The next morning, John was at the front of the school where the barbed wire and Hesco bastion opened into a chicane. He looked up to the towers and saw the silhouetted form of a watchman against a crescent moon. The breeze was cold, and reminded him of the night he'd spent with Andrea and Michael only a couple of days ago.
The others arrived soon after, dragging with them their gear as many decided it better to don it with the help of others.
Altogether John had organized for seven team members, a total of nine with himself and now ten with the addition of Bobby who had fought so adamantly for a chance to go out again.
“How's everyone doing?” John asked, looking over the team as they started to help each other put on the heavy bags. With the water, ammunition and equipment they carried, many of these backpacks weighed as much as the person carrying them.
Several shrugs and waving hands acknowledged John's question, but most of them refrained from speaking as they grunted, pulling on the heavy packs.
From the corner of his eye, John saw another person walking up to the group as they waited near the gate. He turned, and watched the dark form of the man coming toward them.
It was Michael, weapon in hand; his own backpack already swaying its heavy load on his shoulders.
“What are you doing Michael, get back in bed,” John said.
“I'm coming with you.”
“No you're not, you aren't on the roster.”
“Neither is Bobby,” Michael said, cocking his head toward him.
Bobby was knelt over, pulling the straps on his backpack. He looked at John with a guilty expression.
John shook his head. “What do you think I am? You can't just go over my head with these things. There's a schedule and a manifest for a reason.”
“I'm not even on the manifest, so it doesn't matter. Pretend I'm not there, and use me when you need to. Either way, I'm coming out with you whether you like it or not.”
“Bullshit,” John said, pulling the quick release on Michael's backpack which plummeted to the concrete below.
“I'm going,” Michael said, bending over to refasten the quick release straps and pick up the bag.
“Why the hell do you want to come?”
“I didn't say that speech yesterday to blow smoke up everyone's ass. I genuinely meant every word that came out of my mouth. I'm feeling better today and if I stay one more hour inside that building I'm going to lose it. I need to be on my feet,” Michael said, looking over to Bobby. “Just like others do too.”
Bobby came toward them and picked up Michael's bag. “Here, put your arms through,” he said, helping Michael as he made awkward eye contact with John.
John simply stared at him. There was a long moment of silence as they locked eyes while Mickael wriggled into the shoulder straps. “He's your responsibility Bobby, you're babysitting.”
Bobby nodded, and watched as John stomped off toward the rest of the group. “Don't worry Michael, he's not actually that pissed.”
Michael smirked, shifting the weight as he tightened the straps. “Frankly Rob, I could care less.”