Connor's response that she came here to warn them, only to be met with a beating, was somehow unsurprising. Lila sighed, rubbing the back of her neck, looking away as Connor got dressed to give her some shred of privacy.
"Fuck. That's fucked up." She muttered, clasping her hands together as she leaned against the wall. She would have liked to put her hands in her pockets, but Auggie always told her not to. Gotta keep your hands ready for whatever comes your way, he liked to say.
"We don't eat people. I do most of the cooking here, and I can tell you that the meat is mostly.... uh, game. Gamey meat. Not great, but not people." She scrunched up her nose, disgusted at the idea, but maybe not a fan of sharing the fact that half the time they were eating squirrels or birds. It was better if people didn't ask what was in the stew.
"Everyone thinks the Prez knows what he's doing." She offered zero elaboration on that comment, but by the tone of her voice, she didn't believe it.
"I can go ask for your bag back. Not sure who has it, or if they'll give it up, though."
Connor cracked her neck. Modesty. The teen-ish was giving Connor a modicum of modesty.
Curiouser and curiouser. The look in the girl's face and the general distaste in her features at the notion of gamey meat both pointed towards honesty.
"Never met your president. Just his second." The apparently dubious quality of the president's leadership tracked with Dickus Maximus being Vice.
"Not impressed. I noticed you didn't discount the other two options." Clever eyes looked Blondie over from toe to tip.
"You don't strike me as a slaver and Doctor Asshat back there," Madison jerked a thumb towards where the medic disappeared. "Just used some pointless medical supplies if I'm supposed to be bait. What gives? And...... if you have your doubts, then..... why are you here?"
"I'll save you the trouble. They're both douchebags. And what other options - bait, or a slave? I doubt you're bait. Not if you can ride and shoot. They'll probably try and find a way to make you stay." Lila notably avoided the topic of slaves and prisoners.
The question made Lila sigh. "I don't got much of a choice. I don't think I'd last long out there. At least I have some protection here. And... eh, well." She shrugged a shoulder. "Some of them aren't all bad. Yeah, most of them are rough around the edges, drink too much, and act like dumbasses sometimes... but some of them are nice." She looked down, scuffing one hot pink sneaker against the floor.
"Besides. I don't have anybody else out there to go to."
At least Connor had found a like-minded soul in Pink Hightops, even if the omission of slavery remained both noticed and unmentioned. Slavers, then. Madison was unsurprised, but it was still depressing to see just how fast jerks would tumble into barbarism, and if the young woman toed at the ground in a coy, guilty admission of protection-in-numbers, Connor wasn't going to judge too harshly.
"Rough around the edges I can handle. Traffickers not so much. No offence. I understand you don't think you got a choice, think you're safer here than elsewhere." She, in Connor's estimation, was wrong.
"Watch your six. At least some members follow those douchebags. That means you're not as safe as you think."
Madison paused a moment before giving a single, respectful nod. "I'm Connor."
Lila nodded at Connor's warning. The woman was absolutely right, and she knew it. Tossing some platinum-blonde (for now) hair over her shoulder with a toss of her head, she offered out her hand to shake.
"Lila. Nice to meet you. And uh, sorry about the-" she motioned to her own head with her other hand.
"Kit seems like one of the decent ones. Really weird, but... decent."
Connor's face softened a little and the girl extending a hand, the girl looking for a little safety and who would overlook at least two douchebags, that too-young-to-drink girl went into the category of people to protect. With an expression of bittersweet understanding, Madison took the hand and obligingly gave it a shake.
"Same, and I've been through worse. Now...... watch."
Madison gave the hand a tug and stepped closer, albeit slowly enough to not be threatening.
"Pull the hand here, across your body." Assuming Lila didn't yank away in horror, Connor stretched the girl's arm cross-ways across the space between them.
"Hit them at the elbow with the heel of your palm going upwards or sideways. Then let go of the hand and bring your dominant elbow down on the clavicle." That last didn't need a demonstration, and Madison stepped back and touched at the target spot on her own chest.
"Right hereish. Goes for dead-heads as well as living ones. Won't hurt the dead, so just break the arm. Shaking hands with someone you don't know is always a gamble."
A rough shake of her head jostled loose a few memories.
"Never take a gamble you're not prepared to lose."
Lila froze a moment, her pale face somehow going a touch paler when Connor stepped closer, uncertain of what she was doing.
Then it clicked.
She looked down and up, carefully watching Connor's movements, following her instructions and committing them to memory. Clavicle. Of course that spot had a name.
"Right. Sorry." She went a bit red in the face, sheepish at the fact she clearly made a misstep, and was very lucky Connor meant no harm. At least not to her, not right now.
"... Thanks." She added, after a pause. "How do you know stuff like this?"
Nope, Connor had never been so young. Even when she'd been this young, she hadn't been this young.
Wide eyes watched, and Connor could see them pay attention. Learn. Lila was young, pretty, and from the look of it, disconcertingly unprepared for genuine violence....... but she picked up what Connor was putting down easily enough. Potential. The girl had potential.
"You're welcome, Lila. The first half of your answer is that I used to be in law enforcement, before..... well, capital-B Before. The other half is that..... I didn't think I'd last long out there, either. Smart people learn from their mistakes. Real sharp ones learn from the mistakes of others. Had plenty to learn from."
Connor's hands went up, palm out, chest high, before she let them drop to her sides. "You don't got anything to be afraid of in me. Now...... why won't...." The question of why people might or might not give the blond anything died on Madison's tongue.
"You meant it literally when you said you didn't have much choice, didn't you? You at the bottom of the totem pole?"
Lila couldn't help but laugh at Connor's question - because it was so right on the nose.
"Oh man I'm so low on the totem pole, I think they left me in the grass." She fiddled absent-mindedly with the hem of her tank-top. "I'm obviously not a member. Not even a prospect. I'm, uh..." She trailed off, unsure exactly how to answer that.
"Prisoner of war, I guess."
The laugh was bitter and brittle as glass around the edges, at least to Connor's ears, the sort of laugh that wasn't really funny at all, the kind that came from the mouths of the lost and the wanting, because laughing was better than the alternative.
A funny pang bloomed right above the woman's breastbone. Yeah, this one was in the Do Not Kill category; it was nigh on impossible to fake that kind of laugh. "For now. Prisoner of war, for now."
Madison gave the girl a smile of her own. It was lopsided and closed-lipped and had many things unsaid in it.
"Don't forget that part, even if you gotta say it real quiet." A limp hand gestured to the people outside the room, the prospects and pompous asses, prim and patched alike.
"Unless the top dogs get way better at their jobs, this won't last. Sooner or later, this group'll split or fall. You feed the iron in your gut and wait for it."
A wan chuckle spilled forth and her expression became one of rue. "I know how that must sound, one prisoner to another."
"Yeah, eventually. Probably." The idea wasn't a fun one. Lila's gaze followed Connor's gesture towards the door, and she pressed her lips together.
"Anyway - you wanted your stuff, right? If they're going to make you go out there and fight the dead, or whatever, I doubt you want to do it bare-handed and with nothing..." She trailed off, gesturing at Connor.
"I assume like always, I'm going to stay back. I usually watch the kids when the guys run off to go do whatever fucked up shit Prez is making them do." Kids, plural.
"I'd rather not fight the dead without shoes on, at a minimum..... Normally I'd say these jackoffs would have a devil of a time making me do anything, much less fight on their behalf,"
Connor huffed through her nose and let her gaze wander. "But I'll admit, if there's kids, I'll choose do my best to keep the dead from these doors."
She sighed. "Here's hoping they know what they're doing where zombies are concerned. Horde's coming from North-East of here, traveling South-West. Few hundred of them. Easier to turn them back where they came from than try to fight them, though."
How many of the kids were trafficked? A very important question for later.
Lila nodded and headed for the door. She peeked out, scoping out the area. Everyone seemed too busy preparing for whatever was coming next, and the clubhouse was starting to empty out.
"I'm gonna see if I can find your bag. If we're lucky, someone left it sitting around. Or they gave it to the town drunk-fuckoff and he passed out on it." She muttered. A thought occurred to her then as she looked down at the door handle in her hand.
"I'm a fucking idiot." She snort-laughed and grinned at Connor. "But so are they. It ain't like you're locked in here, so... I guess... you can come out and we can look together?"
Connor nodded, trusting to the girl's evaluation and following her into the main room. She knew her captors better than she did, and indeed, it looked like the gaggle of bikers were too busy prepping for god knew what to pay attention to the prisoners they'd kept.
Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy.
"Bag's got ammo. The rest of my gear wouldn't fit in my bag if they tried. Bunch of sports pads. Leather. Helmet. Boots. Makes it near impossible for the dead to get a bite. Real tough to tear me apart, too."
Madison's gaze landed on a pile that looked about right, and upon brief inspection, was the proverbial jackpot.
"Hey! What-" Kit was silenced by the intensity of Fish's expression. He did as he was told, listening carefully, though his blood began to boil the more he heard. "I'm sorry, What?" He snarled, frustrated beyond belief. "She's most likely got a fucking concussion, Best case scenario she's dead meat and a waste of resources, worst case she gets the whole group killed!" He lowered his voice, his whisper filled with hardly contained fury. "If we were going to kill her, why have me treat her at all?! Not to mention how fucked up it is that-" He shut his mouth and looked away. "He's fucking demented." he finished, finally meeting Fish's gaze. He was right, there wasn't time. "I've got it. Thanks for updating me Fish." He sighed, leaving the bathroom and slamming the door behind him.
'I swear, that old man is trying to fucking kill me. Well jokes on him, he can't perform basic surgeries.'
