Chapter four

“The gloomiest pictures fear could ever make,
The fiend drew near to make my terrors ache—
Huge circles lost to eyes, and rotten hulls
Raised with dead groans from the dread ‘place of skulls’,—
Then turned with horrid laugh its haggard head
To where the earth-loved shadow dimly fled,
As mockery—waking hell with horrid sound”
~nightmare John CLare

A crisp cold breeze blew across the flagstone Veranda of the lodge, causing Jill to shiver and shrink a little deeper into her coat. The Misty blue looking forested mountains were almost enchanting; from here they looked like waves of s rock rolling towards a beach. Ragged white clouds scudded across the azure sky.

If this had been a movie, it would be gray, everything would look washed out, faded as if the soul had gone out of the word. But today, the world despite reality, was bright and full of vibrant colors that made it look alive.

Jill could completely understand Jared’s love of the mountains, it spoke to a persons soul like fingers of rock sinking deep into your core changing you instilling a longing to go just a bit further over rock and ridge to see what new wonder of nature waited just of sight. It was a serene sight that had to be seen to be understood, words would never fully explain the soul aching beauty she saw before her.

“Pretty isn’t it” Thor Jansen said from behind her.

“Yes it is” She agreed. “to bad I never really appreciated it before the dead came.”

“We took it for granted, took everything for granted really” Thor observed. “there is still a lot of beauty left in the world.” he said with a glance in her direction.

She didn’t say anything at first. “How’s your leg” she asked changing the subject.

“pretty good, a few twinges, but Ill live.” He said with a quirk of his lips that might have been a smile as he came to stand beside her gazing out over the misty mountains. “I was worried about your going out for fuel. Glad to see you made it back safely.” He commented, not really looking at her now.

“Jared has a knack for getting us out of danger” She said shifting from side to side to warm up a little.

“he has a knack of getting into danger too” Thor said with a chuckle taking the sting out his remark but sting or not it was true and Jill knew it.

“I’m worried about him Thor, there’s something he isn’t telling me.”she finally said.

“I wouldn’t know what it might be” He said truthfully, he had finally given up on having her or any one call him Jansen. Once Jill had started using his first name, his squad assholes that they were had latched on to it with glee, often using the new unofficial squad name of the Hammer, as in the hammer of Thor.

“I think it was something he dreamed. I… I don’t know. Maybe I’m just being a stupid woman.”

“your anything but Stupid Jill” Thor replied then fell silent. “Your going to worry, Hell I worry about him to be honest. But you have to know that sooner or later his skill will fail him, his luck will run out and he will die, it will happen to all of us sooner or later. It’s a crappy thing to say, I know but it could be years from now, or it could be today who knows but you need to enjoy ever minute you have with him. hell he might survive all of us” Thor said softly, knowing it was far more likely Jared would get himself killed sooner rather than later. .

Jill remained silent for a moment, Thor wrapped an arm around her shoulders and squeeze gently then let his arm fall back to his side. “ Thanks,” she said after a moment.

“its what friends are for” Thor replied. “I think I owe you a lot more than you will ever owe me. I would have died if not for you. And trust me Benton and the others never fail to remind me that a ‘hot, slender’ woman hauled my ass to safety on her shoulders. Then laugh their butts off” he paused then grinned ruefully, “and thanks to you they have started calling me Thor, or referring to the squad as ‘the Hammer’”

She laughed for a second. “lets not have a repeat of that day if we can help it.” she said, “on the run in the middle of munitions storage area exploding, undead chasing us is not something I want to experience ever again” then shook her head at men and their idea of humor. “I’m sorry, honestly I didn’t think about it I’m not used to referring to people by their last names like you military guys, and well I like the name Thor, its unique it suits you”

“nothing I can do about it now, but in the military having a name like mine gets the jokes going faster than sharks head for blood.” Thor said with feeling.

Jared sat at the table in the Lobby of the old lodge studying the maps he had taken from the highway Department, making notes in his notebook. Lee still limping from the fox bite was busy hooking up the generator to run the office copier.

“Are you sure you need this thing” Lee asked from inside the managers office.

“Yes, I need to mark out routes and then make copies of the maps for all the drivers, I don’t consider running a copier a waste of gasoline for that” Jared replied. “man get bit by one fox and you complain constantly.”

“Yeah, yeah, I’m starting to think your letting this grand leader thing go to your head.” Lee called back.

“That’s oh glorious leader to you peon” Jared said with a chuckle.

Jared finished marking the main route and secondary routes that hopefully would take them through the Shenandoah valley with out going through a lot of the towns there and then sat back in his chair.

In the two days they had been here since the zombie attack, things were looking better, not great but better. No one was reporting weird nightmares, and Ronny who had managed to land yesterday seemed more like his old self. Not completely no, but close.

Harald was still pushing to recover the helicopter he had discovered, and he had a point about the Helo being able to land and take off in areas that the plane couldn’t. at the moment it was more the AvGas problem than Jareds intense dislike of Helo’s and aircraft in general. In fact helicopter rated only slightly lower than clowns on his hate list.

The woman, Nancy whose husband had been killed, was slowly coming to grips with the situation, apparently even the dream visit of her dead husband was not completely able to get her to move past his death, but she was trying. Her Daughter Kim how ever wasn’t trying to make an effort. Though she had been talking some with Lany and even Jill. But the men who had been in the lobby when her father was killed, got only icy glares and silence.

Steve would probably tell me to leave their asses here when we go, but I cant do that especially not after hearing about how the Military just left people to die, when they could have saved them. Jared still wondered exactly what the orders had been and didn’t doubt some of the stories he heard were colored by the storytellers own emotions. But it bothered him anyway. A Soldiers job, A real soldier at any rate, was to protect the civilians, the innocent and the helpless and die if necessary in their defense.

Footsteps approached him from behind breaking him out of his thoughts, he turned his head to See Thor in his ACU’s. “ any word from Ori and Jeb yet” Jared asked. They had left at dawn to scout the skyline all the way to the north entrance.

“not a peep , but Ori isn’t one to talk till he has something to report” Thor said.

“True, he checks in on the hour if he can, but that’s it.” Jared said agreeing.

“So when are we leaving here?” Thor asked,

“Tomorrow, we cant wait any longer, the injured will have to recover on the road.” Jared said. “ I’m sending Ori and Jeb out to do some scouting and hopefully locate a few RVs. We are going to need them. Between the survivors you picked up and the injured we need space.” Jared said, Thor nodded and looked like he was about to say something then stopped himself.

“Something else Sergeant” Jared asked, not even sure why he slipped into using Rank.

“No, nothing else.” Thor said, then turned and walked outside.

Tire of being inside, Jared picked up the map and carried it into the office. “ here make twenty copies of this, and thanks” He told Lee as he handed the man the map.

“you do realize I was a Maintenance guy before the dead rose right, not a secretary,” Lee asked

“then you shouldn’t have any problem figuring out how to work the copier” Jared said with a laugh.

It was a beautiful day outside, especially now that the body’s of the undead had been cleared off. There was the sharp clear scent of winter, wood smoke and fir trees in the air. The melting snow squelched around his boots as he walked towards the vehicle wall. Hopefully this would be the end of snow till late December, personally Jared Cheered on Global warming, if it meant swim suit or nude fashions to avoid heat he was all for it.

He paused for a moment seeing three red headed men standing and talking together. Benton, At five foot six, he was on the short side compared to most people. He had the typical irish look, to go with his strawberry blond hair. Paddy who was even shorter, with his fire red hair and rugged good looks and Townsend with his rust colored hair was thin and wiry muscled like Ori and ate like an ox when allowed.

Guess we Gingers have to stick together Jared though amused, using the term that Benton liked to use for red heads. He smiled broadly seeing Jill approach, in her Kate beckensale leathers as he liked to call the armored motorcycle leathers she wore. Several zombies had found out the hard way that the thick leather was impossible to bite through, at least before she killed them. With all the armor pieces she had added it was starting to looking like some half plate half leather fantasy armor outfit. Especially now that she had added the shoulder pieces and vanbraces, the articulated impact plastic arm armor she was working on was in the van and almost finished.

“ I would say the Irish are over represented in this group” she said as stopped beside him then kissed him on the cheek.

“at least come next march, St. Paddies day parties will be well attended by the sons of Erie.” Jared replied thinking about the fact that at least half of the survivors on Sullivan and here in the convoy were of Irish descendents; he refused to believe that meant anything but it was interesting.

“ as long as no Scotsmen survive to foil our plans the Irish will end up ruing the world” he joked then fell silent as he saw Thor walk up and starting talking to Benton and Townsend, who were members of his old Squad.

