Continued from Chapter 10, here.
Sergei sat in the driver’s seat of the heavy American-made truck, one hand on the steering wheel, trying to decide if he was annoyed or amused by the child’s constant chatter.
Perhaps a bit of both, he decided after a few minutes. After all, there was no reason why the two emotions had to be exclusive. He would readily admit that he much preferred companionable silence to filling the air with empty words, but the light in Sara’s eyes as her mouth babbled on was enough to warm even his frozen, cynical heart – if only slightly.
She was looking at him in the rear-view mirror, he noticed, and he replayed the last couple of sentences. “Yes? What about mountains?” he asked, not quite sure what her point had been. Continue reading →
Continued from Chapter 9, here.
Once I was totally certain that Sara was asleep, her little frame gently rising and falling in time with her slow breaths as she curled up beneath the blankets on the air mattress, I turned to the others. “So,” I began. “We’ve got a decision to make.”
“We need to take her back,” Corinne said immediately. “No question about it. She doesn’t belong here.”
“It is her home,” Sergei pointed out mildly, his tone neutral. Continue reading →
Continued from Part 8, here.
Even after agreeing to share her story, Sara pulled another truculent maneuver, one that only worked when its user was under fifteen years old.
“I’m hungry,” she announced, crossing her arms and glaring at me. “And all I’ve had is cold food because I don’t know how to plug an oven into a generator.”
Want proof that I don’t know how to handle kids? For a second, I considered arguing with her, trying to get this girl to tell me her story before I bothered helping her with warming up any food she might have. Continue reading →
Continued from Part 7, here.
I stared down the barrel of my gun, my mouth falling open.
In combat, everyone started a virgin. The term didn’t refer to their prowess in bed, although we never failed to give them crap about that, either. No, they all started as virgins, because they’d never shot another human in combat.
Killing another human being… I hated the stereotypical response, but it changes people. It changed me. I grew harder after I lost that virginity, felt like all my empathy burned away under the blowtorch of combat. Continue reading →
Continued from Part 6, here.
“Survivors. It’s got to be survivors, there’s no other explanation.” Henry looked around at the rest of us, as if he could be more convincing by maintaining eye contact. The Frenchman’s thin mustaches practically quivered with the force of his words.
“Yeah?” Jaspers countered, not bowing to this insistence. “Then where the bloody hell are they? And why are they leaving cryptic billboards instead of getting on the radio?”
“Radios don’t work, Jaspers,” Sergei pointed out mildly. “And maybe they don’t understand what has happened. Americans are weak, and all people disappearing is scary to think.” He glanced over at me. “No offense, yes?” Continue reading →
Continued from Part 5, here.
“I’m not feeling quite so confident about this route you’ve picked, Brian,” Henry muttered, as we gathered around the map that I’d spread out on the back gate of our pickup.
I looked over at the stringy Frenchman. “Why’s that?”
He reached out and, with one finger that had its nails nibbled down almost to the quick, tapped on a city that lay ahead. “That’s why,” he said shortly. “Must we really pass through here?” Continue reading →
Continued from part 4, here.
“So, Texas,” Jaspers spoke up, interrupting the rumble of the big Ford’s engine. “You gonna keep on sitting there like a clam, or open up about it?”
I glanced over at him, although I couldn’t take my eyes off the road for long. After just a few miles down the highway, having to constantly slow and navigate our way through the lines of stopped or crashed vehicles, we’d elected to pick up a third truck; one for each pair of us. We’d worked in pairs before, on training exercises, and easily fell into those same pairings: Jaspers and myself, the two unspoken leaders of the team rode together, as did Henry and Corinne, and Sergei and Feng. Oddly enough the Russian and the near-mute Chinese sniper seemed to get along very well, as if their silent thoughts communicated on the same wavelength.
Most of the time, I didn’t mind Jaspers. He could be foul-mouthed and unnecessarily blunt at times, but that bluntness also sometimes cut through all the bullshit and let him get right to the point. Continue reading →
Continued from Part 3, here.
“Food’s a bit flat, I must admit.” Henry frowned into his tin can, picking at it with a fork as if probing the innards of a dead combatant. “What do you call this disgusting mixture? Spaghetti and hoes?”
“Spaghetti-Os,” I corrected. “And it’s classic American comfort food.”
His grimace grew. “Explains a lot about you lot, doesn’t it.” Continue reading →
Continued from here.
“I dunno, man.” Sergei drew in breath between his exposed teeth, making a dry hiss. “Scary shit, this.”
Jaspers turned and growled at the Russian. “Keep your breath down. We don’t want anyone to hear us.”
“Anyone to hear us?” Sergei looked around at the rest of us, disbelieving, like a host mugging on a talk show camera. “No one is here! That is why this is scary shit!” Continue reading →
Continued from Part I, here.
I frowned at Corinne. Somehow, I’d expected her to be more bothered by the idea of practically committing treason by stealing a boat and going against direct orders.
“But there aren’t any direct orders,” she pointed out, in far too logical of a tone for me. “If anything, you’re just taking initiative to discover what’s going on.”
“By stealing a boat,” I repeated slowly, in case she’d missed that part. Continue reading →