He shoved past Beau, who also grabbed him.
"Don't fucking touch me." He snarled slapping the drunkard's hand away. Beau didn't react except to look at him with a deep sadness, which made Kit immediately feel bad. "I'm sorry, just stressed." he sighed. "Fish filled me in, he needs to talk to you." He explained, pinching the bridge of his nose in a display of frustration. He stalked off to grab his shit before heading to his motorcycle, rolling up beside Jenkins. "You look cleaner than I expected, errands went that well?" He asked, forcing himself to smile in a friendly kind of way. "You're a shit liar though. Try and take deep breaths, we'll get it done and get home." He offered. As much as he liked Jenkins, he mostly didn't want to deal with him having a panic attack in the middle of all of this, he was stretched thin already.
Beau's blood ran cold as Hank made the plan into law. He didn't react visibly though, he was meant to follow orders, not question them. He kept to himself as the group left, hesitating before he went to prepare. 'This is wrong.' he swallowed hard before shaking his head. 'It's the only way. The President is smarter than you are Beau. He wouldn't damn a group of people unnecessarily. Would he?'
His thoughts ran back to the rest of the day. They'd dragged a woman back there, and she was real hurt. Then again, he wasn't much better. He'd beaten men close to death for the club. Maybe he'd killed them. The weapons he sold early on certainly killed people. He wasn't a good person. 'they weren't women and children.' his inner monologue reminded him.
Times were different now.
He was dragged from his thoughts by the sight of Kit being dragged into the bathroom. He also raised his voice to get his attention, but by the time he opened his mouth, the door was shut. He lingered by the door, his hearing too poor to hear a word they were saying. He really should'a worn earplugs when he was shooting when he was younger.
Kit slamming the door brought him back to his senses. He could've sworn the medic was steaming with how pissed he looked. "Hey," He offered quietly, wanting to express his own opinion on the matter before Kit snapped at him, not dissimilar to a rabid animal. He flinched, watching Kit's expression change from fury to regret and then sympathy, then frustration again. " 's'alright, we're all under a lot of pressure." He mumbled in a low baritone. It didn't seem like the medic even heard him; he was storming out just as soon as he'd spoken. His shadowed form almost reminded Beau of a waterspout. He went and turned back towards the bathroom, waiting for Fish to come out.
Fish had a frown on his face when he emerged from the bathroom-turned-storage. Spotting Monty already standing there, Fish’s stride faltered for a moment - had he been listening in? Hopefully not - besides, he’d been quiet. It might look suspect if Fish pulled two guys into a back room behind a closed door that didn’t hold anything they’d need for this run (only Lila could get away with something like that…), so he instead approached Monty there in the hall. He gave a quick look around, ensuring no eavesdroppers or onlookers, before lowering his voice.
“Listen, you know the part of Hank’s plan that has us leading the dead straight into another community is wrong. So does everybody else. We are not going to do that. No way. Once my group meets you, Kit, and Jenkins at the bridge, I need you guys to lead that horde anywhere other than across that bridge. Not back home, not across the bridge, not to any other community. Whatever is necessary. I just got Kit up to speed on this plan, and he’s good for it. Don’t tell Jenkins any of this. Make him think everything is going according to plan.”
Fish looked Monty up and down, trying to judge just how sober the guy was. That was a lot of information to dump on a person, so hopefully it sunk in and stuck.
“If you don’t, and you lead the dead across that bridge into someone else’s home, you’ll be the reason they’re dead. Do you really want to try and live with that?”
Or so the saying goes. Once upon a time it may have been true but these days, it seems, the dead never truly die. A mob of decaying flesh, an army of putrid pestilence, a swarm of unsightly souls suffering the luckless fate of having a restless death. Thoughts swirled in Wess' mind as he moved to prep for what was to come. The good thing of being a group of arms dealers (in the before times as well as now) is that the MC had an array of weapons to choose from. At least that was one less thing to worry about.
There was a small part of Mason that was slightly nervous about the whole operation. Aside from the fact that they would be luring the marching dead onto another homestead, there was something else looming in the back of his mind. Wess hated coming across the dead. Not out of fear, more like...dread. He cant help but look at their faces and think 'this was once someones daughter/son/father/mother/husband...or wife'. He missed his wife, dearly, and still blames himself for her untimely death. The only thing that made him follow through with a bullet to the decaying head of a stranger was the comfort of redemption. As sick as it may seem, a small part of him felt good when he put a walker into the ground (for good). Not from the thrill from a kill, but because he felt like he was finally putting that person to rest. He was the grim reaper incarnate, sending the disturbed dead to their final resting place by his hand. He hated that it had to be this way for so many people, but he found solace in knowing that he could finally end their meaningless wandering.
Mason tried to stay focused on the task at hand: prep, head out, do as your told, Connor.... Oh fuck. He had forgotten about her. Kallie had left her, and it would only be a matter of time before Kit was done with her too. He didn't trust those two knuckle heads from before to watch her either. He needed to hurry, good thing hes got his bike packing heat already, saves some time. Wess triple checked his "armor", which consisted of thick magazines tightly duct-taped at his forearms under his clothing, a method he stole from a stranger he came across some time ago. He had tried other bits of equipment before, but found this was the lightest material that was easy to maneuver in, and, most importantly, it did its job. Its easy to replace after its integrity becomes compromised and proved itself to be very effective (many times). He even has a box dedicated to a stack of old magazines that he collects while scavenging in a corner of his trailer. His thick leather boots protected his ankles and a majority of his shins, which was handy. Not like he'd take off his western boots anyway... Thats all there was to his protection, other than weapons. He did have some other goodies that he could include on his person but he usually saved the heavy protection for going against living people, as they tend to pose a bigger threat than the dead. For now this would do. He did, however, pack his backpack rather tightly. Wess liked to be prepared, if shit were to hit the fan and he ended up alone and far away with out his bike, he wanted to be ready to survive on his own for as long as he could. He carried a first aid kit, a foil blanket, a multi-use tarp that was folded neatly into a small-ish square, a small pot for boiling water (no dysentery here), maps and a compass, rolled up cloth blanket, not one but two rolls of duct tape, a large box of matches, 75ft worth of rope, a hunting knife, a pocket book of medicinal and edible plants found in the area, and some non-perishable snacks. Slipping his pack on, and still holding onto Connor's bag, he stepped out of his trailer and onto the gravel, making a swift bee-line back toward the club-house.
'She better still be there,' he worried. He knew a woman like her was capable of many things...like getting into trouble. The concern was that she'd get on someone's bad side before he could even prove her legitimacy and place in the MC to the others. After seeing the way she was initially treated, the 'big brother' in him felt the need to keep a close eye on her, but now that Hank gave him the pleasure of being her overseer the pressure was on, even more so. Stepping into the bar his eyes were dead set on the back room, completely slipping past Lila and Connor who were lingering in the main room. The door was left ajar, and when he pushed to open it all the way, to his horror, he found the room empty. Mason's gut twisted. The lack of guards out front should've been his first flag. "Well shit," he sighed, his hands on his hips. Wess ticked his jaw to the side and let out an exasperated sigh, thinking for a moment. If she escaped, his ass was in trouble. Back tracking into the main room of the club house, he did a double take when he spotted Connor with Lila. He came toward her with long strides, his heels thumping deeply on the wooden floor, "Connor!" He had half a mind to grab her by the arm like a misbehaved child, but after witnessing how she was previously manhandled he figured she wouldn't appreciate that sort of physical forcefulness now. Instead, he held his fists tightly closed at his sides. His words will have to suffice for now, "What the hell are you doin' out here? I don't seem to recall your ass bein' allowed to leave that room," he pointed a firm finger to the back room and rested his free hand on his hip.
Wess towered over her with an upset scowl, then his line of fire turned to Lila, "And you, young lady, should know better than to let her wander around. You bein' with her does not make it excusable," his voice raised in volume toward the end, further asserting his point. Looking past his temporary temper tantrum, Mason could assess the rough shape Connor was in. The reminder that she got roughed up pretty bad humbled him, and he felt his blood go from a simmer back to luke-warm. Suddenly, he raised a hand upon second thought, "You know what? I don't even wanna hear it, we don't have time for this. Connor, you're with me. Go on get your things then I'll take you to your bike. Ms. Adkins, you'll be needed here, just be ready if shit goes sideways. We'll keep some prospects here with you for that as well."
Mason waited for Connor to grab her things then followed after her out the door. Part of him felt a little guilty for slipping up and losing his temper, but given the current circumstances, there was a lot on his mind, as well as his plate. He would've lost it further if Connor had escaped under his official watch, so a small part of him acted out in reaction to the panic he felt when he saw that empty room. Wess gave Connor a sideways glance as they walked side by side and clutched her bag tightly in his hand, "We need to see Casey first," he spoke matter-of-factly, leaving no room for protest, "You're gonna need to earn our trust, Elkin. We can start by showin' him this patch of yours..."
Lila flinched as she heard Mason call Connor’s name. Fuck. Not that she was surprised they’d been spotted. They weren’t trying to actually hide. Especially not when she watched Mason march past them like the typical oblivious man that he was. But she wasn’t going to let this woman take any more shit from these thugs - not when they’d already beat and half-stripped her.
“The fuck does it look like she’s doing, cowboy?” Lila turned, one of Connor’s knee-pads in hand. She shoved it towards Connor as she scowled up at Mason. Despite the noticeable height difference, she stood toe to toe with him.
“She’s getting her shit straightened out so she can go help us. And don’t you young-lady me, you twat. You ain’t my dad, and we sure ain’t fuckin’, so you haven’t earned the right.”
