Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Part 102


"Don't ... move," Cochran mouthed quietly while slowly trying to edge in front of me.

I wanted to say no kidding and to tell him to stop moving because he was going to get in the way of my bat, but I didn't dare.  A dozen puss brains were sniffing around the cabin.  The recognized human habitation and they could probably smell that it was recent but they didn't these apparently didn't have enough problem solving skills left in them to really attack the cabin to get what was in side.  Good thing I make a habit of completely closing and locking things down when I'm not there.  I've even figured out how to chain the door in place.  The only thing I hadn't done was bring in my laundry.

One of them had one of the socks I had hung to dry and was trying to eat it.  I knew exactly which one it was too.  I had dropped a can on my foot right on the end of my toe and split the nail back to the quick last night.  I didn't realize it had been bleeding until I took my boots off to go to sleep.  I changed socks and then rinsed the dirty ones this morning and laid them over the porch rail to dry.  Since the puss brain only seemed interested in that one sock (they were that fake stretchy nylon stuff) rather than the others it could only be that they smelled the blood.

The puss brains were moving slow but they shouldn't have been moving at all ... it was freaking 29 degrees in direct sunlight according to the thermometer nailed to the side of the front door.  Freezing is 32 degrees and that's when puss brains fall into a stupor.  What we were seeing we should not have been seeing.

Cochran edged us back into the tree line and we dropped down.  Despite the cold I could see sweat forming in the dark peach fuzz that made up his mustache.

I whispered, "This is wrong ... this is ... this ..."

"Adaptation," he muttered while bringing up his rifle.

"Adapt what?"

"Adaptation.  The scientists - the ones you call the dimwit docs - were all excited during a briefing the other day.  Apparently a small handful of infecteds are not as affected by the cold as originally thought.  They called it adaptation, saying it was mankind's most basic and important trait and what sets us apart from most animals.  They considered it further proof that the infecteds could eventually be rehabilitated in some way."

I thought about the run in that Jace, Sammy, and I had with the puss brains that wound up killing her ... and Jace in a round about way.  Using tools, putting on extra clothes, using strategy ... that must have been adaptation too.  And I wasn't sure that it was going to be as good a thing as the docs thought it was.  It sure as heck wasn't changing their basic biology and making them less violent.

Cochran whispered in my ear, "I've got to warn Base about this.  The leading edge of the next horde is supposed to still be two days away from arriving."

"Maybe these are locals," I whispered bac,.

"Uh uh.  See their clothes?  See those neon orange splotches?  They've been using paint balls to tag the infecteds to see how many free range infecteds get attracted to the ones that are being herded along."

I didn't make a sound but the look on my face must have said what I was thinking because Cochran nodded, "I know.  It sounds obscene but that's the way it is so I have to deal with it.  Hold my rifle so I can call the Major.  Watch the trigger, it's sensitive."

In no time he was connected and there was an unnecessary amount of noise coming out of his handset.  Gwen was saying, "We know!  We've got them here too.  Apparently a private contracting firm thought they could add their horde to the one we were waiting on and kill two birds with one stone.  All they did was !@#$ things up by disturbing the horde hiearchy.  The Major says if you can't get back here to bunker down and keep your ears open and follow the guideliness unless directly threatened with imminent infection.  He's trying to get word to the civilian camps to warn them.  We're hoping the drop in temperatures tonight will be sufficient to take them down.  We are due another cold front that should drop it into the teens during the day tomorrow or the next day.  Stay safe."

He moved back in front of me and took the rifle after securing his radio.  "You heard?"

"Oh yeah.  Right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing and vice versa."

"Not quite.  I mean yeah but this time it isn't the military's fault.  The people supporting the docs' plans let the cat out of the bag saying it was working before we are really proof positive that it will.  Lots of private contractors have been hired to do the same thing only that's moving stuff too fast.  It is too many to process and even if we can gather them up here there are not enough facilities to ship them to yet.  It was supposed to take two or three years to execute the plan completely but everyone is trying to jam up and be first to clear their area.  They want them gone, they don't think about how to make that happen or that it won't happen  without them doing their part in their area and using some patience."

We both stopped as one of the puss brains slowly turned in our direction.  He made some kind of guttural noise and then screamed and began to lope in our direction.  He was slow compared to what most puss brains could move but he was fast enough.  Cochran and I both shot at the same time.  Per usual my shot was low and caught the infected in the chest; Cochran's was a head shot and had he been any slower my foul up would have lost him the shot completely.

Instead of running away the rest of the puss brains turned to see what the noise was about and somehow got a whiff of us and started heading our way in a slow but steady pace.

"Aw Carp," I said through gritted teeth.

"That's not the half of it.  Let's get this over with and we'll do what we have to."

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