Children's Crusade
Chapter 21

Copyright© 2011 by carioca

Zoe looked at the kids waiting their turn to climb out of the bus, then at the gun in her hand. A bunch of the kids had guns now. She was pretty sure they'd stolen them, but it didn't matter, not the way things were now. The kids were scared, all of them. It was all Zoe could do not to show her own fear. She needed someone to hold her and tell her everything would be all right. Either that, or to curl up into a ball and go to sleep, she was so tired and her head hurt so bad. Instead of doing either she stood on shaky legs and shooed the more reluctant kids into line.

The upward movement stopped, and three of the older kids came down. Billy's older brother and sister and the other boy who'd helped her out of the bus. The girl gently pushed her onto a seat, while the boys got the rest organized, sending some of the things from the bus up into the building. A few of the kids were unresponsive, but they coaxed them into movement. One of the girls refused to move until they told her there were bathrooms she could use, when she heard that, she scrambled out of the bus faster than most.

Jenny checked the door, then grabbed the keys from the ignition. "We don't want anyone taking off until we're all back on board."

Zoe held out her hand. "That's a good idea, I'll hold them. We need to know how many kids are with us too, find out as soon as you can, please."

The girl looked at the older of the boys. Only when he nodded did she hand them over, clearly uncomfortable. "Are you sure you're up to this?"

"I can hold a set of keys, and I'm sure you have a lot of other stuff to do." Zoe said.

The younger boy pulled a laptop case from behind the driver's seat, then checked under all the seats until he reached one just forward of the emergency exit. "Hey lady, come on, we've got to get off the street." There was no response. He pulled a booted foot into the aisle, but when he let go, it disappeared under the seat again.

Jenny went to look and snorted. "Right Miss Angst, time to move." She shook whoever it was, then slapped her while her brother looked on in surprise. "We're not leaving anyone down here, so you either move or I'll make you move." She slapped twice more, then turned to her brother. "Give me those pliers." He handed her a big pair with blue insulated handles. "Interesting thing about nose rings, they were used on cattle so you could lead them around with a piece of string. If you don't come out of there, you'll find out just how it worked." She waited, counting down from five, then reached under the seat.

An instant later the bus filled with an ear piercing scream. The few kids still on the bus stared, then as the cannibals outside went wild, climbed out in a hurry. The girl screamed again as Jenny dragged her into the aisle, then held her nose and cursed while she struggled to her feet. She wiped a trickle of blood away from her upper lip. "What are you doing you little creep?"

Both of them were taller than Zoe, but a good four inches of the strange girl's height was from her boots. She wasn't a student at the school, and probably wasn't a high school student at all. Instead of backing down, Jenny moved nose to nose with the young woman, looking up only slightly. "I'm saving your life." She pointed at the rope. "Climb up into the building."

She took a half step back and raised her hand to slap Jenny's face, but stopped cold when Jenny held up the open pliers. "What? Going to drag me up there?"

"Either you go up that rope, or out the door, your choice." Jenny said.

Jeremy moved between them, waving his sister back with one hand. "Hey, calm down, What's your name?"

The girl glared at Jenny, but answered. "Tracy."

Jeremy put one hand on her shoulder. "Look Tracy, you can't stay down here." He pointed to the hands slapping against the windows. "You don't really want to stay down here with them do you?"

She looked out the blood smeared windows and shuddered. "No, I'll go, it's just..." she touched her nose and winced. "That really hurt you know." He turned her around and gently pushed her in the direction of the rope. Alex helped her out onto the roof, then helped Jeremy check the rest of the bus.

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