Part One

The Snare of the Trapper

Chapter 1: The Past

The glass bottle still lay on its side beside her. She was in a bed, the sheets ruffled and curled up around her waist. Her head was pounding, probably the aftermath of the alcohol she'd been drinking that night. Alexis pried her eyes open and glanced around the dimly lit room. Books, pillows and other miscellaneous items littered the stained carpet. This was once a hotel room, full of objects one might find while staying on holiday. Now, however, it was Alexis's refuge from the outside. She turned her emerald eyes to the glass bottle beside her and pushed it off the bed. It landed with a very soft thump atop a pile of clothes, her clothes. The drink may have given her a headache but it had also helped her to forget her past. She was glad of that. A backpack sat just beside the pile of clothes. Her supplies were in there. Sunlight flooded through the broken window as a gust of wind swept the curtains aside. The light almost blinded Alexis who shot up out of the bed and covered her eyes with her hands. It was time to move on, she surmised. She quickly pulled on her denim jeans and black tank top before donning her fur-collared jacket. She added her black boots and fingerless gloves. As she dragged both straps of her backpack around her shoulders, she noticed a small scrap of paper on the ground. She knew what it was. Without even looking at it, she picked it up and stuffed it into her pocket. There was a black handgun strapped into a holster hanging from her jeans. She checked that the safety was off before leaving the room. She wanted to be ready to fire it should the need arise. The corridor she found herself in was very dark, with only a single window at the end to supply light. Being somewhat drunk the night before, she had failed to check all the rooms for any sign of danger. Since her sleep went uninterrupted, she assumed the other hotel rooms were safe. She descended the large mahogany staircase and emerged in the lobby. There were a few human bodies lying in pools of blood. Alexis surely wasn't responsible for them. She hadn't been that drunk. She tried to remember the night before. As she recalled, she had been searching a store for supplies and had instead stumbled across six bottles of cider. These days, drinking helped to ease the pain of her past. Since the outbreak, most shops and stores had been cleaned out but, in many places, people seemed to leave alcohol behind. Shaking her head and focusing on the present, Alexis walked past the bloodied bodies and exited the large hotel. Gravel and dirt crackled as Alexis's black boots flattened them against the ground. She walked amidst the ruins of a once great city. Shops, houses and other buildings went on for miles around her. The road she walked towards, however, led out of the city and into the country. It was safer there. There would be a lot less people. Broken down vehicles, rubble and abandoned suitcases scarred the streets of the city. This place in particular had been evacuated very quickly during the outbreak. Alexis remembered that. There were no signposts to indicate where she was going. If there were, she would not have paid any attention to them. She had no specific destination, she just intended to leave the city. The walk was long and quiet. There were no apparent dangers and her walking was uninterrupted. She walked for hours before she had finally arrived in the country. Behind her was a road leading back into the city. On every other side, however, there were fields and woods as far as the eye could see. Low, grey clouds had set in and there was a cool, gentle breeze. Alexis looked around and saw something in the field to her left. It was an animal of some sort, possibly a deer. Alexis's stomach grumbled. She hadn't eaten any meat in a while now. She removed her backpack, unzipped it and looked inside. Her food supply consisted of apples, various bruised vegetables and some tins she had taken from a supermarket containing fish. She could hardly remember what venison tasted like, despite the fact that it had been one of her favourite kinds of food years ago. She silently debated with herself about what to do before looking to her handgun. About a week ago, she had a hunting rifle with a suppressor that would have proven invaluable now. It ran out of ammunition shortly, however, and she was forced to abandon it. A handgun was not the best weapon to use for this, not to mention the fact that it would make a considerable amount of noise compared to the rifle. Alexis reached into the backpack and pulled out a serrated hunting knife. Brandishing the grisly blade, she hopped the fence separating the field from the road and hung her bag from a tree branch. This would be very, very difficult. But she had to try. She was desperate for decent food. The deer was quite a distance from her yet, at the opposite side of the field. It did not move, merely preferring to stand there and eat the grass below it. Alexis moved at a snail's pace and stepped gently, being extremely careful to avoid stepping on anything that would make any noise. She was nearing the deer now. At one point, it raised its head to look around. Alexis immediately dropped to the ground and hid herself in the long grass.

