I was woken by an insistent prodding to my shoulder. I opened my eyes groggily to find Uncle Jeb staring down at me. My befuddled mind noted that he wasn't smoking a joint, which was a pretty big warning sign.
"You better come onto the roof amigo," he said, a sniper rifle propped against his shoulder. "Bring the others."
Ten minutes later saw everyone on the roof of one of the containers, in varies states of dress, gaping at the sight before us. At least fifty zombies were ambling out of the forest. Around twenty more were already caught on the first fence surrounding the shelter.
"Bloody Hell," Richard said, giving voice to what everyone felt.
He was nervously fingering the trigger on his own sniper rifle.
"What do you think brought them here?" Kurt asked, his face pale. "You said they had never been here before."
"Who knows," Jeb responded, his forehead creased in concentration.
"It could have been the noise of the jeep's engine yesterday, or maybe the sound of a gun going off," I stated, casting a sideways glance at Tiffany. She had the decency to look ashamed.
"Well," Richard said, hoisting his gun, "better take care of them."
"No," I said, grabbing the barrel of his gun and lowering it. "We don't want to attract more. We go down and shot them with silenced weapons. Then we burn the bodies as far from the shelter as possible."
"Why burn them?" Kurt asked.
"Two reasons. One, their flesh will attract other zombies to feast. Second, we will have to start growing crops, and I rather not use soil that has been fed by rotting zombie flesh."
Everyone considered the reasons for a few minutes before agreeing they made sense. We went to the armoury and got as many silenced weapons as we could carry. We even took knifes, after Jeb said bullets would be too messy. Even Tiffany got one, even though I wasn't comfortable with it yet. It took us nearly an hour to do all of them, and that included loading them onto the back of the jeep. Jeb and I got into the cab, and I knocked out the broken windshield.
"You are in charge Richard," I said before we drove off.
We weren't even to the tree line when Jeb took out two walkie talkies. One was set for the frequency we were using to stay in contact with the base, but the other was set to a different frequency.
"You know your father," he said. "If he is being held hostage, he won't have told the people holding him the frequency we are using. He will have gone to the second agreed frequency, or even the third."
He clicked on the radio. Silence. He tried the third, and bingo. The voice that issued from the walkie talkie sounded like Richards mother.
"The jeep is after pulling away from the compound. Only Charles and the hippie uncle have left. There are more people at the compound. Over."
"Could we take it? Over."
That was Richards's father.
"Negative. No injuries with the infected we have released. Other survivors have taken cover again. Over."
Jeb and I exchanged looks, before Jeb clicked on the CB radio in the jeep and set it to the agreed second frequency. My father's voice echoed around the cab.
"Charles, are you there? Please answer, over," he said, his voice sounding strained, as if he was having problems breathing.
My father never smoked, nor did he suffer from any chest problems, such as asthma. I picked up the handset.
"I'm here dad, over," I said, my free hand tightening on the steering wheel.
"Charles?" my dad asked a joyful note in his voice.
"Yeah, it's me dad. Sorry, but we are only after cranking up the CB radio. Over," I explained. I released the call button just in time. Richards's father started to talk again.
"Marygay, they are finally getting in contact. Don't move. Over."
"What took you so long? Over." my father asked.
"Sorry. We were doing some scouting in the surrounding area. I was in town. I was looking for Richards parents. You don't know what happened to them? Over."
There was a pause.
"No. I have no idea. Over."
Jeb and I shared a look.
"Listen, dad, I'm just taking care of something. I will contact you when we return to the shelter and when we are not so exposed. Over."
There was a prolonged silence.
"Understood," came the response, and the CB radio went dead.
"Well," Uncle Jeb said after a prolonged silence. "We know two things we didn't know earlier. One, our family is been held hostage. Two, we know where most of the zombies from town went."
Strangely, I didn't feel better for knowing these things.
"That fucking BASTARD," Richard roared, kicking a chair the length of the container. He may be a placid guy most of the time, but when Richard lost it, he lost it big time.
"What the hell is he planning? Why doesn't he just come out and talk to us? Why not just roll up to the front gate?" he snorted, sounding like an angry horse about to charge. He balled his massive fist, and his bicep flexed as if he were about to his something.
Kurt skittered closer to me, while Tiffany stepped nearer the door. Jeb just sat on the table, looking like a hairy Buddha statue.
"Simple dude," Jeb said.
