“I heard him, wandering in the night,
Tap at my windowpane;
With ghostly fingers, snowy white,
I heard him tug in vain,
Until the shuddering candlelight
Did cringe with fear and strain.”
The Warehouse was brightly lit with lanterns, which kept the gloom at bay, while the storm raged outside. There was a feeling of apprehension, in those gathered in the warehouse, a deep unsettled feeling that made every one jumpy and tense.
As the Storm rolled in Ori had gotten every one and the vehicles squeezed into the DRMO yard, so if they had to flee, any zombies attacking the building would have to get thru the fence to cut the group off from their vehicles.
Logan lay on a cot moaning occasionally, any time he moved fire washed thru his arm. Justin and Sandy had done their best to sew Logan and Jones, back up. Rob had once more saved the day in a manner of speaking, he had taken Mort and Arthur for a walk along the airfield checking out the trucks, planes and conex’s and found something that had every one thrilled shitless, the conex’s were actually modular mobile shelters, three had been medical clinics.
Rob loaded four of the modules onto PLS Hemmets, they had gathered up from around base. Then had all the supplies and equipment out of two of the medical modules stripped out and loaded it all up in the one module that they were taking.
Now they had a laundry and shower module, two sleeper modules and the medical clinic, as well as one of flat bed sized generators capable of powering all the modules and many more. Ori was actually thinking that it might be wise to come back here and gather the rest of the modules before they returned to Sullivan. Those things could be damned handy.
“How’s he doing” Ori asked Sandy who was checking Robs temperature.
“Actually not bad, no fever. the body armor and combat vest saved both of them from even more injuries. If we can keep their wounds from becoming infected, they will pull thru pretty well” Sandy told him as she replaced the high tech thermometer in its case.
“Good” He said, running a hand thru his thick blond hair, then grimacing. He was really trying to break himself of that habit, but so far he couldn’t shake it.
“I thought you wore glasses” Sandy said suddenly, realizing what was so different about Ori, other than the five o’clock shadow, that she found particularly sexy on him.
“I do, but I put my contacts in, in case I have to go out in the rain.” Ori replied absently as he eyed Jones. Who was breathing shallowly and looked pale.
“can they fight if they have to “he asked, ignoring Sandys frown. “ facing undead, while laying around isn’t a good option if the shit hits the fan” Ori said. Sandy nodded understanding, but it was obvious she didn’t like it.
“if they have too, I would say they can. If all they have to do is shoot, running and shooting, might be a bit hard. It hurts every time they move” she pointed out.
“I can shoot and scoot if I have too” Logan said tightly, having woken up just then. “ it hurts like hell, but Id rather hurt than get eaten”
“Good, if you cant, Id rather get you two loaded up in the RV, or the Medical clinic module so your not left behind or placed in danger if those things get in here.” Ori said, as Sandy studied him intently for a moment.
“Is that likely” she asked, as she closed up the bag with her medical supplies.
“are zombies eating the world very likely.” Ori replied, then shrugged. “sorry Im on edge tonight, and no I don’t think its likely but you can never tell. Id just like to plan like they can get in so we can take steps to live ahead of time”
“Sounds good to me” Logan said, his eyes filled with pain as he moved his left arm.
“Doc it hurts when I do that”
“Stop doing that then” Sandy replied with a wan smile. She looked tired, really tired these days, Justin didn’t look much better, but they were still pulling along like troopers.
Ori shook his head with a slight smile and headed towards the back, the groups were clustered at the doors into the yard. Most felt better knowing that they were close to their vehicles, and that the yard was fenced.
Drake sat on a crate talking to the cute teen aged Girl Lany who seemed very interested in Drake judging by the wide-eyed gaze and longing looks she would give him. Ori hid a smile, thankful for Beth, who was waiting for him back on Sullivan.
The only good thing to come out of all this was his meeting Beth. She had changed his world leaving her behind to take care of and teach the kids she had saved had been a hard thing.
But he had needed to know if any of his family had survived, and he damn sure could not just let Jared, and Steve run around with out guidance, Ronny was more likely to get them into trouble, so it was up to Ori to keep them inline.
Ed sat on the cement floor talking with Robs boyfriend, it must be a serious conversation judging by the look on Eds face. Ed was another stand up guy, gay or not. The former police officer had really done well by the Group when they took Sullivan away from that nut jub Colonel and his chemical weapons.
The fact he was handsome, and built like Steve, meant he was also very popular with the ladies, who usually seemed to be upset when they found out he wasn’t interested. But from all appearances he wasn’t interested in any one.
“They should have been back by now” Mai linn, said as she appeared at his side. She was like Jill in the respect that she could make BDU’s or ACU’s look good.
“Yes they should have,” Ori admitted quietly, Jared and the others should have been back an hour ago, but with the storm they could be waiting it out, somewhere. Ori hoped so at any rate.
“How’s Logan” Mai linn asked casually, a bit to casually Ori thought.
“Good” he replied, tired of talking. He had spoke more in the last four hours than he had for the last two weeks.
“Okay, thanks” Mai said after a moment, obviously she had hoped for a much longer answer. Ori was amused, if she thought no one else realized she like Logan, she was an idiot.
“Sandy said she might have to remove his. Well you know, the dog managed to claw up his… um Johnson pretty badly” Ori said totally straight faced, and managed not to laugh at the look on her face.
“I didn’t realize he was that badly hurt” she replied.
“It could be worse, I guess” Ori said, there was a snort of laughter from behind him,
“Don’t let Ori jack with you, Logan’s not that bad” Sandy said over Ori’s shoulder.
Mai glared at him for a moment then shook her head. “asshole” she muttered.
“Mai, I’m sorry, couldn’t resist.” Ori said with a grin that faded as the door to the yard opened letting in rain and wind, Jeb rushed inside soaked to the skin, spotting Ori he rushed over.
“Ori, your needed on the track, Ronny is coming in and needs to talk to you ASAP” Jeb said, just a bit to loudly. Heads turned and Ori could see looks of concern spreading from person to person.
“All right, Mai keep on Eye on things till I get back”Ori said,
“ no problem Ori” Mai replied, Ori was already following Jeb down the aisle and out the door into the storm.
By the time Ori climbed into the side hatch of the 88, he was soaked to the skin. Daws sat in front of the Base unit, looking up as Ori dropped into the track. He pulled off the head seat he wore and offered it wordlessly to Ori, who donned it quickly. “this is Ori, go ahead Ronny” He said his stomach Knotted with fear.
“Shits bad Ori, damn bad. Jared and the others are trapped in a boat house along the river, there’s no boat and half the cities undead are beating on its walls.” Ronny said breathlessly.
“What’s your ETA?” Ori asked his mind racing.
“Five minutes out Will be landing at the Airfield, and man the undead are everywhere” Ronny replied.
“ I’ll meet you there,” Ori responded, as he stripped off the headset.
“Jeb your with me, Daws, Mai is in charge till I get back.” Ori said, “back her up if any one gives her shit”
“you got it Ori” Daws replied to Ori’s back, the short blonde was already halfway out the hatch Jeb hot on his heels.
Ori reentered the warehouse, ignoring the questioning looks as he jogged down an aisle, calling out. “ Ed, your going with me, Steger I need you to drive, Arthur your riding shot gun with Steger.”
“What are you looking for” Ed asked Ori who was shining a flashlight along shelves.
“ aaah found it. I knew I had seen those. Okay big boy lets put those muscle to work” Ori said pointing
“ what is that” Eric asked eyeing the large odd looking rubber package.
“That is an inflatable zodiac, we used them for scout work and the Rangers use them too.” Ori replied.
“Its going to take a week to air that up by mouth assuming I don’t pass out before hand, and why do you need it” Ed asked confused, looking at Ori, who was lifting an outboard motor off a shelf.
“ Jared and the others are trapped in a building on the bank of a river, with no way out except by water or thru a few hundred zombies.” Ori replied, “and that thing is self inflating, so you don’t have to practice blowing,”
Ed lifted the thing, grunting, it had to weight at least two hundred pounds. Together they headed back to the Ware house doors, were every one was gathered.
