Flight of the Paladin

“When the days were torment and the nights were clouded terror,
When the Powers of Darkness had dominion on our soul –
When we fled consuming through the Seven Hells of Fever,”
~Rudyard Kipling

Tom eyed the fuel gauge, then looked back out the windscreen at the deep blue sky, satisfied he had enough fuel to make the damn Bahamas. But only the closest Island, to check out the widest area for a safe landing, he first had to land at the Curtis L. Brown Airfield in Elizabeth Town, where he would top off the fuel to widen his safety margin. Then he wanted to see if there was some way he could beg, borrow or barter supplies.

He had already decided to position the Plane for a quick take off, Hopefully a hasty exit wouldn’t be necessary, but if it were he didn’t want to be stuck in a jam. The Old DC 3 could take off from a rough grassy field if necessary.

“do you think its really safe there?” Brent asked from the right seat. Brent had been his neighbor and good friend for six years now.

“According to the People in the ops center at Elizabeth town it is” Tom said, Brent relaxed slightly, anything was better than the sheer chaos of Raleigh, where the infected were rolling over everything. if it was then fine, they would stay for as long as they could, but Tom would be ready to depart at a moments notice, and to be honest he didn’t believe that it would stay safe.

Two days ago Tom had barely gotten into the air before a few thousand of those things had struck the airport Raleigh, even from the air, they could see the blood spilling as the desperate crowds of people on the flight line fighting to get on planes, were taken down and ripped apart.

The DC 3 was a tough old bird that leaked a bit of oil and creaked and groaned in protest at major maneuvers. But she had held up well over the years, and his mechanic, Joel, had lovingly kept her flying.

Ten other people were in the back of the old bird, Joel and his wife and two kids, Brents girlfriend and her six year old daughter, Toms Wife Nancy, his Brother Carl, and Susan Nancy’s sister, and Scott Helms a friend of Carl’s.

They were the last plane out of Raleigh, well the last successful plane out. two had crashed moments after take off, Tom had heard screaming over the radio, and the desperate cry of “oh hell no, one of them is onboard.” Just before the MD80 banked around then lost control and struck the runway exploding as it nosed into the runway, the burning tumbling wreckage had swept thru the crowds of people on the tarmac waiting to board the smaller planes, and into the terminal before coming to a rest. The sky had glowed orange behind Toms plane as the terminal went up, and fuel tanks open to fuel planes, desperate to depart had exploded. God knew how many had died in that one crash.

They had landed at a small private field for the night, then taken off again as the sun was rising, shambling shapes could be seen in the light fog, stumbling beside the runway as the plane lifted off, shadowy hands held up as if to grasp the plane before it could escape.

Tom had decided on Elizabethtown as a destination on hearing them claim they were infected free. he wasn’t sure he believed it, but someplace had to be free of them, so he was taking a chance..

He checked his instruments set the VOR and scanned the radio traffic, the UNICOM was a jumble of voices, some panicked as they demanded to land immediately.

“ Cessna 1543TangoBravo, low on fuel…..

“Warrior 27AB, clear clear, you have traffic two miles northeast….”
Tom listened intently, glancing over at the Radar and saw aircraft were stacked knee deep and circling, one plane after another following the plane ahead of it down.

Tom brought his craft to 3300 feet, “ EFY control, Paladin 345 …..”

“Paladin 345, hold at five miles, climb to 3500 ft, and wait for instructions or if low on fuel divert to Lumberton or Fayetteville control.” Who ever was down there sounded harried, tired and scared shitless. Tom thought. He wasn’t worried not yet, he had plenty of fuel, and had no intention of telling any one that. to many of the planes up here today were low on fuel, their pilots having taken off in a panic to escape the infected.

His only plan at the moment was to stay out of reach of the infected , if that was at all possible. and at the moment Elizabethtown Nc, seemed to be out of reach of the Virus or what ever it was.

“affirmative, 3500, wait for instructions” Tom replied, ignoring the questions from his passengers for the moment, he climbed 200, scanned the area both visually and with the Radar. He thanked god he had gone ahead and had modern avionic systems installed two years ago. With all the Charter flights to the Bahamas and points around Puerto Rico, all the modern gear had been a god send. .

“I cant wait, I’m coming in!” a voice boomed from the radio, to Toms Left, a King air broke away and began to descend,.

Shouts erupted over the radio, as the king air barreled through others flight paths, planes were breaking left and Right, Chaos filled the channel

King air 1542AB, return to holding pattern, you have…” Tom couldn’t stop listening as he watched the King Air, lower flaps and set up for a landing on runway 33, not caring who might be in the way.

