Authors: LJ Baker
Life After the Outbreak, Book 2
L J Baker
Cover and Editing by
Red Pen Kisses
© LJ Baker
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Books by LJ Baker
Save Me (Life After the Outbreak, book 1)
Find Me (Life After the Outbreak, book 2)
Hold Me (Life After the Outbreak, book 3) Coming Spring 2014
The only good thing in my life
(I’m sorry, I just had to!)
"Andi, are you even paying attention to me?" Janet snapped her fingers in front of my face to bring me back to reality.
"Huh? Oh, yeah. Sorry." Janet and I had been getting along a lot better, but her patience with me was still paper thin.
She sighed and dropped the bow to her side. "Spill it. I know you well enough to know there is no way you are going to focus until we deal with whatever is going on."
In the past month since we arrived at the military camp, I spent a lot more time alone with Janet. She was in charge of weapons and combat training for the girls and apparently, I needed a lot.
"I was just worried about Will. He's been getting sent out on a lot of missions. Last time he was gone for three days."
She rolled her eyes at me. "He’s had plenty of training. He’ll do the job and be back. You know how this works."
"Yes, but I thought we would be going out together.
told us we would get to stay together." I glared at her.
"Stop being a baby. When you can handle yourself better, you can go with him. So pick up the damn bow, and let's hit some targets." She huffed and walked over to her bag to grab her canteen.
I knew that would be the end of the conversation. I was growing on her, I could tell, but Janet was about as warm as an iguana floating on an iceberg. I knew making sure I could protect myself was her way of showing she cared. Besides, I was pretty sure Will made her promise not to let anything happen to me while he was gone.
Janet insisted our 'targets' needed to be life-sized models of flesh eaters. We had a group of nerdy artists who couldn't shoot worth a damn, but give them some clay, and even Hollywood would have been impressed. If there was anyone actually left alive in Hollywood.
Spiteful bitch that she was, Janet insisted that my target was a kid zombie. Will took her side on that one. I knew that logically, they were right. I needed to be able to take out whatever it was that threatened me and anyone around me, but I still hated the idea of killing a kid. Even if they were already dead.
I shot three arrows straight into the head of Mariah, my target zombie. I named her after a kid in my old neighborhood that used to throw rocks at my cat. My aim was dead on, just like it had been the previous twenty shots, but Janet still insisted I keep at it.
I peered over my shoulder at Janet. "You hear any news on Rose?"
Rose was one of the people we met on our way to the military base. She was in bad shape, fighting to hold on after being bitten. Janet insisted we bring her with us to see if they could help her. The rumor was, they were working on a cure. I saw zero evidence of that so far, but everyone knew strange things were going on in the lab in the east wing.
Janet tossed me a canteen. "Bear promised he was gonna get me some information soon." She nodded over toward the targets. "Nice shot."
I nearly choked on my water at the compliment. "Uh, thanks." It wasn't at all like her to have anything positive to say when it came to training, especially where I was concerned.
"Do you think she is still alive?"
Her face softened a bit. "I hope so."
Janet did her best to get Rose there before the transformation was complete. It was the first time I really thought of Janet as human. Before, she was more like some sort of emotionless cyborg, following her own set of rules, hell bent on destroying anyone who crossed her. Okay, maybe she wasn't
bad, but probably pretty close.
"Janet, we've covered guns, which by the way, I was already proficient in, knives, and bows. Don't you think it's time I graduated this little program? I think I'm ready to go out with Will on the next mission."
She smirked and glanced over me. "You do, huh?"
"Yes. I do. I realize that I wasn't exactly Rambo before, but I've come a long way. You have to agree with that."
"Go grab that bag over there." She motioned over to a green canvas bag filled with arrows, bolts, and other assorted ammo.
I was used to her barking orders at me. It wasn't even worth it to attempt to argue. I walked over, grabbed the bag, and turned to see where she wanted it. Before I knew what hit me, she had me pinned on the ground with her forearm across my throat, cutting off my oxygen.
"You think you are ready to go back out there? Ready to not only take care of yourself, but to have Will's back too?" She was inches from my face, quite clearly making her point.
Maybe I wasn't exactly finished yet.
I struggled under her, knowing it would only make her press harder, but my oppositional side refused to just lie there and let her win without a fight. Not that I had any sort of a chance against Janet. We both knew that.
