The four horsemen raised their hunting rifles at the group. Thomas and Mike raised their weapons in response. Neither Brooke nor Bryce raised their weapons, as they were both aware of the dream that Brooke and the children had the night before.
The leader of the four men, James Caden, asked the group who they were and what they were doing. Bryce responded by asking is any of them were a police officer or a firefighter. After exchanging strange glances with his fellows, James replied that he was a firefighter, and that one of the other men, a bald man named Michael, was a police officer. James then asked Bryce how he knew this detail, to which Bryce responded, “Just a hunch, I guess.”
As introductions were made, the group noticed that the walkers nearby seemed to be heading down the road past them, towards the town or city that was off in the distance. James admitted that he and his people had been seeing this behavior for a few days already, in increasing numbers. He reckoned that their must be some food source or something drawing them in that direction. The group opted to trust these men with their predicament. Actually, Fabiana spilled the details of their vehicles back on the side of the road and the children and others left back at the walled subdivision. Upon hearing of the children, James invited the group to gather the others and accompany them back to their community of Snyder Farms.
Once the entire group was assembled, the men helped the children up onto the horses and the entire group walked the 6 miles to Snyder Farms. Upon arriving at the community, the group noticed several things. First, all of the houses had solar panels on the roofs, and there were a number of wind turbines placed throughout the small community. They walked past a small farm and numerous community gardens on the way into the community, and saw the residents gathering to watch their arrival. Those gathering did not seem hostile, just suspicious of the group.
James led the group to the steps of a large building that was front and center in the community. It seemed to be a combination church/community center. James and Michael introduced the man who came out of the building to greet the group as “Father Kenneth.” As the group would soon learn, “Father” Kenneth was not a Catholic priest, but still the community’s spiritual leader. The land once belonged to his family, and he had built the curch/community center to re-learn how to use his body after suffering severe wounds from an improvised explosive device he had encountered as a medic with the 101st Airborne in Iraq. As spiritual leader of the community, he found that it was easiest to assume the traditional priestly title of “Father” and wear the traditional Catholic priestly garments, though he ministered to all faiths, and the church included areas for the worship of several divine entities, including pagan shrines outside.
Several of the group asked if the community had any vehicles or diesel fuel to help them retrieve their vehicles that had been left several miles down the main road. James recommended that they use Harry Ross’ Wagoneer and that they could spare a couple of gallons of diesel from the tractor shed to get the vehicles to the community. As a few of the group members set off with James, Michael, and a somewhat intoxicated Harry Ross to do that, the rest of the group began taking HOT showers and settling in, while “Father” Kenneth defrosted a few more venison burgers from the large freezer downstairs.
They group was pleasantly shocked to learn that the town had functioning electricity and fresh well water. “Father” Kenneth also produced several personal hygiene kits with toothbrushes, toothpaste, sample packs of shampoo that looked like they’d been looted from a hotel, shaving razors, and all the necessities. They also found that there was a laundry room in the basement of the church where they could clean their clothes if they wanted, though most garments were so worn, they weren’t ever going to look much better.
The one thing the group was alarmed with was the lack of walls, though those had done precious little good for LeJeune or Pink Hill. All this place had were barbed wire fences, some ditches, and a gate across the road.
After the vehicles were brought into a community parking area, the group assembled for a dinner of venison burgers and fresh vegetables from the community gardens. Some of the members of the community introduced themselves, or were introduced. Thomas was excited to meet young Ben Cooper, who had been studying electrical engineering at the nearby University of Arkansas – Fort Smith before the outbreak. Fabiana was introduced to Alice Stillman, who was suffering from lymphoma, and had at most, six months to live. She quickly went to Mike, who was recently discovered to have been pilfering from the group’s meager drug supply, as well as getting drugs from elsewhere, to beg for some pain pills for Alice. She also asked Mike if he might be able to scrounge up some marijuana from somewhere for her. Mike later gave her a little of both and kept quiet about his sources. The group also learned that there were a few children in town.
