Slater stood outside of the command tent. He had just debriefed his battalion on the mission and was taking in the sunset. The cool May breeze washed over him; it was relaxing. The stress of late was taking its toll. The never ending headaches and late nights were prying at his willpower, but he remained resilient.
His peace was disturbed by the smell of smoke. He turned to see Sgt. Meaker smoking a cigar, admiring the sunset about ten feet away.
Meaker took a long, slow draw on the cigar. The orange end lit up slightly in the dying sunlight, reflecting off the water in front of the two. Slater wasn’t too bothered by the smoke: It was better than the spitting.
“Nice evening we got here,” Slater said, looking away from the Sergeant.
“Yes sir. Yes, it is,” replied Meaker after blowing a breath of smoke out into the ocean breeze.
The two stood next to one another, not speaking for a good five minutes before Slater turned to the Sergeant once more.
“You know, you don’t have to do this. You can go west with the others. I wouldn’t think any less of you. No one would.” Slater spoke solemly. He was hoping to convince the Sergeant to leave with the rest of America’s military in the push west. He knew they would need Meaker’s help.
Meaker took another slow draw on the cigar.
“I know. Sir, But I’m staying. I told my team to go with the others. They didnt want to, but they are good soldiers. They will get the job done.”
A convoy of Chinooks flew overhead. Meaker’s cigar smoke was blown away by the rotor wash. The Chinooks were hauling off the last of the survivors, the last buses out of New York.
The Sergeant pulled the one-inch cigar butt out of his mouth and closed his eyes before taking in a long breath. “Im sure gonna miss these things.” He flicked the butt out into the Atlantic ocean.
“Why are you staying, Meaker? What’s your motive?”
“I’ve got my reasons, Sir.”
Meaker turned around and began to walk off when the radio silence was broken. The outposts were under attack, and soon New York would fall like the rest of the east coast had. Slater watched the Sergeant march off to fight his enemy, the new blade attatched to his right hand extended out where his missing finger had been. Slater was uneasy letting him be. He had been bitten. Why hadn’t he turned yet?
Slater turned to look at the sun as it finally dipped below the horizon behind him before taking in a deep breath and following.