“Rob is that ELSOVR running” Ori asked as he set the motor down.
Rob nodded “ yeah should have no problems.”
“ good” Ori said then turned to Steger. “get the Elsovr and bring it right up here to the doors,” Ori said then turned and addressed the rest of the group. ”the rest of you get your gear stowed on your vehicles. According to Ronny the ground off base is thick with undead, if they get in here, I want you folks to head west for an hour then find a way down to Goodletsville, just north of Nashville. if things work out, Ronny will be in the air and can direct you around obstacles and undead.”
As Ed and Jeb Loaded the zodiac, and the outboard, Ori outlined the route the group should take. As soon as he was certain they knew the route, he gathered the few men, he was taking with him.
Ryan was damn near squirming in the seat, worried and anxious for Stephanie. Funny how things work out he thought, she had been Henrys Girlfriend back on the march to Sullivan. He and Henry had become best friends regardless of the age difference, or maybe it was fair to say Henry was more like a father figure to him.
How ever you wanted to consider it, they had been tight, and Stephanie who was only two years older than Ryan had truly loved Henry. So when Henry died, Ryan had vowed to help Stephanie, to protect her and do what ever it took for Henry. He had never expected to fall for her, or for her to like him. But he had and she did, even if not as deeply as she had felt for Henry. And now the woman he had sworn to protect was trapped in a small building, with no way out, and there was nothing, not one damn thing Ryan could do. Henry buddy, if you can hear me, help her out man. Or show me what to do for her sake not mine, he prayed silently.
He glanced at Ronny, who was tight lipped, his eyes narrowed with concentration. The storm was almost blown out, or it seemed that way. His eyes fell on the console and fixed on a large screen. To take his mind off the weather and Stephanie, he picked up the manual that gave specifics on the console, its displays, instrumentation and other things.
He skimmed thru it, and then stopped eyes wide, with out a word to Ronny he reached out and touched a button, and then another, and display lit up with the once familiar view of a weather Radar.
“ what the hell are you doi…..” Ronny said as he say Ryan push buttons, scared the kid was going to shut something off they needed, but he fell silent as he saw the weather Radar. “Holy shit” he muttered. “Good job kid”
“Didn’t you read this thing” Ryan asked, tapping the binder.
“Not really all the things needed to fly this the plane are right in front of me, I wasn’t worried about electronics” Ronny replied, feeling stupid, and glad mary wasn’t there she would have knocked the back of his head into the windscreen, through his forehead.
“This thing has a FLIR camera, LIDAR, Digital cameras for Search and rescue, a thermal system, all sorts of stuff” Ryan said, as he pushed another combination of buttons and suddenly the plane began to handle a bit better.
“Automated functions, to help you fly” Ryan said, with a thin lipped smile.
“I don’t know whether to push you out, kiss you, or make you my copilot.” Ronny said and then fell silent again as he got his bearings, adjusted his approach and prepared to land, as the plane roared over the base fence line.
“Ill settle for saving Stephanie, and maybe becoming your copilot. But if you try to kiss me Im pushing your ass out of the plane” Ryan said attempting to joke.
“one day you’ll look back and think I could have been privileged to have Ronny kiss me, and you’ll regret it,” Ronny assured him with a crooked, nervous smile, as he began to lower flaps, and reduce airspeed. Praying that he didn’t make a mistake and crash.
Ori saw the plane sweep over the base, lights flashing in the gloom and rain. Reflecting off the wet pavement and intact windows, any undead that could see and hear that thing were going into a frenzy about know, Ori thought.
Just over a year ago, he had been prior military, a wilderness guide and survival instructor. Now he was a solider for a Post apocalyptic semi nomadic group, worried about zombies, the only real difference between then and now was that now the zombies you met in Walmart tried to eat you.
“Undead in the street” Steger called out as he swerved to avoid them.
“Just get us there and then get back to the group, If there’s a change of plans let me know using the radio. That plane should have quite a few high powered radios.” Ori said as they turned and roared at seventy miles an hour past the helicopter landing pads.
He saw the Plane come in and touch down on the wet runway, slow then turn and head towards the ELSORV. They met in the middle of the apron, rain pelting around them.
Ori leaped out, scanning the area for threats but saw nothing. Ed, Jeb, and Arthur man handled the zodiac out and carried it to the cargo door on the OV, Ed carried the motor to the plane himself.
Ronny leaped out, and to Ori’s surprise and before he could stop him. Ronny wrapped an arm around Ori’s shoulder an squeezed, . “ Come on brother, looks like you have a plan and we need to get in the air, the next band of this storm is heading in.” Ronny said, with a tight smile, “looks like what’s left of the Dirty Dozen has rescue to pull off”
“Better hurry” Steger yelled and pointed, towards the north end of the Airfield. Ori looked and saw a line of staggering undead, maybe eighty or so.
“ Get back and make sure every one is ready to roll out” Ori called out to Steger then pointed to another band of undead coming from around the hangers. Steger nodded and ducked back into the Vehicle waiting only long enough for Arthur to return to the vehicle then sped away. Ori and Ronny ran to the plane and climbed in.
“ all right boys, Strap in, and hang on” Ronny called out as he disengaged the brakes and fed the engine power. The plane started rolling faster and Faster. The Garrett TPE 331-1-100 turboprop engine roared, the air frame vibrating as the plane shot down the Ramp directly towards the Tower and the buildings around it.
Ed gripped the arm rests, watching the tower grow larger and larger as the plane sped up, till the tower was filling the windscreen. He saw Ronny shoved the throttle levers all the way to the fire wall and haul back on the stick, and the agile plane left the ground, climbing fast and steeply.
“If we crash and Die, I promise you Ronny I will make your afterlife miserable for a very long time” Ori promised, as the plane leveled off.
“ Homosexuals and men, sorry there’s no ladies aboard, please strap in and start panicking. I am your pilot for today, we are scheduled for a water landing accompanied by lots of screaming and cries to god, once we are safely sinking, you will disembark in a surplus watercraft made by the lowest bidder. Thank you for flying Apocalypse air”
“I hate him” Ed muttered, as Ori grinned tightly there was no humor in his eyes.
“ you didn’t have to deal with him on patrols, on duty, off duty, while dating, while trying to have sex” Ori resplied.
Ed raised a thick sandy blonde eyebrow at that last one.
“the Little shit loved to wait till I had brought a girlfriend home and then walk in, cracking jokes.” Ori replied. He suddenly flashed a real smile at Ed. “he tried that with Beth, and almost got beaten down by both Beth and Mary.”
“ Ronny how long before the next band hits” Ori asked, changing the subject,
“ fifteen to twenty minutes, could be a little longer.” Ronny replied. “ we should be on the river in Ten” Ronny added.
Ori nodded, it would take them a couple of minutes to get the zodiac inflated and the outboard mounted. Granted Jared and the others could dump all their gear and swim out to the plane, but that was a last ditch option. The zodiac was the best option especially if Ronny had to take off again to avoid the storm.
“I’m going in with you” Ryan said suddenly.
“not a chance Ryan, limited space, and…” Ori said, Ryan Shook his head jerkily.
“ then leave one of the others, Im going and that’s final” Ryan snapped, meaning every word of it.
Ronny glanced back at Ori. “Take him Ori, Stephanie is in there.” Ronny said not having to mention that Ori wouldn’t have stayed behind if Beth were trapped inside.
“ all right, but you sit down and do what I tell you to” Ori said caving. Ryan nodded once, and turned back to windscreen.
The plane flew over the devastated city, where the undead swarmed thru the streets, flowing around wrecks and abandoned vehicles. The Austin Peavy Campus, was crawling with a mass of undead, that were heading south towards fresh meat. Thunder rumbled, shaking windows.
* * * * *
Amy, bit her lip, watching mike who sat silently staring at the water where a boat should have been moored. The steady, constant thumping and pawing at the walls and door of the boat house was driving her insane. Steve crouched near the door watching as it bulged inwards with the weight of the bodies pushing against it.
