Chapter 5

“I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbéd pace,”

~ Frances Thompson

Drake climbed down out of the bed of his truck under the blue sky, only tattered remnants of the cloud cover remained.

“Haven’t seen this many zombies in a while” Allen said pushing the corpse at his feet with the toe of his boot.. Drake nodded in agreement as he look around the intersection, two Humvees, and an M113 had been parked by the guard last year to block the intersection. To bad you guys didn’t realize back then. That the undead can come from any direction. You have to post men and vehicles on all four sides, Drake thought.

“ get Donovan and Parker over and see if that can get that armored vehicle running.” Drake said looking around. Allen nodded and trotted off to get the two men, Donovan had owned a repair shop in Lafayette, and was damn good with motors. Parker, was only 18 but according to Donovan he was a genius with anything that ran. The two men had kept the generators running for a year till the fires, and all their vehicles so Drake wasn’t going to second guess either man when it came to mechanical issues.

Hearing a whirring noise he turned to see Lany Turner, with her sling, taking aim. Drake turned following her gaze and saw a zombie in a suit about a a hundred feet down the road. H watched her with appreciation usually reserved for an artist. She let fly, and the rock zipped down the street, and the zombie fell heavily to the pavement. “ good Shot Lany “ he called to the girl, who was all of seventeen. She blushed heavily. She was damn good looking, which had caused a few problems already. Some guys were not taking the lack of women in the apocalypse well and they took her lack of interest in them personally, even less well.

One of the men who had pushed Lany for a few personal favors, still walked a little odd after she had kicked his testicles so far up his throat he almost choked on them. Since that little incident, almost every one left her alone, and those few that were to stupid to learn from that particular lesson, Drake had convinced in his own particularly effective way.

“Portland has gone to hell” Lany said smiling as bent and picked up another rock and placed it in the cup of her sling.

Drake had to agree as he studied the buildings around them, most were red or brown brick, single story, new construction based on the blah school of architecture, boxes really with a glass door and plate glass windows. Most of the windows were shattered, from passing ass hats and weather. The streets were covered in leaves and trash, surprisingly there were not many vehicles in sight, as if most of the people who had lived here had, had time to go home or leave town before it was drowned under the weight of the undead.
“It has that Lany” Drake replied., she flashed him a smile, that he chose not to pay much attention to. Sadly the petite, girl seemed to have a crush on one Drake Ferrguson. He wasn’t immune to her charms, he just worked to ignore them. as the leader of the small band he didn’t think getting involved with anyone was wise. Maybe later, if things got closer to normal. And it wasn’t like there were many women to choose from even if he wanted to be picky.
” do you think we will catch them” she asked, a hard edge to her voice that one normally didn’t hear in a seventeen year old.

“They cant be more than a day ahead of us, but with them sticking to the roads it will be hard to figure out which way they went unless they move a lot of stuff out of the way to pass thru and its obvious to see.” Drake said, feeling the fury stir in his heart once more.

Lany had lost two friends, two friends whom she felt she was responsible for, after getting them out of the slaughter house the high school had become on the 24th.

“What happens if we cant find them” she asked, sweeping her gaze around the streets for any threat that might emerge. Half his manpower was busy stripping the grocery store four blocks away, so every one with Drake had to be more observant than usual to make sure no leakers got through.

“we find a new place to fort up in, maybe a school or something, or another church.” Drake said, though he was seriously considering finding something nice and remote with limited access, like a road up a ridge or an island with a bridge. If they could score fuel they could stay on the road for a long while, avoiding the undead and big cities. Which is what those assholes who burned them out must have been doing.

he pushed the anger away, letting anger get a hold of him, was the surest way to fuck up royally, and he had to many people depending on him to take stupid chances with their lives.

“Why aren’t you using your bow” he asked her, Lany and the last three survivors from the high school had all been on the Archery team, and that little fact had proven a life saver on more than one occasion.

“Simple I can find rocks anywhere” she said with a grin, as she recovered the hockey stick looking weapon she carried. It was about a foot shorter, thicker and more sturdy than a hockey stick, and where the blade or paddle bent away from the shaft a Knife blade was affixed. Half the handle had been wrapped in leather, and most of its outer surface had brass studs installed. It wasn’t a jury rigged affair; it had been made as a real weapon. And Lany had used it on more than one occasion to lay waste to a zombie or two. The paddle or what ever it was called, was heavy enough to crack a skull even in her hands, he hated to think what it would do in the hands of a man as strong as himself or Bubba.

“sooner or later your going to have to use a gun “ he told her, she only smiled and lifted the stick or gunstock club as she called it. “ when I do, Im more likely to shoot one of you in the butt.” She said tossing out the same joke she had used since the first day.

he was about to say something more when the sound of motors came to their ears. “ sounds like they are on they way back “ he said climbing up on the hood of one of the humVees and then shaded his eyes as he looked down the street the Scavenging team would be coming down.

He watched as Bubba’s truck, the school bus, Rains mini Van and a jeep he didn’t recognize rolled down the road, rifles sticking out windows. As soon as they pulled up, and people were spilling from the vehicles talking excitedly about the supplies they had scored. Drake saw Nick Garret emerge from the jeep with another man he didn’t recognize. Medium height, slender build, with a triangular beareded face, and long blond hair in dreadlocks, even with out the rest of the hippy get up the man wore, the dreadlocks were the deal killer, Drake hated the style. It was filthy and disgusting looking, but almost every moron who worshiped a shrub thought it was cool, the hair style of mother earth. At least he was wearing boots, must have found out sandals were not great for survival when running from zombies, so hippies can learn he thought.

“Whose the new guy” Drake asked suspiciously as Nick approached him trailed by the blond. Drake tried but failed to keep the look of distaste from his face.

“This is Jon Williams, and you might want to hear his story” Nick said.

“Every one has a story, whats so interesting about his” Drake asked ignoring the man, who obviously hadn’t bathed in weeks.

“He was taken prisoner by a Red headed Military type driving a Custom black Van with really big tires” Nick said, and that caught Drakes attention. His automatic distrust was put aside for the moment. He would at least consider what the idiot had to say.

“So tell me a tale Mr. Williams and don’t leave a thing out” Drake said as he sat on the hood of the HumVee.

*************************
“Mike I think we need to talk,” Lee said motioning for Mike to follow him, they walked quietly over to the corner where the ladder to the roof was bolted to the wall.

The dim light from the dying flashlight barely providing enough illumination to show them the way, it was more for comfort, or protection against the pitch black night. .

Lee a concerned look on his face turned to Mike, “remember when you asked me to look around?”

Mike nodded wondering where this was going and hoping it wasn’t even more bad news. He shifted his weight from foot to foot, a nervous habit he hadn’t had since he was a kid.

“Well when I looked around I did a inventory of the things I might be able to use for one thing or another in case we had to be here for a few days. And some of those things were the Twenty two bottles of Charcoal lighter fluid on that shelf over there.” Lee said pointing.

“There’s now 19 bottles on that shelf, and I’ve recounted three times just to be sure.” Lee said, and then hesitated, not wanting to say what he thought, but he saw the same idea grow in Mikes eyes as well.

“Carrie” Mike said, disbelief in his voice.

“Maybe, I don’t know for sure. But she was hanging around back here for a little bit then after that big fight, she moved to the other side of the stockroom.” Lee said carefully.

“Well she doesn’t have them on her now” Mike said, looking back towards the other end of the stock room.

“No she doesn’t,” Lee admitted,” it.. Well she worries me Mike, I’m sorry I know you love her. But buddy I got to tell you, she bothers the crap out of me.”

He could see the hurt and pain in Mike’s eyes, and felt a wavy of sympathy and pity for the man, but there was nothing he could do but tell him the truth. No matter how much it might hurt.

“What would she do with it, I mean if she sets the place on fire, she would die too. She might have just added a couple of bottles to her gear in case we need it later.” Mike said not wanting to think that Carrie had changed that much, and what he said was actually more logical than thinking she was going to burn the place down with them inside. But he really didn’t know the woman in his wifes body, he wanted to think he did, but being honest with himself he had no idea what she may or may not do..

“Your right it could be innocent, hell she might not have done it at all, but the fact you thought about her first, tells me your just as concerned she might have gone around the bend on us.” Lee said willing to admit Carrie or someone might have innocently take the stuff, but deep in side, he knew it had been her.

