Chapter Eleven~ Wait
The first thing that runs through my mind is that they’re after me. I can tell by the look on Mason’s face that he is thinking the same thing. Jared is too preoccupied by Brie, who he and Baby bear are trying to rouse in the back seat to no avail.
I remain still with my arms above my head. I know what I could do: zap them all so we can make our escape. But I’m so tired already. My heart doesn’t think it can take harming any more people, regardless of the circumstances.
A smaller group of soldiers separates from the larger, surrounding group and moves towards us. Any hope I have left disintegrates, and mostly I feel like crumpling onto the ground. We’ve survived the nanobots so far, just for this. What’s the point of fighting anymore?
Seeing their guns raised, I only half hear the orders shouted at me from the soldier. I turn back around to the Jeep slowly and motion for Jared to hand me Baby bear. Baby bear crawls willingly into my arms. The tension in the air scares him. Mason stands firm where he is. I can see his muscles twitching from here as he itches to get by our sides.
“I said turn around!” The soldier says again. This time I comply. “What is that?” He asks when he sees what I’m holding.
“It’s a baby bear. We found him and have been taking care of him.” I answer, my voice a monotone, and graciously not trembling with the nervousness I feel.
Apparently he wasn’t expecting this answer, because he just grunts in response. He looks over to Mason, then into the car. “What’s wrong with her?” As he asks, the three soldiers closest to the car point their guns at Jared and Brie.
“She just fell down before and hit her head.” I don’t dare tell them the truth, or even say that she’s not feeling well. And I say it loudly, making sure that Mason and Jared hear me, too.
The man eyes me suspiciously but doesn’t question me. He walks around the Jeep, peers through the windows and undoubtedly notices all of our gear. A minute shake of his head has the other soldiers backing off and lowering their weapons.
“You’re all survivors from back east, I take it?”
I nod. “Yes sir. From Canaan, Connecticut before all of this happened.” I figure I’ll stick to the truth as much as possible.
His eyebrows shoot up. “That’s a far drive.”
I shrug. “We walked for a while before we found the Jeep.”
He circles again, then motions for Mason to come over and for Jared to come out of the Jeep. Jared carefully lays Brie across the backseat and steps out next to me. Mason is by my side almost instantly.
“We have a quarantined safe zone, not too far from here that we can take you to. Each of you will have to remain in isolation for three days to get in. If at the end of those three days, you’re still uninfected, then you’ll become one of our residents.”
Mason looks nervously at me and Jared. “What if we’re not interested?”
The soldier raises an eyebrow. “Why wouldn’t you be interested?”
I jump in while there’s still time. “We’ve been doing alright out here on our own.”
The soldier now turns his hard gaze on me. “We’ve been instructed to eliminate the threat by any means necessary. That means we are not able to take the chance that any of you,” he nods towards the backseat, “are infected and allowed to spread it.”
“So we go with you or what, die?” Jared asks.
“Yeah that’s what we’re told.” The soldier says this with a hint of regret in his voice. It’s easy to tell that he doesn’t agree with this at all.
Mason and Jared look at me and I shrug, “It’s not his fault.” I turn to the soldier. “What about our things?”
“After you leave the isolation rooms, your personal belongings will be waiting for you.”
“And the Jeep?” Mason asks.
Another raised eyebrow. “The Jeep is now property of the US government but don’t worry. You won’t have any use for it inside the compound.”
I doubt that’s where Mason is planning on using it. I don’t really see any way out of this, other than to go along with it. I just really hope Brie wakes up soon, and that when she does, she’s okay.
The isolation room is cold: a dull grey concrete box with a small cot, sink and toilet. The smell of bleach burns my nose. I sit on the floor against the wall and try to find patterns in the cracked concrete, anything to keep all of the sobering thoughts in my mind from coming out to taunt me.
The one thing I can’t keep my mind off of is Brie. She isn’t awake by the time we arrive here. She’s put into her own isolation room. I hope she makes it through the next few days.
I look to my cot. Baby bear snuggles next to me in the thin blanket they provide. It took a lot of arguing on my part. Ultimately something causes the soldier to cave, and he allows me to keep Baby bear through this isolation process. I was left by the frustrated soldier with the firm understanding that if Baby bear shows any signs of infection, that we’ll both pay the price for it.