Jared stood calmly, studying the contents of the boathouse, if the noise and the threat of dying affected him Amy couldn’t see it. at least they had flashlights, she thought, if it was pitch black in here, she wouldn’t be able to take it.
“How can you be so calm” she asked Jared finally.
He shrugged “ no reason to get worked up, people make mistakes when they are worked up.” He replied.
“your telling me your not scared” she said in disbelief.
Jared turned those intense emerald green eyes on her, then said. “ I never said I wasn’t scared, some people can deal with conflict some cant, but only the intensely stupid feel no fear” he said then smiled softly at her, regret shone in his eyes for a moment, “don’t worry Amy, Ill piss my pants later” he quipped.
Jared didn’t tell her that he couldn’t let his emotions show, some one had to appear calm and in control or the whole team would fall apart. He might not be the right person for the job of leader but he was here now, and he would do what it took to get them out alive.
“I’m assuming you have worked out some kind of plan that doesn’t involve screaming and waving our hands over our heads” Steve asked.
“I thought we might go with waving our hands down by our sides this time” Jared said, eyeing the boat floats, and the two empty fuel drums. “Id throw in running away as a change of pace, but we don’t seem to have the room for that option.”
“that’s why we let you lead, your always thinking” Steve said with a chuckle, drawing looks from Ily and Amy.
“ Amy, Ily look for a pry bar, or something we can use to pop the tops off those fuel drums” Jared said, waving a hand towards the Workbench, and storage cabinets.
As soon as they were busy with that, Jared knelt next to mike. “ buddy listen to me, this is the last chance, stop being a fucking pussy and snap out of this, your letting guilt eat you alive because you’re a good guy, but shit happens.” Jared said softly. “trust me mike, I’ve been there done that, but you have people counting on you, you cant check out on them” Jared said, “ let me put it this way buddy, if you don’t haul your ass back to reality, Im going to pound some reality into you, we need you, Carrie needs you,” Jared said and for the first time saw a reaction, mikes eyes darted from side to side and he opened his mouth as if to speak.
“think its PTSD” Steve asked softly from his position by the door.
“Probably, but what the hell do I know, it could be shock too. Or is that the same thing, god we need doctors” Jared lamented, then shook his head, “ Remember that kid whose buddy got shot, next to him. Poor bastard just sat there crying covered in the blood and gore of his best friend, while bullets were flying around him.” Jared said, wishing he could forget that particular memory, one of a few hundred that he wished he could just send away.
Steve nodded remembering that fire fight vividly, mostly because of that kid, Private Noonan, from a farm in South Dakota, who was still in a mental ward, his mind had just shut down. Well he might not be in a mental ward any more Steve thought.
Noonan and Webster, best friends since Jr, High, joined on the Buddy program, even managed to stay together 11Bravo all the way, not even in the Army six months, and Webster was killed with out even firing a shot, or even able to see his enemy. And Noonan, might as well have had died with him. Like Mike you could lead him around, get him to seat, stand, pee, what ever. But if it had been up to Noonan, he would have sat there and died slowly with out lifting a finger to eat or drink.
Jared squatted there for a moment, then slapped Mike hard across the face, sending him falling backwards to the walk way.
“ what the hell are you doing” Amy shouted at Jared forgetting the undead outside in her anger.
Ily, looked just as angry but she clamped a hand down on Amys arm and held her back. Amy was so angry she might attack Jared, Ily didn’t like what Jared was doing any more than Amy, but like Jared she had no other ideas, and they didn’t have the time or the medical help to do anything else.
“snap out of it Mike, I don’t have time for your shit” Jared snarled at the man. And then slapped him again. the side of Mikes face was now flaming red.
“Get the fuck up soldier” Jared roared, sounding like the SSgt he had once been. “ fucking malingering ass. Your not getting out of duty that easy, no sick call for you”
Mike just lay there, staring up at the ceiling. As Jared shouted out a litany of obscenity that questioned everything from Mikes penis size to his parentage, Pappy would have been prouder than hell to hear it. Jill actually seemed surprised, she had never really heard Jared cuss like that, in fact he was stringing cuss words from six different languages together in coherent sentences.
“ Fich Dich, Dumme Cu, yeast infected, Cabrone, “ Jared said harshly, As tense, scary and serious as their situation was, Steve had to smother a laugh, he could almost hear Pappys raspy voice behind Jareds.
“ you maggoty limp dicked, veneral disease infected, two bit german gay whore,” Jared shouted, and hauled back to hit mike again, when Mike looked him directly in the eyes.
“ Im not a two bit whore” Mike said, Amy tore away from Ily and ran around the boat house and threw herself on mike crying and hugging him. Mike looked around confused, then realization dawned as to where he was at.
Jared sat back, surprised really, he hadn’t expected it to work, but he couldn’t think of anything else to do, thank god, or who ever.
How many times, old son do you need to see a miracle before you accept things change, the voice in his mind was his, but oddly it made him think of Brendan. Miracles, Pappy partly recovering from his stroke, Kevin finally able to get out of his wheelchair, Gayle seeing her own death and using that knowledge to pass along things that had helped not only her own people, but Jareds and Loyds folks, and the dreams that had led them to Sullivan Island and Fort Moultrie and Sumter and all the other things. Taken separately they were surprising, maybe even impossible, but all of it together
For the first time since last June, he felt his anger at God, for the deaths of all the innocents fade a bit, maybe Jared you’ve been an asshole He decided. Maybe all of you had warnings, what was it he had been told so many times, ‘there are rules to this Jared, and I cant tell you what even those are’, it had been humanity’s responsibility to save all those folks, and they had failed, not god, or the light or what ever you wanted to call it, but He had failed, the whole fucking human race had failed.
He knew it beyond a shadow of a doubt, he might not even now, realize what those signs were, but he knew they had been there, and that they, humans had ignored them or not even paid enough attention to them.
Religious leaders, had been to concerned with Dogma, to see the truth, atheists so turned off by dogma had refused to recognize it, and all but a few had been so busy living in what they all wanted to believe was the real world, had ignored the signs, Talk about the mother of all guilt trips. The anger was still there bright as ever, but now it was focused, pointed right where it should have been all along.
A tow headed chubby faced boy floated before his minds eye, a victim of the real enemy. Little Billy, the greatest guilt he had ever carried. Not even killing Mikhail, the bastard who had butchered the kid, had cleared his conscience of the guilt that he bore. He had pushed it away, held it at bay, and tried to get on with life, or what was left of it.
The thing that had caused Billy’s death wore a bowler hat, he knew it. Mikhail’s hand might have wielded the blade, but bowler hat was the one who had sent Mikhail at him like a laser guided missile. Well you fucked up, twisted little freak, your days are numbered, Jared thought viciously.
Amy had finally calmed down, and was sitting with her arm around mike, but she staring at Jared, like some of his thoughts had been showing on his face. Jared knelt beside Mike “ what happened Mike” he asked quietly.
Mike, shook his head. “I don’t remember much, I know she’s gone, but not much else,” he paused his voice almost breaking, but he visibly got control and continued. “ and I’m sorry for running out on you folks, I …just wanted to get her to remember who she was, and I thought bringing her here, might shake her memory free.” Mike said in an emotion laden voice. “I dreamed about it for the last week Jared, it just seemed like it would work.”
Dreamed, Jared thought, as he thought about how the undead had seemed to have been hiding, just waiting for them to get here. A trap was what it had been, damn that Bowler hat thing.
not for the first time he wondered how you fight something that could stalk your dreams, influence you, and why it couldn’t do it to every one. Rules, I need to know the rules Im playing by he thought bitterly. You want me to fight this thing, I get that. but …..his thoughts trailed off and then an image of Gayle handing him a thick book. Was the answer in there, or was it meant for some one else, some one up north maybe. Questions, always more questions. He turned his attention back to Mike, Jared felt for the man who had finally lost everything he cared about.
“I remember getting her here, she didn’t argue, didn’t scream at me, she just looked around like she had never seen the place before. We went up stairs, and I took out the wedding photos, the pictures of camping trips, and vacations, and she looked at them then started laughing, and threw them around the room.
