Chapter sixteen

“ Within the breath of autumn woods,
Within the winter silences:
Thy venomous spirit stirs and broods,
O Master of impieties!”
~Lionel Johnson.

December 18, 1200hrs

The sun was up high in the sky hidden behind clouds that promised either icy rain or more snow. The tops of the mountains were covered in a fog that reached up to the sky like smoky tendrils.

The columns of vehicles were parked in a large fenced in lot that had been part of a construction equipment rental and Auction site.

Jared was talking quietly to Ronny, Ori, Ed and Jansen; from the set of his shoulders he was angry and upset.

“what exactly is going on?” Brian asked as he came to stand beside Jill who shrugged.

“I’m not sure,” she replied honestly. All she knew was Jared had gotten a call on the Sat phone that had lasted no more than a couple of minutes and then had ordered the column to stop as soon as they found a secure location.

Finally they finished talking and Jared walked slowly over to the assembled men and women. Ignoring the undead that were scattered along the fence slowly pawing at the chain link fence.

“I need to tell you folks something,” Jared said. “ an hour ago, six boats tried to attack Sullivan. They were driven off with heavy losses, but have set themselves up on Mt. Pleasant with four mortar teams and sniper nests. What they can range on with the snipers is thankfully a part of the island we don’t use, so we only lost three men on a patrol. What they reach easily is the flight deck of the Yorktown, they have Dean and his men pinned down and there is no possibility of getting birds off the deck. The one that tried was blown out of the air by a stinger. The mortars have so far mostly hit water, with one exception they dropped two rounds on a building we were already working on tearing down. “ He glanced at Beth and then Wendy and her people who were shivering in the lash of the cold wind, teeth chattering. “What that means for us here and now is we cant fly any one back to the island.

The boats we have are being used to keep the water around the island safe, and cant be spared. So the only way back is overland, and we cant take that route, Kronnen will be hot on our heels in pursuit and all that will mean is more a much larger force that will be able to rush the Bridge and take the island. To futher complicate matters, the sat phones we just started using no longer seem to work, I was cut off in midsentence, and none of the others seem to work either”

they were being jammed, of that Jared was certain, because he hadn’t seen satellites suddenly start raining down. That Butt wipe General Bedford was helping Kronnen by depriving them of long range communications. That still left the HAM and the short wave units, but even those had limits especially in mountainous area’s .

“So Beth and Wendy you and yours will be staying in the bunker, and any one else that doesn’t like the odds can stay as well, Kronnen has nothing that can get him inside that bunker and with the supplies in the Cache you can spend a few years inside with out starving if it comes to that but it wont. Kronnen is going to be chasing after me and who ever comes along for the death ride.” Jared said ignoring the look on Jills face, he knew she wanted to protest, wanted to scream at him to take back those words but he had to tell them the truth. Who ever went along on this had to know they would probably not be coming back. No one said a word, the only sound was the wind and the rattle of chain link.

“Okay, lets mount up, every one has a lot of thinking to do before we reach the Bunker. That’s only have three hours to decide what you want to do.” Jared said

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

Williams pulled over and picked up the device on the passenger seat of the 4×4 jeep Sahara that he had taken from a dealers lot when his truck had crapped out. He turned on the device and smiled to himself as the tracker came to life with a glow.

One of the many things Americans had excelled at, far better than Mother Russia sadly, had been the ability to keep track of their citizens if they so chose, he had read about these units a few years ago and had been lucky to find it and several of the small Tracking units in the US marshals Command Vehicle in the Evac center where Jared and his people had recovered the Police Command vehicle.

He had slipped two trackers onto two of Jared’s vehicles last night while they were camped, at one point he had been six feet from Stone. Laying under that black van Stone loved so much, hidden in the darkness and right there was Stone and his wife.. so close he could have finished the American right then and there except he was in a position that didn’t allow him the easy use of a weapon, and Stone had that damned pistol on his thigh.

Any noise that might indicate an attack would bring that pistol out and firing and he knew how little chance he stood against it. so he had lain there quietly, listening to Stone and his people talk about nothing, joking and laughing like the world wasn’t hell outside their camp.

That had given him some pause they did not act like he had seen most Americans act in this disaster. It was as Jasper Brown had said, they had hope and it was that hope that needed to be destroyed before they could be wiped away, and every where they went they left a little hope with the people who heard their motors, or saw that plane soaring overhead. with regret he had waited then when the camp had quieted he slipped away into the darkness.

He waited till Stones people were a mile up the road then put the jeep in gear and started after them

He drove in silence, considering his ultimate plan carefully as the miles rolled under his wheels, he paid little to no attention to the undead that were staggering along the road still doggedly following the line of vehicles that had passed earlier, but the huge group up ahead caught his attention, he couldn’t drive off the side of the road and go around because there was a river to his right and a thick tree line to his left.

Suddenly to his surprise, the crowd of undead that had turned and began to head his way hearing his motor stopped and spread apart leaving a lane between them.

He smiled coldly and drove slowly between the two lines of undead that stood there like sentinels. A burst of static and the radio came to life the glowing sapphire blue screen flashed and suddenly a song burst from the speakers.

There was something dark and compelling about the music, and a cruel smile flickered across his lips as he caught the refrain “ Don’t fear the Reaper” fingers tapping the steering wheel he settled back in the seat and drove on, and for just a moment, a split second that seemed to last an eternity, he saw something the rear view mirror, an over sized head with a huge hooked nose, oddly shaped cloudy eyes peered at him from the shadows under the brim of a bowler hat a cold hating smile quivered across its lips and then it was gone.

He left the honor guard of the dead behind him music wailing from the speakers, he drove north after his enemy.

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

December 19th, 1300hrs.

The vehicles, at least the RV’s and civilian model vehicles were crammed once more into the Maintenance yard that concealed the entrance into the Cache.

Jill walked across the snow covered gravel, to the Custom Semi tractor RV that was her home, like Jared she had no desire to spend much time in the bunker.

Wendy and her people had been almost delirious with joy, when Jared had driven them down the tunnel and into the cache, they had only gotten more excited when he left them into the actual bunker and showed them around.

Jared had left them in the bunk room to go check on Daws and make sure Kathy and the wounded survivors from Wendy’s group were doing well, only to find Wendy and her people gone, it hadn’t taken long to find them, he had followed the children’s shrieks of laughter and found them all in the showers. Jill smiled at that, Jared had spent some time explaining how the water was limited, as was power and laid out the rules.

But at the moment the battered wounded group of survivors, were just enjoying being able to eat and get clean again, Jill had seen it time and again on Sullivan and with new people on the road, the most basic elements of the old world was like a miracle to those who had made it so long in the hell the world had become.

She doubted they would break the rules, even a four minute shower to conserve water was better than no showers and baths. At some point she was going to have to find a source of water and design a pump system to bring water to the tanks in the bunker.

Ori and Lee were down in the server room, with jareds permission downloading data on how to set up a hydroponics garden, there was more than enough room in one of the bays to set up a huge hydroponics garden and Algae fuel system.

She knew Jared already was planning on making this place a self sufficient out post where teams could go out looking for survivors to bring back and establish a community. With enough people the hotel could be cleared for survivors to live in, and if and when the undead fell over they could plant crops and hunt to feed themselves.

She was going to suggest setting up banks of solar panels and maybe wind turbines, then setting up a shop here much like Robs with CNC machines and 3d printers that could be used to make spare parts for critical machinery in the bunker.

She climbed into the Rv, and saw Beth sitting with Ori, she and the kids were saying their final goodbyes. Jared wasn’t staying the night, he had a feeling they would be trapped here for days on end if they did.

She let them have their moment heading into the back where she threw herself on the bed and wanted to do nothing more than strip off her leathers and armor and relax for a week.

She hadn’t been there for more than two minutes when there came a soft knock at the door, and Beth peeked in. “ just wanted to say Bye,” Beth said.

Jill rose from the bed ignoring her bodies protest, “you keep safe Beth,” Jill told her as they hugged.

“I will, and when you come back I want you to teach me everything you know about Self defense, Ori is going to get Jared to teach me how to shoot a pistol.” Beth told her as they separated.

“You can already shoot” Jill said with a smile.

“I can shoot zombies, I just spent some time learning there is a difference shooting people” Beth said. “ and I refuse to be taken so easily ever again.”

“Well if any one can teach you how to effectively shoot a pistol its Jared” Jill replied, over the last year and half she had come to agree with Ori and the others Jared with a pistol in his hands was scary.

“Take care Jill, and make sure Jared doesn’t do something stupid. Ori thinks …” her voice trailed off then she shook herself. “ Ori is worried that Jared might be on a death ride, his words not mine”

Jill didn’t let her emotions show, Jared had given her that speech about how he thought he was going to die and was supposedly past it, but she didn’t quite believe him. she had thought at the time and still did that he had just accepted the idea that his death was right around the corner. He was dealing with it with the aplomb of the old Samuria, he practiced his guitar every free moment he got, had started trying to draw, and was constantly writing in his journal almost every night before he went to sleep.

“I will ” She promised Beth. “ you just be here when we get back”

“I’ve been through a lot lately, I think I can handle living in bunker that a Nuclear weapon cant take out.” Beth said.

They hugged again and Beth walked toward the door to the Motor home gathering the kids.

Jill pulled off the armored leather jacket she wore and tossed it on the floor, I’m becoming more like Jared she thought as she made herself pick the thing up and hang it on the hook.

She turned and saw Brian standing in the doorway his hand raised to knock on the open door, he blushed deeply, his eyes fixed on her chest, she wore a sports bra, but knew it hid little especially being white and soaked with perspiration.

“I’m sorry, I… Ill wait out here” he said in a rush.

