Chapter 13

“Dark HORROR! bear me where the field of fight
Scatters contagion on the tainted gale,
When to the Moon’s faint beam,
On many a carcase shine the dews of night
And a dead silence stills the vale
Save when at times is heard the glutted Raven’s scream.”
~ R. Southey
Smoke, tinged with a flickering hellish light from the fires that still burned, eddied around the nearby streets. Mounds of rubble, furniture, cars and trucks littered the streets around the complex. The silence was broken as a brick wall, weakened by the explosions of yesterday, broke away from a building and crashed down into the street, sending plumes of dust and dirt billowing into the pre dawn air.

A zombie moved on spindly legs, wrapped in smoke, firelight flickered in its milky eyes, as it paused and tilted its oddly shaped head back and stared west to the top floor of a distant parking garage. It stood there for a long moment, then turned and with deliberate steps headed for the sagging pedestrian bridge that gave access to the East Bank of the Cumberland River. The thin leathery lips cracking into a trembling smile of anticipation.
**********************

The smell of smoke and burned flesh was carried on the wind across the city, greeting the survivors as they awoke.

Jill climbed out of the ELSORV, feeling sore and cramped. Only to be greeted with the sight of her husband sitting on the concrete floor of the parking garage, cleaning his weapons, that damned dog sprawled across his lap, snoring softly.

“How’s your girlfriend feeling” Jill asked as pulled her pack out and dug out her esbit stove and a fuel tab. She set it up on the hood of a car and got water boiling for some instant coffee. The dog perked up and stared at her, Jared tossed her another piece of what was labeled bacon, but the dehydrated chunk of brown stuff tasted like cardboard, only with less fiber. The dog snapped it out of the air tail wagging.

“Jealous are you?” Jared asked, with a slight smile as he debated on telling Jill about Marks dawn visit, but then decided not to, at least not yet. He had a hard enough time believing it himself and he was the one that had seen it.

“Yes” she replied. “ Any word from the Island yet” she asked, over the last year and some odd she had become just as attached to Steve and the others as any of the original group.

“Not one word.” Jared said calmly, to calmly as far as Jill was concerned.

She let the topic drop; stewing in fear for their friend with no new news wasn’t productive.

While the water boiled she changed into her leathers, Ronny might call it her dominatrix outfit, but the tough motorcycle leathers were a lot more protection against Zombie bites than blue jeans and BDU’s were, she had even riveted metal and thick plastic plates on, to up armor the arms and other areas. She drew the line, so far, at wearing a helmet. She left the jacket undone for the moment, leather was hot to wear, and she wasn’t ready to start sweating like a stuck pig. She wished she could come up with something better than biker leathers to wear, oh of course she liked leather, and it did give protection from zombies bites, but it was hot, sweaty and she got tired of her skin smelling like a saddle.

She glanced at Jared, and almost smiled watching him pet the dog now if that mutt would realize Jill was actually his wife and stop trying to separate them like a cattle dog cutting out a calf.

She had taken to wearing jeans or BDU pants lately, but anytime she thought she might seriously end up in cluster of undead she would rather wear the leather. She shoved her feet into the old style motorcycle boots, and smiled at her mental image as she closed the clasps on the leather straps.

Now if only she could get Jared to wear some chaps, those heavy biker boots and no shirt, she would have the right Sidekick to her Super heroine look. She actually grinned at the image, surprising herself. “so whats on the agenda for today?” she asked as she removed the boiling water from the flame and poured it into a metal cup with the instant coffee.

“the streets are mostly clear, and I think I want to check out yesterdays battle site” Jared said, as he reassembled the Commando.

“what is that” she asked pointing to the weapon laying on a black bag next to Jared. It looked like a rifle, but with a huge drum like that of a revolver, a picatinny rail and a short Eight inch barrel that looked like it fired one of those grenades Jared liked so much.

Jared actually smiled as he sat aside the commando and picked up the weapon. “ this is a M 14, 6 shot 40 mike mike Grenade launcher, the sight is a M2A1, oddly its one that the marines use, Daws found it on Campbell in the some of the 5th sf stores and sent it along with Mike. And its just perfect for the shotgun rounds that Ori’s uncle Buck made for us. I think calling it a street sweeper is a lot more accurate.” Jared said, he sat it aside, then pushed the dog out of his lap.

“I think I want you to carry this” Jared said as he lifted the commando and held it out to Jill. “its better than that AR, more reliable, Im going to start using the HK416 instead of the commando” Jared explained. “ well use the HK and the M 14, I can handle the weight, and considering how freaking handy those shotgun rounds are, I don’t mind carrying the extra weight. He didn’t add he was going to drop two of the pistols he routinely carried.

She took the offered weapon but her eyes never left Jared. she knew he loved this weapon, so what brought about the change in firearms, she asked herself. She knew she wouldnt get an answer if she asked, Jared might not lie to her but he could get damned evasive when he needed to be, and get her completely off track, till an hour later when she realized he had managed to not answer her question. He could be such an asshole sometimes she thought fondly.

”thanks” she said, watching as the Dog trotted past Jared and stopped to sniff her legs. “ if that dog sniffs my butt Im going to shoot it” Jill commented, but there was no heat in her words. Jared only smiled half-heartedly for a moment.

“Jill meet Nibbler, Nibbler meet Jill.” Jared said.

“You named the dog Nibbler” she said shaking her head.

“well it beat naming her dog, which was my first choice” Jared said.

“god your creative, what would name a fish if you had one” Jill asked smiling for a moment.

“Well if it was a gold fish, goldy, trout,catfish or bass,would be called dinner. Perch would be named bait.” Jared said rubbing his chin thoughtfully.

“Okay forget I asked.” Jill replied, with a soft laugh. “thank god I already had a name I can just imagine what you would have called me”

“Glad to see some one can still laugh” Ori said as he climbed from the ELSORV and stretched his glasses askew on his nose and his hair sticking up wildly. “ and trust me, he would have had several choices to call you. All of them would have gotten him slapped” Ori said as he started to walk past the Second ELSORV and glanced in the window then laughed to himself. “ I will no let him live that down” Ori said, as he saw mike had fallen asleep and slumped over till his face was in Eds lap. “ Damn I need a camera”

He smiled evilly as he tapped on the glass, his grin turned to a smile and laughter as Mike stirred and then suddenly bolted upright, already a bright shade of red. Ori grinned at him through the window. “ you know I will not keep this a secret right” he said as he walked away, going around the low cement wall that split the garage roof into two parking sections and found a spot to do his business between two parked cars.

Jared shook his head, a slight grin on his face. “ occasionally he can be funny” He remarked. “ remind me to tell you the time he got drunk and tried amateur comedy hour at a club in Amsterdam.”

“Ori tried stand up comedy” Jill asked in disbelief, there was no one less likely than Ori to be funny, oh he tried, he just sucked at jokes, the last one he had tried had been such a complete failure that people had begged him to run naked around the camp in freezing weather before telling another one.

Jared nodded, “ tried is the operative word, he decided to get drunk thinking it would help him get over his stage fright, in the end, he could barely stand, so they slid a stool out to him. He looked confused for a moment then looked around the stage and goes ‘what is this a surprise round of sit down comedy, Im not prepared.’ Then passed out.” Jill slapped a hand over her mouth to smother the chuckle. “oh trust me theres worse” Jared said

“Jared you are a vile and evil person, and will wake up one day with clowns standing around your bed.” Ori said just loud enough to be heard, but pitched so his voice wouldn’t carry to any undead beyond the area.

“when did you learn words like Vile” Jared asked in mock surprise.

“ bite me, butt boy” Ori responded as Jared chuckled quietly.

Jared packed up the cleaning kit and put away all but the weapons he normally carried and now the HK. With that done he sat down and did the one thing that just bugged the shit out of jill, he started shaving with no shaving cream, or water. Just dry shaving as he called it. she cringed with each stroke of the razor. She didn’t say a word, at least he had grown a mustache and goatee, she hoped he would go back to the sexy little beard he had worn for a few months, if for no other reason than it cut down on his dry shaving.

“get your breakfast, I want to be on the move in ten minutes” Jared said as he finished shaving and then seeing Ed climb out of the ELSORV, he motioned at Ed. “ I need to talk with you for a moment” he said leading Ed to the far side of the parking garage for a quiet little talk.

They drove straight down Demonbraun, to 1st ave. and stopped, looking around in shock. Oh they had seen the smoke, and the glow from the fires last night, but it couldn’t have prepared them for what lay before them. From McGavlock as far as at least Fort nashborough at the far end of Riverside park, the road was gone, only a flame lit hole remained.

the Pedestrian bridge that spanned the Cumberland river was heavily damage and leaning to one side. And all the buildings from Demonbraun and 1st north past the riverside park had been damaged, some so badly that they had collapsed into the hole that had been 1st ave.

The Towers complex sat directly across the intersection from Demonbraun, spanning the area between the pedestrian bridge and the Korean Veterans blvd. The walls of the complex were pock marked with bullet holes, many of the windows in the towers had been shattered. Here and there they could see ladders propped against the wall.

“Shit it was a siege not just a battle” Ori muttered, Jared nodded in agreement, happy they hadn’t just wandered into the fight yesterday. All of them could have been killed. He turned onto 1st Ave. the broken pavement shifting and cracking under the tires, there were maybe eighty or so zombies scattered along the street all of which turned and began to shamble towards the sound of the motors.

Jared drove carefully thru burned out vehicles, brick and debris and as he passed Franklin street, he saw that, many of the buildings had been blown, and had collapsed into the street half burying several vehicles. Some one had put up a hell of a fight Jared thought.

“You think there might still some unexploded ordinance?” Ori asked suddenly, looking around nervously. Jared stopped the ELSORV wanting to smack himself in the forehead, how stupid can I be, he thought, and then slowly backed up the way they had come.

“Probably not, but I don’t want to risk it” Jared said as he returned to Demonbraun and turned back down the street, at least he knew there was no ordinance laying unused there.
he pictured a map of the downtown area in his mind and plotted a route to reach the Korean Vets blvd and cross the river.

Jill sat in the passenger seat, twisting a strand of hair around her finger as she watched Jared thoughtfully. He was up to something, something he hadn’t shared with her. she wasn’t sure if she should be hacked off or be supportive knowing that he thought he was doing the best thing. Maybe supportively hacked off she thought then nodded to her self, as she turned and looked out the window at the empty buildings of a dead city.

It was odd she thought that you could feel the emptiness all around you, like walking into a vacant house, there was an unlived in feeling the pervaded every room in the place. it was the same in every city and town across the world now. a hollow echoing feeling, a silence that was eerie.

