Apocalypse origins, p.17
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       Apocalypse Origins, p.17

           R.A. Neely


  Marcus Sands knelt behind the tree stump as shots flew overhead. "What is this?" he demanded. "Who's attacking us?"

  "It's gotta be those guys from the inn," one of his men replied.

  "You've been going out there every day. I thought you said there were only five of them to worry about!"

  "That's all there was, I swear!" the man replied fearfully. 

  "Well, I don't care who they are," Marcus said angrily. "Who do they think they are coming up into my camp like this?" Marcus leaned out for a moment and squeezed off a few shots, smiling in satisfaction when one of his enemies hit the ground.

  "We can do this!" he yelled to encourage his men. 

  Taking heart at his words, several of his men returned fire. The shots coming from the other side died off as they were forced into cover. "Keep it up men! Look at 'em. They're hiding like little girls." He leaned out to fire more shots then cursed when his pistol went empty.

  "They're taking the women!" someone yelled.

  Marcus peeked out to see several figures pulling up the stakes that were keeping the women immobile. He had half a mind to open fire on them, just on principle mind you but he figured he should save his bullets for the idiots shooting at him.

  "Forget them," he called as he reloaded. "We'll get them back after we take care of these idiots." He let off another shot and smiled again when it hit home. He suddenly realized that he didn't hear a lot of gunfire from his side. He looked around as best he could and saw that a good number of his men were on the ground. The ones that were left were cowering, no doubt in hopes of not being shot. What had he done to get stuck with a bunch of cowards?

  "Come on, men. We can do this!" he looked around but got no response. 

  "Throw down your weapons," a voice called. "Or we can finish you off. Makes no difference to us."

  The nerve! Who did they think they were to talk to him like that? They wanted him to surrender? He'd take as many of them with him as he could. 

  "We surrender," one of his men called out. "Stop shooting."

  Marcus yelled. "We're not giving it up."

  "It's over," one of them said. "Most of us are down and we’re all out of ammo. I'm not getting shot for no reason."

  "We fight to the death," Marcus replied. He looked up in shock as two of his men charged towards him and tackled him to the ground. They wrestled his pistol away from here and held him there like he was some kind of animal. How dare they? After all he had done to take care of them, they treated him like this?

  Moments later he heard the approach of a large number of footsteps. His men got off of him and he looked up to see himself surrounded by a number of hard looking men. One of them stepped forward and looked down at him. He had a rifle slung over his back and Marcus noticed a pistol and a machete on either hip. "You the leader of this group?" he asked.

  "Yea that's right," Marcus said as he stood to his feet. "That was a raw thing you did, coming at us like that."

  Anger flashed across the man's eyes. "Should I have sent a messenger? Announced my intent? You are filth. You're lucky I'm talking to you at all. The only reason I'm talking to you is that one of my men pointed out that some of you may have been coerced."

  A few of the bandits looked up at this, hope evident in their eyes. They were kneeling off to the side, bound by twine. Several of the guards were keeping watch over them. Seeing the look on their faces, Marcus cursed.

  "Wasn't no coercion. They all wanted to do it," he said angrily.

  "I will determine their guilt," Greg replied. 

  "We're all guilty then," Marcus insisted. "You really gonna trust them?"

  Greg looked at the bandits as they tried to bargain for their lives. He could let them go but he had no doubt they would rally and go right back to preying on anyone weaker than themselves. He felt it was his duty to stop them. Who else would do it? The government was fallen and the police were nowhere to be found. Who would protect the weak? He couldn't save everyone but he could protect the people in the park right here, right now.

  "Enough," he said quietly. The bandits fell silent and he looked at each of them in turn. Ten had survived the firefight and they all looked terrified with the exception of Marcus. They likely understood that their lives hung in the balance.

  "No more pleading. I'll show you the same mercy you've showed."

  "We don't always hurt people," one of them said desperately.

  "Of course," Greg replied, "you just take their food and leave them to die slowly instead."

  Greg shook his head, "No, this ends here." He moved to stand in front of Marcus and two guards came forward and forced him to his knees.

  "Let me go!" Marcus yelled defiantly. "What gives you the right?"

  "I suppose we give ourselves the right," Greg replied. "We're trying to rebuild. I won't stand by while people like you tear down what's left."

  Marcus realized he was moments away from death. "Okay, you're right! I've done some bad stuff but I was just trying to survive. We didn't have someone like you. We did the best we could."

  Greg shrugged, "The best you could do was steal the little food that people have? Even if some of that's true, it’s too late. I'll leave here knowing there's one less piece of scum preying on people just trying to survive." Greg stepped forward and plunged his machete into Marcus' chest. He stepped back and Marcus' lifeless body fell to the ground.

  Greg looked at the remaining bandits. "Take care of them," he said to his men. "Let one of them survive. Maybe the story they tell will stop someone else from trying this."

  Greg made his way over to a semi-truck where the bandits had been storing their goods. Laura had arrived and was directing several workers. "Laura," Greg said as he walked up.

  "Greg," Laura replied with a smile. "Are you okay?"

  Greg nodded, "I'll be alright. What's going on here?"

  "Doing some inventory," Laura said. "A good amount has gone bad but they had a lot of canned goods so that helps."

  "That's good," Greg replied. "I'll leave you it." Greg left Laura and headed over to where the captives were being held. Carol was overseeing some workers handing out food and water.

  "How are they?" Greg asked.

  "They're alive," Carol replied quietly.

  "That bad, huh?"

  "Those bandits did terrible things. Some of them were thinking about trying to kill themselves rather than go through another day of it."

  Greg shook his head and knew he had made the right decision. People like that couldn't be allowed to roam free. He couldn't stop everyone like that but he could protect the people close to him. "Can they be moved to the other camp?"

  Carol nodded, "I've the thought some of them would crawl over broken glass rather than stay here."

  About an hour later Greg and his inner circle were once again ensconced in the Oates' dining room. They'd just finished a meal of venison along with carrots and potatoes. "I can't thank you enough," Byron said.

  Greg shrugged, "Some things have to be done. This was one of them."

  "I'd like to give you some extra food," Byron said. "You'll need it if all those women are coming with you."

  "Thanks," Greg said, "I appreciate it." Laura would be happy to hear that. She had been going over their inventory trying to figure out how they were going to feed all those extra people. Greg had thought some of them might choose to stay with Byron but every single one had refused. 

  "How long will you be staying?" Byron asked.

  "Just another day or two," Greg replied. "Laura wants to give the women a chance to recover a bit before we get back on the road."

  "Where are you guys headed anyway?"

  Greg shrugged, "I don't really have a specific destination in mind. We're just heading north at the moment. Looking for a place we can settle. Something remote, easy to defend."

  Byron nodded, "That's not a bad idea. I'm not too sure how long we'll be able to stay here. What's to stop another group of bandits from
coming through?"

  "Come with us," Greg said. "You'd be a great asset with your survival skills."

  Byron looked thoughtful for a moment. "I may take you up on that but not just yet. This place has been in our family forever. I'm not ready to give it up just yet."

  Greg nodded in understanding. Some people might say it's just a piece of land and he should move on but weren't they looking for that very thing? A place to call their own? He couldn't blame the guy if he wanted to stay and protect what was his. The rest of the evening passed pleasantly and Greg's group eventually made their way back to their camp. The following morning they took it easy and the day passed uneventfully. The day after that they got on the road early and continued heading north.
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