“no its okay, I was just getting ready to relax a little” she said with a friendly smile, he was making a manly effort to keep his eyes fixed on her face and not her chest. “what can I help you with” Jill asked.

“I was wondering if your group would mind if I come along” Brian said, he still felt like there was something he had to do, maybe helping rescue Beth and the Kids wasn’t what his dream had meant.

“we had no plans on throwing you out, but except a level of suspicion. Kronnen has slipped spies in on us before” Jill said as she unbuckled the motorcycle boots she wore and kicked them off.

She stopped undressing, and looked up at Brian seeing the discomfort on his face, he was ready to leave. “I’m sorry, your new. Your not used to us yet. when you travel around in a group crammed together in RVs and small Vehicles privacy doesn’t exist.” Jill said

“I understand, its just been a while since I’ve been around women” Brian said, especially around women who are undressing and in a bedroom, he thought, much longer than a year and a half.

She nodded as if she understood and sat down on the bed her eye’s fixed on the sword he wore strapped to his waist. “I found this” he said touching the hilt “even met the man who made it.”

“nice work” she said. Brian drew the blade then reversed it and handed it to her hilt first.

The sword was fairly long with a straight narrow double edged blade that was common for a later period, early 1600’s maybe, she thought, The hilt was a hand a half hilt with a pommel weight that had been cast as a blazing sun that enclosed a cut yellow gemstone. .
Another Sun burst with a cross at its center was etched onto the blade just above the Guard or Quillons, and a motto in Latin was etched into the length of the blade. “Fiat justitia et ruat caelum” Let justice be done though the Heavens fall she translated mentally, and people said taking Latin in school was a waste of time.

“Interesting inscription” she said testing the balance of the blade, “and well made the balance is great.”

“I find it appropriate considering the state of the world” Brian replied.

“You read Latin” She asked surprised, she had honestly thought she was probably the last Person in the world who could read and even speak latin, well badly speak it had years.

“Yes” he said simply “Let justice be done though heaven falls”

“Who ever made this weapon was an expert” she said passing the sword back to Brian Hilt first. He took his blade back and sheathed it.

“Yes he was, and that’s the other reason I wanted to talk with you” Brian said. “you see the man that made this blade is part of a group of survivors who are holed up in a Renaissance festival.” Brian said and then gave Jill the whole story of how he had come to be in possession of the sword and the group of survivors that he had sheltered with for several months.

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

Kronnen stepped out of the RV, into the cold outside with out even really noticing. Since his near death he really didn’t notice things like cold or hot. Proctor, his hair more gray than dark exited to stand by his side as a battered truck rolled into the camp.

Its bumper had been ripped away, headlights were shattered, there were huge dents in across the front of the truck, and if one looked closely they could see clumps of hair and splatters of gore across the hood.

It came to a stop and the door opened with a squeal of metal on metal, the driver having to kick on the door to get it to open enough to let him slip out.

“Tyler, Welcome home” Kronnen said a huge smile appearing on his face as he stepped forward and shook Tyler’s hand, pumping it like a politician looking for a vote.

“Thanks its good to be back” Tyler said with a smile that showed just how worn out he was. it had taken much longer to get in contact with Kronnens people and find a new rendezvous site than Tyler had planned for. But now that he was here he didn’t mind the delay in the least.

“what happened to the other men with you” Kronnen asked looking at the empty truck.

“They were killed during an attack by a huge horde of walkers” Tyler replied. “I wouldn’t even have made it to the truck if it hadn’t been for Brassel, he was a good man” Tyler shook his head with a sorrowful look on his face.

Proctor shifted his weight slightly, but held his tongue. Not that Kronnen believed Tyler either, Tyler was loyal, and wouldn’t not have hesitated to kill the men with him if it got him back to report.

“Lets go inside,” Kronnen said gesturing at the door to the motor home many called his palace.

Tyler had never been inside the palace, and looked around with interest, trying not to oogle the nearly naked woman whom he remembered seeing on Tv a lot back before the dead had risen. what clothing she wore really didn’t hide anything, assuming a sheer robe and a g string could be called clothing. He thought as she gave him a fake smile as she handed each of the men a glass of whiskey,

He must have looked to long, he realized as Kronnen said. “ yes she is a beauty isn’t she. So pretty I thought it was a shame for her to hide that beauty under clothing. Not that what she used to wear hid much more than what you see today and if your report makes me happy you will be in position to have your own woman to train as you see fit.” Kronnen said with with a harsh smile as he slapped the womans butt hard enough to leave a hand print.

Tyler didn’t know what to say to that, he had never really even thought about owning any one before. But the idea of owning a woman like her that he could do what ever he wanted with was a big turn on, if there was even a little bit of shame for enjoying the idea it was buried deep inside and he didn’t notice it.

“I guess I can start by saying Stone’s people have been trying to root out our spies since they captured Kylie when she was captured trying to kill Jared and his wife.” Tyler said. “but there were rumors that one of our spies switched sides when Beth was kidnatted and was giving up all the spies he or she knew about” Tyler said grimacing with anger. “I tend to believe it because of what happened to me.”

It couldn’t be that you got to eager and leaped with out looking now could it, Proctor thought glancing at Kronnen who only sat there sipping at his whiskey indicating Tyler should continue with a wave of his hand.

“from what I gathered, Jared is after something in D.C. that only a couple of his friends know about. Some kind of Bunker or redoubt under the capitol building, or there’s a tunnel from the capitol building to the bunker, what little I heard wasn’t real clear on that point..”

“And how exactly did you hear this?” Kronnen asked quietly.

“you would be amazed at what people talk about, when a wrench monkey is working on their vehicle.” Tyler said. “he wanted to keep it quiet so badly, he started having Prisoners executed so there was no chance they could escape and tell you.” Tyler said then told them what had happened in the cell block right up to his escape from the bunker.

“And your sure you were not allowed to escape?” Proctor asked when Tyler was finished.

“Positive! no way would Jared have risked the lives of his men for a put on. Especially not Daws who is one of Jared’s closest men. Hell I wouldn’t be surprised if he and Jared were butt buddies, and that Jansen guy too, who is probably banging Jareds wife on the side.” Tyler said, he wasn’t sure he really believed that Jared was sleeping with two of his closets military buddies, but he was almost certain that Jill and Thor Jansen were sleeping together and Jared knew about it. “and Daws and the Hunter were not faking when they started to torture me.”

“it just seems convenient that Stones wife showed up when she did and put a stop to it.” Kronnen said leaning back.

“I didn’t think so then, and I still don’t now. She was to upset to the point she was ready to shoot either man if they didn’t stop immediately.

Jared may be a bleeding heart type, but he isn’t squeamish when it comes to protecting his people. but what he is, is direct. Game playing and subterfuge are just not something he does and Jill is even more direct than Jared. From what I overheard one of the guards saying, She tore Jared a new ass in front of god and everybody for what Daws and the Hunter were about to do to me..”

“ but there is a chance that. “ Proctor said then fell silent with out completing the sentence as Kronnen signaled for him to stop talking.

“I would like to hear more about this secret bunker in D.C. and what they are doing on the island.”

“I didn’t hear a lot about the bunker, but what I did hear was that there might be some kind of bad ass WMD in the bunker that could kill every undead in its range, another thing I heard was it was supposed to be some kind of command an control center for a space based weapons system. All I know for a fact is there is something in there that Jared wants really badly, and that the bunker or an entrance is in the capitol building.

As far as Sullivan goes, if you can take the island with minimal damage, we will have an outpost with power, some fresh water capacity, boats and a limited manufacture base.” Tyler said then shrugged and got down to details, talking about the CNC machines, 3 d printers, the solar arrays being scavenged and set up, the nascent phone system being installed and everything else he could remember.

Kronnen listened closely, much of what Tyler told him was old news, but some of it he had not heard before now, and that made him wonder about the few reports he had gotten out of his agents on Sullivan.

The few agents that had reported back, had to leap through hoops to get a message back to him. they first had to write up their report in a cipher, then that report was left at a dead drop that changed weekly, where it was picked up the an agent whose only job was to retrieve the reports and then pass them on to one or more couriers who got them off island using a variety of covers to a small island where they were transmitted to Proctor or who ever he had assigned to monitor the frequency.

Whether his spies on the island had been turned didn’t really matter at this point, he had men already moving out of St. Louis on their way to help force their way on to the island. Including Bradley whose primary mission was to rescue Kylie and destroying the islands ammunition and weapons dump.

“I think in light of what Tyler has reported about the bunker, we should concentrate our forces on getting to D.C, before Stone.” Proctor said.

Kronnen stroked his chin for a moment. “ I agree, knowing the government I doubt there is a way to open the escape tunnel from the outside, and it will surely be locked and blocked in the bunker itself, and there is no other to gain entrance with out spending years to dig it out and hack through many feet of concrete and rebar with hand tools. But we are not going to rush to get to D.C. before Stone. We have lost enough men and equipment to cluster bombs and booby traps, and some few to undead. we will proceed with caution, but I wont our helicopter to take a small team of men to establish an observation post where they can observed the Capitol building and be able to contact us when Stone arrives.” Kronnen said in a tone that Proctor knew was a warning not to argue. As for Tyler here, Find a woman in the pool he likes and giver her to him.” Kronnen said rising to his feet he grabbed his woman and pulled her after him to the bedroom in the back of the RV.

Proctor sighed and rose to his feet, the pool of Volunteers was steadily shrinking as the women were handed out or killed them selves. But there were still enough that thought volunteering to be owned by one of Kronnens favorites was far better than being tossed to the troops or being left on the side of the road naked and unarmed.