The right to what? Boss her around? Oh, he sure as hell had that right. He was patched. She was less than zero. But damnit, it was the principal of the thing.
“Maybe if you want to keep a prisoner, do a better job of it. Like locking the door. Or do you all want her to be like me?” She didn’t clarify what that meant before turning around in a huff and striding away, back to her spot behind the bar, where she angrily and noisily put away the loose bottles that had been left laying around in all the commotion.
“If you want a drink for the road, you’ll have to lick it off Monty’s skin. He’s probably sweating Black Label right now.” She dumped a few things into the commercial-sized sink with a clatter, refusing to make eye contact. Connor was on her own now. And so was she.
Madison had strapped the needful bits to her torso and slipped her gloved hands into paintball-style glove-pads, giving her protection from fingertip to elbow. She'd gotten both lower-leg guards on, when Yosemite Sam decided to sow his oats by saddling up beside and exploding his displeasure. He confirmed Connor's status as a prisoner, hand perched on his side and finger-wagging incredulity matching his general outrage. Connor's eyebrow lifted and she ground her teeth a bit, but she'd be damned if she was going to get shot for clocking a guy while half-dressed, though breaking that finger was undeniably tempting.
As it turned out, Connor didn't have to move a muscle as her kneepad was unceremoniously shoved in the man's face and the Little Spitfire That Could gave the Lone Star State road rash up one side and down the other. Yup. Definite potential in that one. Connor's lips quirked in a smile before she took back the kneepad and went right on doing what needed doing. The interaction between the two also told Connor the man's bark was.....bark. Lila didn't look afraid, didn't take a defensive stance, and was secure enough in her life and limb to return to her liquor.
Leathers went on over that whole jazz, and then came duct-taping the seams between her army boots and leather pants, and between her jacket and the pants themselves. As such, the woman didn't Hop-To-Scooby-Doo anywhere.
Though a tally mark had shifted from the Sane People column over to the Asshole column when Texas came up to read them the riot act, Connor got a look at the guy's eyes. He was scared. Or, at least he looked it to her somewhat more dispassionate gaze. Sometimes, anger was fear in a different suit. Didn't matter. Southern Sam said the magic words: I'll take you to your bike.
Lots of things became possible with a way out, though Connor was disinclined to leave Lila in the lurch. When she did speak, her voice remained even. Calm. Lord knew the training to keep her cool had gotten more exercise than she thought humanly possible, but damned if she didn't manage. A goulash of frustration, grief, and her usual anger bubbled beneath a grim surface, but what else was new?
"Earn your trust? No disrespect to your organization, but I have no idea what, in my brief interaction with it so far, makes you think it has earned mine."
The statement was an honest observation - she wasn't the one keeping human beings captive (hostage?), taking new captives, presuming compliance, and apparently thinking mighty highly of themselves.
"Your operation doesn't care much about plenty of things that matter and cares a lot about things that don't matter at all. I have little doubt your vice will do his best to strong-arm me into whatever fool plan you've got going to deal with the dead. Trust...... trust doesn't have a damn thing to do with it. Also, may I point out: I don't know who Casey is. Only ones with enough sense in their heads to introduce themselves so far have been Lila there and the Doc. "
A relaxed hand gestured to the girl showing those bottles who was boss, before Connor began to walk beside Lone Star with a loose, easy gait that held all the readiness of a coiled spring, each footfall meeting the ground in time with the pounding of her head. It gave a tempo to things, anyway.
"Whatever hotshot plan I'm going to be roped into, those kids deserve to live. So lead on, boyo. Take me to your Vice first so I can kiss ass an' make 'im feel like enough of a big, strong man that I can get on with it. Do my job."
She nodded. "After that, you want me to meet Casey, you go on ahead."
Jenkins tilted his head and shot a sideway glance at the medic. Saying with a snorted laugh. "The errands are postponed in case you didn't hear." Throwing his arm in the general direction of the oncoming slaughter. Which showed just an empty plain for now so his gesture looked ridiculous out of physical context. Like an artist, high on stimulants, splashing paint at thin air with an invisible brush. The few loose locks of slicked hair that escaped the rest, giving him a madman look, kind of matched the image.
There was a flicker of confusion in his eyes at the genuine concern but fuck if he wasn't tense. "Deep breaths my ass, doc. What are you now, a therapist?" The tension in his shoulders did ease just a notch thanks to Kit's efforts to lighten the mood.
Beau was beyond shocked to hear those words from Fish's mouth. He was just going to ignore Hank's direct orders? He could see a stupid idea like that coming from Kit, but Fish? The secretary? Right as he was about to interrupt him to point out how much trouble they'd be asking for, Fish kept talking.
“If you don’t, and you lead the dead across that bridge into someone else’s home, you’ll be the reason they’re dead. Do you really want to try and live with that?”
The words hit Beau like a truck. He'd beaten men to death before for the club, and he wasn't all that sorry about it, he tried not think about it at all. Fish was right though, this was different. This was a town with women, children, and innocent men who had no reason to meet the reaper. They didn't do anything to deserve this. At least with the few Beau killed, they'd had it coming. This town wouldn't even know they were lambs to the slaughter. Beau looked away and swallowed hard.
"You got a copy of the map on ya? I reckon I'll be heading this operation once your group skedaddles, considerin' Kit ain't even patched." he sighed, the responsibility physically burdening him as his shoulders fell. "How're we goin' to distract Jenkins? He's oughta notice when we don't do as we're told. He's goin ta tattle, an Mr. Ward's gonna tan our hides." He added. "I'm in, obviously, but I'm hopin' you have things figured, I may a' went to college but I never was all that smart." He added. He put his hands in his pockets and made eye contact with Fish again. "I ain't a leader, you know that." His voice was almost pleading for instruction, but he knew he probably wouldn't get it, they were on far too harsh of a time crunch.
"I'll figure somethin out." he promised, lingering just a moment longer. "Maybe we can just push 'em away from the club and the opposite direction of the settlement. southwest was it?" he guessed quietly as he glanced over his shoulder.
Kit looked towards the nothing Jenkins was pointing at as if he'd missed something. He immediately felt stupid for looking, as if somebody had said his shoes were untied and he didn't have laces. Studying the biker made him force a smile, it was a look he'd seen before on people who were most definitely higher than the other biker was. It was ironic how much it made his chest hurt to see such a familiar expression, like the world was ending. It kind of was this time, he supposed. "Damn, you mean we aren't going out for ice cream?" He joked, at least finding himself a little funny. 'eh, probably one of us is going to be screaming' the thought came into his head against Kit's will. 'Calm down Elvis now, freak out later. Preferably after this whole mess is over, and instead of freaking out, smoke instead.'
This was decidedly the better plan.
"eh, I dabble." He shrugged, leaning back in his bike and pointing to the sky. "Tell me, Elvis, does that cloud look like a praying mantis or an angel with mommy issues?" he asked with as straight of a face as he could muster. He gave Jenkins a minute to think about it before responding. "Whatever you think it looks like, I prescribe you with five deep breaths and positive affirmations, I don't actually give a shit what you think that cloud looks like."
Alejandra watched Connor and Lila’s awkward and honestly worrisome interaction in the private room, it was almost as though the pair had entirely forgotten she was there with them. She frowned deeply as Connor suggested that they had dragged her in here because they were going to eat her, then swiftly followed up by suggesting that she was a slave, then bait. Clearly, the woman had some trust issues to work out but Ally wasn’t about to make the offer. Instead, she followed behind the two as they continued to converse, both agreeing that the president and vice president were douche-bags, clearly Lila not giving a fuck that they were her family.
She smiled faintly as Lila attempted to convince Connor that not all of the club was bad and didn’t doubt for a second that she was speaking about Auguste. It was clear to anyone watching that the officer had taken a liking to Lila over time and Ally looked the other way. It wasn’t her business what people did in private, so long as it was consensual.
She watched Connor attempt to teach Lila how to take down a person reaching for her, and while she was sure the intent was on par, she worried that Lila might hurt herself, or worse one day, thinking that she had the strength and technique to do something she couldn’t. She noted that Connor was playing it up to Lila, maybe not intentionally, but she’d identified and like-minded person and was working the girl. Connor was playing into Lil’as bandwidth - Lila had been a prisoner before the world went to shit, intent on trading her back to her own crew for leverage in some deal - the details of which were out of her scope, but she was aware of why Lila was with them. After, well the club had a choice, they could have ‘freed’ Lila to her own defence’s out in the world, but they kept her and gave her the same freedoms that anyone else outside the club had. It wasn’t much, but it also wasn’t being dumped on the side of the road and left with the dead.
Ally followed Lila and Connor’s adventure out of the private room. Casey had asked her to watch Connor, not prevent her from leaving or going places - that was a member’s job. She raised an eyebrow to Wess’s scolding of the pair for leaving the private room - not that either of them had been told to stay, nor had anyone from the club been watching them. She held back a snicker as Lila returned Wess’s scolding; not great if she wanted to avoid reprisals but still very amusing.
Alejandra took a seat on the stool at the bar as the club started to head out on the president’s call. She shook her head at the girl. “You be careful with that woman.” She cautioned. “I don't doubt she’d put herself first, even if it meant burning you.”
Auguste knew Jenkins was rather dramatic but hearing him affirm his own suspicions about the horde made his stomach sink. He didn't like the plan: not leaving people behind here on their own when so many of them, and their guns, were headed out and even less at the idea that they would be leading part of the horde to a community that couldn't handle it.
He wasn't in a position to do anything but follow orders - he couldn't save that community and could only hope they could save themselves. What he could do was ensure the people left behind were in the best possible state.
