Quietly Into The Night

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Original poster
Posting Speed
  1. Speed of Light
Writing Levels
  1. Douche
Preferred Character Gender
  1. No Preferences


Aliens have destroyed all major cities. They have not been seen yet - only their spaceships. The cities are overrun with humans and animals mutated by the extraterrestrial viral bombing.

A convoy of survivors has escaped Chicago and is heading south into the central states. They have just reached Kansas City, where two other survivors are trapped in the ruins of a collapsed shed.

And in time, as they travel west, they will stumble upon a farming community known as Gentry - a rural settlement that has survived the alien attack...

"Day Five... same thing in Iowa and St Louis. Nothing left. We got lucky thought - picked up an old time from Missouri... he told us to avoid the interstate... said there was a burnt out wagon on the I-40. Someone had painted on its side... SWITCHERS... I guess that's what we're calling them now. Switchers, Switchblades, Blades... the ones of us who were twisted... turned into something else... Like Eddie, my boss. I'll never forget his face. From human to something else in the blink of an eye. I never realised before... how fragile we are in name... how easily the things that make us human, at a genetic level, can be... switched. Eddie showed me that. After I killed him in the lot, I knew I had to take my truck and get the hell out of Chicago."

Jason lifted his thumb from the voice recorder and placed it on the seat beside him, returning both hands to the wheel. It had been two minutes since he glanced at the fuel gauge. He was training himself - trying to stop looking at it so often... trying to fight the fear that it would suddenly drop, that the fuel would leak or the wheels burst or the engine sputter out... leaving them stranded forever.

He had always resented this truck - hated the life it stood for and the way it had trapped him in a dead-end job of sleepless nights and solitude, back and forth across the Canadian border with only ghosts and hitchhikers for company. But now... now it was his salvation - the machine that kept him safe as he fled from fire and predation.

And now he carried the most valuable cargo of all... the survivors... the ones who were still human... the ones who had survived Chicago. His truck moved at the head of the refugee convoy, which was a rag-tag group of vehicles, part salvaged and held together with scavenged fuel, patch-jobs and prayers.

Turning a bend in the highway, Jason pushed his foot down to accelerate up a rise. But as he neared the crest and the horizon levelled out, his foot came instead to the brake pedal. There was a hiss as the truck slowed and the juggernaut came to a gradual halt. He could hear murmurs from the trailer - people stirring from sleep and asking why they had stopped. And as the rest of the convoy parked up behind him the other drivers were staring curiously. But he would deal with them all later.

Applying the handbrake, Jason popped the door and stepped down from the cab. The road tremored slightly beneath his feet with the vibrations of distant events... alien barrages, invasion machines. The repercussions were felt far and wide across the land. Taking off his trucker cap and adjusting his coat, Jason moved to the top of the hill and peered out into the distance...

...at Kansas City...


The ache began in his chest and rippled out in little winces of fear. Then he became a sickness. He felt like he was going to retch.

Another city lost.

So much for taking the main roads...

It was cold and windy, it had been that way for the past few days. A rain was coming soon, Farren could feel it in her bones and skin. She only hoped that it wouldn't being anything bad with it. When the radio was still working the news had been over flowing with tragic and terrible stories about the aliens, some that she couldn't even believe. Her radio had broken nearly two weeks ago, not that it matter much anyway since everything turned to static the week before that. The only things she could remember was that Iowa had taken a hit, other than that she did not know if any other cities had made it so far. It seemed that smaller cities were doing fine, those that could blend into the land around them were still hanging on by a tiny thread...

Just like Gentry...

Another wind hit Farren and made her shiver, the heavy basket of fresh vegetables not helping her in blocking the wind. She was currently picking through the large fields of Avery Ludvigsen's farm. She had made arrangements with all the farms in Gentry to come picking in their fields. Even though the town was small and out of the way, some of the shock waves of the attacks had taken an effect on households in Gentry, depriving them of power, heat or cooling and sometimes even water. She had changed her dinner and truck stop into a haven for the lass fortunate, providing food and water and even clean showers.

She had the best situation in Gentry compared to most. Her place had a personal generator so it wasn't dependent on wires and there was a windmill behind the place that pumped up water for her to use in cooking and to get the showers running, She even had her own gas line that connected to propane tanks in the back. Yep, she had a good situation...But it certainly wouldn't last for long. Eventually that gas would run out and she would have to figure out how to configure a gas stove into a fire one is she still wanted to cook. She would also need to find a way to keep her generator going before her gasoline ran out. She wasn't a mechanic nor was she a builder, she was a cook and this made her more and more stressed as days went by. There were people that were dependent on her in these times and she couldn't help them if she didn't have the right tools.

