Children's Crusade
Chapter 17

Copyright© 2011 by carioca

Jenny slammed the door shut and stomped on the gas, easing up on the clutch. The bus lurched forward, taking her by surprise and knocking Jeremy into Alex. This section of the freeway was pretty empty so they had taken the chance to put the gas cap back on, but letting her little brother go out had been hard. She wished she still had the pistol, or even better, her own from home, but if she was going to wish for things, she'd rather be home with mom and dad than anything else. Still, she couldn't drive and shoot at the same time, so it made sense for someone else to take it, but Miss Simpkins probably wasn't the best choice. She'd given Billy the job of keeping her awake, but even in her good moments she was dazed, and right now...

Alex tapped her shoulder and pointed ahead. Something moved in the distance, over in the oncoming lanes. After a minute Jeremy spoke up. "Buses, could be headed for the school. There's a Hum-Vee out front though." The convoy was moving little faster than they were. A soldier stood in the top of the lead vehicle and waved to them, gesturing for them to follow, but the vehicle kept moving. There was only the one military vehicle, three city buses, a tractor trailer rig then a gaggle of ordinary cars, minivans, pickups and SUVs. A single police car brought up the rear. The driver flashed his lights on for an instant, accompanied by the siren, then waved for them to follow, just like the soldier in the lead vehicle had. Jenny ignored them both and drove faster.

They were almost to where they'd stopped for the accident when Jeremy pointed again. Alex sucked in his breath, but didn't say anything. Jenny had to slow down and navigate around the wrecks before she could look. Cannibals, thousands of them. They were on the other side of the freeway, but when those in front saw the bus, they headed straight for it. She watched them horrified for an instant, then floored it. Twenty-five, thirty, forty. She leveled off at forty-five. They couldn't get across the median fast enough to block the bus, even if they'd been smart enough to go straight across, rather than heading directly for the bus. She slowed to get off the freeway at the next ramp, the cannibals still stretched in an unbroken line as far as she could see. Behind them, the road was full. They could probably still drive through them, but if they stopped even for a little while, there would be too many piled up for even the huge bus wheels to drive over.

She ran down another one and felt the bus squash its body. It was no wonder Bobbi-Jo couldn't handle it. She'd probably have freaked out too, if she didn't have her brothers depending on her. There were more cannibals in the parking lot of the supermarket, but the police cars and the trucks were gone. She continued driving toward the hospital, dodging the ones she could and running over the ones she couldn't. Finally, Jeremy pointed to a side street. "Turn left, there's an alley just after it. You can pull up under the balcony."

It took her two tries to get into the alley. It probably would have been easier coming from the other direction, as there was a parking lot behind the building. Finally she pulled up under second floor balcony. A cannibal walked around the corner in front of her, moaned, and tried to climb the nose of the bus to get to them. At the back of the bus, at least two more tried to break in. Jeremy leaned over her and looked at the dash. "Six miles. We have two or three hours before that mob gets here."

Alex glanced at the one in front of the bus, then looked at them. "We better hurry, They won't be able to see us from the main road, but they'll hear that noise." He nodded towards the back. "Come on." He strode away, past the watching eyes of the others. Jeremy followed him.

Jenny walked behind her brother, delaying only long enough to borrow Miss Simpkins' short barreled pistol. As she passed Chuck, she saw Bobbi-Jo give him a little push. "Go help. I'll make sure the bus stays right here."

The two of them pulled her onto the roof, but instead of pulling Chuck up next, it was Billy that came up through the hole. "Oh, no," she said, "Get back inside."

He backed away so the others could help Chuck. "I can help, You need someone to go first, and if I have to jump down, you can catch me."

Jeremy looked up at her from where he knelt. "He has a point, That balcony is pretty high. We can boost him up to look inside, you cover us." Without waiting for her to answer, he handed his crowbar to Alex and made a step with his hands. "You ready Billy-boy? Stay on the outside of the railing and if one of them comes out the door, just drop down and I'll catch you."

Before she could stop him, Billy scrambled up onto the balcony. He clung to the top rail, his feet on the concrete ledge. "The lights are off, I can only see a little bit past the curtain." He worked his way around the edge, rapped the window several times, then hurried back to his vantage point. "I don't see anyone, I'm going to open the door."

Three of them shouted at once. "No!" Alex's voice wasn't louder than theirs, but cut across them anyway. "Come back down, we found some rope, go get it and bring it up." He helped Billy down, then gestured for Chuck to boost him up. Jeremy followed him. Jenny held the small revolver ready, or tried to. Her heart pounded in her chest, and her hands shook in time with her rapid breathing. She held her breath as Jeremy swung over the railing to join their friend, aiming at the sliding glass doors with steadier hands, then shifted her aim away as they moved to the door, blocking her line of fire.

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