Most of the club had filtered out to collect their weapons and bikes and Auguste lingered, long enough to approach Ally and Lila at the bar. He glanced at the VP's wife. "You holding?" She nodded, lifting the edge of her shirt to reveal the holster beneath. Lila hadn't been allowed a weapon, at least not a firearm - no one stopped her from taking knives from the kitchen, however. He'd taken time, after settling here, to teach her how to aim and fire a gun on the off chance that she'd need to use it.
He reached behind him and slipped his personal pistol free from his belt, setting it on the bar top, pointedly making eye contact with Lila. "I am coming back for this." He turned to Ally and nodded for the door. "Boss said all hands, that means you."
He waited for Ally to join him before turning on heel and marching out of the clubhouse to join the rest of the club and get ready to ride.
Wess stopped in his tracks. Connor's audacity was enough to twist his tongue, "Don't ca-- Don't care about things that matter?" He spoke in a hushed but stern tone, "We matter. This club is a family, and this family matters. The rest of us that are still alive, matter. What, you think you got us all figured out?" Wess raised his eyebrows and looked at Connor square in the eye, "You're sayin' you don't know us, so don't act like you do. You come across the worst of us n' look down on the rest? Do you have any idea about the shit Elkin was responsible for before the world went to hell? Or--or did your Uncle Bill leave that out for ya? Were you even a member before any of this, or were you just ridin' off the legacy of an old man?"
It was apparent now that Wess had dug around in her bag for more than just a patch and couple of tattered maps. Elkin, just like this charter, had its reasons for being notorious. Every MC did. Mason continued, "Hate to break it to you sister, but where you come from ain't much better than what you found here." Wess took a deep breath and a small step back. He pinched the bridge of his nose and took a moment to reel himself back in, "Look, I'm sorry for the way they--," Wess cleared his throat to correct himself, "we treated you, but we have people to protect, families n' kids. There are things that matter here, maybe not to you, but they do to everyone else here. I'll admit those guys shouldn't have roughed you up the way they did, and you know what? You were right, this club has turned into something else than what it used to be. But what you don't know is that there are still some of us," he jutted a thumb into his chest, "who are tryin' to change that. Workin' to keep that from happenin'. You're speakin' on things that you don't entirely understand."
He straightened his posture and ran his hands down his face, tilting his head down slightly to look at Connor sincerely, "I came to get you to make sure you were safe. We ain't all heartless assholes. If anyone else found you wanderin', with Lila of all people, who knows what position you'd be in right now. Same goes for her, after talkin' to me the way she did. Difference is, I got respect for her and I got respect for you, which is why I'm takin' you to Casey to prove that everything you said earlier was true, and to hopefully realize that the way we handled this situation could've gone better," he admitted.
"I'm hopin' that by showing what's in this bag, you'll be left alone and not end up in Lila's position, or worse. But you know what?" Wess raised Connor's bag between them with one extended arm, offering it back to her, "If you wanna find your own way out and deal with it yourself, then be my guest. I'll let em handle it any way they want and pray you actually get to escape before anything can be done." It was a bold move to offer the woman freedom after everything she was put through, and Wess knew that if she chose that route he'd have to self-induce some sort of visible injury to justify the lie he'd fabricate after she was gone. There's no way in hell Mason could answer to the Pres with a "I asked if she wanted to leave and she said yes" sort of thing. He'd probably end up in worse shape than Connor.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Madison gave the man the benefit of the doubt, and though her eyes narrowed at the insinuation that her old chapter was just as rotten as this one was, she held her tongue. The apology was a surprise, as was the insistence that people were trying to make things better from the inside-out. Tex was clearly trying, and she didn't detect any whiff of deception in his voice or that too-deep gaze, even if he admitted that there were some in his 'family' who'd take more umbrage with Lila (and by extension herself) than was necessarily warranted.
Trying to change corrupt systems from the inside was also a notion with which Officer Jones had more than her share of familiarity.
And then, just like that, he offered her the bag that held whatever tattered scraps of a life she'd managed to keep. No bike, but...... hypothetically, she could..... no, there was no way. She was good, but not good enough to take down who knew how many armed guards around the bikes with no weapons of her own and pain filling her ears and doing god knew what to her reflexes. The offer was made on impulse, she was pretty sure, and based on what little she'd seen so far...... these people were toast.
"Yeah, yeah I do know. There are some laws that exalt men and some that keep 'em down. I was never too interested in enforcing the latter, and I looked the other way when Elkin was keen to steal from the plate of decadence. Especially if it went towards the mouths of the powerless. Kept more than a few of my chapter out of prison, one way or another. And..... you're wrong. Those old men might just be sad old fogeys to you, but my chapter kept to their code, and once the world ended...... my chapter realized they could..... never mind. You wouldn't understand and it don't matter to you anyhow."
She shook her head and took the bag, and Connor's voice grew quiet, more sad than angry.
"What your vice did to protect the families you've got here......wouldn't have protected anything, if I'd come up with malice in my heart and a con on my lips. Don't you understand how those things work, now? All the open windows. Chain link fence. Fuck man, I don't hear a generator, so I gotta wonder where the power's coming from. I'd say solar, but ain't no way some genius set up solar and left the curtains off them windows. So.... I gotta wonder. You bonk me upside the head, strip me, and bring me, a supposed hostile, into your clubhouse without cuffs or rope. Got civilians to treat my head, give me water. I find out I'm not the only prisoner in your midst...... which by the way my chapter never dabbled in trafficking. Ever.
With her free hand, Connor ran gloved fingertips through her hair and winced as it got too close to the bandaged injury. "Everybody's been real nice, especially Lila, but none of it tracks. Jackwagon at the top and better people beneath, that's.... That's not usually how that goes."
"So maybe you're right. Maybe there's some big play I don't see and I'm the unreasonable one for seeing a place with way, way too many weak spots and a vice who's real full of hisself but doesn't seem to know the first thing about how raiders of any stripe work. I could be wrong. Wouldn't be the first time. Don't think I am, though. Everything I see tells me......"
The noise of one of the club's children made Connor's eyes drop, and when they raised again, it was with a sigh from somewhere deep, deep inside.
"Everything I see tells me somebody don't know what they're doing. Gonna get people killed who haven't earned it, or kill some themselves and tell everybody they were bein' cautious. Protecting their own, even when it don't do a damn thing. Besides..... if I am right about your brass, my...... escape...... would leave you in a world of hurt. You haven't earned it, either."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Wess cracked a smile to lighten the mood, "Eh, I can handle these guys," he waved his hand like it was nothing. Truth was he'd probably get his ass handed to him pretty good, and with the law and order of the MC he wouldn't even put up a fight, just accept the result of his supposed 'fuck up'. The smile flickered and died and Mason returned to looking solemn at Connor, "I know things may seem chaotic here, but so far its kept us alive,"
Mason wasn't sure where he was going with this...exactly. But one thing was clear, they could really benefit from having Connor amongst them. The tough part would be getting her settled in with the others. Kallie could be helpful, but she marches to the beat of her own drum and is, quite frankly, a hit or miss. What ever benefits her at the moment, she'll fly with. Fish was a lax guy, never seemed to like conflict anyway, guess that's why Wess enjoyed his company. Great minds think alike. He'd be easy to have on board. Casey could be convinced, though Mason couldn't speak on behalf of his better-half. After the small disagreement between him and the Pres earlier, it'll help to have someone who thinks similarly on his side from time to time. The others....they'll come around, the prospects how ever are rough around the edges, but the patched can keep 'em in line. Besides, once Connor is recognized as a patched member, those sorry asses wont be looking her way for a while, and Wess will make sure of it, in fact he'd probably force them onto their knees in front of her for the stunt they pulled. But he was getting ahead of himself, "As far as that 'Jackwagon', he may pull some things we-- or, I don't always agree with," he admitted to her, something that he'd always struggle to admit out loud even to himself, "But he's stuck out his neck for us more times than we could count and has done what he can to keep us together. He does it for us and he did it for my old man in his days."
Wess sighed and took in a deep breath that straightened his posture, "Maybe it was because I was young, but I looked up to Hank for strength while growin' up," Mason looked back at the club house for a moment. Reminiscing about his younger days, but also being aware that no one was near to hear this conversation, "Things have fallen from the way they were, but its the members that make the club." He took a step or two back with his hands up, "If you wanna take off, now's your chance. I'll let you get a good one on the back of my head. An eye for an eye." He jerked his head in the direction of the bikes, "Your bikes not too far from here, I've got the keys in my left pocket," he pick-pocketed the keys from the prospects when they hit Connor and he ran to break her fall, he knew they'd come in handy he just didn't think it'd be for this moment.
His hands slowly lowered and he approached her again, "Or," he stuck his hand out for a shake, "Stick with us, and help restore this MC. Who knows, maybe I'll even give you my name," He joked lightly, waiting for her response. His hand suspended in the air, the few seconds felt like minutes, giving her a soft, dimpled smile in the mean time. If she chose to leave he wouldn't even bat an eye, things will continue like she was never there. Additionally, what ever injury came with it he wouldn't hold against her either. "I promise I won't be lettin' anyone treat you like that ever again," his smile dissipated once more, and his eyes grew dark with the weight of earnest. His resonant voice adding a final, "You have my word."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Keeping a compound alive with chaos was..... not wise. That sort of thinking led to Raiders and little else. Connor wondered whether or not the Yellow Rose before her realized just how deep in quicksand this group had wandered. The offer of a way out was reiterated, along with a viable method of doing so.
