“You knew I was coming for you, little one,
when the kettle jumped into the fire.
Towels flapped on the hooks,
and the dog crept off, groaning,
to the deepest part of the woods”
~ Windigo by Louise Eldrich
Virginia the Sky line Drive, Haven resort. 1500hrs.
The resort had once been hugely popular, with views down into the Valleys to the east. It looked more like a small town than a resort, with Cabins, and bungalows scattered along wide snow covered roads that looped around on each other amidst the trees.
Nothing moved on the wide snow covered road as the convoy rolled past the two story conference center. Headlights swept over the dark face of the building where windows stared out at the world like the eyes of the dead. they moved on past a restaurant where snow blew into the open door.
Signs shaped like arrows mounted to poles were at every fork and turn, giving directions to places like the amphitheater, the stables, Hughes Cabin, Main lodge, Shenandoah overlook, Appalachian trail.
The Military Semi Tractor, Called a HET, pulled up in front of the quaint three story main building, architecturally a cross between a Victorian home and the Rustic Park designs so popular in the late 1800’s up to the early 20’s. lots of natives stone and wood, with high pitched roofs designed to withstand heavy snow loads.
The HET stopped engine idling loudly. The convoy spread out behind the HET and came to a stop as well, men and women bundled against the biting cold leaped out taking up guard positions on both sides of the convoy. There were only six cars in the parking lot, and one of them was a Hummer H2 SUV.
Tree limbs rattled together as the wind blew across the area, snow swirled up obscuring sight for a moment.
Thor Jansen, and Chris Turner walked slowly up the short icy path to the main doors and looked inside in the dim winter sunlight they could see a spacious dark paneled lobby,with old overstuffed chairs and small tables scattered artfully around the room where Large wooden pillars soared up to support the Double open beam ceiling twelve foot above. A massive stone fireplace sat between two doors on the north wall, and a hotel counter with a mail and key cubby that was straight out of a movie was on the south wall. To the left of the main desk, was a wide staircase.
They returned to the Convoy, where the two Professional squad leaders waited in the falling snow.
“Daws, take the step kids and clear the building, Benton take 2nd squad and clear the perimeter, then set out those motion detector gizmos on a stick Rob whipped up for us.” Thor said.
“hey Amigo, What about the rest of us” Jorge, asked feeling the cold down into his bones. There were times he missed the heat of Mexico and Texas and this was one of them.
“Guard the vehicles, if either squad needs help you and your buddies will be providing back up.” Thor replied. “and Get some one on the Radio and Let Jared know where the hell we are.”
“all right ladies, lets go” Benton called,” the God of Thunder has sent us sallying forth”
“Sallying, who the hell is Sally” Lane asked. Lane aka Ewok to his squad, was an Alabama boy and the hairiest human being any one in the convoy had ever seen, though he couldn’t grow a beard or mustache to save his life, but from his shoulders to his ankles he was covered in hair.
Danny Tolliver a big man and African American was the squads machine gunner, and a Philly native said “Sally forth you numbskull means to leave a place with both bravery and confidence. what kind of education did they give you down south”
“Tolliver Lane didn’t get any education till he was like 12, when he was six he was playing in the yard and Animal control thought he was a bear cub and snatched him up and released him back into the wild.” Pfc Rafael Ramirez laughed
“last time Lane got a date he had to go to comic con and find a woman with an ewok fetish” Sinclair said then bumped knuckles with his twin from another mother, Lance Baker. The two men looked and acted so much alike every one that didn’t know them thought they really were twins.
Thor shook his head trying not to laugh as his old squad headed off Lane sputtering out insults left and right. His laughter died as he heard the doors to the lodge open, and then a second later gunfire erupt, the cries for a Medic ringing out.
Thor turned and raced as fast as he could for the Doorway, entering in a crouch M-4 up and ready. Two of his men were down, one by the fire place, the other six feet from him.
there was another man that Thor didn’t know down on the stairs, and as he moved towards Daws a woman came down the stairs a shot gun in her hands, “ hold your fire” He bellowed before any one could fire on her, her weapon was pointed more or less at the floor and as she reached the man she dropped the weapon and fell to her knees beside the man.
“ get away from him Lady, he is going to turn” Daws called up. his weapon still ready to engage if needed.
“you bastards, you killed him” she wailed.
Thor moved to the stairs, his weapon now at low ready, “maam, please move away from the body.” He said as gently as he could.
“mom” a girls voice called from upstairs.
Oh hell Thor thought, hating himself for what had happened, but knowing it wasn’t their fault either.
“Maam” Thor said seeing the mans eyes snap open, one pale hand reached up and grabbed a handful of the woman’s hair and dragged her head down towards its mouth. She screamed like a damned soul as the danger she was in finally broke through her grief.
Thor’s rifle snapped to his shoulder, he sighted, and pulled the trigger.
The mans head shattered under the burst, splattering the still shrieking woman with blood, brain and bone.
A pretty 15 year old girl appeared on the stairs, a pistol in her hands she stared at the carnage and then at the armed men in the lobby, tears streaking her face, hatred burning in her brown eyes as she locked gazes with Thor.
The pistol started to come up, “don’t make me shoot you” Thor pleaded his rifle centered on her chest. “please.”
There was a single shot, and the girl cried out and fell backwards against the wall, the pistol falling from her hand. “secure them” Daws ordered as he lowered his rifle. “did I ever mention I was a marksmen” he told Thor conversationally. “don’t worry I only shot her in the shoulder. It was either that or kill her.”
He stood there watching as Justin entered with his EMT pack and checked over the downed soldiers, who thanks to their armor were bruised but alive. One had, had the wind knocked out of him, the other had been shot in the chest which the armor had absorbed, but the second round had hit him in the arm.
“get those two treated and fed, then lets see if we can do something to make this better” Thor said.
“like what, I cant even walk on water much less raise the dead” Daws replied.
“hell if I know man, but we have to do something.” Thor said knowing there was probably nothing that could be said or done that would ever make it better for those two.
“Cooper take a section and clear the second and third floors, announce as US Army as you go, in case any one else is hiding up there lets try not to kill anyone else if we don’t have to.”
“ Spacey take a fire team and finish clearing this floor, do the same thing announce US Army,” Daws ordered as soon as Cooper and his men had climbed the stairs he and Thor climbed up to stand beside the men guard the woman and her wounded and sobbing daughter. Justin looked up once he finished cleaning the girls wounds. “either you hell of a shot or really lucky, no real damage, so she want loose the use of her arm.” He told Daws.
“ a bit of both really” Daws replied not wanting to look a the girl who reminded him of his niece.
“I’m Sergeant First Class Thor Jansen US Army, and this is Staff Sergeant Daws. I’m sorry for what happened here Maam.” Thor told the woman who glared at him as she held her daughters hand.
“you people left us to die, then came back to finish the job” She finally got out. “you were supposed to protect us why did you run.”
“what?” Thor said unsure of what she meant or rather he was hoping it wasn’t what it sounded like.
“you army assholes, you ran and left us up here to die. Now you come back and kill my husband who did what you people wouldn’t do. Fuck you” she snarled tears running freely down her lined face.
“Maam, we are up from South Carolina, we came up here trying to find survivors and a supply dump that has food for the Sullivan Island Safe zone.” Thor said. “what happened around here.”
“you left us, then bombed the hell out of some of the cities leaving every one to die.” She said then turned her face away from him determined to ignore his presence.
Daws motioned for him to follow. Silently the two men walked outside into the cold falling snow. “you really think the Army abandoned the people here in Virginia.” Thor asked.
“she damn sure thinks so.” Daws said shrugging. “the only thing I can think of is, the cities were lost and the army got the bug out boogie order like we did on Jackson and got taken where ever the hell it is they all went.”
“well that sounds reasonable but till we can…..”
Daws held up a hand as he tilted his head in the familiar gestures of some one listening to something over the earbud of his radio. After a second he nodded. “ they found eight more upstairs, they surrendered with out a fight.”
