Chapter Five

“Something is dead . . .
‘Tis time to creep in close about the fire
And tell grey tales of what we were, and dream
Old dreams”
~ William Ernest

The town of Berryville, in the upper north end of the Shenandoah valley, was one of those small towns that barely registered if you drove through. A quaint town, full of historic buildings, where people had lived, loved, Married and finally died Jun 23, 2010 when the dead rose.

Jared’s group had reached the outskirts of Berryville by Ten, parking in a fenced in old cement plant a mile out of town. After a quick discussion, Jared ignoring Jill went with Ori to scout head. It had taken them two hours to cross two miles, moving slow and silent constantly on the watch for undead.

Jared slipped forward as silent as the snow that fell around him, he knelt behind a line of brush and looked down onto the main road. He wore a simple white shirt and pants over his normal winter clothes, his emerald green eyes peered out from the eyes slit of the white hood he wore over his ski mask.

He studied the old home that sat in the middle of a snow covered lawn, the place was old, revolutionary war old he decided. Nothing moved behind the windows and there were no tracks in the snow around the house. Satisfied that no undead were going to come swooping down on him, Jared rose and moved down the slope to the street beyond the wooded edge of the property.

Crouching again, this time using a snow covered car to break the wind he studied the street for any sign of undead but again saw nothing. “its clear” he transmitted, tired after half a day of scouting.

“Clear my side too” Ori replied. “ meet at the intersection as planned, out.”

“Roger out” Jared replied rising to his feet, he looked around once more at the homes scattered along the street, some were new construction, others were as old as the house at his back. Covered in snow, with no undead in sight, Jared could almost believe that people still lived here. That it wasn’t the wind swept, cold, haunted ruin that it really was.

He moved down the street sticking close to tree line, brush or abandoned vehicles, moving only short distances before taking cover and scanning the area for threats again.
Finally the intersection where he was supposed to meet Ori lay just ahead.

“I’m in the UPS truck” Ori said over the radio.

Jared raised an eyebrow at that, but made his way over to the UPS truck that was half in the street and half in the yard of a colonial style home.

Jared climbed inside, thankful to be out of the wind and saw Ori sitting on a box eating chocolate. “You really want to die don’t you.” Jared said, “that stuff probably has gone bad”

“Don’t care with the way it tastes, its worth dying for.” Ori remarked as he fished another piece out of the box beside him. “ there are cookies in here, want some? And a couple of cans of Beanie weenies, some fudge, that’s probably bad, and there were two pictures of a really hot naked women in an envelope.” He grinned, and tapped the address, an APO address to one Sgt L. Springer.

“care package from the wife, there’s another one up there, to some one else, might as well open it up and see if there is anything worth keeping inside.”

“A care package to an Army guy, and you don’t feel guilty for looking at pictures of his wife.” Jared asked shaking his head.

“not a bit, I seem to remember some one close to me posting naked pictures of one of my girlfriends on a bulletin board.” Ori replied.

“She was a stripper Ori, she had to get dressed to quit her job.” Jared said trying not to laugh at the memory as he glanced out the door and checked the street.

“to be honest, I don’t feel a bit of guilt about it eating this stuff and it did depress me a little bit realizing this guy and his wife are probably dead and walking now.” Ori said as he reached into the box and pulled out three CD’s. Apparently the good Sergeant and his wife liked the same kind of music I do.” Ori said as he shoved the CD’s into his pack.

Jared groaned in dismay, any one that shared Ori’s musical tastes should have been forced to go through psych evals every month.

“lets go, you can take that stuff with you, or come back for it, but I want to check out the downtown area today.” Jared said, Berryville was only eight or nine miles from Mount Weather if there was going to be any sign of survivors it would be here. Assuming of course the survivors would have had any reason to go into town in the first place.

“ what happened to your glasses by the way” Jared asked.

“I took them off, they got frosted over,” Ori said with a soft chuckle as he quickly stuffed the snack food he wanted to keep in his pack then he and Jared climbed out of the UPS truck and into the cold winter day where the almost forgotten wind cut through them like a knife.

They walked down the side of the street; keeping a watchful eye on the homes they passed but still saw no signs of undead.

By the time the reached main street, it was almost 1300hrs. they wove through snow covered cars scattered along Main street. Like a thousand other small towns across the east coast and mid east coast, the buildings were all built around the 20’s and 30’s. they had been lovingly maintained and or restored over the years and would probably still be standing forty years from now, when most of the modern construction in the area had fallen into ruin.

Jared stopped at a vehicle and wiped at the ice and snow from the window till he could peer inside the car and saw a ice rimed face starting back at him, a leathery hand slapped against the glass and it mouth yawned wide open.

“Found a zombie” Jared said stepping away from the car, leaving the animated corpse to its boredom. To try and kill it would make enough noise to draw in any zombies that might be in the area.

“According to the sign there’s supposed to be over two thousand people in this town, so where are they all.” Ori said looking around.

“you would look a gift horse in the mouth .” Jared muttered as he moved away from the trapped zombie and gazed down the street.

Nothing moved down there, not as far as he could see. The uneasy feeling that he had been feeling was growing by leaps and bounds. Something wasn’t right, but he couldn’t put his finger on it.

“Look coffee shop” Ori said pointing to a narrow two story turn of the century brick building wedged between two other buildings that looked like they had been built in the 30’s just half a block down from where they stood.

Ori ghosted across the snow covered street to the sidewalk with Jared following. They gazed into shop windows as they passed but saw nothing moving inside the dark stores.

Reaching the Coffee shop, Ori waited till Jared had his rifle up and covering him before he shoved on the door. Finding it stuck, he pulled a knife and tapped the hilt of his knife along the door next to the frame to try and break any ice that might have built up in the crack between the door and the doorframe.

Sheathing his knife, he put his shoulder to the door and pushed again, hard this time. There was a crack of grinding ice and the door opened maybe a foot and a half.

He stepped back waiting for arms to appear in the gap, but after a few minutes of nothing happening Ori slammed against the door pushing it open far enough to get through with out taking off his pack.

Jared stepped into the store immediately behind Ori, and found himself in a dimly lit area filled with tables and chairs. For a moment he stood there his mind flashing back to another coffee shop in Nashville the day the dead had risen.

A chair lay overturned near the door, some napkins, cups and even a purse were scattered around the floor of the room. A mans shirt was draped across a table, and a shoe lay in a decorative planter.

The service counter ran along the right wall of the store, towards the back of the store were three doors, two were marked with the universal men and women’s bathroom symbols, the last door had a small sign marked private.

Ori moved cautiously behind the counter, but found only the Registers, coffee machines, grinders, cups and other supplies under the counter.

Jared moved towards the back of the store, followed by Ori. He knocked on all three doors then stepped back, waiting, when nothing bumped or struck the doors, he turned his attention to the door marked Private.

He glanced at Ori who nodded his readiness, then yanked open the door to find a staircase leading to the second floor and a short hallway that ran past the stairs to the rear door of the building.

Jared started up the stairs, The steps creaking softly under his weight as he climbed slowly to the top to find a doorway into an open area that spanned the length and width of the store, a desk with a computer and a file cabinet sat to the right of the door, to the left was a couch and an arm chair placed around a coffee table, the rest of the room filled with stored supplies for Coffee shop.

They swept the room quickly; once they were satisfied it was clear. Ori walked over to a box and cut it open with his buck knife and pulled out a foil like package of coffee.

Grinning he hunted down a hand grinder and cups then moved to the couch where he shrugged off his pack and pulled the Tri ox stove from a side pocket. He folded it open added the tablet then used placed the metal canteen cup on the stove and filled it with water from his canteen. While he waited for it to start boiling he poured coffee beans into the grinder.

Three minutes later Jared was holding a cup of steaming coffee in his hand, the only thing that would have made this moment better would have been to be naked in bed with Jill.

“I wonder what happened here” Ori asked between sips and sighs of pure pleasure.

“Did you see any blood” Jared asked, certain he hadn’t noticed any.

“Not a drop” Ori said.

“Evacuation then, its my best guess at any rate” Jared said. “you do realize that Jill, Ronny and the rest are going to kill us for drinking coffee with out them being here.”

“to bad they should learn to scout” Ori said feeling no mercy for the others.

“Ill wait to see you act that brave when Jill is about to kill you.” Jared said.

Ori grinned at him for a moment the looked around. “ I say we stay here for the night, then call the every one else in tomorrow morning.”

“I think maybe its better if we call them in now, sweep a couple of other buildings while waiting for them. Then settle in for the night when they get here.” Jared said, not even the coffee helped him shake the uneasy feeling.

Ori watched him for a moment, then cradling the hot cup in his hands he leaned forward. “ You feel it too don’t you” Ori asked Jared. “Like something is going to happen”

Jared nodded “ I have since we entered this town, and the feeling is only growing stronger as the day goes on.”

