Chapter 14: A seven nation couldn't hold her back
Elderton and Martha had moved to the teacher’s desk and were rummaging through it. They found a box of twinkies in the top drawer and placed it on the desk. Elderton suggested they should all eat one as it was uncertain how long it would be before they might have a full meal. She called to the soldier and he came over and took the offered twinkie and went back to the door without a word. Behind a computer they found a radio. Elderton turned it on and began to surf to the usual stations. Static. Static. Static. No one was broadcasting, or someone was blocking the frequencies. She wondered if anyone even knew what was transpiring in Tipton. Was it only happening in Tipton? Was it spreading beyond its borders? How long before a proper response was even taken? If it were up to her, she’d be calling the governor, briefing her, and calling for an emergency state to bring in the National Guard and do it right. Take care of their people, save as many as they could. Try to find a cure. Try to reverse the effects of whatever was causing this outbreak in aggression.
She pulled open another drawer on the teacher’s desk. It was filled with binders, and she pulled them out with her free hand and dropped them haphazardly on top of the desk. They slid all over and one fell to the floor with a crash. The soldier jumped and gave her a look. She ignored him and kept rummaging through the drawer. Nothing. She grabbed the binders on the desk, one by one, and dropped them back in but stopped when she reached the last on the pile. It had been sitting at the bottom of the drawer when she removed them. It was old, grey, and had no labels on it like the others. She noticed what appeared to be a picture of someone’s leg sticking out the bottom, where a page was sticking out from her carelessness. She opened the binder and on the first page there were four different photos, all from the same angle, and all of different pairs of legs. All were girls. She turned the page. Another four photos, more pairs of legs. She turned the page--more of the same.
“What is this?” Martha asked when she noticed the photos Elderton was paging through.
Elderton knelt down beneath the desk and followed a cable from the computer to a webcam that had been taped upside down underneath the desk. It was aimed for a perfect shot of getting the two pairs of legs on the front row. She grabbed the webcam and yanked it out. She slammed the webcam on the binder of pictures.
“Our teacher has been doing up-skirt photos of his students,” Elderton growled. She was fuming with rage. She turned to the soldier. “What’s the name on the door?”
He frowned and reluctantly stuck his head out the door and looked at the plaque with both the room number and teacher’s last name.
He reported the name back to Elderton. She shook her head. “I always thought he was kind of a pervert.” She thought about how if she got out of the night alive, and found out Higgins had too, she was gonna arrest him and throw away the key. “Hey, kid,” she said to the soldier, “Can I make a phone call? I need to check in on my deputy and secretary. At least let them know I’m fine, and Martha’s fine. I won’t say anything about what’s going on.”
The soldier shook his head, “You must think I’m pretty naive.”
“No,” Elderton replied, “But I was kinda hoping you had some sense left in you.”
He shook his head again. “No phone calls.”
“Well, I just thought I’d ask,” she said.
“Besides, we got the phone lines cut all over town. You couldn’t even--” He caught himself bragging and saying too much, but it was too late. The damage was done.
“Thanks,” Elderton said with a smile. “That’s all I wanted to know.”
The soldier turned his head away and stared out the window to the classroom. He was seething with anger, she could tell. She’d really gotten under his skin using him like that. She mildly felt bad, because he hadn’t been horrible to them, but he hadn’t been exactly empathetic either. She was tired of waiting for people to make the right decisions, she was tired of sitting on her hands hoping something would fall right. Despite how much she and Mayor Marsden hated each other, she was still taken aback that he had not only allowed her capture to transpire but that he also revealed in it. He was handing over control of Tipton and he didn’t even know it. That’s how arrogant he was--how arrogant the soldier was--and everyone else she’d met that night. Everyone thought they had some big play, some big power move they were making. Reality was that they were just making a dire situation worse by letting egos get in the way. She was ready to break out and take Tipton back.
“Someone’s coming,” the soldier said and readied his rifle.
“One of your own?” Elderton asked. She could tell he was nervous and likely trigger happy.
“No, a man in a polo shirt and shorts,” He said. “Kind of a big guy. And bald.”
“With a mustache?” Martha asked.
“That’s Mr. Higgins,” Martha said.
They all looked at each other awkwardly for a moment. The footfalls of Higgins could be heard coming closer and closer. The soldier took several steps back from the door. “Put those binders away,” he told Elderton. “We don’t need a fight over that right now.”
Elderton just looked at him and didn’t flinch. “No.” She put her one free hand on her hip.
