Children's Crusade
Chapter 15

Copyright© 2011 by carioca

Jeremy shoved the length of rebar through the hasp of the padlock, The iron rod gave him enough leverage to twist the entire latch off, leaving the lock intact. The rivets holding it to the toolbox tore free with a screech. At the rear of the truck, Alex passed tools down to Larry, shovels, a pair of sledgehammers, a wrecking bar and a pick. Jeremy dropped the bar onto a a tangle of wire and forced open the lid of the toolbox. He grabbed a plastic milk crate and dumped the contents, then tossed in half a dozen hammers, then as many other tools as would fit, screwdrivers, pliers, wire cutters and an assortment of wrenches.

The crate was heavy enough to overbalance him as he passed it down to Darrel. He had to grab onto a tied down wheelbarrow to keep himself from falling. Tools spilled from the open topped crate in a clanging shower of metal. Darrel grabbed the crate from him and lowered it to the ground. "Why are we doing this anyway?"

Jeremy shook open a plastic garbage bag and tossed in rolls of duct tape. "They might not come for us, they didn't for the other bus. Even if they do, I'm not sure we should go with them. No matter where we go, we're going to need this stuff. Might be a long time before..." He saw the look on the younger boy's face and cut himself off. He always said too much, and all it got him was trouble. He put the roll of bags in too, and followed it with some spools of wire. "Just take that stuff to the bus, we'll be okay." The wrenches jingled as Darrel scooped them up. Jeremy turned back to the toolbox and rummaged through it. When he was done, he turned his attention to the rest of the jumble, but didn't find anything else that looked useful. He worked his way around a cement mixer strapped to the bed of the truck, back to where Alex was.

The older boy lowered the last of a stack of two by fours to the ground as he arrived. "I think thats everything we can use. Are you sure you don't want to go back to the school? It might be safer."

Jeremy jumped to the ground then swung the bag down. "Safer in a FEMA camp? I don't think so. We need to go home, but if they're rounding people up I don't think we can sneak past them in the bus.

Alex climbed down and picked up half the lumber. "What about your parents?"

Jeremy shrugged and picked up his bat. "I don't think they'll go. They tried to make mom stay, but she drove away." They walked around to the back of the bus. Jenny stood up on top with the pistol in her hand. Billy was with her, he looked scared. "She didn't say so, but I think they shot at her. She won't go in, she wants us to come home, she'll wait for us and dad. I don't think they'll come to our house." He tossed the bag to Larry and helped pass in the lumber. "It's not as far out of town as your place, but I don't think they'd go that far out." He didn't mention that they might not be able to find it. Their mailbox was in front of a vacant trailer half a mile from their house, it was even on a different road than their driveway.

They went back and grabbed the rest of the wood, then once more to pick up Alex's bat, a couple of crowbars and a big claw toothed demolition tool. Bobbi-Jo opened the door for them and they slipped inside. He sighed in relief. He hadn't realized how tense he'd been. The enclosing walls of the school bus were comforting. It was quieter inside than it had been, and not nearly as crowded. He took Alex's bat and the crowbars to the back of the bus and left them on the pile of tools. He took a step away, but then turned back to trade his bat for one of the crowbars. Some of the kids were doing what he wanted to do, just curl up and ignore was was going on around him. A couple of them still cried softly, but no one was screaming any more. The screamers had all gone with Eileen and Mrs. St. Clair.

The whispered conversations hushed when the door shut behind Alex. Everyone turned to face him, as if they expected him to tell them what to do. Well, Jeremy trusted him, he wouldn't ask them to do anything stupid. Alex walked forward a little and put each hand on the back of a seat. "We need to decide what we're going to do, the others should be at the school by now. They might send someone here to get us, if they do, we need to decide who's going and who isn't. If they don't show up, where are we going? We can't stay here."

Chuck started to say something, but Bobbi-Jo grabbed his arm and shook her head. One of the younger kids starting crying again. "I want to go home." That set off a bunch of the others. Jeremy hoped they wouldn't decide to go to the school, at least not directly. He wasn't sure what was happening in town, but he had a bad feeling about it. It scared him, in a way that even the walking dead didn't.

Jenny dropped down through the emergency exit. "If we go back to the school, no one will be going home. They turned it into a FEMA camp. Even if your parents are there they probably won't let you stay together."

"Of course they would."

Jenny shook her head, but didn't say anything. The silence was punctuated by far away gunfire. Alex stepped back and hit the upright pole with the wrecking tool in his hand. The sharp clang drew everyone's eyes to him. "Things have changed. What we decide now matters, maybe decides if we live or die. The school might be safe, or it might not. All we really know is that when the other bus crashed, they wouldn't send anyone to pick them up. They told us not to stop for them, to just leave them there. Can we trust them to take care of us? Trust them with our lives?"

Chuck stood up, shaking off Bobbi-Jo's hand. "They will, they have to." His fists clenched and unclenched, face flushed with either rage or fear. "We can't do anything else. You saw what it's like out there, there's nowhere else to go."

"I know a place." They both looked at him. For once Jeremy was glad he'd spoken without thinking. He might not have had nerve enough otherwise. "The mine, when I went in seventh grade, I um ... wandered off. There's a bomb shelter there, with supplies, and lots of room in the old town. It has its own water supply, a campground, it even generates it's own electricity."

Chuck picked up on the obvious problem much too quickly. "And the people who own it are just going to let us stay?"

"They might," Jeremy shot back. "A real old guy owns it. He can't do everything by himself. It can't be worse than a FEMA camp."

Chuck moved toward him, fists clenched. Jeremy stepped back, bringing the bat up to ready. Alex moved between them, his back to Jeremy. "Let's vote on it, Who wants to drive into town, and who wants to find somewhere safe?"

"It is safe in town." Chuck protested.

"I want to go home." The same girl's voice.

"They won't let you go home." Jenny broke in, "We have to find someplace safe, Those are people from the city, that means the cannibals chased them out. They can't keep us safe. We have to go somewhere else."

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