She shivered, and forced herself to focus on the people in the vehicle. It was getting harder in many ways to deal with what the world was like out here in the wild as Ori called it. it only made it worse in a way that it was an incredible day, a crystal clear blue sky covered the city, with only a wispy cloud or two. It reminded her of summer days when she was a kid.

They wove thru the vehicles that filled KV blvd, Some one had cleared a narrow path thru all the abandoned cars on the bridge, where zombies in ones and twos wandered down the gap, only to be plowed under by the lead ELSORV. Jared winced slightly, he had never really enjoyed running down the walking dead, there was just something unclean about it. but that didn’t stop him in the least from doing it. the more undead they killed the better the world was and crippling them just made killing large numbers even easier later.

East Nashville, with the LP stadium home of the Titans, was an up and coming area, or had been before the zombies, the community bounded on three sides by the Cumberland river contained the neighborhoods and communities of Historic Edgefield, East End, Lockeland Springs, Shelby Hills and several others. Jared had come down here a few times to catch a game or with Ori to go to party’s. it had been a pretty decent place all things considered. Full of life, and colorful back in the day, with friendly cheerful people it was now a graveyard.
The streets on the east side of KV Blvd were packed with vehicles, forcing them to drive across sidewalks, lawns and parking lots in many places. the closer they got to I 24 the worse it became.

“up ahead, that Best Western turn in there” Ed said over the radio. Jared spotted the Hotel sign looming over the low buildings, and realized it was on the east side of I 24. it was fairely new and had been built to take advantage of the people who came from out of town to see a Titans game at the stadium only a mile or so distant.

Once the reached the east side of 24, the amount of vehicles began to decrease, it looked like every body had tried to escape using I 24 and had gotten stuck.

Jared swept the ELSORV around a pile up in an intersection, took the turn by riding up onto the sidewalk. Crushing a baby carriage, he tried not to think about what might have been inside the Carriage. But his mind insisted on creating the image of a bloody baby, wrapped in blood soaked blankets, amidst its toys. Milky white eyes sweeping side to side, its little bloody hands grasping the air as its mouth worked to force out a cry of hunger that would never be given voice.

He gritted his teeth, as he drove down the embankment along side the feeder, the ELSORV at a 25 degree angle, to avoid the completely blocked Feeder road, till they reached the entrance of the hotel, Jared angled down, towards the roadway where they stopped to clear undead, so they could use the winches on the ELSORV’s, to pull the abandoned vehicles out of the way, creating a large enough gap to pass through and enter the parking lot, which was still, amazingly, littered with dropped luggage, scattered clothes, purses, and other items that had belonged to fleeing guests.

Two police cars were parked on either side of the Main doors blocking off traffic from driving up under the rain cover. their doors stood open, and Jared could see a pair of legs sticking out from the door of one. the pants lay shapelessly over the skeletal leg.

Jared came to a stop next to one of the patrol cars, and looked around. “ I count ten” Ori said scanning the lot, Jared nodded in agreement, that was his count of the undead in the parking lot as well. the zombies had had been heading towards the vehicles following the sound of the motors.

Jared opened the door, and climbed out. Nibbler leaped out and stood beside him growling low in her chest as she glared at the closest undead twenty feet away. He center slung the HK 416 and drew his Tomahawks. There was something about the sight of the parking lot that brought his anger surging up. He no longer blamed god or who ever was in charge for what happened, but the fury at the death of so many Innocent people still burned deep in his heart.

He waited only long enough for the team to assemble, leaving Mike to Guard the vehicles, then led them in a sweep thru the parking lot taking down the undead, He hated the sound of a head splitting when his tomahawk entered the skull, it sounded like an overripe melon bursting, only with a smell so nasty that rotted meat was pleasant.

They didn’t enter the IHOP which was in the same parking lot, they stopped only long enough to block the door with a newspaper vending machine and some stones pulled from the decorative flower beds. As soon as the doors to the Ihop were secured they finished their sweep of the parking lot, Jared made sure that they checked between, in and under cars, to make sure there were no crippled zombies crawling between cars, or in cars that might surprise them.

As the last of the zombies fell to the trash littered cracked pavement Jared looked around and saw that several more zombies were approached from each direction down the road, but distant enough they had plenty of time. They moved jerkily, arms swinging side to side, even at this distance their mouths were snapping with anticipation. Jared turned as Ed with out a word to the others walked past the patrol car beside the ELSORV and stopped almost in front of the main doors.

It was his dream only dirtier, Ed thought. Near the doors, was a ripped and blood stained shirt, by the smoke pot was a shoe with a bone sticking up out of it, over by the police car furthest from him was a Teddy bear. And at his feet, there was a huge stain in the concrete, and a police badge lay close by, a piece of ripped and faded fabric still attached to it.

Ed knelt and picked up the badge, saying a quick prayer for the downed officers and then suddenly Jared was beside him pushing him back and away from the doors, cursing a blue streak.

Jared had seen the three zombies step out of the lobby, as Ed seemed to zone out staring at the ground at his feet. They started forward, moving a bit quicker than usual, a fast walk, almost a jog. Jared rushed and leaped, sliding over the patrol cars hood and landed in a crouch next to Ed.

Jared had shoved Ed away as a zombie reached for him, then pivoted right and slid to one side, driving his tomahawk into the things head, he swept past the falling body and went for a spinning sweep that took the feet out from under the next zombie.

He flowed upright and drove the butt spike of his tomahawk up under the third zombies jaw and into its brain. Before he stomped the skull flat on the zombie he had swept off its feet.

“Clear” Jared called out not seeing any more zombies in the lobby. Ori rushed past and used a long quick tie to secure the door handles together so the double doors couldn’t be pushed open.

“ well? “ Jared asked Ed who was shaking his head at his stupidity for zoning so badly he almost got eaten.

“ this is it, just like my dream, this is where Jasper Brown died and came back as what ever the hell he is.” Ed said softly still surprised that it was real. He glanced at the badge in his hand then shoved it into his rear pocket.

“what dream…”

“you mean bowler hat…”

“whats going on Jared?….”

Every one was talking at once, running over each others voices. Jared held up a hand to silence every one, “ Ed had a dream where some police officer who had died here wanted him to know where Brown had died. Im guessing it has some importance or why bother showing him where the asshole died at.” Jared said looking around.

“Because its close to where he was hiding out at” Ed said suddenly looking around.

“How do you know he wasn’t staying here as a guest” Ori asked, then looked sheepish as he thought about.

“You do know what he looks like right, he would have stood out like a nudist at southern Baptist convention.” Jared said.

“why would he just walk up here, or was he running from the police and got cornered here.” Jill asked.

Ed shook his head slowly, “ that doesn’t matter, what matters is that Brown never stayed in a public place like a hotel or motel, he either hid in peoples homes spying on them for days, or set up hideouts in old factories, or warehouses.” Ed reminded them.

Jared looked around for a moment, but saw nothing near the hotel that even remotely resembled a factory or warehouse. He could see a dry cleaners next door, he could see a sign for a bar past that. a variety of other business but nothing like what Ed had mentioned.

“he liked abandoned industrial buildings for his murders, but there was a abandoned tenement building in Charleston that we got a few calls about, where people had reported seeing a ghost in an old timey clothes wandering around its halls, and once even screams, I always suspected that brown had used it as a hiding spot, I did find evidence of someone having used the place but nothing that really linked it to Brown.”

“the only places on this side of the river with industrial buildings is down where 24 crosses the river, we weren’t far from it on Korean Vets.” Ori said after a moment of thinking about it.

Ed only looked thoughtful as he tried to remember details from the Case file covering Browns time in Nashville, “ Brown was held in custody around here, the Sheriffs station. And this is the area he murdered three people back in 2008 I think. A family actually.” Ed said.

Ed didn’t even try to describe the horrors that Jasper Brown had done to his victims, how he raped them, and would take up to a week to slowly skin the woman alive, leaving only her hair on the top of her head. And he couldn’t describe the broken, bloody child’s body that the sick twisted bastard would leave behind.

Ed told them how he suspected that Jasper had kidnapped someone for their car, and hunted down one of his old safe houses in the area to hide in.“But what ever the case, he died here, so he had to have been with in a few miles of the hotel. That would be his style, hiding this close to the jail he had escaped from would have amused him. Hell he lived in a Shed for a month in the backyard of the FBI Agent who was hunting him. He bragged about that after we caught him.” Ed said

“look I don’t mean to be an asshole, or stupid or anything, but how does this help us find him…” Mike said then shook his head. “ It I mean”

“it might be smarter to find a place to discuss this that has walls, and not a growing crowd of undead.” Jill pointed out.

“She’s right, we can go check out that industrial section Ori mentioned, then find a place to rack out for the night” Jared said as he motioned to the vehicles. “then we can talk about it”

at that moment the front door to the Motel moved suddenly, and weapons came up, but the quick ties held, the door only moved a few inches before stopping. A zombie dressed in a suit was pushing against the door, its mouth working, half its thick black hair had been ripped from its scalp, and there was a ragged bloody hole in the right sleeve of its suit coat.

Jared lowered his weapon and decided it was time for them to head out, more zombies had appeared on the road, and the whole crowd was drawing closer.

“lets move out, before we get stuck here, the staff looks pissed off anyway” Jared said as he headed for his vehicle. “ Ed you keep racking your brains for information we can use to hunt that bowler hat wearing shit down, I want it dead.”

Williams lay on the roof of a mom and pop pharmacy watching Jared and his group of friends thru his sights, his hands shaking. He should have shot one of them, but he couldn’t make himself do it. He rolled over on his back, breathing hard. “Ill do it the next time I promise” he said aloud, there was no reply and he hadn’t expected one. that he was slowly losing his mind was obvious. But that didn’t make the Russian or that thing any less real.

He knew that neither of them would tolerate his failing a second time, and he really didn’t want to face what ever they might choose to do, it would be painful and most likely life ending.

How those two knew what Jared and his people would be doing over the next couple of days was beyond him, but they had told him to wait here and shoot one of the group.

He looked at his watch, by now three more people hiding in a church along west end were dead from the poison he had slipped into their water supply. Two more were dead in a small house after he had been forced to quietly open their door so that the undead could enter.

He rose to his feet, knowing that Jared and his crew would end up outside a church up the road aways, unless of course they decided not to help the people trapped inside. He had made sure to lead a horde of undead to the building, so that Jared and the others would have an idea that someone was alive inside. That’s when he would shoot the teenaged boy, The Russian wanted him dead, because of an American whore.