On the far end of the runway another plane was already barreling along, for its take off. There were so many voices in the various channels shouting, trying to wave off the King Air, or cussing the idiot for cutting across the paths, that the pilot of the Cherokee must not have heard what was going on, or it was possible he had no radio.

The single Airstrip held two runways, runways 15 was for those approaching from or departing to the NW, 33 was on the opposite end of the airstrip for those approaching or departing SE. normally this wouldn’t have been a a problem, what little traffic the place had would have waited in queue, landing in a controlled sequence on each end. But not today.

Today the Cherokee was racing down the runway, heading right towards the approaching KingAir, that was three miles out and closing. The Cherokee lifted off, right on the tick, and began to climb as the pilot increased its airspeed. The King Air, hadn’t even started to bleed off its airspeed as it plummeted downwards.

The Cherokee pilot must have finally seen the expanding dot of the aircraft in front of it, he tried to pull up and roll right. The King air, hell bent to touch down, slammed his throttle forward and pushed is stick down, and went left in an attempt to miss, both planes realized they had maneuvered straight at each other and tried to correct, it was a comedic tragedy really, as they mimicked each others corrections a second time and then met one mile out from the Marker, two fireballs that merged into one, and fell towards the woods below.

There was a hushed silence on the radio, then some one whispered “ god help us all” on an open mike.

After a moment the planes were back into an orderly queue and began their descent, occasionally pausing to allow another craft to take off to parts unknown. After the first six planes to call for priority landing due to low fuel, Tom was determined not to waste another drop of fuel, he had a feeling that fuel was going to be hard to come by in short order.

“ Paladin 345 fuel low, requesting priority landing clearance” Tom transmitted lying, not wanting to burn any more fuel than he had to, and circling up here was a good way to do just that.

“every one is low Paladin,” Ground responded.

“If I don’t land soon, I’m going to be Joining King Air, only Ill aim for your hangars” Tom replied.

There was a slight pause, then “ Paladin 345 follow Cessna 546B, Contact ground on tie down.”

Five minutes later Tom was taxing theDC 3 to the end of the runway and pulled onto the grass, he wasn’t about to get caught in that tangle of Planes along the edges of the Taxiway, or on the ramp.

Shutting down the Engines, he stepped into the back. “ okay folks, don’t leave the plane, if you have to step outside, stay close. We don’t know how safe it is here, and you damn sure don’t want to be far from the Plane if those things show up here. I’m going to arrange a top off, and then we need to talk about a destination.”

“But you just said, not to wander off from the plane” Susan protested, she was scared tom would be killed and they would be stuck here with the undead.

“I’m the only one that has any business leaving, unless you want to get off here, I wont stop you, but once I get back from securing fuel, I’m not leaving the plane, and the moment those things show up, I’m taking off, no matter who isn’t on board.” Tom said, hoping that was enough to keep them close. “ and do not let those kids out of your sight, no one should die looking for them, just because they ran off to play or what ever”

at least he could count on Carl not letting anyone find out just how much they had in the way of supplies. Thank god for the mans paranoia, tom thought.

Tom stepped down from the DC 3 onto the grass, under a bright blue mostly cloudless sky, the continuous sound of planes landing loud in his ears.. He wondered what was going to happen when the airport ran out of space for the ones still up there. As long as there was a grassy strip long enough and wide enough he could take off, one of the many high points to owning a DC 3.

“Hey Tom” Tom turned to see Carl standing in the hatch, a rifle in his hands, “ take this man, things are going to hell, you don’t want to be out there with out a rifle, not just the infected are a threat now.” Carl said, he was totally sincere, and Tom couldn’t argue not after what they had all seen. Carl handed him an odd looking Green and Black rifle, and a web belt and harness with ammo pouches. “That’s an L85A1, 5.56, it’s a british weapon, accurate, doesn’t weight much and you have to be an idiot to miss with it.” Carl said. then gave Tom a very basic primer on how to operate the weapon.

Tom donned the harness and then slung the weapon as a Grumman pulled up and stopped next to the DC 3, “I’m not exactly a special forces op you know” he told Carl feeling like a TV Action star.

“you can shoot I know you can” Carl said, Tom nodded, they had been hunting many times over the last few years, but that was with a regular rifle, not this military style weapon. And he could shoot a pistol, but he wasn’t a crack shot. not that it mattered, he felt safer armed.

“Thanks, Ill be back as soon as I get us some fuel” Tom said, watching the Grumman shut down.

“don’t Worry Ill keep watch, no one is getting out, we have a bathroom in here, and Ill make sure to point it, it will be hard for the infected to bite them while they are in the plane” Carl said then shut the hatch..