“why so quiet” Jill asked.

“no reason really, just anxious to get back on the road.” Jared said, which was more than true.

“I’ve heard your still wanting to check out Mount Weather” Jill said.

“you must pay people to bring you gossip” Jared said with a laugh. “but yes we are going to be passing right by it, well with in a few miles, I thought we might swing up and take a look while the rest of the convoy keeps moving. If there’s any one there or anything we can use, we can always pick it up on the way back through.”

“and what if they aren’t friendly” Jill asked, crossing her arms under her chest.

“Well then we leave them the hell alone.” Jared replied.

“good boy” Jill said with a smile.

“Lee is going to want time to make plates or boards or something to place against the vehicles to keep zombies from crawling under the vehicles and asked for you help.” Jared said. Jill got the distinct impression he wanted to ask something but he didn’t. “maybe he needs to do some math to figure out stress loads or something:” he was fishing she thought, he knows or at least suspects but isn’t going to say it. he is going to make me tell him. well not till we get back to the island.

“ I don’t know exactly how much help I can be but I will talk with him. and I cant see that being to difficult to make either, but what do I know.” She replied.

“good, well I promised to run a patrol around the resort, to make sure no more puss bags are hiding out and waiting to bite someone.” Jared said, he leaned over and kissed her on the forehead. “its our last night here, lets make some memories when I get back’ he whispered in her ear.

“I wish I could but I have some boards to plan or something.” She teased.

“Ill knee cap Lee and that will end that project.” Jared vowed then laughed.

“it looks like Thor is waiting for you, go do your manly thing, and if you get bitten. tonight is off.” She said smiling as she pushed him towards Thor and his squad.

“what you would let a little thing like my dying get in the way of our sex life” Jared said.

“oh god you are so gross.” Jill laughed.

“Everything gets hard with Rigor mortis” Jared said with a grin.

“I’m seriously rethinking our marriage” Jill warned him.

“Okay, okay I’m leaving.” Jared called out as he walked away grinning, nibbler trotting at his side.

**********************************

Ori lay in the snow, invisible to anyone watching the area, it had taken him two hours of slow almost glacial movement to reach this point, where he could look over the campground he had come to check out.

The people in this region had at least had warning, and most had tried to get home during the first days, but a few for what ever reasons had stayed or returned maybe. What ever had been the case, there were five motor homes in the campground. And a burned out pick up.

The main entrance to the camp ground ran east from sky line, past a small log cabin used as the office, to the immediate right of the office was a long single story log building with a peaked roof and a covered patio area. With his binoculars he could read the sign that read bathrooms and laundry room on one door in the building.

The entrance road just past the office split into two paths, one went to the north, past the long building, towards a row of small cabins, the other went straight a hundred yards past Motor home camp sites, then curved to the north running between more camp sites scattered in the stands of trees.

And there were zombies not many, maybe twelve that he could see, one lay in the snow and couldn’t seem to get to its feet with out slipping on ice and falling back to ground.

What interested him more how ever were the fresh tire tracks in the snow and slush. Some one had been here and recently. Putting away his binoculars he slowly removed a rope and climbing gear from his pack, most of his movements hidden by the Snow Camo poncho. He set up his gear with practiced ease, confident that Jeb was nearby and watching him.

Jeb Hollings had turned out to be one fine scout in Ori’s book and that was saying lot, as sexually twisted as Ronny, a former PFC in the Army and a one time secret porn star, Jeb had damn good skills, and a natural talent that was pretty good.

With his rig ready, Ori checked in with the Convoy and let them know his plans being as cryptic as possible just in case some one was listening in and had the encryption codes.

With that done he hooked in and slipped over the edge. He took his time, knowing he was a target now, but a rapid descent could be fatal on the ice slicked rocks.
It seemed to take forever but finally he reached the bottom and unhooked, and pulled a fade into the background.

His plan was simple check out the office then the building next to it, then move to the motor homes to check them out. Avoiding the 12 zombies scattered around the camp should be relatively easy.

He moved slowly using the brush, snow and trees to mask his approach, only straying close to one zombie that never even noticed he was there. Take that supernatural asshole Ori thought. He was half tempted to put it down, but that was a risk he wasn’t willing to take at the moment, he might make noise and draw the others down on him.

It took him almost an hour to reach the cabin which was good time as far as he was concerned. He looked around to make sure none of the undead were looking towards the cabin, when he saw it was clear he slipped up onto the porch and peered into the window. And saw a check in desk, and shelves containing souvenirs. There were no undead in there, it was too small of a room for a zombie to hide, unless of course it was on the floor, behind a shelf or something.

Didn’t matter at the moment he wasn’t entering anyway. He made sure no zombies were looking then slipped off the porch and moved to the next building. Halfway between the two buildings he froze, as a zombie stumbled around the corner and started between the two buildings. It had been out of sight in the back, which sucked for him. but Ori knew that the view of the other twelve were blocked by the buildings on either side of him .

He grasped the machete strapped to his left calf, and when the distance closed enough he drew the blade and rose to his feet, instantly the zombie lunged towards him. Ori side stepped, sticking out a foot and tripping the clumsy corpse, which fell into the snow. Instantly Ori dropped onto its back and brought the machete down, once then twice before the skull split and the thing under his knees stopped struggling to rise or turn over.

He wiped the machete clean on the things shirt, he sheathed the blade and then crossed the last few feet to the steps that led up to the patio enclosed patio.

Between the four picnic tables lay a body, its head had been crushed. He knelt shielded from view by the waist high wall that enclosed three sides of the patio, he examined the body quickly noting a boot print on its shirt. But no other clues to who might have done it. he rose slowly scanning the area and saw the undead were still staggering around in the far campsites, which was good.

He moved to the window that looked into this half of the building and saw more picnic tables inside, book shelves, a raised platform on north side of the room had a stove, sink and fridge. With counters and cabinets. A massive wood burning stove sat in the middle of the room. As quietly as he could he opened the door and entered the room.

Feeling a little more secure inside he searched the room, finding board games, a cd Player, a large tv under the window on the south end of the room. There were plenty of books, most of them westerns, or civil war history books. MRE wrappers littered the floor around two tables. He went through them finding crumbs still in a few of the wrappers. They hadn’t been here long then, he thought rats or mice would have already cleaned them out if they had.

Who ever it had been had been here when the zombies had attacked the lodge and there was no way they could have missed the explosions and gunfire that lasted for hours.

Scouts for raiders, or for Kronnen, he decided. Jared had a point about Kronnen wouldn’t have sent spies to the island with out a way to pass along intelligence. So it was possible that the Warlord knew Jared was off the island and heading for Greenbriar, and there had been some public talk about Mt.Weather as a possible place to search for survivors or a Cache. In fact it was more than likely FEMA had Cached equipment and supplies there.

He squatted there his left finger nervously tapping a beat on his thigh as he thought over the idea of spies or scouts of Kronnen camping here. Finally he moved back to the door, with out a note saying Kronnens scouts were here, he didn’t have anything solid to say for sure, and his gut feeling didn’t count as a fact either.

Finally he moved to the door and slipped back outside, and worked his way across the camp road into the trees on the other side, till finally a half hour later he was beside a gray and black modern motorhome. Some one had slashed the tires and a quick glance under the rig showed a large puddle of oil. Sick suspicion was confirmed when he reached the second motorhome and found the same thing.

Over the next hour he checked every Motor home, finding only one that looked untouched. He examined it closely and found the reason it had been left untouched, you boys are pure amateurs Ori thought as he pulled out the tool kit he had assembled for this kind of work. Ten sweaty minutes later the bomb was disarmed and removed. The job being made more difficult and nerve wracking by having to check to make sure none of the undead in the area had noticed him.

He went back over the vehicle as thoroughly as possible to make sure there wasn’t a second device, then satisfied started back to the rock wall he had come down in the first place.

Who ever had done this hadn’t just been guessing some one would try to take one or more RVs. To Ori’s mind it was aimed right at Jared and the convoy, since Jared always grabbed an RV or Two, to house people in. and they had picked the best RV in the place too.

Well to bad you didn’t know I was EOD before I went Scout, Ori thought

*********************************

Lee crawled out of the engine compartment and wiped his hands on a rag, shaking his head. I had on idea just how much work Rob got done till now he thought, his respect for the man that Jared called his miracle working rising a couple of notches.

“Okay you two close it up” Lee told the two 18 years that Rob had sent along to help out. Working on RVs was a pain in the ass he decided, the engines were usually in the back under the master bed, and could only be worked on from inside the vehicle. The up side was it was hard for a zombie to sneak up on you.