“We don’t say anything okay” Mike said suddenly. “ we keep an eye on her, but I don’t see any reason to start fear and suspicion running rampant. Even if we just asked if any one took the stuff, people would start thinking, and eventually point the finger at Carrie, and if she isn’t the one who took it, it will only make her worse…..” Mike paused and then continued. “And if she is the one, and she has some kind of plan for the stuff other than starting a cooking fire, she might just go ahead and do it.” He added.

Lee nodded, glad to see that Mike at least was willing to consider the possibility that Carrie was the culprit, he hadn’t been sure that Mike could overcome his emotions where Carrie was concerned. This was the man who had carried his wife out of a hospital on his back, as the undead were overrunning it, Lee didn’t feel it was insulting at all to think Mike might love her so much he wouldn’t be able to see the truth.
.

Mike stood there after Lee went back to try and get some sleep, he wasnt sure what he wanted to do about this. If he were honest, he did believe Carrie had taken it, and she wasn’t going to use it to start a cooking fire. The new Carrie was to cold, harsh and hating. Is she paying for what I did God, he asked silently as he tilted his head back and looked up towards the sky that lay beyond the ceiling.

He sighed and walked slowly to the other side of the stockroom then paced back, he might as well play guard till he was sleepy he thought.

* * * *
Jared knelt and looked across the highway with his binoculars at the CVS pharmacy, where several hundred undead milled around the building. Her attempts at leading off the majority of the crowd had either failed or drawn damn near a thousand new zombies into the area. It was almost like the undead knew what he was doing and were determined to say near the dinner table till the food was served.

“Any one got any suggestions on how to get them out “ He asked passing the binoculars to Ronny.

“Maybe send Steve over in a Tuta and do the Singing telegram happy birthday distraction” Ori suggested.

“Only in your mind does that work and make sense” Steve replied, though he smiled slightly at the attempt at humor.

“We could run them over til theres nothing but paste left “ Ronny suggested as he studied the building. At least they had a good vantage point here on the roof of the hotel. Not perfect but good enough for what they needed.

“Too much fuel wasted that way.” Jared said frowning he loved the idea, but between the fuel usage, and the any damage to the frames the vehicles might sustain, he wasn’t keen on implementing operation steam roller.

“We have what six claymores left?” Steve asked looking at Jared for confirmation.

“Seven and they are all mounted on the Beast.” Jared said thoughtfully, a claymore would damn sure cut a swath through all those zombies if they got them to swarm the beast, but that’s not the reason he had them on there, not particularly. That was supposed to be a last ditch weapon to clear the area around the Deuce in case they got mobbed in a large town or city. Not as an offensive weapon, even though they had used it once like that.

“I think what we need to do is send Daws and his team over there to shoot a few, and then start playing music loudly and lead them away. Once the numbers are lower, we charge in, park the deuce next to the wall and use the scissor lift to get a guy on the roof with a radio. He can contact the people inside and get them at the back door while we make a lot of noise out front, then when the folks inside are ready we head to the back and we cover them while they board the RV’s” Jared said, not thrilled by the plan but the best he could come up with.

“Sounds like a plan to me” Steve said, nodding in agreement.

“Just for the sake of playing devils advocate, what happens if they cant get out the back,” Ori asked.

“Then we take them off the roof, maybe park an RV next to the building while they come down onto the roof of an RV via ropes and enter thru a skylight. Or something. “ he ended lamely. “Damn I see all kinds of problems with that one” he admitted.

“If nothing else, we can strip the explosives out of a claymore, and blow the lock off the door.” Ori said. “its faster and easier than Rob trying to cut a section of the door out with his torch.”

“No we need the claymores, sorry” Jared replied. He was willing to help these folks, but not lose weapons and equipment they might need to survive with, while doing it. “ we stick with the back door plan, if that fails we use the scissor lift in the back of the Deuce to get them off the roof , they can climb into an RV window with out touching the ground from the back of the Deuce.” Jared said.

Back in the Motor home, Jared stripped down, not really thinking about it, and turned to see Amy blushing furiously on the couch. He grinned and pulled on his BDU pants and then a pair of Combat boots. Not being a total traditionalist he strapped on the knee pads, and thigh guards Jill had come up with.

A black tshirt and BDU blouse were pulled on next, then his combat vest, he strapped the tac holsters to his thighs over the armor, Then added the black hi impact motocross arm and shoulder armor.

“ now this looks like something in a SCI Fi movie” he commented as he attached his tomahawks.

Amy, almost laughed, he would look much better in nothing but blue war paint in the middle of the woods she decided, down girl he has a wife. She told herself sternly.

“So what do you want me to do” she asked, eager to participate in saving her friends, even the bitch Carrie.

“Stay in the RV, that’s it.” he said, then knelt in front of her to look her squarely in the eye. “I don’t doubt your brave or you want to help. But me and mine are used to operating together. If you zig when we zag you could get shot or left behind in the middle of a crowd of those things. So what I want you to do, is wait in here with a rifle and if the driver tells you to shoot out the left or right side, you slide the window open only wide enough to get the barrel thru and then fire. Nothing more. In fact that might be as important as being on the ground, youll be keeping them off our asses while we get your friends out. And when we get a man inside that building, I want you to talk to them on the radio so they know your alive and well, and really working with us.” Jared explained.

“If you don’t want to trust us, we can get you up on that roof with a rifle and some ammo and head on out, its up to you. “ He said with no real interest in her decision.

She looked at Jill who stood in the back by the bedroom, buckling on the armor she wore over that leather outfit, Jill looked so serene and beautiful, like a woman samurai heading into combat. If Amy couldn’t trust her, she couldn’t trust any one Amy decided knowing that was a stupid reason to trust anyone. But there was something about Jill that inspired her trust, Jared did as well, but as handsome as he was, there was a scary intensity to him that filled any room he was in, even when he was joking with his friends, he gave off the mental image of a tiger tensed and waiting to spring. and just when did you get so flowery she asked herself.

“No I trust you, I do” she said meaning it. Jared nodded and flowed to his feet, then smiled. “Well in another hour, we should be ready to go. Get yourself something to eat and drink, and talk to Jill, she can give you pointers.” He said with a bit of pride at that last.
Daws wasn’t thrilled with this mission, not in the least. Not that he objected to helping those folks. But the risks involved were high, with the debris on the streets from the storm, they could stuffer a blow out, or just a flat and leave them on foot, running from the horde. “Well no one said life was easy” He commented as he parked the Land rover, and looked at Spacey, whose rugged face reflected nervousness. “Crank it” he said. Spacey grinned as he hit the play button and turned the volume all the way up.

Next time he doesn’t get to pick the tunes Daws decided as Lady Gaga boomed from the speakers. Almost instantly the huge crowd around the pharmacy began to turn and head towards the land rover. “Well that’s done it, the natives seem to hate Lady Gaga” He yelled over the music, then shook his head in mock disgust as Crippen rolled down the window and dropped trouse and mooned the zombies. Slapping his ass he yelled. “Come and get it.” Laughing uproariously he dropped back into the seat and rolled up the window before pulling up his pants.

“I got a nice ass that ought to get them all excited” he yelled at Daws, who rolled his eyes, then pointed past Crippen to the dunken donuts where zombies were piling out of the building. “you could have gotten your hairy ass bitten, idiot” Daws yell back.

Crippen frowned for a moment then grinned, totally unshaken. “That’s a good thirty feet away. They would have to throw their dentures at my ass to bite it.”

Daws started the Rover and backed up when the crowd was with in twenty feet, waited then pulled back some more. With the numbers coming up from behind them and from the sides, he was going to have to turn around in a moment just in case.

“Looking kind of bad out there” Spacey yelled. Daws didn’t respond, he could see it in the rear view mirror.

“ god I hate lady Gaga” he yelled as he gunned the motor, the land rover shot backwards, Daws pulled the emergency brake and twisted the wheel at the same time, whoopping as the Land rover spun around, lady gaga died in mid word as the CD was joggled as it flew out of Spacey’s hands. Spacey ended up in the floor board cursing, Jones was laughing his ass off.

“ I do not want to die to lady gaga “ Daws said then winced as the Cd player started booming again.

Daws eyed the zombies ahead of him, and smiled as he spotted a side street he didn’t speed but he didn’t dawdle either as he headed for the side street and turned down it. just to make sure he had their attention he honked the horn a couple of times till the entrance of the street behind him was filled with undead.

