Chapter Seven~ Plan
The Jeep bounces along the old dirt road. Mason tries to avoid the bumps the best that he can. I glance in between us at the center console that holds the small revolver and extra rounds Jack insisted we take. I really hope we don’t have a chance to use it.
We compare the maps we have with the most up-to-date parameters of the uninfected area we’re in. We estimate having about six hours or so before being forced to cross the line into those infected areas, or cross the Great Lakes. We don’t have a boat, so we have to go with option one. Quite frankly this doesn’t thrill me. Outvoting occurs when I propose the attempted boat acquisition. They have valid arguments: the lack of sailing expertise and the uncertainty when arriving on the other side.
The problem that I have (but they don’t realize) is that it’s my responsibility to keep them uninfected. Not that I’d ever tell them that. As it appears, I’m maybe the only thing that can stop these creepy little nano-monsters. That automatically puts me between them and the infection. Thinking otherwise isn’t even an option for me.
And boy, was Jack right about responsibility. It’s a heavy burden. I know they’d argue with me about it, but it doesn’t change how I feel or what is.
As the road starts to climb, I turn to Mason. “Let’s stop when we get to the top. See if we can see anything.” We’ve been driving for a few hours, and I’d like to avoid any unnecessary surprises.
We reach the crest of the incline and Mason cuts the engine. We all get out and stretch. Jared tosses us each a sandwich that Mariette made. Baby bear takes the opportunity to use the little bear’s room under a bush before digging into his own sandwich. I notice he’s a little bigger than he was a few days ago and wish I would’ve looked up some more information on bears when I had the chance.
Mason and I hike a short way up a large boulder to get a better look around. I feel the change in the air before I see it. Sure enough, to our right a few miles away, I can see a metallic looking fog. I tell Mason to alert the others to brace themselves. He knows what I’m about to do, so he doesn’t even ask. I position myself on the boulder and take aim. It seems the more I make these energy spheres, the easier it has become. Good to know, if I’m ever in a sticky situation.
I throw the largest one I can make as far as I can to the south. The aftershock of it knocks me off the boulder. Mason catches me when I fall back. “You should have waited back there.” I scold him.
“But then I wouldn’t get to catch you.” He smiles and plants a kiss on my lips. He knows he’s forgiven. “I think we should stop at that town we saw just northwest of here, try to refuel before we cross over.”
“That’s if it even works.” I grumble.
“It’ll work, you’ll see. But I still think we should stop while we can.”
I nod. “Let’s see what Brie and Jared think.”
We get back to the Jeep. Jared and Brie agree that we should stop while we can. Mason checks the gun before we set off again. Our plan is to drive to the edge of the small town, where Brie and I will wait with the Jeep while the guys look for gas. I try to ignore the bad feeling in my gut as we approach.
Though no metallic haze is visible over the small town, it remains shrouded with an eerie feel. It’s quiet, which we expected and even hoped for, but I can’t help but notice that it’s far too quiet. No birds chirp, and no squirrels scamper about in an attempt to gather their last nuts before winter. Between the silence and the desertedness, the place tops the creepy charts.
Mason parks the Jeep under the cover of some large evergreen trees. He tosses the keys to me, which I then hand to Brie because I don’t know how to drive a stick yet. Mason checks the gun again and tucks it into the back of his jeans before covering it with his shirt. Jared grabs the empty gas can we brought along and the two of them begin a slow sweep of the town.
Brie and I don’t talk. It’s not just that we don’t want to draw attention to ourselves; we also worry about the guys, and want to hear if anything happens. We glance at each other, then worriedly out the window and back again. We look at each other when I hear a noise that makes my blood run cold.
“Was that a gunshot?” Brie asks with wide eyes.
“I think so.” I say, trying not to panic. “Brie, I need you to stay here. Watch for us to come back, and be ready to start this up at a moment’s notice.”
Brie nods and pulls Baby bear into her lap. I climb out of the Jeep and shut the door quietly behind me.
I don’t like the idea of leaving Brie alone, “although the Jeep being completely hidden by the large evergreen mollifies me somewhat. I move quickly towards the town and where I think the gunshot originates.
I approach the first building I see and hear yelling in the distance. I dart across the parking lot, closer to the commotion. My body presses up against the asbestos siding of the building. No one is seen when I crane my neck around the corner. After approaching that side, the process is repeated for the next corner.
Crap. Six rather burly men are surrounding them. They each hold a gun that puts Mason’s to shame. Mason and Jared are severely outnumbered. Even adding Brie and me, the burly men still are at an advantage.
I try to formulate a plan while ducking my head back around the corner. I remember seeing a ladder on the back of the building that leads to the roof. That will give me a better vantage point. I go for the ladder and it’s a little high out of my reach. After a jump or two, I manage to grab onto the bottom rung and quietly pull myself up.
Once on the roof, I duck down. I reach the front of the building and concentrate on the conversation below while peering over the ledge.
