After the torchlight red on sweaty faces
After the frosty silence in the gardens
After the agony in stony places
The shouting and the crying
Prison and palace and reverberation
Of thunder of spring over distant mountains
He who was living is now dead
We who were living are now dying
~ T. S. Eliot
July 25th, 2011, somewhere north of Clarksville.
Dark clouds dotted the blue sky, casting shadows on the steep wooded hills and ridges below, a fitful wind blew, changing direction every few minutes.
The Old Harley came to a stop in front of a vine covered old gas station, though built of cinderblock it had half collapsed over the years. The old gravel parking lot was weed choked, with the skeleton of 69 Camero rusting away next to the building. The Rider, a wide shouldered thick limbed man, dropped the kick stand and stood up to his full six foot height and removed the ball cap that he wore, revealing close cropped dark hair.
He was most women would say, ruggedly handsome, with hard brown eyes and crows feet at the corners, he appeared to be thirty to thirty five years old, dressed in a leather jacket, a black t-shirt a size too small, and jeans covered by riding chaps.
Pulling a pump shotgun from the scabbard on the side of his bike, he walked slowly over, and peered into the old store. It had obviously been abandoned for years before the zombies.
Seeing nothing inside, zombie or otherwise, he walked back over to his motorcycle, and pulled an MRE out from the saddlebags. God he hated these things, well most of them. Some were okay. He had eaten better in the legion, he thought
The T intersection that the old store sat beside was out in the middle of nowhere, the junction of two state roads that merged, and had no other claim to fame, other than the trees, and the Sheriffs car in the ditch.
Cal,“ Abbadon” Simms, wasn’t the type of man people fucked with, he was certainly not the type of man to be pushed, which is exactly what Cops had tried to do all his life, he had joined the Army hoping to make a change in his life, and found the same old same old. He had forced himself to swallow his anger, and pride to learn all he could on how best to deal violence to others, and he excelled at it, and even learned how to chain it to his will.
He was well on his way to becoming a Ranger when he had been sent for a psych eval, that had pretty much killed his hopes right there, and gave him a loathing for shrinks, the military and the US government in general.
After his separation, he had spent a few years tooling around with various Biker clubs and ended up getting some side jobs that sent him on the run. where six months later he had slipped out of the country and made his way to France where he joined the Foreign Legion and found a home.
He had wanted to laugh at American soldiers, who bitched and moaned about seeing hell holes, they hadn’t seen half the shit holes in the world, like he had. Cess pits like the Ghanistan were nothing compared to some of the places he had been in.
As he stood there, something moved in the bushes across the road, he smiled to himself, as he saw a zombie emerge from the brush, an Emaciated goofy looking Deputy, covered in dirt and what might be old blood.
Reaching down he pulled the weighted gloves from his belt and pulled them on as the zombie staggered towards him. He waited till the zombie was close enough, then slammed a ham sized fist into its jaw, the gloves not only protected his hands, but doubled the amount of force to his punch. The zombies jaw shattered, sending teeth flying. Abaddon struck it in the side of the head with a right hook, and bone shattered again. He was grinning now, as he sent it sprawling with a rising uppercut. he walked over as the zombie struggled to get back to its feet, and crushed its skull with one stomp of his size 13 combat boot.
He scuffed his boots on the ground clearing the nasty goo off, looking up as he heard a motor. A moment later, a MRAP pulled up, He really hated that American gas guzzling monster. It was followed by a half full Tanker truck and a large semi based box truck loaded with the supplies and gear they had gotten out of Afghanistan.
A door opened and Joe Mulligan, leaped out of the MRAP, his FAMAS ready. “ stopped for lunch” Joe asked looking at the corpse in the road, with almost clinical detachment.
Mulligan was five six, wiry build, bald as a cue ball, with the hardest glacial blue eyes ever to grace a human being. Which pretty much suited his personality, before he had joined the legion; he had one night confided in Simms, that he had killed several times in his Native Boston. Abbadon didn’t know why and didn’t really care. In the legion, you didn’t ask questions about a mans past it was an old tradition, that no matter how much the Legion may have changed, it was ingrained to the point of being almost religious.
The others of his unit emerged from the MRAP, Sheamus Finnegan, Daryl Miles, Roger Garret, Brandon Wells, and Robert Wiezbeki, all Americans and all from his old Unit, the odd ball out in the group was Ivan, a Russian solider, Abbadon suspect he had been Spetznaz before joining the Legion but Ivan had never said one way or another the other three men were US Marines that had helped them all escape from Afghanistan as the undead swept over it.
Sheamus still wore his Green Beret, though most Americans wouldn’t have had a clue what the emblem on it stood for. They might know the name, Légion étrangère, the foriegn Legion only a few would have recognized their symbol. Sheamus, was as hard core as they came, after losing his belief in the cause of the IRA, he had found a home in the legion, and had been as fanatical about his new home as he had his old. Though he had never really shed his tendency to resort to terrorist tactics
All of them were like that to one extent or another, and as far as they were concerned they were the legion now, and motto The Legion is our Fatherland was their by word. Cal being the highest ranking Non com “Adjudant”, to survive the fiasco, while organizing and executing their escape from Afghanistan, was their leader.
“Any ideas on where to head next” Marine Lance corporal Davis asked, he had a lot in common with the Abbadon and his men. All of the remaining men did. Every one of them had been criminals or almost criminals before they found military service, but at heart they were all ruthless, and driven. Hard men for hard times Abbadon thought as he watched Wiezbeki and Garret, pull out a case of MRE’s they had liberated at the Air base they had landed at three months ago.
“Strip club if we could find one with live women” Daryl said as he looked around thinking this looked like any a part of any other country he had ever been in.
“ First thing we do is find some HumVees or Civilian vehicles that don’t suck down fuel like that Fucking MRAP” Abbadon said, “ or roll over like that damn pig either.”
He had thought about getting rid of the MRAP for a few weeks now, its one and only real benefit had been as a mine or IED proof vehicle, to transport troops, which it had done fairly well, but zombies were not currently placing IED’s. so there was no need to keep using the heavily armored vehicle that drank Precious fuel.
Sooner or later they would head south to a refinery, and seize it, there would be enough fuel in storage there to last two lifetimes. Currently he had his eye on a strategic reserve storage facility, but it would take some time to get there.
he looked up as Pierre LeCleric and Harald Grimson climbed down from the box truck, Pierre held a Soviet AK 74, which he was going to have to drop soon enough for lack of ammo, just like the Draganov sniper rifle, in the cab of the truck. Pierre had been the pilot of the Antonov they had escaped in, he was a short stocky bull necked man with premature grey hair, who spoke passable English when he felt like it. Usually he just spoke in French to the Legionnaires, and ignored the marines.
Harald Grimson had been Pierre’s copilot, a Scandinavian, who was an attack chopper pilot by training, but had, had at least minimal training on fixed wing prop and jet craft, he was short by his native lands standards, only five eight, but he had the build of a Viking, and hair so blond it was almost white, and was as far as most men were concerned when facing competition for women, disgustingly handsome with bright blue eyes. As good as Harald was with Helicopters he was even better in ground combat, not surprisingly, the legion stressed ground training above all else and Grimson was just as tough as he ancient forefathers. He embraced his Viking heritage down to the massive battle axe he carried, when not using the styer auger slung across his back at the moment. He had called it a troll axe, if Cal remembered correctly. Harald had picked it up outside of Boston, and had left a trail of blood and body parts behind him once it was in his hands.
Cal remained silent for a moment wondering just how much his men would take if he told them about the dreams. They were already on edge after a year with no women, and from the looks of thing, they might be with out for the rest of their lives.
“Fort Campbell is nearby, before all this shit, it would be two hours away. These days it might be a few days away.” Abbadon said, thinking about the state of the roads, the wrecks and the undead that seemed to traveling in herds lately.
