Twyne
Part 2
By: Dylan James Harper

Rachel cringed, but didn't argue. She had to block out the fear she felt at the idea of Jade going down on the ground with this many undead around. If she got the drop on them or was able to aim and shoot in this weather, Jade could easily take out the five following the kids. Even with the heavy silencer, the shots would likely bring others to the area. If they could land, they could just bring the kids on board. They had a small second deck they used as a mobile lab that could serve as a quarantine. This ship was not meant to land in this weather though.

"What's the plan?" Rachel asked, as she pulled up the controls. She took a brief look down at the monitor. The kids were almost to the gas station. The undead were still pretty far behind them. They definitely had time to get there.

"We'll see if I can take them out from up here before they get near the kids, and hopefully without attracting anyone else. If I can, we'll set up camp right above them, and wait it out. If I can't, I can drop down and wait with them in the gas station. You can provide some cover from above."

Rachel didn't love either of these plans. Jade was a pretty decent shot in survival training, but that was very different than out in the field, in extreme weather, with lives on the line. Even so, the bigger concern wasn't whether she could take out the undead or not, it was whether the shots, not to mention the noise of the ship, would bring more to the area.

"We could be dooming these kids by bringing others to them," Rachel stated, matter of factly.

"It's true but look at them. They're young, one of them appears to be limping pretty bad, and they don't look armed to me. If those undead have clocked them and are in pursuit, they don't stand a chance."

Jade wasn't wrong. Rachel recalled all the ships various extremities, the cactus-needle like excesses of cameras and sensors popping out all over the Hachikō's exterior. Once they were retracted, she nudged the controls towards the gas station, keeping one eye on the monitor watching the kids, the other on the monitor watching the horde underneath them.

"So far, so good, no one is waking up." Rachel said.

"Alright, that helps. I'm gonna get ready to lower into the nest."

The nest was the part of the Hachikō Rachel was most proud of, because it was her idea. A small, open air pod that could lower down from the aft of the ship and serve as anything from a cherry picker to a sniper's perch. They mostly used it to place cameras and sensors or take samples without having to land.

Jade pulled open the trapdoor down to the nest, but before descended, she froze at the sound of a voice on the radio. It wasn't the gruff man from the Wall Guard, nor did it sound young enough to be one of the kids.

"Hachikō, repeat your position. Over."

It was low but smooth. Firm in tone, but not aggressive. Rachel picked up the microphone.

"Unknown please identify. Over." She let go of the mic.

"Maybe it's the Wall Guard extraction team?" She pondered out loud.

"Nah, it's way too quick, and they'd have told us."

"Hachikō, repeat your position now. Over."

Rachel held the mic up, but then lowered it again. She turned to Jade.

"We don't know who this is? What if those kids were running from someone?"

Jade gave a concerned look in return. Rachel was right, but what options did they have?

"I don't think we can be choosey right now. If they might be able to help, we should let them help. If they end up being bad, well, I guess we'll deal with that when it comes."

Rachel nodded solemnly.

"Unknown please identify. We are at 31 North. 102 West. Closest landmark is a tall, yellow gas station sign. Please identify and state intentions. Over."

There was a long pause before the radio crackled again.

"Hachikō. Keep those kids alive for fifteen minutes. Over."

The radio fell silent again. Rachel looked again at Jade, who just shrugged, and ducked into the nest.

Rachel shifted one of the monitors to show one of the cameras on the nest. She saw Jade's rifle protrude and used the ship's P.A. to talk with her to keep the radio line clear.

"I'm nearly there. Visibility is really bad. I need to stay at this height, at least until we can find that sign, so I don't smack into it."

"I hear you. It's bad for me to. The thermal scope is helping though."

Rachel tried to remotely rotate the camera at the gas station upward so she could see herself come in. She couldn't quite get the angle perfect but was able to just see the corner of the ship in the camera's view. She was just above the gas station. She lowered down as much as she could, and then rotated the camera back towards the kids. They were less than a hundred yards away now, but their pace had slowed. The one with the limp, clearly hurt bad, was leaning on the other, who was decidedly shorter, and smaller, and clearly struggling to support their weight.

"Do you have eyes on the kids?" Rachel asked.

"Yeah, I can see them with the thermal scope. No sign of the undead behind them, but they wouldn't show up as bright on the thermal."

