Chapter Seven

“Gone now, the cavern work! Ruined, the golden shrine!
No more the glorious organs pour their voice divine;
No more the frankincense drifts through the Holy Place:
Now from the broken tower, what solemn bell still tolls,
Mourning what piteous death? Answer, O saddened souls!
Who mourn the death of beauty and the death of grace.”

~Lionel Johnson

December 2nd 2011

A gentle wind blew through the parked Semi tractor rigs, a few undead wandered silent and pale around the fuel pumps and the large store and Restaurant, with its shattered windows. Dead weeds and grass poked up through the cracks in the asphalt, a can rolled slowly across the parking lot pushed by the wind.

Nothing but the wind had disturbed the undead for over a year, as they made their lonely circuit of the huge parking lot, but now in the distance the rumble of motors reached them, and as one they turned, and started towards the noise. With only one thought, no not even that just an instinct a urge to feed.

The Sound grew louder and then vehicles appeared, the undead charged in their slow and clumsy way, dirty blood stained hands reaching out in a vain attempt to grasp the flesh safely inside the vehicles.

A woman in the remains of a sun dress, her face a shredded ruin, stepped in front of the military Semi Tractor Rig called the HET, she was crushed as the HET smashed her aside and ground another zombie under its massive tires. Two other Civilian Semi tractors rushed into the parking lot followed by normal trucks and a van.

The First civilian Semi equipped with a Holmes unit pulled up to a abandoned Semi with no trailer. The beauty of the Holmes unit, which was much like the repo devices, was that no one had to be on the ground, where the undead might be. Just back up, extend the arm, lift and off you go pulling the vehicle to a place safe enough to work on the towed vehicle.

Ori rode in the ELSORV, watching with no real interest as the articulated hydraulic arm of the Holmes unit extended then lowered before disappearing under the front of the Abandoned Semi. Then the arm began to rise lifting the front end of the Semi off the ground. A moment later the Semi tractor converted to a Tow truck headed out of the parking lot pulling the abandoned Semi behind it.

Normally he might have been interested in how fast men hit the ground, unhooked air lines and collars, then climbed back onto their vehicles while the Semi’s now unhooked from their trailers were pulled away. as soon as the Semis’ were hauled away to be worked on in the safety of the camp, the Convoys second Civilian Semi Tractor backed up to each trailer to be hooked. Each trailer was then hauled back to the industrial park to be stripped. They would be used to haul the supplies from Green Briar.

Today, he just focused on keeping an eye out for undead, which was not what he spotted twenty minutes into the operation. At least two men had the truck stop under observation, they were hidden fairly well but their position was given away by the sunlight that flashed off the lenses of their binoculars or scopes.

Once he saw that he casually watched out of the corner of his eye till he made out the two men then reported it to Jared.

“Want me to check them out “ he asked quietly, Jared shook his head.

“No leave them be for now.” Jared replied “I want you to stay nearby, in case we have to haul ass out of here.” Jared said.

Ori only shrugged then climbed up into the gunners position, letting Logan take a break.

Jared sighed, hating what Ori was going through. It was his fault, he accepted that, which didn’t make things any easier. But it bothered him to see Ori like this, he knew what Ori was going through, at least in a way. But how to make the man feel more confident about the situation or help him deal with it better was beyond him.

In the parking lot, the fuel tanker was finally being hauled off. Jared checked his watch and noted two hours had already passed.

“How close are we to our goal” he asked Jansen over the Radio.

“We still need two more trailers, and one Semi.” Jansen reported. “should take another 45 minutes.”

“all right let get a move on, we seem to have an audience.” Jared said.

“Roger, out” Jansen said.

With almost clock work precision the men and women of Sullivan recovered vehicles and trailers and took them back to their camp.

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

Ronny wake to sun light patterning the ceiling above him, it streamed in through the half opened blinds, where he could see a deep blue sky, he longed to lose himself up there, far away from what the ground outside.

He felt better than he had in days, he realized abruptly. He sat up ready to climb out of bed but stopped not sure if he was still dreaming as he saw Mary sitting beside the bed. She was sound asleep, looking so peaceful and beautiful that it took his breath away. her dark hair fanned out across the back of the chair draping like black satin over her shoulders.

her eyes cracked open suddenly and she smiled as she saw him. “I’m not dreaming” Ronny said, as Mary shook her head.

“not in the least lover” Mary replied as she sat up and stretched then reached out and took his hand. “ I hear you’ve been having problems” she said softly.

“Yeah, but why are you here, did Jared ask you to come fly me back?” Ronny asked

a shadow flickered in Marys eyes and her smile faltered then vanished. “no, Ashton sent me, something happened back home, and, well we both thought the news should be delivered in person and right away.” she said, then taking a deep breath she told Ronny the full story.

When she finished Ronny slid out of bed and started looking for his clothes. “Justin wants you to stay here for another night” she said, but Ronny ignored her as he found his clothes and began to dress.

“What Justin wants and what he is going to get are two different things” Ronny said, as he pulled on his boots and started limping towards the door. “I don’t know what if anything I can do to help these days’ He said bitterly “ but I be damned If I’m not at least going to try and help get Beth and the kids back. And kill a few of those bastards along the way.” The anger he felt at least for now pushed aside the self doubt and pity he had been wallowing in. it wouldn’t last he knew it, but he would deal with it, with out drugs, when it happened again.

Justin wasn’t in the front of the Rv when Ronny stepped out of the back bedroom, which was good Ronny wasn’t in the mood to argue, not today. he limped to the door with Mary following, outside he could hear vehicles and as he stepped outside, he saw a Semi backing up to a trailer where three men went to work hooking the thing up.

Every where people were readying vehicles, piles of crap had been shoved out of the trailers, mostly electronics and other stuff that was worthless these days. He worked his way through the working men and women till he spotted Jared, Ori stood next to him, his face a complete blank. Ronny had seen Ori like that only once before and it didn’t bode well for the men who had taken Beth.

“Jared, I just heard. I want to help” Ronny said as he limped up and stopped in front of Jared.

Jared glanced at Ori who nodded. “do you think you can keep your shit together” Jared asked quietly.

“I will damn sure try, with out all the damn pills I probably can. I want to apologize but I know it wont mean a damn thing till I prove other wise.” Ronny said.

“you want me to risk my life, hell Beths life on probably” Jared asked.

“Can you prove nothing is going to go wrong along the way” Ronny shot back.

“No, I cant but that’s not the issue here Ronny. You were out of control” Jared said still keeping his voice low. “But I’m willing to trust you anyway. Even if it gets me killed” Jared said, then gave Ronny a weak grin that made Ronny feel like shit, and wondered again what Jared would do if he knew Ronny was the one who had attacked Lee.

“Don’t worry Jared, I will be with him every step of the way” Mary assured Jared. “ and do not even try to pull the Your pregnant you need to stay out home card or I swear I will kick your ass. Send Ben back to Sullivan in the Twin Otter, the UV uses less fuel anyway.” Mary said giving Ronny a look daring him to protest. Amazingly he didn’t, which was a good thing Jared realized, Ronny had really started to lose it when he left Mary at Sullivan.

“and what if Ben demands to help,” Jared asked after sighing deeply as if frustrated.

“then leave the Twin Otter here, and we can pick it up on the way back. or just leave it, the UV uses less fuel, needs less space to take off and land, the Otters only saving grace is it can carry twenty people.” Mary stated,

“then I guess your along for the ride Mary, now get Ronny back to the Med Rv, tomorrow we start for the Green Briar no more side trips no more bullshit. Hopefully by the time we get there, Ashton will have some kind of lead on where the Raiders might be.” Jared said, thought St. Louis was where he was pretty sure where she would end up.

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

The room was a small Cement room, painted gray. The only light came from a lantern that had been hung where the old light fixture had been. It was a dank and cold room, and fitting for the prisoner kept locked inside.

