He walked with a limp in his right leg. That was the first thing they noticed. The second was the calm clarity and certainty with which he spoke. Later, but not until much later and separately, they would figure out that he timed his meeting so that he would be alone with them in the long hallway between the Terminal and the B-Concourse. Even with his limp and the fast clip at which Slater walked, he’d have them exclusively for thirty seconds.
“Captain Slater, Miss Brooks. You have a problem.”
“Thanks for bringing that to our attention, buddy. Take a number. We’ll get right on it.”
“Well, actually, you have several. To be specific, those problems are 400,00 plus or minus 15,000, seven days, forty, too damn many, January 9th, plus or minus two days, and democracy.”
Clipboard, Slater, and Brooks sat at one side of the conference table. Court had been going quickly that night: two curfew violations, three fence violations, one robbery, four brawls, and one indecent exposure, which had been dismissed as a simple misunderstanding. They were waiting for the last five cases, who would be tried all at once for what Brooks called Kreznerkrime, urination or defecation outside a latrine. Those five would each get six hours of community service for their crime against public health–and were the most likely to be defended by Schick.
“You know, it’s funny. With all these Monday night court cases, we’ve never had a single accusation of rape or sexual assault,” said Slater. “Maybe this outbreak has been bringing out the best in people.”
“Give it time,” replied Brooks. “People will never change. Men will never change. Trust me.”
They both looked at Clipboard, whose face registered a momentary flash of discomfort before an instant return to his normal unperturbed placidity. Most people would not have noticed. Slater and Brooks were expert poker players.
He noticed they were staring at him. He cleared his throat and quietly said, “I don’t think that we’re going to have a problem with rape in the Zone.”
“I told some guys in Corpse Corps the story of Oneball Johnson.”
Slater and Meaker were sitting on top of an overheated M113. It was dripping something yellow from underneath its shell. The men inside had already found another ride. Like them it would sit there until it rusted. The trip from Albany had been quick but loud. The guys up front had plowed an awful lot of cars off the road to allow the army west. Like the steaming Abrams, they both knew this was the end of the line for them.
“This is a Marine Corps base? And Air National Guard? Maybe those guys aren’t such pussies after all…”
Bored heads looked up around the meeting hall at the center of the two concourses. Once it had been an airport-themed playground, wasted space at the airport to teach children about the wonders of flight through space-filling models. Now, it was the only place big enough to hold full-zone meetings indoors that wasn’t a cargo bay. At least there were some chairs.
“Sara Wilson, Tyresha Wilkins, and James Bigsby, ages 8, 9, and 10, all were caught Thursday by patrolling members of Corpse Corps trying to dig under the fence in order to leave the zone un-escorted. Their parents will now bring them to the front of the hall for their spankings before we adjourn.”
A murmur was heard around the hall. It got louder as children’s wails were heard from three different points in the hall. No one moved.
A voice rang out over the hall. “You can’t do this!”
“Mister Schick, of Maintenance, isn’t it? Sorry, Mister Schick. This one isn’t open for discussion.”
We find ourselves in a terrible situation. In Onondaga County, the zombies outnumber every one of us 500 to 1. Even with our perimeter fence, we will not withstand a massed attack come springtime.
We have been abandoned by the federal and state governments. The feds have moved west, into the Rocky Mountains, leaving us here to fend for ourselves. There will not be a rescue.
We are running out of food. The grocery stores are either picked bare or rotting. We are all hungry.
We are cold. A building this size with this much glass in it used to be expensive to heat. Now it is impossible. Our home provides us with nothing but shelter from the wind. In order to be warm, we must go outside into a Syracuse winter to huddle around a trashcan fire. The winds coming off Oneida Lake blow straight across the runways. It’s crazy.
The world is crazy. And it may never be sane again.