Chapter 18

“ This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man’s hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.

Is it like this
In death’s other kingdom
Waking alone

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.”

~TS Elliot

The LAV crew had screwed up every way it was possible to, Eric thought. As soon as the Stryker had popped smoked and raced into the depths of the old Resort, the LAV instead of firing after them or even pursuing had unbuttoned and its men had dismounted in an attempt to capture Ori and Jared.

His team had swept out of the fog dispatching the dismounted civilians who were playing soldier, Martinez had tossed a flashbang inside the LAV the moment it had detonated Eric and Castor had secured the interior.

With the LAV secured, Eric was tempted to turn the 25mm bushmaster against the clowns who were trying to play soldier, but decided against it after Martinez had found there was only hundred fifty rounds for the main gun. At least it was a new model LAV, complete with rear ramp and other goodies, Eric thought.

Keeping, Bare ass Bailey, and Castor the Devil child with him, to hold off the skirmishers, Eric had sent Martinez, Blaine and Parks to recover Jared and Ori. Eric had no idea why he couldn’t raise either Ori or Jared on the radios. Unless they were in close contact with undead or the enemy and didn’t dare risk talking. Eric wasn’t about to let that stop him from finding the two men.

Eric knelt on the ramp, firing back into the smoke, where he had last seen the skirmish line of Attackers sweeping towards this position. “have you found him yet” he asked over the secured com he wore. His eyes scanning his zone of control

“Negative, El Jefe, we have swept all the way to the rivers edge, it looks like Ori got your brother up and out of the area,” Martinez reported. “ I found spent brass where Ori fired from, and found two bodies where they had taken cover. looks like some of the undead took an interest in them, no way Ori could see us take the LAV through the smoke, from his position, so he must have bugged out with your brother.”

Eric nodded, it made sense, Ori and Jared had been twenty yards from the LAV when it stopped. Daws had popped smoked, and if there was a time to get out of dodge, it was then. Ori also knew there had been enemy troops to the north on the other side of the road, firing at the convoy, and troops advancing from the complex grounds to the west, so he must have decided that heading south away from the complex was the best option he had. Which didn’t make Eric’s job any easier, he thought, Where the hell are you big brother, he asked silently.

The smoke was beginning to thin allowing him to see, the shadowy shapes of men trying to creep forward. He jacked the slide open on the 203 slipped in a HE and a moment sent a round sailing towards the largest cluster of men he could see. He had another in the air before the first one had detonated.

“get your ass’s back here then,” Eric said, only barely waiting for acknowledgement, then switched Channels. “we have to in excess of a hundred hostiles approaching.”Eric ordered, there was no way they could locate Ori and Jared, and still get out before the Reinforcments he was hearing on the radio arrived and cut him off from the bridge. “Ronny got your wings on yet?”

“Roger, just finished the Red bull, ETA three minutes” Ronny replied.

“Great, I want you to fly the river first, we have two of our brothers lost out there, if you don’t spot them on the first pass, swing back and look over the compound. The enemy has no ADA, so it should be reasonably safe.” Eric replied.

“no ADA that you’ve seen” Ronny corrected. “ I’m guessing the two are on foot and lost are pretty close to you and I”

“Roger that, Idiot brothers, one possibly wounded.” Eric said, Just as martinez and the rest appeared out of the smoke and climbed into the LAV.

“Apocalypse Air out.” Ronny replied.
Eric was the last inside; he settled into the command seat, studied the screens and consoles. LAVs were Marine, and he hadn’t been in more than two or three over the years, but the basic systems were the same. He cranked the turret around, using the Thermal sight to peer thru the smoke and spotted a Stryker approaching. At least the idiots who he had taken it from hadn’t known how to use the thermal, or they would have been screwed.

