Once we’d gotten all the food stockpiled, and the last few apartments we’d forgotten to check had been cleared, the four of us finally had a few minutes to just stop and rest. Dante had checked on the emergency generator in the basement, and informed us that it had enough juice to keep us going for a few days at least if the power went out. It ran on gasoline, though, and there were plenty of abandoned cars out that that we could siphon more gas from should we need it. I just hoped we didn’t need it. Dante might have been an okay plumber and electrician, but he only knew how to fix the pipes and cables in the building. Anything above that was out of his skill field.
I didn’t see or hear anything of our uninvited guest, and as far as I was aware, neither did the others. Self-preservation had made us all pick apartments on the same floor as her, but we stuck to the other end of the hall. We’d set up specific mealtimes, and each took it in turns to cook. We tried to use up the perishable stuff first, since we wouldn’t be able to store it for long and, despite Robin’s protests, always made sure to make enough for Kat. She never ate with us, and never helped out, or even offered to, and her door was always locked, but we could only assume she ate what we left out for her.
We could’ve used her, though, especially when we decided to go on our first survivor run. Someone needed to stay behind to man the fort, so to speak, and they obviously needed to be able to use a gun. That narrowed it down to Robin and me. Robin offered to stay behind to keep an eye on Kat and, in his own words, make sure Riley didn’t get into any more trouble. And while it would have been a good idea to take Riley on the survivor run with me in case any of the survivors we found were injured, if we got stuck in a tight spot and had to run for it, I didn’t doubt the injury on his foot would slow us down, if not get us killed. So after some quick weapons training, Dante set off with me in the Hummer, checking the surrounding streets for any signs of life.
We kept that up for three whole days, returning to the tower when it started getting dark. By the end of our three days, we’d managed to find around seven people. Looking back on it, we barely found a handful of people that might have survived, but at the time, it felt like we’d found a small city. We struggled to tend to the injured, while trying to get people’s names at the same time. Eventually, Dante and I left Robin and Riley to it, helping out where we could or otherwise just going out to look for more supplies or survivors, though I lost track of which. It had almost been a week since everything started and I was already being pushed to my limits. I didn’t sleep properly, there wasn’t enough time to. All there was time to do was make preparations, and try and make the tower as safe as possible. We’d designated an apartment as an armoury, and sorting through extra weapons and ammo kept Dante and one of the survivors, Rae, busy enough.
Rae was a quiet girl, couldn’t have been more than seventeen, and kept to herself as much as Kat did, save for helping out when she was asked to. She had a frail, waif-like frame, and we could all tell she wasn’t going to be much use for any manual work or hard labour, but she had a knack for organising, and was left in charge of splitting ammo up by calibre and so on, and labelling them well enough that someone with basic weapons training could easily find the right ammo for the gun they were using.
Putting the other survivors’ skills to good use had been a challenge in itself. Some had genuinely useful skills, such as a middle aged man called Scott who had been a plumber since he left high school. Leaving him in charge of the pipes, and by extension the water supply and maintenance, left Dante more time to focus on the power and any other repairs. There was a man named Joe that worked on a farm, and had been in Pine Ridge to go to one of the small farmers markets held every now and then to try and sell some of his excess stock. And for the last of the most useful survivors we’d found, was a stocky woman with a black pixie cut hairstyle that worked as a mechanic. Although cars were her area by trade, she reckoned with enough practice and enough spare time, she could be able to help Dante with daily mechanical maintenance tasks. Rae seemed to stick to her like glue, but if Maria minded, she didn’t let it show. If anything, I think she enjoyed the company.
As for the final three; a war vet that would only respond to the name ‘Houston’, and a newly married couple called Alice and Sam Garver, who were so newly-wedded that they hadn’t had time to change out of their wedding attire. Houston was easily eighty years old, his bones creaked when he moved, and his memory served to be a little foggy at times, but he didn’t hesitate to recall his army days if Robin or myself were around. We’d found him hidden out in a bunker underneath his bungalow, the walls stocked with canned everything, dried everything, the kind of stuff you’d expect to see in a nuclear bunker. And as for Alice and Sam, well… Alice was heavily pregnant, and Sam was largely looking out for his wife, but just kind of got on everyone’s nerves. He would always question everything I said, or anyone else for that matter, and he regularly got snapped out and hurried back to his wife’s arms.
On the plus side, meals were starting to become more of a social affair, and despite the circumstances, I honestly felt like everyone was starting to befriend one another, if only a little. Self-preservation was obviously top of everyone’s list of priorities, but if there was a way you could help make someone else’s day run smoother, like fixing a broken tap or something, then we seemed to go out of our way to do it.
By the end of the week, I finally managed to catch some time alone. Ever since everything had happened, and I’d been left in charge, someone had wanted me for one thing or another. Robin had offered to fill in for me, to give me a break, but until I saw him in action, I didn’t know that I could trust his judgement. I had every faith in him, but I couldn’t leave him in charge until I knew for sure. I sat down on the couch of my small apartment. It had been one of the many vacant ones, and smelt a little less like blood than the rest. Maria had gathered up all the cleaning supplies she could find, and had staged a cleanup operation, since she had nothing else to do, and had managed to rope Houston and the Garvers into helping, along with Joe, since he wasn’t busy either. And while they’d managed to get most of the apartments as spotless as could be managed, the place still stank of blood and death. We’d resorted to keeping all the windows from the second floor upwards open during the days to try and air out the place, but it hadn’t been very effective as of yet.