AN: Okay just so ya'll know my 'runner 5' for this story is mute, so if something is in italics it means its something being said in sign language.
The life of Runner Five
Chapter One ~ Jolly Alpha Five Niner
"Abel Township is just on the horizon Addy – see it now? Not much more than a few fences to keep the zoms out. I don't know how they live like that. Guess they won't be living like that much longer," Jamie stated, glancing back at me.
I glanced out the window down at the small settlement below us. Mullins Military Base had sent me and Jamie out on a supply run to Able, though I was supposed to stay behind to help the town figure out how to put together the new shelters we were delivering for them. I was going to miss Jamie for the week that I was to stay at Able. We've know each other since before the zombie outbreak and she's the only family I have left. Because of this she was assigned as my pilot whenever I was sent out on missions that required the use of a helicopter.
"Abel Township – Jolly Five Niner from Mullins Military Base. We're five miles out, approaching from the east, bringing med supplies, shelters, and loan of one of our people. Able Township – Jolly Alpha Five Niner, requesting permission to land," Jamie requested into the radio.
"Got that... ah, I-I mean, roger that. You're clear to... yeah, you can – you can come on in," A man over the radio stated.
"Roger, Abel - heading down now," Jamie turned to look at me, "Level with me. You and me both know we haven't got half of the usual supplies. We've lied to the township!"
"You know they don't tell me anything. I'm just supposed to do what I'm told and ask no questions," I signed.
"Yeah, I know, you don't know anything. Someone at Abel is going to come up to you and say, "I'm here to brief you on Project Greenshoot", and then you'll find out what your mission really is. I just -"
Jamie stopped and stared at something out the window. I could hear the distant sound of gun fire and something else. I glanced out the window in an attempt to see what was going on.
"What the…? Someone's shooting! That's not from the township… who the hell has a rocket launcher at this base?" Suddenly the helicopter shook violently and I was flung forward and hit my head on dashboard. Pain shot through my head, and I leaned back in my seat clutching my head.
"We've been hit! I've lost the tail rotor… Mayday, mayday, mayday, Jolly Alpha Five Niner going down, three miles east of Abel Township. Two souls on board," Jamie shouted into the radio.
I could feel blood running down the side of my face. The helicopter swung around in circles violently. I quickly grabbed mine and Jamie's parachutes. I handed Jamie hers and began putting mine on.
"This is Abel Township calling. Supply copter, can you hear us? You're coming down fast… can any of you hear us? Open your shoots! Jump, jump!" The man over the radio exclaimed frantically.
I pushed open my door and glanced back at Jamie who seemed to be having trouble getting her door open.
"Don't worry about me Addy just go. I'll be right behind you," She shouted.
I nodded my head and jumped out of the helicopter. My parachute opened and I could hear the sound of the helicopter crashing behind me.
"Hey, hey! I, uh… this is Abel Township calling, over? If there's anyone alive, if you've got your parachute open, this is Sam Yao, from Abel Township. Aww, I'm just the… I'm just the radio operator, man, I'm not supposed to handle this stuff!"
I focused on trying to land on the ground without breaking anything. The second my feet hit the ground I quickly un-hooked my parachute and dropped it to the ground. I glanced over at the wreckage of the helicopter which was lying on the ground in flames a few feet away from me. What was left of the helicopter was mangled. What really hit me was the sight of Jamie's body lying in the helicopter consumed in flames. I didn't have much time to mourn my friend as a frantic transmission from Sam came over my head set.
"You've come down in a horde of zombies. They've heard the noise, they're coming! There are - thirty? No, forty - aw, crap! You're only safe path is towards the tower. If there's anyone alive there, just run. Run!"
Oh of course I'd land right in the middle of a swarm of zombs. I took off running as the sound of moaning reached my ears. I glanced back for a second to see the zombies appearing from the trees. I picked up my speed, and raced off towards the tower in the distance.
"Wow, there's… there's someone alive down there, running! Hey, can you hear me?" Sam asked. I shook my head at that. How was I supposed to let him know that I could hear him?
"No answer. But still, just look at 'em go! Heading for the tower, just like I said. Okay… running person. If you can hear me, well, you're doing great. The main group's behind you, and you're going to come out of this forest soon, but there's a… yeah, well, I-I can't think of a phrase that's not "small army of zombies". Sorry, don't do so well under massive pressure."
I laughed at that. I think I could get to like this Sam guy. Though the thought of an army of zombies on my tail wasn't that comforting.
"There's a… well, one of those, directly to the east of the trees. So, if you head more towards the old saw mill - you should be able to see it's massive red signs from where you are," Sam instructed. I changed direction heading towards where he'd directed me.