“Hopefully there are women there, cause My hand is threatening to leave me for another wrist if I don’t get a date soon” Sheamus said casually, his irish accent for some reason always made jokes sound better, the men burst out laughing, Abbadon smiled at the joke, he wasn’t the type to laugh much
“I think we might be able to scare up some women sooner or later.” He said calmly, “and if we don’t, well we will deal with that when it comes round.”
He gazed off to the southwest, for a moment. No it was better not talk to them about the dreams and the destiny that had been offered him. With out experiencing more real than real dreams they couldn’t understand. And he had to admit it did sound insane. Destiny, maybe, maybe not, but Destiny was what a man made not something given, so he had believed all of his life. Fate could kiss his ass too.
half the men got down to the serious business of eating, the other half stood guard, to make sure no undead wandered up on them while eating. That had happened a lot back when they had first landed; the urban areas were just to infested to stop for longer than a few minutes unless you wanted to spend a lot of ammo. It had cost them a few men as well in the early days, but now they stopping for breaks and fuel down to a science.
Personally Cal would rather just locate a few nukes to use and send a few city’s full of undead back to hell. But unless they went to DC and found the zombie with the nuclear football, that dream wasn’t going to happen any time soon.
He sat on his Harley looking south, what ever it was that waited there for them, might just be in a for a surprise, The legion lived and it had no plans on dying anytime soon.
* * * *
August 2nd, 2011
The Bronco ran like a top Mike discovered as they returned to Mordicai’s farm house. They had gotten much more than they had set out to find, food, a few more weapons and ammo, even some medical stuff, the one house must have been owned by a Doctor before the day, he thought.
As they drew even with the Farm, mike saw the M88, parked next to the Gate, with two soldiers standing watch on top, another man crewed the ma deuce.
Mordicai, Hector and mark slowed their vehicles uncertain; they hadn’t seen anything but Jared’s van till now and truthfully the sight of the metal behemoth was unsettling.
Mike drove up to the gate, and waved at Jones, who climbed down from the M88,
“Welcome back, hang on I’ll get the Gate” Jones said as he jogged to the gate and swung it open.
“Thanks “Mike called out as he drove past. Mordicai and the others seeing the exchange followed a moment later. The yard behind the house was packed with vehicles and people.
Mike climbed out of the Bronco, and saw Carrie standing on the porch, wearing a sports bra and jeans, a leather jacket was hung over the railing. His eyes soaked in the sight like a man drowning would gaze at the distant beach. He tore his eyes away, knowing how he felt didn’t matter, it might not ever matter again. He knew he might some day just have the comfort of knowing he had saved the woman he loved and lost her. A cold, cold thought that was.
“thank god your Back” Amy said, as she ran up to him. “ Ily and I both were worried” Amy said hugging him, talking a mile a minute about what had gone on while he was away. Ily walked up, smiling warmly, and Mike felt a flutter he wanted to dismiss, but couldn’t. God I really don’t need this, he thought, feeling more than a stir of guilt at his attraction.
“Well as you can see, I’m alive and whole, and very unbitten” mike said as Amy stepped back, a half smile on her face. He didn’t see the glare Carrie sent his way or the way it shifted to Amy.
“ lets start getting our gear loaded,” Mike said turning Amy towards the porch. “ I want us to be gone as soon as possible.
Mike looked around and almost laughed seeing Mordicai looking panicked as Sandy hugged him tightly in full view of every one. The man was getting things thrown at him rapidly, get used to it Mordicai, more and better is to come, Mike thought as he walked towards the Black Van where Jared stood talking to some of his people. I wonder if I need to suggest condoms to him or will Sandy bring it up. That should give him a heart attack Mike thought with a silent chuckle as he pictured Mordicias face as Sandy held up a condom.
Ori the short blond with glasses sat on a blanket in the grass, with his shirt off, stripping down a rifle in order to clean it. He nodded a greeting at Mike, and then returned to his job.
Jared smiled at Mike, there wasn’t a lot of warmth in it, and Mike knew the lack of warmth had nothing to do with himself. “we stopped to see if you folks were going to head out or not, and we got swamped by volunteers, just in case you didn’t come back with vehicles.
“ I appreciate it, and we had decided to leave last night, after a lot of talk. Some might come back here once the horde is gone, but that’s for later.” Mike said, grinning despite himself as Jared watched Mordicai, Hector and mark get to work in the Box truck they had recovered early this morning. “I should have thought of that” Jared said after a moment. “Sound proofing a vehicle could allow you to hide inside and zombies would wander off if they don’t hear anything inside.”
Mike nodded in agreement, still grinning. “True, but it also will keep zombies from hearing the Chickens clucking that will be inside the box truck. And Mordicai says he has uses for chicken poo I might like. I have to admit my doubts on that particular topic, but who knows.” Mike said.
“Fresh eggs, man that sounds good” Jared replied wandering how well that sound proofing was going to work.
“So how far are we running?” Mike asked, hooking his thumbs in his web belt.
“Not far, not really, just Port Royal state Park, its not real large, but the horde will have to either have to come at us across a bride we can easily defend, or it will have to go miles up the road then more miles west before it can hit us.” Jared replied seriously.
“You make it sound like they are smart, like they are coming after us” Mike said curious, he had never seen anything resembling intelligence from the undead.
“Seen them do it before, blew a bridge down on them too,” Jared replied, Ronny and Ori both nodded in agreement.
“Blew the crap out of the bridge, it was cooler than hell.” Ronny said then grinned. “took that bridge out right after he took the circus out. He hates clowns.”
Jared rolled his eyes, “take out one intersection with a clown on it next to a circus, and every one remembers the clown and the circus, not the attempt to block the enemies access to an area.”
“It was the clowns, the enemy used another road.” Ori said aloud, grinning himself.
“Blow me” Jared responded. “Besides, who was it that screamed like a little girl during an exercise, in front of Marines I might add, because a spider crawled on his back” Jared asked looking pointedly at Ronny who shrugged.
“I have no clue, and neither do you” Ronny said as the others laughed.
“The top said he thought it was a horse getting gelded at first, then found out it was Ronny.” Jared said, as Ori nodded in agreement. Ronny glared at Ori for a moment.
“Traitor bet you sold your self cheap too.” Ronny said fighting not to smile. “ it was a damn big spider, size of a dinner plate.”
Ori nodded “ sure it was, Ronny sure it was” he said with a smile
Jared still smiling, pulled mike off to the side and had him gather his drivers, so he could outline the route.
Ronny squatted next to Ori, as Jared and the others clustered around the tail gate to Steve’s truck. “ I have a bad feeling about whats coming,” he told Ori, his normal happy go lucky attitude absent.
“Why?” Ori asked as he cleaned his weapon,
“Don’t know, Mary started having nightmares again, and I don’t know theres something in the air, just makes my balls suck up.” Ronny replied.
Ori didn’t respond for a minute, Not that Ronny expected him to, Ori liked to chew on things before he answered.
“I think we are entering the end of game of what ever is going on” Ori said suddenly. “ or maybe its just our part in all of it. to be honest Ronny, have you thought about what we are going to do if and when this all ends.”
Ronny raised an eyebrow at that question, he honestly hadn’t. He had just been going with the moment, trying to live as much as he could before the end came. The thought of planning for the future hadn’t really been on his list of things to do. So what would he do, have some kids, settle down and farm, travel and see what was left of the world, maybe he could start a pizza shop. Pizza would be needed once you didn’t have to worry about zombies eating the delivery guy.
“Hadn’t thought that far ahead had you” Ori finally said, as he looking at Ronny while he re-assembled his weapon with out looking at it. Ronny shook his head willing to admit it to Ori.
“not really to be honest”he said with a shrug
“Neither had I until I met Beth,” Ori said, as he sat aside his re-assembled weapon, and ran a hand thru his wild looking blond hair, a nervous gesture he had never shaken. “ and the truth here Ronny, it scares the shit out of me.”