“Then maybe we should leave the town, and return to the camp.” Ori suggested.

“No, I.. Hell I don’t know, I think it wont matter if we are here or out there.” Jared said. “ and here there are walls and a roof, “

“Make the call then” Ori said, as he started water for two more cups of coffee. “I think we might ought to wait till they get here to sweep more buildings too.”

Jared nodded in agreement as he moved to the window that overlooked Main Street, where he began to set up the compact radio system and its solar charger.

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

By the time Jill and the others arrived it was close to 1600hrs, and the light was steadily fading from lead gray to black. They parked the scout and the Van in a V the the open end of the V against the building so if they had to flee, they might be able to make it into the vehicles and escape with out much danger.

They transferred enough gear upstairs that if the worst happened they would have food and water for a while. Blankets were dragged out and tacked up over the windows, then lanterns were lit.

The Room though large was packed with all the people assembled inside, Thor Jansen and his squad were set up by the stair case to make it easier to guard the approach.

The rest of the group had restacked the boxes of supplies to form a large rectangular space with the hope the cardboard would help reflect body heat back into the now semi enclosed area making it warmer. With a real heat source Jared was sure it would work, but with just body heat, it wasn’t likely to overcome the bitter cold.

“its still damn cold in here” Logan said shivering, and watching Ori as he fixed coffee for every one.

“I saw a sign for a hardware store about a block down, most every hardware store Ive been in, at least in small towns have heaters and other things we might be able to use.” Jared said taking a deep breath savoring the smell of hot coffee, the smell held just a hint of chocolate.

“Ori, Ed, Garret, Jorge, Zoe and Mike can go with me and we can haul back a stove, and anything else we can use.” Jared said, ignoring the look Jill gave him, he wanted her here to take charge while he was gone and she could get pissed all she wanted about it.

Jared delayed only long enough to down his third cup of coffee of the month, then the group he was leading out pulled on the backs and headed down the stairs and out into the shadow filled street, the sun had almost set and the line of mountains to the west were lined in fire.

Keeping rifles slung, each man and woman carried either a bow or Crossbow as they moved as quietly as they could down the street. The only sound the crunch of their boots in the new fallen snow and the whistle of the winter wind.

Jared hoped Ronny had made it back to the new camp before the latest winter storm had swept over the area. They passed the dark stores where the occasional door stood open to the inky blackness inside, where anything could hide.

Ori glided forward silent as a mouse fully aware of his surroundings determined not to get surprised by the undead, no matter how empty the town appeared there could be hundreds of the living dead just around a corner, or in a building just waiting to spill out into the nigh and Eat him.

As he passed Sally’s Hair and Nail salon, he heard a sound over the wind and saw something in the shop move towards the door, It was just a shape darker than the shop around it he held up a hand and clenched his fist signaling for every one behind him to stop.

He crouched knocking an arrow to his bow string and waited, less than a minute later a Large black bear shuffled out onto the snow covered sidewalk, it lifted its head and sniffed, then turned its head and looked straight at Ori who backed up very slowly. Eaten by a bear or eaten by undead neither one would be fun he decided.

The Bear reared up on its hind legs and faced Ori and the others. As Ori backed up far enough that the bear didn’t feel he was a threat the large bear dropped back to all fours and shambled across the street then vanished between two buildings.

Ori let out a breath he hadn’t even realized he was holding, Black bears were generally harmless, but generally didn’t mean they didn’t attack on occasion and a four hundred and fifty pound bear could really hurt a man if it had a mind to.

They cross the street and entered the parking lot that ran across the front and down half the side of the store before ending a gated fence the enclosed an area that held PVC pipes, lumber and other large items.

The door to the store was closed and even had a closed sign hanging in the large window beside the door. Out front the stuff that had been on display when the world had ended still sat covered in snow. Two different sized kennel cages, pull behind carts and wagons, and other items. What Jared was most interested in was the padlocked metal cage that held fifteen large propane bottles.

Ori tried the door and found it locked, “okay any suggestions” he asked the group.
Ed nodded as he removed his pack and dug around in a pocket before pulling out a small device with a pistol grip.

“it’s a lock pick gun Ed explained. “took it off a guy a few years back, when everything went to hell I thought it might come in handy sometime.”

He moved up beside Ori, and shined a dim light on the lock. Then selected the picks he needed and attached them to the gun.

“and here I thought cops were all law abiding” Ori whispered Ed didn’t respond he just squeezed the trigger a few times then turned the gun.

“Lets clear the place like normal, no sense in assuming its empty” Jared said, if he was worried about having two new people at his back it didn’t show. He took off his pack and strapped his bow back in place, “lets use hand weapons, unless you have a crossbow, fire arms only if we have to.” Jared said as he pulled his pack back on and drew his Khurkri and Tomahawk.

The key principles in room and building were simple, especially for soldiers who weren’t trained to be nice. Speed, Surprise and Violence of Action were key to dynamic entry as Jared’s long dead instructor had said during training.

“Jorge, Zoe you come in last, since your not used to doing this our way.” Jared said as Ori and the rest stacked up behind him. “when you come inside, guard the door in case we have to fall back”

Since the Undead were never really surprised, Jared flipped on the light mounted on the shoulder of his combat harness, then slammed the door open going left, Ori hot on his heels going to the right in less than a two seconds every one was in the store, and sweeping towards the back carefully checked each lane of shelving to make sure nothing was missed.

At the back were the offices, and a door to the stock yard. Ignoring the outside door, they entered the offices and again found nothing. Returning to the store front, Jared shook his head looking around at the fully stocked shelves.

“Ed, you and Mike find two decent sized heaters and carry them to the front doors, when you have that done, see they if have knifes, Machetes, axes, axe handles, and anything else that might be of use. Ori lets grab bolt cutters, keyed padlocks, chain, and any other tool or item we might need and carry it up front.” Jared said. Half an hour later they had a large pile of items beside the front door.

“Exactly how are we going to get all this back to the coffee shop” Mike asked

Jared pointed out the window the large carts and wagons made to pull behind riding lawn mowers and four wheelers.

“we take two of the four wheeled wagons load them up and pull them to the back door of the Coffee shop, we can carry the propane bottles and heaters upstairs, load the rest in the vehicles.” Jared said with a slight smile.

Jorge shook his head in what might have been admiration “ you people know how to strip place” he said, Zoe nodded in agreement.

Jared was pretty happy he had decided to bring those two along at the last moment, they both worked hard, and were not afraid to take intelligent risks.

“you think this is something, you should see what we can do with a lot of people and plenty of vehicles to carry stuff, we could strip this place clean in ten minutes, even take the trash out “ Jared said with a tight smile. “lets get busy, and get back to the coffee shop” Jared said.

While the others loaded the wagons, Jared and Ori Cut the padlocks on the propane storage cage and stripped it bare, which meant a two more wagons.

“do you worry that some one else might live around here and we are taking things they need” Jorge asked as Jared loaded the last propane bottle.

“not really, its been a year and a half if any one lived around here, they would have already taken the propane and heaters. And probably a lot more besides.” Jared said. Though on occasion he did wonder if they had left some one high and dry by taking things from the various towns his people had passed through. Any time he had suspected survivors lived in an area he had just left everything where it was.

With the Wagons loaded, they started back to the coffee shop pulling the wagons behind them half way back it began to snow again.

Once they had every thing stowed away, either upstairs or in the vehicles they finally settled down for the night upstairs. Jorge and Zoe got a card game going and dragged ED, Steger, Lane, Tolliver and Ori into some Texas hold em, using stir straws as chips.

Jared kicked back with a hack saw and a shovel handle cutting a slot in the handle, while Jill worked on her leathers checking rivets and thread to make sure the armor she had attached wasn’t coming loose.

“What are you making “Sinclair asked Jared from where he sat by the stair case on fire watch.

“a pole arm of sorts” Jared replied, “I’m going to mount a machete bade to this handle then rivet it in place, then fill the rest of the slot with JB weld, then wrap that thin copper wire around it. use a little sandpaper to rough up the handle for a good grip and maybe bind it in leather or something and add studs for grip.” Jared explained.

“why” Baker asked, setting aside the play boy he had been looking at. “why not just use an axe or something.”

“Because I like reach on occasion and I’m pretty good with staff like weapons” Jared replied.

“ I got reach and I don’t need a weapon” Bake said grinning then looked Jeb. “ well not as much as Bull over there” he said nodding his head towards Jeb.

“go ahead whip it out and slap a zombie with it, just ignore me as I Laugh when it gets bitten off” Jeb retorted.

“man that aint even funny” Bake replied.

Jared tuned them out, the rest of the Machetes were going to be handed out to any one in the convoy that didn’t have some kind of long bladed weapon, just like he planned on doing with the ax’s and pick axes.

