Semester of the Dead 2, Chapter 4

I gather a bag.  I came here with nothing.  Hell, the backpack isn’t even mine.  They were giving them away at the Survival School on my way out. I can’t believe this is happening to me.   All I know is I’m taking everything that I can gather into a backpack.  Hygiene products, duct tape, flashlight, knives, paper clips, and towels are all stuffed to the brim in this bag.  I did the one thing I wasn’t supposed to.  I failed Survival School on day one.

I figure at this point it’s best to just sneak out without anyone noticing.   For all, I knew they were all pissed at me anyway.  Might as well get out while I can.

I make it down the steps into the kitchen grabbing more supplies.  Canisters. Foil.  Hell, I even managed to take a thing of condoms.

I’m surprised to see Valentina, Mitchell, and Iggy at the base of the stairs.

“You taking your sweet time to pack aren’t you?” Iggy asks.

I’m flushed with embarrassment.  I was never really good at goodbyes.  In the world we lived in, goodbyes were a luxury you can’t really afford.   Now they were here though and my heart was heavy.  I hated the feeling of wanting to miss someone.  Maybe that’s why I just nod and shuffle forward awkwardly.

“I was going to…I was just packing…trying to figure out where I can keep all of this stuff,” I state.

“I’ll carry some of your load, put it in my bag,” Iggy states.

That’s when I notice something that I haven’t noticed before.  All three of my friends have bags with them.  They all three literally have done the same exact thing that I’ve done but faster.   I’m in a little shock when Iggy walks over grabs the condoms out of my hands and stuffs it in his pocket.

“What are you doing?” I ask.

He looks down at the condoms, “Never know when these will come in handy…”

“Not about the condoms,” I respond, “Why are you guys packed?”

Valentina crosses her arms, “I told them what happened.  About you getting flunked on the first day…’

“What the fuck were you thinking,” Mitchell asks, “You ruined this for all of us.”

“Mitchell…we had this talk about not making him feel bad,” Iggy states.

Mitchell shuts up and turns away seeming a little irritated.

“That was ME,” I state, “They didn’t flunk you.”

Perhaps it didn’t even occur to the others before now that I had no intention of bringing them with me out of the city.  The way they react when I say what I say is a clear surprise.   The surprise in itself is mutual though.  Why would they want to leave and go out there?

It’s Iggy who talks really slow and gets really specific, “Wait, let me get this right?  You think for a moment that we were going to let you leave alone?”

“It’s just…”

I don’t even get to finish.  Iggy is in my face.  He’s never been super tall, only about 5’10” but he always seemed to be a lot bigger in height then he really was.  I can see the seriousness of his expressions threatening to contort his smooth skin.  His forehead wrinkles up aggressively.

“I would never leave you,” Iggy tells me.

It’s powerful when he says it.  Almost a gut to the stomach.  His hand somehow finding mine in these moments when my own failures had managed to get the best of me.

“We will never leave you,” Valentina corrects Iggy, rolling her eyes for extra impact.

Iggy shrugs, “That’s what I meant.”

Valentina manages to push past her brother, “I want to be here.  I want to be here more than anything.  But you three are the only thing I have left as far as family.  My mother is well…”

She doesn’t like to talk about her mother.  Dr. Serrano had proved quite the disappointment to all of us back when this all started. I didn’t think she wanted to relive that memory.  I see her crossing her arms and trying to look for the words.

Her twin picks up where she leaves off as though he can read her mind, “My mother made us promise to keep you safe.  I know the reasons she wants to keep you safe were selfish, but we are going to keep that promise.  To ourselves and to you.”

Valentina shrugs, “Besides you know when swarms are approaching.   You are a living breathing ADT alarm system.  No way in hell I feel safe outside of that.”

I’m confused.

“This could be our last hope.   This could be YOUR last hope for regular life,” I tell my friends, “You all are really willing to risk all of this?”

“I love you,” Iggy states before adding with a quick emphasis, “WE love you.”

It makes me smile either way he wants to say it.  I look over at Valentina.

“We survived this long,” Valentina states.

That’s when I look over at Mitchell.

He’s quiet.

Real Quiet.

“Mitchell…” I start.

Mitchell doesn’t say anything, “I’ll come…”

“But do you want to come?”

