Updated: Jul 28
Axel pointed the unloaded gun at her. “But I’m the best of the best.” She crossed her arms and tapped her foot. It was a usual stance for Angela to take.
“Axel, I swear to god.” She let out a frustrated sigh. “All I’m saying is that you could learn a thing or two from Violet.”
He loaded the gun and shoved it into his holster. “If anything, I could teach her a thing or two.”
Angela stepped closer and lowered her voice. “The girl was top guard at her last base and when they were coming here the team was scattered by an infected hoard. She was out there two weeks alone, no ammo and still didn’t get bitten.”
“I could totally do that.” Axel rolled his eyes.
“Look, as your commanding officer its an order, take her on the next supply run.” Angela gave him a hard look and waited. He reluctantly nodded before she turned and walked away. He stuck out his tongue at her back, if anyone should have been commanding officer it should have been him. Axel grabbed an apple and headed to the assembly area.
The team was already geared up when he arrived. It was all the usual suspects plus one extra. She was relatively short, it was almost comical. Angela thought that she could teach something to him. How absurd, she was shorter, smaller and younger than him. Axel could beat her anytime.
The girl, Violet, fidgeted on the outskirts of the group. He walked over to her. “I’m Axel.” She looked him up and down.
“Angela told me about you,” she said carefully.
“About my great leadership and skill?”
“Something like that,” she mumbled, then she straightened, “What are we looking for in this run.”
“That doesn’t concern you, I’ll take care of it.”
“You’ll take care of it,” she asked incredulously, her mouth practically hanging open. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“It means that I don’t need a team to do this, Angela just makes me take one. You are all dead weight so just try not to die while we’re out there.” Violet pursed her lips and stepped away from him. Axel didn’t follow, he was getting bored with her now.
He walked towards the gates yelling for everyone to follow. They fell into line behind him the same as always. “Anything?” he asked the guard at the top of the gate.
“No visual infected,” he yelled back and began to turn the crank next to him. Slowly the gate shuttled itself up so they could slip underneath it.
“Stay in formation and keep your eyes peeled,” he yelled over his shoulder. They stalked across the barren perimeter zone with guns out and entered the forested area. It was dense here but infected often made enough noise that you heard them long before you saw them. Violet made her way up the group so that she was walking beside him.
“Get behind me,” he hissed.
“You are not my commanding officer. I am here as a favour to Angela.” That made Axel grit his teeth. “Now if you want to be smart about this there is a crashed medical van west of here that would have supplies.”
“How do you know that?”
“I passed it when I came in. And before you ask, I know you want medicine. Every base camp needs more medicine.”
Axel glanced at her. “We are going to the hospital not far from here.”
“That won’t be any use, most bases have near-by hospitals that have run dry. It’ll take too long to search through the building. Especially if no one else is looking for what you need.”
“We are going to that hospital. Now get back with the rest of the group.” Violet shut up after that, but she didn’t move back. He ignored her for now. They trekked the rest of the rest of the way in silence.
The thick vegetation thinned out to reveal the hospital in front of them. Axel stood up straighter and holstered his gun, making sure to glance at Violet as he did. She stared right back and didn’t move the gun from her own hand.
Axel headed straight for the doors. “Spread out around the front,” he said to the team and pushed his way in through the doors. He stood in the middle of what once was the emergency room. To get any decent medication he’d have to go up to a higher level than usual. The doors behind him squeaked and he spun pulling his gun out finger resting on the trigger. Behind him stood Violet, “Someone’s got to watch you’re back.”
He headed for the stairs. "I don’t need any help, I can do this alone.”
“That’s just stupid.” She walked quickly beside him to keep up with his long strides. “Never go anywhere without back up, you don’t know if there anything else in this building.”
“That’s rich coming from you,” he said through gritted teeth.
