Sunday, February 1, 2009

Rendezvous: Chapter 2

Dee woke up feeling refreshed. She glanced at her alarm clock. Still no power. Turning her cell phone on, she saw that it was ten AM. She always slept well after a night of drinking, for some reason. Sam rolled over in bed, her arm flopping over Dee's pillow.
Dee opened her phone and stepped out into the basement hallway. No signal. If cell towers didn’t even have power, then neither would her office, and that meant no computers and no phones - for her, that added up to no job. It looked like today was a day off.
Closing her phone, she turned it back off and made for the shower. The gas water heater still worked, and so would the gas stove. She and Sam rented the large basement room in an older split-level six blocks away from campus. Their landlord, an overweight Republican named Bob who worked in insurance, was content to have two tenants who paid the rent on time. The two other tenants were both male, a black computer programmer and an overworked health nut in his fifties.
While cooking breakfast, Dee was lost in thought. She kept reviewing the last twenty-four hours in her mind, as if thinking about it enough would cause it to suddenly make sense. This was certainly an unusual occurrence, but there were too many unknowns to make a reasonable assessment. That made today an investigation day. Dee mentally organized a route of possible information sources as she went back downstairs carrying a tray loaded with two plates of food and two glasses of orange juice.
"Wakey, wakey," she said as she rubbed Sam's shoulder.
"Hrmm... eggs an' bakey?"
"You know it, Rosie. Pancakes, too." Dee was the only one who called Sam by "Rosie." It was a pet name she'd given her in high school, after her surname of Rose. Working high school tech theater, Dee said she looked like a diminutive Rosie the Riveter in her overalls and bandana, brandishing a drill.
"Power?" Sam yawned as she spoke, rubbing her eyes after sitting up in bed. Dee handed her the tray after putting her own plate and cup on her desk.
"Nope. Got the day off. Gonna head out in a few and see what people know." Sam mumbled contentedly as she munched on a strip of bacon. Dee was wolfing her food down, barely taking time to chew before swallowing. Sam waited for Dee to spill something so she could give her shit about not being able to take her anywhere - something she'd always wanted to say in her own home - but no such luck. Sam liked to watch her eat, there was a sort of ruthless efficiency to it that was part of Dee's eccentric charm, but it made Sam wonder why she liked cooking so much if she didn't even take time to enjoy it. Dee remarked once that she didn't mess around with her food, but still, Sam thought it was strange that Dee ate every meal like it was her first in days.
Dee washed and put away the dishes while Sam showered, then took her daily pills and rode her bicycle three blocks to the nearest gas station. She was glad she'd done so, as there was a line of cars down the block and a line of people out the door. Two attendants were at each register, writing stuff down and speaking on walkie-talkies. Several more were out at the pumps, operating them manually and exchanging slips of paper with the customers. Dee got in line after locking her bike to the propane cage. After thirty minutes, she was at the register.
"Howdy," said the high-schooler at the register. "Can I see your slip?"
"I, err, don't have one," Dee replied. "I was actually wondering if I could just buy a couple gas cans and fill them?"
"Sure thing, only we're out of gas cans. But if you got your own, you can fill 'em up here."
"Well, I'd have to go back home, if you don't have any cans here. But I just live three blocks away. Could I buy some gas now and then come back with the cans?"
"Sure, that's no problem. You'll have to wait in line with the cars when you come back, though. I'd hurry, too," he added. "At this rate, we'll be dry in a few hours, and the trucks are all held up in local traffic, even though the highways are pretty clear."
"Of course. You guys writing credit card numbers down?"
"Yes, but only with ID. ATMs aren't working, so we do what we can."
"Great." Dee bought ten gallons of gas and a roadmap of the state on impulse, and heard the attendant radio the people outside with her story. She retrieved Sam's five-gallon can from her trunk and Bob's five-gallon can from the garage before heading back to the forty-five minute wait at the gas station. Everything went smoothly, if slow. Dee hung the cans from her bike's handlebars and walked her bike home.
