Chapter Six

“the Winter Wolves are coming
they smell our blood, our fear
The winter wolves are coming,
The cold of Death is near”
~Tim Vallie

the three men, one woman and dog stood in the snow covered roof, clustered around an A/C unit with its side off. Jared slipped inside, followed by Ori.

“I really don’t like the idea of staying in here” Ori said as he dropped down the return air vent and landed in the room below. Jared nodded studying the floor to ceiling windows, that let in the dim outside light, undead were pressed against the glass blocking out some of the light while trying to find a way inside to the two men they could see.

It was a office, like any other office nothing screamed top secret government work done here. A Brown and black government desk, with government chairs not made for humans to sit in. there were no pictures on the desk and only a handful of pictures on the walls.

“ That hatch on the roof has to lead into a maintenance room,” Jared said, heading for the door. The hatch locked from the inside, would be easy enough to blow, if Ori had brought some C4 with him, which he hadn’t. The hallway was carpeted in government gray, which had always looked a bit more blue to Jared but they called it gray so gray it was.

Inspirational and Patriotic posters in frames decorated the walls, between office doors. Out of force of habit they checked each room, finding them empty. There Offices, a file room, and a Maintenance room which was locked. But the rest of the building was a large storage room and freezers, empty of course, an even larger kitchen, and a Cafeteria dining room, large enough to feed two hundred people at a time.

“wow, makes me hungry just looking at that kitchen, I’m suddenly craving a rib eye, with a baked potato and salad” Ori commented as they headed back to the maintenance Mechanical room door.

Jared drew his tomahawk, but Ori stopped him. “we want to be able to close it again, remember.” He said.

“got any bright ideas on how to open it then,” Jared asked.

“sure do,” Ori said as he pointed up to the drop tile ceiling. “ lift me up there, Ill cut a hole in the sheet rock above the ceiling, then climb inside and open the door.”

“sounds like a better plan than tape a grenade to it” Jared said as he leaned against the wall and then lifted up Ori till the shorter man could stand on his shoulders.

It only took a couple of minutes for Ori to cut large enough hole in the sheet rock and slither into the Mechanical room. A second later he had the door open for Jared.

“lets get that Hatch open and get Ronny and Jill down here out of the wind and before it starts snowing again.” Jared said shining the light mounted on his M4 around the room.
\
air handlers, duct work, a compressor, water filters, everything but tools. “I really hate it when people evacuate in an orderly and organized manner.” Jared muttered.

Ori didn’t respond he just climbed the ladder and cut the lock off the hatch with the bolt cutters he had brought with him. As soon as the hatch was opened a cold wind blew down into the room.

Ori climbed onto the roof then lowered Nibbler down into the Mechanical room, the helped Ronny maneuver down the ladder. Jill lowered the packs then climbed inside herself. She shook the snow out of her hair, her lips pursed slightly as she watched Jared set up the small camp propane heater. He pointed the heating element at the metal wall of the air handler to reflect the heat back into the room then smiled at her.

Maybe normal people didn’t feel this way in the middle of the end of the world, but she loved him more every day. He was like a rock that stood between her and the world outside as dependable as the sun rising in the east. Way to get all Romance novel she told herself with an amused smile.

“I hope you remember there are two other people in the room with you” Ori said as he activated two pocket warmers and slid them into his gloves.

Ronny sat against the wall, his bad leg stretched out on the floor, he stared at the ceiling with out saying a word. Which really bothered Jill, something had fundamentally changed in Ronny and she didn’t think it was the just the injury.

Jared unrolled the large sleeping bag on the floor and then grunted unhappily as Nibbler instantly curled up in the center of it. “Dog, I keep tellingw you this is not your sleeping bag. Move” He ordered, then almost laughed as the dog opened one eye, stared at him before closing her eye again.

“Jill talk to your dog” Jared said shoving the dog down to the foot of the sleeping back so he could sit down and stretch his legs out on something other than cold cement floor.

“she’s not my dog, remember the crap I had to go through just to get her to share you” Jill said, as she pulled her hair back into a pony tail.

“anyone want to trade for a Mac and cheese meal” Ori said holding up an MRE, “I hate these things”

“ You picked it, your stuck with it” Jared said as he pulled out his own MRE. “ Mmmmm. I think this one is your favorite too” he said. Ronny looked at his friends, but didn’t say anything, what could he say, I need something to eat but cant because I’m crippled and couldn’t carry a full pack.

Ori dug back into his pack and pulled out another meal, then tossed the mac and cheese to Ronny. “ Eat up, it’s not the best, but it beats nothing.”

Ronny started to refuse, partly out of pride, but he didn’t. he cut the pouch open and began to pull out the contents.

They ate quietly trying not to think about the fact they were stuck inside a building with a shit load of undead outside, very little food and no way to get out.

Jared shoved the trash into the empty main package and placed it back in his pack. “Thanks for pulling my butt up earlier, I would have been zombie chow if you hadn’t.”

“its what friends do” Ronny said, along with clubbing them in the head and leaving them to die all while I’m asleep he thought bitterly. What would Jared do if he knew Ronny had done that Lee. Kill him, tie him up, never trust him again, but I don’t even trust myself. I don’t dare go to sleep with my friends in the same room, what if I shot one of them in my sleep. “my leg hurts like hell now, but Ill live” unless I kill myself, Ronny added silently.

“Speaking of living, any plans aside from eating a bullet in a few days” Ori asked.

“I plan on sleeping a whole night with my wife beside me, and then we are getting out of here.” Jared said

“okay you have a plan mind sharing it with the rest of us” Ori asked.

“First we have to cross the street” Jared said yawning, he slipped his arm around Jill. “its not going to be easy, but we can do it.”

“is there a fall back plan” Ronny asked rubbing his leg. “if you hadn’t noticed I don’t run so fast these days.”

“you really don’t want to know my fall back plan” Jared said with a sad smile. \

“that bad” Ronny asked. Jared nodded.

“that bad it involves stripping Ori naked and painting him blue” Jared said with a grin determined to try and keep Jill and his friends from sliding into depression at the thought of being trapped and dying here.

“your right, Id rather open the front doors and try to walk across the street” Ronny said.

“I happen to look good naked” Ori said, “ Ill show you” He said rising to his feet and reaching for his zipper.

“Ill shoot you were you stand nature boy” Jared threatened. Jill chuckled and leaned against Jared trying to warm up.

“Disparage me and then wont let me prove differently.” Ori said grumpily as he sat down again. “this plan of yours had better be good”

“Didn’t say it was good, just that it was a plan.” Jared said as he moved the dog so he and Jill could slide into the sleeping bag. Nibbler not to be left out used her snout to lift the opening so she could wiggle inside, crawling over Jared till she could curl up at the bottom of the bag and go back to sleep.

Ori sat on his sleeping bag, and pulled a book out of his pack. tilting it to catch the light cast by the small LED lantern that sat on top of the air handler.

Ronny caught a glimpse of the Title and shook his head. “I have two questions for you, why are you reading that for what the tenth time, and why read that stuff at all” he asked.

Ori pushed his glasses up higher “history is important” he said glancing at Ronny. “General Robert E Lee was an incredible man. Did you know he camped at Berryville at one point.”

“no, and does it matter? Did he have some kind of zombie fighting Tactics?” Ronny asked sarcastically.

Ori just went back to reading leaving Ronny to stew in his own thoughts, pulling his pack over Ronny turned to keep the others from seeing what he was doing and pulled out his pills, he popped two pain killers, then an upper so he could hopefully stay awake all night.

After a bit he could feel the pain in his leg receding a little, not a lot like they had back on the island. He supposed it was because he was up and moving around so much, he glanced over at Ori who was still reading, his free hand absently tapping the weapon that lay across his lap.

“Sorry, between the pain and worry, I’ve been a real asshole lately” Ronny said.

Ori looked up from his book and nodded in agreement. “yes you have” Ori replied sitting there looking at Ronny who flushed with embarrassment. Jared, Ori and Chris were his closest friends and it really bothered him that he had cut them out and hurt them in the process but they just didn’t understand, never would unless it happened to them.

And Ori, well Ori was fucking charmed, he had barely been injured at any point past or present. Ronny wished he’d had a bit of Ori’s luck.

“doesn’t any of this get to you” Ronny asked suddenly surprising even himself.

“Yes” Ori replied pulling off his glasses then patting his pockets till he found the cleaning cloth.

“And?” Ronny asked. “I mean come on that answer deserves a few more words than just yes.”

“yes It does bother me, I go to bed every night wondering If I’m going to wake up with something taking a bite out of me, I worry that Beth, you, Jared, Mary or any one else I love is going to die today and can I stop it. I worry that one day Ill go back and find my surviving family got slaughtered by the undead or human animals. And I worry that I will fail and my friends will die because of it. so Yes this whole thing fucking bothers me” Ori said, the fact he used a word like Fucking told Ronny just how upset the whole thing made him. Ori rarely cussed, even in the military.

“I think that’s most I’ve ever heard you say in one sitting.” Ronny said trying to make a joke out of it. The Drugs were now humming through his system washing away the pain and the exhaustion

“Normally I don’t have much to say” Ori replied.

“Normally I have to much to say” Ronny muttered. “and never about the important stuff.” Ronny said. “ My parents lived outside of Anchorage, My Sister had just moved to LA a month before this shit happened. And I don’t know if any of them are still alive. And now I’m crippled and don’t stand a chance of finding them”

“I’m sorry, I know what its like not to know, hell we all do. Jill has never mentioned her parents either, and Shelly will never know what Chris found in her house that day. Jared …” Ori looked over at the sleeping bag and shrugged if Jared was awake he apparently had no desire to get involved in the conversation. “Jared was lucky in a shitty way, his parents died years ago so he didn’t have to worry about that. and his only other relative survived. But that’s not all that’s really bothering you is it?”

Ronny shook his head, “ no, but its nothing I cant deal with on my own” He said, ignoring the really strong desire to just get the monkey off his back and tell Ori what was going on. But the thought of losing what little respect his friends still had for him was to much. Ori shrugged his way of saying Bullshit, and went back to reading.