“good, I hope we can do this with out killing any one else. now lets start getting as much gear as we can inside, at least half our food, water and ammo. Ever one but the guard bunks in the building tonight. Park the vehicles like usual and box in the front doors.” Thor said then saw Chris talking with the new Hispanic guy Jorge and the pretty but almost scary woman who had come to the island with him. Her name was Zoe, he thought.
“hey Thor,” Lewis Monroe said climbing out of the RV. “finally got through to Jared, they are just outside of Orange and have located some Fuel for us. He thinks they will be here by noon tomorrow.”
“good that’s one think off my mind, but still no word from Ronny”
“not a peep, Jared thinks Ronny is holed up some where waiting for better weather. But wants us to find at least one place where Ronny can land if and when he gets back in contact.”
“let chris know about the landing strip, he has a better idea on what Ronny needs than I do.” Thor replied, not happy about foisting that off on Chris, but he really didn’t have a clue. Might as well help out he thought heading for the supply truck.
Orange Virginia, 1530hrs.
The former of home of Lionel and Helen Cramer, or so the blood soaked mail on the floor had told those who looked.
Logan sighed as he wrenched his axe from the head of Lionel, or who he assumed was Lionel blackish gore splattered over the plastic coated sofa that had last seen popularity in the mid seventies.
Helen Cramers body lay sprawled in the wreckage of the coffee table her collection of coffee table photo books scattered around her.
“you okay” Ori asked Logan, whose normally olive complexion was as pale as Ori’s normal skin tone.
Logan shook his head and stepped away from the bodies. “no, I don’t think I am” he said walking unsteadily over to the wall. He leaned against it and then slid down into a crouch. “ I think that can of soup I ate might have been bad” he muttered then leaned over and hurled up his attacker in a scene that rivaled the pea soup exorcist moment.
“oh god” Ori yelped as he leaped backwards. “you are gross man”
“good thing the owners are past caring” Jared said then turned to Mike. “ go get my first aid Kit out of the Van. Looks like we are going to be delayed.”
“unless we can find and ambulance with a stomach pump” Jill said from the doorway.
“would you even know how to use one” Jared asked, stepping back as Logan threw up again.
“at this rate, we wont have to worry about a stomach pump” Ori said. “thats at least two days worth of food.”
By the time Mike got back with the bag, the room reeked of bile. “ I think Ill risk the undead and wait outside and freeze to death.” He said handing Jared the bag and headed back outside.
“at least he isn’t freezing up again” Ori remarked as Jared started pulling things out of the back.
“do you know how to deal with food poisoning” Logan asked weakly.
“there’s an instruction book in here somewhere” Jared replied as he pulled out a bottle of orange liquid, then two pill bottles. “ here drink this, slowly” Jared said handing the bottle to Logan, as the younger man drank Jared shook two pills out from each bottle then passed them to Logan. “take these, one set is a probiotic that should help. the other will hopefully stop you from ejecting your stomach contents out the other end.”
He turned to Ori, “ he is going to have to ride in the van till he recovers, as soon as we are sure he isn’t barfing again, Mike and Lew can carry him out and put him on the bed in the van.”
“am I going to live” Logan asked.
“as long as you don’t puke in my van you are” Jared replied as he closed the first aid kit and rose to his feet. “we have a phone book, now I need maps. Lets get Hurler here out to the Van and get moving.
The highway Department turned out to be a boon in more than one way, assuming they could find enough pumps and tankers. There was on site a 4000 pound propane tank and underground Diesel tanks for the heavy equipment stored at the yard.
They spent less than ten minutes in the place, which was devoid of the living dead and just the plain living.
With Mike Driving, Jared sat in the passenger seat studying the maps, tracing out routes and making mental notes to himself. Jared looked up as Mike slowed then stopped. Ahead lay a military check point. Or had been one, some of the soldiers were still on duty, more or less, Jared thought assuming waiting to eat any one who showed up was actually part of the orders of the day.
“ Kill them or Leave them” Mike asked.
“ Leave them, the fuel is the critical point, here, we can find some where else to study the maps” Jared said. Mike turned the vehicle around and followed by the Van and the Tacoma Gun truck, headed back to town.
“Lets just go for the fuel supply yard now” Jared said as he held up a map.
“Its not to far into town if this is correct”
“thank god its not a Google map those things were worthless, showing a building as half block away from its actual location, or further sometimes.” Ori commented, as he sat looking out the window, drumming his fingers on the door.
“you actually used a computer?” Jared asked surprised, Ori wasn’t the most tech savy person he had ever known, the man had never owned anything more complicated than a standard cell phone with no camera.
“yes I’ve used a computer asshole” Ori remarked.
“Sorry it took me by surprise, I mean you still had a Tv with an Antenna.” Jared said as mike chuckled.
“Susan had one, I surfed the net from time to time, even ordered stuff for the Gun smithing business and for the off road trucks. That’s where I got that Sweet ass Sleep system I have. “ Ori replied.
“holy shit” Mike said suddenly, Jared looked up from the map in time to see a British Redcoat staggering towards the ELSORV. Filthy, its clothes bloodstained, its hat gone. Jared got one fast look then it vanished under the front of the ELSORV.
“okay now that was definitely the most unusual zombie I’ve seen” Jared commented.
“what about that one that looked like a naked Jennifer Love Hewitt” Ori asked.
“it didn’t look like Jennifer Love Hewitt, Besides I know she is still alive somewhere out there” Jared said almost longingly, then tensed waiting for Jill to hit him.. when nothing happened he relaxed.
“Ow” he barked as she slapped him on the back of the head.
Mike shook his head but grinned shakily, his nerves were starting to sing with tension as he saw the number of undead on the streets, and as the number of buildings increased, the number of undead did the same.
Orange Virginia as a town where modern structures, existed side by side with antebellum and Federal style buildings on tree shaded streets, during the civil war it had been strategically important, with the Rapidan river acting as the northernmost border of the confederacy. Patrols had come and gone, skirmishes had been fought all around the area as both the union and later the Confederates had probed for weakness’s at the line. It served as a headquarters for General Robert E. Lee, the wounded from two major battles had been treated at the St. Thomas Church which had been converted into a Hospital. .so much had happened so many people from so many of the countries eras had affected the nation in one way or another. And now it was a dead town covered in snow its quaint tree lined streets filled with the walking dead.
Mike turned at the BP and droved past a Church and a few two story old, some would say ancient homes, one had an overturned SUV in its small yard. A Fire Dept Pumper and Brush truck, sat on the street beside the snow covered ruins of a burned out 150 year old home.
The Fuel Supply depot was much larger than the one back in Bergstown, three massive fuel storage tanks and other structures around them that Jared had no idea of their purpose. A Fuel truck sat at a filling station beside one of the tanks, the drivers door open.
A building with two attached Carports big enough to hold very larger Pump trucks directly opposite was a two story building with a roll up warehouse. All it surrounded by a eight foot fence topped with Razor wire. The Gates stood half open. And about twenty zombies were in the yard staggering towards the fence and the gates as the three vehicles pulled up to the gates.
On the street there were probably eighty or more undead spread out over the block and only six were close to the gates, but far enough away that two men could throw the gats fully open, let the vehicles inside and then hopefully close the gates before the undead in the yard or the undead on the street could reach them.
“Ori, Ed, your with me, We open and close the gates, then start clearing the yard.” Jared said as Mike pulled up to the gate. Doors opened and the three men leaped out.
Jared Leaped out slamming the door in Nibblers face before the too loyal Dog could join him. He lifted his Hk to his shoulder and ran backwards to the gate, slamming his back against it and pushing, as he swept his rifle across the threat zone. He heard Oris Rifle fire once, then twice then the gate on the drivers side swung open.
Instantly Mike gunned the ELSORV into the Yard aiming the vehicle right at four undead forty feet ahead. The Van raced past, then the Tacoma gun truck followed and so did five zombies.
Jared sighted and fired dropping one, a former nurse by the look of it. the gate hit him in the back as a zombie in the yard reached it. Jared spun and kicked the gate knocking the zombie to the ground, then spun again, just as Ed fired dropping one of the three remaining zombies trying to get in.
