Authors: Lee Thomas
"Ok. Why do I hear a problem in your voice?" I asked.
"Well, sir, with the storm coming in, it will be dark in about an hour, the clouds are already forming over us." he stated.
"Oh. Alright, get a team to the gate and escort them in. Let's get them onboard as soon as possible."
Walking out onto the flight deck, I watched the team head down the pier towards the gate to meet the survivors. I knew the gate guards would be watching their backs. I could watch the sky darkening, and I was worried that we would not get them in in time. Even though actual sundown wasn't for another two hours, dark was all they needed, and it was headed that way fast. I saw the group coming down the pier finally, so I headed down towards the hangar bay and the aft elevator where they would be coming in. I always liked greeting new arrivals. Moving towards the elevator, I saw the group coming over the lip. The survivors huddled in a group near the middle, obviously torn between scared and relieved.
"Hello, my name is Sheldon. I'm the leader of this group. Welcome. Are any of you bitten or infected?" I asked the one who stepped forward, apparently the one taking charge.
"No, no bites. We have had injuries from falls, running from them, etc., but no bites. My name is John." he stated.
"Perfect. You are safe here. We have temporary quarters set up here in the hangar bay. We will get you set up there so you can rest, have something to eat, and get clean clothes." I said, shaking the man's hand. I then left them in the hands of my crew, sure in the knowledge that they would be taken care of for the night. I would return later and chat, get to know them, but for now I had business to attend to. I made my way to the bridge, needing to set the ship orders for the night. I walked into the bridge and began the process.
"Since the storm is coming I want to go to storm stations for the night. Tell the fence guards to watch, but don't fire if they can help it." I passed the orders on to the OOD, knowing it would get done. That was one benefit of having the sailors still onboard. While I didn't run things as strict as the military did, some customs stuck around for streamlining. I then left the bridge and headed back down to the galley for some dinner.
After eating, I decided it was time to go meet the newcomers. I know for one they would like to be reassured that this was in fact a safe haven. Plus, I would like to get a feel for their skills, what they might be suitable for. I walked up to the short term trailers kept in the hangar bay just for this purpose.
Knocking on the door, I received a come in, and stepped inside. Each trailer held up to 20 people, and we had three of them. They were also used for quarantine purposes when we had sick people. The first thing I saw was that food had already been brought and devoured. That was good. I found John sitting at one the tables, just watching his people.
"Was there any problems with the food?" I asked, just to make sure. I knew the answer, Michelle never disappointed with her menu.
"No, it was all fantastic. But we may be biased tonight due to hunger," John joked with me, but I could see the gratitude on his face, as well as his people. "We were also told that clean clothes would be provided later."
"Yes, whenever we find survivors, I have found it makes all the difference to get them fed, and clothed fresh. Yours will of course be returned, freshly washed, and repaired if need be. We have a few excellent tailors here."
"We do appreciate it greatly. Just what do you expect from us though?" John asked, concern on his face. It looked like he expected me to say they were going to be forced to stay, or work, or something.
"Nothing. At least not for several days. These will be your quarters for a few days, till you start getting settled, and have a decent rest. I know how stressful it is to be on the road, fighting those things all night, every night. We were the same way till we found the ship. I would like to sit down with you sometime in the next day or two, get to know you all, and see where you would best fit here. If you choose to stay, that is. By no means are you being coerced or forced to stay. If you want to leave, we will provide supplies and send you on your way. I do hope you will choose to stay, and help us. But we will discuss that later. Tonight, I just wanted to see that you were taken care of. You will be safe here, and if you need anything, just let one of the crew know. I will have one or two posted outside for your use. Feel free to wander around the ship if you please, and just ask someone for help if you get lost. Any questions now?" I said. I knew it was enough for tonight.
"No, we appreciate the save from those things. I think we will take advantage of your hospitality tonight, enjoy sleeping in a real bed, even if it is a military bunk bed," John laughed. "The food was great, please tell your cooks what an amazing job they did."
