Twyne - Part One
By: Dylan James Harper

The silver ship hovered stoically in the harsh rain and wind. Visibility was effectively zero, but that didn't stop Jade from peering out of the cockpit window. The Hachikō was a stout research vessel, designed by Jade herself, to go beyond the wall and study the undead hordes that roamed there.

Her dark skin and short dark hair gave off a red shimmer, lit only by the night lighting that allowed Jade to see, and Rachel to get some sleep. The pair had been out beyond the wall for weeks now, hovering above various areas where the undead would congregate. Their goal was to study both the behavior patterns, which was Rachel's expertise, and the biology, which was Jade's. Little was known or understood about the enemy that had carved a hole out of the United States, forcing most of the population behind one of two walls along the coastal states of either shore.

Jade had been up for hours but couldn't bring herself to wake Rachel. She loved Rachel dearly. The two had met in college. It took them a painfully long time to start dating, both admitting after the fact that they had wanted to ask the other out since their first encounter. Both had been in high school when the undead threat surfaced. Their closeness was one reserved for people who had met in times of extreme crisis.

Jade looked back out the window. Still no visibility. She looked down at the monitors. There was life down there, so to speak. They were directly over a horde that had taken up residence outside a long-abandoned drive thru restaurant. One of the first discoveries the two had made, years before this excursion, was that the undead slept. This was a shocking revelation, and although it was unclear how specifically this would be relevant, the paper they'd written on the topic got picked up by virtually every major news outlet still in existence.

These undead, the ones below them, were asleep, or at least appeared to be. It was very hard to tell from the air. Jade had theorized that this wasn't so much sleep, as the everyday person thinks of it, but closer to a form of hibernation to preserve energy, and not weaken the precious little skin and muscle tissue that would wear away from excessive use and no flowing blood to preserve or heal it. Rachel was skeptical, but she was neurologist, not a biologist.

A hand touched Jade's shoulder, and she jumped, yelling out a weak yelp. Rachel cackled loudly, her long blonde hair falling in her face. Jade gave her a playful shove.

"I thought you were still asleep?" Jade asked.

"I woke up a few minutes ago. Anything interesting happen? What time is it?" Rachel replied, sitting down on Jade's lap, and kissing her forehead.

"Not too much. At one point a raccoon scurried along an old power line, and I thought it might fall in the wind and be a midnight snack, but nope. And you aren't gonna like what time it is."

Rachel looked at one of the many screens littering the Hachikō.

"Four in the morning!?" She shouted.

"You were supposed to wake me up hours ago. You need your sleep."

"Not as much as you," Jade replied, smiling.

"True, but still. We should maintain the sleep schedule, or at least, you should wake me up so we can spend some time together if you're gonna be tired anyway."

Jade shrugged in half-agreement. They did miss each other. They wanted someone monitoring the dead at all times. There was recording equipment of course, but it's impossible to know what subtle or pivotal details might get missed by a computer but picked up by the human eye. As a result, they worked in shifts, which meant little time to spend together.

Both were used to this sort of work and committed to their research. That didn't mean that they liked the time effectively apart. Being in the ship during the rain, above the world and all its dangers, had a coziness to it that was best appreciated together.

Rachel pulled on her pants, and a hoodie, and started making coffee. Jade stayed glued to the monitors but was starting to realize just how tired she was. Maybe if she got into bed soon, it'd still be warm from Rachel. She broke her fixated gaze from the screen to sneak a glance at the bed, as if she would be able to tell whether it was warm by looking at it. In that brief instance, the monitor started beeping.

Jade jerked her head back and looked at the screen. It wasn't the fast, grating beeping of an emergency, but the low, slow, subtle beeping of life. Jade pressed the flashing button, and the screen rotated to a new camera. Most of the cameras were on the ship itself, but they had created a mile perimeter to keep track of the comings and goings. The middle, between the walls, wasn't the safest place, and not just because of the undead.

Some stayed beyond the walls, and they loathed those who had left them. Stories of ships being shot at, or sometimes shot down, were plentiful. If necessary, they could quickly ascend to a height likely not reachable by any ground weapons. They were reluctant to do that however, as that would severely interrupt their mission.

