Waiting outside Jessica’s shack, Jamie slid to the ground and pulled the painkillers from her bag, downing one dry. The aches and pains from the earlier encounter were still tender, but she’d greeted her lovers in worse condition.
“Heh,” she muttered, resting her elbows on her knees as she stared off into the darkness. “Lovers. Never thought I’d be so lucky in the apocalypse, but here I am with not one, but three people who care about me. What’re the odds?”
“Slim, I’d wager,” Amy said, stepping from the darkness of the building next to Jessica’s. She had a dancer’s build and was often brought in by the MP’s teaching basic hand-to-hand combat. Her mocha skin and thick curls fell around her face in a picture of angelic beauty, but the iron-plated bracers on her forearms made her a deadly package in wrapping paper.
She could down a pack of ghouls with ease if left to her own devices, and had frequently before stumbling upon Three Colleges, where they took her in after a brief health inspection.
“So, you’ve been progressing as a blacksmith then?” Jamie teased, laughing when Amy fell to the ground and into her lap.
“What can I say? I don’t want to join the MP’s and they all but demand I find a job if I don’t want to serve them,” she replied, folding her arms behind her head. She smelled of sweat and iron, a smell that Jamie found intoxicating.
She leaned down and captured Amy’s lips for a brief kiss, leaning back up before things grew too heated. Amy looked surprised by the exchange but said nothing. Instead, she smiled and raised a hand to mess with the straps of Jaimie’s goggles. “What are you hiding behind those green eyes, Jamie?”
Trust Amy to see past her front and straight into her soul. Sighing, she ran her fingers through Amy’s locks absently. “I got ambushed by some MP’s before I made it here. Relax, they only tried to do something.”
“What happened?” Amy asked.
“I flipped one guy after breaking a couple bones and held their leader at bay with a gun I just got,” Jamie said staring off into the darkness. “That’s when a Commander swooped in with four armed soldiers. Like they were waiting.”
“You think it was a set-up?” Amy asked, her voice tinged with worry.
Jamie shook her head. “I know it was a set-up. The thing is, I don’t know what the Commander wanted from me. I tossed him a bribe and he seemed to appreciate it, but I just don’t know. I may not come back here for a while.”
“No!” Amy leaned up and hugged Jamie, wrapping her arms around the slimmer girl’s neck. “No… I need you here, so does Jessica and Brandon. Even Zack relies on you. We worry every time you leave and act like nothing’s wrong every time you come back. It’s killing us!”
Jamie stared down into Amy’s eyes before she was tackled by a seventy-pound cruise missile of squealing joy. Laughing, all three of them righted themselves for Jamie to look down at Zack’s adorable face, smeared with crumbs from his latest snack that he’d likely snuck from his teacher at the school.
Jamie didn’t really see the point of the school. They coddled the children in Three Colleges and treated the effects of the Darkness as something that would be solved in a few days. The kids were lucky to receive a cold shower once a week, with three meals a day and some snacks given to them by their parents when they had a spare ration ticket.
Jessica made plenty of ration tickets as she was one of the few mechanics in the Three Colleges, her expertise with complex devices granting her extra rations and Zack extra amenities the other children didn’t get, ranging from food and treats to toys liberated from the rest of the city.
Jamie always made certain to stop by the toy store in the mall she holed up in whenever she was headed this way, just to nab him a gift so she could give him a little extra attention. Jessica loved it as it wasn’t false praise the other citizens gave to him to curry favor from the single mother. She had plenty of men vying for her attention, but Jamie wasn’t worried. Jessica only had eyes for their little group, seeing Brandon as the one to fill the father role while Jamie and Amy acted as extra mothers to the boy.
Said boy was bouncing atop Amy, his legs straddling Jamie’s waist after somehow sneaking his feet over Amy.
“Jamie!” He cried, hugging her, his hair ruffling beneath her chin as she returned the hug.
“Hey Zack, you was keeping everyone in line while I’ve been away?” Jamie asked, swatting Amy as she tried to move the boy from her stomach.
“Yeah, I’ve been watching the guys with the crossbows like you told me, and they’ve been staying away from Mom,” Zack said with a toothy smile. The young black boy had dreadlocks that reached his lower back and wore an old jersey from a soccer team that had once existed.
“Good,” Jamie said, gently removing him from atop Amy’s stomach before allowing her to sit up. Something didn’t feel right, and that was rarely a friendly sign. Jamie had learned a long time ago to go with her gut instincts.
And hers were telling her to run.
“Amy, get Zack inside the house right now! Go!” Jamie called out just as they fired, the men on the walls firing down on the other side of the wall at unseen threats. Jamie strained her ears, frowning as she heard the deep, rumbling moans of a dozen ghouls.
Amy took Zack by the hand and ran to Jessica’s hut, pulling open the door and slipping inside, pulling the window closed as an extra measure.
Looking up, Jamie frowned; the three men on the wall were panicking while the ghouls hammered away on the wood-and-metal fence that surrounded Three Colleges. It wasn’t meant to withstand a siege, just to hold them off long enough to get the MP’s the ability to handle an encounter. Several voices filled the night air as a half-dozen MP’s joined the three on the wall, firing down into the fray with apparently little luck.
