Double The Alpha Page 3

Tom scoffed. “We do tend to stick to ourselves; I’ll give you that. We don’t just look out for our own, though. In fact, Ellie, you probably have no clue just how much your group has been ‘looked out for.’”

“Well, please enlighten me.”

“Well, for one thing, even though the wolf shifter community I belong to is about twelve miles away from here, we’ve always been aware of your group, and we’ve always run a daily patrol near this area, just to make sure that you folks weren’t getting overrun by Creepers. Had we not been doing this; you folks would have been dealing with more than just the half-dozen or so Creepers that you probably have to shoot on a daily basis. You probably would have long since been overrun.”

A little surprised, I said nothing, and Tom continued.

“Also, it was us Silverbacks who just about dropped that diesel generator in you folks’ laps early last December, when you all were nearly freezing to death in this gym. That’s what my shifter group calls itself, by the way…we call ourselves the Silverbacks, since we have a lot of wolves who appear more on the silvery side of gray.”

Again, I said nothing, nor did Norm, and Tom continued.

“Anyway…it was us Silverbacks who gave you folks that generator and fuel so that you could heat the gym and have lights during the winter. Didn’t you all ever wonder how it came to be that someone just happened to leave a generator and several months’ worth of fuel just a short distance away from the gym parking lot, where you folks would be sure to see it?

Also, didn’t you all ever wonder how it came to be last March that a literal ton of canned food was left in a grocery store that you’d all already scavenged? That was us Silverbacks. We figured that even though you’d already cleaned out the store, you’d probably be back just to see if you’d missed anything.”

Truth be told, Norm and I had wondered how these things had come to be. A deeply religious man, Norm had eventually come to the conclusion that God had simply provided for our group, maybe having one of his “angels on earth” make some special deliveries. I, however, had been a little more skeptical, thinking that maybe a group of human scavengers, maybe one who’d been about to investigate the gymnasium, had been forced to abandon their generator and fuel upon being attacked by some Creepers.

The wolf shifters had also crossed my mind, though, and I’d wondered if one of their groups had left my group some sort of a gift, for whatever reason. Then, when Norm, Blake, and Devin had come upon the cache of food in the formerly-cleaned-out grocery store, I’d wondered about the wolf shifters yet again, although this time wondering if Norm, Blake, and Devin had just stumbled across some kind of a storage cache.

I’d honestly been a little nervous when they’d brought all the food back to the gym, thinking that maybe the wolves would soon come after it. Norm, though, had told me that even if that  were the case, they probably wouldn’t be violent about reclaiming their food. After all, he’d come across wolf shifter groups a few different times, and although they hadn’t been overly helpful or friendly, they hadn’t been hostile either, he’d said.

In response to what Tom had said about his group’s “gifts” to mine, I said a quiet thank you, slightly ashamed about my earlier irritation. “The generator, fuel, and food helped us to survive the winter.”

Tom said that I and my group were welcome. “We’d seen a few of you from afar and thought that a few ‘gifts’ might be badly needed. But, the generator and food aside, I’m still surprised that your group has survived this long, just being that us Silverbacks haven’t been able to monitor you all the time or even anywhere close to ‘all the time.’ With our gifts and our defense patrols running by near the area, we aimed to give you all a bit more of a fighting chance, thinking that the rest would be up to the fighting-age men of your group. We never dreamed that your group has never even had any men of fighting age.”

Feeling a bit defensive once again, I shrugged with my arms still folded across my chest. “Well, we still have some very good, strong men with fighting spirits, and as I’ve mentioned, we have some very good, strong boys, young girls, and women too. We’ve also had something to aid in our defense that I haven’t even mentioned yet.”

“Oh? And what’s that?”

I replied by saying that I was an orb-thrower. “Maybe you’ve heard of us.”

Looking a bit surprised, Tom said that he had. “We don’t have any in our group, though, so I’ve never actually seen the skill displayed. How does it work, exactly?”

I said that I really wasn’t even sure. “All I know is that when a lot of other women began dying of the fever in the first days of the Chaos, I only developed a mild fever, and I lived, obviously. Then, these silvery-white orbs began just flying out of my palms at different times. At first, I couldn’t even really control them, although now I can, and I can simply release them at will, just by thinking about it…and now I know that these orbs can be flung at Creepers to kill them. This is how I help in defense while I’m on guard patrol, instead of using a shotgun like everyone else. I just ‘shoot’ my orbs at the Creepers, just like lobbing a baseball.”

“And does a single orb kill them?”

I said no. “Not always, anyway…especially if I fling an orb without putting my full muscle into it. Usually, a single orb will just ‘stun’ a Creeper temporarily…and then another one or two flung at them while they’re still down on the ground will finish them off. It’s not quite as good a method as shooting them, but my orb-throwing has sure helped us to conserve our ammo.”

Studying me intently, Tom said that orb-throwing certainly seemed to be a rare gift. “Like I said, some of the women in our Silverback group are survivors of the fever, but none of them came out of it as an orb-thrower. It seems you were blessed, Ellie.”

I couldn’t help but scoff. “Right. I was ‘blessed.’ Blessed to live in a time where I’ve seen the near-destruction of the human population on earth, including the majority of women via some fever that was probably brought to us by creatures from another planet. I’ve sure been ‘blessed,’ all right.”

Frowning at me, Norm suddenly jumped into the conversation. “You have been blessed, Ellie. You survived a virus that took out many of your fellow women. You survived an invasion of human-eating creatures that took out the majority of people on earth. You’re alive. You’re breathing. You’re still fighting, and you’ve been given a gift that is helping you in this. God has blessed you. I don’t know how many times I have to tell you this before you’re finally convinced.”

Tom was a fairly attractive shifter of maybe thirty years old, just a few years older than I was. And now, because of what Norm had just said, I felt like I’d just been scolded by my father in front of the cute boy at school or something. Embarrassed, I said nothing in response to Norm’s rebuke, and after a long, uncomfortable moment, Tom suddenly spoke.

“I think I’ve heard enough. I’d now like to get down to the purpose of my visit, which is some bartering. I’d like to make the two of you an offer, Norm and Ellie.”

Nothing could have prepared me for what Tom said next.