Children's Crusade
Chapter 24

Copyright© 2011 by carioca

Jeremy leaned back from his computer and pretended not to watch Bobbi-Jo gather up some of the younger kids and send them upstairs. When she bent over to pick up her and Chucks dishes, he couldn't keep his eyes away from her. Unfortunately, Chuck noticed. He didn't say anything, but if looks could have killed, Jeremy would have died three times over. He'd try something, Jeremy was sure, not tonight and probably not tomorrow, but it would be soon ... Alex caught his eye and shook his head. Jeremy shrugged as Chuck went out the door, the little boy in his arms and the AK slung over his shoulder.

He looked across the room to where Jenny and Billy cleaned their weapons, Jenny showed some of the others how to do it. Jeremy would do his own later, it wouldn't be good to have all the weapons disassembled at the same time. Billy bit his lip as he struggled to get a pistol back together. It was the small one Jenny'd chosen before he'd found the GSP Expert in the back room.

Bobbi-Jo's phone beeped. He was closest so he picked it up. It took him only a second to display the incoming message. 'HLP US PLZ. 8 here, no water, no food. 4 R kdz.'

He typed the number into his computer, then hit the reply button on the phone. 'Any weapons? anyone bit?' he sent, then read the message out loud. "What are we going to do?" He gestured at the wall behind him. They'd stopped pounding on the bus outside, but the moans were louder and there were more of them. "I looked out the windows downstairs. Most of them seem to be staying on the main road, so if we wait a while I think they'll move on." Alex moved to the balcony door and shifted the blanket so he could see outside.

On the TV screen, a diagram of a solar still flashed up, and the ticker had changed. 'Do not attempt to reach safe zones during the night, Stay in your homes if at all possible. Food distribution will be set up in cleared areas. If you are in a cleared area, the first presidency has asked that you open your homes to refugees. Share what you have with others that have been forced to leave their homes, but do so wisely. If you have space, talk to your bishop or emergency workers. They will arrange transportation... '

"I think you're right." Alex made sure the blanket covered the door, and came back to sit next to them. "Some of them are wandering around, but someone is shooting farther up into the mountains. They can hear it too. They turn and look west, then walk that way."

"Wait for daylight." Jenny finished reloading her rifle, then with the manual in front of her, started tearing down the long barreled pistol. "We don't want any surprises."

They all jumped when the phone rang. Jeremy snapped it open. "Hello?"

"Hello? O my God! Are you really there?" It was a woman's voice.

"Yes," He answered, not knowing what to say.

"You gotta come get us. Those things are inside, we had to climb out on the roof. You gotta come get us right now." Her voice went shrill as she pled.

"Hold on," Jeremy passed the phone to Alex. "It's a woman, she wants us to come get them right now."

Alex took the phone. "Calm down." He grimaced and raised his voice a little. "Calm down. What's your name? Okay Erika, first thing, have everyone move so they can't see you. Just sit down and try to relax. If they can't see or hear you they'll wander off after a while. Now, has anyone with you been bitten? Has it started to turn gray or green around the edges? Okay, this is very important. You need to tie him up right now." He listened for a moment. "If you can't find anything else, use his clothes. No!" He took a deep breath. "No, you need to make sure he can't get anyone if he turns into one of them. We'll come and get you, but not until it's light outside. Until then we're going to keep as quiet as we can, and hope enough of them go away for us to come get you. You need to do the same. Lay down, try to relax, get some sleep if you can. Turn off the phone to save the battery and call us back in the morning, we'll bring you some breakfast." Jeremy could hear the woman's shouts but couldn't make out the words. "Look," Alex nearly shouted into the phone. "we just can't do it, not yet. I promise we'll come get you in the morning, before we go anywhere else." He listened for a while, nodding. "Just take care of those kids, keep them safe until we can pick you up."

He hung up, then dialed a number. He listened for a while, but didn't say anything, just snapped it shut and passed it to Jenny. "Try your mom, the lines are working now.

She dialed, then shook her head. "She's not answering." She waited, then spoke into the phone. "Hi mom, we're all okay, and we have a safe place for the night. Call me back on Bobbi-Jo's cell phone, please. I love you mama." She passed the phone to Larry and went back to cleaning her pistol.

Larry tried his house, then passed it to someone else. A line formed as word spread, but no one managed to get anything but answering machines if they managed to connect at all. They took turns in the shower, and ran their bloody clothes through the washer and dryer. A search of the apartments turned up enough clothes so everyone had a spare set while waiting for their own to wash.

When he was clean and dressed in an oversize pair of pants and a shirt from the closet, he checked his laptop again. "Jenny! Billy! We got an email from Ben. He scanned it quickly to make sure it wasn't bad news. As the others gathered to see the screen, he gave them the gist of it. "He's ok, and they're coming home." He pointed out the relevant passage, not quite touching the screen. " ... in the absence of countermanding orders we will redeploy to our home station ... That's what his colonel told them this morning."

Jenny frowned. "It doesn't say how they're going to get home..." She looked past him to Billy, who didn't seem as afraid as he'd been before. "but I'm sure they'll find a way."

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