Rush out to help the soldier you can leave the man lying on the ground, dying right outside your house.
"Im going out there," you say to your nephew. His eyes widen, and he bounces in place nervously.
"Wait here, and if anything goes wrong, keep the door closed and locked," you say, giving your nephew a quick hug before leaving.
You unlock the front door and rush across your lawn. Moving closer, you can see that the soldiers eyes are half-open, and he mutters a phrase over and over, "White wall." As you reach the injured man, he stirs on the ground and waves the pistol in a circle. He has tan skin which looks waxy and paler than you imagine his normal tone to be. His name tag reads Lopez, and you can tell by his uniform that hes a Private First Class.
"Im here to help. Just relax," you say in a calm voice and place your hands on his arm and shoulder.
His eyes open, and he lays the gun across his stomach. He glances left to right, scanning the area. "Sorry," he says and rubs his lips together. "Water…please."
As the soldier lies on the ground, you offer to take him inside where its safe
Whatever hurt this soldier is likely still on the street and might come to finish the job. It makes sense to bring him inside and out of harms way.
"Its not safe out here. Im going to bring you inside," you say and squat over the soldier, slipping your hands under his armpits to help him up. You hoist him into the air, almost to his feet, but he squirms and groans, slipping out of your grip. Though you try to keep him up, he tumbles out of your arms to the ground.
"White…a wall," Lopez mutters again. He swallows hard and squeezes his eyelids shut.
"We need to get you inside. Can you stand?"
As you speak, Lopez rolls onto his side and places the bloody cloth on his neck. The pistol falls to the street, disappearing under a parked car. He struggles to rise but only manages to sit on the curb, legs in the street. As he tries to stand, an engine roars in the distance. From around the corner, an armored Humvee straddles the sidewalk and straightens at the end of its turn. As the hum of the engine rumbles through the street, Lopez springs to his feet, wobbles, then crashes down onto his hands and knees. He half crawls, half drags himself a few feet before tumbling curbside onto the street. You try to catch him before he falls, but he moves with determination. Again he mutters, "White wall," then he shouts it with a boom from his chest.
The Humvee rolls to a screeching stop, and the front passenger door swings open. Out steps a tall, lean man with a youthful face. Curly blond hair pokes out from under his cowboy hat. He carries an M16 and leaps up to sit on the front hood of the vehicle. His bottom lip bulges, and he spits a wad of brown liquid into the grass. Though his nametag says "Lefleur," you can help but think of him as a cowboy.
The driver steps out next, a massively built man with dark features and a bald head. He folds his arms over his chest, which further bulges the muscles of his arms. His nametag reads "Croston."
The back door on the drivers side swings out, and a dark-haired woman slides out. Shes shorter than the top of the Humvees door but stands tall and strong in her battle fatigues. Her hair is curled up in a bun, though several strands hang over her thin face and seem to bounce off of her high cheekbones as she walks. As she moves onto the lawn, she sidesteps the cowboys spittle and adjusts a holstered pistol on her belt. You spot her name tag, which reads "White." She wears the rank of a Sergeant.
"Good day, Captain. Are you on duty?"
"Id advise against questioning a superior officer, Sergeant," you say, showing her whos in charge.
Her eyebrows draw inward and lips form a tight line, even as she speaks. "Sorry, sir. Its just…you don seem to be on duty, so I thought this wasn a formal introduction."
"Im not used to questions from my soldiers, but well get along if we understand each other."
"Seems fair. Anyway, we
e just here looking for our man who left his post."
White glances back down to the injured soldier.
"All right, Lopez, we found you," she says and nods to Croston.
Lopez swings his arms wildly as the muscled soldier hoists him up as easily as a father carrying a squirming toddler.
"No, no," Lopez mutters until Croston sits him in the back of the Humvee and closes the door.
"Well, our work here is done," she says in an upbeat tone. She picks up Lopezs pistol from the ground and tucks it into her belt. "Lets head out, boys."
As the soldiers turn to leave, you…
Stop them to discuss something Mind if we talk a bit more before you go?"
The soldiers stop in unison, then White steps forward. "We have to get back to our post, but I have a minute."
"Lopez was muttering white a wall when I got to him. Any idea what that means?"
Whites forehead wrinkles, and she bites the corner of her lip. "Strange. I have no idea. The man must have been so mentally unstable that he was speaking gibberish."
"Maybe you were standing on a wall of the shelter last he saw you," Cowboy says with a smirk.
"Its possible," White says. "We have Lopez now. Ill debrief him once hes coherent, and Ill get to the bottom of it."
All of Whites answers seem suspicious, and you
e starting to wonder if her true purpose is to save Lopez or to cover up the truth.
Bring up my suspicions to White and the other soldiers.
The left the house after you started to become suspicious.
You try to hack into the government surveillance cameras Leaving your home to search your area and gather information involves substantial risk to your survival, but you know one way to view your neighborhood and surrounding locations without leaving the safety of your home.
While learning about common network systems flaws, you spent time about a year ago testing theories and cracking techniques on a real-world model—Nightfalls electronic infrastructure. What you uncovered was a system with abundant security flaws and opportunities for invasion. You were able to not only use the citys surveillance cams, but you could control them, along with the traffic lights.
