After we finished eating, the General had a woman lead us to, what were to be our sleeping quarters for the night ahead. They split the girls into a room, and gave the guys two rooms to share. Tzar, Bloodhound, Saint, and Husk settled to the first room. Wolf, Jerry, and Caiden went to the second, while I opted to stay on the Betty.
It would keep me from having to deal with the awkward tension sure to suffocate that room, and I could keep an eye on my shit, I didn’t trust leaving my stuff unattended around these people, nobodies hands were unclean if they stood on this earth alive at this point.
I informed the group of my decision, and the Wolf looked like he wanted to protest, but he just nodded in understanding. As I was leaving, I could hear Caiden calling my name from behind, and a part of me just wanted to keep on forward like I couldn’t hear him. I was sick of running from him, and when I turned so abruptly, he nearly crashed into me, I guess he had expected me to keep going.
“Whoa.. Sorry, I.. I just need to speak to you.” He said, as he caught me before I fell over, the look on his face was one of pure nervousness. “I need to explain last night..”
“You have nothing to explain to me, I saw enough to understand on my own.” I replied, brushing his hands off of me. “Plus, you don’t owe me anything, least of all an explanation, I’m not even mad at you.. I’m actually glad you got your nut, way to go Bro!”
I held my hand up for him to high five, he shook his head angrily, and swatted my hand away.
“Just let me tell you what happened.. You need to know how sorry I am.”
“I KNOW what happened, I was there remember?! And why do you owe me an apology? There’s nothing between us, we aren’t a ‘thing’! I’m just your brothers widower, that’s the extent of our relationship as I understand it.. or am I wrong? You got an update for me?” I asked him angrily, he just stood there silent, looking like a stung child.
Hunter had a similar look, one that always cause me to break down and give in, unfortunately for him I was sick of falling for pretty blues. I turned from him and he grabbed my arm, to which I shook him loose, we were about to start shouting all over again, but one of the women from the academy came with towels and toiletries. Caiden lost his nerve with an audience, and I just sighed at him with sad eyes, before continuing on my way.
I walked toward the Betty, she was battered and bruised but she still gleamed from the afternoon sun high in the sky. The grounds of the academy looked almost like a prison from the inside, from the heavily armed guards on the wall patrol, to the strict atmosphere and attitude of the soldiers. The lawn was barren and dry, with patches of grass across the cracked earth, it was clear the land was unfit for farming and I feared the longevity of such a stronghold.
Patience was running around playing with the other children, and I paused momentarily to take in such a sight, one that seemed so foreign in such a short time since the collapse of it all. I was glad she could capture a moment to relish the joy of childhood, the smiles on their faces as they played a game of tag, a great reminder of the innocence we were striving to protect. Truthfully I thought such things were lost, but maybe I was wrong, there was hope after all.
I kept walking to the RV, but just as I was about to board, I heard a terrifying scream from where the children were. I pulled out the Desert Eagle as I spun around, and saw Patience running towards me crying uncontrollably.
“She bit me, she bit me!” She cried out, holding her arm, as a young girl chased behind her. “Help, get her away from me!”
The young ebony skinned girl latched onto me and I pulled her behind me, the little girl growled and moaned like the infected outside the walls, but her eyes were a clear aquamarine and her appearance too well kept. I pushed her back but she continued to lunge toward Patience, intent on getting a better taste of the young girl’s flesh. I called out for help, and it got the point where I had to throw her to the floor, one of the women close by ran over and grab hold of the rabid child.
“I’m sorry, she isn’t well.. girl just hasn’t been right since things changed.” She said as she picked her up from the ground, and holding her close.
“Well you need to put a muzzle on her ass or something or at least train her if she’s gonna carry herself like some damn animal..”
“Sorry it won’t happen again.” She replied, an apologetic look on her face, the girl she held had a look of hunger I’d only seen from the wildest of beasts.
“You’re right it won’t happen again, my baby girl packs heat, and we teach her to shoot first and ask questions later. You keep that girl away from us until we leave, am I understood?”
She nodded with fear in her eyes, as she led the child away, and I knelt down to inspect the wound on Patience’s arm. Luckily, no flesh was broken, but you could make out the indents where her teeth latched on. I touched the tender flesh and she winced, I knew then it would probably bruise but only time would tell.
“You’re gonna be okay, she didn’t hurt you too bad.. you wanna tell me what happened?” I asked, as I wiped the tears from her eyes.
