Chapter Ten

“Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow”
~T.S. Elliot

Darius had followed the wide shouldered soldier, through the well lit chambers and passages amazed at what he saw, electric lights, digital clocks, people, food, vehicles, working security cameras and working showers judging by the sound as they passed one room.

Finally they stopped at a door where two other men stood, weapons at the ready.
Sorry but you need to hand over weapons” the hard faced soldier who had escorted him said, Darius wasn’t happy about being with out weapons to say the least, but he untied the tie downs for the Shotgun holster and his knife then unbuckled his weapons belt and handed it over to the soldier who for what ever reason just accepted Darius was now unarmed.

Trusting soul Darius thought, feeling the weight of the hold out pistol strapped to his ankle.

The soldier opened the door and gestured for Darius to enter a room that looked like something out of a fifties disaster movie. A long rectangular table filled the center of the room, one wall was covered in clocks and a map of the world. He stepped forward walking across the old fashioned looking tile floor that was yellowed and worn from years of tourists and others walking around the room. There was a slight metallic smell in the room from the air recycling system.

A Broad shouldered red head with emerald green eyes, sat at the head of the table, some kind of assault rifle lay on the table in front of him. to his right sat a Slender blond guy, who reminded him of Paul walker with a shock of blond hair that stuck up in all directions. To his left sat a woman who got Darius’s blood to racing. His eyes lingered on her face framed by unbound long dark hair she was one of the best looking women he had seen he decided after he caught his breath, she gazed back at him with Deep blue eyes that glittered in the light giving him a slight smile.

The red head rose to his feet and gestured for Darius to sit in one of the very old fashioned swivel chairs that had been all the rage in 1950’s offices, or at least in the offices in the old movies he had watched with his mom when he was a kid.

“Thanks” Darius said noting the thick muscled arms of the Red head.

“I’m Jared Stone” The red head said as he sat back down and leaned back in his chair, watching Darius closely.

“Darius” he replied, his gaze drifting back to the woman.

“This is my wife Jill and that’s Ori” Stone said.

the blonde guy, Ori, was giving off a strong vibe like he was either angry or intensely anxious. It was hard to tell since his face showed very little emotion as he sat there watching Darius.

Darius nodded at both of them then sat down crossing his right leg so the hold out was with in easy reach if he needed it.

“I am given to understand that you claim to be able to help us against Kronnen” Stone said, his deep voice smooth and gave no indication of his mood. “to be honest I have to wonder if you might be working with Kronnen and this is just another attempt by him to slip yet another spy or saboteur into my group.”

As if I would admit it if I were Darius thought but didn’t bother to point it out.

“if you feel strongly about that, then there aint no real point in my staying or you listening to what I have to say” Darius replied.

“I think I can at least listen to your story first, then toss you out into the cold if I’m not impressed” Stone said with something like a smile, that didn’t quite touch his eyes.

“Blunt I like that, My dad used to say a man that beats around the bush is a man you cant trust.” Darius said. “ he also said that the internet was a passing fad so I’m not sure how good his advice was on some things”

Jill chuckled for a second, glancing at her husband who sat there silently.

“I have no idea how much you know about Kronnen, but the man and most of his so called soldiers are pure scum, they call me the Hunter, because I have been stalking them since last winter from Colorado to St. Louis….:” Darius began to talk, telling them the whole story, leaving out only a few things like how the dead came to him in dreams on occasion and helped him.

To his credit Stone didn’t ask a single question, waiting till Darius had finished then he began to ask for clarifications on various issues, it surprised Darius that the man seemed to remember every detail and an hour later Darius felt like he had been interrogated by the FBI or some other alphabet agency.

Stone leaned back in his chair again, glancing at his wife who nodded, he obviously trusted her judgment, but Ori had yet to say a word, though several times during his story and Jared’s questions, he had looked like he was about to speak.

“The only question I have left Darius is a simple one,” Jared said casually. “I find it odd that you seemed to get real vague on several occasions about how you were able to find Kronnen’s scavenger teams.”

Darius opened his mouth then closed it again, not really wanting to tell them the truth, it sounded insane, hell if hadn’t happed to him he wouldn’t believe it either. He got the distinct impression that what he said next would either make or break his offer to help he took a deep breath and decided on the truth.

“the dead” he said, then shrugged fully committed. “ when I got stuck or couldn’t locate them, sometimes I would dream about a couple of the men who had died on the Hunt and they would tell me, usually it was just a town name. Sometimes it was a little more. I know it sounds insane but they were the most vivid dreams I ever had, so real that I woke confused to find myself somewhere else.”

Stone nodded to himself “ I believe you” he said smiling with amusement. “trust me your not insane.

“Your kidding, Hell now I’m not sure if your sane” Darius replied with his own smile which felt oddly unnatural to him.

“Assuming I accept your help, what do you want in return.” Stone said.

“I want you to take my sister and the others back to that island of yours.” Darius said with out hesitation.

“I think we can do that, but understand this, knowing that Kronnen has been slipping spies into our midst its harder to trust folks these days.” Stone said. “so I cant just take you at your word that.”

“I understand trust me, its his favorite tactic when he finds out a decent sized group is in an area he wants to expand into, yours is the largest he has heard about or encountered which is why he wants to destroy you, so you cant oppose him later. Or that’s what was said when my sister was around at any rate” Darius replied. “ I might have one way to convince you,”

“and that would be” Stone asked.

“Kronnen has had a unit shadowing you for a while, at least according to the one man who wanted to talk to me,” Darius said, it was apparent to the others that the conversation hadn’t been voluntary on the other mans part. “ I know where they are camped. And by now they are probably pretty paranoid about my showing up again” Darius said with a cold smile of satisfaction.

“they would have just moved camp once they knew you had found them” Ori pointed out speaking for the first time. he spoke softly but his eyes never left Darius.

“they did after they spent a day checking for bombs on their vehicles and the road out, I have that effect on them” Darius said. “Unfortunately for them I was watching them from a distance when they left and followed them to their next camp.”

Ori turned to look at Jared, a look of mingled excitement and anger on his face.

“Jared, If there is a chance….” Ori said then fell silent refusing to say any more.

“you take me and my team there tomorrow, and Ill give you and yours a fair chance” Jared said rising to his feet. “I understand there are two other men waiting in your truck”

Darius nodded, wondering what Stone was going to suggest. “ Quetin and Nate” he told them.

“why don’t you go topside and bring them down here to sleep for the night, if you haven’t noticed its warm down here. Then tomorrow you can show us where Kronnen’s men are camped.” Stone said. “Because you see, Ori and I have a few questions to ask them” He added in a tone that left no doubt Kronnens men were not going to enjoy the experience any more than if Darius was doing the asking.


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

After Darius had left escorted by one of Jansen’s men, Jill turned to her husband. “ I think he is telling the truth, at least about hating Kronnen and wanting to help, anything else he might be holding back isn’t because he is playing us but because he doesn’t trust us any more than we trust him at this point” Jill said.

Jared nodded in agreement, then looked at Ori who shrugged. “ I get the same feeling, but to be honest I’m more than willing to take a risk with him if it can possibly get me information on where Beth might be at.” Ori said.

“then as soon as we get things settled around here tomorrow morning, we are going to pay a visit to the camp and see what the men there have to say.” Jared said.

Ori stood abruptly,“I’m going topside for a little while, Ill relieve one of the guys on guard duty so he can get some sleep” he said then strode from the room.

“Any thing else you want to say?” Jared asked Jill as the door shut behind Ori.

“a few things, talk to Ronny for starters, I think he really needs to hear something positive from you.” Jill replied.

“I will, but I was referring to Darius”

“oh.. well yes.. he is cute as hell, and did you see his butt.” She said with a wicked grin.

“No I some how wasn’t looking when he left the room.” Jared said laughing.

“You should, its almost as nice as yours, and if he doenst have a woman in his group, he is going to be popular with the ladies on Sullivan assuming he survives to get there.” Jill said with a grin.

“There are times I wonder why I married you” he said smiling.

“Because I’m the only woman who can one.. put up with you, and two can beat your butt when you piss me off.” Jill said happy to see he was acting like his old self.

“when every one else figures out your beating me and secretly running the island there will be a riot” Jared pointed out with a smile.

“its called a celebration, not riot” she laughed. “now if you have nothing else to do, while we have a place that is almost normal, you had better make like you love me and take me to bed.” Jill said unzipping her leather jacket.