The men in the Tacoma opened fire with their personal weapons, not using the Fifty for fear of damaging something critical. Jared Shot down the second to last of the closest zombies, Ori got the last, and both men ran into the yard.
Jared fired pointblank into the chest and head of the zombie he had knocked down as it struggled to get back up. the grabbed the gate and swung it closed, he locked it into position and covered Ed as he closed the other side.
Pulling a long quick tie from his coat Jared quickly secured the gates, as Ori and Ed fired into the undead in the yard. Most of whom were now heading for the three men out in the open.
Jared turned and saw two zombies with in ten feet of him. slinging his rifle he stepped quickly up to the closest of the two, right between its arms. People always assumed or were wrongly taught that it was hard to break a neck, it wasn’t fourteen pounds of pressure was all it took, Jared thought as he reached out grasped the zombie on each side of the head and twisted its neck snapped loudly. Instantly it collapsed to the ground, Jared was already moving into the next zombie.
A snap kick to the knee shattered it he slid right, swept its arms out of the way and as it twisted and fell, he drew the Khurkri and brought it whistling around to crack into the skull, destroying the brain inside.
He raced back to the zombie whose neck he had broken and crushed its skull, and saw a zombie had come up, unobserved on Ori’s left side as Ori was firing on a zombie directly in front of him.
Jared reached and drew his pistol, the Mk.23 came into line, and Jared fired once, putting the zombie down, he shifted right and put a round into the forehead of a zombie near the carport, another shot and he took down the Zombie that in life had dressed like a hooker, to much make up, skin tight leopard skin pants and a halter top that had stopped even trying to cover the once impressive cleavage some time back. She went down splayed out as if on display. a burly balding zombie who wore only a pull over shirt stepped out from behind a tangle of pipes and Jared shot him down as well, then silence fell over the fuel yard.
“Ed, Get Lee and go check out that fuel truck see if we can get it running, if its full then we have scored big, if not lets get a generator out and power up the pumps.” Jared said as he ejected the magazine of his Mk.23 and replaced it with a full one before holstering the weapon.
“Damn Jared” Ori said wiping at the back of his neck, and then held it up showing Jared Blood. “that one grazed me.”
“it was either that or let it bite you” Jared said as he walked over quickly and checked Ori’s neck, worried that maybe the zombies teeth had cut Oris skin as it fell away, hiding his relief at seeing no sign of a bite mark only the tell tale mark of a near miss.
Outside the undead were beginning to pile up along the fence along the street. It was already getting dark and in minutes Jared would have a choice light the place up and draw in every zombie in the area, or keep the light to a bare minimum and deal it not being bright enough to see every where at once.
With all the gunfire, most of the zombies in town are heading this way anyway, so might as well go with all the light we need. Jared thought.
“ get some lights on the fuel truck and on the pump house.” Jared ordered as he crossed the yard, the stink of rotting meat and old blood filling the air. He could hear the chain link fence rattling as the undead shook and pawed at it.
Every one that doesn’t need to be on the ground, needs to be in vehicles just in case that fence comes down” Jared said.
Lee, hadn’t been this nervous since he had escaped the Hospital he had worked at on the day the dead rose. As the spot lights and fog lights on the vehicles came on illuminating the Fuel truck he climbed up inside, he reached under the dash near the steering column hand searching for the bundle of wires he knew had to be there.
Something moved on the floorboard, barely seen and then pain flared in his calf as teeth bit down. Screaming he threw himself out of the truck and landed on the ground almost knocking the air from his lungs, his hands clamped around his calf were blood was flowing freely.
Ed ran to his side, then recoiled as a Fox leaped out of the Cab hissing and barking before vanishing into the tangle of pipes and odd looking Metal containers. Ed started laughing, more out of relief than for any other reason as he looked down at the fire plug of a man who was rolling around in pain..
“oh god you screamed like a castrated kid” Ed got out then the laughter came again. “Bet they heard that in DC.”
“Fuck you” Lee snapped as Jared appeared with his First Aid Kit, i.e Paramedics bag.
“hold still you baby” Jared admonished Lee. “I’ve had worse in my eye.”
“sure you have” Lee said but stopped rolling around and moved his hands so Jared could take a look.
“its not too bad,” Jared said as he pulled a bottle of whiskey out of the bag.
“your going to drink” Lee asked.
“I do this better when Drunk.” Jared said lifting the bottle then poured it over the wound.
‘oooo.. you… bastard” Lee gasped.
“Its either clean it well, or saw it off later after it gets infected” Jared said, hoping that Pharmacist that arrived at Sullivan would have the first patch of Penicillin ready soon before they ran out of pre dead antibiotics.
“Just do what you need to” Lee said, laying back and gritting his teeth. Behind them, as if they smelled the blood, the undead shook the fence even harder. Jared got to work, cleaning the wound as best he could then bound the wound. He handed Lee an antibiotic and waited till he had draw swallowed the thing before helping the man to his feet.
“I know it hurts but suck it up and deal with it Lee, we need that truck running if at all possible. It it helps, I can find the fox and let it bite you in the ass so you forget about the calf wound”
“Just help me to the damn truck” Lee said hobbling forward.
Jared helped him over and then handed Lee off to Ed. “ he is going to need some help till the swelling goes down and the pain ebbs” Jared said then walked over to the ELSORV, where Jill and Nibbler waited.
“I don’t think I ever really noticed just how creepy they really are till now” Jill said staring at the undead just barely visible along the fence line. Watching as heads swiveled or bobbed, Teeth snapped in anticipation. Some had their mouths stretched open as if silently screaming. The only sounds they made were the creak of drying limbs, the rustle of clothes and the rattling of the chain link fence. “do you really think they will just stop one day” She asked suddenly. “ I mean really believe it.”
Jared had never really seen her like this, and it worried him. He nodded slowly. “I do” he said. “In those books, the one from Gail and the one from that old guy Eric met, it says it will end at some point. And I believe it,” he told her, but how do you tell her to have hope but that the man she loves is supposed to die before our child reaches adult hood.
“ Jill, I don’t know about anything else the two sides are fighting over, but Hope is something the dark wants to kill, and Personally I plan on pissing in its eye till the day I die” Jared said, wanting to wrap his arms around her but not out here not when he might need to draw a weapon quickly.
“I just needed to hear it from you again, there are times I find it hard to believe” she said then turned away from the fence.
“Your having dreams again aren’t you” Jared asked suddenly as a light went off in his mind.
She nodded, “ not like the ones with that freak bowler hat, but almost as bad, but I keep seeing places all over the world where people are being dragged out into the streets and eaten, and there’s this guy walking through it all, I never really see him. and he never says anything, but it always ends in D.C. I’m running for the capitol building and he is waiting for me. Then I wake up.” She said shivering at the memory.
He placed his left hand on her shoulder and squeezed gently saying nothing. What could he say he would do what ever it took to make her safe but he couldn’t guarantee her safety, he could only promise to die trying.
Lanterns glowed in the hangar chasing away darkness, as Ronny and Ben worked on the small snowplow. Harald stood off to one side watching quietly, his attention drifting to Lany more often than not.
“ do we really need a snow plow” Lany asked, as Ronny banged his thumb and snarled a string of curses that would have made a sailor blush.
“do women really need Lub….. um sorry. In a pinch no I would try to take off with out plowing. But in general yeah, we need a plow, that snow will drag on the gear adding resistance, and if we cant hit the right speed we don’t leave the ground, or we bounce and land bounce and land, till we hit woods, Or and this is the most likely we just get stuck and go no where” Ronny said as he rolled around and finally got to his feet and wiped is hands on his pants. “and it looks like we are going to have to do with out a plow” Ronny said. The battery is shot, the fuel system is gummed up and no way to clean it.”
Harald refrained from pointing out that a helicopter didn’t have the limitations that a plane did.
“So we either wait for daylight and maybe a thaw, or we try flying out now, the snow has slacked off some and the wind is right” Ronny said.