Ronny laid out his sleeping bag and worked his way inside, his leg aching till he got stretched out. He lay there with his hands laced together behind his head staring at the ceiling. Praying the Prescription speed kept him awake.

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

It was a brisk morning, the cloud cover had moved out over night after dropping more snow, but for now a clear blue sky hung over the world.

Jared walked across the roof, eyeing the power line that Ran from a pole beside the building to a building across the street. Ori was shaking his head, “ you cant be serious, that’s you big plan. Have me skinny across on a power line carrying one end of hundred feet of rope.”

“Quit whining, you’re the shortest and lightest person here, and those lines are pretty strong.” Jared replied.

“oh sure, send the short blond guy across, he is blond he wont notice the danger.”

Jared rolled his eyes but didn’t respond to the jibe “ unless you can figure out how to get a line across the street and secured I think this is our best bet, you tie off the rope on that heavy duty looking antenna on the roof over there and the rest of us can cross.” Jared said

“Maybe we should just figure out how to toss that rope to the guys on the roof over there.” Ori said pointing.

Jared looked and blinked in surprise as he saw five men on the roof of the building he had been wanting to make it across to. They were in uniform, so till they started shooting at him, they were good guys. In fact, one of them looked like that Sergeant Reese.

Ori waved cautiously, “Hey” he called out. “that sure sounded stupid” he said to Jared.

“You are blond” Jared reminded him getting the finger in return.

“You didn’t make it out of here after all” one of the soldiers hollered back sounding a lot like Reese.

“No, things got a bit hectic there at the end. How’s the civil war going?” Jared asked

“Don’t know, we are out of contact” Jared was sure it was Reese now that he could see the man clearly “it’s locked down tight, and no comm’s”

“So your stuck too” Jared asked.

“Looks like, they wont open up for a while because of the undead” Reese said not adding they would most likely be dead by then too.

“Mind if we join you?” Jared asked.

“how, going to fly over here?” Reese asked.

“Something like that, hang on.” Jared said. “looks like its plan B. Get out that paracord and see if you have sixty feet, if you do tie one end to the rope,” Jared said as he opened the hatch and slid do the ladder. Returning a few minutes later with his Bow, and Jill.

“good” Jared said seeing the Para cord taking the other end he wove it through the slots in the Broad head arrow head and tied it off.

“I’m going to shoot this over there, pull the rope across and tie it off that antenna” Jared called out.

“Your going to set a spike and slip to retrieve the rope aren’t you.” Ori asked Jared nodded. “ better let me shoot that arrow across, don’t want you killing one of the guys over there.” Ori commented holding out his hand for the bow.

While Ori sent the arrow across the street, Jared climbed down and helped Ronny get up the ladder then carried Nibbler up onto the roof then brought up the packs.

“Okay, we have three packs with climbing gear, Ill let Ronny use my harness, and Rope trolley. Ori I want you to go first and take my bow, when you get to the other side tie the end of the para cord to my harness and two of the Rope trolleys, then shoot the other end back to this side, Ill hook nibbler up to one and Hook myself onto the other and cross last.” Jared said.

Jared double checked every one’s harness’s and Carbiners then stepped back as Ori hooked in to the Trolley which was essentially two pulley wheels in a metal case with a ring to hook into to. Ori quickly pulled himself across, then Jared Helped Ronny hook in, since only hands were required Ronny made good time across the street, trying to ignore the undead 15 feet below that were staring up and reaching for him. images of the rope breaking and dropping him into the horde below circled in his mind, his fear building till he was on the verge of panic and then suddenly found himself on the other side, Ori and the Guy that looked like Steve were helping him unhook.

“Well that was fun” Ronny said to Ori as he watching the soldiers who didn’t seem interested in shooting at them or arresting them. “I would have preferred it to be a group of wild nymphomaniacs instead of flesh eating zombies down there, but I guess you cant have everything”

“aint that the truth” one of the Soldiers said, a lanky brown haired guy, plain faced, plain build, every thing about him was plain or average. Except for the air of total self confidence he gave off it was so strong it was almost physical.

“I’m Ronny the short guy with the complex is Ori,” Ronny said, noting the soldiers eyes kept flitting to Jill. “ and that’s Jill, her Husband is the Guy coming across now, but shes the one you gotta worry about.” Ronny said hoping to divert any interest in Jill before it got to far.

“What do ya mean” another solider asked, he reminded Ronny and Ori of a Bull, thick limbed thick features, sounded slow and was probably smart as hell and fast.

Ronny decided to lie just a little bit, “She was a Self defense instructor for Nashville SWAT and trained some of the Local Feds too.” Okay it wasn’t a little Lie, but she was far better than any instructor the Police had ever hired..

Ori didn’t say anything, he just sent the Arrow back across so Jared could pull the harness and Trolleys back across.

“That little woman” Bull asked. His eyes focusing more on Jill chest than the solid looking athletic body under the leathers she wore. That they had all noticed the Katana was a given, Ori thought watching, his hand resting on the rifle slung across his chest. But not one of those idiots considered it a threat, to bad for them if they tried to grab a handful they would be pulling back a bloody stump..

“you assholes leave the woman alone,” Reese snapped at the two soldiers “Sorry, she is kind of a distraction, she is better looking then the vast Majority of the women in Area B.” Reese told Ronny and Ori.

“I am standing right here” Jill said finally, annoyed at being talked about like she wasn’t even on the same roof.

“Yes maam you surely are and we cant help but notice it” Reese said with a tight smile, then turned to watch Jared pull himself across the street, pulling a pit bull that dangled from the second trolley

Jared finally reached the Roof and unhooked himself then unhooked the Dog and placed her on the roof.

“to bad you got to leave that Rope,” Lanky commented.

Jared patted his harness where the end of the rope was hooked to. Taking the rope in his hands he tugged sharply, and the rope he had just crossed sagged down. “you trusted your lives to that” Reese asked.

“not the first Rodeo we’ve been to “ Jared said as he pulled in the rope. Down below the loose end of the rope passed through the undead, one actually grabbed it and held on for a few moments looking at it maybe trying to figure out if it was live or not. Jared tugged again and the rope was pulled free.

“how long have you guys been on the road” Bull asked in his slow deliberate way.

“Since this started, we set up a place and left most of the group there. We call it the Safe zone” Jared said being evasive.

“is it safe” Reese asked, intensely curious about what the world was like out there beyond the facility.

“safer than the vast majority of places.” Jared replied as he knelt and petted the Dog, who began to calm down at his touch.

“we cleared out a place, barricaded it so the undead cant get back in, so unless some one dies and no one notices him wandering around biting people Undead are not going to be a real threat.” Jared said. “ What we don’t have is enough food to see us through planting and harvesting the spring crops. Which is why we are out here looking around for Supplies.” Jared told them avoiding mentioning Green Briar or Sullivan island.

“How many are in your group” Lanky asked.

Jared gave him a long look. “I’m really being polite here, but that’s none of your business, what I will tell you is more than half our group is Military and weve already fought one war since this crap started. So consider numbers and actual location classified”

“just asking not spying” Lanky said holding up a hand.

“what about cities are any of them still up and running” a soldier who hadn’t spoke before asked.

“not one that I’ve seen” Jared said, watching as the mans face fell. “we met a guy who has sailed up and down the coast line, he said it’s the same from Maine to the Keys, Undead everywhere. I can tell you from personal experience that Nashville, Knoxville,” Jared ran through the short list of the Cities and large Towns they had been through or near or other survivors had told them of and every name seemed like he was driving a nail into each soldier who had held out hope that somewhere out there things were normal. or at the very least would return to normal one day.

“lets get off this roof and out of the wind” Jared said looking around. “I Need to plan step three in My Escape from Certain doom plan”

“Usually his plans work” Ori added, “ usually”

“You can stop helping now” Jared said as Reese led the way to a hatch in the roof.

“Thing is it closed behind us and locked” Reese said stopping at the hatch. “Closing by itself I can buy, locking I’m not so sure about”

Jared drew his Tomahawk, the weapon designed for the Military had also been popular with some firefighters for its ability to cut through thin metal like that on automobiles or in this case roof access hatches. It only took a moment to cut out the section that held the latch. Jared replaced the tomahawk and opened the hatch

“I wish they had issued one of those to us” Lanky commented. Get the mans name later Jared reminded himself.

“They are damned handy to have on occasion.” Jared said as he climbed into the hatch and slid down the ladder, his HK appearing in his hands so fast when he hit button it looked almost like magic.

Reese stood there for a moment as if contemplating something then went down the ladder almost as fast as Jared had.

“How long were in you” Reese asked as every one gathered in the mechanical room, having to wait while Ori lowered Nibbler down to floor.

“Long enough” Jared replied,

“See a lot of combat” Reese asked.

Jared turned to look a that man who looked so much like his old friend it bothered him, which is why he kept expecting the man to know the answer to his own questions, Steve would have known them.

“Enough” Jared replied not wanting to really talk about it. He wasn’t ashamed not in the least, but it wasn’t something he liked to talk about. “Since the dead rose, I’ve gotten a lot better at what I do” Jared added.

“its that bad out there then?” Reese asked. “we had some scientists here who swore a lot of those things would just stop moving after a year or so.”

“not that I’ve noticed, its a lot like what’s outside this building only with more of them.” Jared said as Nibbler trotted up to him Tail wagging, he knelt and petted the dog then looked up at Reese. “there are places like Berryville, empty, maybe one or two zombies, but that’s it. Then the next town they might be standing shoulder to shoulder in the middle of the main street zombies as far as you can see. Have no clue why its like that. A few us think they are hunting the living. Some of us think they just wander off after a while.. I have no clue, I’ve seen them sitting down in busses just waiting or standing in the middle of a street. I think it was Sparta, don’t remember now, the undead were just standing on every road into the city like they were sentries or something creepy as hell” Jared said.

Reese looked uncomfortable at the idea, then got his game face on ready to get down to business.

“ Ready” Jared said as he placed his hand on the door handle.