Now that was tempting, but the woman's rather inflexible code precluded her leaving those kids to their likely fate, though the conflict between self-preservation and self-control shone in her gaze until the lights struck stubborn flints in her eyes and the one won out over the other. The Chivalrous Offer raised Howdy a few ranks in the woman's mind. She'd always held a deep respect for those who could handle honesty fairly and fairness honestly. It spoke volumes about character when someone could give their word and mean it, even when they didn't know what could come of it.
She reached out her own hand, giving his warm fingers a solid shake with her own, before skeptical lips parted and Connor spoke her piece.
"If this club runs the way your VP says it does, I..... I don't believe you have the right to do either of those things, as much as I'm grateful for the sentiment. My getting knocked around and felt up was not the worst part of that; it was honestly a pretty predictable response, no offense. Being a woman wasn't easy before the world fell apart. I never expected it to get any easier afterward. The bad part of that was your Veep being a raging douche in the name of 'safety' when it seemed a lot more like it was about power. Dominance. Or maybe just a little ignorance and him being nervous. I couldn't say. I don't how well or poorly informed the man is. And if unquestioned obedience to the chain of command is a thing around here, you probably have about as much say in whether I'm viewed as a member, as bait, or just as slave number two, as you did the first time around. I really hope I'm wrong, but your popping off to me and Lila in there says otherwise."
Somewhere in there she let go of his hand and held out hers, palm up.
"I'll take my keys for later. I'll help keep the people here safe because it's the right thing to do, and it's why I came here to begin with....... but make no mistake Ranger - those who keep their silence, consent. I've given up too much and come too far to pussyfoot and politic, and I never was much good at subtle. Not even before..... all this."
"You know the scene, and you know the people. You tell me: was what I saw just 'normal' around here? I understand wanting answers before letting somebody in here, but I got threatened and told to dismount just for bringing news to the gate. I never even asked anybody to let me in. That says some things, and none of 'em are good."
"Look, I wanna help. I really do. But I need to know, before I can decide whether I'm riding with this bunch or away from them when the job's done, is this just how this place runs? Or is all this just a real bad day around here? I came here to help people where I could. I didn't come here to be some jacked-up hothead's henchman or a new brunette in the collection. So you tell me..... assuming we both live.... when I get on that bike after the dead are dealt with, which way am I riding? I want the truth, good or bad."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Mason was taken aback. Stumped. Truth be told he was unsure about how to answer. Truth be told further, he couldn't. Unquestioned obedience was not the norm per se. Part of being a patched member had its benefits, one of them being a seat at the table, and that meant being able to voice yourself and be heard. How ever the final decision was, ultimately, up to the man with the gavel. The Pres. Now, if a good amount of members disagreed and spoke up on it, matters would be put up to a vote. Connor's words stung. Wess was still ashamed about not speaking up about his distaste for Hank's plan. He couldn't speak for the others but Mason had a vowed loyalty to the others. He wouldn't even try to begin to explain it to Connor, it'd be a long history in regards to his father, but part of him felt like she wouldn't understand. Or worse -- she'd affirm the doubt that always lingered in the back of his mind and convince him to feel otherwise. He couldn't possibly explain any of that to yet. It was years of baggage, and if he came out spilling it now, well, there was a chance she wasn't going to be sticking around. The issue with Lila, though, that can be spoken for, "Lila ain't a slave, she's... collateral," he corrected. It didn't sound any better out loud. The cowboy pressed his lips tightly together at his own words. "It's...a long story. We just have her pullin' her weight like everyone else around here," looking at Connor's face he decided it was best to move on from the subject. He cleared his throat, "Anyway, I'm sorry for raisin' my voice at you...and Lila. I was just..." he paused, searching for the right word. Scared? Well, yes to a certain degree, but his God given manly pride forbade him from admitting that.
Panicking? Nah, that was unlike him. "Stressed," was the best word he could think of, and he wasn't wrong. "I could've dealt with it a lot better. I realize that now," he closed his eyes for a moment and turned away from Connor, "There's a plan in motion I ain't happy with, and I'm hopin' I can talk to Casey about it after takin' care of you. Findin' that room empty just kind of set me off," he was reluctant to look at her in the eye, like a scolded child but he did so anyway, "You want your question answered but truth is, I can't answer it for you, and we don't have a lot of time. Come for now, help us out, then decide which way you'll be ridin'," he pleaded. It was the only suggestion he could offer. Connor had a mind of her own, that was clear, and Wess didn't want to be responsible if he talked up the MC and she wasn't happy with it. Nor did he want to talk bad about the MC and lose a potential asset. So he did what he does best, play the neutral part and let her make up her own mind.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The difference between a captive, slave, and hostage was a subtle one and had as much to do with how someone viewed their own situation and whether they still had the fires for freedom burning in their gut as how, exactly, they were seen by others. Lone Star didn't like to think of Lila as a slave, even if the difference between slave and collateral from the outside was little more than the gauzy veil of self-delusion. Connor had noticed that Lila viewed at least some of her captors better than others, and she didn't really blame the girl for that, either, even if Connor privately hoped the teen wouldn't forget the realities of her position. These people surely didn't.
Another apology, the second in as many minutes. Connor blinked.
Humans were complex. That was the cost for humanity, in fact. Yellow Rose might have ridden with these people, but he retained his soul. Whether or not that was a unique proposition had yet to be decided. And...... it seemed would remain so. If there was a plan in motion with which this man wasn't tickled, it had to be bad, mostly because so far the modus operandi of this chapter left a lot to be desired, though whether or not it was their usual MO was also an unknown question. Maybe Texas Ranger's inability to give a straight answer......was one. Whether or not the actions of the chapter's people (and its brass) was 'on brand' should have been an easy yes or no.
So.... that was great.
The woman's lips pressed into a hard line, unable to stop the discontent that spread through her like a drop of ink diffusing into water. Even with her misgivings, there were people here who'd done her no harm. At least one human being being used as 'collateral'. Kids. Ever since huge eyes stared up at her from behind wild hair, a delicate slyph of a girl-child with ribs like the bars of a birdcage, Connor had taken a special interest in doing right by the youngest inhabitants of the apocalypse. She wasn't especially good with kids, but that didn't matter. Madison's heart was ripe with the absence of what she'd lost.
Bad day or original flavored one, the right thing to do was plain.
"For the record, not being able to say whether this," A finger was spun around, including the compound, its inhabitants, and the last twenty minutes in its pale wake. "Is normal or an outlier, that's....."
Connor shook her head. No point in dwelling. She'd decided to help, assuming she didn't end up doornail before ever getting out of these damned gates. Her off-hand gripped at her bag. "Forget it. Lead on."
Fish had several copies of that map, actually. That was the upside of cleaning out a convenience store along the way: they had lots of these things. The one back at the clubhouse was the master copy, everything else was for whatever purpose its owner needed it. He took one of the copies out of his back pocket and held it out to Beau.
“I trust you to do what’s right here.” He leveled a serious look at Beau.
“I have no idea at this point how to distract Jenkins. Convince him you all need to change course? Create a reason to? Or just… do it. Just don’t get him killed. Please.” He swallowed hard, glancing away from Beau, trying to make it look like this was just a casual preparatory conversation, and not a conspiratorial one. He didn’t have a plan yet, or any idea how to smooth this over with Hank afterwards - presuming they all lived through this. That was a problem for later.
“We’re not in this alone, you know. This was Casey’s idea. One I fully support. We’ll deal with what comes after, but we gotta get to after, first.”
Fish gave Beau a sympathetic look. “Just saying you’re not a leader doesn’t make it true, man. You’re going to man up and figure out how to be one, when shit hits the fan. We don’t get to choose to not be leaders anymore. Figure it out.”
He offered Beau a light clap on the shoulder and stared at him for a moment before moving away, heading towards the door out of the clubhouse.
“Good luck, Beau. You’re going to need it.”
Fish made a beeline to his trailer. He needed to quickly change and grab his shit. Luckily, he kept everything he’d need in an emergency at hand, always prepared in case they needed to scramble quickly. While he normally was dressed far more casually, he took riding out on business seriously. He quickly pulled on a plain gray t-shirt, jeans, leather jacket, and his patched denim vest over it. See, he really could look like a biker, if he wanted to. He laced up his boots nice and tight and grabbed his rifle, slinging it over his back and adding it to the handgun that would soon be at his waist. The last thing he grabbed as he bounded out of his trailer was something to pull his hair back with. One of Lila’s hair ties, which she always let him borrow. This time it was neon green.
Prepped and all ready to go, the saddlebags on his bike already filled with emergency supplies, Fish hopped onto his bike and rolled up right between Jenkins and Kit.
“You two ready?” He asked as he pulled his hair back and secured it in place. Anytime Fish had his hair pulled back it was a sure sign he meant business. His attention shifted to Jenkins.
“I need you to keep your shit together. I know you’re stressed. I know this is fucked. I know this is dangerous. But I need you to Keep. It. Together. You got Prospects watching how you act out here, and they aren’t gonna do well if they see you falling apart at the seams.” Fish had a serious look on his face. Ninety-nine percent of the time he was chill and easy to smile, but not right now.
Lila made damn sure to take her frustrations out on the mismatched, ugly flatware in the sink rather than on anyone’s face. The need to conserve water made it a little easier: scrubbing dishes clean with a damp sponge and a tiny dot of dish soap required she put some arm muscle into it.
Ally’s warning didn’t go unheard or ignored. “I know.” She huffed, like a typical surly teenager getting a talk from mom because she actually didn’t know. Wasn’t that what Ally was? Club Mom? Close enough. More of a mom than she’d had in years.