“I said put them away dammit,” he growled at her.
Even Martha placed her free hand on her hip.
The soldier turned his rifle towards them and started to make a threat, but before he could do so there was a knock at the door. A slow, prodding knock at the door. It almost sounded as if Higgins was trying to paw his way inside.
They all looked at each other, confused. If it was Higgins, he would surely have the keys to his own classroom. And even if he’d lost them, knocking on the door in the middle of the night wouldn’t have made much difference.
“Something doesn’t add up,” Elderton said. “If that’s Higgins, why is he knocking on his classroom door in the middle of the night?”
Knock. Knock. Knock.
“Mr. Higgins!” The soldier called out. The knocking stopped. “Is that you, Mr. Higgins?” Silence. No response. “I said, Mr. Higgins, is that you?”
Knock. Knock. Knock.
Elderton could see the soldier was sweating from head to foot. He was shaking in all of his joints and his gun was still trained on her and Martha, but his wide-eyes were fixated on the door. She knew he was going to end up shooting someone prematurely. She’d seen that look before in her old partner back in Oakland in 1993. The fear slowly took over any sense of logic, any sense of restraint. She had tried to talk her partner, Winston, down back then but he couldn’t even hear her. The fear was too loud. He fired at the first movement he saw, which came from an unarmed fourteen year old black boy. After the gunshot was fired, she tackled Winston to the ground and handcuffed him. She called it in and tried to save the kid before the paramedics arrived, but it was too late. The bullet severed a major artery to the heart and the child died in less than sixty seconds. She held the kid, Terrell Jones, until the paramedics pried him from her hands. She testified against Winston before a grand jury, but it didn’t matter. It was never brought to court, and Winston stayed on in Oakland. But she was shunned by her peers, and false accusations were slung against her regularly in an attempt to get her fired. She finally left Oakland for a small, presumably quiet position in the lazy town of Tipton.
But now she was staring that look down again.
She knew any sound, any movement could set him off. She kept thinking of Martha. She wouldn't tell her not to move, as she figured even a whisper could be the trigger to set him off. She just had to wait and hope the first movement, the trigger came from somewhere else.
That was it. The soldier let out an unintelligible scream and rushed to the door. He opened it and grabbed Higgins by his shoulders and threw him across the floor in the classroom. He aimed point blank at Higgins on the floor.
“What’s your problem, man?” He yelled at Higgins. Higgins didn’t respond, he lay face down on the tile motionless. “I’m talking to you, pussy!”
Elderton watched in slow motion as the classroom door slowly closed. She knew when it latched the soldier was going to react again. All she could do was watch and hope for the best. She needed an opening to take him down and deescalate the situation, but she also knew she would be dragging Martha with any move she tried to make.
The door latched.
The soldier spun around and took two quick shots through the door. The glass of the window shattered onto the floor. Higgins sat up and grabbed the soldier by his leg. He began to bite on his leg, but was met with a mouthful of pants. The soldier screamed and turned back to Higgins, who was clawing at him in an attempt to topple him over. Instinctively, the soldier shoved his hand in Higgins’ face to try and get him back, but Higgins seized the opportunity to take a bite of his unprotected hand. The soldier panicked and stepped on his own boot while trying to step back, he fell over and Higgins climbed atop of him. He lost his grip on the rifle and it slid across the floor and under some chairs.
Elderton took a firm grip on Martha’s hand and they both took off running for the rifle.
The soldier pushed at the mouth of Higgins with his left forearm, as he tried to bite his face over and over. With his other hand he pulled his pistol from its holster and placed it against Higgins’ head. He took the shot and blood splattered all over his face and mouth. Higgins went limp on top of him, all four-hundred pounds. He spit blood and brain tissue out of his mouth in disgust. And then he saw Martha and Elderton running for the rifle. He aimed his pistol at them.
“Freeze!” He shouted. They stopped. “Turn around slowly!”
Elderton slowly turned about with Martha to face the soldier. He was underneath Higgins, face covered in blood, with an expression of anger and fear. He had his pistol trained on them. Higgins was still bleeding from his head wound over the soldier and into a puddle on the floor.
“There’s more at play tonight, bigger problems than us,” Elderton tried to reason with him.
“Don’t move!” He yelled at them from his compromised position. He wiggled out from underneath the weight of Higgins, sliding around in the blood. He stood up slowly, gun still trained on them. “Move away from my weapon!”