“Daws if that’s you approaching my position, I would suggest you speak up now” Eric transmitted using the radio strapped to his gear, Daws had one just like it, “ we are parked at your twelve, Air assist in bound.” Eric wasn’t sure if the Enemy could break the basic encryption used in the vehicle to vehicle conversation, but he knew they couldn’t break the encryption on the MBITR’s. there was a long pause long enough Eric was about to swing the Bushmaster around and hose the Stryker with the last 150 rounds from the Bushmaster.

“ This is Daws, glad to see you.” the voice in his ear was definitely Daws.

Eric smiled, they were going to have to work on com sec, codes and phrases later, this was getting stupid, trying to figure out how to get information across using codes made up on the fly. “get your ass out of here, Apocalypse air is going to take a look, if we can we will pick up our wandering boys, but you need to get back to the convoy for their security.” Eric said, knowing full well that Daws wouldn’t like having to leave two men behind but would know that Eric was right, his men were the only real trained military unit in the convoy, outside of Eric’s team. And Jareds people couldn’t afford to lose them.

“ Roger, rejoining the convoy” Daws said as he pulled past, the LAV and swung onto the bridge.

*******************************
Jamie Calloway bounded up the stairs to his rooms, he could still hear gunfire from outside, and something large had exploded moments ago. He burst into his apartment, once it had been five rooms, but Calloway had the connecting doors and arches installed and then sealed the hallway doors of four of the five rooms. Reaching the window, he looked out thankful that the fog was lifting rapidly now, tatters and clumps still covered areas, but it was much easier to see now.

The LAV with its stylized Cross and Dragon emblem, Landrys idea that, was parked near the bridge, and its turret facing across the river covering the last of his ready Strykers as it rolled across the bridge.

The Units from the road block they had erected on the other side of town to ambush the red head on the route Calloway ad thought Jared and his crew would take was almost on site. Half of them could stay and help clear out the undead; the rest could follow after the convoy and destroy it. he smiled hungrily at the thought.

“Jenkins, Take the Dragon and support the Stryker, Ill send the rest of the Mobile units behind you once we have things secured here.” He transmitted to the Commander of the LAV using the standard open channel; Jenkins was loyal to Calloway, even if he wasn’t a firm believer in Landry’s religion. Calloway rewarded loyalty, even if it went against Landry’s rules of suffer not the unrepentant to live.

Hell Landry broke that rule with Calloway everyday, he knew who the men would side with if things went against Calloway.

“On it,” Jenkins replied, or it sounded something like Jenkins, Calloway thought, though it was hard to tell since the Transmission was full of waves of static, the popping and hissing made it hard to understand any transmission. He wondered briefly if Jared’s crew had access to jammers.

Those things were just laying around waiting to be picked up. He thought, he started to ask Jenkins to Repeat, when the early morning sunlight flashed and winked off something to the NW coming down the river between the mountains, he stared in something like shock as a Plane with Military markings flew towards him, then it moved past his range of sight, but he could hear the engine noise change, and then a moment later it swept back across the bridge before banking and heading East following the US 70.

They have a damn plane, He thought as he leaned against the window sill, watching the LAV as it finally started moving and turned onto the bridge, to follow the Stryker after the fleeing convoy.

Calloway’s mind turned to the more pressing problems, getting the train and its crew back, replacing the Fighters that had been killed, making sure all the undead were hunted down, before they could kill enough people to become a problem for the faithful, he also needed to get some men over to the Train depot and get the food, supplies and ammunition stashed in the bunker, something that should have been done days ago.

Things could be worse he supposed, much worse in fact…… his thoughts shuddered to a halt as a series of explosions ripped the early morning apart. Smoke and flames erupted into the air over the area of the depot. Callaway’s face went pale, as secondary explosions rippled threw the depot as fuel, ammo and other combustibles cooked off.

Another large explosion from behind the main complex shattered windows, shredded nearby wooden walls, and even cracked a few bricks ones nearby, as the Armory and Garage went up.
******************************
The UV appeared as if out of nowhere sweeping down the river, then over the bridge as the LAV followed the Stryker. In a moment it was out of sight as it flew south over the river. But a minute later Daws’s radio chirped.