At some point, if Kronnen continued this practice, they were going to have to stop giving women the option and claiming it was more humanitarian for them to serve in the only way they could, and force them into service no matter what the Free men and women in the group thought. Proctor hoped Kronnen would just stop it. Only the illusion of choice kept the Freeman quiet even though they disliked the practice, but take that away and there were going to be problems.

“Come on Tyler, there’s a really Hot blond we picked up in St.Louis your might like, she used to be some rich CEO or some such. She has nothing to offer in today’s world other than her body but youll like what she brings to the bedroom.” Proctor said, wondering exactly when he had become this man.

Kronnen leaned against the door listening as Proctor and Tyler left, Proctor was beginning to worry him, his old friend protested far to much lately and Kronnen wondered if it were possible that Proctor might betray him. Time would tell, and if Proctor did betray the trust Kronnen had in him, well he would just become food., Kronnen thought as he turned to his woman, not even bothered that he had completely forgotten her name because really what did it matter she was who ever he wanted her to be and tonight he wanted her to be.. “Whore make me happy” he said unzipping his pants.

If he sensed the dark presence that hovered in the small room, he gave no sign, but the woman shivered at the cold touch as she crawled on all fours towards the waiting Warlord who was smiling hugely, oblivious to the smell of rotting meat and blood.

She managed not to gag at the smell, or give any sign of discomfort, if Kronnen could read her mind, all he would hear was I have a name, I have a name and soft mental sobs as she tried to remember what her name was.

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

December 20th, 0930.

They had left the Bunker at Dawn, moving up 219 which ran along the GreenBrier river till they reached Marlinton West Virginia, a county seat and small town on the east bank of the river, surrounded by mountains. To the west of the town was Buck mountain and SR 219 that ran along the lower flank of Buck mountain, before dropping down to the river valley floor where an unmarked road split off of 219 and went east across the river in to the town proper, 291 continued on north to the river bend then angled west heading into another valley.

To the east, directly behind the town was Marlin Mountain, to the south was Monongahela national Forest and Buckley Mountain. From the maps the national forest extend up behind the town and the Mountain to the east.

North of town the river turned east around a spur of Marlin Mountain running between the mountain spur and Airport Hill.

Jared wanting to the cross the mountains and get closer to the coast had the convoy enter Marlinton. The HET pushed vehicles off the bridge to fall into the icy river below clearing the way for the convoy to cross behind it.

Marlinton was a typical small town of old civil war era buildings along side a few more modern buildings. Snow and slush covered the narrow road, where vehicles were scattered about abandoned by their owners, who had been trapped when the bridge had been blocked.

Lke every other town and city Jared had seen the people had tried to flee but, where do you flee to when the threat you face is everywhere, Jared thought as he drove past an old station wagon loaded with luggage and children’s toys. Its doors stood open and he caught a glimpse of a Teddy bear laying on a snow dusted rear seat.

He ground his teeth in anger for a moment, his hatred of the Dark rising but he shoved it aside, nothing would change no matter how angry he got so there was no point in it he decided. Children had died, died in the millions and it shouldn’t matter to him, but it did and lying to himself wasn’t going to change how he felt.

The undead were scarce on the streets, who knew why, it was like that in some places, but the few they saw were trapped in vehicles pawing at the windows, or were trying to walk on the ice and snow, usually crawling unable to get to their feet.

No one wasted Ammunition, there was no point, there wasn’t enough undead to block their way and they had no intention of stopping.

The road left the town, following Knapp creek which ran between two mountains, the road clinging to the base of Marlin mountain and into the valley on the other side which was part of the National forest. It was slowing going, the road was washed out in places, and trees lay across their path, brought down by a years worth of storms.

“You must love this place” Jill said looking at the mountains that ringed them in, as the HET and a crew of six men finished removing the latest blockage that had stopped them.

“I do” Jared said, “ I would love it more if there were no undead and at least one town full of people near by.” He grunted in satisfaction as the clearing crew returned to their vehicle and the whole convoy started moving again.

“I never realized how empty a place could fill till the dead rose” Jill said picking the conversation back up, understanding what Jared meant.

“speaking of empty” Jared said a few minutes later, pointing to a sign. Huntersville Pop. 73. some one had painted a line through the number and then added a zero.

“ I’m guessing who ever repainted that sign didn’t include themselves” Jill with a laugh that ended in a cough.

They slowed as the entered the town that had once been the a rendevous point for hunters and trappers far back in the day. The town lay not only at a road intesection but at the intersection of four mountains Marlin, Brushy, Buckley and Brown mountains, just to the east of Town was Devils backbone on the northern flank of Brushy mountain.

The town itself wasn’t much, though it had been the world to its former inhabitants. Windows were shattered, Trailer homes and some abandoned vehicles had burned over the last year.

The crumbling road they were on, Jared was pretty sure it was 39, kept heading east crossing knapp creek and following the flank the Brown mountain to its north and the Creek to its south till entered another small valley where State 28 split off of 39 and headed north, the road they were on crossed the creek once more as it entered the town of Minnehaha Creek which was nestled against the north eastern corner of Brushy mountain to the south and the creek to the north,

The official state town name and population sign was gone but a but a billboard type sign on the edge of the town gave the name of the town and proudly announced Jussies Place was always open for business, Jared gathered from the rest of the message the place was a huge flea market.

What ever the population might have officially been before the dead, it had been about the same size as its sister town Huntersville four miles to the west and was just as dead and empty now.

“Alpha Six, there’s a small airport just to the north of your position, I’m going to set down and check and see if there’s fuel here” Ronny said suddenly in Jareds Earbud.

“Roger that Ill send Baker one and the tanker out to help” Jared replied then passed the Order to Reese and the tanker truck to turned around and head north.

Spotting an old wooden building that served as both a store and gas station Jared had the rest of the convoy pull up and hold station. He gazed out the window at the store and could see a steeple rising into the lead gray sky behind it.

Some one had placed a sheet of plywood against the front wall of the story and painted “is this the rapture you assholes expected?” on it. the windows of the store were shattered and a burned out car was parked beside the fire blackened gas pumps. Jared could clearly see the bullet holes in both the car and the gas pumps.

What he could see of the rest of the town, it was intact, peaceful, other than a few downed trees, it looked like people would appear out of the homes any minute and head to work or go shopping.

“should we check the place out” Mike asked from the back.

“no” Jared replied. “the place gives me the creeps, something odd about it and there is nothing we need at the moment so why risk lives just to look around.”

They sat in silence for a while longer then finally “we are topped off and what little fuel was in the tanks here, has been pumped into the tanker’ Ronny said over the radio. Not bothering with protocol. “Baker is heading back your way,”

“roger that” Jared said as he started the ELSORV again, one by one the motors turned over the sound rolling across the small town.

Five minutes later they were back on the move rolling down 39 and leaving Minnehaha and what ever secrets the town might have held behind them. The road curved south for short ways then turned east again winding between Middle Mountain and Lockridge mountain before it began to climb up towards Ryders gap, the vehicles had to slow to go around the downed trees, and the few vehicles left on the road,

The weather not content with just snow or the threat of snow, decided to shifted to an icy rain, coating the roads in dangerous ice, Jared could almost see Private Murphy giving him the bird and daring him to keep pushing his luck.

The column of vehicles moved as fast as they dared down the crumbling mountain road which ran parallel to the Steep mountain side, the skeletal limbs of trees that stood on the shoulder over hung the road, dragging across the sides of some of the vehicles like fingernails on a chalkboard.

Suddenly the Ford Pick up that Garret was driving, swerved as a tire blew. Panic and instinct caused him to yank the wheel, and the pick up began to spin on the ice drifting towards the drop off to the left.

Jared could do nothing but watch as the truck slammed into the old rail, that bent and then broke free, it and the truck vanished over the side.

“No,” He shouted as he brought the ELSOR to a stop, as the rest of the column did the same thing.

“Get guards out to cover us, Ori get the climbing Gear, Justin get your ass out here now” Jared shouted into the radio as he ran to the side of the road, half sliding on the ice as he did so.

He looked down, and thanked god it was shear drop but it was steep enough, the truck was wedge between two trees about forty feet down, its grill pointed down slope, he could hear the tick of cooling metal and smell spilled gasoline. Thank god the truck had become wedged or it could have fallen, rolled and bounced a hundred feet down to road below.

Please let him be alive, Jared prayed as Ori arrived with the climbing gear. While Ori set the lines, Jared slipped on the harness and rigged up.

From the back of the Column he heard several gunshots, but ignored them. “figure out how to rig a stretcher to get him back up here” Jared said.

“Make sure he is alive first” Ori said quietly.

Jared went down the steep slope, not able to move as fast as he wanted to keep from slipping on the ice and snow.

Finally he reached the truck and slipped the Prusiac knot so he could hang there. he peered into the cab through the back window, and saw the Teen aged boy laying against the dashboard and the passenger door, gear laying on top him, blood oozed from his forehead he lay still his eyes closed.

Jared knocked on the window with his foot, from inside the cab he heard a moan. Thank god Jared thought as he tried to figure out how to get Garret out of the truck, hearing a rock fall, he looked up to see Ori and Jansen Roping down to help.

Jared slipped the knot and lowered himself all the way down into the tilted bed of the truck, he unhooked then drew his tomahawk and broke out the rear window.

“Jared, don’t” Ori said grabbing Jared by the shoulder.

“If he turns while your in there,” Ori said his voice trailing off.

“then he turns and Ill put him down, we don’t leave our own behind” Jared said flatly as he knocked the last of the glass from the window frame and slid inside. “get me the damn stretcher Ori.” Jared snapped, Ori knew it was from fear for the boy and frustration but it still annoyed him.

Ori shook his head worried that this might end badly but there was nothing he could do, Jared was Jared. He signaled for Justin and Haslom to begin lowering the Stretcher, his finger tapping out a rapid beat on the rope.