“I wouldn’t call that slacked off, looks the same to me” Ben commented.
“and what happens if the weather gets worse while we are in the air” Lany asked.
“then we figure out how to make parachutes out of those little napkins and jump to safety” Ronny quipped.
“ I feel so much more confident now” Lany muttered.
“Ronny, I know how much you want to keep your plane, but.” Harald paused then forged on ahead. “while you were napping, Lany and I checked out the other hanger, and found an old S-62a, I fly us to camp and when weather is good again I fly us back to pick up your plane.”
Ronny sat there for a moment, he had almost forgotten that Harald was a helicopter pilot. “no” he said finally, if he left the plane he had nothing to offer Jared, he couldn’t fight, he couldn’t fly he would be totally worthless.
“”I can have it ready to fly in a couple of hours” Harald . “ I am used to flying this kind of weather and mountains and in the dark.”
“I said no” Ronny barked, then looked embarrassed. “Sorry, I mean the weather will probably be clear by sunrise and then we can try.”
Harald watched him for a moment then said something to Lany in French will really irritated Ronny. Lany nodded “ hey Ben I need to show you something’ She said, Ben started to protest but saw the look she flashed him and followed her over to the plane.
“I do not know you well Ronny,” Harald said once the Lany and Ben were out of earshot. “but something bothers you.” He said his pale blue eyes darting to the brace on Ronnys leg.
“yes something bothers me, the whole damn world out there bothers Me. Being stuck here bothers me, but the reason we have that plane is the amount of people or cargo it can carry. If I just leave it here it does us no good” Ronny said barely managing not to shout at the Norwegian.
“it does no good sitting here in a hangar miles away from our friends” Harald said.
“our friends?” Ronny said then stopped cold looking embarrassed again. “I’m sorry Harald. I don’t even know why I said that.”
Harald ran a finger along the edge of his Troll axe, as if thinking. Probably about how much he would love to kill me right now Ronny thought. God he had no idea what in the hell brought that out, yes he was depressed but this.
“I am here because I chose to be Ronny, if I chose not to be, I and Lany will leave.” Harald replied then leaned in closer to Ronny. “you have the dream, and it will destroy you if you let it Ronny.” He said then turned and walked towards the Hangar Door, Calling for Lany to follow. She looked at Ronny then headed after her boyfriend.
He watched as they slid the hangar door open just wide enough to slip outside, then close it behind them. He noticed Ben watching him. “What?” he asked. “lets get the plane ready, I want to take off as soon as its light, assuming the weather cooperates”
He stood there for a moment trying to forget the nightmare he’d had, it wasn’t real no matter what Jared might think, he told himself and if he kept telling himself that he might start believing it.
He reached into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet, he was probably one of the few men on the island that still carried one. He flipped it open and held it at angle to catch the light. The picture was of he and Mary at Spirit lake, in Oregon, Mary was dressed in a bright red bikini her arm around his waist as she smiled into the camera. Back then he didn’t limp. Back then he had been confident he could protect not only himself but her. But now, he could not do either much less protect their unborn child.
He didn’t even want to tell the others that he was scared to take the plane up in this kind of weather and especially in trying to land in the mountains. He studied every inch of Mary’s features searing them into his mind, using her to settle his mind.
“I miss you” he whispered then closed his wallet and replaced it in his pocket. I will find a way to protect her and the baby he vowed.
the fence was swaying steadily under the weight of the undead as the sound of the generator and the lights drew more and more undead. to the Fuel yard.
Lew stood beside the fuel truck watching the meter as the pumps slowly filled the tank. The unleaded half of the tank was already full, and in a few more minutes the Diesel half would be full. He kept casting a nervous glances a the fence twenty feet from him, thankful that there were pipes and tanks separating him from the fence.
Cables ran from the batteries under the passenger seat of the ELSORV to the Fuel truck charging the fuel trucks batteries. Lee slid out of the engine compartment then had Ed help him up into the cab. As he pulled himself into the cab, he looked cautiously under the seat but saw no other critters, but in the light that spilled into the cab he saw his blood on the floorboard and something shiny, in fact it was a key. He picked it up climbed into the seat, almost holding his breath he inserted the key and turned it one position grininng as lights glowed on the console. “Lets try it” he called down to Ed who nodded in agreement.
Lee ignored the sounds of straining metal from the fence, Please let this work, he didn’t know who he prayed to, and it didn’t matter as long as who ever it was, was a good guy and listened.
Jared turned as the Diesel engine roared to life on the fourth try. “YES” he shouted. Then turned towards the fence, and saw the undead had stopped pushing, they just stood there silent and still, watching and waiting for something.
“What the hell” Ed muttered.
“I don’t know” Jared replied. “I’ve only seen them do this a few times at a distance, never when they were about to tear down a fence to get to us.”
“every one mount up and get ready to get the hell out of here” Jared called out. “we clear the way with the Ma deuces when we leave.” He said transmitting on the radio to make sure every one heard him. What ever the undead were waiting on Jared had no intention of waiting around for it to get here.
Snow swirled around them cutting visibility down to about five feet, which made Bentons Skin crawl, he could literally walk right into a zombie with out seeing it till it was too late. He could just see them stumbling up through the heavy falling snow, arms out stretched, mouths yawning open as they came up behind him, and his first warning…..
Don’t even think about it, we are behind the motion sensors, they would go off before a zombie could get that close, Benton told himself as he almost stumbled over a snow covered picnic table under a Hemlock tree.
Of course if he wasn’t wearing night vision, he wouldn’t see them at all. Thank god there were enough working units for a patrol he thought not even wanting to contemplate patrolling in the dark with out them
What if there was a zombie, already here under the snow, all legless and rotting waiting for some red headed dumbass like me to put my boot down right by its mouth.
“corporal” the voice was low almost unheard, it was Tolliver, as Benton started to turn towards him, a shrill alarm went off, then another, then all of the remaining motion sensor alarms began to wail.
Placed at thirty foot intervals with slightly overlapping fields the sensors were high enough not to be set off by small game, and were tuned so that something the size of your average human could set them off. A Bear could or a moose could probably set one off, but that would be quite few bears to set off all of the units.
“Back to the Lodge now” Benton said, if this was a horde he wasn’t not going to keep the squad out here to get overrun. “lets go” he said, backing up slowly as the rest of the squad took off at a clumsy jog he waited only a moment, till he could see the a line of shadowy staggering and lurching shapes in the snow coming straight for him and the lodge behind him, then turned and followed his squad.
“Contact, lots of them” he transmitted as he ran catching up to his squad as they reached the vehicles that were parked in a the front of the building, each vehicle parked nose to end with the next one, the last vehicle on each end was parked against the building the entire thing acting as defensive wall.
They scrambled up and over the bed of one of the trucks and dropped down on the other side, “Tolliver get upstairs with that SAW and set up to cover the front” Benton said, “the rest of us will defend here under cover of the SAW till we have to fall back. To the lodge.”
Thor Jansen came out of the lodge to find his squad already setting up to support the men behind the vehicle barricade. At least handfuls were in side the RV’s where they could fire from the windows. The Bushmaster and pintle mount of the LAV were manned
There was no real reason to try to hide now, Thor thought as he ordered the spot lights to be turned on, in an eye blink the area was brilliantly lit, as the light reflected off the snow. They waited quietly the wail of alarms rippling through the night.
Through the falling snow, they appeared, a loose semi circle of men, women, children, in every state of dress and undress. Doctors, construction workers, day care workers, Landscapers, police, staggering and stumbling towards the lodge.
Thor’s mind flashed back to Defending Fort Jackson, the thousands of undead that just kept coming from the city outside the Base, mortars and artillery had pounded the road for two days turning the undead into paste, small arms had blasted those on the edges, but they had kept coming staggering over the shattered bodies of those before.. it was unnerving to see them keep coming on silently no matter how many were burned down before them, they just kept coming, never stopping just an endless flood of undead. but that was then this is now, they can be stopped, He told himself.
