“You don’t have a plan, do you?” Riley asked.
I looked at Robin, who was doing his best not to meet anyone’s gaze. Back at the base, he’d had a few suggestions, all of which sounded more like suicide missions than survival attempts. His first suggestion had been to take the… whatever they were head on. Once we got outside, however, he quickly realised that wasn’t an option. He then decided it would be a great idea to “chillax on the rooftop and fire RPGs at any of them that got too close to the base for his liking. And then promptly realised the sound from the explosion would attract more of them; if they were attracted to sound, anyway, and he’d probably run out of RPGs before he’d wiped out all of them. Speaking of whatever they were, Robin had suggested we call them zombies, but I’d dismissed the idea. We didn’t know that they were zombies, they could’ve just been ill, or drugged or something.
“For now we’re just focusing on finding any survivors” I answered Riley, but he didn’t exactly seem pleased with my answer.
“But you’re in the army!” he repeated, shaking his head in disbelief.
“So? You work in a hospital, why don’t you have a cure?” Robin asked, sounding a little annoyed.
Robin’s squad had been stationed with mine once when we were serving in Iraq, and word had quickly spread around about a Private Bishop that was always getting into trouble for running his mouth. I’d never met him, but I’d certainly heard about him. Until that point, I hadn’t recognised the similarity in names.
“I’m a nurse… I… Um…” Riley trailed off, coughing slightly to cover his embarrassment. “Jack was the doctor” he said softly.
“Exactly. I’m a Private, and Col here’s only a Lieutenant. You want answers, go speak to our Commander. Oh wait, he’s dead” Robin said sarcastically, ignoring the fact that the reason our Commander was dead was because he’d run him over.
“But…” Riley trailed off, looking at his shoes.
“So, until we know what’s going on, you’re just gonna have to trust us, ‘kay?”
“’Kay” Riley muttered. “Are we going to go find the caretaker, then, or what?”
“Lead the way” I said, following him up the main stairwell, the only stairwell, until we reached the third floor.
We didn’t run across any other things on the way up, but I could hear things moving around in various apartments. For all we knew it was just scared survivors, but I wasn’t willing to go check just yet.
“This is it” Riley said once we reached one of the doors on the third floor, shifting nervously on the spot.
I made sure Riley was between me and Robin, knocking on the door gently. After all, if he was still alive, I didn’t want to storm in a freak the guy out. There was no answer, so I tested the door out, turning the handle slightly. It turned all the way, and I pushed open the door cautiously, when all of a sudden BANG. Something flashed past my eyes, and I heard a dull thud against the wall beside the door. Riley had let out a scream, but I wasn’t focused on him. I was more focused on the buckshot embedded in the drywall a few centimetres away from my face.
“St-stay back!” I heard someone yell.
I distracted myself from how close I’d just come to losing my face to look at just who had almost shot me. It was a young man, probably not much older than myself, though his face was shrouded with a big, bushy black beard. He looked thin, and I didn’t doubt that if he stood up, he could easily match my height. There was fear in his eyes, and the way he was holding his shotgun suggested he didn’t know how to use a gun much beyond pressing the trigger.
“Everyone just calm down, we’re all on the same side here” I said softly.
“Um… Sir!” Riley croaked, trying to raise his voice but just cracking it in the process. “I live here! It’s fine, they’re with me! Sir!” he squirmed as the guy raised his shotgun towards Riley.
The man looked at him, realisation sweeping across his face. “You. You’re that guy that lives on the top floor, right?”
The man lowered his shotgun a little. “Who’re they?” he asked, nodding at me and Robin.
"I'm Lieutenant Gray and this is Private Bishop. We're here to help, Sir. Put down the gun"
"How do I know you're not like them?" he asked.
"Well I'm talking to you, aren't I?"
"Look, sir, we just, um, n-n-need the keys to open the rooms. S-s-so lowering that shotgun would b-be a real help" Riley said when the man didn’t say anything.
Riley stood there jittering in his sneakers probably wasn’t the most convincing thing to see when someone wants you to put a gun down, and it hadn’t seemed to have done the trick. I couldn’t fault the guy for trying, but he was starting to seem like more of a hindrance than a help.
"Tell you what, you put the shotgun down, and we'll put our rifles down, yeah?” I said.
"O-okay" the man agreed.
I could tell Robin wasn’t too keen on the idea, but he went with it anyway. I clicked the safety back on before putting it down, but I couldn’t help noticing Robin hadn’t done the same, as if he was expecting trouble. The man in the apartment obviously didn’t know anything about guns, since he didn’t question Robin’s actions, putting his shotgun down. I don’t know how it happened, but he somehow fired the other buckshot straight into Riley’s foot. Riley screamed, toppling over and clutching his heavily bleeding foot.
“He just shot me!” he yelled.
“I-I’m sorry” the man said apologetically.
“Riley, we need you to calm down and shut the hell up” I said, gritting my teeth.
He was making enough noise to attract a lot of unwelcome attention. Sure, I knew how painful it was being shot, but that didn’t mean we didn’t need him to be quiet. Riley let out a moan, on the verge of screaming again, still clutching his foot.
“I think I’m gonna be sick…” he whined, before passing out.
“Great, that’s all we need” I sighed, before turning to Robin. “Did you bring your medic bag in with you?” I asked and he nodded. “Alright, see what you can do for his foot”
“Alright, but no promises. I’m not a doctor, remember?” Robin chuckled, heading back to the lobby to get his medic bag.
I turned back to the man in the apartment, who had pushed the shotgun further away from himself and looked up at me, more scared than before.
“I-I didn’t mean to” he said, as if I were about to shoot him in return.
“Where the hell did you learn to shoot a gun?” I frowned.
“I guess as much. What’s your name?”
“Nice to meet you, Dante. We could do with your help,” I said, looking back at Riley and taking his shoe off, grabbing a towel from the small kitchenette in Dante’s apartment, and pressing it down onto his foot, “You know this building better than anyone, and we need to check to make sure every single apartment is safe before we start trying to find any other survivors”
“I-I have the keys with me. We could start n-now?”
I nodded. “Once Robin’s dealt with Riley”