The land rover sped up south main, weaving around small groups of zombies, stalls and wrecks. Zombies began to appeared from the quaint red and beige bricked buildings, where an old fashioned awning that had provided shade, now hung in tatters,

Some time in the past a truck had crashed coming to a stop halfway inside a restaurant called Tricias, there might have been more of the name but that was all he could read. Five undead were staggering and shambling from the doorway, the actual door lay on the ground, in front of the entrance.

The barber shop, one of those old fashioned looking shops complete with a barbers pole, was bullet riddled, where twenty skeletons lay on the side walk in front of the store. .

“ historic downtown “he muttered as he turned left down the next street and saw the courthouse, that sat on what once was a neatly kept public square. Police cars were scattered around the area, where obviously they had tried to fight the undead and lost badly.

In the rear view mirror he saw more undead streaming up the street directly behind him, and another group from south main, which Daws had just left, the two groups meeting and merging and staggering towards the land rover with Momma Daws little boy inside.

“ mother of god” he muttered, and drove ahead, making himself not speed, but keeping on eye on the growing number of undead ahead of them. Jared had better make his move and fast or we are going to get eaten he thought as he turned west and fled, Lady gaga blaring and forgotten for the moment.

Ori sat on the roof watching as the undead flowed after the land rover that vanished between buildings, he could hear music echoing off the old buildings. He tapped his foot absently, he wasn’t a fan but he did like some of her stuff, good beat to shoot things with. He thought. He could see undead streaming towards the land rovers position from several streets, a huge mob of them, more than Ori would have thought were around. They came from buildings, vehicles, even a culvert in one spot. but at the CVS only a hundred remained pawing at the glass.

“Now,” Ori said over the radio as he cased the binoculars, he hooked himself up and stepped up on the roof lip of the Hotel and stepped off in an Aussie rappel.

Amy watched open mouthed from the RV as the short blond guy plummeted face first towards the pavement, rope trailing out behind him, she drew in a breath to scream and he suddenly slowed and then flipped upright to land feet first his weapon ready. He saw her staring and flashed her a smile and a wink as he unhooked and ran for the Big military truck.

The deuce led the way, turning onto Tenth Street which crossed TN 41, which was blocked with vehicles. Rob aimed for the rear panel of the cars and trucks blocking the way, and started to push them out of the way with a squeal of metal forging a path for the other vehicles to follow. Luckily there were no wrecks to make things more difficult and in less then three minutes they were across the highway. The Beast turned into the parking lot of the CVS, men firing carefully into the crowd of zombies, the fire only stopping when the angle changed where the shooters might hit the stores glass and shatter it allowing the zombies entry.

The deuce didn’t even rise or bounce as it ran over zombies in the parking lot then turned and followed the wall of the CVS till it was so close to the wall of the pharmacy it scraped brick then stopped.

Before they had left Fort Moultrie Rob, in one of his brainstorms had talked them into mounting a thirty foot scissor lift in the back of the deuce, Jared had agreed, as long as it wasn’t welded in place. Rob had then taken plates welded to bolts that he ran through the floor of the bed and then welded the bolts to the frame. Then Rob had removed the wheels on the scissor lift once it was placed in the center of the Deuce, welded industrial Eye bolts to the lift, then bolted the lift to the secured plates, at that point he wired it into the Deuces generator. If they needed to remove the lift, they simply unbolted it, reattached the wheels then rolled it off the Deuce Via a ramp they carried lashed to the side.

It had been intended for and used as a sentry tower in camp. But now it rose up til it was even with the roof, and Logan ran a board out from the lift to the Roof, a mere ten feet. Ori, made sure Logan was wearing a harness that was clipped to the lift, so if he fell, he would just fall fifteen feet, before dangling at the end of the harness. Logan looked nervous, but he gave Ori a shaky smile then ran across the Board bridge to the roof of the CVS. As soon as he was safely on the other side, Ori unclipped the harness and began to lower the lift,

“Logan there should be a hatch or something up there. If it’s locked, its locked on the inside, so knock before you try to open it. “ Jared said over the radio as Jill drove the van thru the parking lot. The two RVs waited to take on survivors as soon as it was clear enough.

Logan trotted across the roof, looking around, and finally spotted a raised metal square with a latch on it. “Got it Jared” he reported, kneeling he knocked loudly on the metal hatch.
* * * *

Mike had looked up startled like every one else when music started blaring somewhere outside, most had gotten excited thinking that maybe Amy had returned with truck. But then they had heard a motor and both music and motor had faded out towards the north end of town.

And then more motors, close by, one sounded like it was just outside scraping along the wall. The wall even vibrated like a big truck was parked along side.

The sudden knocking from the roof, damn near caused Mike to shit his pants, before he could say anything Lee was scrambling up the ladder, and opening the hatch.

Lee stared up out of the hatch then began to climb down, followed by a tall muscular dark haired twenty something man with an olive complexion. he had a square face with a classic nose and jaw, and a five oclock shadow. He wore cargo pants and an ACU shirt, combat vest, a pistol rode his hip, and he had slung AR across his back.

“Who the hell are you “ Lee was asking “ how did you get on the roof”

“ no time, Amy wants to talk to you then we need to get all of you folks the hell out of here” The man said, pulling off a small headset and passing it to Mike, who noted it was a wireless military headset.

Placing it on his head Mike said “hello”

“thank god mike, Listen these guys offered to help get all you guys out. Don’t worry they are okay and they have all kinds of food and stuff.” She stopped talking then in a rush said “Im sorry the truck died and I couldn’t get back and then there was a mob and a bowler hat zombie and ……” Amy was gone and mans voice deep and confident filled his ear.

“ Mike Im Jared, the man I sent in is Logan, he will tell you what you need to do,. You should be out of there in five minutes or less. You can talk to Amy as soon as your on board.”

“ uh okay” mike said, it was coming at him to hard and fast, could he trust them, should he trust them. did he really want to stay trapped in here. No. He would have to trust who ever this people were if he wanted his own folks to live, at least for a little longer.

“ Copy that , see you in a few minutes” Mike replied making his decision and praying it was the right one.. He passed the headset over to Logan. “ okay Logan, what do we do.” Mike asked.

“ first get every one by the back door, when I give you the signal open the door and run for the RV that will be waiting out there.” Logan replied.

“ RV?” Arthur asked, surprised.

Logan didn’t reply he just stood there looking nervous, watching as the entire group of survivors assembled at the door. Logan did notice when the attractive blond made it obvious she was checking him out and then winked at him.

The group talked quietly as Logan watched, the big muscled guy, Lee, as some one had called him, stood next to the door with a set of keys in his hands. They were all apprehensive, any one would be, the thought of opening a door and not knowing if a thousand undead might be on the other side was beyond nerve wracking Logan thought.

Logan gripped his rifle tighter as he waited, looking around with interest. It was odd really how some places were damn near stripped bare, while other places looked like it was just waiting for the power to come back on and the people to arrive to start spending money again. what made even less sense to him, was who in the hell was stripping all the towns and cities. As few survivors as they had encountered, there wasn’t enough people left to strip all those places bare.

“ stand by got a problem out here” Jareds voice crackled in his ear startling Logan out of his thoughts.

“ roger that, standing by” Logan replied, seeing people turn desperate looks at him.

“ Daws has a problem, and a few more undead have shown up out here, when we do this, those people inside are going to have to run and run fast. It seems the undead aren’t as stupid as they used to be” Jared said into his ear. Logan didn’t understand that last part but he prayed it wasn’t anything more than turn of phrase.

He looked around the dim, storeroom, with its tall double rough of shelves draped in shadows, the only light was from the three opaque skylights set in the ceiling high above.
The Good looking blonde sidled up beside him, and her hand cupped his right butt cheek.

“You’re a handsome one aren’t you” she said with a smile of invitation.

“ umm thanks maam, but if you need to stay with the others, we are going to have to move fast when that door comes open.” Logan said uncomfortably, then noticed the angry look that the guy, Mike, was giving her. There was something going on there, and Logan had no desire to be in the middle of it no matter how good-looking she was.

He stepped away and gave her a smile that was all professional with no emotions. “ if you would join the others Maam.”. Jared would be so proud of him, Logan thought weirdly pleased and finding it funny at the same time.