“your going to be okay Garret, just hang on,” Jared said as he got turned round in the cab to make it easier to get the boy out. “I’m not leaving you buddy.” Garret turned his head towards Jared then moaned in pain, closing his eyes again he slumped against the dashboard again.

Jared braced his feet against the dash, feeling the truck slide forward maybe an inch. Ignoring that as best he could he checked Garrets pulse and found it stronger than he would have expected.

“Stretchers down” Ori said leaning into the window.

“This is probably going to hurt Garret,” Jared said as he slipped his hands under the teenagers arms and using his legs as well as his arms he pulled Garret out of the floor board, getting his head and shoulders out the rear window where Ori and Jansen pulled the younger man out and got him on the stretcher.

Metal groaned then shrieked as the truck slid a foot further down. Jared grabbed Garrets Combat Vest and weapon and tossed them into the back of the truck, then the teens pack followed with the bow and quiver strapped to it.

“Come on Jared” Ori urged as the truck vibrated slightly then shifted down slope another inch. Jared scrambled through the window with Ori’s help and grabbed his line and hooked up.

Garret was halfway up to the road, which was good Jared thought as he slung Garrets AR across his back then tied the combat vest to his belt.

“Slow down boss” Ori said, as he grabbed Garrets pack and hooked it to his rig. “I got this, now lets get back up top.”

Jansen climbed up quickly unencumbered by gear, at the top he unhooked and dropped his rope back down to Ori who tied off the pack and let Jansen pull it up. Jared climbed up slowly, not even looking back when there was a scream of tearing metal and the truck broke free of the trees and plunged down the slope, bouncing then finally flipping and rolling till it crashed into the road below scattering gear and supplies they were going to have to stop and recover when they reached the bottom.

Reaching the edge of the road friendly hands helped Jared over the edge. Jared calmly unhooked and glanced to the rear of the convoy where the gun fire was increasing and saw a small horde of undead staggering down the road towards the now parked convoy.

“Time to go” Jared said as they gathered the ropes and gear and loaded them into the back of the ELSORV.

“Good idea that is” Jansen said barking a laugh then ran for the HET. Ori didn’t say a word, he just nodded and climbed into the ELSORV a second before Jared.

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

Williams came to a stop when he saw the gap in the guard rail and the ripped up plants on the edge of the road, he climbed out of the jeep and walked slowly over to peer down at the Truck that lay on the road far below, the same truck he had sabotaged last night. I hope there was more than one person in that truck Stone, I really do, I want you to start a witch hunt for the saboteur that will destroy the trust this group has in you and each other and when it splinters and comes apart on you, I will kill you.

He turned to head back to the jeep and stopped at the sight of a woman standing behind him, she had gotten close, very close with out making a noise.

She stood there silently, with out the stink of the undead, long dark hair covered her face, she wore a parka, jeans and insulated boots. A knife, commonly know as an Arkansas Toothpick hung on her left hip, a pistol was holstered on her fight, the pack she wore looked old and well used.

She reached up with one delicate hand and pulled the hair away from her face, for a moment he couldn’t breath, the years tumbled away and he stared at a dead woman. A woman he had held in his arms and taken her life, his first and most intense kill.

Then as if the light had changed somehow, the shadows had shifted and her face changed, she resembled the woman in his memories but not closely, in the lips, and the shape of the jaw maybe, he must have imagined it he decided.

“Who are you? He asked studying the woman. There was something about her that he couldn’t put a finger on.

“I want to be your friend and maybe more, Mikhail” she said, he was certain she spoke in English but he heard it in Russian, confused, shocked that she knew that Name! and unsure of what was going on he just stood there for a moment then a smile spread across his face. Finally he tossed aside the persona he had worn and returned to who he was, and it was like coming home.

“ I was a friend of a friend of yours” she said, smiling warmly, but there was a layer of ice under that smile and the fire in her eyes was as cold as the lowest level of hell.

“Who would that be” he asked, though he was certain he already knew the answer to his question.

“his name was Jasper,” she said then held out her h and “ I’m Julie, and I think the two of us are going to have a very good time together.”

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

December 20th, 0700hrs.
.
Brian sat up in the back seat of the SUV shivering, old guy looked up from the floorboard watching him with concern. “ I’m fine” he told the dog, but he wasn’t, not really the dream had been disturbing.

For the first time since the dead had rose he was tempted to pray, but it would do no good he thought as he pulled on his boots and crushed a hand warmer packet and shoved it into his shirt. He dressed quickly, chain mail going over his shirt, then a wide belt, then another short. I’m overdressed for everything, he thought trying shake himself out of the uneasy feeling that dream had left him with.

Dressing in a Vehicle was a real pain in the butt as far as he was concerned, but just opening the door and climbing out wasn’t the smartest option in the world either. Even when he was parked in the middle of a modern wagon train circle surrounded by heavily armed men and women.

He opened the door, and instantly Eddie and Old guy leaped out, trotting off a safe distance to do their morning business. The cold air snapped him completely awake, amazingly it was colder outside then inside the vehicle.

The camp, was in a small narrow valley where 39 forked one fork going north the other going south there were maybe six or seven homes scattered along the base of the eastern mountain, which Jared was pretty sure was named Little mountain, but wasn’t sure what the names of the others might be. when they had arrived here yesterday afternoon, they had cleared the homes and found only six undead. the chances of running into a horde out where slim according to Jared since they were in the middle of the George Washington National forest now, at least if he was right about exactly where they were at.

Several of the group were already out practicing martial arts under the watchful eyes of the guards on top of vehicles and in the tower like deer stands that had been erected at the compass points of the circle. He watched the Sadist practice in the cold, his teeth chattering. It felt colder here than his time in Korea during the winter.

As he headed for the Large Semi Motor home that was used more or less as the village center, an conference room, he saw Jared exiting the Rv the group used as a mobile hospital. He looked grim as he walked across the camp towards Brian who stopped and waited.

“How is he?” Brian asked.

“Not good, I’m thinking seriously about risking Ronny and the plane to fly Garret back to the bunker.” Jared replied as he stopped in front of Brian. “ possible concussion, a dislocated shoulder, a broken leg, and whole slew of medical gobbly gook that didn’t sound good.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, he is what sixteen” Brian asked.

“Just turned Seventeen from what I’ve been told, he has been a man in my book since I first met him. There are not many kids left in the world.“Jared said sadly.

Brian lowered his head for a moment, he had always loved kids, and like Jared what the surviving kids had gone through was a horror he couldn’t imagine from their viewpoint.. but the innocence, the pure joy at life had been stripped brutally away from them in a matter of days leaving them scared, bitter and distrustful of any possible future, in a world gone made.

“So your not going to send him back” Brian asked, watching Jared closely.

“No, Kronnen and his men are back there somewhere, and they have anti air missiles or did, and I’m not risking Ronny, Garret or any one else . we keep going, we have to end this and times running out” Jared said.

Brian gave Jared a strange look. “what do you mean the times running out?” Brian asked. Jared could be referring to the Siege of Sullivan but there was something in the way he said it that Brian knew he was referring to something else.

“I don’t know” Jared said with a shrug, apparently uncomfortable with discussing it with a relative new comer like Brian. “just a feeling I have, something’s coming down the pike and when it gets here, things are going to change. The last time I had this feeling most of the world died.”

Brian was silent for a moment, his right hand absently toying with the Rosary wrapped around his left wrist, he watched Old guy roll around in the snow kicking his legs in the air enjoying himself.

He gazed up at the wooded mountain flanks around them and wondered how many undead might be wondering through the valleys and the woods, slowly shuffling through the snow and winter dead forests converging on this spot. He turned back to Jared “your not the only one” he said.

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

December 21st

Ori drove into the camp and parked beside Jareds Motor home. he climbed out, and waited till Jeb, Zoe and Jorge got out then headed into the Motor home.
Jared sat at the table typing on his laptop, Jill, Sarah and Logan sat on the couch.

“We can’t stay here” Ori said with out preamble sitting down across from Jared. “its ten degrees outside, the route north is already blocked by a landslide, the eastern route has a shit load of trees down Jared, and more ice is building up which means more trees are going to come down.” Ori said as he dug a napkin out of his pocket and wiped his nose. “and I think I caught the flu.”

“Did you check our back trail” Jared asked

“Yeah and your right some one has been following us.” Ori replied. “found traces of a recent camp, the ashes were still warm. I think they heard me coming and boogied on out. From the few tracks I found it’s a man and woman, in a Jeep.” Ori said and grinned at the raised eyebrow Jared gave him.

“I’m guessing on the Jeep thing,” Ori admitted then slapped his hands over his mouth and coughed loudly.

“I think your right, and might as well move out as soon as we can get packed up,” Jared said shutting down the laptop. “now I want you to go get some rest, and check with Justin and see if there’s anything he might have you can take for that cold”

Ori nodded and left to find Justin, which was a sure sign of how badly he felt, he didn’t even argue. It only took twenty minutes to gather all the drivers, as well as jansen and Reese and pass along the route Jared had decided on. As they headed for their vehicles he couldn’t help but notice how many people were sniffling and coughing.

Jeb got the Scout hooked up on the Tow bar behind Jared’s motor home, and they were ready to go.

By noon they had only made twenty miles, passing through Mountain Grove, Blowing springs camp the road winding through the mountains and ridges before dropping down into a large valley and crossing the Jackson river and into hills and ridges below Cobbler Mountain then entered the gap in Little Mountain heading into Warm Springs Valley.

The Sleet and Ice rain was falling steadily and the temperature seemed to have fallen even lower.

