June 15th, 2008
Mathematical Sciences Building - Room 314
T.Rex sat alone in a dark room and toyed with the handcuffs binding his wrists. Sheets of rain hammered the nearby window as he fumed at his current situation.
Just hours ago he'd been peacefully sleeping in some abandoned barn, dreaming of a world free of the living dead and full of the comforts of modern life. He was cruelly snatched from that paradise when the Fools alerted him that they had company just outside. Panic ensued as his mind had shifted to battle mode, planning a quiet and stealthy escape from however many zeds they faced.
It was only when he'd heard voices that it became clear they were not dealing with the usual foe. No, not hordes of undead, but honest to god living human beings. Survivors.
The hope and joy of being rescued vanished as soon as the police forces barged in, lights and guns drawn. The weary group of Fools, caught by surprise, mustered little in way of resistance. They were all summarily arrested, bound, and transported back to campus.
Confusion reigned. The Fools were tired, hurt, scared. The men that found them were armed and well trained, but refused to divulge any information about what was going on or why they were moving back to a populated area full of zeds.
The vans stopped moving, and the men demanded to know who was in charge. As soon as T.Rex stood, they whisked him away without explanation. He had hoped for a quick resolution, and maybe some answers.
Instead they locked him in this room. The former office for some graduate student of the mathematics department was now his prison cell. His only company were dense math textbooks, and he didn't have enough light to read them, so he settled back down in a chair and scowled.
As the sun began to rise there was a knock at the door. "Mr. Garwood?" a muffled voice asked.
T.Rex rose to his feet. "Yes?"
There was a jingle of keys, and the door slowly opened. A young man with short blond hair walked in, sporting the unmistakable blue uniform of campus ROTC. A small name tag on his breast identified him as MITCHELL. "Your presence is requested upstairs," he said. "Follow me."
Mitchell led T.Rex down a dark hallway in silence. As they reached the stairs T.Rex tried to pry some info from his military escort. "Hey Mitch, do you know anything about a group of college students brought here late last night?"
"I've been instructed not to divulge any information to pris- er, civilians, until after they've been processed," Mitchell said curtly as they climbed the stairs. After a full flight he added "...and don't call me Mitch."
Four flights of stairs later Mitchell and T.Rex arrived on the top floor of the Mathematics Building. As T.Rex was led down the hall he passed several nondescript offices. He heard faint voices behind some doors, but the only open one appeared empty and gave no clues as to what was going on.
Mitchell stopped abruptly in front of one of the offices. It was no different from the dozens T.Rex had already seen. A placard on the door identified it as room 816, the office of "R. Bañuelos."
The young ROTC cadet stood at attention by the door. "Go on in," he said. "She's waiting."
T.Rex slowly opened the door and stepped into the office. There was a petite woman standing at the far end of the room, facing the window with her hands clasped at the small of her back. She had short, curly, jet black hair and wore a red blazer with a plain black skirt. "Have a seat, Mr. Garwood," the mysterious woman said coldly.
"First, tell me where my friends are." T.Rex said defiantly.
The woman turned slowly. T.Rex's eyes widened as her face came into view. She was an older woman with distinctive wrinkles to her face, wearing tasteful earrings and red lipstick. She looked familiar, and Ryan vaguely remembered a series of news articles he'd read in the school paper...
The woman cleared her throat. "Your companions are fine. I've spent the early part of the morning reviewing their statements." She glanced down at an open folder on her desk. "John is receiving medical treatment, and they're all being held in a safe location. Things you failed to provide, I might add."
"I want to see them." said T.Rex. "Now."
The woman let out a small chuckle. "Perhaps, after we discuss a few things. Now please, have a seat."
T.Rex looked around the room. There were several maps hung on the wall, ranging from Purdue's campus all the way to the entire Midwest. Hundreds of thumbtacks marked different locations, and dozens of handwritten post-it notes stuck nearby. With a sigh, T.Rex sat in front of the desk and glared at the strangely familiar woman.
The woman sat down across from him. "Let me introduce myself, Mr. Garwood. My name is France Córdova and I was supposed to take over as the next President of this university this summer. That was, of course, before all of this happened," she said, nodding her head towards the window.
"Congratulations. What does that have to do with arresting me and my friends?" T.Rex said, holding up his shackled wrists. I knew she looked familiar, he thought.
