Micah repacks his bag and heads for the closest EM tower. "I'll ping everyone once I get in," he says. "And I'll send your Links the app so you can track each other, too."
"I don't want to track us," Jake says, still protesting. "And I don't want anyone to track me!"
"Think about it like this, Jake: This way, we'll be able to see any implanted zoms too. Not saying there are any here, but wouldn't you want to know if there were?"
"Lot of good it does us." He points at the lone zombie and says, "You still can't track them. IUs don't have implants."
Micah shrugs. "IUs are harmless." He shoots me a look and winces. "Well, maybe with one or two exceptions. We still don't know if that one was a rogue escaped from one of the work details back on Manhattan, right?"
Jake frowns, obviously not convinced. "How about some company then?" he asks. "Besides, you'll be safer with someone watching your back."
Or watching over his shoulder.
"No, but thanks, Jake. You'll just distract me. Don't worry. I'll be fine. Go have some fun. You'd just be bored if you came with me." He checks his Link. "Let's plan on meeting back here around…two. If not sooner. Ping if anything comes up. We should leave by two thirty so we don't have to fight the current again."
Ash and Reggie are standing off to one side whispering to each other. I'm about to ask what they're planning on doing when she giggles and slaps his arm. Reggie glances over at us and grins.
"Ash and I are going to check some things out," he says. He looks around and his gaze stops in the direction of an old Holiday Inn. "Over there."
"Want some company?" Jake asks, again.
I roll my eyes. He really is that clueless! Then again, could Ash and Reg really be that horny? We've got a couple hours to explore the abandoned city and they're going off to mess around. Really?
Reggie shakes his head. "Naw, brah." He wraps his arm around Ash's shoulders. She looks so small standing next to him. "I think I can handle this alone."
Ash cocks her head up at him and smirks. "A bit overconfident, are we?"
Jake realizes too late what they're talking about. He turns to me and Kelly, his face red.
"No," Kelly snaps, before he can say anything.
"Why not? I said I was sorry about the zombie thing back there."
Actually, he didn't. But while I may be willing to let that slide, Kelly clearly isn't. "I don't remember hearing any kind of apology from you," he spits. "And even if I did—"
"Kel." I frown and tell him to cut the guy some slack.
He sighs and says, "Fine, you can tag along with us. Like a little puppy. It's not like I wanted to spend a little alone time with my girlfriend or anything."
"Really?" I say. "That's what you want to do?" I jut my chin out at Reggie's and Ash's receding figures. "Is that all I am to you is a sex toy?"
"That's not what I meant! I got something else in mind." He pats his pack. "But don't ask, because as I said, it's a surprise."
"Ooh, I can't wait."
He rolls his eyes.
There's a cluster of high rises due south of us a couple blocks away. Kelly points in that direction and says he wants to see how high up off the ground we can get. "Maybe we can see over the wall from one of the windows. Wouldn't it be cool to get a pic of Manhattan from here?"
"Pictures? That wasn't the type of surprise I was expecting," I say, but he just smiles like he already knows that.
Jake looks doubtful. "Shouldn't someone stay here and make sure our stuff is safe?" he asks.
"Safe from what? Look around you. Do you see anything that's going to mess with our equipment? Pigeons?"
We all turn and look at the solitary figure in the distance. It still hasn't moved.
"Are there two?" Jake says, squinting.
"No, seriously." He lifts the binoculars and looks through them. "There are two of them."
"Let me see," Kelly says.
He looks for a moment, then shrugs. "There's two. But maybe the other one was standing behind the first and moved a little. At that pace, they'd reach us in, oh, about six weeks."
Despite what happened in the tunnel, I have to laugh. Besides, Jake's concern is misplaced. What would a couple of zombies want with a bunch of diving equipment? The only thing that drives them—drives their 'life force' or whatever you want to call it—is human flesh.
"It'll be fine," I say.
"On second thought," Jake says, "you guys go on. I think I'll just hang out around here."
"Yes!" Kelly says.
He frowns at me.
"Safety in numbers. Remember? Jake should come with us."
"He wants to stay here."
"I don't think it's such a good idea, Kel."
"You didn't say that when Micah left, alone."
"Micah can take care of himself."
"And Jake can't? He's a big boy." Kelly smirks at him. "He seems to think so, anyway."
This makes my anger flare again. "Why are you acting this way, Kelly? It's Jake, not Reg! Or Micah." I whirl around to face him. "I don't know what's going on between you and Jake, but you both better knock it off!"
"I didn't do anything," Kelly complains.
"No, but if it weren't for Jake, you wouldn't even be here. You're being a thankless prick."
"Prick? I didn't even want to come here in the first place!"
"Hey, guys," Jake says, "I'll be fine. Really. You don't need to argu—"
"We're not arguing!" Kelly shouts.
"Stop shouting," I say. "You want the zombies to hear us?"
He laughs and makes a show of waving his arms and shouting. "Hey! Hey! Look! Brains! Come get some."
"Like your shrieking earlier wouldn't have drawn their attention?"
"Shrieking? You make it sound like it was over nothing."
"You shut up! You weren't even there when I was attacked," I scream.
"You know something?" Kelly says, throwing his hands up in the air. "Fuck this. I can't take it. Stay here with Jake the Flake for all I care. I'm outta here!"
He stomps off.
I know I should run after him, but I also know that's what he wants me to do. This is all about him and Jake. It's about their false idea that I'm supposed to make some imaginary choice between them. I don't know why he's become so moody over the past couple of weeks, but it's really getting on my nerves.
"Fine!" I scream at his back. "Fuck you, too! And I will stay with Jake!"
I'm sorry as soon as it comes out, but then he turns back around and gives me this look. There's a darkness in his eyes that I can't ever remember seeing in them before. And sadness.
I expect him to yell back at me. I expect him to react in kind.
But all he does is shake his head.
"I'm sorry," I want to say. I open my mouth, but nothing comes out.
"I'll be back in an hour," he says. "Or two."
Then he turns around and walks away.
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