Iâve noticed a lot less people on the road now, you know, walking by,â Todd said. âThe guards on the wall say that now theyâre seeing the same people again and again, first going one way and then coming back the other way.â
âThose are people living close by going about their daily business. Things have stabilized,â Herb said.
âThat makes it sound positive,â I said.
âNot positive or negative, just neutral. And thatâs the best most people can hope for.â
âWill it get better?â Todd asked.
âNot before it gets worse.â Herb paused. âWinter will be hard. Food supplies will dwindle, sickness will spread. Simple things like flu and pneumonia without medication and treatment will result in high mortality rates.â
âShould we be worried?â Todd asked.
âWe have food, shelter, fuel, doctors and nurses, medical facilities, and enough medication to combat simple illnesses. Weâre as prepared as we can be,â Herb said.
âBut most people down there donât have those things,â Todd said.
âMost are unprepared or underprepared. Theyâre waiting for someone to save them.â
âAnd that someoneâs not going to come, are they?â Todd asked.
âThey should be more worried about who else might come,â Quinn said.
There was no need to say anything more. We all knew. Quinn had been part of it. I couldnât forget that. I didnât know if anybody could. I knew that certainly the survivors from the Olde Burnham community would never forget and probably never forgive.
âBut I guess in some ways itâs good that there are so many small communities out there,â Quinn added.
âHow do you figure that?â Todd asked.
âPredators go for the weakest. Thatâs why I think theyâll leave us alone,â Quinn went on.
âUs?â I askedâand then suddenly felt bad for the tone of my voice.
âI guess thatâs how I think of it,â Quinn said. âIâm not them anymore. I hope people in the neighborhood will eventually come to realize that.â
âI have,â Herb said.
âThanks. I really appreciate that,â Quinn said.
âAnd youâre right. As sad and tragic as it sounds, the weakness of others makes us less vulnerable,â Herb said.
âMaybe it would be better if we could help them become less vulnerable,â I said.
âYou know we arenât equipped to protect everybody,â Herb said.
I wanted to argue, but I knew he was right. It wasnât like we could extend our walls. But still, could we do more?
âCan you please swing us down farther toward the lake?â Herb asked, pointing in the direction of the giant body of water twenty miles to our south.
âOf course. Do you see something?â
âItâs got more to do with what I want to see. Do you know where the oil refinery is?â
âI know exactly where it is. Itâs at the bottom of Southdown Road, on the lake.â I banked sharply to take us farther south, away from the direction of the compound and away from our neighborhood.
Quinn leaned over the seat. âWe also knew about the oil refinery being there. That place was on the radar as a potential spot to hit.â
âBut you didnât get around to it,â Herb said.
âThere were closer and easier ways to get fuel than taking on the people there.â
âObviously, your recon knew that it was well defended,â Herb said.
âI donât know how well defended the refinery is, but thereâs still enough fuel out there thatâs closer and completely undefended. Along with our Cessna flights, there were always recon groups out on the ground searching for targets,â Quinn confirmed. âI guess weâre doing the same thing here today.â
âNo, weâre not!â I snapped.