She told me it was over, that the old Carrie was dead, and the new one wasn’t going anywhere. And then things got foggy, it was like some one else was there, just a shadow that moved out of the corner of the eye, more a feeling than anything else. And that smile,” Mike said shuddering his eyes starting to glaze over. Jared shook him by the shoulder.
“ Mike, I need you to stay with us okay” Jared said. Mike blinked twice then nodded.
“ I think she hit me with something, and I was in and out of it after that, kept hearing her talk to some one else in the room. and then your hitting me and calling me a two bit queer german whore.” Mike said looking around, noticing the noise from the walls for the first time. “ and it appears we are trapped” Mike commented. “knew I shouldn’t have sold that stupid ass boat” he
“you never mentioned you were rich” Amy said suddenly,
“because I wasn’t” Mike said shrugging, “inherited this place when my dad died six no seven years ago now. he had it built for he and my mom, she died shortly after they moved in, and he died two years later. It was paid for, and we only had to come up with property taxes every year. It was steep but we could pay them,” he fell silent realizing just how stupid it sounded to talk about paying taxes and inheritance in today’s world.
“anyway you shouldn’t have come, after me. Honestly Im surprised you did.” Mike said with a look of such intense guilt that Jared felt sorry for the man.
“we don’t leave our own” Jared said simply, looking at Jill and smiled. He wanted her to live, and Steve, hell all of them, but if they were going to die, at least they would die together.
“so do you have a plan” Mike asked, he still felt confused, a bit woozy really, but he at least was functioning again.
“yes, and no.” Jared said
“ well here is were we see if I can land on a river with gusting winds and rain” Ronny called out, dredging up every bit of knowledge he could remember from flight school about landing in inclement weather.
“okay here we go” Ronny said as he shed altitude. His eyes dancing from altimeter to air speed and back, he lined up and reduced speed to 70 knots, checked the carb heat, and watched the altimeter spin down. At twenty feet he flared, and set the flaps at 2, and began to bring the nose up, he prayed he had the wind speed and direction right and there were no wind shears.
The river sped by under the floats and he could see the homes on the north bank flashing past the wing. He was sweating badly, but his hands were rock steady on the stick.
At ten feet he brought the nose up to positive attitude, and began to reduce speed, it was a tricky balance act, made even more complicated by the wind. Now was the most likely time he was going to fuck up and kill them all.
What if Rob hadn’t gotten the floats attached correctly he suddenly wondered, oh what a damn time to think about that, Ronny cursed at eight feet above the swollen river.
Ronny’s eyes scanned the instruments; speed was good, nose attitude good, no wind shears. Extra good, they were at five feet.
He reduced power again, and kept the nose up, hoping he had it at the right attitude, if the nose was too high, the rear of the floats would dig in first and they could pitch forward, to low and the plane could flip.
“I swear if you kill me” Ed muttered, their altitude was at Two feet, Ronny tensed but concentrated, and then suddenly the vibration of the plane changed, as the floats touched down, cant use brakes he thought, not in water, so he reduced power to idle and used the rudder.
The plane felt odd, he thought as he looked out at the wings, trying to ignore the undead that were gathering on the northern bank of the river. Flaps shit he thought Remembering a step he had forgotten, as he scanned the instruments and consoles,
Water rudders, he remembered reading about them earlier. He spotted it instantly and dropped the water rudders, and removed flaps.
The wind was already picking back up again, and lightening was stalking the horizon as the next band of the storms approached.
Ori opened the cargo door, the added drag slowed the plane even more.. “ lets get moving” Ori told them.
“if your going to be flying out of here you have ten minutes tops” Ronny called out, he would wait as long as he could, but if the weather went to shit to fast, he would either have to tie off and pray, or get airborne quickly.
“You should have been a wingnut” Ori called back.
“should have, the women in the Chair force were better looking” Ronny said agreeing
“Remind me to mention that in front of Mary” Ori said, as he climbed out onto the float, he and Jeb worked quickly to get it inflated, and thankfully there were no holes. two minutes later they had it inflated, and three minutes after that they had the 50HP outboard attached.
“Ronny flies, you’ve captured boats and sailed them. does that make you the head of the New Navy,” Jeb asked with a grin, already drenched to the skin by the spray .
“ bite me monkey boy” Ori replied, his gaze fixed on the bank. “Jared we are damn near on top of you, stand by” Ori said over the radio. “we are on the river, ETA two minutes.”
Special forces kiss my ass Ori thought with real humor, okay so the SF would have training, real pilots, real aircraft, and experience, but we aren’t doing to damn bad all things considered. And at least zombies don’t shoot at you.
Every one that was going climbed in, and hung on as Ori removed the line that held them to the plane, Jeb pushed the starter and nothing happened. “Oh just great” Jeb muttered, as he and Ori switched places.
Ori checked the wires, the fuel lines, it had been stored properly drained, it should run he thought , he double checked again, and then looked up at Jeb as he turned the fuel cock to the on position. Jeb grimaced and shrugged.
Ori sat there for a moment then pushed the button, the outboard coughed then roared to life. “ hang on, or get dunked” Ori called out, as the zodiac bored thru the water sending up spray that glittered as lightening flashed. A moment later thunder like the hammer of god slammed down on the area.
“Holy shit” Ryan muttered finally seeing the throng of undead who were beating on the parts of the boats house walls they could reach. Oh god and Stephanie was inside there, he lifted his rifle but Ed knocked it back down.
“Don’t shoot, the movement of the boat will throw off your aim, and you might hit the boathouse.” Ed called out.
Ryan nodded, hating doing nothing, but the thought of shooting any one inside was enough to make him cautious.
“Jared get the doors opened, we are almost there” Ori said over the radio.
Jared nodded hearing Ori on the radio, and turned to the others “ get ready to get the hell out of here” he said, as he moved to the water door and began to pull the chain that lifted the door. Aat the sound of metal clacking the beating on the walls intensified, and something struck the door hard.
“Ori had better hurry his ass up” Steve called out, the door to the backyard had almost popped open that time.
“get your gear “ Jared told them getting them lined up along the far side of the boat bay, where they would be opposite the door. With the boat berth acting as a blockade forcing the zombies to come at them across the walkway.
Jared popped the breach on the M203 and loaded one of the special rounds Oris uncle had made. I wonder if its going to knock me on my ass, he thought idly. He looked out the Boat door and saw the zodiac was almost to the boat house passing the long dock outside
Three zombies actually staggered off the dock and splashed into the river trying to reach the boat. Where Ori had found a CRRC, was a mystery, but Jared wasn’t going to stop and ask him till they were safely away.
“Steve get back here with me,” Jared said, as he stood on the walk way that connected to the two sides of the boat house. Steve hesitated, but then moved to stand with Jared. “Jill when Ori gets in here roll our packs into the craft.” Jill nodded, not sure what Jared was going to do, but trusting him.
The pounding and pushing on the door seemed more intense, now, and they could hear splintering. Jared steeled his Nerves, “we hold them here” he said softly to Steve who nodded in agreement.
The zodiac roared into the bay, Ed tossed a Rope to Jill who decided to hold the line instead of risking tying it off, any delay in leaving could be deadly. Ily helped Mike into the boat, then Amy piled in. Ily grabbed Jared’s pack and passed it across to Ryan, then Steve’s pack. As Stephanie climbed in, something struck the door, and it burst open, shedding splinters. Undead poured into the suddenly open door, stumbling, off balance.
Jared triggered the 203, and actually was pushed back two steps, ears ringing, but good god, what a round he thought, the first six zombies thru the door, were damn near shredded from the center of the chest up. They fell lifelessly to the floor, a fine blood red mist hung in the doorway.
“Holy shit” Steve shouted over the ringing in his ears, He fired into the crowd forcing its way thru the doorway. Stephanie surprised and knocked off balance as she boarded the zodiac fell sprawling. Ed, Ryan and Jeb were firing into the mass, caught between two fires, zombies were shredded, but there were so many that they were being pushed further and further into the boathouse.
Ily tossed Steve’s pack into the zodiac were it landed on Stephanie, Jill dropped the rope and started to lift her rifle, “ Get in the fucking boat Jill” Jared shouted at her. “NOW” he roared, more out of fear for her safety than any other reason.