He worked on the staff weapon for another hour then he and Jill wrapped up in the big sleeping bag they shared with the dog who grudgingly allowed them enough room to sleep.

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

“Jared” Jared opened his eyes instantly awake hearing Ori’s voice. “you might want to come see this”

Jared slipped out of the sleeping bag and silently followed Ori to one of the windows overlooking Main Street. “Take a look” Ori said

Jared pulled the blanket back just enough to peer outside, the cloud cover had parted during the night revealing a large moon and crisp clear stars that glittered over head like diamonds. The moonlight reflected off the snow adding to the light making it easier to see.

He didn’t even have to ask what Ori wanted him to see, there across the street he could see foot prints in the snow a trail that ran down the block, and he could see at least four places where some one had entered a building.

“do you want me to go scout it out” Ori asked.

“No.” Jared said.” How long ago did the snow stop falling.”

“About an hour ago,” Ori asked. “your thinking ambush aren’t you.”

“Maybe, I take it you didn’t see who made those tracks” Jared asked.

“No, Benton was on watch and noticed them when the clouds rolled out and it got bright enough to see. He woke me up to see what I thought.”

“It could have been undead” Jared pointed out.

“it could be raiders who spotted our vehicles coming into town too” Ori pointed out.

“I agree it could be.” Jared said glancing up at the sky. “its close to dawn, lets get every one up and ready to get the hell out of here. Ten to one they are waiting for daylight.”

With the fall of civilization, and the loss of power and batteries, combat at night was something that was rare unless the dead broke in. For a group like Jared’s who still had NVG’s and other things that still worked Night ops were still feasible.

It only took moments to get every one up and repacked what gear they had removed from their backpacks yesterday.

“It’s a good thing we loaded up all the coffee last night” Lane said as he stood by the stair case watching the stairs”

The group now well used to acting quickly got everything ready to go, then waited as Jansen’s squad moved downstairs and out the back door to check around the vehicles.

Jared waited while Jansen’s Team cleared the area around the vehicles, trying to ignore the knot of tension in his stomach.

“Area clear” Benton reported five long minutes later.

“ Lets move it” Jared called out getting the group moving down the stairs.

He stepped out into the snow and the cold, rifle in hand. Not able to shake the feeling that something was about to happen. Nibbler stopped at his side looking around then her ears laid back along her skull and growled deep in her chest.

Ori headed for the access ladder on the back wall, intending to climb up to the roof but Jared called him back. “no today, lets just blow this taco stand okay”

Ori shrugged, “no problems” Ori said heading for the ELSORV.

As soon as the last person had loaded, engines roared to life shattering the silence that had cloaked the winter morning.

In moments they were back on East main, with no sign of who ever or what ever had made the footprints. they drove east passing the old buildings on Main street, the wind of their passage sent snow swirling up behind them. Rose Hill park was as empty as most of the town, snow covered the baseball field and the old gazebo, a tree lay on the ground its trunk having snapped in half.

They passed an Architecture office, a tattoo shop, a Computer store, Up ahead Jared spotted the police station, and had Mike slow down then stop on the street in front of the building. He could see four police cars in the parking lot beside the building.

“Ed, lets see if you can pick the locks on those cars and see if anything is in the trunks” Jared said swinging the door open and climbing out into the snow.

“Why not just bust out the windows” Ed asked joining Jared, while Ori stood in the Gunners position ready to cover them if needed.

Before Jared could respond, Ed smashed the window of the first cruiser in with the butt of his rifle then reached in and popped the trunk. “ Lock picked” Ed said with a smile.

“you sure you used to be a cop, you seemed to enjoy vandalizing that police cruiser a little to much” Jared said stepping around to the back and lifting the trunk lid.

“nothing but a first aid kit and a spike strip” Jared said pulling both out and setting them down in the snow.

Ed shrugged and moved from cruiser to cruiser busting out windows and opening the trunks.

Jared shook his head half smiling then got down to searching trunks, when he finished he had four first aid kits, one gear bag with a HK G36 with six mags and several boxes of ammo. And three more spike strips. Together the two men carried the stash to the Van and loaded it inside.

The sun was now completely over the horizon, which meant Ronny would be overhead in ten to twenty minutes Jared thought, might as well spend it looking for gear and materials. “all right, Team one on me, lets check out the Police department.” Jared said.

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

“I should have stayed on the Damned Island with Mary” Ronny told himself as a Truck took him from the Warehouse building the convoy was camping in to the Twin Otter.

It wasn’t the camp that Jared had picked, but Chris on seeing the fenced Industrial park, that sat just outside a small town surrounded by Scattered homes and woods, and had decided it was the best place, since they were going to be in the area for three days while collecting Semi Rigs and Fuel for the last push on the Green Briar.

The pseudo Runway was inside the fence line and just barely wide enough and long enough for the Twin otter to land and take off from. Like the Military Plane he had been flying the Twin otter only needed a short distance to take off and land on, though the UV needed even less than the twin otter. But a thousand feet was cutting it close for the Otters take off. Oh well if I’m not High enough Ill take out the fence and die in a fiery crash, which might not be a bad thing with the way my life has been going, Ronny thought as the truck came to a stop beside the Plane.

Ronny grabbed his gear nodding his thanks to the driver he opened the trucks door and stepped out. Ignoring Ben and the others he limped over and climbed into the Twin otter, biting back a groan as pain flared in his bad leg, which only made his mood sink further down as he was further reminded of his disabled status.

At least I didn’t wake up to find I had almost killed any one else, Ronny thought. Not that he had slept much last night. he had woken up around 0300 and had gotten up long enough to swipe some uppers from Justins medical supplies. He couldn’t take much more of the dreams that were now plaguing him every night and the fear every morning he would wake up and find out he had killed or maimed some one in his sleep.

Bright side was Lee was up and around, he had some memory loss that might or might not come back with time. Ronny stowed his pack, and then strapped in to the pilots seat and started going through the check list while Ben and his other Baby sitters boarded the plane.

“Fire T handles” Ronny said aloud “ In, and check”
Emergency fuel switches are set to normal, Emergency pumps off, Fuel selector Normal” Ronny said as he ran through the check list.

Finally Ronny was finished with preflight check, he checked the battery voltage and the wind directions then called out clear before starting the first engine. The engine turned over smoothly, oil pressure rising. He fired off the second engine checked the voltage and oil pressure .

“Welcome to Apocalypse Air” he said over the intercom, trying to sound like his normal self. “todays flight will take us over several scenically dead towns and even a small city infested with the undead, for insurance reasons I have to ask that you don’t attempt to feed any undead you may see.”

“This is where it gets really hard” he muttered to Ben. “we don’t have a lot of room on either side, and only twenty feet extra for take off.”

“You sure you can do this” Ben asked which was just enough to add to Ronny’s irritation.

“I may not be able to Run, or hike long distances, But I can still shoot and I can still fucking Fly” Ronny snapped at Ben then stopped taking a deep breath. “sorry, Yes I can do this”

Ben didn’t answer, he just looked out the windscreen pointedly ignoring Ronny, who had been snapping at him a lot lately.

He Stood on the brakes letting the Engines reach the correct speed then released them, the plane leaped forward, gaining speed rapidly as Ronny grimly kept it straight watching the distant fence that marked the end of the so called runway grow larger and larger.

Air speed building, almost there Ronny thought his eyes flicking across the instruments then back up to look at the fence. Praying he didn’t hit a patch of ice under the snow that would send them sliding into a building to the left or the fence to the right.

Almost there, he thought again watching the air speed indicator inching higher, the fence was dead ahead and growing larger starting to fill the windscreen.

“There” He shouted as the airspeed hit the mark, he pulled back on the yoke resisting the urge to add more power and pull the nose up any higher, stalling out and falling back to the ground was not on his list of things to do today.

The plane climbed engines roaring, the Fence fell below the angle Ronny could see, and he waited testicles in his throat, for the struts to catch the fence and send them tumbling to the ground where he would be cooked to death and with out a Good BBq Rub or sauce.

Ronny let out the breath he hadn’t even realized he had been holding and took the plane up to a thousand feet and headed north east.

“that was…” Ben said. “great take off”

“any take off where you don’t smash into stuff is a good take off” Ronny said trying to joke.

Ben nodded his heartfelt agreement then turned his head to look at Ronny. “are you okay, you don’t look like you’ve gotten a lot of sleep lately.”

Ronny bit off the smart assed comment that almost came out, Ben was giving him those hurt puppy dog eyes and he was a good man no matter his age. “I’m fine,” Ronny said with a smile that made him look exhausted. “why don’t you take the controls for a few minutes and get some flight time in, just keep us on the current heading for now” Ronny said, Ben eagerly grasped the yoke as Ronny let go.

“Relax your doing fine” Ronny said, as he watched Ben sit stiffly his hands locked on the yoke.