After dinner, “Father” Kenneth offered them the old farmhouse at the edge of the community for the group to stay in during their time at Snyder Farms. It had once belonged to his grandparents and was still kept up as a guest house for the community. As they were settling in, Mike came by with some hunting rifles and asked if anyone would be up for hunting for more deer in the morning, since they would now use up the community’s supply more quickly. Several of the group offered to take him up on the offer.
The group was awakened in the morning by an argument between Jeff and Caitlin about the wisdom of going hunting with this “total stranger” or even staying at this place. Several of the group trudged up to the room and told them to keep it down, with a healthy dose of “Jeff, stop being an idiot” thrown in for good measure. After this, the hunting party departed.
During the hunting trip, the group came upon several walkers, and also bagged three deer. As they were hauling the deer up to be cleaned, the radio clipped to James’ belt came alive and one of the border guards told him, through much static, that the guys that had taken the nearby military base, Fort Chaffee, were incoming in several camo-painted pick-up trucks. With this warning, the weary James spread the warning. “Father” Kenneth shepherded all the non-combatant women, elderly, and children into the houses in the community’s inner ring, while the community’s combatants arrayed themselves in upstairs windows of the outer ring and other vantage points. When the group asked James what their plan was, James responded that they planned to kill the raiders, indicating that this wasn’t his first rodeo with these guys, and the group was free to assist as they saw fit.
The group quickly deployed on the two most likely areas of approach, with Thomas and Brooke taking the .50 cal they had scavenged from the Humvee before they abandoned it and mounting it on its tripod along the side of one road, while Bryce and Alison took the other road. Sean and Mike served as advance scouts in the woods just outside of the community. Tim, David, and Fabiana stayed with the children in the farmhouse, though David wondered aloud why they hadn’t joined the community’s other families in the inner ring of houses. Trip, meanwhile, went to the church to see if he could somehow prepare food or welcome the raiders to the community in some way to make them less hostile to the people of Snyder Farms. As gunfire erupted, it quickly became obvious that a peaceful solution was not to be found with this group. Jeff also tried to advocate with Trip for a peaceful solution, but in response, Trip threw a deer heart at him, splattering his chest with gore and ran off, leaving Jeff shaking his head and muttering aloud that he was the only person in the group who wasn’t a gun-nut or just plain crazy.
As it turned out, three trucks approached on the road manned by Bryce and Alison, and two more approached on the road where Thomas and Brooke were set-up with the .50 cal.
The first truck on Bryce and Alison’s road tried to run the two of them down, and barely missed Alison, but as they fired at the truck, the driver lost control and went flipping off into the woods. The second truck sped by, but missed the curve into the community and rolled off into the woods, killing all of its occupants as well. The third truck on that road made it past the duo and made the turn into the community.
Meanwhile, on the other road, Thomas opened fire at the approaching trucks with the .50 cal, causing one to go out of control and disabling the second. Upon coming to a stop, the occupants took cover behind the vehicle and engaged Thomas and Brooke in a fierce shootout. Thomas sensed that Brooke was in trouble and dove across the road to her position, knocking her out of the way and taking the hail of bullets that were meant for her.
With Thomas barely clinging to life, Brooke dragged his body into a ditch behind a fallen tree and returned fire. Though Brooke also sustained serious wounds in the firefight, the raiders were eventually all dispatched.
Back in the community, the residents who had a clear shot at the truck that was now in the community parking area, began taking a few shots, but the driver was fairly good. Trip ran towards the truck, yelled “GRENADE!!!” and threw a rock into the truck bed. All of the raiders in the bed were completely fooled and lept from the speeding truck. Everyone finished off the truck’s remaining occupants, and Trip cleaned up the final survivor, one of the leapers, with a well-placed rock to his head from a distance.
With the threat dispatched, the community began to come out of hiding, and Fabiana and “Father” Kenneth ventured out to treat the wounded.
To be continued…