We left the safe house about an hour later. Even in the rush of things that were going on around us, there were things we had to see to before we could leave. We each had to be armed, and to be certain that our weapons were serviceable and dependable. We needed to firm up how were would communicate with each other in emergencies. We all agreed that casual conversation on the cell phones would increase our risk. We decided also that working in two teams made the most sense, and the most sensible teams were the couples we were already paired in.
Elizabeth and I left first, with Alton and Odval agreeing to follow in about twenty minutes. The streets around the safe house were deserted; I lifted my eyebrow in a question to Elizabeth; she shook her head in response. This was not normal. The quiet was oppressive, but it was only the lack of human sounds that was strange. There were birds singing in the trees and bushes along the path leading from the house to the garage, and bees and other flying insects buzzed and hummed past us. It was a typical, early summer day, except...
There were no sounds of cars, or lawnmowers, or music, or children playing. The human sound was gone. Was everyone hiding in their houses, already terrified of the unseen virus? Could things have happened that quickly? Or was Alton wrong, and there was no incubation period in the human host? Had infection led to the brain without the need of mutation? How could he be so sure, and why were we believing him?
"Do you think it's safe?" I whispered. We had reached the garage, and opened it to remove a car. They were electric, which would be quieter, although I prefer the roar of a V-8. The veggie cocktail isn't bad, either.
Elizabeth shook her head again, and her hair followed her a half-second behind. "No. I don't know. It could be a lot of things, Jack. For all we know, we're already infected. Or Alton is betraying us right now. We don't know. But I'm not playing his game. And besides, I don't like the way Odval breathes innuendo with every word."
I opened the car door. As I had expected, there were no keys. The car started with a touch on a pad beside the steering wheel. I did a quick inventory. Everything seemed to be where it needed to be, and I touched the start pad. I felt the slight pulse of the engine, but there was no sound.
Elizabeth slid into the passenger seat. She coughed. "I guess you want to drive."
"I'm sorry, Elizabeth. I didn't even think. Do you want to swap places?"
"Not if you know where you're going. Do you?" Her pause between the statement and the question annoyed me.
"Yes, I do. I'm going to the White House, to either kidnap or kill the President of the United States of America. What I do after that, I don't know. Personally, I don't see an assassination as being an effective means to overturn martial law, but that's just me."
"Just drive, Jack. Get us to Washington, but get us out of this garage before Alton and the wonderful Odval show up."
I put the car in reverse and backed out of the garage. "What sort of charge do these things carry?"
"None. There's a small fission containment unit that handles power. We won't need to refuel."
"This thing is nuclear?"
"Sure. More efficient. And it's completely shielded, so don't worry."
I have always been sort of a worry wart, and driving around deserted streets after the institution of martial law in a rolling nuclear power plant was not something designed to soothe jangled nerves. "Maybe you better drive," I suggested.
Elizabeth shook her head. "No. I have too much thinking to do."
I know that when she says she has thinking to do, there's no sense in discussing matters any further. Whatever was going down out there on the streets would be nothing compared to the tornado Elizabeth could become, so I shut my mouth and did as she commanded.
I pulled out on the street with my silent wife just as a unicorn ran by.