“We’re moving,” Elderton said, as they slowly sidestepped away from the rife and back towards the front of the classroom. “There’s no need to yell. We’re all on the same side.”
“Shut up!” He yelled back at her. “I’m sick of your crap! Just shut up!”
Elderton gently nodded while she and Martha continued away from the rifle. He walked over and picked up the rifle from the ground, he slung it over his shoulders with the strap. He never did lower his pistol. He slowly walked over to the door to the classroom, his back to it and his gun still trained on them. He walked through the broken glass, the sound of it crunching beneath his feet was all they could hear. He reached the door, and opened it. He looked up and down both ends of the hallway, his gun still fixated on them. He looked back to them with the door held open in his hand.
“We’re not on the same team,” He said.
He let go of the door and took off running down the hallway.
“Where’s he going?” Martha asked.
“He’s going AWOL, Martha,” Elderton said. “He’s a lost cause. Don’t worry about him.”
They kept their distance as they walked around Higgins on the floor. He had clearly become like the rest, a mindless cannibalistic nightmare. But Elderton wondered what had brought him back to his classroom. Was there still some of Mr. Higgins left inside? Somewhere buried beneath the primitive behavior was he still cognitive of who he was and his life before the disease? She was frustrated at how little she knew and understood what was happening to the people in Tipton, but she wasn’t going to shed one tear or lose one night of sleep over the death of Mr. Higgins, ninth grade Biology teacher and pervert.
Elderton and Martha looked out into the hallway in the direction the soldier had just gone running. He was already long gone. Gunshots rang out and screaming followed with it, it came from the other direction and they both looked down the long hallway they had originally come from. Soldiers were shouting, shooting, and it sounded like overall chaos.
“We’re going that way,” Elderton said. “But we’ll have to be careful not to be seen.”
“Are you crazy?” Martha said. “Can’t you hear that?”
“Yeah, but do you really wanna follow G.I. AWOL?” She said. “Besides, we need to see what they’re hiding in the gym. I need to know what the hell is going on and what we’re up against.”
“We’re gonna get caught,” Martha worried, and tried to cross her arms in discomfort, but the cuffs didn’t allow it.
“Not if we’re smart, Martha,” Elderton reassured her. “And you and I have more brains between us than their whole damn army.”
As they moved down the hallway, they tried to stay out of sight as much as possible. Ducking behind anything they could, moving from doorway to doorway. The gunshots and mayhem continued, and it only got louder as they moved nearer and nearer to their destination in the gym. They found a row of concession tables that were used during basketball games folded up against the wall. They hid behind the wall they created, Elderton with her arm wrapped around Martha behind her. Up ahead there was still shouting and the sounds of footfalls throughout the area, but the gunshots had stopped. It appeared they had lost their target.
Elderton could see two sets of doors up ahead, each leading into the gym. There was yellow light pouring out from the windows in the door, and they cast yellow lines against the floor in the hallway. She noticed the hydrogen light bulbs on the roof above had been strategically busted out. There was glass all over the floor outside of the gym. It was going to be hard moving around without making a lot of noise, but at least they had some cover of darkness to help. Whoever was stirring up trouble for Wilcox and his men was smart.
She turned back to Martha and whispered, “We’ll head to the first set of doors, look inside through the glass, but we won’t go in unless the gym is absolutely empty, OK?”
“And another thing, there’s glass--” before Elderton could finish speaking, Martha started tapping frantically on her shoulder and pointed behind her. She turned around expecting to see a soldier coming their way, but instead it was something else entirely.
There was a feminine figure moving around in the darkness outside the gym. She slowly moved up to the first set of doors and looked through the glass. The yellow light lit enough of her that Elderton could get a better look. She was taller than most women, she estimated six foot, five inches at least. Her head was round, slick with no hair on top. Her skin was a greenish grey, and had a reptilian texture to it. Her eyes were black, large and there were no whites or noticable pupil. Where her nose should have been, there was no cartilage but instead simply two oval-shaped nostrils flat against the skin. Instead of moving one’s eyes to look around, she moved her head to-and-fro to get different perspectives. The movement had a bird-like quality. She placed a hand to the glass, ready to push the door open. The hand had long fingers with sharp nails at the tips. Between the fingers was a webbing of sorts. Elderton wondered if it was used for climbing, like a spider. She started to slowly push the door open, but then there were voices in the gym, and she turned suddenly away. She started to walk away, but then stopped. Her head slowly turned and looked exactly in the direction of Elderton and Martha.
