"You have got to be fucking kidding me," he said as he gave a tug on the handcuff again. "If I get handcuffed one more fucking time in this apocalypse..." he said to himself as he used his free hand to pat down his pockets. His handcuffs, the same ones the cop had used to arrest him with previously, were packed in the gas mask bag Rhett had attached to his belt. Whoever decided to detain Rhett took them right out of the bag, but left the bag on his belt. This was preferable for Rhett, who had also stashed the paperclip he used to unlock the cuffs previously in the same bag.
"This is what I get for being nice," Rhett said as he retrieved the paper clip and began to work on unlatching the cuff on his wrist. While he worked, he kept an ear out for anyone approaching, but also for what the conversation going on outside was about.
"Are you sure the door will hold?" a young man had asked. He was fat with shaggy hair and a chin strap beard. He wore a black long sleeve shirt with a dress shirt opened over it.
"It's steel, with a deadbolt," and older man responded "And the window on it is barred. We're still safe." He had gray hair buzzed short and a clean shaved look. He wore a dark shirt with a vest over it, stained with blood on the back.
"It was still stupid going out there for that guy."
"Jason said he's okay. He helped them apparently."
"Laura didn't seem too crazy about him."
"The less we talk about heeding Laura's opinion on guys, the better."
"Well either way, this guy could be trouble."
"Let's just see what he has to say when the time comes."
"What do we do until then? Those things are at our back are blocking the only way out if things go south up front."
"Matt is taking care of it."
"And our next move? We can't squat here forever."
"I'm figuring something out. We have time though since the others might've found a way out."
"Mike, the place got overrun. They aren't getting out."
"Then we'll go get them."
"We don't even know if they're alive anymore."
"There's no way all of them died. We have to at least try to save them. They deserve that chance. Besides, do you remember our gear? How long do you expect us to survive without supplies and food?"
"We don't have the numbers where we can afford to attempt a rescue like that!"
"Then the new guy can help us."
"Are you crazy? We had to drag his dumb ass in here because he almost got himself killed!"
"Are that would be, what, only slightly less useful than the people we have at the ready now? We could use any help we can get, and not just for today either."
"What am I helping with?" Rhett asked, shocking both men who were too engrossed in their conversation to notice that not only was Rhett awake and unshackled, but also that he snuck out of his room and retrieved his handgun that was sitting on a nearby table. The younger man immediately reached for a gun at his side, but before he could get it out, Rhett had calmly raised his own gun. The older man just stood with an unamused look on his face.
"I thought you said there were no keys to those handcuffs?" the older man said.
"Not important," Rhett said.
"Just take a breath and relax," the older man said "We're all friends here, Rhett."
"So Jason and the bitch made it?" Rhett asked, eliciting a chuckle from the younger man.
"Yeah they did," the older man assured him "Thank you for helping us. I'm Mike and the man behind me is Steve. And since we're all alive and thus on the same side, we should probably all lower our weapons. Yeah?"
"Well, you handcuffed me. What did you expect me to think?" Rhett said, weapon still raised. "You wouldn't have been the first person to take advantage of us," Steve said as his empty hands fell to his sides. "I ran into your people and got caught up in all this mess," Rhett said as he finally lowered his gun "I just want to get back to my car and to the Carrier Dome."
"Why?" Steve asked.
"That's where all the survivors are going, right?"
Steve shook his head as Mike said "The shelter here in Syracuse lasted maybe two days before the dead overtook it." Rhett felt dejected from the news. "How do you know?" he asked. "One of our people came from there," Mike said "Couple others passed by when it fell. Most shelters across the country didn't make it very long."
"Harboring infected people turn out to not be a good idea after all?" Rhett asked.
"Not like they could have done anything," Steve said "They were under watch constantly. The infection though, it still spread. People forgot that the infection doesn't show symptoms right away. Gathering all the living together in one place just made it that much easier to spread the disease. By time everyone realized what was happening, it was too late to stop it. People freaked out, some got hurt. All it took was one person with the disease dying without supervision."
"We also didn't realize that the bites spread it," Mike added "People were being treated for bites and scratches from these things and no one thought that the infection transferred. Sure, there were suspicions, but not enough time or resources to keep track of all the injured. Humanity was caught with its pants down, and we made every wrong choice possible."
"Damn," Rhett said as he leaned up against a wall. "How do you not know any of this?" Steve asked "The Dome falling is pretty common knowledge." Rhett began to talk of everything that happened to him from the beginning of the infection. Through the story, Jason and Laura entered. At the end, Rhett found Steve was smiling. "Man, you're lucky you ran into us. The Carrier Dome is nothing if not an angry hornets' nest of dead bodies."
"Lucky me," Rhett said sarcastically. "You could show a little fucking gratitude," Laura said angrily "We pretty much saved your life." Rhett ignored her, but he could feel the eyes of everyone staring at him. "So what's your plan now?" Jason asked. Rhett shrugged. "Hope Jake has better luck, cuz either way I'm heading for Rochester." Everyone else in the room looked at each other. "I didn't hear much from Rochester," Steve said "I doubt they'd still be around."
"You should come with us," Mike said "Forget Rochester and come with us to Albany."
"That's not exactly along the way," Rhett said.
"Tell your friend to head over there too."
"I've missed something?"
"That place in California your friend mentioned? That's the place to go. It's called Safe Haven, and it might just be the last place on earth that's free of infection."
"And going in the complete opposite direction of California is you next move why?"
"On foot or by road, we may never make it. Every state capital and the DC area are offering guaranteed transport though. The trick is to be there in time."
"What happens if you're not in time?"
"Then we walk. By road we may not make it, ergo, if we're too late to Albany then we might not make it."
"Which is why we can't waste any more time here," Steve interrupted.
"We're not leaving until we at least try to get to the others," Mike said. "Then let's do that shit now!" Steve yelled. Mike turned to Rhett. "There are members of our group pinned down," he said "I know they're still alive, the trick is getting to them without anyone getting slaughtered."
"I'm really not that interested in joining any groups," Rhett said "Especially if they're trying to convince me to abandon my best friend. Sorry." Jason wore a look of shock on his face while Laura looked disinterested. Steve made a face and shook his head. "What about your car?" Mike asked "You think it's going to be a simple task to get back to it and out of here?"
"I'll figure it out," Rhett said.
"No you won't," Mike said "But how about a deal? You don't want to stay with us, but what if you help us this one time, and in return we help you get your car back. Then we can be on our merry ways and never look back."
Rhett took a moment to think about it. Mike had a smile and seemed like he knew Rhett would agree to it while Jason had a more hopeful look on his face as he nodded towards Rhett. "Fine," Rhett finally said "But we get my car back first."
"Cuz we're gonna need it."