Mitchell sighs.  He is upset.  He didn’t want to leave this place.  I can see it all on his face.  Truth is we barely survived long enough to come here in the first place.  I could see him looking outside of the window.  He didn’t have to say a word.  I knew what fear was.  I’d seen it a million times when the Biters were on our heels outside of the walls of Little America.

“I’ll do what the group does,” he dejectedly whimpers not with the near the same resolution as the Serrano twins.

I can feel the tension that he feels.

“What if I talk to Channing?” I ask, “See if there is any way he would rethink letting us leave.”

“I don’t know how I feel about you begging…” Iggy quickly counters.

I was thinking the same thing.  If it were just for me, I wouldn’t beg.  If it were just for me I’d be willing to walk away from all this and die somewhere with the pride of knowing I’d done my best to survive.  But then I look at Mitchell’s face.  I can’t do it to him.  Regardless of how secure Valentina looked, I knew she was a social butterfly.  Conversing with her stoic brother, a geeky Mitchell and a walking petri dish probably weren’t going to meet her social interaction quota.

Iggy would have been the only one OK with leaving but truthfully I hated that he was getting so used to that lifestyle.  I hated that he had become too accustomed to having to be tough all the time.  I wanted him to be softer.

“I’ll find a way to convince him,” I tell Iggy.

“Great,”  Valentina states, “Because I think I know where he is…”

“Where?”

“A party,” Valentina states, “I got invited to one.  He’ll definitely be there. “

The rest of us look at one another.  Clearly, the rest of us weren’t comfortable with a party as she was.  We all had our reasons.  I’m sure mine was a lot different from the other two boys.  This was the end of the world.  How the fuck was there a party in the first place.

All I knew was that we didn’t have a choice at this point.

if I wanted hope of saving my friends.  I was going to have to crash this party.

~

It’s the next day that we get to the party.   School is out and everyone had decided to go to this pool party to celebrate the new school year.  The sun is hot in the sky.

The music was as loud as thunder; it made the cutlery on the tabletops rattle. Neon lights flashed everywhere like police sirens, but much more colorful.  I kept feeling as though this was all some warning.  Some warning about Biters breaking through.  I keep thinking the quick movement of the people who rush past me screaming is them trying to warn me.   I keep looking over at the exits.  The house just had two.  The window was too small to get out of.  The house was too crowded.  People were too drunk.  If we were attacked now would anyone know?

“I’d never thought I would be at a party again,” Mitchell whispers.

The four of us have changed and gotten here.  There is a wildness in everyone’s eyes, except for us.  There was an abandon.  Alcohol most likely had to do with it.  Underage drinking.  I couldn’t remember the last time I had a real drink.  Not a real one.  Alcohol took away your survival instincts.  And that was the only thing that kept us alive.

“Be on your guard,” Iggy tells all of us.

It’s the same thing he’s probably said a million times.  Leave it to Iggy to be one of the most attractive men in the room and immediately walk in looking like a bronze FUCK ME sign but only be caring about keeping us safe.   I see attention frosting over us piling high like winter snow when the girls notice who he is.  If I weren’t mistaken his uncouth and disregard for interaction has caused a lot of these girls to want him even more.

“No not today,”  Valentina states.

It’s rare Valentina argues with Iggy especially when it came to survival.  We had made him a leader without having to say the words.  It was always like—duh, who the fuck else was going to lead us besides Iggy.  So when Valentina speaks out we’re all sort of raising eyebrows.

“Valentina this place is a tragedy waiting to happen,” Iggy warns her.

Valentina shrugs, “No it’s not.  Look at these people.  Look at us.  Fuck my guard.  For once—-fuck it, Iggy.  I’m going to get drunk, dance the day away and probably suck some guy’s dick in the bathroom.”

“VAL!”

“No.  I’ve made up my mind.   We need to show these people we are making some sort of effort to fit in.  Us being so guarded is what got Sunday in this mess in the first place.”

Valentina lets her hair out of the ponytail that she has.  It’s rare she does that anymore.  Her hair had gotten ridiculously long and I remember Iggy continuously warning her to cut it off but they’d compromised to having her tie it back.  Now he couldn’t control her.  Her letting that ponytail go was her sign that she was ready to be a teenager again.