When you finished using the network for learning purposes, you provided an anonymous report to the citys system administrators. To this date, few of the flaws have been fixed.
The first row of windows shows the main avenue flowing through the center of Nightfall. Police and the National Guard man roadblocks, cutting off traffic leaving or entering the city. Emergency vehicles drive through neighborhoods, patrolling and searching. The citizens of your city are armed and vigilant, traveling in groups and wary of one another.
Another row of cameras focuses upon the area between Nightfall and Chipper Ridge. On one screen, a Red Cross vehicle lies on its side, windows broken, doors open, a trail of blood leading away from the wreckage to the corner of a building and out of view. On another screen, a pack of infected stroll through Civic Center Park near City Hall. They hobble along the cobblestone path like they
e scouting for a perfect spot for a morning picnic.
On still another screen, a row of cars wait for fuel at a gas station. At the head of the line, a stout man on a motorcycle bypasses the lead car, pulls out a pump, and fills his vehicle. The attendant argues with him, and the stout man punches him square in the face, knocking him out.
A developing scene in the last camera window catches your eye—a military jeep with a machine gun mounted on the back swerving to a stop in front of a van of people. A woman with flowing red hair stands at the .50 caliber machine gun and bounces on the back. Neither the woman nor the two men in the front seats wear military uniforms, and as the jeep veers to a halt, the man in the passenger side hops from the vehicle, carrying an FN P90, a futuristic-looking submachine gun with a blunt barrel and top-mounted magazine.
The van doors open and out step a pair of college-age men, and from the back come two women. Though you can hear through the cameras, you see the leader ordering the young group to the ground. One of the students, a tall blonde woman with a volleyball team shirt and gym shorts, stands by the van and shouts back at the bandit with the submachine gun. She yells and swings her hands around as she argues, but as she glances down at her friends on the ground, the leader throws a fist into her midsection. She doubles over in pain. Her friends start to rise, but the red-haired woman aims the mounted machine gun and shouts at them. The three shaken and angry students return to the edge of the sidewalk.
The leader grabs the blonde student by her long ponytail and yanks her toward the jeep, throwing her into the back hatch. He wears a disturbing smile as he stares at her athletic body, and as she tries to move away from the jeep, the lead bandit shoves her into the back next to the machine-gun mount.
And then the feed drops.
Static fills the camera for a few seconds, so you refresh the screen. When the connection restores, the red-haired woman and the leader are in a heated exchange. The red-haired bandit points to the college woman in the back of the jeep and motions for her to leave, while the leader blocks her from leaving. While they argue, the gunner rocks back and forth, covering his face with his arm.
Again the camera screen distorts, and this time it dumps the feed. You try to reset the camera remotely, but now you can even see it on the network. You open a new terminal window and feverishly type commands to locate another camera in the area. You can work fast enough, and a full minute passes as you search for a way to watch the bandits. Finally, you find a camera atop a bank across the intersection, and when you connect, you see the image of the scene from farther away. All four students are sitting on the curb, including the blonde with the volleyball shirt. The gunner takes a few bags and a cooler from the van to the jeep, and the leader sits in the jeeps passenger seat, staring at the four held students. You focus on the red-haired woman, who remains in the back of the jeep, still operating the machine gun, but her demeanor has changed. She stares down at the leader, her eyebrows narrowed and forming a V, her cheeks as red as her hair, and her mouth drawn into a thin line. She aims the barrel in a slow arc towards the leaders back, but when he glances up, she swings the weapon away.
This goes on for a while until the gunner finishes looting the van. Once finished, the bandits drive away, and you finish your session of camera watching.
You turn on the CB radio and tune the frequency dial to various channels usually used by truck drivers. As you noticed before, most channels are filled with chatter by people using it to discuss the outbreak, request help, or find out information. You search the airwaves for keywords related to the Santa Fe area or truckers who work for K-Mart. After twenty minutes, you come across a frequency with only a few people discussing the highways of New Mexico, and you take your shot and ask if anyone knows Delroy, Freds uncle.
"This is Delroy. Whos this?" he says, voice loud and crackling over the radio.
"This is Aaron Amah. Im a neighbor to your nephew, Fred. Hes trying to reach his mother."
"Shes here. Hold on," Delroy says. You hear him yelling in the background, which becomes static when he clicks off his microphone. Minutes pass. The chatter picks up on the line. More time passes, leading you to wonder if its really Delroy or whether something might have happened, that Freds mother isn coming. After a full ten minutes, you hear a burst of static and the voice of an older woman over the airwaves.
"Just hit the button? I am hittin the button. Oh, I can talk? This is Freds momma."
"Hello, Mrs. Tate. My name is Aaron. Im a friend of your son."
"Who? I can barely hear through this radio," she yells.
"Freds friend, Aaron."
"What happened to Fred?"
"Hes fine," you say, trying to speak in a clear, crisp voice.
"Hes DYING? Oh, lord!"
"No, I said hes fine. F-I-N-E." You spell out each letter in the hopes the old woman understands.