Tom nodded and turned away and began to walk towards the line of planes parked along side the Taxi way, as he walked he saw several Military Trucks pull up to the main gate, soldiers leaping out. something about that set off alarm bells in his mind and he picked up his pace.

He walked quickly across the grass to the Taxi way, trying not to let the panicked people around him affect his own confidence, but it was hard, damn hard, when he saw the haunted eyes, blood stained clothing, Crying children and parents who looked shell shocked. Most had no food, and he hated to think what would happen if they found out about the food and water in his plane. Noting some of the looks he received, he began to worry and unslung the L8 and carried it in his arms, after that people started giving him a wide berth.

These people looked desperate, most stared at the Rifle he carried, like they were half tempted to take it from him. He almost couldn’t believe how bad it had become, and how fast it had happened.

He should have just tried to get thru on the radio, but there were so many on every channel, he had thought showing up in person would be better.

Up ahead, he heard shouting and a loud angry roar, a crowd had gathered around the fueling station and the single fuel truck. a skinny man, in coveralls, his blond hair sticking up wildly, stood on the truck trying to get the crowd quieted. The crowd refused to quiet down, and over the general roar he could hear various shouts..

“…. I have kids you bastard….”

“… Ill give you a thousand dollars to fuel me up first…”

“… Ill take the damn stuff by force if you don’t fuel me up right the fuck now….”

the angry crowd surged forward, trying to reach the man, some were trying to open the doors to the fuel truck, Tom didn’t know what to do, if he didn’t get that fuel, they couldn’t make the few destination he thought might be worth trying. He had to have that fuel.

“People I’m sorry, I’m trying to fuel up as fast as I can, we have more fuel being delivered, its actually on its way right now. we will get you all fueled up and ready to go.”

The crowd wasn’t listening, they were scared and wanted to get back into the air, where it was safe.

Tom wasn’t sure what to do, he could try firing a burst into the air, to warn them off, but that probably would start a real riot, he could of course just gun them down, but it would take more than two days of chaos and terror to get him to just indiscriminately gun down people.

He was saved from making a decision when Twenty soldiers jogged up, weapons ready, ordering the crowd to disperse, and promising that each plane would be fueled up in order, and that more fuel was en route.

Tom waited till the people had scattered back to their planes, then slung his weapon and walked towards the Tanker truck, where the man who had been trying to calm the crowd was being helped down. two soldiers stepped in front of Tom blocking his path.

“ you need to return to your plane sir” the beefier of the two said, his eyes hard.

“no problem, but I have to put in my order, I just landed and my radio was out.” Tom lied smoothly.

The soldier glanced at the fuel manager who nodded, Beefy waved him past, “ don’t take to long, or every one else will think your trying to get fueled out of order.”

“no problem I don’t feel like being lynched.” Tom replied, surprised the soldier hadn’t ordered him to disarm or hand over the rifle. Things must really be going to hell out there if they don’t care.

“I need to fuel up, Paladin 345, the DC 3 out in the grass along the side of the runway.” Tom said fishing out his corporate credit card.

“that that thing aint worth shit, neither is money to be honest, but if I have fuel when I reach you Ill fill you up.” The man, his name tag read Buddy, said.

“Buddy, you have a family” Tom asked, Buddy sighed, pretty sure Tom was about to give him a sob story to get ahead of the line.

“yes I do, mister, and they are bunked down in my office, waiting for this shit to blow over, so no cutting.” Buddy said raising a hand ready to summon a soldier to escort Tom away.

“hang on, Ill make you an offer, I need the fuel, I don’t care what order I get it in, but I need it to reach a place I’m damn sure will be safe, an Island. You make sure I get eight hundred gallons of fuel, no matter when its delivered, and your family can stay on my plane with my other passengers, where there is food, water and weapons to protect them with. In other words buddy, if things go to shit here before I take off again, Ill take you and your family, just make sure I get that fuel.” Tom said, offering the only thing he had.

“how do I know you wont just dump us out on the tarmac at the barrel of that nasty looking rifle.” Buddy asked.

“all I can say is I give you my word,” Tom replied, stepping back and preparing to leave, knowing that Beefy was watching.

“my family has to be onboard before I deliver the fuel” Buddy said.

“Send them out with one of the soldiers, in half an hour, “ Tom replied his attention drawn to a lear Jet with Government markings that taxied past.

“800 gallons, that’s it, that’s all you need” Buddy asked, Tom could almost see the mans thoughts racing through his eyes. What ever the local officials might be saying Buddy was spooked, and Tom offering him a chance to get his family and himself out of hell was like offering the hand of God.