Warm Springs was, according to the sign, home to 123 souls. And sat at the base of more foot hills behind which lay middle mountain to the south east and Little Piney Mountain directly to the east. 39 crossed 220 just above the Town of Warm springs, and wound back up around Little Piney Mountain passing across the summit of Jordan top before dropping steeply down into another valley. It was a rough ride the heavy civilian vehicles had to slow to almost a crawl to keep from sliding.

“Alpha six, this UV 23” a female voice said into jareds Ear, as he drove the Motor home nervously down the into the valley it took him a moment to place the voice, Major Conner’s he thought annoyed it had taken a second to remember. “ Go ahead UV 23”

“ Just off your route is an airfield, we are going to be setting down, conditions are just to bad to continue.”

“Roger, will join you there” Jared said, frowning he had hoped to be the hell out of the mountains by sunset but with the debris on the roads and the weather it could take a couple of days at this rate.

The sign for the field was half down, but there was enough left to find out it was a private airfield for some company. There wasn’t much to the place, just a snow covered airstrip, a hanger with an attached office.

The convoy parked in front of the Hangar as the UV dropped out of the cloud cover, light blazing as it lined up on the runway.

“Great” Jared muttered, “every zombie in the valley is going to be heading this way”

The Plane touched down but from the looks of it wasn’t an easy landing, but Connors brought it down safely and came to a stop as Jared ordered the hangar door to be opened.

Jared entered with Team one sweeping along the left wall of the hangar, while Reese and his squad went right, lights on weapons flashed across tool boxes, barrels and other items.

Once they had cleared the hanger, they hooked up the two plane in the hanger up to the winches behind the HET and pulled them outside and dumped them along the air strip so they could being in the UV and the every vehicle they could get into the hanger and out of the weather.

They set up a quick camp inside the hangar while the winter wind moaned outside and icy rain beat on the roof and walls. It was a quiet camp, with most of the people going to be early.

Jared sat in front of his RV, his HK propped against his Camp chair, picking out notes on his Guitar trying not to worry about all the coughing and sneezing he was hearing from inside the vehicles, Mike sat talking quietly with Ronny off to one side, and as Jared watch Logan and Sarah climbed into the camper on the back of one of the trucks.

Nibbler sprawled on a blanket at his feet looked up as Brian came to stand by the propane heater, Eddie and old guy following along behind.

Lloyd, John Graham, Reese and Jansen were clustered by the heater talking about what they had seen and experienced, Jared was only half watching as they greeted Brian and drew him into the conversation.

“Why do you think we haven’t seen undead in the last few days”, Jared stopped practicing when he realized Brian was asking him.

“don’t know, it happens sometimes.” Jared said.

“and sometimes it because every puss bag in a hundred miles has gathered into one big horde just to attack us” Ronny said from where he sat.

Jared shook his head, not that Ronny wasn’t right, that was how it happened sometimes. “Maybe so Ronny, but my opinion and this is all it is, is that some one has been clearing them out.” Jared said.

Conversation ceased around him as every one turned to look at him like had grown a penis in the middle of his forehead.

“What leads you to that idea?” Brian asked. “And who might be doing the clearing?”

“Minnehaha, is what got me to thinking about it.” Jared said. “the burned out car at the gas station. There were bullet holes in the car and the gas pumps, and not a single zombie put in an appearance..”

“so?” Ronny said, then looked around for Mary expecting a Gibb slap. Ronny wasn’t one to buy into the idea with out a lot of proof.

“So nothing, Goat boy, its not the first town we have passed through in this area that was empty of undead and shot up. I doubt it was the military on their retreat out, they were to busy wiping out huge crowds of the things at least that’s the way it appears. I think they did put a huge dent in the number of undead, and after the military was gone, someone has been moving around clearing out pockets of undead. think about how many we have seen in Tennessee, South and north Carolina. Yeah every now and then we pass through a town or two that appears empty but never such a large area, not like here. and where did most of the ones that attacked the Green brier come from, west down the interstate, Jansen said it looked like some one had opened the flood gates there were so many of them on the interstate.

I think there’s a large group of survivors somewhere in this area and they have been clearing out the undead around them to keep themselves safe and to make scavenging easier.” Jared said, “ on the other hand Ronny could be right there’s always a first time” Jared said with a half smile.

There was muted laughter from the group, and they went back to their conversations, leaving Jared to pick at his guitar. When Justin emerged from the medical Rv with a worried look on his face, Jared was not surprised.

“I think we have a problem Jared.”

December 21st 0800 hrs.

Jared moved quietly down the street, Jeb to his left, Ori sick as he was to the right. The wind whipped around him so cold his eyes almost watered. The airfield was just outside of a Bath Alum, that was a town only in name as far as Jared was concerned. Five buildings all going to ruin. They had parked the ELSORV and headed down 39 on foot so the sound of the engine wouldn’t draw any undead that might be in the area.

Bath lay against the southern most point of the McClung Mountain almost in the gap between McClung and Mare mountain, the forest was slowly reclaiming the outskirts of the small town and in another few years only the crumbling buildings and what was left of the 39 would give any clue that there had once been people living here.

“any minute now I expect to see a squirrel sitting in a tree with his nuts frozen to the bark” Ori said then coughed into his sleeve. Jared chuckled, trying not to show the fear he felt at the sickness sweeping the convoy. Justin was concerned enough about to talk Jared into trying to find a much larger building to move the group into.

“We aren’t going to see any real distance in this crap” Ori muttered trying not to shiver, the fever and the weather conspiring against him.

“No, and I think it s time you went back’ Jared said watching Ori closely. Ori could barely stand, and no matter what he said Jared knew his friend was not going to be able to go any further or make it back to the ELSORV with out being carried.

“No we, I can keep going, Justin is right we need to find a better place to hole up.” Ori protested.

“we just got Beth back, I do not want to have to tell her you died out here in the snow from the flu Ori.” Jared said as he looked around at the woods on either side of the road, then drew his tomahawk and cut down several small straight trees.

It didn’t take him long to make a quick sturdy frame lean too frame that he stretched his Poncho across it and anchored the edges to the ground, then dug Ori’s poncho out and snapped it to his to cover the front of the shelter.

“get him inside there and use the heat packs, that should warm it up a little in there along with the body heat.” Jared said shoving Ori’s pack inside the shelter, Ori didn’t even protest, he knew he was bad off and that Jared wasn’t going to listen to any excuse he might come up with.. “the undead shouldn’t be a problem we haven’t seen any in while now.”

“what are you going to do” Jeb asked, as he helped Ori into the lean too.

“I’m going back for he ELSORV, there is no way Ori is going to be able to make it back to the vehicle on foot, and we still need a place to move too.” Jared said. “If I’m not back in two hours, do what you have too.” Jared said then shrugged on his pack and headed back the way they had come.

The wind whipped around him, sleet struck him in the face, it was so quiet he could hear the sleet striking tree limbs and rocks, the soft creaks as trees swayed in the cold wind. It was the silence of a tomb,, he frowned at his own choice of words.

Just outside of Bath Alum 39 crossed the gap between McClung mountain to the north, and Mare, a road had branched off of 39 and climbed up the flank of the southern mountain and he was curious where it went, if he sped up he could explore a little ways up the road before heading to the ELSORV,

He started to run, setting a steady pace as he plowed through the winter storm, back in the day when he had been at his peak, he had been able to Run ten miles carrying a sixty five pound pack plus his weapons in two hours and some change, as long as he didn’t end up breaking a leg he should be able to explore the road, return to the ELSORV and retrieve Jeb and ori before Two hours was up.

He had always loved running, and till the undead had shown up, he had tried to run three miles every other day, just to stay in shape. Where others would have canceled because of bad weather to stay inside where it was nice and dry, Jared had never cared, cold and wet, snow and ice, or hot humid summer days he got out and ran. Part of it was his love of nature, another part was his training in the military and his civilian job, there was no telling when a storm might roll in and he would have no choice but to lead his clients out of the back country or go for help.

He ran in silence, letting his thoughts drift away, his sense focused on the woods around him, his core and quads muscles giving him that nice burn that he missed so much.

He spotted the faded street sign and what looked like a Historical marker that had been shot to hell and back, he turned and jogged up the road, thankfully for the overgrowth and new trees that marked the edge of the road.

Half a mile later the road leveled off but snaked through the woods where the trees had grown close, vehicles would using it would be scrapped by limbs and sometimes even tree trunks. But the tightly woven limbs overhead, kept the road mostly clear of snow, so he could see the ruts and rocks.

Was he being smart, No, Jared decided as he saw the light growing ahead of him. he should have at least one more person with him but he felt an urgency to finding a place as well as getting ori back that made him want to look around as much as he could before having to gather more people and come back out here, wasting more time, more fuel and risk others becoming sick that were not already hacking up a lung.

The road emerged from the trees into a clearing, a crumbling low stone fence with wrought iron pairs lay ahead of him, the gates that had once hung between the ornate brick posts were long gone, and beyond that was a three story stone building that sat in the middle of a field chocked by dead and frozen waist high weeds. Near the door to the building was a truck with leperous patches of snow covering it.

Jared slowed then stopped at the gateway, eyeing the snow and weeds, anything could be in there, he studied the area but saw no paths that had been pushed through and no tracks in the weeds, no one had passed this way in a while and the truck had been sitting there for a long time.

It was large enough, and should hold heat he thought studying the old stone building, then stared as he saw a light like that of a lantern up on the third floor as if some one walked across a room past two windows. Then it just went out.

He took a step toward the building then stopped the hair on the back of his neck standing straight up, it would be a lot smarter dumb ass to wait till you have some one to cover your back Jared told himself, he turned and started back down the road before he talked himself into explorer further, if there was some one inside, they were going to have company very shortly.

