11 Chapter 10: Settling in and Premonitions
The mansion was a large old style three story building with steps leading up to a large patio in the front. It was painted a pristine white with brick and wood in different areas to fill out the design. The entrance was a wide open room with a stairway that lead to both the second and third floors. The place looked recently cleaned and as if people had just been using a table in a dining room that could be seen from the foyer. The table still had plates of food and glasses filled with wine set on top of it. There was even a knocked over vase near the entrance as if someone had crashed into it for some reason.
"Alright who knows their way around this place?" Joshua asked after looking around the area for a bit.
"I've been here quite a few times before." The mayor said as he took a seat in a chair trying to catch his breath from the long walk. "I'm sure a lot of the farmers in the group have probably worked here before as well sense the Moran family liked to employ there fellow farmers in the area rather than outside of town."
"That's good, we'll need people that know there way around the place to check what we have in stock here." Joshua said before thinking over what they would need to successfully live here for the time being. "We need to check what food we have available here and whether it needs to be refrigerated or if it can last in basic storage. We also need to see what tools are available for us to make use of here and if they work in the first place. Lastly there should be a generator in a place as big as this. Will need it if the main line for electricity goes down in the area."
"Seems like you've thought this through a lot more than I would have." Thomas said having not even thought about most of the things that were brought up.
"Well it's good to be prepared for the long haul. We don't know much about what's happening out there right now, but we can get prepared for it." Joshua thought before looking towards his phone to see if there was any news from around the world, but if this was a global problem then he doubted people in cities would have it any easier to go around making news reports. "Anyways if you can mayor, pick some people to get started on looking into those things. Thomas I need you and the Carsen brothers to get the accounts from what people know and get them all settled in. We'll all get some rest tonight before having a meeting tomorrow morning."
"Then what are you going to be doing?" Dave asked. He knew from what he had seen so far that Joshua wasn't the type to sit around and do nothing while everyone else is working. When asked this question Joshua decided that this was the perfect time to get some of his question answered from Laura, Natalie, and Madalyn. He looked around the room for a moment and saw both Laura and Natalie checking out the place but he didn't see Madalyn or George around for that matter.
"I'm going to check out the perimeter of the farm. I think having Laura and maybe Natalie come along will help. I know Laura can handle herself in a pinch while Natalie being a police officer probably has practice with investigation so that could be helpful if we find any problems." Joshua replied. Thomas and Dave both nodded in reply and started to head out to do what he asked while Joshua was going to get the two ladies to help him out.
While heading over to ask Laura to head out with him he noticed a scene that irritated him. Off to the side a little ways down the hall a group of four young men were having what looked like an extremely one sided conversation. Nathan was among them and he seemed to be the one that was on the wrong side of the back and forth as the other three had him pinned against the wall as they quietly tried to intimidate him. Joshua stopped in his tracks and turned his full attention on to them as he walked over.
"What's going on here?" Joshua said as he walked up behind the group. Nathan looked relieved to see Joshua show up, but the other three looked taken aback. The one he assumed was the leader of the three sense the other two glanced towards him when asked the question backed away from Nathan and turned towards him. The boy was in fairly good shape standing at about six feet and two inches. He wore what looked like a muscles shirt to show off his physique with an opened vest over top of it. When he turned around Joshua could see a face with a budding goatee and eyes that at first glared at him for interrupting him, but soon changed into surprise when seeing who he was facing.
The boy was clearly not in a good place in life. He smelled of cigarettes and from the way he tried to bully sneakily while clearly out in the open, he wasn't exactly the brightest person around. His two friends looked like your everyday street thugs, one was rather chubby and short while the other was tall at only a few inches shorter than Joshua but looked to be on the thinner side. "We were just having a chat with our friend Nathan here. We were wondering if he knew where some of our buddies had disappeared too." The leader of the group said.
"Well your friend is going to be coming with me for now." Joshua said as he pushed them aside and pulled Nathan from off the wall. "Next time you try bullying people and I see it. Expect to be put to hard labor. Your young and in good shape I'm sure I can have Thomas find something for the three of you to work on." The leader grit his teeth while glaring back at Joshua for a moment before deflating like a balloon and turning away. He and his two underlings headed back towards the main foyer where the mayor and Thomas were handing out jobs for everyone to do for the moment. "Come on Nathan you're coming with me. We're going on a little tour of the farm."
"Alright." Nathan nodded in acceptance before following Joshua over towards Laura.
Joshua gave Laura a small wave as the two approached her. She nodded back as she turned her attention away from a closet filled with random cleaning equipment and other stuff. "So Laura I was hoping you would come along with us as we check out the perimeter of the farm for a bit." Laura looked at him with a questioning gaze before turning to see Nathan alongside him. For a moment it looked like she was going to refuse, but soon she nodded her head in approval. "Alright just one more person to get then."