Ashton his knuckles planted on the table leaned forward glaring at the woman before him, a slight mocking smile played across her lips. He had already wasted ten minutes trying to get her to talk, and was to the point he wanted to beat her into a pulp, his iron resolve to keep to the rules of war when dealing with prisoners kept him from doing so, but it was hard, so hard and ever minute wasted the raiders got further away.

“I have nothing to say to you.” She finally said, openly smiling now. “Kronnen will let you know where you can find the bodies when he is ready”

Before Jeff Sloan could react, Ashton had heaved the heavy table across the room to smash into the wall, The woman threw herself backwards, Lashing out with a kick that Ashton blocked easily before grabbing her by the collar and lifting her up into the air.

“Let me be really, really clear here bitch, if anything happens to Beth and those kids, you are going to wish like Hell you had talked. Because I will kill you slowly and painfully.” Ashton vowed, she dangled from his hand choking and saw something in his eyes that made her believe what he said. But she still refused to talk.

He let her fall to the floor, shaking from head to toe then stepped back. “ send some one to see if Linda still has some of that Sodium pentathol. If our ‘guest’ wont talk willingly lets try some truth serum then.”

While Jeff went to see if Linda had the drug and would actually give it to him, Ashton walked out front, tired, sick and furious at what had happened.

Sally, a slender woman with silver streaked blond hair and a heart shaped face stood in front of the old massive concrete building that had once been part of the islands defense during World War II, twisting her hands together as she tried to work up the nerve to go inside.

The news of the raid had shaken her to her core. This was the place they were holding the only spy Ashton and others knew of. Kylie, one of Kronnens favorites, She was also a nut job who enjoyed killing and torturing, Sally should knew she had seen Kylie at play a few times.

They are going to imprison you or kill you her mind insisted. And if I don’t tell them, Beth and those kids are probably going to die. And she liked Beth, out of all the people on the island Beth was the one person she called a friend.

Determined to do right by her friend she passed through the heavy old door and stopped at the desk just inside where a soldier sat, Ashton the commander of the defense force had been talking to another man by an interior door but stopped seeing Sally.

“Maam this isn’t a good time, if you could come back tomorrow morning I would appreciate it.” Ashton said approaching her. he was handsome she noticed, even with the dark circles around his eyes, and hovering exhaustion. Funny how her mind would leap to such inane things at moments like this.

Sally took a deep breath, then said “ its the perfect time, you see I was sent here to spy on the island.” She said, and the room grew quiet as the men stared at her.

Ten minutes later she was crying and sitting in front of Ashton, and a several other men the entire story spilling from her. “… I didn’t want to, and really I haven’t passed on a single thing. When I got here and saw what you were like, what the people here are like, I wanted to stay so I went to ground, a few others did the same thing. Serving Kronnen is like serving a third world dictator, he captures peoples and they either serve or they die. Oh he makes it sound better than that, but he has made many an example so we knew what was going to happen if we didn’t.” She said.

“Your telling us, he didn’t trust you so much he sent you here out of sight to do his spying for him.” Ashton asked in disbelief. “Do I like stupid enough to buy that.”

“No he trusted me because for almost a year I did exactly what I was asked to do, I never complained, never questioned and never resisted, I had a daughter to think of. But she died of the flu or something just before I left. So there was nothing he could use against me any more and he had no reason to think I had changed. When I got here and met you people and knew you wouldn’t have used the unspoken threat of raping my daughter to keep me in line, or torture some one just because they tried to stop you from kidnapping them to serve the greater good. I knew this was were I wanted to be.” Sally said, wiping at her eyes.

“you said others went to ground” Ashton asked not sure if he believed her or not. She nodded miserably feeling like a traitor to the others.

“I wont give you names Im sorry, there’s four others that like me jumped at the chance to get free of Kronnen. We thought you would be just as bad when we were sent here, Kronnen calls Jared a warlord, a despot, a traitor to America. But then we saw this place and how the people lived we wanted to be part of it. To really rebuild led by some one that didn’t just kill people who pissed him off, or forces people to join him.”

“So why not give me their names, they might know something that could help us find Beth” Ashton asked.

“I don’t want to be thrown out of here, but I risked it for Beth. But The others are sincere about wanting to stay here and work for you and I wont risk you throwing them back out there with the undead because I narced them out. I can only tell you that they wont do anything to hurt the people here.”

“Sally, I give you my word, I wont pitch you or anyone else out that you name. Unless I find evidence they really are working against us. But right now, I need anything that can help me find where that boat carrying Beth and the kids might have gone.”

She looked at him, wanting to believe him. Knowing his reputation but even now the suspicious mind she had developed in her life with Kronnen didn’t want to let go. But she had committed to this course to help Beth.

“The Ashley river, that’s how I was brought down.” She said looking Ashton in the eyes. “Those boat people of yours on the Cooper river keep Kronnens spies from sneaking in that way. I think a few spies might have posed as refugees and been picked up on the cooper river, but mostly they come down the Ashley river because you don’t use it, patrol it or even care about it.

I was put on a boat at some historic plantation along the river, it had a lot of overgrown gardens and stuff. I know that when Kronnens men got there they found other survivors already there and locked them up. I know one was a Blacksmith or something who used to work there.”

“Middleton place” Corporal Stanislav said from his seat behind the desk, interrupting the impromptu interrogation. “ They had a living museum on the grounds, a blacksmith, a potter, weaver stuff like that, my folks took me and my sister there a lot when I was a kid. It was the home of one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. And had the Nations oldest Landscaped gardens.”

Ashton himself had decided not to send anyone up that river, or even fly over there had been no point as far as he had known, the place was empty. Apparently the old saying about assuming still held true.

“Great, so Kronnen has a base close by, just great” he muttered then turned back Sally. “Anything else you can tell us.”

“Its not a base, at least it wasn’t when I came through, only twenty men with a couple of small boats and regular weapons, not like some of the stuff Ive seen here or back with Kronnens main group.”

Ashton questioned her more drawing out details, like where the men slept, patrols, look outs anything she might have noticed. Finally he was satisfied he had gotten everything she could remember which wasn’t a lot but it helped.

Ashton turned his head towards Jeff sloan “ I want you to go Get Jareds brother and tell him we have a location, have him gather as many men as he things he might and make sure Denton and his guys have a shot at going on this, once I take this place I want some men to hold it, if we can. ” Ashton said then turned back to sally as Jeff headed out the door. “I meant what I said a moment ago, I want you to get a message to these other people, do not meet with them unless its in a room full of people. I know you trust them, but if they are not what they say, they will kill you before letting you leave and possibly giving away their identify. Just tell them in that note what happened and tell them Im offering amnesty if they come forward and that’s all.” Ashton said as he turned and headed for the door. “ and if this pans out Sally, Ill owe you.”

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

So we stay on the back roads through the mountains, and keep heading south from here” Daws said, studying the maps, Jared had laid out.

“Why didn’t we just go south and go through the … oh” Daws said as the answer suddenly hit him why Jared had picked a route that kept them from having to use the interstates and kept them out of the larger population areas, by going north on the sky line then west, they had avoided a lot of potentially hazardous areas.

One day they would have to explore those, there was probably a wealth of canned food, fuel, tools and god knew what else in those areas.

“Okay so every one clear on the route” Jared asked looking around at the driving teams “I am going to have Mary fly ahead, in fact I want her to fly over the Green brier and pick out a good rallying point where we can scout out the place before we hit it.” Jared said, not looking at Ori who was quieter than usual staring up at the high ceiling of the warehouse like building.

“Once we scout the place out, we will enter and secure only the areas we need to hold to enter the bunker complex.”

“What if there are survivors inside” Benton asked

Jared was quiet for a moment.,” once we get there and scout things out we will know what we are dealing with and then can figure out how to deal with it.” Jared said

“Sorry we don’t have maps for every one, but the end of the world is kind of crimping our prep work.” Jared said with a half smile. “I just want you to remember this, we have an island full of people counting on us to bring this stuff back. do not take chances and do not let anything get in the way of the mission.”