She frowned, not liking the rejection. “Figures another queer” she snapped and walked over to join the others. Not quite part of the group he noted, shaking his head. As if there isn’t enough to deal with he thought.

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

Daws whipped around a corner, and slammed on the brakes spotting the wall of undead just ahead. Who would have expected that zombies would hang out at a school, he thought. He backed up, and then turned around and sped off again.

“Jones where the hell are we?” Daws asked,

“North Garner I think “ Jones called out.

“That tells me zip” daws shouted, then hit the brakes, the land rover skidded to a stop. He turned angrily grabbed the CD player, yanked it out of Spaceys hands. With a sigh of relief he placed it on the road and left it sitting there while he drove off. His ears still ringing from the Gaga monster.

“God that’s better” he yelled then laughed. .

“That was my damn CD “ Spacey protested angrily.

“You want to get out and get it back” Daws asked looking in the rear view mirror, the mass of zombies had swept up to the CD player. Some had stopped to stare at the box that was trying to kill them with Gaga, the rest kept trudging after the Fleeing land rover.

“No actually im not that attached to it “ Spacey said looking back and seeing the crowd..

“Okay folks we can’t lead them out the same way Jared is going so we need to head west. And make noise. “ Daws said.

“Seems you left the CD player on the street back there.” Spacey commented.

Daws laid into the horn, “ don’t need it.” he said taking another turn. Seeing a mass of zombies he whipped around another turn and they found themselves driving along a greenway that bordered the River and ahead were more undead.

Daws backed up quickly and turned around, and followed the greenway south

“ you realize that every possible route out of here is filled with undead “ Crippen pointed out.

“ I think I might have noticed a few of the undead bastards in our way, “ Daws replied as he spotted yet another large group just ahead and hit the brakes.

“ I don’t think I really want to die today “ Jones said. Daws happened to agree with him.

He sat there for a moment looking around, and then gave a smile that completely lacked humor. “ if your not wearing seat belts slap them on, and Ori is going to hate my ass if we live thru this.” Daws said as he backed up turning left, He lined the land rover up with a narrow parking lot between two buildings. “you see when the roads are jammed, the Dept of Transportation now recommends making your own path.”

He floored the pedal and the Land rover leaped forward, smoke spewing from its tires, that narrow parking lot let out into another street and there were view zombies in sight in that direction. The problem was the Chain link fence that currently blocked off this side of the parking lot.

They hit the fence between posts doing fifty miles an hour speed still climbing, there was a slight jerk and resistance and a sound like fingers on a chalk board and then suddenly they were thru, the fence slapping back down behind them like they had never gone thru.. Jones gaped at the sight. “ how did we just go under it” he asked.
“ does it matter” Daws asked laughing as he turned right and sped back towards the courthouse, weaving wildly around groups of undead, he managed to skirt the huge crowd and sped back towards the CVS.

“Did you know that was going to happen” Crippen asked.

“ Thought it might, saw it on a tv show once, something about the ties that hold the fence to the posts will break when a vehicles strikes it, so the nose of the vehicle pushes the fence up and out, the fence goes over the top, and then snaps back into place once your past.” Daws explained as he side swiped a car, that was half in a parking spot its, the drivers door standing open.

As they shot over the curb onto Walnut street, he yanked the wheel to the right, and turned tires squealing, and the land rover bounced and lurched as he ran over three undead, in the way, a head light shattered.

“Ori is going to kill you” Jones said hanging onto the Jesus bar, trying not to be thrown around.

“Better him than zombies” Daws said, as he turned on to 5th street, heading East, weaving around clumps of undead that slapped at the land rover as it passed. Spotting Willow street, Daws made a sharp turn right and in moments they were speeding past, the county records building, then the TV station on the corner.

Behind them the huge mass of undead had already reversed direction, frustrated that their prey had some how gotten behind them. it flowed south again, stumbling, staggering and dragging itself after the fleeing prey.

“Damn, there’s still a lot of them on this end of town,” Crippen said as they drove up into the yard of an old home, to go around a clump of sixty undead.

“Almost there” Daws called out. Which he shouldn’t have and he knew it the moment the words came out of his mouth. They were approaching Tenth Street, where he would turn left and be almost on top of the CVS, when he ran over debris in the road and two tires blew out.

He struggled with the wheel but couldn’t get control, the Land rover slid and began to turn the world went nuts as the land rover Rolled, once, twice, three times, shedding parts and gear from the cargo rack. Daws, shook his head, and fumbled at the seat belt release, managing to get free on the third attempt. He opened the door and fell out into the street.

God I ache he thought dazed followed by, zombies shit,… he looked around wildly, seeing at least sixty undead closing in on the wreckage from the street and intersection.. “Come we have to move” he said leaning back into the Land Rover to retrieve his Rifle.

“Got it, going” Spacey said, as he pushed open the back door and slid out, almost screaming as he put weight on the leg he had broken. “shit, shit, shit “ he chanted as he drug out his pack and rifle and dumped them on the ground.

Daws snagged his own rifle, noting how pale Crippen looked. “ come on man, cant leave you” Daws said, and then recoiled as Crippen turned to him, milky white eyes, locking on Daws. “ oh fuck no” Daws said , as Crippen lunged against the seat belt.

“ need to hurry, here” spacey said as he shot down a zombie that was a bit to close.

“Damn Crippen Im fucking sorry” Daws said, as Crippen realized that Jones was in the seat behind it, moving weakly. It turned and tried to grasp Jones, jaws opening wide, Daws lifted his rifle and fired ending Crippen’s torment. “ this is Daws, we are on foot, one block from your location near the intersection of,” Daws paused and looked around quickly spotting a road sign. “ near the intersection of tenth and Hill We have one down and one wounded.” He reported over the radio. “Roger Daws, copy one wounded one down, stand by for the Calvary”

“Roger, Calvary copied, but we cant wait, it’s a target rich environment, proceeding on foot. Meet you halfway.” Daws said as he moved around to the back and pulled out his own ruck, thankful that he had left the SAW with Jared. to much weight. Spacey was firing steadily by now from the ground where he sat. Jones had recovered enough to get out and move to the back to get his own Pack.

“ lets go” Daws said, as he turned and shot down two more zombies that were with in ten feet. Spacey already had his pack on, and all Daws and Jones had to do was lift him up between them and started moving for the repair shop, where a band of zombies stood between them and escape, Firing as they went.

If they could just reach the other side of the repair shop, the rest of the group could provide covering fire till they reached the Convoy Daws thought as they staggered over the curb and into the Parking lot of the Repair shop and the mass of zombies that had been heading for the Pharmacy.

“ get that RV in Place, and get them out now” Jared called out as he got his team into the van, Jill was behind the wheel. They had heard the crash just a block away, and then the gunfire. Jeb, who was usually on Daws team, had been assigned to helping them clear and secure the parking lot, and was eager to go with them. Jared didn’t say no, he just pulled the soldier into the van, and was sliding the door shut as Jill accelerated away and onto the street.

It was it turned out less than a block, as they passed the cinder block and and tin repair shop, Jared saw the crumbled and wrecked Land Rover, twenty feet from the intersection and the three men who were limping across the parking lot of the Car repair shop, firing for their lives.

Jill yanked the wheel hard, and half sliding rocketed into the parking lot, she ran over five zombies, aiming for a spot that would place the van between the zombies on the street and the fleeing men.

The spot she had chosen also contained a group of zombies that moved somewhat faster than normal, Jill rolled into the knot of zombies swerving slightly to make sure she got them all then Hit the brakes, the van stopped with a squeal of tires, while Jared slid the side door.

“ Jeb, Ronny get them in side.” Jared called out as he, Steve and Ori leaped out and began to shoot slowly into the mass of undead making each shot count.

Steve and Jared took the right side of the van alternating his shots between the zombies near the intersection and the zombies on his end of Hill street, Ori took the left side of the van and fired into the zombies on his side of hill street.

Daws and Jones carrying Spacey had turned around and limped towards the van. The undead that had stood between them and the Repair shop were now bearing down on the fleeing men.

“ switching fire to support” Jared called out as he shifted his fire to the undead at the Repair shop leaving Steve and Ori to keep the ones on the street clear of them.