The thing wanted the tall balding blond guy dead, and every one wanted the Redhead dead, preferably as painfully as possible, and no matter what happened Jon Williams knew he was dead as well. that as it turned out was at least a comfort.
************************
Jared drove slowly, even though the streets of East Nashville past I 24 were oddly empty of vehicles, and currently empty of undead. A paw lashed out and slapped his forearm trying to get his attention. He grinned, the damn dog loved attention. “ not while Im driving” he told the dog, who gave him a disappointed look then turned its attention to Jill who sat in the passenger seat.

“ don’t even look at me when your trying to steal my husband” Jill replied jokingly, or at least Jared hoped she was joking. Otherwise, he was screwed.

“you two are going to have to get along” Jared said, “ If Steve can have two wives, I should be able to have a wife and a dog. So make nice and sniff each others asses” he said then grunted as Jill slapped him in the back of the head.

“To much to expect right” he said rubbing his head.

“Remind me why I married you again” she asked with a grin.

“Because I’m handsome, charming and hung like a bull moose” Jared responded.

“charming you say, have you actually lived with yourself” Jill asked.

“ note Ori she didn’t argue with Handsome and hung like a bull moose” Jared said, and got another slap on the back of the head.

“You are not allowed to talk to Mary any more” Jared complained as Ori chuckled from the back seat.

Jill started to say something scorching, but was interrupted as Jared slammed on the brakes and she had to throw out her arms to stop from hitting the dashboard. She gaped as a scooter zoomed thru the intersection with out slowing down, the skinny guy on the scooter stared back at them but didn’t slow, and he had a good reason not to Jill thought numbly as she saw the wave of undead coming down the road behind the scooter.

“god, trying to escape on a scooter is as bad as OJ’s slow speed escape attempt and possible even slower.” Ori said as Jared whipped the wheel to the left and followed the scooter, quickly catching up to it. the wild eyed man on the back didn’t slow, just pointed ahead and mouthed something that Jared couldn’t hear or understand.

“you realize we don’t have enough ammo for a major fight right” Ori said as he contemplated the undead swarming down the streets.

“Pretty much” Jared replied. “ got a smoke on you” He asked. as Jill turned to look at him with a raised eyebrow.

Ori nodded “ two why”

“open the door and pop one,” Jared said as he honked at the scooter rider then pointed to an approaching turn. The man looked back then to where Jared was pointing and nodded at Jared.

Jill was about to ask why Jared need a cigarette, when she saw Ori pull a smoke grenade out, and reach for the door handle.

“if they lose sight of us, it might slow them down while they try to figure out where the sound is coming from.” Jared explained.

A moment later the grenade was bouncing down the street spewing thick smoke, first obscuring then concealing the fleeing vehicles.

Jared sped up and cut in front of the scooter then hit the brakes. The scooter skidded to a stop as Jared jumped out. “ if you need a faster ride get in the other ELSORV” Jared called out to the man who was dressed in head to toe riding leathers. He was like a scare crow in a bondage film Jared thought as he glanced around.

“ Thanks, but I have people Im trying to get to” the man called out.

“ then tell Ed in the other Vehicle how to get there, we don’t have much time” Jared said.
the man looked torn, scared to trust anyone, and Jared couldn’t blame him. It only took him a second to come to a decision, the skinny guy nodded leaping off the scooter and ran for the ELSORV, Mike opened the rear door and let the man get in.

Jared climbed back inside as Ed pulled past them to lead the way. “ Ori toss the other smoke” he said as he put the vehicle into gear and followed Ed.

“that man is pretty trusting” Jill commented. “ or we are”

“I guess I could have just let him die out of being paranoid” Jared replied.

“ I wasn’t suggest you should have, just thinking about how Mikhail and that Hippy guy screwed over and killed people that tried to help them.” Jill said.

“its either we help when we can, or run around like a lot of people screaming its okay to let others die as long as we survive, I see it as my duty to not only survive but to help others survive as well. Otherwise, whats the point, if we just become human shaped animals, no better than the undead.” Jared said, then not being an idiot added, “just keep an eye out and don’t let him get near our water or food”

Their destination it appeared was a strip center called Marstens Shopping and business center. it was one of those strip centers with a single L shaped building that housed several business’s, in this case twelve. Cars had been placed in front of plate glass windows and doors, most likely to keep the undead at a safe distance from the breakable glass.

A Chinese restaurant, a Car repair shop, that had once been a Sears service center, an Herbal supplement and Vitamin shop, a used book store, Walters Market and a Radio shack where just a few of the shops.

The Business side of the center was a four story building that had been a later addition to the strip, and had been built into the short end of the L next to a Mexican food restaurant.

Jared followed Ed’s ELSORV as it turned into the Parking lot, driving around a fallen parking light pole. They followed the west wall, then turned behind the building, and drove past the delivery doors. Ed slowed then stopped in front of three garage bay doors, waiting as the skinny guy leaped out and ran up to the standard door set into the wall beside the last Garage bay door. he beat on it for a moment, shouting. Then stepped back and waited as two of the bay doors began to open. A moment later Jared and Ed had pulled in and parked. Once the doors shut, the room was only lit by the light from the rectangular windows in the bay doors.
“Ori, stay in the ELSORV, just in case, I’ll send some one out to spell you in three hours, I just don’t want to wake up to the Vehicles being stolen and Undead pouring thru the open doors.”
Jared opened his door, and stepped out, Nibbler leaping out to stand next to him. There was just enough light spilling in thru the oval windows in the garage bay doors to see halfway decently. Skinny guy was standing by a glass door that led into the office talking to a heavily pregnant woman, and three other people, two men and another woman.

Jared eyed the rolling tool boxes, compressors, lifts and a hundred other things normally found in a garage, and thought there was at least a quarter of a million invested in just the stuff in this bay.

A three quarter ton truck with a slide in camper sat in the third bay, its hood was up, and there were parts scattered around it.

Skinny guy turned and walked over to stand in front of Jared, his dark hair sticking up in all directions. He had rings around his dark eyes. “Thanks, I mean that, unless you’re here hoping to take our stuff, we wont fight you if that’s the case.” He said.

Jared eyed him for a moment then held out a hand. “Jared stone, and the only stuff I might want that you might have is dog food, and I’ll ask for that.”

“Grant Bellingham, call me Grant. And we might be able to set you up with dog food.” Grant said as he grinned and held out a hand for Nibbler to sniff, as soon as the dog was satisfied with him, she dipped her head down and shoved it under his hand. Grant laughed softly and scratched the dog behind the ears. “ I haven’t seen a dog in a long time.” He said with a smile.

Jared watch out of the corner of his eye as a young Hispanic guy joined the others by the office door, wide shoulder, wearing a muscle shirt that showed off his tattooed, muscle corded arms, like a lot of people these days, the Hispanic had a shaved head, and the mans brown eyes never left Jared. he had been the one that had opened the bay doors. He also had a hand resting on the butt of the pistol in his waist band.

“nice looking dog, a bit skinny for the breed though” grant observed.

“don’t know when she last ate, we picked her up the other day.” Jared said, watching the Hispanic guy unobtrusively.

“I wont ask you to go with out weapons, but just realize trust is a hard thing to come by these days” Grant said, noticing the direction of Jareds look and answered the unspoken question.

“Don’t I know it” Jared replied as Jill came to stand beside him. Nibbler for once didn’t try to stand between them. “This is Jill my wife, that’s Ori…” Jared said as he introduced every one.

Grant smiled and shook hands, then called his group over, the Hispanic guy stood off just a bit in case he had to do some shooting. Like three feet would make a difference Jared thought with a half smile.

“Margo, is eight months pregnant, the ugly brown haired guy is James, the good looking one is Jonas, that’s Juan with the pistol and serious trust issues, and in the office is Paddy, Raj and Ayesha.” Grant finished the introductions, and motioned for them to follow. Jared made sure ever one retrieved their packs and gear bags before following.

The door led into a large open area, with a parts room to the left, the managers office to the right, an employees break room straight ahead, with a door just past the managers offices to the front desk and customer waiting area.

A very attractive Pakistani woman, dressed in a tan pants and a blouse, sat on a couch, she smiled shyly at Jared and the others, then returned to reading the books she held. She had curves in all the right places and proportions and with that dusky skin; she was exotic as well as pretty.

She couldn’t be that unconcerned with heavily armed strangers just appearing, Jared thought as he saw paddy, who was maybe five foot tall if he were an inch, he looked like a heavily muscled hobbit, with flaming red hair cut into Mohawk.

Raj who was Pakistani also, had the shoulders of a line backer, and a scarred face. he had the look and bearing of someone that would normally wear a suit. He also looked like he was related to Ayesha.

Nibbler padded around the room sniffing every one tail wagging slowly, the returned to sit by Jared.

“ what were you doing running around on a scooter” Jared asked Grant who had peeled off his leather jacket and draped it over a chair.

“looking for someone, usually theres not a lot of undead on the streets. I was over by Shelby park when I rounded a corner and there they were shoulder to shoulder, one side of the street to the other and they all just came after me.” Grant said shivering with remembered fear.

Jared smiled easily, the humor stopping at his eyes. “ lot of that going around, I’ve been
looking for someone too.”

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

Williams swore softly, the red head and his friends had yet to show up at the church and the day was wearing down. He glanced at his watch his fear mounting, they had to be here, it had told him they would be. He didn’t dare fail not this time.

And there was no way he could go back to Cal, they had pulled out around noon, and he didn’t know where they were bound for. Maggie had left him to swing in the wind, after all, the bitch. He glanced at his watch again, maybe they were dead. It was possible, they were idiots always taking chances, acting all macho and attacking the undead with swords and sharp pointy sticks and stuff.

The undead were battering at the church doors and windows, and if anything the numbers had grown. He didn’t know what to do, he suspected it wouldn’t matter to the Russian and the thing that they had been wrong about Jared showing up here.

He started to rise, not even sure what he was going to do, and then froze. In the dimming light of the sun, he could see a wall of undead pouring down the street, he stared in shock as they broke around his jeep like surf on a rock, and poured past. There were business men, strippers, nurses, construction workers, a man in a dress, even a woman in a dressed in the gold bikini outfit from one of those Star wars movies.

They flowed past the front of the building he was standing on, and he realized he was trapped. Terror filled him, he bolted to the door, and flew down the steps taking them two at a time, he didn’t hesitate reaching the ground floor but burst out of the stairwell, and ran to the front door. He breathed a sigh of relief to see it was still closed. He engaged the locks and then retreated back to the dark stairwell. Refusing to turn on his light till the door was completely shut. He started up the stairs, reaching the halfway point when he heard a click from below, as if the stairwell door had been opened.