“Aint no one in the building” Bull said, “ not when we came in”

”and yet some one locked you out of the building” Jared pointed out.

“those dead shits don’t do stuff like that” Lanky said, almost rolling his eyes.

“exactly” Jared said, “ so who locked you out.”

“lets do this, your people with you mine with me. We will take the north side of the building you take the south side” Reese said. Jared nodded and pulled the door open.

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

Jansen looked out the window and saw the snow was melting under the bright sunlight. Which was great till night fall came with colder temperatures. He pulled on his coat and stepped outside, eyeing the vehicles but really didn’t see how they could barrel through a crowd the size of the one up on Mt. Weather, there were limits to just how many you could drive through before becoming stuck by the sheer weight of bodies.

He heard the door to the farm house open and close and then the heavy tread of boots across the front porch and down the steps.

“Trying to come up with a rescue plan?” Benton asked.

“Yeah and nothing I can think of will work. Ben even offered to try and fly a bomber if we could find one.” Jansen said with a little amusement in his tone.

“I know why I want to go back Sarge, but whats driving you” Benton asked quietly. “its her isn’t it”

“Don’t be an idiot, we don’t leave our people behind not if we can help it” Jansen said.

“What if we cant help it?” Benton asked seriously. “what if we cant find a way”

“Then we head back to the convoy, secure the food we need and get it on the boats heading south.” Jansen said.

“Just wanted to see if you were still on mission or not” Benton said. “I know you Sarge, we all do, if you can find a way to do it today or tomorrow we are with you, but after that its back on Mission, to many people are counting on us and you know Jared would tell you the same thing. But after we get the food to the boats, where ever you lead we go”

“Why?” Jansen asked.

“The fact you have to ask should tell you why,” Benton said then turned and headed back to the farm house.

He hadn’t lied to Benton, he liked and respected Jared and his friends, there was no way he would leave them behind if he could help it. But Jill, lets be honest here Thor, your in love with her. he told himself and it was true. Not that he would ever say it, or act on it. she and Jared deserved better than that.

He stood there for a little while longer watching Lany and Garret practice with their bows, then had an idea that set him to smiling. He walked out to the plane where Ben was sitting glumly in the doorway.

“Do you think you can fly this bird , more importantly land and take off, in this kind of weather.” Jansen asked.

“In this kind of weather as long as the wind doesn’t do weird things, I can fly all the way back to Sullivan.” Ben said.

Jansen did not ask how the wind did weird things, and really didn’t want to know what weird things the wind could do. “go get your gear bag I think I’m starting to have a plan.”

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

Jared peered into an office seeing nothing but file cabinets, desk and three chairs. Plus the I love me wall behind the desk with sheepskins and other trophies of a life that had turned out be wasted. Undead were pressed against the floor to ceiling window, which according to Reese they couldn’t see through from the outside. Jared closed the office door, and moved to the next open door.

“I bet there’s a reason that Reese guy wanted to check the north side of the building.” Ronny said

“probably, I don’t really care at this point” Jared said, wishing Ronny would be quiet, in fact he was acting almost jittery and talking a lot kind of like some of the pilots and others he had known during the war when a legal synthetic version of speed was being passed around.

“Just because he looks like Steve doesn’t mean we can trust him” Ronny added.

“Ronny I love you brother but shut the hell up okay.” Jared said, stopping abruptly as Ori lifted a clenched fist. Jill grabbed Nibblers collar in case the dog decided to trot on ahead.

“trip wire” Ori said following the wire to a where a grenade had been taped to the wall hidden by a fake potted plant.

“you think Reese had his men do that. maybe….” Ronny’s voice trailed off as Ori glared at him.

Jill gave Ronny a worried look but said nothing, like Jared she was growing suspicious of Ronnys behavior.

Ori cut the wire and made sure the grenade was safe before he added the frag to a pouch on his combat vest. “I think who ever is in here, wants to kill Reese and his men, and probably us too.” Ori said.

* * * *

Reese moved slowly down the hallway of the north wing, heading towards the enclosed walkway that would take them to one of the labs.

“what do you think of the those folks” Corporal Gitano asked. “ the woman is fine as hell.”

Reese nodded in agreement, Jill stone was a hell of a good looking woman. He could tell she was deeply into Martial arts just by the way she moved, the same with her Husband. The blonde guy that kind of reminded him of Paul walker, was pretty damn cool and collected, but the other guy with the dark hair and that odd looking leg brace looked like he was wired up on drugs, that crash was not going to be pretty he thought.

“The Sergeant Major said he saw that Redhead fight when the attack first began, said the man was cool as could be he just serviced targets like he was at the range.” Reese said. “Stone was supposed to have been a Staff Sergeant or something, never said what his MOS was, probably 11bravo.” Reese added as he stopped to check the offices just before the walkway.

“big whoop, any idiot can become Infantry” Private White said as he walked on ahead. A second later he died as a grenade went off, shredding the poor bastard.

Gitano who had been slightly behind White reeled backwards, to close by far and fell over. Only a support beam and the angle of the turn let him live just a little longer. Reese, his ears ringing and no idea what had just happened dove into an office followed by Spec 4 Ellison. He had no idea where PFC Johnson had gone.

“we cant stay here” Reese told Ellison, “ if that grenade cracked a window, we are screwed.” He said rising to his feet and moving to the door. He peeked out the doorway low almost on the floor and saw white sitting up, there was no way that shredded ruined body was alive, Gitano lay just beyond White, pale but breathing. White rose unsteadily to its feet and staggered towards Gitano, who didn’t have long in this world Reese knew. Reese fired hitting white twice in the back and then a third round struck him in the back of the head. White fell heavily for the second time

Reese moved up to Gitano who lay there in a pool of his own blood. The grenade had torn him up pretty badly and there was not a damn thing that could be done for him even if they could get him down into the hospital in Area B.

“Don’t let me become one of those things Reese,” Gitano whispered. “ please.”

“I wont” Reese promised kneeling beside Gitano while Ellison covered him, Johnson had reappeared from what ever office he had dove into.

Gitano lay there staring up at the ceiling, “at least I went out like this not being eaten” he said then fell silent and stopped breathing. Reese put the barrel of his M4 agianst Gitano’s head and pulled the trigger. Wishing he had known both men better.

“Pity about those two, Sergeant” some one called out from down the hall. “I hated to do it, but the Senator is the legitimate leader of the US now you just picked the wrong side to support.”

“you bastard” Reese snapped. “look outside, what the hell does it matter who thinks they are in charge anymore,” Reese had noticed the cracks the windows closest to where the grenade had gone off. It was a strong type of glass but it wasn’t going to stand up long against the undead pressing up against it.

“it matters, Brown has the vision to rebuild the country. What does your colonel have” the man called out.

“Orders from the Legitimate president, honor, and decency. He wasn’t the one that decided killing off any one he didn’t like was okay.” Reese yelled back, as he signaled for Ellison and Johnson to quietly move back towards the lobby. He began to back up slowly himself, it might not be much but at least they could lock themselves in the Mechanical room.

There was a sharp cracking sound and one of the fractures in the glass of one of the walkway windows, raced up and out spread out like a spider web.

Reese turned and ran, as the glass exploded inwards, spilling zombies into the walkway.

**********

Green used a connecting hallway to go around to the south side, where he knew the trespassers who had joined up with Reese were searching. He had to step over several of the trip lines he had set up, Unlike Reese he knew of a safe room stocked with food right here in this building.

Things like that had been kept from the military assholes. Some where off in the building he could hear weapons fire and smiled. A few more rounds wont be noticed he thought as he put six bullets into the glass, as soon as he saw the glass starting to break the turned and ran as fast as he could back the way he had come,

**********

Jared, Ori and Jill reached the lobby at a run only to see Reese and two of the soldiers running towards them. The stench of the undead was staring to fill the air. “ Run” Reese shouted as he passed them.

“Ronny, You in place yet” Jared asked hoping Ronny and Nibbler were already in the Mechanical room

“yeah, hiding like you asked.” Ronny replied sounding tired.

“your not hiding your making sure we can get inside in a hurry” Jared said as he saw the horde coming down the hall way, “ there’s another way around come on” Reese shouted as they heard more explosions in a different part of the building. Jared had no idea that the zombies were staggering through trip wires, not that it would have changed a thing if he had.

Reaching an intersection, they were rushing through when Johnson screamed in surprise as zombies in the intersecting hallway grabbed him, Jill closest to the man whirled steel glittering in her hand as she cut through the wrists of the hands holding him, instantly he was free and running the horde pouring into the hallway behind them.

They were almost to the mechanical room when they saw zombies coming from the opposite end of the hallway. “that bastard looped around and let them in” Reese said

“there had better be another way to the mechanical room from here” Jared said as his HK snapped to his shoulder, he fired putting down the closest zombies. Reese nodded and yanked open an office door. “every one inside.” As soon as they last person was in the room he slammed the door and wedged a chair under the knob.

“great now we are trapped in a small office” Johnson said, as he pried the hands off his shirt sleeve and let them fall to the floor.

“move Ellison” Reese said as he moved past the big man to the back wall of the office. “ these offices run in blocks, on the other side of this office is another office that will let us into that hallway and we can reach the mechanical room from there.” Reese said moving aside as Jared drew his tomahawk.

“what happened to the other two guys with you” Jill asked

“dead” Reese replied angrily.

“I’m sorry to hear that.” Jill said, getting a surprised look from Reese. Sympathy and being polite were not something that had survived with most people.

It took, Jared, no time to cut through the sheet rock and reveal the thin metal struts used in Commercial construction as opposed to 2×4 wooden studs used mostly in home construction.

“ I really hate to rush you Jared, but the door is beginning to crack” Ori said lifting his rifle and aiming at the door and waitingt.

Jared cut through the sheet rock on the other side, worried that there might be undead in the next office, but as the sheet rock fell away all he saw was an empty office, with a closed door. “ lets go” Jared said stepping through the hole thankfully the contractor had used a 24 inch centers so the hole was two foot wide making it easy to get through.

