“So when do we get started,” Mike asked, rolling his shoulders aggressively to relieve a bit of tension.
Troy and Jessica shared a look.
Troy sighed, “We don’t actually have a party of fighters willing to go out just yet. We need at least two on the roof to protect everyone, which right now would be Dan, the guy with the spear you met earlier, and Me.”
“Are you saying out of eleven of you, only two are willing to fight zombies?” Might fought to keep the disdain out of his voice.
What Troy was saying was perfectly normal. The world hadn’t been over for six hours yet. He was the weird one for having adjusted so quickly. Humans are adaptable beings, but that doesn’t mean they adapt instantly. Just having two people keeping it together this early was already good.
Troy’s next words gave Mike a little hope for the future.
“Not just us two. Jessica is willing to fight too, but she’s kind of like a symbol to the survivors of the roof battle. Look at her, this petite little girl was the first to act when people started turning. She grabbed a cinder block and brought it down on the first zombie’s head before it could bite her then rallied everyone else to do the same. I’m not sure how they would react to her leaving them right now.”
Troy put his hand on her head like she was a kid and Jessica blushed, shrugging it off.
“I’ve just seen one too many horror movies, it was instinct. I didn’t do anything special,” she mumbled with her head down.
Mike had to admit, Jessica really was cute. She was small, five foot two at the tallest, with big eyes and a lithe frame, she gave off a fairy-like vibe, full of energy. But her cuteness made it hard for him to believe she was a fighter.
“She saved my life back then if I’m being honest. Jessica isn’t the only one willing to fight either. Amy and Yuki both intend to as well. Now that Yuki is out of the woods, I’m sure Amy will be up for a little level grinding. If I include you that brings us to six, and I’m sure that number will grow as it sinks in that the world is different now.”
Mike nodded, five out of eleven wasn’t that bad at all. If he made allowances that Jessica was needed as a morale booster, and Yuki wasn’t quite ready to go hunting that left three to head out with him. Surely they didn’t need to stay and watch the doors when Jessica and Yuki were both awake and alert. Saying as much Troy
“If Dan stays to watch the other stairwell, with Jessica and Yuki already being together at this one, you don’t really need a second “guard” do you? Couldn’t two of you come with me now to scout and level grind?”
Jessica was the one to answer, “I don’t see a problem with that, in fact I think Troy is making this whole thing too complicated. You’re wearing a solution on your back,” she pointed to Mike’s golf bag filled with clubs and the wooden bat, “If we pass those around, almost everyone up here will have a weapon.
As long as Dan stays as our representative, I’m pretty sure with that I can convince the others to let me join the group too. They need us to level up to feel safer in the long run, and armed they won’t be in very much immediate danger…”
Mike would have sworn under oath that Troy rolled his eyes, but surprisingly he agreed to her idea without a fight. Things went smoothly after that as Mike waited next to the west stairwell in silence, sharing Dan’s watch duties as the other man stared daggers at him.
He had no idea what he’d done to the man. Frankly he didn’t care. So he endured the glare without so much as a word.
“You don’t remember me do you?” Dan spoke up shattering the silence, and Mike inwardly groaned.
Turning Mike gave him the once over. He did look vaguely familiar, but he couldn’t place where he knew the tall, lanky guy from.
“No I don’t guess I do,” Mike said, apologetically, “did we take a class together last semester?” He ventured.
Dan snorted, banging the but of his spear on the ground.
“You really don’t remember me?”
“No. Sorry. Either tell me why I should or shut up. I was enjoying the quiet.”
Mike shocked himself with his sudden aggression.
He’d never have said anything that provocative under normal circumstances.
The apocalypse hadn’t really had time to warp his personality had it?
What was going on with him? Could it be the bloodline? Had it changed more than just his ears?
While Mike was lost in introspection, Dan barked a laugh, “You really are an asshole, you know that? I’m the guy you started a Towers and Trolls group with freshman year then bailed on as soon as it got started. Do you know how much freaking work I had to do because of you? I had a full course load, a part time job, and an entire campaign to plan and present. I don’t think I slept more than six hours that entire semester.”
Only half listening to Dan’s rant, he heard the words Towers and Trolls and a memory surfaced.
He’d gone down to the laundry room of one of the campus dorms to attend a meeting to discuss his favorite pen and paper roll playing game. A little excited, he’d taken the stairs two at a time, when turning the corner he ran into Dando the Barbarian, a six foot three, pale, nearly naked guy with dirty blonde hair, a fake beard and chest hair, wearing glasses, and holding a plastic broad sword all while talking in Shakespearean English.
He’d decided to ditch the group almost instantly but had politely stayed for the rest of the first meeting, despite there only being two of them in attendance.
Mike hadn’t thought he was better than skinny cos-playing barbarian.
No his reasons for not wanting to be involved in the group were much simpler.
He’d deluded himself into thinking he had a chance at being in the popular crowd now that he was out of high school.
A casual TnT game wouldn’t have jeopardized that, it would have been him “expressing his individuality,” but a game where everyone dressed up and acted in character was much harder to justify as “cool.”
In the end he’d dropped the group for no reason. Instead of becoming popular he’d slowly withdrawn into himself till computer games not only took up most of his time but actually let him pay his bills and feed his face.
Genuinely feeling sorry, Mike apologized to Dan who snorted and then with a smirk seemed to reverse his opinion of Mike as he said, This is better than any TnT campaign anyway, am I right?”
Mike didn’t know how to answer him.
On the one hand he understood the feeling. He’d felt more alive in the last few hours than he had in months maybe years.
But it was too easy to let that feeling trick him. This was not a game. It wasn’t a campaign with a treasure at the end. This was survival.
Having apparently just redeemed himself in Dan’s eyes, he didn’t feel like picking a fight. Instead he mumbled something noncommital, then seeing Jessica leading Amy, Yuki and Troy over towards them, he moved to meet them.
Gesturing at Yuki he asked, “are you okay?”
“I’m not one hundred percent, but I don’t think I have time to stay sitting on my ass,” Yuki said, determination obvious in her voice.
Mike nodded, giving her a half smile. As long as nothing really unexpected happened he felt an unfounded confidence that he’d be able to keep the group safe even if the rest of them turned out to suck at hunting.
“Are we ready?” He asked.
“Not quite. We should talk about what we’re going out there to do. Have a plan for it.” Troy said.
This time it was Jessica who rolled her eyes, “Mike, one of the girls, Vanessa, came up from the ground floor when everything started. She claims that as she was sneaking into the stairwell she noticed the vending machines in the lobby had changed. They looked like they’d become part of the「System」. When we heard her story it made us think about the vending machine shops described in the information download that all new players got. We think they might be the same thing.”
Jessica’s conclusion about the vending machines, made sense to Mike.
The term vending machine shop might even have been an intentional reference to the pre「System」function they had served, a blatant hint by the「System」to help them figure things out. Though if the「System」wanted to help them it could have just as easily included pictures etc. so that no guess work was needed in the first place.
“So you want to go to the ground floor to check this out?” Mike asked.
The others nodded more or less in unison.
“Then that’s what we’ll do…” Mike paused, swallowing a bit nervously, before he added, “after we grind a few levels,”
He didn’t like taking the role of leader on himself, but it really felt like if he didn’t, then nobody would. Democracy might be more fair, but it also made decision take more time. In this new world, decision would likely need to be spur of the moment way more often than not. Becoming chief of this little tribe was as much for them as it was for him.
At least that’s what Mike told himself as he watched the others agree to his pronouncement without protest.
It struck him that they seemed to have wanted a leader far more than he wanted to be one.
Author : The Steve