Leaving the two men to finish up he headed outside, he still had a to clean and adjust the carb on Garrets Ford Pickup. As much as the teen ager loved that truck, they should have left it sitting in front of the building they had found it at. It sucked gas like no ones business. Which Jared expected Lee to fix, some how.

And Ronny, who was about as depressing and annoying as possible lately wanted Lee to take a look at the Twin otter, like I have any clue how to work on an airplane he told himself. But he would at least take a look, not that Ronny had been providing air scouting as much as he had used too. The man was gun shy, Lee was no veteran or soldier but it didn’t take a genius to see that Ronny had taken being shot up and surprised pretty hard and was doubting himself and hesitant to get back in any situation that might result in his getting his butt hurt or failing the group.

“Hey have you seen Lany” Garret asked seeing Lee walk up to his truck.

“on the Veranda behind the lodge with Harald.” Lee told him. talk about two love birds, and a large age difference Lee thought.

“thanks, and hey do what you can for Lilly here” Garret said patting the truck before heading to the gate that would let him into the back of the Lodge.

Never name it, makes it harder to eat his dad had told him once about livestock. Which really applied to getting so attached to Vehicles you named them, it was going to be hard to talk the man into dumping this truck when the time came.

He popped the hood, and had to admit who ever had modded this truck had been pretty good, he was half tempted to pull some of the performance parts which helped suck down more fuel than normal. Unless he pulled off the lift kit and large off road tires it still wouldn’t increase the gas mileage a significant amount.

Setting down his toolbox, he got to work, humming to himself. Before he knew it the sun was going down, and here in the mountains that meant it got dark earlier than down in the hills or the flatlands.

I miss machine shops, and women in sports bra’s, and Jack in the box monster Tacos, and Victoria secret commercials, he recited the list to himself silently as he worked. I miss getting laid, and most of all I miss being able to just walk out the door with out fear of being eaten.

I even miss wearing Boxers, I really miss seeing a date in a pair of my boxers he thought with a smile remembering Barbara the last nurse he had dated. She had been a good looking woman who had looked even better one of his tshirts and a pair of his boxers.

He was repacking his tools, when he heard a soft footfall behind him, and then something struck him on the back of the head, he fell heavily his vision blurring, he landed in the slush, he felt pain as something struck him in the head again, and managed to shout for help and get a thick muscled up trying to protect his head as he was struck again. The last things he was aware of were shouts of alarm and a boot that blocked out the rest of the world then nothing but darkness.

Jared reached the circle of men and women around Lee and knelt beside the short muscled man, almost instantly the slush soaked the knees of his pants chilling him. spot lights were coming on, allowing Jared to see the blood that had soaked into the slush around Lees head, the mans chest rose and fell so he was still alive Jared thought.

Lee started to choke at that moment. “ Help me out here” Jared said motioning to the man nearest him. “ Hold his head” Jared ordered as soon as the other man was kneeling on either side of Lees head, Jared pulled open Lees Mouth and pried lees tongue out of his throat, the chocking instantly subsided.

Gently he ran his fingers of Lees head, wincing in sympathetic pain as he found the ragged wound on the back of the mans head. He was just about to holler for Justin when he saw the slender shaven headed paramedic coming through the crowd his big bag in hand.

“Daws, Get a stretcher, and get the Clinic RV started.” Jared called out as he and the other guy rose and stepped back letting Justin get down beside Lee.

Thank god, we listened to Linda and took the old RV she had used as a clinic on the way to Sullivan, Jared thought, it was fully outfitted with gear they had recovered from both hospitals and the FEMA Cache.

“Where in the hell was the guard” Jared asked rounding on Thor, who stood nearby. “helping Kyle and Troy, Lees assistants get the cover back on the Motor in the RV.” Thor replied.

“son of a…” Jared cut himself off, he had promised Jill he would try not to cuss as much, since he had started sound more and more like pappy lately.

“Ill deal with him Jared,” Thor said flatly, not liking the situation but there was no escaping what the mans actions had caused.

“Get the hell out of my way” Jared heard Mike shouting “ I said move it” Mike shouted shoving a man so hard that he would have fallen to the Ground but Jared managed to grab his arm and pull him upright.

Mike saw Lee, saw the Blood and his anger if anything grew greater, he started to Barrel forward when a hand like a steel clamp grasped his shoulder and not only stopped him in his track sbut turned him to face the owner of the hand.

“Let me fucking Go Jared” Mike snarled realizing who had grabbed him. There were two ways to deal with this situation Jared thought and being calm was the better of the two options.

“no” Jared said simply. “Justin is working on him, and that’s all that we can do at the moment, we have no idea who did this, or why. So calm your ass down Soldier”

Mike glared at Jared for a long moment then sagged suddenly. “I..” he started then tried again “ Lee, Sandy, Brent, Carrie and I were the only ones to escape the hospital that day Jared, the only ones. Only Lee and Sandy are left, I want who ever did this” Mike stated, his hands trembling.

“ I swear to you we will find out who did it, and when I do, they will wish like hell they had never been born” Jared said loud enough to be heard by the small crowd, he wanted who ever had done this to know, he had poked the wrong fucking bear.

“You had better include me in making them pay Jared. Do not leave me out.” Mike stated then turned to watch one of his few friends lay still and silent in the blood stained slush.

Jared stood there while Justin worked on Lee, his eyes sweeping over the group of people who had gathered, wondering if one of them was the one who had done this and why, as far as he knew of no one had a problem with Lee. Which meant nothing really, Jared rarely paid much attention to peoples personal problems unless they became public, and that wasn’t something he wanted to change, Jill was the one who always seemed to know who was feuding, who was sleeping with who, and who was pissed about it.

He stood there arms crossed over his chest, looking as calm as any one had ever seen him look. And only those who knew him well, realized just how furious he was and that boded really badly for who ever had done this.

As they were loading Lee onto the stretcher to carry him to the RV, Ori and Jeb returned from their scouting mission Jared went to meet them. Ori climbing out of his scout holding a large turkey in each hand and grinning. A large buck was strapped to the hood of the scout as well, The grin faded as he caught Jareds Body language.

“what happened” Ori asked instantly.

“some one attacked Lee, beat him over the head. They are getting him into the RV now, where I guess Justin will do what he can.” Jared said.

“Damn, and here I thought bring back twelve gobblers and a deer would improve every ones mood.” Ori said.

“Meats appreciated, and more than welcome” Jared replied. “lets get it all unloaded, Ill help you clean the birds and the deer, which will take my mind off waiting for Justin to do his thing and get with me so I know how bad it is.”

Ori sat the birds on the hood of the scout then rapidly signed. Do you think it was one of Kronnens spies. He asked.

Might be, but why Lee. Jared replied,

Because he is the one that is supposed to work on Vehicles Ori signed

Great, Mind looking the vehicles over when we are done with cleaning the birds and the deer, Ill get Chris to stand guard over you just in case. Jared signed back

“not at all” Ori said aloud. “ now lets clean us some bird.”

************************************

Justin looked tired Jared thought as he sat down at the Table in the RV.

“so how bad is it” Jared asked.

“Well he came to for a little bit, he opened his eyes on his own which is good, he could also open and close them when I asked him to. he responded to verbal questions, but seemed confused and had a hard time talking, and he could move his arms and squeeze my hand when asked, His vitals are good, his pupils look normal, no sign of subdural or epidural hematoma’s

I started him on a IV and cleaned and sutured his scalp wounds and that’s about all I can do at this time, Ill keep checking on him all night, but so far if my initial assessment is correct then he hasn’t suffered Neurological damage.

But if he suffers complications or I’m wrong, we might end up needing medical supplies that I don’t have or are in short supply of like Saline IV’s. and the only ones that might still be good are going to be stored in places where there is no fluctuating temperatures like underground.

I would also like a guard on the door. Who ever attacked him might come back to finish the job, assuming they were trying to kill him.” Justin said.

“do we need this stuff right now for Lee, or can it wait till we get to the Green briar” Jared asked.

“I can write out a list, and Id like to have it as soon as possible. To be honest Jared, I’m scared to even deal with this. I like Lee, what if I screw up and he ends up a moron or even worse a vegetable or something.” Justin said worriedly.

“Moron is that a medical term?” Jared asked trying to lighten the moment then sighed heavily. “ I know sorry, stupid attempt to make you feel better. Justin you can only do the best you know how. Where could we send him, a hospital, Maybe a specialist.” Jared asked. “your it man. Unless we fly him to the Farm and let Doc Winston take care of him.”