The briefing dissolved into individual conversations., there wasn’t much more to do at this point but talk, Dawn Tomorrow would bring the final push to the Green Briar. Which if all went well was less than hour away, but very little went right these days an hours drive before the dead could be a couple of days post zombie depending on so many factors.

Ori waited till every one was busy bullshitting and trying to keep their tension levels down, then approached Jared.

“What do you want to do about the people that were watching us” Ori asked levelly, “leading them to the Cache might not be a smart idea.”

“I was thinking about that earlier, I think we might want to set up a little ambush. If they are following us they are going to have to use vehicles, and the UV can spot them on thermal. “ Jared replied.

“and if they are Kronnens men” Ori asked.

Jared looked thoughtful, then gave Ori a smile that totally lacked humor, “if they are Kronnens men, who ever survives is going to want to talk.

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

Mac was not the brightest mind when it came to Military type operations, but it didn’t take a genius to realize that he couldn’t just follow along behind Stones people, especially not when they had planes and a helicopter.

So at Dawn when the Convoy moved out, six of his men in two vehicles set out, one racing ahead, and reporting what ever they found back to the second vehicle via radio, which would keep Macs main group informed and undetected.

If his people lost Stone, he might as well just run and hide, Because Kronnen wasn’t going to be to forgiving. The last two messages he had gotten made it clear Kronnen had a hard on for Stone and his group and was very eager to find out what the Red head was looking for.

He looked up as Stimpy, who knew why that was his nickname, entered the small cabin Mac was using. “what?” he asked irritated.

“some one is on the radio for you” Stimpy said. “claims to work for Kronnen and has the Location that Stone is heading to and the route they are going to take.”

Finally Mac thought with a smile, Proctor had thought that one of the spies had managed to ride along with Stone. He rose and followed Stimpy out to the back of the delivery truck they had setup as a RV and communications center.
Mac donned the head set, and keyed the microphone. “ Who does Kronnen really hate?” he asked immediately. There could only be one answer.

“the Hunter” was the response and it was the correct one.

“go ahead” Mac said as he picked up a pen and began to write as the other man spoke. When he had finished he signed off and stared at the paper for a moment then rose to his feet, “get every one awake, we are heading out right now. I want to be there in hiding before Stone arrives, when he does arrive we will be letting Kronnen know his location.” Mac told the men in the Truck before he jumped outside heading for the cabin to gather his gear.

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

The snow fell quietly outside, anyother time She would have dreamed of roaring fireplaces, the glow of Christmas lights on stately Firs, and the sooth sounds of christmas carols. But the reality of today was she and the children with her were prisoners.

She turned away from the window as Christopher a small blond haired eight year old coughed harshly sounding like he had something stuck in his chest.

“what’s wrong with the kid” The driver asked, turning to look back at her.

“He is sick” Beth replied caustically. “ he needs medicine and a doctor”

“Not likely to get either of those these days” The driver remarked.

“you can stop and pick up some meds at a store somewhere.”

“not going to happen”

“I swear to you if anything happens to even one child….” She said but the Creepy blond in the passenger seat turned and fixed a cold gaze on her. she shivered under the Faded blue eyes, that reminded her of chips off a glacier.

“you will do as your told, or I will kill one child an hour till you see the error or your ways” he said a smile flickered across his face almost to fast to see. “I do not care if the boy dies from sickness, he is…” he said something in Russian then frowned. “he is unimportant except in how I can use him to hurt Jared Stone. The same can be said for you” he added switching to English.

Beths mouth snapped closed, that bastard would enjoy killing the kids, he hoped she would resist. the Driver said nothing but he cast a look at the Blond that showed not a single bit of emotion.

Beth glared at the man, not cowed but knowing she had better remain silent or he might decided to kill one of the kids to make a point to her.

She sat back letting the children huddle against her trying to comfort them as best she could.

Close to nightfall they made camp in old country store in a town that had one boasted twenty people. she and the kids were placed in a corner with three men unobtrusively watching over them. Chris was coughing more now, and seemed to be running a fever and there was nothing she could do to help him.

She got the kids settled, and sat there quietly telling them a story. Praying their own story had a happy ending.

It took a long time to get them all to sleep, but finally even Chris was asleep his breathing labored but steady.

She looked up to see the Driver standing there watching a bag in his hand.

“What come to enjoy what you’ve done” she asked quietly.

“no I came to give you this” the man said passing her the bag. She opened it and saw pill bottles and cough syrup inside..

“thank you” Beth said, trying not to cry. At least Chris now had a fighting chance to survive.

“don’t thank me, I don’t want what ever he has going through my men” The driver said, but tilted his head slightly in acknowledgment.

“now get some sleep, tomorrow is going to be a long day” The man said as he turned and walked back to where his men had gathered to eat and play some cards.

As she turned away she saw the blond sitting alone watching and scowling at her.

Ori, you had better hurry she prayed silently. I don’t think that man has any intentions of letting any us live.

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

Dawn came with a light fog, and the rumble of motors. The undead along the fence line became agitated at the sounds and began pushing against the fence line in an attempt to reach the living they knew were just out of sight.

With the fog, they decided to just leave the Twin Otter, since Ben didn’t have the experience to take off in the stuff. Ronny, took the pilots seat in the UV and went through the check list. He had promised Jared he would take off and then let Mary take over.

He glanced at Mary and smiled, he had slept better last night with her beside him, than he had since he had left Sullivan. Finally he got the go ahead, and sent the UV racing down the makeshift Runway, unlike the twin otter, the UV or UV 20A Chiricahua could take off in 640 feet, and only needed 427 feet to land on. It was also ideal for rough field landings.

He smiled as he felt the familiar vibration of the aircraft enjoying the roar of the motor and then only the sound of the motor as the plane left the ground and soared up and out of the fog into the clear morning sky. This was the one thing that truly made him feel whole again. He didn’t have to worry about being to slow or limping. Not up there with the birds.

He brought the plane around on the correct heading, and then engaged the auto pilot and regretfully switched seats with Mary. His leg twinged sending jagged shooting pain up to his hip, reminding him rudely of his crippled status, he ignored it as best he could but the bitterness at his injury didn’t really go away. .

He understood why Jared didn’t want him flying, who knew if he might go nuts again and crash the plane into the ground or something.

Mary took the plane higher, then turned and backtracked while Ronny activated the thermal imager.

“guess who ever they are, they aren’t interested in following us.” Ronny said after ten minutes of seeing nothing down below.

“Should we circle out further out and check” Mary asked, Ronny shrugged.

“its your plane, you make the call.” Ronny said.

“Ill fly out a few miles and see whats what” she said putting the plane into a turn and spiraling slowly outwards for almost ten minutes. Still seeing nothing she brought the plane back on course and descended slowly heading towards the Allegheny mountains, and the Green brier beyond.

The movies had only gotten some of the end of the world right, Ronny reflected, there was so much stuff just lying around waiting to be picked up it wasn’t funny. Planes, vehicles, food, fuel, weapons, equipment, a whole worlds worth of things. All you had to do was avoid the undead long enough to get it.

In the movies, the fuel was always scare, but few people had any clue there were fuel storage tanks in most towns to refill the local gas stations. The chain stations were fueled by the parent companies, in some cases those fuel yard tanks were empty, but in most fuel depots, the employees who worked there had died or fled instead of risking their lives to go to work and top of Gas stations.

Delivery truck drivers had not woken up on the second or third day of the Dead rising and seeing the news decided to head to work at the warehouses they hauled from. Those drivers on the roads and interstates had either become trapped in the massive traffic jams or had gotten home and never left again.

Stores had seen much the same thing, some managers had closed and locked up by the end of the first day, as the news piled up about attacks and cannibalism. Many of those managers had never returned to open up their stores. Looters had not been a problem in most places either, since the dead had descended on the looters and killed them before they could do much damage.

Ronny turned to look out the window at the fog-shrouded land below then towards the mountains they were approaching. Don’t let me screw up, he prayed to who ever would listen, not this time, and especially not with Mary here.