He was halfway back to 39, when he saw a dark shadow in the woods then something leaped from the woods, Jared had an impression of fangs and glowing red eyes.

Jeb knelt beside Ori and placed hand to his foreheard, the little man was burning up he realized. He dug a handkerchief out of his pocket and leaned outside and gathered snow that he wrapped the handkerchief around, the placed it on Oris forehead. “man, you should have been honest with us” Jeb told the other man who just weakly tilted his head once as if in agreement. “you had no business being out here Ori, none at all. And if you die I swear I will tell your wife you died with your pants around your ankles mooning zombies.”

“She wouldn’t believe you” Ori said.

“Don’t bet on it” Jeb replied as he got out a LED lantern and turned it on to get a little more light in the shelter.

“Where’s Jared” Ori asked suddenly. That worried Jeb a lot Ori should know the answer to that.

“He went to get our wheels, so you don’t have to walk back” Jeb explained.

“Oh,” Ori said trying to sit up, “he cant be out there alone” he said looking around for his weapon.

“He has been gone an hour now Ori, nothing you can do to help him, and you cant even walk buddy so lay back down.” Jeb said.

“no you don’t understand, she is going to kill him” Ori said struggling as Jeb pushed him back down.

“Who Ori, who is going to kill him.” jeb asked truly fearful for Ori now.

“The lady in the white dress.” Ori said struggling against Jebs grip but he was to weak to escape. Jeb let him go and sat back on his heels stunned, remembering a zombie standing on a cliff looking down on he and Ori as they had escaped the undead at the Evac Center. at least he had thought she was a zombie, no she had to be a zombie.

“Got to save him, with out him we…. “ Ori said then closed his eyes and stopped struggling.

Jared only barely managed to twist out of the way, dropped and rolled to one side before springing back to his feet. He managed to keep the wolf from slamming into him but the claws had snagged on his coat ripping the side of his coat and the skin underneath.

The wolf landed and whirled on him growling deep in its throat, god it was beautiful he thought, but no matter how impressive it might be it didn’t slow his reflexes, his hand was already moving flipping aside his coat, fingers curling around the grip of the Mk 23 .45. the wolf rushed forward, hunkering down at the last second then launched itself at him.

The pistol was out and leveled in three tenths of a second after his hand had started moving, already roaring and spitting flame the noise shattering the silence, the first bullet took the wolf in the shoulder, the second in the chest, but then it was on him.

Jared threw himself backwards, which only kept his throat from being ripped out, claws ripped through his coat. His pistol went flying behind him he heard a howl and managed to twist and throw the wolf of him, he rolled to his feet, chest and side burning with pain.

The wolf hit the ground tumbling but sprang back to its feet and began to circle to the right of Jared moving closer with each step.

Jared backpedaled away from the wounded wolf that stalked forward favoring its wounded left shoulder. Another wolf appeared in the road below him, and two more raced across the road above him.

You just had to run off and explore on your own you damned idiot, Jared told himself as he drew his tomahawk and Khurkri, knowing that as close as the wolves were and as far apart each one was there no way he could get more than one, possibly two before one or more slammed into him.

He fixed on the one that had attacked first, it had to be the pack leader he thought, “WELL come one” He shouted slamming blades together. “Coward, scum sucking bottom feeding worthless piece of shit.” He bellowed at it, snarls and growls rippled through the night around him. he stood as tall as he could and slammed his blades together again, shouting at the wounded wolf that backed up a step. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a wolf slip towards him on the left, he spun to his left shouting and the wolf darted back.

He pivoted to his left again and saw another wolf had been trying to slink up from that direction. Jared smashed blades and roared at the wolf who turned and ran into the shadows of the trees. He turned as fast as he could to face the wounded wolf again and saw that it had drawn closer hoping he was distracted. “think your going to get me to run so you can pull me down don’t you.” Jared shouted. “ not a chance” he hated having his back to a wolf but there was no way he could keep turning in circles to keep them at bay.

The minutes ticked by with the wolves circling slowly growling and lunging towards him then darting away as he turned towards them and raised a ruckus.

Show no fear, the thought raced through his mind, which was easy for it to suggest while it was pumping chemicals through his system.

There was only one way and he wasn’t sure it was the right thing to do, but he knew it worked with monkeys and that was to beat down the pack leader, but monkeys were not so much pack animals as socially driven to support the alpha male. Against one wolf he could win, two maybe, but there were at least five around him judging by the growls he heard. .

He shouted again and the pack leader scrambled backwards, probably hoping Jared would run at it, don’t have to run Jared thought as he drew back the tomahawk and let it fly, dropping the Khurkri at the same time, should have just gone with the rifle first he thought as he grasped the rifle and brought it up to his shoulder in one smooth motion, not even wasting a bullet on the pack leader who went ass over tea kettle as the Tomahawk struck the wolf in the back.

Jared pivoted to the right firing a burst at the wolf there, which raced into the woods even as Jared pivoted right again and fired again, that wolf had actually been coming at him, the burst took it full in the chest dropping it to the ground,

Shouting he turned around as fast as he could hearing a sound, and found a wolf that had skulking behind him running towards him, he stroked the trigger even as the wolf launched its self at him mouth wide ropes of saliva flying from its maw, Jared missed and knew he didn’t have time to reacquire the target.

Suddenly a rifle barked, then several more, the wolf leaping at Jared was blasted from the air, landing in the snow in a bloody heap the rest of the wolves fled into the woods as some one shouted Jared’s name.

Jared stood there with out answering, his eyes fixed on a shape at the edge of the woods, a woman, long dark hair spilling down over her shoulders covering most of her face except the for the pitch black eyes and a smile that chilled his blood. ‘you were warned, to stay on the island,” a voice whispered on the wind, she took a step towards him, and now Jared could smell it, rotting blood and spoiled meat.

Jared said through gritted teeth as something dark and oppressive bore down on him, pain flared in his chest. “I’m not scared” Jared managed to get out as he fell to one knee. “ Sge! Uhyu tsa yI galu…” Jared muttered, it was something that Gayle had written in the book she had left with Jared, she had emphasized it, and printed it three different times.

“just give up Jared, Give up and I promise you peace.” The voice said, now sounding like his mothers voice with the same calm soothing tone he remembered from his youth. “I can make it all go away,” Jared wanted to listen but he knew it was a lie, the light dimmed around him like, the sun was setting. A dark presence filled the air, and he could feel energy pulsing around him, like a loathsome heartbeat.

The woman or thing took another step towards him and knew what he faced on a primal level, but there were rules the thought was a flicker of lightening and it had to follow them as well.

“youll regret not accepting the offer Jared Stone, your heart will be ripped out, your bones crushed and your soul will be trapped in a rotting shell.” The voice boomed in his ears.

Jared ignored it, concentrating on the chant, that helped him focus on his life, his choices. His voice grew stronger with each word. The words flowed out like a river, the pain in his chest decreasing “….Usinu li duda’nta dani’gal istani” he said more easily the pressure easing and then was gone as he reached the end of the chant. Reality snapped back into the place, the light of day was back, the clean smell of winter, and blood of the dead wolves filled the air once more. He knelt there in the snow, the shivers that racked his body had nothing to do with being cold.

The woman was gone leaving not trace, and whether it had been the chant or his own stubborn refusal to listen to the thing and give in didn’t matter. All that he cared about was that it was gone.

“Jared you okay” Thor Jansen said striding up, ice in the mustache he had started growing a few days ago.. “you looked like you blacked out there for a moment.”

“not sure” Jared muttered as he got to his feet, and that was the truth, he wasn’t sure what exactly had just happened. The dead wolves were there and so was the pain and blood from his injuries. “need to get my weapons” he said as he started to fetch his pistol.

“Hang on man, my boys will get them.” Jansen said taking Jared by the shoulders and stopping him from going any further “ let Haslom take a look at you while we wait.”

“I’m okay now” Jared said as the fog in his mind seemed to clear, he still had no idea what had happened, whether it was real or not but what ever it had been was over now.

“To hell you say” Haslom said as he came to stand beside Jared and lifted his coat. “your lucky, there is a lot of blood but the gashes aren’t too bad” Haslom said. “with all that growling snapping and snarling, I expected your butt to look like hamburger.”

“There’s a place just up the road we can use” Jared told Jansen pointing up the road, while Haslom cleaned the claw marks on Jared’s chest . “and some one needs to go pick up Ori and Jeb, they are about a two miles down the road.”

“Got it” Jansen said. “ Benton, Take Tolliver and Baker with you and go pick up Ori and Jeb.”

“On it Sarge’ Benton replied.

“What are you doing out here anyway’ Jared asked after the three soldier had left and Haslom was bandaging the mostly minor wounds. Jansen shrugged and pointed to Brian who was standing with Lloyd and John Graham looking at one of the dead wolves.

“He had a feeling something was wrong, so Jill asked me to gather a few folks and go looking for you. Found the ELSORV, and then kept heading east, then we heard gunfire and you shouting so we came running.” Jansen said as he pulled off his cap and ran a hand through his dark hair. “good thing to another minute and you would have been dog chow.”

“Yeah thanks for that,” Jared said.

“Well since we are already up here, lets got look at this building you found.” Jansen said.

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

Williams lay on the icy rocks watching Stones convoy roll out heading east. When he had first approached, he had been worried about the wireless camera’s they had been using lately, but this time they had not set any out, and the reason he found out when he had gotten close enough to the hanger to listen through the wall, they had a lot of sick people in their group and were waiting to move to a better camp.

Stone must be sick too, to be that off his game he forgot to set up one the best Deterrent he had, the camera’s.