With a gruff groan and a sigh she put the last basket of vegetables in the back of her bicycle's cart. When gas became so precious she went from driving her truck to riding a bike she found in her garden shed. It was in rather good condition and she even found an attachable cart in her basement. She assumed that it must have belonged to the former owner before her. She closed the back of the cart, it now full of containers and baskets of vegetables, most that she planned to dry out to save for later days and cooking. Before she planned to leave she was going to thank Avery, she had been so helpful and had let her take so much from her fields tome after time. She walked up the drive and toward the house, knocking on the door lightly and waiting, her gaze going out over the road that ran in front of the house.
"I don't have much time for loungin' around inside these days, Farren." came the humor filled voice from Avery as she stepped around the porch corner. Avery stood there, wiping her hands with an old dirty rag. She must have been out in the fields or running around in the barns, as she was covered head to toe in patches of dirt and sweat. As she rubbed her face with the rag to wipe it away, it only seemed to make the smudges worse.

Like Farren, Avery had a good setup. She was one of the lucky ones. Her family owned a huge commercial farm and used to provide meat and vegetables for the local areas of the state. Now, they were struggling to keep the entire farm maintained with most of their farm hands missing and a small town that needed the extra support. There was enough to go around for now... but more and more refugees were trickling in from the cities. Avery couldn't help but wonder just how long the supplies could last, and when they would have to make some very difficult decisions about the town.

"I just got the wagon hitched up with supplies I need to take in to town for trade. If you need a lift, there's some space for your bike."
"I'm telling you, Katie, this shit is just like the goddamn Cthulhu Mythos."
"The what mythos, now?"
"C'mon, you remember right?"
"...no I don't, Noel."
"Those books I used to read; the horror short stories, all cosmic horror and unknowable monstrosities."
"Wait, yeah! I think I remember them. Stole one and read it once."
"And what?"
"Do they not seem strangely reminiscent of the situation we're in now?"
"Honestly? I thought they were kinda childish."

Noel glared at his little sister from the driving seat, who fixed him with an innocent stare for a moment before bursting into laughter. They drove close to the centre of the convoy inside the old, beat-up but stoically reliable pick-up truck Officer Lowe, their father, had always kept. Noel had hated the old thing up until now; he'd wanted a newer car, something he hadn't scraped rust from on several occasions. Yet now, as the world fell apart around him and his sister, he felt glad they still had this reliable old machine to spirit them away from all the chaos, a reminder of their old life before everything went wrong.

Settling back into her chair, Katie rolled the window down and stared out into the empty landscape. It was peaceful here, no signs of life and no civilisation; one could almost think that everything was back to normal out here. But the memories of the last week or so were too real, and all she needed to do was look behind the convoy to see the clouds of smoke and ash rising from what was once their home in order to remember what had happened to their world.

Invasion. The collapse of civilisation. The end of the world.

She tried not to overthink what had happened to the planet, but sometimes she was struck with the enormity of the situation; everything was gone. Her friends? Gone. School? Gone. The city she'd called home since she was born, the one her father had spent his entire adult life protecting? Gone. It was the sort of thing a person could go insane over.

Yet there was one silver lining to the vast cloud hanging over her life; she still had one remnant of her old life, one family member still with her. She and Noel drove each other insane at points, but having him here beside her made her feel that all was not lost just yet.

That they might just make it through this, somehow.

The convoy began to travel up-hill; the old pick-up's engine grumbled somewhat at the shift in the road but kept pace none-the-less. And as they rose over the crest of the hill, Kansas City came into sight. Noel muttered something under his breath as he hammered down on the brakes, and Katie let out a gasp.

The city was lost. Just like home.

Silently, the siblings climbed out of their vehicle and moved to the front of the convoy; Katie held her camera in her trembling hands, and Noel's hand rested on his father's old pistol clipped to his belt for reassurance. They came to a stop next to Jason, the leader of the convoy. Noel could feel the ground beneath his feet vibrate from the shock of the invader's technology being used, and in the distance buildings collapsed.

"Guess we're the lucky ones, huh?" Noel observed quietly to his fellow convoy members as Katie raised the polaroid camera to her face and took a single picture of the destruction of Kansas City. Later she would stick it into the book she was keeping, with the caption 'ANOTHER CITY FALLS'.

And as they stood on the hill watching Kansas City die, both the Lowe siblings could not help but wonder how long they were going to last in this terrible new world they'd found themselves in.
"The rumour is they'll be coming this way..."

Robert was on the back side of the farm, closer to the woods that covered the scenery that way than the actual farm. He was stocking the outhouse with firewood.