Jamie pulled her buck knife from her wrist holster and snuck into the shadows of a hut as several MP’s jogged past her, weapons out and ready. She slunk through the shadows one hut at a time until she could see the machinists shop. Jessica was standing next to an overweight Hispanic man, probably Martinez, talking. Doing her best to read her lips, she could just make out that the man was planning on drinking himself to sleep tonight. Jessica added she would do the same and they both laughed before parting ways.
As Jessica walked past her Jamie lunged out and grabbed her, spinning her around until her back was against the hut, her eyes wide with a hand over her mouth.
“Shhh… It’s me, Jessica,” Jamie said before removing her hand. “There’s an attack going on by your house and it doesn’t sound too promising.”
“An attack? What do you mean? Is Zack okay?” Jessica whispered, looking out into the dimly lit path leading down the row of makeshift huts.
“I mean some ghouls are storming the wall, sounds like a group of bulls… anyway the MP’s are busy trying to down ’em that they’re not looking around the town itself!” Jamie said. “I told you how we held off a siege, remember? Well, the Riverwalk is a lot better to deal with a siege than this place.”
“So, what do we do? How do you know it’s a siege?” Jessica asked, grabbing Jamie by the arms. “Oh god, what’ll we do if they break through?”
“Bulls lead the charge for a siege, slamming into defenses hard and fast while lesser ghouls come up from behind. They may not be smart, but they’re cunning; they’ll pry a hole in the wall, however small, and a stream of living dead will come rushing through.”
“You can’t be serious!” Jessica exclaimed.
“Do you have a car, one that can hold all of us?” Jamie asked, knowing that Jessica would get who “us” meant.
“I have a rusted-out Oldsmobile I’ve been working on, I just don’t have any gas for it,” Jessica answered, looking up as several MP’s shouted orders, running along the ramparts towards the source of the problem.
“Well, take what gas you can, I’ll have Amy and Jack gather as much food and water as we can take and meet you at the shop,” Jamie said, pulling her pistol from her holster. “I’ve gotta get Brandon before we try to take off.”
“You’re serious? We can’t just leave; the gate will hold us back!” Jessica cried before Jamie whispered slowly.
“If the Oldsmobile is half as durable and heavy as they were when I was a kid, the rolling chain-link fence will hardly slow it down. Now do you trust me or not?”
Jessica stared at Jamie, her kinky hair now wild from the panic of the situation. Running a hand through it, she finally nodded slowly. “Yeah… I trust you.”
“Then make sure we’re ready in twenty minutes,” Jamie said before sprinting across the street to hide in the shop's shadow. The moans were wafting in from the hills to the south, causing MP’s scrambling all over the town as they climbed up their watchtowers and onto ramparts. Jamie half-wondered if she’d guided the siege here after dealing with the pack earlier in the day. Dealing with two sieges in as little as two weeks seemed unlikely, or, at least, unlucky.
Waiting for a group of MP’s jogging down the path, their white helmets bouncing as they carried their crossbows in front of them making them look like toy soldiers. Jamie smiled before slinking along the path, sneaking behind huts and extensive buildings until she came to the area that everyone in town knew was off limits: The Base.
The Base was where the MP’s lives, their housing like the barracks seen in pre-Darkness movies. Several Jeeps sat parked in a neat line up against a chain-link fence, with a break in the fence guarded by two MP’s who were casting worried looks at each other, knowing something important was going down without them being present. This gave Jamie an idea…
Backtracking while sheathing her knife and holstering her gun, she ran around the corner, sprinting towards the Base as fast as she could. Both guards jumped, not expecting anyone to show after the last squad had left. They leveled their crossbows at Jamie, one man clearing his throat loud enough to almost make Jamie laugh.
“This area is off-limits to citizens, so please turn around and return to town in an orderly fashion,” the one on the left, a youthful man with stubble said. His eyes never left Jamie as she stopped in front of them, her eyes wide and panicked.
“The dead! They’re breaking through the wall! The Commander said to get every soldier he had and send them to the wall!” Jamie said in a rushed voice.
“The Commander? He’s resting in his quarters,” the soldier on the right said, lowering his crossbow.
“Look, I don’t know how you all keep track of yourselves! An old guy called for the people of the town to retreat to the fields and for all able-bodied men to ready for battle!” Jamie said, taking slight steps closer to them. “I just ran over here because I wanted to see if there were any of you left!”
“Just us two, and we have to keep everything here under control.” Stubble said not buying the story. “Listen, just toddle off to the field and we’ll stand guard here awaiting orders from the actual Commander.”
Jamie sighed before throwing a rock high in the air, pulling her pistol. Like anyone would. The two soldiers watched the rock for a moment, long enough for Jamie to render their skulls to pulpy masses of blood and bone in two loud shots. She ran up to their prone bodies to shoulder their crossbows and quivers before running onto the Base, slinking low in case the Commander wasn’t the only person around. She slid in two more slugs before snapping the gun back together, the old revolver proving every bit as valuable as the painkillers it’d cost her.
Checking the Jeeps, she smiled when she saw that they had the keys in the ignition and full tanks of gas.
“Change of plans…” Jamie smiled before sneaking off in search of Brandon.