Five - Safe Among Allies

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After he proves that he is clean, all eyes land on me to do the same. I'm frustrated, but I do it quickly as I can see biters lurking toward us, slowly.

As soon as I lift up my shirt to expose my chest, my dog tags clank against my bare skin, catching the attention of the grey-haired soldier. "Shit, why didn't you say something?" he asks in a guilty tone, already heading to unlock the gate.

"Didn't really get a chance to." I shrug.

Moments later we are allowed inside, and the fence is again secured behind us. We drive our car into the secured area, and then hear a ricochet of bullets whizzing toward where we had just been standing. I look and a pile of biters are lying on the ground, lifeless.

"I'm Pauly," the older soldier extends out his hand for me to shake. "This is Brant and Jeremiah." He motions with his head to his left and right. "We call the shots around here."

Pauly has a southern accent, while Jeremiah has what sounds like a New Jersey accent.

"How many people are here?" Ike asks, glancing around.

"Why don't you see for yourself?" Brant asks, as they lead us inside the cement walls. Eyes and faces watch our every move as we make our way through the halls.

"There has to be at least two hundred people here," I whisper more to myself than anyone else.

"Two hundred and twenty two," Pauly says surely. "Including you two and the other new arrivals."

"You had more arrivals recently?" I ask hopefully. "Any girls?"

Jeremiah nods.

"Red hair?" I press.

"You looking for someone?" Brant turns to ask me.

"Yeah, we were traveling with two others. A redhead mid-twenties, and her younger sister."

"Well, you're welcome to take a look around. All the new recruits go into cell block C until we know they won't be a liability," Pauly states.

He leads us to cell block C, and there are at least twenty five people housed inside. It's surprising to me that all these people made their way to the prison within the last week. Every cell that I pass, heads turn and eyes fixate on mine. The pressure is rising as I near the end of the row. My eyes catch a glimpse of red hair and my heart begins to beat erratically.

Was Phoenix's hair short or long when I last saw her? I can't even think straight.

"Phoenix?" I say softly, before I can stop myself.

The girl turns around and her brown eyes lock onto mine. My heart sinks. My eyes travel over her face which is covered in freckles, and she smiles lopsidedly at me, but she is missing more than a few teeth.

"Sorry, wrong person," I stammer, turning around quickly. I end up running smack into Ike's chest.

He looks down at me with a concerned expression. "They're not here."

I nod, pushing past him gently. "No, they aren't."

I didn't realize how badly I wanted that girl to be Phoenix. Time is no longer on our side, and the probability of Phoenix and Rian being alive is shrinking rapidly. I shouldn't have left them back at the cave. I was wrong to think I could handle it all alone; that they could handle things without me. Splitting up has only landed us in more trouble than before. I've learned my lesson. If I ever have the pleasure of staring in those sapphire eyes of hers again, I'm never going to let her out of my sight.

* * *

Ike

I can feel eyes on us as we make ourselves comfortable in the cell they set us up in. Primarily, two sets of eyes. My gaze shifts to the right and locks with a pair of stunning emerald eyes. They belong to a woman with caramel colored skin and long, curly locks. Her beauty renders me speechless for a moment.

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