Finally satisfied they radioed the lack of any one following them to Jared who didn’t seem to be relieved by the report. But their ambush was called off due to no one showing up for the party.

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

The Convoy rolled down the road up into the Allegheny mountains, past the occasional farm house or double wide that would in a few short years fall into ruin, till all traces of the home and the people who had once lived here were gone leaving no trace as if they had never existed.

State highway 33 wound through the Mountains, in what would have once been a relaxing scenic route but not today, and maybe not ever again, at one point they rolled past a station wagon its rear lift door open, Jill caught a glimpse of a little skeleton in the back of the Wagon. A mile up the road a line of vehicles had to be worked around, they were bullet riddled, gleaming white bones lay scattered around. Skulls each with a bullet hole in them grinned up at the passing convoy.

“Some one went through here” Jared observed as they left the dead vehicles behind.

“lets hope what ever happened to them, doesn’t happen to us” Mike said from the back seat as he watched the woods on the side of the road seeking ambushers.

“What ever happened here happened a while back, “ Jared commented. The road began to drop into the Tygart river Valley,

Ten minutes later they entered the town of Bowden West Virginia, that lay along the Shavers river fork. the population sign proudly proclaimed a population of Nine. Which some one had painted a line through with red paint and then painted a large Red 0. the small town lay below Pond Lick Mountain, and its only claim to fame had been the Fish hatchery.

The town itself was a post office, Gas station and convenience store, a cinderblock building with white peeling paint that had once been a garage. A Sheriffs car sat in front of the post office its drivers door and trunk stood open.

“Nice little place” Mike commented seeing the shattered windows of the post office and gas station.

“I would have expected a place this small to have survived” Jill said, glancing back at Ori who hadn’t spoken since they had left the camp.

“they might have, but other humans probably put an end to them” Jared said pointing to the burned out, bullet riddled car on the side of the road, a US Mail sign still readable on the car door.

“I don’t even understand why people do this crap” Jill muttered.

“Its simple really, most people were animals with only a thin veneer of civilization. Once there was no one to force them to follow the rules, they went wild.” Jared said. “some people will work together to survive, to hang on, others will revert to savagery and destroy everything, usually for no other reason than they can. They might claim its for survival, but that’s a lie they tell themselves to justify acting like savages. A few will be honest about it, they just enjoy destruction and death.”

Just outside of Elkins, the convoy turned south on US route 219, and found they had to not only speed up but weave through the wrecks and stalls that lined the road. all while trying to avoid the huge swarm of undead that came sweeping out of the Elkins-Randolph Airport.

No matter how long they had dealt with the undead, it was still unnerving to see the pale silent horde descending on them, but not even undead flesh could take being run down by Semi Tractors. Bloody hands slapped at windows and doors, teeth gnashed, and bones snapped and popped under the wheels of the convoy. Every man and woman praying there were no flat tires or other problems that would leave them stranded in the middle of the sea of rotting mobile flesh. The convoy made it through leaving a road full of undead to stagger after them.

The road passed into mountainous terrain ranging from 1,750 feet at Laural Mt. to 4760 feet above sea level near Harman, Knobs or forested rocky promontories reared over 4000 feet around the river valley, reminding Jared and Ori of home.

By the time they entered Beverly West Virginia, it was closing in on nine in the morning,
The town wasn’t much to look at, some old clapboard style white buildings, a few brick and not a few undead,. the next few towns, Dailey and Valley bend were more of the same. Empty buildings, melting snow, and wind.

But things changed as they came to Mill Creek, approaching town the saw a Gas station on the east side of 219, heads had been placed on poles in front of the station. The road through town was empty of vehicles, but several of the buildings had been enclosed in walls made of boards and galvanized tin sheets.

They saw no people, but no one doubted people hid behind the closed shades and doors of the buildings watching covertly as the convoy passed through. If they hadn’t been in a hurry, Jared might have been tempted to stop and try to talk, which all in all might not have been a smart move given how people were acting these days.

The next town was Huttonville, which had partially burned to the ground, only a few undead wandered its ruins, and some one had cleared the vehicles out of the way at the Junction of US highway 250 and 92, where several gas stations straddled the highways, cars were scattered around the parking lots and the grassy verges. It looked like most of them had pulled in and ran out of fuel, then been abandoned as the undead swept over the area.

All around them rose mountains, hills and knobs covered in dense forest, the occasional fields lined the two lane highway, they rolled along under a bright blue sky, the air crisp and cold. They were barely able to cross the green painted beam and truss bridge across the Tygart River the semi’s barely low enough to clear the beams.

Someone had cleared the road of vehicles and Jared suspected that it was the People back in Mill Creek and possibly survivors from a few other towns, banding together to survive the disaster that had befallen the world. Some of the fields along the highway even looked like they had been tilled before winter had set in.

If the convoy wasn’t so large, he didn’t doubt who ever it was, would have probably attacked them for what supplies the convoy carried, but the sight of the LAV with its 25mm bushmaster and several other vehicles sporting Ma Deuces and a SAW had to have been a big deterrent to any one feeling froggy.

The UV swept ahead checking the road which looked clear till two miles outside of White Sulphur Springs. The Green Brier itself wasn’t hard to miss, rising as it did from the trees on the hillside like a great white behemoth that almost glowed in the sunlight. From overhead, they could see the huge sprawling Hotel with its many wings and additions and guest cabins, Clubs and the undead that wandered the grounds.

The Resort, under many names, had been around since 1858 and expanded over the years till it become the sprawling classic revival/federal architectural multi storied multi winged building it was today, Named officially the Green Brier in 1913 it had seen a lot of history, from the rich and famous to diplomats. It had been used in world war II as an Army hospital and a relocation center for Axis diplomats, both German and Japanese, interned as enemies of the United States.

Situated on 6,750 wooded acres it was isolated as could be made while maintaining the luxury and convenience its guests expected. It had been open for business and in full swing when the dead rose.

The plane flew low over the grounds of the hotel, where small clumps of undead milled about in the overgrown ornate gardens, it circled three times then turned and flew back the way it had come.

“When Jared said Hotel, I pictured something like the Marriott or a holiday Inn, but that thing down there is huge, Like Overlook Hotel Huge” Mary said as she flew back towards the convoy. That was snaking along 219 enjoying a morning in the forested Mountains and valleys.

“As long as it doesn’t have creepy looking twin girl ghosts or zombies I’m good” Ronny replied. “ or that ghost in a dog suit handing out blow jobs, that was just twisted.”

Mary shook her head, but smiled happy to hear him sounding mostly like his old self.
Neither of them were looking forward to landing, but they would have too before long.

“Keep an eye out for some place for the convoy to set up camp” Mary reminded Ronny.

“No problem,” Ronny said then looked out the window for a few minutes lost in thought. Finally he spoke up’ “I’m glad you’re here,”

“what no wishing I were safe back on Sullivan” Mary asked.

“oh I wish you were safe back on Sullivan, but if you hadn’t shown up, I .. I don’t think I would be doing so well.” Ronny said truthfully, how did he tell her he had been so close to melting down that suicide had looked more and more like an option till he had woke and saw her beside the bed.

“ There” Ronny said pointing an airport just outside of a small town. It lay between two hills at about 2300 feet, The convoy was maybe two miles out now.

“it’s a bit far from the Hotel isn’t it” Mary asked.

“its just right, we can set up here, and send in scouts before we commit.” Ronny said. “ if we try to set up a camp at or near the hotel, I think we will get overrun in an Hour”

“ Call it in and see what Jared has to say” Mary suggested

Jared as it turned out was all for the idea.

The Convoy rolled into the Town of Maxwelton, and for the first time since they had heard the news of Beths Kidnapping Ori showed some interest as they spotted a sign for a local distillery. The town itself was small with a population of 369 according to the sign, today it was zero, or at least zero living, it was the kind of town the now entering and now leaving signs had just enough space between them to let air flow through.

The Valley if that’s what It could be called was more open then forested, giving them long sight lines, at night any light they used would be seen for miles Jared thought.

