The quarantine was uneventful enough seeing as Jaime slept through half of it, her aching bones weary from traveling for so long. The pot she’d smoked had been enough to keep her calm after her exposure to the strange undead of the town, allowing her to relax into the uncomfortable cot until she heard the chains on the other side of the door rattle. When they opened to reveal the same man from yesterday, Derek, she gave him a soft smile.
“So, am I safe?” She asked, standing up to stretch.
“Hardly, but you’re not bitten,” Derek joked, “just try not to rouse any of the dead any more than they’ve been shaken up and we should be fine.”
“If you just let me leave town, then they’ll settle down on their own,” Jaime pointed out.
“If you could get past them all, sure,” Derek agreed, “but the roads are clogged with them right now. They may be slow, but they’re strong.”
“Nothing I haven’t encountered before…” Jaime said with a smile. She walked out of the room and into the dismal hall of the school. “So where does everyone hole up in this dump?”
“The second floor. We turned the elevator shaft into a ladder and pulley system after blocking off the stairs,” Derek said.
“Sounds dangerous… how do you escape if the first floor gets overrun?”
“We don’t,” an older voice rang out from the darkness, revealing a lean, balding man on a cane. “We stay strong and hole up good. We have enough able bodies to take out the dead should they come at us down the narrow hallways.”
“You’ve planned,” Jaime said, impressed.
“Something you get good at when you get old,” the man said, extending a hand out to her, “Pete Haring, pleased to meet you.”
“Jaime, pleased to meet you myself,” Jaime said, taking the hand and shaking it firmly. The man had softer hands that held a former strength to them that was fading due to atrophy.
“As you requested, we got your personal effects last night, at great personal risk to our survival teams,” Pete said, “we hope you appreciate that.”
“I would’ve been out of your hair if you’d just let me go,” Jaime pointed out.
Pete shook his head. “Had to find out if you were with a group. We scouted out the area and camped out in the trees for a few hours, just watching. A few of the moss-eaters shambled by it, but the beasts stayed clear of it. We found that you have some lighters and a spare tank of gasoline, as well as a good several days’ worth of survival team scrounging in terms of medicine. Even had some marijuana and opium from our old fields.”
“Sorry, didn’t know you had claim to them,” Jaime said.
Pete shook his head as he turned to walk. “No apologies necessary. Ever since we’ve had to go into hiding we haven’t been able to manage the fields properly.”
“And why’ve you gone into hiding?” Jaime asked.
Derek, who was walking lock step with her, piped up. “A rival group moved into town about a year ago. Survivalist types, former military, real hard asses. They originally tried to join us saying we could help each other, but when they showed that they were going to use us as a labor force, we fled and set up shop here in the school.”
“The school has been abandoned for years, due to structural damage from torrential rains that blow in from the ocean and lack of repair,” Pete said, “so we figured the few that remained behind with them would tell them that we would have just fled to another section of town. We know they search for us everywhere else, as we’re in the middle of one of the most infected zones in our small burg.”
“We grow most of our own food and cultivate certain herbs for medicine, but what we really need is kept at our old base of operations,” Derek said.
“Which is?” Jaime asked.
“The old public library,” Pete responded, “they have the whole reservoir of knowledge that we so desperately need. What we need is a few certain texts to keep our community thriving.”
“And how do you plan on getting them, as if I have to ask?” Jaime sighed.
“We’d like you to go there and keep them distracted so that you can sneak in and find books on the subjects,” Derek said, “if you can do that, we’ll release your motorcycle and everything that was on it to you.”
“And if I don’t? You’ll just keep me hostage?” Jaime asked.
“Hostage is such a strong word,” Pete smiled, “we like to think of it as you’d be joining our community, albeit unwillingly. We can always use a new infusion of blood into our group, and workers would love another back to help in our roof gardens.”
“Ah, lovely way of saying I’d be a workhorse,” Jaime said.
“Your words,” Pete smirked, “not mine. Just agree to try and get our books, and we’ll let you go with your supplies.”
“Not that I have much of a choice,” Jaime said, “so I guess the question is what do you need?”
Derek slapped her on the back, laughing. “That’s the spirit!”
“Yeah,” she said, rolling her shoulder to slide his hand off her, “I’m totally sold on this. Let’s go team, let’s go!”