It doesn’t really bother me—I know Baby bear’s fine. Even if he wasn’t, I’m pretty sure I could stop his infection same as anybody else. So far, they don’t seem to know who I am. A small part of me dares to hope that it will stay that way.
I have no idea how much time passes before the memories push their way to the front of my mind, no longer willing to be ignored. At first they come in flashes. I hang my head in my arms and lose myself in the overwhelming sorrow that facing my demons brings. It starts first with those evil men in that small town, and builds from there. By the time I face the massacre of the metal heads in the field, I’m near hysterics. If the situation had gone differently, I have no idea if they could’ve been saved.
I’ll never know unless I get out of here, wherever here actually is. I have no idea or any clue as to what goes on behind these walls. We weren’t given much choice, but hope we didn’t cross the line into a situation that’s even worse.
With no windows, my internal clock is all I have to go by. This means I’m totally screwed, because got altered during our extended road trip: sleeping a few hours here and there, and losing any semblance of my normal sleep cycle. My mind experiences exhaustion when it finally slows down. I curl around Baby bear on the small cot. His warmth and company makes me happy as I drift off to sleep.
The slide of the grate wakes me. This is the fifth tray of slop they’ve shoved through, since I’ve been here. I add it to the pile of the rest of them, all untouched. The only thing I have been doing is drinking water. I take a sip, place the tin cup aside and save the rest for later.
The charge coursing through me is becoming uncomfortable. At first, I feel surprise that I don’t need to recharge, especially after the display when we were swimming. It seems like my body is recharging itself much more rapidly than before as though the energy I create is now far stronger. Maybe the lightning caused it…maybe not.
If I ever make it out of this stupid room, maybe I can try to reach Dr. Ford. He could use the information have. I’m not sure if it’s possible to contact him without blowing my cover. If I have to choose between the greater good for humanity and my own welfare, which will win?
Before looking too deeply into that question I hear a different sound: a rough metal on metal sliding sound, a gruffer sliding, and loud squeaking. The thick door protests when it opens.
I scoop Baby bear off the cot and stand with him in the far corner. I hope that the door opening is good news. It’s hard to not feel defensive when trapped in the corner. I see the same soldier from before take a step inside. He moves slowly and deliberately, so I can see that he means no harm. It wouldn’t surprise me if he’s seen a lot of people go nuts within the confines of this concrete tomb.
“Congratulations,” he says, placing some clean clothes on the bed. “You’ve passed the isolation test. Next up is the showers. Then you can join the other residents.”
“What about the rest of my group?” I ask, my concern for Brie overwhelming.
“I’m not sure. You’ll be able to find out after you shower and change. Anything you have on now has to go into the bag in the shower. It will be returned to you once it’s cleaned properly. Hit the red button when you’re done.”
I shift Baby bear to my hip so that I can hold him with one hand while scooping up the clothes with the other. I follow soldier-guy out of the cell, into a windowless hallway and enter the door he points to. The loud noise of the closing door makes me jump as I look around.
It’s really just a big shower. On one wall there’s a bench. The bag he was talking about is beside it. A sink and mirror sit on the wall adjacent to the bench. The rest of the room is filled with showerheads and a large drain in the center of the room. I place Baby bear on the bench. For the first time noticing the bottle of shampoo, bar of soap, and towel placed there.
I undress and shower quickly. Usually I’d enjoy it more, but I’m too anxious to see the others. I find a comb, a new toothbrush still in the package, and toothpaste on a small shelf above the sink. When I’m done I dress and even don the flip flops provided for me. The clothes are an ill-fitting pair of sweatpants and a T-Shirt, but they’re clean. The last thing I care about right now is clothes.
I scoop up Baby bear and hit the red button, next to a separate door from the one I came in. The door buzzes and opens before I step through. Something I haven’t seen in days immediately blinds me, the sun.
“Kat!” The voice I hear makes me feel instant relief. Brie!
Her arms are around me before my eyes even finish adjusting to the bright outdoor light. I squeeze her back tightly with the arm that’s not holding Baby bear. “Mason,” I ask, “Jared?”
“I don’t know yet. They’d be on the men’s side. I didn’t want to go without you.” She grabs hold of my arm. I’m not quite ready for her to let go yet either, so we wander towards where the signs direct us, and keep our eyes peeled for the guys.