"… man, look at that, they're changing direction! They can… You can hear me!" Sam laughed, "Okay, okay, we can keep you safe. It's cool, it's cool, we can bring you in." There was a whisper in the background of the transmission.
"No, we can't ask them that! They might be injured!" Sam stated. Who is he talking to?
"Well, all the more reason to ask them that! This is Doctor Myers, only medic here at Abel Township. Lord knows I'm sorry to ask you this, but your route will take you almost past the old hospital. We know there are medical kits still there from the first wave of infection - if you could pick up even one or two, that would help us," A woman stated.
I groaned internally, why did it have to be a hospital? I hate going into old hospitals, mostly because that's where zombies seemed to like to hang out at. Why I had no idea, but that seemed to be where they headed most of time.
"It's too dangerous! You know what happened to Runner Five!" Sam shouted. Runner Five?
"The zoms have all followed the noise of the crash!" Myers retorted.
"But what about whoever fired that rocket launcher?" Sam asked.
"If someone wants to kill that runner, taking an unusual route will make it even harder, not easier! I don't want to be hard-headed, but everyone in this township earns their keep. You should be able to see the Robinson hospital now - one of the buildings, Griffin Tower, it's the tallest in the abandoned city, and if you can't find anything… we might not be able to let you in when you get here," Myers stated.
I sighed as the hospital came into my line of sight. The building was massive and falling apart. Just about all the windows in the building were broken, several walls had been knocked down, and the door to the building was missing. The grass around the building was over grown, and vines and moss was crawling up the sides of the building. The fountain in the court yard in front of the hospital was filled with green water, and the stone fish statue in the center that used to spout water was cracked and half of it was lying on the ground next to the fountain.
"Okay, okay… Man, that's great, you're making good time. No broken legs, I guess," Sam laughed, "Hey, uh, listen… I'm gonna call you Runner Five. Um, just 'cause… well, I don't know your name, and we just lost a runner, in that same hospital you're running through now. She was so fast, really funny, and clever. Me and her, we sort of…" Sam paused and I heard him sigh, "She was amazing. But hey! You could be our new Runner Five! If you make it back alive…" Sam trailed off, and I grimaced.
If I make it back alive, that's not a comforting thought. And calling me runner five after the runner died in the very hospital I'm in... well that's even more disconcerting.
"Yeah, um, the runners are pretty important to keeping us going here. Any fuel we have goes to working the generators, and the truth is, if you've got two legs and you can go above a slow shamble, you'll be able to stay out the zoms' way, am I right?" Sam stated.
Well he's right about that, the zombs aren't really all that fast... most of the time. I glanced around the hospital as I entered it. The lights in the building weren't working, the tiles on the floor are cracked, and there's papers scattered all over the place. I could see a broken phone hanging off the nurses counter at one end of the room I was in. I walked through the trauma center of the hospital, picking up bandages, and antiseptic, and other things I found lying around, stuffing them into the pack on my back. I was half way through the trauma center when Sam started talking to me again.
"Yeah, okay, your pace is good, but, um, maybe head through the ground floor of the hospital. There's a little swarm gathering in the parking lot I don't like the look of, and um…"
I quickly hurried to the ground floor trying to be as quiet as possible.
"Yeah, yeah, that's good… You could even pick up anything interesting you pass. We think there might be some… well, we sent the old Runner Five there looking for some file the Doc's interested in, so uh, you know, if you find anything official-looking lying around, just bring it home," Sam requested.
I made my way through the building picking up stuff as I went along, I even found an old axe, and some clothes in a lost and found bin behind a counter. I came across an office and decided to have a look around it. The office was a mess, papers everywhere, the desk knocked over, and the computer that used to sit on it now lied on the floor with the screen shattered. I looked through all the papers lying around, and even started opening drawers in the desk. In the last draw I found a large black file box that had the words CDC written in red on the side of it. This must be what Doctor Myers wanted me to find. I quickly made my way out of the office and started heading towards the exit of the hospital. As I walked out of the hospital my com crackled and suddenly Sam's voice was back in my ear.
"Hey, there you are! I've got you on camera now. Great to see you, even though you're kinda blurry," Sam laughed, "Uh, what's that you're carrying? Look at this, Doc - Runner Five picked up something in the hospital."
I held the box up hoping to give them a better view of it.
"Is that the Centers for Disease Control file?" Myers asked, sounding hopeful.
"What's that?" Sam asked.
"Runner Five, I don't say this lightly - that box could be worth your life to protect. Don't drop it," Myers instructed.
"What is it?" Sam asked again.