Rachel quickly widened the camera's view. She found the undead again, probably three or four hundred yards behind the kids now, and definitely lumbering at full speed.

"Jade, if they didn't see the kids before, they do now."

"Copy. No visual on them for me yet," Jade replied.

Rachel lowered one of the sensors down towards the gas station. It was a parabolic microphone that automatically sent the audio it picked up to be run through a program to sort for noises likely made by the undead.

"I think that gas station is empty. It's nighttime, so it's more likely."

The undead tended to cluster in dark areas during the day, for reasons still unknown.

"If they can just get in and lock the door, and I can pickoff those undead behind them, they might be able to last until the Wall Guard arrives."

"What about our fifteen minutes friend?"

"I'm not counting on them."

By this point, the undead were making gains on the kids, who were really struggling.

"I have a visual on one of the undead. Stay steady," Jade whispered.

Jade took a big deep breath and held it. She lined her scope up and adjusted for wind as best she could based on a flag on the gas station. She squeezed the trigger.

A lot of people believe the misconception about silencers that they are silent. They are not. They reduce the noise on the action of a gun, but don't cancel it out entirely, and can do nothing for the noise a bullet might make on impact.

Jade missed, her bullet striking the pavement behind the small group of undead. They didn't turn, the rain perhaps muffling the sounds. More likely, they were just honed in on the kids. The undead could be distracted with noise, this was a key aspect of survival training, but the instructor pointed out that, once they spotted you, they were far less likely to break off to investigate a noise.

Jade pulled the bolt back to move another bullet into the chamber. She had four more shots before needing to reload. She aimed again, now able to see all five undead. She'd have to reload at least once. She didn't care if she hit the head. Even a body shot would be enough to knock it off its feet, and likely ground it. In this weather, contact would have to suffice. She squeezed the trigger again.

Rachel heard the thud through the sensor. One of the undead near the middle was knocked to the ground. It groaned, and rolled around, but couldn't right itself. The others didn't even break stride.

The kids were at the gas station now and were at the door. They knocked on it, which made Rachel cringe. Surely, they knew no one would be there, and that the noise would be deadly if there were any undead around.

Evidently, they did not know these things, as a second later, when the shorter of the two turned to see the four-remaining undead on their tail, they both began to pound on the door.

"Are you hearing this?" Jade asked.

"Yeah, I don't know what they're doing."

"I have to go down," Jade said, standing up, no hint of emotion in her voice. She was ready and had already put the harness on. She put the small handgun they kept in the nest in her holster and slung the rifle on her back.

Rachel tensed up. She did not want Jade to go down. She also did not want these kids to die.

"I love you," Rachel replied.

"Tell me again when I get back," Jade replied, and smashed the button to drop her down.

The trapdoor in the nest flung open, and Jade did free fall for a dozen feet before the cables slowed her down. The wind knocked her around, but she made it to the ground. She freed herself from the harness and ran over to the kids, who didn't see her. There was the brief thought of sending the kids up in the harness, but it would likely take a couple minutes per person.

The wind and rain battering her face. It was louder on the ground. Her fears of nearby undead hearing them were slightly alleviated. She put on a small headset as she ran.

"Can you hear me?" She said, speaking against the wind.

"Yeah, I see you too. Want me to get in the nest and cover you?"

"No, you're a terrible shot. Just keep an eye on us."

Jade reached the kids. She put a hand on the shorter one's shoulder. Both kids jumped before turning around. They couldn't have been more than thirteen or fourteen. She held her finger up to her mouth to indicate that they should be quiet.

Pressing her face up against the tinted gas station glass doors, she could barely see in. It did appear empty. She pulled on the door, and it was locked. Jade pulled a small tool from her belt. It was silver, and the end opened up into circle, about ten inches in diameter. She placed it flush with the glass door and flipped the switch on its side. A small whirring sound occurred, and she pulled it back, removing a piece of glass the size of the circle. She flipped the switch back, placing the circle of glass on the ground, before sticking her hand in and unlocking the door. The undead were feet away now, their low growls now audible. She ushered the kids inside and locked the door.

Her handgun out, she led them to the back of the store, where they found a walk-in fridge that had been filled with alcohol for sale long before but had since been raided. She opened the heavy door, and all but shoved the kids inside, the taller one still being supported by the shorter one. She pulled the door closed behind her and moved one of the empty shelves in front of it.

