Apocalypse origins, p.33
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       Apocalypse Origins, p.33

           R.A. Neely
 

  ***

  Greg entered the tent and looked around the table. He looked around until he saw the man fitting Shirley's description. This was the mayor, Brian Hicksel. Who were these others? The man next to him had the look of a fighter. He was probably the sheriff or some such. He hadn't let himself go either but stayed in shape despite working in so small a town. He had no idea who these others were. How had Shirley described them? Village officials?

  "Hi everyone," Greg said, "thanks for coming." He made his way to the head of the table as the rest of his inner circle entered the tent. "How about some introductions?" he asked as the group made their way to the table.

  He gestured towards James and Laura, "James Ruckley here is in charge of my personal security. Laura is my Director of operations, that's probably the best way to describe everything she does." He gestured towards Jackson and Shirley next. "Jackson is our sheriff and Shirley is our envoy."

  He smiled as he nodded towards Carol. She was a few seats away due to the way the Three had chosen their seats. "Carol here helps me keep everything organized. We haven't come up with a fancy title for her yet," he finished with a chuckle.

  Brian smiled and began the introductions on his end. "Brian Hicksel, mayor," he said indicating himself. This is David Renner, our sheriff. Next we have Mary Higgins, village treasurer and the rest are the village board of trustees. Roland and Kerri Apple, Oliver and Patricia West, and Timothy and Wendy Scala."

  Greg nodded once the introductions were complete. "Great. I thought we might eat first before getting down to business."

  Brian nodded appreciatively, "I have to admit part of the reason I came was the chance for fresh meat."

  Greg chuckled, "You won't be disappointed. My huntsman keeps me well fed."

  "You have your own huntsman?" Brian asked.

  "I do," Greg replied. "Helped him out of a jam some time ago. The man is an amazing hunter. He could probably keep us fed all winter if we had a way to preserve the meat. Hard to do that on the move though."

  Brian nodded as he took his first bite of fresh meat in weeks. "Wow," he said after swallowing. "I don't know if it's the fact I haven't had real meat in weeks or if you also have a personal chef."

  "A bit of both, maybe. I will admit our cooks have been doing a great job given the circumstances."

  They continued to make small talk until everyone had eaten their fill. Greg looked around the table to ensure that everyone had eaten and nodded to himself. "Alright, I think it's about time to discuss the reason for your visit."

  "I believe that Shirley told you why we were here?"

  Brian nodded, "She mentioned that you were looking for a place to resettle."

  Greg nodded, "That's true. We've traveled a long way and I have to say that your town suits our needs perfectly."

  "Why us?" Brian asked.

  "You've survived the Collapse relatively unscathed. Your infrastructure is intact and your isolation is a natural defense against the infected. You're also sitting right on the edge of Lake Superior. The location of your town also makes it easy to defend."

  "I suppose I can understand that," Brian replied. "I went on your tour and I believe I understand the message you were making loud and clear," he said cutting to the heart of the matter. "What can we do to keep our people safe?"

  "Now hold on there," Roland protested, "you can't just hand over my town like that!"

  Greg raised an eyebrow and glanced in Roland's direction. "I find myself a bit confused," he said as he addressed Brian. "I thought you were the mayor."

  "I am" Brian replied. "Roland here bailed the town out of some financial difficulty years ago. Since then he has used the threat of removing financial support to influence town policy."

  Greg nodded in understanding. "Do you own any land, Roland? Farmland specifically."

  "What do I need a farm for?" he asked.

  "Do you have orchards, or livestock?" Greg asked.

  "No," Roland replied wondering where this was going.

  "So you don't have anything actually useful to me. Your wealth isn't tied to the land but to a currency that no longer has any value. As such, you're useless to me. I really don't understand why you think you have something useful to say."

