Still, he was desperate. He hadn’t reached anyone in a long time, and he wanted, maybe even needed, to hear the voice of someone outside of the group. He needed to know they weren’t the only ones left.

Daniel made some additional adjustments on his gear, then sent out his usual message. “This is Saint Joseph Hospital calling anyone who can hear us. Please respond?” Daniel leaned back in his chair, running a hand through his unkempt blond hair. He nearly toppled over when the radio crackled with a reply.

“This is Installation Phoenix. I copy you, Saint Joseph. It’s good to hear another voice.”

Daniel rocked forward, grabbing the control console to answer his new friend.

“You have no idea how good,” he said, and then he laughed over the airwaves.

* * *

Alyson raised her head and looked down at Mitchell. A smile stretched across her lips as the bed sheets shifted over her naked, sweat-drenched body. “Was it good for you?” she said with a chuckle.

Mitchell ran his hand through her short, wet red hair. “You know it was. But I’ve got to get back to work. I’m on sentry duty, honey. Jack would tear me a new one if he knew I was here.”

Alyson rolled off him, her sweetness suddenly gone. “Just don’t forget to pay up on your way out,” she told him, stretching out on her back and closing her eyes.

Mitchell got out of bed and got dressed. He placed the packet of drugs on her nightstand and turned to glance at her a final time before he headed out the door. “Alyson…”

“Shut up, Mitchell. You know why I do it. I don’t need another lecture.”

Defeated before he began, he slammed the door behind him. Alyson sighed. Men were fools, all of them. Give them a good time and sooner or later they all started to fall in love with you. Fuck him. If she wanted to spend her last days as messed up as she could be, that was her choice. If she overdosed, then the end would be here that much quicker and she would be out of this hellhole. She wouldn’t have to wait for the creatures to find a way in and rip her apart; she wouldn’t starve to death like the rest of the assholes in the hospital.

Only Laura, Jack, and the medical staff had access to the hospital’s stash of pharmaceuticals, and if fucking people like Mitchell—who could get the keys from Jack every once in a while—got her the shit she needed, hell, it was only sex right? She wished she was brave enough to steal a gun or get one from Mitchell, brave enough to stick it in her mouth and pull the trigger. The drugs made her feel good though, and they weren’t anywhere near as messy. She knew that, given time, the drugs would do the job, and she was content on most days. With thoughts of slow suicide floating in her head, Alyson fell asleep in the darkened room.

* * *

“Vince, let it go,” Laura said, fighting the urge to give up and storm out of the room. Somehow the meeting had spiraled out of her control and had turned into a schoolyard spat as Vince and Jack resurrected one of their long running arguments.

“Laura, I know Jack and Mitchell are close, but come on! The guy’s a freakin’ murderer. I just don’t feel comfortable with him having access to so many key areas, much less the damn arsenal he has locked up in his quarters. I’m sorry, but it’s the truth. The guy gives me the creeps.”

“Mitchell paid for his crimes,” Jack argued. “When I hired him he was already out on parole. He’s saved my ass more than once since I met him. I trust the man with my life, and he’s been instrumental with helping me keep things straight around this place.”

“Face it, Jack, he’s your muscle. A thug who’d put us all to the wall and blow our brains out if you told him to. God knows what he does when you’re not out there with him.”

Suddenly the door to the conference room burst open. Jack’s instincts kicked in and he drew his sidearm, barely stopping himself from putting a bullet through Daniel’s face.

Daniel stood in the doorway, wide-eyed and out of breath, staring at Jack’s gun. “Sorry,” he said, holding up a hand as if to block a bullet. “I… I just made contact with someone who can help us.”

Laura fell into her chair. “What? Who?”

“His name is Martin Kier. He’s military, holed up in some kind of huge bunker about a hundred miles south of the city.”

“Jeez, a hundred miles.” Vince whistled.

“How many in his group?” Jack asked, getting right to business.

“Just him. He’s the only one left alive there.”

“One man? A hundred miles away? How can he help us?” Laura was confused, but she knew there must be some reason for Daniel’s excitement or he wouldn’t have butted in on the meeting. He seldom left the radio room.

Daniel caught his breath and pulled up a chair at the table. “According to Martin, he’s the sole survivor of the base, yes, but the compound was built to house a couple of hundred people: scientists, military, high ranking officials. It’s essentially a giant underground fallout shelter, but it was being used as a research lab before the plague hit. There was a staff in place, working on various projects when the dead virus—or whatever you want to call—broke out. The base closed itself off automatically, trapping them all inside.

“Unfortunately, the virus had already breached the compound, despite its safety protocols. A war like the one in the city was fought down there, inside the complex. Unlike the military up here, they won. It was costly, but they did win. The virus mutated, though, and became airborne or something. I didn’t really understand all of what Martin was saying. It was a bit over my head. He made it through it all though. Now he’s just sitting around with years of stockpiled supplies: food, meds, weapons, even fuel!”

“Still, I don’t see how that helps us,” Jack interjected.

“I’m getting to that part. Martin is a pilot and it’s a military base. There are two helicopters there, both of them for military transport. He could easily reach the hospital by air and either bring us some of the stockpiles or take a few of us at a time to the base. It’s just a matter of deciding what we want him to do.”

“You’ve asked him about all this?” Laura asked, unwilling to accept that such a miracle could simply fall into their laps.

Daniel calmed down a bit. “Well, no. I haven’t asked him to fly us to the base, but he offered to bring the supplies we need without any prompting on my part.”

Vince placed his hands on the table. “That seems odd. If he’s willing to share all this stuff, wouldn’t it be easier to move us there rather than have him haul it all out here? Could he even realistically make that many trips? And why waste so much if he just brings part of it and decides to stay here when he lands on the roof?”

“I don’t know,” Daniel admitted, “but I trust him. I could hear the sincerity in his voice. He has to be lonely out there. I would be. Maybe all the stuff that happened down there is haunting him and he just wants out of the place.”

Laura nodded. “Okay, Daniel. If you trust him so much from one conversation, I’ll buy into his desire to help us, but how do we handle this?” She looked to Jack and Vince for their input.

“Have him fly over a run of supplies,” Vince replied. “It couldn’t hurt if he’s truly alone. There are nearly fifty of us. Numbers will be on our side even if he’s lying. Hell, a transport full of soldiers is something we could handle as long as we know when they’re coming. And if he’s telling the truth, we get the stuff we need and we get to meet him face-to-face and check him out for real. Then we can decide what to do from there.”

Jack nodded, agreeing with Vince. For once, the hippy had a well thought-out and sane suggestion.

“We’re agreed then,” Laura said. “ Daniel, go invite our new friend over for a visit. Jack, I want you and Mitchell to prepare for any of the darker things that could come from this.”

“We’ve got one surface-to-air missile left from the armory raid before the hospital was completely surrounded,” Jack informed her. “It’ll do just great if things go south.”

“What about me?” Vince asked. “Don’t I get a part in this?”

“Yes, Vince, you do. I want you to make a list of the order we’ll leave in if this Martin is for real and we opt to move to his base. Decide who’s best suited to make the trip first, and who needs to stay here until everyone else is safely there.”

“That’s it?”

“No. I want you to inform everybody as soon as possible. Not everyone may want to leave the hospital, and you’ll need to know who wants to stay. You can also prepare people for what’s coming, good or bad.” Laura stood up. “Well people, let’s get to it.”

* * *
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