He watched as the undead reached point alpha, the line he had chosen for his one major surprise “ claymores” he ordered, thankful that Jared had insisted they carry a few cases of Claymores that had been recovered from the terminal.
A claymore was nothing more than a slightly curved plastic case that can be placed on the ground, taped to trees or even undead. each mine contained a layer of C-4 behind seven hundred steel balls about the size of #4 birdshot, set into an epoxy resin.
When fired the C-4 breaks the balls loose of the resin sending them down range at 3,937 feet per second, in a 60 degree fan shaped pattern that is six and half feet tall and 55 yards wide.
And Thor had ordered 20 to be placed in an arc, with overlapping fields of fire and daisy chained together so they could be fired as one. At his order, 14000 steel balls erupted into the face of the undead
The zombies didn’t gave a damn about the buzzing steel balls that tore them apart like a giant mad blender ripping and shredding destroying ever zombie in its path for over 20 meters, crippling and killing those at 30 meters, and crippling many more out at 50 meters.
“fire” He called out loudly transmitting the order at the same time. “ remember you are behind a wall, use single shot and aim for gods sake, conserve ammo while we can.”
a wall of sound erupted, fingers of flame stabbed out into the night, as the defenders finally fired at the enemy. Zombies tumbled and fell, the merely crippled still crawled or even wiggled through the carnage still trying to reach the living.
It was a hard thing to take, Thor knew, watching the dead just keep coming. You could see hundred of them jerking and dancing as rounds hammered into, and though you knew better, you still expected them to scream in pain, and break and run. But they never did, they just come on, closer and closer till a bullet takes off the tops of their heads or punches a fist sized hole out of the back of their skulls.
“Grenades, HE only” he ordered. Across the line, soldiers lobbed grenades out into the undead, Grenades against the living had a five meter kill zone, with possible death and wounding out to ten, with the undead, a grenade usually crippled out to five, maybe one or two would fall over from a lucky piece of shrapnel in the head, but crippled was far better than fully mobile Thor thought.
“Tolliver if you would please” Thor transmitted, Tolliver had set up his SAW in a third floor room, and now proceeded to rake his fire across the horde. Smiling savagely as the angle of his fire put rounds through heads, then the arms and torsos of the zombies behind them, and even into the legs of yet the ones behind those.
Finally the undead reached the wall of vehicles, hands and arms were reaching across beds and hoods trying to get to the living who were calmly shooting them in the face.
It was a nightmare scene, like nothing in any movie, with the silent dead pawing wildling trying to reach the men on the other side.
Hearing a man scream in Pain, Thor whirled and saw a man down with a zombie tearing at him, blood was splashing on the truck beside them. To Thors Complete surprise another zombie was climbing into the back of a truck above the screaming man, climbing when the hell did they learn how to climb, he asked himself as he fired at the zombie now in the truck bed, he blew out its chest then blew its head off its shoulders. Two other men put down the zombie inside the vehicle barricade and its victim.
Thor looked around quickly but saw no other climbing zombies. Weird he thought,”heads up folks at least two of those stinking puss bags knew how to climb. So keep a sharp eye out.”
The sound of the battle rolled down the mountains and valleys like the thunder of the god of war.
With every vehicle and flat pack gas can filled, the pumps were shut down the generator was unhooked and reloaded. and not once did the undead outside the fence move or respond. It was by far the most disturbing thing Jared had seen them do so far.
The plan to leave was simple, two men Jared and Ed would open the gates and run for the Van which would be bringing up the rear, while the fuel truck led the way out of the gate, it was large enough and weighed enough it should be able to push its way through the undead with ease, creating a passage for the other vehicles to follow in.
As soon as the vehicles were lined up and waiting ready to go, Jared and Ed approached the gates slowly not sure what to expect. The undead still did not respond to they just stood there shoulder to snow covered shoulder, cloudy eyes just watching. Jared stood there at the gate, six inches from at least a hundred undead with only a chain link double gate separating them. Drawing his knife he looked at Ed, who looked as pale as the undead, nervous sweat beading his forehead, Ed nodded that he was ready.
Jared cut the quick tie, ready to run like hell if the horde surged forward and pushed the gate open, but nothing happened. Puzzled and not a little scared, he grasped his section of gate and pulled it open not a response at all from the undead. “wait tillwe get to the van before you move” he transmitted, if the zombies weren’t going to do a think with the gates open he wanted to take advantage of it.
As soon as they the gate opened, he and Ed jogged back to the van and climbed inside. “Okay Lee, lets go.” He said keying the transmit button.
The Fuel truck roared forward, followed closely by the ELSORV, the moment it struck the first zombie, it was like a switch had been thrown, the horde went wild,attacking the fuel truck beating on its sides, while more swarmed through the open gates. All along the fence the undead moved towards the now open gate. The Men in the Tacoma Gun truck, ducked down, below the metal places that had been used to raise the height of the sides of the bed, as the truck rocked back and forth, zombies beating on it.
“I’ve never seen them acting this way” Mike said from behind the wheel of the van.
“me either” Jared replied was the undead reached the van, Nibbler started barking wildly, in the back where Jill struggled to hold the pit bull who was trying to leap at the side door where undead hands beat.
It seemed to go on forever, the vehicles rocking from side to side, as the undead pushed against them. The steady beating sound of flesh on metal or glass was like the drum beat of deaths approach. Then one by one the vehicles broke through the crowd and sped up weaving around the zombies still ahead of them, and rapidly losing the horde that followed on their heels.
Jared found himself shaking as the adrenalin slowly leaked from his system, then his family jewels were abused as Nibbler now free of Jills, leaped into his lap doing her doggy happy dance before licking his face wildly.
In the back of the Van, Ori hooked the speakers up this his IPOD, then selected a song. Pat Benetars Invincible filled the air.
“for once he picks good music” Jared muttered as they flew out of town snow swirling behind them.
Once they were back on the open road, Jared flipped on a red lensed light and studied the map of the area. Before they had left the Fuel yard he had already picked their route, which would take them back to Madison, then take 29 to 230 to Wolfstown, and Stanardsville, a side road would keep them from enter Stanardsville and get them to H 33 west, from there the road headed up to Swift run Gap between High top mountain and Saddleback Mountain, then its north on the Skyline riding the mountain ridges and shoulders to the camp which was an old resort near the Franklin cliffs overlook. All in all it would take them an hour, maybe longer depending on wrecks and conditions.
“Ori get on the radio and try Ronny again, then Get Thor on the line and tell him we are inbound, ETA one and half hours.” Jared said, better to guestimate later then be early than to guess early and show up long after the party.
Jared sat back watching the Dark snow covered forests and rolling hills slid past, absently petting Nibbler who not realizing she was a ninty pound pit bull curled up and lay in his lap.
He could hear Ori talking quietly on the radio, but there was an urgency to his tone, though Jared couldn’t pick our the words. After a moment Ori signed off . “the camp is under attack, Thor thinks there might be a thousand or more of the things, they are about to pull back into the main lodge building, he says and I quote, some of the undead are climbers, a few climbed up into trucks and leaped into the barricaded area in front of the lodge” Ori reported.
“how, I’ve never seen a zombie do anything but fall down, and they had trouble getting back up from that.” Jared said, as the tension levels in the Van ratcheted up. Steve, Mark, you two assholes had better show up in my dreams tonight if I live and tell me exactly what the hell is going on Jared thought,
“Never saw them stand there and stare at us with out attacking before either, but they did” Ori commented.
“what’s next zombies driving cars and chasing us” Logan muttered from the bed, still feeling bad.
“shut up and feel better” Jared replied.
“trying Jared, I still feel like hammered dog shit though.” Logan said.
“and I couldn’t raise Ronny, But with this weather he is probably holed up in hangar or something.” Ori said.
Or he is trapped in a hangar surrounded by undead, just like we were, and like the camp is, Jared thought, the Dark was damn sure playing for keeps these days.
“ I need to figure out where Ronny is too” Jared said aloud.
Jill leaned between the seats, “ let me see the maps would you” Jared shrugged and passed it to her.