It had been a hobby of his before the devastation had taken place. To keep his body in shape, lighten his spirit and mind and also keep the household warm. Now it is a full time job for him. While his daughters are worried about whether or not his body can take the load. He's never felt any younger, the chopping also keeps him occupied all day long. Sitting around staring at the TV or the wall wouldn't do him any good. He fears it might make him loose it.

"Well, Jack. If they come to Gentry. We'll be ready for them. I've asked Sylvia and some guys from town to set up barricades by the entrances."

"Switchers don't necessarily come walking by the road, you know. How will we deal with them if they come from the woods?"

"We'll set up men in the huts that we use during hunting season. There should be enough rifles in town to cover most of the areas of wilderness."

"I guess that'll have to do for now. I've gathered the men I could find who have worked blue-collar before. We're looking into gathering material to build watch-towers."

"Wish I could help you, Jack. But I have enough with gathering what I can to produce the goods the people need."

"Don't worry, Robert! We'll figure it out. See ya around."

Jack walked over the field and passed Avery and Farren on his way, greeting before he left the Ludvigsen property.

Robert sat down on the ground, he needed a rest before he got back to the wood cleaving.

Sylvia had just finished putting up the last barricade, now heading back into town, she sat alone in her car in a rare moment of relaxation.

It had been going on for this the past few weeks. Everybody who was left and sane had pulled together to make life as pleasant as possible. The devastation had brought people closer and closer. People gathered up to get their daily ration of food at the soup-kitchen located at the market in town. Creative spirits tried to lighten the mood with some entertainment through plays and song. People tried to work their way through the pain and fear of the new world.

Sylvia runs her finger under her nostrils, smelling the aura. Keeping a careful eye on the road and taking a look at her surroundings. Amongst the trees that cover each side of the road there are rare open spots, manufactured by animals, not by nature. Mutants keep attacking the life-stock. Luckily, they only come one by one, never hunting in packs, so the guards are able to fend them off.

It still puts fear in the minds of the villagers. The fear of their food supply getting eaten, or even worse, injured, causing a local plague to ruin what they have built up so far.

As Sylvia has drifted off into her thoughts, the landscape opens up, she's close to town. One can see smoke coming up from the wooden houses scattered around the area. The market is swarming with people. They have just started handing out todays bread and butter, and that is actually all there is, bread and butter. They need to be careful with the rations, no one can be certain what kind of winter they'll have this year. While some things remain the same, this is a new experience for the most of them.

Sylvia gets out of her truck after she's parked up by the diner. Goes to the back to get her gun, takes her place by the entrance and over-sees the daily main-event. We haven't gotten that close to each other.
Farren turned toward the sound of Avery and smiled shyly, laughing a bit as she walked over to the messier woman.

"Old habits die hard Avery...I just wanted to say thanks to you and your family for the vegetables again, I can make a great stock from these and hopefully extend those concentrated cans of soup I've got...Those won't be able to last the month unfortunately." She said softly as she pitched the bridge of her nose a little stressed, she had every reason to be though. She smiled a little at the offer though and shook her head. "No thanks, I have my cart hooked up to by bike today to I could bring back as much as possible for the dinner. I'll follow along with you though, no one's driving on the roads these days anyway..." She said.

For a moment Farren went silent as she looked down at the porch, seeming to be studying her thin old canvas shoes. Her pale pink dress and gray sweater made her look innocent for a moment until one noticed that stains of what might have been animal blood. She looked back up at Farren, seeming to want to say something but not knowing how before finally opening her mouth once again.

"Avery, I...I'm worried that I won't be able to last much longer as a soup kitchen. The food might last for a bit but my gas line tanks are running low and I have no way of making the gas stove into a fire one. I've also had to keep the dinner in the dark the past few days accept in the kitchen just to stretch out the generator a bit longer before refilling it! I...I'm worried that if I can't hold out we'll have chaos." Showing the woman the real stress that bubbled away in her chest.

Farren had turned to Avery and her family for a lot of things, food and supplies, even the occasional piece of livestock. She pitched the bridge of her nose once again and sighed, she was letting her worries get a hold of her. It would do her no good to turn into a pile of mush now. She rolled her shoulders a bit and looked up at Aery once again with a weak smile.

"I need to get some of the people off my back...If there is anything you can give them to do, jobs around the farm or chopping wood or anything at all...It would make my job easier. I can't work if I'm constantly being bothered during the day by refugees and such...they keep trying to get me to give them more and it's starting to strain the relationships between the people. I'm just lucky that the other women working are smart enough to shoo them away before they bring about to much attention..."