Following Mary’s directions from above them the convoy turned down a cracked and pitted road, that had fallen into disrepair with no one available to work on it. the skeletal remains of bushes some with clumps of snow in its shade were scattered along the side of the road.

Turning into the airport they passed through the chain link gates, just beyond were two car rental places, with most of the cars gone. Several continental express planes were parked on the ramp, as well as several other small planes from private carriers and private owners, all of them looked faded and worn after sitting outside for so long. . There were only a few undead staggering around outside, their clothes ruined with the passage of time, mold grew in clumpy patches on exposed flesh. They were quickly put down their bodies left to rot, and then Daws and Jansen led their squads into the Small passenger terminal to clear it of undead.

“Ed take five men and secure that air plane fuel tanker truck, have some one use the pumps to get the fuel out of the underground tank and into the trucks tank.” Jared said as he walked a few feet from the ELSORV scanning the distant landscape beyond the fence line just for undead.

“how long are we going to wait here” Ori asked quietly his hand resting on the Rifle that was slung center point, index finger tapping softly on the butt.

“not long, a day maybe two, while we scout out then empty the bunker” Jared replied. “as soon as we have camp set up, we are going scouting.” Jared said.

“Jared I cant just keep doing this, not with Beth out there somewhere counting on me” Ori stated angrily, he knew it wasn’t fair, he knew he had no real place to even start looking, other than St. Louis the Bastion of Kronnen and he knew Jared would die to help him get Beth back, but that still didn’t make him feel any better about having to wait.

Jared really didn’t know what to say to that, he didn’t blame Ori not in the least, if was Jill he doubted he would still be here trying to secure food for the island.

“Tell me how your going to find her, and Ill leave right now” Jared said meaning it. “you tell me you can find her in the next three days, and Ill leave Jansen to recover the supplies.” Jared said.

Ori glared for a moment, then rubbed the top of his head “I cant” Ori admitted, “I have no idea where to start looking, other than St. Louis.”

“Think about this Ori, if they stick to using ground transport it will take them over a month to get to St. Louis and that’s if they are lucky” Jared said.” We can wrap this up, get the supplies back to the coast and then have Ronny Fly us to St. Louis in a Day and still beat them there by a week or more.” Jared told him.

“What if they kill her before then” Ori asked. “or fly her back to St. Louis.”

“Think it through Ori, If they had meant to kill her they would have done it back on Sumter.” Jared said. “ I doubt they would fly, like us they have to have limited fuel for aircraft, and unlike us they aren’t on the move hitting airports taking more”

“that you know of” Ori said harshly. ‘ and why take her?” Ori asked flatly. “ and the kids”

“Me” Jared replied. “ to get to me through you.”

Life was so much easier when just dealing with the undead, Jared thought watching the play of emotions that flashed across’ s Ori’s face.

“I’m sorry Ori,” Jared said knowing nothing could make this any better.

Ori didn’t say anything, he just watched Jared for a moment, the muscles in his jaw jumping, then with out a word he just walked off leaving Jared to stand there lashed by the winter wind that swept across the valley floor.

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

The quiet of the golf course was broken as four vehicles charged across the over grown greens. Dirt flew up from tires that chewed the ground for grip.

The Golf course lay in a narrow valley between Kates mountain and Green Brier Mountain. Once it had been a Airport for the resort but that had been many years ago.

The massive clubhouse was a fire charred ruin that squatted amongst the dead weeds and sun faded cars. A chill wind blew though area with stirring the dried weeds setting them to rustling.
Jared stopped the ELSORV in the parking lot, beside a car that had one cost almost seventy thousand dollars, today it was just giant paperweight sitting on flat tires with rust starting to grow like cancer on its frame. Jared pulled out his Laptop as the rest of the small scout group pulled in around him. “what’s up?” Mike asked from the backseat.

“have to check to see where the entrance to the Bunker is” Jared said as called up the map that had been part of the information that Eric had given him. “there were four or five entrances that every one knew about once the story about the bunkers existence broke back in the 90’s. But according to the information that Eric recovered. There was a section of the bunker that no one to this day knew existed, they managed to keep it hidden despite all the press, it has its own entrance and that’s where the Cache is kept at.”

“told you there was a conspiracy” Ori muttered from the back, the first time he had spoken in two hours.

Jared studied the map for a moment then closed his laptop. “lets get this show on the road it looks like its going to start snowing again” he said peering up at the sky where clouds were already piling up. Jill glanced silently at Ori then at Jared, worried at how Ori was acting.

Leaving the Golf course they entered the paths that wove through the wooded grounds of the hotel. They passed bungalows, a conference center, even a gun club. And always the huge white hotel loomed over them in the distance.

Finally they turned down a maintenance road, the maintenance area was isolated from the rest of the hotel, by thick hedges and a privacy fence, inside the fenced in area were chiller units for the hotel, as well as the phone relays and transfer points, Electrical boxes and a large grounds building. Hidden amongst the chiller units was a ramp that led down to the large metal door.

There were few undead in the fenced in area, but there was enough and the sound of the motors would draw more.

“ Fall back I have a plan” Jared transmitted, they turned around and headed back into the grounds out of sight of the maintenance yard. Stopping only long enough for Jared to get his team dismounted and then sent the vehicles back down to the maintenance yard, they would lead the undead out of the yard away from the area. Hopefully few to no undead would remain to get in their way, as soon as the signal was given, the Vehicles would rush back to the yard, the gate would be closed and they would proceed to explore.

Jared and the others crept deeper into the woods keeping out of sight as the vehicles horns honking and men shouting drove away from the yard, leading a crowd of undead.

“Not the brightest idea you’ve had” Ori remarked.

“Got a better one I’m willing to listen” Jared replied quietly as they moved as silently as possible through the woods till they reached the thick hedge around the yard.

Jared’s nerves were singing as they crept up to the gate and looked inside, so far no sign of the undead which was good. “lets go” he said waving the team into the yard.

As soon as they were inside, he slid the gate closed just in case. “anytime you guys are ready, you can haul your butts back here” Jared transmitted.

“Roger, on the way” Ronny replied, Jared still wasn’t sure letting Ronny come along was a good idea, but Ronny’s ego had taken a major slam and this might help Ronny get past his problems or send him spiraling down out of control again. Either way Jared owed it to Ronny to give him chance.

“In bound” Ronny said a moment later.

The sound of motors grew louder as the vehicles came racing back leaving the undead far behind. Jared slid open the gate, as the ELSORV appeared followed by the Tacoma Gun truck, his van and the Garrets Jacked up F150.

The vehicles sped into the yard and as soon as the Ford passed the Gate Jared slid it shut, already seen a few undead appearing down the road.

He turned in time to see a zombie stumble out from behind a chiller unit followed by another one then another. They must have been to deep in the yard to have followed the vehicles out. “Steger watch out” Jared yelled seeing the zombie lunge at the former SWAT officer.

Steger didn’t even look back he just raced towards Jared barely avoiding the grasping hands of the Undead who Jared recognized. The man had been a Line Backer for one of the Major Teams, and had always been in one scandal after another, just like his wife who it was rumored had been a fan of group sex.

“Do not fire” Jared ordered over the radio. Gun fire would only draw even more undead down on them.

Jared drew his hand weapons and moved forward his team falling in behind him.

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

Jansen wasn’t happy with being left at the camp nor was Daws, but this was Jared’s show and Jared wanted the Soldiers to be back here Protecting the convoys supplies, Vehicles and Drivers. As important as that Job was, It pissed Jansen off.

“the Vehicles have been placed and the gaps covered by the chain link” Benton said coming up behind him.

“will they hold” Jansen said turning to look at the camp, the vehicles had been arrainged around the small terminal building, between each vehicle was a chain link wall from a dog kennel attached by zip ties and anything else they could find to hold them in place. It wasn’t as good as the old portable walls, but it should hold long enough for them to get to their vehicles if the undead showed up.