"I will do so. Clothes should be brought soon, so you can change into something clean if you'd like. We have three trailers here, so feel free to spread out. Just leave anything that needs washed in those buckets over there, and they will be washed in the morning. Anyone who wants a shower tonight, just let these men know outside, and they will take you. I'll let you to it then, I have some ships business to attend to anyways. Goodnight, and I will check on you in the morning." I said, taking my leave of them. I walked back up the ladderwell to the bridge, just to make sure everything was fine before I headed to my quarters for the night.
"Report." I said as soon as I walked into the bridge.
"It's a sizable herd of Mindless that followed them sir. They've followed the scent, but are posing no threat to the base at this time." reported the current OOD.
"Good. Hold fire unless they do. I don't want to attract more." After confirming no other problems, I retired to my quarters.
Slumping down on my couch, I kicked my boots off, and settled in to relax for a few before going to bed. I thought about this group, hoping they would decide to stay. I could use the extra manpower. Giving up my thoughts, I went to bed.
The next morning, I got dressed and went to the bridge to check on things. With no problems overnight, or anything else needing my attention, I headed down to the hangar bay to see about our new visitors. I hoped things worked out and we had new people.
Knocking on the trailer door, John answered and ushered me in.
"How are you all feeling today?" I asked, noticing that only a few were in the trailer.
"We are all well rested, and the food was excellent. We also had someone show us where the showers were, so we all have enjoyed feeling clean again. It's been awhile." John said.
"Good, good. We can show you how to read the wall markers so you can find your own way around. I see you're in something new, so I assume clothes were found for you all?"
"Yes, we all have something new, and what was still usable is being cleaned. I can't tell you how much we appreciate all this. How are you able to do this?"
"Well, this is a nuclear powered ship, so we have power. It has pumps to pull in water, which gets filtered, and cleaned to use as drinking water, showers, cooking, and laundry. Water heaters ensure we have hot showers too. We have weapons, and plenty of ammo for defense, plus once we close the hangar doors and raise the elevators, the only way onboard is to climb the lines tying us to the pier. Those are watched so that can't happen. We have hydroponics going in several empty missile storage bays, which provide us potatoes, tomatoes, green beans, etc. We hunt for meat. Luckily the virus that caused all this is apparently not transmissible to animals. It's not the easiest life, but we are safe, secure, and fed. Of course, that is only the ship portion of what we have. The base is also secured, surrounded by the wall, and watch towers. We have gardens, two small orchards, and a small livestock farm." I explained. It was a simplified version, but accurate.
"Well, it seems impressive." John said, "We talked about it last night, and we didn't really have a plan, other than survive. I believe most of us would like to stay. I do have a couple of people who are pig headed, and want to do things on their own. It's given us a little grief on the road before, but I don't think it will here."
"That's good to hear. We could always use more people." I replied, "I'll be up in the bridge more than likely if you need me for anything. I'm glad you're staying. If there are some who would like to leave, like I said, they are free to. We will give them a week's worth of supplies and let them go. If you would, please put together a list of your peoples' names, along with any skills they have, so I can figure out a good place for them to work, as well as have our personnel officer, Val, find bunks for everyone. If there are families, or couples, let us know so she can try to keep them together. Don’t stress about the work part too much though, we don’t expect any new arrivals to jump right in. We usually give you a week to acclimate and decide what you want to do."
Shaking his hand, I left the trailer in search of breakfast. I entered the galley and got my tray. There were most of the newcomers, and I noticed they were not just huddled together, but mixed in with the rest of the crew. An extra 36 people could make a difference, especially if any of them had special skills.
Around lunchtime, I was sitting in my ready room, looking at reports detailing our current inventory of items such as food stores, ammo, laundry needs, etc., the various daily needs that people have. John was escorted in, and I motioned to an empty seat.