Sam was doing laundry when Dee returned, reasoning that clean water might not last too long if the water processing plant was down. Dee filled her in on the scene at the gas station and then rode over to the police station closer to campus.
The police were almost entirely unhelpful. They repeated to her the statement that had been issued to the press, which amounted to "stay indoors and don't panic," informed her that no state of emergency had been declared, and generally left her feeling that there was something she wasn't being told.
Barely past noon, no noisy frat parties had started yet, and the only activity she'd seen aside from occasional local traffic and gas station congestion had been college kids drinking on porches and playing bags on front lawns. Aside from a general lack of activity, things seemed pretty normal, just quiet. Dee even saw a bus running.
University officials - those that bothered to come in, at any rate - referred her to the press statement issued by the police, let her know that classes were canceled for the day, and that they would resume when power was restored. Dee then rode for another ninety minutes or so around town, making mental notes of which establishments weren't packed to the gills. She headed West, then North, then to her office on the far West side of town. Sure enough, no power, and a note on the door advising employees to return when they got power back in their homes.
Finally, she stopped back at the Dojo (the official nickname of Seamus, Jack, and Kevin's apartment) on the South side of town to see how things were and compare notes. Seamus was still asleep in his room, Jack was reading, and Kevin was washing dishes. After filling them in on her adventures so far, Kevin informed her that he had stepped out to the roof to look for any signs of unrest. Other than the ominously dark thunderheads gathering in the Southeast sky, it looked to be clear sailing. After making plans to meet up later in the evening, Dee headed out.
Dee stopped by Cameron's apartment before heading home. He lived closer to campus, so she had to retrace some of her steps, but this way she could fill him in on the information she'd gathered. Cameron was also asleep, but his roommates were awake. She told Steve and Aaron what she'd found out, then left a message for Cam to meet up at the Dojo as she'd planned with Kevin and Jack, and let them know that they were also welcome. Her business concluded, she headed back home.
Sam was laying on a lawn chair in the backyard, reading a book. While Dee had been gone, Sam had emptied the milk jugs in the fridge and salvaged every container she could from the recycling, cleaned them out thoroughly and filled them with water she'd put through their filter. Dee complimented her on her foresight, checked the tap water and poured herself a glass, then joined Sam in the backyard to fill her in on what she'd found out. Then Dee went to her room and tried to figure out how to contact her parents in rural Wisconsin. Aside from smoke signals, she couldn’t think of any way to communicate without actually driving two hundred miles and speaking face to face. She considered her parents and how they would probably react to the situation.
Tom Morrigan was an easygoing man, tall and confident, with an air of competence that his friends found comforting and his second wife, Linda, found vexing. She, on the other hand, was a woman of action whose foresight and preparation were invaluable in crisis management, but just as often left her in a state of near-panic for Tom's sake as he seemed to tap-dance nonchalantly through what to her mind was a warzone. They were a perfect match. Tom had been the director of the media department at UIC, until the whole department got axed the year Dee graduated from high school. While Linda managed the finances and prepared for worst-case scenarios, Tom had simply gone into business for himself as an independent contractor, using job skills he learned while putting himself through college. And thus the two of them made ends meet until they found an acceptable residence to which they could relocate. In fact, with Tom’s experience working on houses, and Linda’s experience in gardening, added to the fact that they were also surrounded by farmland, they were probably in better shape than Dee and her friends.
Dee decided to write them a letter and take her chances with the post office, then went out to the garage. Bob wasn't going to be in town until Thursday, so Dee wanted to see if she could get the generator working by herself. The manual was right on top, and after figuring out what all the parts did and re-reading the manual two or three times, a bit of trial and error saw Dee with a functional generator. She siphoned the gas out of the lawn mower to top off the generator's tank, and then started it up. She plugged her phone in to test if it was registering a charge, then took inventory in the garage for half an hour before shutting down the generator. She checked the fuel level to get an estimate of how long it would last, then made a shopping list and went out back to see Sam before heading out again.
"What was all that racket?" Sam looked up from her book as Dee came out the back door.