"Me and my amigo here," he waved a hand at me, "go out to check on my brother, leaving you in charge. Your dad rocks up to the gate, you let him in. By the time we get back, he has this place locked down tighter than a pythons embrace, and we knowing how strong it is and how much fire power they have gained, don't fight back. No need for either side to waist ammo. Your family get a safe haven, we lose a safe haven, but come to realise how close we were to losing our kin and are grateful. By keeping our family hostage, but not letting on that they are hostages, they are making sure we leave this place to find them without going out armed to the teeth and raiding them."
It made sense, I supposed.
"We need a plan, and we need a reason for them to think that everyone except Richard has left," I said.
So, we began to plan.
Routine, routine, routine. For three days we stuck to a ridged plan. In the mornings, we had breakfast, Kurt would clean out Tiffany's injuries (and get an eyeful of cleavage, which I think was part of his reason for doing it), Richard took guard duty, Uncle Jeb slept after his night time duty, I did inventory. We had lunch. Then we cleared away the zombies that kept appearing, then came training. We needed to get Tiffany fit, so we jogged around the compound, safe between the second and third fence. Then we had gun practise.
On the third day, we put our plan into motion. While out jogging, Tiffany veined a trip, she stumbled, landing hard into Kurt. Both went crashing to the ground, and Kurt lay still, while Tiffany swore blue murder.
It was simple, really. We pretended that Tiffany had broken her ankle, and that it needed to be set in a plaster. Since we didn't have any plaster here, and there was plaster at the location where my family was, we would bring her there. Since Kurt had sustained a "head" injury, and my mom was a nurse, we needed to bring him too. Since I couldn't drive them and keep an eye on their injuries all by myself, Uncle Jeb would come, and Richard would appear to be all by himself.
Of course, he wouldn't really be alone. Tiffany and Kurt, both in excellent health, would be with him, but out of sight. Two mannequins, dressed in their clothes, would be placed in the back of the jeep. We hoped that the fact we had loaded them up inside the square of the containers, that they were lying down, and the fact that Jeb would be leaning over them would be enough to conceal the fact that they were not real people.
When it started, we could hear Richards mother informing whoever was listening of what was happening. Jeb and I carried a still swearing Tiffany inside, while Richard hoisted the inert body of Kurt up gently. Once we got them inside the perimeter fence and into the cover of the "square," where they were surrounded on four sides by shipping containers, Tiffany continued to swear, but hopped lightly to her feet, while Kurt grinned, and bounded out of Richards arms. Both of them started stripping off their clothes in record speed, and putting the clothes on the waiting dummies. Kurt was just slipping his jeans on the smaller of the two mannequins when we heard a BOOOM. We cocked our head.
"Coming from the east," Jeb said after a moment. "A tank. An M1 Abrams, if I had to guess."
The voice of Richards's mother squawked from the walkie talkie on my belt.
"Stephen, what's going on, I heard an explosion."
Static for a moment, then:
"It's the fucking military. They are outside the perimeter fence and are firing on us.
"Can you escape?"
"No. Shit. No. Our prisoners evacuated and left me behind. They have the kids. I don't know how they got past the military."
So, I thought, my parents have escaped, and we don't know their location. Richard's father is alone while the military tries to take over the second location and Richard's mother is somewhere in the woods surrounding us.
Richard was pale. I unhooked the walki talkie from my belt.
"Mrs. Reed," I said to Richard's mother. "I think it's time you came to the shelter."
We had gotten in contact with my parents. My entire family, plus Richards's younger brother, were fine. They were heading north, they had told us, away from the military and the location we were at. They didn't want to bring the military down on top of us, not while they had a tank. They hoped to join up with my grandparents, my mother's parents, on their farm. Everyone sat in silence, until Richard came in with his mother. A small woman, she looked even smaller when standing beside her large son. Her brown hair was unkempt, and the tracksuit she wore was filthy. Her face was vacant. Richard had tear stains running down his face.
"She went back to look back for my dad. He's dead. He decided to fight, and was shot. We won't be able to use the second bug out location. The military have ransacked it. And they have a helicopter."
"So they will be able to see us from the air?" Tiffany asked savagely.
"Firstly, I'm sorry Richard. Secondly, no they won't. We have camouflaged this place. Remember you were wondering why we had soil up on the roof? The grass growing on it masks the fact that there are shipping containers here. I flew over this location a few times with my dad. Unless you knew it was here, you wouldn't be able to spot it."
"Unless they come on foot..." Mrs. Reed said in a dull voice.
Authors note: Again, thank you to freddyburn for being my beta. Thanks to xXBlack-AbyssXx for reviewing. You sir are the epitome of Dudeness.