Read A New World: Taken Online

Authors: John O'Brien

A New World: Taken (27 page)

“McCafferty, any sign up there?”
 
I ask.

“Nothing, sir.
 
Quiet as can be,” she answers.

“Okay.
 
Have everyone up there sit down in case any shooting starts and tell them to stay down if something does happen,” I say.

Copy that, sir,” she responds.

“What do you think?” I whisper to Lynn.

“I’m not sure.
 
It seems like it may have just been a generator dying,” she answers.

“Yeah, maybe,” I say as the scream of a night runner faintly reaches inside.
 
It sounds as if it’s coming from one of the campus buildings as before.
 
It’s a reminder they are still out there.

“Sir?”
 
I hear McCafferty say in my ear piece.

“Yeah, go ahead,” I answer.

“Um, there are several people here asking to go to the bathroom,” she says hesitantly.

“You’re kidding me,” I say.
 
“Can’t they hold it a little longer?”

A pause ensues.
 
“Well, there does seem to be some urgency with some,” she answers.

“Can’t they find a discreet location somewhere up there and just go?”
 
I ask.

“There’s not really a lot of room up here,” McCafferty answers.

“Stand by,” I say.
 
I look at Lynn and shrug as if to say ‘what the fuck do we do about that?’

“We could escort them into the bathrooms,” she suggests answering my shrug.

“Yeah, I’m not a big fan of that,” I say thinking the night runners are still up to something.
 
I don’t like the idea of splitting our teams up nor having the others wandering about.

“What else are we going to do about it?”
 
Lynn asks.

“Fuck, I don’t know.
 
What is it with everyone having to go to the bathroom when I’m around?”
 
I say.

“Maybe it’s your personality,” she says shrugging.

“Yeah, funny,” I reply.
 
“Okay, take Black, secure the closest locker room and escort them.
 
But Lynn, if anything happens, get back here.
 
And I want you to be ready to come back on a moment’s notice if we need you in here.”

“We will, Jack,” Lynn says.

“Okay McCafferty.
 
How many need to go?”
 
I ask.

“Sixteen, sir,” she answers.

“Sixteen?!
 
Really?!”
 
I say shaking my head.
 
“Okay, bring them down.”

“They’re on their way, sir.”

I lean over to Lynn and whisper, “It’s going to be crowded in there.
 
Team integrity is your priority if something happens.”

“Are you saying what I think you’re saying, Jack?”
 
Lynn asks.
 
“Are you asking us to just leave them if something happens?”

“No, I’m saying get them out as best you can but if you are about to be overrun and can’t, well, there’s no fucking way we can hold this place with just Echo and Red.
 
All will be lost if it comes down to that,” I say knowing it’s a harsh thing to say but the reality of the situation dictates.
 
All because people have to go to the bathroom.

“Jack, that’s not what we are about – abandoning people.
 
We are meant to defend them,” Lynn says adamantly.

“I know that Lynn.
 
It’s about defending all people.
 
If something does happen and you aren’t able to help, then we lose everyone,” I say hating the words coming out of my mouth.
 
In all honesty, it’s a tough choice.
 
Knowing you did the right thing but losing everyone in the process.
 
There is no right choice but there is a lesser of two evils.
 
I’m just not comfortable with Black Team being split off with all that has happened and only a few chained doors lying between us and a horde of night runners.
 
The ones in ‘dire need’ arrive at the doors to the main gym led by Henderson and Denton.
 
It’s pitch black to the others so they need to be guided down.

“Well, Jack, our guests have arrived.
 
What do you want us to do?”
 
Lynn asks.
 
The question comes from her being uncomfortable with what I said about perhaps having to leave them.

“Take them and keep them safe but tell them if something happens then they are to stop what they’re doing and head back immediately.
 
Laggers will be left behind,” I say wishing for a different situation.

“Okay, Jack,” she says and brings out her penlight to guide the others over.

She tells them to wait and heads out into the corridor with Black Team.
 
They secure the locker room and guide everyone in.
 
I keep Henderson and Denton with me to keep watch over the area.
 
Silence continues to be our guest.
 
Minutes pass.

“You hear or see anything, Lynn?”
 
I ask.

“No, it’s all quiet here.
 
Well, mostly quiet,” she answers with a chuckle.

They return several minutes later without any night runner interruption.
 
The night passes with only the occasional shriek issuing from the darkness.
 
The first faint light from the coming morning begins to show beyond the windows.
 
One last loud howl is heard and the blackness of the night transitions to the gray-blue of morning.
 
We have made it and now the outside is safer than the darkened buildings.
 
We unchain the doors and the teams exit still wary of any marauders that might have also made it through the night.
 
Cautious of an ambush, we set a perimeter around the main entrance – now exit – doors.

The clouds that were distant before now cover the once clear blue sky.
 
It’s a light gray covering but it feels like it may bring rain later.
 
The chill of the morning air tells me that summer is quickly winding down and fall is near.
 
My eyes adjust to the morning light as I doff my NVG’s.
 
Every muscle in my body aches and I become aware of some I didn’t even realize I had.
 
My back and shoulders feel strained and every step is an effort.
 