"Damn it!" she muttered quietly. If the deer spotted her it would surely move off to another location. She raised her head just a little to see if it had moved. Luckily, it hadn't and it remained in the same spot, eating once again. Alexis carefully rose to her feet and began to walk again. Her heart was beating rapidly against her chest as though it would break through her ribcage at any moment. Her breathing was becoming heavier and she did her best to conceal it. As she neared the animal, it turned quickly to look at her. She froze and stared back, the knife held tightly in her hand. The animal watched her for a few seconds before sprinting away as fast as it could. At the same time, Alexis launched herself at it in desperation and plunged her knife towards it. She missed the deer's meaty hide and instead sent the blade of the knife into the ground as she landed on her knees. There was no point in pursuing it now, she would not catch it.

"Shit!" she yelled at the top of her voice. "Stupid animal…" There was a distant but specific noise. It was like a sort of throaty screech. Alexis knew what it was. There was a Titan nearby. If it followed her voice, it would be here very soon. She stood up and ran back to where her backpack was, throwing the knife into it and throwing it around her shoulder. The Titan would probably eat better than her tonight. It was certainly quick enough to catch the deer. She kept moving until she was out of breath. The Titan was far enough behind her now. She entered the woods beside her and sat down behind one of the largest trees. It was getting colder and it would be night soon. She had woken up rather late in the afternoon. There was enough cover from the trees to hide her location from anyone that might pass by on the road. She reached into her backpack and pulled out an apple. It wasn't much but it would do until she found somewhere else that had supplies. The cold piece of fruit wasn't nearly as good as meat would have been but it sated her hunger once she had finished eating it. She tossed the apple core aside and lay down in the dirt, using her bag like a pillow. It wasn't as comfortable as she would have liked but it would do for the night. It took a while for her to fall asleep. These days, falling asleep wasn't easy. The constant threat of danger made that difficult. However, Alexis finally grew tired. She dreamt that night, of the past she had tried so hard to forget…

The city her parents lived in was lit up like a Christmas tree and buzzing with traffic. Alexis sat in the spare room, lying on the bed and watching the television. It wasn't often she had time off from serving in the military. Anytime she did, her parents' home was her chosen spot to relax. The news was on the television. There had been some sort of incident. The details, however, were being kept very secret. Alexis recognized some of the soldiers at the scene. This incident had taken place a few hours ago, earlier that day. Alexis ignored it. She was on her phone, messaging one of her friends. She was growing very tired too. She had had a very long day. Some time must have passed because she awoke to a dark room. Her mother must have turned off the lights. She always did that. The house wasn't as quiet as it normally was at this time. Alexis picked up the remote and turned on the television. The news was still reporting on the same story. It had, however, gotten a great deal worse since earlier on. The army was keeping everyone away from the scene and there were reports of deaths. Suddenly, Alexis's mother burst into the room.

"Come on, Alexis! We have to move!" Alexis stood up from her bed.

"What's going on, mum?" she asked. "Have you seen the news?"

"Of course I have, they're evacuating the city, Alexis. We have to move. Come on!" Alexis followed her mother through the house to their car outside. Her father was already starting it. Her brother, Jack, sat in the back seat. She joined him as her mother entered the vehicle and her father drove out onto the road and started towards the city center.

"Are you alright, Jack?" she asked her ten year old brother. Jack looked up at her. His eyes were worried and uncertain.

"What's going on, Lex?" he asked. Alexis didn't fully know what was going on herself but she needed to keep her brother calm.

"It's okay, there's nothing wrong. We just need to get out of the city for a while. The army is making sure we're safe." Her father coughed loudly, obviously in some attempt to keep Alexis from telling her brother that they were probably in very real danger. Alexis looked out of the window. There were many men and women in hazmat suits, patrolling the city and chasing fleeing civilians. They had devices in their hands. The sight of hazmat suit-wearing people was never good. There must have been some chemical weapon active within the city. The car turned a corner and came to a sudden halt.

"Dad, why are we stopping?" Lex asked. "We need to keep moving, we-!" She looked outside to see floods of people sprinting towards a mass of military vehicles and helicopters. There would definitely not be room in those vehicles for all of them.

