From the front of the deuce-and-a-half, they could see the lovely New Mexico desert fly by, but here and there, this was broken up by the sight of a cluster of the living dead, shuffling after the convoy, arms outstretched, and some clusters were large enough that their moans could be heard over the engine. It was a chilling reminder that their old home and their new one were islands in a world that now belonged to the dead.
A world that would not belong to the dead forever.
Brad and Krista engaged in idle chatter with the convoy master to pass the time, mostly about their colonies were like and other such harmless talk. They refueled from the gas truck that always accompanied supply convoys at a rest stop that constituted the halfway point and continued north. It took several hours, some of which Brad and Krista slept through, but after a while, they crossed into Colorado and the walls of Four Corners came into view. It looked as large as Duke City and the gate that separated the vehicles before they could be inspected was of similar design. But what lay beyond was not a large college campus, but a medium-sized high school that served as the headquarters for the Four Corners Police Department. Both were pretty sure that the Four Corners Colony, formerly Durango, Colorado, didn’t have a college.
They jumped off and politely thanked the convoy master for the ride, and both Brad and Krista were thankful to have walls again. The living dead were a hell of a thing to see when home vanished behind and neither knew anything of the home that waited for them.
A police officer, dressed not in coveralls but in a simple police uniform that seemed the same as those worn before the world ended, came up. He had lieutenant’s bars and introduced himself.
“So, you two are the wonder kids who are going to show us how to kick ass and build a team of real life-takers and heart-breakers? Okay then, come with me. The Chief wants to see you.” They followed him into the high school and down a few halls where they certainly caught a few stared. Chief Deihl had really played them up and everyone who saw them stood in silence, gazing at these two officers whose reputations, if a little constructed, had preceded them by a couple of days.
The Chief’s office was, of course, the principal’s office in earlier time. The lieutenant showed them in and vanished down the hall. They left their bags outside his office.
“Well I’ll be damned, here you are. I’m Robert Heiser, Chief of Police.” He shook their hands vigorously, clearly thrilled that they had arrived.
“Sergeant Arlen Bradford and Constable Kristiana Showalter, reporting for duty, Sir.”
“Welcome you two, welcome to the Four Corners Colony. Anyway, I hope you had a decent ride, and those things out there didn’t do anything to impede you.”
“No Sir, not at all. The convoy kept a steady pace.” Krista said.
“All right then. Down to it. We have a good thing going here in Four Corners. Industry is kicking, everyone is safe, and the Police Department is doing a good job keeping them away from the walls and taking care of business inside. But what we need is a team that can do what your teams do. Now, we aren’t going to build two like Duke City, but rather a one team fits all sort of thing. But what we lack is anyone experienced to the degree that they can train our people and help us build our new tactical team. I am especially grateful that you two have volunteered to come all the way up here.”
“It was our pleasure, Chief. We thought we could do some good here.” Brad said.
“Okay, so here’s the deal. Whatever you need, you come tell me, and it will be done. I want you two to have a training program ready for me by a week from today, complete with a list of whatever you need to pull it off. I need a list of qualifications that you require. You design an obstacle course, I’ll get a construction crew on it. You need classrooms, I’ll designate one for you. Barracks, I’ll set some up. Again, whatever you need. You have the full cooperation of my staff.”
“We appreciate that, Sir. You will not be disappointed with our results. Krista said.
“I expect not. Chief Deihl and Captain Heyward say you’re the best they have. But after we set everything up, I want your help selecting people for this team. There are already a lot of applicants, but I want to know what you think. You would know better than me who would qualify. Then we get them trained, and I’m allowing four months for their training. Will that suffice?”
“That will certainly be enough time for us, Sir.” Brad replied.
“Then, when it’s all done, you two will have a choice. You can go back to Duke City, or stay here and help us with our new teams. But what I can say is this. Sergeant Bradford, if you choose to stay on, I’ll promote you to Lieutenant and put you in charge of all teams you train. Constable Showalter, or, should I say Officer Showalter, as we don’t use the rank of constable…I’ll promote you to sergeant and make you the group’s operations officer, working directly under Lieutenant Bradford. When that happens, you’ll be formally inducted into the Four Corners Police Department. But for now, wear your coveralls. Our people will be wearing black ones, but keep the ones you have. It probably wouldn’t hurt to be easily recognizable.”
“Sir,” Brad said. “we have already agreed with our own commanders to make this a permanent move. We want to build a team for your department, but we also want to make sure they know the job once they’re activated. Cons…Officer Showalter and I always intended to stay here.”
“That’s good news, Sergeant. Anyway, as I said, have a program in one week. Until then, spend the next week getting acquainted with the town. Meet some of the people, get to know some of the Force, get comfortable with your new home. So, how do you feel about shacking up together for the time being?”
Brad and Krista looked at each other, almost giggling.