He knew she didn’t want to, but she slung her weapon and leaped into the boat, “ go Ori back her out now” Jared yelled as two zombies somehow managed to reach the edge of the interior dock and fall towards the zodiac, one missed and vanished in a spray of water, the other landed on the port flotation tube, its hand latching on Jeb’s forearm as it slid off the Tube and into the water pulling Jeb after it. Ed grabbed Jeb one handed and pulled, keeping the man from falling into the water, then leveling his rifle one handed Ed blew the head off the zombie. Bone and blood sprayed over them.
Ori reversed the motor, water churned as the zodiac backed up. Jared fell back a step still firing, Steve was closest to the water. “Go” Jared said pushing him. Steve grunted, but turned and ran down the long side of the berth and leaped into the zodiac, Ed, Ryan and Jeb were still firing into the horde.
Jared with long practiced ease, popped the breach of the 203, dumped the spent shell and inserted another, he slammed it closed, and the horde was ten feet from him. Jill was screaming, Steve was on his back in the zodiac firing up at the zombies closest to Jared. Jared braced himself, and pulled the trigger. Flame erupted from the barrel of the 203, the recoil was not nearly as bad as the first one, but the shot inside the cartridge, was like a mini claymore, it ripped its way through the first fifteen zombies, dropping seven immediately, crippling the survivors. Jared turned and ran down the long side of the berth pulling a frag grenade as he ran; the zodiac was four feet out of the boat house now. Jared leaped for the boat, twisting in midair to face the interior of the boat house and lobbing the grenade into the doorway that the zombies were coming thru.
He slammed down on top of Steve, as Ori Whipped the zodiac around, and gave it full power and the small boat flew away from the boathouse. The grenade detonated a second later, anti climatically.
“Son of a bitch that was close” Ed was shouting, as the boat bounced over the hard water. There was a celebratory air in the small group. Till Ryan who was helping Stephanie get to her knees and get a grip on a hand hold began shouting. “Oh shit, she’s been shot.” He was close to being panicked, Jared knew the signs. But there wasn’t a thing he could do about it. she must have been hit when she fell into the boat.
“Hang on Steph” Jared hollered, The plane already taxiing towards them. A moment later Ori cut power and Ed snagged the float on the plane and held on.
Steve swarmed up into the plane than turned and took Stephanie as she was passed to him. Jared urged them to move faster, Ronny shouting in his ear about the weather and taking off.
Jared helped Jill into the Airplane, made sure everything was out of the boat, then he and Ed both Climbed into the cabin, Ori slammed the cargo door shut and then collapsed into a seat.
“Give us a minute Ronny “Jared called up.
“I wish I could, but we don’t have a minute. We have to get in the air now” Ronny replied as he fed power to the engine and the plane began to move forward.
“Steve” Jared asked, watching as Steve checker her out, Ryan was holding her head in his lap, tears streaming down his face. but that was the only sign of his anguish.
“ I’ve got pressure bandages on her but that’s about all we can do for her right now” Steve told him, Jared gazed at incredibly pretty woman for a moment, thinking of how much she had grown over the last year.
“get her strapped down on the floor or strapped in a chair, we gotta go” Jared, said “ Ryan you too. As soon as we are in the air you can sit by her”
Jared made his way up and slipped into the co pilots seat stopping only long enough to shake Ori’s hand. “thanks, you did a good job” he said with feeling, Ori grinned crookedly.
“Couldn’t let the best looking women on the planet get eaten now could I” Ori said, with a tense smile.
“Even if this was your attempt to look for Jill, Ill let it slide since you saved us” Jared said.
“hey I flew thank you, and some damn fine flying it was too” Ronny protested as he turned the plane out of the wind, then turned his head back to the Cabin, “ Every one strapped in “ he asked.
“Get started”Steve called out, as he and Ryan got Stephanie secured.
Jared watched a black wall of rain march towards them, advancing on legs of lightening. “I’m surprised, you’re in the side seat” Ronny said as they picked up speed.
“I figured if we were going to crash, Id be killed first if I were up front” Jared replied, his body tensed with apprehension. His face white and sweating, as he gripped the armrests.
“Well hang on, if we are going to die its going to be now” Ronny said hauling back on the stick, the plane climbed rapidly into the storm wracked night.
* * * *
Fort Campbell was one of the largest military installations in the world. And it would have taken thousands to properly search every location and building in a months time, there was no way, that a group of less than a hundred could have searched a tenth of the base in two days. one of the many places not searched were the gates, the small group eager to draw as little attention to their presence as possible could possible be forgiven for not expanding their searches to areas easily observed by the undead.
As the storm gained strength again, a mass of undead had gathered at the blocked off gates, slowly growing in numbers, as the undead trickled steadily into the area, the trickle became a flood, the mass spilling north and south along 41a. merging to form one huge group stretched down the road at every gate. they beat on the barricades, driven by the hunger.
At Gate seven, lightening flashed downwards, striking a pole that leaned over the barricade, the cables that had once secured it, dangled over the barricade, carrying the massive electrical charge down to the vehicles and scrap steel that made up the barricade.
One of those vehicles was an M113, abandoned during the bug out, inside amidst the ammo cases, and boxes a bag had fallen over, spilling its contents onto the floor.
C-4 usually stable, reacted badly to the electrical charges, which was the reason EOD members didn’t carry, cell phones, digital watches or anything else that could generate a signal or electrical charge. Sixteen blocks of plastic explosives, were suddenly bathed in electricity that arced across the aluminum box that was the M113, and being what they were, they exploded.
The explosion ripped apart the barricade, and sixty feet of fence, fire and shrapnel ripped through the mass of undead, turning an area a hundred feet out into an abattoir. The fireball could be seen for a mile away. Even before the debris finished falling to the ground, the horde staggered into the holocaust, the need to feed on them. The base had been breached.
* * * *
Daws, looked up at the warehouse roof as a distant rumble drew his attention, others paid it little head, but he knew it wasn’t thunder, no way in hell was that thunder. “Spacey, Martin with me” He said and headed for the door.
They had no sooner stepped out into the rain when they saw, Steger heading towards the DRMO building..
“What’s up?” Daws asked Steger who looked worried.
“Not sure, Kyle saw a fireball off to north east,” Steger told him, rain plastering his hair to his head.
“Get every one loaded up and ready to roll” Daws said a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.
Steger didn’t argue or even ask why; he just nodded and ran for the building. Like most he wasn’t willing to take chances and get surrounded by undead.
“Simmons you drive” he said heading for a Humvee. “Killingsly open the gate” Daws yelled to the slender man, in a poncho who manned the gate at the moment.
Daws, half expected to see a few thousand undead just on the other side of the gate, when it opened but there was only the rain slicked parking lot. They pulled out and headed north, they could see the glow of a fire in the distance.
Simmons drove as quickly as she could in the darkness with no headlights, peering thru the rain that fell like a curtain cutting visibility to only a few feet. And then in a flash of lightening they saw shapes in the rain, and then out of the rain a man appeared for a second, then he went down under the hummer.
“Holy shit” Jones yelped, as he saw undead to the left and right, shoulder to shoulder, trudging thru the rain, the undead turned towards the hummer.
Simmons kept her calm, she was only 19, she may have been in her last week of basic, when this crap started, but she had seen more shit in the year since then than most combat vets had ever seen. She reversed, floored the gas pedal and twisted the wheel, backing over several more undead, as she turned.
She popped the vehicle into drive and gave it gas, heading back the way she had come.
Daws was breathing hard, his pulse pounding in his veins. “This is Daws, the base has been breached, bug out. They seem to be coming from around gate seven, so you have maybe twenty minutes or so, don’t waste them.” he barked into the radio. Odds were they had more time than that. But the faster they got moving the easier it would be to escape the horde.
The warehouse was a scene of organized chaos, as Mai Linn and Steger got every one moving, some where loading the last of the gear that Ori had mentioned to Mai, before he left. The rest finished loading personal gear into the vehicles they would be riding in. the yard was alive with the rumble of engines.