“I am relaxed” Ben said with a smile that made him look like a constipated opossum. “and your not going to make me forget what I was talking about by bribing me with flight time” Ben said with the obstinacy only a sixteen year old man could display.

“it was worth a try” Ronny said.

“I know I’m not Jared, or your wife, I’m probably not even a friend. But if you need someone to talk to Ronny “ Ben stopped for a moment as he scanned the instrument panel then continued on. “I’m not good with all the people stuff or anything but dude you trusted me and let me learn how to fly and that’s something I’ve Dreamed about since I was little so the least I can do is let you vent while I listen.”

“thanks Ben, I mean that, and yes you are my friend” Ronny said and meant it. the differences in age didn’t mean crap at this point. It was all about shared experiences since the dead had come and their love of flying. But Ronny wasn’t about to tell Ben about how he had clubbed Lee down while sleep walking or how intense the nightmares had become, so intense that Ronny was determined to avoid sleep as much as possible so he wouldn’t hurt some one else or have to deal with that thing in his dreams that claimed to be his unborn daughter. “I just haven’t slept well for a week or so, no biggy I think it was the sleeping pills I was taking.”

“all right “ Ben said realizing Ronny wasn’t ready or willing to talk yet. “but I’m here if you need to talk to some one okay”

“thanks Ben.” Ronny said letting the conversation drop then looked out the window where the early morning light glittered on the snow far below.

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

Jared stepped out into the cold, and looked up as a Plane flew overhead “time to load up and go” Jared transmitted to the team, then switched Channels “ Hows it looking from there” He asked Ronny over the dedicated channel.

“empty, lots and lots of empty” Ronny replied.

“other than a trail of footprints down main street that’s the way it looks from the ground.” Jared replied as his team exited the building carrying what little they had found.

The police station hadn’t been a total bust, there had been some body armor, two rifles, a little bit of ammo, Radio’s, clothes. Some one had cleaned the place out sometime in the past. Probably the cops themselves when they had gone where ever it was that the town had gone.

“I got the gun mount this time” Jared told Ori who shrugged and dropped back into the ELSORV’s interior. Jared climbed into position then banged on the roof. “lets go” he hollered. The line of vehicles headed east towards the Blue ridge mountains.

At least the uneasy feeling Jared had, had since arriving in Berryville was fading, maybe it was just a bad case of nerves. Or their leaving had stopped what ever had been going to happen. didn’t matter, just get the hell out of this creepy town and don’t look back Jared told himself.

With Ronny scouting ahead they turned off east main and eventually found themselves out of the town limits and passing through snow covered fields and farm houses, they crossed 608 then turned north on 621 before working their way around a quarry using what had to be dirt and gravel roads.

“your going to have to take Route 7 till you cross the road, unless you want to go cross country” Ronny told Jared, who signaled the group to stop. He slid inside and checked his maps but found nothing that would help them, once they reached the Shennadoah River they were going to have to use Route 7 to cross anyway, might as well save fuel and just use the main road now.

“what’s seven look like” Jared asked, there was a long delay as Ronny flew over the road.

“not bad, there’s not a lot of vehicles on the road to be honest. Or undead that I can see.” Ronny reported. “Ill go check ahead and see how far you can go with out problems’ Ronny said.

Probably could have just driven out of town on East main to 7 and saved a lot of fuel. Jared thought, as he told Mike to head for 7.

Ronny caught himself humming as he flew along the road, surprised to find he was that relaxed. “Take over for a few minutes” He told Ben who instantly took the stick. “just follow the road for about ten minutes, then come around and head back the same way.”

He closed his eyes and woke as Ben called his name urgently. “what” he asked groggily turning to look at Ben then recoiled as he saw a gaping hole in the side of Bens head, he shot upright in his seat, and saw the plane was on autopilot. He looked into the back and saw Harald dead still strapped into his seat, a bullet hole in his skull, Lany was slumped over Haralds lap, and both Damen and the other soldier looked like they had been flayed alive.

“Ronny” Ben said, Ronny jerked awake recoiling from Bens touch, then realized he was truly awake.

“what” he asked sharply fear fading swiftly.

“you need to see this” Ben said as he banked the plane around and then dropped altitude. Ronny looked out the window and saw what looked like a roadblock, taking the stick back he dropped the plane down to about eighty feet and swept back over the spot.

“its what” Jared said thinking he misunderstood as he ducked down into the ELSOR hoping to hear better.

“ the road is blocked just outside the next town, it looks like some one stacked up a bunch of those cement Road dividers and built a fort across the road, traffic looks like its backed all the way up to D.C. from there.” Ronny reported again. “ it looks like they set up some sort of FOB with a massive Decon installation down there.”

“what about our route to Mt. Weather.” Jared asked.

“Give me five minutes and Ill let you know” Ronny said as he banked the airplane and headed south along the mountains.

For the first couple of minutes the road was clear, but as he reached the place on his fight maps listed as restricted airspace, he saw the road was filled with undead, undead that were also pressed up against a fence that encircled the Government facility. At least they were only along the long line of fence that bordered the road, but getting past them was going to be a problem.

”how badly do you want to check this place out” Ronny asked Jared, then looked at the facility again, his attention riveted causing him to miss Jareds reply.

“what ever you may be thinking about this place forget it, there’s people down there” Ronny transmitted. “ I can see tire tracks in the snow, leading from one building to another”

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

the Farmhouse was two miles south of Route 7, Jared leaned against the ELSORV watching as Ronny climbed out of the Twin otter and limped towards the parked vehicles. To say Jared wasn’t happy was an understatement, they had wasted a day and a night in the area just to check out Mt. Weather only to find out they couldn’t get near the damn thing, and Ronny spotting signs of life only made it worse in Jareds book.

Who was there, how many, did he even want to talk to what had to be representatives of the US Government?

Jill climbed out of the warm Vehicle and went and Hugged Ronny tightly as Ronny came to a stop in front of Jared. “ I have an idea but your not going to like it” Ronny said with out preamble. Jared knew what Ronny was going to suggest, and was more than tempted to say no. “there’s a spot inside the fence line that’s long enough for me to land and take off from. I can fly twenty people inside, if you really want to check it out.”

If I say no, how will he take it, Jared thought gazing at Ronny, noting the dark circles under his friends eyes. The way he has been acting lately he will think im doubting his ability and get insulted, Jared thought.

“I know you don’t like Flying Jared but if you want to get in there safely it’s the only way.” Ronny added, almost desperately, he was determined to be useful instead of just the guy who flies around scouting.

Jill who stood slightly behind Ronny nodded encouragingly at Jared. “what if, who ever is in there doesn’t appreciate having company drop in on them.” Jared asked, dithering only in part because he really did hate flying.

“what if there’s a clown” Ori asked as he joined them.

“bite my hairy ass” Jared told the Blond former scout.

“its possible, maybe they were having a birthday party when the world went to hell and the clown was trapped there with every one else.” Ori said with a grin. Ronny actually smiled for a moment.

“we have a chance to find out what happened to the Government, and maybe even score supplies. I say its worth it” Ed called out from the other side of the ELSORV.

Jared finally nodded “ Okay, okay, you idiots are so willing to fly in a metal box how can I say no. Jansen, I want your squad to go with me, out of Team one, I want Jill, Logan, Ed, Steger, Ori and Mike. Every one else stay here, if we are not back day after tomorrow, head back to the convoy. If a huge mass of undead show up between now and then head back to the convoy.” Jared said, a smile spread across Ronnys face. “Harald, Lany and the two soldiers with you can stay here and help guard. So get your gear folks, and lets go visit the Government folks.”

“You know I never thought I would actually be excited about going to visit the Government, but I swear if there is an IRS office there I’m opening the gates and letting the undead inside. “ Benton muttered.

Jansen didn’t say anything he just smiled for a second as he listened to his squad, but his eyes were on Jill. After a moment he turned to his men, who had thankfully stopped calling him Thor, though they still cracked God of thunder jokes and liked calling themselves the Hammer, “as soon as we land, you boys are unassing from the plane and securing the perimeter. Do not fire unless fired upon, if fired on kill the bastards.”

“No Problem Sarge, my question is, do you think the politicians brought their hookers with them:” Sinclair asked, Baker grinned and the two men high fived.

“Stow it Sinclair, and Baker button your damn fly” Jansen said with a quick shake of his head. There were times he thought I want to just shoot them. “get your gear loaded so we can get this done.”

Jared was the last person on board, “I thought you were going to leave the dog” Ori asked, the dog gave him a look that almost seemed like she was saying shut up.

“she wouldn’t let any one near her, till I took her off the leash and then she just followed me” Jared said with a shrug as he sat down and put on the all to flimsy looking seat belt. Which in reality would only keep him strapped onto the falling pane if the engines gave out. Nibbler lay down by his feet, placed her head on his foot and went to sleep.