“Ill do the best I can, but Doc Winston might be the better call. Even though it will use a lot of fuel to get him there” Justin said, to say he was frustrated and upset was an understatement. People like him got into their jobs to help others, and to stand helpless with no clue how to help was their own private hell.

As Jared exited the RV, he found Mike waiting anxiously outside “how is he,” Mike asked see sawing between anger and worry.

“Justin said Lee is stable, he has done all he can at the moment and doenst think there is any brain swelling, bruising or damage, but wants to keep an eye on Lee to make sure.” Jared said. “I’m sure Justin wouldn’t mind you going in if you want to.” Jared added.

“thanks, find the bastard Jared and I will owe you big time.” Mike said as he opened the door of the motor home then stopped. “I’m sorry about earlier, I was upset.”

“no problem Mike and Ill make sure the folks who got a bit pissed about being shoved out of the way know.” Jared replied.

“no, Ill do it. but thanks for offering.” Mike said then something changed in his eyes. “ you get to the point that you think there’s nothing left that can bother you after seeing the world die, or your wife’s life being erased and replaced with a nut job Murderous slut, but I was wrong. I cant lose another friend.” Mike said then climbed into the RV and shut the door behind him.

with in an hour Jill had people asking around to see if anyone had seen or heard a thing, Lee’s attacker had been careful, there were no witness’s.

*********************************

The sun was barely up before the lodge was full of activity, as gear and supplies were packed and loaded, vehicles were checked over then started, the sound of motors rumbling off the distant ridges and cliffs.

Ronny woke slowly, confused at first, then remembered landing and being driven to the lodge. He sat up yawning, wishing he had woken up beside Mary instead of in this cold little room that must have been a closet at some point in its history. But its size was the one reason he had gotten to sleep alone. He could hear the motors and knew that he needed to get a move on so he could get in the air and scout ahead of the convoy by air.

He stretched then stopped abruptly as he saw something on the floor beside the narrow bed. He reached down and picked up the three foot length of pipe and stared at it. on one end there was a smear of blood and some hair.

His dream from the night before came rushing back, he had been running from some one or something through a empty city. Like most dreams of its type he the faster the tried to run the slower he actually went, and then he had rounded a corner and saw a zombie leaning over into the open engine compartment of a truck. It had turned and he had beat it down before it could attack him. but that had been a dream right, he asked himself suddenly scared as he looked at the pipe in his hands.

He was almost certain his nightmares were caused by the sleeping pills he had been taking but that didn’t explain this pipe. He remembered landing and being driven to the lodge about an hour before sunset, tired already and knowing he had to be up early so he could scout ahead he had popped two of the Ambiens while he ate a quick dinner, he remembered talking to Jill, and Thor Jansen and maybe Jared then he had gone to bed hoping to be up before sunrise, which he hadn’t done judging by the view out the small window.

He pulled on pants and a flannel shirt over his long johns, got the brace on his leg and then his boots. He strapped on his weapons kit and headed downstairs determined to find out what had happened last night and scared spitless about finding out at the same time.

He entered the lobby where people were coming and going carrying supplies out to the vehicles and found he didn’t have to ask. The attack on Lee was the hot topic of the morning, Lee who had been working on a truck when some one had beaten him over the head and left him for dead.

Stunned and sick to his stomach Ronny ducked back upstairs, how in the hell could he explain this to Jared, it was bad enough he couldn’t do much more than fly, but now Jared would never trust him again. Ill quit taking the sleeping pills that’s a start he told himself as he re entered his room, that will end this. He told himself, at least lee was alive and with minor injuries he told himself as he grabbed the pipe and wiped it clean.

I wont sleep alone from now on, that will put a definite stop what ever happened, Ronny decided not realizing just where this could lead but scared of what Jared would do if he found out.

Toss you out into the wilds, you and mary, a small voice in the back of his mind said. Any one else he would kill but he would exile you.. I cant risk Jared doing that for Mary and the babies sake Ronny told himself feeling a deep guilt that he tried to shove into a dark corner of his mind.

A sudden knock on the door, caused him to Jump. “Hey Ronny you alive in there” Ben asked.

“Uh..yeah just grabbing my pack, I overslept” He called back as he put the pipe under the bed then grabbed his pack and headed for the door. “lets get out to the plane,” Ronny said opening the door, praying Jared never found out about this. I cant lose my friends, I might as well die Ronny thought plastering a smile on his face.

*********************************

a light cold wind kicked up, stirring the bare trees and green firs around the resort, during the night the slush had frozen and now cracked underfoot as the survivors loaded up to leave.

Jared glanced at the horizon as he loaded a box of MRE’s into the back of the ELSORV. It promised to be a beautiful day, undead apocalypse not withstanding. Ronny had just left to head to the plane, and should be airborne in twenty minutes. The convoy should ready to roll at about the same time.

He took a deep breath, not really minding the smell of exhaust fumes mixed with the crisp winter smell of fir and ice. It reminded him of his childhood for some odd reason.

Spotting Justin climbing into the Rv that served as a clinic for the convoy, he felt a bit guilty for not going to see Lee this morning. But Justin had made it clear that Lee was still out of it, and when he was awake he exhibited short term memory loss which was why he seemed confused, Lee remembered everything up till yesterday. But Justin assured Jared that it temporary.

Jared still had no idea who had attacked Lee, who had made it safely through the night. Lee was sleeping at the moment so Jared couldn’t ask him what if anything he had seen. And there had been so many prints in the slush around the vehicles that Ori hadn’t been able to really find anything to narrow down the list. But Jared was damn certain the Attacker had been in the crowd that had formed around Lee last night.

“we are going to have to get more fuel in a few days” Thor said as he stood beside the HET.

Jared nodded in agreement watching as two of the kids from the small group of survivors that had been hiding here at the lodge, chased Nibbler around. It was probably the first real moment of pleasure those kids had, had in a year and half.

“I think when we reach the north entrance of the Skyline, I might take a small group and go check Mt. Weather, there has to be supplies there, fuel, medicine, food the works, it even has a EBS radio and TV station. Since FEMA and DHS used the place so it makes sense they would have stocked it.” Jared said turning to look at Jansen.

“I agree, but how small are you talking about” Thor asked.

“Me and my team and maybe yours or Daws Squad.” Jared said.

“Which ever squad you pick Id suggest taking the LAV just in case,” Thor said.

“I think it might be better if the LAV stays with the convoy. I will take Steve’s.. er… I mean my RV, Ori is taking his scout, and that H2 SUV hummer that Lee got running holds seven, so we might take that too. I have a till tomorrow to decide anyway.” Jared said watching as Jill came out of the lodge leading Nancy and Her Daughter Kim to the RV some one had nicknamed the Rockin palace in white shoe polish on the side. “ we still have to stop, repair the RV Ori found, fuel it up and that’s before we even reach the mid point of the skyline. I want to take a spin through that resort up by Dark hollow falls, and we might want to stop and drain every gas tank we can find along the way.”

“assuming they haven’t been drained already” Thor commented

“there is that” Jared agreed. He watched as Ori tossed his ruck into his scout, Ori’s thick blond hair stuck up wildly, he smiled absently thinking about how good a friend Ori had been over the years, how good a friend all of the dirty dozen had been. “I have been one lucky man” he said softly.

“what was that?” Thor asked.

“Oh sorry just thinking out loud” Jared said “looks like its time to Roll, I want the LAV to lead the way, just in case there are any nasty surprises along the way.”

“No problem” Thor said. As Thor climbed up into the HET, Jared walked to ELSORV where Jill and Nibbler waited.

********************************

The Twin otter aircraft fly as low over the road as Ronny dared take it, worried about down drafts and crosswinds, and any other wind he didn’t know a thing about here in the mountains, he was nervous as long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs as Ori would have said, add in he was terrified of being found out and scared he might do it again. This wasn’t shaping up to be a good day.

Harald and Lany along with PFC Damon Kirk and Private Jack Winters, Rode in the back as security if Ronny had to land. Ben was reading through a flight instructional manual, one of four, he had picked up at the Airfield.

To the east and south was Bearfence Mountian to the east was Hazeltop Mt, behind Hazel top was fork mountain, Double top mt. was just north of fork, and to the south of Fork was Jones and Bluff mountain to the west was Grindstone mountain at 2850 feet.

In the spring the mountains would have been covered in green mostly stunted oak, oak, Hickory and firs, in the winter it was a forest of skeletal limbs reaching for the sky with the occasional splash of green from stands of Fir trees.

The road snaked around to the mountain flanks, occasionally passing through tunnels bored through mountain spurs. There were far fewer vehicles on the road, suggesting to Ori that people had left here to return home at the start.