He waited till the last vehicle was swallowed by the snow and sleet before he moved from his hiding spot. Part of him was eager to return to Julie, to lose himself in her hot flesh and wild lusts. But he had things to do before he could return let himself enjoy what she willingly gave. It was a rare and unique thing to find a woman who enjoyed the sex the same way he did. Annoyed that he couldn’t quite get her out of his mind, he jogged around to the front of the hanger, ready to sabotage the plane parked inside, only to freeze in place against the wall as he heard men talking inside.

Apparently Jareds forgetfulness didn’t extend to the plane which gave him such an advantage in surviving the New world. Mikhail slipped away, heading back to his jeep. He doubted Jared was going far or his pilot would have taken off. Unless the Pilot was sick too, he considered that idea during his jog back to the Jeep. He wasn’t going to allow him self to belief in an assumption like that, there was a reason that the plane was left behind with guards, but it most likely had nothing to do with a sick pilot.

Back in the Jeep he checked the monitor and saw that Jareds convoy was still in range and unmoving. Well well, not to far at all, he thought as he started the Jeep. Usually he hated most things American but the jeep he had found was comfortable, ran well and more importantly was quiet.

He would go find their new camp, then return to Julie. He would need her help for what he had planned.

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

The building was as three stories and made from native stone, with a high pitched roof to shed snow. Like many buildings of its time the ground floor windows were a fairly high off the ground, from the inside only the head and shoulders of a six foot tall man would be seen.

A Chevy Silverado, with a ladder rack and tool box was parked near the stone steps that led up to the Front door which stood open revealing a rectangle of darkness beyond. Jared hadn’t seen it when he had first looked around not surprising with the weather, he hadn’t seen the wolves stalking him either. He glanced at Jill in the passenger seat, who was shivering, she began coughing as he gazed at her.

“your going to be okay, “ Jared said as he parked the ELSORV behind the truck, and waited till the other vehicles pulled up and boxed in the doorway, the Chevy and the ELSORV.

“I know, but I feel pretty bad” She admitted.

Jared climbed out and gazed up at the blank windows, that struck him as Dead soulless eyes that gazed out over a dead world, just waiting to swallow any life foolish enough to enter. He didn’t see the light in the upstairs window again, and wasn’t about to mention it or the thing in white. How much of it had been in his imagination. Not usually given to flights of fancy it bothered him that he might be losing it.

Or course he could just be coming down with what ever one else had too, and that wasn’t a warm and fuzzy feeling either, he thought. If all of us end up sick, who is going to guard the camp, more to the point who was going to restrain the last man or two.

Shaking away the feeling of impending doom, and feeling melodramatic he turned to see men using the premade wooden shields to block any access by the undead who might crawl under a vehicle. Reese and his squad, formed up at the door to the old Inn or what ever it had been.

“Sorry Jared wait out here” Reese said.

“to hell you say, Sergeant” Jared snapped.

“you have a sick wife and sick friends, your wounded and your mind is not on Mission” Reese said not giving an inch.

A zombie appeared in the door and was taken down quickly by soldiers using E tools, a machete and a rifle stock.

“or we can stand here all day arguing till all the undead just come to the door” Reese said. “either way your red headed ass isn’t going in.”

Jared glared at the man for a moment then his shoulders drooped, between exhaustion, pain, and fear for his wife and people, he knew he wasn’t in top form and his mind kept wondering. “ All right, clear the damn building with out me.” Jared said turning to find Ori standing right behind him. “Would you stop that” Jared snarled. “and aren’t you supposed to be resting?”

“rest is for wuss’s” Ori said swaying slightly.

“Ori get back over here” Justin shouted from the Med RV, where Ori had resting since he had been taken back to the camp in the hanger. Ori only gave Justin the bird, then coughed

“Go wait in the Med RV you need to stay out of this weather” Jared added as he saw Jill open the door of the ELSORV and step out, having to hang onto the door of the vehicle to keep on her feet. “ damn stubborn people” Jared muttered as he rushed to her side Ori right beside him. “Jill you need to stay in the ELSORV till the building is cleared” Jared said wrapping his arms around her, he could feel the heat radiating off her skin through her clothes.

“I’m burning up in there” she said, trying to unzip her leather jacket. Sweat sliding down her fever bright face.

Nibbler leaped out, whined softly as she nosed Jills leg then ran up the steps pausing in the doorway to look back at Jared as if to ask what he was waiting for.

“lets get in inside” Jared said scooping her into his arms. Reese and his men had to have finished clearing the rooms immediately around the front door by now and nibbler wouldn’t have just run into the place if she could smell the undead. .

Ori, himself sick, led the way into the front room, which looked more like a hospital lobby than a hotel. The old tile was patchy, the antique wallpaper was blotchy and what ever pattern it had once held was faded and the colors had run. To the left of the old scared main desk was a staircase that rose up in slowly curving to the right till it reached a landing then another stair case curved up to the second floor. The Newel post was a richly carved angel holding a sword aloft, the wood almost black after all years that had passed and god know how many hands had touched it.

A saw horse table with an old table saw, and several other tools sat in the middle of the room, exstenion cords lay across the floor ending at a Generator, stacks of 2×4’s, ply wood, 2×8’s, romex, number 12 wire and other items were placed along the front outside wall.

To the left and right were double sliding doors that stood open revealing shadowy empty rooms, Jared only half noticed them as he carried Jill over to the saw horse table and lay Jill on it as soon as Ori had swept all the tools out of the way.

“Ill get your gear” Ori said ignoring the fact he was sick and headed back outside.

Jared stood there in the dusty room, dim beams of winter light spilling through the windows barely enough to keep the shadows at bay.

Something creaked in the room to his left as Jared placed a hand against Jills forehead frowning at the heat he felt. Another creak, and something that sounded like wood sliding on wood. Jared’s head snapped around, his hand falling to his pistol, something moved in there, a shadow darker than the other shadows scuttled across the room, and a sound like..

“I thought I told you to wait the fuck outside” Reese said from the stairs. “you are the most Stubborn idiot I have ever met.”

Jared blinked but what ever had been in that room was gone. His skin was prickled into goose bumps. It was not the thing he had seen out there in the woods, it coudnt be.

“Plans change” Jared said, turning to front door as Ori entered weighed down by three packs. “and that’s El Jefe the idiot to you”

“Damn it Jared!” Reese said but more softly as he saw Jill lying on the table. “she okay”

“yeah, now that she can lay down” Jared said as Ori entered the building again, Justins voice following him demanding he return to the Med RV.
Ori dropped the two packs he carried and then shrugged off his own pack, “I got something right here” he said digging out the emergency blanket from his first aid kit.

He passed it to Jared who unfolded it and covered Jill with it. “thanks” Jared said, “and you look like shit too Ori, find a place and cop a squat you need rest too.”

“the building is Clear” Reese reported over the radio, for the benefit of those still waiting outside. “ start bringing them in.”

it took almost an hour to get every one and all the gear inside. Jared knew they were going to be here for a few days at best, maybe longer it depended on how long it took every one to recover.

“Okay boys lets use this wood to make some more beds” Jansen said entering the building with his men, his eyes lingered on Jill for a long moment then up at Jared mingled fear and something else in his eyes.

“Justin wants the worst ones down here,” he said then let Justin explain what he needed built as Thor Jansen walked over and stood beside Jared. “she’s going to be okay” he told Jared. “she is tough, she will pull through this.”

Jared didn’t say anything but he nodded in agreement, then he reached out and squeezed Thor Jansen’s shoulder, “thanks” he said softly. “keep an eye on her Thor, I need to take care of a couple of things” Jared said.

“no problem Jared” Jansen replied watching as Jared headed outside.

He turned back to Jill and leaned forward placing the back of his hand against her cheek, “Get better Jill, He loves you to much to lose you.” Jansen said softly stroking her cheek.
He stood upright and realized Ori was standing beside him.

For a moment he had no idea what to say, he knew what it had to have looked liked, it didn’t matter what he had said, thought he had meant it, Ori probably hadn’t hear it.

“I was just telling her…” Jansen began.

”I heard, don’t sweat it” Ori said, but something in his tone and body language suggested he suspected what Jansen had left unsaid.

“you should go lay down, you look like crap” Jansen said, worried for Ori who looked like he was going to fall over any minute now.

“I will,” Ori said “ just wanted to Check on Jill” he leaned on the table and gave Jill a shaky smile. “I see your looking better than I feel” he said trying to smile, but the headache that was pounding behind his forehead made it more of a grimace.

“you look fine” she assured him

“Liar” he muttered, closing his eyes willing the headache and the aches and pains in his body to go away.

“Excuse me you need to get your ass back to bed” Justin said walking up,

“Bite me” Ori replied turning his head to glare at Justin, he regretted it instantly as the headache seemed to be encouraged to become more painful by the movement. He didn’t argue as Haslom took him by the arm and led him over to a cot.

“Excuse me, we need to…” Justin said apologetically holding up the Straps he carried. Jansen frowned, but stepped aside watching as Justin attached the straps to the saw horses then strapped Jill down. Jansen knew they couldn’t risk any of the sick dying unobserved then rising and killing others. But it was still undignified.

Jill opened her eyes and smiled at him, then looked around her smile fading not finding Jared beside her. “He went to bring in your gear from the ELSORV” Jansen said though he did not have any clue what Jared was actually doing.

“okay” she said shaking her head as Nibbler leaped up on the makeshift table and stretched beside her placing her head on Jills stomach. “I really do feel better” Jill assured the worried Thor while Justin inserted a shunt and attached an IV with antibiotics.

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

December 22nd , 1240hrs.

