Chapter 14

 

“I have watched the path of angels,
and I have heard the heavens roar
there is strife with in the tempest
but calm in the eye of the storm.”
~Cruxshadows

The two vehicles broke free of the mobs of undead, and sped out of the five points area of East Nashville and into a residential area, the undead poured after them. but in moments the vehicles were lost to sight, and even the sound of the motors faded with distance. The horde with no focus began to spread out, but one stopped in the middle of the street, then slowly began to head in the same direction that the vehicles had gone, as it staggered forward, more joined it, and the crowd began to grow again as they headed east.

The interior of the ELSORV stank of fear and sweat, no one particularly noticed it, they were all to busy, watching the steadily dwindling numbers of the undead, as they worked their way steadily deeper into East Nashville.

“You really don’t want to go west, if you can help it” Ronny said absently over the radio. “all the gun fire and explosions has gotten half the city stirred up.”

“yeah if there is one thing we are good at, its pissing off the neighbors with loud party’s” Ori remarked, still trembling from the two near misses today.

Margo huddled in the back, sobbing quietly, Steger who was pressed up against her, wrapped an arm around her for comfort. Ayesha sat squeezed in next to Ori, almost in the floorboards.

“Look Ronny, we really need a safe place to stop and get some people into the other Vehicles, its way to tight in here.” Jared said as he sat in the gunners seat, watching the small knots of undead they sped past.

“if you can handle it for five more minutes, you should be at the Park I was telling you about there’s plenty of places in that thing where you can park for a few minutes or longer, its huge.” Ronny replied.

And it was huge, for a park in a city, Jared thought, he had visited the park a few times before, usually with Ori who had loved the area. The Shelby Park and the Shelby Bottoms Greenway, was over 800 acres, and ran along three miles of the Cumberland river. Once you got past the Nature center it was mostly woods, mostly, Jared thought, and the music city greenway was paved and wide enough for the ELSORVs to travel. Cutting across the open ground, meant using more fuel for the same distance on paved ground, so he preferred to use paved roads as long as they possibly could.

And if he wasn’t badly mistaken they could cut south on 19th and enter at the park just before the Dog park, he couldn’t remember the name of the Road, but it wound around the small lake then down to the baseball fields before winding around to the Nature center.

“ Jill look for S.19th st., and turn right.” Jared told her over the radio, which was much easier then crouching to yell into the vehicle to tell her.

“Ronny go to the river and check both banks. There’s a pedestrian bridge, thats wide enough to cross over, and will take us to Two rivers park. Check and see what its like” Jared said bracing himself as Jill took the turn onto 19th at speed, clipping a small group of undead, and sending them flying into the front yard of a home.

“roger, heading to the river, El Jefe.” Ronny called out, over head the plane turned and headed off.

Jill wove thru the stalls, trying not to hit the undead, more to avoid jarring Margo, than for any other reason. She stared ahead, plotting each movement, not wanting to slow down. She drove around a UPS truck and its zombie driver still strapped into his seat, then had to jog the wheel to miss the five car pile up in the intersection of 19th and fatherland dr. only then did she see the power pole across the street.

“hang on” she shouted, as the ELSORV bounced over the pole throwing everyone forward then back. “ hope that didn’t damage anything” she muttered.

She plowed through a group of twenty zombies, trying not to throw up, as goo splattered the windshield.

“there Turn left” Jared said, pounding on the roof to draw her attention. she had to hunch down to see around the goo on the windshield, but managed to take the road, she couldn’t read the entire street sign, Lil something. A moment later they were out of the residential area and driving thru a heavily wooded area.

“Stop here” Jared called out. Jill slowed then stopped, relieved that she had a moment to clean the windshield.

“all right, Steger you and Ayesha into the other ELSORV, anybody that hasn’t reloaded do so now.” Jared said, “ Ori you take the Gunners position” Jared said sliding out of the seat.

“Where are we?” Steger asked as he climbed out then Helped Ayesha out.

“In the park, just north of us is the golf course, below us the dog park and baseball fields. lets not linger too long folks.” Jared said “ no telling how many of those things might be close by.”

“maybe if we stumble along and click our teeth together we can blend in and they wont notice us.” Ori said as he checked the SAW and frowned at the amount of ammo for the weapon.

“I think we can make that plan Z” Jared replied his eyes sweeping the woods around them. he wouldn’t admit it to any one, but he was so tired of this shit, tired of having to be on the move, tired of fighting the good fight, and seemingly gaining no ground. Oh sure every life he saved, was a small victory, but in the face of billions of deaths, it seemed a small thing.

and the worst part was, the undead just kept coming, like some obscene dark tide rising to sweep away what was left of humanity, with no end in sight. Well god let me tell you I’m ready for the damn tide to start going out, Jared thought almost angrily.

Well no one ever said there was a life guard in the Gene pool so pull yourself up by the testicles and deal with it, Jared told himself as he slipped another 40 mike mike round into the M14.

Paddy, stood there nervously, clutching the AR like it was a safety blanket. He wasn’t by his own opinion the bravest person in the world, but he wasn’t about to let these people down. Not when they had done their best to save his friends and himself.

He pivoted around, trying to look every where at once, till a large hand landed on his shoulder. “ Steady there, Paddy, just keep an eye out on this side of the Vehicle.” Ed told him gently. “ Mike and Ryan have the other side covered.”

“thanks, sorry, Im …” Paddy said, Ed finished the sentence for him.

“not used to being outside with these things, trust me we understand.” Ed said.

Jared took the time to Reload his M14, glancing at Jill who was furiously wiping down the windshield. “We need to add windex and bikinis to the supplies we keep in each vehicle” he said after a moment. Jill stopped only long enough to flip him the bird.

He started to say something else when he saw Paddy lift his AR to his shoulder, only to have Ed push it back down. Out of the woods staggered a ten year old kid in a bloody white pinstriped baseball uniform.

“no noise unless it’s a large group” Ed told paddy in a low voice, as he drew the heavy short sword strapped to one thick thigh. It looked like a large knife in his hand.

Ed steeled himself as he stepped forward, the kid, his cheek ripped away, teeth exposed thru the hole, opened his mouth like he was silently hissing, then charged at Ed, at almost a jog.

Ed drew back and swung with all the power of his thick arm behind the swing. The blade crunched into the skull with an audible noise, and the kid collapsed at his feet. Ed felt his gorge rise, and wondered if this would ever end, god he hated having to put down the kids. he turned and watched Paddy for a moment

Paddy looked ill as well, but didn’t lose it. Truth was he had seen far worse the first two days of this shit. Far, far worse. “ don’t fire unless there’s a lot of them, one or two, let every one know and then use a melee weapon” Ed told him.

Jill finished cleaning off the windshield, and nodded at Jared. “all right mount up, we still have a lot of city to get thru before this is over.” Jared said just loud enough for every one to hear.

“What about hunting down Brown?” Ed asked as he started to climb into the ELSORV.

“later, I don’t like leaving it undone, but there’s too damn many of those things and we don’t have near enough ammo.” Jared said as he slid into the passenger seat.

“Lets roll” Ori said from the gunner’s seat. “I’ve always wanted to say that” He added with a grin.

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

“You need to see this” Clarisse said bursting into Bens room, she was almost bouncing she was so excited.

“see what, a band of pissed off undead nuns with rulers” Ben asked swinging his legs over the side of the bed, and grabbing his rifle.

“No a plane, a real honest to god plane” She said, so excited he almost couldn’t understand her. Galvanized he leaped from the bed and the two of them pounded thru the corridors to the main deck walkway on the port side.

Tony, who was already there, passed Ben the binoculars with out a word. Ben couldn’t believe how excited the drone of an aircraft engine made him. “right there, to the right” Clarisse told him. Ben swung the binoculars and after a moment of searching saw a military Green single engine plane with water floats sweeping towards them following the river.

Ben had seen a plane like that before, but couldn’t remember the designation, they were an older model and not used to widely, or at least he believed they hadn’t been used widely.

“you think the government is starting to get a handle on things” Tony asked, hope in his voice.

“no” Ben replied, “ and remember those assholes that attacked the complex were using military vehicles and gear.” Ben said hating to dash the nascent hope that He knew Clarisse and Tony felt, but he didn’t want them to have their hopes dashed by bombs being dropped on them either.

At least they were standing under cover, so hopefully the plane hadn’t spotted them. “pass the word no one is to come on deck, lets get back inside” Ben said, turning only to see Clarisse shake her head and point towards the stern. “ half the group is back there watching, has been since its first pass” she told him.