“Good Job Benton” Jansen said, trying to hide his irritation.

Benton studied Jansen for a moment resisting the urge to say anything, that Jansen seemed to have fallen for Jill stone was obvious to his men, and Benton suspected Jared knew as well. But Jansen being Jansen wasn’t the type to move in another mans wife. At least he never had been before. And Jared hadn’t said or done a thing, which spoke volumne’s about how much he trusted not only his wife but Jansen. But if Jansen ever left that self Control even if Jill didn’t hurt him, Benton suspected Jared would come close to killing Jansen if for no other reason than Jansen having Betrayed the trust Jared had given him.

“Anything else” Jansen asked

“No Sergeant:” Benton replied.

Jansen turned to face him “have you guys even been tempted to return home and see if any of your friends or family have survived?”

Benton shrugged “not really, the Army was home, and the squad is our family. Has been for years now” Benton replied.

“I understand that Benton, but your mother and Father might still be alive down in Mobile, or Tollivers folks in Philly, hell even Sinclairs Family might want to see him again. Doubtful I know but they might” Jansen said trying to make a joke, Sinclair, and Baker, were the two most annoying men most people had ever met.

Benton looked around for a moment “ we talked about that back before Jared showed up on Sullivan, we all decided our families were dead, and nothing we’ve seen since tells us they might still be alive.

Even if my mom and dad survived the first few months neither of them would have wanted to keep on living seeing what their world had become.” Benton said. Was he tempted hell yes, but logic hell his gut told him any one outside the squad he cared about was dead, had been dead for over a year. The odds of dying just getting to Mobile where his parents had moved were damn good, and Mobile was nothing like Tollivers home town of Philly where those things had to be thicker than fleas on a dog.

“Sarge we have your back to the end, what ever that maybe.” Benton said. “like it or not your stuck with us as your family now.”

“Lets hope it doesn’t come to that Benton” Jansen said, his attention drawn to something in the distance. Five undead appeared along the hill side, staggering slowly towards the airport. “besides consider what my family used to be like you guys are pikers, now lets get every one inside, looks like a couple of neighbors have shown up to check us out.” Jansen said heading back to the terminal, “I want two men on the roof with silenced weapons to pick this stinky SOB’s off before they pose a danger. Lets hope that with no noise and nothing moving out here that any other undead in the area will head somewhere else.”

“Got it Sarge and thanks for the heart to heart” Benton said with a grin as he trotted off to relay Jansens orders.

“Any time, anytime its what I’m here for” Jansen replied as he began to get those outside into the terminal and out of sight.

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

The undead that remained in the maintenance yard was a whose who of the A list Jared thought as he put down a big breasted woman who had once stared in a popular Tv show about the supernatural, he had never watched it but he knew who she was. He wrenched the Tomahawk free, and spun to find a hulking brute who had been a NFL line backer reaching for him. an arrow suddenly sprouted from the mans ear, the zombie stood there swaying for a moment the toppled over like a felled tree.

“thanks” Jared called out to Ori who silently nodded. Jared looked around and saw that the last of the undead had been put down with out much effort by the rest of his team.

“No problem besides I never like his team anyway” Ori replied.

It only took a few minutes of searching to find the ramp that led to the massive steel doors that hid the tunnel from prying eyes. Jared walked up to the door and grasped the handle, it turned easily under his hand and a moment later he was pulling it open revealing a short tunnel large enough to allow a truck to enter. A dim light glowed in the ceiling above the massive blast door twenty feet down the tunnel.

“Lets go” Jared called out, Logan was the first inside, followed by Ori, then Jill, Ronny, Mike, Ed and Steger.

“there’s power” Logan said staring up at the lights, “ that is so cool”

Jared only nodded as he walked up to the blast door and spun the wheel to unlock the door. It was a 25 ton door so perfectly balanced that it only took 14 pounds of pressure to open. The door swung silently open revealing a long tunnel just as wide and tall as the entrance. Lights glowed in the ceiling every ten feet. The small group started down the sloping passage, where Cases of supplies were stacked along one wall.

At the bottom of the one hundred foot long tunnel was another Blast door this one with a keypad set into the wall, as well as the old fashioned wheel lock.

“Well this sucks” Logan said, as Jared just smiled and stepped up to the Keypad. “ all this way for nothing”

“ The codes were part of the data dump.” Jared said as he punched in a long string of numbers. “What good is a cache if they cant get to it. Which is why there’s no biometrics, there was no telling who might be sent to open the place after a disaster.”

He finished and the red light went out and the green light came on, there was s series of loud thunks as the massive bolts that held the door in place slid open. Ori stepped up and spun the wheel, while Jared waited with his rifle ready, just in case.

The door swung open revealing a large room where lights were flickering to life above them, filled with crates and containers, the room still had enough space for vehicles to enter and turn around, directly across from the blast door was another door just as large but this one was not a blast door, but a thick steel door.

“According to the schematics there are three rooms just like this one, all three connect to the bunker via a hidden door.” Jared said as he walked into the large chamber.

“Look at all this stuff” Logan said with something approaching awe at the amount of materials stored here.

“Do you have any idea on what all is stored here” Mike asked as he walked over to a stack of green military shock cases and read the stenciled legend on the outside of the cases.

“Food, Medicine, Tools, Fuel, Communications equipment, about the same stuff as that FEMA Dump we hit. With a few added goodies” Jared said with a humorless smile.

“Like what” Jill asked.

“Nothing we can really use at this point but Gary would love it” Jared said as he walked across the chamber to the second door. “ there’s a room full of servers that holds a back up copy of the net amongst other things.”

He let that sink in for a moment, all the information good and bad that had made modern life possible might be sitting on that server right now just waiting to be recovered.

“How’s this place powered” Ed asked, “ servers have to use a lot of power”

“I think the servers are shut down, but as far as power I have no clue. Might be solar, or geo thermal or something else.” Jared said as he spun opened the door revealing another tunnel this one only fifty feet long and ending at yet another door.

“Are we going to check out the bunker itself” Logan asked. “there might be survivors inside.”

“I don’t know, what if they all died and the place is full of undead, we cant risk letting them in here.” Jared replied

“And we cant leave survivors behind if we can help it” Logan said, Jared started to say something but kept his mouth shut, realizing that Logan sounded like Jared had just a few months ago, and now he was the one thinking like Steve, ready to just leave strangers behind to avoid the danger they had represented. But look what being nice had resulted in, Spies, and killers of children. Steve had been right in so many ways and yet what was the point of surviving if they turned into the very animals they were fighting.

It’s a crappy time to get all philosophical Jared told himself, trying to push aside the moral dilemma he was sick of. To be the decent man he had always been or give up a lifetimes worth of beliefs, beliefs he had been wiling to die for, but that was before he had so many people counting on him.

Jill touched his arm lightly and just gave him that look and he knew he would open that damn door and check the bunker, not for himself but for her, for what she saw in him, and demanded he be with out saying a word. Some times Love sucked he decided almost smiling.

He didn’t see the look that Ori gave them, he had no idea of the jealous that flared in Ori’s heart as he saw the touch and almost hated Jared for Having Jill beside him, when Beth was gone.

Jared might not have seen it, but Jill saw the look and was almost certain she knew how badly it affected Ori who loved Beth with a rare passion. She was determined to talk to him later, maybe she could help, even if it was only to let him get it out of his system.

“there is a fork lift, parked over here” Logan called out as he wondered through the stacks of supplies.

“ lets do a sweep through then we can check out the bunker” Jared said. “ if we encounter any survivors, we offer to take them back to Sullivan. If they threaten us put them down. If there’s undead in there, we shut the door and that’s that.” Jared said.

******************************
Snow was starting to fall by mid afternoon, Mac settled back in the hide they had set up on Greenbrier Mountain to watch the Resort. Jared’s people had shown up not long ago, but with only four vehicles. According to the spy this was their goal, some rumored cache of supplies left by the Government.