Williams stopped and shone his light down, his blood went cold as he saw the door swinging shut. He backed up a step, keeping his light firmly fixed on the lower steps. It wasn’t possible, he had locked the doors. There couldn’t be a zombie in the building.

He backed up the steps slowly, his head snapped from front to back, even though logic told him there was no way that the thing with the hat could have gotten behind him. He reached the roof door and quickly stepped thru and closed the door and leaned against it.

He had gotten the message, he wasn’t to leave. not for any reason. And he couldn’t now not with the streets around the church filled with the undead. “ okay I get it, you want me to wait here, but what if he doesn’t show up, I cant hunt them down with a street full of undead between me and my jeep” and three floors aren’t enough distance between me and those things either he thought.

It was so silent he could hear, the shuffle of feet, and the rub of clothes as hundreds, if not thousands of bodies jostled together down on the street, rubbing against walls, and glass.
His skin prickled with goosebumps, he didn’t want to go anywhere near the edge of the roof, till he heard motors.

In the west the sun was being swallowed by the earth, lighting the smoke and clouds reds and oranges, that looked as if a massive gold tinged fire was consuming the world, but when the sun finally vanished, and darkness swallowed the world, he knew it would come, it liked the dark, needed the dark. He could only pra…. No more praying for him, god or who ever wouldn’t listen to him any more he thought, no he could only hope that what he had done already was enough to keep him safe from its anger.

He slumped down his back against the door, tears of terror sliding down his cheeks as he watched the sun go down, vanishing below the rim of the world, and darkness flowed swiftly into its wake drowning the land. Jon found his lips moving in a silent prayer regardless of his previous thought, in hopes that someone was listening and would take pity on him.

A shoe scuffed against the gravel on the roof and the prayer died on his lips as he saw out of the corner of his left eye, that odd looking head with a bowler hat perched on it, peering around the corner of the small building that the roof door was set into. its milky eyes danced with evil mirth as its lips peeled back in a smile that rocked him to his core.

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

Grant gave them the dollar tour of the whole place, they had spent two months beating holes into walls, to link each business. The only one they hadn’t broken into was the business center, they hadn’t needed to, they only had to climb into the broken window that gave access to the roof.

“ we lost four people doing this, there were zombies inside a couple of the stores.” Grant had said waving at the hole. The business center was empty, I guess the employees never showed up to work when it got bad. The doors were locked up tight, so we have a lot of room and very few people” Grant had said, waving a hand around to indicate the mostly empty building.

And you have no way out or to stop the undead if they get into just one store they can flood through the building Jared had thought. As he listened to Grant talk, noting the way the mans eyes had slid to Jill every once in a while.

Now as he stared outside, peering thru a gap in the sheets that had been hung over the windows, he wished they hadn’t stayed. The street outside was filled with the things, so far they were only streaming past, with only a few entering the parking lot to wander around. but if they got even one hint that people were inside, it was going to be nasty.

He turned to Grant who stood nervously behind him, “I think you might want to get every one up on the roof, take food too. Then creep over to the business center, and I mean creep on your bellies if at all possible.” Jared suggested in a low voice.

Grant nodded and waved silently at Jared to follow him back to the garage, where they could sit, safely with some lights burning and talk with out fear of a zombie hearing them through a window.

“You really think we should go up on the roof?” grant asked, as the members of his group turned to stare at Jared.

“Yes, I do” Jared said.

“We have vehicles blocking all the windows and doors, they cant get in here” Juan said automatically suspicious.

“I know you do and it should hold, but if it doesn’t, your not talking five or six that can be easily dealt with, of even ten or fifteen that a group as big as yours could deal with, your talking several hundred possibly a thousand or more staggering past at the moment.

What if they all head to the building and by some freak accident several end up pushed over a hood or trunk and fall thru a window, I’ve seen them climb over stuff, its rare but I’ve seen it. if one of those windows goes, I don’t want to count on them not being able to climb. So if your on the roof, and they get in, you only have to close the hatch and be quiet. They will wander off in a day, if your down here you are going to die.” Jared said as he slung the HK over his shoulder then knelt and unzipped the black bag, Jared pulled out the M 14 and a bandolier of 12 40mm cartridge rounds made by Ori’s Uncle.

“you are really starting to look the part of apocalypse survivor,” Ryan quipped as Jared slung the bandolier across his chest.

Grants people were talking quietly, margo was crying and Jared could hear her repeating several times, “ I don’t want to stay here”

Paddy left the group and walked over to stand before Jared, his hands tucked loosely into the pockets of his pants. “ no one else is going to do it, so Ill ask, have a extra weapon and bullets you would be willing to trade for food or something.” He asked, his voice deeper than most would suspect just looking at him.

Jared eyed him for a moment, then looked at Jill who shrugged. “ no, I don’t” he said, paddy looked longingly at the weapons Jared wore. “ but we do have a couple of extra Ar’s and pistols with extra ammo. We can give you” he added.

“grant you didn’t tell me you were short on weapons” Jared said as he sent Ryan back to His ELSORV to retrieve the gear bag he had left inside.

Grant gave paddy a glare that had no real heat in it. “ trust and all that” grant replied.

“I know trust is a real bitch these days, take a chance and get your throats slit in your sleep or don’t take a chance and miss the help someone would have given you.” Jared said, as he squatted and zipped his black bag closed.

“Well as it happens, there’s only one person, or thing if you will whose throat I want to slit, right back thru the spine. But I do have some goodies to hand out. Consider me your early Santa, who has one hot Mrs. Claus” he said giving Jill a wink.

Mike chuckled suddenly remembering last Christmas when they were attacked by zombies and Brent dressed as Santa for the few kids in their group had stood on a car hood handing out bullets to the undead instead of Coal.

Ryan returned five minutes later lugging the gear bag and sat it down on the floor with a clatter of metal and cloth.

Jared knelt and opened the bag and extracted two ARs, fully loaded with everything from Aimpoint scopes to Lasers, lights and foregrips. He handed one too paddy who took it eagerly. Then passed the other to Raj, who took it gingerly with a nod of thanks.

“ there’s three extra magazines for each one, I don’t think we have any extra web belts, but we do have ammo pouches that you can tie or hook to a belt or line around your waist. Jared said, as he watched the two men. “Now here’s a matter of trust” he said as he rose and tapped the side of the receiver of the weapon Paddy held. “ that’s the safety, that is the selector switch, If your not familiar with the weapon set it to single shot, till your used to it.” Jared said then stepped back, half expecting them to turn the weapons on Jared and his people.

“ Ryan go spell Ori in the ELSORV, Mike I want you in the other one. Tell Ori I want him up on the roof figuring out a way to get the hell out of here if we have to leave fast.”

Mike started to protest but Jared held up a hand cutting him off. “ listen man, I know you’re a good shot, when you actually shoot, and that’s not a slam. I’ve been there brother, and I’ve told you we will talk when your ready, but I cant afford to have you hesitate if those things get in here. So I want you in the ELSORV in case I want them started for a fast bug out boogey. I know you wont freeze with that, and I don’t have to worry about you getting bit while inside the vehicle, so humor me. Oh and on more thing, I’m tired of waiting for you to work up the nerve to talk. So when we get out of this shit and out of this city, we are going to talk about your problem and see if we cant get you to work through it.” Jared said then shooed them both towards the door.

“Steger, Head up with Ori, and you both keep out of sight, I want options. So if those things attack this building we aren’t caught with our pants down around our ankles waiting for the Rump ranger to dry hump us. And tell Ori to lug the damn radio up there and see if you can raise Ronny.” Steger almost saluted, before he turned and headed into the bays.

“Radio,” Grant asked. Jared nodded with a quirk of is lips.

“Radio to contact our Pilot who should be flying in soon.” Jard said not mentioning he should have been back early this morning or late last night.

“Pilot, you mean you have a plane” Jonas asked, speaking directly to Jared for the first time.
“ a plane and several helicopters, but the range is to far for the helicopters to make it here and back with out refueling and that’s just to dangerous.” Jared replied casually

“don’t forget the boats, and the luxury boat Ori captured in may.” Jill added.

“Im taking it you have a lot more people we haven’t met” Jonas commented rubbing his cleft chin thoughtfully.

“Sure do, over three hundred at last count.” Jared said with a smile. “ those are back home, there’s about sixty or so at our camp north of Nashville.”

“Almost four hundred people” Margo said looking faint, she leaned back on the couch, to stunned to say more.

“its just been us for almost a year, just the occasionally traveler or group of two or three passed thru. But almost four hundred” Grant said with wonder.

“ Your shitting me” Paddy said, almost bouncing up and down.

“Not at all, long story short, we traveled from the Nashville area last June, gathering up survivors, and traveled all the way to Sullivan island in South Carolina, where we seized the island and started clearing it of undead.” Jared explained.

“ So why come back here” Margo asked, regaining her composure.

“ simple I wanted to see if my brother and a couple of my friends were still alive, the others with me wanted to check on friends and family too” Jared explained, not wanting to get into more than half of them come along to keep him out of trouble, which hadn’t worked out so well really. “ we ran into others like Mikes group, and yours. The Good news is your not alone, bad news is, not all of those groups play well with others.”

* * * * * *
Ronny banked as Mary activated the FLIR, the display changed, and the line of vehicles heading east glowed in reds, oranges and yellows. “who do you think that could be?” Mary asked, staring at what was obviously sixteen military vehicles followed by a column of twelve large civilian vehicles.

“Don’t know but they heading towards Knoxville” Ronny said, then grunted in surprise, as the radar alerted him to a contact, due east and heading towards them.
“ and it looks like they have friends in the air” Ronny announced as he came around and increased power to the engine. “it’s a helicopter, so no big deal, but better safe than sorry” he said, not wanting to worry Mary, and damn sure not wanting to get her into a gunfight in the air.

The chopper stayed on their ass for ten more minutes, but it was losing ground and finally turned and headed back to cover the convoy. Ronny breathed a sigh of relief as the Chopper broke off the chase, who ever it was, wasn’t friendly. The guys in the chopper hadn’t even tried to contact him, and that wasn’t what nice neighbors did.

As if they needed something else to worry about, Steve probably wouldn’t make it, which was going to slam Jared hard. Doc Winston was more worried about infection than the actual damage from the bullet wound. But he hadn’t minced words, either or both could kill Steve. Something about a collapsed lung, hydrostatic shock, and a bunch of other multiple syllable words that only another doctor could understand.