“shit, shit, shit” Ben muttered. “ Tony get below and get the generators fired up, then lets see if we can get the engines on this thing going. If they are dangerous I want to be able to head down river at a moments notice.”

“and if they aren’t” Clarisse asked, obviously hoping that who ever was in that plane weren’t the enemy. .

“then we talk to them, but we don’t offer them anything and we don’t let them on board.” Ben said. “ we can use the boat we came here on, but no one comes aboard the General Jackson.

The plane flew down river about two miles, and then began to circle. Ben felt himself sweating with Nervous tension, hoping that Tony could get the engines on this thing running. When he had first found the River boat moored at the Opry land resort, with its boarding ramp up, he had gotten aboard thinking that it had to be infested with zombies, but apparently when they shut it down after the flood, they had only allowed maintenance workers on board, he had only found three zombies on board the pantry’s had been fully stocked as well.

But he had never tried to start the thing, the noise would have drawn every zombie in the city to the dock. “damn it,” he muttered as he headed below to stop Tony, there was no sense in drawing attention of the undead or these strangers till he had better grasp of what was going on. What few booby traps he had placed, wouldn’t stop a determined assault anyway. If nothing else they could cast off and drift with the current if attacked and then try to start the engines.

After informing tony of the new plan, he emerged back on deck, in time to hear the roar of a motor as the plane flew over the River boat, waggling its wings and blinking its lights. He smiled despite his misgiving, at the cheers of his group, then the plane pulled up and away, turning to the north and vanishing in minutes.

“so now what” Clarisse asked him, he was startled to see tears in her eyes as she watched the sky.

“ We wait I guess” Ben said, hoping that maybe this time he was wrong.
************************
Jill tried not to watch the undead in the ball fields. there must have been little league games that day, that hadn’t been canceled. There were at least forty of the bloody and mangled kids in uniform, as well as twice that number of adults locked inside the fenced in ball fields.

“some one must have escaped and shut the gates, to keep them inside.” Ori remarked, his fingers drumming nervously on the Vehicles door. he turned his gaze to the zombies outside the fence, an attractive woman in a sports bra and shorts, who had been out on a run, a man in board shorts, and a muscle shirt, another zombie was pulling its self on the ground dragging a wheel chair behind it, its foot caught in the spokes of a wheel chair.
an elderly couple, that looked like they might have been bird watchers.

“now theres something you don’t see every day” Ori remarked as he spotted the zombie, dressed in dirty metallic silver clothing, with a matching hat, his face and hands still held traces of silver body paint. The fingers on his left hand were only bloody stumps.

“I hated that guy” Jared remarked, “he was one of those living statue guys, creepy as all hell if you ask me.” If he wasn’t trying to save ammo he would have pumped a few 40mm rounds into the damn thing and wiped it from the face of the planet.

“at least its not a clown” Jill commented.

“there are times I wonder why I married you.” Jared said with a tired smile, knowing she was trying to calm him down and offer support, she knew just how tired he was, even when he tried to hide it.

“because all the other single women at the end of the world were taken.” Jill said smugly,

Jared only nodded in agreement, then grunted as she punched him in the side. “ asshole” She said lightly, then winked at him.

“there are times I really think you have been hanging around mary way to damn long” Jared complained then pointed as he saw a sign that read “ music city bike trail”, posts had been placed across the entrance of the trail, to keep vehicles from doing exactly what they were about to do. Sadly who ever had placed those posts had assumed no one would just drive around the entrance, which is exactly what they did.

The radio came to life at that moment and Ronnys voice spilled from the speakers. “I just saw something interesting. That River boat moored by, I think it’s the Opryland convention center and resort complex, had people on board.”

Jared quirked an eyebrow, “people you say,” Jared asked his mind considering the possibilities.

“people as in non shambling undead types, they were on deck and waving when I went by.” Ronny replied.

Just great Jared thought, like we have the ammo, fuel or food to stop and see who and how many, much less possibly get in a firefight if they are assholes. Its moments like this that I really hate, the decent part of me wants to go over there and let these people know they aren’t alone and its not hopeless. The other side of me wants to just let them sink or swim on their own. He shook his head pushing away the darker side of his personality, to give in to that, was to throw away everything he believed in.

“ Roger, we will deal with that later. As soon as we get close to 155, you head back and pick up Justin, so we can Evac Margo.” Jared told Ronny. Once he had every one safely out of the city, he would get Ronny to fly Jill and himself back and have a talk with who ever was on board the Riverboat, assuming they were still there.

“Roger, Jared, copy bring Justin so we can evac Margo, Ronny out.” Ronny replied.

Margo looked confused and possibly scared, “Evac me, evac me to where?” She asked, her hands clutching her belly protectively.

“we have a camp up north, with good medical set up, including a RN, and Justin who is a Paramedic, I just don’t want you flying with out Justin or Sandy with you just in case.” Jared replied his eyes never stopped sweeping their surroundings.

The bike trail skirted the edge of the river, with a ribbon of trees on the left; there were few zombies along the bike path and none left after they passed. Reaching the first pedestrian bridge, Jared gave up the idea of crossing it, it was wide enough, barely for the ELSORV’s but they had to pass thru a tunnel like entrance with barriers, and couldn’t go around those, like the first ones. After they drove on silently, the trees on the left thickening till it was a veritable forest.

“The last little bit will be across country and then into another residential area.” Jared said as the trail followed the curve of the river. He glanced at Jill, feeling a deep regret for all of this. “I’m sorry, I got you, all of you into this shit” he said reaching out and placing a hand on her thigh.

“were you go, I go, and the others are here because they are your friends, so don’t go apologizing for what we chose to do.” Jill said with a smile that showed just how exhausted she really was.

He smiled back, “ love you” he whispered.

“I swear can you get any mushier” Ori said from the back, Jared tossed him a look, then grinned.

“Actually I can, but I thought Id spare your happy ass, the scene. Unless you want me to get mushy with you.” Jared replied.

“flirt” Ori replied, only to wince as Ed looked at him and winked seductively. “ Hey now” Ori protested.

“ you sshore do look mighty purty in them BDU’s” Ed said almost perfectly mimicking the comedian. Jill started laughing and Ori surprised himself with a bark of laughter and a middle finger directed at Ed who only smiled. Nibbler perked up and barked once in question.

Margo only looked from one to another, thinking she was trapped in a vehicle with madmen. Well armed madmen, who seemed totally oblivious to the dangers outside the windows of the odd military vehicle they were in.

As they reached the upper end of the Bottoms, and the trail started to curve west, Jared had Jill stop, he pulled out his binoculars and reached for the door handle. “Ori cover me. Every one else stay inside.” Jared said as he opened the door and climbed out, thinking it would have been a pleasant day to just sprawl in the grass, and watch the sky if there weren’t undead around, waiting to chew on his flesh.

He trained the binoculars across the river and north, the distance was to great to get a lot of detail but he could see the Riverboat, and people on the rear deck pointing up, some were jumping up and down in what he figured was excitement. Probably think it’s a government plane and they will be rescued soon. Damn I hate that, poor bastards will wait day after day for help that never comes, getting more and more bitter and desperate, and all because they saw the plane.

Like Steve has pointed out a thousand times, we cant help every one, Jared thought feeling bitter at the idea, but it was true. But maybe there was some thing they could work out between the two groups. He would have to think on it, but the simple reality is we cant go running over there at the moment.

“better let me drive for a while” Jared told Jill walking around to the drivers door. “take a break, read a book. Maybe abuse Ori some.”

She didn’t argue, she was out of the Vehicle and around to the passenger side, like it was a Chinese fire drill. I wonder where in the hell that term came from anyway, he asked himself. probably will never know. Like a thousand and one other things, the answer died with civilization. I guess my mastery of totally useless trivia, will be even more obscure and useless now.

The ride through the woods wasn’t half as difficult as he had thought it might be. There wasn’t as much underbrush here as in the true wilds, but the easy part ended when he saw the Streets of the Residential area thru the trees were a nightmare of walking dead.

I wonder if there are people still alive and moving around that gets them riled up and hunting, that would explain a lot. It would also mean more people have survived than I would have thought. Jared thought.