Jill turned on a light, and studied the map for a few moments the dug around in a drawer till she found a pencil and a notepad.
“what are you doing” Ori asked leaning forward interested, as she wrote several columns of numbers and then a complex math problem.
“ figuring out where Ronny probably is” she said absently. Jared turned in his seat as much as nibbler would allow.
“how?” Ori asked.
“Ronny showed me the manuels on the Twin otter, before we left. So I have a general idea on how much fuel it uses per mile, I know how big the tanks are and the how much the Fuel the expandable Tanks, that Eric left us, hold. In addition I know the maximum range, how long he has been flying on the fuel he has, and I know about how bad the weather was when he took off so…” she said as she wrote out a something that looked like Greek to Ori except for a few numbers he recognized.
“knowing Ronny would land while he still had enough fuel to reach at least two other alternative locations in case the first had no fuel, I figure he is about here.” She said circling a large area on the map.
“that’s not a lot of help” Ori said.
“actually it is, the topo maps shows five air fields in that area. We can scratch the one In Charlottesville, its too large, to many undead in the area, we can scratch these two because he would have to fly past two others to reach them, but this one was the closest to the old camp, and that’s where he would have put down first” Jill said, sounding totally confident.
Ori looked closer and smiled. “outside of Madison, your kidding” Ori said, looking up at Jared. “I keep telling you she is a genius”
“she is full of surprises” Jared acknowledged, there wasn’t much they could do just yet to Help Thor, and swinging out of their way for a few minutes to check and see if Ronny was nearby was more than worth it, especially if Ronny was trapped in a hanger. “Change of plans, when we reach Madison, we are going to take a detour.” Jared transmitted to the other drivers.
Madison was much like it had been when they had passed through before, dark and silent with no sign of Life or undead. they stopped at a 7-11, that turned out to be as empty as the rest of the town, two minutes later Jared was back in the Van with a phone book. He flipped through the book till he found what he was looking for then plugged the name and address of the air field into the GPS unit on the dash, and smiled as a route appeared.
“Okay every one else follow the Van.” Jared transmitted.
Madison as it turned out was not all that big, about .2 of a square mile all told, mostly 150 year buildings or older. Tree lined streets, old homes ranging from Antebeullum to Victorian on wide snow covered lawns with shade trees covered in snow and ice. On the outer edges of town were More modern homes, and trailers.
The airport was just outside of town, surrounded by thick woods, snow covered fields and farm houses. At least if the GPS was right, Jared thought as They turned down a road that ran west under a vault of trees.
The windshield wipers were thumbing steadily, giving Jared a view of the thick falling snow, that sparkled and glowed in the headlights. Dark trees on either side of the road loomed over the vehicles till they emerged into a snow-covered field.
“I want the fuel truck and the Gun Truck to wait here” Jared said, only wanting the two vehicles he knew were serious off road vehicles to take the risk of crossing what looked like a pasture, if there was a road here it was buried under snow. The GPS dinged and a soft femine voice announced they were at their location.
“head to the west” Jill said looking at the map.
“you heard the lady, lets head west” Jared said. Mike didn’t say anything only turned, his hands tight on the wheel as he worried about getting stuck.
The Van and the ELSORV rolled through the snow on the ground as If it wasn’t there, and there just ahead appearing out of the falling snow like a conjurer’s illusion were the dark shape of barn like hangars.
They parked in front of the closest Hangar, Jared climbed out into the snow, feeling wet flakes land on his face. The cold wind off the nearby mountains sent tingles through his exposed skin.
It was dark enough, that Jared decided to use the light mounted on his HK instead of going and getting the three NVG’s still in the van. Other lights clicked on and beams of white light speared out sweeping around the area looking for undead.
“it looks clear” Jared said as he strode up to the Hangar and taking a chance he banged on the door. “Ronny,” he hollered.
it was dark in the hanger, to dark, Ronny climbed out of the plane wincing as pain lanced through his bad leg. “Ben, Damon, other guy.” Ronny called out. I really should have asked what his name was, he thought “ Harald, Lany”. There was no answer, only the soft sigh of the winter wind outside the hangar.
Where the hell had they gone he thought, Harald, that asshole got every one to fly out on the helicopter while I was sleeping. I cant believe they left me here. The fear that had been coiled in his belly surged up as he realized he was standing alone in a hangar, that was surrounded by land that was just as empty as the hanger, and the land and the town beyond that was equally empty of life.
It was a crushing sense of loneliness, to know that other than the camp, and Sullivan island there were hundreds if not thousands of square miles around him filled with nothing but dead towns, and the living dead.
Something fell to the floor with a metallic clang on the other side of the hangar. Ronny reached back into the plane and pulled out the M-4 and lifted it to his shoulder, triggering the light mounted to the rail. And swept it across the back wall of the hangar where the noise had come from but saw no one.
He limped forward, scared at the situation and angry at his limitation. On impulse he turned slowly and swept the beam of his light around the hangar, but saw nothing till the beam passed over the hangar door. He froze seeing the blood that ran down the sliding door and pooled on the floor below where one of the soldiers packs lay.
Oh dear god he thought sweeping his light around the hangar again, some how the undead gotten in but where were they, he thought. The two planes that had been in the hangar were gone so there was no…. gone..
The light on his weapon dimmed, flickered then went out plunging him back into darkness. Fear surged through him, an no matter how hard he tried to suppress it, it wouldn’t go away.
He turned and ran, as much as he could run with his bad leg, for the Twin otter but gave up after a moment not able to find it in the dark.
From behind him a soft slithering noise reached his ears and caused him to whirl around, eyes straining to see in the darkness. No smell there’s no undead here, he told himself but that didn’t make him feel any better.
He stumbled around hoping to bump into the plane, and realized that the darkness was not as dark as before. He looked around and saw an open door in the far wall, a dim orange light spilling across the doorway.
As scared as he was, a primal part of his brain said that light equaled safety, so he started towards the doorway. As he drew closer he could hear some one crying in terror.
The room was small, lined with banded iron. In the center of the room was a chair where a woman sat her back to the door. Long dark hair fell down her back, her shoulders shook as she sobbed.
“its going to be okay” he found himself saying as he limped towards her. she said nothing only sobbed harder. He stepped around in front of her and his eyes widened in horror as he saw the tortured face, and cut open belly. “No,” He yelled stumbling backwards trying to get away from the Corpse of Mary that slowly stood, milky eyes locked with his, her mouth yawned open as she took a step towards him, dragging a leg, and one of her arms dangled at her side.
“oh yes” a girl said from the doorway, a cruel smile on her face. “ do you like me Daddy.” She asked twirling around her dressing swirling about her legs.
When she stopped her perfect arms and face were motlted and rotting, her nose was gone.
“see what you did, you couldn’t save us, you’re a cripple, worthless. Why didn’t you save us” she said, the voice distorted.
He lifted the rifle in his hands, settling his sights on Marys forehead, and his finger tightened on the trigger and he couldn’t do it.
“cripple, loser, you let us die.” She chanted a cruel dark smile of real amusement on her face.
He turned and pulled the trigger.
“Ronny” A man shouted, as the weapon in Ronny’s hand was wrenched away.
“holy hell Ronny” Ben shouted in his ear, “wake up”
Ronnys eyes shot open, for a second he was confused to find himself standing the hanger, a lantern burning brightly on a barrel. Harald held Ronny’s M-4 by its shroud and the smell of cordite filled the air.
“what? How did I” he asked confused, reality and nightmare blended seamlessly for a moment.
then it came back to him, he had gone to bed in the plane to wait for the weather to clear up.
“you tried to shoot Lany” Ben told him.
“no, it was my daughter or.. no something that pretended to be her,and Mary was dead and gutted, one of the undead and… “ his voice trailed off he shook his head in confusion.
“Ronny you don’t have a daughter, Mary is still alive on Sullivan remember” Ben said worried for his friend, and not knowing what he should do.
“it was a dream, all a fucking dream” Ronny finally said, as relief swept over him and the last tentacles of the nightmare fell away and then what Ben had said sunk in. His eyes widened as the turned to the young woman “ God Lany, I’m sorry, I.. I don’t know what to say.”