"They're at the door," came Rachel's voice in her ear, but haven't broken through just yet.

"Alright, keep me posted. We're locked in the fridge. This door should hold them for a bit. Gonna stay silent from here on out."

She turned to look at the kids. The taller one, a brown boy with peach fuzz facial hair, was sitting down, holding his leg, grimacing. Jade knew he was working hard to stay quiet. The shorter one, a young girl with slightly lighter skin, but jet back hair, sat next to him, her hand on his shoulder. Brother and sister maybe? She couldn't ask now.

The girl turned to look up at her and started to open her mouth. Jade quickly gave the shh sign again. She pointed to her gun and the door, and smiled, giving a thumbs up. She wanted to bestow confidence as much as she could.

She made eye contact with the boy, who tried to smile. Jade looked around. She found a bottle vodka behind one of the shelves. She carefully opened it up and walked over to the boy. It wasn't the best way to disinfect a wound, but hopefully it would help. If it was a bite, he was likely done for regardless.

The boy, seemingly aware of what she was doing, removed his raincoat, and pulled up his pant leg. It didn't look like a bite, but a gash. Maybe he got it climbing over a fence. Who knows way out here? There were a million ways to get hurt. She handed the bottle to him, motioning what to do, hoping he wouldn't react audibly if he did it himself. The boy, upon taking the bottle, immediately took a drink.

She respected his opportunism, even in possibly mortal danger. His sister, or at least Jade was going to assume it was his sister, snatched the bottle away and poured it on his wound. His facial expression was so wrought with pain, Jade was amazed it wasn't audible. She took a rag and an elastic band out of her pack, attaching the rag to his wound.

She turned to the sister and mimed biting while pointing at the leg. The sister took a long look at Jade's gun before shaking her head no. She could be lying to protect him, or just nervous that Jade would be trigger happy. It was a natural fear. One study done years ago showed that almost thirty percent of individuals put down for bites were not actually confirmed bitten. It was hard to prove without lab testing, and by that time the person would usually have already turned.

"Jade," she heard in her radio, but before she could even tell Rachel to be quiet, she heard glass shattering. The undead must have broken through the doors.

"How many?" Jade asked.

"More than four. The banging attracted another small group, but we have a bigger problem. The horde is on the way."

"What?"

"I'm not sure, they must have followed us. They're coming though. Even if you hold out in there for hours, I'm not sure how the Wall Guard could get to you."

Jade's adrenaline had been flowing, and she'd been hyper focused on the individual tasks that were in front of her. Get to the kids, get inside, find a safe place, check the injury. Now the fear was starting to set in. Jade did not want to die. She didn't want Rachel to have to listen to her die. She didn't want these kids to die. She had her rifle, which wasn't useful at close range. She her handgun, which could only shoot ten rounds before she would need to reload.

Jade felt a tear slide down her cheek. She looked at the sister, whose eyes widened. Jade couldn't stand to see the fear on her face. She didn't deserve this. Jade had no idea what lead the girl to be here, but she didn't deserve this. She deserved a chance to live, her brother too. She wiped her face, took a deep breath, and smiled at the girl.

They could hear the undead banging around in the store. They had no sense of smell, and clearly hadn't figured out where they were yet. As quietly as possible, she pulled the boy over to the back wall, having him lean back and face the door. She held up the rifle, inquiring. He shook his head no. She held up the handgun, he shrugged, and nodded. She put it in his hand and pointed him towards the door.

She picked up the bottle and gave it to the sister. She mimed throwing. The sister nodded her head. Jade then stood at the back of the narrow room, the sister behind her, the brother on the ground next to her. She readied her rifle.

Although they couldn't have been in here more than ten minutes total, it felt like hours had gone by. Finally, almost mercifully, the undead started to bang on the door. Rachel's voice came in through the headset.

"The horde is close, you have at least a dozen in there with you. I just radioed the Wall Guard and they're still hours away. Can you get out? Get to the roof? Maybe I can pull you all up?"

"We're gonna try to fight our way out. We have a good bottleneck. If-when we get through, we're going to run around to the back. Get as low as you can. I'm not sure if the harness can hold all of us, but maybe it can lift us onto the roof."

"Okay," came Rachel's reply.

"I love you," Jade said.

"Tell me again when you get back," Rachel replied. Jade knew she was holding back tears.

To Be Continued…

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