Unlike so many of the end of the worlders had thought, there was plenty of food still left in the city, it had gone down so fast, that even if there had only been three days worth of canned and boxed food in each home and apartment, there was a few thousand days worth of food for a thousand people, and that wasn’t counting the warehouses, and distribution centers, or the Delivery trucks stuck in the lines of traffic on the roads.

He didn’t pay attention to the hands beating on the sides of the ELSORV, or Margo’s sobbing in the back. Nothing he could do about either one but keep driving till they were out of the area. The steady drumbeat of undead flesh became just another background noise he barely noticed as his mind turned to other issues.

It took almost ten nerve wracking minutes to make it the three miles to 155, the road was like a river of cars forever frozen Their passengers long dead. “ where do we go from here” Jill asked, breaking into his thoughts, as she unfolded the Map Jared had handed her.

“north, we cut over to 31 or Gallatin pike South as its called, take it or a parallel road north till we reach Due west road, we take that to Dickinson and then swing north, theres more woods less housing areas, and it heads straight up to Goodletsville. We can be at my place by sunset.” Jared said.

“was memorizing maps a hobby of yours before the zombies or what?” jill asked, curious.

“no” Jared said almost smiling, “I used to drive home that way when traffic was bad on 65, if you stay east of 65, its nothing but subdivisions, strip centers and housing areas. And the closer you get to the mall the worse it gets. As for the rest of the maps, you didn’t notice how I spent an hour or two every evening studying my maps, on our way to Sullivan, I hate being lost. And zombies aren’t great on giving directions.” Jared replied with a grin, truth was he had always been good at looking at maps and being able to picture them in his mind, he had been lost exactly once in his life, and didn’t plan on repeating the performance.

He turned and drove thru yards and parking lots along 155, till he reached 31E and headed north, it was slow going driving around all the abandoned cars. But finally they reached Due west and turned left, where the road was thankfully much clearer than the last few had been. And even better the horde of undead had been left behind a few blocks back. In fact there wasn’t a single zombie in sight at the moment, he sighed in relief. Jill was right, he really needed some down time.

***************************
Williams frowned as he drove north, the roads oddly clear. He hoped that the destination he had been given, was better than the last time. He really didn’t want to see that thing again, not if he could help it. he might be going slowly insane but even he had his limits.

In his dreams there was also a group of seven hiding in the Hermitage, that he would have to take care of, and another group of ten hiding in the zoo. “I wonder how much blood will be on my hands before this is over with” Williams muttered, the hair on the back of his neck rising as he heard the soft dry laugh from the passenger seat. he almost lost control of the jeep, but barely managed to keep it on the road.

I wasn’t a killer, how could I have ended up here, he asked himself. but he knew, pride, he had fallen for the con job because of his pride, he had wanted a holy quest to feel important and had believed it when one was just dropped in his lap. Well you’re here now, and there’s nothing you can do to change it, he told himself. maybe it will let you keep a woman out of the people it wants you to kill.

It was getting harder and harder to think of it as a thing, the word friend floated around in his mind, it was an insistent thought, one that he firmly believed wasn’t his own. Well screw you, I may be trapped in this nightmare but I wont call you my friend.

He felt himself flinch, then hunkered down in the drivers seat as a vague smell of rotting flesh flowed thru the jeep, there were times he honestly believed that it rode with him, as real as any zombie on the streets outside, but somehow not seen. But that wasn’t possible, was it.

Neither are the dead walking Jon, so maybe you need to rethink reality, or keep going mad which ever makes it easier for you, you coward, his inner voice was scathing.

He ignored that voice, madness was safer, or was that even his own thought, maybe it wanted him mad, maybe……. STOP IT, he told himself forcing his chaotic thoughts and fears out and away for the moment. I’ve got a job to do, and Im going to fucking well do it. at least I have Job to give what time I have left meaning. He tried to ignore the cold hissing laughing that filled the vehicle and the chambers of his mind.

He gripped the wheel tightly and tried not to hear it, or to notice that shape that rode silently beside him, the grin on its face stretching the mottled leathery skin tightly over its skull, as it watched him with cold milky eyes from under the brim of the bowler hat it wore.

****************************
The last time they had passed come through Goodlettsville they hadn’t seen many undead, this time, there were knots of undead scattered along the streets, stumbling past the wrecks and the debris, shuffling thru the trash of civilization. Heads turned as the Vehicles drove past, and then the rotting mass of people began to follow.

“this is not the brightest idea you’ve had” Ori said over the radio.

“Considering our fuel supply, I don’t see a better one, if we drove on to reach the camp, we would end up walking the last ten miles or so” Jared replied, pushing down the urge to throw up as he recognized two of the zombies he had just passed, Juliet Barns, 26, she had worked at the bank in town, they had dated a few times two no three years ago, and Craig Mooris who had worked at the Co Op. Juliets blouse was crusty with dirt and dried blood, Craigs left arm had been gnawed almost to the bone.

“good point” Ori replied, Ori knew that he could have made it on foot all the way to the camp, and so could Jared, but the rest, not a chance in hell.

Jareds house was technically outside the town limits, an area that was still rural, with farms and dense woods, but with so many people having been in the area and a vehicles and aircraft coming and going the undead were stirred up something fierce and there was a good chance that the undead were at the house or close by. And it was still to damn close to the hordes in Nashville that might be following along behind them, and that thought wasn’t one to make Ori’s day.

They drove past Jeff Sloans old place and Jills Charger where she had wrecked it back on the 24th of June trying to get to Jared’s, who would have thought that I would be married to him less than a year later and the world would be pretty much dead.

“that’s a bit more undead than I thought there might be” Jared commented as the turned down the gravel road that would take them to his house. Jill nodded as she saw the thirty or so undead in Jeffs yard. But there were even more in the fields and pastures along the road, by the time the reached Jared’s house the rough count was over a hundred of the undead. Add in the forty or so scattered around Jareds property and it was closer to two hundred.
“ okay here is what we are going to do” Jared said eyeing the undead. “Im going to pull up to the garage doors, Ori and I are going to dismount, jill you take the wheel, Ed you take the gunners seat. Ill open the garage door, while Ori covers me. As soon as that door is open Jill I want you to back in.” Jared said making sure he was broadcasting. “Mike you back in right after that.”

He waited till mike had confirmed his understanding, then drove across the lawn already ripped up by tracks and tires. Ori was steadily shooting the ten zombies closest to the front of the house. He plowed over the last two in the driveway and hit the brakes.

The Garage as Jared called it, had once been a Barn, renovated years back into a garage, aside from the roll up doors, it still looked like a red and white barn attached to the house by an addition.

Jared threw open the door of the ELSORV and hit the ground running the HK tucked to his shoulder, a zombie, came around the corner of the garage from the back. A man his salt and pepper hair crusted with blood, his lips and part of his nose gone, his long arms raised as he ran towards Jared who fired two rounds and dropped the zombie in his tracks. The body tumbled to the ground, even as a second zombie appeared at the corner, this one an older heavyset woman, wearing a summer weight bloodstained floral print dress. She gnashed her teeth together so eagerly that two of her teeth broke, but it didn’t slow her down as she broke into a staggering jog, her hands clutching spastically at the air, her yes fixed on Jared.

“Son of a motherless bitch” Jared said as he put her down, then shot down a third zombie, Ori was firing trying to keep the ones in the front yard off them as well. then Ed began to fire from the gunners hatch. Jared ignored the fourth zombie as it appeared, and tripped over the corpses of the first three. He grabbed the handle and twisted. Then heaved the door up.

Jill threw the ELSORV into gear, and pulled around to back into the driveway, Jared turned bringing his HK up, but never completed the move as the fallen zombie, having risen to into a crouch threw itself at Jared and hit him in the side taking him to the ground, his HK was knocked from his hands. Jared grunted in pain as his head hit a rock, and saw stars for a moment. The zombies head snapped forward, teeth clamping down and tearing. It broke teeth as it bit down on the shoulder holster, the pistol with in the holster was just to hard for human teeth.

Jared tried to break free, but the hands were snagged in his combat gear, and two more zombies were coming around the garage. He pushed his left hand up under its jaw, and pushed its head up. The zombies teeth snapping just inches from his flesh. With His right hand he drew the Mark 23 pistol, and fire three rounds at the first zombie coming around the side of the Garage, a bare chested pot bellied old man, and blew his head apart. Two more shots went into the second zombie a teenaged boy, dressed up for a date that had ended in death

Three more shots went into the muscular naked man behind the boy, the clawing of the zombie Jared was holding threw his aim off some, the first round shattered the naked mans collarbone, his second punched thru its neck, but the third shattered its skull, ejecting its brains across the ground behind it. “Your turn mother fucker” Jared snarled as he rammed the barrel of the Mark 23 under its jaw of the zombie on top of him and blew its brains out of the top of its head.

