The painkillers she’d found in the ambulance had afforded her quite a bounty in preserved foods along with the sweet beer that was now so prevalent in town. She’d been able to trade for an old pistol that should have belonged in a museum, along with thirty-six bullets to fill the chambers with. While it was loud, Stewie assured her it packed quite the punch. All-in-all, she got credit for her bike to be repaired and refueled, with an extra tank of gas added for good measure.
Zipping up the backpack, Jamie holstered the pistol on her hip (in the brand-new holster she’d traded ten Percocet for) before dumping her bullets into her jacket pocket, smiling as she felt the bag of pills press against her chest inside her baggy coat.
Stewie looked at her slightly aghast. “That’s all you want? You have plenty more of those pills and we could sure use’em, must be something I can interest you in?”
Jamie shook her head before heading towards the door. “Not Stewie. Give the missus my love!”
Walking out into the brisk night air, Jamie could see thanks to the retro-fitted street lamps, now filled with manure and lit by a citizen every night. The light was nowhere near as bright as the old ones had been, but they at least created something resembling the old world. She noted the MP’s patrolling the walls, their crossbows loaded and ready for any sign of trouble.
She was so busy looking at the walls she didn’t notice the MP standing in front of her, bumping into his chest hard enough that his dog tags popped up and struck her on the nose. He reached out to steady her, but she batted his hands away, glaring at him.
“Whoa, easy now… wasn’t trying to do anything!” The MP, a lean older man with more gray hair than he should have, said. “You’re awfully jumpy for someone who has seen no action recently. Or have you?”
Jamie stared at him, noting in the shadows two other men moving to encircle her. She shifted her weight, bringing one hand to her sleeve where her knife was hidden, tugging on it as if she were nervous.
“Oh, come on darlin’ you can tell me all about it. What say you and I go find somewhere nice and safe, maybe have a drink or two, see where the night takes us…?” The man said, a slight leer edging onto his face. Her eyes darted to his hip and then to his chest; he didn’t have a sidearm but had a strap holding a crossbow over his back. He looked as if he’d seen his fair share of war since the Darkness and she knew what his intentions were; she gambled she would have to take him out first if she were forced into any confrontation.
A hand reached out of the darkness and grabbed her shoulder. She reached up and twisted the fingers painfully, while pulling her pistol from her hip an aiming it in between the older MP’s eyes, who was halfway to pulling his crossbow from his back when he noticed the barrel touching his nose.
“I know there’s at least one more of you out there, so come out into the light or your friend here gets a new hole to his head,” Jamie ordered, wrenching on the hand hard, earning a pained gasp from the man behind her.
The younger soldier from earlier, Buzz Cut, shuffled from the shadows with a look of guilt etched onto his face. Jamie’s stomach sank when she looked at him, knowing he was just a kid in all of this.
Still, she reminded herself; he was about to attack her.
That meant she had to send a message.
Backing up to elbow the man in the sternum, she flipped him over her minute frame to the ground in front of her, her gun now aimed at his face as she backed up a few steps. The older MP finished pulling his crossbow before Jamie could aim her gun, resulting in a bolt being fired from the weapon. It sailed over her head and struck something meaty, a person who let out a plaintive scream.
Panic was written on all three of the MP’s faces now, but Jamie cocked the gun and held it to the leader of the trio. “Sounds like someone will come a running soon. Tell me, what will they say when I tell my side of the story and you’re the only one who discharged their weapon?”
“We’ll… we’ll say you jumped us!” Buzz Cut stammered, verging on a total breakdown.
“They’ll trust us! You’re just some upstart bitch who needs to be shown her place!”
“Oh, no. That’s not what will happen,” Jamie said as she heard the clambering of feet running along the wall, heads poking out from houses to see what the commotion was.
“I have witnesses telling of how I left the tavern just a few minutes ago, a stack of IOU’s in hand and a backpack full of supplies. In come you three, who try to take advantage of me.”
“Nobody will believe you,” the older man sneered, though his eyes didn’t quite match his tone.
“Oh, no doubt your fellow MP’s will just give you a slap on the wrist. But the citizens you’re here to protect? They have long memories.”
Any further conversation was silenced as five MP’s descended upon the group, crossbows raised. The man on the ground groaned, his fingers invariably broken, if not his whole wrist. Another voice, one familiar to Jamie, called out to the MP’s.