If the story was true down there was something Kronnen would love to get his hands on, weapons, food, and who knew what else, and all Mac had to do was keep Stone from Leaving with it till Kronnen could send men down here to take it away from him.

And as soon as he heard back from Kronnen he would make his move, his men were primed and ready. Hell now was the perfect time when most of Stones people were where ever they had set up camp leaving Stone with only a few soldiers or what ever you wanted to call them..

The sound of the motors had stopped an almost two hours ago, and there had been total silence since. Maybe they were all dead, but no he couldn’t be that lucky.

The sound of motors he thought, before the undead, when the power had still been on, people had never really experience quiet. Oh they had all thought they had, but once the power was gone, and even the hum of power lines had faded from memory. It was still incredible to realize how far sounds like gun fire or engines could be heard now.
Just like how far away a light could be seen in the dark.

He both loved and hated the new world, he was thankful that the badge waving pricks and corrupt politicians were gone, but he did miss movies and getting laid often. He missed beer too. Funny how what he had done had been a crime but what they had done was ignored on a daily basis. Hero’s my ass, he thought remember all the crooked cops he had met over the years, that had shook him down for a cut into his profits or set him up for a fall, who cared if he hadn’t done it, it was just pay back for something he hadn’t been caught at. Well I’m alive and you assholes are dead and people like you wont be coming back once Kronnen runs everything. He thought viciously.

How he managed to ignore the small voice in the dark part of his mind that whispered how much worse Kronnen was, was not much of a mystery, Mac was used to ignoring reality, used to ignoring the side of himself that was rightly sickened by what he had done before and since the undead.

What he had experienced at the hands of overzealous cops and at the hands of corrupt politicians paled at the death and misery he had brought.

The flap to the hide opened, causing Mac to wheel around pistol at the ready in case one of the stinky dead had arrived. He relaxed to see it was only Pete who carried the sat phone.

“did you get a response” he asked excitedly.

“yeah but your not going to like it, The boss says stick to the plan, follow Stone and harass only if you can do it with out giving away that he is being followed. Proctor said the Boss has something special planned for Stone and you don’t want to fuck it up”

“you did tell them about the supplies down there right” Mac asked in disbelief.

“yeah, Proctor said we can take them once the Island is ours.” Pete said.

“Son of a bitch” Mac snarled half tempted to go ahead and attack Stone anyway. Which would be one way to earn a very slow and painful death.

Mac frowned and was about to say something when another man entered the blind.

“There is a whole bunch of undead heading up this mountain Mac, we need to get out of here” the sentry said.

“it figures, nothing is going right lately.” Mac snapped “ load only what we need, leave the rest. We will set up someplace else so we don’t lose Stone.” The sentry rushed from the tent to spread the word.

Mac grabbed his own pack and stepped out of the blind, half expecting to find one of the undead waiting for him. “lets go, move it” Mac shouted urging his men to move faster.
He turned and took one more look down at the resort then turned and rushed for his truck.

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

I hate entries, Jared thought as he stood before the door that would take them into the bunker. God I hate doing this shit. His mind playing images of everything that could happen the moment he opened that door, at least this time the door was only slightly larger than normal and not a blast door.

He glanced at Ori, whose face was a total mask which was normal when he was in the zone.

Ronny stood in the back of the small group, looking apprehensive the last time he had been along he had failed Jared and the others badly, and was probably scared of a repeat.

“no one splits up” Jared said as he undogged the door then gripped the wheel. “Ready?”

Every one nodded even Ronny who looked sick but had a determined look on his face. Jared to a deep breath and stilled the pre entry jitters, half tempted to flashbang and then Frag the other side of the door before entry. He spun the wheel and pulled the heavy door open as soon as it as unsealed.

On the other side was a wide hallway, forty feet long with a door centered on each wall. Dim lights burned every twenty feet overhead. All that the scene needed was dangling wires and flickering lights and sparks to make it perfect. Jared decided as he moved into the hallway behind Ori and Logan, who were carefully moving down the corridor. Stopping in the hallway between the two doors Jared noted each bore a designation code and a title.

No sense in getting careless this late in the game, Jared thought as he knocked softly on the door to his right. The one labeled Barracks, A1. after a couple of minutes he was satisfied the room on the other side was undead free. Any zombies inside would already be bumping up against the door or pawing at it, and the door was a standard door not a blast door or made of steel.

He turned to the opposite door and knocked then waited again. Satisfied that nothing was inside he opened the door with is off hand keeping his weapon up and ready to fire as the door swung open. Inside he saw a long room with two rows of bunk beds with just enough space between the rows for a single man to walk the length of the room.

“nice and Homey” Mike said shaking his head. “I’ve seen SKIPs that looked better.”

“keep it quiet” Jared said, as he closed the door and turned to the door behind him.”be ready just in case” he whispered as he turned the knob and shoved the door open. Revealing a room that was the duplicate of the Room he had just looked in.

“oh joy, a difference” Mike muttered so dryly that Jared almost laughed.

Closing the door Jared gave the signal and the group moved to the T intersection. Some where in the complex there was a deep hum like electrical equipment in operation.

“you’ve seen the plans where to” Ori asked. “this part wasn’t on the tour” he added.

Jared had always been good with maps, diagrams and floor plans, he closed his eyes for a second visualizing the lay out then pointed left. “that should take us to a common area” he said quietly.

“any one here see Resident Evil” Logan muttered. “Jill you’re the closest we have to Mila so stay close to me.”

“Mike, Ronny you two stay here and cover this hallway, if we have to run I want to know we have a clear route back to the storage bunker” Jared said. Ronny frowned but nodded, after the last time, if Jared was willing to trust him to keep the door open for a quick escape how could he complain.

The rest of the group moved slowly down the hallway, passing closed doors. Most only had designations painted on them but no actual titles like ‘Toilets, or inside is the office of high muckety muck.

Ori in the lead lifted a clenched fist, his nose wrinkling as the smell of death reached his nostrils.

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

Jack”Frost” Sigel, was tired, stir crazy and just point blank horny. As the head Body Guard to Reggie Cloud, he was used to all of the above but not for a period of almost two years.

Reggie he had come to believe was one of the most worthless pieces of shit that had ever lived and his wife, as pretty as she was even now, was as bad as her husband. Reggie was one of those guys who had made his fortune on the net, not through long had work, but just by being lucky enough to write a simple program at the right time. he was Young spoiled and had never actually had to deal with life at least not till the Dead had risen and he had found that all of his video game preparations and survival knowledge gained in chat rooms was worthless. Killing, even the undead, wasn’t a nice clean experience that you could hit the pause key, go grab a shower eat a little lunch and then come back to it. and Reggie hadn’t dealt well with that.

It had been a mad house the last few days of the world, while many guests fled for home and safer lands, some like Reggie had thought in their infinite world experience and wisdom had believed it was a lot of bullshit over some riots. By the end of the week, the dead from White Sulpher Springs had found the resort and attacked the idiots who were out playing golf or tennis while ignoring the reality that was sweeping the world because they were just to important and the dead rising wasn’t reality to them no matter what was going on, no matter how may cities and towns had gone dark.

Only then had the Guests like Reggie who were inside the hotel, began to believe as they watched men and women die as they tried to reach the hotel, blood spraying into the. The screams had finally ended and the bodies had climbed back to their feet.

Thankfully, the Hotel Manager and what was left of his Staff had been smarter than their guests, and had over the last few days, gathered every thing they thought could be used from around the hotel including weapons and ammunition from the gun club and had carried down into the bunker. Then The Manager had calmly told the guests they needed to enter the bunker in the next twenty minutes or be locked out.

Two hundred and twenty seven people in a bunker meant to house over a thousand, and now almost two years later, they were down to forty eight survivors huddled on the first floor of the bunker standing guard over the only way up from the second level where the dead had control.

He glanced at Reggie who was pacing nervously around the room, Jack knew in his hear that Reggie was going to kill himself sooner or later, the man just couldn’t deal with the fact that he had no money, no power and even his Body guards had essentially dumped him leaving him for the first time since he had left home on his own.
Something intruded on his thoughts and it took a moment to realize what he heard was gunfire. He leaped to his feet not even really noticing Reggie who ran and hid in the supply closet.