"We need to go," Lex's father said. "Come on, follow me." He exited the car and headed towards the crowd. The others followed him hesitantly. Alexis only noticed now that there was a barrier surrounding the crowd of people. The hazmat-wearing soldiers were standing guard at the barrier. As Lex approached with her brother, one of them grabbed her by the arm. Instinctively, she kicked him in the ankle and tackled him to the ground. The other soldiers raised their guns and pointed them at her.

"Miss, stand down!" one of them yelled through the hazmat headgear. "Get on your knees and put your hands on your head."

"No, she's with us," her father pleaded. "She's in the army, please-"

"Sir, stand back," another soldier said to Lex's father. Alexis was pushed to her knees just before a soldier came through the barrier. He wore no hazmat suit, just military riot gear. He removed his helmet.

"Alexis?!" he exclaimed. "Soldiers, stand down. She's with me."

"Captain, she needs to be scanned." Alexis stood up and hugged the man.

"Pete, what are you doing here? What's going on?"

"There's been a chemical outbreak of some kind. My superiors don't even know the whole story. We've been ordered to evacuate the city."

"Captain-?" one of the soldiers began. Pete lost his patience.

"Do your damn scan, then!" he yelled. "Can you hold still for a second, Alexis? The scan is just to make sure you're okay." Lex nodded and stood still. A soldier took one of the devices and placed it on Lex's arm. Something sharp quickly pierced her skin. The screen on the device remained blank for a few moments before lighting up with a light blue colour.

"She's clear." Alexis passed on through as her parents prepared to be scanned. They were given the all-clear too. Jack looked extremely nervous at this point. As the soldier rolled up his sleeve, he pulled away and looked to his sister.

"Lex, what's happening? I'm afraid." Lex walked up to the barrier and took her brother's left arm as the soldier grabbed the other. She firmly but gently held Jack's hand.

"It's alright, little soldier. This is just something that needs to be done. It won't hurt that much, Jack."

"I don't want to do this," Jack pleaded. He scared far more easily than other children. His parents, though never having actually checked, theorized that he had some anxiety disorder.

"Look at me, Jack." Her brother kept his eyes fixed on the man in the hazmat suit. "Hey, look at me." He looked into her green eyes. His sister always made him feel braver. The soldier placed the device on Jack's arm. He flinched when the sharp part of the object pierced his skin. "That's it, little soldier, you did it." She smiled at her brother who reciprocated.

"He's clear," the soldier repeated for the fourth time. Lex picked Jack up in her arms and continued after their parents. They headed towards the larger crowd of people. Lex heard screams from behind her. She turned around to see many bloodied, rabid people charging towards the guarding soldiers. There were many shots fired. However, there were far too many hostiles. They leaped upon the hazmat soldiers and began tearing them to pieces like animals. Lex put a hand on the back of Jack's head and made sure he could not see the awful scene before them. She turned around again to rejoin her parents only to see that they had disappeared into the crowd. Something launched itself into Alexis, knocking her and Jack to the ground. Lex stood up and saw the source of the attack. It was one of the wild people. He looked rabid, positively animalistic in appearance and behaviour. His eyes were bloodshot, his mouth foaming and his skin a sickly green. Lex blocked all of his attacks and sent a violent punch straight into his throat, killing him. There was a larger group charging towards her, climbing on top of hazmat vans and abandoned cars. Jack was running towards Lex.

"Get down!" shouted a voice from the roof of a nearby building. A soldier stood there with a rocket launcher in hand, preparing to shoot.

"NO!" screamed Lex at the top of her lungs. The soldier had already fired and the rocket plunged itself into the side of a hazmat van just beside Jack. The explosion would, in theory, cause a chain reaction that would detonate the cars near the rabid people, killing them. The flash of light blinded Lex. Jack was propelled forward and sent flying into Alexis, knocking her to the ground. Even in her blindness, she caught him. His body was limp. The explosion had killed him.

