“Should we get everyone up?” Mike asked after a little while had passed.
“And do what?”
Troy’s question left Mike speechless. He was feeling that way a lot recently.
They needed to take some time and make some long term goals. Stupid as it might seem, grinding levels as a means to an end, would be much easier to motivate people for, than grinding levels because it might keep them alive at some undisclosed point in the future.
But either way, grinding levels did need to happen. The troll had kindly taught him that lesson. He’d leave the group behind before he’d let any of them convince him to just sit on his ass and wait to be rescued. What happened when the government didn’t fix everything?
Monsters could grow too.
They’d seen the proof in the zombies.
A zombie that had fed successfully could walk steadier and faster than one that had not.
Imagine if they say around waiting for a week and then somehow ran into another troll, one that had been killing things to get stronger…
The answer was easy. They’d all die. His qi, Troy’s fire magic, none of it would be worth a damn, because it was all still in the baby stages.
“If you were running the show, what would you do first?” Mike asked Troy.
He respected the mage’s opinion on survival. Anyone that was willing to become a skeleton rather than give up had the right idea in his book.
Troy seemed to think for a minute before he answered with a surprisingly thought out response. He’d probably been waiting for someone to ask him since he first saw a zombie.
He didn’t look like it, with his former long distance runner’s build and his place in the cool kid group, but Troy was a nerd. He liked super natural stuff especially as far as Mike knew, making him doubly qualified to plan a zombie survival strategy.
“The first things you usually want to do are secure shelter, find water and food, and meet up with your loved ones. I’m not saying I love you guys but for me personally we took care of all three yesterday. I’m from out of state, so no family to meet up with.
As for food and water, even if nobody wants to spend credits at the vending machines on perishables, we still have more than a hundred kitchenettes to raid.
Which leaves the shelter bit. We cleared the entire building yesterday. Zombies don’t seem to be able to get in anymore, and if something does find its way in, the building is big enough, we’re not instantly trapped because of it.”
Troy paused in his planning and looked over at Vanessa sleeping, curled up against the end of the couch. He signed.
“But that’s just my opinion. If we’re going to make this group work, then every one’s opinion matters. So we should be prepared to go out hunting for friends and family who might have survived. If we do, that means we’re giving up shelter temporarily, and we’ll likely have to scavenge supplies along the way. That or make everyone trade some credits for a bag of holding like mine and carry everything we can find with us.”
Mike nodded. Troy’s evaluation only made him more sure of his own.
“I have a thousand credits from the achievement rewards, I guess I could go grab a couple of those bags. They should be like five hundred credits each right?” Mike asked.
Troy shook his head though.
“No don’t waste your credits Mike. You’re our big gun, our warrior. Your credits are too important to making you stronger. Let the rest of us scrape it together. I’m learning magic from the books so I have a little extra, and I think Jessica said she had a few left over too. We should be fine.”
“If you’re sure.”
Mike tried not to smile smugly. Troy wasn’t likely to mind, but it was still douchey to get happy that everyone else was relying on him for their survival. Actually the fact he could look at it positively at all was impressive. He should have been a bundle of nerves from the pressure in Troy’s opinion.
The fact he wasn’t said something about his mental strength.
Glancing over at the battery powered clock on the wall, one of the only clocks still working in the entire building, Mike noticed it was already a a quarter to eight. It hadn’t seemed like they’d been talking for very long but it had been nearly thirty minutes.
“I’ll start cooking some eggs, you see if you can’t get everyone up,” Mike told Troy, then standing and stretching out with a groan, he added, “we need to find out where everyone’s family lives and work out a game plan for the day. I don’t think we live in a world were it’s okay to waste daylight anymore.”
Troy humphed at that, but he conceded to Mike’s point with a mumbled, “you’re probably right.”
Almost an hour later, the remaining seven survivors, Mike, Troy, Jessica, Vanessa, Amy, Rajesh, and the gunman, who’s name was apparently Hector, were gathered around a coffee table in one of the apartments.
“So that’s pretty much it. We have everything we need here, theoretically we could hole up and try to wait things out,” Troy said.
Mike had let him lead the meeting in favor of sitting next to him with his arms crossed, looking tough. He figured that Troy was better at communicating, and building an image for himself as the strong silent type would go a long way to making people listen to him when he did talk.
“But there’s two problems with that idea. One, some of us have local friends and family we’d have to give up on. And two, the zombies and other monsters seem to have some sort of leveling system of their own. While we cower in here, they’re out there getting stronger and more dangerous.”
Rajesh was the next one to speak. He looked more than a little embarrassed, to draw attention to himself, but that made perfect sense given his actions against the troll.
“I don’t think I’m cut out for wandering the streets. I get what you’re saying about not leveling up, and I’m willing to go kill a few zombies every day if it makes a difference, but I don’t want to leave the building.”
Mike noticed Hector was nodding his head in agreement. He almost said something he’d regret about cowards. But Rajesh hadn’t finished talking.
“I don’t mind working for protection or anything like that. I’ll use the last of my credits to get a basic tool kit and we can start fortifying this place or something. Anything goes really, as long as it keeps me from walking the streets with an eat me sign on my back.”
Jessica, usually calm and collected, was instantly vocal against him. A verbal fight broke out that almost turned physical before Troy got them calmed down.
Jessica’s problem with Rajesh was simple, she was one of the people with local family. Her parents and younger sister lived on the other side of town, the most direct route to her house passing near the monolith. It was no surprise to anyone to find she was worried about them.
Amy had local family too.
Only hers lived in the suburbs, the complete opposite direction from Jessica’s. She wanted to find her family just as badly. If anything, her desire was even more urgent. After all, just the day before, she’d watched her best friend in the world die, and been unable to do anything for her.
Once everybody’s thoughts were out in the open, nobody seemed inclined to compromise.
Finally, after noticing the clock read nine twenty something, Mike couldn’t take it anymore. With a growl he attracted everyone’s attention and gave his executive orders.
Troy would stay with Rajesh and Hector, holding the base down.
Aside from a daily level grind against the walking dead, and local area survivor searches, their main mission was to learn. Troy had his spell books to master. Rajesh his dwarven crafting. And Hector… Well if he wanted to stay safe with the rest of them he could damn well learn something useful too.
As for the rest of them, while it was dangerous, they’d split into pairs and head in opposite directions to look for survivors and family. Mike didn’t like giving the order, especially not when it meant he was sending two pretty young women, Amy and Vanessa, out alone.
He forced himself to ignore those thoughts. The system was an equalizer. Not to mention they were both more than competent. Adding the new pistols, strapped to their thighs, and he could be reasonably certain they had a decent chance of survival.
In fact, if anything, it was his own group that was in the worst situation. He was personally leading Jessica past the monolith. There was no telling what they’d find. Since it was the origin of everything, it was entirely possible the strongest, nastiest things were all concentrated around it.
And Mike intended to just waltz through that area.
Perhaps the most shocking thing about Mike’s arrangements, was that anyone listened to him at all. But they did, and they didn’t so much as question him about any of it.
A pool of credits was gathered and two new storage bags were purchased and filled with supplies.
One bag was given to each departing group.
Then with a brief, “see you later,” they parted, knowing they probably wouldn’t see each other again.
It wasn’t that Mike’s plans hadn’t included rendezvous instructions.
The two departing groups had three days, seventy two hours, to search for their families and other survivors. After that they were supposed to return to the apartments and reevaluate things.
One day had been enough to take their apartment building down to seven survivors. Three days outside the relative insulating safety of those walls, in the unpredictable new world…
It was no surprise each group seemed to feel like they were suddenly alone in the world.
Author : The Steve