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

0330 Kates Mountain, West Virginia

Snow had began to fall around 0300hrs, adding to the blanket of snow that already covered the area. The old snow covered lodge’s windows were dark, but a man bundled against the weather paced the porch, he carried an M16, only his eyes could be seen looking out from the eye slit in the ski mask he wore.

In the parking lot, ten vehicles were parked in a box formation with two men huddling under a tarp that had been set up inside the box beside a delivery truck.

The Lodge sat halfway up Kates mountain, it had been one of those scenic places that had been popular for weddings, conferences, and corporate retreats as well as overnight guests. The incredible view of the valley below, including the Green Brier from the Veranda in the back of the Lodge had been a popular selling point.

The Lodge was constructed of both log and native stone, with a steep pitched roof with gable windows and a steeple like structure was a relic of a by gone era.

Ori slithered across the ground almost invisible in the snow Camouflage he wore. He moved so slowly that the snow fall was faster pausing just under the edge of a bush he scanned the approach the nigh vision goggles, he could see a single man huddled in the doorway that led from the veranda to the interior. But no one else walked through the over turned tables and chairs on the veranda.

He slithered forward again, refusing to let his worry for his wife drive to move faster and make a mistake.

He paused again ten foot and twenty minutes later behind the corpse of a zombie half covered in snow that had been tossed over the low wall around the veranda, with the NVGs he only had to glance at the zombie in the wedding dress to see the hole in her forehead. There were other bodies out here too, all of them dressed in ripped and torn suits and dress’s, apparently they had been attending a wedding when they were attacked.

That must have sucked, the happiest day of the bride and grooms lives ended in terror and death, he thought as he rose slowly to one knee in the snow. Just another lump of snow that lifted the crossbow he carried slowly to his shoulder his eyes never leaving the guard who was more interested in trying to stay warm than actually paying attention to his surroundings.

Ori didn’t hurry, the slower her moved the less likely he was to be seen, no sense in taking chances no matter how careless the man seemed to be, there could some one else watching from the lodge.

A single click on the radio told him that Jansen and his squad were in position to clear the vehicle camp out front.

There was almost a ten minute wait then two sharp clicks erupted in his ear bud. Ori sighted then pulled the trigger sending a crossbow bolt hissing through the air taking the guard in the head, the man jerked upright then fell over the rifle fallinginto the snow that soaked up the noise.

Jared moved past him, vaulting over the low wall then gliding across the veranda keeping to the shadows, Ori slung his crossbow and followed thankful that Jared had talked Darius into accompanying Jansen out front.

Just in side the door from the veranda, was a dining room, still decorated for wedding reception, a few over turned tables and a broken chair showed there had been an attack inside.

Opened wedding presents lay scattered amidst the torn wrappers and gift bags, what had been intended to help start a new life was only so much junk now, the expensive diner plates, silverware, fancy knick nacks, lingerie and appliances were worthless now. Ori noted the foot prints in the dust, where men had entered the room and stood around the table that had contained the gifts, where he could clearly see on the table the outlines in the dust where boxes and bags had sat for almost two years till the raiders had opened them. For some reason that struck him as sacrilege on a deep emotional level.

Check the lobby nothing here Jared signed as the rest of the team spread out around the room, Steger stood guard over Ed as he pushed a wedge up under the kitchen door, then the two of them turned to face into the room.

Ori didn’t respond he just moved into the arch that led into the main lobby of the Lodge, a room of beams and polished wood. Old fashioned looking couches and coffee tables were scattered artfully around the large room. Four hand carven wooden chairs sat in semi circle front of a brick fireplace.

The front desk looked like it had once been bar from an old saloon, complete with the brass railing where men had once rested their feet as they sat there sipping whiskey on their stools.

Ori moved quietly across the lobby Jared just a few steps behind him, noting the five men sleeping on the couches, with out the night vision the room was pitch black.

Amateurs he thought noting most of the men had either leaned their rifles on the end of the couch or on the floor beside them. Quietly he and Jared picked up the weapons and moved them to the far end of the room. Even if most of the raiders slept with pistols they would instinctively reach for their rifles first, well most people would Ori thought with a glance at Jared.

One by one the men were woken up with a hand over their mouths and a barrel pressed against their heads, working quickly each man was quickly bound with zip ties and gagged.

As soon as the men were secured Jared tapped Jill and Logan on the shoulders and indicated they should stay and guard the prisoners. Neither of them were happy about it, but Jared didn’t care. He left them and headed for the stairs knowing Jill was going to have all kinds of things to say if he survived clearing the second floor.

* * *

Jansen ran forward and ducked behind one of the vans, watching Darius as the man rushed up and joined him. He didn’t move to badly, pretty quiet and seemed to have decent wood craft skills, judging by the story the man had told, he must have learned most of those skills in the long hunt across the dead lands.

A click then a double click on the radio told him that the sentry at the door to the lodge had been taken out with out alerting any one. Which was good, now all they had to do was clear the vehicles while Jared and his team cleared the lodge.

Tolliver set up the M60 off to one side so that he could cover the door to the lodge and the vehicles while Baker covered him in case any of the undead appeared out of the woods.

Darius squatted beside him, occasionally adjusting the way the NVG’s sat on his face, it was the first time he had ever worn the things and was taking time to get used to the device.

How the man had managed to do half of what he claimed with out Night vision or assault rifles was beyond Jansen, but like everything else you work with what you have so he assuming he wasn’t lying the man had some skills.

He checked quickly to make sure his squad was in position then settled back waiting, thankfully he didn’t have to wait long for the signal from Jared that they were entering the lodge.

Lowering himself to the ground he slid under the van and into the enemies camp, smiling with satisfaction as his men did the same at almost the exact same time. quickly they checked in windows, to find which vehicles had people in side and found only four held men.

Jansen, using hand signs, quickly detailed who was to attack which vehicle, then sent the go signal to Jared to warn him they were about to make noise blowing their cover and possible drawing the undead down on them.

At his signal doors were quietly opened, and flash bangs were tossed inside the occupied vehicles.

The sound was shocking after the intense quiet of the night, Instantly Jansens men were yanking open doors shouting “ US army” which Jared had decided was the best way to proceed from now on, just hearing it might shock who ever they were facing long enough to safely subdue or put them down.

Back when people had power and watched movies, most believed that a flash bang would put down any one, or disorient them so badly they could not resist. The reality how ever was, it didn’t always work, some people disoriented or not would pull a trigger more out of instinct. Another little fact was the for five or so seconds those affected by Flash bangs couldn’t really hear the shouts of Police, or US Army or Strip naked I’m hear to party. This time was two of the men they were trying to subdue, managed to bring weapons into play, they were not accurate, one pulled the trigger and as he lost his balance and fell over he sprayed full auto fire across the interior of the van killing three of his own men, and hitting Sinclair who was framed in the door of the van. Sinclair fell backwards into the snow.

Lane, and Benton yanked burst into the back of the delivery truck, just as one of the men inside managed to pull the pin on a grenade and then managed to drop it. Lane leaped tackling Benton taking them both out of the rear door of the Truck and into the snow as the grenade went off, killing all three men in the back of the truck that had been manning the communications gear. Gunfire tore the night apart.

* * *

Jared moved down the hall, with ori to his right, Ed to his left, Steger and Mike bringing up the rear. They stacked up at the first door, just as the first flash bangs went off outside.

Jared d knew they had to move fast to clear as many rooms as they could while the sleeping raiders were still trying to wake up and figure out what was happening before there was any real organized resistance.

He slammed the door open following the door as it swung to the left, Ori went right, A man was just sitting up rubbing his eyes, eyes that widened as he heard the door slam against the wall and saw dark shapes entering the room fast and hard. No more being nice, frag then enter Jared thought as he put two rounds in the man as he was reaching for his rifle.

If he felt any shame at his actions, it did not show in his actions and even as he shifted targets Ori was firing at some one else. Ed was right behind Ori and covering the center of the bedroom, and saw a man roll across the floor grabbing his rifle as he went, Ed fired four times hitting the man twice.

They swept through the room putting a bullet into the heads of the dead, Jared noting the Three black birds painted on Equipment or cut out of black cloth and stitched to sleeves. These were Kronnen’s men for sure he thought remembering What Kylee had told them before she had clammed up and refused to talk any more.