“Lets go, let’s go” Steger was yelling, trying to get more speed out of the slowest of the group. There was shouting behind one of trucks, a woman from Drakes group had slipped and fallen breaking her leg. Justin and Mort rushed to the scene with an old fashioned stretcher and carried her to the Jeep Ambulance, placing her inside.
By the time Daws returned, there had been two more accidents, Hector while climbing up one of the shelves to get something he had decided he wanted, had fallen knocking himself unconscious and one of the high school girls from Drakes group had dislocated a shoulder.
Daws leaped from the Hummer, and made his way thru the crowd spotting Drake who stood next to a loaded Humvee, talking to two of his people. He looked angry Daws noted, as he stepped up, “ excuse me sir, I need to know if your going with us or are you and yours heading out to a different destination?” Daws asked.
Drake turned smoldering grey eyes on him, his lips clamped in a tight line, and then the tension flowed out of him. “It appears we are going with you, at least for now” he told Daws, his eyes sliding to the pretty teen aged girl standing by the passenger side of the hummer.
Daws wished he could take a moment to talk with Drake he suspected he knew exactly what Drake was upset about. And he wanted to diffuse the situation if possible before it grew out of control, assuming it did, of course.
“Mind if I make a suggestion” Drake said, his voice bitter. “Not at all” Daws said, seeing a flicker of appreciation in Drakes eyes.
“there was a pamphlet I found, that talked about the restoration of Clarksville base, to its original set up. Triple fence lines, underground bunkers, pillboxs the works, “ Drake said.
“ unless its along our route, I don’t see how we could” Daws said, Drake shook his head,
“ its part of Campbell, not more than a mile or so from here, theres two bridges that cross a small gorge, into the place and they can be locked down, top and bottom. An underground cold war nuclear weapons depot, think about it.” Drake said.
Daws was tempted, but not to much “ think about this, once we are locked into one of those bunker complexes and those things get in, we are stuck there, till either they lose interest or we run out of food and join them.” Daws pointed out.
“ tell you what, lets bug out using our original plan, and later when most of these things have left, Ill come back with you and we can scout the place out, if, its good enough, some of the folks might want to put down roots.” Daws said, but the look on Drakes face told him, Drake didn’t believe it.
“My word on that Man, Jared loves the Idea of folks setting up their own place, he doesn’t want to be king shit of anyone. I promise you that Ill come back here personally with you and we will check the place out together. If its good, you’ll be set, at least for gear and possible weapons and ammo, since you’ll be able to search this place at your leisure.” Daws said as he looked towards the gate where someone was cranking an old fashioned air raid siren, to alert the group. “ shit, mount up” Daws shouted, “mount up now” He said running towards his Hummer. The 88 was already in position at the gate to lead out.
Daws reached the Hummer, as the gates to the DRMO yard began to swing open, with a roar the 88 trundled forward, “we have contact, looks like, one, two, damn many of the fucking things’ Steger said over the radio, from his position in the 88.
“hold fire” Daws Ordered, as the hummer eased into the line of vehicles passing thru the gate. He could still see a few people trying to secure more gear. Total fucking idiots, he thought, nothing he could do about it now.
“Jones get on the gun mount and wave every one thru” Daws ordered, Jones grunted, no place he would rather be then behind the spade grips of a ma deuce if shit when down, he stood up in the mount, and stench hit him fully. God those things stink he thought, and then he saw them, four hundred yards and closing spread across the fields between buildings, there were easily a six or seven hundred.
“ fire only on my order “Daws said, as he stopped the hummer “now wave those people on, show them there is some kind of order Jones.”
“Yes sergeant” Jones yelled in answer.
Drake waited as long as he could yelling at the last five or so people still trying to score more gear and supplies from the Warehouse, finally the last big truck, rolled out, leaving them with no place to put the items they carried. The undead were less than a hundred yards from the warehouse according to reports.
But unseen by others more zombies had swept down along the fence line, with no real destination till they heard the sound of a motor, that alone wouldn’t have been enough, but when the air raid siren wailed they turned as one and six hundred zombies, swept east reaching the DRMO fence unseen.
Larry, exited one of the offices on the second floor, carrying the last of the DVDs he had found, and started down the stairs, a slight scuff on the floor below drew his attention, he was just about to call out, when lighting flashed, lighting up the main lobby, in a wash of white light. Larrys mouth went dry, as he saw the undead milling around below. His testicles crawled up into his throat, as he silently backed away from the staircase.
He pictured the lay out of the offices, in his mind, but couldn’t see a way to get out to the yard to catch the last of the vehicles. His only hope was to hide, and hope the undead didn’t find him, if the didn’t see him they would wander off. At least that’s what they usually did he thought as he headed towards the employee break room.
He was lucky he hadn’t had his flashlight on, he thought as he heard a scream from inside the warehouse. Must have been Lawton, one of Drakes guys, he had been loading stuff into duffle bags near the door to the offices.
Larry never thought to wonder how the zombies had gotten into the lobby, the fear he felt was to focused on the threat not their origin. He heard slow steps on the stairs and sat the bag of DVD’s down, no wanting to risk them making any noise.
Larry hefted the crossbow he carried and kept his shoulder against the left wall, as he moved as silently as possible down the pitch black hallway. Something clicked behind him, close, closer than any of the zombies could be.
Click click click, the sound was rapid, like scissors being opened and closed. Larry’s mind whirled, an icy fist closed about his heart. What the hell, his thoughts were chaotic. He had always considered himself a strong man, not really fearless, but close enough, he’d had to be considering his criminal career, something that no one in the group knew about. Jared might not have cared, as long as Larry had behaved, but Mike, well, Mike wouldn’t have been thrilled that Larry had lied to him for so long. And truth was Larry liked Mike, even if he had been a military cop.
He had maybe twenty feet till he reached the break room, he backed up slowly, eyes peering into the darkness, searching for the source of the noise. A soft brushing noise from behind him caused Larry to whirl around, how… how could anything have gotten behind him. His racing mind froze like the rest of him, the emergency stairwell, but that wasn’t possible, was it. or maybe it was all his imagination, no way was he going to bet his life on that.
He moved as silently as possible, towards the break room, the smell of rotted meat suddenly assailed his nostrils. Something moved in the darkness ahead of him, a darker shadow than the darkness in the hall. And another one beyond that, Lightening flashed out side, spilling thru the glass in the lobby, a dim spear of light managed to reach the hallway, and Larry pissed his pants, zombies filled the hall past the break room, even more were spilling thru the door at the end of the hallway.
Instantly they reacted, mouths snapping as they saw fresh prey, Larry leaped forward, barreling thru the break room door, firing his crossbow at the closest one, it fell but another stepped into its place, . a hand grasped at his shoulder, but it only managed to tear a strip off Larry’s shirt as he rushed into the room and slammed the door closed, The door latched behind him, he leaned against the door for a moment, breathing hard. Feeling the undead claw at the door at his back. got to secure this, Larry thought as he turned on his flashlight, so he could see the table closest to the door and drug it over, and pushed it against the door.
Feeling semi secure at the moment he swept the flashlight around the room, tables, chairs, vending machines, a….. Storage or janitorial closet, the door stood open just a cracked . He stood there feeling a cold chill at the sight, memories of childhood terrors danced thru his mind, there in the room where shadows flickered and danced around the edges of the beam of light. The same room where a milk white eye peered out from the narrow opening, evil amusement dancing in its cataract filled orb.
Slender, mottled and rotted fingers, slid out and gripped the door and began to push the door open. Larry suddenly realized he had shot his bolt and tried to recock his crossbow, but that moved the light away from the door. he tried not to panic but he couldn’t help himself he flashed the light back at the door, and saw a zombie dressed in old fashioned looking clothes, a stupid bowler hat perched on its oddly shaped head, it was now ten feet from the fully open door. it walked slowly on spindly legs, its over long skinny arms dangled at its side
“cant hide” a voice, cold as the arctic whispered in his mind. “ gonna die”
this cant be happening he thought as he saw the thin lips under the huge beaked nose spread slowly into a lip quivering grin.