Every zombie they shot or drew away from the CVS gave the convoy another few minutes to safely removed the trapped survivors Jared thought as he watched the shambling, bloody horde that now surged towards them.

a woman dressed as a nurse was pulling ahead of the pack, Jared shot her, she landed brokenly on the ground, blackish goo oozing from her shattered skull. Two Pre teen girls, determinedly pursued the fleeing men, where the next to be shot. Jared didn’t let it bother him then, but later that would haunt him. He was in a zone, shifting from target to target.

A burly half naked man, wearing Marvin the martian boxers, went down, pimply faced teen aged boy with glasses wearing an Arby’s uniform, died next, his head exploding. A Toddler, wearing bloody footy pajamas went down, Jared kept firing, tears streaming down his cheeks at the horror he felt at having to shoot kids, but one by one, he sent them back to deaths embrace.

The Jeb and Ronny were at the fleeing mens side, helping and covering them to the van. Where Spacey was passed inside, then Daws and Jones tumbled in after him. Followed by Jeb and Ronny. “Jared get in” Steve shouted as Ori ran and leaped in the van.

Jared’s Commando ran dry, as the two groups of undead from the Repair shop merged into one Ragged mass of death and were only twenty feet away, he let the Commando dangle across his chest and drew his Mk 23 in a fluid flashing move and fired into the crowd of Undead. A zombie tumbled to the ground with each shot.

Damn he is fucking scary with that pistol Steve thought, as he moved to stand next to Jared.

Jill was shouting from inside the van, Tentacles of undead had spread out from the advancing crowd on the streets and were rounding both front and back of the Van.

Steve grimaced as he saw a Cop, his uniform bloody, missing huge chunks of his arm, came around the back, more undead were behind him. A hideous throng of bloody, rotting flesh. Steve cursed and Grabbed Jared around the waist and dove into the Van, they hit the floor, Steve striking his head on the bed, and then the light from outside cut off as Ori slammed the door shut.

“ go go go go” Jeb was shouting. Jill threw the van into gear and plowed over the undead in front of the van, as she whipped around the parking lot, and headed back for the Store. . “ they had better have every one out of there” Steve shouted as he helped Jared up. “ you okay brother.”

Jared nodded as he holstered his pistol, and then replaced the spent magazine in the commando. Steve watched him worried, then Jared looked up his eyes red.
” yeah Im fine and thanks for dragging my ass in the van, probably saved me, again.” Jared said his voice level.

He rose then leaned down and said into Steve’s ear, “ I don’t know how much longer I can deal with this Steve.” He whispered then made his way to the passenger seat of the van as it sped back to the CVS, Leaving Steve to watch him thoughtfully.
Logan, blanched as he heard Daws reports, and a few of the people clustered at the door noticed his reaction, but didn’t understand the reason, they started looking more scared than before. “Logan We have the RV in place, its ten feet from the back door, there are eight zombies in sight at the moment, if they run, there will no problems” Rob said on the secondary channel. “Move them out now we have them covered.”

“ Lee, right,” Logan asked the muscular guy. Lee nodded and Logan continued “Lee get that door open, no crowding, no pushing the RV is ten feet from the door, theres a few zombies but not close enough to be a threat if you run.” Logan said, as he moved to the door his weapon at High Ready. He nodded at Lee who threw open the door and then Logan stepped through.

His rifle came up and lined up a target as he stepped out of the way of the others, Amy was shouting at them to run from the window of Steve’s RV. The closest zombie, was a man, so skinny in life he had looked almost skeletal, death had fixed that, he now looked like a skeleton with leather blue tinged skin stretched tight over the bones, he wore only a pair of board shorts, , half his face was gone, and sunlight glinted on white bone.

“firing” he said as he set his sights on target and fired, twice, then a third time, cursing. He must have bumped his sights when he came down the ladder. The zombie tumbled to one side and lay still, but another, a pregnant woman, whose belly had been ripped open, he fought back the urge to gag and put two rounds in her head.

Carrie hesitated at the door, as the others scooped up plastic bags of goods and ran for the RV, Mike stood there counting as each person passed him. “Go Lee” he said finally watching as the muscled maintenance work took off for the RV.

“Come one Carrie we have to go” he said, wanting to scream when she glared at him and shook her head. “Fuck you, I don’t want to go with you people” she screamed.
“We don’t have time for your fit throwing” He snapped at her, she only spit at him.

Furious, and scared at the thought of being left behind he lunged for her, and managed to throw her kicking and screaming over his shoulder. Thankfully he didn’t have to worry about carrying any thing else, the others had carried all the bags of stuff with them. He ran out the door, past the Italian looking guy, and charged for the Huge RV.

Logan didn’t hesitate, as soon as Mike ran past him, he followed. Keeping his weapon up and ready but holding his fire no point in wasting ammo.

Mike Reached the RV and tossed the squirming Carrie to Lee, who passed her to Mort, then leaped onboard, he turned and held out a hand to Logan as the RV started to roll. With a heave he pulled the guy onto the RV and they both fell backwards in a tangle of arms, legs and weapons.

“ I really hope that’s a riffle butt “ mike joked as he extracted himself and rose to his feet. Staring at the luxurious interior of the RV with something like awe.

“ no it wasn’t, it was my combat knife” Logan replied with a shaky laugh as he stood.

“ is that you guys are calling it now” Mike replied, grinning. His grin faded as he turned to see a furious Carrie sitting on the couch, with Ily glaring right back at her. Amy was hugging every one, every one but Carrie and apologizing for losing the truck, explaining why and where she had left it.

Mike turned to Logan, “ think we could stop at the truck that Amy had to leave, and get the last of our stuff out of it”

Logan shook his head, “ I doubt it Mike, theres so many of those things on every street, its to dangerous, and we have already lost one guy.”

“ Shit, Im really sorry” Mike said with feeling. He held Logan’s eyes for a moment then turned and walked back to join his folks. The hot looking Latin number hovered near him, while the blond glared at the two of them. Logan shook his head not wanting to know details.

******************************
With all the routes north out of town closed, Jared had them swing back around south and come back up and around Springfield using the country roads to stay out of the built up areas.

Jill watched Jared as closely as she could while she drove, under a bright blue sky, the last of the clouds gone, they passed overgrown fields and farmhouses slowly losing the fight against nature. In the distance she could see the wooded ridges and slopes of the Rim. Jared didn’t even give more than a glance to the huge number of deer that bounded off into the distance, disturbed by the sound of vehicles.

Jared was sat silently lost in thought; he had been that way since they had left Springfield, tapping his right forefinger on the side of his commando. It was maybe two hours from sunset, and the sky if anything was a deeper blue than before. they had crossed 49 half an hour back , and were looking for a way to get back over to 41.

As they passed an old farmhouse, the yard overgrown, the fields covered in brambles, a tree had fallen across the fence, and a few zombies wandered around in the yard, Jared sat up straight in his seat. Staring at the two windmills to that flanked the house.

“ pull in here” he said pointing to the gate, his sudden animation and excitement took her by surprise but she nodded and slowed to turn into the gravel drive.

“ why here” She asked eyeing the old weathered farmhouse, it looked as if some one had started to restore the long front porch, and the flower beds, but the end of the world had ended the restoration.

“ both of those windmills are rigged up to provide power, theres a bank of solar cells on the roof, and with that large gravel area in front and down on side of that barn we can park damn near every vehicle we have there. We need a few days Jill, to get our shit together, make some repairs, and go over our inventory.” Jared said as the van came to a stop in front of the gate on the cattle guard.. he opened the passenger door and slipped out with the bolt cutters he kept next to the seat. A moment later he had the chain cut and swung the gate open.

The last vehicle thru was a Hemmit fuel truck it came to a stop just inside the gate and waited till Jared had the gate closed and he climbed up to stand on the step beside the trucks passenger door. “Park at the barn,” he said through the window. The truck rumbled forward, rolling across the overgrown yard before coming to a stop on at the graveled are in front of the barn. Jared leaped down from the side of the truck and
and joined Team one as they finished cleaning up the few zombies in the yard.

“ Rob, get your chainsaw and get over there with some guards and get that tree cleared off the fence, Ed, you, Steger, Logan and Mai Linn, clear the barn and see if theres anything in there we can repair the fence with..” Jared said, half watching as the men and women they had rescued climbed down out of Steve’s RV, and looked around, surprised at the amount of hustle as men and women rushed to their tasks.