Joshua then went back towards the foyer and saw Natalie standing alongside Thomas as he was asking a couple of farmers some questions. Joshua waved at her to get her attention before signaling her to come over. "We're going on a perimeter check and I was hoping you could come along sense you probably have investigation experience. I already told Thomas about it so you don't have to worry." Joshua explained to her when she approached.
She gave him an inspecting look before gently smiling at him and agreeing to come along. The group of four headed out the front door and down the path towards the entrance gate. Joshua and Nathan were out in front while the two girls walked behind them just out of ear shot. They seemed to be having a conversation about something important while they feigned interest in inspecting the fence alongside the farm. For a while Joshua walked in silence before finally speaking up.
"So Nathan, you having trouble with bullies?" Joshua asked bringing Nathan out of his silent funk.
"I'm not the only one. Jacob bullies everyone at school. Oh he's the leader of the group, the other two are Matthew and Rick. The fat ones Matthew and the tall ones Rick. They've kind of been the school bullies for a while now." Nathan said as his voice seemed irritated.
"Don't they seem a bit too old to be in high school? I mean maybe it's because Jacob probably play's sports or something, but he looks like a college kid to me." Joshua asked out of curiosity.
"Ha, college? Those idiots couldn't even graduate from high school let alone get into a college. Jacob should be turning twenty soon and the other two are already nineteen. Yet there all still in junior year. Jacob use to be a part of the football team, but after four years of playing and not graduating even the small school we go to in the town over won't allow him to play anymore. He's been a bum ever since and would always pick on people like me and my friends to get us to do his school work for him. Too bad he fails every test otherwise I wouldn't have to see him anymore." Nathan rambled on and on while clinching his fist in anger.
"So basically a George version two huh?" Joshua responded with a smile.
"Nah, even George wasn't that stupid and at least was able to charm Madalyn. All the girls at school stay away from those three since they don't want to end up with a dead beat the rest of their lives."
"Well if they give you any trouble just let me know, I'll deal with them. For now we have something else to talk about." Joshua said as he slowed down to let the two girls catch up. The both of them seemed to notice as they stopped talking and turned their attention towards him. "Now ladies I have a few questions to ask you two about. During this mess I've seen a lot of unexplained things that I can't ask anyone about, but there is something I know I can ask you two."
"Um, well go ahead w…we're not h...hiding anything." Natalie started stuttering in response while Laura's body tensed up for a moment as she tried to remain calm.
"Well that sounded believable." Nathan said sarcastically before going quiet when Laura sent him a cold stare.
"One thing I have noticed is that there aren't many women here. Out of the sixty or so of us there are only three women. Four if you count the girl that died back at the police station." Joshua stopped for a moment letting that thought sink in. Natalie made an audible gulp while Laura just continued to watch him. "From what I've seen so far both Natalie and Madalyn are from this town as many people have either talked to them or know them. Laura and that other girl on the other hand seemed to be from elsewhere. Hell your clothes just screams big city and your accent doesn't sound quite as southern as the rest of the people here. That might be why you don't talk much but the way you say your words still gives it away."
"You noticed all that? Damn all I thought was that she drove in from out of town like you." Nathan said with surprise.
"Lastly…" Joshua said pushing the subject forward while ignoring Nathan's wonderment. "Is the facts about your odd combat abilities. I noticed that the blonde from before seemed to have super human strength, not exactly at unimaginable levels or anything but she was probably strong enough to lift a small car if she tried hard enough. Laura on the other hand seems to have some kind of control over fire."
"That sounds awesome, can I see? Pretty please!" Nathan started to badger Laura as she ignored him, but Joshua could see that she was clinching her hands in nervousness.
"Oh and the one thing that makes me believe it's not just something you two have, but every girl that's still here with us can do is the fact that not only you two but Madalyn also seemed to get stronger when fighting those creatures. It wasn't anything blatant like you suddenly being able to toss the creatures around like me, but the amount of times hitting or the amount of strength you guys had to put into killing the creatures started to lesson. I'm sure at one point I saw Madalyn kill one of those things with one swing, it didn't burst open its head like my attacks but it still killed it. At the start it took her a few swing s just to take down one. Not only that your reflexes seemed to improve as well which is much harder to do than strength or speed. I wouldn't be surprised if other things I haven't noticed have improved too."
The group became silent for a moment as Joshua's words made the air around them feel heavier. After a while Natalie started to break down from her nervousness before responding. "We can't tell you guys. We were told not to tell anyone who doesn't already know." Laura looked over in surprise at Natalie, but only let out a sigh signaling that it was probably the truth.
"Who told you that?" Joshua asked a little frustrated at the fact that he was so close to figuring something out only to be told this.
"I can't say it's a …." Natalie started to say when Nathan suddenly shouted in surprise drawing everyone's attention.
"It's like a game!" Nathan said with a big smile on his face.
"A what?" Joshua asked in surprise from the sudden outburst.
