Zombies North of Normal (05)

Chapter Five: Rescue

Slowly rising to her feet, hand clutching her knife, she prepared to look whomever had arrived firmly in the eye and tell them to leave her be. She had everything she needed to survive and didn’t need or want anyone’s assistance. Specifically, she didn’t want to be in anyone’s debt or employ – that was her old life and she was determined to enjoy a long life of freedom and independence.

Drawing a deep breath, she spotted the passenger and pilot exiting the chopper and removing their helmets. She let go of her breath as a smile spread across her face.

“Skyler,” she called out. “Is that really you?”

It was a question asked for courtesy’s sake. She could recognize that silhouette anywhere. She and Skyler had been close friends since their college days when she was studying music as he studied cars and women.

“Miss Jackie,” he called back. “It sure is me and am I ever glad to see you!”

In an instant, she had tossed the ladder down to Skyler and his pilot whom she also recognized.

“Blair,” she said excitedly. “I’m so happy to see you too.”

Jackie and Blair had worked together at Cozey’s General Store just down the street. He had left to pursue a career in the Air Force a few months back and it looked as though it was already paying off.

“Not bad for a rookie landing,” Blair responded with his cocky smile.

Locking eyes with Blair, she couldn’t help but swoon a little and Skyler couldn’t help but notice.

“So you two have met before,” he asked unnecessarily.

“Yeah,” Blair exclaimed. “She was the hottest thing behind the counter at Cozey’s General Store.”

Jackie couldn’t help but blush. Blair had always been a flirt and after he left the store, she made no secret of her feelings for him being they were no longer coworkers. There had been one day they spent together walking through the park on a path along the river where they almost kissed. And then another day spent at a different park where they did. But it had never gone farther than that, much to her disappointment.

They both seemed genuinely happy to see her and she was genuinely happy to see them. Any anxieties she had felt about the occupants of that chopper were swept away as she knew she held the affections of both her rescuers.

Upon reaching the roof, she pulled each of them close to her in an embrace. She was surprised to feel tears prickling behind her eyes.

“We don’t have much time, so you need to grab what you need so we can move on to the next checkpoint,” Skyler informed her brusquely.

“That’s easy,” she replied. “I just need my cats, my guns, and we can go – assuming you guys are well stocked on supplies at the air base.”

“We are, but we can always use more medical supplies so we’ll take what you’ve got,” answered Skyler. “And did I hear you say you want to bring your cats.”

“Of course I do,” she replied sternly. “They are my companions and they also provide pest control which is bound to be an issue as this Apocalypse wears on.”

“Sure. Fine. Bring them,” said Skyler rolling his eyes. “Just don’t blame me if they fall out on the way there.”

“Oh don’t worry about that,” she retorted. “They will be secure in their carries, which will be strapped down with bungee cords.”

“Well aren’t you prepared,” Blair interjected attempting to break the building tension.

“I sure am,” Jackie responded. “I’d still be sitting pretty a year from now if I’d just be left alone.”

The Airmen were impressed with the preparations she had made – especially with her supply of weapons as neither of them had ever seen or even imagined her holding a firearm.

“Do you actually know how to use these,” Blair asked turning to her with a smile.

“I sure do,” she stated simply. “After I got into the shelter, I managed to buy myself a handgun and got a membership at a local gun club so I could learn how to handle it properly.”

“Well done,” Skyler said. “Now let’s get your shit and get out.”

“Already on it,” Jackie replied as she shovelled each of her cats into their respective carriers.

“We should take that generator too,” Skyler said gesturing to her solar-powered unit. “We have generators on base, but we can use portable units like to for missions in the field.”

“Sure thing,” Blair said as he packed it up to go.

“And any medications you have – we should bring those too,” said Skyler. “We won’t be making any return trips anytime soon. I had to call in some favors to get a chopper to come out this way, but I knew you were staying here and couldn’t just leave you be.”

He looked at her with what could only be described as love in his eyes.

“I just couldn’t bear to lose you too,” he said softly.

An awkward silence fell over the group.

“You won’t lose me,” she answered putting her hand up to his cheek assuringly.

“Nope,” said Blair loudly. “We won’t be losing anybody today.”

With the generator, weapon, medications, and felines secured in the helicopter, Skyler radioed back to base.

“We are clear for takeoff,” he said. “You can cut the sirens.”

A second later, the sirens fell silent as Blair fired up the motor for takeoff.

And it seemed to be only a second after that they were in the air leaving the shelter further behind them with each passing moment.

Jackie was surprised at feeling a passing bit of sadness at leaving what she thought would be her home through the end of days. She has spent so much time, thought, and resources, preparing. But now, less than 48-hours after the beginning of the end, she was already taking her leave.

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