The calamity outside the Command Center is getting louder. I push another filing cabinet up against the door hoping it would buy us a little more time. Taking the knife out of my boot I start to unwind the screws in the vent. It comes off rarely easily and I let Nell crawl in first. The door is starting to buckle in and I can see the razor sharp claws coming through the crack of the door.
I dig in my bag as fast as I can to grab a sticky mine, set it to two minutes and threw it onto the filing cabinet. That should give us enough time to crawl through the vent away from the blast.
The vent slats are big enough for me to stick my hand through to re-tighten the cover before the blast but I am only able to get two of the screws in. Nell is hiding in an air shaft off to the right waiting for me to take the lead.
As we crawl through I can hear the creatures finally breaking through the barricade and the final chimes of the mine. Using my own body as a shield I hunch over Nell. I can feel her screams through the vibrations in her back but the blast silenced her voice. When the dust starts to settle and there are no more sounds of building falling to the floor, I sit back and listen. Nothing, not a growl or ticking of nails, just the sound of fire roaring through the vent.
“Let’s keep going.” I say through a cough.
Even though I am in the lead, Nell is the one telling me which way to go. She memorized the entire layout of the building including all of the ventilation. It seems like we have been crawling for hours around these vents. My knees are killing me and I had no idea how heavy my pack really is until now. The shafts remind me of when you are little, playing inside those colorful tubes at a fast food joint. They were always fun and you don’t notice the pain in your knees until you get in the car to leave.
“Nell we need to find the armory. We need to stop and get some rest.” I inform her.
“It will be our next right.” she answered.
The next right was a dead end with only a vent that looks down into a very dark room. I pull up the vent’s door. Laying on my stomach, I pull out my flashlight. I know to cover it with my hand so not to shine one direct beam on light into a space. It helps to soften and disperse the light but it is not all that effective in this room. I can not see that far into room but what is directly below us. There is a table and chairs right below us and it looks like some lockers across the room. I can’t be to sure but towards the back of the room it does resemble gun racks.
“This is the place” I told Nell, “I’ll go down first and take a look around to make sure it’s safe. Stay here.” I whispered.
I lower myself down onto the table that is below the vent and falling into a crouch I pull up my gun and flashlight. As I pan around the room I notice that they are gun racks and not all of the weapons are gone. There are several twelve gauge shotguns, rifles, handguns, grenades, mines and other killing tools. I look back up into the vent and see Nell’s little dirty face looking down at me. I place my finger to my mouth and she nods her head and backs away from the opening.
There are several tall lockers in the room and I need to check them out before I let her down here. Sliding silently off the table I make my way across to them. The lockers are mostly intact. Some have no doors and those are the ones that seem to have nothing in them. I cautiously open the first closed one. The door swings open without a noise and it has all kinds of ammo in it .
“That’s good” I thought.
The second cabinet housed some uniforms, bags, and other items. I will have to give my lucky pack an upgrade. Standing in front of the third cabinet I hesitate, I thought I hear some movement coming from inside. I raise my gun up and grab ahold of the handle. Counting to three in my head, I swing the door open not to find a creature or one of those things walking the streets. Instead it is an injured soldier and he was pointing his gun right back at me, scared out of his mind.
“Hey man, I’m not going to hurt you. My name is Celeste O”Hara, Special Forces. I am going to lower my gun. Can you do the same?” I told the soldier.
He starts to lower his gun as he swung his legs out of the cabinet. “My name is Corporal Raul Martinez. I was left behind to guard the armory, because of my injury, while my platoon went to help at the front gate. That was awhile ago though. Then I heard an explosion and saw you coming down from the ceiling,so I hid in this locker. I didn’t know if you were human or one of those things.” His voice sounds hoarse and dry.
“Its nice to meet you Corporal Martinez but I have a little girl with me. I need to get her out of the vent.” I say with a smile. He just waves his hand at me to go get her.
“Nell, sweetheart, you can come down now. Let your feet come down first.” She cooperated and laid down on her stomach inching her way down towards me. “I’ve got you. Let go”
She is so thick and sturdy for such a little girl, it feels as if she is nothing but muscle. I bring her over to Martinez so they can meet but the whole time she cowered behind me like a frightened kitten. I smoothed her hair and gave her an “it’s ok” look and she reachs out and shook his hand.