We do a check within the campus perimeter without going into the buildings.
 
I have no idea what they have inside now that the night runners have access and I don’t intend to find out.
 
I send Greg with Echo Team back to our previous hideout to bring the Humvees and gear back.

“What’s the plan for everyone?
 
How do you plan on getting all of them back?”
 
Lynn asks as I try to work the rest of the kinks out of my back.

“With those,” I answer pointing to the yellow school buses in the lot.

“Those’ll work,” she replies.
 
I have everyone assemble in the parking lot.
 
Gathered together, there are a lot more than I noticed last night.

“Listen up, everyone,” I shout above the heads.
 
“We’ll be leaving here soon and everyone is welcome to come with us.
 
We have a place set up in the old Cabela’s just north of Olympia.
 
We’ll be using the school buses for transport and load up as soon as the others arrive.”

“What about our stuff?”
 
One voice calls out from the crowd.

“Yeah, will you be heading to our places to pick up our things?”
 
Another asks.

“No, we won’t be heading to each individual place to pick up belongings.
 
We have what you need back at our base,” I shout answering.
 
This creates a ruckus and various murmurings amongst the crowd.

“We should be able to go get our belongings and personal stuff,” one voice rises.
 
Other voices say much the same thing but this is only from a few.
 
The others in the lot are mostly quiet but I see a few nods of agreement with others shaking their heads.

“Look, we can’t risk going into darkened buildings.
 
The risk of running into night runners is too great and…” I start to say.

“You can’t stop us from going,” a voice loudly interrupts.

“I’m sorry, did the middle of my sentence interrupt the beginning of yours?
 
In answer, I wouldn’t dream of stopping you.
 
You are free to go your own way and do whatever you will.
 
If you want to go get your stuff, it will be without our help.
 
Sorry, but that’s the way it is.
 
I’m not going to risk any of us going into dark structures.
 
Feel free to do so if you want but I wouldn’t highly recommend it.
 
Those of you who want to go with us, be ready to board the buses when the others arrive,” I say.

Silence descends for a moment as they digest this information.
 
Then various murmurings occur.
 
Some words of ‘this is ridiculous’ and ‘I thought they were here to help’ rise above the background noise.
 
These are only some as I do hear many others voicing thanks and gratitude.

“Stop it.
 
These folks have come and helped us and all you can do is bicker.
 
If your stuff is that important to you, then go get it and don’t take these people’s hospitality.
 
But at least thank them for giving you the freedom to voice your bickering’s.
 
Seems to me you were a lot worse off yesterday.
 
Go if you want, stay if you want but it seems to me you’d all be fools not to go along,” one voice shouts above the rest.
 
This quiets the crowd and I look over to see Bob, standing with his hands on his hips, nodding after having said his piece.

The crowd quiets again.
 
“Those who go will be expected to do his or her fair share of work and we have a basic training program which everyone is required to go through but anyone and everyone is free to go whenever they want.
 
We don’t hold anyone against their will but there are rules to follow.
 
I’m just saying because I want to be up front from the very get-go.
 
But we do have food and shelter,” I say into the quiet.

“Those of you staying with us, please stay here in the parking lot.
 
Those of you who want to head out on your own, well, I wish you the best of luck,” I add.

Most stay but there are a few who head out on their own.
 
One apparent family heads off with the wife pleading and pointing in our direction.
 
The man just shakes his head and plods steadily on.
 
The little boy trailing behind looks back at us once and turns to catch up with his parents.

“Shouldn’t we do something?”
 
Bri asks.

“What can we do, hon?
 
We can’t force them to stay,” I answer.

I see Bob heading across the parking lot towards the family and pleading wife.
 
He catches up and I see he is trying to talk them out of leaving.
 
At least that is what it looks like to me.
 
He is talking to the younger man, pointing at the woman and child and back in our direction.
 
The voice of Bob and the younger man rise but the individual words are indistinguishable.
 
It’s pretty obvious an argument of some sort is taking place.
 
The scene has drawn the attention of the entire crowd.

The woman appears to be pleading but the man is not paying any attention to her and is intent on arguing with Bob.
 
Bob yells, points to the woman, and back to the crowd.
 
The man shakes his head and yells back.
 
It’s pretty obvious the situation is getting a little out of hand but it’s just an argument.
 
It’s not like it’s two gunfighters about to draw on each other.
 
I begin to edge in that direction to try and simmer them down.

The woman sweeps her son behind her in a protective nature.
 
With a last shout, Bob grabs the woman protectively about the shoulders and begins walking back with her and the child.
 
The man reaches behind him and whips out a handgun.
 
The crowd witnessing this altercation uniformly gasps.
 
I stop and do a double-take not knowing how in the hell this man has a gun after being held captive.

He draws the gun up and fires.
 
The resounding crack of the gunshot echoes across the parking lot.
 
A pink mist forms in front of Bob.
 
His head is thrust forward and he staggers a step, another, and then falls to the ground.
 
The woman screams which rises above several other screams from the crowd.
 
She looks down at Bob in shock and then back to her husband who is standing with the gun in his hand; a small wisp of smoke still streaming out of the barrel.
 
He lowers his gun and shouts at her but the words are lost again.

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