“She’s just… she reminds me of…” Who? Herself, but cooler and better in all ways? Her old family? No, not her old family. That would suggest they’d been replaced. Her real family. In a strange way, Connor reminded her of her Auntie Pearl. Something about her intensity and the way she didn’t seem to budge an inch no matter what was thrown at her. The potential ability to kick some ass too, if need be. Granted, Pearl had been a few decades older, a ton of cigarettes deeper, and perpetually in heels and tight pants, but it wasn’t the outside appearance she was thinking about.
Finally, Lila plopped the soup bowl she’d been scrubbing into the clean-rinse tub and flung the sponge into the dirty-scrub-side of the sink, wiping her wet hands on the back of her jeans as she turned to face Ally.
“I didn’t say she was my new best friend or nothing. I just think it’s shit.” She pulled out her stool from a little gap on her side of the bar and climbed up onto it. It wobbled a little.
“You can’t think it's right either, can you? She came here to help and instead got beat over the head and half-stripped.” She looked Ally over, searching for some kind of indication that yes, this wasn’t okay or normal. Because… if it was normal and okay, then she needed to be even more on guard than she already was. She soon looked away though - it was a hard question to answer for someone like Ally, she assumed.
Lila lifted her downcast eyes from the bar as Auguste approached, searching his face. She didn’t like the expression he wore, and she liked even less the fact he left his pistol with her. She had never, ever been allowed to carry a firearm with this bunch. Not beyond the times Auguste took her out for practice. She could load it, take the safety on and off, aim it, fire it, and knew what to do (and what not to do) if it jammed up. But to actually use it when it mattered? Never once had she done that, either.
Staring at the shiny silver weapon on the counter, she swallowed hard and looked up at Auguste, meeting his gaze. Outsiders may have taken his comment to mean she shouldn’t get too comfortable carrying a piece.
Lila took it as a promise he’d come back alive. Try to, anyway.
“Auggie? Be careful.” She wanted to hug him, but didn’t want to make a scene, so she stayed there on her stool and watched her protectors leave out the clubhouse door. Through the window, she could see Fish sitting on his bike between the others. All of her protectors were leaving her here, with a compound full of unruly prospects. Many of whom stared at her like a fuckable cut of meat on a daily basis.
Once Ally and Auguste were gone, she slid off the stool, made sure the pistol’s safety was on, secured the piece under the waistband of her jeans, and turned back to the sink. Quietly thankful she had no mascara on, she wiped at her face, took a breath, and went back to cleaning up.
Connors words echoed in Wess' ear as he led her to Casey. What was she going to say? He could tell by her over-all tone and subject at hand it wasn't going to be good. He turned and walked without another word, they already spent so much time talking it was time to move on. They came to an agreement and the start of an understanding and that was good enough for him. Besides, if she stuck around he could always bring it up later.
"Wess, by the way," he almost forgot, "You can call me Wess," with a courteous nod to Connor beside him, that was (finally) the end of that.
It didn't take long to find Casey among the hubbub. While everyone was scurrying he was the only person still and with a pensive look on his face. "Hey V.P., " Wess, gave a lazy one-handed wave down to get Casey's attention as they approached. "There's somethin' you need to see," his face looked slightly concerned, with furrowed brows and tightened lips, "She was tellin' the truth," he said, straight to the point. A hand dug into the pocket of his jacket, his knuckles giving shape to the leather as they rummaged for a small object. As he pulled his hand back he produced the small name patch that was previously (more like supposed to be) in Connor's bag. He had taken it out at some point before giving her bag back to her, but there was more. From the inside of his jacket, he pulled a map, neatly folded into a rectangle. He put the patch on top of the map that clearly marked her route from Elkin and handed it to him for closer inspection, should he want it. Wess squinted one eye, closely searching Casey's face for any reaction while a golden spot of setting sun blinded one eye through the trees. "She's one of us," he added matter-of-factly.
Casey looked down at the objects Wess presented, taking them from his hands and into his own. The patch title appeared genuine, colors and all. He glanced up at the girl before looking back down and over her labeled map, tracing the routes with his eyes. “You’ve been around,” he expressed, folding the map back up and handing the two objects back to Wess as he looked over their shoulders as the rest of his club prepared for the ride of their lives.
As his gaze returned to the two in front of him, he reached in his inner vest pocket and took out his handgun. He checked it, releasing the mag to make sure it was loaded and checking the chamber for it empty. He reloaded the weapon, pulled the slide and put one in the chamber. “If you trust her, I trust her,” he stated, handing Wess the loaded weapon so he could arm Madison. Wess by birthright was an Angel and Casey expected him to lead one day hence trusted him above all others.
He turned his attention to Madison at that moment. “These aren’t the Angels you know, Bill ain’t here and I know this isn’t what you’re used to. I’ve done a lot of bad things to keep this club alive, it’s the world we live in now - I don’t regret it. I’ll do anything I have to to protect these people, but I agree that thongs do have to change. Now you said you came this way to warn us, to help us…so help us. After, you can leave if you’d like. We’ll give you food and supplies for the trouble. Or you can stay. Join this family, get that patch back on your chest and help us change things.” This was his apology to her. It may not have sounded anything like one but that was Casey and hopefully she’d soon understand him more.
His attention returned to Wess who had yet to hear the change of plans. He closed in so he could keep quiet. “We’re not letting the dead cross that bridge. Everyone’s on board.”
With a nod, he retreated towards the gate. Prospects unlocked the chain and pulled it open with his signal. He looked out into the distance and closed his eyes, taking in the light breeze and sun that peeked through the trees. He exhaled, letting out all the stress that accumulated throughout the day. He turned back around to see all of his club members breaking into groups as they prepared to execute the plan. It was time.
“Alright everybody, let’s do this. Keep your radios on and stay active. Mufflers are off your bikes, so only make noise when you’re in position. Wess, myself and…Madison…will lead them down Perry. The rest of you will meet us at your allocated intersection to separate these things. If anything goes south, call out. As soon as we can, my group will circle back and help. Ride smart and ride safe.”
Alejandra exited the clubhouse and paused, taking in the scene before her. The club moved militantly, and controlled chaos. The members worked without a supervisor to ready themselves to roll out, ensuring that they had their necessities and requesting assistance if needed. She had to appreciate it, it reminded her of her time in the military.
She spotted Casey finishing up with Wess and Connor, calling out final orders to his club as he went to his own bike to be ready. She headed to his side, Bullet following obediently. "Hey, Auguste said all hands, where do you need me?"
Casey turned to the call of his wife. He looked at her and her follower Bullet, confused by her question. He looked over the compound at Auguste momentarily before returning his attention back to Ally. “No,” Casey asserted, having no intention of putting her in any danger. “We got this handled.” He then turned his back on her, strapping his bag to the sissy bar of his bike.
The club was outnumbered in this excursion, but Casey couldn’t find it upon himself to ask for her help. Ally was more than capable - no question about it. She had military experience and despite her injury, had shown to hold her own in this rotten world. However, she was Casey’s love and he would not be able to forgive himself if anything happened to her.
Ally frowned at her husband's back as he turned away with a single-word answer. Luckily for him, he swiftly followed up with more words and an attempt to explain why it was he didn’t want her assistance. She crossed her arms and shifted to stand on her good leg, scowling at him. “It wasn’t a yes or no question, *cariño*.”
“I have more experience … well, closer relative experience, with what’s out there than half of your members put together do, I’m leaving these gates with you today. So I’ll ask you again, where do you want me?”
Casey finished strapping his bag to his bike and sighed with closed eyes at the Spanish that rolled out of his wife’s tongue. Whenever Ally reverted to her native tongue, you had to watch out because she wasn’t having it and an argument was brewing. With no desire to argue, Casey circled back to be face-to-face with his woman.
He could see the determination in her eyes and the unyielding decision to help. She was not about to change her mind and would even be willing to suffer the repercussions of going against Casey’s word. In the end, she was a soldier itching for battle. Casey sometimes felt sorry for her limitations after suffering her injury, but would never voice those thoughts.
He understood Ally needed nothing but reassurance, to know she had the capacity for everything she used to do. Her resilience was something Casey fell in love with from the start. After everything she’d gone through, she was still standing and it was admirable. So Casey sighed again and put his hands on her shoulders and explained what he needed from her.
“Hold the rear in the van. I want Cris with you. Do NOT……do not get close. I just need you to stay on the coms and make sure the dead aren’t straying off course.” He looked up over her shoulder to see Hank on the front porch looking right at them. The two stared at each other momentarily, friction between them apparent. Ally however brought Casey back, his eyes coming back to his wife. “Be careful.”
Alejandra held her breath as Casey faced her, the warmth of his hands on her shoulders a comfort but worry gnawed at her core as she worried he would shoot her down again. She didn't want to fight with him, not in front of the club and certainly not before heading out into the shit. She felt the tension in her evaporate as he agreed, with conditions, to her 'riding' with them today.
"Fair." She agreed. Ally did not need to look over her shoulder to see who Casey had exchanged glances with. The only person who could make her husband look like a child caught stealing cookies was Hank. She reached up, lifting Casey's hands so she could close the distance and deliver a soft kiss to his cheek. "I will if you will."
Ally stepped away, turning to search the members before spotting Cris and whistling through her teeth at him. "Let's go Baby Daddy, you're with me."
Jenkins stared between the two when Fish joined him and Kit. His brow jerked up, painting his expressive face with irked confusion. "Do I look like a whore to you? No? Then both of you, get off my ass! Jesus Christ." He ran his hand through his barely sticking hairdo, black, slick strands slipping through his fingers. "I'm not Lila."
He remarked with a chuckle, tossing a sidelong glance at Auguste, hoping for a reaction. But his attention was quickly seized by the unfamiliar face.