As the group gathered in the next office, they could hear the door in the office they had just left finally beginning to come apart. Jared opened the office door a crack and peered out into the hallway, there were four zombies too his left, down near the last intersection. He couldn’t see to the right.

“no guns, not yet, last one out shut the door.” Jared said as he grasped the handle and pulled the door completely open and lunged out into the hallway. Time slowed and came to a stop. Damn you Ori for joking about clowns earlier, Jared thought as he stared at the clown ten feet down the hallway, its wig was matted with dirt and gore and sat askew on its head, its nose had been chewed off as had his lips, creating a truly horrific leer. Its once white ruffled collar was rust colored from the blood that had stained it.

Somehow it still even wore one floppy shoe, and between Jared and the clown were four other zombies. Time sped up to a slow crawl as Jared rushed forward, the first zombie in his way was a young guy in board shorts, his belly had been torn open. Jared clothes lined the thing sending it flying onto its back, The second zombie might have been a secretary, judging by what was left of her torn and ragged blood stained clothing. Jared paused long enough to snap kick her in the side of the knee, shattering bone, then crushed her skull with the Khurkri.

Ori stepped out, saw the left side had undead but not close enough to be a threat , to the right was… “ oh shit” he said seeing the clown and the Carnage Jared was leaving behind him as he cut his way through the few undead to reach the clown.

Reese rose from the first Zombie Jared had knocked down, he wiped his combat knife on his pant leg, watching as Jared went through the undead like a whirlwind of flashing steel and booted feet, and then he saw real mayhem as Jared reached the clown.

“you sick twisted, make up wearing, balloon animal making freak” Jared said as he shattered one of its knees, then an elbow, he caught its other arm with the tomahawk and brought the Khurkri down on the trapped arm severing it and through it all he never stopped moving. The Tomahawk swept out , skewering the neck of the clown on the butt spike, Jared pivoted and smashed the clown into the wall, as it slumped against the wall Jared stomped down on its other knee from behind breaking it too. A strike to the top of its head and it finally collapsed dead for a second time.

“I really don’t like clowns” Jared said as Reese rushed past him, taking the lead. Ellison shut the office door just as the horde from the other office began pouring through the hole in the wall.

“I think I got that, you must have been a hoot at the circus” Reese commented.

“you do not know the half of it” Ori called out.

They raced down the hallway, undead coming up behind them. Jill had no idea where in the hell they were as Reese led them through a couple of turns and intersections, in fact she wasn’t even sure the building was this large. Then suddenly up ahead was the maintenance room door, and past the door to safety were more undead that filled the hallway.

Jared tried the door and found it locked. “ oh shit” He said glancing at the approaching undead. “Ronny open the damn door” Jared transmitted then sprang past Reece and his remaining two men.

“Ori cover our asses.” Jared said reaching into a pouch.. “Frag out “ he called as he pulled the pin and tossed it over the heads of the zombies closest to him, the grenade fell into the mob between the number of bodies between Jared and the grenade and the distance he had tossed it he was golden. The grenade detonated, crippling undead, probably killing one or two, glass and dry wall shattered. Dust rose from the floor and fell from the ceiling. Ceiling tiles broke apart and fell on the undead.

Jared drew his Tomahawk and Khurkri again as Jill moved up on his right, drawing her katana she steadied herself. a WarriorGoddess about to enter combat Jared thought.

“Ronny open the fucking door” Jared snarled over the radio as he moved to intercept the nearest undead. he spun into a foot sweep that took one zombie down, he crushed the knees of another zombie with the tomahawk, and reversing the Khurkri with a twist of his wrist and a flip of the weapon, he hamstrung a third, then flowed back upright like oil on water.

Jill like Jared worked at crippling the leading outriders of the undead horde building a wall of bodies that would slow the ones behind them.

Behind him Jared heard Ori open fire. Then Reese and his men joined Ori in holding off the press of undead that were coming up from behind them. The zombies from the north side had finally caught up.

Jared knew they couldn’t hold, not for long at any rate, he could hear nibbler barking inside the mechanical room, and clawing at the door. Where the hell was Ronny.

“you don’t have keys for that door” Jared asked

“No” Reese shouted back.

“just fucking great” Jared snarled as hooked a zombie in the neck with the spike of his tomahawk and sent it spinning into the wall. Jill glided forward and took its head, she was using the open on all eight sides approach to this combat which was keeping the zombies from being able to close with her. but there was only so long they could keep this up before they got tired. And when that happened they were dead.

Ronny woke suddenly blinking confused and not sure what was going on. Nibbler was barking wildly, there was the sound of gun fire out in the hallway. “what, how” he asked himself, he had fallen asleep leaning against the wall. Oh shit, he thought as he launched himself across the room to the door, throwing it open he saw Jared and Jill, to his left falling back from a hallway full of undead, they were leaving a carpet of dead behind them, but it wasn’t going to stop the horde.

“ Jared come on” he called out, his total failure burning like acid in the pit of his stomach, they might all die because he had fallen asleep. He had failed his friends.

“Jared” he bellowed, and saw Jill look at him, she cut the hands off a zombie reaching for her and yelled at Jared who nodded. Jill rushed into the mechanical Room then a soldier joined her, then another, Ori was next. Jared tossed his tomahawk and Khurkri into the room and drew his pistol as Reese fell back to the doorway firing.

Zombies tumbled to the ground in front of Jared as he emptied the magazine of his pistol into the faces of the undead closest to him, giving him space to run past Reese into the mechanical room as soon as he was clear, Jared turned and grabbed the Reese and pulled him inside the room.. with Reese clear of the doorway Jared slammed the door closed only to have it hit a zombie who had stepped into the doorway. He pushed hard sending the zombie tumbling out into the hall, Reese fired into the next zombie putting it down and then finally the door closed with a boom.

Ronny stood there shaking, as Jared rounded on him. “what in the hell were you doing, you dumb ass, you almost got us killed.” Jared snarled taking a step forward, but Jill stepped between them and placed a hand on Jareds chest and stopped him in his tracks.

“Ronny what happened” Jill asked. this was it Ronny thought all respect Jared had ever felt for Ronny was gone, he knew it. their friendship lay in ashes.

“I… I…” Ronny stuttered.

“he came down from the fucking uppers he was using” Reese said, “ I could tell he was taking when I first saw him this morning”

Jared stood there for a long moment, he had suspected but hadn’t asked, hadn’t wanted to know. “Ronny” Jared asked forcing himself to be calm.

“God I’m sorry Jared, I couldn’t take the nightmares anymore, so I took some pills.” And you couldn’t take the thought of attacking them in your sleep like you did Lee. Go ahead tell him it’s not like he is going to forgive you anyway, he thought.

“then I don’t know what happened I was leaning against the wall waiting for your to get back here and suddenly I wake up to the fight out there.” Ronny admitted his face twisted as if he were about to cry. That hit Jared hard, this wasn’t Ronny, not the Ronny he had known for so many years.

“I don’t think that doors going to stop them’ Reese said as the door creaked slightly. “the fucking frame will probably break loose from the wall first.”

“Jill get the Harness on Nibbler you and Ori get up on the roof and pull her up.” Jared said his eyes never leaving Ronny. To give himself time to think he retrieved his tomahawk and Khurkri then turned to face Ronny again.

“I’m not even sure what the hell to say to you” Jared said finally. “you could have come to me, or Jill. Hell even Ori. We would have helped you somehow.” Jared said.

“how, last time I checked you cant shoot nightmares.” Ronny yelled, suddenly angry. Probably the drugs, Jared thought.

“come on lets get up on the roof, at least those things cant get up there with us.” Jared said softly forcing himself to stay calm. “ we can work this out later,”

Ronny climbed the ladder silently refusing Jared’s help, as soon he was up on the roof the rest of the men in the room followed.

“well that worked out well” Reese said. “now we get to sit up here and freeze to death.”

“no, Ill find a way out of this” Jared said watching Ronny who limped over to the edge of the roof and was looking down. Before Jared could say a word, Jill rose and walked over to stand beside Ronny.

“you know he is going to be a problem” Reese said.

“Maybe but he is my problem” Jared said

“he is all of our problem while we are stuck together” Reese said.

“okay I can understand where your coming from” Jared said calmly. “ so let me be clear, Ronny and I served together, he worked for me after that, and he has saved my life more than once. I will not abandon him and if you try to hurt him I will kill you. That’s not a threat just a hard fact.” Jared stated.

Reese didn’t respond for a moment, he just frowned; he looked so much like Steve it hurt to even look at the guy.

“I can respect that, just keep him out of trouble.” Reese replied. “now for the six million dollar question, what the hell was your MOS?”

“11 Bravo nothing fancy.” Jared replied.

“could have fooled me” Reese said, glancing at Ronny. “any ideas on how to get the hell out of here.” Reese asked after a second.

“actually yes. But lets see how many undead actually enter the building. We might be able to climb down and run to another building before they realize we are gone. Right now they think we are in the room down there and that will draw in more a lot more who want to join the dinner party.” Jared said.

“I have to ask this, and you might think I’m nuts, but your friend therem mentioned nightmares, has he been dreaming about some freak in a bowler hat. People around here used to have that dream a lot. It was weird how every one dreamed about the same guy, or thing. What ever” Reese said.

Jared shook his head. “ no, well not anymore, not since we killed the Bowler hat wearing child molesting undead bastard. No this is a new dream.”

“you killed it, your telling me it was real,” Reese asked in disbelief.

“his name when alive was Jasper Brown, he was a Servant of the Dark. Try wrapping your mind around that if you want to feel like you’ve gone nuts. he was killed in October at the Munitions Terminal in Sunny point by the Cop who had arrested him before the dead rose. That probably answers whether I think your nuts for your dreams.” Jared said. “your telling me you haven’t figured out those things are dead” Jared asked.

“no we figured that out, most guys think its like the T virus from that movie but it’s a bit hard to believe a creature that I dreamed about was actually real, and its almost as hard to believe there’s a war raging between the Devil and God.”