Back in the hall they heard panicked voices in another room with Jared leading the way, they approached the door, Jared cracked it open, and tossed in a grenade. As soon as it detonated they entered putting down anything that moved.

Mac rolled out of bed hearing explosions and gun fire his momentary confusion when he had first woken was gone, they were under attack. he pulled on his coat and grabbed his pack, then raced to the window. He had chosen this room for a reason, it allowed him to make a fast escape if needed. He slid open the window, making sure there were no undead outside then tossed his pack out to slide down the roof to the ground, then grabbed his rifle and leaped out. As he slid down the roof light flashed from his window as an explosion blew out the glass.

Suddenly there was only air under his butt and he found himself falling only to land on his pack almost knocking his breath from his lungs. Gasping he managed to get to his knees then driven by the urgent need to escape, he struggled for a moment to get his pack on then got to his feet and started for the woods.

Wet snow laden limbs slapped and clawed at him, he slipped on ice covered rocks almost falling but managed to stay on the move as the sounds of combat faded behind them then stopped.

How had Stone found out where he was at, and it had to be Stone. He had to put as much distance between himself and Stone, and more importantly from Kronnen who was going to kill him if he returned. No all he could do now was to head to Canada and hope he could dodge the undead and Kronnen.

He slipped again and smashed his face into a tree, stunned he lay there for a moment, then heard something moving through the woods. Spurred on by fear of the undead he shot to his feet, and staggered on.

Darius saw the man escape into the woods and shook his head, aint happening tonight he thought as he pointed out the man to Jansen then raced out of the enemies camp and across the parking lot, snow and gravel crunching under his feet, the sound covered by the gunfire and exploding grenades from inside the Lodge. Reaching the wood line, he slowed down and worked his way through the brush carefully to keep from making noise, quickly spotting the fleeing Raider thanks to the Night vision goggles.

Once the sound of the fight at the lodge stopped he moved more carefully so as not to alert the raider some one was behind him. Avoiding the brush and rocks that the hapless raiders was stumbling blindly through unable to see his way around in the darkness Darius quickly closed the distance smiling wolfishly as he saw the man go down smacking his face into a tree. He could also see what the raider couldn’t, four undead aiming straight for the racket the man was making as he pushed through more dead brush.

Mac fell again, his clothes soaked through from the snow he was shivering uncontrollably. He got to his hands and knees, tired and sore. When he heard a twice snap some where head of him and close, normally the smell of the undead would give them away, but Mac hadn’t thought about or even realized that the light wind was at his back and would blow the smell of the undead away from him.

As the first pallid shape loomed out of the darkness, he threw himself backwards not caring if the attackers heard him, he fired off half a clip, why people like Bradley thought it was important to call them magazines was stupid, and why his mind insisted on thinking about as the undead appeared out of the darkness he didn’t know or care.

He emptied the clip, he refused to call it anything else and managed to look competent as he ejected the spent one letting it fall to the snow and inserted another before the closest zombie could reach him.

He lifted the weapon almost putting the barrel of the weapon into the zombies mouth and fired, blowing through ten rounds blowing out the back of its head. He yanked the weapon free of the things mouth and swung the weapon around holding the trigger down as he tried to shoot the fourth zombie. it slowly collapsed into the snow and didn’t move. he breathed a sigh of relief. Then froze as he heard the sound of a weapon being cocked.

“by my count you piece of shit your out of bullets, and that makes this a really bad day for you” A voice said from behind him, the thick Texas accent scaring the shit out of him, oh please no do not let it be him he thought wildly.

“who are you “ he asked upset that there was a tremor in his voice.

“oh come on, don’t tell me your have no idea who I might be. Not after all the time I spent teaching you boys just how much I hate you from Colorado to Missouri” The Hunter said. “Luckily for you, Tonight I’m helping a man look for some information, so you might, and I mean might live through this. But screw up or try something and Ill blow out your spine with this sawed off shotgun, and I will enjoy it” Darius said smiling in the darkness, at least that’s how some might describe his expression, Mac wouldn’t have used that adjective he could have seen Darius at that moment. “enjoy it a lot as a matter of fact now stand up with out your weapon.”

Mac scared beyond belief did as he was ordered hoping he might actually live through tonight. In fact he did everything he was told to, walking slowly back through the wood and finding out he hadn’t actually gone as far as he had thought as he stepped out of the woods five minutes later and saw the lodge and the group of heavily armed men walking towards him light spearing out from the flashlights mounted on their weapons. He was bound and dragged to the delivery truck and tossed in the back with five other survivors of the raid.

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

Jared leaned against the wall, his coat off, forcing aside the pain as Jill bandaged the wound on his right bicep. “it doesn’t look all that bad,” she said as she finished.

“yeah well trust me it hurts bad enough” Jared Commented as two men entered the lobby carrying Lane, the placed him on a couch then helped the medic get Lanes coat and shirt off. As the medic was checking over Lane, two more men entered carrying another man, It took Jared a moment to remember his name was Sinclair.

Pulling his coat back on, Jared walked over and knelt beside Lane who was conscious. “how bad is it?” Lane asked Jared quietly.

Jared glanced at the Medic who shrugged “you have shrapnel in your back its going to hurt like hell, but there’s nothing I can do till we can get you back to Justin and that hospital. You should be fine once we get a weed eater to shave your back getting the shrapnel out should be no problem” The medic said rising to his feet and walking over to Sinclair, who was pale as a sheet. Jared smiled at Lany

“you heard the man soldier you will be fine, and you get a free wax job too” Jared joked trying to put the man at ease.

“easy for you to say” Lany replied.

“I have two bullet wounds out of this if you want to see them” Jared replied.

“No not that, your not the one that’s going to be shaved till you look like a naked rat” Lany moaned.

“as long as you don’t grow a tail your good” Jared joked then patted the man on a hand before walking over to Sinclair.

Some one had bandaged the mans left hand his torso and his right thigh, the medic cut away the bandages, frowning as he studied the hand, then with out a comment went on to check out the torso wound.

Jansen entered the room at that moment Jared intercepted him before he could reach the wounded Sinclair. “what happened out there” Jared asked.

“ a couple of guys were completely taken out by the flash bangs, one tried to use a grenade and killed himself and a couple of his buddy’s after dropping it, that’s how Lany got wounded, he saved Benton but took the shrapnel himself. And Sincliar go shot up by another asshole who could manage to pull a trigger but not really aim, he sprayed the Van, killing two of his buddies and shooting Sinclair up pretty badly, while we were dealing with Sinclair and trading shots, one of his dead buddies sat up an tore into one of the wounded men in the van and then attacked our shooter killing the man before we could, took the whole damn thing out with a grenade. “ he shook his head for a second. “ we got the truck cleaned out and put the prisoners inside, including the one that Darius caught running into the woods. I think I believe his whole hunter story, the man he brought back was scared shitless of Darius”

“interesting,” Jared said thoughtfully “it got hairy in here too, “ Jared said a moment later flexing his arm “ got hit in the arm and a graze across the side, Steger took a bullet to his calf, Logan got grazed twice.” He said then grinned for a second. “ some dumb ass that we missed came up behind us in the hall, tried to pull a Rambo and take out us out one by one from behind with a knife, he picked Jill as his first target.” Jared said then saw the look on Jansen’s face. “oh she is fine, that armor she wears to stop the undead from biting her actually turned the blade, I’m not sure who was more surprised Jill for almost being stabbed or the asshole when she turned around and bounced him off both walls then broke his arm.” Jared said seemingly unconcerned with Thors reaction. Jansen chuckled, then cracked his knuckles as he watched the medic work on Sinclair.

“how is he” Jansen asked as the Medic cut away a pant leg.

“better than he should be, he lost two fingers, and some blood.” The medic said as Sinclair stirred trying to sit up, placing hand on the mans chest he held Sinclair down. “ don’t move unless you want to become worse, don’t worry youll still be able to jerk off and pull a trigger.” The man assure Sinclair.

“Don’t need to jerk off, I got a woman” Sinclair said.

“with that face, hell I hope I never meet her then” The Medic replied.

“hell of a bedside Manner” Jared commented.

“oh I have gotten much better, used to they had to order me not to talk to patients” The Medic said as he pulled away the pant leg and sighed.. “ damn… forget jerking off, your missing ….”

“Missing what?” Sinclair said starting to sit up again, a panicked look on his face.