Alexis woke to a gloomy morning. She could feel dried tearstains on her face. There was no time to waste. She stood up, donned her bag and walked onwards through the woods. There was a faint smell of smoke. Perhaps there was a fire nearby. The smell became stronger as she moved forward. Eventually, she decided to follow the smell. Perhaps she would come across other survivors or supplies. She spotted something through the trees. It looked like a body lying on the ground. Lex walked forward quietly until she had a full view of the scene. There was a burnt out campfire in the middle of the clearing, the bloody bodies of five men surrounding it. A sixth man, dressed quite differently, came into view. Lex crouched quickly and peered through the bushes to keep an eye on the man. He wore a leather jacket, jeans and boots. A shotgun was strapped to his back along with a small bag. That weapon would come in very handy. However, the dead men had similar, shorter shotguns and hunting rifles by their sides. Lex took her handgun from its holster and cocked it slowly. The noise did not go unnoticed by the bald man with the shotgun. He took his weapon in his hands and pointed it at the bushes.

"Come out, whoever's there!" Lex did not move. She knew there was no way she could escape but she did not want to give herself up either. "Last warning, come out now or I'll shoot!" He cocked his gun and took a step forward. Lex stood up and threw her handgun down by the man's feet. He motioned to her to step into the clearing. She did so. "On your knees," he ordered. As she dropped to the ground, he stepped forward and removed her bag. He opened it to take a look at what was inside. The expression on his face spoke volumes about how unimpressed he was. "You've survived on this?" Lex nodded. "For how long?"

"Long enough."

"You won't survive for much longer." She gave him a long, hard stare. "I'm Jake." Lex looked around at the bodies.

"Did you kill these men?"

"I did," Jake replied. "Had to."

"Why?" Lex asked. Jake grasped his weapon firmly and glanced around at the damage he had done.

"These men were rapists, killers. A group of bandits that take what they want." Lex looked dubious at this.

"How can I be sure? Can you prove it?" Jake smirked.

"You don't see any dead women around here, do you?" Lex had to admit, a group of survivors without both men and women was uncommon nowadays unless there was something amiss. "Other than that, you'll just have to take my word for it." Jake picked up her handgun and examined it.

"I could really use some of these supplies," Alexis told him, looking around at the bags and rucksacks that the dead men surely owned. Jake looked at her.

"You and me both." He handed her gun back to her. She took it and holstered it. "We could split the supplies halfway between us, if you help me." There were six bags lying just beside a large tree.

"You killed five men?" Jake looked confused.

"I did."

"How many were here when you got here?"

"Five, why?" Jake asked, not sure why Alexis was asking him this. She gestured to the bags. Jake looked at them for a moment before realizing that there was one bag too many. There must have been a sixth man. Lex looked around the area to survey the scene. There were no signs of anyone else. She heard Jake grunt violently and fall to the ground. As she turned, she was struck on the cheek by a coarse, dirty fist. The old, grey-haired man climbed on her and pinned her to the ground. He placed one hand on Lex's throat, keeping her held down. The other he used to reach down to his waist and unzip his trousers. Lex sent her knee into his side. When he was sent reeling to the ground, she launched herself at him, sending measured strikes to his head. Within moments, blood was gushing from his nose. Lex finished with a vicious kick to the side of the head, knocking the bandit unconscious. She looked up.

"Jesus," Jake exclaimed. His shotgun was raised as if ready to fire. Lex looked at the weapon. "I couldn't get a clear shot," he explained. "The spray from the shot would have-"

"It's fine," Lex interrupted him. "You couldn't have risked it." Jake slung his gun around his shoulder. They could take three bags of supplies each.

"Come on. We'd better move," Jake explained. "We'll be better off together. Strength in numbers, you know."

"There are just two of us. We're not exactly a force to be reckoned with."

"I beg to differ," said the bald, leather jacket-wearing man, referencing the scene he had witnessed moments before. Lex emptied the contents of one of the rucksacks into her backpack. There was a significant amount of high-quality food and some ammunition for one of the rifles the bandits wielded. Lex took one of those too. She hung the rucksacks from her shoulders along with her backpack. Jake took two of the rifles. The two of them left the woods until they found the road. They decided to follow it. Jake wanted to head east. However, Lex knew that east led back to the city she had left the day before. She had no intention of returning. Therefore, they set off towards the west. Abandoned vehicles and knocked telephone wires stood out against the landscape where trees and natural vegetation retook civilization. Jake approached a pickup truck and popped the hood, examining the engine. He deduced, after much tinkering and examination that Lex suspected was just for show, that the vehicle could not be started.