“something like that, who the hell knows, all I know is there’s something dark moving around out there, calling the shots and it wants us all dead.” Jared replied. Not even going to try and explain the weirdness he had discovered in the books and his dreams. “but yeah its a war between two sides we just call it the light and the dark since the light didn’t seem to favor any one religion over the others. I take it You people haven’t had dreams of the dead coming back to say good bye, or to drop you a warning time to time?”

Reese finally nodded “ A few guys talked about that, but after awhile stopped mentioning it, at least around me they did.” He answered.

He stood there shaking his head, not sure if he believed any of what Jared had said. “ guess it doesn’t matter if your right or wrong, those things are dead and rotting, maybe it is supernatural. But all I know at this moment is we are trapped on a roof , again. Unless you want to go back to the building you started from.”

Jared opened his mouth to respond then stopped cocked his head as if listening to something then a smile broke out on his face. “ Actually we only need to sit here and wait for about ten minutes” He told Reese.

“What?” Reese said puzzled then remembered the ear bud and Throat mic Jared wore, he had noticed it before but not really paid much attention to it.

Five minutes later the thump of rotor blades reached the group on the roof, five minutes after that, he saw a helicopter that had been old, twenty years ago, “good god that thing is old as shit”

Jared eyed the chopper, it was a S-62A, a 1962 civilian variant of the Military Sea Guard, as thrilled as he had been to hear the message, as the minutes ticked by the looming helicopter ride made his stomach crawl, he hated flying, he really hated helicopters. “you think that’s bad, be in a nice shiny black hawk that gets shot down, not fun”

In moments it was hovering overhead, and slowly setting down, it never quite landed either Reese realized it just hung there wheels barely touch the rooftop. He watched as the door in the side slid open and the Dog was loaded then Jill, Ori and finally Ronny who looked sick as hell. Jared, was shaking he saw and ghost white. “ I really hate these things” Jared said then turned to Reese and his surviving men. “your welcome to go with us, it beats sitting here starving.”

Reese nodded and waved Ellison and Johnson to board, then he climbed aboard himself, he watched as Jared Stone climbed stiffly into the chopper looked sick enough he might pass out.

A dark haired man he hadn’t seen before in ACU’s shut the cargo door, and sat down across from Jared and his wife, the mans eyes lingering on Jill Stone for a second before sliding away. the pilot was the wildest looking Neo Viking look alike he had ever seen from the curling long blond hair to the braided beard. Jared’s group was turning out to be damned interesting Reese thought.

“Glad you made it” Jansen said to Jared who nodded sharply, his eyes fixed on the floor of the helo.

“Near thing, still might not make it if this thing crashes” Jared replied as Jill placed a hand on his knee.

Jansen didn’t know what to say, it took a lot for a man that scared of helicopters to actually climb aboard one. Of course being left to starve or be eaten was a great motivator. “ at least you were already on the roof, we spotted you coming in, otherwise we would have been hovering over the other building.” Jansen said.

Jared didn’t reply his stomach had dropped as the helo shot up and away from the building, vibrating noisily. Jansen hadn’t missed the tension pouring off Ronny either. Something had happened down there, something bad judging by the looks that Ori shot at Ronny off and on.

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

They reached the camp five minutes after that, and Reese almost laughed as Stone launched himself out of the chopper as soon as the door was opened. But sick to his stomach and white face or not, he was already calling out orders to the people who rushed up to greet them.

Several of the people stopped and stared openly at Reese, like they had seen a ghost, the same look that Jared and his friends had given him as well. He shrugged not really caring, the only man as big as he was in the camp was the Blond guy with the thin hair.

Jared turned to Reese “ Look we can help you get a vehicle and fuel, even leave you a little food if you want, this farmhouse should be safe as long as you don’t get spotted by any undead.”

“your leaving us” Reese asked.

Jared nodded,” got a few things to do first, but we need to hook up with the rest of our convoy.” Jared said,

“there’s more of you” Reese asked surprised,

“a lot more, there’s about seventy or so in the convoy and six hundred some odd and growing back in the safe zone.” Jared said no longer worried about Reese or his surviving men knowing.

Reese didn’t seem too impressed by that number confirming in Jared’s mind there were a lot of people under the mountain. With luck most of them would survive

“Figured you would want to try and get back to your folks up there” Jared said.

“it will be months before they open up again, assuming they are still alive to open up and want to. Some of the folks are all for keeping those doors shut till the power goes out.”

“Power” Ori asked.

“yeah, the place is powered by a portable Nuclear reactor. Back in the fifties or maybe it was the sixties, they developed the technology, I think it was called Alco PM-2A , they haven’t deployed them but a few times. At least that’s what the tech nerd told me, they have spent fifty some odd years perfecting the technology and deployed them to certain secure bases. Mt. weather is one of the places. They can run for five years minimum, I never got an answer about the maximum time they can run.” Reese said then looked back at Jared. “you have no reason to trust us, but I for one would like to ride along with you folks.” Ellison and Johnson quickly nodded voicing their desire to join up as well.

Jared studied them for a moment. “ Welcome aboard Sergeant Reese, Ellison and Johnson,” Jared said then turned to Ori “ Ori get with Ben, he is going to be flying that plane or we dump it. also get Ed to organize a party to find us a semi with a flatbed, so we can carry this helicopter with us.” Jared turned to Ronny, who flinched under his gaze. Ed and the rest looked surprised, and unsure of what was going on.

“Ronny I need to talk to you alone in the farmhouse, every one else stay outside unless the undead show up.” Jared said.

Ronny followed along behind Jared his head down. He couldn’t have described his emotions to any one, he barely understood them himself. His life was in ruins and he knew it, and god knew what Mary was going to do when she found out. Probably leave him.

Jared opened the door, and let Ronny entered, ignoring the men and women who clustered around the porch curious about what was going on. Jill stepped up and gave Jared a look that dared him to send her outside. He frowned but said nothing till he shut the door.

“how long have you been taking them” He asked Ronny getting to right to the point.

“ a couple of nights,” Ronny said knowing Jared was talking about the uppers.

“and the pain killers” Jared asked.

“since I woke up in the med clinic” Ronny stated. “and I started taking sleeping pills because I couldn’t sleep right after we left Sullivan.” His voice was cold, flat, and emotionless.

Jared studied him, wondering if there was more to Ronny’s weird behavior than just drugs. “your going to dry out if it kills you, then Ill make a decision on whether to send you back to Sullivan or keep you here.”

“Jared I cant sleep” Ronny said anxiously. “ don’t make me sleep”

“well you cant stay awake constantly either Ronny, its impossible. Don’t worry some one will sit with you if makes you feel better.” Jared said.

“after that thing with Lany, I’m scared to sleep Jared.” Ronny said. I’ve already clubbed Lee down, whose next Jill, you, Ori, some one else he thought but he didn’t say it.

“your going to get some sleep Ronny, I cant risk you passing out again.” Jared said.

“I.. God I’m sorry about that too Jared, I still don’t understand how it happened, I was wide awake and then suddenly I’m waking up again, it was like a switch had been thrown.” Ronny said so plaintively that Jared wanted to do something to make him feel better but he didn’t.

“lay on that couch and go to sleep, Ill have Ed or Steger sit with you, but your getting eight hours of sleep like it or not.” Jared said then turned on his heel and walked out he door Jill following behind him.

“Don’t you find it odd he passed out exactly when we needed him” Jill said as soon as they were outside.

“Your not suggesting that the dark just reached out and knocked him out to screw with us” Jared “ tell me that’s not what your saying.”

“I’m just saying its odd” Jill replied.

“Shit I cant send Ed in there Ed’s going to get a truck and trailer, Ill send Jansen he needs some down time:” Jared said as waved Jansen over and quickly explained what he needed, not really saying why only saying Ronny needed sleep and was worried about sleep walking and nightmares.

As soon as Jansen was inside Jared turned to Jill “ all I know is that Ronny hasnt been taking that shit long enough to account for the changes I’ve seen in him, back at the island he was depressed about his leg but not like this, this is different and truthfully I have no clue what to do about it Jill. I keep thinking of what Bowler hat did to Carrie, or Sheamus, or half a dozen other people and I think, that something is working on Ronny now using his depression over his injury to turn him into the man that’s screwing up badly.”

“so you do think its odd what happened.” Jill said. Jared nodded slowly not happy about it.

“yes I just might” Jared acknowledged. “ go get the pills out of his pack I don’t want him sneaking any” Jared said. Jill nodded not liking the idea of digging through Ronnys pack but it was better than letting him dope himself into a overdose or another crash.

Ben already nervous took off by 1400hrs and headed to the main camp so he could land with plenty of daylight. The rest of the group was packed up and ready to roll out as soon as Ed and his search team returned.

By 1500hrs Ed was back with a semi truck with a flat bed attached. Harald got the helicopter up and carefully landed it on the trailer,as soon as the rotors stropped turning a a crew quickly chained it down, then every one loaded up, the only change out in the line up was Jared was in his van, instead of the ELSORV, along with Ori, Ronny and Jill.

Speculation as to what the problem was with Ronny was the hot topic when Jared wasn’t around, and of course people tried to Pump the new guys, Reese, Ellison and Johnson for information but the soldiers only shrugged.

Almost to the Convoys camp, the sun finally set plunging the world into darkness, headlights came on, glittering beads of light that could be seen for miles drawing in the undead.

The camp, a fenced in industrial park, already had quite a few zombies along the fence line, those near the gates were quickly put down so the gates could be opened. Jared drove through the gates and through the complex till he reached the center where Chris had set up camp. Parking near the Medical RV, Jared noted two new Semi trucks and a New RV, Chris had been busy but tomorrow they needed to buckle don’t and get the other eight Tractor Trailers and at least one fuel truck..

“Come on Ronny, I want Justin to check you out” Jared said. They climbed out and headed to the Med Rv, but were intercepted by Chris and Daws who had shaved his head but was growing a mustache.

“Nice to have you back” Chris said to Jared then realized something was up, as he saw the look on Jared’s and Ronny’s faces. Ben apparently mentioned anything to any one here, Jared thought makes him pretty trustworthy in my book.

“Thanks glad to be back, if you don’t mind I need Justin to give Ronny a once over.” Jared said.