“your lucky Harald didn’t kill you” Ben said.
“I would have killed you, but I realized you were asleep” Harald said, his was angry and Ronny didn’t blame him. man can I screw up any worse.
“I’m sorry, really I am. I’ve never done anything like that before” Ronny said softly.
Lany, didn’t know what to say, she knew Ronny better than Harald, and the Ronny with them now was not the man who had traveled with her from Clarksville to Sullivan island, that man had been friendly, a dog yes, but funny and caring. Not scared, scarred and broken like the man who stood before her.
Lany didn’t say anything, on impulse she wrapped her arms around him and hugged. After a second he hugged her back. “just don’t do it again okay” She asked.
“I swear Ill try” Ronny said
“hey, I hear motors” Damon said breaking in.
every one fell silent, Haralds icy gaze never left Ronny. He was not going to forget, or trust Ronny for a long while to come. Outside they heard two vehicles stop nearby. For a moment there was only the sound of idling motors then some one began banging on metal. Then a familiar voice shouted “Ronny”
“Ronny you asshole you had better be in there or in the next hangar or I swear to god, I will kick your ass.” Jared yelled. There was a sound like grinding metal, and then light spilled out into the snow from the now open door of the next hangar.
“why kick my ass,” Ronny said stepping outside, so relieved to see Jared and his friends he sounded almost normal.
“Because Jill was the one that said you would be here and I cant kick her ass, she would beat the hell out of me” Jared said as he strode forward and wrapped his arms around Ronny and lifted him off the Ground in a bear hug. “God I was worried, but we cant stay either:” Jared said. “ the camp is under attack by more undead.”
“more undead, at the new camp” Ronny said shaking his head. “well let me tell you it hasn’t been fun around here either” Ronny said, as he stepped aside to let Jared and the others enter the hangar. He quickly and with some embarrassment told them about his dream and what he had woken to. “last time I take a sleeping pill” Ronny said when he was finished with the story.
“are you sure that Bowler hat thing is dead” Mike asked, if there was on thing on this planet he hated more alive or undead, no one knew it existed. It had twisted and warped Mikes wife till her mind wasn’t her own but that of the woman Bowler hat Had created and he would never forget it. .
“Positive” Jared replied, but dead didn’t mean they couldn’t come back in dreams, and Bowler hat had prowled mens dreams before it had been destroyed. So who knew, but he wasn’t about to suggest that to the others. “the dark can use dreams against us too, don’t ask me how to protect against it” Jared said shrugging but he remembered something from the books, he would have to check on. God its come down to magic, divinations and spells. What I wouldn’t give to fight desert storm again, just man and machines vs more men and machines. Hell id settle for tying rocks to sticks and fighting to this.
“Jared” Ed prompted miming looking at a watch.
Jared started to agree, but there was something in Ronnys eyes, and in the way he stood, he needed Jared and his friends, needed them badly. Duty, honor, where did it lie in this situation Jared asked himself.
“Ed, Go get on the radio and ask Thor for an update, Tell him we might be delayed longer than expected.” Jared said knowing he should head straight to the camp, but the weather was bad, the roads would be treacherous, and he still wasn’t even sure what they could do once they got there.
He turned to Ronny, who looked relieved that Jared wasn’t just rushing off. “ so lets start this story again, you say you woke up to an empty hangar”
Ronny nodded and this time slowly told Jared and the others the whole dream, not leaving out a single gory detail. When he finished, Jill walked over and wrapped her arms around him for a moment.
“Ronny I have to ask, how long have you been having these nightmares” Jared asked.
Ronny hesitated, not really wanting to tell Jared the he had been having nightmares and really dark dreams since he lost consciousness during the Blood transfusion. “off and on I’ve had nightmares for a month now, but nothing like that one” Ronny said.
“any one else having nightmares” Jared asked looking around. Mike raised a hand, so did Logan, but the no one else had, or at least admitted it. one of the oddest things since the world had fallen apart, was the lack of dreams. Or if they had any at all, it was either the dreams of the dead who came to say goodbye or nightmares that every one remembered at least for the few who actually had them, gone or forgotten were the old dreams of sex or showing up to work naked.
“Carrie, or really Maggie came to me in a couple of dreams”Mike volunteered. “typical your going to die, I hate you dreams like you would expect from Maggie.”
“Logan?” Jared asked.
“I.. Um.. usually it’s the same one, I’m lost in D.C., running from some one, and I find myself on the Mall running past the Lincoln Memorial, and I spot the Capitol building, so I head there, only as I run up the steps, a man steps out, I never really see his face, but I know I’m about to die and then I wake up”
Jill started at that, but said nothing. Jared had to admit it was strikingly similar to the Dreams Jill had been having.
“God I hate this crap” Jared muttered rubbing a hand along his jaw.
“join the club” Ronny replied, then fell silent as Ed returned.
Ed looked around for at the assembled group, then at Jared. “Thor says, we might as well take our time, they have fallen back into the lodge and holed up on the second floor. If the undead get inside, they can hold them at the stairs, but he says they are firing from the windows and are doing a ‘grand job of clearing the undead assholes out.’ His words not mine. They lost three men, and there are other survivors with them, that had been holed up in the lodge when they arrived. He also said, he doubts we would be able to get through at this point between the snow, the ice and the undead. but they have things well in hand and say we can stay put for the night”
Jared nodded, ashamed that he had hoped to hear something like that, but the relief he saw in Ronnys eyes knowing his friends were not just going to leave him here, was worth it. “ All right, Mike, Ed, Lew and Grant, got back and get the Fuel truck and the Tacoma, lets get them over here, there appears to enough room in here to bring all the vehicles inside for the night.”
Half an hour later the hangar seemed pretty crowded with the four vehicles, and the panes. Jared had the portable antenna for the Radio, placed outside, taped to the hangar wall with hundred mile an hour tape,
Diane, Lany and Jill were in the Van, where they would be sleeping. Diane was having a hard time dealing with the reality the bunker had shielded her from. But she was a strong woman and would pull through.
With two of the propane fired mini heaters going, the men sat around the lantern talking quietly, deciding after Ronnys dream and almost shooting Lany in his sleep that they would sleep in shifts to make sure there were no repeat sleep shootings, stabbings or throttling.
Jared sat beside Ronny just talking about old times, trying to keep it light. But deep down he was worried sick about the Camp, and he knew that Ronny knew how he felt.
“Thanks, for staying” Ronny said suddenly. “But you know you need and want to go help the camp.”
“your right, but there isn’t a damn thing I can really do at this point to help the convoy till the weather clears up and to be honest I was glad I could stay.” Jared said with a smile that hid the worry he felt seeing the haunted looking Ronnys eyes. He suspected there was a lot more Ronny needed to get off his chest.
“hang on” He told Ronny then rose and walked to the Van. Ronny watched Jared knock on the door to the van before opening it and climbed inside. When he returned Jared was Carrying a Guitar.
He set down and “how about I show you how much I’ve learned.”
Ronny shrugged, “what you mean is I need your help Ronny,”
Jared chuckled and nodded. Ronny’s smile was quick but natural, thankful for anything that kept his mind off the nightmare and what had almost happened.
For a little while the two friends managed to put aside their worries and fears.
the Storm broke sometime before dawn, leaving a cold crisp night sky where a million stars glittered uncaringly over the mountains as a red line spread across the horizon. In the pre dawn light Thor leaned against a window frame, exhausted watching the undead that surrounded the building. He could still see more of them staggering across the body littered ground, but it wasn’t the seemingly endless wave of before now it was groups, ten over there, forty over here spread out over the area. And even the numbers beating on the building had fallen there looked to be only a couple of hundred left.
gun fire still rocked the early morning, as markmen picked off zombies one by one, to fall into the pile that had built up around the building. The front doors had given way an hour ago, but the zombies that had made it inside had died on the steps before the barricade on the second floor. Thankfully the number of bodies had blocked off the spaces under the vehicles and no more zombies had been able to crawl into the area the vehicles blocked around the front doors of the lodge.