"Oh, I was just seeing how the generator worked."
"And?"
"Works just fine."
"Sweet. Where'd you learn how to do that?"
"Just now. Read the manual."
"Oh. Cool."
"Yeah. Say, Rosie, I'm gonna take your car to go get a few supplies."
"Sure thing. Keys are in my purse. So I'll see you, what, tomorrow?"
"Nah, I'm going to Home Depot. No crowds there."
"Ahh, cool. See you when you get back, then."
"Yep. Later!"
Dee was glad she'd done some scouting earlier in the day. The Menards store on the edge of town was absolutely jammed, but hardly anyone knew about the Home Depot which had opened about eighteen months previously. It was a quarter-mile North, past the highway that wrapped around the town. It had customers, sure, but they were contractors with big orders rather than the do-it-yourself-ers flocking to Menards. Dee picked up the few hand tools the garage lacked, as well as a few sheets of plywood, some two-by-fours, all manner of welding materials, and various lengths of pipe and miscellaneous fittings. She had some trouble at the register with the size of her order, on account of the fact that she had neither a Home Depot credit card nor a business credit card. In truth, Dee herself doubted that she had the money to pay for everything, but not by a whole lot (her paycheck, due that Friday, would cover it for sure). But after calling the manager over and massaging the facts regarding her income, she got them to take a check.
Dee folded the seats down in Sam's station wagon and loaded everything in, then drove home and hauled it into the garage. The whole trip took about an hour and a half. She was careful to leave room for the car, then backed it into the garage, headed inside and mixed herself a drink. Sam had made dinner, an improvised kluge of all the perishable things she didn't want to go to waste. Dee had a habit of buying canned goods and other non-perishables, the explanation being that she was terrible with expiration dates, so there wasn't much more than enough for two people. For all its randomness, though, it had every appeal of a four-course meal. After dinner, the two of them washed and put away the dishes, then locked up and walked over to the Dojo.
The sun was setting when Dee and Sam showed up. The Dojo was a flurry of activity: everyone Dee had made friends with during the past year was there, as well as a few people she didn’t recognize. Dee managed to single out Seamus and drag him up to the roof. Sam stayed inside to catch up with Jill, Cameron’s ex-girlfriend-but-still-good-friend.
“Did Kevin tell you about the clouds,” Dee asked as she walked up the stairs while lighting a cigarette.
“Nope.” Seamus also lit up and pulled two hard ciders from his jacket pocket, handing one to Dee.
“Well, Kevin said he saw some really dark clouds to the Southeast. I just realized that the power station’s out that way, and they might be smoke clouds which he mistook for thunderheads.”
“I see.” As the two of them cleared the roof, the Southeast sky came into view. Ragged black plumes of smoke were ascending and dissipating into the atmosphere.
“Holy shit.” Dee stared, literally slack-jawed, her lit cigarette dangling precariously from her lower lip. Something had been burning for a very long time.
“How the fuck - why did that idiot think those were thunderheads?”
“Hey, this was hours ago. Like, this morning. If that’s the aftermath of an explosion, then what happened was, at impact there was a big boom but then all the surrounding air rushed back in after being pushed out of the area. This could have kept the smoke rising together for a while, so it looked like a cloud.”
“Or, you don’t know what you’re talking about, and Kevin’s an idiot.”
“Who’d I what now?” Seamus and Dee turned to see Kevin vaulting over the railing onto the roof.
“I said you like bread,” Seamus said, flicking ash from his cigarette.
“Oh. Yeah, I like bread.”
“See?”
“Shut up, Seamus. Kevin, does that still look like clouds to you?”
“Umm, no. That looks like smoke. It looked different this morning.”
“See?”
“Whatever,” Seamus responded. Just then, Cameron came bounding up the stairs and leaping over the railing.
“Dee! Seamus! Kevin! You guys gotta hear this!” The three of them followed Cameron back to the door, where Jill and Sam were standing on the landing. Jill was tapping her cane around the landing, finding the first step and all the railings. She got settled just as Dee and the boys arrived. Cameron said, “OK, Jill, tell ‘em what you told me.”
