“Get up.” A not so friendly voice ordered. “We need to move.”
Jess looked up at ‘captor number one’ she could tell he would hurt her if he had to. She took a deep breath and somehow managed to climb to her feet. She stood trying to keep her composure. She looked out across the abandoned runway tall grass and weeds grew up with no one to cut them back. She looked at the airport buildings and longed to run to them, to safety. She knew it to be an illusion; captor number one was a tough old man who wouldn’t hesitate to put a round through her head if she tried to run away.
She turned and looked at ‘captor number two’ the younger man was struggling to his feet as his older companion helped him up. Blood had soaked through the bandage she applied in the air but it looked like it had stopped bleeding. That was too bad, if he succumbed to his injuries she might have an easier time escaping.
“Carlos what are we going to do with Max? We can’t just leave him here to be devoured by carrion eaters.”
The older man shrugged. “We can’t do anything for him; the plane will be his grave.”
“He deserves better…”
Carlos shook his head, handed the younger man his M4 carbine and replied, “He does, but our survival is more important than his burial. I’m sorry, let’s go.”
He turned to Jess after tightening the straps on his bailout bag, “If you want to make it out of this alive you’re going to do exactly as I say, understand?”
Jess grit her teeth, now wasn’t the time to fight. “Yes.”
“Good, let’s move before anyone finds us.”
Her head hurt and she found it hard to concentrate but the men pushed her forward toward the airport buildings. The trek across the airport was a long and tiring one. David, captor number two had to stop every few minutes to regain his breath. Eventually they made it to a service entrance and found their way through the baggage handling area.
Out on the curb Carlos found what he was looking for, a bike rack. The bikes were streaked with rust, but they were under a shade cover so maybe they might still work. They were all locked up. Fortunately one bike was locked with a cheap cable lock. A few minutes with the pliers from his multi tool and he freed the bike. He turned the pedals by hand and the chain moved. It creaked, squeaked but it worked. The tires were flat but that could be remedied. One of the other bikes had a small pump attached to the frame.
“You girl, pump the tires up.”
“What?” He asked a hint of anger in his voice.
“Call me Jess.”
“I’ll call you whatever the hell I feel like bitch!”
David came to her defense. “Look Carlos, we’re going to be with Jessica for the foreseeable future so maybe we should…”
“Fine. Jess PLEASE pump the tires up.”
Jess pumped the tires up using the tiny pump. After a few minutes she was hot tired and sweaty, She dumped her jacket on the ground and finished up. The tires were hard the bike might actually work.
“Dave, stay here and don’t let her escape, I’m going to get some bolt cutters and some bike parts.”
Jess sat down on the curb exhausted, and watched him go.
Dave leaned up against another bike, “He’s not evil you know.”
Jess rolled her eyes and examined a large weed trying to grow in a crack in the concrete.
“Why aren’t we trying to get a car working?” He asked.
She pointed out a rusty cab nearby. “Well most of the cars will probably be gas burners. The fuel in their tanks will be complete sludge. Plus where are we going to fill ‘em up? If you hadn’t noticed it’s been a few years since any gas stations were resupplied.”
He nodded, “I guess I hadn’t thought of that.”
They waited in silence sitting in the sun. Jess got up and headed toward the terminal.
“Where are you going?”
“Do you want to sit out here or find some place more comfortable?”
“Uhh, but Carlos.”
“Screw Carlos, we’ll see him ride up.”
Jess smiled, she could manipulate captor number two fairly easily. She pried open the sliding door and found a seat in the lobby. She didn’t really understand why people would come to airports just to sit around and wait. It seemed like a big waste of time. But so many things the pre-event people did didn’t make sense.
She leaned back in the chair and closed her eyes. Sleep was impossible, her mind was running too fast, and captor number two kept bugging her. Eventually he shut up and she let the other world embrace her.
Finally asleep she reached out east trying to locate Scruffy, he must be awake, if he was asleep she would have probably already found him. Minutes passed by, but time in dreamland wasn’t easy to keep track of. She felt the Masters; they were riding horses heading toward them. They were still far away but if she didn’t get moving soon they would catch up.
Jess almost lost dreamland but meditated and kept her mental state. She reached out further than she thought possible. Everything was blurry and indistinct but she felt the glimmer of familiar thoughts just beyond the edge of her perception. “Come on Jess, slow down, reach.” She said to herself as she tried to ignore the noise of the world. Moments later his familiar thoughts drifted toward her. Fuzzy! He was coming to find her.
She concentrated and formed a simple message to send to her furry friend, “Pasco.”
Had he heard it? She didn’t feel a response, but awake he wouldn’t be able to. She focused again searching when she felt her mother’s thoughts, thousands of feet in the air. “Mom! Pasco!” She messaged again with all her strength.
Dreamland shattered and she felt hands on her. She slapped them away and sat up. David was standing over her shaking her shoulder.
“Don’t touch me!” Jess snapped.
“Calm down, Carlos is back.”
“Well isn’t that great.”
“What were you dreaming about; you were saying something about your mother.”
Her head throbbed, “Piss off.”