It all boiled down to, they had to wait and see. Sharon was devastated, first she had lost Mark, and now Steve was on deaths door. Bridget had barely spoken, while he and mary were there. She had hugged Ronny just before he boarded the plane and almost begged him to stay safe and to keep Jared and the others safe too. That was the closest he had seen her come to losing it completely since this whole shit storm had started.

It was almost noon by the time he reached the Camp, his radio calls went unanswered on approached, and a leaden ball of dread had settled in the pit of his stomach, he had only felt marginally better when they circled the area and saw that all the vehicles were gone, which meant they had moved locations.

“Didn’t Jared tell them to move to some other place, when Steve got shot” Mary asked suddenly. Ronny wasn’t sure, he had been just a little stressed out and focused on getting to Steve. Then suddenly he remembered Daws saying something about Clarksville and some old Nuclear weapons Storage area.

“he sure did, I had forgotten” Ronny replied as he changed course once again, glancing at the fuel gauge. Daws had better be in that area, they were going to need fuel soon or would have to set down and abandon the plane.

Ronny only half watched the streets below as they flew over the Town they had lived in, it bothered him to see the empty streets, and trash the skittered and blew across the pavement.

“I think when we get back to Sullivan, I want to stay” Mary said suddenly, Ronny glanced at her, suddenly serious.

“Really” he asked, as Mary nodded, she was looking out the window watching the woods and the roads slide by beneath the plane.

“Being in the plane is okay Ronny, but I cant take much more of the whole traveling around living in armed camps, waiting to be eaten lifestyle. I just cant.” She said, finally looking at him. She was so strong, an emotional rock, that it truly surprised Ronny to hear her admit to a weakness. Not that you should have been surprised asshole, she saw Steve and in her mind she was thinking about you, he thought.

“and you need to teach others how to fly, Roger can go out with Jared, if Jared actually leaves again, instead of taking a boat and finding an island like he keeps saying” mary added.

“Jared is all talk about that boat. Oh he wants to do it, but show him people that need help, or something that needs to be done that’s dangerous and he will throw himself into it to keep some one else safe. And I….” He said then stopped not wanting to finish that sentence.

“ and you cant let him do it alone” Mary said finishing it for him.

“no I cant hon, it’s a soldier thing I guess, we spilled blood together, have saved each others lives, I cant sit back and just let him go out with out having his back. Im sorry.” Ronny said.

“I didn’t expect anything else Ronny, its why I didn’t try to talk you out of coming this time, and you’re the reason I came. But I cant keep doing this, and neither can you, that’s why your so gung ho on flying. It keeps you off the ground so you don’t have to see the undead face to face to often. Its your down time,” she said sofly.

He started to protest, he loved flying, but she was right. Being up here was his escape from the hell below, so when he had to deal with it, he didn’t just crash and burn. And she hadn’t mentioned it but the unspoken comment that Jared had been Knee deep in blood and undead since this shit had started, wasn’t lost on him. Jared was going to burn out, and hopefully it wasn’t going to be a all or nothing Alamo stand against the undead.

“I want you to teach me how to fly” Mary said suddenly. “So if I do come back out with you idiots, Ill actually have a skill, other than point, shoot and pray I hit something.”

“ your not a bad shot” Ronny pointed out.

“no, but I’m not that great either. But this way, I can be a real copilot and not just a spotter and not just the person reading those manuals to figure out how to work the electronics in this plane. And possibly we could end up with three or more planes in the air. So teach me, or I put this plane on auto pilot, pull down your pants and spank your hairy butt.”

Ronny laughed, tossing her a grin, which faded fast. He knew she was serious, and he had no reason not to teach her. Roger could teach her even more than Ronny could. He smiled fondly at her as he pointed to the console. “ that is the altimeter, its used to …..” he said as he began to explain what the critical gear was and how it worked.

She listened intently rarely asking questions as he talked till they entered the range that should allow them to talk with Daws. “ hold one babe, gotta call my boyfriend” Ronny said with a laugh, as he donned the headset and began transmitting. Three minutes later a familiar voice answered.
****************************
The sun had set an hour ago, causing the tension levels to rise even more. At least the room they were in was lit. which was the main reason grant and his people had set up in here, there were no windows to let light leak out into the night drawing the undead to the building.

Ori had hung a blanket over the door on the garage side, they could come and go single file with each person stepping under the blanket before opening the door, so the blanket kept the light from shining into the bay.

“so whats your ideas” Jared asked as Ori dug into a can of beef stew, he had traded a pasta MRE meal for.

Grant true to his word had led Jared into the Market, where there were eighty fifty pound bags of dog food, and cases of canned food. Jared had opened one and fed Nibbler then spent twenty minutes transferring bags and cans to the ELSORV.

Now Nibbler lay sprawled across his legs snoring softly, opening an eye and watching any one that got close to Jared, she had called a truce with Jill it seemd,since she didn’t try to get between Jared and Jill anymore. Which was probably good for its health, Jill had been on the edge of violence with the dog.

“waiting is our best bet, but if we have to leave, its going to be rough. Theres a tanker truck on the street next to the business center. Liquid Nitrogen tank” Ori said, with a lopsided grin. “ not many undead on that street they are all clustered along the street out front. I think I could rappel down with two other people and get the hoses free and the valves open. Start spraying those dead bastards with it, and then run through with a stick and wack them till they shatter.” Ori said. Jared smiled, it was appealing and maybe they might try it.

“outside of that, we have full propane bottles in the blue rhino rack in the market, taking a page from the remake of DoD, we can tape road flares to them, toss them out and then shoot them. that should put a huge dent in the undead and allow us to drive thru, with out a lot of problems. We also have three Claymores, that we can attach to one of ELSORV’s, as an anti personnel weapon that will clear out a decent sized area around the vehicle. I think I can whip up some chemical explosives out of the stuff in the market to help us get out. but once we get on the road Jared we don’t know who many there will be even a block away, or how many cars and trucks might block the road, not with out a recon.” Ori told them. “ the down side, is we don’t have enough room to take but one or two people here with us.”

Jared shook his head, not even willing to consider the idea. He wasn’t sure if Ori was asking or just pointing it out, but Ori could be a bit cocky when it came to his sneak and creep abilities.

“what about the truck in the garage does it run” Jared asked Grant, who shrugged.

it should once we get the new alternator on it. but we cant even try to start it now with out letting those zombies know we are inside, and if doest run, we are screwed if and when they get inside” grant replied.

“ I hate to point out, but we don’t have a lot of fuel either Jared, we are going to have to find someplace to fuel up at or we will only make it halfway to the new camp, before we crap out and have to hoof it.” Ori pointed out.

“Good point that,” Jared said looking thoughtful. “heres what we are going to do, We as in my people.” Jared said so Grant and his folks wouldn’t think he was tossing them orders. “ We are going to finish fixing that Truck, Ori I want you on the roof with the radio, broadcast for Ronny every half hour. Ryan, get with Grant and see how much food they have and how much we can load on their truck. So when we get out of here, they have food with them. Jill I want you to serve my every whim, mop my brow, bring me food and sexually….. Ooow” he said as she wacked him hard on the back of the head, setting Grants people to chuckling.

He grinned at Jill who was now rubbing the dogs head in a friendly fashion. “ that’s it suck up to my protector it wont help the next time” Jared vowed, then pushed the dog gently off his legs. “lets get started on the food count right now” he said then paused as they all heard distant muffled gunshots, if there had been any traffic noise or even an air conditioner running they wouldn’t have even noticed it. but with no power, the sound carried. What ever it was about wasn’t directed at them so Jared and the others ignored it, and set to work.

By ten that evening they sat down, apart from grants people, who had pitched in with a will to help load food and supplies into the truck and even transferred some onto the roof to be carried to the business center tomorrow.

Jill was sitting with a notebook and a pen, idling making notes about what they had and ideas she had to deal with the shortages, Jared smiled, she was usually dead on the money with her suggestions, and in fact some of her ideas had saved their asses on more than one occasion.

Ed leaned against the wall, a discarded MRE package sitting next to him, Ori sat feeding the Dog Begging strips from the package he had found in the market, and had made an instant friend. Jared had scored a box of chocolate and was attempting to do the same thing with Jill, to win her over on the dog subject. The chocolate was a hit, but he wasn’t sure he was getting anywhere on the dog topic.

“so Ed, what were you saying back at the hotel about Bowler hat, and does he really have a horde of clowns working for him.” Ori asked suddenly.

“I see a mission to secure a tactical nuclear weapon, in the near future” Jared commented. “and A b 52 for Ronny to drop it with.”

“You really do hate clowns” Mike said, almost smiling.

“Not a matter of hate, but a sense of duty to protect society from the happy faced horror’s who want to rule over us with despotic optimism.” Jared replied.

“You’ve been thinking about that response for at least a week” jill said looking up from her notebook with a raised eyebrow..

“not really only a couple of days, then I had to lure one of you into saying the right thing so I could casually toss it out there to awe all of you. Learned that trick in NCO school” Jared replied.

“So Ed, bowler hat” Ori prompted ignoring Jared, though he did flash a grin at Jill.

“Nothing to really say Ori, Jasper Evan Brown, was a psychotic nut job, with a genius level IQ, as scatter brained as he might have appeared to some, he was meticulous, a real planner, but above all he loved to play games with the police and his victims. And he took risks, that always seemed to pan out for him. At least until he sent me a letter, the first and only letter he ever sent to anyone.”

“Why did he send you a letter” Jill asked, as she looked up from her notebook and began to tap the pen she held against the edge of the notebook.

“Because he had overheard one of my theories, using a wireless cam. We didn’t find out about the cams till he was in custody, but the letter got me to start putting two and two together.

For Brown it was a game, and only he knew the rules. According to his letter, he thought I was smart enough to be a challenge, unlike the lead FBI agent. He chose familys for his victims, always a family of three, mid twenties to thirties, Caucasian, with a male child. He would hide in their homes, for up to a week at a time watching them from crawlspaces, or the attic. Then would come down one night, taser the husband if he could, kill him if not. Then subdue the wife, usually after he had the child, just to torment her before he took her too. Then he would cart them off to his killing ground, each set of victims had their own killing ground.” Ed paused, a disgusted look on his face. “ what he did to them is nothing I want to remember it was horrible but it always involved rape and being skinned alive. There were other things, torture and torment. He loved to screw with their minds.

He killed others too, I could never prove it, but I know he would go out and find a man or woman, or a couple, change his MO and have fun with out any one realizing it was him,” Ed paused his mouth twisting for a moment. “ he had his art and he had his fun, and never the twain shall meet.” Ed quoted, disgust dripping from his words. “ he never actually admitted he killed any one we didn’t know about but he dropped lots of hints.”