“that’s it, then its off to a tropical island with a mansion, a yacht and white sandy beaches” Tom said with a smile, as the Lear passed the fueling station and was guided into a Hanger, where soldiers were being stationed as Guards.

“Ill have it for you, you just uphold your end of the bargain”Buddy said, turning away to climb into the fuel truck.

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

“how long is this going to take” Senator Daniel Carter asked, as he stepped out of the plane into the brightly lit hangar.

The pilot, already upset, glared at him for a moment. “ Senator, its going to take as long as it takes God to Drop the parts in our lap. We were lucky to have been able to set down safely Sir, but this facility doesn’t have the shops or the parts to get us air borne again.”

“why in the hell did you land at Po dunk backwater, then instead of some place we could get the parts we needed.” The senator snapped.

“Because you pompous overbearing asshole, the other airports were overrun with infected, you remember those right, the flesh eating masses that don’t give a damn who you are.” The pilot shouted back, the stress and tension finally snapping his control. “if your dumb ass hadn’t insisted on that fucking plane so you could travel in style none of us would be here right., you were warned this plane had problems, but you just had to have a wet bar and leather seats.”

“how dare your” the Senator shouted back, even as lance Corporal Stakely climbed out of the plane.

“its simple you shit, I opened my mouth and the words came out, maybe you should check your title again, you’re a public servant, like a butler only lower on the totem pole,” the pilot roared back.

“Sir” The Marine shouted over them both. Both men turned angrily at the Marine who had dared to intrude.

“the copilot would like a word Captain Jones” Stakely announced, giving the pilot a pointed look. Jones, took a deep breath, nodded and climbed back aboard.

Carter stood there beat red and furious, glaring after the pilot, angry in part because the pilot was right, he had insisted on that plane out of vanity, even after all he had seen on the way to Andrews, he had been more concerned with putting up the right appearance, instead of taking one of the transports that had been suggested repeatedly to him.

In fact he had delayed so long that, they had caved to his demands only because their own transports were leaving, so here he was stuck, in a town that was surrounded by the infected.

“Senator, I have just been in formed that a Transport is being sent to pick you up, it should be here in three hours.” Jones called from the hatch.

Sandra Carter, crossed her shapely legs, feeling oddly self conscious as the marine left to guar her eyed her tanned legs, she didn’t smile about it the way she normally would have, didn’t even fantasize about what sex would be like with that cute tight butted marine, not today, she was to scared, for the first time in her life she knew what real fear and horror was. And she didn’t like it.

the infection had swelled in the poverty striken areas, then burst out onto the rest of the city, and every where the infected swarmed, it spread. She couldn’t even begin to think of what Daniel had went through on foot, with the marines giving their lives to get him and that case to Andrews.

She would have thought that if anything he would have been happy to have been alive when he reached Andrews, but no, not even the threat of imminent death could make him thankful for the little things, she was no saint, but his fit throwing about proper transportation for a sitting US senator had been beyond the pale. And exactly what she had come to expect from him. she rose, the marine rose almost at the same time and followed her as she exited the plane. She completely ignored her Husband who, didn’t even seem to care she was outside.

She paced the hangar, constantly looking at the Sheriffs Department airplane, all they had to do was to use get on board that plane and they would be off again, bound for safety. Daniel was no doubt waiting for another Lear with a wet bar, before he would budge and she was scared that those things would arrive here long before help did.

“Maam, it would honestly be best if you waited in the plane, safer at any rate.” Gunnery Sergeant Stephen Grant said from where he followed along behind her at a discreet distance.

“not till I calm down, I don’t want to see my husband at the moment Mr. Grant.” She said, trying not to picture the muscular, good looking Marine in her mind. She should have never gotten Married to Daniel, she had thought she loved him at first, and maybe she had, but once they were married his real colors came out, His so called family values only extended to News clip sound bytes and anywhere a camera or the public might actually see him.

He was rude, insensitive, and a sexual deviant.. the last part didn’t really bother her, except as in so far as he was a total hypocrite. That she couldn’t stand, but she had found out she was expected to just as hypocritical in public.

If she lived through this disaster, she vowed she would divorce Daniel and find a decent guy, not some one with money, but some one like the Gunny Sergeant. That reacted well under pressure, and didn’t demand to be pampered while the world collapsed around him.

Grant, did his best not to watch her shapely rear, as she walked, and worked even harder not to respond to the occasional flirtation she sent his way. He knew it was a reaction to what was going on around her, and the actions of that worthless piece of shit husband.