“Look I did what I had to, it was all about survival, the rest of my team was dead or bitten. I had no one else and if I had I would have wanted them watching my back for those two weeks. I am not arrogant enough to think I’m invincible.” She glanced sideways at him.
“I’m not invincible, I’m just better. That base would not exist without me.”
“I’m sure that’s true, but I bet there’s a lot of other people that made that base possible.” They reached the third floor and hit the wall of smell. The rotting smell of skin mixed with hot blood floated around them. “There’s an infected here.” She whispered holding her gun in front of her.
“That’s just the bodies that were left behind when everyone fled. They’ve been rotting here for years.”
“Trust me, I know that smell, it is distinctly the smell of infected. One that has been up here for a very long time.” Violet walked carefully behind him as he inspected each room. Most of them were empty or destroyed to the point that nothing was salvageable. He glanced back at Violet, she was paying him no attention, alert for the infected that wasn’t here. Axel chewed his lip as they walked. There had to be a room with something left. Anything to prove that he was right.
They came to a locked room and Axel smiled triumphantly. No one had been in here since the infection, it would have medication. He rammed his shoulder against the door.
“Shut up.” Violet hissed, “You’ll bring it right to us.” He looked at her and kept hitting the door. The splintering of wood echoed across the floor. “Shut up,” she said again.
“Almost there.” The door broke loose of the lock. Axel smiled to himself, more than enough supplies to prove he was right. There were a lot of drugs that he didn’t know the name of and some bandages. The doctor back at base would be ecstatic. It had been a while since a supply run had brought back this much. He loaded up his bag and swung it onto his back.
“Can we go now?” Violet asked. For the first time since entering the third floor Axel took a good look at her face. There were worry lines across her face that weren’t there before and there was something grave in the way she held herself. It was as if she was preparing herself for death.
He was so surprised that all he said was; “Yes.” He followed her towards the stairwell, this time watching the way she moved. Every muscle remained coiled and ready to flee at a moments notice. Her head moved from side to side constantly. She was making him nervous, his skin was starting to itch, and his hair stood on end. Axel resisted the urge to reach for his gun, she would not change his mind. He’d been right about the hospital having what they needed, and he was right about there being no infected here.
The man jumped from the shadows with no warning. There was hardly enough time to even reach for his gun. Axel threw up an arm to protect himself and the man hit him hard, knocking them both to the ground. The characteristic blood oozing out of the infected's mouth onto his chest and its wild eyes rolled from side to side. Axel had never been this close to an infected that was alive, it turned all his insides to jelly. He felt its teeth scrape at his shoulder and then it stopped moving. The gunshot echoed around him. Violet walked over carefully.
“Did it get you?” she asked her gun trained on him.
“What, are you going to shoot me?”
“It’s better than becoming one of them.” She jerked her head at the infected. He stared into the barrel of the gun and thought about how much he didn’t want to die.
“No, it didn’t bite me,” he said as he rolled the man off him and pulled his sleeve over the graze. It wasn’t a lie, the infected really didn’t bite him properly. She nodded and helped him up and they left the building quickly after that.
When they got back, he dropped the supplies to the doctor, and he turned ready to get some sleep. “Axel,” Violet called, “wait up.” He stopped, pulling at his sleeve again just to check that it was covering his shoulder. “I think that you could be a really good leader if you put, you’re mind to it. But you need to let go of this arrogance you have. Be proud of what you can do but not to the point that you get complacent.” Axel nodded. Anything to get away from this conversation, he was starting to sweat. “Anyway, I was going to teach some of the guards some knife throwing because it can come in handy. Do you want to learn too?”
“No,” he shook his head, “I think I need some rest.” Axel suddenly felt out of breath. She looked him over carefully.
“Are you sure that you are okay?” He could feel his shoulder beginning to throb under the material. There had been a few recorded cases of immunity to the infection. If anyone had that it would be him.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” Axel said, the metallic taste of blood swirling in his mouth.
First published by Black Hare Press in Pride