“this is apocalypse air, I have our boys located, south of the enemy, about two and a half clicks, they have transport and no contact with pissed off neighbors.” Ronny said suddenly over the radio. “ a squad of infantry are approaching the bridge and it looks like two are carrying ATGM’s and a column of vehicles with Two strikers are inbound, two minutes or less from the complex.”

Eric in the LAV mulled that over, those anti tank weapons changed everything, if they raced back to rescue Jared and Ori, they would alert Landrys forces to the fact that the LAV was no longer under their control, and that would be that, the LAV would be a smoking hulk,

No better to let it be, he knew Jared and Ori would follow the tracks and cross the river as soon as possible, all Eric had to do was find a way down to the river from the other side and pick them up. He sat in the command chair, ignoring the looks from his men, who were waiting for the order to go back, and said nothing, as the LAV chased after the convoy.

Daws laughed with relief as the Stryker sped down the highway and quickly lost sight of the complex as they rounded a curve, he couldn’t believe those stupid bastards thought his Stryker was one of theirs, but he wasn’t about to correct their mistake. “Pour on the speed Angela we have a convoy to catch up to.” Daws called out.

“Pouring on the speed sarge,” Angela called out, as the Stryker surged forward. The Stryker was able to hit speeds around 60 to 65, which might not seem like much to a civilian used to faster POV’s, but for a 16+ ton armored, eight wheeled, IMF it was damn fast.

Cole and Perry, the two newest members of the Redheaded step children, as his team called themselves, looked completely relaxed, Perry was even nodding sleepily, the bastard, Daws thought with envy.

“I think I need to stop and change my armor, after we run away some more” Jones commented.

“after we eat the minstrels” Angela called out laughing.

“and there was much rejoicing,” Cole tossed in, becoming almost instantly accepted at that point, as the rest of the fire team started laughing.

Daws shook his head, how he ended up with so many Monty Python fans was beyond him, unless that bastard Jared had stacked his fire team with them. it was something he would have done too.

His amusement died as he thought about Jared, he said a quick silent prayer for Ori and Jared safety. If any one could escape cross country, avoid both the enemy and the undead and make it back to the convoy or Sullivan, it was those two Daws thought with a grim smile. Vaya con dios he whispered.
**********************

Calloway, walked thru the debris that had once been their base, his anger mounting. Those bastards had destroyed the base, he was glad he had delayed sending his remaining man power after the fleeing convoy of survivors. Especially after seeing the message that his people had found as they had begun cleaned up the debris, spray pointed on the brick wall of one of the barracks, “De Oppresso Liber, next time don’t leave your explosives sitting around.” Bastards Calloway thought angrily.

The attackers had already scored a LAV, and that was one of the things making him furious. And now it appeared the Stryker that he had seen rolling through the smoke from the back of the complex and turning onto the bridge hadn’t been one of his at all. Both of his on site Strykers were dead, one had burned the other, had huge holes punched thru it. to make matters worse his men had shot each other in the confusion and fog, in fact they had killed more of their own men than they had of the enemy. And reports were flowing in that some of those weak in Landry’s faith, had slipped away during the pitched battle.

Even now Landry, excuse me, the prophet Landry, he corrected himself, was preaching Holy war. Not that Calloway was adverse to getting some of his own back, but there was no telling where that convoy had gone in the last hour and half. but he did know the convoy was chasing Hansons unit, trying to beat him to some huge score.

Well chasing Hanson’s new commander, Calloway amended, the same man who had even offered to work with the faithful’s compound. And I think its time we joined up with them, Calloway decided. Landry wants a holy war, and I want payback. This was a sweet deal, till those pricks fucked it up. Of course it never crossed his mind that the faithful had reaped what they had sown by attacking others, forcing some to work for them for protection while stealing their supplies.

The fact that he had set up a road block to trap the convoy so they could stop them and loot their gear and kill any that resisted, didn’t matter either. All he wanted was to kick the asses of those who had ruined the power base he had set up.