Swiveling his leather-clad frame in the saddle, his voice laced with surprise as he opened his arm, palm up. "And who the hell are you??"
He didn't get the answer because the Second in charge arrived with his wife in tow. She was coming too? Good. Would be fucking grand if VP left his woman behind while she was the only actual trained person in the clubhouse, tits or not.
Once Casey settled Jenkins watched his back and face, listened to his orders and words of encouragement. Inspiring like a roll of toilet paper. They were riding into a horde! Couldn't he at least make some war cry or something like a charging barbarian. Oh fuck. Shit. They were doing it. They were going to die.
"Hey," Kallie called out above the vibrato of rumbling engines. She slowly rolled up to the small team that consisted of Fish, Jenkins, and Kit. Her assigned group from what Wess told her. She stopped on the unoccupied side of Kit, "Ya'll aren't ditching me are you?" With the bike at rest she straightened up and reached both hands behind her neck to tie a dusty red bandana around her neck. She patted off each sleeve of her leather jacket and quickly gave a look over of her supplies, especially the weapons. Her head raised back up and she looked at each of the men beside her, "So what the hell is the plan anyway? Wess wouldn't share a damn thing, said you guys'll get me up to speed." Double checking her radio is switched on to the right channel, she flicked it's antenna before clipping into the back of her belt. "Not all at once gentlemen," she glanced at her analog wrist watch, "Times a-tickin'."
"If you trust her, I trust her," there it was again. With Casey, Wess' stomach fluttered after he shed light on the truth of Madison's history. To his relief Casey took the info and trusted the findings. It was expected, Wess knew Casey was a little more negotiable than Hank, and it certainly helped that the evidence in hand was undeniable. But it was natural for one to still be nervous about it all. There was a lot of tension in the air at the moment, spread throughout multiple individuals. Wess gladly accepted the gun handed to him and offered it to Connor with out hesitation. Wess found himself holding in a chuckle with the little thing in his large hand. Compared to Connor's well endowed arsenal this was nothing. It was more of a symbol in this scenario, at least to Wess, a peace offering. Nevertheless he handed the loaded gesture to her still, with a smug one-sided smirk that only she could see. He gave a curt nod and thrusted his hand closer to Connor, insisting rather than asking for her to take it. Casey closed the gap between himself and Wess, and Wess grew serious again. The change of plans was music to his ears, of course it also meant trouble once Hank came to realize they went against their orders, but it was the right thing to do and a huge relief. Bitter sweet. The cowboy clapped his heavy hand on the back of Casey's shoulder, "You got it," he turned and headed int he direction of the parked bikes, "We're gonna mount up, see ya in a sec." Giving Connor a one-handed motion to follow him he waited for her to catch up before flashing a grin, "See? I told you we ain't all bad," the next few words were either going to prove his point or Connor's, but he had to try, "The original plan was to lead that hoarde to a neighborin' set up, but some of us weren't all too happy about that. The plan's changed. Might mean hell when we get back, but I can sleep tonight knowin' those lives will be spared."
Wess got his bike and belongings in order in silence, after tossing Connor's keys to her and muttering an excited little, "Hey, they parked yours next to mine," to himself. The man is easily entertained by the littlest things... The engine turned over and he waited for Connor to give a sign she was ready, and when she did he slowly rolled onward to join the rest of the group. Casey gave a final pep talk as the MC wrapped up their preparations. Wess spotted Kallie and gave her a thumbs up, his little way of telling his younger sister to be safe out there.
Kallie waited for Casey to finish his speech, noticing Wess a little ways behind him. She rolled her eyes when he told her to be safe and retorted with a single middle finger. She watched and saw his shoulders and chest jump from a short chuckle and he smiled down at his lap, hiding his untimely expression during this very serious moment. Kallie had a smile of her own creeping up at one corner of her lips from noticeably lifting his spirits before a risky run. She had been itching for some action, it had been a while and she felt the MC had grown pretty comfortable. Sometimes things needed to be shaken up. Keep everyone on their toes. That was her opinion at least. She turned to her group again, "Alright now that thats over, ya'll can tell me the plan now."
Together at last, Connor sat astride her beloved bike and ruminated over the last double handful of minutes.
Eventually, Connor got the plan in bits and pieces. She, the VP, and Wess would ride south until a crossroads. The trio would go west, while a second component would lead the split horde southeast. Component number two would meet up with component number three and lead half the remaining zombies over some bridge and the other half..... away. Connor was a little fuzzy on that bit.
This was a bad idea. Instead of leading the zombies away from the compound, namely North, East, or any combination thereof, the president of this chapter had made the bang-up decision to lead the swarm past the camp instead of properly away. Then, to layer one lousy plan atop another, the horde was supposed to be split up several times, turning one problem into many and dividing their own forces.
All the suggestions she'd brought up had been shot down without a thought. Perhaps warn the other community to build some goodwill and get more guns on their side? Or at the very least, give them a chance to flee? Nope. Let one component of these Fallen Angels corral the horde while the rest set up staggered tricks and traps that would thin the swarm to a more manageable trickle in any one direction, make this thing easier to win? Nope. Maybe, y'know, not turn one swarm into many, each one with its own special chance to lose a deadhead, get distracted, and scattershot all across the place these humans supposedly lived and rode? Nope. Maybe not take the horde close to a freaking water source? Surely, these people weren't under the impression that zombies would be polite enough to steer clear from potable if there happened to be food on the other side, right? Right?
They just had to do things the hardest and most dangerous of ways......... because.
Casey, as it turned out, was the name of the asshole veep, though the president revealed himself to be King of the Sphincter People, and was named Hank. Connor had little doubt Hank was looking to score something within the (apparently) enemy camp, had a grudge, or wanted to weaken some rival organization.....by doing one of the worst things a person could do, in this brave, hungry new world. Whoever Hank had once been to the Fallen Angels, whatever brave and noble leader he'd once been, something in his soul had gone rancid, twisting and souring until the rot had spread.
It was bullshit, was what it was. And here Connor was, head injury aching like the devil, about to personally watch people shoot themselves in the foot.
Whoopee for her.
Admittedly, Connor was not expecting the non-apology apology she'd gotten from Casey. He'd come as close to admitting maybe he'd been wrong as someone could without -actually- giving any personal ground. At the time, she'd given him a silent nod, taken the gun, and then simply watched before pointing out option after option that had gotten dismissed as casually as a bothersome fly.
Apparently, the super secret plan was to have component numbers two and three not split the zombies to lead them towards the second community. That was a good thing. From what Connor could see, that left the back half of the Grand Plan pretty damn frayed, and their hypothetical leader on the ground going west and away from the action rather than towards it. That was a bad thing.
Hank, as it turned out, was staying behind. No leading from the front from that one. Instead, Hank would leave the most dangerous parts to the people he was supposed to lead. That seemed odd, given that his plan involved parading the zombies past the buffet that was the fenced-in compound where he'd be holed up. Lord knew if anything went wrong, Hank would eventually be treated to the empty faces of those he'd sent to carry out his master-stroke, waiting for him to get desperate enough to try his luck against the dead.
Along with nugget-sized kids.
When someone did a foolish thing, Connor was generally compelled to point it out, especially if the consequences were likely to spray across the innocent. Dollars to doughnuts, they'd double down and do the foolish thing anyway...... but at least the truth was where it needed to be.
Whatever. At least she was armored up, as casually invulnerable to the dead as she could get, with as many bullets she could carry at her disposal and bristling with blades and guns. Ironically enough, the gun Casey had gifted via Wess was more suited for horde work; it was higher caliber and though Connor personally favored revolvers over semi-autos thanks to the former's reliability, pre-loaded magazines were more convenient and numerous than speedloaders. If she aimed well, she'd be able to take out more than one dead-head at a time with the higher caliber. Idly, Connor wondered whether the others realized this plan would take hours to implement. Zombies mostly walked at humanish speed, which meant between 2 and 5 miles per hour. Ten miles out meant two hours after the horde had split, and that was assuming the horde was full of power-walkers, with no dead kid-strides or rickety grandma-legs among their number.
Some guy with dark hair had looked at her and asked her who the hell she was, and though she didn't have the chance to answer him before other things demanded his attention, the jittery discomfort in his eyes gave Madison pause. Someone whose nerve seemed about as steady as a windchime in a hurricane should not be going on this trip. But then the bikes purred into life, some roaring and others growling themselves out of their slumber, and any concern Madison harbored over the man's fear was washed away in a chorus of iron horses, joyous at the prospect of serving their riders. To the woman's ears, the sound was a benediction and a prayer to the gods of the road.
Wess, she, and Casey pulled away, heading towards the shambling horror to put a lousy idea into action, even if it wasn't morally reprehensible the way Hank's had been. Madison had fire in her fingers, steel in her heart, and mile after mile of road in her eyes.
Distantly, she heard the sound of the dead on the wind..... but Saints of Rust and Dust be kind, she did not see them yet, which meant the dead had not yet spotted the living.
Beau was among the last to roll up to his group, nearly missing Casey's rousing speech thanks to his late start on packing up. He gave Savannah a gentle pat before starting her up, taking a deep breath as he tried to get his head on straight. "You three about done?" he asked as he pushed between the two, every fiber of his being tense, though he hid the emotion from his face. He referenced the map one last time before cranking his engine and signaling for the other two to follow him. He hoped Elvis wouldn't question his self-imposed role as leader, worst case scenario Kit would at least back him up if he had to argue about it.