Behind him he heard the table he had placed against the door, scrape against the floor, they were pushing the door open. Oh momma help me now, the thought was wild, he let the light fall away from the zombie as he back towards the cabinets, and managed to cock the crossbow, he fumbled for a bolt and slapped it into the place, then turned his flashlight and crossbow towards the zombie, it wasn’t there, but the door was moving slowly open. Larry sweating his ass off, his pants wet, lunged for the door throwing his weight against it. it slammed shut with a boom. He drew a ragged breath that turned to a scream as hand like iron grasped his shoulder, and pulled him around.
The white eyes seemed edged in a blue or maybe silver , or maybe it was all in his mind caused by his wild mental state. Those eyes stared into him the head cocked to one side, the mouth yawned open into that hideous smile, that grew and grew till only those hideous sharpened teeth, filled his vision. And the jagged mad laughter that echoed in his mind, a mind that retreated into insanity and then unconsciousness.
Drake heard the screams from inside the warehouse, and saw two men come running out, one tripped and went sprawling, his partner Cory Linghoff, looked back and saw the twenty undead in the warehouse door that piled on Jason Hugh’s where he lay stunned, and put on a burst of speed heading straight for Drakes Hummer.
He braked letting the man catch up, Cory ripped the door open and scrambled inside, screaming at Drake to go, from inside the building, a long undulating scream ripped the stormy night apart. Full of pain and madness, Drake turned pale, and floor the hummer as the undead swarmed towards the hummer. Lany was staring back, at the surreal scene as lightening flickered and play across the sky, and the undead poured out of the building, and staggered through the rain after the retreating vehicle.
Drake felt a touch of relief to see a hummer sitting in the middle of the street, with a man on the machine gun., Daws had waited for them, the Armed Hummer fell in behind them. to the north the zombies that had originally been spotted were less than forty yards away. The real threat had been from the east and much closer, Drake realized as the street behind them filled with zombies that were coming around the warehouse.
He concentrated on catching up with the convoy, trying to ignore the smell of piss that came from the backseat.
* * * * *
Major Chris Malone, of the 3rd Tennessee milita, glared at the burning Wreckage, along I 65, his entire carefully collected and horded Military APC’s , were flaming wrecks sending smoke billowing into the sky.
He wanted the bastard who had done this, that Ben what ever his name was, the Prick had established himself in the Old four Towers complex, along the river, a hoity toity walled complex, with its one park and Amphitheatre, that had in the good old days hosted, high brow affairs, that only the Residents and the elite could attend.
There were only twenty two people in the place, it should have been a walk over, but it had turned into a drain on resources, thanks to one man. The same nut job who had just blown up every one of his APC’s. he lifted his binoculars and stared at the Play dough looking rabbit painted pink that sat on the road. that son of a bitch had C-4, and with his usual twisted sense of humor had spent what had likely been hours making a variety of small critters out of plastic explosives, and seeded the highway with them.
“got to give him he is creative,” Lt. DeAngelo commented, earing a glare from Malone. “ last month it was the twenty zombies with bombs strapped to them.”
Malone grunted his disgust, the little shit had some how rounded up twenty zombies, attached remote detonated bombs to them, and then led them to Malones supply dump in the middle of the night.
Somehow Ben had known about the motion sensors and cameras that Malone had setup around the dump, Malone hadn’t cared about zombies stumbling thru it, it was the living he didn’t want messing with it. the motion sensors hadn’t been set off by the remote control truck, with a boom box strapped to it. so none of his men had a clue till the first zombies showed up following the music. As per SOP, they stayed inside and out of sight, knowing that the zombies would go away. But the undead didn’t, they had continued to head straight for the heart of the building, then some one in the security room get curious and check the camera’s, and there the damn remote vehicle sat.
They had maybe two minutes to wonder what it all might be about, when the zombies detonated, the resulting explosion had leveled the building, setting of sympathetic explosions in the stored explosives and ammo. The big loss had been food.
So far Ben had dropped two buildings, blown up six APC’s destroyed 36000 rounds of ammo and six months worth of food, blown two bridges and an overpass, all because he didn’t want to bow to the inevitable. Well Malone was tired of the whole thing, and now that Army prick had gotten rid of Col Waters, Malone was in charge and things were definitely going to change.
No more penny ante attacks, no more trying to appease the little shit, if that little skank, Waters had taken, was important enough for the man to wage war, Malone was going to make sure he died for his efforts.
At least after the storm yesterday the fires wouldn’t spread, the town of Franklin had burned this last spring, god knew what had started it, but once it had been started the whole town had burned to the ground. At least it had wiped out the undead there, so that cut down on the remaining numbers. There couldn’t be a lot left in or around Nashville after that huge exodus of undead headed north.
In fact for the first time since June, there were large areas you could walk thru and not see more than a handful of undead, which had everyone in the unit excited, hoping that maybe the undead weren’t coming back. Waters had encouraged that dumb ass idea, Malone suspected that the zombies would return, or that more from other places were doing the same things, wandering around in hordes and would show up in the City sooner or later.
Malone wanted that damn walled complex, if Ben and his rejects could hold out in there since last June, His unit and their families would be able to hold it for years.
He turned his gaze back to the burning vehicles, thankful that they had contained only a few supplies and a small crew per each vehicle, at least the number of dead was a lot lower than it could have been.
At least Waters had listened to the Malones suggestion about bring up the soldiers in other vehicles, after the APCs had been staged at the jump off point. So at least his combatants were intact. Malone’s first course of Action was to determine who in the unit was supplying information to the Army guy, and put a permanent stop to the whole thing.
“ Look vehicles” DeAngelo said pointing, Malone shifted his binoculars up and beyond the burning wreckage and saw several military vehicles at a distance, most supply type trucks, Malone had no clue what they were called, but he did recognize three of the vehicles and knew they were called Hummers
They pulled off the interstate and rolled up along the median, avoiding the roadway now, as they passed the burning wreckage.
“no one shoots till I give the order, unless there’s a bunch of undead.” Malone said, as he adjusted his uniform blouse, knowing that he looked every bit the officer, the pearl handled 1911 .45 in its polished holster only re enforced the fact.
He walked out from behind the wreck he had been standing behind and stood in the open. Obviously waiting, if he was concerned about being shot out of hand, it didn’t show, or at least that’s what he hoped an observer would see.
The column came to a stop and a man climbed out, at least six foot, wearing a ball cap, he looked muscular, with shoulders wide enough to park a compact car on, and the arms to lift it into place. He had the kind of looks that most women liked, with a strong jaw and chin. But as he drew closer, it was the hard brown eyes that drew you in and held you, there was an intensity about him, which should have bothered Malone.
But Malone was to busy being surprised, at seeing a face from a dream. He was still staring stupidly, when the man spoke. “Seems you have a little problem, that needs dealing with” His voice was deep, and powerful, it went with the presence that he exuded.
Cal stood there, under the warm sunlight the blue sky marred by the billowing black smoke, watching the man in a starched and ironed Uniform, Cal almost rolled his eyes at the stupidity of the whole thing. The others that he could see, many of them thought they were well concealed, looked like sad sacks, and probably handled their weapons and tactics as badly as they carried themselves.
And this is supposed to be my promised help, next time I pick my own, no wonder you keep getting your ass kicked, he thought with real humor. He listened to the Major, wondering where exactly the man had earned that rank. He hadn’t of course, at least not in any real military. It was just a militia rank, aside from Veterans who joined militia’s many were just like this one had been.
A bunch of good old boys, who refused to join or couldn’t join the real military, and were self styled patriots and defenders of the constitution. Nothing really wrong with that either Cal thought, it had damn sure given the feds a case of the shakes, wondering if and when one or more militias would suddenly rise up and start shooting.
The problem with many of them, was no experience. And little training, oh some had extensive training courses, run by Vets, and were expected to show up for unit exercises, do physical training and the whole kit and caboodle. Others had just gotten together, ran a few drills, drank a lot of beer, shot some targets and praised each others skill. This group looked to be the latter.
