p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;"Cassie dreamt. She dreamt she was in her backyard with her mom and dad and Jason. They were having a barbecue, Jason and she sitting at the table laughing with their mother while dad made burgers, chicken and hot dogs over a grill. emIt's so perfect,/em she thought./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;"A trio of helicopters flew over them, and then the sounds of people screaming reached their ears. Tires screeched, the sound of metal crushing metal rang out./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Mr. Reynolds?" she asked. Their neighbor found his way into their backyard./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Harold," Cassie's mother said, "what's going on?" He only stared at her with his grey eyes and black pupils. One moment, her mother and father were confronting their neighbor and the next, Mr. Reynolds was on top of her mother, punching and clawing at her in frenzy./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;"Jason and her father tried prying off their neighbor but Reynolds clung on until their mother stopped moving. Harold Reynolds bolted at Cassie's father, knocking him against the wall. Her father held back Harold's murderous arms but Cassie knew his strength was failing. All she could was watch with tears in her eyes./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;"emMom… Dad please…/em/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;"Jason ran over to the grill, took the largest knife that was there and sunk it into his neighbor's back. Reynolds reeled in pain, giving their father time to knock Reynolds back. A kick and Reynolds was on his back, the knife slightly poking its tip out of his chest./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;"Her father quickly lead them up the ladder to the attic. emWhat about mom,/em Cassie yelled inside./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Listen Jason," their father told her brother. "I don't know what's going on out here but if there are others like Harold," The sound of a window breaking was heard. "We are leaving right now. Get what you can quickly and meet me in the garage. That goes for you too, Cassie." She didn't answer. "Cassie?"/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;"emCassie?/em/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Cassie," Jason said. "Wake up, Cass." She slowly opened her eyes as Jason was shaking her awake. "Wake up already." She looked at him with weary eyes. "Someone broke in upstairs. Get your stuff ready."/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;"She quickly put her shoes on and got out her knife. Jason searched through his bag and took out a pistol. He never used it before, there was only one bullet in it since he found it but it would make some intimidating presence. They turned off the light they had in the room, coloring everything black. They sat in silence as they heard footsteps upstairs. Faint voices were heard, but the quiet in their secret room made the words audible./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""There's nothing here," a man said. Jason sighed in relief. emThey're not Psychos,/em he thought. emAt least not yet./em/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""There's something here we can use," another voice responded. "I emfeel /emit."/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;"Minutes felt like hours as the two stayed silent, listening to the chatter and noise the two strangers upstairs were making./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""There's a rotting corpse outside," one of the men said./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Yeah? Good job," the other man replied. "In fact, you'll be seeing a lot of them in this hell hole."/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Shut up you smart-"/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;"His partner shushed him suddenly. "Hear that?" Silence. "Crap, crap, crap, crap," the man said in panic. "They're coming."/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Let's book it then! What're we doing here?" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;"The sound of the door slamming was heard and a car started up. emThey're leaving/em. Jason let out his breath and relaxed. They were safe./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;"The sound of gunfire roared through the walls and floor, startling them both. A car crashed and more gunfire was heard. The door of the house was slammed again. "Barricade the doors," the man yelled. They felt the floor above them vibrate as they moved a piece of furniture in front of the door. /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""We're dead! Oh god, we are so dead!" He shrieked in pain./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""We are not dead, okay? Now shut up and kill these shits!" They held their ground for what seemed like forever. Cass knew they wouldn't last, not if the numbers were against them./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Jason, we have to let them in," she said. The gunfire drowned out most of her voice but her brother heard her clearly./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Are you crazy? They would kill us when they get the chance!" The memory of a man being gunned down for sport was still burned in his memory. He didn't want to risk the same happening to him or his sister. He felt her eyes on him, even through the darkness. He felt the guilt that was building inside her./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Please, Jason," she begged. "What if they were us? No one would help us if we don't help them." emGoddammit, Cass,/em he thought./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Stay here," he told her. "When the first guy comes in, point it at him but don't shoot." She gave her his gun. "Make sure he knows you're there but not where you are." /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""That doesn't make sense!" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Just...be careful." He climbed up the ladder and opened the door to their safe room. /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;"Two men were by the front window, clad in jeans, t-shirts and military-looking vests over their clothing. They pointed their pistols at him when he made himself known to him. "Get inside," he told them, pointing to the manhole to their room. /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Who are you?" a man with a ball cap asked him./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""No time," Jason said. He started climbing down the ladder. "Close the door on your way in, come on!" The men followed Jason down the ladder, closing the door that hid the manhole. /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;"In the panic room, Cass cocked the pistol after Jason went down and aimed it at the two men. "Don't move," she told them, a hint of fear tipped her voice. Jason had the sharp edge of his machete against the neck of the second man. "Light, Cass." Cassie flicked their lantern on, flooding the room with a bright light. Cassie saw she had a gun pointed to a man that was no older than his thirties, with a ball cap and the stubble of facial hair on his jaw. /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Hey listen," the man said. "We don't want any trouble. In fact, I want to say thank you for saving our hinds back there."