“Oh.. never mind, I see it now, its kind of small but its there”

“Fuck you” Sinclair moaned closing his eyes.

Jansen shook his head “ I think you can stop with the jokes, you still need to work on that bedside manner.”

“Every one is a critic” The medic mattered as he went to work on Sinclair’s leg.

“I thought it was funny” Ori said walking up.

“You would” Jared replied,

“You need to learn how to duck or something” Ori pointed out “ you keep getting shot up lately. Old age is catching up with you”

“I’m not all that worried about getting much older” Jared said softly, his face smooth of all expression for a moment, then he shook his head and smiled. “ bright side is we have some men that might have some idea where Beth might be at.”

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

Mac had no idea how long he there with the other prisoners, all he knew was it was cold and the truck smell of cordite and blood, but some time later the truck started and they were off, the truck bouncing and swaying as they drove down the rough road to the base of the mountain.. he had a full hour to worry over his fate, to really work himself up to a fever pitch of fear before the truck stopped. He could hear men talking outside, the truck then after what seemed like an hour the door was opened and light splashed inside, bright electric light he saw with wonder.

He remained in the back of the truck as the men with him were taken out one by one, and never returned. Finally Mac was dragged out, the zip ties binding his legs were cut, he winced in pain as his feet received their full share of blood and he felt like his feet were on fire. “come on start walking what way” A thickly muscled man with thinning blond hair wearing Swat Tacticals and bullet proof vest said pointing the direction he wanted to Mac to go. The M-4 Rifle for all that it small in the mans hand was no less menacing.

Mac staggered forward, trying not to stare at the huge well lit chamber full of boxes crates and vehicles and he especially tried not to look at the heavily armed men and women who watching coldly as he was escorted past.

If the first chamber was a surprise he was even more surprised to walk down the connecting tunnel and find yet another huge room, though not as big as the first one. He was directed down a wide hallway passing through a thick steel door into a much smaller and more dimly lit hallway, that after a minute he realized he was in some kind of underground facility that had to be under the old hotel he had been watching. But this had the look of something built by the government.

He was escorted into a room where he saw three men waiting, the muscular, athletically built red head had to be Stone, Mac thought, but he had no idea who the Short blond guy was who kept tapping a finger against the stock of the weapon he carried slung across is chest, and the third man, all Mac needed to see was the thigh holster with the sawed off shotgun that had once belonged to Dog, one of Kronnens men that Mac had been friendly with to know that this man was the Hunter.

“ I am told you’re the man who was in charge of this little operation. Not only that but apparently you were in contact with a spy in my convoy” the red head said confirming Macs thought that he faced Jared Stone himself. “ but I really don’t care about that at the moment, what I and my friend here want to know, is if you can provide the information that might just save your life. Where are the woman and kids Kronnen had kidnapped from Fort Sumter. Think carefully before you reply, you see that woman was my friends wife, and he wants her back.”

Mac swallowed hard, as the blond glared at him if looks could kill Mac would have burned to death right then.

“Give me five minutes alone with him and I promise I can get him talk” The Hunter drawled. “If I had a hungry calf it would only take two minutes before he would be begging to talk.”

Stone shook his head slowly his eyes sliding to the short slender blonde “No, I think I will let Ori here do the honors Beth is his wife. Besides he is damn good with a knife” Stone said.

Mac was stuck in a hard place, but the truth was Kronnen was already going to kill him, even if he didn’t talk it wouldn’t change the outcome. When Kronnen got his hands on Mac, assuming he lived for Kronnen to catch, he was still a dead man.and the eager look on the blond guys face as he drew the knife at his side, convinced Mac he was facing an even closer threat to his life than Kronnen.

“I don’t know much, Really” he said desperately. “but I know that Bradley, that’s the man who pulled off the raid on your fort, was outside of Knoxville a day ago but his rendevous with Kronnen was changed, they didn’t broadcast where the new one is going to be.”

“Bradley” Ori muttered hate dripping from his voice as he said the name. “So he is the bastard that is responsible for all those kids being killed.. that’s really good to know, really good” Ori said with a murderous look in his eyes actually scared Mac, in all his years as a criminal, he had never seen that kind of look in any ones eyes. Then he saw the Look in Stones eyes and decided he had been wrong Stone if anything looked even more furioius.

“No, not really… I.. well a friend of mine gave me the scoop on the last update from our base, the one in St. Louis.. Bradley was furious about that, some guy named Williams who just joined Kronnen killed the kids on purpose against orders, and the same guy was pissed that Bradley wont let him play with the…. Your wife or the kids with her. There were some threats exchanged from what I was told.”

“How humane of the Prick.” Stone commented not showing his intense unease at the name Williams as he absently touched the pocket that held a bullet left behind at the Fort as a message.

“Bradley used to be some sort of Special forces guy and is always talking about honor and duty.. stupid if ask …. Anyway.. he don’t hold with the things Williams seems to like, hell all of us heard rumors about the things that crazy ass Russian seemed to like.”

“Russian” Ori asked noticing that Jared didn’t seem to be surprised that yet another Russian was on the other side. Another Crazy Russian at that.

“yeah hates Americans a lot, calls American women whores, pretty much hates everything American. “ Mac said curious at why they seemed really interested in the Russian with the American name.

“Him and Bradley and that Team Bradley was training were down here waiting for you to show up around Mt. weather before they were called off to raid your island. I can tell you he talked a lot about you guys, especially you Mr. Stone.” Mac said playing nice now. “ He really hated you, damn near spat every time your name was mentioned.”

“ Tell me the whole story, I want to know how you knew where we would be at, and how you knew to head here after Mt. Weather, because I know you damned well didn’t follow us.” Jared said. “then your going to use the radio and deliver a little message for me to Kronnen to find out Where Beth and the kids are.. you do all that and I will let you live, even give you some food and a weapon before I dump your ass outside. Fuck with me and I will let Ori here deal with you, and trust me you do not want that.”

the look in the blonde’s eyes was enough to remind Mac that these men were not going to be forgiving if he didn’t work with them. He began to talk, telling Stone everything he could remember.

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

0900 hrs December 4th, The Green Brier resort.

The Yard was crowded with the Three RV’s parked off to one side leaving barely enough room for the delivery trucks to come and go as they ferried supplies to the waiting Semis, parked outside the fence. Every soldier and half the civilians were busying putting down the undead that kept coming but unlike before these were in manageable numbers, one here a small group of three or four there. But every one was ready of another huge horde appeared, and the with the remaining Mini gun mounted on the HETs Gun box would make short work of a lot of undead in seconds.

Diane climbed down out of the RV, shivering at the cold she waited till Kim and her daughter Nancy joined her then they followed the other surviving civilians down the ramp and into a long well lit tunnel.

All them looked around with interest at the bays and then the bunker itself. Jareds wife Jill showed them where there rooms were going to be for the next day or two before they started for the coast and the rendezvous with the boats that would take them to Sullivan.

Diane was excited about seeing the island, but on hearing Jill announce there were showers with hot water, she and Kim immediately asked if they could have towels and been shown the shower and miracle of miracles Nancy even emerged from her sullen anger long enough to show real interest. Not surprisingly the young woman had only been able to bathe a few times in creeks and streams for the last year and something, only when it was warm and only under the watchful eye of her father who had stood guard against possible rapists and especially the undead that had roamed all over.

Jill Immediately took all the women in the small group of survivors from the lodge to the showers then fetched towels, soap and shampoo. Diane was even surprised when Jill joined, and as Jill bathed Diane saw the the two bullet wound scars and bruises on the athletically built Jill and her appreciation of the other woman went up by leaps and bounds and her respect for the men Jill traveled with went up as well, it spoke volumes about her husband and the others that they could accept her as a competent soldier or fighter what ever any one wanted to call it, with trying to coddle her or keep her safely hidden away as a pretty bauble fit only for child rearing, but truly respected her. .

Jill talked to all of them as they lingered in the showers, enjoying this little slice of Pre dead heaven, telling them about the island, about how Jared and his group had ended up on Sullivan. Diane suspected she had left out some things, but there was enough danger and fighting in Jills story, what ever she left out couldn’t be to much.