“Todays flight will take us to restricted airspace where we might be shot down resulting in a lot of screaming and shouts of oh god oh god we are all going to die. Sit back and I hope you enjoy the flight” Ronny said, sounding like his old self.

“I think I like him better when he was depressed” Jared muttered grunting as Jill elbowed him.

“at least he didn’t dress Ben up as a Clown and have him play flight attendant.” Jill pointed out.

“true that saved his life and Bens” Jared said then fell silent as the engines turned over one at a time. he turned pale as the plane wheeled around and began to accelerate across the field. He could feel every bump and rut. He kept a white knuckled grip on the arm rests of his seat till the plane was airborne, and then relaxed enough that some color returned to his knuckles.

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

Mac has spent the last two days alternately sitting in the deer stand or in the Van, his scouts down in Berryville had reported a small group of vehicles that had to be part of Jared Stones Group, unless there were two Jacked up off Road vans and wild looking Military looking jeep like vehicle.

They had been reported leaving town almost two hours ago, and then that damned airplane had flown over twice. There was no way they could have missed the undead that filled the road below. They had to have warned Stone, who had probably changed his mind about visiting the installation, which meant Mac might have lost him and if that was the case then he had better just pack his bags and run like hell because Kronnen wasn’t known for being forgiving and Mac had no desire to find out what went on behind closed doors when Kronnen put the question to who ever angered him.

Mac shouldn’t have gotten cute by luring in the undead, Bradley had warned him it could cause problems, but Mac had gone ahead and done it anyway.

If only Bradley and his men hadn’t already left, taking that creepy ass Williams with them, I could get him to send out some of his men, who were frankly better scouts than my own men, to find Stone, He thought. In the distance he heard the place again, and began scanning the skies finally spotting it coming in from the west.

Now that was interesting he thought, he knew they had left town, and the plane had vanished for a short period of time, maybe it had landed which meant Stone was somewhere between here and town. All he needed to do was send men back towards town down 605 and see where the plane went when it left here again.

Putting thoughts to action he sent ten men out and then settled in to watch the Plane as it circled the facility again, but this time on its third pass it came in on a different approach and was losing altitude

Mac Stared for a moment his jaw hanging open, that idiot was going to land inside the fence line. He hadn’t even suspected a plane could land in there, Stone wasn’t going to go through the undead he was just going to avoid them all together.

His mind raced as he considered his options, but in the end his only orders were to follow Stone and find out what he was looking for, and harass Stones Group when possible as long as it didn’t give away the fact he was shadowy Stone.

“okay so your smart” Mac said aloud to an imaginary Jared Stone. “I could blow the fence and let the undead in, but if you got killed Kronnen would kill me. So its your lucky day” he ignored the looks he got from his driver.

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

the field Ronny was landing on sat behind the heliport for the Mt Weather complex, its four landing pads filled, the overflow almost twenty helicopters, had been landed along the edge of the field.

Jared closed his eyes as the plane came in over the fence, crossed a building then a parking lot, then tires touched down in the snow. He heard some one snickering at his discomfort and vowed to beat them with a skillet later. Finally the plane slowed then turned before stopping completely.

Jansen was already unbuckled and at the door when the plane stopped, barking at his men to move out. As the Soldiers rushed out the door of the plane and set up a perimeter, Jared unbuckled and grabbed his pack and rifle. He leaned down and kissed Jill on the cheek, “ just in case,” he said as he headed for the door. Ronny determined not to be left behind grabbed his rifle and headed outside.

Mt. Weather, or The Hight Point Special Facility, HPSF, or just SF, as it had been officially called since 1991, had an interesting history and was an interesting location that had been cloaked in mystery for decades.

The entire facility above ground covered 434 acres, it was first built in 1880 as a weather station it had been used as a civilian public service facility in World War Two, with just two buildings on site. By 1959 area B the 600,000+ square foot underground portion of the Facility had been completed as part of the continuity of Government or COG,

It had been rumored for years that Area B, held a Hospital, movie theatre and bowling alley, apartments, a spring fed underground lake to supply the water for the facility, a command bunker, and every other thing one could find in a small city or needed to run a government.

What Jared did know was that FEMA and DHS had shared control of the above ground part of the facility, including the EBS radio station, and the communications trunk lines that were supposed to help scattered military units and bases stay in contact with each other.

Jared could see microwave dishes on one roof top, a cell phone tower and several Antenna arrays behind the main buildings.

“Looks dead to me” Ori said as he pulled out his binoculars and took a closer look. “there’s tire tracks just like Ronny said, but I would have expected a greeting party if the Government was still in charge around here.”

“Lets go check out a few buildings and see if any one is home” Jared said, glancing at Ronny almost telling him to stay with the plane in case they needed a fast get away, then changed his mind.

“Jansen you and your men stay here and guard the plane, Team one with me” Jared said, then sighed as Nibbler having escaped Ben, leaped out of the plane and raced over to Jared side.

“Bad Dog, go back to the plane” Jared said only to be ignored by the headstrong dog.

“Like she understands English” Ori remarked. “ I dated a woman like her once, stubborn as hell.”

“Swedish, had almost as much hair if I remember correctly” Ronny said, seemingly his old self, Jared had to look close to see the worry and apprehension in his friends eyes it was there barely held in check.

What the hell did he expect, all of them were suffering from PTSD by now, if they hadn’t need food for the island he wouldn’t have left again till spring and maybe not even then, they needed a break before they all lost it.

“She wasn’t hairy” Ori protested.

“She had a mustache Ori.” Ronny retorted.

“Now your confusing her with that Italian woman you dated.” Ori replied.

“oh.. I be damned your right” Ronny said grinning for a second before the humor fled him.

“lets go” Jared said starting across the field, thankful the wind was blowing the stench of the undead away from them. The fence was eight foot tall capped with Razor wire, and had metal slats attached to the chain link to keep outsiders from looking in. Jared had seen fences constructed like that one before, they were designed to take the impact of a speeding car or truck and should hold up well against the weight of the undead. should being the operative word.

Jill with out a word fell back and walked beside Ronny who quickly grew frustrated at not being able to keep up with Jared and Ori who were heading towards large white two story building that looking something like a hangar or maybe a warehouse or motor pool.

“There’s supposed to be a mine entrance in the side of the mountain that leads down into the underground section of the Base” Ori said into the silence. Jared nodded as he tried the normal sized door set into the big building. It was locked which he had suspected it might be. Turning he started up the road that ran north and parallel to the field, there were only two buildings on the field side, but the right side of the street was filled with buildings that looked like any you would find on a military base.

The next building had a sign that read Emergency Operations center. Jared led his team across the parking lot and peered into the windows. What offices and hallways he could see were empty and there was no sign of violence.

For half an hour they checked buildings never entering just looking through windows. The main complex of buildings seemed to be offices, mostly FEMA, with one Building dedicated for DHS, most were unmarked except for numbers.

The parking lot for the visitor center which they had flown over on landing, was filled with cars, most carried local plates, the rest had either D.C or Maryland plates. And the visitor center was just as empty as the rest of the buildings.

They headed east then took a curving road to the north and discovered a garage and motor pool. MRAPs, Armored Hummers, one huge ass Custom RV, it had been rebuilt for off road which set Jared to drooling and trying to figure out how he was going to get it out of here. There were others as well, Strykers, four M113’s. and Trucks like Duece and a halves.

“am I the only one that keeps seeing tons of private and government vehicles parked all over the place and has to wonder why there isn’t a single person or zombie” Jill said as Jared walked around the RV.

“because they are in the city under this place” Ori said crossing his arms over his chest.

“another one of your conspiracy theories” Jill asked, Ori shook his head.

“then you tell me where they all went.” He suggested.

“an underground base isn’t a far stretch, considering we are heading to an old bunker built under a hotel to pick up supplies.” Ed commented.

Ori knelt resting, he coughed and when Jared glanced his way he flashed a signal sign they had come up with during their years together in the Army, its meaning was simple someone was watching them. Jared didn’t acknowledge the warning he just squatted and looked up behind one of the 6×6’s wheels checking the suspension.

After a minute he rose to his feet, casually looking around, he wasn’t as good as Ori, but he was good enough, he spotted at least three men fully camouflaged hiding in the snow and overgrown wild hedges across the street. “might as well head back to the plane, there’s no one here and nothing we can use anyway.” Jared said clearly. .

Ronny hadn’t missed the signal, and his stomach rolled slowly as tension and fear he already felt increased. He didn’t bother to look around, he saw where Jared’s eyes had lingered for a heartbeat and figured that was where the threat lay.

“before we go, lets check out the bays, see if there are any tools, oil or parts we can use” Jared said leading the way inside. As soon as they were inside, Jared quickly and quietly split them up into teams of two and had them take cover in areas they could cover the bay doors and the rear entrance.