She walks away taking off before her twin says anything else.  I look over at Iggy and I kind of feel where he is coming from but then I hear Valentina’s words as well.

I was guarded.  That’s why I attacked Channing in the first place.

“You two look out for Channing.  Sunday pull him aside when you get the chance,” he states, “I’m going to make sure my sister doesn’t do something stupid.”

He leaves us alone.  Me and Mitchell.  It’s awkward as fuck.  Mitchell and I were rarely alone together anymore.  At least Iggy pulled the attention from the teenage girls away when he tried to walk over to Valentina.  Mitchell and I completely got lost in the crowd looking around.

We don’t say anything for a while.  There is a girl, a girl who has taken to hopping on a bar behind us and twerking to the sound of music.  Of course, it was old music, music from before the world ended.  It wasn’t like there were any artists around making new songs.  She could care less though.  The way the girl is flinging her hair it might as well be new.

“I hate this,” I admit in a whisper, “It reminds me of before…”

I don’t expect Mitchell to respond.  I expect him to still be upset about the whole Quest thing. It was my fault our relationship was so strained and honestly, in moments like this, I desperately wanted my best friend back.  The Serranos loved me but neither of them could really relate to social awkwardness.  People were drawn to Iggy and Valentina like magnets ever since elementary school.

“You OK?” he asks.

“I hate this song—-”

“Not talking about the music,” Mitchell responds, “I’m talking about you attacking Channing. Valentina said you didn’t look like yourself when you did it.”

I didn’t want to talk about it.    I didn’t want to let him know all the thoughts going through my head when I blacked out and almost killed a man who was honestly innocent.  I regretted it.  He called me a savage and I deserved it.

“I’m not sure…” I state, “Didn’t think you would care either way?  Aren’t you pissed at me still?”

“Of course,” he answers, “you wanted your revenge.   I just don’t think Quest should have been involved.”

I want to argue with him.  I want to debate what Quest was guilty of and how much he knew about Alaric’s death but right now I don’t think those were the steps I needed to take to heal this with Mitchell.  And based on the fact that this was feeling a lot like high school and I was immediately feeling a lot like I was abandoned by the Serranos again, Mitch was my only friend.  I needed to make this work with him.

“I’m sorry.”

Simple.  Easy and straightforward.

Mitchell shrugs, “Listen.  Quest and I were done anyway.  Just…just let’s be honest with each other from now on.

“I will.  I’ll earn your trust back.  I’ll earn your friendship back if I have to,” I tell Mitchell, “Your friendship means everything to me.”

Mitchell wasn’t like Valentina.  Valentina would be there for me because of duty.  She might as well have been my sister.  She’d get mad one day but never too mad.  She’d always come back. Sometimes with Mitchell, I wasn’t too sure.  He was so goddam sensitive at times.

“There is one thing you can do…” he states.

“Name it.”

“Hook me up.”

“Mitchell, I’m literally the most awkward guy in the fuckin world.  How the hell am I supposed to hook you up.”

“You have to talk to him anyway,” Mitchell states.

“Who?”

“Him.”

I should have known even before I see handsome Channing walking into the room that Mitchell had a crush on him.   Channing’s smile was infectious.  Not to me of course.  I didn’t smile that much anymore. But to the people around him.  This ball of happiness that just seemed so immediate.  I could tell why Mitchell would want that around him.  It also didn’t help that he looks like he just came out of the pool and had water dripping down his rock hard abs.

“If I make it happen—-we good?” I ask.

He shrugs, “It’s going down the right path.”

That’s better than I can expect.  I’d have to keep that in mind.  Right now wasn’t the time, however.  I had to make sure I was on Channing’s good side before I could get anyone else on his good side.

So I get up and I make my way towards him.   And I do something that has become so weird for me that it hurts.

I smile.

“We need to figure out what’s happened to the delivery,” I overhear Channing talking to a guy next to him about.

“I don’t get why President Beric tasked us to do it.”

“Because there’s no one else.”

I’m not quite sure what they are referring to when I walk up.  I notice the other guy with Channing is Lyle.  Felt good that I wasn’t the only one who was serious at this party.  As I approach, whatever conversation that they have stopped.  Lyle is looking me up and down.  The way he looks at me makes it quite clear that Channing told him what I’d done.