And he wasn’t going to be the man who took advantage of her during a weak moment, when all she really needed was some kind of re assurance, the very thing he couldn’t give her, and what the Senator should be doing. Instead of sitting on a radio screaming at some one to make sure his next flight was luxurious. Prick should try flying in a C130, the Osprey that was being sent would be a rude awaking in austerity for the man. But at least the damn thing could land with out a runway.

But for all his control he couldn’t help but want to spend what was probably his last hours on earth in the arms of a woman as attractive as she most definitely was.

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

Tom walked back to the DC 3, keeping a sharp eye out around him, people watched him go by, angry, and jealous he had a weapon to defend himself with. He didn’t doubt, if they thought they could take the weapon with out being shot, they would make a play for it.

Crossing the Grassy strip to the DC 3, he saw more planes had lined up beside his own, crews and passengers milled around outside the aircrafts. Some look injured, he hoped like hell none of them had been bitten, that was one the last things he had heard on the radio back home, as he drove up to the DC 3 to get the hell out of dodge. Those bitten were infected and would change.

Carl stood at the door to the his Plane, an AR slung over his shoulder, looking perfectly at ease playing guard. “ glad to see you back, I was starting to get worried.” Carl said lifting a hand in greeting.

“it’s a mad house down on the ramp, soldiers showed up and then had to break up a mob around the fuel pumps and truck.. I had to make a deal to get our tanks topped off.” Tom said, as he came to a stop in front of Carl.

“what kind of deal” Carl asked, not sure he was going to like what was coming.

“in exchange for making sure we get eight hundred Gallons, we take the fuel man, and his family out of here if something happens.” Tom replied, watching as a Grumman Avenger landed, followed by a second, then a third. They must have been at an airshow he thought.

“I don’t think that was wise Tom, but if it gets us more Fuel to get out of here I’m all for it. and speaking of leaving, where exactly are we bound for.” Carl asked.

“theres two Private islands, I’ve been thinking about, one is large, three hundred acres, with an airstrip, a mansion with all kinds of outbuildings and a housing area down near one of the beaches for the staff, every winter for three years, the Owner has contracted me to fly in the staff and occasionally a guest. From spring on its empty except for the permanent staff, something like twenty people, all young, and all fit. The place even has a golf course.” Tom told Carl, “ I think its our best bet, and its in the Bahama’s, the man even has his yacht docked there most of the time. All in all I think it’s the best place to try, after that second island is further out, smaller and just as nice. If the first and second Island is overrun, and we have full tanks, I can make it to an old Airstrip on the north side of Puerto Rico, where we can hopefully refuel, and then follow the island chains, refueling when we can till we find a place to stay , or this shit ends.”

“we are going to have a food problem after a while” Carl pointed out, his preps could be stretched out to last a month and half maybe two months, but after that they would have to hunt, fish and grow food.

“the First place I was talking about has a huge green house Carl, the owners wife gardens, mostly exotic plants and flowers, but with the seeds you’ve got stashed I don’t thing we will have a problem, and the fishing is awesome around the island. I got to spend four days there once, did a lot of spear fishing and a day of deep sea fishing, we wont starve, in fact I think we will do fine there.” Tom replied.

:”assuming the owner isn’t home” Carl commented.

“if he is we will deal with it, how ever we have to. I’m not going to let anyone else I know and love die” Tom vowed.

“looks like our new guests are here” Carl said pointing to an approaching truck, with a county logo on the doors and a small family huddled in the bed of the vehicle.

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

Buddy was determined to get as many planes as possible refueled. He knew that fuel was the only thing that might save at least some of these people. He finished refueling a Piper Cub, he had started fueling planes in pairs, which made his job a bit easier and the Soldiers had gotten new arrivals to Taxi straight to the pumps, so he could concentrate on fueling the ones already parked and tied down.

“Hey buddy,” Private Sam Wienner said quietly as he walked up. The setting sun bathed Sams face in red light, “I wanted you to know, the last fuel truck just pulled in, I’ve got men guarding it. but there wont be any more. The last two were from Lumberton, and Fayetteville, they were already loaded and were on the road when the both places were overrun, and we cant get any other suppliers on the phone, the lines are down somewhere” Sam looked upset at the news. “ some of us are cutting out of here soon, I just wanted you to know, that if your going to go with your family, you might want to make sure that plane gets the fuel it needs now, I have men that will guard you while you do it.”

Buddy stared at Sam for a moment looking down the line of planes still waiting for their turn, it so went against the grain, to place himself over others, but Sam knew what was going to happen when the fuel ran out, and the soldiers ran for it. chaos, pure and simple, people would die and he didn’t want his own family dying with them.

“I’m going to issue the orders, if you agree, and we will tell every one that throws a fit that plane is on US government business, and has to be expedited.. it might not make a difference, but at the least the more violent prone might hesitate before doing something stupid.