“Me to brother” Ronny said rubbing Ori’s head and then grinning. “Me too.”
Amy carried out a box of supplies from the second floor, where Mordicai had kept stash, and carried them over and added them to the pile, where others would load them under Mordicai’s supervision. He was preparing to leave for good, she realized. She felt for him, unlike ever one else here, he still had a home, a reasonably safe home, and food. It must be agonizing to have to give it all up after surviving thru so much else.
As she started back to the second floor, Carrie smiled nastily at her. Amy just ignored her and headed up stairs, feeling guilty for hoping the older woman died just to give every one else some peace.
She nodded a greeting to Ily, and grabbed another box and started down the stairs, she was halfway down when her foot hit something slick and flew out from under her, the box threw her off balance and she found her self falling.
Mike hearing shouts from inside bounded across the grass and burst into the house, to find Amy laying at the foot of the stairs, blood pouring from her head, he started to kneel but a hand moved him aside with ease as Justin appeared beside him with his EMT bag.
“Let me deal with this” Justin said firmly, as he knelt and began to examine the fallen teenager. While others had weapons out just in case Amy was dead or dying. “She’s alive” Justin said after a moment, as he got to work. The Asian woman Mai Linn appeared and joined Justin, “I have some training, just tell me what you want me to do.”
“Mike, she slipped on something that had gotten spilled on the steps. I couldn’t help her I had my arms full.” Ily said anxiously, blaming her self. “ she just went right down.”
“Its okay,” Mike said hugging her, gently. “She’s going to be all right” he assured her though he had no clue if she would or not.
Ily stood next to him watching anxiously as Justin examined the young woman.
Mike watched for a moment then did what he could to help. “All right folks lets get outside, give them some room. we still have to leave here shortly. So lets get busy,” he said getting the every one heading for the door, Arthur clearly didn’t want to leave, he kept glancing back with a worried look in his eyes. Mike almost smiled, so the young man has an interest, let’s hope she’s okay so he can pursue it.
Mike stayed, along with Ily, keeping people moving past, as they carried the last of Mordicai’s food supplies to the waiting vehicles, he noted Jared was careful not to suggest that any of the food stuffs be stored on his own peoples trucks, so as not to look like they might take the food and run. Even though no one in his group had said a word, he knew there was some suspicion as to the motives of Jareds group, and Jared was doing everything he could to keep that suspicion to a minimum.
Finally Justin sat back on his heels smiling, “ she’s okay, minor concussion, abrasions, and bruising. The box she was carrying might have saved her from a lot worse.” He said, Mike moved up and knelt beside the girl, and smiled in relief as he saw Amy’s eyes were open.
“Thank god for that” Mike muttered, as he looked up the stairs thinking about how the accident had come to happen. “ Is there anything left upstairs that Mordicai wants” Mike asked Ily who looked relieved that Amy was all right.
She shook her head, “no we had the last two boxes,” Ily replied.
“Good, so no one else has any reason to use the stairs” Mike replied, guiding Ily out the door, leaving Justin and Mai Linn to help Amy.
Half an hour later they were ready to go, Jared and Mike kept every one around the vehicles waiting, till the call came in. With a shout to get rolling, people scrambled into vehicles as the gates were flung open, and in minutes they were rolling out, Mordicai the last to leave stopped and closed the gates, looking back at his home.
He gazed at the green fields and gardens that had been in his family for generations. He didn’t want to leave, but with the threat that was possibly heading this way, he had to go for his children. He gave on last look at his wives grave, “I’ll come back” He promised as he returned to his truck and joined the rest of the convoy heading north.
* * * *
The room was dim, full of shadows and dust. Pools of dying light that barely added any light to the room splashed in thru the windows. And then even it was gone, as Blankets were hung over the windows and stapled in place.
Two of the marines lugged in a couple of Tables, chairs then food, while other men set up the reloading gear. Cal strode into the room feeling antsy, he really needed to get laid or he was going to go off soon. He placed his FAMAs on a table and dropped his pack next to the chair, in moments he had his cleaning kit out and had set to work stripping down his weapon, there was no real reason to clean his weapon, but it was something to do.
Sheamus had his laptop up and running and was searching thru the Porn DVD’s he had gathered over the last couple of months. Cal didn’t particularly care to watch, it just reminded him of what he didn’t have. And if a couple of the men slipped away for an hour, he pretended not to notice like every one else. Gotta do what you gotta do he thought. And I’m not at that point yet thank god.
He stripped his weapon down, thinking about the dreams he had been having, and how some of them had proven to be so accurate, like this building for example, he had dreamed about it. and just like his dream there had been a generator downstairs and only a couple of zombies inside. And he had seen the mostly empty interior of the warehouse attached to the building.
Most of the stuff inside they couldn’t use, but there were odds and ends they could. Which was a win no matter how you looked at it, but the big plus was being able to move all the vehicles inside the warehouse once they had the shelves pushed out of the way.
With the doors to the building and the warehouse shut and blocked, he and his team could always retreat to the vehicles and escape if too many undead showed up outside. And more importantly it placed them close to the Army base, and the things he wanted and needed on the base.
The real question was what to do after that, for his ultimate plans he needed people. And they hadn’t seen any on their trip south so far. He should have had made sure they had women on board back in Afghanistan, but that was hindsight and there was nothing to be done for the past.
Even before his dreams there had been evidence of other survivors, a sighting of a distant helicopter, occasional radio traffic, much of it that sounded military. It was infrequent but there. And that didn’t surprise Cal in the least, contrary to movies; military units even bases were more likely to survive something like this than a civilian or groups of civilians who would have limited weapons and ammo, and no real combat skills, excluding the ones who were Veterans of course. He just couldn’t see Dale the overweight painter, surviving the zombie apocalypse, unless he could paint himself out of a room filled with the undead.
And lets be honest some of the common folks will rise to the occasion and survive regardless of the odds, but the majority of people were sheep, with no real skills and used to being taken care of, got a problem call a cop, fire call the fire department, leaking pipes call a plumber. Powers off and out of toilet paper, panic time. He knew his dislike colored his perceptions but he was still pretty dead on in his profile of the average person. The numbers of undead out there supported his idea as well.
All civilization had done, was hide the real world from the people, who had been thrust back into a kill or be killed world that had lain just below the surface of the civilized world. The very people who had sneered at him for being being a fighter, had died screaming for people just like he was to save them.
Well folks I’m here, and if there is going to be a future me and mine will write its history, and if you cant deal with reality, you’ll be worked and bred till we get a society that does.
“Welcome to tribalism you pretentious pricks” he said aloud, then grinned as he realized it. “Sorry just thinking about all the people that must still be out there, just waiting to be swept up so we can start rebuilding.” Cal said. “Tomorrow, when we get on base, assuming theres no military, we take vehicles, I want to get rid of that MRAP, it sucks. No light weights unless they are off road, we go for the 4×4’s and 6×6’s, tracks if we have too, anything that doesn’t need a road to travel. If we come across weapons and ammo, we take that too. But we are going to be in an out, a snatch and grab. If we have the time and opportunity I want to check out the supply warehouses, if we need to we can come back later.” Cal said as he cleaned his weapon.
“What about aircraft” Pierre asked in French, he was anxious to have a bird again.
“If there’s an osprey there yes, and I don’t think the Army uses Ospreys, not sure any one does anymore, and if its not an osprey where in the hell would we land a regular plane Pierre.
Or we can grab a Helicopter, Harald can teach you how to fly one, that way we have two pilots for either fixed wing or rotor.” Cal, replied.
Sheamus, who had been half watching a porn, twisted around in his chair to look at Cal. “After we do all that, what’s the plan?” He asked. Sheamus, wanted a plan, there were times Cal thought Sheamus needed a plan to take a piss, or screw.
