Those folks...God bless ’em...they’re running.” Rune grinned, showing all his teeth. “Don’t matter what they say. They’re scared and they don’t have no gawdamn control, so they’re outta here. I say let em go.” He turned and waved to the very last Durango leaving through the gate.

Travis shook his head. “Well. No point keeping them here anyway.”

“They’re a bunch of ingrates,” Peggy said joining them. She was still crying and her face was swollen.

Juan watched as the gate begin to close. “Ed’s freaking out about us opening the loading dock? Well, I’d be freaking worried that he’d pull something stupid like run away in the middle of it. Better now than later.”

“Amen,” Rune said. He then reached out to greet Calhoun as the old man approached.

“Okay, the pussies are gone and the real soldiers are left. So, I gotta know a few things real quick.”

“What is it, Calhoun?” Travis smiled slightly at the sight of the older man.

He was wearing some sort of weird hat with what looked like a miniature satellite dish on top. It was made out of foil and odds and ends.

“Is your wife going to have the Amazons come help us tomorrow?”

Travis grinned a little, then shook his head. “No, they’re keeping put on Paradise Island.”

Travis lifted his eyebrows realizing he said something wrong.

“They don’t live on Paradise Island. Don’t your wife tell you nothing?”

With one last scornful look, Calhoun stalked off muttering about Amazons not helping out like decent women should.

Travis shook his head again, looking bemused.

Manny Reyes, the former mayor, walked up slowly.

“Hey, Manny, how you doing?” Peggy asked, dabbing her eyes.

Juan gave him a pat on the shoulder. “Hey, Manny.”

The man had not been seen often as he grew weaker and weaker.

Charlotte believed he had severely blocked arteries. He was often pale and short of breath. He was taking aspirin, but it was hard on him without a proper diet for his heart or any way to remove the blockage that was slowly taking his life.

“I’m fine,” Manny said in a breathy voice. “I came down to say goodbye to a few friends.”

“Yeah,” Travis said slowly. “Guess they didn’t care for our leadership.” He looked up at Manny cautiously, not sure if Manny took his removal from the mayor’s office personally or not. The man had become ill nearly immediately after Travis and the council rose to power.

“Let me tell you something. It doesn’t matter if they were happy or not. In the end, you can only do your best. People will agree with you. People will disagree with you. For every person who hates you, there is someone who loves you.” Manny sat down on a box and rested his hands on his knees.

“Well, we’re doing our best,” Travis said after a beat. “I guess we gotta be okay with that.”

“You do. And, the council has gotten things done I never could have. I never could have done all this or even thought of it.” He waved a hand indicating the high walls and the fort in general, smiling slightly. “I know you guys did your best by us. Whether we make it through tomorrow or not, know that you have my support. You guys gave me one more good year of life.”

Travis smiled at the man and took his words to heart. “I think we all got one more year of good life. Those things out there, they didn’t get what we got. A chance to be happy despite it all going to hell.”

Juan looked away emotionally. “We’ll win this. We gotta. We don’t have what we used to...a whole world to feel free in, but we got this fort and our families.”

The old mayor inclined his head. “Worth fighting for, isn’t it?”

“Do you think we can win?” Peggy looked at Travis, sniffling loudly.

“But we don’t know for sure, do we?”

“Peggy, I promise you, we will do our very best for everyone in this fort.”

“I don’t want to get eaten by those things. I don’t want my boy to get eaten by those things. I want you to promise me we’ll live through tomorrow,”

He gripped her arms firmly and looked down at her with compassion. “I promise you we will do our very best.”

With an agonized cry, Peggy pulled away and ran off.

Manny gazed after her solemnly. “She’s a good woman, but she’s endured a lot. I hate to see her cry.”

Juan crossed his arms and looked over the fort slowly. “We’re ready as we can be. But I can’t make no promises.”

“None of us can, Juan,” Travis decided. “None of us can.”

“There’s only one solution to it, man.”

* * * * * That night, when Travis laid down to sleep for as many hours as he could, he wrapped his wife up in his arms, and held her tight. Katie, feeling his arms, rolled over and pressed her head to his chest to hear his heart beat.

Between them was the swollen lump of her belly that housed their unborn child. After a few sweet kisses, they nestled down to try to sleep, content in each others arms.

In Juan’s little abode, he stretched out on the sofa, his thoughts on Jenni and the kids and all that had happened since the first day. He gnawed on his scarred thumbnail, the nervous habit somehow soothing. Jack padded out of Jason’s bedroom to flop tiredly next to the sofa. Reaching down, Juan began to stroke the dog’s head thoughtfully.

Nerit caught a few hours of sleep, then rose early to sit with Kevin on the city hall roof, sipping soda and looking over the defense plans. At one point, he reached over and took her hand and she squeezed it tight. They gazed at each other, not saying a word, then went back to the plans.

Calhoun and Jason worked deep into the night on the last minute wiring to some of the defenses.

Katarina fell asleep alone in her bed, clutching her rifle and wearing Bill’s shirt.

Peggy silently watched her little boy, Cody, drink his chocolate milk laced with poison, then tucked him into his bed and kissed him one last time.

She waited until he was gone, then with tears streaming down her face, rose and entered the bathroom. It was there she found her own personal peace at the end of a razor blade and faded from the world knowing that she and her child would never know the horror of the zombie armies against the walls or the agony of being eaten alive.

And then the sun rose...

1. Final Exit of the Wickedest Woman in Texas

One moment you were the hero, the next the villain. But if you were clever, you could be the hero once again. The salvation to the masses. The public was immensely short-sighted with no memory to speak of. Even Nixon had been immortalized for his virtues when he had died.

The Senator tucked her hair up from her face with her hand. It had taken some hard work, but her bouffant was firmly in place. Studying her image in the mirror she felt a surge of pride. Her appearance was dignified and feminine but with a touch of strength. She had discarded her darker suits for a soft pink one with rose satin lapels. Her shoes were sensible and her jewelry was just the right level of gold and quartz to be perfectly understated yet elegant.

Fixing her cuffs, she nodded to herself.

This would be an excellent morning.

Her long days and nights alone in the house had given her time to think.

She realized now her own failings. She had taken too strong of an approach back at the mall. People still could not appreciate a woman’s strength. Instead of taking the strong, stately role she had worn at the mall, she should have taken the motherly approach. People were sheep, but they were stupid sheep stuck in stereotypes.

She reached into her coat and checked her gun one more time. The holster fit nicely and was hidden under her suit jacket. She had ransacked the house from top to bottom and had found the holster and the small .22 in one of the desk drawer. A rifle may seem a bit too masculine for her to wield when approaching the fort. The undead were a concern, but she was certain she could deal with them as long as she kept calm. They had slowed down significantly as time and the elements had taken their toll.

The zombies were not the threat they had been in the early days. They were laughably easy to evade and kill as long as they were low in numbers.

In the countryside, they were few and far between.

Picking up her small suitcase off the bed, she smiled, feeling her face stretch into the highly practiced gracious smile Raleigh had taught her to adopt. With a little laugh,she wondered what the little faggot was doing now. Probably wandering around half-eaten like the rest. Unless the undead had cracked his skull open like a boiled egg and eaten his brain.

After a blase shrug, she walked out of the bedroom and down the stairs to the front door. The truck she had arrived in waited outside. She had cleared out the zombies from around the house over the last few weeks.