Jade wasn't worried though. Actual life beyond on the wall was rare, and life this close to a horde was exceedingly rare. If it was actually people, they were either very brave, or very foolish.

The new camera, posted on a tall gas station sign at the edge of the perimeter, didn't immediately show anyone, although it was difficult to see through this weather. Rachel sat down in her chair and pulled the camera up on her screen as well.

"I got nothing," Jade said.

"Yeah, I don't see anything either-wait!"

Jade saw it too, and her heart sunk. Two kids, very much alive by the looks of it, both in mustard yellow ponchos, trudging through the storm. They were on the main road, and heading toward the gas station, perhaps looking for shelter.

"Did we check inside that gas station?"

"We didn't go inside, but we ran an infrared over it, and I don't think there was anything inside," Rachel replied hurriedly. She continued.

"I'm scrolling through the other cameras in the area. I don't think there are many undead around there."

"It only takes one," Jade replied. Rachel grimaced in agreement.

The undead, individually, were not much of a threat to a trained adult. They were relatively slow, lumbering, and as far as the latest research showed, not particularly intelligent. People usually were killed by the undead due to their numbers.

"You have to reload sometime," their undead survival trainer once told them.

Rachel and Jade were well prepared for brief encounters, and very adept at avoiding them entirely. These two kids, however, who knew?

"Oh no," Rachel groaned. Jade turned to look at Rachel's screen, her own still trained on the traveling pair.

A small group of undead, couldn't me more than four or five, were lumbering along behind the kids. It was unclear whether they had noticed each other. The undead couldn't really run, but they would usually lumber with a little extra speed when they saw or heard prey. The kids didn't seem to be in much of a hurry either, but the weather could be slowing them down. They looked to be just barely teenagers by their height, and as far as Jade could see, unarmed.

"Call it in, quick," Jade barked, as she stood up and grabbed the rifle that hung along the ship's cabin. Rachel grabbed the radio and turned it to the emergency channel.

"Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! This is the Pacific Coastal States Hachikō, at 31 North, and 102 West. We have just spotted two juveniles on the ground, unarmed and in danger. Possibly injured. Requesting hot extraction. Over."

Rachel waited for a reply, the crackle and Jade pulling on her rain gear the only sounds inside the ship.

"Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! This is the Pacific Coastal States Hachikō, at 31 North, and 102 West. We have just spotted two juveniles on the ground, unarmed and in danger. Possibly injured. Requesting hot extraction. Over."

Rachel waited a full minute this time before she pulled the microphone to her mouth again. Before she could push the button, however, came the reply, in the form of a gruff male voice.

"Rodger Pacific Coastal States Hachikō, this is Wall Guard patrol. Please repeat location. Over."

"We are at 31 North, and 102 West, requesting hot extraction. Over."

"How many undead in the area, by your best estimate. Over."

Rachel looked back down at the monitor.

"Five in the immediate vicinity, and nearly a hundred within a square mile. Over."

There was a long pause. The Wall Guard was severely underfunded, and mostly only did short range rescues. This was over a thousand miles away from the nearest base, and they likely only had a few ships on hand that could make the journey fast. Plus, the manpower to safely extract someone this far away, in this weather, with this many undead on location, was unlikely. Finally, they responded.

"We copy that Pacific Coastal States Hachikō. We are scrambling a team for hot extraction and medical attention as fast as possible. Are you able to safely extract the individuals? Over."

"Negative. Negative. We are a research vessel. We might not be able to even land in this weather. Over.

"Rodger that. We could have a team to you in roughly three to four hours. Over."

"Hours!" Rachel yelled, not pushing the button down on the mic. It wasn't this man's fault, and it wasn't surprising, but it was still upsetting.

"Copy that Wall Guard. We will do our best to help them in any way we can. Over."

"Rodger Pacific Coastal States Hachikō, best of luck. Keep us updated. Over."

Rachel threw the microphone down.

"Get us over there," Jade said, firmly. She was fully dressed in her survival gear now, the rifle slung over her shoulder.

To Be Continued…

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