Martha had a deathgrip on Elderton’s bicep and said curse words under her breath.
The figure stood in the rays of light from the gym, a towering presence not only to Elderton and Martha but surely to all the frantic soldiers that had been pursuing her. Her body was long, and slender, but with an athlete’s build. Her arms were noticeably toned, as were her calves and thighs. Elderton figured she was fast as hell, and there was no point in trying to outrun her. She slowly tilted her head as she looked Elderton dead in the eyes. Elderton didn’t sense a threat, but more a curiosity.
“Trust me Martha,” Elderton whispered to her.
Elderton slowly stood up with Martha’s hand in hers. She slowly stepped out from behind the tables and tugged at Martha like she was a child. They both stood there, hand-in-hand, just breathing. Elderton was playing the only hand she felt she had, the rest was up to the figure before her.
The figure lowered and lifted its head, as it looked them over. She was studying them, no doubt weighing the threat as well. Eventually, she seemed to meet Elderton eye-to-eye again. She raised her brow. Elderton felt as though she was smiling at her. Elderton managed to conjure up a smile in return.
She raised a webbed-hand and slowly waved at Elderton and Martha.
“Oh my gosh,” Martha said. “She’s waving.”
Elderton and Martha each raised their free hand and waved gently back. This seemed to delight her, as she jiggled a little in her stomach. Her face also seemed to lighten up more. She stopped waving and a white light began to illuminate in her abdomen, just below her breasts. The lines of two triangles overlapping took shape in her abdomen. When it was completed, you could see not only two triangles, but the diamond they created in the middle with the overlap.
Elderton didn’t know what it meant, but she had painstakingly tried to hide herself from the soldiers. She had busted out the lights, and snuck around in the dark. But before Martha and her, she was showing herself. She wasn’t afraid to show herself. Elderton had no idea what was going on, or if this creature was responsible for what was happening to the people of Tipton, but she was certain shooting at her wasn’t going to solve it.
“OVER HERE.” A voice shouted from the hallway behind the figure.
She turned and saw a group of soldiers. She spun back and went running straight for Martha and Elderton. They retreated back behind the tables. The soldiers started shooting. Elderton watched with squinted eyes as the flashes of the guns caused a display like firecrackers through the hallway beside them. The soldiers ran by in a large group, pursuing the figure that waved.
“It’s too fast!” Screaming, gunshots. Chaos.
Elderton waited and listened with Martha for the last soldier to pass. But the last one was really trailing behind the rest. She could hear his boots slowly approaching, and labored breathing. Just as he started to pass them, he stopped. Knelt down, hands on knees. He gasped for air and cursed. But then he noticed Elderton’s boots and looked up.
It was the soldier who had taken her guns.
Elderton and Martha jumped him together and tackled him to the ground. Elderton held his mouth closed while Martha watched for the last soldier to turn off down a side hallway. She nodded to Elderton. They drug him across the hall to a classroom by their cuffed hands. He kicked and gagged, grabbing at the cuff chain across his neck. They pulled him inside the classroom and turned on the light. Elderton stepped hard on his testicles with the heel of her boot. He rolled over in pain, caressing them to ease the pain. Martha gently closed the door behind them.
They were in the drama room. Elderton looked around and spotted a rope hanging over the side of a box of props. “Grab him again,” she said to Martha, and they dragged him over to the box. She pulled out the rope, and it was long. Martha let her cuffed hand go limp for Elderton, who took the rope and made quick work of the knots. She went back over the knots, checking they were tight as possible. She then stood up with Martha and looked down at him. He hands and feet were intricately tied together behind his back. He couldn’t stand up, sit up, or move his feet or hands independent of each other. He could roll though.
She looked over at Martha who was giving her a look. “Girl Scouts,” Elderton explained. “My scout leader was a knot expert.”
“OK,” Martha said.
Elderton lead Martha to the teacher’s desk, where she found a notepad and pencil. She sketched the insignia that had appeared on the figure’s abdomen. Two triangles, a diamond in the middle. She showed it to Martha. “Look about right?” She asked.
“That’s it.” Martha replied.
Elderton folded the sketch and put it in her pants pocket.
They walked back over to the soldier and picked him up. They placed him in a chair. Elderton sat in front of him, face-to-face. Knees touching. He was nervous, but angry more than anything. He had been completely blindsided by their presence, and was still trying to get his bearings. She looked at his name and it read Pvt. Roberts.