“ the plan is simple, we stay alive, while we look for a place to set up an AO, we shoot any one who poses a threat, and start gathering up people to rebuild and in time we go on the offensive and wipe those rotting bastards off the face of the earth.” Cal responded, there was a bit more to it than that, but Cal wasn’t going to explain half his plan was based on dreams. Dreams that he wasn’t sure he trusted, But he would play the hand he was dealt for now. If he was going to Dance with the Devil, he would set the tune and lead. Otherwise Old split, could go fuck himself. Because Cal wasn’t going to be any ones tool not even the Devil’s.
* * * *
“We need to get a few Hummers next time we run across them” Steve commented as the convoy crossed the bridge over the Red River, just before sunset. By the time the reached the old Covered Bridge, that Ori had chosen for the campsite, the horizon was on fire, the bands of reds, yellows and oranges that faded to deep purplish blue then black. The vivid glorious colors finally faded plunging the world into darkness.
Camp was set up under the light of lanterns, while Daws and his men patrolled and a sentry was posted on the scissor lift. It didn’t take all that long, all things considered; it was mostly getting the RVs Parked into a U around the Deuce, with the open end of the U facing the covered bridge, then parking the other vehicles as a wall around the Rvs and finished closing in the mouth of the covered bridge. .
As soon as Camp was set up, Ori and Jeb grabbed NVG’s, and crossbows and slipped off to hunt, while Steger and Steve unloaded a canoe from one of the trucks, then loaded fishing gear inside so it was ready for the morning. Two of Mikes people, Mark and Arthur asked to go, Mark having grown up fishing, and Arthur wanted to learn so Steve and Ori readied a second canoe for the men’s use.
It was solemn, nervous group that gathered in the remains of the old covered bridge to cook and eat dinner. Quiet conversations between huddled groups, who glanced often at the lanterns, afraid the light would draw the undead.
“I’ve seen livelier funerals” Ronny commented to Jared looking around at all the nervous faces.
“So have I and they started last year late June” Jared replied, Ronny shook his head at the lame joke. Mary who sat beside Ronny gave Jared a strained smile, she wasn’t dealing well lately, but there was nothing Jared could to do change that. She had confided in Jill that she felt useless with no real skills to contribue, she felt like she was Ronny’s babysitter, and potential breeder.
“Be right back” Ronny said getting to his feet and walking towards the RV he called home. Jared shot Mary a look, who only shrugged as if she had no idea what Ronny was up to.
He turned to look at Jill, who still took his breath away. Faded blue jeans, that clung to every supple curve were tucked into knee high boots, she wore a white tshirt, that strained to contain her natural charms. Long thick dark hair pulled back into a pony tail with a stray lock that dangled down beside her face.
She was smiling at something Mai Linn was saying and her blue eyes sparkled with laughter. Those around her caught themselves smiling just a bit with her, their fear banished temporarily just by her presence. Standing between her and Mai Linn was Amy, who could have been Jill’s younger sister, who was wearing of all things a dress, which showed a lot of leg.
Jared thanked god Daws and his guys were out on Patrol, or he would have to start shooting men, those soldiers were the worst whore dogs he had met in Uniform and that was saying a lot he thought thinking of Ronny.
His attention shifted to Carrie, Mikes…. wife, he hesitate to call her that. what did you call a woman, Married to a man, whose personality no longer existed? God he was glad he didn’t have to deal with that. Where you married to the body or the personality?, if the former, then she was still his wife, if the latter, was Mike considered a widow now.
What ever it may or may not be, she was a damn fine looking woman, but the personality that resided in her, was a mean, callus, grade A bitch. Jared could tell that the disgust and anger people felt towards her hit Mike hard. That was a man who loved deeply, no matter the cost, he thought shaking his head.
At the moment Carrie was a wearing a half shirt that showed off her flat stomach, the shirt was just long enough to not to show the bottoms of her breasts, her jeans looked painted on, and she made combat boots look good. Occasionally she would watch Mike who sat with Mordicai, Sandy and Ily. The muscles in her jaw would jump betraying the anger she felt watching Mike sitting with the others.
Jared had already spread the word to the men in his group that no one was to sleep with her, flirt with her, or do much more than be polite. It wasn’t a popular rule, and it violated Jared’s usually hands off on dealing with peoples lives and their romances, but this was a special case, and he was trying to save mike some anguish and hopefully save them from a few fights..
And judging from the way Ily twirled a lock of silky hair around a finger as she talked with Mike, and the occasionally lip chewing, and brushing against him, she liked mike. At least the guy has an option if all else fails.
“okay I’m back “ Ronny said returning from the Rv with a guitar in his hands, he sat next to Mary, settling himself down with a guitar and grinned at Jared. “Hotel California for starters, so you can get your voice warmed up” Ronny said, as Jared started to Protest, but one Gibb slap later from Mary and Jared agreed rubbing the back of his head and glaring at Jill who was snickering. Snickering, when the hell did she start snickering.
By nine, the mood had risen somewhat with every one singing along, not even caring if the sound drew the undead, they needed this, and to hell with the Dark if it thought it was going to stop them this one night.
Halfway through the song Copper head road, Jill rose to her feet and smiled at Jared “be back in a moment” she said as she headed towards the end of the bridge where Ily stood there in the darkness beyond the lantern light, watching the fireflies dance thru the dark trees along the slow moving river.
Jared watched her for a moment, soaking in the sight; she had even fixed her hair up for tonight, and added a touch of make up to her already perfect features. She was by far the most beautiful woman he had ever seen he thought, he had thought that since he had first laid eyes on her in Allen’s Dojo.
Jared rose and walked off the bridge into the camp, needing some space from the others. He waved to Ed who was on the lift acting as Sentry as he walked by. Rob was welding, behind the semi, the bright light casting stark shadows across that end of camp.
He stopped at the vehicle and wood wall, and gazed out into the dark forest, and then peered more intently, spotting movement, it had been a minor thing, might even have been a tree limb, or a deer passing thru brush. But he didn’t think so, He drew his pistol and climbed up into the back of the Truck, watching intently.
“You got something” Ed asked over the Radio.
“Not sure, thought I saw movement.” Jared replied. “Daws where are you at on the patrol.”
“North side of the River bottom trail, a quarter mile away.” Daws replied. “ we were about to sweep out to the road, then back around to the Trail of Tears Memorial trail.”
“Skip the road and come down the Trail of Tears memorial trail, I have movement and am going to check it out” Jared said, as he dropped lightly to the ground on the other side of the truck.
“Jared I’m almost back at the camp, wait and Ill go with you” Ori said suddenly over the radio. “Three minutes man, wait for me”
“Keep coming its only forty yards from the wall, NNE” Jared said as he glided forward over the torn up ground, where the vehicles had passed, then into the grass and brush. He was okay if it was only a couple of Undead; he had his tomahawks as well. Anything more than five or six and he would be running back to camp.
It was silent under the trees, except for the faint sound of Ronny’s guitar and the singing voices behind him. Here and there fireflies flashed and danced amongst the branches, Jared had always had excellent night vision, and he wasn’t bothered over much by the darkness around him. With the moonlight, he could see fairly well. He stopped and inhaled slowly thru his nose, seeking the stench of the undead but smelled only earth and green growing things.
Up head maybe twenty yards, he saw a shadow move next to the trunk of a tree as if some one had leaned out for a second. Your being stupid, he told himself, and Jill is going to kick your ass for doing this alone.
He lowered himself slowly into a squat, if it was a person, and it had to be because a zombie would have just kept coming till it hit the vehicle wall, any sudden movement would draw attention. he watched for several minutes, waiting more for Ori than any other reason.
“ on your six” Ori’s voice whispered in his ear bud. Jared almost jumped, asshole god I hate it when he does that, but at least he was prepared when Ori touched his shoulder. Jared rose slowly, and the two men slipped thru the woods flanking the position Jared had noted.
