“What the hell came down on you guys?”
“My guess would be about two and a half floors.” J.T. hauled himself out of the hole, watching critically as the camps staffers carried Thom’s limp body clear of the rubble they’d just been dug out of. Almost as an afterthought, he reached back to drag Brandon up and out of the hole by the back of his collar. The younger man growled slightly, then dusted himself off as soon as he’d clambered clear of the hole, glaring at J.T.
The glare wore away as he looked at who their rescuers were. Brandon blinked a moment, staring at them, shocked. “You…you guys don’t look like rescuer workers.”
Kellin gave him a level look. “We’re what you’ve got, Brandon. Don’t knock it.” She glanced toward J.T., then toward Thom, then back toward J.T. “What came down on him?”
J.T. grimaced. “Like I said. About two and a half, three floors.” He worked his arm up and around in a wide loop, his shoulder popping as he did. “We have anyone who can do much of anything for him? Someone not me, I mean.”
“We’ll sort that out quickly enough, I think. Jacqueline and Leah are in one piece. Maybe a couple PT/OT students or a couple nursing students. We’ll do what we can with what we’ve got. Don’t have another choice.” She turned toward the camp staffers. “Get a mattress or something so we can carry him back on it.” A pair of them nodded and jogged off, presumably to get the required implements.
J.T. rubbed his head. “Bad, right?”
Kellin nodded. “Bad enough, anyway. Marin made it back to campus, god only knows how.” She dropped her pendulum to dangle between her fingers again. J.T. attempted to rake the dust from his hair.
“We were coming up from the basement of the building,” he admitted. “Thom…said all of a sudden that we needed to come up. Guess we weren’t fast enough.” Either that or he felt it, decided it was nothing, and didn’t mention it until it was too late. That’d fit with Marin’s consistent complaints. He looked around. “Is she here?”
Kellin tilted her head toward the corner of the courtyard. J.T. could just see Marin perched on a wreck of a bench, looking like she was half asleep, just barely visible over the debris that littered the courtyard. He grimaced.
“She…you probably don’t want to let her see him like this.”
“You act like we’re going to get a choice.” Kellin grimaced. “She won’t give us one, Jay. You know her. She…ugh. She told me to use this to find survivors.” She held up the pendulum a moment, which started swinging in another direction as if on its own accord. Kellin sighed.
J.T. patted her shoulder. “I’ll come with you. Rather not see her reaction to Thom.”
Kellin smiled wryly. “Don’t blame you. Come on. Pointing us this way.”
They crunched quietly together through the rubble and remains. J.T. tried to rub some more of the dust out of his hair. “Who lived?”
“So far? Not enough,” Kellin sighed and shook her head. “But with finding you and Thom and Brandon…we’re pretty much all accounted for, maybe, I think. I was working at the library. Tala was in the lab. Drew and Davon and Carolyn and Rory and Jac were at the library. You saw Marin. There wasn’t anyone else still kicking around, right?”
He shook his head. “No. Everyone else was gone.” Gone for good, now, probably. He felt strangely hollow. The full shock of it probably wouldn’t hit until later, he guessed. There were a lot of friends that were gone now, if this was the end, if the world was in a shambles, never mind the amount of family that was gone. He felt a dull ache at the idea of never seeing his mother or his brother again. Brother…oh shit. What about Marin’s baby brother? He looked at Kellin. “What about her brother?”
Kellin nodded. “He’s here. Safe. He was hiking down in the ravine when everything happened, working on some geology project or something. Thank god for small favors, right?”
J.T. grunted, glancing back over his shoulder again. Rubble obscured his view of where Marin had been sitting, of where he and Thom and Brandon had been pulled from the ruins of the building. “Do you really think we’re going to find that many more survivors?”
“No,” she admitted softly. “But we have to keep looking until we can’t.”
He nodded firmly in agreement. More living bodies meant more safety when the chips were down, and it was only a matter of time before that happened. It might not be for weeks or months, but at some point, someone was going to show up and try to take whatever they’d manage to scrounge to survive on. Somehow, in his dysfunctional brain, more people meant a greater chance of survival. Intellectually, he knew that probably wasn’t the case, but if he’d learned anything since starting to hang out with Kellin, Marin, Thom, and all the rest, he’d learned to listen to his gut.
This time, his gut was telling him that they were in this for the long haul, one way or another.
Day Zero – Chapter 3 – 03
“What the hell came down on you guys?”