About walking for about three hours, we stopped to rest our legs. Along with trying to get a better idea of our current location. Guessing we had walked about eight and a half miles, or so. Which judging from the Old Fort Memorial we were maybe four or five hours from being on the outskirts of the city. I wasn;t sure if we would be safer there or not. If we could at least get to the highway on ramp, chances are we could escape the city. Maybe see if we could find a couple useable vehicles to accelerate things. Chances were the country areas would be safer, I hoped.
Ten minutes passed before we resumed moving. Following the northwest road, that should lead us out the city. Keeping a vigilant eye for signs and landmarks. Both would be necessary if we wanted to keep on out current direction.
Walking about another mile or so, before someone took a singular shot towards us. Quickly using parked cars as a makeshift cover, we hid. Watching the group and myself do a quick scan of the area. Weapons ready to fire if necessary. The pungent scent of gunpowder lingering in the still air.
From above us a loud voice shouted “Are you with them? Those murderous bastards who roam what remains of society. Killing man and monster alike for reasons, I would rather not know.”
I yelled back “No,” still trying to figure out where he was talking from. “Please don’t shoot,” lowering my weapon as I stood up. “We are just people trying to adjust to the hostile nature of our new reality,” taking late notice we were pinned down withing walking distance of a hospital. Noticing someone had attached planks from the hospital’s roof to adjacent buildings. From here I couldn’t tell if they were recently used or not, but they looked secure at least.
About two minutes later a door slammed out. Out of instinct I hastily grabbed my rifle, aiming it at the hospital’s now open doors. Two dirty, unshaven young men walked out first. Almost guarding the older pepper bearded bald man between them. Both had old beat-up bolt-action rifles in hand and shared similar physical traits. Yet the one on the left side had grayer in his hair than the other. A taller fellow walked out behind them, dressed in military clothing. Something similar to an M-16 was strapped over his shoulder but seemed to be held loosely. I couldn’t tell who was in charge but, I sensed I would find out soon enough.
The one with the peppered beard stepped forward. With a great slowness, he looked around. Trying to figure out where the rest of my group was hidden. Clearing his throat some, he said “That shot was an unfortunate but necessary uncivil act. Still, that was a horrible way to make a first impression. We have had recent violent encounters with vicious marauders. Given how they act, I doubt they do anything but shoot first. Now if you would be so kind as to reveal the rest of your group, please. We can be civil about things and move past the shot.
His oddly polite behavior surprised me. Snapping my fingers twice in rapid succession. My quick signal raised my group from cover within seconds. Most had a tight grip on their weapons. Ready to attack if necessary. Suspicious and surprised at the old man, like I was.
I said “These people are the first friendly people we have seen in months. Please lower your weapons,” hearing a loud thunderclap overhead. “We should move inside before the storm comes. Wait out the storm if these strangers allow, knowing a heavy storm comes, the creatures would awaken early.
The older gentlemen said “We will give you shelter but you will be required to surrender your weapons upon entry. It is for our protection as well as yours,” before being interrupted by another thunderclap. “Make your decision with haste strangers. This world has seen enough death already.
I looked at the faces of my group, judging their reactions carefully. Surrendering our weapons was something that was an almost unimaginable sacrifice. It came down to choosing survival or trying to last out the rain. Waiting to be possibly found, and brutally killed by those monsters.
With reluctance, I said, “We will surrender our weapons but we will be keeping our packs and ammunition on us.”
With quick glances at his men, he waited about a minute before speaking “Fair enough. The two guards at the door will take your weapons when you enter. They will be returned when you leave. Please follow me, my men will take up the rear,” turning around and beginning to walk. Every few footsteps he made being followed by another thunderclap. The storm beginning to sprinkle some as we followed.