With a shove he sent the body tumbling to the side and leaped to his feet as Jill backed past him and into the garage. Mike turned and then backed up, shooting past Jared into the garage, tires squealing as he slammed the brakes to the floor to stop in time.

Ori retreated into the garage, as Jared scooped up the HK and retreated inside, slamming the door closed behind him. He leaned against the door, letting the tremors subside, Jill leaped from the ELSORV and flew across the hood to land at Jareds side. her eyes wide as she saw the teeth marks, and one tooth embedded in the holster. She hugged him tightly. He kissed her on the forehead, “I’m all right, no bites, you can check me if you want to.” he offered, ignoring the hands whacking at the garage door from the outside.

He stood up straight and looked at the people gathered around the vehicles in his garage. His garage, it felt odd in a way to think in terms of his owning a place after a year of living on the road. “Okay get all the weapons, ammo and food upstairs, Jill you help Margo to the guest room.” Jared said, every one got into motion grabbing packs, boxes and bags. Jared grabbed his own pack and then with Ori Behind him he entered the house. He knew Daws would have had the placed closed up when they left, but Jared, already having been surprised once today, wasn’t about to take chances on the house being empty. Ten minutes later he was satisfied that the house was clear.

With Margo and Ayesha settled in the Guest Room, Jared split every one else up evenly between the master bedroom and Eric’s old room. while they got settled in, he and Ori attacked the stair case problem. In the end they drilled a hole in each step, then pried the steps up, running a rope thru the holes and left the steps in place, lightly tacked in. if the undead got inside, all they had to do was yank the rope and the steps would come free leaving a gaping hole, which would keep the zombies on the ground floor.

Ori sat back on his heels, his back against the wall, and smiled. “ you realize we left here a year and two months ago, to keep from being trapped in this very house, now we are back and trapped this house, is that irony or what” He said with a slight smile.

“When did you learn big words like Irony” Jared asked.

“I’ve had a lot of time and only a dictionary to read since the world died.” Ori replied, as Jared walked to the arch that led into the living room, for a moment memories hovered like ghosts in the room. Mark had sat there, telling them about Sharons parents being missing, Chris had sat over there, talking about how he had shot down his undead future in-laws and hid the news from Shelly, they had been so badly chewed on, they were unrecognizable. He smiled as he remembered Bridget, Sharon and Mary decide to play matchmaker.

“I miss Mark too,” Ori said from behind him. “and Chris, and Steve. But at least Chris and Steve are still alive” Ori didn’t have to add the for now part. Jared was thinking it himself.

“You know most of the people still out there are desperate by now,” Jared commented, changing the subject, before he could become depressed, he gazed the plywood covered window in the living room. Thinking about what was just beyond the thin pane of glass and plywood, “there are people starving to death, that have food in plenty around them. They just don’t know where to look or have the manpower and ammo to go get it”

“Or the balls to walk out into that shit” Ori pointed out, Jared nodded in agreement. “plus some people, I can name names too, think they have to eat the huge wasteful meals, they have always eaten instead of just eating to stay alive and preserve their food.”

Jared nodded at that, there had been some tension on the Trek to Sullivan, when Jared had insisted that people stop eating three MRE’s a day, a single MRE was designed to provide a full days calories in one package. It was simply wasteful to shovel three MRE’s a day into their mouths out of habit.

“Speaking of food, I have four MRE’s in my pack” Jared said, “what’s your count?”

“six, plus the two cases we carried, and if Jill, mike, Ryan and Ed have the three we keep urging every one to carry, plus the few foodstuffs we loaded into the ELSORV’s before we left the Strip center, we have more than enough to sit here for a couple of weeks. Your Dog Nibbler has enough dog food for two months, which I think is sad the dog has more food than we do.” Ori said with an unseen grin.

“your more than welcome to try and get her to share” Jared responded, looking back and up the stairs, where the dog was doing its best to suck up to Jill. it must have finally accepted that Jared liked Jill and wasn’t about to turn her out, so the dog was making nice to the human female. He smiled at that thought. Jill as Alpha bitch, now there was a picture, not one he would share with her, if he valued his testicles and his life.

“hey you guys need to come look at this” Paddy said from the top of the stairs, he had seemed to calm down some once he was inside a building again.
“now that’s a sight I really didn’t want to see” Ori muttered a moment later as they looked out the window of Erics old bedroom. The yard was filling up, and the field across the way was dotted with zombies coming to join the party. Jared didn’t have to walk into his old bedroom to look out into the back to know it looked the same way.

“okay don’t any one panic, help is on the way, it might take a couple of days to get here, but unless the undead bring bombs and blow the house down, they wont be able to get at us.” Jared assured the men in the room, only absently noting how Ed hovered near Paddy, I wonder….. naw none of your business Jared told himself.

besides Ed was one stand up guy regardless of his orientation, and if Paddy swung that way Jared was more than happy for His friend. Though it was kind of funny with Paddy being four eleven or five foot and Ed being six foot and some odd inches. He saw Ori had noticed it to, and judging by the grin that came and went Ori had thought of the same jokes that had flowed thru Jareds mind.

“lets see if Daws left any of the gear down in the basement, if he didn’t touch the company stocks, we should have enough gear to set up Margo, Ayesha and Paddy with the basics.” Jared said, as he waved at Ori to Follow him downstairs, Nibbler bounded happily out of the room where Jill was talking to margo and trotted down the stairs behind them.

“I think I want to find me a Mastiff, in an emergency I can ride it like a horse” Ori remarked, as they entered the basement. Jared panned his flashlight around the large room and saw that Daws hadn’t taken the all the extra camping gear, after all. They went through the gear and made three piles on the ground, then loaded each pack.

Once they were finished Ori, eyed the dog for a moment. “ you know that this place wont hold up to a few hundred of those things beating on the windows and doors right.” He said after a moment.

“I know there’s a chance they can get in, but Ronny will back after Dawn and will relay our situation to Daws, all we have to do is wait Ori, that’s it. Even if they some how get in, we just retreat upstairs.”

Ori nodded, he wasn’t happy about being trapped inside, that had been the whole point on the nomadic idea, and it had worked, but it was also dependent on fuel. And that was something they were low on.

“okay so question, whats your plans for when we get back, I mean your serious plan.” Ori asked suddenly, like every one else he had heard Jared talk about grabbing a boat and finding a tropical island to live on.

“find a boat and …..” Jared started then stopped. “ honestly I don’t know, Id love to see the Rockies, there was always more country there than towns, maybe head north to Alaska, maybe settle down for a few years. Jill wants kids eventually.” Jared said.

Ori noted he hadn’t said he wanted kids. “ what about you?” he asked pushing the subject.

“I don’t want kids, not while those things are out there, I would lose it completely if I had kids and they got eaten.” Jared responded, “ I’ve honestly thought about that wack jobs Parks idea, about nerve gas possible working on zombies. If it does, we could clear whole cities with no problems Ori. oh we could use a nuke and have Ronny fly a bomber over each city we wanted gone, but then we lose everything in that city that we might be able to use eventually.”

“how much thought have you put into this” Ori asked not really surprised, Jared was famous for not sharing his thoughts till he was ready.

“a lot, I think there might be a thousand people on Sullivan in a year or two, maybe more. But Im going with a thousand, when that happens, we can hit places and take manufacturing equipment out that we can use, we can set up a group at a mine or an oil well. we can strip a small town of all the machinery and gear we might need, and store stuff we cant use just yet. There’s no real reason we have to end up hunting moose naked with sharp sticks in ten years.”

Ori smiled at that. “ I don’t mind that part, I’ve hunted naked a few times” Ori said, Jared only laughed.

“I know, I remember that time the Sheriff dropped by our camp to warn us to be on the look out for a naked hunter.” Jared said with a smile.

“how was I to know some senior citizen women’s group was out bird watching where we hunted.” Ori complained with a grin. “if they didn’t have a strong enough heart to see me in all my glory that’s not my problem.” He added, as Jared laughed. “ but back to your dreams of the future”

“what I plan on doing personally, is let someone else take over, and then Jill and I will figure out what we are going to do, that’s about as honest as I can be. I never wanted to be in charge of any one Ori.” Jared said, as he added a hundred foot coil of rope to the pack in front of him.