“How did you guys get in here?” He wondered
“It’s a long story and we are very tired. Do you have any food, we have barely eaten all day and I’m sure she hasn’t eaten a full meal in a very long time?” I ask politely.
He hobbles over to a couple of boxes stacked up in the corner and brought us some MRE’s and a couple bottles of water.
“If you want to take a shower there is a locker room right through that door.” he informs us. I would love nothing more than to take a shower and I know Nell is in desperate need of one.
“Thank you, we would love a shower.” I said.
I walk over to the locker that has the uniforms and grab some shirts, shorts, and some soap. Nell and I both walk into the shower room and I help her take her first shower probably since this thing all started. Helping her take her sweatshirt off I notice the tattoo again. That strange hieroglyphic symbol on her ribs. Trying not to stare, I just give her a smile and hand her a bar of soap. There are towels on a rack and I use a washcloth to wash the dirt off her face.
As I started to wash down her body I notice that she has circle marks on her arms. I can’t figure out what they must have been from but I don’t ask her. She is already so vulnerable right now and I don’t want to freak her out anymore than she already is. When she is clean to the best of my ability, I give her one of the MRE’s and set her up on the other side of the shower to eat.
The way that Nell is looking into that MRE snack pack, is like watching my own daughter on Christmas Eve. Its the same wide eyed look of excitement. She is so grateful for the little bit of wholesome food that she jumps up and gives me a hug.
“I am going to be right here behind this wall taking my shower, if you need me, ok?” She just nods and goes back to her little snack. I hurry in the shower because I do not want her to get bored and go wander around plus the water is pretty cold.
After the showers, we sit back down with Martinez and eat a regular MRE meal. I am having the lemon pepper tuna with a side of mixed veggies, a piece of bread and for dessert a sugar cookie. Nell is eating Ratatouille with a side of applesauce, some crackers, and for her dessert is a small lemon pound cake. I tell Martinez about my family and how I came upon Nell. I did not disclose the weird things I have noticed about her just that I found her locked in one of the rooms. He was quite astonished that I found her still alive and how we escaped from the creatures.
“You guys can use one of those duffle bags and fill it with these MRE’s and bottles of water.” he offers while putting some beef and black beans in his mouth.
“Thank you very much,” I reply, “your leg looks bad. Here let me take a look at it.” I move closer to him to examine his wound. It looks like a gunshot from a .45 caliber handgun but the flesh around it looks very infected and surrounded by pus.
“Do you have a medical bag in here?” I ask.
“There should be one in that box over there.” I look over at Nell, who seems to be very interested in her lemon cake, and then move on to the boxes in the corner.
Most of the boxes say ammo on them but I find the medical bag in the top box. Back at his side, I open the bag and find that there are not a lot of medical supplies in there. I start to rummage through the back and find a pair of tweezers, a needle, some thread, gauze and a little bottle of peroxide. These things should do the trick and I instruct him to bite down on a towel he has next to him.
“I have to get the bullet out of your leg before I can stitch it up to try and stop this infection from spreading.” He just nods, places the towel in his mouth, and braces for the pain. The bullet wasn’t too deep in his leg, right on top of the bone, so I didn’t have to dig too far.
“See that wasn’t so bad” I said with a smile, “here is the real pain. I need you to stay as still as possible and try not to scream. You will scare Nell.”
Martinez nods again and closes his eyes. I start to pour the peroxide over his wound and he starts to scream into the towel. I am trying as fast as I can so I don’t cause him any more pain. The needle and thread are already sterilized from the packaging they are in so I get to work. Weaving the needle in and out of his leg, getting it as tight as I can so the wound won’t open again. He is trying to stay as still as possible but his leg never stops shaking.
“Ok, I am done.” I take the gauze out of the bag and wrap his leg as tight as I can to help ward off anymore infection. Covered in sweat he lets out an exasperated “thank you”.
“Your welcome. You know you are going to have to tell me what happened here.” I tell him.
“I will tell you after we get some sleep” he replies.
“I will take the first watch.” I say as I walk over to Nell and make her a bed in the opposite corner of the room, under one of the tables.
There are a few tiny blankets in one of the cabinets so I roll one up for a pillow for her and Martinez. In the medical bag there is also some Ibuprofen, so I give him about eight hundred milligrams to help with the pain.
“Get some sleep, you have earned it soldier.” I tell him and go back to the other side of the room with Nell.