"Oh come on Josh. You're a gamer like me so you should be able to piece it out. Weird abilities, sudden strength gains, popping into town like they were summoned here or something. There all things that happen in games, more specifically role playing games with leveling systems. Or wait this might be more like an MMO sense its several people at once and not just one person." Nathan started walking back and forth as he excitedly said his theory.
"You think this is all some game?" Joshua said as he started to see the similarities.
"Well not exactly, everything that is happening is real, but the powers and stuff are like a game with a leveling system based on killing those creatures for experience. Am I right girls?" Nathan said turning to them with a bright smile filled with expectations.
Laura let out a sigh of relief before nodding in reply. "You're correct. It's all fine if you figured it out yourselves, but if we told anyone we would be kicked out of the first phase. Well at least that's what the voice said."
"Yep, when the ringing sound occurred we were all knocked out, but for I'm guessing any women instead of just passing out and waking up later we were given a choice. If we stayed during what was called the first phase then we would have a small amount of power awakened tailored to our potential before being sent to where ever we wanted on the planet for the first part." Natalie said as she tried to find the right words to explain things.
"So then what happened to all the people that disappeared then? It wasn't only women who vanished I haven't seen any kids or older people either." Joshua pointed out.
"The only people left on this earth are men who are between the ages of seventeen to forty-nine and women in the same age range that decided to take the chance and stay." Laura replied.
"That explains a lot, well at least my sister is safe. Were twins, but I'm the older one by four hours." Nathan said in relief at the fact that his sister and the rest of his friends were most likely safe. Joshua was feeling the same way since all of his family didn't fit in the same age range, but his friends were stuck in this mess as well. "You see technically I was born yesterday evening while my sister was born much later at night. I guess she didn't make the cut."
"What made you two decide to stay?" Joshua asked the two ladies.
"Well for me I wanted to help out David, and I am a police officer so it is my job to help even in a situation like this." Natalie replied while looking a little saddened at the mention of David.
"I wanted to take the chance." Laura said but didn't explain any further.
"Well what powers did you get? Did you level up while fighting those things? Do you get a stat HUD or something like in games?" Nathan started to ask a million question before Laura glared at him and he shut up.
"Well for me I got the ability to perceive other people's emotions and hear their surface thoughts if I focus in on them hard enough." Natalie replied with a smile.
"Coooooooool! Can you feel my emotions now and hear what I'm thinking?" Nathan asked.
"You're extremely excited and you're wondering if having powers makes us super heroes or something along those lines. Am I right?" Natalie replied.
"You're Amazing!" Nathan shouted loudly.
"Cool it kid, even I can tell what you're thinking right now. What about you?" Joshua directed his question to Laura.
"I have control over fire on a small scale for now. I can either use it for heating things or cause a small burst of fire in a short distance." Laura answered.
"So do your powers grow stronger as you level?" Nathan asked happily.
"Slightly the amount of fire I generate increases a bit and the range I can use it at expands. What about you?" Laura replied before asking Natalie.
"Well one other part of my ability is being able to speak to others through our minds." Natalie started to say before projecting her voice into their heads. 'See I can talk to you guys like this and make it so anyone I'm connecting to can talk to each other.' Her voice continued to be heard by the others, but her mouth was closed in a calm smile. "Every time I level up I can connect more people like that so for now I can only talk to a maximum of three people."
"Then your already level three? How often do you level up?" Joshua asked.
"Well first off we do level by killing those things, but the rate at which we gain experience from them gets slower and slower as we level up. The first level up all I did was kill one of them, but for the second I had to kill ten of them while we were making our stand at the police station and while we were making our escape. I'm not sure how many it will take for the next one." Natalie explained.
"If it follows that pattern then it will take a hundred. Sounds like one hell of a grind to me." Nathan replied.
"Oh and we don't have a HUD or anything like that. We can only feel when we level up and how close we are to leveling. It's like a burst of energy that makes us feel stronger." Natalie said after remembering the other question that was asked earlier.
"So then why did you seem so on edge around Natalie and Madalyn?" Joshua asked as he looked over towards Laura. He had noticed she had been keeping her distance from other women even back at the police station. She seemed to always be on edge.
"Well if you knew for certain that someone else could have any random power wouldn't you be weary of them?" She gave Joshua a look as if he was a fool. "Besides there not the only ones I was cautious of, you were also a threat. A man who has no powers or way to gain instant strength yet you handled those monsters like they were fodder. You're just as big a threat to me as any of them are."
"Nice to know that you don't trust me." Joshua said jokingly.
"I don't trust easily, but I will give you a warning." Laura said grabbing the attention of everyone. "I would watch my back around Madalyn. I can't see why she would come back under the circumstances and I sure as hell don't think she came back to help that fat fool. She's here for a reason and none of us know what she's capable of."
That comment sent a shiver down everyone's spine. All Joshua could think of was the look of utter calm Madalyn had when killing the creatures. It was a far cry from the shivering mess she appeared to be around everyone else.