“Alright, Private Roberts,” she started. “We’re gonna have a little chat. You’re gonna tell me what is happening and why ya’ll are trying to cover it up.”
He sneered at her and shook his head. “I’m not gonna betray my country, because of some psycho bitch. So why don’t you two ladies just head home, make some popcorn, and turn on a Lifetime movie--and leave this to the big boys, yeah?”
Martha pushed past Elderton and grabbed Roberts by the collar. “My family is dead! My husband killed my children tonight! You getting that through your stupid skull? This ain’t a game. People are dying. So wipe that smirk off your stupid face.” She pushed away from him and walked away. She turned her back to him. She couldn’t look at his smug face anymore.
“This the way you do things in Tipton?” Roberts asked Elderton.
“She doesn’t work for me,” Elderton said. “So she does whatever she wants. But this is about you right now. Are you going to help us, yes or no?”
He leaned close enough that their noses touched for a brief moment. “No.”
Elderton sat back. “Alright, fair enough. So, we’re gonna gag you, leave you here with the door open. How long do you think before that creature comes back?” She could see in his eyes the thought of meeting with the creature from the hallway was something he didn’t want in his present state. “Or even worse, how much longer before one of the fine people of Tipton wander through that door.” She pointed to the door for effect. “Of course, they might not be themselves when they do.”
“You’re not gonna leave me here,” he said. “You’re bluffing.”
“Martha, get a gag.”
They sat there, knees still touching, while Martha rummaged through some boxes with prop and costume pieces. She found an old backpack and put it on the floor next to the box. She found a red handkerchief and smiled. She handed it to Elderton.
Elderton wrapped it up tight around her hand. “I have one more question.” She looked up from the handkerchief. “Where are my guns?”
Roberts was looking nervous finally. He was finally letting the anger wash away and be replaced by pure fear. “They’re in the gym with the rest of the cache.”
“There’s a weapons cache in the gym?” Elderton asked. She was appalled at the thought.
“Yeah,” He said. “But don’t go in there, because...” he slowly stopped speaking.
“Oh, I’m going in there,” Elderton said. She stood up and walked around behind him. She unwound the handkerchief from her hand.
“Now, just wait a minute--” he tried to plead, but she pulled the handkerchief tight against his mouth from behind him. She pulled it tight around to the back of his head. She took the two ends and tied them as tight to his head as possible. She could only hear his gags and moans. No more arrogant rants.
She walked around in front of him. She had hooked the handkerchief between the teeth, and it was so tight she could tell it was going to hurt like hell. But she felt no pity for Private Roberts.
Martha turned to Elderton. “I found a backpack. It might prove useful. Let’s see what else we can find amongst the props and costumes before we go.”
Elderton and Martha spent five minutes rummaging through the props and costumes, and it turned out to be a worthwhile endeavor. Elderton found a baseball bat, which might prove useful in close combat or if they ran out of ammo. Martha found a trench coat her size and gave Elderton her jacket back. She Martha also found a baseball cap, Detroit Twins. She put her hair up with some hair pins she found with makeup and hair items. She slipped the hat on over it. Her hair would be kept out of her face from now on. Martha didn’t need any obstruction blocking her vision.
On their way out of the classroom, Elderton waved at Roberts and propped the door open with a wooden doorstop she found on the floor.
Elderton and Martha crossed the hall to the first pair of doors to the gym. They looked inside and it appeared no one was present. But the large pod-like thing she had gotten a tiny glimpse of earlier was still in the center of the basketball court.
“What is it?” Martha whispered.
“No idea. Come on.” Elderton quietly pushed the door open and snuck through with the bat in hand. Martha held the door until it was closed, and slowly let it latch with the handle in her hands. They both walked along the bleachers and at the front they looked across the gym. They had a clear shot of the entire gym and there was no one present. Elderton turned back to Martha. “Guns first, and then we check out the thing, OK?”
Martha nodded silently.
Elderton looked back out across the gym. There were various pieces of army equipment and weapons. There was also a row of folding tables with documents laid across them along with various thermoses for coffee and water bottles partially drank. She spotted a stockpile of guns in varying sizes on the other side of the thing. That’s where her guns would be, and ammo. And Martha needed a weapon too. She couldn’t believe what she was thinking. Where the evening had taken them. She was about to steal weapons and ammunition from the United States Army and Homeland Security, and then just hand it over to a citizen and encourage her to use it on anything that came at them with intent to attack. It was a bleak night. She found herself wishing for the boring morning of looking at cattle. If only.
