”
It took him a few seconds to figure out what Rocket was talking about, but when he did, he started to deny it. Rocket, expecting this, stopped him. “Look, Trojan, you don’t have to lie to me. I’m not gonna tell Rebel anything that’s said here. I just wanna know the truth.”
“Yeah, I fell on purpose.”
”How’d you know he was gonna shoot?”
“I didn’t. I thought he would and I felt like it was a risk worth taking. Either way, I was dead if I didn’t: He would’ve shot me, or the witch would’ve got me.”
Rocket paused. A few seconds later, he asked, “Would that have been so bad?”
Trojan sighed. “It’s true that I’ve lost a lot. I lost my home, then my kids, and then my wife. It would be really easy for me to just give up. Hell, before you rescued me from the smoker, there were a few moments when I was hoping that it would finish me off.
“Here’s the kicker, though: we don’t know what happens when you die. Maybe nothing happens. If I knew that I was going into nothingness, I might’ve given up and let that witch kill me. There’s still a chance that there’s an afterlife, and I don’t think that I could face my family if I just gave up and died. My kids are young enough that they probably wouldn’t care what I did to get back to their side. My wife would be disappointed in me, though. She’d want me to help the rest of you as much as I can before I go, so that’s what I’m going to do. I’ll help you and the others as much as I can, and if I die in the process, that’s fine with me.”
Wildcat walked over and sat down next to them. “What’s next, boss,” he asked.
“I’m not sure anymore. Without Raider, there’s no point in going to Ft. Campbell anymore. Her brother didn’t really like me, so I don’t think he’d help me without her or the kids. And that’s even if the base is still functioning.”
“What about anything local,” Wildcat looked at Rocket. “You guys hear about any shelters or gathering places?”
“Nope,” Rocket answered. “All we ever heard about were places not to go. That’s why we decided to stay here.”
“Are there any military bases nearby?”
“The closest thing to a military base around here is a National Guard armory about fifteen miles up the road.”
Wildcat and Trojan looked at each other and smiled. When Rocket asked what they were grinning about, Trojan answered, “When all this shit started, what was the first thing you and your group gathered?”
“Everything you see here: clothes, food, water, weapons…”
“Exactly. Weapons. That’s what they keep in armories. It’s probably the first place a lot of people went. More than likely, there’s a big group of survivors there.”
“Yeah, but the National Guard could’ve come in, took all their weapons, and left.”
“True, but even if they did, people would’ve still gone there to check it out. If they didn’t find weapons, or the National Guard, they still might’ve found other survivors to group up with.”
Trojan turned to the others and told them of this new plan. When he was finished, his group got up and gathered their weapons. He looked over at Rocket. “Are you coming with us?”
Rebel stood up immediately and responded, “Yes. We’re going with you.”
“Wait a minute,” Panther scolded her sister. “Shouldn’t we talk about this first?”
“You and your husband can stay here and talk about it all you want, but I’m going with them. These guys seem to know what they’re doing. Plus, I can’t stay here anymore. This place reminds me of him too much. I’ve got to get out of here.”
Panther looked over at her husband, but all he did was shrug. She shook her head and grabbed her shotgun. “I guess we’ll need to pack our things if we’re coming along.”
The sun was setting by the time they made it back to the highway. Panther asked if they should wait until morning to start their journey. Trojan told her it didn’t matter. If there were zombies around, they’d find the group regardless. Besides, he pointed out, darkness would make it harder for the zombies to see them. She was going to say that it also made it harder for them to see the zombies, but she kept her mouth shut. These guys had more experience in these matters than she did.
Wildcat looked at the three new additions the same way he looked at all the new people that have joined the group, with mild amusement. He didn’t outwardly show it, but inside he was laughing. Ninety-nine percent of the time the new people suffered from what he called FTS, or First Tour Syndrome. While all of them were vigilant, the new people were jumpy about it, turning their heads at every sound. It was something he noticed in new recruits while he was in the army.
All three of them were doing it, but Rocket wasn’t as bad as the other two. Wildcat didn’t think this had anything to do with them being female. In his time in the army, and since the zombies started attacking, he’d seen plenty of women who were just as, if not more, capable as men. Bulldog was a good example of this in his book. The reason he thought the women were more jumpy than Rocket is that Rocket probably had more experience outside of the safe house than they did.
Irish, who was walking the point position, signaled the group to halt. Trojan walked over to him. “Hunter,” Irish explained.
He listened for a few seconds, but Trojan didn’t hear it. A scan of the area didn’t reveal anything either. Then, he heard a hunter’s scream, but it sounded strange. It sounded like it was an echo. Trojan realized it wasn’t an echo when he heard his people yelling. Turning around, he saw that there were three hunters: one on Spartan, one on Panther, and one on Wildcat.