"Oh, it might be nothing, it might be everything," Myers stated. Now I was really curious as to what was inside this file that could be so important.
"So, a pretty narrow window of definition," Sam said.
"What's that shadow over there?" Myers exclaimed suddenly, sounding worried. I stopped walking and glanced around nervously.
"Aw, aww, no! This was what - when we sent her out, this was what happened! They're following you, Runner Five - the swarm from the car park, they're following you! Now, run!" Sam shouted.
I could see the zombs rounding around the side of the hospital and I could hear them moaning. Ah hell! I took off running as fast as possible, which was slightly slower than before now that I'm weighed down by medical supplies from the hospital. The moaning from the zombs was getting louder and closer, making me nervous as hell.
"They're so fast, why are they so fast? They never run, why are they running? Runner Five? Runner Five, they're gaining on you!" Sam stated sounding very nervous.
"Runner Five, you're not far from the gates now. If you can keep going, we'll send some people with guns out to meet you. Only one zombie is close to reaching you, just put on a burst of speed, now!" Myers exclaimed.
"Oh, God… it's her. I can see her… it's Alice, it's the old Runner Five. She's the one chasing you, she's… she's still wearing her headset! She's…" Sam was cut off by a man I hadn't yet heard on the com.
"Runner Five, it's Runner Seven here, head of runners. The doctor's told me you found something useful in the hospital. We're sending out a couple of people to bring you in. Just keep running, as fast as you can! Don't look back, she's right behind you… just run!"
I picked up my pace, but I couldn't help but glance back at the zombie that was right behind me, the former runner five. In life she must have been beautiful, but as a zombie she was horrifying. Her long black hair was matted and clumps were missing here and there. One of her eyes was gone, and the other was hazy and clouded over. The skin over her jaw was missing. There was a giant hole in her abdomen and her guts hung loosely from her body. Her shirt and pants were covered in blood and mud, and her shirt was ripped in various places. I looked away from her and continued to run as fast as I possibly could. I could see the gates to Abel up ahead, and I could see a guard with a gun waiting for me.
"This way, run!" He shouted, waving me on. I raced as fast as I could, holding on tight to the CDC box.
"They're going to shoot her. I-I can't watch, I don't want to..." Sam trailed off sounding heartbroken. I felt for him. Loosing someone you love to a zombie and then seeing them become a zombie is horrible. That happened to my fiance, and I had to shoot him to keep him from hurting anyone.
"It's what she would have wanted Sam, you know it is. She wouldn't have wanted to live like this," Myers stated.
"Run, we've got her covered!" The guard shouted.
"Raise the gates... Raise the gates!" Sam exclaimed.
I could hear a siren and suddenly the gates started to rise. I raced through the gates and practically collapsed onto the ground in relief, dropping my pack on the ground, but I continued to hold on tight to the CDC file. My lungs burned and my head hurt something fierce. The blood on my face had long since dried and the cut had stopped bleeding a while ago but my head was still pounding. I took in deep breaths as people gathered around me all of them talking at once.
"Welcome!" "The Major will want to see you when she gets back." "Hey, great to see a new face!" "Did you bring any food? Any canned food, dried food?" "Hey, you've picked up some med packs!"
"Hey! Good to see you in the flesh… the totally-unbroken, skin-not-bitten-by-zombies flesh, right? Step back, step back everyone, don't crowd! Give Runner Five some space! Can't take in so many new faces right now," Sam shouted, ushering people away.
I couldn't help but stare at him. When I pictured him when I first heard his voice I didn't expect him to be so cute. Suddenly he reached out and helped me up off the ground.
"Though that cut on your head looks nasty," He said, glancing at it.
"Hit my head on the console of the helicopter when it went down," I signed.
Sam nodded his head, and I sighed in relief that he knows sign language. A look of understanding passed over his face. He must have realized why I didn't respond to him over the coms, but I still felt the need to explain myself to him.
"Sorry bout not responding to you over the coms, but it's a little hard to do sign language with them. That's the trouble with being mute," I said. Sam shook his head.
"That's okay just glad you made it here safe and sound," He replied. Suddenly a dark skinned woman with short cropped brown hair walked over to us.
"Is that the CDC file you got there?" She asked. I immediately recognized her voice as that of Doctor Myers. I nodded my head and handed her the file. She glanced at it, then at me, gave me a nod, then walked off.
"Well I don't think we've been formally introduced. Hi I'm Sam Yao," Sam said suddenly. I smiled.
"Addison Gram. But you can just call me Addy," I replied.
Sam smiled, and started leading me to the hospital to have my head checked out. I spent the rest of the day in the hospital having the cut on my head cleaned and stitched up, and just resting from the events of today...