“okay that’s great, but he is a zombie now, and I still don’t see how any of that is going to help us find him.” Mike commented.

“its simple, he is arrogant, when he spied on me he did it from an apartment across the quad from mine, he stayed in a shed in the backyard of the Head FBI agent with out being caught, hell he stayed hidden in his victims houses for up to a week, spying on them, watching them have sex.

do you really think he would have hidden to far from the very people hunting him?” Ed replied. “Think about how he followed you to Charleston, how many times did he just show up and jack with you. Believing you couldn’t to a thing to stop him. Arrogant and he loves to use misdirection and confusion to get what he wants, just like a stage magician.”

“We don’t have to find him, not really. He is going to come after us” Jill pointed out. “Especially you Ed, and Jared.” the fear in her voice was outweighed by the anger.
**************************
Williams lay on the edge of the roof, stinking of fear and sweat, and with a helping of self-disgust, as he watched the undead pour into the now shattered glass doors into the school section of the church. Several more were trying to find a way over the sill of the windows he had shot out. Gun fire rang out from the church, and then minutes later the first of the screams started.

Jon hung his head, sick at what he had done, but he hadn’t dared say no, the thing wasn’t with him now. or maybe it was, but invisible, just out of sight. Maybe it had been with him from the first moment. He didn’t know and there was nothing he could do about it even if he did. Or maybe he had finally just gone insane and he was imaging the Russian and the thing, and he was totally responsible for the deaths and destruction he had loosed on people.

The undead had begun to swarm towards the building he was hiding in after his gun fire had shown them his location, Jon was pretty sure he was going to die and there was little he could do to stop the numbers coming against him not alone and so few weapons.

He rose to his feet and contemplated just stepping off the roof, it would be fast he thought assuming he landed on his head, if the building was taller he might even stand a chance of dying instantly from the fall. But at this height, it was more likely he would just break his neck or back and lay there paralyzed, forcing him to lay there while the undead fed on him.

No he would just use his pistol on himself when they got up here on the roof. hell couldn’t be any worse than here at any rate.

He cradled the sniper rifle and turned to watch the door to the stairwell, he heard glass shatter down below and new it wouldn’t be long now.
*******************************
Jill lay next to Jared, enjoying his arm around her as he slept. The double sleep bag was warm and comfortable, even with the dog sleeping inside at the bottom of the bag. It had looked offended when Jared had insisted that it stay away from the bag while they made love. But as soon as they were finished and cuddling the Dog slid into the sleeping bag, wiggling past Jared to curl up in bottom of the bag against their feet.

I guess im stuck with the thing, she thought as she pushed back against Jared’s warmth, and he does seem to be attached to it already. She lay there for a long while, her recent dreams running thru her mind, and hoped that they were just dreams. If not there was something going to happen on the island and soon and people were going to die.

Outside the undead milled around blindly in the darkness with no real direction or purpose. But close to dawn, a light flashed quickly from a window drawing the attention of a zombie staggering past a shopping cart stand, it stopped and turned its blank eyes towards the dazzling light, a light that meant food. It staggered forward till it bumped up against one of the vehicles parked in front of the plate glass window and began to paw and bump against the vehicle trying to find a way past the obstacle to get to the glass beyond..

Another zombie noticed its agitation and joined it, from there in twos and threes the zombies on the street began to flow forward. Till they were all pushing against the vehicles trying to get to the windows.

Steger sat next to the Radio as it scanned channels for broadcasts, glad they had broken the roof shifts into three hour slots at least he wouldn’t be exhausted all day. He pulled off his cap and rubbed his head trying to stay awake, wishing there wasn’t some silver mixed in with the black hair.

He grinned ruefully at the vain thought, it didn’t really matter here at the end of the world whether he had salt and pepper hair. He should just be happy that he was alive. It wasn’t like there were a lot of women to worry about impressing, and the number was a bit smaller really since he knew of at least four lesbians back on Sullivan

What he really missed aside from tons of women, and his girlfriend in particular, was eating at Nellie’s a little sea food place right on the bay, with the best damn food on the eastern seaboard. Hell he didn’t miss being SWAT, that was the only really good thing about the end of the world, the crime rate was really low.

He pulled the head set off then pulled on his cap and rose to crouch, might as well check and see what I can see he thought as he moved to a position where he could scan the street and the parking lot. He reached position, and in the pre dawn light knew he didn’t have to wonder what the undead might be doing, it was pretty obvious. The parking lot was a sea of undead that were all pressing forward, swaying and staggering.

Something had drawn their attention to the building, he didn’t know what it could have been but it didn’t matter now, Now they had to decide what to do, before the undead got inside. He moved quickly to the hatch, keeping down out of sight he had to wake up Jared and let him know what’s going on. He never heard the crackle in the headset, or the transmission that followed.

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

Williams couldn’t believe he was still alive. As the sun came up, and he saw the horde of undead were flowing west away from the now empty church. He knew that the thing had been making a point to him, and he took that lesson to heart, you cant hide, and you only live because of me.

He knew his mind was teetering on the brink of total insanity, and in a way he didn’t mind, it only made this whole thing easier to deal with. He had sold his soul to save the world, and that was a lie, he was a murderer now, a tool of the devil or what ever it was. And he knew he would be asked to do much worse before this was all over with, unless some one killed him first.

As he headed cautiously down the stairs, he didn’t hear or maybe chose to ignore the little voice in the back of his mind that whispered “and I really hope someone kills me before I do worse.”

“You Americans, so weak,”the Russian who waited at the bottom of the stairs said. “Ostyn, or as you say chill out, you live will another day American. But we have much to do. The trap is set, the Red headed Dolboeb will walk right into it. it is a good day to be… here” the Russian said, Williams didn’t laugh, but it was funny that this dead man had forgotten he was dead and had almost said good to be alive.

By the time he got to his jeep there wasn’t a zombie in sight, Jon got in and started the vehicle, the Russian guiding him to his next little mission, and Jon knew he was going to burn in hell for this one.

************************
Jared and Ori worked quickly, blocking the door from the offices into the Bays. As soon as they were finished, Jared turned to the truck, “ lets get that alternator on the truck, get the hood up on the ELSORV and give this bitch a jump” Jared said to Ori who nodded.

They worked quickly as the light from the rising sun spilled into the bay, thru the high narrow windows inset into the bay doors. Mike had every one gathered by the ladder to the roof, if things went south they would all climb up to the roof, if the truck started, they would haul down the food stashed on the roof that was supposed to have been taken to the business tower, shove it into the truck and try to get the hell out of dodge.

Jared hoped they didn’t have to go up to the roof, Margo would have a hard time climbing that narrow ladder.

“Got it” Ori said as he finished getting the belt back on, “lets hook her up and give it a charge.”

“Ryan get that ladder over there and look out the back bay doors and see how many of those things are back there.” Jared said softly. Ryan nodded and did as he was directed.

“Once we start that motor, they are going to go nuts” Ori pointed out.

“ I know” Jared said, still keeping his voice down.

“Then maybe we should wait just a bit, and see what they do, who knows, they might leave in an hour or so” Ori said.

Jared thought about that, Ori did have a point, at the moment the undead were just essentially looking in the windows, and seeing nothing. But the moment that motor started they had better be prepared to run, because the undead would go nuts. And wouldn’t leave till Jared and everyone in the building starved to death or they got inside.

“Okay we wait till noon, if they show no signs of moving out, we rethink the decision.” Jared said after a moment.

“Good, but when we go to leave whose going to open the bay doors” Ori asked, quietly. “ and don’t say you, you moron. Jill would castrate me if I let you.”

“Well if I cant do it, that leaves you, Ed, Steger or Ryan. And Id rather have you do it, your fast, and I will be right there covering you. we board the last ELSORV out, as it passes through.” Jared said, Ori started to shake his head, but stopped himself. He knew that Jared didn’t want to risk any one else opening the doors, and he knew Ori wasn’t going to let him do it himself, but with Jared covering his ass they stood a good chance of pulling it off.

“You really need to stop thinking your invincible” Ori commented.

“oh I don’t think that at all, I just don’t want any one else standing in harms way if Im not willing to do it Ori, you know that.” Jared responded.

“yeah, but you need to realize, that we all know your willing to do it, so step back and let us risk our butts on occasions oh fearless leader.” Ori said with a grin, “besides, theres enough chance of all of us dying that I don’t want you hogging the death risk, start sharing asshole.”

They both looked up as Ryan walked over to them, “so what’s it look like” Jared asked, noting the pensive look on Ryan’s young face.

“Well not as bad as out front, but there’s a lot of them out there Jared, as soon as we open the doors, they will be pushing in.” Ryan said.

“Unless we lure them off to another point” Ori commented.

“No, not this time Ori, no distractions that might get someone trapped and left behind.” Jared said firmly.

“it was my bright ass idea to go looking for Eric, that got all the rest of you to tag along and got Steve shot, and it was my dumb ass idea to hunt down bowler hat, that got us stuck here. And I will not get any one separated from the group and left behind if I can help it.” Jared said then turned and waved at mike as soon as he had his attention he pointed up to the roof and mimed talking on the radio. Mike nodded understanding, and headed for the ladder.

“lets settle in, we have a while before we try this” Jared told everyone else..

Time seemed to crawl, as they all sat quietly in the bay, occasionally they could hear something hit and then slide along the rear bay doors, undead would walk into the door, or drag their hands along it as they walked past.

Nibbler lay next to Jared her hackles up, but stayed silent, only staring at the bay door with each new noise. He wondered idly if she had learned to be silent to survive or was she just one of those dogs that rarely made any noise. she chose that moment to look back at him and her tail wagged briefly, why not, the dead are able show up in dreams and now they can be ghosts too, why not a dog that can read my mind. He thought with amusement.

Jill leaned against him, silent for a while then finally spoke. “I don’t know what to think about Ed’s idea.”

“I think he is right” Jared said softly. “at least in the fact that Brown most likely hid somewhere in this area when he escaped. The rest may or may not matter, but I have to say that the sneaky, taunting, cold blooded killer part of browns personality seems to be alive and kicking as it were.”

“Why not just wait till he shows up again, and then try to kill him Jared. I don’t see him hanging around a building he used to kill people in when he was alive.” Jill asked, Ori looked up, able to hear their conversation.