“……. Well sir, I don’t think I caught your name” Major Malone finally said. Cal smiled there was no humor it. “I’m, Lt. Col, Calvin Simms, former US Army Ranger” Cal said, knowing that the idiot would never listen to him if he thought he outranked Cal. And I didn’t give you my name earlier you pompous ass, because you were too busy talking, he thought.
“I guess every one is former military now” Malone said with a frown. Cal only smiled. “I would assume so, but maybe not all Major, I got out a few years back, worked for companies like Black Water, even the legion. Uncle Sugar trained me well, and I saw no reason to stop doing what I was good at to flip burgers.” Cal said mixing the truth with a lot of lie. And Malone bought every bit of it. The Militia man leaped right into the belief that Cal had a large amount of experience and training, so much so that he had been in demand by various paramilitary companies. All of which was true but only so far.
Malone eyed him hungrily for a moment, desperate to find some way to get some of that training and experience taught to his command, so hungrily that Cal was almost worried the man would try to hump his leg or something. Before Malone could ask Cal Smiled and pitched his offer. He had been sent here to use these folks anyway he thought as he reeled in his new unit, hook line and sinker.
* * * * *
The convoy had reached Goodletsville around midnight, pulling up in front of a white two story house, which Ronny flying over head had directed them to. Ronny had landed the plane on the road, with barely enough room for the wings, but Ronny had done a great job. He had no choice it was either the road or the lake. And the lake was too far.
Stephanie had been taken immediately to the Medical shelter, Jared climbed down out of the plane wanting to kiss the ground. He would have been happy to be on firm solid, mostly dry ground, even if there had been clowns waiting. “ get her refueled, your taking us back tomorrow, I want my damn Van back” Jared said in a tone that Ronny knew better than to argue. But a smile spread across his face as he watched Jared turn towards his home. The home they had left last June. It was still boarded up, Jared had toyed with sending the whole damn group to the camp, where he knew there was power, hot water and food stashed in the cave under the main cabin. But he had chosen his old house, because Eric would have headed here first.
Jill, her padded and armored leather jacket slung over her shoulder stepped out of the plane, with a pensive look on her face. the first and last time she had been here had been just after taking her sisters head. “Your home” she told Jared who stood there looking at his house.
“To bad we cant stay more than a night or two” he said softly, he hadn’t realized just how much he really missed this place, and all the memories that filled it. he reached into the pocket of his Bdu’s and pulled out a key ring, and with Jill at his side, walked thru the camp to the front door. he hesitated for a moment then slipped the key into the lock, unaware of all the people watching who suddenly realized why he had picked this spot.
The house had a musty smell to it, he noted as he stepped into the living room, and instantly realized some one had been inside, since he had left. Two pictures were gone from the mantle of his fire place, a garbage bag with MRE wrappers, had been placed in the corner. The beige carpet was smudged with oil near the fireplace, and from the indentation in the carpet it looked like some one had set up a generator and vented it into the fireplace, must have worked since there are no bodies or zombies, so far, he thought.
He should go check on Stephanie. But he had to check his house first. The kitchen had been searched, cabinet’s doors had been left open, and a empty case of bottled water sat on the table. “Ill check upstairs” Ori called out from the living room. Jared didn’t respond, he just headed for the door to the basement. Jill stood there in the kitchen hesitating, and then decided for safeties sake she would follow, who knew there might be zombies down there.
When they had left last year, they had left a lot of the Companies inventory, with no room or need to carry it. at the time, none of them had a clue they would end up gathering people to them. but it was obvious that a group of people had gotten inside, backpacks, sleeping bags and all kinds of gear had been taken, and since none of the doors had been forced, that meant either some one that could pick locks or they had a key. And the only key outside of Jared’s was the one Eric carried.
Jared turned towards the row of Gun safes, four of which He had left standing open when he had left last year, there had bee no point in locking up an empty safe. But the fifth had been left locked it held Eric’s personal firearms. He walked over and dialed in the combination, surprised that he remembered it, after this long. The lock disengaged with a thunk, he reached for the lever and hesitated, before opening it. Inside only one rifle and eight boxes of ammo for it remained in the safe, and an envelope with Jared’s name on it.
“Want me to leave” Jill asked, willing to give him some privacy. Jared shook his head, and slit the envelope open with his combat knife. He read it twice a smile spreading on his face.
“He was here two months ago” he finally said. “with some of the men from his unit and the Nigthstalkers, there’s some kind of base still up and running that units were pulled back to, to regroup. Eric and his team was supposed to be scouting the area and then fly back to where ever, all he says is its out west somewhere. I guess he really didn’t know at the time.” Jared said as he folded the two page letter and slipped it back into the envelope. Jill didn’t press, there was obviously more than that in the letter. But Jared would share when he felt like it.
“Lets go up and check on Stephanie, I’m thinking we might waste the fuel and have Ronny fly her to the farm or all the way to Sullivan. That plane has the range to reach either of them.” Jared said as he wrapped an arm around Jill, “your gonna love and hate Eric, let me tell you about the time, he got caught running naked down the road, trying to escape a really pissed off father.” Jared said laughing as he led her up the stairs, forgetting the horror that stalked them all, for at least a little while
* * * * * *
the sun was setting in a blood red haze, that looked like the horizon was on fire. A few stars glimmered overhead, hard and bright in the deep black. The tree line a hundred yards back behind the house was silhouetted, like a black lace lit from behind by the sunset.
Mike sat silently on the top of the Crusher, watching for undead, having offered to take Daw’s watch since he had no desire to be around the others at the moment.
He still didn’t really remember what had happened at his house and that bothered him, but he did know that it had changed how he felt about Carrie. He knew she wasn’t dead, and knew that she had left on her own. It was maddening not to be able to remember. Well not entirely true, he did remember bits and pieces, snatches of images and comments.
What ever he had seen there at the end, still sent a shiver of pure primal fear thru him when he tried to remember. What he did remember was just snatches of images or sound bytes. He remembered reaching for Carrie, remembered some one standing in the door, talking to her. And then something, else, something that smiled from the shadows, and then darkness.
Haven’t I suffered enough, He asked silently. How much could a man take before he just gives up? Mike didn’t know, wasn’t sure he wanted to know the answer to that last question. Maybe that’s exactly what you should do, he told himself bitterly. Give up, she left you there. She damn sure didn’t care and…
Mike, his train of thought broken, turned hearing someone climb up the onto the top of the 88. It was Ily who carried a small metal plate with a latching lid. She smiled at him “I brought you dinner” she said as she sat down beside him, and removed the lid to reveal a small venison steak, seasoned potatoes, and green beans.
His mouth began to water at the sight. “Jared had some of us go check out the garden he had used to grow behind the house, the potatoes, onions, garlic and some of the beans were growing wild. So tonight fresh food” she said passing him a knife and fork.
She was silent as he ate, waiting till he had cleaned the plate and then set it aside with a satisfied sigh, his eyes searching the open fields around them, for any sign of movement in the dark fields.
“I wanted, to tell you that I’m sorry about Carrie, even though I did not like the woman she was, I know you loved the woman she had been.” Ily said softly, Mike started to respond but she placed a very warm finger to his lips and silenced him. “and I wanted to tell you that, I care deeply for you Mike, and that if and when you are ready to move on. I will be there for you.”
Mike turned wondering eyes at her, he had thought she liked Justin, he looked away, ashamed at his feelings but not as badly as before. He needed time to think this through, part of him wanted to find his wife, but part of him didn’t. Carrie had made her choice, maybe someday she would come back, as herself and maybe she never would. Was it betrayal to move on now, he couldn’t say. Wasn’t even sure he was ready to move on. Till he knew he would remain friends with Ily and nothing more.
“Thank you” was all he said, all he needed to say for now. He didn’t even draw away when she leaned against him and rested her head on his shoulder for a few moments. She smiled at him as she straightened up and gathered the plate and silverware. “You need to guard us, and I need to do KP as Jared calls it. if you need to talk Mike I’ll listen” She said then climbed down the 88, leaving him alone with his thoughts once more, and visions of a sharks smile in the darkness.