Ori moved with complete ease, he had been using one of the NVG units while hunting, it didn’t take as much skill to hunt that way, but he was more concerned with Eating than bragging about sneaking up on a deer and tickling its ass before he killed it.
Jared really needs stop going out alone, damn it, Ori thought as he moved a little further to the left, keeping Jared in full view. At least he is almost as good in the woods as I am, Ori thought only half his attention noting how fast and well Jared moved thru the brush with out making noise, and with out a night vision unit.
Just as Ori moved around a deadfall, half covered in Leaves, he saw a man moving away from the Tree that Jared was closing in on. I be damned, Ori thought surprised. He held his fire, part of him wanting to shoot the man who might be a scout for a well armed band and might try to raise his friends before he could be captured. “One man, moving north east, passing your 2 o’clock.” Ori whispered into his radio. Jared didn’t respond, but he did change direction.
Ori thought about the direction the man was heading in, and fell back to keep from being heard by the fleeing man as he used the radio to update Daws. “Daws take your people and cut across to the road. our boy seems to be heading that way” Ori said already spotting the path he would need to cut across other mans trail and hopefully get ahead of him.
Ori heard Daws acknowledge, but his mind was intent on locating Jared, some how he had lost sight of him.
Jared had his target in sight and was slowly closing in, the man picked up speed, almost jogging now. probably suspects he had been seen Jared thought, he had heard Ori ordering Daws to the road, which meant, he did the math in his head, trail distance, average speed of Daws’s team, factor in the direction and speed of the fleeing man, and Jared realized the man would probably escape if there was a vehicle on the road and he was damn sure there was at this point.
Jared picked up speed, keeping as quiet as possible, cutting across the woods to reach the road. He leaped a rock, and almost broke his ankle when he hit the ground. Of balance he stumbled, briars catching him in the face. He silently cursed and pulled them free ignoring the pain, the only thing that mattered was catching the man and finding out who he was and what he was doing spying on the camp.
Suddenly a shadow loomed over him, Jared spun to face the new threat and for the first time in a very long time he hesitated, his eyes wide.
Bowler hat, he thought, his nerves singing, he had heard about it, but the descriptions were no match for the reality. It crouched between two slabs of rock, hunched forward, head cocked as it stared at him from under the rim of its hat. it was a shadow in the moonlight, but distinct and clear all the same.
Dead white eyes bored into him over the huge beaked nose, the leathery mottled skin of its triangular face was stretched tightly across the bones of its skull, its thin lipped mouth twisted into a sharp toothed quiver smile. And then it was gone, scuttling like an oversized cockroach into the shadows. Just as Jared’s mind got the finger on the trigger to move. The .45 bucked in his hands, the roar ripping thru the night, the flash almost blinding him. He fired twice more. A bullet whined as it struck stone, Jared knew he had missed, he pivoted searching for his target.
“ coming for you, boy, but before I do, I’m going to kill some one you love. Kill them and eat them” a voice colder than death hissed in Jareds mind with a sensation like a thousand tiny bugs scurrying around in his mind and then it was gone.
In the distance, Jared heard a motor roar to life. That son of bitch showed up to delay me Jared thought glaring into the darkness. “ Come on back you bowler hat wearing freak, Im going to rip you fucking head off and shove it up your undead ass.” Jared growled angrily, then turned to find Ori who had just arrived. For once he hadn’t managed to surprise Jared.
“Jared, he got away!” Daws reported over the radio.
“Don’t worry about, he had help.” Jared replied. “Finish your patrol, no one goes out of sight of the others with out a partner”
“Roger, Copies, no one goes out of sight of the others with out a partner Daws out.”
Ori watched silently as Jared flipped on a flashlight and studied a gap between two up thrusts of Rock half covered in leaves. Jared sat back on his heels looking puzzled then rose to his feet shining his light around on the ground, obviously looking for something.
“ lets get back to camp,” Jared said after a moment. Ori didn’t say anything, he just fell in beside his friend and together they made their way back thru the woods to the camp.
* * * * *
St. Bethlehem Tennessee was not a place to visit. Not any more. Ori thought as he wiped sweat from his brow, and then returned the binoculars to his eyes. From his vantage point he could see quite a bit of the area. He shifted his weight on the old Radio tower, getting more comfortable, then pushed the talk button remote with his thumb.
“ Ori, to base, your not going to like this, not one bit, from here I can see the subdivisions along 237, and they are crawling with the undead, I can make out part of the sports center, same thing, the hospital area, is just as bad too.” Ori reported thankful that he could range directly to the camp, with out having to relay. He hated not being able to directly talk with camp, just to make sure there was no miss understanding.
Jared had gathered the Teams, this morning, along with Mike and Mordicai, to tell them he had changed his mind, and wanted to probe cautiously ahead, using a small team, who would advance to and scout along H-24 and the approaches he had already planned on using. But he wanted those teams to stay out of the built up areas, where the undead were sure to be.
Ori and Jeb had been loading up their packs, when Jared, along with Ed and Steger, walked up to the Jeep. Jared had at the last minute decided to send Ed and Steger to ride with Ori, so that there would be some one to man the radio and guard the vehicle, and if needed add some fire support. allowing Jeb and Ori both to scout the area.
Ed was a good man, great shot, steady in a fight, but he was a large muscular man, and had made the back of the jeep ambulance seem crowded on the way here. Steger, wasn’t as large, seemed to love joking around almost as much as Steve, but at least the man was Former SWAT , it was always nice to have a professional along that knew just a bit more about weapons than which end to point at the bad guys.
“Roger, zombies thicker than flies on shit, copy. What about the actual route?” Jared asked.
“From what I can see, most of the undead are clustered around the homes more than any where else,” Ori replied, not having to point out that as soon as the zombies heard motors they would swarm the area, from all points.
“ what about Target one” Jared asked, last night he had decided to hit a sporting goods gun store just on the edge of New Bethlehem, it was literally sitting on the side of a road with pastures and woods behind it. if the zombies hadn’t shown up, that area would have ended up being developed in ten years. Zombies for the win against Urban sprawl.
“ zero, repeat zero in and around.” Ori replied as he shifted position to take another look at the store. It was still empty good, he thought.
“Roger, copy zero. Return to base” Jared said. Ori didn’t need to be told twice. He checked his ropes, tied off and quickly rappelled down the tower. Retrieving his ropes was the easy part. A moment later he and Jeb were trotting across deep green grass, to the Jeep parked on the side of the feeder road along 24.
There were enough tractor trailer rigs stuck in the traffic snarl, that they could spend a month just clearing a mile long stretch. Jared already had marked three for salvage, one being a fuel tanker, the other two looked promising and were far enough back from the community to be reasonably safe to clear. A team had already checked both trailers and had found one contained some food stuff. Mostly canned and boxed goods, as wells as cases of batteries AA’s, C and D Cells, and Triple A. Ori figured only about half of them would still be good after last winter but you never knew. There had also been cases of paper towels, Tampons, paper plates, shampoos, and other hygene products.
The other trailer was a Wal-Mart trailer and the load was about half full of hobby stuff, there was also a collection of clothes which would be welcome, and some outdoors stuff, sleeping bags, bug spray, water filters, and purification tablets, cast iron skillets, and two pallets of Mountain house meals, along with a bunch of other useful camping and sporting goods items.
Strangely there had been few undead wandering between the vehicles, which was a welcome relief, considering the numbers they had been seeing on the roads and streets since leaving Sullivan Island.
Half a mile from the camp Ori brought the Jeep to a stop, seeing several of the Convoys vehicles parked along side the road, the M88 was being put to use moving stalled and abandoned vehicles off the road. Ori parked near Jared’s Van and climbed out. From the looks of it, they had been clearing the road for the last two hours, even though there had been few vehicles on 238, every one of them for half mile had been pulled off the side of the road, Rob and Ronny were busying, assembling the last parts on the ultra light, while Daws and his team pulled security.