They held hands as they crossed the court. Still cuffed together. They kept a distance between themselves and the uncertain object they would soon be inspecting. On the other side of it, they moved to the weapons cache. She found her shotgun easily enough, but it took a little more effort to sift through an ammo box filled with pistols. They filled up their backpack with ammunition, two extra pistols, and a couple of hand-grenades.
“You should pick out a gun.” Elderton whispered to Martha. Martha looked around for a moment, but then picked up an AR-15. She looked it over a little, to adjust to it. Felt it in her hands, the weight of it. Elderton shook her head, “Do you know how to use that?”
“My brother Jimmy had one when I was in high school.” Martha explained. “And I’m not taking my chances. I know what this disease makes people do.”
“Alright,” Elderton said, “I just wanted to make sure you knew what you were doing. Grab some clips and put them in the backpack.”
After Martha loaded some clips for her rifle into the backpack, it was so full they could barely zip it up. “This is gonna be a pain to carry, let’s take turns with it.” Martha suggested. Elderton nodded and tried to pick it up, but Martha stopped her. “I’ll take the first carry. We can switch off when we get away from the army.” Elderton nodded again. Martha slid the backpack over her one free shoulder and carried the rifle in her hand, but wouldn’t be able to use it until after dropping the backpack.
Elderton knew it was the smart thing to do. She had the training, she would do better against the soldiers they might encounter on the way out. And she was really hoping no firing would be exchanged between her and Army or Homeland Security. It was going to be hard to explain that she wasn’t betraying her country later down the road.
They both looked at the pod-like object in the middle of the court. For the first time Elderton had a clear view of it. She could see there were designs in the side, but the one that stood out was in the center. It was the same design they had seen on the creature in the hallway, when she lit it up to them. What did it mean? Was it some form of communication? The creature had lit it up on her abdomen after communicating with a handwave. What was that creature? And what was the pod?
They walked together up to the pod, got a closer look. It was black except for silver markings along the outside of it, which created most of the designs. Some of the designs were just carved into the black areas of the pod.
“Is it an egg?” Martha asked out loud to no one.
On one side Elderton found the markings of a gunshot ricochet. There had also been some repair made next to it, as it appeared to rupture the pod. It looked like they had used sealing caulk to fill the hole.
“Back up,” Elderton said as she stepped back and pulled Martha with her.
“There’s been a leak, they repaired it there,” Elderton explained and pointed to it. “It’s possible whatever leaked out of this is what got into our water supply and is causing the spread of the disease.”
They both stood silent for a moment, considering the possibility that this pod was the very thing spreading chaos through their town.
They took a few more steps back.
“Did you notice the symbol?” Martha asked.
“What does it mean?” Martha asked.
“No idea,” Elderton said, and then pulled her to the tables. “Come on.” Elderton didn’t even look, she just started picking up stacks of them and handed them to Martha. “Here, in the front pocket of the backpack. As many as we can.”
Martha set her rifle on a table, and pulled the backpack off of her shoulder. She set it on the table. She unzipped the front pocket and crammed in the files. Elderton stacked them and handed them over, Martha scooted the backpack over and shoved them in. Over and over. Files upon files. And pictures.
Elderton found two pictures of the pod. She folded one into a small square and it handed it to Martha. “Put it in your bra.” She said. She folded another and they each put an image of the pod into their bra. “If we lose the backpack, and the files, we at least have a photo. Each of us. That way if--” she stopped herself before she finished the sentence.
“I know,” Martha said, “It’s smart. But we are gonna get through this.” She gripped Elderton’s hand. Elderton picked up another stack of papers and folders. Martha shook her head at her. There was no more room in the backpack. She zipped up the pocket on the backpack. She pointed to a door on the backside of the gym. “That one goes outside, Kelly,” Martha said. “But it will set off a fire alarm, so we’ll have to book it.”
“Let’s pick a destination before we start running,” Elderton said.
Martha thought for just a second. “Taco House.”
“It’s three blocks away, and it’s the only thing open late in this town,” Martha said. “There might be people there, or at the very least unlocked doors.”
“Sounds reasonable,” Elderton said. “Taco House it is.”
They took one more look at the pod, knowing they would likely never see it again. Once that moment had passed, they headed to the door at the back of the gym. It had red all over it and the words FIRE ALARM all capitalized in white. Elderton looked back at Martha before opening the door, she nodded to her. She pressed the door open and they ran off into the night to the sound of the fire alarm.
Three blocks. Just three blocks.
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