"Coffee?" I asked.
"Real coffee? I haven't had a cup of coffee in months. I would even take instant." John said.
"For now, it's real." I answered with a grin. I got up and poured both of us a cup.
Handing him his cup and showing him the tray with sugar and creamer, I sat back down at my desk.
"I brought that list you asked for. Most of my people I knew from before, so I could put it together pretty quick. None of us have any really special skills, but I have several that are excellent shots, one plumber, a couple of lawyers, which I doubt would do much good now," he chuckled, reading off his list. "Most of them can follow directions though, so put us where you need us. We won't let you down."
"Nothing to let me down for, I just expect everyone to do something, and do their best. I will get with the department heads and find out what we need exactly where. If you have any night owls, we could always use more guards at night. That's when the infected are most active."
"That's what they are? Infected? So, not the dead, rotting zombies everyone likes to claim they are?" John said, with a grin. I laughed, hard, I couldn't help it. I knew that rumor, that's what everyone jumped to at first, myself included.
"No, not dead. Harder to kill, yes, but they are not dead. There was no cure found before things went south, so now there probably won't be. They don't seem to feel pain, but a head shot or heart shot will stop them. Anything else just kinda slows them down." I said. Yes, it was a virus. No, they were not dead. That was the common misconception about these things. Even I thought they were, but I had seen what little research had been done before the crap hit the fan.
"So, do you have a long term plan, or is it just a ‘we got here, now we survive’ kinda plan?" John asked, obviously wondering if we had thought it through.
"Well, I do have a longer term plan, if you'd like to hear it. It's a little complicated, but doable." I said, sipping on my coffee.
"I would like to hear it. I was a city planner before, I may be able to help iron out some details if you need it."
"Excellent. Yes, I would love the help. Ok, let's go to the map room. I'll show you." Setting down my mug, I stood, and ushered John out of my office and down the hall. We entered the map room, so I could show him my long term plan.
"See this area here? It's a peninsula. The canal up north here provides a perfect northern border. We aim to fortify one of these bridges, then take out the rest. These infected cannot swim. Leaving one bridge allows us to make raids for supplies, hunting parties, etc., while keeping it easy to defend. There is one bridge to the west, and one south. The southern one actually lets out not too far from here. See here? These are tunnels under the water, so big ships can pass by. I want to fortify these spots here, and here. That will give us three bridges into and out of the area, and make it easily defensible. Once that is done, we go through and clear it of infected, by drawing them to us, then taking them out. As you can see from these satellite maps, there is already farmland, and cities. The carrier can provide power for a while, and we have solar panels for some houses and whatnot. All we have to do is claim it. That is the simplified version of the plan, but it covers all the basics."
After finishing, I sat back and watched John process it. He looked at the maps, traced various areas, and looked at it from different angles. Eventually, he looked back up at me.
"Well, I think that might actually work. I thought you might have just had a fly by the seat of your pants type plan, but it looks like you've actually thought this out" John said, he looked impressed, and relieved.
"Well, thank you. I have been going over it for some time, pretty much ever since we got set up here. I knew the ship, and base, while secure, would only be a temporary setting. I plan on taking several of the ships with us, docking them in the bay, or even grounding them if we have too. There is a lot of marshy area we can ground the ships safely. I want them for a security blanket. Storm shelters mostly, and also for the communication and radar equipment. Let me show you around the ship some more, personal tour."
We left the map room, and headed first for the bridge. I introduced John to the duty crew, which included Jeff, the CO. We then went down to the ready rooms, and I showed him the camera room, monitoring the pier through our exterior cameras. Next was the communication room, which played our recording letting others know we were here, as well as trying to keep in contact with other survivor groups. I then took him down to the laundry facilities, sickbay, and showed him several of our bunk rooms. We went and toured the hydroponics bays, and he seemed impressed. We ended up back near the galley.