“You think we can stay here for a few days “ Steve asked, raising an eyebrow, determined to act normal till he could Jared off to one side and have a talk with him.

“Unless you can think of a better place, we all need the rest Steve, I’ve pushed to damn hard to get to Campbell, and look what’s happened. Vehicles that need, work, all of us tired, we lost one man, another one is injured, and we have added a lot of extra miles, which means more fuel use. and we both know how dangerous topping off the tankers can be” Jared said, as he studied the house, he was seriously considering stripping out the solar panels and installing them on one of the RVS.

“Guess we need to check and see if anyone is at home” Steve said nodding towards the house.

“Lets get to it then “ Jared said, checking his commando.

“Not you, Us. I want you to stay here this time Jared “ Steve said his tone said he wasn’t going to give an inch this time. “ don’t argue, go find something to do, talk with our guests, jerk off, I don’t care, just stay out here this time.”

“Your not going to budge on this are you” Jared asked almost lightly. He already knew the answer and actually found it amusing.

“Not an inch, If I have to Ill knock you out and duct tape your ass to a bed” Steve replied. Ronny hearing the last part perked up.

“ Im not into gay stuff, and Im not judging, but if your going to get that Kinky Mary can give you two some pointers on how best to do it.” Ronny offered with a huge grin.

“Kiss my hairy butt Ronny “ Steve called out, as those closest to them started laughing.

“Just saying, if your gonna walk on the wild side, get expert advice, and Mary is an expert.” Ronny shot back.

“ I guess if I wanted to be fitted for a male chastity device, I would consider talking to Mary, speaking of which, does it chaff when wearing one?” Steve asked Ronny with a smile. Ronny raised an eyebrow, then started laughing.

“Touché, Im wounded sir.” Ronny said grinning

“All right Team one lets get this done.” Steve said as he pointed at Jared to stay, then waved the rest of the team to follow him into the house.

“Mutiny, I feel like Captain Bligh, again. “ Jared said as he watched them enter the house hard and fast, then shook his head and sat down on the rear bumper of the van.
* * * * *

Mike sat quietly listening to his people talk while their rescuers sat up camp, they were excited about finding an Off road truck and two dirt bikes in the Barn, as well as lumber, nails, wire, and all all sorts of parts and tools.

Someone located a root cellar, and jars of peaches, apples, okra, dried beans, Peppers, and other things including what looked like roast and pork inside the old cellar were quickly transferred to one of the vehicles.
Once they had the off road truck pulled out of the barn their mechanic got to work on it. while others of the large group started setting up a place in the barn to cook and eat in.

He realized watching them, they had to have been on the road for awhile to be able to strip the barn of all the useable stuff, then set up tables, chairs, stoves and coolers and everything else in less than an hour.

His eyes widened as he watched some of the men haul fish and red meat from a cooler and start preparing them to be cooked. That was not the biggest shock, not by a long shot it was the cooler full of cold beer got his mouth to watering, he had never been a big drinker, but after a year, the thought of a cold beer sounded like heaven, and was probably safer to drink than water.

He rose to his feet and followed Logan into the barn, Logan sat next to the good looking brunette who had a Katana propped against the table she sat at. Logan stopped and then looked embarrassed. “Damn mike I’m sorry we are so used to everyone knowing what’s what I didn’t think to say anything. get your folks in here. At the moment we have plenty, and you’re welcome to have some. “Logan said, as he glanced at the Woman who nodded in agreement.

“ maybe I should ask your leader, “ Mike offered.

“Jared doesn’t mind, if he did he would have told us to keep this stuff under wraps. So you wouldn’t realize how much we have.” Logan assured him, which really did nothing for mike who preferred to hear it straight from the horses mouth. He looked around and spotted the muscular Red Head, that Amy had told them was the Leader of this group.

“Thanks, but let me ask him first, to be polite. I don’t want any miss understandings at this point, and I need to know how long we are going to be here. We went into town for medicines for a friend of ours that’s sick, I don’t want to be gone any longer than we have too.”

Logan nodded in understanding and pointed at the Red Head mike had already figured out was the leader “ that’s Jared over there, be warned though, he is a bit touchy right now, he took it hard that we lost one of ours today.” He said.

Mike thanked him for the warning and walked across the Barn, Jared was talking to a Pretty Asian woman, as Mike approached.

Jared turned his head towards Mike as Mike stopped just far enough away to be polite. “ hi, I take it your Mike, Amy told me about you” Jared said, surprising Mike, he sounded completely normal, not torn up like Logan had indicated. But once Mike got a look in those Intense emerald Green eyes, he saw grief and something else, carefully held at bay

“Yes, and your Jared.” Mike replied holding out his hand, The Asian woman studied him for a moment, then smiled. “I wanted to thank you for helping us out, I cant even begin to tell you how much that means to us. We haven’t encountered too many friendly folks in the last nine months or so.” Mike said.

“I don’t doubt it, people are scared about drawing in the undead, scared of losing what little food and water they have, and scared for what ever friends and family survived with them. and they will end up dying alone, with out the help that might have saved them.” Jared replied, almost coldly.

Mike was sure that Jared was prior service, what with his High and tight haircut, the way carried himself and his weapons and the gear he wore. Though it must have been a few years back since he wore BDU’s, or maybe he just liked BDU’s which was possible.

“ well I did want to thank, and Logan and the woman sitting by him, invited us to eat with you, and I wanted to make sure that was okay with you” Mike asked pressing ahead.

“ your welcome, and yes by all means, at the moment we are food heavy, but we don’t eat like this that often. So don’t think its an every day occurrence. At least not on the road.” Jared said, mike caught the implication that they weren’t always on the road, and that peeked his curiosity, but he ignored it at the moment filing it away for another conversation.

“ the one thing I have to know, how long are we going to be here” Mike asked, his attention drifting as he saw Carrie step into the RV with one of the soldiers.. his anger rose, but he throttled it back.

“ excuse me, I have to deal with something” Mike said before Jared could answer, he turned on his heel and walked stiffly towards the Rv, only half aware that Jared followed behind him, and then Lee was walking by his side. Lee didn’t say a word, there was nothing he could say, he was there for support no matter what mike decided to do or say. He had also seen the fact that Carrie had made sure Mike saw her lead that soldier into the RV.

Mike climbed into the RV, and headed straight to the back where he could hear carrie giggling in that all to familiar husky bedroom voice. He felt a hand on his shoulder and pulled away, he pulled his pistol and before Jared could say anything passed it to Lee before throwing open the door.

Carrie was kneeling in the middle of the bed, her shirt off and the soldier was already in his boxers he head buried between her breasts, the man pulled back in surprise and his eyes widened as he saw not only a Furious Mike but Jared and a fireplug in Jeans and a flannel shirt.

“ mister, You didn’t know, and its complicated, but that’s my wife, please leave.” Mike said his eyes fixed on Carrie who smiled gloatingly at him and then the look was gone as she got angry “ Get the hell out your not my husband and Im tired of hearing you say it” she snarled wrapping and arm around the soldier as if seeking protection. “ he is just some pathetic asshole that thinks he is my husband.” She told the man while shooting a nasty mocking smile at Mike.

Mike felt his temper rise to dangerous levels and was thankful he had given his pistol to Lee. The soldier bowed up ready to defend her, but a Jared’s sharp bark of an order to get his pants on and leave got the man moving quickly. Mike stepped aside to let him pass, not missing the look that promised this wasn’t over.

“I hate you” Carrie snarled, throwing a shoe at him.

“ I know” he said simply and stepped out of the small master bedroom and shut the door, a moment later he sagged into a chair, shaking as he adrenalin started leaving his system.

“I’m sorry, really “ he said then was unable to continue. Lee looked at him with pity and turned to Jared and told him the whole story.

“ Jesus buddy, that’s got to be the shittiest thing I’ve heard since all this stuff started.” Jared said to Mike when Lee finished. “You must be a hell of man to still hang on to that love after all that”

Mike didn’t answer, he was starting to wonder about that himself, he loved a woman that didn’t seem to exist any more, and wasn’t coming back.

“How long are we going to be here” Mike asked forcing himself to get back to the actual important issue. “ we came into town looking for medications for one of our people whose sick as hell, we left him behind with a few other of our folks. At a house we have been staying at.”