He mulled over the problems he faced then made a decision. “ Beck, go find Tinch and his crew, we are going to need them” Tinch and his people had been learning how to operate a train over the last several months, that asshole in charge of the train crew had known his days were numbered once the faithful had learned all they needed, so he had dragged his feet.

But Tinch knew enough to operate the Diesel train, that Bowden and his people had first arrived in, Calloway hadn’t wanted to use it till they had gathered a larger supply of fuel, so he had it parked on a spur further down, while Bowden and his people got the old Steam train up and running.

But now he was going to use that train to catch his enemies, if he had the faithful’s vehicles loaded onto flat cars they could get down into the lowlands and either link up with this Simms person, or if they could find out where the convoy was heading, get ahead of them and cut them off. They could score more fuel at any of the train yards, along the way.

He was reviewing the number of troops he still had and what he knew of their loyalty as he waited for Tinch. It would be a strain but he had enough troops to leave twenty here, plus the guards at the mine, and take thirty with him. And he could pick up the men he had sent down the tracks, looking for the two men that some had reported seeing ride off on dirt bikes following the tracks.

Landry sat at his desk, staring at the microphone that he had been using to exhort his people to holy war, and slowly shut it off. His dreams had warned him of the approach of gods enemies, he didn’t know how he would be able to face his dead wife in his dreams knowing he had failed the lord. But even now, he knew that Gods chosen hand, was nearby, and that his wife had told him where they could locate this special servant of God, Landry was the Prophet, and John Williams was the servant of God, and soon they would join the Bride of god. And the real work of saving man from the fall would begin.

He smiled at his wife whose spirit appeared to him at moments he really needed her counsel, “its so good to see you hunny, things couldn’t have gone worse” Landry said and began to unload his misfortunes on the sainted shoulders of the dead woman he loved.
Calloway, opening the door hesitated as he saw Landry talking to empty air in the corner of his room. not for the first time Calloway regretted teaming up with the charismatic weirdo, he backed out and shut the door, he would just go ahead and get things ready, he knew Landry well enough to know, that the man wouldn’t disapprove of taking the war to the heathens.
*********************

Daws popped his head out of the hatch as the approached the tail end of the convoy, as jones called to let them know that two friendly’s were on their ass. How Eric had managed to snag that LAV he had no idea, but it was a welcome addition.

Eric stayed put at the rear of the convoy, while Daws had Angela headed for the front of the line, he winced as he saw the bullet holes in some of the trucks, and wondered how many dead and wounded there was in the convoy. They wouldn’t even know till they stopped and he wasn’t looking for to that, he was going to have to face Jill at that point and he wasn’t looking forward to that moment.

“Did you get him” Jill asked over the radio. Daws sighed, it figured she would ask now.

That was the question Daws had been dreading, for a moment he toyed with the idea of not answering, but that wasn’t an option either he knew.

“negative, during the confusion, Ori somehow got them both out of the area, and we were unable to locate either of them in the time we had” Daws said, there was a long moment of silence. Then Mikes voice came over the radio.

“we copy, welcome back to the convoy.” Mike said.

“Roger, we will take the lead” Daws said, his stomach felt like lead.

The convoy rolled steadily thru the mountains, for once not hindered by any wrecks or abandoned vehicles, Landry’s clearing of the roads for his people was aiding their enemies now Daws thought with grim humor.

“Well it almost worked for us” he said aloud as he saw the semi trailer that had been placed at an angle across the road, so that it blocked all of the left lane and funneled traffic to the right lane, which a large truck was blocking.

Daws’s mind raced as he saw the men pop up on the other side of the truck and began firing. He didn’t want to waste any more ammo than he had to and there were easier ways to get thru than shooting up the truck. “Angela go right and hit the brakes, Jill, Logan Go left and hit the brakes, Rob you had better put the petal to the metal buddy boy, because your up.” Daws called out over the radio.
Charley Dempsey, scared spit less, fired his AK at the approaching Stryker knowing it was useless, there was no way his dinky weapon could hurt that metal behemoth.