She let up a bit, letting me take a quick breath, then pressed down once again. "You know how I feel about Will. I get that he cares about you, but there is no way I'm letting you out there until I'm sure you are ready. You got it?"
I glared at her until my vision started going dark. It would have been a good time to try to nod or concede in some way, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. I waited for her to jump off me in a huff.
"When are you ever going to learn that I'm just trying to help you? Stop acting like a child. You will never survive in this world if you don't." She grabbed her bags and stormed off, leaving me there.
She was right. I knew it. In my old life, I would have been a nineteen-year-old girl, fresh into college, enjoying a carefree life. This wasn't my old life. I had to learn to fight, no matter what it took, to survive and protect the people around me. I had to quit grieving the life I'd never have and make the best of the life I had.
At least I had Will, with his emerald green eyes and adorable crooked smile. He was the one good thing in our hell hole of a world that kept me going. He made everything I went though a little more tolerable.
I made my way down the hill toward civilian housing. If we decided to stay, we would probably be moved over to military housing where Janet was. Will was working his way through second-level training and would need to decide if he wanted to stay on and officially join. We had the option of remaining civilian and applying for other jobs within the base, or we could just leave. Leaving was what we originally planned to do. Neither of us intended on staying there when we walked through that gate a month before. Will was ready to head out two days in, but I convinced him to stay, much to Janet's shock.
I thought that staying there would give us as close to a normal life as possible. Part of me just needed to stop worrying all the time and feel like a kid again. I've since realized how ridiculous that was. The longer we stayed at the base, the more I thought that it might be best for us to go. Only problem was, Will decided he wanted to stay.
Down toward the bottom of the hill, I noticed Hadley. She was sitting in the grass plucking petals off a wild flower. The girl was beautiful, with long dirty blonde hair that fell in sweeping waves, curling up at the ends, and deep blue eyes surrounded by the longest of lashes. She actually looked similar enough to me to be a cousin, or even a sister. She was the quiet type, as long as you didn't piss her off. Then, watch out. She was the closest thing I had around the base to a friend. Each day after training, I stopped by her usual place on the hill and chatted for a few moments. It was nothing deep, but I enjoyed the brief encounters.
"Hey, Hadley. What's going on with you today?"
She nodded, smiling. "I saw you training. You will be ready soon?" Her voice was child-like and soft.
I dropped the bags and sat down next to her. "Getting there, but you know Janet."
She laughed quietly. "Why does she hate you so much?"
"She doesn't hate me. That's just how she is. I actually think she is starting to like me." I couldn't help but laugh. It was difficult to understand without knowing our history, but it really was true.
She raised one eyebrow at me. "Well, I would hate to see how she acted if she did hate you." She smoothed down the skirt of her sundress and crossed her legs at the ankles.
"Have you had training with her yet?" I wondered what Hadley actually did around there. I never saw her take part in any training or do any jobs. It was rare to see anyone not contributing in some way around the place.
"No! I do not want to do that." She scrunched up her nose in disgust.
I really wondered how she survived this long. It didn't seem like she had many life skills.
And Janet thought I was bad.
I glanced down to a square of gauze taped over the inside of her elbow like she recently had blood drawn. It wasn’t the first time I’d seen her with a similar bandage, but something in her big round eyes kept me from asking about it.
Hadley noticed me looking at her bandage and slid her opposite hand over it. She looked away and frowned.
"What job do you do around here, Hadley? I usually only see you hanging around outside."
"Job?" She turned back and stared blankly at me, as if I was speaking a foreign language.
"Yes, job, like how do you help out, earn your keep?"
Hadley was probably about sixteen years old, but she had an innocence about her that made her seem much younger.
She batted her ridiculously long eyelashes a few times and stared out into space. "I do not really think I need to." She got up, brushing grass from her sundress, her mood instantly back to normal. "You should come by my room later and see my tea cups." She skipped away, humming.
I shook my head.
That girl was definitely on the weird side
I heard stories about Hadley. Some people said she was psychic. Others said she was one of the few people known to survive infection by the virus. Mostly, people just said she was weird and violent. She just seemed like a sweet, but odd, young girl. There was something about her, though, that made me want to know more.
Maybe I would stop by her room to see her tea cup collection and get to know her better. It wasn't like I had more interesting things to do. Even though it had been a month since we got there, I hadn't actually made any real friends. When Will was gone, Janet was the closest thing I had to a friend, and having Janet for a friend was kind of like trying to snuggle with a porcupine.