James laid in the back of the truck, his arms wrapped around his backpack and its precious contents. Inside were a couple of books, some photographs, an mp3 player with a dead battery, and a little black box containing two needles, a piece of rubber tubing, a spoon, and enough heroin to last him a week if he rationed it. It had been two days since his last hit and withdrawal was starting to set in. James shivered, unable to control the symptoms. His body craved the drug; he knew he had to find a moment where he could sneak off and get high, or risk exposing himself as an addict. In the mean time, he dozed off in an attempt to ease his suffering.

When the attacks hit, James was coming off a particularly nasty acid trip where he had stood screaming at a wall for six hours, visions of demon-clowns and possessed cows tormenting him the entire time. His salvation lay at the hands of his roommate Steve, who had seen one too many disaster movies and had actually believed that something like this could happen. Steve was the one who had sobered him up, packed supplies, and made sure they got out of the building safely. A Switcher had gotten the drop on them a block away, targeting Steve first. James watched as his friend was being killed, his cries for help falling on deaf ears. James turned tail and ran, scared to look back, not wanting to see the look of betrayal on his friend's face. Ever since that day, visions of Steve dying wrought havoc on his brain. He sought solace in his drugs; they helped take the guilt away.

The first several days after the attacks were a complete blur to him. James wasn't sure how he had managed to secure a spot on the convoy, or how he had even found the convoy. Everyone seemed to have a job in the convoy, and not wanting to seem useless, James offered to cook. What a mistake that had been. He wasn't a particularly good cook, and some of his botched meals certainly hadn't earned him any favours with the rest of the survivors.

The truck coming to an abrupt stop dragged James back to reality. Why are we stopping? he thought. He followed some of the survivors out of the truck, hoping to find out what had happened. Devastation loomed on the horizon. Buildings were being torn apart by alien technology leaving nothing but debris.

"Guess we're the lucky ones, huh?" said one of the other convoy members, standing several feet in front of James. "Yeah, if you call this lucky..."

нαяυкα єι∂єη

Wow, he makes it sound like the worst-case scenario just happened here...

Haruka stared blankly at Jason as he spoke into his recorder. Several hours ago when they'd stopped for a bit, she'd switched to shot-gun. It was far better than sitting in the back with everyone else who just talked dreary reflections of their lives and complained about the future. She didn't think it was worth moaning about, but she wouldn't say anything. As Jason's recording became rather personal, she straightened from her slouched position and looked outside. She tuned his words out of her head, not wanting to hear about 'his boss Eddie'.

She closed her eyes for a moment as the truck accelerated. She could hear the engine noise and it was relatively normal. They were still doing better than everyone had expected; Jason was an experienced driver. She looked at the side-view mirror at the vehicles following after them, watching the drivers quietly. She was lost in though when he hit the brakes. She lurched forward in her seat, never being one to wear a seat-belt. She caught herself with palms against the dashboard and watched in surprise as he hopped out quickly. A glance outside her window visualized the rest of the convoy stopping to look as well.

Wait, what...? With a sigh, she pulled the door latch and jumped out, brushing off her shirt and walking over to where the teenagers from the other vehicles stood staring out at Kansas City. They were talking about being lucky, were they? Haruka moved away from the gathering group and over to the other side to watch in peace. Kansas City...could you even call it a city anymore?

No kidding. Lucky isn't even good enough. She knelt down to put her fist against the ground, listening to the vibrations. It was strange, like a machine, only it wasn't one.

We'll just keep counting our blessings and moving on, huh? But how much farther will there be this kind of desolation? There was lump in her throat she didn't want to acknowledge. Her eyes burned. It wasn't right. It just wasn't.

The vibrations continued. Haruka unclenched her fingers and lay her palm flat. If it was machinery, she could manipulate it, but this, this was out of their control.

I'm still finding it hard to believe the world could end in just over a week.

Thinking about it, I guess we never were that safe. We liked to think that our way of life was safe, that the future was secure... but look at the world now; how can it ever have been, if it was so easily swept aside?

Noel and I have met up with a convoy of other survivors, led by a man named Jason. A former trucker, so I guess he knows these roads well. We certainly hope so. It's nice to see we're not the only ones who escaped Chicago alive; when Noel and I fled the burning city we'd once called home it felt like we were the last humans on the planet. There's comfort to be taken in having other human beings around you.

Though as long as Noel and I are together, I feel like it's gonna be okay.


"Yeah, if you call this lucky..." muttered one of the survivors from Jason's truck standing behind the Lowe siblings. Noel turned and gave him a humourless smile as he pointed to the destruction of Kansas City.
"Sure as hell beats being down there, am I right?" Beside him, Katie withdrew the picture she had taken from the camera and shook it a few times before sliding it into her bag, staring all the while at the devastation playing out in front of her. Her eyes took in the flames, the collapsing skyline and the vast, unearthly structure floating above the chaos. It occurred to her that no-one had even seen the creatures that had laid waste to civilisation, just their vast machines of destruction in the sky.