“Well, last night, I was getting water from the kitchen while my parents were watching the news. Then that Breaking News thing interrupted the broadcast, it went all static just like Sam & Cam said, and then I heard the Emergency Broadcast System kick in for a few seconds. Then there was a huge boom that shook the ground, and all the windows in the house shattered, and I felt some heat. There’s broken glass everywhere, I had to use a broom instead of my cane to get around. My dad fell a few times in the dark ‘cuz he couldn’t see and slipped on the glass a few times. My mom took him to the hospital, and I had to stay home until my brother got back to tell him what happened.”
Jill lived on the Southeast side of town, less than half a mile from the power station. Everyone was silent, their fears of an attack all but confirmed. But the big questions - who, and how - were still unanswered. Finally, Kevin spoke up.
“I think we should go take a look at the power station.”
“Are you joking?” Seamus was incredulous. “It’s probably crawling with emergency crews, we won’t be able to get near the place!”
“It’s probably dangerous, too,” added Sam. “We don’t know what the Hell happened over there.”
“I’m grabbing my binoculars,” said Cameron, and he went back inside. Dee and Seamus went back to the roof.
A few moments later, Cameron came back out with Jack, who was fiddling with some manner of gadget. As they went up to the roof, Dee and Seamus were regarding each other coolly, an indication that they’d reached impasse in an argument. Cameron raised the binoculars to his eyes and looked out at the horizon with the fading sunlight to his back.
“Yeah, it’s no good,” said Jack. “It just keeps saying, ‘Acquiring satellite data.’ Fuck it.”
“Shit, you think they got the satellites, too?” Cameron had turned to look at Jack’s GPS.
“No, there’s no way,” said Kevin. “The thing probably triangulates with radio towers, the way cell phones do.”
“Well, it fuckin’ says ‘Acquiring satellite data.’ I don’t know what else to make of that.”
“Yes, by way of radio towers,” Seamus said, his voice raised. “There’s no way that thing’s got enough juice to reach a satellite. That thing’s a stripped-down cell phone with something like Google Maps built into it.”
“Err, hrmm,” Cameron stammered, “You’re probably right.” He went back to his binoculars.
“Look, at any rate,” Jack said, “It doesn’t work. Doesn’t matter why. This sucks. Anyone got a map?”
“I do.” Dee fished the road map out of her purse. “It doesn’t show local streets, but I think if we found a nearby town, we might be able to make our way through by saying we were trying to get to family over there and wanted to avoid the highway.”
Seamus scoffed. “They’d probably just tell you to take the highway, anyway.”
“Depends on how tight things are by the power station,” said Jack. “Cameron, what do you see?”
“Well, these binoculars suck. That’s what I see. I can’t make out any details at the site itself, it’s too far off, but there are definitely cop cars and fire trucks in the area.”
“Shit,” said Dee. “So what do we do?”
“Well, I think we should stick together,” began Kevin. “There’s no telling how long it’s going to be before things get back to normal. Why don’t we have everyone spend the night here? This could be like our HQ or something.”
“Fine by me,” said Seamus. “I’ve got a spare mattress, there are a couple couches and plenty of blankets, but some people will have to sleep on the floor. Food and bathing might be an issue, though. Our stove and water heater are both electric.”
“Ours run on gas,” Dee said. “We can work something out tomorrow, if needed.”
“Yeah, sure,” Seamus responded. “That sounds good.”
The whole group headed back inside. There was a bit of a fuss when the power situation was announced, but things settled down in minutes and everyone was soon playing board games and handhelds by candlelight.
Dee woke up about nine on Wednesday morning with a stiff neck. Rather than have one or two people sleep on the mattress with a bunch of others on the floor, half a dozen had crowded around and used it as a pillow. Dee had fleeting thoughts of an upscale refugee camp. She walked to the bathroom and took a few prescription bottles out of her purse, swallowing her daily pills without water. She did a few neck-rolls to work out the kinks and then straightened her hair before rousing Sam, Cameron, and Seamus. Jack and Kevin were already awake and reading. Cameron’s room was the cleanest, so they all gathered in there to talk.