On hearing about Mary, Bridget, Sharon and several other women and what they had done to help not only get to the island but what they had done to get it up an running, Diane hoped that the equality Jill had so casually mentioned was real. She really hoped that the men on that island had let go all the old BS, because Diane had survived on her own after her husband died and did as much as any man could have to keep on surviving, she was not about to go back to being a little house wife who only cleaned, cooked and bore children.

Finally every one was finished, Jill told them to leave their clothes and shoes, she would have them cleaned, and see about getting them all some new clothes. Just the mention of clean clothes, and the casual way Jill mentioned having them cleaned almost set several of the woman crying at the memories of how it had once been and all that they had lost.

They walked back to their rooms wrapped in towels, and the few men that passed them didn’t even stop to oogle the line of women wrapped in towels, they just went on about their business which was another point in Jareds peoples favor Diane thought

Once Jill had left them alone, Diane dried her hair with a towel and pulled a pair of clean pants and a pale blue button down shirt that she loved, it had been her husbands and sometimes she thought she could still smell him on the shirt.

“Diane,what do you think” Kim asked suddenly “ about these people?”

“ I think they are decent folks like us caught up in the hell the world has become” Diane replied.

“some of them are murderers” Nancy snapped, as she pulled on a pair of jeans from her pack.

Kim didn’t reply there wasn’t much she could say, she was not over her husbands death, and hadn’t really forgiven the men who had shot him, but she did on a intellectual level understand how it had happened and didn’t really blame them, her emotions would take some time to catch up.

Diane only shook her head and like Kim didn’t respond. “Look at this place, you have to wonder how many other places like this are there with people” Kim said. “ I wonder if their island is like this power, running water, food, clean clothes and washing machines”

“from what Jill has talked about when I have managed to talk to her, they do but not on a large scale. She said they usually use big sun heated tanks during the warm months to shower, and that some of the buildings now have power even a few have phones, but they are working on producing more power for more buildings and to run appliances and tools. I guess I can catch her and quiz her about it, but it sounds like they are in the process of rebuilding and its going to take a while before they have something like this with all the perks of the old world.”

“the island would still be better than the lodge” Kim said “having to use buckets for toilets, risking our lives to go out and haul back water to drink, or to hike around finding homes and cabins with food in them that hasn’t gone bad. Staying here wouldn’t be bad either. Its secure, its got everything you could want.”

“but when they pull out Kim, I think this place will be empty and they are just going to lock it up.” Diane said thinking about the conversations she had overheard on the way to the bunker from the camp.

Jared sat calmly as Justin cleaned his wounds then placed new bandages on them. “the don’t look bad, but I’m going to give you some antibiotics so your arm doesn’t fall off or you almost die again.” Justin said as he worked. “ this place was perfect for storage of medical supplies constant temperature. I even located a huge stash of Saline and other IV solutions”

“just think about how many other caches are out there waiting to be recovered” Jared said thoughtfully though he doubted he would live to see that accomplished.

“I have been a lot” Justin replied. “there you go, I even made sure I didn’t make them so tight things fall off” Justin said as he finished, then collected his stuff and repacked his Medical Bag.

“I guess this means you can go annoy some one else now” Jared said as he slipped off the table and pulled his shirt on.

“Not really, Sinclair is still upset over losing two fingers, Lane is upset because I had to shave his back to remove the shrapnel, so neither are in the best mood to piss off. I have them both on IVs in case of infection just to let you know.

The Prisoner that got beat up by Jill, which I wished I could have seen, is extremely pissed at being beat up by a woman. So I intubated his ass to keep him quiet.” Justin said. “foul mouthed piece of shit, at least Pappy was entertaining this guy is a slime bag.”

“Tell Him I said if he wants to keep being a shit and keep mouthing Ill cut off his medications and send Jill in to talk to him. which should be fun to watch.” Jared said sounding serious.

“Well to finish my answer.. no I have no patients left to annoy but you, and Logan and he is so proud of his new scar I cant seem to get under his skin bad enough to annoy him. so your it.” Justin said with a tired grin, he had also been busying giving checkups to the surviving bunker inhabitants. “sooner or later Jared we are going to need a real Doctor. Hell that guy on your brothers team is the closest we’ve had to one except for the few Times Doc Winston has been flown down to the island.”

“Working on it Justin, but its taking time, Blaine has already said he plans on training six more people in what he knows and what’s in that medical library we got off Fort Campbell.” Jared said as he buckled on his weapons belt then tied down his pistol.

“Which leads me to my next bit” Justin said “ I want to go with you when you go to get Beth”

“No Sorry, we are going to need you with the convoy in case people get sick or injured on the way back to the coast.” Jared said.

“ I knew it, I knew you were not planning on going back to the coast with us” Justin said.

“yes you have discovered my evil plot, what ever shall I do with you.” Jared said with a grin.

“let me come along, Haslom can deal with most of everything I can.” Justin said. “Haslom the Medic” Justin added seeing the puzzled look on Jareds face.

“oh, yeah short guy bad sense of humor worse bed side manner.. Hell no, some one would kill him before they made it back to the coast” Jared said his grin faded after a second.. “Justin listen to me okay, I want you to go back because I want you to live, I want all of you to live. You go back and find yourself a good woman, raise a bunch of kids and enjoy what life we all have left. or a guy if that’s your think, never really thought about which you might go.” Jared said trying to make a joke.

“I swing to wild women and beer bongs, sadly the world is out of both right now.” Justin said.

“there’s a chance Justin we aren’t going to succeed on this, I want to know that some one like you, someone who I like as a friend and who has a skill set we cant afford to lose makes it.” Jared said, vowing silently that no matter what, he would take Kronnen out with him if he had to die. just so the island would survive.

“I understand Jared I do, but don’t fool yourself the Island needs you too.” Justin said.

“no, I’m just another gunslinger, there’s enough of us that if I die, they can train some one else to replace me” Jared said as he headed for the door. “and I hope they have started training one” he said quietly as he walked out the door he never realized Justin heard him.

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

He wasn’t happy, not in the least. Watching as Mac and the others were hauled out of the truck one by one and taken to see Jared. It was the damn Hunters fault but there had be no way to deal with the hunter with out giving himself away, and now no matter what happened he had only two maybe three days to finish his mission before all but a handful of people would be heading back to the Coast, and he was supposed to be going with them. Which meant he had to finish his setting that asshole Ronny up for a fall, Kronnen had been specific about how he wanted the trust Jared and his friends shattered, instead of just killing them. In fact if this worked out right, Jared would probably kill Ronny himself.

He had seriously thought that when he had failed at taking out Lee but had planted the pipe in Ronnys room, that Jared would have ordered every room searched and it would have happened then but for some reason Jared had failed to do a search and Ronny had never said a word, and the drugs he had been switching had been finally doing their job, so he had expected Ronny to melt down. But that hadn’t happened either. And then Mary had arrived and she had seemed to help Ronny improve, probably got him to stop taking his pills or he had stopped so she wouldn’t know he was dosing himself.

He hadn’t expected Mary, in fact he had thought that Ashton would call on the radio to tell Jared about the attack, but instead he had sent Mary. Well he would just have to include her in his plans.

All he had to do was make sure Ronny was out like a light and then play his last card and his part of the plan would fall into place and god would it be nice to see Ronny crack like an egg and fall apart he had disliked the man from the start. It was too bad Strider hadn’t managed to kill him and Mary but it had turned out to be far more entertaining watching Ronny stress over having his ass kicked and being crippled in the process.

After that he was going to have to find a way to contact Kronnen with out Jared knowing to warn him about Macs capture and the destruction of Macs unit, and of course that the Hunter had joined up with Jared.

At least Mac had no clue who he was so he couldn’t spill that to Jared. Which would give him time to do what he needed and either slip away in the middle of the night or stay in place so he could be on the island to help Kronnen and deal with the Traitors who were supposed to have been working for Kronnen.

Tonight or tomorrow night Jared you lose a friend, one way or another. He vowed as he went back to work so as not to draw any attention to himself.

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

Jansen sat back in his chair, rubbing his temples thinking about what Jared had just told him about what Mac had, had to say about Kronnen, and more importantly about the spy in their ranks and how it was probably the same person who had switched out Ronnys pills, it was in Jareds opinion an attempt to drive Ronny nuts considering the problems The man was already dealing with.

He was actually surprised that Jared had managed to keep the extent of Ronny’s problems away from the rest of the group. But it hadn’t surprised him that Jared would do something like that to protect his friends reputation.