“You look like shit warmed over” Chris told Ronny.

“He should” Jared replied before Ronny could say anything.

“What’s going on” Chris asked as they climbed into the RV, Justin rose to his feet.
At 5’7 he wasn’t a tall man either, medium ropy build, and a shaved head.

“Any one hurt” Justin asked Jared,

“ Ronny here has a problem, apparently he has been swiping pain pills, synthetic speed, and who knows what else.” Jared said bluntly, Chris turned a surprised look on Ronny who flushed and looked down at the floor.

“he fell asleep and almost got us killed.” Jared said then gave Chris the barebone’s of the story.

“Damn, Ronny what were you thinking man.” Chris said when Jared was finished.

“I just wanted to stop the dreams,” Ronny muttered.

Jared pulled of his pack, opening the flap he pulled out a baggie that held several pill bottles and passed them to Justin.

“what do you want me to do about it” Justin asked.

“check him out make sure he is okay, then keep him here in bed till that shit is out of his system. And I don’t want this repeated outside of this RV, Ronny may be a shit head, but he is our shit head.” Jared said turning to Ronny. “Ronny I don’t know what was going through your mind, but listen up. no more, your aint the only person injured, or having nightmares. Pull your shit together you got friends that are here to help, and are counting on you as well. I’m just going to tell people your sick and got delirious or something.”

Justin having donned his gloves, took Ronny’s blood pressure, pulse, reflexes and ever thing else he could think of. “you do need rest, or you going to drop over Ronny. I’m not just saying that because Jared thinks it’s the right thing to do.” Justin said as he finished checking Ronny over he turned and took the pill bottles Jared had given him, opening each one and dumping their contents in small bowls intending on counting them and adding them back into inventory. He paused and checked the bottle he held.

“Something wrong” Jared asked.

“Id say so,” Justin said turning to Ronny,” when you swiped these pain killers where did you get them.”

Ronny pointed to the cabinet that Justin was going to start locking up. “in there in a large bottle marked pain killers” Ronny replied.

“your sure you got them from that bottle” Justin asked.

Ronny nodded, “ why” He asked listlessly.

“because these aren’t pain killers, they are a really potent anti depressant, they are also some times used as sleeping pills. And the side effects are remarkably similar to some of the stuff you reported Ronny.”

“what are you saying” Ronny asked.

“I’m saying some one switched your pills out, you were take these instead of pain killers and the were interacting with the Uppers you swiped. No wonder you blacked out, bet you kept finding yourself really sleepy at odd times too didn’t you.”

Ronny nodded then looked at Jared who was frowning, “could this have cause him to do things in his sleep like when he almost shot Lany.” Jared asked.

“its possible, I’ve heard all kinds of odd stories associated with this shit. And who knows what kind of interaction there might be when he was taking a sleeping pill known to make people sleep walk and an anti depressant that is used as a sleeping pill too.”

“in other words some one doped him” Jared said angrily.

“looks like” Justin agreed.

“But why” Chris asked.

“So maybe he falls asleep and crashes, maybe they hoped he would go nuts and kill himself or kill some of you. Maybe they just though it was funny” Justin said.

“Have you been having suicidal thoughts” Justin asked Ronny who hesitated then nodded.

“Classic side effect of this type of Anti depressant.” Justin said. Though he wasn’t sure how Ronny was suffering side effects if he had only been taking them for a few days, Odds were he had been taking them for a lot longer, like since they left Sullivan.

“That means who ever did this has been with us since we left Sullivan.” Jared said thinking about it. “Ronny go lay your butt down and get this crap out of your system, I thing I have a few people to talk to.”

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

Charleston Harbor 2200hrs

A sound intruded on the quiet dark water south of Charleston, if there had been any one living they would have recognized the sound as that of a marine Diesel motor. The boat a darker shade of night than the water, suddenly cut its motor and coasted forward slowing steadily till all sense of movement was gone and it sat rocking gently with the waves,

She was Sixty-five feet long, with a low superstructure, and a long stern deck where two small craft were tied down.

Men on deck worked quickly and quietly in the dark with occasionally glances at the dead City of Charleston to the west as they slid the two small craft into the water then loaded weapons, ammunition and gear into the small craft as soon as they were finished with that the small boat crew and the teams they would carry boarded.

Electric motors came to life and the small craft turned and headed west deeper into the harbor, leaving the larger craft to turn and head south towards the rendezvous point where it would wait for their return.

The boats rode the choppy water easily, lookouts using civilian grade Night vision gear to watch the water for debris or the rare floating corpse, no one talked they were to nervous thinking about their target a small island were a old fortress loomed over the water ahead of them and the men inside who were sure to put up a fight.

Dave “Roboto” Cruix, hated guard duty on Sumter, hated it even more now that it was December. It wasn’t as cold here as it would be back home, but the water added a chill to the wind that cut through him like a knife.

He paced along the wall again trying to focus on the land in front of the gates and the Dock in the dark it was hard to see, and his mind wandered a lot. Mostly he thought of the new girl that had arrived on Sullivan, Nancy of the long legs and heaving bosom he thought smiling. He suspected she had been a stripper before the dead. What ever she had been she had survived and that meant she was tough and smart with at least a good string of luck thrown in.

He was so wrapped up in thoughts of Nancy, he wasn’t aware of the shadow that slipped over the wall and onto the walk way from the pier side of the fortress, never saw the man shaped shadow creep towards him then kneel lifting something long and dark to its shoulder. All he knew was the sudden flash of pain and then nothing as the second silenced shot struck him in the head.

Quietly the killer returned to the two other men who waited on the parapet, then gave the signal and the men who waited below climbed up the ropes that had been dropped down to them. As soon as they were atop the wall the two boats that had brought them moved slowly around the island towards the dock.

The two teams of twelve split up the first team worked its way around the parapets making sure no other guards remained, while a second team moved down into the court yard, silently dispatching any one they came across.

Their leader a stocky man of about five ten put two rounds into a young guard standing before a thick door, beyond that door lay the hallway inside the Battery that would take them to the primary target of the mission. At his signal two of his Marksmen killed the guard, the slight sound of their silenced weapons wisked away by the wind.

The Raiders flowed forward into the narrow hallway heading straight to their targets door using a hand drawn map the scuff of their boots not loud enough to alert anyone of the danger.

If her husband was home, they might be in for a fight. The sniper of the team rather hoped the husband would be home, he would love to leave the body for Jared Stone to find. of course it wouldn’t be the battle between snipers he so wanted but it would do.

He smiled under his mask and gave the signal to enter and stepped back. The team entered in a rush, surprising the woman inside, who didn’t even have time to scream before she was taken down.

A raider slapped a hand over her mouth and grunted in pain as she bit down on his palm. Another Raider gagged silently as the woman managed to kick him in the crotch while he tried to bind her wrists, he fell to one side his hands cupping his groin protectively.

A raider lifted his rifle ready to beat her unconscious with the stock only to stop as the team leader stepped forward, grinning under his ski mask as the woman somehow reversed the hold the man had on her and sent him head first into a wall where the man crumbled to the ground dazed.

The leader rammed the taser he held into her side smiling as her body arched and went taut. Her mouth opened in a silent scream. He pulled it away ready to zap her again, as two of his men leaped forward and bound her hands and feet.

“Get her to the gate, the rest of you follow me, we have some kids to gather” he ordered, remember another night and another plan, where his men had run out on him with out planting the bombs he had wanted placed here.

Private Alex Carol formerly of the US Army rose from his cot, a few of his fellow soldiers looked up from their card game and grinned knowing he was about to go out and pull a couple of hours of voluntary patrol its what he did when he couldn’t sleep or was bored.

“Carol, your going to make us all look bad if you keep this up” Corporal Denton said from the poker Table.

“have you looked in the mirror lately, nothing I do can make you look worse” Carol said flashing a smile at his friend then slung his rifle over his shoulder and headed for the door.

Carol made his way through the hallway and up to the top of the Battery that housed almost every one in the fort.

The Issac Huger Battery had been added to the old fort in 1897 and named after a Revolutionary war Veteran, who according to the display in the small onsite museum, died in 1797. it covered more than half the fort from the Salient to the Gorge. With the top of the battery even with unexcavated land all the way to the right flank wall. Creating in effect a second courtyard that was level with the top of the wall. ‘

Mobile Shelters retrieved from the Munitions Terminal had been placed up on this second courtyard with a lot of effort on the part of the Survivors using a barge mounted crane. But so far no one was being moved into them till the solar panels and other extras were installed.

Carol took a moment to enjoy the chill of the night, winter was one of his favorite times of the year. He loved how it smelled, the cold, loved the deep silence on nights when snow fell steadily covering the fields. Here on the coast there wasn’t any snow, or not at least here in South Carolina where it didn’t seem to get below forty much. Back home it would be in the teens or lower by now with at least a foot of snow on the ground.

Across the courtyard he head a clink of metal on stone, where a sentry had probably leaned against the cold stone to rest. Sumter was one of the most boring posts he readily admitted, it was rare for any undead to wash up on the small area of land that lay before the gates of the fort, and even if they did, the walking dead couldn’t get inside the closed gates. And the likely hood of ever being attack out here by raiders were slim. But Slim didn’t mean not a chance and Carol was determined not to take chances with the lives of the kids that he had been entrusted with.

He took the stairs down into the original courtyard of the Fort and walked along the original wall of the old fort with its alcoves that had once held cannons, till he reached the stairs that would take him to the walkway above the gate. Making his way up the of the stairs to the top of wall he stopped puzzled seeing the guard post that over looked the gate and the docks was empty.

He looked around irritated that the Guard had left his post empty. He couldn’t remember who had the duty, but who ever it was, was slacking off and carol was going to make sure they got their ass reamed out for it.

He walked over to the post and looked out over the wall, at first he saw nothing. Then as his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he realized there were two small boats tied up at the dock, boats that shouldn’t be there and as that was registering he looked down and saw a figure laying in front of the gates.

Son of a Bitch Carol thought, his mind racing, if it wasn’t for the boats at the dock he might have believed who ever it was down there had slipped and fallen. But the boats changed things, no one from Sullivan had dropped by to visit or he would know about it.