“So what’s the plan,” Cameron asked.
“First things first,” began Dee, “I want to get some food cooking.” There were murmurs of agreement. “Let’s gather up all the perishable stuff and bring it to my place. Rosie and Seamus can start cooking, Cam and Kevin can work out a shower rotation. I can get the generator going so we can plug in or charge up whatever needs it. I don’t think there’s anything useful that would work, like cell phones or computers, so we may as well just top off our phones and Jack’s GPS, then plug in whatever handhelds we’ve got. Entertainment is going to be at a premium.
“After we get everyone fed and cleaned, let’s check out the traffic situation. I think today’s good for stockpiling, we should head out to the shops on the West side of town because they may have been ignored up to this point.”
“They could also be ransacked for proximity to the highway,” said Seamus.
“Good point,” Dee responded. “But I can’t see as how that makes them any worse off than the main stores which have been ransacked for proximity to everything else. We’ll just need to keep our eyes open. Besides, the West side wasn’t too busy yesterday when I checked it out.”
“Fair enough.” Seamus shrugged his shoulders.
“OK, after that, we’re all going to want to hole up somewhere. Dean and Norman, the guys who live upstairs from us, I don’t know what they’re up to. With luck, they’ll have taken off and we can have two groups going - our place will be the bathing and cooking spot, yours can be the lookout and fallback point. Then - well, after that, I guess we can only wait.”
“Let’s do it,” said Jack. “I want a shower.”
“All right,” continued Dee, “Let’s all pile the food into Seamus’ car, since it’s the biggest. Kevin, you and Cameron stay and wake people up, fill ‘em in on the plan. While I get the electric hooked up, Rosie’s gonna start staging stuff for the cook-fest with Seamus, and Jack can ferry people over in Rosie’s wagon.”
The plan went off smoothly, with a minimum of fuss. Everyone understood that short showers were key because it was unknown how long the clean water would last, and nobody was opposed to drawing straws to determine who went first. There was plenty of food for everyone, and Dee had arranged a whole mess of power strips and extension cords for whatever people wanted to plug in. Dean and Norman had in fact vacated to visit their families, leaving most of their stuff behind. It wasn’t much, and even less was useful, but people left it alone for the most part. Dee put some gas in Seamus' car; the fuel trucks had arrived, but prices had doubled.
About one o’clock, Dee and Seamus heard noise from the North while smoking outside. Dee helped Cameron to a ladder from the garage, and he went up with his binoculars to take a look. He came down, rather than shout out the news.
“Riot on the quad,” he said under his breath. “Fuck. Now what?”
“Rock some faces,” said Seamus. “If those assholes start shit, I think we got enough people to scare ‘em off.”
“Hopefully, it won’t come to that,” said Dee. “The quad’s toward the South side of campus, so with any luck, they’ll just head North. If not -“
“Then we rock faces,” Seamus insisted.
“Cameron, stay up on the roof and keep us updated if they start moving. Seamus, take a couple carloads back to the Dojo. If worse comes to worst, I don’t want us all caught in the middle of this.”
Seamus let loose an exaggerated sigh of discontent. “But I want to rock faces!”
“Then come back, if you want. Also, make sure someone at the Dojo has one of my walkie-talkies. They have a five-mile radius, and I just charged them up.”