A while later they had three bikes repaired with ‘new’ tubes, tires, and grease. They headed south, into Oregon.
Jess rode as slow as she dared. She would do anything to delay their trip as long as possible. She didn’t want to find out what really waited for her at the end of the road. She kept an eye on the sky looking for the plane from Jamestown that never came. Had they heard her?
As the sun set they passed a massive field of little hills, but they were too regularly spaced to be natural.
Carlos stopped, “What do you suppose that is?”
David squinted in the dim light, “I don’t know, they look like burial mounds or something.”
Jess shrugged, “They look like potato cellars.”
They continued riding until they saw a sign that read,
Umatilla Chemical Depot
Lethal Force Authorized
“What’s a chemical depot?” Jess asked her captors.
Carlos coughed, “This is where nasty nerve agents like VX, Sarin, and Mustard gas were stored.”
“Nasty stuff, all it takes to kill is a couple of drops on the skin. Gas masks aren’t enough protection.”
“Do you think that stuff is still there?”
Carlos rubbed his chin, “I’m sure. Before the event they were destroying it but this isn’t something you can just flush down the toilet.”
They continued until they ran out of light, exhausted from hours of riding they carried their bikes over a fence and continued down a cracked asphalt lane barely wide enough for one vehicle. Up ahead in the middle of fields of rusted pivot sprinklers choked with weeds was a clump of trees.
“What’s up there?” David asked as he mounted his bike.
“Looks like a farm house, should be a good place to stop for the night.”
A few dogs came out barking at them, Carlos dropped a couple with his Sig 226, scattering the remaining feral animals.
Most of the trees had died but a few were still growing, encroaching on the farmhouse. They rode up the driveway and found the house. It was weather beaten but looked mostly intact. They rode past a swimming pool, it’s once clear water choked with mud and tree roots.
Carlos checked the front door, it was still locked, which was a good sign the house might still be intact. He kicked the door and it failed to budge. He examined the door with his flashlight after nursing a bruised foot. It was a heavy reinforced solid wood door. Then he noticed the bars on the windows.
“We’re not getting in that way.”
David shone his light at the front of the imposing house, “Who lived here anyway?”
“Someone who didn’t like unwelcome guests.” Jess replied.
They walked around back, and found another solid door with a decorative iron gate with a tarnished padlock. “Good thing I kept these puppies.” Carlos said as he hefted the bolt cutters. David shone the light on the lock while the older man worked the tool.
Jess could make a break for it, she could run to her bike and tear off down the road and then? She didn’t have a plan after making it to the road. Her captors would probably catch her, but even if they didn’t where would she go? Hide in a nerve gas storage bunker? She had a third of a bottle of water on her bike, no food and she was exhausted from riding all day. And the Masters were out there, along with other beasts.
The shackle snapped as the jaws bit the lock, they pried the gate open, it screeched in protest, the hinges coated in rust didn’t want to move.
Carlos kicked the door and bounced off, “Maldito puerta! What I wouldn’t give for some shotgun slugs or C4 about now.”
Jessica sighed, she didn’t want to reveal her skills but she wanted inside the farm house, the wind began picking up and it looked like they were in for a storm. She’d rather not spend the night in the barn or a shed, with rats. “Guys, I think I can pick the lock.”
“What?” The two men asked.
“Just hold the light for me and I’ll give it a try.” She said as she pulled a little kit from an inside jacket pocket.
“What else do you have in there?” David asked as he looked into her jacket.
She ignored him and unrolled her picks, torsion wrenches and bump keys. “They’ve got steel door frames, the lock is a high quality one but I think I should be able to pick it.”
Jess started off using the bump key that she smacked with her flashlight, the door remained secure.
“I thought you said you could pick it. What’s this garbage?” Carlos asked.
“Look, I tried bumping it but this lock is too good so I’ll have to do it the old fashioned way.”
Jess inserted a torsion wrench and turned the lock slightly. Inserting a pick she began the art of feeling each pin trying to get them to catch on the shear line. She worked the pick up and down, in and out gently feeling each pin. Picking had always been more art than science in her mind. A faint click let her know when each pin was aligned.
A few minutes later she felt one last snick grinning she applied more pressure on the torsion wrench turning the lock and they were in.
“Where did you learn how to do that?” David asked her as she pulled her pick out of the lock.
She smirked, successfully picking a lock always made her feel good, “At school.”
“Yup, lock picking was an elective course.”
“So what were the required ones?”
“The usual, marksmanship, hand to hand combat, weapons repair, field craft, trapping, hunting, breaking necks.”
The young man did a double take she hoped he believed it, putting fear in him could be usefull.
Stale air filled her mouth as they entered. At least it was dry, they would have been soaked had they stayed out much longer.
They entered in through the kitchen, disturbing a thick coating of dust as they walked. It felt weird to be walking among the relics of someone else’s life. Family pictures adorned the refrigerator of people now long gone. A piano sat on one wall in the living room sheet music yellow with age spread out for missing fingers to play.
Jess laid down on a dusty couch that must have been old before the event and promptly fell asleep, perhaps she would be able to dream locate tonight.