The first of what will probably be a series of snippets with my two fave characters. Some are funny, some are serious, some a little bit of both.

Hunting with Doc
-- by 10K_fever

Effective scavenging was an art form, as Doc kept telling 10K. In the almost four years since the appearance of mega-hordes, zunamis, or anything else one cared to call a giant swarm of zombies, everything had been picked over pretty well. But the gold was still there; you just had to know what you were looking at.

While Warren and Addy had gone off to scrounge for tools, gas, weapons, and various auto parts to keep their slowly dying truck on the road, Doc and 10K had ventured into a residential area to seek other treasures that past looters might have overlooked.

10K was always fascinated by the useful things Doc found in abandoned and scavenged homes. His job was to clear the house. Doc helped, of course, but he sometimes overlooked key hiding places. 10K tended to cover areas where his friend had already searched.

The house they were in now was a mess, picked over by legions of looters. There were no Zs, either, for 10K to find, a minor disappointment since his count wasn’t rising as quickly as he would’ve liked. He continued to patrol quietly through all the rooms, looking out windows to find trouble before it found him, using his feet to sift through the trash littering the floors, constantly alert for surprises. He often found Doc looking through drawers and cupboards for “treasures”, but he never disturbed him, leaving as silently as he’d appeared.

When Doc came downstairs with his treasures, he had no idea 10K had been prowling on his back trail, protecting him, watching for any signs of trouble.

This time, there had been no danger.

“Time to go, kid,” Doc said softly. “This house gave me plenty. If we need to search other places, I’ll need to unload the swag first.”

Silently, they headed back toward the rendezvous point.

10K was glad to get outdoors. Even though he tried to appear unaffected, he was always saddened by the evidence of ruined lives, unfulfilled dreams, trampled hopes, all shattered now. It still stunned him to realize that a tiny organism, the ZN1 virus, had destroyed the world as it once was, leaving in its wake nothing but death and devastation. He sometimes wondered if any place had escaped the cataclysm. But life would never be the same again, even if humans managed to triumph over the Zs, a possible outcome so unlikely it seemed like a false hope to even think about it.

The others hadn’t returned yet, so the two shared a few ounces of water and split a half-mashed energy bar Doc had found. Luck had kept the wrapper intact, and although it wasn’t fresh, its oats and chocolate chips were a welcome change from their usual fare.

“Shouldn’t we save some for the others?” 10K asked, feeling guilty as the first morsel of chocolate surrendered to his taste buds. It was damn near better than an Oreo cookie.

“Found half a box mashed under a stand mixer,” Doc replied with a grin. “Those big dudes weigh a ton.”

10K didn’t know much about stand mixers. His mom had used an old hand mixer, although it might have been new to her at one time; he couldn’t remember it being anything but a scarred and much-used relic, but the things she had created with it still warmed the childhood memories he’d managed to hold close.

“What else did you find?” he asked, suddenly interested in what other marvels his companion might have unearthed.

Doc dug into his large medical bag and began to unload its copious contents onto the back seat of the truck. “Feminine napkins, to help control bleeding from wounds, a packet of tampons for our ladies – apparently there was more than one female living in that house – a brand new box of pencils, some shampoo and conditioner, a bar of soap, a sample pack of laundry detergent, and a pad of paper. The kid’s room yielded the best stuff, though, a deck of cards, a deck of UNO, and a game of Trivial Pursuit, the history edition. I only kept the deck of Q&A cards from that to save room.”

Then Doc smiled. “And I found gifts for everyone.” He pulled a package of tiny elastic bands from the treasure trove. “For Addy and her hair.” Next, he produced a small, suede vest that didn’t look suitable for anything. “For Warren.”

10K frowned at the skimpy garment. “Why? It won’t keep her warm.”

“Ah, kid, the things you need to learn about keeping your women happy. It’s not for warmth, it’s for support.”

“Support?”

Doc smiled mischievously. “I’m sure you’ve noticed Warren’s abundance of female voluptuousness. Those double-Ds have to be hurtin’ her. A couple of worn-out bras aren’t going to do her much good.”

10K felt himself blush. “I hadn’t thought much about it.” Not to say he hadn’t noticed it – them – on more than one occasion. What a sight to behold!

“Well, trust me, kid, breasts that size can hurt if they’re not corralled properly, not to mention the back pain they can cause. This vest isn’t much, but it will offer a bit more support than she’s getting now.” Doc patted 10K on the shoulder. “It’s about everything we need, even if it’s embarrassing to think about, that helps keep us going.”

10K nodded that he understood. He’d never really considered that Doc’s field trips might serve a useful purpose in addition to providing life’s little luxuries. Come to think of it, some of those little luxuries helped prevent a lot of common maladies, from head lice to athlete’s foot. He vowed to be more observant in the future.

“Now for the good stuff,” Doc proclaimed with a little hand flourish into the bag. “For you.”

10K accepted the package of over-sized elastic hair bands and looked at Doc questioningly.

“For holding closed those ammo boxes of yours,” Doc explained. “I couldn’t find any rubber bands.”

“Oh.” 10K brightened, thinking of the thin cardboard boxes that were constantly splitting open and dropping ammo all over the truck bed. “Thanks.”

“I found something else for you,” Doc went on, handing him a thin book.

It was The Art of War, by Sun-Tsu. Although he must have read it a dozen times or more when he’d been a boy, his eyes still misted as he thought about all the stuff his dad had taught him from it. He swallowed to loosen the sudden lump that had formed in his throat. “Thanks,” he said very quietly, but sincerely.

Another book landed on the seat of the truck. “I found this on a bedside table. Thought I might read it since no one in the house seemed like hard-core detective fiction.”

10K looked at the title. Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman. The mist in his eyes suddenly threatened to become a deluge, but he couldn’t look away from the well-worn cover.

Doc saw the reaction, and his expression softened. “Maybe you’d like to read it first.”

10K nodded, focused on keeping the tears pooled in his eyes from falling. “My mom. It was her favorite.”

“Okay.” Doc returned to more practical matters in an obvious effort to help the kid deal with his mental trip back through time. “But read it quick, ‘cause we won’t have this truck for much longer, things being what they are. We’ll have to lighten the load sooner or later.”

“Yeah,” 10K agreed. Then he took a deep breath and looked at Doc. “Anything else?”

“Besides the half-box of energy bars, just an old screwdriver to add to the stash of weapons, and a Nerf ball.”

“A Nerf ball?”

“I have no idea what I’m going to use it for, but I’ll think of something,” Doc promised.

10K was intrigued by the thought. “Tell me when you do.”

“Will do.” Doc looked over 10K’s shoulder. “Hey, the others are back and it looks as if they found some goodies, too.”

10K turned, and saw Warren and Addy returning with two apparently full fuel cans and packs bulging with other probably essential items. Oil for the truck, maybe, or some other necessary fluids to keep the old engine ticking over for a few more miles. Ammo if they’d been lucky, some food if they’d been really lucky, maybe medicine if the gods of good fortune had showered them with a hefty dose of magic dust.

He stuffed the two paperback books into his pack, and knew with deep certainty that the really essential items had been found by Doc. Survival was important, but it was the little reminders of life itself that made survival worthwhile.

The End

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