“Maybe he can take you with him Sam, they might have room on board” Buddy said just as quietly. “ maybe, check and see if they have room for ten men, we have food, weapons, and ammo. If they don’t, we are heading out the gate as soon as it gets dark.” Sam said. Buddy nodded and climbed into the cab of his truck, all to aware of all the people watching, as soldiers climbed onto and into the truck.

“I’m sorry folks, I’m under Orders, we have a plane under Government contract that has to be fueled for immediate take off, if the rest of you will please wait, we will have the fuel truck back and finish the fueling in the correct order.

Sam ignored the protests, and angry shouts, as he climbed up on the step and held onto the side view mirror “lets go Buddy” Sam said, and if he felt any guilt at what he was doing he didn’t show it.

Buddy drove slowly, a crowd forming behind them. things were going to get really nasty, and he wasn’t sure what he would do when he had finished refueling theDC 3, what he did know was that there wasn’t enough fuel in the two remaining delivery trucks and the one he was driving, to fuel up every plane still here.

He had to make a choice and his choice was for his family to survive, he could hate himself later.

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

The sun sank slowly down in the west, the horizon washed in blood. the residents of Elizabethtown hunkered down in fear, there had been a small outbreak in the beginning, but it had been eliminated and the town had been deemed cleared.

Three things happened that evening, that doomed them all, people fleeing nearby towns, had a massive pile up on a nearby state road. 15 were killed outright, twenty seven more were so badly injured they died with in minutes, the newest 32 of the infected ranks, fell on their rescuers, and their numbers began to grow, soon they were sweeping along the line of cars and trucks on the road. as the light fled from the sky, they turned and began to plod towards the lights of the town that glowed in the night sky.

The second incident, Harold Byrnes, who had escaped Charleston, had waited in line for the bathroom at Curtis L. brown Airport, he had entered a stall, and then suffered a massive heart attack, he killed eight before the sound of the shouts and Screams reached the soldiers tasked with defending the refugees at the airport.

The third and final incident, two planes, attempting to flee the airport collided on take off and crashed in a fiery wreck at the end of runway 33, as the burning passengers and crew staggered out of the wreckage, they fell on the people who had rushed forward to help put out the fire.

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

as soon as Tom had spotted the Fuel truck and the crowd following behind it, he climbed grabbed his rifle and raced outside, Joel already armed with a shotgun and Scott, with a mini 14 joined him.

The truck pulled up, and ten soldiers hopped off, and spread out around the truck facing the crowd.

Buddy leaped from the driver’s seat, and pulled the hose out, and in moments had the fuel pumping into the DC 3.

“what the hell is going on, Buddy” Tom asked walking over to stand by Buddy, who looked nervous as hell, from the grumbling and angry shouts of the crowd, he suspected things were going to go to hell in a hand basket any moment now.

“we are almost out of fuel, and Sam one of the soldiers warned me that what little just rolled in was it, he suggested I fuel up your plane now, for my family. And….” Buddy said quietly.

At that moment an angry growl rolled thru the crowd, Sam held up a hand trying to calm them with words, but it wasn’t working this time. He fired a warning burst over their heads, and then some one threw a bottle.

One of the soldiers, fired a burst from his Machine gun into the grass in front of the crowd, which stumbled back, but Tom suspected fear of the soldiers wouldn’t hold them back much longer.

“how much longer” Tom asked, every second dragged like hours as the pump transferred fuel.

“ a few minutes “ Buddy replied, the sound of departing planes, had become only so much background noise, but the sudden change in sound levels, drew attention to the runway, Tom turned just in time to see what looked like a Aero commander taking off on 33 while another aircraft had was landing on 15, the two planes collided just past the runway, the fireball lit up the night.

“holy shit” Carl said again, as wreckage rained down, and then the second hammer fell, in the stunned silence, the sound of screams reached them from the Ramp area. Immediately most of the crowd fled towards the aircraft that had brought them here. All but those most desperate for fuel.

A tall man, dressed in a rumbled suit was the first to charge, and was cut down by one of the soldiers, then the others ran forward, scared and desperate for the fuel that offered them salvation. Gun fire ripped the evening apart, the Machine gun cut two men down and blew holes in the plane behind him.

Tom stood staring, and then his eyes grew wide as the Man in the suit sat up, the dead man rose shakily to his feet, with out making a sound, then lunged forward at the closest soldier who shouted in fear and tried to step back and give himself some space, Teeth tore into his upraised Arm and blood sprayed.

Tom lifted his rifle, but before he could fire a shot, the wounded soldier rammed the butt of his rifle repeatedly into the infected mans head. Tom saw it like slow motion as the skull caved in, and the infected tumbled to the ground.