“Ronny, you stay with Jill, and cover that back door, which ever way they come in they will come in behind a flash bang. When they do, close your eyes turn away, open your mouth and hold your breath that will lessen the effects, and then shoot any dumb bastard who comes in..”

Jared didn’t even bother trying to position Ori, who was already gone to where ever he had chosen to deal with the aggressors.

Jared picked his position and waited, knowing the men outside were not stupid and would figure out in another minute or two they had been spotted when Jared and his people didn’t reappear.

Room and building clearing against idiots with no training or one or two trained individuals with no coordination was what these guys had been trained for, what they were not trained for were the men and one woman with Jared who were battle hardened and used to working as a team against the undead and the living.

Hopefully they would try to talk first, but he doubted it. Either they were still trying to enforce the law here on this installation or they were worried Jareds group were raiders. Either way they took it, it was most likely going to be bloody.

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

Col. Emmett Stanford, glared at Special Agent Allen Green, “ you will not initiate a fire fight with out my order, Am I clear.”

“Senator Brown, was clear Colonel lethal force is to be used on the Tresspassers.” Green shot back.

“Need I reminded you this facility is under Military control during the current crisis by Presidential order, Martial Law, Agent Green. The Senator does not give orders here.” Standford said angrily, glad he was in a building across from the motor pool or the trespasser would have heard him clearly.

“Sir, the Senator is the ranking member of the Government to survive” Green replied just as angrily.

“ I will not debate my orders to you Agent Green, your men are to stand down or I will have you and your cretins arrested and jailed for refusing to follow legal orders.” Stanford said who noted Greens finger slide into the trigger guard of his weapon and rest on the trigger. “I hope you try that Green, I will enjoy putting your trouble making ass down hard and with extreme prejudice as the saying goes.”

Behind the two men someone cleared their throat, Green didn’t show the surprise he felt when Sergeant Major Hines spoke, the man was a fucking ghost sometimes “Col, A company is in position. With your permission Ill go talk with our guests.”

“Thank you Sergeant Major, please see to it, and if any of the Senators men so much as twitches shoot them.” Stanford said.

“Yes sir, and Ill just leave Hawkins and Pierce here with you sir” Hines said, and then was gone.

Stanford turned away from Green who was grinding his teeth in frustration, sooner or later I’m going to have to deal with the Good Senator, who seems more determined to make trouble and get people killed than he is in doing anything constructive, Stanford thought.

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

Jared was getting bored, there was only so long Adrenalin could keep a man going with out something happening and he had reached that point. Hopefully something passing for intelligence was going on out there and would result in talking instead of shooting.

He glanced out side again, his eyes widened slightly as he saw a man who had not been there seconds ago. Tall, and ruggedly built, dressed in ACU’s, he reminded Jared of Bruce willis, right down to the shaved or bald head.

“I am Command Sergeant Major Richard Hines, US Army, I would like to speak to who ever is in charge.” The man said his voice deep and Gravely.

Jared rose slinging his rifle across his back, knowing Jill was going to be upset. Nibble waited till he was stepping outside then ran to fall in at his side. Jared wanted to kick the damn dog for being stupid and placing herself in danger, but didn’t.

Clouds were starting to cover the sky again, promising more snow Jared saw. His eyes expertly sweeping the area noting positions of the Sergeant Majors men, he stopped ten feet from the man and saw the Collar insignia denoting a Command Sergeant major. Interesting that implies there’s a battalion stationed here, Jared thought.

“and you are” Hines asked, the solid looking red head, his eyes darting from the man to the pitbull and back again.

“Staff Sergeant Jared Stone, or was actually I got out a few years back, most of my people are either vets or were active duty when the dead Rose.” Jared replied.

“what happened to their command” Hines asked.

“Their command bugged out under orders, they held the dead back while the remaining civilians were Evac’d off Fort Jackson. Then managed to survive alone and cut off till I stumbled across them, the NCO in charge was an old friend of mine.” Jared said.

Hines eyed the throat mike and ear bud his eyes following the line to the radio on Jareds Belt. “ that’s SF issued, where did you get it Staff Sergeant”

Jared sighed this was going to be a long long day if he had to keep answering questions like this. He was a little surprised that CSM Hines recognized SF gear though.

“out of a SF Cache, more specifically from my Brother Sergeant First class Eric Stone, 5th SF, ODA 562.” Jared replied. “Look lets get down to Brass tacks here Sergeant Major, the world out there is dead, there is no government, no law and few living. We came here hoping to find survivors, and if not, we hoped to find Stored food, medicine and other supplies for the survivors who have gathered in the safe zone we have established.”

“and now that you have found survivors” Hines asked.

“we talk, and then leave you to your lonesome if that’s what you want.” Jared said.

A Hummer limo appeared at the end of the street, it turned into the parking lot between the motorpool and Garage, seeing where Jared was looking Hines looked back for a moment when he faced Jared again, he was frowning. “ Staff Sergeant sadly you have come to visit during a time when things are rather tense, there is shall we say a conflict over who is in control here.”

Jared shook his head, the world had gone to hell out there and people were still going for power trips, and killing each other over stupid shit. The Limo came to a stop and two men who wearing DHS vests stepped out, followed by a tall man who unfolded himself from the back of the limo, Dressed in an immaculate suit, his silver flecked dark hair perfectly styled, the smell of shampoo and cologne filled the air.

Jared recognized the smooth, good looking Senator from the mans constant whoring himself for news sound bytes, he was on TV more than most TV stars, and had less to say then they did.

Nibbler growled instantly and Jared couldn’t blame her there was something about that man that set off his internal danger alarm. The senators eyes were flat and hard like a sharks.

“I see you have apprehend the trespassers, Sergeant Major good job. My men will take them into custody now, Stand aside please Sergeant Major”

“No sir, I will not. You need to speak to Colonel Stanford, about the disposition of our visitors.” Hines replied smoothly.

Jared remained silent, feeling the tension in the air. There was something else going on here, and he really didn’t feel like getting in the middle of an internal squabble.

“You will stand aside, Sergeant Major, the security of this installation has been compromised. Agent Harmon, Please place that man under arrest and shoot the dog if it so much as moves.”

Nibbler was still growling and pressed against Jared’s leg, “Make that move harmon and I will have to take you down.” Hines said his voice hadn’t raised an octave and yet carried across the area like the rumble of an earthquake.

Jared saw it coming, Harmon tensed for a heartbeat and then his weapon started to center on Hines, there was a smile of satisfaction on the Senators face, the bastard wanted this to happen Jared thought even as the Second DHS agent pointed his Rifle directly at Nibbler.

A shot rang out from the north where some brush and trees were located on the edge of the parking lot, and Harmon staggered to one side mortally hit but managed to fire off a burst, even as Hines fired his own rifle. Harmon collapsed, a froth of blood erupting from his lips, but he had managed to hit Hines in the chest and the stomach. The Sergeant Major fell to the pavement and lay still.

The second DHS agent who stood beside Harmon, was caught flat footed at the eruption of violence around him, his shock only lasted a tenth of a second was far to long where Jared was concerned The Agent started to pull the trigger of his rifle, only to have his eyes widen in Disbelief as he saw Jared move, it was no more than twitch that took it from his belt to up in the air a pistol appearing as if by magic in his hand.

Jared’s .45 roared twice, before the agent could even pull the trigger of his own weapon. two holes appeared in the mans head, one in the forehead the other in the enter of his nose. Blood and bone sprayed over the senator who stood there for what seemed like minutes a mocking smile on his face his eyes jet black with not a trace of white in them fixed on Jared. Then he was gone inside the limo, that began backing up tires squealing even before the door was shut.

Jared stood there for a second stunned, not sure he had seen what he had thought he had seen.

“Jared there are guys shooting at each other all over the fucking place, what do you want me to do” Ori asked.

“if they aren’t in uniform kill them” Jared said as he knelt beside the Sergeant Major. It looked like the man was wearing a vest under his Uniform blouse after all,. “your going to hate yourself tomorrow” Jared told him, then turned as Nibblers growling turned into something that sounded like a snarling chainsaw that set the hairs on Jared’s neck standing up.

He turned to see two men in white tactical’s with their weapons up, rushing towards him and the downed Sergeant major. His pistol rose smoothly he put one man down, the other dove behind a parked car.

Nibbler ran forward still snarling, she leaped onto the hood and then leaped down on the other side, a man screamed in pain, and then two gunshots, the snaring and screaming didn’t stop if anything it grew louder.

Jared leaped to his feet and ran for the car, bullets snapped past him. he twisted at the waist seeing a mans head poking up above the trunk of a car across the parking lot and fired four times. The man vanished behind the car, a reddish mist hanging in the air.