"Do you know anything about cars?" she asked him. Jake almost looked offended.

"Of course I do! You think I just popped the hood and had a look for shits and giggles?" Lex laughed.

"Alright, fair enough," she replied. "It's just the fuel tank looks like it's been busted. Chances are the people who owned this truck just ran out of gas." Jake looked at the deep, ferocious dent in the side of the truck and the petrol-stained road just between the back wheels. He looked very embarrassed before rubbing the back of his head and continuing on down the road. Alexis smirked and followed him. They had no real destination. They simply needed to find shelter. Alexis thought about this man Jake. He was still alive and most likely hadn't been part of a community of survivors or he would have said so. That implied he was competent and smart enough to survive by himself. The way he held his weapon, the same way Lex held hers, in fact, suggested some level of professional weapon training. Perhaps he had been with the military too.

"What did you do before this?" Lex asked eventually.

"What do you mean, my job?"

"Yeah, you seem to carry that shotgun like you know how to use it," she explained.

"Ain't got much of a choice these days, really," he argued. "Doesn't mean I knew how to use it before."

"So you weren't trained pre-apocalypse?" Jake chuckled.

"I didn't say that," he said with a roguish smile. Alexis sighed.

"Talking in riddles is kind of annoying, you know."

"Well, what about you? We don't know anything about one another yet and if we're going to stick together for the time being, we might as well tell each other about ourselves. Information for information, that sound fair?" he asked.

"Fair enough," Lex answered with uncertainty. "I was with the military, was at home when they started evacuating."

"Marines?" Jake asked assumedly.

"Everyone always assumes that. But, yes, the Marines. Joined the army when I was seventeen. That was…Christ, almost twelve years ago now."

"Not bad. I was a cop in Columbia, Georgia. Got a call to go check out a disturbance late at night. When I got there…fuck, I just wasn't prepared for that. Family of four lived in the house. The dad, see, he must have been exposed to whatever was in the comets when they hit. One of them was rumored to have hit not far from this house, we didn't know for sure. They kept it under wraps. But when I got there, the first thing I saw when I opened the door was the dad, wild-eyed and fucking rabid like a mad dog standing over his wife and kids. That sight will stay with me for the rest of my days." Lex had been off-duty when everything happened. She'd forgotten that the police and military all over the world saw the infected tear one another apart first hand.

"God, I'm sorry, Jake. That must've been awful."

"Well, it was no picnic, I'll say that," he said trying to lighten the mood. "Anyway, we've all seen much worse over the last few years, that's for sure. Still, no use dwelling on it." Lex remained silent. "You don't say much, do you?"

"What?" she asked just as began thinking of something else.

"Well, I noticed back in the woods when I told you to come out from behind the bushes. Most people I've pointed the gun at either beg for their life or just ask me not to shoot. Most of the time I ain't even going to shoot, I just need to ask them a few questions, see if I can trust them. You, though, didn't say a thing. Didn't even ask what I was doing."

"Sometimes it's smarter to just keep your mouth shut," Alexis explained.

"Sometimes," Jake agreed. They walked on for the rest of the day. They conversed only twice more over the course of the day. However, Lex decided she liked this man. He'd explained how he'd never settled in one group before and had instead joined one group of survivors, offering protection and shooting instruction as payment for the food they offered him, and then left to survive on his own for a while before joining another group. He had been doing this ever since the outbreak. He claimed it was because, ultimately, all groups of survivors were doomed and he decided to instead learn what he could from each group and use it to keep himself alive during times when he was alone. Lex, on the other hand, had only ever been with one group. They had taken refuge in an old farmhouse. They, however, met their end when one of their own turned against them. Lex and the mutineer were the only two left. Ultimately, she had to kill him. That was six years ago and she had been alone ever since. Judging from her situation earlier that day, however, it was becoming increasingly difficult to survive alone. The appearance of Jake had helped better her situation. There was a roadside house just ahead. As the sun edged nearer and nearer to the ground, the two decided to take shelter there. Theoretically, they could stay there for a while given the amount of supplies they had acquired from the bandits. Jake suggested this. It was very tempting. Lex hadn't stayed in any one place for a long time, partially because she hadn't had the security to do so. She decided to sleep on it. Once they had blocked off all the windows with furniture and bed sheets, they focused on getting a fire started. Naturally, that wasn't a problem for either of them. They scouted for materials outside for about an hour before returning to the house and starting a small fire in the long absent fireplace. Both of them pulled up a stool to the small table in the center of the living room. Jake took few carrots from the bag he'd already had with him earlier that day, choosing to save the newfound supplies until he absolutely needed them. Alexis did the same, opting to eat one of the tins of fish from her bag.

