“He never got the chance to reach a safe zone. I took care of him.”
Georgina nodded her head slightly followed by a tearful outburst.
Ryan had wanted to tell her in more heartfelt a fashion but was still seething after Harry’s belittling words prior to his death. He neglected to tell her exactly how Harry had died. While their relationship was on the upswing, he didn’t fancy rocking the boat.
She fell back onto the seat behind her and allowed herself to weep while Ryan looked around the room with boredom, taking a sip from the glass of water that sat on the table nearby. He thought about offering some empty words of condolence; she spoke before he could.
“He had to die; I know that. It’s just awful that he had to. He really was a great guy. He worked hard and was very popular before the outbreak! He struggled to adapt to this situation—to this world—and it finally caught up with him. I’m at least glad he got to die with some dignity rather than succumbing to some post-death bloodlust.”
“There’s that at least,” Ryan muttered. “Better to die a fully-functioning person than a creature feasting on human flesh.”
“It’s just so sad he decided to turn his back on us—on me! That was my fault. I let him down.”
“How the hell did you let him down?”
“I lied to him about us having been together. After he found out about that he turned into somebody I didn’t recognise, certainly not the man I fell in love with.”
Ryan felt rising anger at hearing her say she’d ever loved the pathetic man. He really couldn’t work out what was so amazing about him that she could ever have fallen for him besides him surrendering a place in the corrupt safe zone’s to be with her on the outside. He needed to steer the conversation away from the odious little traitor. “Our having been together was inconsequential; that was a scapegoat. We’re better off without him around. He was always the weak link.”
“No, Ryan! You don’t get to talk about him like that to me!” Georgina chided. “What he did was reprehensible, but he wasn’t weak. He was a damned good person and he made me feel like I was worth something, which is more than can be said for—” She stopped herself midsentence and took a deep breath whilst gesturing with her hands as if to calm herself down.
Ryan was glad of it as he really didn’t care to hear again what a poor boyfriend he’d been to her.
“Harry’s gone,” she said quietly. “I won’t say I’m happy about it because I’m not. I do at least recognise his death was necessary. I just want to leave it there now.”
“Fine by me. Let’s change the subject.”
“To be honest, I want to go back to mine and be alone. I need to grieve and I won’t be given proper chance thanks to the incessant tests at the labs. I’m going to take the next hour or however long I have to get some of this pent-up sadness out of my system.”
“Tell them you need a break from it. They’ve been sticking you with needles or whatever for two weeks and are no further along. How many samples do they need? You’re gonna look like a used dartboard by the time they’re finished.”
“It’s necessary, Ry. If I’m really immune then they need to locate exactly what’s required to create a vaccine that’ll protect all those who haven’t been infected yet.”
“Is that really what they’re doing? Or is something more sinister afoot?”
“I’m not having another discussion about your scepticism. I’m bored of listening to it. You need to stop before you cause more problems than you solve.”
“There’s something iffy going on here and I won’t rest until I find out what it is.”
“Fine! Well, when you find out, be sure to let me know!” Georgina stood and walked towards the door. “I’m going home. I’m already exhausted enough without you draining my energy too.” She gave him no chance to respond as she walked out of the front door, slamming it behind her.
Ryan didn’t react. He reclined in his seat and enjoyed the feel of the cushioning as it pressed against the back of his head.
The bloodstains on his hands caught his eye and he held them up to inspect them further. Harry’s blood! He smiled as he recalled the scene. “Better go and wash the scum off.”
More than a week passed and life continued as normal. The eight separate military teams went about their business as usual, intercepting radio messages between the safe zones, moving in to take down convoys, and commandeer their wares.
A meeting was called by Mel to gather all teams together. Meetings were infrequent. Usually, it was an appraisal of their situation. This time, he’d insisted on all team members being present and the leaders of each team had a feeling something big was on the horizon.
The room filled up as the near fifty strapping men filtered in. Ryan stood near the back with Jay and Kas as they discussed what Mel might possibly want with them all.
The white-haired Welshman sat on a chair by a blackboard and looked up at his soldiers. “Is everybody here?”
“We’re still waiting on a couple, sir.”
No sooner had the words left the mouth of the soldier did the door open and the two absentees wander in, attempting to mask sheepish looks.
“Looks like we have a full complement now,” Mel confirmed with a smile. “Thank you for gathering today, gents. I won’t bore you with semantics, but the present situation is good. The surrounding woodlands have been thoroughly swept for infected and reports of sightings are on the decline. The recent change in weather has helped massively as far as crop growing is concerned and we shouldn’t be far off the first batch of grown food becoming available. We’re getting ever closer to becoming a fully functioning society.”
Mel paused. Everybody knew a “however” was coming and they waited patiently for it.
“The supply situation is also good in terms of weaponry and ammunition. We’re reaching the point of being able to defend ourselves in the event of a full-scale assault. That being said, our frequent attacks on military convoys aren’t going unnoticed; they’re beefing up the numbers of soldiers. It’s only a matter of time until they man convoys sufficiently that we’re too outnumbered even for the element of surprise to work. A new approach is required if we’re going to keep on top of the game.”
“This should be interesting,” Jay whispered to Ryan.
Ryan didn’t react or respond. His cogs were turning as he drank everything in.
“There seems only one way we can ensure we stay ahead: expansion. We have the vehicles, uniforms, and weapons to slip into a safe zone, take out the military within, and annex it. They won’t know we aren’t their own until it’s too late to do anything about it. Once we’re in, the safe zone is ours. We hold a massive trump card and the fight against the government really begins.”
“Aren’t we painting a target on ourselves by doing something like that,” one of the men present asked.
“Not if we play the game properly,” Mel responded.
“How might that be?”