“the road doesn’t look all that bad a few abandoned vehicles, some rock falls in places but pretty clear all things considered” Ronny reported, “Ill continue on to the north end and see what I can see.”

“roger that, Be careful, If you have to set down again let us know the location.”

“Roger, out” Ronny said signing off with out using his handle, which he personally hated.

It was quiet in the plane except for the sound of engines and even that was muted.

“that doesn’t look good” Ben said pointing down.

Ronny nodded having already seen it, a road from the east crossed the sky line, where it intersected was a tangle of vehicles and what looked like a partial avalanche. He checked the regular map, and was able to figure out he was looking at Thorton gap, just north of Hazel mountain the sky line continued on over the flank of Pass Mountain to the north, and appeared to be clear.

He relayed the information back as he circled the site twice before continuing on north.

“Lets just get this done, so we don’t waste any more fuel than we have too “ Ronny said tersely as he watched the road below.

Reaching the end of skyline Ronny flew over Front Royal a moderate sized town near the confluence of the north and south forks of the Shennandoah river, from the air the streets looked packed, he could even make out a line of Duece and halfs stuck just outside the the center of town. He swept lower and frowned as he saw the sheer numbers of undead in the streets.

“I bet those people who fled the parks and the skyline got stuck down there and died in Front Royal before they could make it home” Ben said stunned by the numbers of walking dead he could see.

“what ever we do, Jared and convoy need to stay the hell away from this place” Ronny said, then keyed his radio and reported what he was seeing.

*************************************

The convoy rolled down Skyline occasionally weaving around a vehicle that had been abandoned on the road. Jared behind the wheel of the ELSORV was enjoying the rocky forested slopes of the mountains around him, the hazy blue mountains reminded him of Home.

“where are we anyway” Jill asked as she petted Nibbler who sat between her legs on the floorboard. “and don’t say the sky line” she added.

Jared pointed off to the left, “That’s Green mountain over there, and that one to the right is Lewis Mountain, up ahead is bearfence. If you look down along the right there you can even see the AT. Sorry the Appalachian trail”

“I though that trail was down in the Smokies” Jill said.

“it actually starts in Georgia, Springer mountain I think, all the way into Maine. I don’t remember the name of the mountain it ends at. Weve hiked parts of it over the years, but never the whole thing. That was always one of my dreams, to hike it from one end to the other all 2,200 miles of it.” Jared said.

“why did you need maps if you know the area” Lew asked,

“I’ve hiked through here, I’ve never driven around here big difference.” Jared said. “if the trail didn’t go through it or cross it I didn’t know it existed.”

Jill half smiled jealous in a way that Jared had been here when it was safe to spend days even months hiking in these incredible mountains with out fear of undead or Crazed and starving people. this was one of the times she really regretted how dedicated she had been to work, instead of taking time to enjoy life and the world.

Nibbler crawled into her lap, then licked her in the face. “ oooh that’s so nasty dog,” she said laughing softly. Nibbler didn’t respond she just turned in Jills lap and gazed out the window. Tail wagging slowly.

She barely noticed when they passed the Byrd visitor center or the skyland resort, she was to busy trying to catch a glimpse of Darkhallow falls or the view down into the valley from the overlooks they drove past.

Jared seemed amused that she kept asking the names of the various mountains, like Stony man or Thorofare Mountain. Why she was so interested was beyond him, but he enjoyed seeing her like this.

Finally they reached the camp where Ori had located the RV, as they started to pull in, Jared had the convoy stop.

“what is it” Jill asked looking puzzled as Jared pulled his HK from the rack and opened the ELSORVs door.

“I was just thinking if who ever was here booby trapped an RV, what would stop them from placing an IED or two along the entrance.” He replied.

“Ori, I need you and Jeb up here with me. Ed why don’t you and logan join us on this little jaunt. Jill take the wheel.” Jared said, as he grabbed nibbler and shoved her back into the vehicle. “don’t let her get out.

Jill nodded not happy about being left in the ESLORV, but didn’t say anything she would just bitch him out privately tonight.

The Small group gathered around Jared, who quickly explained his suspicions. Ori nodded in agreement. “ I didn’t check the entrance, so its possible.” Ori said.
“it would have to be either rigged as a trip wire, pressure or contact plate, or possible rigged to so that a walkie talkie or Radio could be used to detonate it. which would mean an observer and with this terrain they would have to be close. Judging by the bomb they left on the RV, I’m going for trip wire.”

“how many undead did you see yesterday” Ed asked suddenly, having been keeping an eye out for pussbags.

“twelve, there were actually thirteen but I took one out” Ori said turning to look and saw twenty undead coming slowly towards them, one walked into a tree limb and just kept walking in place, not even smart enough to back up.

“no gunfire if we can help it” Jared said. Ori nodded and pulled the compound bow from the side of his pack.

Jared walked back to the ELSORV and retrieved the compound bow he had picked up at Diane’s then returned. Ori had already put down two, Jared notched an arrow, drew, sighted and released. The arrow hissed across the eighty feet and struck the zombie in the neck.

“got to do better than that” Ori chuckled.

“bite me, Its been what four years since I used a bow” Jared replied as adjusted the sight then tried again. Grunting in disgust as his second arrow hit the zombie an inch above the first.

“at this rate, your either going to die of old age, or that zombie is going to rot away before you put it down” Ed said laughing, “finally something he cant shoot like a pro.”

Jared didn’t say anything as he drew back a third arrow, and sent it straight into the zombies head. “you were saying.”

“lucky shot was what that was” Ed said snootily, a grin flashing across his face as he hefted his axe in case the undead got close.

Jared turned and aimed at a half rotted tourist, if the Bermuda shorts and once white socks in sandals was any clue, it took him two arrows this time. Ori had put down four more while Jared was trying to put down two.

“mind if I join this party, looks like you need some one else who can shoot a bow” Garret said walking up.

“Consider so far its only Ori, your right” Logan said moving out of arms reach of Jared. Who glared at him.

“do not make me go for my pistol” Jared said as he notched another arrow.

“it would have to be the pistol, I think we are safe if you try using a bow” Ed teased.

“ less talk more killing.” Ori said.

Finally the last Zombie went down, the men went and recovered the arrows, then waited as Ori slowly moved along the drive way examining what seemed like every square inch.

Ori suddenly squatted and examined a lump of slush and earth by a tree about half way down the entrance. “ found it” he called out as he shrugged off his pack and dug out his EOD Toolkit. “The good news is, who ever sat this up, is an idiot.” Ori said then fell silent as he set to work, sweat beading his forehead.

It seemed like an hour but it was only minutes before Ori helped up his hands and called “ time, and it’s a new record.. the crowd goes wild.”

“don’t mind him, he celebrates everytime he doesn’t blow up” Jared explained.

“don’t blame him there” Ed said as they walked over and joined Ori.

“so is it clear to drive on now?” Logan asked.

“volunteering to find the next one” Ori asked.

“no thanks” Logan replied.

“there’s another one, zombie that is” Garret announced as he lifted his bow, and took aim at a zombie that was stumbling towards them from between the office and the common hall of the camp.

He notched, drew and released fast and in perfect form, the arrow took the zombie in the left eye and knocked it over on its ass.

Ori rose leaving his pack sitting by the tree and slowly walked forward stopping again about ten feet from the office. “it makes no sense to me why some one would place trip wired IED’s in a place where zombies are wandering around.” He called out as he knelt beside a pile of Rocks and slowly moved them to reveal yet another explosive device.

Unless these were duds meant to slow us down Jared thought not that, that made much sense either, unless they were trying move men into position to attack them somewhere along the road.

Ori started forward again with the small group following behind him, in case more undead put in an appearance. They reached the remaining only intact RV ten minutes later, and Jared called up the convoy, having Jill stop and recover Ori’s pack on the way. I’m going to pay for that I’m sure he thought wondering if maybe he should just sleep on the roof of the Van.

“lets get this damn thing looked over and started,” Jared said and settled back to play guard while men went to work on the RV.

**********************************

it was almost noon by the time they had the new RV up and running, searched the remaining motorhomes for anything useful finding, camping gear, clothes, Boots and shoes of various sized, a package of new socks that Jared was almost tempted to Beat some one up over.

During the wait, Jared practiced with the bow, not sure exactly how he felt about a guy who had been junior in high school a year and a half ago teaching him the finer points of Archery. It damn sure made him feel old, and if the laugher and comments from his so called friends was any indication, he was going to be hearing about this moment for years to come.