So the boats could only mean one thing, unlikely or not, Raiders. He crouched hoping to remain unseen and to make himself less of a target if he had. His eyes straining to see into the shadows around the walkways and into the casement alcoves.

Down below him, he heard some one shift their weapon bumping the gate. Then a woman moan. Sound the alarm, Carol thought, sound it before anything happens like you getting killed before you can sound it. He reached out and pushed the red button that had been installed at the post, and half a second later a siren wailed to life.
There were shouts of alarm and then his blood went cold as the sound of gun fire reached his ears and all hell broke loose.

Bradley peered out of the old casement, hiding in an alcove that allowed him to cover the entrances to the Battery where the People lived. The last of his men were hightailing it out of the battery heading for the gates carrying their prisoners.

Behind them the defenders of the fort appeared, some atop the Battery, others coming out the ground floor doors into the courtyard. Bradley fired on the ones in the courtyard covering his men, there were others that were supposed to deal with the men who had appeared on top of the battery.

As it was some one was doing a hell of job of picking off his men. He ducked back into the darkness of the Casement, watching two more of his men fall which gave him a bearing on where the shooter was.

Some how one of the defenders had gotten onto the wall above the gate with out being seen, Bradley smiled coldly as he opened the breach of the M203 40mm grenade launcher and slid an HE round into the chamber. He lifted his weapon tucking the stock under his arm, his right hand wrapped around the magazine like it was a pistol grip. He flipped up the ladder site, sighted and pulled the M203’s trigger.

At first the defenders didn’t realize in the darkness that the Raiders carried children, they fired into retreating figures dropping Raiders, who in turn dropped the kids they were carrying in some cases those kids were wounded in a few the child was already dead.

Some of the kids lay still to terrified to move, others just sat where they had been dropped screaming, a few of the kids leaped to their feet and ran as fast as they could to dark alcoves to hide. Some ran straight at the defending soldiers stepping into the line of fire as they raced for what they thought was safety.

“Oh Sweet Jesus” Denton moaned seeing the kids as the spot lights came on. “There are kids down there” Denton transmitted, feeling sick as a small boy was shot down as he tried to run to a soldier.

“Kill those son of a bitches” he Snarled over the radio not caring that he had never hated another human being as badly as he did the raiders who were now targeting children that had been dropped “ kill them all.” He said as he crouched atop the Battery trying to coordinate the defense, the sound of small arms fire almost as loud as the screams of the children that were being kidnapped or killed.

At least with his men firing at the raiders, they were having to divert their fire from the kids.

“get that Ma Duece set up on the north side, but hold your fire till I say so.” He said worried about not only hitting the children but that every corpse down there would rise and become a threat to any child dropped by the Raiders. “I want at least two snipers to target the corpses down there try to keep them from turning” he said hoping that would be enough to save the kids from the recently dead, then swore as something exploded on the wall over the gates where one of his men had been firing from.

“Second squad in position” Denton heard over the radio, nodding in satisfaction. Second had cleared the Casements in the Left flank and were setting up a cross fire with the men on the Battery allowing third squad to move to the right flank casements and dislodge the raiders there and driving them towards the gates. In moments they would have the entire lot of raiders caught in a nice cross fire.

If they could do this fast enough they could get to those kids down there and get them out before the dead around them rose. But Denton know that it was unlikely no matter how hard he prayed they could pull it off.

Williams dressed in black, knelt in the shadows just inside the gate, smiling happily, Bradley had been right, bringing a few of the men from the outpost had been smart, the defenders were faster off the tick than expected and were putting up a spirited defense.
They were actually gaining ground as well, leaving bodies scattered across the courtyard.

None of that really mattered to him, they could kill most of the raiders and it wouldn’t matter the main target of tonight’s little operation was already out the gate and being carried to the boast along with several children. The rest of could die here in the courtyard for all he cared, the woman was all that mattered. The death of each child would be like a knife in Jared Stones heart, driving him to despair and more importantly sending him on a quest for vengeance

He lifted his rifle and laid his sights on a US soldier, such an arrogant Pizdi even now at the end of the world they still think they can stand waving their flag and save the world, save those children. Americans were worthless he thought as he pulled the trigger and shot the man through the heart.

Another Raider charged past the sniper, carrying another child and at the speed the Defenders were retaking the casements only one or two more raiders would escape with their hostages. That was okay, the Sniper thought, the dead were rising out there in the courtyard and amidst the dead were crying and screaming children who had been dropped as the men who held them had either abandoned them to escape or died. He smiled coldly picturing how Jared stone would deal with this disaster.

Even as his mind considered the things around him and he reveled in the pain he knew he was causing he continued to steadily fire at any target that exposed itself. The smell of gunpowder, feces and the hot coppery smell of blood filled the air of the fortress. It was like the sweet smell of a Rose, heady and intoxicating.

Denton watched sick at heart as two more kids were killed. But miracle of miracles more kids some how made it out of the kill zone, he watched as one little boy grabbed the hands of two other kids and dragged them away from the dead to hide behind a pile of rocks near the right flank wall a mere ten feet away from the nearest soldier, who could at least protect them from the dead.

A little Girl screaming in panic pulled a pistol from a dead mans hand and ran, firing blindly her blood soaked pig tails streamed out behind her as she ran right into the arms of a Soldier she had just shot, the man wrapped his arms around her and dragged her to safety.

Alexander Canton, who had, had a daughter before the dead had risen. Saw a girl all of ten years old, try to escape but a zombie that had been a raider latched on to her, its teeth ripping and tearing, blood spraying into the air. She shrieked like the damned as the undead tore at her. For a heart beat he saw his own daughters death again saw her being eaten alive, while he struggled against the fleeing crowd that battered him further and further away from his daughter even as he struggled to reach her.

Tears streaming down his face he turned his rifle on the screaming little girl and put her out of her misery, then shot the zombie down that had killed her. he was a broken man as he turned his rifle back on the Raiders, fury and grief driving him to fire and keep firing till every inhuman bastard he could see was dead.

A child dressed in footy pajama’s crawled through puddles of blood, bullets screaming over head trying to reach the soldier he could see in the shadows of the Casement arch. The smells around him turning his stomach, his entire world had shrunk to this, blood, terror and the soldier who could save him. The soldier finally saw him.

Bill Swank, once a house painter, and now a private in the defense force saw a boy, no older than nine crawling towards him past a tangle of bodies. Something moved in that pile of corpses and the boy saw it at the same time as Swank and began to scream as a zombie sat up beside him.

there was no way that kid is going to survive Bill thought his heart almost breaking as he saw the other bodies around the boy twitching as they turned. They would open their eyes and rise in moments.

“Going out” he yelled making his decision and leaping to his feet, he charged through the arch and into hurricane of fire that the remaining Raiders sent his way. He weaved around trying to make himself a harder target for the Raiders but there really wasn’t much he could do, he was THE target now.

“Cover his ass” another soldier shouted and fire intensified as the defenders did their best. But the Raiders at the gate had a good Target and were intent on taking Swank down. He staggered as a round went through his calf, but kept going as the boy tried to reach Swank crawling on hands and knees, covered in blood and screaming as he tried to escape the zombie reaching for him.

The Zombie almost literally exploded as ten soldiers fired on it, trying to give that boy a chance, and they succeed, a bloody mist hung in the air as the corpse collapsed for good this time.

Some how Swank made it to the child and swept the boy up in his arms turning his back to the gate knowing his body armor and even his body would protect the kid as Swank cradled him one armed to his chest. Around them more dead opened their eyes.

Swank started running for cover and spotted another kid, a girl whose face was covered in a strangers blood struggling to kick free of the dead hand that was trying to pull her foot towards its waiting teeth. Swank tossed away his weapon knowing he wouldn’t be able aim accurately and fire while holding a child and running, he leaned down and scooped up the second child as he passed, tearing her away from the zombie that died half second later as four rounds pulped its head. But Swank never noticed he was running full tilt towards the shelter of the Casement, both kids protected by his body.

Aaah such an inviting Target, The sniper thought as he placed his cross hairs on the running mans back, such a hero. And heroes always die he thought as he fired smiling hugely

Denton snarled as the Soldier who had somehow saved two kids running through that hell storm below finally fell, bullets pounding into the mans back, but as the soldier fell he tossed both kids into the dark cannon alcove where two waiting soldiers grabbed them and dragged the kids back against the wall out of the line of fire.

Williams, his huge smile hidden by his Ski mask, wanted to shout with pure pleasure at the pain the Raiders were inflicting. He had waited so long for this, and the pain was like the nectar of the gods to him. still smiling he stepped out the gate behind him then turned and headed for the boat, nodding to the odd looking shadow that capered wildly along the base of the outside wall celebrating in death a long awaited work finally being completed.

He ran lightly down the pier to the waiting boat, and leaped aboard smiling at the woman who struggled against her bonds. “ for now you are safe, but soon you American bitch, you will be all mine, and when I break you, your husband will break and through him, Jared Stone will fall with no friends at his side.” He said, not realizing that he spoke in Russian. She didn’t respond only glared at him, if hate could kill he would surely have been burned to cinders, but the hate of others only Fed people like himself, it was a drug they reveled in.

The Battle that had seemed to have gone on for hours, finally shifted as the last of the kids escaped the courtyard. Denton smiled coldly, now he and his men could do their jobs with out fear of killing the kids they were trying to save. “ light em up” he transmitted.

The remaining raiders holding the gate trying to buy time for the others to get their hostages to the boats, got their pay back for their assault with interest as the Machine gun team who had set up in the darkness with out being seen opened up with the Ma Duece, the sound hammering at the ears of the living as it bounced off the walls of the old fortress and carried across the waters of the Harbor.

The raiders trapped in a hideous cross fire of small arms and a machine gun finally broke and ran, but it was far to little to late for them

The defenders charged forward, driving the Raiders from the gate. Bodies tumbled as the thumb sized rounds from the Ma Deuce hammered at them. Then the Machine gun fell silent as the Defenders entered its zone and charged through the gate over the bodies of the enemy. Firing into the heads of the corpses as they passed only to see the two small boats pulling away from the Pier, Children sitting on the gunwales shielding the remaining raiders.