"How did you get out of…wherever it is you lived?" Jake asked as they were both eating.

"We made it the city centre. The military were air lifting everyone out of there."

"We?" Jake asked. "Were you with your family, or…?" Alexis squirmed uncomfortably in her chair. She didn't talk about her family with anyone, not even the group she was with.

"Yeah, I was." Jake sensed her discomfort.

"What, uh…what happened to them? If you don't mind me asking, I mean?" She did mind him asking.

"I…don't like discussing this with people, Jake I'm sorry."

"Yeah, no worries, no worries," he assured her. "It's just, sometimes it helps to talk about it. Helps to get it off your-"

"Look, I just don't want to talk about it, alright?" Alexis burst out. She noticed the surprise and embarrassment in Jake's face. "It was…" she felt herself begin to choke up but remained strong and fought it. "It was my brother, alright? He…he didn't make it." She sighed and put her head in her hands.

"I had to kill my sister," Jake admitted. His eyes were watery as if he was about to cry but he held it back with all his strength. "She was twelve. Me and my parents, we didn't get evacuated. We had to make it on our own, the four of us. We were staying with this other family. Turns out one of them was infected. When he went rabid, he bit my sister. We all thought it was no big deal, just another injury to treat. But…the next day, the very next day, she came into my room. I thought she was just waking me up, she always did that when I came home during the holidays…" He smiled at the thought of his family pre-apocalypse. "That morning, though, she went for me, I mean like a dog goes for a cat. She was on me in a second, I didn't know how to react I just pushed her off." His expression was pained and anxious now. Lex was enthralled by his story. There was so much pain in this man's past. "For a solid five minutes, I just pushed her away from me in denial of what had happened to her. I called my parents but they wouldn't answer. Eventually, she grabbed for my leg. I had a lamp in my hand for defence but I…I wasn't prepared to use it. But I had to. And I've hated myself since." Lex didn't say anything. The memory of her own sibling was fresh in her mind and she didn't know how to comfort Jake. "I spent a lot of nights with a gun in my hand, wondering if there was even any point in going on." Alexis sat up in her chair.

"So have I. It's one of the hardest things to cope with, yours even more than mine."

"For what it's worth, I am sorry for bringing it up. I forget most people don't like to talk about it. For me, it helps but…that's just me."

"It did help." Jake looked at her hopefully. "I know I didn't say much, as I make a habit of doing, but…it felt good to speak to someone about it. I haven't done that before." Jake smiled and cleared his throat. He was happy it had helped. Before, when she had gotten angry at him, he felt ashamed. He knew personally that it was one of the most painful things in the world to talk about. It eased his suffering mildly to know Lex had been helped by their conversation. They both retired after an hour. The beds they had to sleep in hadn't been slept in for some time now. Still, it had been years since Jake had slept in a bed at all. He was excited at the idea. Lex had been lucky enough to have been able to find beds fairly often. She was less than impressed with her dirty, messy bed but she made the best of it. She gazed at the scrap of paper in her pocket just before falling asleep. Both of them woke the next morning. Alexis agreed that they would do well to stay here for a while. It was located a few miles from an abandoned city so they would not be disturbed. There were woods not far from the house, suggesting there would be wildlife that they could hunt if they needed to. Lex suggested scouting the area for supplies, equipment and other survivors. Jake agreed and the two headed out, a hunting rifle in Jake's hand and a sawn-off shotgun in Lex's. The sun was particularly bright this morning as it ascended to its assigned spot in the sky like a king looking upon his subjects. Though it had been in plain sight before, Jake only noticed Lex's hair now. It was as red as blood.