/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Guns down on the floor," Jason told them. He tried to sound as cold and fearless as possible, but his heart was pounding in his chest. His machete was on the second man, who wore a bucket hat and sunglasses. /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;"The second man started, "Kid, listen we don-"/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Guns on the floor or I'll cut your neck in half," Jason yelled. His hands were shaking and caused his weapon to slightly grind against his captives neck. /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Okay, okay," the first man said. "Guns down, Will." Will, apparently the one Jason had, slowly put his gun to the floor and kicked it to the side, as did the other man. The man looked at Cass. "He your boyfriend? Friend?" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""He's my brother," she told him. /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Oh great," he said. "Family. Will, we have family too, don't we?"/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Yes we do," Will said. "My wife and daughter are waiting back home for me. What about you, Carlos? Isn't your family waiting for you back home too?" Jason could see the guilt building up in Cassie's eyes./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Actually, i do. I have my mother, my wife, my son, my brothers and sisters and my uncle waiting for me back home." Carlos slowly turned around to face Jason. "Kid, let us go. We have family to look after, same as you. If you want, you could come with us if we make it out of here alive. We have a whole town of survivors about an hour's ride from here."/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Fat chance," Jason replied. He had no trust for these two./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""A whole town?" Cassie asked. /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""That's right." Will said. "Cass-is it?- we have a whole town of survivors. Walls line the outskirts of the town with sentries manning them. We have food, medicine and water."/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""We're doing pretty well for ourselves," Jason replied. /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""He's right Will," Carlos said. "Look at the stockpile they have. Did you kill the girl for this place?"/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""No," Cassie yelled. "We didn't kill anybody!"/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Good," Carlos said. "Listen, I think we got off on the wrong foot here. I'm Carlos Ramirez and that's William Bennet. We're part of the Justice Bloc for Bloomington." The two siblings stayed as they were. "Right, so here's the thing. We came out here for supplies to stock up for the storms and instead are being held here." Jason had a confused expression across his face./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""You're not from around the cetral U.S, are you?" Carlos asked. When he saw the blank stares of the siblings he gave a dry chuckle. "It's tornado season. We have scientists saying the conditions outside are right for one. They say we might have one later today or tomorrow." Cass looked at Jason with worried eyes. Jason relaxed his arm and let Will free. Cassie did the same, though she was now worried about tornadoes hitting the town. embr /em/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""I guess we're stuck here for a while, at least until we get those shits outside off our backs," Will said. /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""I guess we are..." Jason mumbled. /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Listen," Carlos told Jason "we're not here to hurt you or your sister, we're not here to rob you guys or anything like that. We want to get the hell out of this place alive, actually. If you two feel safer with us unarmed so be it." /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""I don't think that's such a good idea Carlos," Will said. /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;"Carlos ignored Will's comment and asked Jason if they had an understanding. Jason agree to it. Carlos and Will had the opposite end of the room for themselves. They kept the ammo for their guns but Cassie and Jason had the guns. To Carlos, it was a fair deal. emTwo kids scared out of their minds? I'll gladly give them my empty pistol instead of them shooting me from fear,/em he /em/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;"They all ate together, Cass and Jason from their stash and Carlos and Will from the ones they had in their packs. As they ate, Carlos told them of the Justice Bloc. It was made up of those that served in law enforcement, military and private security companies that now served to protect the town of Bloomington from the Psychos and from a rising gang called "Death's Riders." Their actions range from raiding settlements, to killing those unlucky to be seen. Carlos said that the Riders have done much worse as well, but didn't feel like going into details about it./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;"The sound of thunder was boomed across the town. A storm was coming. Carlos took out a radio he had and tried contacting other Justicars, as they called themselves within the Justice Bloc./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""We need immediate extraction," he told the men on the other end. "We have the crazies pinning us in a house." A confirmation was heard and a location was given. "We have a working car, just no way to get to it." Carlos looked at Jason and Cass. "Will you come with us or stay out here and hope to survive for as long as that cache lasts?" Jason looked at Cass. She seemed undecided and he wasn't too sure either./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""What do you think Cassie?" he asked her. She nodded her head. Carlos went back on the radio./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""We have to civies that need evac as well as supplies for the storm. A diversion for the crazies would give us time to load everything up and extract." Confirmation was given and a nearby Justicar was a few miles out. Ten minutes they said. "Get everything packed," Will told the two siblings. "We need to be fast and take everything we can."/p