The Defenders game to a stop, unable to fire on the raiders with out hitting the kids. They watched angrily praying for some kind of opening but none came as the boats slipped away into the darkness.

“Some one just poked a sleeping Bear” Carol said aloud thinking of how Jared Stone was going to react to this when he heard about it.

a single gunshot inside the fort, ushered Alexander Canton into the after life no longer able to take the horror his life had become. .

Across the harbor a Helicopter lifted off the USS Yorktown, it swept over Sumter in pursuit of the fleeing raiders. Two minutes later it exploded in a ball of fire over the water as a Stinger missile fired by the raiders struck the helo in the fuel tank.

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

Ronny sedated tossed and turned, nightmare images of death and destruction, and the faceless girl who mocked him, her father for his failures as he saw Sullivan in flames and the dead bodies that lay twitching around Fort Sumter.

Thanks to the Sedative, he couldn’t escape by waking, so he was trapped in a hell all his own, surrounded by death and always running, that mocking voice following him down and down the deep corridors of his mind.

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

“Come on bitch move it” a man in a ski mask said, pushing Beth forward urging her to step out of the boat. At least they had, had to cut her bonds to get her to move. from what she had heard they had lost more than half of their men , couldn’t have happened to a more deserving bunch.

One of the men, grabbed nine year old Katherine who screamed loudly in terror. The man lifted his hand to slap her and Beth leaped forward snatching the child from his arms. She turned and covered the child with her body as the man punched her in the back of the head. She saw stars and must have bitten her tongue because she tasted blood.

“Idiot, remember the undead,” another raider hissed at the enraged man and pulled him away from their prisoners, the other kids were wimpering and crying. “if a single zombie shows up I will feed you to them personally dumb ass”

Beth stroked Katherine’s hair whispering to her to be brave that Ori and Jared were coming for them to take them all home.

“Can you keep those kids from screaming” the raider asked turning away from the asshole who had punched Beth.

“if you stop scaring them to death” She snarled staring at him defiantly.

“Then you keep them moving and quiet and I Promise my men will leave them alone.” He said, not promising the same protection for Beth she noted. Her stomach knotted, god she prayed she didn’t lose her and Ori’s baby.

“I will,” she said, as she stepped out of the boat onto the stone walkway, and then helped each child from the boat, having to coax two of them to come to her. The Raiders were growing angry at the delay. But they left her and the kids alone. As soon as the last child was out of the boat they were marched up a set of stairs down a path between two lakes, where she saw a dark house beyond the right hand lake, and another smaller building past the left hand lake.

They were marched through what looked like overgrown decorative garden beds past the house, or what ever it was to a huge circular gravel drive where a several vehicles waited.
“get those kids in that Van and keep it quiet” the Leader of the Raiders told her.

“Come on kids, let’s all be quiet and get in the van.” She said opening the side door, and helping each child inside, ignoring the man who walked past and grabbed her butt.

She climbed in after the kids, who instantly clustered around her holding on to her tightly sobbing quietly scared to death of being off the island in the land of the dead in the hands of kidnappers.

Some one climbed into the passenger seat up front and the motor started. The van lurched into motion and a moment later the interior light came on. A man in a ski mask was looking at her. Slowly he pulled off the ski mask and smiled, Richard Clinton, the bastard she thought, but stayed calm for the kids. “you know what Ori and Jared are going to do to you” she said.

“Nothing if they want you to live, and Jared has a big soft spot for kids.” Richard said. “God it got so annoying walking around pretending to like you people. oooo lets rebuild, start a library, teach all these nice morals and ethics to kids. You’re an idiot. People like Kronnen are going to rule things from now on. If your not strong enough to fight and survive you die. Libraries aren’t going to save you or help you win fights”

“balless assholes like you aren’t going to win either,” Beth said, her anger getting the better of her for a moment.

“shut the hell up” The driver said, turning to look at Richard who clamped his mouth shut and sat back in his seat. “Lady, if you look in those boxes in the back youll find some food for you and the kids. You can look for weapons all you want, but I made sure theres nothing you can use. You just keep those kids nice and quiet and everything will be all right”

“thank you for the food” she said determined to keep this man from becoming any more of an enemy for the sake of the kids if for no other reason. But she knew Richard wasn’t going to be anything but a pain. She untangled her self from the kids and crawled into the back to find boxes that held juice boxes, small pop top cans of spaghetti O’s and Ravioli’s, crackers, cookies and other things that kids liked. She turned a speculative eye towards the front. Who ever had picked this stuff out, must have had kids before the dead, or at least liked kids, and who ever it was might prove to be an ally to keep the kids safe no matter what happened to her.

She passed out juice boxes and snacks, and then the lights were turned off, in the darkness she began to tell the kids a story about a Rabbit and a briar patch praying that Ori would come soon, before something happened and she lost their child.

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

Jared woke to Chris, calling his name. He was awake and on his feet in a heart beat pistol in hand.

“what?” Jared asked, as he stepped into his boots.

“Mary is coming in, and wants to talk to just you when she lands.” Chris said “she was upset Jared. Badly upset but she said she wants to tell you first.”

Jared pulled on his coat and followed Chris outside, the sun was just barely up which meant mary had taken off in the dark, sometime around 0430 or so to have gotten here now. His stomach dropped something had happened.

The UV came in low and slow touching down and braking easily. Mary had gotten damn good Jared thought as he walked towards the plane as it parked in front of one of the warehouse looking buildings.

Mary climbed out of the plane and as soon as Jared saw her, he felt like he had been gut punched, her eyes were red and swollen from crying, she radiated anger and grief, it was in the way she moved. And it was in her eyes most of all.

“What happened” Jared asked, surprised when Mary wrapped her arms around him and held him tightly. Then she stepped back tears glittering in her eyes.

“Jared last night, Some one attacked Sumter” Mary began.

Jill and the others stood by the vehicles watching but unable to hear what Mary was saying to Jared, but the way he suddenly slumped against the plane told them it was bad. Mary dug something out of a pocket and handed it to Jared. They stood there talking a few more minutes. Then headed towards the waiting group.

Jill knew Jared well, and what ever Mary had told him had hit him hard, she could see the grief and anger he was fighting to hold back. No not Anger, he was as Furious now as he had been when they had found Billy Thornton’s ravaged body in the cemetery.

Jared walked up and stopped before Ori, “ Ori I nee… “ Jared said his voice barely under control. “ I need to see you in the RV.” Jared said turning and headed for the vehicle.

“Mary whats going on?” Jill asked as Jared and Ori entered the RV, Mary turned to Jill and Jill saw Tears sliding down her face, with a jerk Jill turned towards the RV as an anguished cry shattered the early morning quiet.

Mary blinked the tears away, and faced Jill and the others “ I didn’t want Ori to hear it from some one else first.” Mary said softly her voice breaking. “Kronnens bastards raided Sumter Last night, they kidnapped Beth and eight kids, nine were killed, four more were badly wounded. Ten of the defense force were killed, one while rescuing two kids, another took his own life after it was over. We found a hand drawn map of the fort on one of the raiders bodies, it was had rooms labeled for who slept where, what was used for storage, what was used as a class room, etc so there was a spy helping them… and the last thing Ashton found was a Message of Sorts, I don’t get it, but Some one left a bullet standing upright on the night stand in Beth and Ori’s quarters.
Ashton thought it was important enough to send it with me” Mary finished.

That the men and women of the convoy felt grief for the kids was a given, but if anything their anger far surpassed their grief. If Kronnen expected to shatter them he had gone about it the wrong way, Jill thought as she wrapped an arm around Mary who was already dealing with so much and now Jill had to dump a little more on her. “Mary, Ronny has been having some problems” Jill said said leading Mary away from the group, out of earshot she began to tell Mary the whole story as she led her towards the Med Clinic RV.

Jared knelt beside Ori, his arm around the other mans shoulders. “ I swear to you will we get her back Ori.”

Ori just nodded mutely, then rose shaking off Jareds arm, he straightened his shirt. Then ran a hand through his hair. “we still have food for the island to secure, hopefully by then Ashton will have gotten information out of the bitch Kylie so we know where Beth and the Kids might have been taken. But if not, the moment that food is on the boats heading south, I’m heading to St. Louis to kill every son of a whore that follows Kronnen.” He said his tone glacial. “they will either tell me where she is, or Ill kill them all.”

Jared nodded there was no question he would go with Ori, none at all. He watched as Ori walked out the RV that once belonged to Steve. Jared pulled the bullet out of his pocket and held it up. Ashton was right, it was a message one meant for him, Jared studied the 7.62×52 round, the same ammo fired from a Dragunov Sniper rifle. Its not possible Jared told himself as he watched the light shine off the Bullet case. But in truth in a land where the dead walk was anything really impossible.

“ And still of a winter’s night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
A highwayman comes riding”

~ Alfred Noyes

7 thoughts on “Chapter Six

  1. Kids getting hurt is terrible. You wrote a chapter I hate reading yet can’t tear myself away from. This book is revisiting the darkness you wrote with in Jasper Brown’s story.

    I know we’ve spoken in the past about Ori’s safety. Please consider this a warning regarding the well being of those he loves. 😉

    Like

    • Great entry Okelly. Yeah, the kid thing struck a nerve here too….my wife and 5 little buggers are very dear to me. Some goblin messes with ’em, hell shall be unleashed, consiquenses be dammed. I think Kronnen is in for a very rude surprise. Wonder if “the hunter” will make an entrance? Seems appropriate 🙂

      Williams aslo needs to be gutted and left to rot….Bowler hat just keeps on keepin on truckin……I think he can only be delt with in dreamland at this point.

      Like

      • well you know how it goes, only the Shadow knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men LOL. I was aiming for some impact with the deaths. that kind of thing bothers me as well, which is why I thought it would be excellent to show just how low Williams is.

        as far as Bowler hat, Mulder would say the Truth is out there. LOL.

        Like

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