Cameron went back to the roof and hauled the ladder up with him. Dee and Sheamis went back inside and told everyone that they were splitting up between the two residences so people had more elbow room. Jack decided to hold down the fort at the Dojo, after Dee filled him in on the real story in private. He didn’t want to be anywhere near a riot, so he took a walkie-talkie and would drive Seamus’ car. Kevin and Cameron had studied martial arts with Dee when they were freshman at the University - that was how they’d all met - so she wanted them with her. Even though Kevin had stopped going to classes when Dee took two years off to re-evaluate her major, he wasn’t quite out of practice as he and Cameron occasionally sparred on weekends. Seamus lacked formal hand-to-hand training, but had taken fencing and played football in high school, so he was a good brawler. Sam and Dee had done tech theater, so Dee wanted her there so she could help barricade the house. Sam was showing Seamus where the tools were in the garage as Kevin joined Cameron on the roof with a pipe and a baseball bat. Kevin was in and out of the back door, going up and down the ladder on the side of the garage so as to stay out of view of people. For now, the riot was slowly spreading North, and it would soon reach the apartments in that direction, where it would probably break up - or turn around.
As Jack took off with the third and final carload, Kevin came down again and informed them that the riot had in fact turned around. Apparently, people in the apartment buildings started throwing things at the rioters to drive them off, so they shifted a couple blocks to the West and then turned South on University Street - the street that Dee and Sam lived on.
When Jack got back to the Dojo, he went up to the roof with the walkie-talkie, having left his friends Lane and Cole in charge on the inside. Dee gave the walkie-talkie to Kevin so she could concentrate on fortifying the house with Seamus and Sam. With two power drills, hammers, sheets of plywood, a circular saw, and a few two-by-fours, every glass point of entry had been boarded up and reinforced. It wouldn’t withstand sustained assault, but it was the best they could do in the time available. Kevin kept coming down with news from Jack and Cameron. Apparently, large chunks of the mob had broken off at the dorms and at the McDonald’s along the way, but a lot of people were still heading down the remaining four blocks to the house. Still, they were now facing hundreds rather than the thousands amassed on the quad.
Dee padlocked the garage door to the cement floor, deadbolted the door to the garage, and then deadbolted the front door on her way out with Seamus and Sam. Pulling up the ladder behind them, they all hunkered down on the side of the roof tilted away from the street, peering over its peak. Seamus and Kevin each had a three-foot length of pipe, Cam had a baseball bat, Dee and Sam were each armed with four-foot long dowel rods an inch and a half thick.
The mob grew louder as it came down the street.
The five of them winced and shared concerned looks as they heard glass breaking, wild hoots of laughter, and finally - was that -? Yes. Cars were being overturned. Sam was relieved that her station wagon was in the garage. The first wave of rioters came into view over the edge of the roof, mostly jocks with bent golf clubs, bats, two-by-fours, and big sticks, swinging at anything they could find. Apparently, they were leading the way. What followed was a frightening scene to behold: masses of people, crowded from one house all the way to the house across the street, pushing and jostling each other forward, sometimes pushing someone down. Those unlucky few who fell would never get back up. Every tree they came across had a small crowd at its base, with people being pushed up and half the time falling back down into the crowd. Cars would be swarmed, jumped on, and then overturned. No pane of glass remained intact. Street signs were rocked back and forth and then ripped out of the ground. Frat-tards were hoisted to rooftops where they proclaimed their kingship over the world.
Jack could no longer hear Kevin over the roar of the mob, so Kevin shouted that he’d touch base later and switched off his walkie-talkie. Some guy on a roof a few doors over had spotted them and was shouting the news down to the rioters below. Pretty soon, everyone was crowding around their house, clamoring for them to come down and join the party. Cameron cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted that they were staying on their roof, they would defend their property, and the mob had better just move along. The rioters didn’t take too kindly to this, and soon people were rushing the house, rattling the garage door and trying to knock out the boards from the windows and beat down the door. The first wave, the jocks with weapons, had gone straight for the garage. The front door was on the other side of the house’s front, and thankfully, those people weren’t too strong or just weren’t that motivated. But now, people with golf clubs and other implements were being lifted up to the garage roof. Cameron shouted that this was their last warning, that they’d be sorry, but to no avail.
Seamus rushed the first guy who raised his head over the gutter. Swinging his pipe like a golf club, he smashed the would-be invader right in the mouth. There was a wet, crunchy thud as teeth were shattered and the jock’s face caved in. He fell straight down onto the driveway, dead before he hit the ground.