“Not more than for a few days, but if your willing, I can send a team to take you and the medication back, tomorrow. We needed to scout out a route anyway, might as well combine both.” Jared said, feeling major pity for the man. Mike nodded numbly then thanked Jared again before he and Lee left the RV to tell the others that they could join in the feast.

Jared stood there for a moment look at the Bedroom door, wandering if he had that kind of strength and love in him. He had done a lot for Jill, and his friends and those in his group like Little Billy Thornton, but that, losing your wife to amnesia, especially during the end of the world, that was just fucked up he decided. And Jared hadn’t missed the looks she had given Mike, she was enjoying hurting him. Intensely enjoyed hurting him from the look of it.

He turned and walked from the Rv, he would send Jill in to roust her out of Steve’s room, at least Jill could beat the hell out of her if she tried to resist.

* * * *
as the sun set in a fiery red gold blaze, under pink tinged clouds, and long fingers of shadows crept across the land merging into a wave of darkness. A long figure stood outside the CVS Pharmacy, the tails of its tattered waist coat flapped in the breeze. It stared at the store, its dead white eye’s alight with evil pleasure, as it smiled. Things were going so well, the pieces were falling into place. That cop and the Red head wouldn’t see the danger till it rolled over them like a wave. It only hoped they both lived long enough for it to eat their hearts out, strip the flesh from bone.

Something that sounded like laughter, a dark hollow thing of jagged glass and blood drifted thru the night, as it cocked its head, visions of flaying flesh, and torture, of the long lost ability of rape filled it with shivering excitement,. its work wasn’t over by far. But first it had another to deal with, the old man must be removed.

It started walking, its long arms swinging at its side, its head cocked forward as if sniffing. It walked past the wrecked land rover, its shoes clocking steadily on the pavement as it moved like a shadow thru the darkness of the dead, town, and as it passed undead fell in behind it, following steadily in its wake, they knew where it went flesh awaited. It smiled in anticipation, like the Tide, the Darks time had come and it would rise and sweep humanity away like so much detritus.
* * * *
Mordicai, was growing worried. The party that had gone to Springfield was overdue. And Steve was growing worse by the hour. He had done all that he was able, and sandy the nurse was at her wits end, now all she could do was keep wet cloths on his forehead. An try to comfort the delirious man. They had both taken to wearing side arms while watching over the sick man. The possibility of Steve dying was too great for them to risk being unarmed if he should pass.

Death used to have some dignity Mordicai mused. But no longer, he was still haunted by having to shoot his beloved wife, after she had turned. He doubted his oldest son would ever really forgive him, no matter how necessary it might be.

He rose from his desk, extinguishing the oil lantern, then walked to his window and pulled back the black out curtain to gaze out into the night. there was nothing to really see, it was so dark. But it made him feel better. Now if only he could crack a window open to let the night breeze in like he had used to do on evenings like this.

After a while he let the curtain fall back into place, then pulled a flashlight from his pocket and headed out into dining room where two of Mikes men had stayed behind, Hector Ramirez, and Mark Smith, sat at the table eating soup. They looked up as he emerged from the study. “good evening “ Mordicai said softly.

They both looked tired after a day of re enforcing the walls of the barn, and building a strong pen for the cattle.

“evening” Mark said as he finished the soap and sighed happily as he patted his flat stomach. “ still not used to not having a beer belly “ Mark said with a grin.

Hector nodded in thanks, his English wasn’t as good as he would have liked, and he tended to be nervous about being misunderstood. Mordicai had never had a problem with understanding him when he did speak.

“ there is fresh cool milk in basement, if you would like some” Mordicai offered. Hector grinned and rose to his feet, he knew where the Mordicai stored the milk and was eager to have something other that water.

“How is Brent doing? “ Mark asked, using his thumb to indicate the upstairs.

“Not well I am afraid, if the others don’t get back soon it might be too late” Mordicai said not willing to sugar coat the situation.

Mark nodded not happy, from what Mordicai had gathered Brent had been the one who had kept them going, held them together. Mike had been second to Brent and had stepped in and done well by the group, he was respected and liked. But none of them could or would forget what Brent had done for all of them.

Upstairs he heard something break and sandy cry out, Mordicai rushed for the stairs, with mark right behind him, both scared at what they would find.

Mordicai barged into the bedroom and saw Sandy trying to hold a thrashing Brent down on the bed. “ stand away” Mark said pulling a pistol.

“No he hasn’t turned, he is having a seizure” Sandy said. “Help me secure him” she cried out.

Mordicai immediately sat aside his flashlight and pulled his suspenders off, and passed them to mark then held down Brent’s legs, while Mark tied Brent’s legs to the foot of the bed.

Not wanting to ruin the sheets, Mordicai stripped off his shirt, and then used his pocket knife to cut it into strips, then helping sandy to secure Brent’s arms, Mark quickly secured Brent to the Bed.
Sandy continued to sprawl across him trying to keep as still as she could, and fearing he might die right then and there and take a bite out of her.

Sandy sat back, and wiped the sweat from her brow, as she smiled her thanks at mark and Mordicai. God he isn’t bad looking actually she thought, as she took in the chiseled body, with out his hat and shirt, she realized he was much younger than she had thought.

“I hope Mike and the others get back here soon” She said, ignoring any other thoughts that might want to intrude.

” as do I “ Mordicai said, he didn’t mention that he felt it was safer for his sons and every one else with Brent secured..

“ Ill set with him for a while Sandy take a break” Mark said pulling up a chair and sitting down. Sandy nodded gratefully. “ if theres any kind of change get me immediately” She said.

“ no problems, I wouldn’t know what to do anyway” Mark replied.

She followed Mordicai from the room, looking down towards the floor and trying to figure out what herbs she might be able to find and identify that might be of some use, and couldn’t think of a thing.
They reached the kitchen and found Hector drinking a glass of Milk, he gave them both an odd look, then smiled. Sandy started to correct him but then left it alone.

Mordicai poured her a glass of milk, the excused himself to go dress. As he walked out of the room, She looked at Hector. “ don’t you dare say it, or tell any one else what you thought. He used his shirt so we had a way to Restrain Brent who was having a seizure.” She said.

Hector shrugged, but the grin never left his face.

“ I mean it Hector” she said.

“ I think nothing of it, Sandy, other than you appear to have an interest “ Hector replied finally. “How is Brent?” his accent was thick enough that he was hard to understand, but Sandy had never had a problem with understanding people who spoke engilsh with accents. Well except for that Scottish guy that one time, she thought. .

“ not good, I’m afraid. If they don’t get back here soon, it wont matter.” She admitted,

“ I will miss him, but if its his time” Hector said shrugging.

She nodded, there was only so much she could do even with medication, in the end it was up God and Brent’s will to live. But that didn’t stop her from praying that the others would get back here, the sooner the better. She was afraid the group would splinter with out Brent.

* * * *
Ori moved slowly and quietly, thru the stand of woods, every sense questing for danger and game. he heard a soft rustle to his left and frowned. Jeb was pretty good in the woods, he had to admit, not as good as Ori was but not many outside the hollows he grew up in where.

At least the man was a trained scout, so they had that in common. But to be honest, Ori missed having Jason with him when he went hunting and creeping. After being trapped by undead in the Smokys last winter, and making the dangerous climb up and then across a mountain in a bad snow storm, Jason had done well for a lowlander, and had taken every moment after that to learn any survival skill that Ori was willing to teach.

Jeb was from eastTexas, almost into Central Texas, the highest thing to climb there, outside of a few trees, were fire ant beds. Okay not totally fair there were a lot of Trees mostly pine on that side of Texas. He hadn’t spent his life climbing around ridges, and crawling thru caves and tracking game across rocky areas and creeks.

And now that you’ve tooted your own horn to yourself would you like to get down to business he told himself with a smile. While every one else got down to the business of Sleeping, and guard duty. Ori had taken Jeb to scout the area and do some hunting.
With his cross bow Ready Ori ghosted silently thru the tree’s, till he could peer across the overgrown pasture. The eighth they had come across since leaving the Camp. Beyond the field he could see an old Victorian style home with a tower that jutted up on the North Corner, the yard was pitch black under the spreading oaks around the house. About a hundred yards behind the house was an old barn.