His eyes set on my smile, “What’s wrong with his face?”

I lose my smile. Definitely didn’t look natural.

“Hey, Channing can I talk to you?”

“Hell no—-” Lyle states.

“He wasn’t talking to you—”

“He’s a savage, just like the rest of his friends,” Lyle warns his friend.

I try not to let that get to me.  The last thing I needed was to show aggression.  I tried not to take it personally.  I could only imagine if Iggy was in charge of this place.  I doubt he would be letting any strangers in at all.  Let alone be opening to having a conversation with one of them after an attack.

Then again this was Channing so he turns to me and smiles as though showing me how a real smile is supposed to look like and nods, “Let’s go talk outside Sunday. It’s a bit more private.”

~

I hadn’t had to play a social game for a long time.  I had to do what I had to do to survive out there.   So, as I’m sitting outside with Channing I just know that things are different.  The house we are in is pretty big and the pool is somewhat huge as well.  I guess the best part of the apocalypse were all these expensive looking homes were up for grabs.

“Is that guy your bodyguard or something?” Channing asks me.

I don’t know who he’s talking about until I see Iggy.  Iggy is surrounded by girls, as usual, trying to have a conversation with him.  He’s not paying attention though.  He’s looking my way and for some reason it only makes them try harder.

“Just Iggy.”

“Iggy seems to have a fan club,” Channing states, “At least he’s enjoying the party.  Or at least the party’s enjoying him.   What about you?”

“What about me?”

“You having fun?” he asks me strangely,  “You even know what that is anymore?”

“Everyone’s so drunk—-” I state.

Small talk.  I wanted to break the ice.  I’m coming off as paranoid even if I don’t want to though.  I can tell by Channing’s reaction when he stops drinking and puts his cup down.

“Thought that was the point of a party—” Channing states.

“I didn’t mean you.”

“No just my friends,” he shrugs.

This was starting off bad.  Real bad.

I sigh a little bit and get quiet.  I’m stuck already.  Stuck on what to say.  I was coming off as very judgmental.  But what is even more curious is that he put his drink down in the first place.  Why the hell did he care about what I thought?

Channing’s eyes turn to me after a few awkward seconds, “So you wanted to talk—-”

“More like apologize,” I state, “What I did in class…there was no real excuse.  Sometimes…I just, I don’t know.  Blackout.”

Channing gets quiet for a bit.  Then he turns to me and squints, “Who was it?”

“Excuse me?”

“You said that someone died out there.  Someone you were in love with,” he explains, “Tell me about it.”

“Why?”

“Because I saw real pain in your eyes.  Pain that I don’t think fits in here.  And if I’m going to give you another chance at Survival School, I’m going to need to know what you survived out there.  I need to know what I’m working with.”

It was fair.  It was completely fair for him to ask me to do this.  He wanted to know if I was going to snap again.  The truth was that I didn’t know.  The other truth was that I wasn’t ready to talk about Alaric or even confront all those feelings that I had swelling up inside of me.  Right now the only way that I could get by is tucking that shit in deep and hoping that it didn’t come out again.

So I do the only thing that I can.  I refuse, “No.”

“Well then I’m sorry Sunday,” Channing states, “You give me no choice. Tomorrow morning I’m going to put in a recommendation to President Beric that you be removed from Survival School.  And consequently removed from Little America.”

“Hey, Channing—hey Channing come over here!”  I hear a voice say, “Show us how to do this…”

It’s one of the girls from class, Sherie.   Actually, I notice it’s my entire class…including Valentina.  Oxen and Loribeth both are struggling with the fire.  A bunch of other people are watching as well.   They have gathered around in the backyard seems to play a game they are racing to light a fire.   I don’t know why.  I guess they were drunk enough to bring survival school to the party. No one’s lit a fire as of yet.  Valentina isn’t trying.  She’s too busy flirting with some random guy.

“You should go,” I state.

“That’s it?” he asks, “You giving up that easily?”

“What do you want me to do?” I ask.

“The same thing you’ve been doing this whole time,” he tells me, “If you want to stay here…you fight for it.”