Anyone who assumed all ultra lights looked like hang gliders with a lawn mower engine and a lawn chair hanging below it, hadn’t seen the newer models that had come out over the last several years, Ori thought as he gazed at the hard plastic fuselage, that seated two. It looked a lot like a small air plane, Ronny had discovered it in a barn last fall and had almost humped Jared’s Leg when Jared had actually agree with taking the thing. It had proven its worth more times than any of them could count since that day. .
“Decided to haul that thing out again,” Ori said, as he stopped by Jared who still seemed preoccupied after his encounter last night. Jared nodded, and then shook his head.
“To be honest I had almost forgotten we had the damn thing,” Jared admitted with a rueful grin. “Ronny and I are going to take her up, I think I seriously need to rethink our route to the base. And the best way to do that is with the ultra light, we can cover more ground that way, with out a lot of danger.” Jared said, Ori eyed him for a moment, knowing just how much Jared disliked flying, back in the Day Jared had been on a mission in Bosnia when the Helo he and his squad were on h+
ad been shot down, though saying shot down was grossly in accurate to Ori’s mind.
The Blackhawk, in a supposed safe zone, was at two thousand feet, when a surface to Air missile had been fired at them. The pilot had been good, but not quite good enough, he had managed to generate a miss, but the Missile had exploded close enough that it had damaged the helicopter, the Engine had failed, leaking fuel and oil had been blown all over the interior and exterior. The pilot had somehow kept control of the helicopter even after it ripped out the tops of a few tree’s before the man got it down using auto rotation, landing mostly intact in a shallow river, since then Jared hadn’t been fond of flying.
Jared stepped of to one side away from the others indicating that Ori should follow. As soon as they were out of earshot, Jared looked at Ori, with a strange expression on his face. “I need a promise from you Ori,” he said after a moment.
Ori felt a sudden stab of alarm, “you know you have it Jared, what ever it is” Ori said meaning it.
“Anytime you’re in camp, or with Jill, promise me you’ll protect her.” Jared said with an intensity that surprised Ori, who with out thinking reached up and ran a hand thru his thick blond hair. Catching himself, he pulled his hand back and then removed his glasses, and wiped them off, another nervous gesture he was trying to stop himself from doing.
“You Know I damn sure will Jared, Jill is like a sister to me. Does this have something to do with last night?” Ori asked certain it did. Jared didn’t just pop up with this kind of thing. “You know that Jill can take care of any one zombie, even a weird one.”
“It’s not a zombie” Jared replied, Ori stared at him.
“What the hell do you mean its not a zombie.” Ori asked, in disbelief.
“I saw it clear as day, Ori, crouched there in between those rocks, it scuttled away, it didn’t stagger, crawl, limp or drag itself, it scuttled. And when it spoke I heard it in my mind. Lets face it even if it had spoken aloud, it wouldn’t be a normal zombie. Add in what Ed told us about how he was attacked by it, but it was Hanson he killed. I think it can make us see what it wants us to see, don’t ask me how, and I think it uses people like vehicles, they may not even realize it. “ Jared told Ori who was skeptical, but considering the dead were walking around and eating people, it was hard to dismiss the whole thing as crazy, especially coming from Jared. Ori mulled over the stories from their escape to the sea, Jared’s theory almost fit but not quite.
“Daws saw it eat some one on Fort Jackson and it was seen with other zombies, repeatedly. If it had possessed some one, wouldn’t the zombies eat that perso?” Ori asked.
Jared shook his head, not sure, he had been reading the book and the notes that Gayle had given him last Christmas before she had been killed. All he knew for sure he had seen that thing last night and there hadn’t been a physical sign of its presence.
Steve stepped around the Van, “ Its ready the Camera still works, so you’ll have pictures of your little sight seeing tour” Steve said giving them both a curious look. Jared nodded, already turning pale at the thought of flying.
Seeing the questioning look on Steve’s face, Jared gave him a lopsided grin. “ I was talking to Ori about last night”
Steve nodded, Jared had already talked to him earlier, if Jill ever found out he was getting his friends to act as security for her, she was going to kick his ass up one wall and down another. Make up sex would at least be fun if painful.
“jared” Steve said suddenly. “We have some sedatives, or I can butt stroke you unconscious if that will help.”
Jared gave Steve the finger, ignoring the laughter from his two friends.
* * * *
The fires were still raging, sending plumes of black smoke into the blue sky. That bastard Jon Williams had done this, Drake told himself. The only vehicle saved was the M113, and that only because Ballinger had taken a team out in the damn thing to look for food and supplies. now the M113, low on fuel, was back outside so they could find more vehicles for the group to use. .
Sometime last night, Williams had rigged some kind of explosive devices to the fuel tanks of the vehicles, with out any one seeing the prick do it, Drake thought savagely.
Dawn had died during the explosion, Mikey, her five year old son had now lost all three brothers, and his parents. A Fucking orphan, in the land of the walking dead. In addition to Dawn, Max had suffered severe burns while trying to rescue her and he wouldn’t survive for much longer.
To top it all off, several people had seen that hippie bastard hanging around the water supplies, Drake worried he might have poisoned the water and had all dumped out.
Drake stood there livid, watching the undead mill around the fires, which drew them in like moths to a flame. Even as he watched two walked right up Drakes loyal old truck, right into the flames, their clothes and hair caught fire first. They beat on the truck, as their skin blackened, and split, fat bubbled and ran. They moved slower and slower, then finally collapsed next to the truck. Even up here he could hear the snap and pop of fat cooking.
There was fifty gallons of water on the Track, He told himself, so they had a enough for a few days if rationed. Luckily, there were plenty of creeks and rivers to get more water, so the only real problems would be getting containers and getting out of here.
They had been lucky all things considered, Jon had been looking for Lany just before the explosions, Drake suspected he had wanted to kidnap the girl; thankfully she had been with Greg watching over Allen, who was still hanging on to life being the stubborn bastard he was. Of course, Allen would say Drake was even more stubborn and single minded.
He walked heavily across the room, the realization of just how badly he had failed these people burned like acid in the pit of his stomach. What scared him even more, was the thought that Williams might have left a few more bombs laying around.
Hearing Max moan loudly from another room, Drake stood there, knowing that he should put the man down, he was suffering and there was no chance they could help him. His shoulders slumped as he looked down at the floor, unable to bring himself to make that decision, he looked up to see the survivors of his group watching him, some were silently pleading for him to do something.
They were on the edge, he realized, and it was all his fault, Max was his fault, he had suspected the Hippie was up to something and hadn’t acted, he had been waiting for proof. And now Mikey was an orphan and Max was a breathing dead man. Stop being a coward, your going to have to put him down and you owe it to him and to the others.
He drew his pistol and held it at his side, all eyes focused on it, and no one protested they knew what he was going to do. Laney watched him tears in her eyes. Drake turned and walked slowly down the hall. He stopped at the door to the office where max had been placed. He stood there for a moment, staring at the door wanting to be anywhere but here. With a trembling hand he opened the door and stepped inside.
Greg looked up from where he sat besides Max offering what little comfort he could by his presence. Greg saw the pistol in Drakes hand, his eyes widened slightly He started to say something but then nodded as he rose to his feet and stepped aside refusing to leave his friend in his final moments. Drake forced himself to take each step to the couch they had hauled up here for max, and looked down at Max who kept shifting around, unable to find any comfort, his skin was blackened in places, red and weeping in others.
Max moaned loudly, as he shifted again. His eyes locked with Drakes then dropped to the pistol that Drake held and then slowly Max nodded once then lay back closing his eyes. The cracked and bleeding lips moved and Drake could hear the whispered “thanks”. There was so much pain in that one word, that it gave Drake the strength to do what needed to be done. The gunshot echoed thru the building.
* * * *
Jared held on to the bar in front of him with a death grip as the ultra light climbed steeply before leveling off at two hundred twenty feet. Which was just meant Jared would reach terminal velocity if the thing fell out of the sky. It’s the little things that mean so much, he thought, wondering if maybe he should have let Steve beat him half unconscious after all.
