“Damned Zoot,” Nip muttered bitterly as she peered through the office’s 2-way window at the rest of the
Demon Dogs camped out in the electronics store. “Power and chaos. Yeah right.” His power. His chaos. The Demon
Dogs were supposed to be at the top of the food chain – not in charge, but not bowing down to someone else’s rules.
What they wanted was what they’d always wanted. To have fun. To be free. That wasn’t what Zoot was about. But
they weren’t going to just turn tail and run from the Locos. These were the streets where they’d spent their whole
The Demon Dogs were a gang long before people started dying. They were poor city kids with parents who mostly didn’t
give a crap. Survival skills were second nature to them. Hell, they already had a hideout stocked with stolen supplies. They
were prepared whether one of them needed to lie low and avoid the cops or simply had been kicked out of the house. That whole
thing had been Nip’s idea, but they always called her the smart one and she was the closest thing they had to a leader.
It was pretty self-serving considering the number of times she needed to stay away from home. Ever since her mom had taken
off her dad veered from needy and sad to drunk and angry. Self-destructive or self-defense - she fell in with the neighborhood
thugs. Well, fell in makes it sound like it was easy. But in the end the scars of having to prove herself were worth the sense
of belonging. And they were pretty aware that Nip’s schemes helped to keep them together and out of jail. Before her,
things had been a little out of control but they had learned to get what they wanted by watching for weakness and vulnerability.
Nature’s way. Survival of the fittest. It was true before the virus and it was true now. Things in this new world could’ve
been great – no authority and a party every day – except that Zoot and the Locos wanted destruction for the sake
So it was left to Nip to figure out a strategy. Which is how they wound up here at this former store. If they had control
over something the Locos wanted – say, all these gizmos and the batteries needed to operate them – maybe it would
be enough to get the Locos to leave them alone. They knew they were being hunted and the Locos would find them eventually,
so if Nip could just hold her ground and stand up to Zoot then maybe… forget maybe, this had to work. The walkie-talkie
squawked and the scout let her know the Locos were close. It was time.
They’d done all they could to barricade the doors and windows of the building but left the fire escape down as the one
point of entrance. She was waiting on the roof when they arrived. Zoot and his girl Ebony were standing on the back of a truck
with a swarm of people around it.
“Zoot! You and I need to talk.” Nip couldn’t see the expression on the face underneath the hat and goggles
but he got out of the truck and started moving towards the fire escape. She wasn’t going to play games. “Just
As soon as Zoot had climbed over the ledge, Nip spoke up. “This is about a compromise. In the building below us is a
supply of electronics and batteries. In addition, I’ve got people out searching for more. We’re willing to provide
you, and only you, with these goods. In return, all we want is to be left alone.”
“Com-pro-mise?” Zoot’s face was blank; she didn’t even think he was blinking. “Now why would
we do that?”
A horn screeched and she heard a crash and an uproar of voices. Glancing over the edge, Nip saw the truck ramming repeatedly
into the wood that barricaded the store’s front window. It was no match for the assault and Locos streamed in to the
building while some Demon Dogs made a run for it. By the time she turned around, Zoot had moved in front of the door blocking
her way back into the building and Ebony had climbed up the fire escape. This was the first time Nip had come face to face
with the girl who was second only to Zoot. Nip met her eye and, in the midst of her panic that this was not going how she’d
planned, had a fleeting thought of how different it would be if it weren’t for Zoot. This could be between them –
two women determined to make this world work for them. She was sure Ebony would have compromised. Another Loco climbed over
the ledge. Nip glanced at him then back to Ebony. Here and now, there would be no compromise. She tucked her chin to her chest
and charged, knocking the anonymous Loco off the roof as she herself fell.
That day many of the Demon Dogs drifted over to the side of the Locos. Those that escaped were no longer seen as a threat
and were left to scavenge the streets. They were nothing more than a pack of mangy dogs still trying to prey on those weaker
than themselves though that was getting harder and harder by the day.