“Wait, are you two a couple or something?” Chief Heiser asked.
“Yes Sir. We are indeed.” Krista replied.
“Then you’re in luck. If you lived separately, you would have gotten a couple of one-stories out in the residential area. But if you’re together, we already have set aside a nice two-level. It’s kind of out there, nestled near the northern edge of the colony with a wonderful view of the surrounding mountains. You’ll have a lot of privacy out there to work out the training program. I’ll also go ahead and release a golf cart so you can get around easier. But hit the bars and the restaurants, meet the people. They’ll all be happy to see you. Your arrival has been highly-publicized. So, I’ll have someone take you to your new home.”
They walked outside after more handshakes and some nervous introductions from some of the staff officers. There were two golf carts waiting for them and a police officer behind the wheel of each. They loaded their bags onto one and jumped into the other. The carts headed off.
Durango was a quaint and pleasant mountain town that had obviously thrived after the walls went up, seeming to be in a similar state as Duke City was. The streets were clean, the buildings intact, and the people all waved as Brad and Krista passed by. It was a real Main Street USA type of place, the type of place where roots could be put down.
And they soon would.
They saw most of the town as they made the drive to their new home. At least a couple of hundred yards from the nearest, the person who had once lived here had means. Surrounded by a lot of picturesque farmland then in the process of feeding the population, the house had a nice garden and spacious backyard, and what caught them off guard most of all was the pool and hot tub in the back.
Krista had to ask. “You roll out the red carpet and bend over backwards for every new arrival?”
One of the officers, a young whelp of a man, replied, “Beats me, you’re the first cops to come from outside. But I’ve put in my application for transfer to whatever team you’re going to build.”
“We’ll certainly have a look at that, Officer,” Brad said back.
The two officers headed back in one cart, leaving the other in the driveway. They walked in after finding the key taped to the door and saw that the place was well furnished and quite pleasant. They certainly would have no trouble working on a training program out here. They set their bags on the ground and looked around. They went upstairs and found the master bedroom.
“I guess this is it, huh?” Brad asked.
“This is what?”
“Where we’re growing old together.”
“Looks like. Let’s unpack. I want to take my first shower, have my first swim, and eat my first dinner in our new home.”
Brad replied, “You think we’ll be happy here?”
“You planning on going back to Duke City, Brad?”
“Not at the moment.”
“Then my answer is ‘yes.’
Their training program, a fairly extensive one, along with a list of requirements for new recruits looking to transfer and a list of what was needed to pull it all off, was on Chief Heiser’s desk the day before it was due. Within two weeks, everything was set up and the transfers selected. The training went smoothly under Brad’s leadership, and Krista did her part backing him up and not one recruit ever raised a word against her. They did not do a thing to challenge their instructors, their new leaders, their new friends.
True to his word, the Chief put them in black coveralls and promoted them, giving Brad lieutenant’s bars and sergeant stripes to Krista, and thus their new teams, collectively referred to as “Special Mission Teams,” (the Chief’s idea, not theirs) had their leadership. What certainly did not hurt, was the six Bradley fighting vehicles taken from the National Guard armory in town that had not served much purpose after the colony was built, but at Brad’s suggestion, was now the headquarters of Special Missions. It was also a good half-mile from the high school where the Chief worked, so they could lead their team with a fair degree of autonomy. Everything was in place and Special Missions went to work.
They quickly won a solid reputation as first-rate officers. Brad said they were as good as ALERT ever was.
As to Brad and Krista, they lived in their nice little two-story at the edge of town, where they were visited frequently by a list of friends that quickly grew. They went everywhere together and became a common sight, and everyone quickly learned to regard them as good people, good cops, a cute couple, and a fortunate addition to the colony. They had dinner at the Chief’s house, talked with students at the local school about what the colony was doing the protect them, and became active in community affairs. Everyone on the Force considered themselves lucky to have them. Much was done to make sure they never got the itch to go back to Duke City, which they never even considered.
They liked their new home.
There was much to repair between the two of them, but they both cared enough to forgive each other for the sins of the past. It was tense at times as old wounds do not always heal so quickly, but there was much good that came from forgiveness.
Krista had done something heartless and terrible to Brad long before, throwing him away for the most selfish of reasons. But he had forgiven her. It was a new home and a new start.
But then Brad had also done something heartless and terrible, throwing his resentment in Krista’s face whenever he had the chance from behind a mask and letting her cry over his faked death, but she had forgiven him. Like the colony they had come from and the one they now lived in, much about the past had to simply be accepted to move forward. They held hands while they moved forward together.
In each other, they had both found their own redemption.
…is another story.
"If you have a milkshake, and I have a milkshake, and there's a straw, there it is, that's a straw...and my straw reaches...acrosssssssss the room, and begins to drink your milkshake. I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE! SLURRRP! I DRINK IT UP!