Buddy was shaking, but held onto the hose with a death grip, trying not to look at the carnage behind him.

Tom spotted one of the men who had been shot crawling towards Buddy, his mouth opening and closing, tom could see the eyes, the cloudy white eyes, and every cheesy line he had ever heard in action movies rolled thru toms mind as he stepped past Buddy and fired point blank into the Mans head, then turned and threw up his lunch.

There were shouts all around him, he could hear a shot gun booming, other rifles were firing, even a pistol or two. Tom straightened up, not letting himself look at the shattered skull of the dead man he had shot, and saw more infected between the planes, drawn to the sound of gunfire.

“Get on board, Now “ Tom shouted, at Carl and the others. At least three other soldiers were down, one was being ripped apart by a woman in a sundress, her skin glistening with blood. a boy of five was chewing into the soldiers abdomen, tom had no idea where the kid could have come from, but a moment later it didn’t matter, a bullet ended the childs infected life, and then another took the woman’s head off.

Suddenly it was over, there were no more infected around them, at least not that could be seen. Bodies lay sprawled every where, one soldier, tears tracking down his face, walked to each of his downed men and put a bullet into their skulls.

The screams on the ramp and through out the parked aircraft along the Taxi had redoubled, and some people were trying to start their planes and escape, but it was far to late for them.

“I’m leaving, any one not on board when the engines start gets to stay here” Tom shouted as he climbed up the stairs into the Plane and ran for the cockpit.

Buddy turned off the pump, they would be a hundred gallons short, but even ditching at sea would be preferable to staying here. He closed the fuel cock, and rushed into the plane.

Carl looked around, truly seeing what the infected did, for the first time Carl wasn’t thinking about how far the food and water might go, not now, his only thought was he couldn’t leave any one behind to face this. “ come on, “ he shouted at the soldiers waving them at the door.

“cant, not till your on the runway ready to take off” a soldier shouted, “ some one has to keep them from getting to close”

Carl didn’t know if that would matter or not, but he wasn’t going to let them do it alone. “Joey, you and Scott get on board, I’m staying with these guys, tell Tom to get this thing on to the runway, and we will get on board there.”

“okay lets do this” Carl said, as he spotted another infected woman staggering down the line of planes.

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

“Gunny, we have big Problems” Stakely said, climbing into the plane, where Grant was trying to catch a cat nap, while Stakely guarded the craft.

“now what” Grant asked opening one eye, his weapon already in his hands.

“screams outside, some kind of explosion out by the runway, and the senator and Jones are arguing again, the Senator wants him to try to get the Lear off the ground, right the fuck now, his words Gunny not mine” Stakely said.

Grant walked quickly over to the door in the rear of the plane and opened it. peering inside he saw Sandra still asleep on the bed.

“don’t let her leave this Plane Lance Corporal” Grant said.

“no Problem Gunny” Stakely responded,

Grant strode to the hatch and climbed outside, sure enough he could hear panicked screams and Carter was throwing panic fueled fit, Screaming at the Pilot to get his craven ass into the cockpit and get that jet airborne. Jones was screaming right back him, Grant needed to shut them both up, the yelling would draw any infected that heard it.

He stepped forward quickly, “ Senator, calm down, the noise….” Grant never finished, Carter wheeled on him his fists balled up, the senators eyes were wide with terror.

“don’t you dare tell me to shut up, how dare you” Carter roared. The man had finally had a total melt down Grant realized.

outside, Grant could hear planes starting up, the screaming had grown louder and closer, and now gunfire had started.

“Sir, we have to get out of here” Grant said, trying to salvage the situation. “ the noise draws them, Ill get your wife and your things and….”

“that’s what you’ve wanted all along, you marine bastard, to pork my wife, to cuckold me, well Its not going to happen, shes mine, she spreads for only me” Carter shouted, A dangerous light in his eyes, Carter didnt even notice that the pilot had back away, Jones anger fading as he realized that the Senator was no longer home, only the cowardly terror driven man who had always hidden behind the façade.

The Senator whipped a pistol out from under his coat and pointed it at Grant, still screaming obscenities. Grants own weapon snapped into place, behind the senator, two men had appeared at the hangar doors, one was a soldier, the other was covered in blood and was a civilian. They moved with the terrible jerky gate of the infected.

“Senator behind you” Grant shouted, as even more undead appeared in the hangar door. The soldiers must have either ran to sound of the screams leaving the hanger unguarded or they had fled, Grant would never know, but the result of their actions were appearing in the hangar door, a night mare, blood covered mob, all focused on the screaming Senator.