“I know, but you’ve always been our leader, you were the boss of the company, you were our NCO for while, and even just casually we all followed your lead, maybe we were just lazy, I mean I would make a much better leader, first I would have banned womens clothing.” Ori said with a laugh.

“I think your channeling Ronny now” Jared commented, his grin fading after a second.

“Maybe, but you know that once you walk away, the rest of the Dirty Dozen will walk away too, right” Ori said.

“don’t do that Ori, you guys are the reason this has worked out, besides I might just make you the supreme leader, have to get you some thick black glasses and call you general, but you might fit the part. But seriously, I really want to head to a tropical island before I get to old to kill the undead. And almost getting bitten today, just underscored for me, just how much I want to find someplace sunny, with clear blue water, and white sandy beaches.” Jared said

Ori was silent for a moment, he was serious himself, when Jared left so would the dirty dozen, they wouldn’t follow some one else, and Ori and the rest weren’t about to trust a total stranger to keep them and their families safe, families now that was something he wouldn’t have thought about a year ago.

“I don’t know if I would ever want to live on a tropical island, Im a mountain boy myself.” Ori said, as he gathered up the two packs in front of him. “ Lets get these upstairs. I don’t want to be down here if the undead break in.” Ori said. Jared nodded and took up the last pack. He looked around the room. and realized it was like a museum display of what the world had been like before the 23rd of June 2010, and realized he missed it, warts and all.
Mary strapped in as Ronny sat down in the pilots seat, the sun was just rising, the sky a glorious pink and rose, the wispy clouds lit with a golden light. “okay do the preflight” Ronny said suddenly.

“You cant be serious” Mary replied.

“I am serious, Ill do the take off but your flying today, Ill only take over if theres a problem or once we get over Jareds old house. You learn better hands on.” Ronny replied with a slight smile as he strapped in, and looked at Justin who was pale as a sheet now.

“don’t worry Justin, she has never had a car wreck, she should do fine” Ronny told him.

“sure no problem, she never had to worry about her car falling twenty thousand feet.” Justin muttered.

“don’t worry the whole trick to flying is to miss the ground.” Ronny told him.

“oh I feel so much better now” Justin said, then laughed shakily as he strapped in, he wasn’t a fan of flying at the best of times, being in a plane with Ronny who was arguably a pilot, didn’t make him feel more confident in the flimsy wings keeping them in the air.

Moments later he heard the engine cough to life, after a moment it settled into a steady roar, the brakes were released and the plane began to roll down the empty street gaining speed. Justin eyed his bag, wondering if he could get out a syringe and a sedative in time to be unconscious before the plane left the ground.

Ronny glanced back at the pale-faced Paramedic and grinned, “I think he might need a puke bag” he told Mary who shushed him.

“Don’t be an asshole, Jared doesn’t like to fly either.” Mary reminded him.

“oh I know, but he at least had a helicopter shot out from under him.” Ronny said, as he applied more power, and felt the aircraft get lighter, ready to leave the earth and climb.

“ladies and gentleman, thank you for flying apocalypse air, your choice for the zombie challenged airways, today’s flight will last only thirty minutes, at an altitude of 3000 feet, please remain strapped in and in case of a crash, pray loudly then scream. Thank you and have a good flight” Ronny said as he pulled back the stick and the plane soared up and away from the roadway.

They climbed steadily as they flew over Clarksville, finally Ronny passed the stick over to Mary. Who nervously took over, “ just relax, follow the heading, its like driving a car, just scan the instruments in the order I’ve taught you. you don’t have to stare out the windshield or at the instrument panel.” Ronny said calmly, watching as she relaxed slowly.

“that’s it” he said after a moment, leaning back and studying the weather Radar, if he understood it correctly there was a storm to the east heading their way, but again if he understood the read out, it was slow and might be here by this afternoon.

“how are you doing back there” he called back to Justin.

“Im still conscious damn the bad luck” Justin replied.

Ronny chuckled, “ don’t sweat it man, if we crash there will only be a few minutes of screaming before we hit the ground, you wont feel a thing.”

“any one tell you that you’re a real asshole” Justin replied.

“I do all the time” mary called out. “when we get back I have something for you. its called a strap.”

“oooh baby, I was starting to think you were getting soft on me.” Ronny replied with a wicked smiled, then fell silent as he studied the instruments for a moment. “your doing good, really good.”
The minutes ticked by and finally Ronny took over the controls, after letting Mary bank and line up on the new heading. He began to shed altitude, till he reached a hundred fifty feet, and flew low over the town of Goodletsville.

“Jared Im on approach, stand by for company….” Ronny said then fell silent as he flew over fields full of undead. All heading towards Jared’s house.

“ You might want to reconsider landing unless your brought Cluster bombs and napalm, we have a lot of company already.” Jared voice said as it erupted from the headphones abruptly.

“ I see that,” Ronny said calmly, “Daws should be on his way by now, so keep your head down and stay safe” Ronny said as he buzzed the undead on the road then pulled up and turned back towards Clarksville.

“hang on brother, the Calvary is just over the hill” Ronny muttered to himself,

“what’s going on, I thought we were landing” Justin said totally unaware of the conversation.

“Sorry forgot you didn’t have headphones, theres a butt load of undead around the house, so we are going back to the camp.” Ronny said hating that but there wasn’t a thing he could do from the air, unless he could figure out how to fly a C130 and drop a few vehicles on the undead out the back ramp.

“sorry Justin looks like you get to fly again soon” Ronny said, silently hoping that they wouldn’t be flying back to pick up bodies.

Jared watched out the window, as the plane vanished back North. Wishing that he could have gotten at least the women on board, not letting his thoughts show he turned to Ori, “hows it holding up down there?” he asked,

“so far its holding, but I don’t know for how long, some of them are pulling on the plywood over the windows, whether its on purpose or not I guess doesn’t matter. But sooner or later they will pull the ply wood sheets off the windows, and once they do…..” Ori said falling silent, not really wanting to say it. “Mikes on watch at the stair case, I didn’t see any reason to have any one at the windows, we know theres a lot out there already” Ori added, Jared nodded in agreement, though he would have chosen some one other than Mike, which reminded him that he needed to have a long overdue talk with Mike about his problems.

“Lets not put Paddy on watch just yet, Its not that I don’t trust him, but I don’t trust his skill level. He might freeze, or just blow thru a magazine if they get in, and I don’t see any reason to waste ammo till we have too.” Jared commented.

“Didn’t plan on it, but we might want to consider thinning the herd out some, though to be honest I’m not sure if that will really do anything other than draw even more. Best guess, is there are a few hundred outside right now.” Ori said, rubbing his hand thru his hair rapidly. A sure sign he was nervous as hell.

“Unless they can take down the load bearing walls, we should be safe up here. Till Daws reaches us, but lets make sure the Garage and basement doors are sealed shut.” Jared said, he didn’t want undead in the basement, for no other reason than when they came back to clear out the equipment still in the basement, they at least wouldn’t have to worry about that room. the garage though, once it had been an old barn, and if needs be they could climb up into the attic and beat a hole thru the wall to access the old hayloft which Jared had turned into a storage and workroom, from there they could get into the ELSORVS and get the hell out of dodge assuming the vehicles could push thru the crowd outside.

“Take Ryan with you, no one goes anywhere with out a buddy okay” Jared told Ori as he started to leave.

“no argument from me, that way I don’t have to out run the undead just who ever is with me.” Ori commented with a strained laugh as he left the room.

“well we can guess who Ed will partner with” Jill said entering at that moment.

Jared chuckled, “you noticed it too, then” Jared asked, Jill nodded smiling the whole time.

“I don’t know if Paddy has picked up on Eds interest, but Id say he will soon enough.” Jill said as she sat down on the bed. “ I wish we had been together before the world died and the power went off. I would have loved to have woken up in this bed and breakfast a few times.” She said patting the mattress.

“I did love that bed” Jared replied as he sat beside her, and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “and I would have loved you being in it even more.” He whispered into her ear.

“you do realize your sharing this room with others right,” Steger said entering the room.

“my bedroom, I say all of you sleep in the hall while I roll around in wanton luxury with my nymphomaniac wife” Jared said kissing Jill on the cheek, knowing that nothing was going to happen anyway.

“I should have stayed on the Yorktown, at least there were no wanna be despotic dictators there.” Steger said as he sat on his sleeping bag. “ your just lucky I don’t insist on sleeping on that bed with both of you.”