“Partly a dream, partly a hunch. Why did bowler hat follow us all the way to Sullivan, and then return here. Why didn’t he keep trying to kill us there? Once we beat Mikhail, bowler hat vanished, there’s a reason he came back here. And to be honest Jill, I want to leave Nashville knowing that thing is gone.” Jared said.

“if Gayle was right and bowler hat is part of the evil trinity, or even just a servant of the dark, what makes you think that another bowler hat like personality wont just show up after we get rid of him” Jill asked. “maybe next time it will be the Zodiac killer, or BLT killer.”

“BLT is a sandwich,” Jared pointed out with a smile.

“what ever, you know what I mean”Jill replied.

“Maybe he had to die on that day, maybe it cant be one that died before the day.” Jared said. “Maybe Brown was special, so evil he was offered a job.”

That actually struck Jared as right, and he could see by the look in Jills eyes she felt the same way. He was getting sick of the cryptic warnings and hints from the other side, he really would prefer straight up intel.

Ori also hadn’t mentioned that Jared had promised to cut the hunt for bowler hat after three days, and today was the limit. Jared hated that, but he wasn’t going to break a promise he had made to them, besides, with the new folks along for the ride, being short on ammo, getting into a combat situation wasn’t a good idea.

Jared hadn’t been surprised that the entire new group had asked to leave with them, but now the real problem was getting them all out alive, and that was going to be harder to do than he would like. Not impossible but harder, and… his thoughts stumbled to a halt as he saw Grant over by the blocked door into the office area, the man looked pale as a ghost and took a stumbling step backwards away from the door.

Jared rose to his feet, and glided almost silently over to the man. Just as he was about to ask what the problem was, he heard something rub against the door into the office area, he didn’t even bother to look and see if every was accounted for he knew they were.

“theres zombies in the building” Grant said, as a soft thump came from the door. just loud enough that a few others heard. Margo, looked like she was about to panic and Jill thank god, thought quickly and got Margo into the closest ELSORV, where she would be safe if something happened.

Jared had a bad feeling about the situation. His gut told him that something was very wrong. He stepped away from the door, and signaled for everyone to stay quiet. He waved Ori to his side and whispered, “Get Mike and the gear down from the roof, while he is packing up, take a look over the back wall and check the delivery doors”

Ori hesitated for just a moment “ you think some one opened a door” Ori asked quietly. Jared nodded, a frown on his face. if he was right, the only real question was, was it only one person in the group who had opened it, or were there more than one.

Some one must have drawn the undead attention to the building sometime during the night, then when Jared had gotten every one to come into the bay, they must have opened a door somewhere not anticipating Jared blocking the Door into the Office

That there were people out there who served the dark, he didn’t doubt, but he believed that some of them had no idea they were doing the bidding of the dark.

Ori had vanished up the ladder while Jared walked around the bay, checking to make sure that every thing was ready. He had Ryan grease the runners for the bay doors, in preparation for a speedy exit. While Ryan was doing that, he checked the supplies making sure everything was packed and nothing had been set to the side to load at the last minute. As he did so he passed warnings to the rest of his team to be ready for anything.

He was just finishing when Ori came back down the ladder. He nodded to Jared, who felt his stomach knot. So some one had opened a door!, he let his gaze slide casually over the strangers, but saw no one that stood out as looking guilty.

Finally he gathered them all together, in the center of the bay. “I had planned on deciding at noon on whether to wait a while longer or to try and start the truck and leave at noon. That it appears theres zombies in the building pretty much knocks the wait and see attitude. Ori checked while he was upstairs and it appears either zombies have keys and figured out how to use keys and open doors, or some one opened a delivery door before we all came in here. So we either stay in the bays, or we leave” Jared said, watching faces to get their reactions, all of them looked around in shocked disbelief at the idea that some one might have opened a door to let in the undead.

“ Jared I think I have an idea on how to make getting out the back way a bit easier, but ill need some one like Steger to help me pull it off “ Ori said putting Jared on the spot, by publicly bring up the diversion idea. “Look its simple, We take all but a few of the propane bottles up top and carry them into the business center. I blow out a window and start tossing them, Steger can guard my back. When we draw enough of them to the Business center, you guys haul ass out the back, as soon as your out, we hop on down to the roof run to the far side, you park under us and we rappel down and climb in thru the gunners position. We can set the ropes ahead of time. So all we need to is clip in when we get there.” Ori explained, Jared ignored the mutters of agreement, but he had to admit it sounded good, as long as Private Murphy didn’t notice what was going on and show up to fuck up the whole plan, at any rate. Jared nodded his approval, but the look he gave Ori spoke volume’s about how much he would have to say later.

* * * *
“That’s the last of them” Steger said, as he sat down the last propane bomb.

Ori nodded, the nervous look he had worn, smoothed suddenly as he settled himself down and got ready for business.

“in position, give me ten to get things set up before you light off the fires” Ori said over the radio. He turned to Steger. “ can you climb” He asked. Steger winced slightly.

“not really, at least not if you mean cliffs and such.” Steger said.

“Just curious, but at least you can rappel” Ori said. “ that’s the important part of the plan”

Ori hand him a wedge, and pointed down the hallway. “ go wedge that under the stairwell door, just in case the zombies really have figured out how to open doors.” Ori told him. Steger nodded and headed of down the hall leaving Ori to look out the window at the mass of undead in the parking lot.

A tone sounded in his ear and a second later Jareds voice came out of the earbud. “starting the motors now”

“ copy, starting motors” Ori said, as Steger reappeared. At least this building was supposedly empty of the undead. Not that he was going to treat it as empty that was the fastest way to screw up by the numbers that there was. And you couldn’t count on the stink of the undead to alert you, after awhile a man got so used to it, that the mind tended to tune it out.

Ori could tell the moment the first motor started, the undead in front of the parking lot bay doors went wild pawing at the vehicles that blocked their way, then the entire crowd began to press in towards the bay doors.

Thank god it’s a drive thru bay, instead of the drive in and park bay’ like so many places had, Ori thought as he shot out the window. Shards of glass erupted into the air and fell to the ground three stories below, Ori leaned out the hole and began to shout at the undead, not satisfied with that, he had Steger hand him the annoying air horn and set off several blasts. As the crowd grew below he grabbed a propane tank and tossed it out the window, trying to get it as far from the building as possible.

He lifted his rifle and place his sights on the bottle, only catching glimpse of it thru the tangle of legs. It took three shots before he hit the bottle, but damn it was impressive, it took maybe two seconds after he shot it for the escaping gas reached the burning flare, but when it did, fire raced back down into the bottle. The resulting explosion cleared a twenty foot diameter area of undead.

“I think another one or two of those and the glass down stairs is going to blow out” Ori remarked as he lit the flare taped to the tank and then with a massive heave sent it sailing further back from the building. He doubted he was going to get it far enough away to not damage the glass in the windows and doors downstairs.

“The only way up here is thru that door, and I have it wedged tight” Steger assured him. Ori shrugged slightly.

“ its like naked twister, its all fun and games till some one gets an eye poked out.” Ori replied as he lifted his rifle once more.
Jared cursed as the truck failed to start, Grant tried it again, the engine caught then sputtered and died. if there had been any question about zombies in the building it was banished when something started hitting on the door, when the ELSORV fired up.

“One more time,” Jared called out, Grant twisted the key, and magic happened, the motor coughed, sputtered then suddenly gave a deep voice roar. Jared waited a moment, to see if it died, satisfied that it was going to keep running he pulled the jumper cables off, removed them from the ELSORV and had Jill toss them in the back of the vehicle.

“all right, everyone mount up” Jared said, as he pointed to Ed, who moved to the first bay door and grasped the chain. Jared had decided on Ed, mainly because of the mans experience he was less likely to freak out when the undead started entering.

Jared readied the M14, and stepped to the other side of the bay door. Mike was behind the wheel, he would be driving, Paddy looking like he was about to drop a load in his pants, sat in the passenger side, Ryan had the gunner seat and looked excited to be moving and behind a big gun for once.

“Remember, pull out halfway park and block the bay, once all three doors are opened we move slowly to the south corner” Jared said the south corner was the best. they could cut across a grassy area and into the parking lot of the one of the business’s on the road behind the strip center. Which shouldn’t have half the number of undead in it as this one.

“do it,” Jared called out to Ed who, started pulling the door open. It seemed that greasing the runners didn’t help much after all Jared thought as zombies mobbed the door, three actually tried crawling in under the door, he held his fire since they were directly behind the ELSORV, Ed was pulling for all he was worth, and the door practically flew open.

Jared slapped the back of the Vehicle alerting Mike the door was open. Mike slammed it into gear and backed out running down undead, but instead of pulling all the way out he stopped with the nose of the ELSORV in the bay door, to keep the zombies from just flooding inside.

Ed hooked the chain to stop and ran to the next bay door, Jared moved around to the next position, to clear his line of fire and saw ten of the smelly dead assholes force their way along the side of Mikes ELSORV and into the bay. Ed was busy with pulling the second door open, Jared whistled drawing the ten undead away from Mikes vehicle letting them get a further into the bay past the ELSORV before he fired.

“Hooah” He bellowed, the M14 slammed his shoulder, the noise was deafening inside, but the eight bodies that tumbled to the floor were shredded and unmoving. The other two were easily put down with butt strokes that crushed in the sides of their heads.

Ed was yelling for help, Jill reversed running down zombies, as she backed out, like Mike she stopped partly in the door, unlike Mike she twisted the wheel and pulled forward at an angle to block more of the entrance. Ed fell backwards kicking his leg, where a zombie on the ground had grabbed him by the ankle. Jared ran forward and kicked it in the head hard enough to break bones, as the fingers loosened their grip Ed broke free, and scrambled to his feet.

“Last door” Jared shouted as he turned to see five more zombies had slipped in past Mikes vehicle, two were pushing past Jills, he slung the M 14 over his back and drew his Mark 23, he fired slow and steady, servicing each target quickly, then rushed to Ed side, a zombie, hefty woman wearing what could be called a mu mu leaned in mouth yawning open, aiming for Eds throat. Jared shoved his pistol over Eds shoulder and helped her lose a few pounds by removing part of her head and brains.

“ass hole I cant hear” Ed shouted at him.

“don’t need to hear to roll up a door and scream like a little girl” Jared yelled at him.

“ I can hear that, you prick” Ed responded, as Jared laughed almost wildly.

Jared shot down two more then pivoted as he heard Ryan yelling. Oh shit he thought as he saw almost twenty zombies staggering into the building past Mikes Vehicle. This was a shitty plan Jared decided with a grimace.