Jared stood watching as the graves were dug, they had lost three men last night, to the virus that had taken root in the group. Lee had managed to get a message through to the bunker on the HAM unit and found that thankfully The Medic with Fourth Squad had started all of the Suvivors from wendys group on antibiotics from the cache when he found out that all of them had minor colds that had been right after the Convoy had left so his quick thinking had stopped the virus dead in its tracks before it could worsen and spread through the personnel in the bunker.

The three men who had died, Justin was almost sure had, had walking pneumonia which is probably what killed them. The IV’s and Antibiotic solutions from the cache already seemed to be working for those that were the least sick, including Jill who had sat up this morning asking for Jared to go find a pig so she could have bacon with her coffee.

But far to many were still very sick and Justin was worried that more would die in the coming days and insisted that they spend at least a week here, letting people get their strength back and fully recover before hitting the road again.

Jared couldn’t argue with that and wouldn’t have any way, instead he had sent Reese and his squad out into the woods to find a Christmas tree, and then sent them down into Bath and up the road to McClung to try and find decorations. What they had come back with was more than Jared expected from towns so small they didn’t even have welcome to and now leaving signs and their population signs only read “some one lives around here”

The main room, lobby or what ever, now had tinsel ropes being strung across it, candles, a Tree with some decorations and huge number of other decoration were being put up And the Wood burning stove Reese and his squad had recovered was not heating the main room nicely allowing them to save propane.

The holiday cheer only made the deaths worse for the group, but Jared refused to remove the stuff, hoping that maybe it would help people cope better with some sort of normalcy in evidence around them.

Sarah had relocated the UV to the field outside the building, after the HET had trampled down a runway for her to land on. Tomorrow a team would return to the airfield and drain what fuel remained in the tanks there and recover any parts they could use.

Jared stood there till the bodies were brought out and placed in the graves,before he walked over Nibbler trotted behind them.

The grave crew and the others outside, gathered around silently, more people came from the building as Jared cleared his throat.

“you folks know I’m not real eloquent, so I want waste your time trying. These were our friends, I may not have known them as well as some of the other here. but they were good men, who lost every thing they loved when the dead rose and they overcame those losses and rose up to stand against the chaos and darkness that swallowed our world. I can only say they have my thanks and respect, and I know they are finally reunited with the family’s they lost. They will be missed” Jared said looking around at the bowed heads, wondering how many of these people would he see buried before this was over. He saw Brian out of the corner of his eye, lips moving then he crossed himself.

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

December 25th, 0700hrs.

Jared stood at the windows looking out over the snow covered field, to the east the tops of the mountains were lined in gold and Red fire and beams of golden light were spearing up into the blue sky.

Last night was the first night of complete sleep he had, had. There had no deaths and those still sick were getting stronger. Four more had died over the last two days and the constant funerals were eating at Jared. Hopefully the worst was past, and that was a hope he was going to keep close today of all days.

Christmas had never been about religion to him, but hope and good will. A time when men and women were supposed to strive to become better than they were, hope for a better world was the phrase. And it was magical time, from its start as a Pagan holiday thousands of years ago to today. and Celebrating it was a way to spit defieance at the dark. He had half expected to see a horde of undead outside, just waiting for sunrise to attack the building but there wasn’t.

somewhere in the building Christmas music began to play, some one probably Ori was in a good mood Jared thought as he walked over to his pack and pulled something out. Ori was still sick but a thousand times better than he had been as was Jill, and Jared couldn’t wish for a better present on Christmas.

Jill at on the edge of the table bed she had been sleeping on, and eyed the hastily wrapped package that Jared held out as he walked up to her a smile on his face. “it had better be shiny” she said her smile growing, lighting up the room around her.

God she was so beautiful, he thought for the thousandth time, wishing, hoping that he would leave long enough to see the undead vanish from the world so he could spend just a few months with nothing getting in the way of his just enjoying her presence.

Jill opened the box, and stared for a moment, then reached in and pulled out a delicate silver chain, with a intricate celtic cross dangling from it. in the center of the cross was a diamond and small emeralds had been set at the end of each arm.

“I had Carol make it before we left the island” Jared said grinning.

Jansen sat on a step at the top of the stairs watching as Jill slid off the Table and wrapped her arm around Jared kissing him deeply to the cheers of the other patients.

“sucks to be in love with a woman who is already married” Benton said sitting down beside him. “especially one who doesn’t even know how you feel about her.”

Jansen “she knows” he said simply. “I’ve never told her but she knows, and I never will either. That’s a line I cant step over not and still respect myself” and it was true. To say it, to say the words he wanted to say the most would shatter his friend ship with Jared, and with Jill and place her in a position she didn’t deserve to placed in and frankly nothing short of death would take her from Jareds side. He knew all that and yet his heart refused to let go. “ Merry Christmas Benton” Jansen said.

Benton nodded “Merry Christmas to you too” he said then looked over his shoulder and held out a hand. Tolliver stepped forward and handed him a bag which he passed to Jansen. “me and the guys got you something”

Jansen was almost scared to look, he slowly opened the large bag, and a smile spread across his face and then he started laughing as he saw the three jars of Vaseline and the box that held a blow up doll that some one had written “ Emergency Girlfriend” on the box in magic marker.

“there’s a hustler under the box too, just in case” Benton said then started to laugh with Jansen. “I wont say who, but someone suggested a vibrator and a male blow up doll, just in case you were ready to try something new.”

“not that far gone yet, but glad to hear Baker is thinking about my mental health.” Jansen said wiping at his eyes, and smiling from ear to ear. Benton laughed again

“got it in one Sarge” he said after a second.

By noon every one spirits had risen and Justin had told Jared he thought the worst was probably past, where the virus was concerned.

Ronny was belting out less than polite versions of Christmas songs, but sticking to the cleaner ones thanks to Mary’s Judicious application of the Gibb slap when he tried to go really low.

Bu the party such as it was came to a stop, as one of the wireless camera’s placed on the road up to the building reported vehicles turning up the road.

Men those not sick and those who had recovered enough rushed to defensive positions around the building, Jared hastily threw on body armor then his combat vest, grabbing his rifle he headed out the door Jansen and Ronny following. First squad spread out in the yard ready to fight, while Second squad took the rear of the building just in case, who ever it was, was really sneaky and had men creeping up behind the building from up mountain. More men climbed into the Gun box on the HET ready to lay down one serious wall of fire.

“just one Christmas it would be really nice if we didn’t get attacked by undead or raider.. is that to much to ask” Jared said as he knelt by lower stone section of the wrought iron fence. Listening to the rumble of heavy motors and what sounded like tracks.

“now that’s something you don’t see to damn often Ronny said kneeling and wincing in pain as his bad leg protested.

The something he was looking at was a World war 2 half track with the German cross on the doors. It didn’t have a machine gun mounted on it, but the heavily armed men inside were good enough. Behind the half track, was a Sherman tank with a fifty mounted on the pintle two Grey hound light armored cars swung out from behind the tank and stopped about forty feet from the gates. There were more vehicles behind those Jared could hear them but to see them.

Diesel fumes hung in the air, and he could feel the vibration of the motors in his bones.
“I’m thinking this isn’t Kronnen” Ronny said.

“why is that” Jansen asked.

“for starters they aren’t trying to kill us” Ronny pointed out.

“its still early” Jansen replied

“true but why save ammo on Christmas, it’s the giving season” Ronny replied.

“both of you shut up” Jared said, chuckling despite the tension he felt.

The hatch on the Sherman opened and a man climbed out, stout with silver hair and wearing a bombers jacket and bdu pants.

The older man jumped down from the tank and walked slowly towards the fence, every weapon on his side ready to open fire.

“well might as well become more of a Target” Jared said as he rose to his feet handed Jansen his HK and then walked out the gate, his pistol still riding on his thigh in its tac holster.

The cold wind off the mountain blew around Jared kicking up snow from the ground and ending it swirling around him. both men stopped twenty feet apart,

Jared hook his right thumb in his belt his hand over his pistol, he resisted the urge to grin as the old western theme played before ever gun fight rolled through his mind. he felt like he was in Kelly’s hero’s facing down a Tiger Tank.

The man across from him was in his late sixties but moved like a much younger man, pale blue eyes under thick silver eyebrows studied Jared, now way that hawk like gazed missed Jared’s hand hovering over his pistol like a gun fighter ready to draw, which was about dead on accurate.

“When I left this morning to find out who was running around in my back yard the last person I expected to find was Wyatt Earp .” The older man said his voice gruff, not friendly but not hostile either. “ you got Doc Holiday and maybe the Lone Ranger back there behind you.”

“got the next best thing, his Name is Ori and right about now, your forehead is filing his scope.” Jared said as calmly as he could, watching the men he could see, who seemed tense which was understandable. “but seeing as how its Christmas, lets try to make nice with out killing each other till tomorrow”

“well then, that sounds like a pretty good plan, so why don’t we start this parlay with some names and an explanation of who you are and what your doing here.” The older man said. “I’m Sam White.”

“Jared Stone, and the men and women beyond me are my friends. And the reason we are here is one long and mostly unbelievable story.” Jared said.

“Son I got nothing but time. Impress me and lets see if we can avoid a war.” Sam said.

Jared studied the other man for a moment then nodded, he had lost too many friends the last few days, and at this moment in time if he could avoid getting any more killed or at least delay a pitched battle he was more than willing to do so.

“it all started the day the dead rose…” Jared said launching into the story.

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

to the north, under the lash of winter, the undead were on the move, staggering through the snow and ice, drive by one will to reach the City that had once been the capitol of a nation called the United States. They came like a flood, shuffling down crumbling roads and abandoning the dead towns they had inhabited. They had one purpose to Destroy the Warrior and his growing Army, Jared stone was not to survive his Trip to Washington D.C.. and the undead would help the Darks Trinity make that happen.

3 thoughts on “Chapter sixteen

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