“You’re sure you guys are all alone?” One of the men asks gruffly.
“Yeah, we’ve got enough guys. Now if you have any girls, we’ll be happy to take them off of your hands for you.” Another rasps out and they all laugh. My stomach turns.
“Nope, just us.” Mason says. His gun is a few feet in front of him lying on the ground.
He and Jared exchange a look. “That’s too bad.” The first guy says while raising his gun.
The others follow suit, and I raise my hands. I’m not sure if I can hit them all without hurting Mason and Jared, stuck in the center of them. Just as I’m about to try, another gruff voice call out mockingly.
“Well, look at what I found wandering around over there.” To my horror, he roughly tosses Brie on the ground in front of him. Things just went from bad to worse.
I crouch out of sight, and work on revising a plan. I really only have one method of attack, but my dilemma is still how to only hit the armed men.
When I peek back over, all the men hungrily eye Brie and crowd around her in a half circle. This is as good a chance as I’m going to get. I focus all of my energy before I stand. “Brie get down!” I scream loudly as the glowing sphere lobs at the men surrounding her. She dive towards Mason and Jared before the light explodes behind her and I stumble back.
I crawl to the edge of the building. Using the energy earlier and just now has exhausted me. All the men lay in a twisted circle of body parts. Unable to look at what I just did, and I quickly turn my attention over to Brie, Mason and Jared.
Brie is standing. Jared supports her with one of her arms wrapped over his shoulder. Mason stares up at me. They’re all okay.
Not having the energy to do anything else, I lay on my back and stare up at the sky. My emotions are on the fritz. I’m overjoyed that Brie, Mason and Jared are alright, but feel subsequent horror with what I’ve just done. The image of the twisted mass of bodies dances through my mind and my stomach rolls. I’m barely able to turn over, but manage to just in time as my lunch expels on the rooftop next to me.
As I finish, gentle hands pull my hair back out of my face. I lean back into Mason’s familiar arms and begin to cry. All the pent up emotions for the last few days pours out. It feels like I cry forever, yet it’s only for a few minutes. Once done, I’m even more exhausted.
I can barely stand, let alone walk, so it takes even longer to descend the roof. We’ve already spent more time in this forsaken town than we planned to. Much to my embarrassment, Mason scoops me up when we finally make it down the ladder.
“You’re okay?” Brie asks me, looking concerned.
“Just drained,” I tell her. “How about you?”
“Just a couple of bumps and bruises.” She looks shaken.
“Thanks, Kat.” Jared says quietly. I see the look in his eyes, and know he means saving Brie from what those guys had planned.
“Anytime.” Even my voice is getting weak.
“Hey,” Mason bounces me gently in his arms. “No sleeping.” I feel him turn, my eyes closed now. “What do we do?”
“I have an idea.” Brie sounds far away, like she is talking through a pipe.
It’s the tingling I feel first. It starts in my hand and travels down my arm. It doesn’t bother me anymore. In fact, the sensation is welcoming. I open my eyes, unsurprised to see the energy coursing from an oddly mounted wall socket into my hand.
I see Brie holding my arm up. A pair of large rubber gloves cover her hands. A sheepish and singed Mason sits on my other side. My guess is they learned about the gloves the hard way.
I feel much better as I sit up. The Jeep’s engine runs outside. I face Brie. “Thanks. I think I’m ready to get the hell out of here.”
She nods. “Me, too.”
Mason stands and his eyes never leave mine. “Jared found some gas, and some water. He loaded up the Jeep. We’re ready to go when you are.”
“Let’s hit it.” I say as he grabs my hand. He leads me out to the street.
“Are you feeling better?” He asks. Oh, no. I must have really worried him.
I stop and give him a quick kiss. “Much better, sorry about before.”
“Nothing to apologize for…” He mumbles, opening the back door of the Jeep for me.
Baby bear plasters himself to me, obviously unhappy with being left alone earlier. I snuggle him happily. Mason climbs into the back with me. I’m no longer tired, but I don’t have the usual nervous energy I usually have after I meet an electrical outlet either. Vaguely, I wonder if I’ve found some sort of balance.
Mason begins snoring lightly; Jared and Brie talk quietly in the front seats. I bury my nose in bear fur and try hard not to face the demons I created in myself earlier. I had no choice. They left me no choice. They would have killed Mason and Jared, and done only God knows what to Brie or me when they found me.
It still doesn’t change the heavy feeling in my chest, though. Six (no, seven) uninfected dangerous men have been killed. I swallow hard because I am responsible for taking all their lives.
“Here,” Brie hands me a water bottle. I take it and thank her, both for the water and breaking my train of thought. I begin to focus on other things.
“Do we know if that blast earlier from the hill pushed back the infection at all?” I ask while noticing the road is beginning to head more south than west.
Jared nods. “So far, we haven’t seen anything to indicate otherwise.”
“Good.” I go back to staring out the window and trying to ignore my conscience.