“We would like to welcome you to Apocalypse air, the smoking light is off, our flight attendant who normally does our emergency safety demonstration fell to her death opening the wrong door. so please take a moment to read over th….” Ronny said laughing as he was cut off.
“Fuck you Ronny” Jared growled,
“That’s the spirit, even if I’m not gay. I’m sure Ed would appreciate the attention though” Ronny laughed.
Jared just shook his head and then turned to look down at the passing land. Even now after a year and a couple of months, it still looked like a patchwork quilt of fields and pastures separated by fences and lines of trees that stretched out as far as he could see.
He gazed at the homes, where he could sometimes see vehicles, barns. His mind insisted on wandering who had used to live there, and what they had been like. Had they survived or were they down there right now clawing at the walls, or wandering the fields and woods looking for the living.
Clumps of dense woods that covered acres were scattered through out the area, especially along the Red river. Tendrils of forest snaked off from those clumps and winded their way thru fields, and built up areas.
237 wasn’t as bad as the main roads, but there were still a lot of vehicles scattered along its length and there were no undead in sight on 237
“ that should be it go left up there” Jared said leaning forward to point past Ronny’s head.
Ronny didn’t say anything but he was already banking to the left to follow 237. Moments later they could see I 24 ahead, filled bumper to bumper with vehicles, the only clear spots, were either from wrecks, or where some one had driven off the Interstate crashing thru the rails to reach the feeder road or fields to escape.
“ whats that” Jared asked pointing to the north west, where plumes of black smoke could be seen rising up from the ground.
“ at a guess, it’s a fire” Ronny said, with a tight grin. He altered his heading and squeezed the stud on the stick that activated the digital camera. Rob and that Uber Geek Gary had installed the camera and rigged up the control for it last fall, the camera had proven very valuable in the past when they had needed to plan out routes, no reason it wasn’t going to be as helpful today. .
“ we can check it out after we fly over the route” Jared told him, Ronny nodded and turned back on course. Taking a picture every minute or so, Rob would patch them together on the lap top for aerial map when they got back.
They swept over the streets of St. Bethlehem, it was a dead community, there was obvious storm damage to many buildings, debris littered the streets, covering the long traffic snarls that filled the main streets. Jared used binoculars to check out the sports complex to the north, from the looks of the barricades, police cars, ambulances and other vehicles it had been an evacuation center. Now a few thousand zombies shuffled around the parking lot between the vehicles.
The subdivisions just off the main road that was supposed to be their primary route, was just as bad, zombies filled the streets and the overgrown yards, a few of the undead looked up hearing the drone of the ultra light as it swept by overhead. Jared could imagine them snapping their teeth as they heard the motor, knowing somehow it meant flesh was nearby.
Down below he saw a day care center with a semi sticking out from a wall, one street looked like it had been shot to hell by heavy gunfire that had shredded vehicles and punched small craters into the pavement.
A fire had swept over large area, something like eight blocks, leaving nothing but heaps of rubble and a few blackened walls. Zombies wandered listlessly thru the ruins, “mother of god” Ronny said so softly Jared almost didn’t hear him. He craned his neck to look past Ronny and his eyes widened in surprise.
Ahead of them maybe was nothing but rubble and churned earth. Where ever there had been a concentration of buildings, and along the major road, some one had pounded the area flat with artillery. The damage grew worse as they drew closer to the Base.
“ looks like some one had an Arty Battalion on call” Ronny said as they flew over the devastation. Who ever had been in command of Fort Campbell had put up one hell of a fight, Jared thought as Ronny circled over the field of destruction, which reached as far south as a mile past the Red river, at least, he couldn’t see much further than that with the binoculars. “ he cleared fields of fire,” Jared muttered. “ I bet he used the Artillery till there were no more shells left, then infantry on a sweep thru to finish off anything still moving.”
“ would have made a great movie” Ronny replied, despite the situation, He loved being in the air, he only wished they still had the old Navy Duck, he had used for recon on the way to Sullivan.
“looks like we need a new route” Jared said, as he felt hope build with in him. “The old one is just to dangerous and blocked with to much damage.” Jared said as he pointed north, “follow the road along the fence line that runs north I want to take a look there, we can swing east then come back down 24 and check out those fires, that weren’t there earlier.” Ronny nodded and turned north to parallel the fence line.
The base it self looked intact, and there seemed to be few zombies in the streets. He had hoped, prayed that the base would be intact and inhabited. More than that he had prayed Eric would be there waiting. They had gotten lucky finding so much of Ori’s clan alive, and Jared had just expected to find his own brother with a minimum of fuss. Eric could still be down there, alive and surviving. Your not giving up on him, even if you don’t find anything he told himself sternly. Eric was just as much of a survivor as he was, maybe even more than Jared was.
Jared turned his gaze towards the base Airfield, and saw it was intact as well, with a few aircraft parked on the ramps. Most were small planes, Ov’s and the like, one was Lear, one… “Look at that” Jared said pointing, a Continental MD 80 and a delta 1011, were parked near a hanger with a portable boarding stairs at their doors. There were also several civilian helicopters in the grass between runways and the taxiways.
“ Commercial flights that were low on fuel and landed at a safe zone” Ronny called back. “ that’s my guess. Might find out once we get on base. Probably reports and such”
Jared nodded it made sense too, though one or both of the commercial planes could have been charters bringing soldiers home from the war.
“ not as many vehicles in the streets as there were at Fort Jackson.” Ronny noted. “or as many undead.”
“Undead that we can see” Jared corrected. “ there could be a lot in the buildings”
“Well regardless, we wont know till we get on the base.” Ronny stated, as the base slid past them and began to recede into the distance. “Do us a favor and reach up and turn the fuel cock on the secondary tank.” Ronny asked Jared, grinning to himself, as he pictured Jared turning white. Ronny could have done it himself, but He enjoyed twigging Jared on occasion.
He watched the needle on the fuel gauge rise, nodding to himself. There had been plenty to make it back, but in case they needed to loiter or add a few extra miles on, they wouldn’t have to worry about fuel for a while.
Highway 41 entered rural Kentucky, heading for the misty ridges and rolling hills of the Rim. Jared watched the trees and fields pass below him, nature only broken by the occasional farm, or business.
“ swing around and go back” Jared told Ronny suddenly, Ronny turned gently till he was headed straight back along his base course, and saw what had interested Jared, in the middle of mostly no where, was a fenced in Drive in theater, a perfect place with plenty of room to set up a camp while they searched the base for anything of use.
Jared was checking his map muttering to himself, “If I have the distance right, just up ahead is H 117, we can reach gate four from that road.” Jared said, “ that would be perfect.”
“ your forgetting all the zombies and wrecks between here and our current camp.” Ronny pointed out.
“ we don’t have to use the old route, we run up the feeder of 24 or along side it, till it crosses 41. then back down here. The only place where there would be a lot of the undead would be as we pass thru the medical center area. The only real problem are the new route uses more fuel, and is slightly longer, but with the odds so much better, it’s the best route.” Jared replied, he had toyed with that route before, but dismissed it, the last few times he had been in a heavily built up area, zombies were actually thin on the ground, unless you stayed in one place for to long. He hadn’t seen so many zombies crammed into an area like this since the first few days after the dead had started rising.
Jared leaned back in his seat, watching as the world slid by below, the only real thing he liked about flying these days, was you didn’t have to worry about undead beating on the sides of the vehicle. That was pretty much it, well that and the fact if you didn’t look to closely at the ground, or were high enough, you could just sit back and pretend that all was right with the world. That was assuming he could relax, which wasn’t likely to happen in this flying death trap. And if Ronny faked another emergency Jared would kill him even if it meant crashing.