He walks away.  I don’t get what he means by it.  I watch as he walks over to help with the survival game they were playing.  I stay behind even more confused by Channing then when we first started.  The fact that he was even having a conversation with me was great.  The fact that he somehow managed to be so positive was great too.  But it wasn’t enough.

“Damn you look good today,” I hear someone whisper to me in my ear.

I turn around and see it’s Iggy.  He is clearly joking.  We didn’t have a lot of clothing to wear save the ones that they gave us on move-in day.  We weren’t going to win anyone’s fashion awards, we were clean.

“Glad to see you’re in a joking mood.”

“I guess Valentina has a point.  We need to lighten up.  A little,” He admits, “I don’t want us to be in this situation again.  I don’t want to see you in that situation again and I blame myself.”

“Iggy.”

Iggy shakes his head, “Listen I set the example.  I’m paranoid so you are too.  We’ve been through a lot and I shouldn’t have the expectation that you can just move on and be good.  Same way I made you guarded, I need to let you know it’s OK to loosen up.”

“I don’t even think that’s a thing.”

“Let’s dance…”

“What?”

“Dance together…”

Iggy wraps his hands around my waist.  It sends shivers down my spine.  He may not mean it as anything more than a friendship but after what we shared I felt him touching me like this was so intimate.  I want to give myself up to Iggy.  I want to go dancing the night away with him.  But what if I called him Alaric again?  What if I made him feel like shit again?  Was  I ready for that?

“Not in the mood,” I state.

“Listen maybe we should talk, about —–us—-” he states, “I feel like things are awkward after what happened.”

“It’s not about us.”

“Then what. Aren’t you good with your instructor?”

“I think he wants me to stay…”

“Oh good.”

“But he said I need to fight for it,” I explain.

“What the hell does that mean?” Iggy asks.

I look over at Channing.  He’s getting the fire going successfully.  The others are watching as though he is the second coming of Moses as he does it.  Strange.  Fires were one of the first things that you needed to know to survive.  Why the fuck were the others so goddam amazed by it?

“Come on.”

“Where we going?”

“To fight…”

~

I stand over them.  Valentina is clearly drunk as she runs over and flings her arm over me.  She slurs something or another about some sexy guy she likes but I doubt she even realizes fully what she’s talking about.  Iggy pulls his twin off of me and I’m looking down at Channing and the others.

“You need us,” I state.

He looks up at me seeming confused, “What?”

I know I’m bold in what I say.  I notice Lyle and a few of the other big shots are over there watching Channing show off.  They were all instructors it looked like.  I can tell because they were the only ones who had holstered guns close to them even at some place like this with alcohol being served.  I doubt they would have allowed anyone besides the best to have holstered guns.  There were four of them.  Lyle, the instructor of the greens, the Asian girl named Missy that was the instructor of the blacks and another girl that I’d seen with Missy before that I assumed was the last instructor.

“We can show you how to do that better,” I explain.

“This kid joking?” Missy asks.

“Actually I’m not,” I state, “Matter of fact.  How about we make a competition out of it.  The Best Survivor out of you guys against one of us.”

Lyle seems irritated, “We are instructors in the school kid.  We don’t compete—-”

I’m not surprised when Channing shakes his head, “No.  I accept.  I’ll do it.”

The other instructors seem irritated.  It’s Missy who shakes her head, “You don’t have to prove anything, Channing.  This isn’t class.”

Channing isn’t backing down, “I’m the best fire starter in the school.  So if you think we NEED you and your friends for whatever reason, show us why. Let’s do this. A fire starting contest.  No matches.  No flint.  Everything else is fair game.  Me vs. You.”

“No, that isn’t fair…” I state.

“I know so back down now,” Lyle interrupts, “We don’t want Channing to embarrass you.”

“What the hell did you just say—” Iggy asks.

Iggy was walking forward.  I knew Iggy.  He was all pride.  He didn’t like that.  Not at any moment.  Luckily Mitchell hears the commotion as the small crowd gathers.  He runs out and is able to hold Iggy back from assaulting his instructor.

“It’s not fair.  For YOU,” I state, “Your best survivor against our worst.  I’ll put up Mitchell.  If we win—-I get to stay.”

“And if you lose?” he asks.

“Me and my friends all leave.”