Turning back to face Jason, Noel attempted to get the convoy leader's attention by speaking to him.
"So I guess we'll have to find a way around... that, huh?" he observed, motioning to Kansas City, "You know a way we can take, right? Or should we dig out the maps?" Next to him, Katie finally tore her eyes away from the sight in front of her by closing her eyes and shaking her head.
"Guess we're not in Kansas anymore..." she muttered to herself.
"Tell me you're coming back."

"You know I am."

"Just say it."

"Why? It's dumb."

"Sometimes we need to say dumb things to each other."

"I'll back in a few days. You two take care now."

"She can't hear you, Jason. Don't be dumb."

"Ah, shaddup!"

Jason didn't answer for a moment. The grey haze over Kansas was like a chasm drawing them in, deceptively silent as it veiled the horrors rife on the streets. On the way out of Chicago they had watched a man running for the convoy and seen him twist and stagger, his body buckling like a coke can being crushed. At first they hadn't realised what was happening, but as he stumbled closer they saw it.

He was being attacked. Roaches had covered his ankles and moths burrowing through his clothes as hornets made diving attacks at his eyes and mouth. The insects worked with methodical frenzy, and they brought him down in the alley. It was then that Jason realised the nature of the first wave - the alien genius of using man's own world against him... even things as small as insects. It was like they had taken the earth and shaken it, mixing up all the rules of nature.

Kansas would be suffering the same. The Switchers came in patches and pockets. It was something to do with the spores the first ships dropped. A breeze would pass over a city block and every pet, bird and rodent would turn on one another. Then the humans would follow and the block would implode. The patterns never matched. Sometimes the Switched would use their guns on one another. Sometimes they would attack with their bare hands or start fires, or drive their cars at pedestrians. Some on the Convoy spoke of worse mutations yet - of children running on all fours and trailer trash swelling up till their cavities burst with poison.

One of the last news reports, before the network went down, called it genetic acceleration... but that didn't sit well with Jason. Acceleration suggested there was somewhere to go - some end-point that would be better. But these Switchers... they were being twisted into dark and horrible places... into genetic dead-ends where only madness and abomination lay.

Finally, the trucker tore his eyes away from Kansas City and reached into his back pocket, unfolding the frayed and smoke-grey map he had used to get them this far. "Lincoln, Omaha, St Louis and KC... the big four have gone." He held the map between himself, Noel and James... not because he needed their help to read it... but just sharing something with other people was enough to stop the ache... the pinprick stabs of terror that were growing worse. "If they're hitting the urban areas we need to get deeper into Kansas." His finger traced the tiny roads to the west of the interstate, the sunlight glinting from his wedding band. "Cut past the Smithville Lake and up to Bluffwoods, then skirt the 36 all the way west."

It would be a rough and twisting track. But it would keep them hidden.
Mars didn't quite understand why everything was such bullshite. That kind of stuff was for the oldies, like Jason and Noel and Katie, to think about. She sure as hell didn't want to think about it.
Mars's chief concern was the constant rumbling in her stomach, and what she was going to do to alleviate it. God in heaven, she would kill--kill everyone in this convoy for a BLT, dripping with mayonnaise and with more bacon than anything, and a pint of Cherry Garcia. James couldn't cook worth a goddamn and he looked like a junkie son of a bitch to her, but Mars didn't say anything because she wasn't a snitch and because he had traded her some cigarettes without asking questions when he had joined the convoy.

The truck door opened from the inside and with some awkward floundering, Mars was outside, her sneakers made crunching sounds in the dead grass, but she was looking at anything but the city. Instead, she peeked over the shoulders of those grouped around the map. It took her a moment to decipher it, to place meaning on the hundreds of colored lines spidering across the paper. Even then, Mars felt like she was wandering through a maze of colored lines rather than the real world. Maybe if she had had a chance to leave Chicago before, see the world a little, read a map besides the one for the trains, she wouldn't feel this way. Feel what way? She was being stupid.

The earth rumbled beneath her feet, sending a jolt through her. Mars was barely able to repress a pained grunt and the urge to clutch at her swollen belly. She hated it when the baby kicked.
Czech Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

Unease, fear, tension, suspicion - it built up around them, near unnoticeable, quietly, but progressively. It loomed in the curved and floating shapes of alien craft, oppressing them by mere virtue of presence, lurked and taunted their minds in the shadows by the woods, the ditches, and the germinated as innumerable worst case scenarios to those reading maps, maps that for all Zivan Marczek knew were useless. When they had descended on their burning wings and in their rain of steel, he remembered the fleeting images across crackling TV screens, men, beasts, vegetation, even the very ground and water punished by their alien wrath. He was glad that they hadn't devastated here at least - he imagined there were now more than a few missing mountain ranges out there.