“By never letting anybody know that we annexed the safe zone. Think about it: we slip in there and assume control; we leave no military survivors to tell the tale; the army continues to bring resources as normal; we reap the rewards from that. They’ll never know what happened and they’ll never know that they’re inadvertently making us stronger.”
“Until they want to speak to the sergeant and realise he’s a completely different person,” another man piped up.
“Once we’re in control of the safe zone then we’re in control of what comes in and goes out, up to and including people.”
The men murmured amongst themselves and Mel allowed it to happen.
Still, Ryan said nothing as Jay and Kas discussed their thoughts and reservations amongst themselves. He looked only at one person; that one person was too busy sitting in a shrine of self-indulgent glory to notice.
When the meeting ended, Ryan went to Georgina’s place and knocked on the door, keen to tell her what had been discussed despite explicit instructions not to tell anybody. There was no answer. There’d been no answer for a couple of days now. He was becoming increasingly concerned at the amount the medical team were bringing her in for tests. She wasn’t working around New Haven like most all others were. All she did was traipse back and forth from her abode to the medical facility and she was looking less healthy every time.
He made the snap decision to go to the facility to find out exactly what was going on and why Georgina hadn’t been seen for days. The person on the door wouldn’t allow him entry. His suspicions that something untoward was brewing were in overdrive.
From the medical facility, Ryan went to the main building to speak with Mel about it and he was all of a sudden unavailable too.
“What do you mean he’s unavailable? I was here not ten minutes ago and he was sure as shit available then,” Ryan asked the attractive woman who acted as Mel’s secretary.
“I mean he isn’t available to talk. He has more important things to do than talking all day with residents. My suggestion would be to come back tomorrow.”
“Look, I haven’t seen my friend Georgina Stewart for three days. I know she’s been undergoing tests at the medical facility because they’ve discovered she’s immune to NBP. I need to know she’s okay.”
“I understand,” the woman said softly. “I can assure you she’s being taken good care of. She isn’t being held against her will and won’t be there for long. The importance of the discovery can’t be overestimated. Please be patient.”
Ryan blew a sigh and attempted to calm himself down. Of course, he wouldn’t be truly calm until he got some straight answers and saw Georgina with his own two eyes. However, in the here and now, getting pent up would do him no good, especially with a woman who was only doing as she was told. “Alright. I hope you understand my concerns. She’s the only friend I have left and I don’t want to lose her.”
“You won’t lose her, Mr. Lloyd. You have my word.”
“Thank you, Mrs…”
She smiled alluringly. “Call me Anna.”
“Thank you, Anna,” Ryan shot back, giving her his best come to bed eyes as he left the building.
The knock on the door, while only light, was loud enough to wake Ryan immediately. He instinctively reached under his pillow to retrieve his 9mm pistol and climbed out of bed. The knock came again and he crept out of the bedroom, down the hall, and to the front door. His hand hesitated on the handle before he pulled down on it and swung the door open, pistol pointed at whoever his visitor was.
“Jesus Christ!” came a female voice. “You know how to greet a girl, don’t you?”
“Anna?” Ryan asked with confusion, lowering the gun. “What are you doing here? It’s the middle of the night.”
“Let me in and I’ll enlighten you.”
Ryan moved aside and allowed her to enter. He looked outside up and down the street for any prying eyes, saw nothing, and then closed the door. The living room was where he naturally assumed she’d be so was surprised to find the room empty when he got there. He arched an eyebrow and went to the bedroom.
Anna was stood at the foot of his bed completely naked.
There wasn’t a hint of surprise on Ryan’s face. He ogled her form for several seconds. Despite being deep into her forties, she had an almost flawless figure. Her usually tied back dark hair hung loose and covered her shoulders while her small and deliciously pert breasts complete with little erect nipples stood to attention. A flat stomach gave way to groomed pubic hair, wide hips, and legs that were thick and sumptuous. This all added to what he already knew was a beautiful face, but the shaft of light from the window that illuminated her body wasn’t revealing anything above her neck.
“This is a little presumptuous of you, isn’t it?” Ryan asked coolly.
“Perhaps. Since we’re living on borrowed time, I figure it’s worth taking a shot at things you like.”
“If more people thought the same way you do, this apocalypse would be much more bearable.”
No more time was wasted in talking as Ryan rushed forwards, picked Anna up by grabbing a tight hold of her shapely buttocks, and came down on top of her on the bed.
A raunchy couple of hours later, Anna rose from bed and got dressed. Ryan lay on the bed naked and watched her. He was thoroughly gratified. It was no surprise to him that she was an expert in bed as, in his experience, older women generally were.
Once she was ready, Anna looked at Ryan with a contented smile. “Suffice to say, I’ll be back soon for more of that.”
“I’m fairly sure Mel wouldn’t be happy to know you’ve come here to get serviced.”
“What Mel doesn’t know won’t harm him.”
“It’s like that is it?”
Anna laughed “It’s exactly like that!” She leaned over to kiss Ryan on his lips. “You stay there, handsome. I’ll let myself out—provided I can walk that far!”
“If you wanted me to render you paralysed from the waist down you should’ve said,” Ryan joked.
“Maybe next time you should. See you soon, gorgeous.”
“Catch you later, sweetheart.”
One last smile from Anna and she left the room.
The sound of the front door opening and closing confirmed her exit. Ryan lay on his back with his hand behind his head. His smile spoke of satisfaction. The wool hadn’t been pulled over his eyes though. This was a setup and he knew it. Mel had told Anna to do this in an attempt to distract him from Georgina. He wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth. He’d play along and reap his rewards. This, however, confirmed his suspicions: Mel was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He had to halt the man’s rise and couldn’t do it alone. It was time for a rebellion against the rebel.
TO BE CONTINUED