Instead of discouraging the mob, this seemed to make them angrier. Their top priority was now to occupy the roof, but at least they’d stopped beating on the house. The men were swinging and kicking at whoever got a handhold on the shingles, the women holding their dowels like oars, jamming the ends into faces and throats. For twenty minutes, they were locked in this standstill: the rioters below unable to make progress to the high ground, the defenders above unable to do anything but hold them off.
At some point, out of view of the rooftop defenders, the rioters were constructing human pyramids as a sort of staircase of limbs leading up to the far end of the roof, which was raised a few feet above the section the defenders were holding. The first of these new attackers let loose a foolhardy yell before he leaped from the main part of the roof onto the garage. Dee spun instantly around, knowing what had happened - she had feared this moment since they started climbing to the garage roof. Wielding her dowel like a pike, she caught him right in the solarplexus and used his momentum to throw him clear from the roof into the next yard. She called out to Cameron and made for the main part of the roof.
The rioters were coming up two and three at a time, but they were wild and unfocused. Dee and Cameron, on the other hand, were trained martial artists with rather extensive stick-fighting experience. Without a word, Dee took the left side of the roof and Cameron took the right (him being left-handed), and they both dropped into a low, stable stance to deal with the onrushing attackers. Their moves were simple, efficient, clean: a controlled swing, a well-placed jab, a stable block followed by a smooth throw. The attackers were relying exclusively on their numbers, but the roof was steep and narrow. They could not surround the duo, and their numbers proved to be a liability as they found themselves crashing into each other in the attempt and tumbling to the ground below.
Meanwhile, Seamus and Kevin had been working double-time, as Sam appeared to be tiring out, lacking the upper-body strength possessed by the two men. She was still able to kick the occasional face or smash a hand, but her motions were tired and choppy, and she nearly lost her footing a few times. Kevin was swinging his pipe as a golf club or baseball bat, in alternating fashion; he was non-lethally incapacitating people, but they would probably wish they had died. Seamus had started using the sledgehammer approach, and was crushing skulls rather than rocking faces. Kevin’s victims screamed; Seamus’ didn’t have the chance.
Sam was losing it, thinking she must be in shock. She tried to shut out the sickening damage that Seamus and Kevin were inflicting upon their fellow human beings, but the urge to vomit was difficult to suppress. Here she was on a rooftop with a pair of mass-murderers, defending against a teeming swarm that seemed intent on killing them all. But at last, when the corpses were piled three and four deep around the house, and the screams of the wounded drowned out the shouts of the mob, the rioters withdrew. It had finally become apparent that the odds were not with them, and they seemed to come to their senses. As they did, the horror surrounding them began to sink in - there was Jason, from chemistry class - that was my neighbor Amy’s boyfriend - that’s Heather’s shirt, but what the fuck happened to her face? Screams of rage and anger had given way to wails of agony and mourning, the teeming masses reduced to a sobbing, retching group of a few dozen.
A few stragglers retained their righteous indignation and swore revenge upon the rooftop defenders. Cameron stepped on his bloody baseball bat and raised his hands to his mouth to shout, “Do not return for revenge! You attacked us, and we simply defended our property! Return to your homes!” He bent to pick up his bat, but then cupped his hands again, and added, “And think about what you have done!” He and Dee dropped down onto the garage roof to join the others.
“Well,” Seamus remarked, “Fun as that was, let’s never fucking do it again.”
“Agreed,” said Dee, lighting up a clove cigarette at the same time he did.
“What the fuck, Dee,” muttered Sam. “People are dying down there, and you’re just gonna have a smoke?” Seamus shot her an icy look.
“Yes, Samantha,” Dee responded with impossible calm, “We’ve just defended our house from a mob of hundreds. I think I’m fucking entitled.” She then took a drag while staring right into Sam’s eyes, and flashed a crooked grin to show that there were no hard feelings. Dee really did understand what Sam was freaking out about, she just didn’t share the sentiment. The grin did something to calm Sam’s nerves, but the wild look in Dee’s eyes chilled her to the bone.

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