Jared slid over the trunk and landed in a crouch, ready to fire only to find the mangled body of a man, Nibbler let get of the shredded leg and limped over to Jared whimpering in pain, blood pouring down her rear leg.

He put a bullet in the corpses head, then ducked down as a hail of bullets riddled the trunk of the car. “son of a Mother Pocking whore” He shouted dragging the dog down and out of the line of fire.

“stand by” Ori said over the radio. There was a rapid double shot of .308 and the gunfire stopped. “clear, get your ass back to cover. NOW.”

Jared nodded seeing more men in white and some in black tacticals rushing forward trying to flank him. “come on dog, I cant carry you” Jared said as he ran in a crouch around the car placing it between himself and the approaching men.

He grabbed the Sergeant major and slung the man over his shoulder and ran for the bay entrance. “Jansen, Do not shoot at any one in ACUs or any other military Uniform but blow the hell out of the guys in tactical’s” Jared transmitted as he sat the SGM down behind heavy metal tool box.

“Roger, we have already been engaged by some poorly trained idiots in Tactical’s and snow gear, they are all down and accounted for.” Thor Jansen replied.

Nibbler limped up beside him and lay down, Jared knelt beside the dog and examined her leg, which was hard to do since she snarled and snapped at him every time he touched it.

“Ed, Steger cover that door while I deal with this, Ronny you and Jill bar the backdoor, if those assholes come in they will come in hard and behind a grenade.” Jared transmitted as he pulled out a first aid kit and got out bandages and other things. Then petting the dog, he got a hand around her muzzle and placed a knee on her front shoulders to hold her in place, once she was securely held in place he poured hydrogen peroxide on the wound.

Hines finally caught his breath and sat there watching the Red head tend the dogs wounds. “I’m sorry you got caught up in this shit Son.” Hines said, Jared didn’t even look away from the dog.

“story of my life Sar major, I’m either a day late and a dollar short, or at the wrong place at the right time. but you know what infantry is like, if you cant take a fucking joke you should never have joined” Jared said as he managed to get a bandage around the dogs leg, then wrapped tape around it.

Ed fired at something outside, then ducked back as more gunfire responded. “you know Jared when I came along on this little trip, I expected something easy like hordes of undead, not in a fire fight with Federal agents on a secure government facility. You really know how to liven things up.”

“stop complaining, at least there’s no sick o undead serial killer in a bowler hat trying to eat you this time.” Jared replied as he petted Nibbler for a second then ejected the mag in his Mk 23 and replaced it with a fully loaded magazine. Holstering the pistol he pulled his HK off his back.

“good point, or a mad Russian assassin trying to kill you and every one around you” Ed added.

“well now we can add a Twisted US senator and his goons out to kill us to the list, which is something I never thought I would see on my list of people trying to kill me” Jared said, shivering as he remembered that mocking smile and those Black eyes.

“hows the Dog” Ed asked, as he changed magazines.

“fine, a graze and a through and through, you should have seen the other guy.” Jared said as he moved to flank the door, hearing vehicles approaching.

Ed peeked out quickly almost getting shot in the process, and then there was a massive hurricane of gun fire. But it wasn’t directed at their position.

“Hey Sergeant Major, you alive in there” A man called out gruffly.

“Just had the wind knocked out of me, Sergeant Reese” Hines responded.

“The Colonel sent me to get you Sergeant Major, it seems that worthless shit Brown and those two congressmen are staging a coup. The Colonel wants you to meet him at B Dock.”

“May I come inside, we don’t have a lot of time” Reese said.

“Come on in Sergeant, we don’t bite, well my dog does sometimes.” Jared called out.

Reese entered the Motor pool building and Jareds jaw sagged open as his eyes widened in sheer shock and surprise.

Six foot five, built like a wall with a shaven head. He had the whole vin diesel look going, and could have been Steve’s Twin. He wasn’t the only one either, he heard Ronny whisper Steves name in surprise, and Jill gasped.

Reese gazed at Jared for a moment curious at his reaction then headed quickly over to Hines. “lets get going Sergeant Major,”

“what about them” Hines said gesturing to Jared and the others.

“Colonel said they are free to go, we don’t need outsiders getting in the way down there sir.”

“sorry Staff Sergeant, but your people need to get out of here while you can.” Hines told Jared.

“what exactly is going on?” Jared asked.

“long story, but short version, there at the end, the president worried about some elements here, sent our Battalion here and placed the facility and the entire area under Martial law. Apparently the Senator and his crony congressman believe they should be in charge and have joined with element the president was worried about. You were just the final straw the senator needed to stage his little coup.” Hines said as he and Reese headed for the waiting vehicles.

In the distance Jared could hear a horn blare three times., “oh hell” Hines said, . “that’s the gate alarm, that son of a bitch Brown must have given the order to open the main gate.”

The gunfire outside abruptly stopped as men rushed for the safety of where ever they had been hiding for the last year and a half. “ we have to go Sergeant Major” Reese said urging the older man out the door.

“Staff Sergeant you need to get your people to that plane” Hines said as he climbed into the Hum Vee which pulled out as soon as the door shut.

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

“What do we do now?” Ronny asked limping up, his face twisted with worry. As the two hummers raced away.

“we get to the plane as fast as we can.” Jared said, looking around at the vehicles in the motor pool.

If they took the time to try and hot wire a vehicle that wouldn’t start due to bad gas, or a dead battery that was just time lost to escape. The Main gate was only about a hundred yards away to the west. There really was no time. “okay we head east then cut south looping around to the plane.” Jared said “keeping buildings between us and the dead as much as possible and hope they don’t head for the plane enmass.”

Some where out of sight, They heard gunfire then it got silent again. Some one was still out there.

“was that you Jansen?” Jared transmitted.

“Negative, that come from some where near your location.” Jansen replied.

Ronny should have stayed with the plane, Jared thought as they stepped outside and headed across the parking lot to the Garage on the east side, he could have flown out to keep the plane safe and we could have hid and figured out a way to escape the base.

“did you see that guy, he looked like he could be Steves Twin brother” Jill said to Ori.

“Steves Brother was short out of shape and lived in Memphis,” Ori called back over his shoulder.

“shes right though he looked exactly like Steve.” Ronny added, his face twised with concentration as he tried to ignore the pain as he limped after the group as fast as he could manage, Jill staying by his side, casting worried glances back over her shoulder.

Jared saw Ronny was lagging further and further behind, waved Ed on “ Get them to the plane by the fastest route you can. We will catch up, but if you have to leave, leave do not wait for us” Jared said as he turned and headed back towards Ronny. Ori at his side.

“what the hell are you doing Ori, Go with them” Jared asked as he jogged back to Ronny. “you have a wife, and a baby on the way.”

“So does Ronny” Ori pointed out as they reached Ronny and Jill.

“Damn it, Ori” Jared said as Ed and the others vanished between two buildings at a Run.

“Jansen what’s it look like over there” Jared asked over the radio.

“not good, Ben is saying we have to take off in another minute or two, those things are just pouring in the gate and as soon as he lights of the engines, they are going to head this way.” Jansen reported.

“Ed, Steger, Logan, and Mike are on their way, when they get there, take off. The rest of us will find another way out.” Jared said “ and do not argue with me Jansen, don’t have the time.”

Ronny wanted to cry, to scream and to rail at the heavens as he listened to Jared essentially sign the Death warrants of Himself, Jill and Ori, just because my crippled ass had insisted on coming along. I should have stayed at the plane I should have just sucked it up, Jared by god knew I should have but he didn’t say a word he let me come along so he didn’t insult me and now they are going to die because of me.

“ Looks like company just showed up” Jared said seeing the first of the undead appear on the street beside the motor pool. “we need to pull that horde away from the plane, give them something else to think about.” Jared commented as he pulled a flash bang from a pouch on his combat vest he armed and lobbed it north towards the edge of the parking lot.

The grenade detonated, the sound rattled windows. “lets go” Jared told them, then turned and yelled at the undead. “you walking shit bag, come on, you know red heads taste good get the worms out asshole”

Wrapping his left arm around Ronny, he half carried the other man as he trotted around the garage nibbler limping after them. “If my dog gets killed I swear I will nuke this place.” Jared vowed.

“I’m sorry Jared, god I’m sorry” Ronny said “this is my fault. If I had stayed at the plane..”

“to hell it is, I’m the fucking idiot who wanted to Check out Mt. Weather. Well here it is zombies, Crazed senators and all.” Jared said acidly as he made his way across a overgrown lawn, a long two story brown brick building just ahead. He cut towards the street. Picturing the lay out of the Facility as he had seen it from the air, there are several criss crossing streets but the main street formed a elongated oval, with the majority of buildings inside that oval, the main street from the gate cut across the Oval, with the motor pool, Garage and about ten other buildings in the north lob, the rest in the south.