As the sun slid over the horizon, golden beams of light raced outward bathing the mountain peaks in glory. Men had to squint against the light that reflected off the snow. But the light caused Moral to soar as the defenders finally saw how few undead remained.
“I hear a vehicle” Benton said, as he sat aside his M-4 and dropped to the floor to sit with is back against a wall.
“more than one” Thor replied, “sounds like Jared has returned.”
“about time” Benton muttered.
“what, you want him to be able to hog all the zombie killing glory. So every one can talk about how he rescued us.”
“if it meant I got to sleep some, hell yes” Benton said chuckling. “ let him have all the glory as far as I’m concerned. Its over rated. Sleep is not.”
“I have to admit, Id enjoy a good nights sleep, a good game of poker, and maybe a few hours at a strip bar.” Thor replied as the sound of gun fire came from outside now. He leaned out in time to see the ELSORV plow through a group of undead, the ma deuce on the roof rocking and rolling cutting down undead.
some of the undead against the wall of the lodge turned and headed for the new arrivals which was a mistake, once they were away from the building, the Ma Dueces on both the Gun Truck and the ELSORV took them under fire. Half an hour later it was over.
Jared climbed out of the ELSORV, HK in hand, as teams swept the area using axes to put down any of the crippled undead. his gaze roamed over the carpet of bodies that littered the grounds, then at the pile around the vehicle barricade and at the base of the lodge wall.
he glanced up at the sky then back, it would be at least another half hour before Ronny would be overhead.
“we figured a little over two thousand” Thor Jansen called out as he climbed into the back of a truck and leaped down into the tangle of dead bodies his old squad followed along behind him. they all looked exhausted.
“how many did we lose” Jared asked, needing to know but not wanting to.
“five to the zombies, three injured from minor accidents like spraining an ankle leaping over a table to escape a zombie, or falling down a flight of stairs trying to rush up stairs to get a window.” Thor replied as he came to a stop in front of Jared , his eyes darting to the passenger door as Jill stepped out of the vehicle. A smile or relief came and went almost too fast to see. “ thanks to the barricade, and almost all of the men keeping cool, we were able to use single shots, so we didn’t blow through a shit load of ammo, but it still put a dent in our stores.”
“a year ago, we would have went through about six thousand rounds to take out two thousand undead.” Jared pointed out.
“true, we used about three thousand two hundred in this little dust up. had the Civvies reloading spent mags, while we kept up the fire. Oh and we used twenty of the claymores which took out quite a few, not as many as I would have liked, but it helped. Putting them on poles around head height angled slightly down was a great idea by the way, I think it doubled how many we were able to kill.” Thor said
“you should see it when Ori sets them up. the man is an artist, he can set them up low shredding everything in front of the claymores, then all those steel balls ripping up into the air reach a certain point and come back down again shredding more zombies.” Jared said, “now what was this about civilians.”
Thor shook his head sadly for a moment then told Jared the whole encounter, when he was finished Jared looked thoughtful, Jill how ever wore her heart on her sleeve.
“Id like to see them” She said, touching Thor’s wrist. Thor nodded “ Might as well, I still don’t know what we are going to do with them.” He said casting a look at Jared who said nothing.
They climbed over the barricade and entered the lodge, followed by Ori, Ed and Diane who looked sick at the sight of all the carnage. They left Diane in a room to eat some breakfast with others from the convoy then headed for the woman and her daughters room.
The woman and her daughter were in a room on the second floor that looked out over a flag stoned veranda that the undead hadn’t reached, and had a view of the Shenandoah valley that was breathtaking.
Thor stayed in the doorway, as Jared, Ori and Jill entered the room. As soon as Jared saw the woman he turned back to Thor. “get every one of these people down to the RVs for showers as soon as the bodies are cleared out of the area in front of the doors.” He said. Thor nodded.
The woman was slender, and dirty, her hair blond hair hung lank and lifeless around her face . her daughter was cleaner but not by much, she was a pretty girl around Bens age, with an empty holster on her hip and a bandaged shoulder.
“I’m sorry about what happened to your husband,” Jared said kneeling and looking into the womans green flecked brown eyes.
“I know who you are” she said trying to smile but failing.
Jared rocked back on his heels “Harmon, my husband told me.” She sadi.
“he came to you in a dream didn’t he” Jared asked, the woman nodded, tears spilling down her face leaving clean tracks.
“he said it wasn’t any ones fault but his, that he got shot.” She said. “ he told me he loved me and Kim, and that he wanted us to live. Then told me who you were.”
Jared glanced sideways at the daughter who seemed less than happy to have them in the room and wondered if she had been visited by her dad too. What ever she might have dreamed she was refusing to talk
I am really getting tired of the dead and their dream visits. But I guess it beats them just showing up as ghosts. Jared thought.
“I’m Jared Stone and this is my wife Jill. The blond short guy is Ori” Jared said. “we wont hurt you, when your ready we have food we can share with you and hot showers so you can get clean.”
“hot showers” She asked in disbelief.
“we have to RVs that run off of propane and Solar cells, with all the snow out there water is the one thing we are not in short supply of right now. And I think we have clean clothes we can share too” he said looking at Jill who nodded in agreement.
“we have a little while before the dead bodies are cleared out of the area so we can get to the RV. And Id would really like to hear about what you meant when you told one of my men that the Army deserted you people” Jared said.
He listened as she began to talk hesitantly at first then like a damn that had burst it poured out. He listened with out speaking not sure what to think, but furious at who ever had been issuing the orders. He could almost bet it who ever it had been had been listening to the panicked politicians in D.C, who demanded to have their precious fucking hides protected at all costs.
What ever the case it had happened over a year and half ago, and it didn’t really matter these days. “lets get you two some food.” He said rising to his feet, not missing the look of hatred the girl sent his way. Another possible threat to watch out for, he told himself.
St. Louis 0800 hrs
Nate Kronnen rose from his chair as some one knocked at the door, he ignored the corpse that lay on the floor. The man had been a traitor after all. He walked over and opened the door to his private room and found Proctor standing there.
:”Bradley has located them finally” Kronnen said stepping past Proctor and closing the door.
Proctor nodded ignoring Kronnens nudity and the blood that covered his bosses body. Kronnen loved to deal with traitors personally, and enjoyed it. Proctor had seen the end results a few times when disposing of the bodies. Kronnen stopped at the bar and poured himself a drink then turned to Proctor who noticed that Kronnen wasn’t wearing his contacts, he shivered despite himself as he looked into those cloudy dead looking eyes.
“yes” Proctor replied, “ Bradley had sent out teams of three to scout, and one reported that they saw bright lights and heard gun fire and explosions up on a mountain. But it wasn’t confirmed that it was Stone.”
“it was” Kronnen said with a confidence that bothered Proctor. If it turned out it wasn’t Stone Kronnen would be furious and take it on whom ever he decided to blame. “ and the hunter is near the area as well. And some one else that might be a danger..” he added his voice trailing off.
The Hunter, what would make him believe…Proctor thought then remembered the occasional dreams that Kronnen had, where he had gained information about various things Like Bedford, or that Cache they had found in Nevada which had set them on the road to conquest and those dreams had never been wrong either, but Proctor thought they had stopped a month ago when Kronnen had woken up furious about some unseen ally having been killed.
“Tell Bradley that I want him to let Mac deal with this, Bradley and Williams are to get ready to go on the Mission we discussed, its almost time to destroy Jared Stones life, by the time I’m finished he will beg me to kill him.” Kronnen said heading back to his private room. Proctor knew when he was dismissed; he turned and left.
“you should have remained faithful” Kronnen said to the corpse as he shut the door, he picked up a flaying knife, he would have to remove the evidence or his men would probably break and run as far from him as they could. Proctor might stay, but even his loyal friend had his limits.
He knelt beside the body and began to cut at the flesh. “Yes with out traitors, I would have to feed on men who are loyal to me” he said as he cut away the ragged bite marks. ”and we can’t have that now can we”