“I can’t have you taking the piss again like you did this morning. It’s bad enough you drank a whole litre of gin after me saying the alcohol’s to be rationed without this morning’s antics to go with it.”
Ryan couldn’t bring himself to look into Jay’s face. As much as he liked the man, he didn’t care for being reprimanded; Jay’s voice had a timbre he didn’t much care for. “Yesterday was a big day, Jay; I wanted to let off some steam.”
“Don’t you think I did? Don’t you think we all did? The problem is that we aren’t in a position to be letting off steam. The lurchers aren’t going to sit back and allow us time to relax.”
“We’d cleared the place of lurchers and there were lookouts on duty. What harm did I really cause?”
Jay’s face went flush with anger. He suddenly grabbed Ryan by his shirt and pushed him up against the wall, poised to attack. “Are you intentionally trying to piss me off?!”
Ryan’s eyes bore into Jay’s. “Get your hands off me!” He muttered darkly.
“What are you gonna do about it, big man?”
“I said get your fucking hands off me!”
Jay held Ryan there for a few seconds longer before flinging him halfway across the room, causing him to stumble and fall. The tall, brawny ex-soldier stood over Ryan, who sat up and looked him dead in the eye. “You might not like it, but I’m the one in charge around here. If I make rules then it’s for the good of everyone here. I expect my subordinates to comply!”
“Who exactly made you the boss?”
“How about the four other hulking great bastards making up this team that have always seen me as their leader? What? You think you can do a better job?”
“That’s not what I’m trying to say.”
“What are you tryina say?”
“Why do we need a leader? Why do we need one man lording it over the rest? Isn’t that kinda shit the reason we’re in this fucked up situation at all?”
Silence followed as Jay chewed on Ryan’s words. They had struck a chord with him and he quickly calmed down.
Ryan got back to his feet and straightened his clothes out. Every part of him wanted to wrestle Jay to the ground and tear lumps from him, but he knew there’d only be one winner in that circumstance. He needed to play it cool and keep Jay on his side.
“You make a good point, mate,” Jay admitted. “I’ve waded in here assuming I’m in charge. I’m no better than Mel.”
“Don’t be stupid! You’re nothing like that cretin! I get it; you want to keep some order around here and we’re all happy to do our bit. What we don’t need is an iron fisted leader. I hold my hands up; I took the piss last night. I’ll keep myself in check from now on. Just make sure you do the same.”
Jay looked awkwardly at Ryan. “I’m sorry for putting my hands on you. You’ve been a great deputy. You can handle yourself with the lurchers better than any of us. I’m lucky to have blokes like you and Kas by my side. It gives me hope we might actually survive this crap.”
“We have a better chance surviving it if we stick together, so let’s make sure we do that.”
“That’s the most sensible thing either one of us has said.” Jay paused a moment before speaking again. “How did the scavenging go?”
“We managed to get a few bits. They’re all in storage now. Encountered a few groups of lurchers and gawkers; nothing we couldn’t handle. Keith is… quiet.” Ryan’s face inferred the real meaning behind his words.
“Sorry about paring you with him. He’s not exactly a bucket of personality. What he lacks in conversation he makes up for with action.”
“That’s tough to argue with. He can definitely look after himself. It’s just a shame I get more life from the undead than I do him!”
Jay laughed. “We’ll look at rotating the teams. Keeps it fresh that way.”
“I suppose I’d better be getting on. Lookout duty beckons.”
“Right you are. It’s my turn to scavenge now.”
Ryan nodded his head and began walking away only to turn around when Jay called his name again.
“What’s the deal with you and Georgina?”
A terse smile crossed Ryan’s face. “Apparently, very little, mate.”
“Eh! It’s probably for the best. I’ll catch you later.”
Ryan walked back into the bar area. Georgina was still sat where she had been and he returned to her.
“Is everything okay?” she asked.
“Yeah, fine. I’ve gotta get on with lookout duty now. Are the boffins running any tests on you today?”
“I think they’re planning on taking another sample or two later; nothing big.”
“Won’t the alcohol in your system botch the readings?”
She grinned craftily. “Maybe, but at least it should make things interesting.”
“Will I see you later? You never answered properly earlier.”
“Come by my room after your shift is done. No alcohol tonight mind!”
“Spoil sport,” he muttered playfully before walking away to assume his duties.
TO BE CONTINUED