Eric, you had better be alive, I don’t think I can take it if you aren’t. I should have come up here first before heading for the camp, but I thought it would be safer on a base like Campbell, hell I thought it would take a month or two for this whole dead rising thing to be over with if I want to be honest, Jared thought. After his parents had died, Jared had taken care of Eric from 10th grade to Graduation. It had been rough, but he wouldn’t have traded a moment of it, unless it meant his parents had lived.
Well He could have been in worse company, Jared decided, between Erics Team in the 5th SF, the 101st, and the 160th SOAR, and all the other soldiers, Engineers and others on Campbell, there wasn’t a better group of soldiers in a few hundred miles, if at all, so Jared was betting somehow, someway the men and women on Campbell had survived.
“ coming up on the fire” Ronny said, taking Jared by surprise. He had zoned out for several minutes, which was unlike him especially in an aircraft.
Down below, in front of a square brick three story building with dishes, and a massive radio tower on the roof, several vehicles burned, at least one had been a semi tanker truck, another looked to have been a school bus. The lurid flames cast wild shadows on the building, shadows that seem to dance and twist as if they were living things.
The smell was incredible, even at a hundred feet, the stench of the undead was bad enough, but the smell of burned meat filled the air, whether it was from undead, or from people who had been trapped in the vehicles, Neither of them knew.
“another band of survivors?” Ronny asked, as they flew low past the fires, he wasn’t stupid enough to fly over them, and risk a thermal updraft. In a real aircraft maybe, not in this thing, it was to flimsy for any kind of rough flying.
“ come back around over and give them another pass” Jared said hanging on, and if anything turning whiter, as Ronny climbed then came around to fly back down the highway, past the building once more.
Jared’s attention was drawn to the roof as they drew even with the building once more, the roof top door had swung open and people were piling out waving their arms trying to get the Ultra lights attention.
Ronny reached the end of his run and came about again, “ Keep going to camp, or what?” he asked.
“ well we cant land on the roof, and we damn sure cant land on the street, just fly low and slow, Im going to drop a note “ Jared said as he scribbled a note rapidly, even as Ronny slowed the ultra light as much as he could with out stalling and dropping from the sky. Jared finished his note and found something to tie it to. almost to late as it turned out. They were over the roof, at maybe forty feet. Jared tossed the note out the door, and tapped Ronny on the shoulder. “Get us back to camp, then I want you to come back and drop a Radio,” Jared said.
* * * *
Drake stood there, as the ultra light vanished in the distance, staring at the note in his hand. Of all the possible out comes, this wasn’t one he expected, the Man he had set out to hunt down for killing some of his people, was offering to help them. He wasn’t sure what to do at this point, oh he didn’t believe anything that Jon Williams had told him. How could he when that bastard had trapped them here, and killed two people.
But just because the Hippie shit had lied, didn’t mean that this Jared wasn’t dangerous. But god they had a plane, okay a miniature plane, but they were in the air, what else did they have. And who in the hell in todays world would just casually drop a working radio to a group of people they didn’t even know.
He sighed heavily as he watched Lany and her friends back slapping and high fiving, they were so damned excited, something about seeing an aircraft got people to hoping, could he, should he say no. Would they let him if he truly thought it was the best case.
Ballinger and the others would be back soon with vehicles, should they just wait for them and then leave. other people brought dangers whether they meant to or not, or was he just afraid of losing the sense of community and family that had developed over the last year.
He realized Lany was watching him, and managed to smile at her. He knew what he was going to do, For her sake, for all their sakes. Accept the help and pray they wouldn’t regret it. he slipped a friendly arm around her shoulders. “ see told you its going to be okay” he said with no trace in his voice or face of the misgivings he felt..
An hour passed, with every one left in the group up on the roof, all but the men who were watching the doors downstairs. There was almost a party atmosphere going as most of the survivors talked and laughed, joked and cut up, caught up in the moment and wanting to believe that things were about to get better for them. New people and planes, that had to be government forces.. The fires out side were finally starting to die down, but a few small fires had sprung up in the lot behind them where burning debris had been lifted and dropped the wind. They were small but might grow into larger fires.
Lany was the first to hear the craft , she warned every one and pointed in the direction the noise seemed to be coming from, every one got quiet, staring south. and then they saw it, a black dot that grew bigger as it came closer. It lined up on the Roof and lost altitude, then leveled off at maybe forty feet, and swept over the roof, a man leaned out of the side, wind whipping around him as he held out a green box as soon as the craft crossed the edge of the roof, the man dropped the box, the ultra light started climbing as soon as he was back inside.
The box hit and began to tumble across the gravel and tar roof top with a clatter. It hit a metal duct on the roof and bounced into the air, slamming back down and rolling for the edge forty feet away. Drake sprinted forward and threw himself onto the box, grunting as it hit him. But he had it. he sat up and saw it was a metal military Ammo can. As every one gathered around him he opened the lid, and saw the box had been lined in foam, inside was a Radio with a headset.
He couldnt explain to any one else what the sight of that radio did to him, there was mingled hope, and excitement, and grief for the lost world it represented. He shook away his emotions he looked at the head set for a moment then unhooked it so that every one could hear, some one had made sure the radio was on so Drake didn’t have to try to figure out which button was the power button.
“ hello” he said holding down the transmit button.
“ This is Jared Stone, you folks seem like you need a bit of help.” A deep strong voice said from the speaker. Undead be damned his people started cheering, Drake even found himself smiling as he watched Lany do a Touch down dance.
** * * **
as the sun began to inch towards the western horizon, Cal climbed off his motorcycle, and eyed the Headquarters building, the few zombies that had been in front of the building, had been taken out, and now lay still in the overgrown grass. “ clear it” he told Sheamus who grinned and led his men inside.
Cal climbed up on top of the MRAP and scanned the eastern horizon with his binoculars, he was edgy after spotting the ultra light earlier today. Some one was out there, and it had looked like they were scouting out the base. How big a group it might be he had no idea, he would have to do some scouting of his own to gather information, if he recovered what he needed in the next 24 hours it might not matter anyway. But he wasn’t going to count on a potential enemy not striking when he least wanted them too.
Which is one of the reasons he had opted for this building, no scavenger would head for the Base Headquarter building first. He would post a coupe of men with Radio’s at the motor pool and Supply, which is where he expected most scavengers would strike first. If they were men like he was, he would attempt to recruit them, if they weren’t, well they could either run very fast to escape or die where they stood.
He lowered his binoculars, idly wondering if there might be a drone or two and a control trailer on base. That could prove invaluable in the future. His palms damn near itched with the thought of all the goodies that might be lying around just waiting to be picked up.
He stood there watching the area, as the sun sank lower, the buildings casting long shadows across the empty streets. it was totally quiet, no wind, no creakings, or leaves rustling. Only the occasional sounds from the building behind him as his people cleared it disturbed the evening. not even an insect could be heard, and that set Cals hackles on end.
LeCleric, and Grimson were still in their vehicle, just in case the group needed a fast get away, and they acted as more eyes to keep on eye on the street.
But for all of that not one of them noticed, deep in the shadows, just down the road, a figure leaned out around the corner of a building watching them, its pallid face partially hidden by the brim of its bowler hat. Its dead eyes fixed on Cal, Abbadon as he had been nicknamed in the Congo, Dark angel of the abyss, the Devils assassin as he had been called in Somalia.
It would be fun to corrupt this one, like Mikhail, Abbadon enjoyed violence, unlike Mikhail he had chained that need and enjoyment to Duty and to his men and when this one, this Abaddon was fully his, the men who followed him, would belong to it as well, more importantly this one would be its instrument of revenge, whether he knew it or not.
Still unseen by the living, it turned and began to walk towards the Town beyond the base, there were a few living with in the ruins, and it would feed. But oh how it missed the feel of a knife in its hands, and the screams as it flayed its victims alive. Soon, oh so soon, it would be able to feel it again. it smiled, in the darkness. It had miles to go, and nightmares to walk.