He tried not to think as the pavement swept under his wheels, the wind whipping around him as if it were invisible claws tearing at his skin. The rest of his crew was close behind him, physically present, but the gunman was in a world of his own. The drive gave him time to consider his options, and he settled on a remarkably stupid plan that just might work. The roar of engines around him made his chest feel heavy. 'Do not fuck this up Montaire' he silently demanded, face twisting into a determined scowl. He needed both engines accompanying him home, both, or he wasn't going home himself.
They were at the meeting spot far too soon for his liking, the comforting nature of the road replaced by the growing tension of an oncoming storm. It was silent as they rolled to a stop, the dust that their tires had kicked up choking them almost as hard as the pressure of the situation was. It was a familair kind of dread, one he'd typically associate with yellow-green skies. Beau lit a cigarette, listening intently to his radio as they waited.
"Anybody want one?" He offered after what felt like years of silence. Another several moments passed before he piped up again, glancing towards Kit. "I was thinkin', that whole area's ought to have eroded pretty heavily by now. I trust our secretary n' all, but it's rained bad since he's been out here. Why don't you n' Elvis check it out and make sure that's the best route to the settlement? It's gotta have enough space for the whole horde, y'know, can't be havin' 'em fallin' into the water supply." He explained before taking a lung full of comforting smoke. His blue eyes bored into the medic's hazel irises. "I've got things handled here, I'll radio when I need ya back." He promised, finally glancing at Jenkins' direction.
Thankfully, Kit got the hint. Though his eyes betrayed his concern with this particular plan, he didn't dare argue about it with Jenkins right there. "Sounds good to me, we should have a couple of hours to check it out." Kit agreed, nervously fidgeting with his jacket. Beau watched him tense and then relax, like he was forcing himself to look calm. He probably was. Beau's own body felt like lead, his possible martyrdom somehow only making him vaguely cold. He felt numb, which wasn't necessarily bad. It was familiar at least.
He cracked his neck, looking at Elvis. "No offense rockabilly but you don't seem to have the nerves for facin' 'em alone right now. You're the best guy to protect our medic anyways, the others'll be pissed if something happens to him cause I sent him off alone." he insisted, just to be sure Jenkins couldn't argue. "If you need me, my radio's on."
Fish had never been in the military, but he wondered if this is what soldiers felt before shipping off: a mix of adrenaline and dread, trying to find small comfort in the familiar. He gripped the handlebars of his bike tightly as it purred to life under him. At least it still purred. Some more years of this and if he wasn’t lucky, it might be down to a rattle. He tried not to think about what they’d do when the fuel ran out - not just for them, but worldwide.
Fish didn’t like horses.
He went over the plan - both of them - again and again in his head. Casey’s group rides south to meet them at the crossroads. Casey and his team split the horde there, with Casey going west and his team going southeast along the river. Monty’s team would then duck on the original plan and shuttle their portion off to God-knows-where instead of towards the settlement. It sounded… well, not really okay, it sounded half-cocked and dangerous. He couldn’t help but overhear Connor propose some other ideas and then get quickly shot down. Even if some of those sounded not half-bad on the face of it.
Just before he peeled away, Fish glanced back at the clubhouse. Lila was standing just inside the doorway, watching the group. Fish offered her a half-grin and a wave. She waved back, but without the smile. He couldn’t blame her.
Something about this didn’t sit right.
The ride out to their assigned station at the crossroads was somehow both shorter and longer than anticipated. When Fish rolled to a stop at the crossroads, he settled himself smack dab in the middle of the intersection of both streets. He had a good clear view of all directions right here - all four paths, a few clearings, and time to see what was coming out of the woods.
He waited for Kallie and Auguste to park up next to them before lifting his radio and pushing the broadcast button.
“Group two is in position at the crossroads. All clear for now.” He took his thumb off so he could listen and wait for others to check in and give a status update. Chances are, Casey’s team was already in sight of the horde.
The idea made Fish swallow hard. Yeah, they’d seen big groups of the dead shit on their travels, but a whole horde? Not this size, nor had they ever been stupid enough to tangle with one like this.
Fish glanced at Auguste and Kallie. “At least if we fuck it up, we’ll leave some pretty good looking corpses, right?” He offered with a half-hearted grin. He paused for a moment, then sighed.
“Fuck, sorry, I sound like Jenkins, don’t I? I’ll shut up now.” Fish turned his attention straight ahead, the direction Casey’s group should be coming from, and rested a hand on his leg. He could feel where his Alcoholics Anonymous sobriety chip had settled into the bottom of his pocket.
A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way. This quote ran through Casey’s head from a book he did not remember reading. He felt strayed from those words as he led his group down their designated route. He tightened his hold on the handlebar grips as moans started to fill the backdrop. Slowly they grew louder than the Harleys, a disturbing and distinct wail only the dead could make. Casey was not the person to show his true colors, he hid his nerves well and attempted to stay obscure - a tactic learned in prison that kept him alive. Though at this very moment, he felt a crack in his hidden demeanor. He looked at the mirrors strapped to his t-bar as the dead approached from the rear. Their sound grew more ravenous as they crept on their prey. Casey glimpsed at his own reflection to notice a sliver of fear in his own eyes.
Prior to getting to their destination and awaiting the horde, authority was questioned every step of the way. Madison’s opinions on everything stirred the pot but Casey couldn’t blame her - she didn’t know any better. He also couldn’t blame his crew for wanting to take her side. The club was in a bad way, it had been for a while now. Members were losing respect for their authority, questioning the patch and its meaning. In the last couple of months the club had to do unimaginable things to stay alive. This was breaking the club from the inside and Casey knew it but also understood the necessity of their actions. All the things they’ve done have secured their survival, using new connections with other groups and communities to extend their supply chain and improve their state of living. They didn’t have to worry about food or guns, they were set as long as they kept playing the game.
Though as Casey sat on his bike and watched the horde come into view, he questioned it all. All those connections weren’t there to help them, the Angels were on their own. Casey turned to look at Madison and Wess - the group was in for a long ride. “Slow and steady. Once we reach the tracks I’ll ride ahead and make sure everything’s clear. Let’s go!” He called out over the cracking of his bike. He held the clutch, revving the throttle on the other side to make more noise. His left foot pushed down into gear. Releasing the clutch, Casey was on the move. This would be a stroll for the group, a sub ten mile an hour ride for quite some time. It was likely to get dark before they’d be able to meet up with the rest of their club.
Casey’s biggest concern was the possibility of the horde spreading through the forestry that surrounded them. This was something Madison had brought up before, the scattershot effect if one may. To the naked eye a one-eighty may have been a smart move, returning the dead to whence they came. The club however had associates in that direction and could not risk sending the dead their way. Hank picked options that would lead the horde away from anything they knew - with an obvious exception. By doing so he left a small chance of the infiltration of their own compound, but hopefully nothing those left behind couldn’t handle. Separating the horde was a method of dwindling down the dead’s numbers, giving other communities that weren’t listed on their map a better shot at hiding from them or managing them in some capacity - as long as everything went according to plan.
As he rode, Casey used his left hand to pull his walkie closer to his jaw. He clicked the transmitter, opening communication to the rest of his club. “Group one is on the move,” he announced, hoping he got through. The transmitter had a certain range from the clubhouse and it would go dark as soon as they reached the tracks and split the horde. They’d be able to communicate a while longer with group two, but wouldn’t reach anyone else at that point. He looked at the reflection to see the dead following suit. The warning printed on his mirror seemed more prominent than ever before. Objects in mirror are closer than they appear. Casey looked back up the road, memories from his past coming back like a high school slideshow, but he brushed them off. “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”
Jenkins stared at Beau, his brows furrowed. But he reached out and accepted the cigarette. Welcoming the momentary distraction from the fucking mass of rotten psychos heading their way!
He flicked open a lighter and the tip sizzled, mingling with the flame. Elvis snapped the thing shut, sucking in the smoke. It curled around his face on a heavy exhale, the weight of the oncoming threat settling heavy on his shoulders. But…the man made sense.
The enforcer nodded reluctantly, taking another drag from the cigarette. "Fine." He huffed and turned his gaze to Kit. "Wouldn't want our doc to get lost or something." He swung his gaze back behind them like he expected to see a wall of undead humans. "Let's do this…"
Jenkins put out the cigarette and tucked it into his leather. Then he turned the handle and his bike grumbled. "Call when you need us." Then he pulled off, taking point.
Their motorcycles rumbled around the wooded area as they navigated the worn path towards the structure. Jenkins's eyes narrowed as he took in the sight. The bridge was weathered, showing signs of its age and neglect. If it came down from the massive weight that was heading their way….
Elvis cut the throttle and dismounted his bike. The crunch of gravel beneath his boots the only sound disturbing the still air. He cautiously approached the bridge, his gaze sweeping over the wooden planks, some splintered and cracked.
Alejandra swiftly headed for her truck, double-checking the back bed still carrying their emergency supplies. It had been left this way since they'd arrived, a 'bug-out' vehicle as it was the only suitable one that could off-road, despite its age. It also made it unsuitable for stealth as any other group of people would look at it first for supplies. Satisfied, she opened the driver's side door and let Bullet jump in, taking her place on the bench seat between driver and passenger.
Cris was already in the truck, looking pale. She felt for him, having to leave his girl in the compound but she appreciated not having to do this ride alone, not for her own safety but because she knew would be far more cautious with someone else's life in her hands, and she suspected Casey knew this too.
They waited for the first few groups to roll out before heading out themselves, she kept pace to the back of the group and a road over from where the club traveled, only to ensure that the noise from the truck wouldn't overtake the noise from the bikes. "She'll be okay," Ally spoke, for the first time in several minutes, doing her best to sound confident when all she had was a sinking pit of worry in her stomach. "Hanks there, you know he'll watch her and Lila."