"Everything below the hangar deck here is mostly machinery, other than the hydroponics areas, what keeps this place running. Engineering has most of the bottom five decks, along with some bunkrooms for their crew, but it's mostly just the guts of the ship." I explained as we got in line for lunch. "After we eat, I'll take you the vault, show you some research that was done on those things before it all went to hell."
"Research? So we do know something about them?" John asked.
"Yes, some. I don't want to talk about them while we're eating, so it can wait. We have a presentation room near the vault if you think your people would like to hear it too."
"Yes, I think some would. After this, I'll see if I can round them up, see who wants to hear it."
"Perfect. I'll call up to the bridge, have them paged back to the trailers, that way they are all together. You go find out who all wants to hear it, I'll head up and get the info out of the safe. Meet me by my office when you're done." I said.
We got up and put our trays in the washing area. We then went our separate ways, John to gather his people, me to get the room ready. I informed the bridge of where I would be for the next little while, and had a crew member go fetch coffee and snacks for the conference room. I then went to the vault, opened it, and stepped in. The vault was a large, room sized safe. It was used to hold all the classified information the ship stored before the Event, now it really only held the research on the infected, manuals on how to run the ships equipment, etc. I'm sure most of those books were still considered 'classified', but now there was no one to worry about stealing the info. Most of the ones used for maintenance and training were kept in their respective departments now anyways.
Setting what I had on the table in the conference room, I went back down to my office to wait for John and his group. A knock signaled they had arrived. I opened the door to see most of his group there in the hallway.
"Wow. Ok, let's go." I said, leading the way. We entered the conference room and everyone took seats. I saw the food had arrived, and a few dug in.
"Alright. While you guys dig in, I'm gonna get started. I promise none of this will make you lose an appetite. For starters, what everyone calls zombies, which is as good a name as any, are actually infected people. They are not dead. There are two kinds we have found. The first, and most prevalent, are what we call the Mindless. They just shuffle around, eating whatever they run across. They can run after you slowly however. They don't think, they don't plan, they just eat, and move. They are also the easiest to deal with. They are easy to lure where we want them to take them out. They don't feel pain, and only a head or heart shot will actually stop them. A leg hit will slow them down, a body shot will eventually slow them down, or kill them if it's a good enough hit, and they bleed out. These are the ones you have probably dealt with mostly." As I explained this, I showed slides on the projector and research papers, video clips taken in labs, and pictures taken of this kind in action. I watched everyone's reactions, ranging from disgusted, to curious, to scared. In other words, normal group reactions.
"There is a second kind also. These are the ones we have to worry about. They are faster, they are smarter, and they can work together. Now, before I start showing you pictures and such, I just want to give anyone who is squeamish a chance to leave, this part is not pretty. Some of it is hard to see." I stopped and let that sink in, waiting to see if anyone left. As they all looked around at each other, it looked like a few were deciding if they wanted to leave or not. A few whispered conversations, long looks, and some quick reassurance, no one left.
"We don't really have a set name for this group; we just call them 'mutants' since they all undergo some form of transformation. Some more so than others it seems. They grow claws, which is actually just the finger bones growing out of the fingertips, or so it appears. Their teeth become more like canine or feline teeth; they lose the flat molars and grow extra sharp, pointy teeth, good for ripping and tearing. This group also seems to retain at least part of their human intelligence, and can communicate with each other through grunts, growls, yips, etc. Think pack animals like hyenas. They are harder to kill, as they are faster, and can actually think enough to avoid traps and such. They are also much stronger, with a muscle mass denser than most humans, more on the lines of gorillas." I stopped there for a minute, letting them process it. The pictures were enough for most. I watched them try to figure this out, some faster than others, some not wanting to believe it.
"I know this is a lot to take in, and please don't think I'm showing you this to convince you to stay. You can leave any time you'd like. But I would like all of you to stay, helps us with this endeavor. We need all the people we can get if the human race is to survive."