After we had finished pursuing Keisha all around the store, we ate breakfast from the frozen food section that had been prepared with a microwave from appliances. Arnold contemplated a large sealed ham.
“Think we can eat this?” he asked. I took it and examined it.
“It seems like it would be okay,” I said, examining the label, “I mean, it’s sealed and everything, but think about it: It’s been here for like-” I thought for a moment, “148 days. You want to risk it?”
Arnold gingerly placed it back. “Maybe they’ve got some frozen ones,” he mused, and headed towards the back of the store.
After a leisurely breakfast, we checked in on the radio and continued towards downtown Atlanta. By midmorning, we were sick of walking.
“This sucks,” Keisha said, leaning against a lamppost, “Why did everyone else get to the mopeds first?”
I was privately thinking that question as well. It seemed very unfair.
“Guess we just weren’t fast enough,” Arnold responded. He hefted his rifle and smashed the window of a car next to us. He extracted a bottle of water, and after some more digging, a large map of Atlanta. He consulted it for several moments. “Looks to me that if we continue down these roads, we’ll pass through a patch of trees, and then through a tunnel and we’ll be in the city.”
With Arnold now in the lead, we continued our urban hike. After passing through a tunnel, we found ourselves on a gridlocked road that appeared to be about ten feet below ground level, despite having an open top.
“These interstates circumvent Atlanta,” Steve said, slapping one of the walls, “They keep you from having to come straight through the city.”
“Yeah,” Keisha agreed, “Looks like we’ll have to follow it to an exit and then we can get out of here.”
At that, we headed on down the road. By noon, we still had not found an exit, and we were all cold and short-tempered.
“Screw this,” I said, irritably kicking a car, “Let’s just leave the road and cut across country towards the city.” Everyone was game for this, and after some scrambling and not a little cursing, we managed to climb out of the roadway. However, we soon realized that the fringes of Atlanta were not conducive for pedestrians. We were constantly crossing roads, scrambling up a small cliff to get to a road, jumping a dozen feet to get off a road, pushing through trees, and discovering that the road we were on somehow ended up thirty feet off the ground before heading off towards Nebraska. It reminded me of the chase through LA at the beginning of one of the Rush Hour movies. Needless to say, by the time we had reached downtown, we were exhausted.
“Let’s just find somewhere to sleep,” Arnold groaned, “I’m bushed.”
“Me, too,” Steve said, who, tired of carrying the SWAT ram, was dragging it with one hand and holding his gun with the other, “Looks like there’s a department store down that way. We can scrounge beds there.”
I grinned through a fog of exhaustion. “Dude . . . you’re in Atlanta. ‘When in Rome . . .’”
I gestured towards a sign that was barely visible in the setting sun. ‘Hilton of Atlanta.’
“That’ll work,” we all said in unison. We got to the hotel and dug through the reception desk for room keys. I found them first.
“Here we go,” I said, “There’s five penthouse suites, so here’s keys to four of them. Unfortunately, guess where they are.” There was a loud moan from the rest of the group.
“No way,” Steve said, digging through the drawer, “I’m not climbing that far.” He extracted a card with a significantly lower number and headed for the stairs. In the end, we all followed his lead and crashed on the fourth floor, the lowest floor with rooms. After checking in to inform the Guard where we were, I began stripping off my weapons. I tossed them all on the floor, within easy reach of the bed, and then burrowed under the chilly covers. I was asleep in minutes.
Something woke me up seemingly only minutes later. I could hear quick, heavy footsteps in the hallway and a sort of low growling. I sat up quietly and reached for my rifle. I grabbed my web gear as well and slid off the far side of the bed. As I stealthily snapped my gear on, I heard the noises change. Something was definitely out there.