“Sorry no threesomes on my bed, well except for Nibbler” Jared said turning his head to look at the dog who was sprawled across the extra pillow Jared had set on the bed for her, her head was tucked under the sheets as she slept.

“You’re a sick man,” Steger said with a grin as he stripped off his boots and shirt and lay down on his sleeping bag, weapon close to hand. Steger planned on passing the time napping as much possible so, if and when those things got in he would be well rested.

The hours wore on, with quiet conversations, more to drown out the sounds of hands beating on the walls of the house, and the thumping of wood against the window frames. By sundown, every one was on edge, Daws should have been at the house hours before.

They gathered in the Guest room, and ate dinner under the light of a oil lanterns. Outside moonlight spilled across the landscape, no one tried to look any closer at the mass of bodies below that surged around the house like a carpet of cockroaches in the darkness.

Nibbler lay at his side, chewing on a rawhide that Jared had picked up at the strip center, when suddenly her ears perked up, she cocked her head as if listening then rose to her feet, growling. Downstairs they all clearly heard the squeal of nails being pulled from wood.

“oh hell” Ori muttered as he leaped to his feet and rushed out into the hallway, were Steger was standing at the head of the stairs, the rope in his hands, ready to pull the steps away and deny the undead access to the upstairs.

the sound of glass breaking and wood splintering came moments later as the living room window shattered.

“damn, I had hoped my house would make it through unscathed” Jared muttered, as he cradled his HK ready to bring it instantly into play. Nibbler stood at his side growling, and staring down the stairs, they heard thumps and then shuffling, a crash as a the coffee table was knocked over, then more crashing sounds. “pull em up Steger” Jared said seeing no point to delaying. Steger nodded and pulled on the rope, pulling the steps free.

“Well hopefully we didn’t leave anything like a person or food downstairs,” Ryan said.

“Every one back away from the stairs, maybe if they don’t see or hear us, they might just wander off.” Jared said getting every one moving silently back out of sight.

Down stairs, the undead continued to tumble thru the broken windows like flood waters slowly filling up the house. Slow rotting corpses shambled around the living room, spilling out into the hallway, and flowed slowly, staggering into the other rooms. But most began to cluster around the base of the stairwell, till the hallway was a filled completely with motionless corpses all looking up to the top floor.
*********************

Daws wanted to swear a blue streak, but held his tongue, there had been nothing but delays since they had left the camp. Between the masses of undead that he had decided to avoid to save wear and tear on vehicles and loss of ammo, washed out roads, and having to clear wreckage on his secondary routes, it had taken all day just to get halfway to Goodlettsville.

Now one of the Hemmits had broken down, Rob was ass deep in the engine, working under spotlights while the rest of the convoy was circled around the broken down vehicle, to keep Rob from being eaten by the waves of undead that just kept coming. Usually the waves had been small enough that the Beast only had to run them down, but occasionally the numbers were large enough that some got past the circling Deuce, and had to be put down with blade and bullet.

At this rate, they wouldn’t be able to reach Jared until midnight and that was if they were lucky. At least he had extra bodies, Ily, Hector and Amy from Mikes group had demanded to go along with them, and Lany, Garret, Ralph and Brian from Drakes group rode in one of the K5’s. it was he thought the most unusual force he had led, in addition to the men and women armed with M4’s, AR’s, and couple of HKs, every one carried at least one pistol, an axe, machete or sword, and now bows and Arrows. It was the fantasy creation of some D and D playing nerd with a fixation on Firearms. He grinned thinking of some of his old friends, but his smile faded after a moment when he remembered they were also dead.

He glanced at Logan, who manned the Ma Duece on the 88, or the Crusher as Rob still like to call it, Logan was recovering from the Damage that big ass dog had inflicted on his arm, and he looked as anxious to be on his way as Daws felt.

That the 88 was chained down on the trailer pulled by the HET didn’t matter much. Daws hadn’t wanted to lose the Ma Deuce if the shit well and truly hit the fan, so the Logan had volunteered to man the weapon. The next time they had to offload the 88 to clear another road of wreckage, Daws just might keep it off the trailer, and moving under its own power, even as slow as the 88 was, they would go faster with out all the loading and unloading the 88, in addition to the road clearing.

Rob finally stood on the tire of the HET and waved at Daws, who wanted to sigh in relief. “HETS up, lets get the hell out of here” Daws called out over the radio. In moments the vehicles were rolling again, heading slow and steady towards the House under siege.

*************************
it was close to midnight when, Margo suddenly sat upright clutching her swollen belly. “I think its coming” She hissed thru gritted teeth, her voice rising as she said “Im having my baby,”. Ayesha tried to keep her quiet, but it was too late. The undead had already heard her. They began beating on the stair case frame; the sound of wood cracking could be heard as all those bodies pressed forward against the frame of the stair case.

“well that pretty much fucks that plan” Ori commented to Jared as they stepped into the hall, Jill ran past them into the Guest room, where Margo was panting heavily. “ get one of the camp stoves set up, we are going to need hot cloths and water soon. And thank god for that mega first aid kit that we have” Jared said as he looked at the guest room door. Wincing as he heard sheet rock breaking downstairs. Ori nodded grateful to have something to do to keep his mind off what was downstairs. Though it was hard to ignore the smell that wafted up from below.

Everyone gathered in the upstairs hallway, waiting to be told what to do Jared realized. Though he shouldn’t have been surprised. “ Ed, I want you and steger to stand by with axes in the guest bedroom, if we have to we are going to beat through the wall into the room above the garage, Mike, you and paddy, get all the gear out of your room and into the guest bedroom, we need to have it ready in case we have to retreat into the garage.” Jared said he headed into the master bedroom to gather the gear and packs inside.

Margo, lay on the bed her face contorted in pain, as she went thru contractions, Jill knew from movies and TV shows that she should check the dilation, but had no idea how to do that, so she simply held Margo’s hand, talking quietly to the panic’d woman to try and calm her.

Jared and the others were stacking packs along the wall, and casting glances at the pregnant woman, whose baby couldn’t have picked a worse time to decide to be born. Jill had been timing the contractions, which she did know how to do, and they were coming closer together, she was pretty sure this wasn’t false labor.

“How are you feeling Margo” Jared asked as he knelt beside the bed with the massive first aid kit, and unzipped it. Nibbler lay down near by watching, her tail thumping the floor occasionally.

“Other than I feel like im being torn open inside, pretty damn good” Margo hissed, squeezing Jill’s hand so hard it hurt. “I don’t want my baby born in this place” Margo said panting rapidly.

“not sure you can stop it” Jared said as he pulled out a syringe and a vial. “are you allergic to any pain killers” Jared asked.

“no, give me the fucking drugs” margo got out between clenched teeth, almost screaming as another contraction hit her. Jared nodded as he made sure there were no bubbles in the syringe, he had a very nervous looking Ori hold Margo’s arm then slid the needle easily into a vein and gave her the shot. he made it looks so simple and easy any one that didn’t know him would have thought he had done this for years.

“Have you ever delivered a baby before” Margo asked suddenly.

“Once, Margo, But don’t worry, you can do this, its painful but easy, your body knows what to do, just let it do it.” Jared said which was the wrong thing to say, he decided as he got a glare from hell and realized, he would almost rather be downstairs fighting the zombies with sharp pointy sticks, thankfully Ori’s notorious bad sense of humor took the anger off him.

“don’t worry Margo, he did deliver mail to a Holiday Inn express once.” Ori said with a grin, an attempt to help yes Jill thought, a bad attempt definitely. As that laser like glare focused on Ori, and a stream of curse words spewed from Margo’s mouth in a torrent that Pappy Sloan would have found funnier than hell, and was actually pretty impressive. Ori wilted under the barrage and Jill half expected Margo to reach out and shove something large, say a truck, up Ori’s ass as an example of giving birth.

Surprisingly there was a burst of laughter from the other men, who quickly silenced themselves before the wrath of birthing fell on them as well.

Jared smothered a laugh of his own, as he looked at Ori who, stared wide eyed at the woman not sure he had actually heard the words that flowed out of her mouth, correctly.

