She monitored the land before her. It was empty and abandoned. She peered through her scope, waiting for an enemy to approach. She smelled fresh rain upon the prairie grass of the rolling, golden hills in the northwest valley of what used to be Helena, Montana.
A buzzing vibrating feeling appeared in the side pouch that was tightly fastened to her belt. She withdrew the communication device to answer the call. "Hello Alex" her team-member, Tim said over the phone. His voice seemed to break a barrier of silence that had surrounded Alex for far too long. "How are things looking in the WC area?" the two of them had both been assigned the duty of "thin-pickings" that morning; it was what they called the snipers. It was mandatory team-members to routinely check up on the other team-members sharing the area, so Tim was just doing his job.
Alex took another look through her scope, "Things are looking quite dead right now Tim". She glanced through her scope a third time. "Hold on Tim. I think I see something". Alex twisted the magnification knob on her scope to x12; she was right. An almost completely decomposed body stumbled and waddled through the hills south of her position. She waited for it to reach a more open spot in the hills, put the center bead of her scope on its head, paused for a split-second, then squeezed the trigger.
The corpse fell to the ground. Alex then grabbed her phone and put it to her ear again. "Did you get it Al?" Tim immediately asked.
"Yeah I got it." Alex responded glumly.
"What's wrong?" Tim asked her. He knew he was like a little brother to her. Unfortunately enough for him, he had a fancy for her comparable to that unattainable high school crush. No matter how much he tried to shake his attraction out of his mind, he simply couldn't. So he found himself in a constantly melancholy state of mind and heart. It didn't mean that he would stop being there for her in times of need though. It seemed Tim was always just where Alex needed him.
"This land just seems dead is all." Alex responded to Tim.
"Well hasn't it been this way for about the past fourteen years? And actually it's been more undead. Wouldn't you say?" Tim responded with a throaty, yet higher-than-the-average-male pitched chuckle. "I do know what you mean though".
Alex cracked a faint smile at both the low humor of Tim's joke, and at the fact that he understood. "I mean there's nothing here. The occasional encounter. The very unlikely, but still every now and again random infections that come near, but never into town. I'm beginning to believe that we've killed them all".
"I'm not sure I'm willing to agree with 'all' of them, but I know we've definitely thinned the herd out. I mean I'm even willing to say almost all in the general Helena area... there's maybe one or two between us and the colonies in Great Falls and Butte". At that moment Tim's signal faded. Instead of hearing Tim's somewhat high male voice and the wind blowing around him, all Alex could hear was static.
Immediately, Alex pulled up the location file for all "pickers" to see what area Tim was in. He was located only about four or five miles away. Then from the open space around her, Alex heard the faint noise of a gunshot ringing through the hills. She quickly grabbed her rifle, and sprinted as fast as she could in Tim's direction.
When Alex got to Tim's area in the lower flat area of the hills, she found nothing. She scouted around his area, hoping to find some sign of her friend. All she could hope was that it wasn't too late for Tim too. She'd already had to kill friends and family, because they'd been infected; the idea still put a crippling feeling of guilt, remorse, and self-loathing in her stomach.
"TIM!" Alex screamed "Where are you Tim?!" she held onto the idea that he was still alive, that she would find him, but she kept the strongest hold on the hope that he hadn't been infected.
Alex finally approached a hill at the east corner of his permitted area. "TIM!!!" she cried as she saw her friend staggering down the hill. She sprinted toward him and wrapped her arms around him, tackling him to the ground.
"Easy there Alex!" Tim winced. He kept his hand tightly upon his lower left calf, and for some reason he seemed to be rubbing it constantly.
"What's wrong with your leg Tim? Why did your signal fade out? Are you okay?" Alex asked him fearing for the worst. She thought to herself, please not again. This has happened to me far too many times. I just want to be done with this shit.
"Oh, I just tripped over one of these God damned gopher holes. I think my phone is busted." he said casually as he showed Alex his obviously demolished communication device. "I'm sorry for any worry I gave you babe".
Alex pulled Tim to his feet. "Don't worry about it Tim." she said calmly. After he'd regained his footing, Alex slugged him in the arm. "And don't call me babe! You know I don't like you that much." she said with a snicker.
The two of them walked to the pick-up point. "How about I buy you a drink after we get back into the town." Alex asked Tim.
Tim grinned and responded, "That sounds like a plan to me." Unknown to Alex , Tim hadn't fallen in a gopher hole. He was hiding something. A something so dangerous that it was a danger to him, Alex , and the rest of human civilization that had gathered in the former capital city of Helena, Montana.