“Me and that boy were playing tag, and I was winning, but that girl ran over. She was growling like mommy was but she wasn’t dead, I froze because I didn’t know what to do, that’s when she bit me.. am I gonna turn into a Dead Walker?”
“No baby, you’re not, everything is okay.. but you know what to do next time right?” I asked, looking her in the eye, as she nodded in earnest.
“Knee shot, if not a head shot.” She said, wiping the final tear from her eye.
“That’s my girl..”
Later that evening, the General had invited some of us to dine with him, in his quarters. They served us some kind of stew, that smelled exponentially better than the sour breakfast they had, but I still wasn’t in any mood to eat.
Tzar was nice enough to cook a small meal for Granny and Patience, using the last of some kale we harvested from the farm. They chose to eat on the Betty, accompanied by Husk. Sera, Saint, Bloodhound, and Tzar all chose to decline the offer, and eating in the mess hall. So that left the rest of us, to show face on behalf of the group, and make a good impression.
I sat directly to the General’s right, with Caiden directly across from me, completely ignoring my presence. Jerry and Karishma next to him, while the Wolf was seated next to me. The atmosphere was kind of tense, and I would have otherwise declined the invitation, but I was personally requested to attend by the charismatic mercenary next me. He came and found me inside the Betty, asking as if this were a date, it was really sweet and of course you see I fell for it. It was getting increasingly harder to say “No” to him and that blinding smile. It felt good to be wanted and desired, without much guilt attached. I wondered if I was moving on too soon, unsure if I was ready, but there was only one way to find out.
Right now I was questioning my decision, as the General was extremely talkative, almost annoyingly so, asking all these questions we shouldn’t have even been giving answers to. I know he was trying to entertain us and the rest of his guests, but it was getting a bit personal for my taste. He didn’t need to know about the things we’ve done to survive, it wasn’t decent talk for the dinner table, in my opinion.
For some reason, the General seemed extremely fond of Karishma, maybe because she was the most like him. Both had stern and dry personalities, but loved to be the center of attention, It was nauseating to listen to them talk over each other. I found myself dazing off into space, wishing I stayed aboard the Betty like I planned. I picked at my food, barely paying attention, when their conversation took an interesting turn.
“We found out early on that not everyone reacted the same to the infection.. my best soldier, god rest his soul, turned into something so horrifying I’m hard pressed to describe, and I don’t think I could ever find the words to. It was like his skin turned inside out, I never heard a marine scream like that in all my years..”
“Please elaborate General, these sound like astounding mutations?” Karishma asked, in earnest inquiry.
“These things are always changing and adapting, you had to have noticed.. the scouting group we sent out last encountered ‘spitters’, the stuff melted straight through body armor like hot water on an ice cube.”
“Simply fascinating!” She exclaimed with glee, I looked at her like she was stupid, she couldn’t be serious. “The virus is maturing faster than anyone would have thought possible, she’s got so many secrets left up her sleeve.”
“I can only imagine.. Now tell me more about this talk of a cure, is there any merit to it? Before we lost communications, it’s all we could hear about.”
“I believe 100%, we can develop a cure or at the very least a vaccine, especially now that we found Loki here, with his immunity..”
“Wait a minute.. this one carries an immunity?!” He asked in surprise, all eyes at the table shot to me, and if I had been even a shade lighter they could have seen the red flush of blush upon my skin. “How did knowledge of this come to be? Were you bitten? Have you had any mutations? Where is the..”
“That’s all classified information, General. I’m sure you understand, we’re unable to say more until we check in with command.” The Wolf cut in, gladly putting a stop to the questions, I could see rested on the tip of every tongue present. “With that said, I think we’ll be retiring for the night, we thank you again for the hospitality.”
“But I haven’t finished my..” Jerry started to say, when Caiden grabbed his arm as he stood abruptly.
“Yes General, we appreciate the good meal, you all have a good evening.” He said, his eyes scanned the table till they came to rest square on me, and I could see he had just as many questions for me as the general.
Everyone from our group stood up, and the General just nodded, never taking his eyes off of me until we finally exit the room.
When the five of us finally reached the Betty, I could see Granny and Patience were gone, and Bloodhound had returned sans Balthazar, Saint, and Sera. As Wolf and Caiden were filling the other two Mercs in on what happened at the dinner, I couldn’t help myself, and had to voice some tender thoughts to the good Doctor.
“For someone so intelligent, you can be a fucking moron, you know that?”
“Excuse me? How dare you speak to me that way!” Karishma replied in shock, looking to Caiden and Wolf to back her up.