What made it worse was he had bow hunted a lot over the years, but the last few years he had used a crossbow instead of a bow and it had definitely affected his bow skills.
He could at least claim renewed competence by the time he called it quits for the day.

“Chris, how about you and Garret pass out the four crossbows and the two remaining bows, let people shoot a few arrows, then Garret can pick the best out of them and teach them, so we have more than a couple of people who can use a bow.” Jared said as he strapped the compound bow to his Pack along with a quiver. “if I remember right there’s an outfitters shop down around Thornton Gap, they had archery stuff the last time I was there so we might want to check it out, and hit a pawn shop or two in one of the towns we have to pass through, there’s usually a couple of bows in those too.” Jared said, using bows at least off an on were honestly a better option. Especially when they were going to need every bit of ammo they had when Kronnen came calling.

Shorter ranged than rifles, bows had a greater psychological impact on modern man. Well at least seeing arrows sticking out of other people had a greater impact than a bleeding hole he thought, and you had to pull an arrow out or push it through before you could bind a wound causing more pain and damage.

Diane climbed into the groups new motor home, and looked around with pleasure at the hard wood floor, the furniture that looked like it was made of a home not a RV. She placed her pack in a closet and then dropped onto as others board. Looking out the window she saw Jared and a group of Soldiers walking towards a group of undead who had appeared on the woodline of the forest then turned back to study the people she would be sharing the RV with. Almost all of them were the survivors that had been found at the lodge,

She felt a wave of pity sweep over her as she saw Nancy and Kim, it had to be rough losing their husband and father after they had survived as a family for so long. She knew the Teen aged girl was angry about it, and had made no secret she hated the men who had killed her father. Which spoke volumes about Jared and his leadership that he just didn’t leave them behind to avoid the trouble that was bound to come up sooner or later.

“they have hot water and a working shower in the Big Semi truck looking motorhome” Diane found herself saying to Nancy, who perked up a little hearing that.

“that’s would be great” Nancy said, obviously thinking about how good it would feel to be clean again.

Kim only grunted, and for some reason Diane suddenly wondered if maybe she had been the one who had clubbed that man over the head. She had a motive as they said on the Cop shows she had once liked. But Kim didn’t really look like she had the strength.

Diane had only just met Lee but hadn’t really talked to him, but she had been impressed in a way, short he might be but he was a big man, solid as a rock and wide at the shoulders a natural muscled build, like her father had been only bigger, and it didn’t seem likely a mere slip of a girl could club him down but she guessed anything was possible.

“how long have you been with them” Nancy asked as she sat on a chair her hands claps palm to palm between her knees.

“a few days, I had been alone for a year when they showed up and drove off a bunch of raiders, then offered to take me with them.” Diane said.

“such Hero’s” Kim said nastily.

“Kim” Nancy said warningly. “I miss your father too, and I know you saw him in a dream just as I did. You know he shot at them first, they were only protecting themselves”

“they were wearing body armor mom, they didn’t have to kill him” Kim said then stomped to the bathroom and shut the door behind her.

“I’m sorry about that” Nancy said apologetically.

“nothing to be sorry about, Shes young and she lost her father.” Diane said “and I know what its like to lose a husband. My husband died of the stupid flu six months into this. That’s why I was alone.” Diane said, Nancy gazed at Diane with sympathy in her eyes.

“I’m sorry for you loss” Nancy said, even though words were a poor substitute for such a loss.

“thank you, and I feel for yours as well.” Diane said, “he used to insist that I learn how to shoot, and learn to live off the land, and I thought he was a total idiot for even thinking something would happen that required me to eat roots or ants or something else. And now I wish he were here just to keep telling me I told you so.”

“My Don, always thought the end of the world stuff was malarkey, he loved his golf, and loved to shoot. Last spring, he took us out to the lodges golf course. Its only nine holes but he said nine holes are better than none, he had us stand guard so he could play some golf” Nancy said, the absurdity of the whole thing suddenly struck her as funny, and she found herself laughing even as she grieved. “he was such a dork, a zombie wandered out on the green and he went through eight balls before he beaned it in the head and then finally let me shoot it. he laughed for two days over that.” Nancy said still chuckling but tears ran down her face. Diane moved beside her, and hugged her tight. And Nancy finally collapsed not caring who was around. She laughed and cried into Dianes shoulder for a while.”

***********************************

Thorton Gap Entrance, 1400hrs

The convoy wound down Sky line under a crystal clear blue winter sky, Tension was high was they waited for an IED to detonate but by the Time they reached Marys Rock tunnel, they had begun to relax a little.

The HET and the Three RVs barely made it through the Tunnel, on the other side the road slope down to the open circular area in the forest where Highway 211 crossed the skyline, The Visitors center was just a burnt out ruin, as where the cars in its parking lot, but it was the view of the road that made them slow then stop,

Ronny had warned me, Jared thought looking at the traffic jam that stretch off down the road in both lanes of 211. every lane was fill with west bound traffic and undead stumbled between the vehicles drawn by the sound of motors.

Jared had heard of states turning all the lanes of some roads into one ways during evacuations for hurricanes and other natural disasters, and he was betting that had been the case here, all those cars had been fleeing the cities heading inland for some imagined safety in the interior only to die on the road.

“we have two choices” Jared said aloud, either clear the undead then use the winches on the back of the HET to pull vehicles out of the way to keep on sky line, or try to ride along the shoulder of 211 to get into the Valley now, instead of heading up to Front Royal, which Ronny said was filled with undead. “ Jared said, wishing Ori was riding with him. But for now Ori wanted to drive his Scout.

“either way we have to get rid of the undead” Jill pointed out.

The undead stumbled and staggered up the road towards the idling convoy, not caring when several trucks, the ELSORV and the LAV pulled out of the formation then lined up across the road door to door, with the LAV in the center.

The Tacomas, were two of the best civilian vehicles in the convoy, modded by Retired SF personel, they had Armored louvers over the windows, smoke dispenses on each side of the truck bed, Some one had mounted a machine gun just behind the roll bar. The bed of the truck was protected by an expanded metal shield which added two feet to the bed walls height, making it impossible for the undead to reach into the bed. It looked like both vehicles sported a full off road package as well. with at a four inch lift and snorkel. In addition to all that a Fuel rack with the slim five gallon flat cans and a full sized spare were mounted where the tail gate should have been and roll bars jutted up over the cab with some kind of light bar mounted under the top of the roll bar.

At the order the vehicles rolled forward keeping pace with each other, they sped up to forty and smashed into the undead the brush guard on the Tacomas and the ELSORV crushing the undead who fell and were ground under the vehicles, Marksmen who had climbed onto the roof of the Semi Rigs, and RVs began to fire single shots into the undead who now lay on the ground.

The men in back of the Tacoma’s also fired through the slots in the expanded metal dropping more undead when they had the chance. As soon as they vehicles reached the mostly grassy area where 211 met sky line they sped up and split off as individuals running down every zombie they could catch.

Jorge, a Mexican American who had spent most of his life in cities had never really had any interest in offroading, but now strapped in and and still clutching the roll bar as the truck hit a bump and went airborne for a second he whooped like a school kid, ignoring the go to hell Look that Zoe flashed him.

All she wanted was for the vehicle to either stop or go slow enough she could kill undead. So sad that a woman that pretty only lived to kill he thought then shouted in surprise as the Tacoma when Airborne again, tilting towards the drivers side. Then it hit the ground on two wheels, then the other two smashed down. Something thumped against the underside of the vehicle and his momentary fear that the truck was going to flip, passed as he pictured the surprised zombie as the track landed on it.

Jorge watched as one of the soldiers, took a narrow piece of metal that was twisted 160 towards the end and slide it through a slot in the expanded metal when he reached the twist, he rotated the bar and slid a bolt through the hole in the end. The flat side of the bar outside the truck was now vertical to the ground and a second later he realized what the bar was for as the Driver of the Tacoma jerked right, and raced past a group of six zombies, the four foot section of bar slapping heads and necks, and sometimes shoulders and killing or crippling the undead it struck.

Finally the majority of the undead were down, and the ELSORV, LAV and one Tacoma Raced along the grassy sward of 211 towards the west entrance of the Park.

Well that explains the traffic jam, Jared thought seeing the entrance to the park it looked like a pay station on a toll road, vehicles with their doors still open, sat abandoned beside the booths, and what normally would have been the exit lane was blocked by a Police car half buried under the front of a Semi truck.

Beyond the entrance were a few abandoned vehicles, and mostly empty road that ran off into the distance.

“okay start the convoy heading west, down the right side, if any one gets stuck we have the Hemmit wrecker, the HET or the Semi Tractor with the home package to pull them out.” Jared transmitted as he pulled past the wreck and parked.