“Ori get that stove lit and some water boiling, Mike, get a set of spare sheets from the closet and cut it into strips, Ed, this is what you get to miss.” Jared said then shook his head. “Steger start trying to get Daws or Ronny on the Radio.” He added.
Ronny circled over the convoy that was still twenty miles out, but they had finally hit a spot that was mostly clear and were gaining some time. He came back on his original heading, knowing they would be there in another thirty minutes max, there were no more huge wrecks. And they had driven this route just a couple of days ago. Daws had probably relearned the lesson of a short cut was not the shortest route to anywhere.

Mary was asleep in the copilots seat, and Justin was snoring in the back, not happy with having been in a plane so much today. But Ronny had wanted to make sure that he was on hand in case he was needed.

“this is Steger, calling Ronny or Daws, come in, over” a voice said suddenly over the radio, mary woke instantly, and thankfully didn’t push her feet or grab anything.

“this is Ronny, go ahead” Ronny answered,

“thank god, we have a slight problem here,….” Steger said, in the background he could hear a woman sobbing and cussing at the same time. “Margo one of the women we picked up has gone into labor, and well ….”

“get me Justin or some one that knows more about delivering babies” Jared said cutting into the conversation.

“Hang on” Ronny said yanking off his headset, “ Justin wake your ass up buddy, you got a baby to talk out of the womb”

“Oh this is just great” Justin murmured as he unstrapped and came forward to don the headset.

“Talk out of the womb?” mary asked looking at Ronny. “what is he the Womb whisperer or something?”

“you know what I meant” Ronny said grinning.

“and to think I wanted to have you children, I might have to rethink that, maybe Jared will donate sperm to the cause” Mary said with a wicked smile.

“you want to have my baby” Ronny asked surprised, as he looked at Mary. Who nodded slowly, a smile spreading across her face.

“yes, now keep us in the air, so we can get to work on baby making later” she told him with a another smile.

“well hot damn, the womb whisperer had better get a move on with gaining experience, I already have names for the first six” Ronny said, laughing at the look on marys face.

“your really wanting me to blister your ass aren’t you?” mary said smiling herself.
Jill was impressed watching Jared as he talked with Margo, he did sound like he had been doing this for years, calm and professional. he flashed Jill a smile a couple of times, but his focus was on Justin who was feeding him info over the radio.

He had Ed and Steger, move Margo around so that Jared could kneel on the floor between her legs, so he could check her dilation. Then placed her on her side, “no you two stay” he told Ed and Steger, both men had at least some training in this sort of thing, and Jared wanted them close by just in case.

Ryan watched utterly fascinated, then yanked his attention back to the hallway, even though zombies couldn’t climb, or think. But Jared insisted on being prepared, especially after a zombie had some how ended up on the back of the beast, and no one had yet to figure out how it had happened other than it had to have climbed up.

He couldn’t believe how calm Jared was about all this, but that’s the way the man was, Ryan knew. He had a way of projecting confidence that Ryan envied, Even Henry, Stephanie’s first husband and Ryan’s friend, had liked that about Jared though he had told Ryan once, that Jared was rarely as calm as he came off to others. But the perception of confidence and calm meant a lot, even if Jared was ready to shit a brick.

He walked to the edge of the stair case and looked down at the upturned faces, and grasping hands, thankful that unlike the movies they couldn’t moan. God that would drive him right over the edge after a while.

Behind him, he heard some one clear their throat, “whats up?” Mike asked, Ryan was glad he had gotten that little warning, or he might have jumped or fallen in surprise and that would be that, except for the screaming.

“just watching them,” Ryan said backing away from the edge, then walked over to stand by mike.

“I think I can do with out seeing them, unless I really have too” Mike said aloud, his nerves were singing with tension, his stomach knotted and could feel all to familiar urge to just go blank and drool hovering in the wings.

For just a moment he wondered if Carrie was still alive, wondered if she had remembered anything of her previous life, or would he sooner or later, after all he had gone thru see her shambling corpse and have to put it down. Stop it, that’s just another way for you to zone out and not deal with this he told himself.

Right now there’s a pregnant woman giving birth to a new life that you need to protect asshole so get your shit together soldier, he told himself silently, strangely the voice in his head sounded a lot like his old DI from Leonard Wood.

A sudden noise like splintering wood reached their ears, and Mike felt his skin crawl, as he heard the hallway floor creak loudly. “oh shit, something broke that shouldn’t have” Mike said grabbing Ryan by the arm and pulled him back into the guest room, as an even louder crack filled the air.

There was only so much wooden construction can take, and the mob of undead pushed by those behind them, were finally having an effect, sheet rock cracked and tumbled to the floor, nails squealed as studs and boards were pushed out of the place. Excited by Ryan’s visible presence the pressure grew, and an old stud, already weakened snapped, and the ceiling began to sag.

Jared looked up and towards the bedroom door, at the sound of wood cracking. Ori nodded and stepped to the doorway, and talked to mike and Ryan in a low voice. Margo started to panic, but Jared calmed her down.

“Ed, you might want to get started on that hole in the wall, while we still have time. Then get all the gear thru.” Jared said calmly.

Jared sat quietly, trying to project an air of calm confidence, Jill sat on the bed holding Margo’s hand, Ayesha was more alert, and trying to be of some help to margo, play the part of a birthing coach, even though it wasn’t yet of her to push, but if it kept them both calm and no paying attention to the rest of the crap going on, Jared didn’t mind a bit.

“I need some of those towels about now” Jared said, “ some one get a clean blanket out of the closet for me, and then get the rest out to take with us.” Jared said.

“are you sure its time” Jill asked, as Jared help Margo spread her legs further apart.

“Well Jill, honestly this is the first time I’ve seen her naked, but Im pretty sure that what Im looking at isn’t normally there.” Jared said absently, as he worked quickly. “ just keep breathing and Push” Jared said, he looked scared spitless and totally fascinated Jill noticed, and pale very pale. He can stand down a few thousand zombies and not break a sweat, but deliver a baby and he looks like he is going to piss his pants, that’s so cute, she thought she would have laughed if the whole situation wasn’t so scary.

Jared got the surgical gloves on, and then had steger drape a sheet over his front, as he got down between Margo’s legs. Steger, looked cool as cucumber as he looked on.

Out in the hallway there was more cracking and splintering, but Jill like Jared didn’t pay attention, not with Ori at the door, covering their backs.

Ori watched the hall sag down even more, low enough now that zombies were pawing at it. he hated to see this house suffer this kind of damage, but it hadn’t been made to resist the kind of force being exerted. Even if the hallway collapsed at the sag, he doubted seriously that the undead could climb up onto the second floor with out more of the hallway falling down under their weight.

Ed had cleared a fairly large hole rather quickly, slipping thru with lantern to find a neatly laid out workshop, and storage area. When the hayloft had been floored over, only a normal attic trapdoor had been installed, and Jared had never added a staircase after he had bought it. Ed took a moment to make sure that nothing lurked in the dark corners, then returned and began to lug all the packs and gear into the workshop.
He was almost finished when he heard a baby scream, and started to smile.

At the sound of a babys scream the zombies if anything grew even more agitated, flailing their arms as they redoubled their efforts to get at the fresh meat upstairs. it was as if they knew that the floor was going to collapse any moment and let them get upstairs.

Jared was beaming like he was the father as he cut the cord, and tied it off, following Justins directions, and then using a one of the wet towels he wiped the baby down before wrapping it in a blanket and stood up, “Ten fingers, ten toes, and a cute as hell little boy” Jared said handling the swaddled child to his mother. Margo was crying as she took her baby and held it close to her chest.

The pain killer he had hit her with the second time, wasn’t one that Justin had wanted to use, but they had no choice, she was going to be woozy, and would have to be carried when they moved out of the room

At least it didn’t take more then ten minutes for the placenta to come, and Jared had to inspect it with a flashlight, telling Justin what it looked like. Justin seemed satisfied that it was okay. Jared had no clue what difference the color and other things meant but as long as the Paramedic was happy, he didn’t care.

“We are inbound ETA three minutes,” Daws said suddenly over the radio,

“Roger, clear the area in front of the Garage, don’t worry about the house, we cant leave that way.” Jared said, as he watched Margo, then his eyes drifted to Jill, for just a moment all his objections against having children failed him. And he knew she saw it in his eyes. When we get back, I think I might just give it a go, if she wants to Jared decided. She smiled happily at him, then went back to fussing over the newborn.

While Jared stripped of the bloody gloves, and then stopped staring in wonder at his hands for a moment considering what he had just done. God Im getting maudlin Jared thought with real humor, despite the situation. “ okay folks we are going to have to move, Margo Im really sorry, but we are going to have to get you out of here and into the ELSORV, but it wont be for long, the Calvary is right down the road. “ he said as he leaned against Jill and ran a hand over her silky black hair.

