Day 1: Agreeing on the price
‘Mid-morning with a slight chilly wind.’ A man thought, eyes fixed on the area behind the wall, beyond the safe zone. Spring had been kind to them so far as it had awoken recently, leaving enough time for the crop rotation. The man sat perched on the watchtower of the long concrete wall as a flock of crows flew overhead, rattling the branches with their incessant chirping. Guarding the wall was an important duty, seeing as he was all that stood between the destruction that was outside of the safe zone. The wall was roughly eight meters high and one meter thick, reinforced concrete that would withstand quite the beating, should it be tested. He cradled the rifle in his lap, using a rag to clean the scope that was attached to it. He was one of the ‘crows’, a soldier in charge of manning the walls towers that were build every thirty-five meters. In every tower stood a man with a rifle and some grenades. Some towers even had an RPG-7 launcher, or something similar, in case of bandit attacks or something similar.
The larger squinted into the distance, his vision slightly obscured as sunlight drained from cloud cover, making things seem hazed and discolored. He raised his rifle and squinted again through their lens. He noticed a person in the distance, walking to straight and to even to be one of the turned. Right hand was lifted upwards, digits spread outwards. The guard cradled the rifle against his shoulder and aimed at the figure walking towards the walls. It wasn’t unusual for people to wander this area, yet when you had a city of five thousand to watch over, you took no chances.
The figure stepped closer and closer, staying in the open as much as possible. A good sign. It soon became clear that the figure was a man, the shoulders to broad and chest to wide to be anything else. Being somewhat of a good spotter, he thought the man was around six two, give or take an inch.
He held his aim at the man while kicking with his left feet against a hollow pipe that was in the centre of the tower, causing a sound to ring out. He then kicked it twice more, in long bursts, signaling that he spotted someone, yet it wasn’t an immediate threat. To his right and left he heard the response call, their pipes hitting twice as well. This method was quite effective when radios and batteries were a sparse commodity.
He spotted another guard opening the door and walking towards the man who had stopped a hundred meters or so away from the main gate. He obviously knew how things worked around here, judging from his knowledge of protocol. The man carried himself as military, yet something about his posture said that he might be a hunter or tracker of sorts. He was garbed in brown, green and grey attire, perfectly suited for the outdoors. It hugged his frame and looked thick; durable and lightweight. Boots were obviously military and in rather good condition. He had a thick traveling coat around himself that looked easy to remove in case of a pinch, although slightly worn. On his left shoulder he was carrying a travelers backpack, the other shoulder was holding a crossbow in place. ‘Yhea…. Hunter.’ The man whispered, using his rifle to get a better look at the man’s features, noticing the long black hair and unshaven beard. Judging from the shape of his nose, the jaw line and bright green eyes, the man might even be considered handsome, should he find a razorblade and a shower, immediately. He placed his crossbow, machete, knifes and pistol on the ground, stepping to the side while the other guard made his way over towards him.
A brief chat later and the man was let in, weapons and all. The fact that he was led in with his weapons spoke volumes about this newcomer. He wasn’t staying longer than an hour and he would get two soldiers to accompany him while he stayed within the walls.
The man held his mouth as he followed the guard in front of him, eyes occasionally glancing left and right, taking in the scenery. The stench of this place was horrible, a collection of piss, sweat and feces. Say what you will about the world outside these walls, the air was surprisingly clean. He controlled the urge to rub his left shoulder, the spot where an infected had bitten him there. Normally a person who gets bitten either dies or turns within a week, yet here he was, eleven years later and still somewhat the same. He made his way over towards the government building and stepped inside, quickly finding the man in charge there. He knew the drill by now; get in and out as quick as you could. People knew about immune people, yet they had trouble trusting them, believing that it was true. He sat down on a nearby chair and waited for his reward for his latest run. He chuckled a bit when he noticed a man carrying a large stack of papers.
It was quite funny actually. The world had gone to shit eleven years ago, plunging mankind into anarchy and destruction, yet there were still people doing paperwork. Some sort of virus had started to infect the populace, turning any infected into mindless husks that wanted nothing but to infect and kill. It quickly became known that once you were bitten you only had a few days to remain sane, at tops a week. Some cases of immunity were found after the first few months, people who had a rare blood type that could somehow withstand the infection. After many trials it quickly became clear that it was not something that could be used to make a cure. Safe zones had been established; large hulking cities with thick walls surrounding it and a strong military presence.
These cities now used people who were immune to travel from safe zone to safe zone, acting as messengers or curriers. It was usually faster and cheaper to send one immune than to send an armored convoy. In exchange for their services, these people would get rewarded with rations, equipment, ammo, clothing, whatever they needed. It was a hard fate, yet one infected could potentially destroy an entire city if not found out soon enough. The fact that these people had been bitten once was something frightening, even though they were immune.
The man stood up when he was called. His reward was ready, as was his next job, should he want it.
The guard on the guard tower raised his rifle, peering through the lens. His jaw lightly dropped, teeth chattering as if he struggled for words as what he suspected came to full realization. Without a second warning he kicked against the hollow pipe in front of him, ramming against it three times in quick bursts. He heard a man climb up the ladder into the guard tower. He wasted no second and pulled the second man next to him with his elbow, causing the other to fall forwards, violently.
"You seeing' this shit, Jack?" The guard spoke franticly as the second fumbled with the binoculars before staring through them. "Holy shit..." Was all the other had to offer as a horrifying cry came from beyond the wall. Three young men were running towards the wall, running from a horde of turned walkers. It was the largest horde they'd seen in months. At least a hundred and fifty were on the men´s heels as they sprinted towards the walls, moving in zigzag patterns. They all had some sort of body armor on and even then were sprinting fast. By the time the guard noticed the explosives tied to their waists it was too late, two of them still alive by the time they reached the walls, only one of them shot down by the guards.
The combined explosives of the two men was enough to blast a giant hole into the wall, leaving a crater on both sides. Seconds later hell broke loose within the safe zone; hordes of turned rushing in through he gap, slashing, biting, clawing at everything in their path. The city would be lost within the hour, to many citizens would be infected or turn within the day, depending on the amounts of bites they had. In the background you could heard engines roaring, signaling vehicles that were drawing near. A group of bandits then took out the remaining guard towers before entering the city. One perfectly orchestrated attack was all it took to destroy a settlement that held thousands within.
The streets were chaos, people running in every direction. The city had only a few exits, yet most of them were either overrun or a hotspot for the turned and infected. Some areas were still offering signs of resistance, gunfire being heard here and there, yet not much. The cities major strength was their walls, with that breached they would not have the manpower to turn the tide.
The hunter was about to step outside, make himself a ghost and vanish through one of the weak points in the wall when he noticed a group of people rushing inside. Several of them were bitten, caring their children or friends with them. Their bite wounds were not as deep that they would turn within a few hours, yet they would turn, no changing that. One of the bitten men rushed towards the hunter, eyes wide with fear as he blurted out words in quick succession.
“I am begging you, safe my family! Name the price and we will pay it! Anything!”
Even amongst all of this death and destruction, the hunter remained calm and composed. Death and suffering was an everyday occurrence outside of the walls, it was simply concentrated more densely here now. He gazed at the man, deciding whether to stab him right there and then, yet glancing at the family he was begging the hunter to protect changed the hunter’s mind. There was a stirring within him, a hunger that he wanted to quench. He knew exactly what the price for their survival was.