He wondered if that city-scape that loomed above, that damned ship, perhaps watched them quietly, fantasizing and mocking them in this macabre opera that was their existence as survivors. He was sure they could - they were simply beyond and above but then again, homo sapiens were too lowly, inferior, grime-dwelling perhaps for them to bother even thinking about farting their direction. Go on, great flying ship, inhabited by your taunting, damned, oh-so-high audiences, go on and sneer at us with your eyes we'll likely never see and voices we hope we'll never have to hear. Perhaps you see us as the parasitic roach-race many of us see us as, greed, cowardice, brutishness as well, yet here we remain, persevering in defiance. All your ethereal fire, your searing lights, your foul parodies of this lonely planet's inhabitants, they shall not faze one such as I.

Of course, no one actually watching Zivan could detect the surges of morbid thought that flowed through within the 38 year old soldier of fortune's mind. The man was like an alien to most of them. He'd come to the land of freedom of speech, apple pie, and Uncle Sam a two months before the real extra-terrestrials descended. He'd done something less intensive than he had in his shrouded and murky past - a humble owner of a small record store, a heavy metal dungeon of black fantasies and hellish noises. All of it perhaps gone, unless the external hard drive survived. One that he kept hidden away in an old steel case along with a few other items of personal significance. Only a few had actually seen it opened and the mysterious artifacts of the rather dodgy Czech man before their eyes.

Alien he was to them yet his assistance was welcome. A man of few words he was but there was little to be said - he simply listened. Usually he had little time to talk. A scout, a labourer, a silent sentinel. When the path was unclear, he was the first to volunteer to plunge into the lethal unknown. When the silhouettes and obscured shapes trailed ominously around, it was through the iron sights of his assault rifle that they were first sighted and by his trained fingers that the first lives were taken. And when they took whatever rest they could afford in this harsh and paranoid life, it was he who stood at guard, hopping from vehicle to vehicle, eyes sharpened by deeds done in the dead of night, things that they'd only been able to extract from him in vague, unspecific fragments in the few moments he was at rest and at his restless slumbering.

At the moment, he paced around, up and down the line of parked vehicles, watching each one closely. He may not have came off as the sociable sort but he was far from uncaring and apathetic. To some, he was merely the quiet friend they called "Buzz", the one who'd send a small, subtle smile their way before aiming down the sights of the G36 rifle once more or disappearing off into the woods to scout the path ahead. He recounted what he knew of them mentally as he passed by, doing what he could to reassure by his presence - tactical vest, big gun, camouflaged fatigues, and that sharp, almost predatory look on his somewhat bony skull.

The Lowe siblings. Talky bunch. Good kids. Noel is a fine shot. Perhaps Katie still has her camera. I should talk with them sometime.

James. Must keep an eye on him. Tormented by something he hasn't told me about. Tries to hide it. Does a poor job. God help him.

Haruka. Engineer. Fixes things. Fixes them good. Pretty face. Nervous. The tremors. Ignore them, there are always tremors.

Mars. Christ, be careful you. Just a bit longer. I don't know how much longer, but things will be better by them. I'd really like to promise that to you.

"Jason." said the raspy and somewhat intentionally low voice, almost creeping and slithering. Some would find it discomforting yet many had learned to accept the oddly suppressed voice, one that didn't sound too used to English, as a very determined, iron willed one.

He trusted Jason the most. Perhaps it was just a natural of him - the man knew the way the best. He had to - it had been his job and it still might as well have been his job. Zivan said little else, simply standing there, almost looking like he was at attention as if he was still a military fighting man. He seemed to be waiting for orders. Sometimes merely addressing the others and waiting was what he'd do. He could see the unease in the "leader's" eyes and those around. He'd do what he could to fight it.
"It won't become chaos." Avery replied, soft but with a firmness to it. She meant it and believed it. Her family had been a part of Gentry since the town was founded. Their blood and history had helped shaped the place, and even if she were the last one standing she intended to do what she could to keep it together. Avery knew her father felt the same way.

Nudging her head towards the wagon cart, Avery started walking with Farren falling in to step next to her. "With gas running low and power not being an option, we're going to need all the help we can get on the farm. After this next harvest, we'll not be able to use the machines anymore. The whole damn thing is gonna have to be picked and plowed by hand." To have so much land was both a blessing and a curse. There would be enough food to help provide for most of the town, but without the man power to help pick it, it'd be gone and spoiled before it could be preserved. Gentry was not a big town, and even with the few refugees that had been trickling in, there was still so much work that needed to be done.