He stood up right abruptly, “ lets get a move on, Ed Ill need you to help me get margo out of here, Jill you carry the baby.” Jared said leaving Jill to deal with margo, who finally handed her baby over to Jill, sobbing.

“what’s his name sweetie” Jill asked. Doing her best soft nice girl act.

“Jared James Sinclair, Jamie for short, after his dad” Margo said,” and Jared for the man who saved us both.”

Jared stared at her for a moment, and Jill could have sworn she saw a tear glittering in the corner of his left eye.

“Oh great, babies are being named after him, he is going to be damned hard to live with now” Ori muttered as he passed, flashing a smile at Jared.

“lets get her moved before your head gets to pick to fit thru the hole” Ed said with a grin,

Jared cocked his head listening to Justin, then nodded to himself. “ we need to be really careful, we don’t want to risk her tearing anything.” Jared said as he gathered up a sheet to use as a stretcher.

The sudden eruption of gunfire, took every one by surprise, the boom of the Ma deuce was a welcome sound to the ears, Ryan was grinning as he heard the roar of the 88’s motor.

“here’s the plan, the 88 is going to park in front of the garage doors, open them when your ready, and then follow the 88, the crowds pretty big out here and getting bigger.” Daws said over the radio.

“Roger, we are almost ready, we have still have a new mom to move.” Jared said, wishing he had time to stop by Pappy’s place and retrieve the farming books and canning supplies. maybe later.

“Lets go” Jared said, as he and Ed carefully lifted Margo, they had just managed to get into the workshop, when the weakened hallway collapsed with a crash.

The rest of the team had already carried the gear down into the garage, and loaded it up. Ori could hear zombies thumping on the connecting door to the house, but it was drowned out when the 88 pulled up outside the garage, the motor so loud it seemed to shake the house.

Jared and Ed maneuvered down the access ladder, getting some help for those below. Then using the blanket that Jared had wanted taken with them, they padded a seat and got margo strapped in, she was only half conscious. So Jill continued to hold little Jamie.

“Mount up, we are leaving” Jared said as he walked to the garage door, “Ori get in the gunners seat.” Jared said.

“You folks ready out there” Jared asked.

“We have you covered, but be quick, they can get around the 88, Id really hate to show up to rescue you, and have you eaten at the last minute” Daws said. “it would ruin my reputation to boot.”

Jared smiled, and waited till every one was in the vehicles, before grasping the door, and heaving up, he thanked god he was bent over, because that allowed him to see all the legs on the other side of the door, when it was only two feet off the ground.

Jared ran and slid over the hood of the ELSORV, as the door rattled all the way up. The zombies directly behind the 88, were already pouring into the garage as Jared leaped into the drivers seat and slammed the door.

“Lets go,” Jared said over the radio.

“Moving now, stick close” Rob said as the, 88 lurched into motion. The .50 hammered at the crowds around them. someone was dropping 40mm into the crowd clearing ten meter areas with every grenade. The ELSORV rocked as bodies pressed up against it

Jared had no real idea how long it lasted, it was only a nightmare of images, of rotted faces, gnashing teeth. Hands slapping at the windows and doors, weapons were firing. And then shouts of excitement, and a finger of light lanced down from the sky, tearing thru the undead, piling bodies in windrows.

“holy shit Jared it’s a Blackhawk” Ori was shouting over the Radio, “ a fucking Blackhawk with gatling guns.” Moments later they broke thru the crowd of undead and moving away as fast as they could.
****************************

Williams waited till the last Vehicle had vanished around the corner before he started his Jeep and began to follow them. he couldn’t believe they actually had a helicopter as well, he had watched the guns on the Helicopter rip thru the undead, it fired so fast that tracer rounds made it appear to be a laser beam sweeping across the ground obliterating the zombies.

He had finally come up with a plan that should keep the thing from bothering him, he planned on following the group, and picking his moment. If that thing wanted him to rush it could just fuck off. That it was furious about something was obvious, he could sense that in his mind, it had a plan and the Red head was no longer playing by the rules.

Williams suspected that it had wanted Jared to stay in Nashville, that it had lured him in somehow and what ever else it had planned was shot to hell unless the man and his friends returned. Well tough luck buddy, nothing has worked out like you, Simms, or the Russian thought it would. The whole problem was expecting Jared to do exactly what you wanted him to do, and that isn’t happening now.

For a moment Jon Williams was fully aware of just how much he had changed over the last several weeks. He shrugged it off, if it helped him stay alive and kept that thing from ripping his heart out, then he welcomed the change. But deep down inside, buried, the man he had been watched silently dismayed.

First the teenaged boy, then Jared’s, blonde friend, then his wife, that’s what the Russian and the thing wanted, but Williams knew the moment he pulled the trigger that Jared wouldn’t ever show him mercy, or stop coming for him. Williams thought there was a better way, but he had to think on it for a while.

The thing and the Russian wanted the man to suffer, to plead for his wife and friends lives, to grovel in the dirt. They wanted him to live to see everything he loved stripped away. Including his precious island refuge. And that was a mistake Williams thought, it was better to just kill him outright and end what ever threat he posed. But that wasn’t his decision.

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

Half an hour later, the column pulled into an old private airfield. surrounded by dark woods. the hanger had collapsed , and the tattered wind sock hung limply on its pole. A large five thousand gallon tank on a stand loomed over the hard stand.

Jared climbed out, of the ELSORV, watching as the teams piled out and swept the area. Dispatching the five zombies they encountered with ease. Daws, Rob and Eric dismounted and approached the ELSORV’s.

Over head the unknown helicopter hovered in the star strewn sky, its black fuselage lit to silver by the moon that floated beyond the sky. Who ever they were, they weren’t interested in wiping out the teams, the mini guns would have made short work of every vehicle and person in the column, if they had wanted to. the chopper slid to one side, clearing the runway, as the sound of an airplane drew his attention as the UV came in for a landing.

Ronny made almost a perfect landing, and the side door slid open before it had come to a full stop. Justin leaped out with his paramedics bag and rushed towards Jared and the Waiting Vehicles. Jared smiled in relief at Daws and the others,

“ she’s in the back seat, Jill has the baby.” Jared told Justin who nodded, flashing Jared a smile as he moved to the rear doors.

“damn its good to see you!” Daws said hugging Jared tightly, “who the hell is that” Daws asked Jared as he stepped back and pointed at the chopper.

“other than they helped us out I have no clue” Jared replied, as the rest of his people climbed out of their Vehicles and watched as the black hawk settled to the ground.

Jared stared at the helicopter, then shrugged, “I guess we are about to find out.”

“I feel like Im watching a UFO land, and about to see aliens” Ori muttered, falling in beside Jared.

“Hoping to get probed are you,” Ed said, having overheard.

Ori just shook his head, his hand resting on his weapons, on finger tapping the receiver nervously.

The entire group walked forward, weapons ready, not that it would have done a bit of good facing the mini guns mounted on the Helicopter. Jared began to smile as he saw six men leap from the helicopter, one about his height that looked very muscular in the moonlight, who moved with a quick fluid grace that was so familiar. The man removed his helmet and tucked it under his arm.

“I think, Jared the house is toast” Eric Stone said. white teeth flashing in the moonlight.

***********************************
Out in the Atlantic unknown to any one on the East coast of North America a Storm moved slowly towards the coast, building in strength, as its wind lashed the water to angry white capped waves, and rain that fell in driving sheets. In another world this storm would have had the name Irene and she was on her way, and no one living in its path had a clue what was bearing down on them.

4 thoughts on “Chapter 14

  1. If you have Steve pull through you need to have him telling stories about how he was on the other side and got to talk to all their families and Mark. The good part will be when he mentions he saw a crazy bastard with a mohawk running around challenging the devil to a fight. I have no idea if the time table would coincide but that would be funny as hell.

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  2. I freaking loved the part where Eric appeared and said the house was toast!! Actually did a fist pump into the air! I just don’t know if my own paw story will ever be as good and visual as yours, but you’ve got me inspired. Thanks dude! Well done!
    Vic

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    • thanks for reading Viki, Glad your enjoying it. Hopefully one day I can read your Story.

      Chris over at AUD inspired me, and Im glad and honored to pass it along to someone else. Good luck and cant wait to see your work in the future.

      Like

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