I notice this gets even a reaction from Lyle.  He’s happy about it.  Missy isn’t though.  She’d be losing her eye candy when it came to Iggy.  Regardless a lot of people are feeling something about what I said.  It was causing a reaction.  A reaction that I didn’t think Channing could turn down.

I look over at Mitchell.  The mere size of him is causing a bunch of the others to start laughing.  Mitchell definitely didn’t look like a survivor.  He definitely didn’t seem like some guy who could win a fire starting contest by any means.  Laughter ensues.  They were so happy.

“I accept,” Channing states with a smile.

His friends are amping him up.  I wish my friends could say the same.  It’s Iggy who grabs me and Mitchell to move away from the crowd.  He has this look in his eyes.   Valentina manages to bring her drunk ass over as well to join the circle.

“Are you joking me?” Iggy asks, “I should be doing this.”

Mitchell doesn’t even have enough pride to argue it, “Iggy is right.  I’m no Survivalist.”

“Listen—these people aren’t who you think they are,” I state, “They are way too comfortable here.  Something is up.   Beric was made a president.  Beric. A fucking movie star.  Why do you guys think that is?”

No one answers.

“We’ve all felt it was weird,” Iggy states, “But not Mitchell.  This is our entire future.  Mitchell is going to FUCK this up.”

Anyone else would have been offended but not Mitchell.  Mitchell is nodding in agreement.

“I’m going to fuck this up big time,” Mitchell states.

“You are better than you think,” I tell Mitchell, “And you wanted me to hook you up with Channing.  What better way than to impress him right here and right now?”

Mitchell looks over at me.

“You believe in me this much?”

I nod, “You’re my best friend.”

Mitchell takes a deep breath as he rejoins the circle.  Iggy is shaking his head.  I know he doesn’t feel comfortable with him.  If it was up to Iggy he’d represent our group every single time.  He had a lot of pride and it wasn’t a secret that Mitchell was our weakest link.  Iggy and Mitchell never had a relationship.  I knew he’d leave Mitchell in a heartbeat when we were out there if it weren’t for me.

This was Mitchell’s time to prove he wasn’t who he thought he was..

“Ready?” Channing asks him.

“Ready…”

“Ok start…”

The two boys immediately try to gather some dry leaves.   It seems like the entire school is cheering on Channing.  From the looks of it, he was obviously really popular in the school.  I can see why.  The kid is so nice that he’s even helping Mitchell pick out some nice dry leaves and giving him advice on how to hold his hands.

When they sit he even gives Mitchell half his leaves, “Here.”

Lyle is pissed, “Channing what the hell man!”

Channing is nice.  It’s just in his fucking nature to be that fucking nice.  He can’t help himself.

“ Just because we are competing doesn’t mean we can’t help each other out,’ Channing states, “That’s what survival is all about.”

No wonder he was so popular.  I can’t help but find myself smiling at Channing.  This time my smile isn’t fake.  He was a good guy.  He really was.

That’s when I hear Mitchell say something that surprises me.  He looks over at Channing and says, “I got this…”

That’s when I lose it.  I’m barking.  Cheering.  Mitchell has gathered his kindling.

“Iggy gives me that condom,” Mitchell states.

“Condom?” Lyle asks.

A bunch of them start to laugh.

“Maybe he’s going to fuck a fire started,” Missy says to the other girls, “With those skinny legs of his.”

Iggy seems irritated when he walks over to Mitchell.  He gives Mitchell the condom, “You better fuckin win.”

Iggy was competitive.  There was no way that he was going to be OK with anything else.  They are all surprised when Mitchell leaves the scene goes to the pool and fills the condom with water.  By now Channing is trying to get a spark together by banging two rocks into one another.  He does it harder and harder.  Faster and faster.

Mitchell has the balloon and is just trying to position it the right way.

“What the hell is he doing?” I hear Missy ask.

“You don’t know?” I ask.

Within a matter of seconds, there is fire!  It’s not coming from Channing though.  It’s coming from Mitchell.

Everyone looks confused.  All of them.  All of them except for us.

Iggy nods at Mitchell, “Good job man.”

But it’s Channing who seems confused, “How?”