The field and heliport were to the west of the Oval, the Gate , vistors center and parking lots were to the north, and if they followed this side of the oval it would swing them around to just north of the big ass white building. And it would be far to late at that point.

“Just leave me, Jared, you can run all the way to the plane and Ben is good enough to take off and land, just go” Ronny pleaded trying to break free of Jareds Grip.

“Hell no, you’re my friend. And if I did leave you mary would skin my ass alive, no way am I pissing her off. So shut up and dangle in my arms, like a love sick woman or something. But if you give me moon eyes and pucker up I will punch you” Jared said.

Behind them the horde came on sweeping down the street, their sole focus the four humans and one dog just ahead of them.

“This reminds me of the Terminal” Ori remarked as they rounded the corner heading south, a building blocking them from the view of the undead.

“I really wish you had not said that” Jill said as they jogged down the street.

“You think you had it bad, I had dumb ass’s dropping Artillery and MIKLIK rounds on me.” Ori

“if you had stopped dodging I might have been able to hit you” Jared called out.

“Bite me” Ori called out the looked back to see the horde was coming around the corner. “Scratch that bite me part”

“Every one is aboard” Jansen said suddenly in Jareds ear bud. There was something in his tone, that told Jared things were not looking up on their end.

“Take off” Jared said, already looking for a building to hole up.

“Jared we can….”

“ I said take off, don’t argue just do it” Jared said as he headed for a building that looked like an office building. “that’s an Order Sergeant”

There was silence over the radio, but Jared heard the engines of the Twin otter start up. “good luck Jansen,” Jared said as he stopped at the glass double doors that led into the building.

“You too Jared, and …” Jansen said his voice trailing off

“I will Thor, Two days then back to the convoy.” Jared said as he tried the door.

“Might want to hurry it up they are getting close” Ori said looking down the street, the undead were seventy yards away and closing.

“Stand here and don’t move” Jared said letting Ronny go. “trust me” he said as he stepped out from under the small sun and rain shelter that extended out from the recessed door way, he grabbed Jill and hoisted her up on his shoulders so she could grasp the edge of the shelter roof and pull her self up.

“Ori your next” Jared said watching as the undead came closer and closer, the stench of the dead sweeping over them. He could hear the snow crunching under the shuffling feet, the rustle of the clothing, even the creak of dried muscle.

Jared cupped his hands and as soon as Ori stepped into them he hoisted Ori up to climb onto the shelter roof. Ronny stared at the crowd of undead, that filled the street behind them, who were already reaching out for him, mouths yawning open as they silently came on. He just stared wondering what it was like to die under gnashing teeth and ripping nails, just end it now, walk forward and let them kill you, he thought, that will give Jared time to get up to safety.

Ronny shouted in surprise as Jared grabbed him and pulled. “time to go” Jared said, as he pulled Ronny to the edge of the shelter.

Seeing their prey about to escape the undead broke into that slow jog they used in place of running and today it seemed like they were much faster than normal, Jared thought as he lifted Ronny up easily to grasp Ori’s hands. Ori with Jills help pulled Ronny up onto the shelter Roof.

Nibbler looked up at Jared and the absolute trust the dog had in him to save her wrenched at him. He shrugged off his pack, removed the rope harness he had made for her then tossed the pack up on to the shelter roof, the undead were thirty yards and closing.

Ignoring the undead bearing down on him, Jared slipped the harness onto the dog then tossed the attached rope up to Ori who pulled the dog quickly up to the shelter roof.

“How you going to get up” Ori called down as the undead reached the far side of the
Shelter.

Jared didn’t reply he ran at the building and leaped up as high as he could kicking off the side of the building giving himself just enough extra height to reach and grab the edge of the shelter Ori leaped and landed on his stomach, rivets digging into his flesh as he grabbed Jared by the wrist.

“Shit your heavy” Ori yelled fear curling up from the pit of his stomach as he realized he couldn’t pull Jared up with out better leverage. “Ronny I need your help” Ori called out as Jill jumped in beside Ori grabbing Jared by the other wrist.

They struggled trying to pull Jared up, neither of them had the leverage or a tight enough grasp. Ronny stood there frozen, cold sweat beaded his brow, fear of failing his friends sweeping through him. he couldn’t do it his leg wouldn’t take the strain, he would just drop Jared into the crowd of undead. visions of Jared dying under the teeth of the undead roared through his mind almost crippling him.

“Please Ronny” Jill cried as she saw a pale hand reach out and try to grab Jareds ankle. Jared kicked his legs, trying to keep the undead from getting a hold of him, the movement almost pulling him out of Ori and Jills grasp. Hands were everywhere trying to grasp a hold of Jared’s lower legs.

Jill’s voice finally tore through his self inflicted fear and indecision, Ronny threw off the fear, and leaped between Ori and Jill, pain like lava flowed up from his abused leg but he ignored it bending to grasp Jared by the collar of his combat harness Ronny heaved upwards, his leg buckled under him but he held on to Jared as he fell backwards pulling Jared up and over the edge of the roof.

“I would kiss you, but Mary would hurt me” Jared said rolling off Ronny.

“that explains it, that wasn’t a pistol in your pocket you were happy to see me” Ronny said trying to joke as his body shook from the adrenalin that coursed through his viens.

“Damn Ronny your sounding like Ori now” Jared laughed the tension and fear pouring out of him. “lets get off this thing and onto the Buildings roof, we might be able to find a way down into the building.”

“Any idea how we are going to escape those things down there” Ori asked, looking over the edge of the shelter at the undead below, a veritable sea of hands were reaching up trying to grasp the just out of reach prey. Directly below Ori was a blonde woman who had been pretty in life. The kind of woman he might have asked out her teeth snapped together eagerly as the dead eyes in her blood streaked face stared up at him.

“one thing at a time Brother, first lets get on to the roof of the building then we can figure out the next step.” Jared said looking up as the twin otter flew over head waggling it wings then headed west vanishing into the distance.

“you know Jansen is going to come back, with the whole damn Army if that’s what it takes” Ronny said glancing at Jill. Who either didn’t notice or was ignoring him.

“probably but we have to stay alive till then, so concentrate on what matters” Jared said as he walked to the wall of the building the roof was only six feet above the shelter.

“lets go folks, Ronny you first” Jared said cupping his hands. “don’t think about it Ronny just do it, you control the pain, don’t let it control you”

“Easy for you to say” Ronny muttered as he limped over, his leg felt both like lead and like it was on fire from the pain.

“it was pretty easy for me to say” Jared said with an emphasis on was, trying to grin.” Now lets get you the conquering hero up on to the roof.” Jared said looking up at the sky, it looked like it was going to snow again.

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

Senator Brown walked into the Meeting hall and nodded to Congressman Paul Tanaka Hawaii and Congresswoman Lydia Gallagher, then to the others who formed the emergency congress.

He walked to the podium and smiled grimly at the men and women assembled before him. “at this moment Loyal Federal Agents are seizing key areas of this installation, and arresting or killing any military personnel who resist. In a matter of hours this facility will be back under Civilian control. To ensure the Governments continuance I have been in contact with General Bedford, who will be sending Delta force Personnel to help us against the Traitors who remain.”

“What about the Traitors who are still above ground” Acting Congressman Franklin Coswell asked.

“they will either be dead by now or starve to death in one of the buildings up top trapped by the undead” Brown said hiding a smile of triumph as a voice whispered in his mind. In a matte of days he would be the Leader of the Free world, now that Bedford had agreed to help him and the cost was trifling kill Stanford and his men, and trap or kill Jared Stone.

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

Far to the south a helicopter swept down a river till it reached an overgrown plantation that dated back to the founding of a Nation once known as America. It landed rough. Amidst a huge ornamental garden, the door slid open and a blonde haired man in Black Tactical’s leaped out, a Draganov Sniper rifle slung diagonally across his back.

He gazed north east towards Charleston his eyes as hard and cold as the smile that played across his lips. In just a few hours, his revenge would begin. He only hoped Jared Stone lived long enough to suffer through it before taking his own life.

“Mne Otmshcheniye, I ax vozdam” he said as Bradley’s men dismounted the helicopter.

“What does that Mean” Bradley asked curiously

“It is a quote from a famous Russian Author, ‘vengeance is mine and I will repay’” Williams replied.

“Sounds biblical” Bradley commented,

“My revenge will be biblical.” Williams promised softly. “ And it starts just over the horizon.”

Just over the horizon, two women walked on top of the battery in Fort Sumter, talking and occasionally laughing, no one in the fort or on the island across the way had any idea things were about to change for them.

Go to Six

4 thoughts on “Chapter Five

  1. You have to let Jill live. I need to see how Jansen’s love interest plays out.

    I didn’t expect Jared to fall into power plays between the remaining major government factions. This is very interesting.

    Like

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