is attempting to circle around to our lines but cannot see our exact location and is venturing further aft of the aircraft.

“Lynn, go get him and guide him back. Bravo, prepare to disengage and fall back to the aircraft,” I shout firing into the mass of night runners to our front.

“Roger that, sir,” Cressman responds, her voice carrying above the din of the firing. Lynn lowers her weapon, locates the running man, and takes off towards him.

“Alpha, prepare to board the aircraft once Bravo clears,” I shout looking over and seeing Lynn guide the soldier in by the arm.

The night runners are recovering from their disorientated state and begin to home in on us. I see Lynn out of my peripheral start up the stairs with the soldier.

“Bravo, clear out,” I shout.

The sound of gunfire diminishes as Bravo Team stands, runs behind Alpha and begins to board the aircraft. The horde of night runners are scattered in all directions due to being blinded but are now converging on our positions. They are just scant yards ahead and we only have seven rifles engaging. It will be close as we begin to disengage Alpha. I pat the two soldiers to the left of the line on their shoulders and direct their fire into our left front flank. I direct the two in the middle to our immediate front and the soldier closest to the stairs to make sure night runners don’t get to us from under the aircraft. I direct my fire into those that are closest regardless of the angle. Magazines are ejected to the ground as the team members reload; the sound of the mags and empty cartridges hitting the ground are lost in the gunfire and screams.

I see the last of Bravo mount the stairs and shout for the two Alpha members on the far left to disengage taking up their sector for them. My carbine and those of the rest of Alpha constantly send out rounds against the closing horde. The bodies continue to pile up on the ramp; the moonlight catches an occasional spray of blood in its silver beams. I observe the two Alpha members mount the stairs and catch sight of Lynn firing her M-4 from the doorway; lifting her carbine as the members enter in front of her.

“Go, Go, Go!” I shout to the three remaining members of Alpha.

“Robert, turn on the lights,” I say into the radio.

Alpha rises and scrambles up the stairs. I stand at the bottom of the stairs firing into the night runners but my rounds do little to slow their rapid advance. I hear the popping of rounds above me from Lynn firing out of the door. The bright lights flash from the aircraft once again. Shrieks of rage, pain and frustration come from the mass; the light blindingly painful. The night runners are only ten feet from the nose of the aircraft.

“Get your ass up here,” Lynn yells from the top of the stairs.

I scramble up the stairs two at a time and run through the entrance, slamming into the bulkhead with my shoulder. Lynn and Watkins pull the door closed behind me. As the door closes, the cargo compartment darkens even more; the only light coming from the reflected glow outside through the cargo windows. In the dim light, I see our newest member bent with his hands on his knees catching his breath. Thumps and pounding begin against the aircraft fuselage startling the newly rescued soldier.

“Don’t worry,” I tell him. “They can’t get in here. Or at least they haven’t been able to as yet.”

I ask Drescoll to put the blackout covers over the windows and Michelle to draw the blackout curtains in the cockpit. When those are in place, I have Robert kill the lights outside and turn on the interior cargo lights.

“What about the battery, Dad,” Bri calls down the cockpit stairs.

“Leave it on. It’s not like we’re going anywhere with this aircraft anyway,” I call back.

“Dad?” The new soldier says raising his head but with his hands still on his knees.

“Yeah. Looks like we have some stories to share,” I say as the lights of the cargo interior lighting come on.

The soldier rises and puts out his hand, “Greg Petersen.”

“Jack Walker,” I say taking his hand.

The introductions are made after the kids come down out of the cockpit. Noticing the Captain’s tabs on the field cap he is wearing, most address him as “sir.”

“It’s just Greg, folks,” he says in response. “The days of ‘sir’ are over. I want to thank all of you for saving my bacon. I seriously don’t know what would have happened if you hadn’t been here. Well, I do and it wouldn’t have been pretty.”

“Just glad we were here,” I say as the shrieks and slams against the fuselage continue; some solid enough to cause us to jump.

“What was that about not going anywhere?” Greg asks.

“We lost an engine coming in. This aircraft isn’t going anywhere,” I answer feeling sad at the thought that this aircraft, our mobile sanctuary that has accompanied us through so much and kept us safe, will end its days here on the ramp; becoming just another remnant of civilization as we knew it.

“What happened that you found yourself in the unfortunate circumstance to be chased?” Frank asks.

“I heard the aircraft come in. They found me and started breaking in so I figured I had no choice but to make a run for it,” he answers.

We settle in amidst the continued noise outside and share our stories. We bring Greg up to speed with our journey, structure, and knowledge. He in turn fills us in on his “adventures” over the past few days. We also fill him in on our plans but reserve assigning him to a team until Lynn and I have a chance to talk about it. That he is joining us is not in question as he seems to mesh nicely with our group. Plus, his experience will be extremely beneficial.

“Okay, everyone, let’s get whatever rest we can inside this noisy tin can. We have a very busy next few weeks coming up,” I say. “Lynn, would you mind coming up with me.”

We enter the cockpit and I pick up my phone from the seat where I left it as I scrambled out. Lynn looks at me quizzically as I open it and pull up the text. With the glow of the phone shining brightly in a darkened cockpit, lit only by the glow of the instrument panels, I hand the phone to her. She takes it and looks down at the screen. She stares at the screen with furrowed brows for a few moments.

Finally, looking up with a scowl, she says, “You have got to be fucking kidding me!”

“Hey, it’s not like I planned this,” I say defensively.

“What are you going to do?” She asks.

“Contact her and go get her I guess,” I say thinking, How is there any right answer to this one?

“I suppose you’re right. There’s really no other right choice but I’m going with you.”

“I have no problem with that but I would like you here to keep control of things. There’s a ton that needs to be done during the day before night falls.”

“Yeah, I went along with your foolhardy plan and let you go into the CDC but there’s no way in hell you’re going down there alone,” Lynn says putting her hands on her hips.

“I was thinking about taking Robert and Bri actually.”

“Now why on earth would you do that?” She asks tilting her head to the side.

“The Guard Base down there has a couple of C-130’s and I was thinking about flying one back up. It’s would be nice to know we have one available just in case. I’ll need their help to fly it back up,” I answer.

“Well, I’m still going with you and that’s the way it’s going to be. You’ll just have to get used to that idea,” Lynn says adamantly.

“Okay, okay,” I say waving my hand in a warding off gesture. “We’ll take a Humvee with just the four of us.”

“Why not take a whole team or two?” She asks feeling slightly appeased but not completely happy.

“There’s a lot we need to get done before night hits and I think we’ll need everyone here helping to set up a secure location,” I respond. “It’ll be a quick down and back depending on what the road conditions are like. Let me try and get hold of Mom and then respond back to Kelly. We should then gather everyone together to quickly cover what we’re going to do come morning.”

Lynn continues looking at me and makes the ‘well, go ahead’ gesture indicating she is not going anywhere. I nervously dial Mom’s cell phone as I am worried about her but don’t get an answer increasing my worry even further. I leave a voice mail and try her home phone. There is no answer at that number and I don’t even get a voice mail. I send a thought of protection out to her as I have periodically throughout our journey.

Now the interesting part. I hit reply to Kelly’s text.

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