Alpha, p.16
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       Alpha, p.16

           Daniel Schmidt

  Chapter 16

  As we moved northwest towards the distress signal, we skirted the western edge of the Peaks and the hills became taller and steeper. Despite the cold, everyone started sweating as we walked. I moved up to walk next to Carlos. He held his crucifix in his hand but stuffed it back into his shirt as I matched his stride.

  He looked at me with fatigue-filled eyes. We had been constantly moving and fighting since nearly two o’clock the previous morning and it started to show. “We need to kill the Alpha,” Carlos said after a few steps. “I freak myself out every minute or so, thinking I see him behind a tree.”

  “I think we’re all doing that. Any ideas?” I asked.

  He shook his head.

  “I bet if we had some more firepower we could take him down,” I said.

  “But where are we going to get that?” Carlos said.

  “We’ll figure it out,” I shrugged, not knowing what else to say.

  I caught up with Walter who was near the head of our formation. He reached out with one of his arms and while still walking, wrapped it around my neck and pulled me into a painful hug, his massive bulk nearly choking the breath out of me. He let me go after a few steps, and he shook his head but didn’t say anything. I slapped him on the back and then turned to encourage the men as they passed me.

  We started up another hill and halfway up I caught a faint whiff of smoke. When we got to the top, the smell of smoke filled my nostrils and I saw a cloud of it hanging just above the tree line to the north. I looked at the map and realized it was the location that the distress signal had come from.

  Denise had stopped on top of the hill and was looking in the direction of the smoke. When I got to her, she turned. “There are buildings just beyond the smoke that have been burned recently. Is that where the distress signals came from?” she asked.

  I nodded my head.

  Denise dropped her backpack and climbed the tallest tree she could find. It didn’t take her long before she was at the top. “There are people still alive there, at least two,” she said after surveying the area for a minute.

  “You can see that far?” I asked.

  “Yes, my eyesight is much better than yours. There are definitely two people there,” she said, scampering back down the tree.

  “Were they armed?” I asked.

  “No, I saw no weapons,” Denise said.

  We moved in the direction of the smoke, walking down the hill we had just come up. We lost sight of it as we moved into the low ground between two hills but regained it after we crested the next hill. One more hill brought us under the cloud and I saw the shells of several burnt buildings through the trees up ahead. I put the squad into a defensive perimeter and moved up with just Denise and David. We got to within a couple hundred meters when Denise stopped and gripped my arm.

  “It’s the Doctor, Dr. Thomas.”

  “Who?” I asked.

  “The Doctor, the one I have been telling you about. The one who said I was ready.”

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