“so what are you going to do about it, do you even have a clue who it might be” Jansen asked.

Jared shook his head. “ no, what I’m positive about is that no one on yours or Daws’s squad are the spy, Its not Lee or Mike or any one else that’s been on Sullivan since we first arrived. Well I’m pretty sure about that last part.” Jared said thinking about how the dark had in the past found susceptible people and twisted them around in their dreams, so who really knew.. but that line of thought would lead to paranoi and trusting no one. There appeared that the dark could only affect certain types of people or maybe it was one those mysterious rules. What ever the reason, he didn’t really believe the dark would exert that kind of influence when all it had to do was have Kronnen insert spies into their midst.

“ I think that who ever it is, will do something in the next few days, before I split off from the convoy. Partly because they have to be aware of the fact we captured some of Kronnens men, which means he or she is going to have to act soon for fear of discovery. Since Mac at least knew there was a spy, that’s why I had you post two or more guards on the com shack and the power plant in case they tried to contact Kronnen with the news, or kill the power and effectively shut down the bunker. So we have to abandon it which leaves it undefended for Kronnen to loot.”

“but he would need the entry codes to get into the cache right” Thor asked.

“I’ve been thinking about that, Eric was led to believe that the only list of caches was the one we recovered from the senators plane which included the codes, which might be true, but what if there is a master Code, which makes sense, and possible more than one list. Its possible that the men that sent Eric out to recover the list didn’t have a copy but maybe where it is that Bedford is, might have had a second list with the same codes or a master code and a good idea where some of the caches might be. in which case he might have passed that code to Kronnen.” Jared said. “ and even with the power out the keypads will still work for a long time.”

“I do have major question, why attack Lee, I mean there had to be a reason for it.” Jansen asked. Jared nodded

“I think the spy was going to sabotage one or more vehicles and was afraid Lee would spot it, so he decided to remove Lee. But Lee managed to fight back and make enough noise that his attacker had to flee before he or she could finish.” Jared said.

“and the Ronny thing, you think was aimed more at you than Ronny. You don’t think that’s a bit arrogant on your part, Ronny can be pretty annoying you know” Jansen said.

“I know” Jared said then chuckled for a moment. “ But I think it was directed at me just like Beth being taken was Directed at me indirectly through Ori.” Jared said pulling something from his pocket and rolling it across the table to Jansen. “ that was left in Beth and Ori’s room. It’s a bullet from Mikhails Dragunov, the same weapon I left on the roof where the man died, and when I went back to there after the whole Williams ferry full of undead and the battle for the island, some one had taken the rifle, placed a bullet and Mikhail’s skull on top of an A/C unit for me to find.” Jared told thor, who was the only person he had shared that bit of news with. “and now we find out from Mac, that this Williams is a Russian, sounds Russian speaks Russian. Simms mentioned that Williams occasionally slipped into Russian around him, and Ivan, Simm’s second in command even told me that Williams spoke fluent Russian, and could even place the regional dialect as form around the Black Sea. Yet Lany and Garret who both knew Williams said he was as American as we are.”

“What are you suggesting” Jansen asked curious where Jared was going with this.

“I’m not sure” Jared said. “ actually I have a suspicion but its crazy” Jared commented shaking his head slowly.

“any crazier than the dead rising, and humanity being dragged into a supernatural war where the spirits of the dead occasionally show up in our dreams to either screw with us or help us” Jansen asked with a twist of his lips that might have been a smile.

“in a way yes” Jared said then pulled a bullet out of his pocket and rolled it across to Jansen who picked it up and looked curiously at Jared. “when Williams beached the Ferry on Sullivan and disappeared I went looking for him, I..” he stopped and shook his head. “I ended up on the hotel roof where I had killed Mikhail and left his damn corpse for the crows. Some one, I am pretty sure was Williams, had placed Mikhail’s skull on top of a Condenser unit and placed a bullet just like that beside it. The Draganov Sniper rifle was gone.”

“okay, that’s strange but nothing that screams Horror movie” Jansen said, noticing something flickering in Jareds eyes but had no clue what it might be.

“Ashton found that bullet standing upright on the end table beside Ori and Beths bed after she had been taken, he sent it with Mary. It’s a round from the Draganov.” Jared said.

“You think Williams might have been working with Mikhail, and is trying to finish what Mikhail had started?” Jansen asked rolling the bullet he held between thumb and forefinger then set it back on the table. “ that’s what your thinking right” Jansen asked.

“Something like that” Jared said almost evasively. Jansen didn’t get that what else could the answer be. Jared sighed after a moment “ I have no idea, so much weird crap has happened since all this started, The dreams, Bowler hat, the weird behavior of the dead on occasion, that séance on the Island.” He fell silent tracing pattern on the table top with a callused finger.

“Did you ever stop to think about, I started out in Nashville with a small band of people, where Jasper Brown was killed, and bowler hat followed us all the way to Sullivan Island with a huge group of survivors, where we stumbled across a cop named Ed and another large band of survivors, Ed had arrested Jasper Brown in Charleston right across the harbor from the island, and the same man ended up killing Brown or rather Bowler Hat the undead version of Brown. Does that strike you as more than coincidence? What they hell are the odds. And some where along the line a nut job named Mikhail joins up with Bowler hat and does his dead level best to kill my people, and myself. I kill Mikhial and now some one else using Mikhail’s Rifle is running loose gunning for me. Tell me that’s not beyond strange.”

Jansen leaned back in his chair, he had to concede it was strange, but he hadn’t been part of the group till they reached Sullivan and took out Parks. So he had only heard the stories about the trip to the island, and had never associate the stories with what he had experienced which had been weird enough. He thought it over probably for to long, because Jared cleared his throat.

“Sorry I was thinking it over, yes its weird. But come on Jared this just sounds like Mikhail had partner who wants revenge.”

“Probably,” Jared admitted but he didn’t sound like it was what he really believed. Jared flipped the lid of his lap top open powered it up then called up a program before sliding it across the table to Jansen. “ You might want to take a look at that, those are two books written by two different people from before the dead rose that had a lot to say about what’s going on now. I think its time some one else read that and join me on the way to the booby hatch.”

“Thanks for trying to drag me along with you” Jansen said.

“oh I think its more than fair” Jared said, he looked like he was about to say something else but changed his mind and instead rose to his feet. “ Read that its long and its a lot of myths and legends along with the authors professional analysis of the meaning of the myths and legends. I wont say anything else, just read it then give me your opinion on it”

“hang on Jared, I have one last question, why are you suddenly drawing me into your confidence, not that I’m not thrilled by it, but why not Ori or Ronny or even Jill.” Jansen asked.

Jared watched him for a moment, then shook his head “I think that’s a conversation for another day Thor, but let me just say that I have trusted you since shortly after we first met, but recently I have gained even more trust in you so lets just leave it at that for now.” Jared said then turned and walked from the room, leaving Thor Jansen to wonder if what he thought Jared meant was really what the man meant.

Next Ill be doing the whole, does he know that I know that he knows that I know routine. He turned his attention to the screen and began to read, after a few minutes even his thoughts about Jill slid into the background.

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

Ronny sat on the edge of the bed, he had to admit he loved this bunker, for the first time in a long time, they had the privacy they had both been needed.

“you had better be exhausted” Mary said tossing the handcuffs onto the floor.

“oh I am,” Ronny said as he poured himself a glass of water from his canteen.

“good” she said sitting up, god she is beautiful Ronny thought as the sheet slid down revealing smooth skin and medium sized perky breasts that would not have looked out of place on a twenty year old. He took a drink and sat the glass down.

“I almost forgot that the world ended you were so good” He said with a half smile”and where did you find that dress and those stiletto heels anyway.”

“I have my ways” She said languidly tracing a finger from her throat down between her breasts. “ ready for round three” She asked.

“Let me get my pants on so I can hit the head down the hall and I’m all yours for another hour when I get back.” He said grabbing his pants and pulling them on quickly and roughly. “ooow” he barked as he caught a part of himself that he really didn’t want to hurt. “damn it” he said finally extracting himself and getting his pants on. “ be right back” he said heading for the door barely even noticing his limp.

He rushed through his business, eager to get back to Mary, for the first time in months he felt like himself, well as much as he had felt like himself since the world had ended. He limped back down the hall and stepped into the bedroom and stopped. Tyler, one of Lees assistants, stood beside the bed a pistol pointed at Mary.