"I apologize," France said. "We've come across a number of hostile survivors. Paranoia and hunger sets in, and it makes them harder to bring back here. Back to where I am trying to provide safety, shelter, and civilization for these people. Of course some fear authority since many of them resorted to looting and rioting when society started breaking down."
"Can you blame them?" T.Rex asked. "The zombie threat seems to have left many of these people to their own devices."
France Córdova slammed her fists onto the desk. "Unacceptable! Lawlessness and chaos simply bring us closer to these creatures we seek to avoid. No, people must be punished so that they understand we will not sit idly by and let them tear apart the world when people like myself are trying to put it back together. Which brings me to my next point..."
With those words, T.Rex felt a sinking feeling in his stomach. France Córdova pulled a notebook from one of the drawers and flipped through it before finding a particular page.
France cleared her throat. "Breaking and entering private property. Dismantlement and destruction of said private property. Petty theft. Grand theft. Arson. Countless broken locks, doors, windows, and furniture. Do any of these sound familiar, Mister Garwood?"
I can't believe this, T.Rex thought. "Now hold on a minute. There was no rescue, no police, no signs of help. We were acting in self defense, and - wait, arson?"
"You burned down my machine shop, damnit!"
In his mind, T.Rex flashed back to the machine shop battle. There were crowds of zeds, it was dark and chaotic... what was in those barrels?
"The machine shop was an accident, but you can't be serious," T.Rex protested. "Surely you have more important things to take care of, like, oh I don't know, a campus riddled with zombies!?"
France narrowed her eyes. "I know all too well how much there is to do. While you were hiding away in your apartment, I've put together a team of survivors that cleared this building and two others. We've reestablished a primitive power system and jury rigged a communication suite through which I've contacted authorities. I've sent armored convoys to some of our outlying agricultural research facilities to collect food and supplies for the people here." T.Rex's mouth hung open in surprise and awe.
She continued. "So yes, to answer your question, I have plenty of other things to worry about. And if you're looking for sympathy, you may want to try down the hall. When I arrived home two weeks ago and found my husband ripping my daughter's brain matter out, I had to put them both down with a shovel."
Several minutes passed before T.Rex spoke. "So what are you planning on doing with us?"
France Córdova gently wiped her misty eyes. "I have several dangerous jobs perfect for troublemakers such as yourselves. However, Governor Daniels has taken a keen interest in your stories and has offered a deal through which you may be pardoned."
T.Rex cast a wary glance. "What kind of...deal?"
A wide grin broke out on Córdova's face as she leaned back in her chair. "You sign over the rights to you and your friends' stories. You would become part of a PR campaign to boost morale and bring prestige back to the university as we struggle through all of this. This is of course in addition to assigned chores, as well as academic positions based on your majors."
Nodding along thoughtfully, T.Rex tried to digest the implications of her words. Morale campaigns? Research? The zombie menace must be getting pretty bad...
France continued. "More than anything Mr. Garwood, I'm offering you safety. I truly believe that there is strength and stability in a coordinated effort to survive. Where else do you expect to find food and water? Electricity? When darkness falls, do you want to find yourself huddling in some abandoned barn, praying for the creatures to go away?"
T.Rex's mind hung on the word "safety", thinking his girlfriend. He'd risked his life, and lost one of his friends, trying to make sure she was safe. Whatever misgivings he had about signing his life away to this intense woman, they took a backseat to the hope of securing safety for her and the Fools. He considered it his duty.
"Alright, we'll do it," he said with faked conviction.
Just then, an aide walked in. She took one look at T.Rex in handcuffs, dropped a stack of papers on the desk, then addressed France Córdova. "We just got a report relayed in. They've just made contact in Denver."
The smile on France Córdova's face vanished. "Thank you, that will be all," she said to the departing aide as she stood and produced a key from a desk drawer. "Mr. Garwood, I'm afraid I have important matters to attend to." She unlocked the handcuffs from his wrists. "Please report to room 722 for your first project."
As T.Rex left he caught a glimpse of the report the aide had delivered. It was titled "Confirmed Infected Report - updated 06.15.08" and had thousands of names in tiny print.
It appeared things were going to get worse, before they were going to get better.
Word Count: 59,119