"Why can't we take that perfectly nice red car?" Amber shrieked as the old truck's engine growled, coughed, and died. She tried her best to control her voice, but she couldn't help it. She always ended up shrieking in situations like this. Not that there really were any other situations like this. But still.
"Do you know how to drive stick shift?" he asked, one eyebrow raised. She was fairly certain those eyebrows were not merely facial features. They were black flags he hoisted to warn all in the area that he was well-armed with sarcasm and skepticism.
"Stop making assumptions about me, asshole." She clawed at the door handle and staggered gracelessly out of the truck and back into the empty expanse of the abandoned car lot. She stomped around the vehicle and wrenched its hood open. She noted the stunned look on Ryan's face with pleasure as she poked around at the engine.
"Try it again," she called victoriously.
Ryan cranked on the key and the engine roared to life with an indignant puff of dust. She smiled as she slammed the hood back into place, but she could feel her smugness dissolve into fear as figures began to materialize from the darkness beyond the car lot. She scrambled back into the truck as Ryan hit the accelerator. She could see the panic touching his eyes, too.
They didn't speak again until they were out of the spooky little town and back on the open highway.
"So where'd you learn that little trick?" Ryan asked, his voice neutral.
Amber looked up from the stained cuffs of her designer jacket and glared. "I wasn't always rich, you know. My dad was a mechanic. I used to sit around in the garage with him when I was young."
Ryan didn't respond. Just like him. Amber had no idea what her gentle roommate saw in this geek. She went back to cataloging the damage to her expensive clothing, trying not to think about what they had seen in the town that was now a good twenty miles behind them.
"Look," Ryan said softly. Amber glanced at him. His eyes were glued to the bright spot of pavement in front of them. "I'm really sorry I've been impatient with you. We've all been under a lot of stress, but if we're going to make it through this we need to get along."
"Get along?" she repeated sharply. "Maybe you and your little friends can make up a ragtag fellowship out of some fucking fantasy novel. Soon as we get back, I'm going to make some phone calls, contact the proper authorities, and get my ass out of this nightmare. I've got resources, and I'm not going to stick around and watch my people get swatted to death like insects!"
"Amber," he said quietly, "when was the last time you had cell phone reception?"
"I don't know," she said snottily. "My cell phone got lost back there. You know, when you almost got us both killed?"
"Shut up!" he snarled. "I had to check if those people were okay! How was I supposed to know they were done for?"
"Oh, I don't know. Maybe that kid's twisted neck was a clue? Or perhaps the man groaning 'braaaaains' should have tipped you off?"
"Goddammit, Amber. This is what I'm talking about."
"What, your ridiculous hero-complex? You can't save everyone, you know. You can't even save yourself!"
"Oh, and you think Mommy's money is going to keep you safe?"
"That's what money is for!" she yelled. "You work hard, you play the games, you make friends with the right people so that when the shit hits the fan you can protect the things that really matter!"
"Amber. You're being hysterical. You know as well as I do that the entire country is falling apart. Nowhere is safe anymore."
Amber opened her mouth to speak, but Ryan interrupted her.
"Quiet," he said, peering into the night. "Do you see something up there?"
All of the anger drained out of Amber's body. Yes, she saw something in the darkness. As they drove slowly forward, a structure solidified in their headlights. It looked like a hastily-erected barricade. And in the center, built into the wall, was an enormous old-fashioned cannon. Pointed straight at them.