Avery climbed up in to the driver's seat of her wagon, snapping the reigns at the horses to get moving once Farren was already settled on to her bicycle and ready to go. The ride down their dusty driveway was short work, leaving both women riding on over the single paved road that left the farm and led to Gentry's downtown.

They used to call towns like Gentry one wagon towns. It was nothing more than a single Main Street where all of the essential businesses were. A couple side streets split off here and there, giving the place that quaint little village look. But the town only had one stop light, right there in the middle of the square. Even when the power was working, the thing wasn't even necessary.

Once they reached Farron's diner, Avery pulled up her wagon near Sylvia's truck. Her sister was already there, it seemed. "Once you get your stuff inside, send Sylvia over here to help me with these crates."
Farren nodded her head a bit when Avery said there wouldn't be chaos, her gut making her feel that she shouldn't hold onto those words to tightly. If not the food or power, there was going to be something to throw the switch on someone and before long Gentry would fall just like the major cities...But that was a pessimistic thought. Right now she had to stay positive for everyone, if the one who fed them had no hope then how could the others? She smiled a little at Avery when they said that they would need as much help as they could get.

"I'll send the refugees over then, if you don't mind. The linger far to much around the dinner and it makes everyone in the kitchen, like they might form a mob and attack us all for food. Of course they aren't like that but...tensions are high in the kitchen, we are feeding the entire town plus those who came here for safety and we're already having issues with keeping everything working properly. As for the gas, I could spare you some from my supply if you need it but it would have to be a bare minimum...I need that gave to keep the generator going as long as I can so I can find an alternate solution for power..." She said, ending a bit softly as she kept in with the taller woman, each heading to their own form of transportation.

As Avery started her horses, Farren took the lead into town, being able to pedal a little faster then the horses were going at the moment. Her dinner was right in the middle of town, her lot rather big since it was also a place for trucks to stop and fill up. Though most of it was concrete, she planned on ripping it up and getting to the dirt underneath at this point, maybe start a garden of her own so that she could have fresh food of her own and just preserve all the Avery's family gave her.

Once they arrived at the dinner she could see that breakfast had already started, making her a bit nervous as she pulled in by the tables outside. She didn't want to tempt them into trying to steal so she was quick to park and start unloading, passing some baskets off to the younger girls who also worked at the kitchen while the other women kept the peoples attention by calling out for people to come take the bread and butter. Farren noticed Sylvia near the crowd, glad to see her making sure nothing got too crazy. As she grabbed the last basket she walked over to Sylvia.

"Sylvia, Avery needs your help with some crates. Mind stopping the watch to make sure everything gets put away quickly?" She asked her kindly, showing respect for the woman who helped keep her diner save as well.
"Sure as hell beats being down there, am I right?"

James rolled his eyes at the response. Yeah, they might be lucky that they had survived the initial attacks, but the utter devastation in front of them drove fear straight through his body. They would likely be hunted, forced to run away like animals, hiding until they were either caught and killed or went mad and turned on each other. James thought about answering Noel, but decided against it. No use stirring up shit with these people when I'm already on thin ice.

Beads of sweat were starting to form on his forehead and his hands started to shake. Everyone had stepped out of their vehicles to see what was happening to Kansas City, which meant all eyes would be on him if he tried to sneak away. James reached in to his coat, pulling out a pack of cigarettes. There were three left. My day just keeps getting better, doesn't it? Shouldn't have given Mars those cigarettes. Sighing, James lit one of the precious sticks, savouring every drag. The nicotine kicked in, putting him at ease.

James watched as Jason unfolded the map and traced a path through Kansas. It seemed like a logical route to take: they would be off of the main highways and would be out of view of the alien ships. "That looks like a long trip. What do we do about gas? It might be a while before we find a place to fill the trucks up." He left his biggest concern go unvoiced; what if they couldn't find a gas station? They would be dead in the water, sitting there waiting to be picked off.
Noel looked over Jason's shoulder, watching the trucker trace his hand across the map and explain where they should go next. Deeper into Kansas, further away from what was once civilisation. Supplies and shelter would be far more scarce out there, but they'd be further away from the Switchers.

And the things that created them.