“come on in asshole and have a seat.” Tyler said motioning to the bed. “thought we would have a talk before I killed her.”

Behind Tyler Ronny saw a familiar form, but it was silent this time, only a gloating smile gave any indication how it felt.

“move it, I don’t have but a few minutes, so don’t waste that last minutes of both your lives trying to figure out how to get out of this.” Tyler said jabbing the pistol at Mary

Ronny went cold, the fear for his wife was almost to much but he did as Tyler said.

“be thankful I let you two pervs have a little fun before I killed you. You too are really twisted by the way” Tyler said.

“Why?” Ronny asked, refusing to let the fear surface, but it was so damn hard.

“I could say why not, but the truth is, I have my orders. And Strider well Strider was a good friend of mine. So it’s a bit of business and pleasure”

“you prick” Ronny snapped.

“No, I’m a bastard, a real mean one at that” Tyler said with a smile. “ and don’t worry about stalling it seems the cameras out in the hallways are old and have intermittent shorts. So Jared wont be riding to the rescue any time soon Ronny. When he does find you. Well, you will have sadly taken your own life after killing your wife, I guess you couldn’t take the stress of life, or how you attacked Lee, and of course your drug addiction you just finally snapped.” Tyler said with a grin, that almost sent Ronny lunging at him.

Mary shook her head, then darter her eyes down to the sheets where her hand rested. With Tyler standing behind her he couldn’t see the swift movement.

“so you’re the one” Ronny said stating the obvious but if it delayed Tyler then it was well worth it. at least he knew now that he had not been the one, god what a relief that had been.

“didn’t expect the grease monkey helping Lee did you” Tyler said smiling. “actually I like Lee, I really hated that part, and of course Ill still have to kill him, so I can do a little more damange with out detection but those are the breaks”

“we took you in, gave you a place” Ronny said.

“old world sentiment, survival of the fittest is the rule of the day, and that’s Kronnen Ronny. You folks just let any one wander on in settle down and devour your supplies. You think you can bring back a world of laziness, queers, reading stupid books. Please how big an idiot is Jared with his whole lets strip the libraries and museums and start the worlds largest collection of useless shit. Just like your joke cracking ass flying around thinking its going to last forever.. well its not, soon.. well Jared will find out its not going to matter for you and Mary.. whom I do regret having to kill, she would have been a great breeder.”

Ronny saw the look that crossed Mary’s face, Tyler had just touched a major nerve, no one just dismissed her and or thought she was some simpering woman fit only to bear kids.

“I think not”Mary said as she lifted something from under the sheets, twisting she rammed it upwards into Tylers arm. Tyler shouted in pain dropping the pistol as all the muscles in his arm and shoulder spasmed from the device mary held.. the electric wands current flowing through him while not lethal could hurt, hurt badly when set as high as she had set it earlier.

Ronny lunged across the bed past Mary rolling off the edge and into Tylers legs, knocking him over. “Ronny” Mary yelled, tossing him the wand. Ronny snatched it out of the air as Tyler was scrambling to his feet. He stabbed out nailing Tyler in the small of the back, Tyler twitched and fell sprawling. “no one messes with my wife” Ronny snarled as he used his good leg to throw himself forward ramming the wand between Tyler’s legs. The man screamed and convulsed trying to get away.

Outside Ronny could hear shouts and boots pounding down the hallway. “Guess what Jared is on his way” Ronny said ramming the wand back into Tylers crotch smiling as the man twitched. “You can tell Strider I said Hi” Ronny said quietly as he reached with his free hand and snagged his pistol off the floor.

The door boomed open and Jared and Ori where the first into the room To find Ronny essentially tasering Tyler in the Crotch, while Mary stood naked on the bed Ronnys P90 in her hands.

“Ronny you can stop now” Jared said stepping forward, his HK trained on Tyler.

“he was going to Kill Mary, and make it look like I did it” Ronny said drawing back the Wand and rammed it forwad once more, as Tyler twitched Ronny tossed it aside and transferred his pistol to his Right hand.

“Ronny, we need him alive” Jared said if he was angry at the Betrayl is wasn’t showing.

“I came in here to talk to him about his pill problem, I saw them both popping pills in the back of the bay Jared.” Tyler said. “ I found ….”

“oh bull shit, Ronny did have a problem because you switched out the meds he was taking. But Justin got him clean. And since I know he hasn’t taken another pills since Mt. Weather, I know your lying” Jared said stepping aside so Cooper and Spacey entered the room, both of them hard faced, rifles held Ready. “get him out of here” Jared said.

“Mary, as good looking as you are and I admit you look hot naked and holding a Rifle, could you get dressed it’s a bit distracting “ Jared said watching as Spacey and Copper dragged Tyler to his feet.

Tyler spit at Jared as he was dragged past the Red head and out into the hall. “resist, oh please fucking resist” Spacey said as he looked back to see Rameriz stepping up with quick ties so they could bind Tyler’s wrists.

“Kronnen is going to come for you with Beth Strapped to the front of his truck” Tyler shouted. “After he has used her like a cheap whore.”

Ori leaped at him, but Jared got him by the arm “ calm down Ori the man is just trying to piss you off.” Jared said calmly, Ori struggled trying to pull free but finally Jareds tone got through and he calmed down just enough to keep from Just shooting the smirking ass in the crotch..

Ronny bent and picked up the wand and as he rose he suddenly rammed the wand into Tyler’s groin again, and as the man twitched and moaned Ronny gave a dismayed look. “sorry, I was just cleaning it and it went off. Now say your sorry or I’m shoving this up where the sun don’t shine so it can zap your butt till the batteries go dead.”

For half a second the corners of Jared’s mouth twitched then he shook his head. “take him out of here” Jared said. Daws nodded and left the room with Cooper and Spacey who were half dragging the traitor out of the room.

Ronny suddenly looked around, his eyes wide then calmed down, the thing he had seen behind Tyler was no longer there.

“Ronny” Jared said turning to face his friend. “damn good job Brother, damn good”

“Mary shocked him so I could jump his butt, she’s the one that did great” Ronny said but he smiled, a real genuine smile, even if there was a slight tremor in his hands.

“I’m surprised she didn’t spank his butt into submission, but hey if shock therapy is how you two relax who am I to judge” Jared said chuckling as he turned and led the rest of the men out of the room.

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

The sun rose over the mountain sending a wave of golden light across the snow covered forested mountain flanks. The light set the snow to shining like a sheet of diamonds that seemed to be a promise of hope.

Jared stood there breathing in the cold crisp air, for once there was no smell of undead only the crisp smell of winter and woods. Right now, he didn’t care about Tyler, or Kronnen. All he wanted right now was to enjoy the moment, enjoy the beauty he could see out there and pretend for just a few minutes that there were no undead and that the promise of peace he saw out there was real.

The moment didn’t last long, not long at all he decided as heard some one walk up behind him, he turned to find Jansen standing there looks smug,

“isn’t that mustache out of regs” Jared asked.

“so write me up, Letter of counseling should do the trick” Jansen said as he smoothed his mustache with a finger. “besides, I’m only copying you, minus the goatee you are growing out again.”

Jared grinned, Jill had talked him into growing his mustache and goatee out once more, he liked it but he didn’t really care one way or another about facial hair but if she liked it, that was different..

“just came up to tell you that Tyler is refusing to talk,not a real surprise” Jansen said as he turned to look at the view Jared had been admiring. “makes me miss home” Jansen said then turned back to Jared. “we cant afford to keep him around Jared, and I’m not just talking about the food the slime is going to need. But if he gets loose he will do everything he can to hurt us on the way out.”

“I know” Jared replied, “ what am I supposed to do, kill him”

“Id say yes, it’s the safest course of action, but the decent side of me says no, that’s what Kronnen would do, but its also the right thing to do in this case.”

“maybe,” Jared said then shook his head. “ no you right, if I let him leave, and he kills any more people it will be my fault, but cold blooded murder I don’t know. If I had stepped in and Ronny or Mary was on the floor I wouldn’t have hesitated to put the traitor down.”

“he almost killed Lee” Jansen pointed out.

“I know, I know.. but if I step over that line, I will not be me any more and I don’t think I can live with that.” Jared replied.

Jansen shrugged as he shifted position trying to warm up, it was probably around 12 degrees outside at the moment. “then I suggest we figure out a way to use him against Kronnen with out his knowing it.”

