I didn’t like the idea of letting Dallas lead the way. Sure, after the fall of the government… everything changed. There is no law. It’s all about survival now. The veil of morality has been lifted and now there is nothing but ruthlessness. Dallas had experience in the military, he is a veteran to combat. I’ve never fired a weapon to defend myself for the entirety of my life… not until these last few months. Concerning the survival of our small group, it was common sense to concede to someone more experienced. Now I realize how truly subservient we as a nation have been… and how we still are. No other survivors wanted to stand up and take leadership of the group. Dallas damn well knew all of this… and he stepped up to be the chivalrous knight.
My experience with mechanics and computers gave the group a reason to look to me for guidance. I was able to coordinate salvage runs and knew enough to set up some type of basecamp. I’d find a survivor hiding here and there but none of them had a clue what to do next. I gave them purpose and a place to feel safe. We seemed to be doing alright until we started finding the dead bodies. The vultures circling in the air were the first warning that some new threat was nearby. That’s when we met Dallas. That’s when we shackled ourselves in fear to the belief that someone could make the bad men go away. Shackled in that we would do anything Dallas told us if it meant staying safe.
Dallas was a lean tall man with a charming grin. However his good demeanor, I’ve never felt a full disclosure with anything that passed his lips. It has been as though he shows me something in one hand while hiding something completely different in the other hand behind his back. It has been said the best lies are half truths and to this Dallas subscribes completely. Disagreements have been disjointed by pointing out the motives of others conjectures. I can see it clearly now. I felt a day would come when our leader by consensus would take things too far. I know a day will come where someone will have to challenge Dallas’ decisions.
I just didn’t think it would be so soon.
We had been on patrol since dawn establishing a perimeter around our now nomadic base camp. Dallas said we should keep moving until we can find a site that can be well defended. The morning was cold and bitter and there was an issue about finding a clean water source. Whoever had been committing all the murders in the area was nearby but we couldn’t tell if they also were passing through or if they were establishing a territory. Dallas had two rifles and a small cache of ammunition… and since I seemed to be the only one in the group with a grasp of what to do with a weapon… he gave me a bolt action rifle while he kept the more lethal automatic weapon for himself.
We were scoping the horizon for smoke or vultures… anything to indicate humans in the area. The landscape was rough hewn with brush and sparse dying trees. The only cover was a boulder here or a slide of rocks there. We managed to get some high ground to properly survey the area and that’s when we spotted them. This was the first contact with anyone since we met Dallas. Each time before it was me and someone terrified of the shadows. Now it was Dallas and a similar group of survivors trekking through the rocky valley.
Dallas adjusted his scope. “I count three but I think I saw a fourth lagging behind.”
I checked farther away since my rifle was geared for hunting wild game. “Yes, you’re right and he is armed with some type of rifle from the looks of it.”
“Can you tell if it’s a long barrel?”
I checked again. “No, its short and stubby. Probably an urban type weapon.”
“That gives us the advantage. We have the range. They probably have hand guns since I don’t see any other sling weapons.”
“So what do you think we should do, Dallas? I could try and contact them. We need all the friends we can find.”
“Yeah, and get yourself shot, Cal. Not to mention jeopardize our group.”
Dallas remained silent for a little while. I was not in a hurry to make a decision. My examination of the small party didn’t seem to indicate blood thirsty murdering scum. I heard no yelling or cursing, they seemed to be helping each other over the rough terrain. My instincts didn’t sense anything other than they were just a lost people looking for a safe place. Their questions are probably just like ours: What happened? Where do we go? What do we do?
Finally, Dallas turned his head toward me and uttered three words. “We kill them.” Just as simple as saying “it’s raining” or “I’m hungry”. He just said “we kill them” and turned his face back toward the interlopers… spying through his scope. He rationalized his statement with just a few but relevant reasons. “They are armed, they are nearly half the size of our group. They are sure to have food and water and they might even have some information about who has been doing all the killing in the area.”
“Why are we worried about that if we too are going to kill them, Dallas?”
“Because it is information. Don’t think for a second that those people wouldn’t do the same thing. I’m tired of telling you, Cal. It’s all about survival. Kill or be killed. You keep trying to live by rules that don’t apply to our lives anymore and that is going to get us dead very quickly. It’s quite simply about necessity. They have resources and we are low on resources. We can’t take onboard any new mouths to feed so we deal with this here and now… then move on!”
Then I was silent for a few moments to take in what had just been said. I now have to make a choice. Do I agree with what Dallas is saying or do I keep my ‘obsolete’ values and take a stand. He and I were in complete disagreement on this issue. As I stood behind Dallas who was prone on the ground before me, I felt the rifle in my hands.
“What if I go down there to talk… you could keep them in your sights. If something goes wrong… then you could take them out.”
“Can’t risk it, Cal. You are too much of an asset to the group. Getting injured or killed is not an option. Besides that, I can’t guarantee I’d get a clear shot.”
It would be nice if my being an ‘important asset’ was meant in a flattering way but I have learned enough to understand Dallas’ cold and calculated demeanor. His comment was pragmatic at best. Putting myself in his frame of mind, the words suddenly made sense to me. “Deal with this here and now and then move on.” Dallas isn’t going to change his mind and this won’t be the last time we have a difference in opinion. As long as he is going to decide what is best for us without an ear for consultation… we are going to be subject to his will like victims of tyranny.
My weapon was already loaded. The only question was what the wandering strangers would do after hearing the shot. Defiance of Dallas would probably mean being excommunicated by the group. I would again be alone. But how would I explain my actions? Wouldn’t I be just as guilty as Dallas after the deed was done?
Then I understood the simplicity of “shoot first, ask questions later.”