“Why would you reveal that to them?” I asked, confounded that she could be so loose lipped and naive. “We know nothing about these people, we can’t trust them!”
“I don’t see why not, it doesn’t seem like they have anything to hide..”
“Too bad you can’t say the same, can you Loki?” Jerry asked, butting in the conversation, pulling a trump card on me. “Care to tell us what mutations YOU have been experiencing? It can’t all be peaches and cream after being bit as many times as you have.. I reckon you must be teeming in infection.”
“Fuck you, you’re pulling bullshit from your ass, I won’t even entertain it..” I replied, but someone here knew me all too well for that.
“Is he telling the truth Loki?” Caiden asked me, his tone more serious than I’d ever heard him, I sat there and found myself at a loss for words, unable to lie to him.
“I bet he never told any of you I shot him, did he?!” Jerry said, excited he’d be the one to reveal such a revelation to our group, and they all sat there in collective shock. “I shot his left ear clean off, the shit must have grew back or something because he didn’t make a peep about it.. and look at my hand! I’m barely scabbed over yet, but this bastard hasn’t a mark on him!”
“Loki, are you gonna answer my question?” Caiden asked again, getting upset, but I just remained silent.
“There’s an easy way to find out, we just check the ear, and look for any abnormalities.. brand new tissue would surely contrast itself in someway” The Doctor said to him, she already had that look, like she couldn’t wait to have me strapped to a table and dissected to the marrow.
Caiden crossed the space between us, and took hold of my locks, pulling them back to expose my ears. There was collection of gasps, and I knew what they saw, I just had hoped it would go away before all this. When my ear grew back, it was fresh tissue, perfect of any flaw. That was the problem, there was noticeable difference in complexion, as it was free of any sun damage or other defections, due to the free radicals and toxins accumulated during my lifespan.
“Caiden, I can explain..” I started to say, but he just left the bus, clearly not in the mind to hear anything I had to say.
“Loki, you put us all, and yourself, in danger by not saying anything about this. What if you turned into something we couldn’t contain?” Bloodhound asked, looking at me as more of a threat, than a comrade.
“What has been the extent of your mutation? How do we know you’re not infectious?” She asked, eying me excitedly before she turned to the Wolf. “We need to get to a lab.. we need samples!”
“You know fucking what? I got your goddamn sample right here, bitch!” I replied, reaching for my gun, but Wolf got a firm hold on my arm first.
“Everybody bring it back down to zero, we’ll continue this discussion in the morning.. after we’ve all settled down a bit.” He said, looking into my eyes, and I could see he was wary of me as well.
I just wrestled my arm free, and turned away from them, determined to hold my tears at least till they all left. The emotions I felt, boiled beneath the surface of my being, leaving my cheeks wet with tears of conviction. I grabbed one of the bottles from the counter, and had a seat on the couch, I popped the top and took a swig. I gagged at the wretched burn, as the toxin seared it’s way down my throat. Checking the label, I saw I had grabbed some cheap Brandy, but it would do the job.
I sat there for, I don’t know how long, kissing the bottle. I couldn’t tell you the exact point I had gotten drunk, but I didn’t really notice till I went to get up and use the bathroom. I held myself up with one arm against the wall, as I let loose a steam, shaking when done and rinsing my hands in the sink.
When I stepped out of the restroom compartment, I bumped into someone and almost fell, but a set of sturdy arms grabbed hold of me. Pulling me close into an embrace, I could immediately smell the alcohol on his breath, but who was I judge. Those eyes held a million questions, and just as many answers, I couldn’t help but take comfort in its gaze. The deep Sapphire blue felt so warm and familiar, but that was the conflict, they were too familiar. Caiden’s eyes mirrored Hunter’s to the point it was eerie to peer into them, they seemed to truly see right through my facade.
“Look, I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner, I just..”
I was silenced with a crushing kiss, one that seemed to set a fuse that went straight to my groin, and I was surprised at the softness of his lips. He grabbed my legs and wrapped them around his hips, as he ground hard into my crotch. I could feel a healthy endowment ran in the family from the rhythmic grinding, and my own erection was painfully erect due to the friction. I didn’t know how to feel, a part of me inside screaming at the self to push him away. I knew I couldn’t, and I knew I wouldn’t, no matter how guilty I’d feel later.
Right now in this moment, his touch and the stroke of his skin against mine, stoked fires within me that had diminished to nothing but embers. He ran his tongue tenderly across my bottom lip, begging for entrance, and I let him in.