I’m shaking my head looking at the students of the schools, “It’s simple. The inflated and water-filled condom now functions as a magnifying lens, focusing the sun’s ray onto the kindling. Combustion should come fairly quickly.  My question is why are you guys so confused by all of this.  We survived out there.  But you guys didn’t.”

“What?” Iggy asks me.

“These people in Small America were never out there. They never survived out there,” I realize out loud, “I don’t even think any of them have ever seen a Biter up close.”

By the silence in the crowd I know I’m telling the truth.

Mitchell seems confused, “How is that possible?”

“Can we talk?” Channing asks us, “In private.”

~

It’s not just Channing.  All the instructors are there.

“We shouldn’t have to tell them anything,” Lyle is arguing.

“They know already,” Missy argues with Lyle.

“How?” Channing asks, “How did you suspect?”

“Beric moved up here quickly.  The only reason that made sense is that he was different from you guys.  He was more like us.  He survived out there.  None of you have,” I state, “Have you?”

The other instructors clearly don’t agree with that.  Channing has his arms crossed.  He looks embarrassed that Mitchell was able to beat him at fire-starting so easily.   Or maybe it’s because the façade of Little America had come down.  Valentina has sobered up a little bit and is sitting next to Mitchell who for the first time seems to actually be proud of himself.   The girl who was with Missy outside steps forward and speaks for the rest of them.

“My name is Rebecca,” she states, “I am an instructor and a sniper.  I’m also one of the only people here who’s seen a Biter…from far away of course.  From inside these walls.”

“It’s like this place was planned,” I state.

“It was,” Rebecca explained, “We were gathered before the outbreak.  Stolen from our homes by a corporation.  They took us underground.  They kept us safe. I remember the Doctor.  She said that our genes made us good candidates to restart the world.”

Valentina, Mitchell, Iggy and I are speechless.  Little America never survived anything.  Everything the Vice President had told us was a lie.

“You guys were kept safe?” Mitchell asks his voice etched with a sense of emotion.  I don’t know what it is.  It sounds like he wants to cry. Jealousy perhaps. Envy.  He’d seen the worst of the world and these people were chosen by God knows who to be safe through it all.

It was shocking.

“Someone knew beforehand that this was going to happen to the world,” Rebecca explains, “I don’t know why we were chosen.  They abandoned us here in Little America.  Said the walls were built to keep us safe.  We would restart America.  Said that they would send supplies to us.”

“You don’t even get your own supplies?” Iggy spits on the ground furiously, “You aren’t fuckin’ survivors.  Everything was given to you!”

No wonder they were staring at us when we first got here. All the instructors looked embarrassed at this point, especially Lyle.  How the hell did they learn to survive?  Textbooks?  Instruction videos?  They had no idea how to survive.  Biters didn’t come with instructions.  We were the first survivors they knew outside of Beric.  And they were so happy to have him they made him President.  I get why Mitchell is jealous.  I get why Iggy is pissed off.  What made these fucking people so special?

“It worked for a while but now the supplies are have stopped.  All communication has stopped,” Channing states, “Our sponsors have an outpost not far from here.  We want to go to that outpost where the supplies came from and find out why but…”

He stops talking.

“But you’ve never been outside the city limits,” I state, “Not really.”

No answers.  No one but Beric has gone outside the city limits.  Not really.

Channing shakes his head, “We want you guys to stay.  If you come with us maybe we have a chance out there.  Maybe we can figure out what happened to the supplies.”

There is a pause.  We had no choice.  They wouldn’t survive a day out there without experienced survivors with them.

“If we come with you—-we are ALL allowed to stay,” Iggy states.

“Of course.”

“Fine,” Iggy states, “What’s the outpost?  Who are these people who saved you?  Who are your sponsors?

Rebecca hands them the phone, “A bunch of scientists I guess.  Here.  We took this pic the day we were released from the Vault and introduced to Little America.”

The look on Iggy’s eyes said it all.  I never saw Iggy emotional.  Not completely.  There was only one thing that could bring him to tears at this moment.

“Iggy…”

Iggy wipes his eyes quickly before Little Americans realize that this is getting to him.  He passes me the phone.   I see for myself what he is reacting to.

Fuck.

It was his mother.

Dr. Serrano and the NEO-CDC were the sponsors of Little America.