He holstered his pistol and lost three precious seconds as he unlimbered the M14, he had to run to one side to get the right angle so he would not hit Mikes vehicle. He fired two rounds, and blinked as a blood tinged mist filled the air, and bodies tumbled to the ground. Three still twitched, four still stood. Jared fired once more, and four more went down. He didn’t care if they were dead as long as they were crippled.

“Going hot” Ryan called out as he lowered the SAW to sweep the area clear behind the ELSORV, Jared had hoped to save the SAWs ammo but had left it up to Ryan. He wasn’t going to second guess him. The heavy weapon opened up, the noise hammering at his ears. He spun around and saw the truck backing out.

Grant scared shitless hadn’t thought about what would happen when he backed completely out, and the end result was a flood of zombies poured into the bay, Jared fired the last rounds in the M14 leaving red ruin on the floor and walls then ran for the ELSORV, as the undead charged.
“ Check fire, check fire right,” Jared shouted. Thank god Ryan had been paying attention and didn’t blow holes into the truck Jared thought as he grabbed Ed and shoved him onto the hood of the ELSORV Jill was driving. Ed scrambled up, over the windshield, a forest of arms and grasping hands reaching for him, he went head first thru the hatch kicking his legs and wiggling.

Jill watched from behind the wheel as Jared ran for her Vehicle, two zombies appeared in front of the hood and she hissed in shock, and then suddenly they went down as the stock of the M14 crushed first one skull then the other, Jared leaped onto the hood, then leaped straight up to land on the roof of the ELSORV, she could hear him bellowing Hoooah, as the M14 fell thru the Gunners hatch, Jared dropped down inside, yelling at her to drive. He gripped the handle of the SAW, and began to fire into the mass.

Mike had already backed out, and was heading towards the south corner of the building, with the truck right behind him. Jill fell into position behind the truck, and Jared began to pour fire into the crowd behind them.
“We cant use the stairs to get to the second floor now” Steger said as they heard glass shattering downstairs. The third bomb had been a bit much Ori decided, and way to damn close, he could hear something creaking and groaning in the building and that did not inspire a lot of confidence.
“On the move” Jareds voice said suddenly in Ori’s Ear.

“Copy, bugging out now” Ori replied. “ Gotta go” he told Steger.

He ran from the room to the side of the building that overlooked the rooftop. “I really hope you don’t mind dropping ten feet” Ori said as he shot out the window.

“if it means getting the hell out of here, I don’t mind at all” Steger said, as he climbed out to dangle by his fingers, then dropped to the rooftop below.

“I don’t believe he went first” ori muttered as he followed.

They started across the roof at a run, halfway across Ori looked back and saw undead emerging from the broken window on the second floor that had allowed Ori and Steger to enter the Business center building in the first place.

“Well no going back now” He commented as they reached the edge of the roof. Steger grabbed a line and hooked in, then stepped to the edge and waited as Jill edged around the corner of the building then drove as close to the wall as she could till Ori told her stop over the radio.

“go Ill cover you “ Ori told Steger as he raised his weapon. Steger nodded and went over, in two bounds he was down, landing heavily on the roof of the vehicle, Jared ducked inside, letting Steger climb down thru the gunners hatch, Ori fired twice as zombies almost managed to snatch Steger off the roof of the vehicle.

Ori drew a deep breath, slung his weapon and went over, in one bound he was down, as he started to jump into the roof hatch a hand grasped his ankle. Oh fuck He thought as he was pulled of balance. He grabbed onto the ring around the gunners position and pulled for all he was worth, kicking his legs to keep from getting bit. Another hand grasped his foot. “ Oh hell no,”he bellowed, and then a hand grasped his forearm.

“ Hang on tight” Jared said as he fired over Ori’s shoulder, metal screamed in abuse as Jill gunned the motor and shot backwards scraping the side of the ELSORV on the building wall. The hands let got abruptly and Jared pulled Ori up close to the hatch as Jill turned in a circle .

“Get the hell inside Idiot” Jared said as he dropped back into the vehicle so that Ori could scramble in headfirst, landing face down in Eds lap.

“You know Im going to tell everyone about this right” Ed said with a grin.

“yeah yeah, last lap you’ve gotten in years” Ori muttered as he twisted around and realized there was no real place to sit, other than on some ones lap.

Jared barely managed to get back into the gunners seat, it was so cramped in the back. Ori twisted around, managing to kick Margo in the face and Jared in the balls before he got upright and frantically checked his legs for any marks from the undead. He sat back leaning against Ed breathing hard, his panic subsiding as he found no bite marks.

“I know its cramped in here, but could you get off my lap, your giving me wood” Ed said. Ori laughed wildly, it wasn’t that funny of a joke, but the relief he felt at not being bitten was indescribable.

Ed somehow managed to get out from under Ori and wiggle his large frame into the front passenger seat, where Nibbler happily sat in his lap.

With Jill back in the line, the three vehicles followed by a mass of undead pulled across the grassy area and into the next parking lot, the truck almost getting stuck. They pushed thru the crowd of undead in the parking lot out onto the street, Mike tired of the constant beating on the sides of his vehicle reached up and gripped the clacker dangling by his seat. “ Fire in the hole” He called out

Ori had daisy chained the claymores together, at a slight downward angle, as Mike triggered the devices, an electrical charge raced thru the wires, setting off the backing of C4, the seven hundred steel balls, of each claymore, roughly the size of #4 shot, were blown from their resin matrix, at 3,937ft/s in a 60 degree arc. The steel balls and the fragmented case spread out in a conical pattern that was six and a half feet high, and fifty five yards wide and slashed across fifty meters, shredding everything in their path. at the angle ori had set them at, the steel balls that weren’t slowed or buried in the avalanche of tumbling bodies and red gory mist, struck the ground and bounced back up at a forty five degree angle ripping away legs and parts of torso’s.

It was like a mad god gone berserk, one moment the undead were pressing against the vehicle, slowing it down, and then a bloody arc was carved into the horde, leaving red ruin and wreckage behind. Bodies lay in shredded heaps, some still moved, most didn’t. Mike gunned his vehicle knowing that extra speed would help him barrel through the undead still ahead.

Jared had Ori Reload his M 14, and pass it up to him, as they turned onto Main street, Mike was pushing thru the undead at speed, Ryan hammering at them with short bursts from the SAW.

They were almost stopped at an Intersection where a Delivery truck and four cars had collided last year, the undead were thick as fleas, but Mike kept his foot down, plowing through the press of rotted bodies. While Ryan raked his fire across their path, sweeping his fire at head height, whooping with pleasure as bodies tumbled away, and the ELSORV bounced over them.

A crowd of Undead came out of a side street and slammed against the side of the Vehicle, causing Mike to swear loudly as the ELSORV lurched. Ryan dropped back inside the vehicle, and dragged out the last of the ammo for the SAW. He looked pale and scared, but flashed mike a game smile then climbed back into the Gunners seat.

All it would take, is a body getting wedge up between a wheel and the frame, or blowing a tire on debris I cant see, mike thought, and there seemed to be no end to the undead.
All he could see was just a wall of never ending rotting dead, that just kept staggering at the fleeing vehicles, he gritted his teeth, as a blond woman, stuck her face against the window, gnashing her teeth as she tried to chew her way through the glass. She was gone in a second as the Vehicle pulled away.

Jill held on to the wheel with grim intensity, as she stayed right behind the truck, so intent on what was going on, she was taken by surprise when the truck suddenly veered out of control, plowing thru undead on the sidewalk and smashing into the wall of a Deli.

She reacted instantly, whipping the wheel around and turning in a arc that plowed down undead, pulling up with the passenger side of the ELSORV facing the back of the truck. Undead slammed into the driver’s side, and surged up from both sides of the sidewalk.

Jared didn’t want to leave, but he didn’t see a choice, he was just about to bang on the roof and tell Jill to get out of there, when the camper door flew open and Ayesha leaped out. Ori responded instantly throwing open his door. Nibbler sat in the front passenger seat started barking loudly as soon as Ori’s door opened and the smell of the undead filled the air. Ed held on to the dog so it wouldn’t leap out of the vehicle.

“oh son of a bitch” Jared said, scared for his friend but not about to stop Ori from trying to save the woman. Jared leveled the M14, point blank at the zombies closest to Ayesha and the open door.

The shot shattered six skulls and pulverized the bodies below those heads, the weapon hammered his shoulder he ignored it as he fired at the ones behind his first targets. The open door, at least blocked the ones to the left from getting to the woman, she leaped forward and Ori firing one handed into the frenzied mob that was trying to grab hold of the terrified woman he somehow managed to snatch her outstretched hand and pulled her inside, her blouse tearing as one zombie grabbed hold. She scrambled over his lap and into Steger’s Lap and sat there pressed up against Margo, as she shook in terror.

Raj leapt from the back of the camper, firing the AR that Jared had given him. He wasn’t a good shot by any stretch, but the rounds punched the closest zombies away from him, he leaped across the short distance, firing hard, Ori reached for him, and then a look of surprise filled Raj’s face, as blood erupted from his chest spraying Ori.

Jonas, his eyes wild stood in the doorway of the camper, smoke rising from the Barrel of the AR he held, he was already aiming into the ELSORV, even as Raj, still alive was snatched away by the crowd of zombies.

Ori, in an awkward position, stared at the muzzle of the AR, and knew he couldn’t shift his weapon fast enough to take Jonas down. He saw the mocking look of Triumph on Jonas’s face, the sneer on his lips, the finger squeezing gently, the trigger moving to the breaking point, and then suddenly Jonas’s chest and head vanished in a spray of blood and gore as Jared blew him apart. The shattered torso and legs tumbled back into the camper, Jared beat on the roof, shouting at Jill to Drive, and then fired one last time killing Raj before he could suffer to much.

Hands grasped Ori’s Leg, but lost their grip when Jill moved forward, and Ori snatched his leg back. As she moved forward the press of bodies against the open door pushed it shut. Ori fell back in the seat breathing hard, vowing to never again doing something this stupid. At least not till the next time.

“Jonas, He went nuts, started telling us, the dark was winning and we were supposed to die, and then started shooting” Ayesha said sobbing into, Margo’s shoulder. “He shot Grant, then James, he would have shot me next, but we crashed, and Raj…..”her face collapsed as she saw again in her mind Raj being dragged into the crowd of undead, She started sobbing heavily.

The remaining two vehicles pushed thru the crowds, and only luck kept them moving.
Jill almost shot out of her seat when the radio came to life. “If you folks are done fucking around with death race 2011, take the next left, the zombies thin out after a block” Ronny said. “Ill guide you out of the mess”

thanks for reading please leave a reply

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