Jack rushed to the security room, where Paul Tanner, the former Manager of the Hotel said in front of the very old fashioned security console and its monitors. “did they make it up here” Jack asked as he burst through the door.

“no,” Paul said as he used a joy stick to pan a camera down in the Common room at the base of the stairs from the first floor. The undead down there were heading towards the back of the room, where he could see muzzle flashes from the main hallway.

“so you let some of our people go down there” jack asked in disblief.

“no, Jack, I don’t know who the hell they are. Our guards are still in front of the doors, no one has gone in or out. But some how there’s people down there, shooting the hell out of the undead.” Paul snapped angrily, he was both confused and scared, and did not want to entertain the hope that flared in his heart that maybe just maybe it was the government finally clearing things up.

“Should we help them” Paul asked look up at Jack who looked indecisive for the first time since they had met.

“I don’t know,” Jack said “who ever they are they found a another way in, something that was never made public that’s the only answer to how they got there, but we don’t know who they are.”

“we cant just sit here” Paul said

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

“check out the bunker he says” Logan muttered falling back down the hallway. “wheres the harm he says”

“I never said that” Jared corrected.

“okay sue me for ad libbing” Logan shot back yelling to be heard over the roar of gunfire.

“Jared there’s more coming up the hallway from the other side” Ronny reported.

“just great” Jared said as he pulled a grenade from a pouch on his combat vest. “ frag out” he bellowed and lobbed it over the heads of the undead in the hallway into the room beyond. “fire in the hole”

The grenade detonated, sending shrapnel howling into the undead a few close to the grenade died, others were crippled. But it did little to stem the tide of undead.

“Ronny can you hold” Jared asked.

“Roger that” Ronny replied.

God I hope he can Jared though only slightly comforted that Mike was back there with him, Mike had his own problems but was seemingly overcoming them.

“we could run for it” Ed called out.

“not yet” Jared said as they fell back several more steps keeping the distance open between the group and the undead. once they reached the turn, they would run he decided

“hey I know her” Logan said as he aimed at a blond zombie. “ she was in the Mrs. Galaxy contest. To damn bad she was hotter than shit” he said as he put her down.

“don’t feel bad, I know this guy” Ed said as he put down a half naked muscular zombie. “he was one Soccer player, I would have loved to spend a few days in bed with.”

Logan grimaced slightly then laughed. “every time I just manage to forget your gay, you have to say something like that”

Jill shook her head, amazed at times wondering if any one even noticed they had started dealing with high stress situations the same way Jared and the Dirty dozen did, with jokes and witty banter. She had no clue how common or rare that type of behavior might be for the rest of the survivors in the world. but it was growing more common with those who now called Sullivan island home.

“you two can discuss your sexual fantasies later” Jared said as he ejected a magazine and slapped in a fresh one.

Behind them, the Sound of Ronny’s AR reached them and the sound of Mikes G36 joined it a second later.

“Ori fall to the back, I want a clay more set up for remote detonation.” Jared ordered. “you have one minute”

“Got it one minute is more than enough” Ori said stepping out of the front rank and running back down the hallway. Pulling the demo pack he had made from his Ruck as he ran.

In the end it took a little over two minutes, the undead from the common room were stumbling and crawling over the pile of corpses that half blocked the hallway. “Ready” Ori called out as he made a final adjust to the Mine then retreated back to the turn in the hallway, watching behind him just in case more undead had appeared out of any of the room between them and Ronny.

“GO” Jared yelled turning and running half dragging Logan with him, the small group rushed past the mine leaving the undead quickly behind. they rounded the curve and found Ori waiting clacker in hand.

“your going to love this” Ori said as soon as the group had passed him. he squeezed twice and the sound of C4 detonating filled the hallway shaking free dust from the ceiling and floor, leaving it to hang like a layer of dark particles that floated in the center of the hallway for a moment.

700 Steel balls, were blasted free from the resin matrix that had held them in place, they shrieked through the air like a swarm of angry bee’s ripping up through torso’s and limbs shredding everything in their path, usually they would have covered a fifty degree arc, but the thick cement walls, concentrated them into a deadly wall of steel. Then they reached the ceiling and were reflected back down into the crowd of undead, ripping and tearing corpses apart till their energy was spent.

Jared rushed back to the turn and saw the carnage, saw some of the undead in that pile of mangled flesh beginning to rise, he center slung his rifle and drew his pistol, already firing as he advanced in a combat crouch, each round striking exactly where he wanted. There was still more undead coming from the common room, it was like an un ending tide of dead. Give it up Jared he told himself; get the hell out before any one dies. He ejected the spent mag and pocketed it before inserting a full one, he racked the slide and went back to firing only now he was falling back to the rest of the team that was waiting for him to clear the line of fire.

“I don’t think we can clear this place, and there is no point in it.” Jared said as joined them at the corner.

“Ronny we are coming back” Jared called out, he could see Ronny and mike down the hall, holding back a small group of undead.

“ No problems” Ronny yelled back. he would never admit it to Jared but he was both happy and pissed off that there were so few undead. it wasn’t a challenge and that’s what made him happy. Anything tougher and he would have probably screwed it up and gotten people killed. stop it he told himself angrily. Just fucking stop it.

Why father, you killed me, and let mother die, the voice was cold and full of hate drifting through the darkness of his mind, a whisper from a grave not yet dug.

“no, your not real” He snapped not really noticing the worried look Mike flashed him.

“RONNY, FOCUS” Mike yelled.

Ronny’s eyes snapped to the front and saw that in the moment he had been distracted the undead had gotten closer. “Thanks” he muttered feeling like a total jackass as he opened fire again.

“any time” Mike replied feeling some sympathy for the man, Jared might be sharp, but he seemed to have missed what Mike had just realized, Ronny had PTSD.

Jared and his team were just falling back around the corner a second time when they stopped in surprise as some one opened fire in the common room. The boom of shotguns, what sounded like a 30.06 and several pistols.

Jared debated for half a moment, he wanted his people out, but he couldn’t leave when some one else was apparently fighting to help them. Unless they were just taking advantage of the situation and had no desire to help Jared’s people.

“Damn it” Jared said looking back down the hallway, Ronny and Mike had almost cleared the Undead they were facing, and the group Jared was facing was starting to look thin.

“oh well to Boldly go, where every dumb asshole has gone before, Lets finish them” Jared said as he lifted the pistol and advanced behind his fire Jill falling in to his right Logan to his left.

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

the undead outside slowly began to gather advancing on the Hotel, the group grew to a crowd, the crowd to a horde that continued to grow as more and more undead appeared from the woods and the town only a few miles away and still more were on their way, a shuffling silent, pale crowd with only one thing to fill their thoughts, the flesh of the living who had escaped them so many times before. Driven by some terrible will, a darkness of the soul that reveled in death, it moved, a living shadow, a thing of darkness, of pain and misery. The war was ramping up, and soon so very soon its foes would join its ranks as yet more puppets of meat.

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

Mac stepped outside, pale and determined as he followed one of his men across the clearing to the bodies that lay behind a truck. He started down at two men he had know for while now, their throats had been slit, and then something had been driven into the left eye socket of each piercing the brain to keep them from rising.

“Look at the truck” the man with him said. Mac turned slowly his anger curdling as he saw what had the other man so scared. There for the world to see was the one symbol every man in Kronnens army knew.

“Mother Fucker” Mac said softly, then turned to face the man. “We need to tell Kronnen, the Hunter is back.”

12 thoughts on “Chapter Seven

  1. I can’t describe how full of awesome this last post was. Started following you on AUD and manically check for updates. Thanks for the superior writing.

    Like

  2. This is a tense chapter. As always, I’m begging to know what happens next. It’s cruel to bring so many characters into play then leave us hanging.

    This is a strong chapter, O’Kelly.

    Like

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