“This one’s dead,” Brandon called out, earning a few reproachful glances at the gathered citizens and Jamie. “Crossbow bolt to the neck.”
“Who fired the bolt?” A black man with smoldering eyes asked, his beard neatly trimmed with silver streaks running through it. He smelled of tobacco and deodorant. “Well? Don’t make me count your quivers!”
“It… it was Jameson, sir,” Buzz Cut admitted, hands raised in a show of surrender.
“And why, Sanders, did he feel the need to fire his crossbow into the darkness?” The man asked, lowering his crossbow to take a better look at the situation. “Jamie, why am I not surprised to find you involved in this mess?”
“Trouble seems to find me?” Jamie tried to joke before frowning. “These three were surrounding me in the dim light after I left the tavern. Stewie can tell you about how I’d just left there. Have had nothing to drink nor am I on any drugs that impair judgment. These lowlifes were preparing to attack me for unknown reasons.”
“Palmer! Check with Stewie to see if her story carries any weight! Jameson, this is the third infraction you’ve been in since I promoted you to MP status. What do you have to say for yourself?”
The old man, who’d lowered his unloaded crossbow to his knee, glared at Jamie as he spoke. “This bitch rolled into town with supplies we need and she comes out of the tavern with a bag bulging with goods. I figured she could share a little, you know, help the MP’s out.”
The Commander didn’t even flinch as he raised his crossbow and fired a bolt into Jameson’s face, killing him instantly. He took a few moments reloading his crossbow before nodding towards the downed man and Sanders, who looked ready to piss themselves. “Take these men to the brig. See about setting the bones in Martinez’s arm tomorrow morning when the doctor is done dealing with the corpses.”
Brandon walked into the light, his white coat smeared with blood. He was pulling his leather gloves off while shaking his head. “It was old Ms. Whitecross. We’ll need someone new to take over her job as town tailor.”
As they cuffed Sanders, Martinez pulled from the ground in a groaning heap. The Commander looked at Sanders and smiled. “Sanders will take over the duty for now until I have further orders for him. I imagine his work will improve steadily, given time.”
Sanders didn’t make a noise as they led him off by the armed MP’s towards what Jamie guessed were the barracks on the Base. Brandon knelt and examined Jameson’s cooling corpse.
He lightly touched the entry wound, feeling around it for any signs of Infection. Somehow, some people were Infected with the contagion that transformed them into ghouls, something that Jamie knew the MP’s were struggling to learn how to tell. They used to take blood samples from the citizens and travelers, but to no avail. The last Jamie had heard was that they put Brandon in charge of Research and Development for the MP’s.
Not a job to be envied judging the Commander took out a subordinate so casually.
“Jamie,” the Commander said, nodding towards her firearm. “You didn’t have that when you checked in.”
It wasn’t a question. “No, I traded some painkillers for it. I’m having my cycle fixed up, and I got a slew of IOU’s and tickets for food rations.”
The Commander hummed. “You have any more of those painkillers?”
Jamie could see the glint in the man’s chocolate eyes. “Yes sir, I have some. Do you want some?”
“If you wouldn’t mind. I have an awful knee problem that flares up when the cold comes in,” he said, eyes never leaving Jamie as she holstered her pistol and swung her backpack around, unzipping it before kneeling. She opened the bottle and, after counting out nine pills of Percocet, she nodded. Standing up, she tossed the bottle to the Commander who caught it deftly in his hand.
“Got that from a medical supply transport,” she said as he read the label, a quirk of a smile gracing his lips. “Plenty more to come once I get out of here with room to carry supplies.”
The Commander nodded before slipping the bottle into his camo-pants. “I’ll see to it that the mechanics have your bike operational within the next three days.”
“Make it one and I’ll deliver morphine tablets to you,” Jamie offered, resting a hand on a cocked hip.
The Commander gave her a long look before giving a minute nod, turning and stalking off as two MP’s ran up to collect the bodies of the fallen. Knowing how the town ran, the dead would be dissected and checked over for signs of Infection before being fed to the pigs at the farm.
Pigs had to eat.
Jamie zipped up her backpack and nodded to the MP’s gathering the bodies. “Am I free to go?”
They looked at each other before nodding, leaving her with a sense of unease she was unaccustomed to.
This disturbed her.