”Do I look that stupid, you fucking bastard, now admit you want to fuck my wife, ADMIT IT” the roar of Carters voice threatened to shake the very roof of the hangar, the infected were only twenty feet away now. and Grant was slowly backing up, hoping like Hell that Stakely had seen the mob and was going to appear with the Senators wife and join him any moment.

Jones the pilot screamed as an infected woman, bit into his ankle, she had climbed under the lear, and she wasn’t alone other infected with her had come along the side, blocked from sight by the bulk of the lear.

Grant stared sickly, as a infected man, his clothes mostly ripped off, and chunks taken out of every square inch, clambered past Jones into the Lear, Sandra started screaming from inside.

Grant knew at that moment he had failed, there was nothing he could do to protect the Senator, or Sandra, and no way Stakely could fight his way out of the infected now climbing over Jones.

“I’m going to kill you” Carter was shouting, Grant felt sick, he had failed, god he had failed, he hear Sandra screaming, and Stakely shooting, blood appeared in one of the planes windows.

Carter fired, the bullet screamed past Grants Ear. Grant was already moving, dodging behind the Sheriffs department plane. Carter was totally gone, grant Realized, the man could see the undead, no way to miss them swarming around the hatch, and Sandra’s screams were enough to burst eardrums. But the man was still focused on Grant, ranting about Grant having screwed his wife.

I wish I had, at least she would have gotten a bit of comfort before the end, you bastard Grant thought as Carter ran over and stopped almost in arms reach of the undead at the Hatch of the Lear.

He was purple faced, and screaming so loudly and fast that his words were garbled, Grant found himself hating the bastard, and when Sandra’s screams stopped Abruptly, he put a single bullet into the senators forehead, just as he was grabbed by more hands than Grant could count. Grant saw Jones, sit up on the steps of the Plane, and put a bullet into the pilots head as well.

Outside, he could hear an explosion, and the weapons fire was tapering off, as vehicles raced away. The sound of Aircraft engines starting could be heard all across the field.

There was no more gunfire from the plane, and no screams, Grant checked his ass, then shagged it to the Back door of the Hangar, the undead, seeing the movement were already heading his way.

He threw the door open and burst out into the early evening, where stars were already beginning to twinkle overhead. At the moment there were no undead in sight behind the hanger, His best bet was to find a plane, he thought.

Grant ran for his life, across the ramp, dodging the infected that were not busy feeding, the gate that led to the main road was out of the question, there were hundreds of the infected at the gate, they were all over the flight line. he charged between planes, and almost ran into an infected male, he jinked right and butt stroked the man to the ground and kept running, but every plane he saw, engines running, just sat there, Blood on the windows.

He ran back up the line, and almost screamed as an infected woman walked right into the spinning blades of a propeller, as she tried to get to him.

Over on the runway side, he heard a two massive engines cough and turn over, and then gunfire. Better than nothing, he thought as he changed direction and raced across the grassy sward to the old DC 3 that was just starting to move.

He looked back once, and put on a burst of speed, as he saw the infected flowing between the parked craft, like army ants on the march, a seething tide of snapping teeth and grasping hands.

Oh lord don’t let Mama Grants boy get chewed on he prayed as the plane pulled out onto the runway and turned lining up on the center line ready for Take off.

He saw men piling into the Hatch, and started shouting and waving, as the last man climbed up into the hatch, Grant fired a burst over his head, and saw the man turn in the hatch and look out. Grant fired again, shouting wildly, and saw the man wave at him, urging him to greater speed. And then the plane began to roll forward the man was still waving at him and shouting back but the engines were to loud to hear him over.

Grant was close now, and he didn’t dare look back, the plane was starting to pick up speed, and Grant reached out with his free hand, and caught the door frame. He was screaming, as he tossed his rifle inside, his feet pounding as he tried to keep up with the plane. He stumbled and his feet flew out from under him, his boots dragging the Tarmac, the wind from the planes passage was tearing at him, his one handed grip on the frame was slipping the plane was really booking it now, and Grant closed his eyes.

Then suddenly hands grasped his arms, there was shouting around him, and then he was inside and the door slammed shut.

“ thank god” he muttered.

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

the sun rose in all its glory, waves lapped gently onto the beach, Tom stood there, his arm around his wife, under the plam trees, thankful to see another day, He didnt know what was going to happen, but for now they were safe, he would deal with tomorrow when it came.

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2 thoughts on “Flight of the Paladin

    • thanks Julie, I’m glad you enjoyed it. I probably will do a follow up. I have three more chapters of DTR to finish, and should have the time to edit more of the clock, and write new short story’s. LOL

      Like

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