“ as soon as we check out the outfitters, we are going north to Mt.Weather while the rest of the convoy starts scavenging fuel and securing Semi trucks and trailers to haul the supplies out of the green briar “ Jared said. Jill only nodded, Logan didn’t bother to respond he had been hoping they would actually go to the semi mythical Facility.

Over head Jared could hear the Plane do a fly over as The convoy formed up behind him, they had been lucky having had only one RV get stuck along the way, the winches on the HET able to pull a 72 ton M1 Abrahms made short work of pulling out the much lighter Motor home free in record time.

As soon as they were all there, Jared led the way down the road for a little over a mile before spotting the sign out in front of the outfitters shop. The sun was already on the horizon as he turned into the parking lot. With some creative parking they could get most of the convoy parked around the building, and probably lose some paint off the sides of some of the vehicles along the way.

While they were parking, Jared had the HET and the Hemmit wrecker clear every abandoned vehicle for a thousand feet down 211 so that Ronny could land the plane while a security team took care of any of the undead that put in an appearance.

Jared climbed from the ELSORV, with his HK 416 in hand, looking around for threats as the RVs maneuvered into the parking lot. The Shop was a long single story log building with a pitched roof, on the east side of the building were racks containing canoes and Kayaks. The parking lot covered three sides of the building and beyond that was the forest.

“okay standard entry, Ori and Ed, then Logan and Jill. Lew I want you and Mike to come in last.” Jared said as he led the way towards the door.

He wasn’t thrilled with clearing the place this late in the day since they would have to use lights which would draw any of the undead inside right to their position a quick glance a the door showed him it opened inward.

Jared took three calming breaths to dispel the pre entry jitters, the threw open the door, and going left, Ori raced in and went to the right around the open door, then Ed came in and took center, they moved forward allowing the rest of the team to enter and take position. It smelled of undead inside, an over ripe old blood and rotting meat smell that would have turned the stomach except they were used to it after so long.

To the right was were display cases, and racks that still held some clothing. To the left were more racks but these held paddles, floats, fishing poles, and tackle apparently not popular items for who ever had raided the place.

The back half of the left had, if he remembered correctly, freezed dried foods, water purifiers and other camping gear. Most of it was gone, what was left was scattered on the floor.

Jared moved forward with Jill and Logan to his right and left, broken glass from a display case crunching under his boots, at the wall he turned and headed towards the back.

As he passed a stack of cooler, luck turned slightly against him. his light speared ahead of his weapon and as he stepped past the cooler he saw something move out of the corner of his eye. Before he could bring his weapon inline, the zombie was on top of him. already turning Jared was knocked off balance as the zombie slammed into him. they went over knocking the stack of coolers across the color. The zombie’s hands tearing at him, Jill screamed as she saw the zombie’s mouth yawn open and it bit down.

Logan ran up and kicked it in the side of the head, just as Jared was pushing his HK in to the things chest, off balanced it tumbled off him. Jill sprang forward dropping her rifle, her hand grasped the hilt of the Katana tucked in her belt and the blade slid free with a whisper.

The zombie was trying to struggle to its feet, when four feet of glittering steel cut its head from its shoulders. she wheeled around and saw Jared sitting up poking at the hole in the outer layer of his jacket. “Thank god for winter coats.” He said.

“Oh.. thank god is right” She said sheathing her blade then kneeling to hug him tightly.

“We aint done clearing the place just yet hun.” Jared said hugging her back then pulled away and climbed to his feet. “One down” he transmitted to the others.

‘Contact right, Two” Lew reported a minute later, there was the sound of breaking glass, then Mike shouting something, then two thuds. Then a third. Jared worried turned towards the far side of the store only to hear “Clear two down,”

they finished with the store front and moved into the office and work shop and prep area of the outfitters business, the offices were empty but one looked like a hurricane had swept through it, furniture was broken, a book case had been knocked over and there was old dried blood all over the walls.

The work shop, had a long bench down the north wall, peg boards over the bench held tools, under the bench were several cabinets. Metal cabinets were spaced evenly along the south wall. two canoes sat upside down on t frames, one had a large hole in the bow. They had been installing floats in the second, essentially blocks of Styrofoam that were cut to exact dimensions to fit in the bow and the stern in case the canoe took on water it wouldn’t sink to the bottom, making recovering that much easier. A pair of doors in the east wall led out to where the racks of canoes and kayaks were kept. Some one had painted “open for end of the world” on the doors.

“Clear” Jared called out. Then swept his light over the ceiling looking for trap doors up into the attack. He led the team back out front checking the ceiling in the hallway, bathrooms and offices for trapdoors. Finding none he felt safer, and called in people to start going through what was left to see if there was any thing they could use.

As soon as the store was cleared, vehicles were parked to box in both sets of doors, and people moved in side to spend the night.

Jared took a trip out to the Med RV and checked on Lee who looked better but was asleep, Justin was keeping him under to help him heal. Which annoyed Jared who wanted to talk to the man, but he wasn’t about to Argue with the only medical help they had. Assured that Lee would be awake and able to talk tomorrow, Jared returned to the Store.

Jared sat down in a camp chair with his laptop to write in his journal when Jansen walked up. Nibbler laying at Jared’s feet looked up saw Jansen and wagged her tail twice before closing her eyes again. “ you might want to know we recovered four compound bows, two recurve bows, one crossbow, and enough arrow shafts, assorted heads and fletching to make us arrow rich” Jansen told Jared then listed off what gear and clothing they had found and were taking.

“Might as well pull up a chair if your going to be here for a while” Jared said pushing a camp chair towards Jansen who sat thankfully, he looked tired, as tired as Jared felt. Camp tables and stoves had been set up and some of the venison Ori had brought back was being cooked up. Large propane tanks were hooked up to camp heaters as the temperature outside was plummeting and soon the store was toasty warm. The smell of cooking food filled the air.

Ori and Chris pulled up chairs and Ori proudly held up a jar of amber liquid. “ I’ve been meaning to break this out so you folks can try some. It’s the batch of shine I made before we left.” Or said “ you two weren’t talking business were you?”

“ Just discussing what we recovered here, and who is going with me when I head to Mt. weather tomorrow and what vehicles I’m going to take.” Jared said smiling at Jill who sat down between he and Jansen in moments Lew, Mike, Logan, Even Jorge and Zoe had come over to sit down with them.

“and while we are sitting here, Jansen I want you and your men to go with us tomorrow, Daws and Chris can handle the convoy. We are going to take one of the FMTV’s with the shelter on back, the up armored one with the SAW. The Hummer, one of the Tacoma’s, the ELSORV and my van and lets get every fuel can we can carry filled up first thing in the morning.

Ori poured shots for everybody and passed them around, “ okay be honest tell me what you think:” He said. Jared took downed the shot, his eyes widening. Jill coughed into her sleeve. Jorge turned beet red as he swallowed his shot.

“it will put hair on your chest” Ori said proudly.

“I don’t need hair on my chest “ Jill said, waving of a refill. “its to strong for me and I don’t want to get buzzed with zombies out there.”

Chris swished his shot around in his mouth like some wine taster, then swallowed. “ well” Ori asked.

“You know I just shaved my balls this morning” Chris said.

“What the hell does that have to do with my shine” Ori asked.

“after drinking that, I’m going to have to shave them again” Chris replied as the others laughed.

“its that strong?” Ori asked

Jared nodded with the others “ lets put it this way Ori, We can refill the flame thrower with this stuff. And it will probably burn hotter.” Jared said with a chuckle.

“where’s Ronny” Jill asked suddenly seeing Ben talking to Garret over by the camp tables.

“I saw him go into the Med RV as I was coming in” Jorge said.

“his leg is probably bothering him” Ori said, “you know him he wont miss free alcohol, he will be in here shortly.”

Jared didn’t say anything, the old Ronny wouldn’t miss a free drink even a bad one, but the new Ronny was keeping to himself a lot. For a short while Jared had thought Ronny was starting to get past his problems, then it was like a back slide Jared had only seen him arrive and leave at the lodge, and that was it. Ronny hadn’t even really talked with his friends, just went up to the small room he had been given and shut the door till morning.

Jared wasn’t going to push just yet, but he was going to ask Justin tomorrow his opinion and advice on how to get through to Ronny.

He sat back and looked around as his friends talked quietly. Diane and Nancy seemed to have become fast friends Kim; Nancy’s daughter cast glares towards Jansen and the soldiers she recognized. The other new comers seemed surprised and thrilled at having real meat for dinner.