Ori would have to get closer and turn on the NVG’s before he could make out much in the deep shadows. He hated using them, because it took long minutes for his nature night vision to return after he turned the unit off. And like Jared, Ori was worried about the batteries. the less the Night vision goggles were used the better.
He reached out with out looking and touched Jeb on the arm, and indicated he was going to cross the field. And then to Jebs astonishment he was gone.

The night was still and cool, and only the occasional cough of a Deer could be heard. Ori slithered up into the shadows a rusting tractor and peeked around to look into the front yard of the old house, that loomed over him.

It was almost to dark to see under the tree’s and not wanting to have a zombie walk up and take a sample. Ori pulled the NVG’s down over his eyes and turned the unit on. Then peeked around the tractor again.

There was a ford pick up with garden tools in the back parked near a new built garage, it had two flat tires, and its hood was covered in leaves, so it had been there for a while.

There was nothing parked on the circular gravel drive way either. Which meant nothing, there could be cars parked in the garage.
Placing his back against the tractor he looked back across the field, and pulled a red lense light up and clicked it four times. Then waited, using the time to see how often he could spot Jeb moving across the field. While he kept an ear and nose out for any sign of the undead being close.

He was pleasantly surprised that he only spotted the man three times, across the long overgrown field. Not bad at all he thought as Jeb rose ten feet from him as silent as a field mouse. Not bad at all Ori thought.

Making sure that there were still no undead, in sight, or close by, Ori leaned against Jeb and whispered in his ear. “ your call clear the house or by pass”

Jeb was still for a moment then “clear” one of the main missions tonight was to secure more food, and there might be some in the house, in the pantry or down in the basement or even in the garage. “ garage first” he added, Ori nodded, then with out another word moved in a crouch around the tractor and started across the yard.

The garage was thankfully a single story affair with three garage doors, and unattached to the house. Along the side facing the house, were two high windows and a door.

With out a word, Jeb moved to place his back against the wall of the garage, and cupped his hands. Ori moved up and placed a foot into Jebs hand and the other man hoisted him up to look into the garage. Ori peered in, and saw 1924 buick sitting there, Beyond that the other bays were empy, except for two fourwheelers. A bench ran across the back wall and two large rolling tool boxes, sat nearby.

Ori dropped to the ground and moved to the door of the garage and tried the handle. Unlocked, such trusting souls he thought as he crouched there in the shadows of the two buildings and turned the knob.

Thirty minutes later they had finished going thru the garage and out side of several five gallon containers of motor oil, brake fluid and parts, there wasn’t much in the garage. As much as Ori wanted one of the Four wheelers, they just weren’t safe to be one if you ended up surrounded by undead.

“ lets check the barn next house last” Jeb said as they moved back to the door. Ori nodded in agree and then drawing in a breath he pulled the door open.

They moved across the weed chocked yard, keeping to shadows and cover as they approached the barn, from the look of it it had been built at the turn of the century, but some one had added to side additions to it in the last twenty years.

Ori moved to the smaller man sized door, just to the right of the regular large barn doors, trying the handle he found it unlocked and pulled it open then stepped back in case there were undead on the other side.

He looked at Jeb who nodded, and the two men slipped up and thru the door into the dusty barn, that still smell of hay. They moved to the center aisle of the barn and Ori stopped and stared, then walked slowly up to the Jeep that sat in the center of the barn right at the archways that led to the two new additions. Which proved to be vehicle repair bays.

“ it looks like an old world war 2 Jeep” Jeb said once they had swept the barn and made sure they were alone inside. “ except I’ve never seen one enclosed like”

Ori walked around the old, restored Jeep and smiled and pointed at the red cross painted on the sides. “ its an M718A1 front line ambulance version and its not world war two its later, it’s a straight Ford, they stopped using this model around 82 or so. Some bases like mine had them till the late eighties, till we got Hummers shipped in.

Who ever one this place had money, that’s an old Miltary tank wrecker, in that bay, and that’s a half track stripped down to the frame in the other one” Ori commented walker over to the Tracked wrecker.,

“ guy had bucks to spend to restore old military vehicles “ Ori Remarked, then walked to the Jeep and opened the hood, and spent a few minutes looking, before taking a look inside the cab. “ late model its got a ROPS installed, might not have started life as an ambulance but it ended up one” Ori said pointing out the roll cage inside the Cab.

He wondered if it were possible to get the jeep or the wrecker started. God they could use that wrecker if one of the RVs or the Semi got stuck. And that Jeep would damn sure replace his Land Rover till he could find another one.

“ well nights wasting lets check the house out. I can sleep on the way to where ever it is Jared is going tomorrow, he said as he headed to the door.
* * * *

Jon, looked around making sure that no zombies had broken while he slept. He might be on the side of Mother Earth, but there was no promises that he couldn’t die from the undead.

A few lanterns still cast feeble light in the center of the old cinder block building, what fools he thought, looking around at all wooden partitions along the four walls, of the Antique barn and flea market. With all this old wooden stuff in here and only two doors, and no windows a fire could kill a lot of people.

He considered that fact for a long while as he listened to people sleep, scattered around the store. Not that fire was what was going to kill this folks. Oh some of them might, accidents could and did happen. But that wasn’t what was in store for many of them. he smiled and lay back down and burrowed into his sleep bag. It was to bad really he thought a couple of the girls were pretty damn hot. Maybe he could save one or two, just to have some company when this was all over with. He yawned and closed his eyes still smiling, and was sound asleep in minutes.

“ its good you’re here, “ A voice said out of the darkness. “ we have much to discuss you and I, plans to make and revenge, yes revenge to seek.”

“ Im ready, tell me what I need to know” Jon said eager to get on with doing the work that would save the world from the Human race.

There was a chuckle in the darkness, then silence for a moment. “ first you will need….” Jon listened to the voice as it gave him a list of things he would need to concoct the poison that would kill of the group. It would be placed in water containers, and those that drank from the containers would die over a period of a week maybe a bit longer.

Jon didn’t mind that, as much as he had once abhorred killing, fighting and all the other trappings of the military industrial complex and the simpletons who served it. he had learned they were right about one thing. There is something worth fighting for and if they had fought for mother earth years ago, then this plague would never have swept across the globe.

As the voice talked teaching him things he would need to know for the future the darkness began to fade as if a dim sun were rising. No a moon, a full bloated moon that rose above a glittering bay, a skein of hard bright stars strewn across the sky. He turned around awed at the sight, seeking to see more of the world being born in his mind, and saw a beautiful mansion with a flagstone veranda that was long as a football field and half as wide, the western end had a circular platform that jutted out over the waters of the bay.

The voice fell silent, as Jon walked up the beach and mounted the wide flagstone steps to the veranda. It was so beautiful here, so quiet. He thought as he walked slowly towards the circular platform. Pausing under the Potted trees and taking a deep breath of their flowers fragrance.

If only man could all have lived like this, in peace, nurturing the green growing things and the animals who were the blessed of the planet he thought.

There was snort of amusement beside him and he saw a man, shadowing and indistinct. He was tall, and gave off the impression of strength and determination.

“ I have never understood, why people like you faced with reality, you fail to see it” The voice came again, and Jon knew it was this man speaking. “ nature is violent, cruel and unthinking.” He fell silent, gazing at Jon with dark eyes in a dark face.

“ I do not have much longer here, and I have many things yet to show you.” The man continued and began to walk towards the Circular platform. Jon shook his head slowly in disagreement but held his tongue.

He stepped onto the platform, and took in the view, savoring it. and felt a hand on his shoulder squeezing it in an Iron grip, “ you’ve been a fool all your life, but you’ve finally embraced the real you. Shake off the doubts and the disgust, and I will teach you all that you need to know about destroying your enemies.” The voice was seductive, in its strength and confidence; it lured him in, and set its hook. “ do this for the Earth mother” the voice said and began to reel Jon Williams in.

Jon felt the doubts that he had held close, evaporate, the disgust and fear at the actions he was forced to take, drifted away, taken by the current of Righteousness that swept over him. This Warrior of Mother Earth wouldn’t lie, and Jon let slip away a lifetimes worth of beliefs. .

The shadow become clearer, more human. And Jon saw it smile in the light of the moon and smiled back at it. he was willing to embrace death and violence for a higher calling, every man has his price, and Jon Williams had just sold his soul.

:”good, now listen, and I will teach you what you need to know to kill the sookin syn Jared and his oslayob friends, “ the man said with a heavy Russian accent and there was no mercy in the smile that crossed his face.

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