It doesn’t take long before we spot them. I instantly smile at Mason’s pacing. When he turns back towards us, his worried face lights up. My heart warms. We watch while increasing our pace. Mason smacks Jared’s arm and they both run towards us.
We all stand in one interestingly coordinated group hug for a moment. Brie and I are still holding hands with my other arm still cradling Baby bear. We can care less how we look; we’re far too happy to see each other. After separating into pairs, Mason and I, as well as Brie and Jared, share a more intimate embrace.
It’s someone clearing their throat that finally separates us. I turn to see a younger guy smiling at us. He’s maybe in his early twenties and has warm brown eyes.
“Sorry,” I mumble, feeling the heat in my face.
“No worries,” he says, “I always prefer happy reunions to the alternative. I’m Jay, here to get you all settled in.”
“Hi, Jay,” Mason introduces us all. “I’m Mason. This is Kat, Brie, Jared and that’s Baby bear.”
I feel better when I see Brie’s red face. At least I’m not the only one who feels embarrassment.
“That’s so cool! I heard about him, but I didn’t realize he was with you guys. How’d you guys end up with him?” Jay asks, his eyes on the fur-ball in my arms.
“We found him.” Brie answers.
“His mom was infected.” I explain. “We couldn’t just leave him to fend for himself.”
“Wow. To be honest, I’m surprised they let you bring him in.”
“Yeah, Kat did a good job convincing them.” Jared says, smiling.
“I’ll have to meet him when he’s not sleeping. C’mon, I gotta show you to your new digs.” Jay turns, and motions with one arm for us to follow.
Our new digs turn out to be two tents next door to one another. They are pretty nice, though—with air mattresses and pillows and sleeping bags. Our stuff is waiting for us already, which is convenient. It’s a little annoying that someone else went through everything.
Our tents are two of many, possible hundreds set up around a main building. Next to the main building is a large open air tent serving as a cafeteria. Jay leads us here while more people mill about, waiting for lunch. I look around and realize that if this is it, there’s way more tents than there are people.
After we eat, Jay brings us to meet the military personal that he says we should probably get to know—just in case we ever need anything. While being introduced to Captain Jennings we inadvertently overhear their discussion regarding the infection.
“We have no idea why they’re pushing back in that area.” A soldier whose name I didn’t catch reports to the captain.
“We didn’t deploy our new tactical unit to the area?” The captain asks.
“No sir,” The soldier shakes his head. “We’ve been concentrating on the Northeastern quadrant where the infection was worse.”
“How about there? Does the new weapon work?”
“Yes sir, it seems to be working. Who would have thought that this new energy they’ve discovered and harnessed would push them back?”
It’s our reactions that turn the captain’s attention to us. Brie gasps, and the three of them stare at me. I can’t seem to wipe the stupid smile off my face. He did it. Dr. Ford managed to replicate my energy and turn it into a weapon that we can use against the nanobots.
The captain focuses on the bundle of fur in my arms, and a funny look crosses his face. He dismisses the soldier he’s speaking with and shuts the door behind him. He sits down and motions for us to do the same. He doesn’t say anything for a moment: just sits and looks at us with his hand clasped under his chin. When he does speak, what he says surprises us all. “I’m impressed you made it this far in such a short amount of time. You four are either damn lucky, or work exceptionally well together.”
We all just stare at him. Of course, we know what this means. We’re even more shocked when he bursts out laughing at the expressions of horror on our faces. “Wait! You think I’m going to turn you in to General Carch? I can’t stand her! Besides, Dr. Ford already told me and a few others he trusts to keep an eye out for you in case you turn up.”
I breathe an audible sigh of relief. I’m pretty sure everyone else is doing the same thing, but I’m too busy being elated to really be sure.
It’s Mason who speaks first. “Thank you, sir. You have no idea how relieved we all are to hear you say that.”
“How is he? Dr. Ford, I mean.” Brie asks. “He gave us a phone, but we haven’t heard from him.”
The captain grows serious now. “He’s fine. He couldn’t call you because the General is monitoring his calls. She’s convinced he knows where you are. Just be careful, some of the soldiers here are more loyal to her than they are me.”
“Thanks for the warning.” Jared says.
“No problem. If you guys need anything, tell Jay to find me. You can trust him.”
“Thanks, Captain Jennings.” I tell him, as we head out the door to find Jay.