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RL Weston – Drug Z
Disaster – Dirty Bombs
Location – Zumba Class
Helpful Item – Workout Towel
Disability – Children Left Alone in gym daycare
By: R.L. Weston
“With more on the string of explosions laced with Drug Z, a terrifying hybrid of Bath Salts and Krokodil, we have Pat Cheney, Government Defense Strategist and Hal Corp CEO.”
A cold chill ran down Alice’s spine as Pat Cheney’s face flashed onto the screens of the televisions suspended above the row of ellipticals on the north side of the gym. Alice knew he couldn’t see her making her way toward her covert meeting before Zumba class, but her pace quickened all the same.
“We will not tolerate these terrorists in our midst,” the bronzer caked on Pat’s face couldn’t completely hide the grey, reptilian coldness of his countenance. “The use of dirty bombs by the Liberty Militia will be met with the use of extreme force by Hal Corp’s Defense Team. Citizens are urged to come forward with any information that will lead to the arrest of these fugitives.”
Alice’s Zumba class was a cover for a small cell of the Liberty Militia, a group opposing Hal Corp’s slow but deliberate takeover of government and their violent, fascist attacks on citizens. Members of the Liberty Militia had been victims in every dirty bomb attack to date and now Hal Corp was trying to frame them as suicide bombers.
“Sorry I was late,” Alice said as she greeted the half-dozen other members of her group. “I was held up at one of Hal Corp’s checkpoints. I was sweating bullets when they opened my gym bag.”
Alice handed the CD marked “Zumba Mix” over to Carol. “Big Ugly is out there on every T.V. screen spouting his lies again. Hopefully this will be what we need to hack his system and get some evidence on our side.”
“This has all the new codes on it?” Carol asked.
“And they didn’t touch it when they searched your bag?”
“No. You think I would have come here if they had?” The energy in the room felt more nervous than usual. “What’s got everyone so rattled today?”
Carol glanced at Jan. “Jan’s husband was detained today.”
Jan stared at the floor, tears welling in her eyes, and fidgeted with the hem of her t-shirt. “They didn’t find much on him. He had a few posters hidden behind the lining of his briefcase, but, it’s enough.”
“Hey, it’s going to be O.K.” Carol wrapped her arms around Jan as Jan sobbed harder. “We’re going to get him out of there.”
Jan shook her head, backed out of Carol’s arms, and gave a quick look to the clock on the wall, “I need to go. Visiting hours start in twenty minutes.”
The group watched Jan as she left. Carol waited until Jan had shut the door behind her.
“O.K., we need to make this quick because we only have a couple minutes before the rest of the class starts showing up.”
“I’m surprised they aren’t here already.” Alice looked out the windows and her eyes fixed on Jan, across the gym at the daycare center, checking her children out for the day.
“The dirty bomb attacks are becoming more frequent,” Carol began. “We can’t start carrying gasmasks because that would be too conspicuous. But, if you can fold up some fabric, moisten it, and hold it over your face and nose it can keep you from breathing in large amounts of Drug Z until help arrives.”
“Hey, she left her bag.” Taylor, a tall blond woman, grabbed Jan’s bag and held it up to Alice who was closest to the door. Alice didn’t respond.
“What is Jan doing with all the kids? Where’s the sitter?” Alice took a few steps toward the windows. The entire gym was empty. “Where’s everyone?”
Jan led the children through the front door. She didn’t look back before closing the door and running down the hall.
Alice turned to Taylor, “What’s in the–“
A small, distinct beep interrupted Alice’s question.
Alice felt like she’d been tossed into a cement mixer set on high. Her ears were ringing and she felt blood dripping down her earlobes. The side of her head and face throbbed where she’d been thrown against the door. The tight pain in her lungs reminded her of the danger still posed by Drug Z. Alice held her breath and reached for the towel that had been blown off her shoulder.
She still needed water. Alice tried to stand and retrieve some from the drinking fountain next to the door but the change in elevation made her vomit all over her towel. Alice lay in front of the door and pressed the vomit soaked towel to her mouth and nose. This was no time to be picky about liquids.
The wall of windows still stood, but each of the panes was riddled with cracks and sprayed with blood. Six motionless bodies lay strewn about the blast radius. Taylor was missing both her arms and most of the front side of her body. Carol lay against the equipment locker with her spine twisted at an impossible angle. Bits of skin and hair were plastered to the walls and floor.
Alice fought the urge to lower her hand from her makeshift mask and just go to sleep. Her eyes kept trying to close until she noticed movement on the other side of the room. Carol was trying to sit up. When that didn’t work, she rolled over onto her stomach.
“Carol!” Alice could feel her mouth move but she couldn’t hear a thing; coupled with the pain in her chest and lungs, she couldn’t tell if she was screaming or whispering. “Are you ok?”
Carol didn’t respond. Instead, Carol pulled herself over to where Taylor’s body lay twitching and took a big bite out ofTaylor’s thigh.
That’s when Alice did the unthinkable. She passed out.
Alice woke to the sensation of being pushed across the floor. Someone was opening the door behind her. Her makeshift, puke-stained mask had fallen away from her face and every inch of her skin burned with an unbearable itch. One black-booted foot casually bumped the back of her head as its owner shuffled farther into the room.
Alice opened her eyes. Carol was only a foot away now, dragging her limp legs behind her; her dead eyes on the open door and the man who’d just stepped inside. Two of the others had woken and were finishing off Taylor’s body.
The black-booted man gave the door another push and Alice took the opportunity to roll onto her belly and push her face against her towel. The man stepped forward and stuck the barrel of his AR-15 against the flaking flesh of Carol’s forehead.
“Sorry, babe, the handicapped need not apply.” The black-booted man pulled the trigger and Carol’s head hit the floor with a wet thunk. “Quick, grab the other two; they’ve got some work to do.”
Alice’s head swam in a fog between fear and hunger as she watched six men in riot gear struggle to wrangle her former comrades. Her thoughts came to her in rudimentary words and crude images. Food. Streets. Terror. Plan.
The black-booted man watched his teammates drag Alice’s friends out the front door then lifted the mask of his helmet and took one last look at the room. As he turned to leave, Alice looped her towel around his ankle and pulled. The man managed a surprised grunt before his teeth smashed against the drinking fountain and he fell onto his back against the doorframe.
The pain and nausea were gone and Alice was on him in an instant. The black-booted man tried to shoot but she was too close and he was too scared. The bullet barely grazed Alice’s temple as she leaned in close and bit his lips right off his face.
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