Turning her back to the sight of Kansas City in the vain hope of putting it out of her head, Katie shuffled back over to her brother, standing close to her older sibling amidst all these grim-faced strangers who'd survived the chaos.
"That looks like a long trip," the man from the truck, James, said, "What do we do about gas? It might be a while before we find a place to fill the trucks up." Noel nodded his head slowly.
"It's an issue, yeah, but most roads have gas-stations fairly regularly; there was always money to be made off them, after all." He looked at James. "I mean, fuck, we're gonna have to do something. Can't just sit here and wait for the freakshows from that city to come and find us. I think Jason's got a good plan. The further away we are from the big cities the better. Means less Switchers, and it also means we can hopefully stay under the radar of... them."

He couldn't think of a suitable word to refer to the beings who had destroyed everything he'd ever known. Invaders? Aliens? The enemy? Nothing seemed to express the chaos they had orchestrated.

Beside him, Katie looked at the trio discussing where the convoy would go next.
"How are we for supplies? Gas is one thing, but people need to eat and we're gonna need stuff like medicine at some point. Hope for the best, but plan for the worst. That's what dad always said." She smiled sadly. "Don't think even he could have planned for something like this, though."
Where to next?

"I support a re-checking of our supplies as well, especially fuel. I know we're on a bit of a shoestring budget but it'd be unwise to under-estimate what we already have. As long as spend it wisely, we can get by fairly well. At the same time, I imagine it'd be best to get away even from the outskirts of the city. They are likely watching us right now and we can continue this when we're either somewhere easier to defend or out of their sight."

There were quite a few vehicles and the truck he'd travelled in was rather cramped and not really because of the people travelling. Good, because that meant it had been loaded with various supplies. It wasn't going to last them an ideally long time but it sure as hell wasn't exactly meagre. While it might be somewhat tactical to scout the around outskirts of the city (he was sure there'd be some supplies), the possibility of being watched by too many eyes and subsequently assaulted by overwhelming forces was simply too risky to take with this many people. That no mutant hordes of once-humans and berserk fauna had assaulted the convoy yet made him sigh internally in relief but he knew that something like this was just a disaster waiting to happen. Little was known about the alien technology but he knew that they had detection capacity far beyond anything he'd been able to operate with.

In the case that they were actually attacked, he knew that as experienced as he was, he could only delay them at best. He'd been cornered before and forced to take refuge in whatever scant cover was available, holding off sometimes impossible odds. However, everything become much harder when you had this many people to look after alongside yourself. As far as he was concerned, only a few of them had some degree of training in how to use weaponry and even less any real combat experience. It was best to simply make a run for it at the end of the day but they'd be forced to be beat back a pursuing onslaught of flesh and mutated carapace. He'd killed a few of these during his escape from his once quiet little town and while they were often rather dumb and lacking in tactics, they were damn persistent.

Both of the twins were in a small hut where the people had just entered the city. They had been stuck there for a few days when Jacob had tried to save the two of them. Problem was they were not found but the hut had collapsed onto them. Jacob was unconscious and it seemed like he was getting worse his breathing was now shallow. Christa had heard the faint noise of someone walking and talking and slowly opened her eyes. Quickly she made sure that her twin was still alive but knew he wouldn't be for much longer. "Help us." A small raspy voice escaped her lips as she looked up to the sky hoping someone would come. No one had come by since they were trapped and she had a huge piece of wood across her chest. Probably a few broken ribs and she had no idea what was wrong with her brother. Their parents were long dead now and Jacob was trying to protect her. They were probably the last few people that survived in a town like this when the aliens or switchers came down to attack. The twins had heard the broadcasts but they had no way out of the city.
Jacob lay beneath the wreckage, his hand snagged in Christa's shirt, where he had grabbed her as the roof fell. In unconsciousness he dreamed - restless nightmares of his sister screaming, of the great ship passing overhead... a noise like thunder and a force that levelled the weaker homes on the outskirts of Kansas City.

They had never stood a chance.

* * * * *​

Less than a quarter mile away, on the highway, Jason folded up the map. "There'll be a few gas stations, but..." He glanced along the convoy, counting the vehicles, the patchwork line of trucks, 4x4s and soccer mom wagons that had limped out of Chicago. Since they had first set out the vehicles had been dogged with misfortune, many of them suffering flat tyres or overheating, or simply being unable to carry the weight of supplies and survivors.

"We'll have to siphon fuel from the lighter vehicles - fill up the trucks. They can carry more weight anyway. It's gonna be a squeeze, but..."

He broke off as something brushed past his leg. With a single bark the convoy dog took off into the fields, ears flapping and tail wagging like an antenna. It was following its nose and leaping over the knotted grass towards the outskirts.

"HEY!" Jason's shout was pointless. The dog was gone, off towards the city where Switchers and God-knows-what-else would be lurking if they tried to follow.


* * * * *​

Amidst the darkness, amidst the pain, Christa felt something. It was cold and wet... on her fingers.

Something was licking her fingers.