"Gimme the microphone, Thelma," Delroy says, and you hear muffled arguing before he returns. "Sorry about that. She can hear too good. Ill talk for her. Go ahead with your message."
You let him know that Fred is alive and well, secure at home as we wait out the quarantine. Delroy assures you that all is fine in Santa Fe, they have over a weeks worth of food and water, and their ranch home is locked up tighter than an "armadillos back." The National Guard has moved into the area, and nearby Albuquerque has been hit hard by the outbreak, requiring early evacuations. Delroy thanks you for contacting Thelma and putting her mind at ease, as shes worried about her son. After saying goodbye to Delroy, you call Freds house to share the good news about reaching his mother. The line rings six times before voicemail kicks in. The message says to leave a message or call Freds shop.
You hang up and try the number to the shop, and when no one answers, you call the house again, all with the same result. Is he still alive? Did he abandon his home, or was he forced out? What if hes hurt and needs help? Since hes your neighbor, you could walk over and check on him, but every action has risks in the apocalypse.You check the time—12:00 pm.
Loud, repeated knocks hammer the front door of your home. Johnny leaps to his feet and bounds toward the disturbance. You rush to the window and peer through the spaces in the boards. By your side, Max stands in attention, ready to defend you. Just outside on your porch is Tommy, who you saw last night at the Makarovs house. He slams his hand on your door with quick, constant blows. Small flecks of red are splattered on his t-shirt, and his right arm has smears of blood up and down like strokes of paint.
"Aaron! Aaron!" he calls, as he hits the door. "Please, I need help."
His voice trails at the end, his face pale and tear-stained. As he stops his zealous knocking, he looks over each shoulder up and down the street. "Please, Aaron, I need help."
The area appears clear of the living and the dead, and Tommy leans his head on the door and mutters under his breath as he waits for a reply. You see no signs of him signaling someone nearby nor anyone watching him at your door. Scanning him closely, you see bruises on his knuckles, likely not made from knocking on your door. The desperation in his voice and nervous movements tell you he is in genuine distress. You open the door and invite him in. Tommy needs help.You unlock the door and swing it wide open. "Tommy, what happened? Are you okay?"
"Its my mother," Tommy says as he rushes into your home, voice uneven and frazzled. "We were on our way home from her friends house when a man—an infected man—ran out from an alley. He bit her. I couldn stop him, and he bit her."
He staggers and grabs onto your arm. You hold him up and try to lead him to the sofa. As you turn, Johnny bumps into you from standing so close.
"Sorry," he says and takes a step back.
"No! We have to go. Shes dying. I know you
e in the military. I thought you can call someone to help her, so I came here. Theres not much time."
Youve never seen Tommy like this: distraught, on edge, erratic. He hasn given you enough details to determine whether or not his mother can be saved. Even if shes already infected, Tommy is in no state to make good decisions and deal with his mother before she turns. Going with Tommy may also provide an opportunity to obtain supplies. Of course, heading into a situation with a potentially infected person is not just dangerous but a distraction from your own focus on survival
Lets go, Tommy," you say and go with him to his house. His mother can be helped, but Ill pretend to help. Thank you," Tommy says with a deep sigh and rushes past you to the door.
Before you go, you turn to Johnny. "I want to go and help," he says and reaches for his backpack.
e coming with me," you say. He needs to see the reality of the outbreak and how to deal with it.Your nephew beams a smile and strides to the door. Max paces near the door, anticipating you
e leaving the house. You also take Max with you You join Tommy outside, pausing only to lock the door. Tommy does a double-take at your nephew but says nothing. The neighborhood looks desolate, and the rows of houses are quiet and still. Somewhere in the distance a loud series of pops ring out. Days ago, you might think a car backfired, but now you know its gunfire.
"I should have never taken her to visit Mrs. Ortega. It was so stupid," Tommy says, his tone heavy with anger. "We had just left the house when this old man came at us. Mom knew him—I think she said his name was Mr. OLeary. I had seen him before, and he walked with a limp—some kind of accident when he was younger. I thought nothing of it: the way he moved, lifted his arms, even his moan. Nothing felt wrong. It all happened so fast, and as she went to hug him, I saw his face, all twisted and pocked. I froze. He bit her arm deep, and she screamed and tried to push him off. I shoved him away and, oh God, her skin was in his mouth. I punched him, but it seemed to do nothing, but I hit him again and again until he fell."
Tommy lifts his hand and stares at the bruised knuckles. Though his normally fair skin is black-and-blue, its not broken and shows no signs of infection. "When he was on the ground, I kicked him and kept kicking until he stopped moving. The side of his head was pushed in, and it looked strange like freezer-burned meat. Ive never killed anyone before."
Tommy stares off to nowhere, his face blank, expressionless. Tortured by the stress of seeing his mother bitten, his psyche is fragile. With you by his side to get him through this overwhelming situation, you can pull him in close under your influence.
Max stops and pulls at his leash. You give the leash a short tug, and the dog heels. His ears cock, and his head turns to the side. You scan the area and spot movement in a house—a writhing living corpse held back by a gated window for as long as its left there by time or mercy.
Walking next to him, you think of how to reply to Tommy…