“I suppose you have a way to do that,” Jared asked.

“actually yes, at least one of the guys locked up in the detention center is a true believer in things Kronnen. Mac and the others are too scared to return, it seems that Kronnen has a habit of killing those who fail him. I think if we make sure this guy hears a few things we want him to hear, then figure out a way to allow him to escape with out making it obvious then make sure he knows Tyler is a loyal follower of Kronnen. Lets face it, Tyler isn’t stupid, if we tried this with him, he would suspect a trap, but this other guy isn’t half as smart.” Jansen explained.

“then Ill leave it up to you to work out. But make sure Mac and the others are separated from him. as far as I’m concerned the ones that aren’t going to return to Kronnen can head to Canada like Mac said they wanted to.” Jared said.

“me, do I look like a spy.” Jansen asked.

“no but you can get with Jill and between the two of you I’m damn sure you can work it out” Jared replied. Jansen started to protest, wanted to really. But instead he closed is mouth. “or is there a problem with working with Jill” Jared asked.

“no, no there isn’t” Jansen replied, half tempted to tell Jared the whole truth, that he loved Jill and had no intention of every hitting on her but to do this they would have to spend a lot of time alone together, and Jansen wasn’t sure that was a wise idea no matter how good his self control. And he damn sure didn’t not want rumors flying that would hurt Jill or Jared’s reputations with the others.

He didn’t say a word about it, Jared had to know that there might end up gossip if people realized Jill was spending a lot of time with another man. But there was a solution. “mind if I include another person” Jansen asked.

“who?” Jared asked.

“Ed, He is smart and maybe having been a cop will give him a better perspective on the subject than I or Jill.” Jansen replied.

“go ahead, but no one else unless you clear it with me” Jared said, before he could say anything he heard motors in the distance, and then a guard announcing over the radio there were six vehicles approaching.

“it appears we have company” Jared said. “the world is damn sure getting smaller”

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

Darius joined Jared at the gate, a smile of relief on his face as he saw his sister waving from behind the wind shield of the MANKAT. “those are my folks” Darius told Jared.

“I hate to break it to you, but we don’t have enough room in the yard for all those vehicles” Jared said. “ how many are in your group”

“ forty one at last count, “ Darius said.

“sounds like you have been busy” Jared commented.

“just a bit, Ace” Darius replied.

“Keep the undead back, we are going to have let in the Two RVs, but all the other vehicles are going to have park outside. That means people on foot, so cover them” Jared said as he checked his HK.

“need help” Ori asked Jared gritted his teeth to keep from snapping at Ori for almost scaring him yet again. But Darius actually jumped which made Jared feel better.

“damn son, where the hell did you come from” Darius asked as Jared chuckled.

“if you feel like shooting a few pus bags, I can use the help” Jared said then smiled as he saw Ronny limping towards them. “come on Ronny times wasting” Jared called out.

The guards on top of semi trailers were starting to open fire by the time Ronny reached Jared and Ori. “Ready” Jared asked, Ronny nodded looking grim, Ori just shrugged his face completely blank.

“open it up” Jared said. Two soldiers opened the gate and Jared followed by Darius and his friends stepped out. Jansen joining them at the last second. “Darius explain it to them, only the two RVs inside, the rest of them need to park by the semi’s.”

As Darius ran to the first vehicle in the line Jared and the others stepped out of the Kill box before the gates to face the undead in loose semi circle. Jareds weapon snapped up as he spotted the first group of undead fifty feet away, “clear the road folks” he said as he began to fire slowly and methodically, giving himself time to aim.

Ori stayed close to Ronny and off to Jared’s right, the bark of the P90 Ronny was firing distinctive over that of Ori and Jared’s HK’s or Jansen’s M-4. t Under the lash of gun fire the undead tumbled to the ground, most dead, a few just crippled, and rarely one or two would stand back up and keep coming with only a hole or two in their torso’s, only to be whittled down by the combined gun fire of one or two men. As soon as the fifty were down, Jared and his group shifted their aim to the next batch of undead, and put them down.

They ignored the crawlers till they were almost close enough to be a danger then put them down with single shots and went back to the larger groups that just kept coming wading through the gore and the scattered limbs with out a care for the bullets smashing their fellows aside.

Jared was on his fourth magazine when a rifle boomed from behind them, and then Darius was striding up firing his Winchester, pumping the lever rapidly till the weapon was empty then slung it across his back as he drew his pistol and began to fire carefully using a two handed grip.

The Two RV’s pulled into the yard, while the other vehicles parked, as men and women, and even a few children leaped out of the trucks, jeeps and cars, Jared and his people laid down covering fire, while the new arrivals gathered packs and bags then rushed for the gate. The whole thing took less than five minutes and as the last of the new arrivals was in side the gate and safe, Jared led the men with him back into the yard letting the guards up on the trailers finish off the undead closest to the kill box. The gates closed and Jared took a deep breath, as the adrenalin shakes sat in.

“Lets get them below” Jared said after a moment when he could get the shakes under control, he was actually amazed to see the wide ethnic make up of Darius’s group and there were even kids.

Jill and Mary seemed to appear out of no where along with Diane and several others and began to lead the people to the ramp and down into the bunker Mary stayed just long enough to hug Ronny then led a pretty Chinese girl and ten kids away.

“You like her don’t you” Jared asked Darius who was watching the Asian woman.

“ Yeah, I do” Darius admitted, “not that it matters, till I help get Nates wife and the last of our people free I don’t have a lot of time to spare for women.”

“trust me, you might want to make time” Jared said. “any of us could die at any moment, take what you can get while you can.”

Darius just shrugged, he wasn’t going to try and explain it to Jared or any one else.

“well lets get below so you can spend time with your group, and I need to get ready for a very long cross country trip.” Jared said.

“We, need to get ready I’m going with you. “ Darius said “that was the deal. “

“Go spend time with your sister and the others for awhile, I wont leave with out you.” Jared promised.

Unless something happened to change it, Jared and Ori were leaving tomorrow. What puzzled Jared was, assuming Mac was not lying, why were the men who held Beth near Knoxville. They couldn’t be heading towards St. Louis unless they were just taking the long way around and that was a total waste of fuel and no one was going to just burn fuel.
So where were they going.

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

Beth stood outside the Van, looking north as the children slowly climbed into the van bundled up in their new coats and gloves that their kidnappers had actually risked their lives to gather.

But her concern for the kids was only growing as she eyed the skyline of Knoxville their captors intended to drive through the city and not around and that scared her to death, not just for herself but for the kids.. a city full of the undead was dangerous, far beyond the dangers of being out in small towns or in the woods.

She had been so well behaved that their captors were finally relaxing around her, but Williams, he never relaxed ever and he was the one that truly scared her.

She prayed that Ori and Jared where on the way, but knew that it could have been days before they found out. And then they were going to have to figure out where in three states she was. she couldn’t figure out a single way to let them… her gaze shifted from the city that lay before her to the Box truck with the whip antenna’s but only for a second.

“get in the Van” Williams said appearing as if from no where behind her.

“we shouldn’t go through the city” She said.

“Get in the Van” Williams repeated in a flat dead tone that set her to shivering.

She shrugged and climbed inside hoping that these men were able to get them in and out with out any of the kids being eaten.

Williams started to climb into the van, but before he could the door slid shut, furious he banged on the door, only to have Bradley stick his head out the window. “ your riding in the truck behind us, Better seats and a Good heater” Bradley yelled as the Van lurched forward Leaving Williams glaring at the Van as the truck pulled up beside him.

He throttled back the urge to shoot the scraggly bearded driver, he climbed inside ignoring the man, his gaze never left the Van ahead of him. Bradley would pay the moment he was no longer needed he was going to die slowly and painfully in such a way that the instructors at the Lubyanka would be proud.

If there was a ghost of protest in a deep dark corner of his mind, he ignored it, the owner of that voice was dead.

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14 thoughts on “Chapter Ten

  1. mmmm . very good okelly . Wasnt sure where you were going at the begining but got real interesting ….. wiliams gonna die lol

    Like

  2. This entire chapter is good. All of it. Even the last half.

    I enjoyed this chapter, O’Kelly. I sure wish they’d hurry and get Beth, though. I worry about her, and about the kids even more.

    Haslom the medic seems… familiar. I like him.

    Like

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