"What's with the hair?" he asked abruptly.

"The colour, you mean?" She had been asked about it before, apparently. "I'm not entirely sure. I was told before by a doctor in my group that it was likely a mutation, from mild exposure to whatever turned everyone else rabid."

"What colour was it before?" Jake asked.

"Ginger," Lex answered. That made sense in Jake's opinion. "And yours? What's the deal with it?" Jake scoffed.

"Why, what's wrong with it?"

"You're bald, Jake, but not naturally. There's still stubble there."

"See that little scar up there? I got slapped by this guy. He had a stick with barbed wire wrapped around and when he hit me, the damned thing ripped out a chunk of hair. I said 'fuck it' and shaved the whole thing off."

"How long ago was that?" she asked.

"About five months but I got a straight razor and a few bottles of shaving foam in my bag." Alexis exploded with laughter then. Jake, on the other hand, didn't see what was so funny. He looked at her with an expression of utter confusion on his face. "That's ridiculous, you went out of your way to find shaving foam just so you could stay bald?" A giggle escaped Jake's lips.

"Yeah, I just kind of became partial to it." The two of them continued on, Lex laughing hysterically and Jake shaking his head with that roguish smile on his face. There was a small town in the distance. There could be weapons and supplies there, especially considering there was a high security prison there. When they arrived at the entrance to the town, they saw someone running across the street. Lex pointed at him and placed her finger across her lips. She and Jake quietly followed the man. He hadn't noticed them yet. They followed him halfway across town, through multiple buildings, through a car park and over a bridge until they saw him stop at two large gates set into a stone wall at least twenty feet tall. They hid behind a wrecked car as they watched this stranger. He was wearing a hoodie, the hood up and shadowing his face. There was a duffle bag strapped to his back. It was bulging, likely full of supplies. Jake noticed a silenced pistol at his waist. The stranger banged on the gates three times. A small, rectangular part of the gate slid to the side to reveal two eyes. The flap closed again as the gates opened. This was the entrance to the prison. The man entered before the gates closed once more. Jake looked at Lex with hesitation.

"What do we do?" he asked. "We don't know what the people in there might be like." Lex nodded in agreement.

"Yeah, it's risky. But can we afford to move on? Maybe they could provide shelter and food."

"We got shelter and food, Lex," Jake retorted. "We could do worse than the house."

"We could also do better. It's not really defendable."

"I doubt we'll be attacked. Look, there's surely a police station around here. I say we search it for weapons. And, hell, who knows? Maybe we could stay there. It's defendable, right?"

"True," Lex admitted. "Alright, let's head for-"

"Come out from behind the car," screamed a voice from the walls of the prison. There must have been a raised walkway behind the wall as they only saw the man's head. He was pointing a sniper rifle at Lex's head. "Both of you, do it now!" They did as they were asked. They walked to the gates and dropped their weapons. "What are you two doing out there?" Lex and Jake looked at one another.

"We just want to know what this place is," Jake told this man. "We followed one of your men here."

"Oh yeah?" the sniper asked. "What is it you were hoping to find?"

"Shelter. Maybe food and supplies. Look, we don't want no trouble, alright? We'll just be leaving if that's alright." Though it sounded like it, it was not a request. Jake fully intended to leave unharmed.

"No, I don't think so," the sniper replied. Lex caught a glimpse of this man's clothes. He was wearing a white top with the sleeves rolled up. However, what was particularly interesting was the flak jacket that had 'S.W.A.T.' written across it. The man also wore a pair of sunglasses and a dark blue cap. "Pick up your weapons and come on inside."

"You're not afraid we'll try anything?" Alexis asked cautiously. The sniper merely laughed.

"Not even nearly," he replied cryptically. When the gates opened, she understood why he wasn't worried. At least twenty men in full riot gear pointing assault rifles at Lex and Jake stood at the ready. The sniper stepped down from the walkway and halted before them. "I'm Warden West. Welcome to Tartarus."