He wouldn’t call any one upbeat, but compared to the early days of fear and uncertainty, they were.

“Penny for your thoughts” Jill asked quietly leaning towards him.

“just thinking about how beautiful you are” Jared answered just as quietly

She smiled. “ at least if your going to lie you picked a good one to use” Jill said.

“I thought so” Jared agreed with a grin.

“ I hear we have an RV with an Empty Master bedroom that’s ours. If we head out there right after dinner, we can spend some quality time before every one else shows up to sleep on the floor.” Jill said keeping her voice low.

“It’s a date” Jared replied.

********************************

Wileys outfitters, 0700 hrs.

At sunrise, the walkers that had wandered up during the night were put down. Then a security team swept the area while vehicle tanks were topped off, then started so they could warm up.

Jared walked across the frost covered parking lot to the Med RV, opening the door a rush of warm air flowed over him bringing with it a hospital smell of antiseptic and bleach. Inside he stripped of his coat, enjoying the warmth. Justin sat at the table reading a medical book. Jared’s mind flashed back to Linda doing the same thing many times, he hoped like hell that his brother had gotten Blaine back to Sullivan to help Linda with her pregnancy. He really didn’t want to hear the woman who had done so much and saved so many lives had died because of her baby.

“Morning” Justin said closing the medical book and rising.

“just came to check and Lee and see if I could talk with him for a moment. and I have a question for you too.” Jared said.

“good timing on your part” Justin replied “He is awake, and eating breakfast. You can go on back but don’t stay long. I will say that if there are no complications, I can let him out in a day or two.”

“Glad to hear it” Jared said then walked past Justin ducking through the curtain that had been hung across the RV just past the bathroom. this section held two small beds that Rob and his crew had installed for patients last fall, beyond that was the door to the small master bedroom, where lee rested. Solar panels and battery packs ran the few medical devices back here. Most were portable devices taken from a couple of ambulances and ER’s they had searched.

Lee looked up from his bowl of oatmeal as the door opened and Jared stepped into the room. “About time your lazy ass was awake” Jared said sitting down on the edge of the bed.

“I needed a couple of days off what can I say” Lee said starting to turn his head then winced in pain. “Still not a hundred percent, but much better.”

“Glad to hear it, now I have a question or two”

“I have a few hundred myself” Lee said, “like who attacked me and why being at the top of the list.”

“ I was really hoping you could tell me who it was” Jared said shaking his head in frustration.

“I was working and then some one played wack a mole with my head. I managed to shout for help, got wacked again and got my arm in the way of the third swing then fell down; all I really saw was a dark shape and a boot. Well boot sole, and I can describe that in detail. Which probably wouldn’t be any help.” Lee told him.

“did you have any arguments before the attack, any one pissed at you for sleeping with their wives or girlfriends.”

“no to the first and second, and my other medical condition is called Lackanookie, so no to the third one as well.”

“You got that one from pappy didn’t you” Jared asked smiling briefly.

“Yeah I though it was funny and its dead on for my life at this point.” Lee admitted.
“Honestly Jared if some one was angry at me, I don’t know about it. but I kind of think if it had been some one angry with me, they might have at least said, I hate your guts, or I hope you die, something anything. But who ever did, didn’t say a single word.”

Jared asked a few more questions, he had hoped Lee had seen this attacker, but now, now he was going to have to figure out how to lure the asshole out in the open and take him down. Wishing Lee well, Jared rose and walked out front intent on asking Justin about Ronny, but found Nancy and her Daughter talking to Justin.

“Thanks Justin. Ill leave you folks be” Jared said, noting the way the girls eyes followed him as he walked by, she was not in a friendly mood.

Outside people were loading up the gear getting ready to depart, He waved to Jill “going to talk to Ronny.” He called out, then caught a ride in one of the Tacoma’s out to the where the plane was sitting on the Road.

Ronny was talking with Ben as the Truck pulled up he turned and something that looked like guilt flashed across his face as Jared leaped out of the truck.

“Hey” Ronny said a slight hesitancy in his voice.

“hey yourself” Jared said replied. “haven’t really talked to you in two days, I wanted to make sure your okay”

“I’m good, really just been tired was trying to catch up on my sleep, you know how it can be.” Ronny replied.

“How’s the leg” Jared asked.

“Still crippled, No miracle cures just yet” Ronny replied. “ I know I know give it time, don’t over do it and all that shit.”

Jared didn’t feel like arguing, besides they didn’t have time. with all the motors running, it wouldn’t be long before every undead in two miles showed up.

“Anyway, I came out here because I’m taking a group up to Mt. Weather to check it out and I wanted you to fly scout for us. If its clear, or few enough zombies that we can deal with it there’s supposed to be a air strip there, as well as helipads. So you can land and refuel there if not there’s a private field nearby” Jared said.

“sure no problem” Ronny said hurriedly. “I should go ahead and get in the air, before the stinks show up fill the road”

“sure” Jared replied. “keep safe Brother hopefully Ill see you on the ground.”

Ronny nodded and climbed into the plane, once in the seat he strapped in and took a moment to steady his shaking hands. When he had first seen Jared he had thought that Jared knew he had been the one to club Lee down.

At least he doesn’t know and I can figure out a way to make up for all this shit, Ronny thought, first I get lamed, now I’m sleeping attacking people. hopefully the new sleeping pills Justin had given him wouldn’t produce any nightmares or strange behavior. I know I cant take seeing that girl again, or waking up not even sure where in the hell I am.

As soon as his baby sitters were on board, Ronny went through the checklist and soon the plane was Rolling down the asphalt gaining speed till it finally reached the Blue sky and soared up, leaving his problems on the ground below.

The convoy split the main part heading for the new camp and would attempt to secure the Semi tractors and Trailers they were going to need.

Jareds group, one ELSORV, the Van, one of the Tacoma’s, the Hummer S2, one IH scout, and a FMTV fitted with a Personnel Shelter and filled with supplies headed north.

********************************

Bradley crouched under the camouflage netting looking for the plane that he could hear overhead. He didn’t see it, but he knew what it meant. Stone was on his way.

He turned to the man beside him, “ Call Mac on the Sat phone, tell him company is coming, then call base and tell them we are ready for pick up. in two days time Stone is going to hate life, a lot. More importantly his friends were not going to feel so close to him after Bradley’s visit..”

The Solider returned to the tent to make the call, while Bradley looked down from the shallow cliff to the road below, 601 was full of undead, which was no real problem for Vehicles, but the spike strips hidden in the mass of mobile dead flesh would be and hopefully Stone would lose a few people trying to escape the trap, hell maybe even die himself.

It had taken him a week to lure that many zombies up here, but at least Williams had been gone for most of it, Williams had taken six men and went south on the Blue ridge or sky line as it was called around here. Had been called he corrected himself.

Williams had been happy about his little trip, even reporting that Jared’s group were camped at some lodge, and that he had left a few surprises for Stone and his friends. He didn’t elaborate, but something had him pretty amused, which as disturbing as that might be to Bradley probably meant bad things for Stone.

Bradley wasn’t the only one watching the sky, Williams had left the camp early and was sitting on a finger of rock watching the sky, unlike Bradley he could see the plane.

“its almost Time Jared, in a few days my revenge will start. And when it ends even if you win I will still have taken everything from you, friends, your wife, everything. You will be a broken man and will fall gladly into darkness to escape the dreams that will haunt your sleep.” Williams said aloud. He rose to his feet, and put the Draganov sniper rifle to his shoulder and peered through the site at the aircraft, barely able to keep from firing and ruining his plans. Two days, two days is you all have to wait, then you can kill them one by one.” He told himself. He slung his sniper rifle, and picked up the M16 that Bradley had given him. Stupid plastic piece of American shit, he thought in disgust. A proper AK 74 would be better, but those were rare here in the land of the Fre… I mean dead.

He laughed to himself as he climbed the twenty feet back to the hill top, and headed back for camp. Bradley would already been calling for pick up, so they could move on to really screwing Stones life up.

Down on the road, the crowd of undead moved around restlessly the only sound that of the wind and the rustle of shoes and bare feet on ice cold asphalt. A thousand plus rotting corpses from nearby towns and cities who waited.

Go to Five

10 thoughts on “Chapter four

  1. Jansen continues to grow on me. He is more complex than I initially gave him credit for.

    I love Ori in this chapter. It’s good to see him doing things he excels at. Even Pappy comes back in spirit for just a moment.

    Despite it, this story has darker tones than your last ones. I worry about how far Ronny will allow himself to be led. I miss his constant bad behavior.

    Is chapter five finished yet? Hurry!

    Like

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