  "How dare you?" Roland said, his face turning red with rage. "I am Roland Apple! I saved this town when everyone abandoned it-"

  "Shut up, Roland!" David yelled. Roland cut off mid-sentence, surprised at David's outburst. "I'm sorry," he said looking at Greg. "Roland's an idiot. He's so used to being able to throw money around that he doesn't know when to be quiet."

  Greg waved his hand dismissively, putting the matter from his mind. "You asked what you can do," he said looking at Brian. "Simply put, I want your town. It'll become my capital. I want you to sell the idea to your people. I'll need men to swell my army as well as help with rebuilding. Everyone will be put to work."

  "I see," Brian said thoughtfully. Not that there was much for him to think about. Agreeing to the terms kept his people safe. "I agree to your terms."

  "Thank you," Greg replied, "I mean that."

  "Thank you," Brian replied. "I know how this could have gone. So what happens now?"

  "Break the news to your people tonight. I'll give you all day tomorrow to get them used to the idea. The following day we'll having a ceremony where you officially hand over the city and take the oath."

  "The oath?" Brian asked.

  Greg nodded. "Remember the pledge of allegiance as a kid? Same thing, only to Gregoria and myself as its head."

  "Alright, I understand.”

  “After that, we'll have a feast. Assuming the hunt goes well everyone should get a chance at some fresh meat."

  "That'll help the sell for anyone that has a problem," Brian said. "We've been eating out of cans these last few weeks."

  Greg nodded, "That was the idea. I'm gonna tell you what we're up against. After I do that, you can tell me if you want to keep your job or not." At Brian's nod Greg proceeded to tell him about Dray and his plans for conquest. Brian listened intently, amazed that one man could be responsible for so much destruction.

  "These are my people," Brian said when Greg was finished. "I want to help however I can."

  "It's gonna be hard work getting order established," Greg said. "I'll be out bringing others into our fold and building alliances with those I can't. I'll need you to run the city. You'll report to Carol when I'm not here. We'll go over the details later, I just wanted to give you an idea of what we're up against."

  Brian nodded and the group made small talk for a bit before breaking up for the night. As they were leaving, Greg pulled Brian aside. "Tell me about Roland," he asked once they were alone.

  "He's wealthy," Brian said, "well he was before all this happened anyway. He's used to getting what he wants. He's been bossing everyone around in Lakeside for years."

  "Does he do anything? I'm wondering if you need him to run the city."

  "Our bylaws required us to vote on certain things and he was there for that. He had a lot of influence over what happened but he isn't essential for anything."

  Greg nodded, "I thought as much. How much influence does he have over the people?"

  "Everyone knew he was the reason our town was staying afloat. He'd always be sure to point that out if someone disagreed with him over something. No one actually likes him though."

  "Good," Greg replied. "I'll be removing him from office. I won't have someone like that making decisions solely for their own profit. I'll get rid of all the trustees actually. You won't have to worry about votes to get things done. If you need something we'll make it happen."

  Brian nodded, "I think this is gonna work out just fine," he said as he extended his hand.

  Greg took it in a firm grasp. "It will. We're gonna build something great here. I'm glad you're gonna be a part of it."

  That evening, Brian called a town meeting. He wanted to make sure everyone was there so he'd had David and his deputies go door
to door of the remaining citizens to make sure no one was left behind. To his surprise, the people took the announcement well. Brian wondered if it was the promised feast which implied that there could be food like that on a regular basis.  He also thought it might be the idea of security, someone that was willing to tell them what to do. Everything had been so uncertain when the infected showed up. They'd only seen one or two but there were just so many questions. Most of their town hadn't come home from work that night and there wasn't any news from the government. They'd just been surviving, hoping that their loved ones were alright and that someone would tell them what was going on.

  During the dinner last night Brian had learned the extent of the destruction unleashed by the infected. Greg called it the Collapse for good reason. Brian couldn't even wrap his mind around how many people had been killed. And to think, all this had been unleashed by the twisted ambition of one man. Greg had his loyalty. The government had failed them. It was either unable to help or had abandoned them entirely. He had no problem giving Greg his oath. 
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