He had been told one of the complex’s own Stryker’s and that LAV or what ever it was called were in pursuit of the attackers, and both should have caught up to the convoy speeding down on him by now. but apparently they hadn’t. Which meant he decided it was about to suck badly for him and the men with him.

Sparks flew here and there as the Stryker shed the bullets like so much rain, and then suddenly the Stryker still a hundred feet away from the road block, swung to the right and skidded to a stop, the two Humvee like Vehicles behind the Stryker swerved to the left and slid to a stop. Charley had just a moment to wonder why when he realized they had opened the way for the big military truck behind them, to charge forward, the cattle catcher on the front swinging down and locking into place, four inches off the ground.

He fired at the windshield, which was protected by some sort of louvered armor, and then the other five men with him were doing the same. The only thing that Charley could see, were sparks flying from the armor over the windshield, and the truck was barreling at them growing large by the second, as it continued to speed up. Charley finally noticed the big machine gun mounted in the back of the truck the large barrel pointed right at him.

Screaming he dove to his right behind the Semi trailer and started scrambling out of the way on his hands and knees, as big assed bullets tore into the blockade and the men behind it.

Rob gritted his teeth, trying to not to let the pain in his shoulder distract him. A bullet had managed to ricocheted up under one of the louver plates, as he charged the barricade. The windshield was starred and would have to be replaced from the bullets that had passed through it.

”hang on Benji” he called out to the teen ager that was riding with him, as he turned just enough to strike the sweet spot on the back fender of the truck, the truck spun out of position, smashing aside the men behind it, and then flipped over sideways, before sliding into the rock wall. A body bounced up and over the hood of the beast, then smashed into the ground behind the vehicle.

He looked over to the passenger side, and his grin faded as he saw the Teen aged boy slumped against the door of the beast, blood pouring from a gash in his head, and the chest of his shirt had a growing splotch of blood, where he had been shot. Rob slowed the beast and drew his pistol.

Benji, his blond hair matted with blood, turned his head slowly to face Rob, his eyes milky, his mouth yawned open. “I’m really sorry Kid” Rob said as he shoved the barrel of his pistol against Benjis head and pulled the trigger. The deuce and a half swerved for a moment then Rob got it under control, just as the Stryker passed him, then the ELSORV’s. the three vehicles resumed their positions at the head of the convoy. Rob sat alone with the corpse of a kid he had only begun to know, tears sliding down his face at the total waste of it all.

They rolled into Walnut, which wasn’t much a town, in Daws book. a few buildings, along the highway, the rest of the town was just west of the highway, according to the map, and it probably only had twelve more buildings than he had seen so far.

Right off the highway, a hill rose up, as they started past, the radio came to life. “Theres a drive way just up ahead, pull in there” Mike said. Daws nodded to himself as he spotted the drive and had Angela turn and take the drive that sloped up the hill. Where it end at a gate for the fenced in power substation that sat forty feet above the road.

Cole dismounted and opened the thankfully unlocked gate, the vehicles of the convoy entered slowly, parking so that they could easily flee if the need arose.

Jill climbed out of the ELSORV, her eyes red from crying, she watched silently as bodies were hauled out of vehicles, and laid out on the ground, Daws had already organized a burial detail, so there was little she had to do but watch and grieve for the dead and the missing.

Ten dead, two missing she thought bitterly five minutes later, three had died when the people they were riding with in the back of the trucks died then turned the newly risen had then attacked them. the other passengers were able to put the undead down, but it was a horror that she could still see in the survivors eyes.

As she stood there under the brilliant morning sun light a deep blue sky above. She felt fear for the first time that Jared might not return, her eyes drifted to Daws and Eric, who stood talking quietly with Ed beside the Stryker, and mikes words floated through her mind, Daws probably has a plan, so get safe and let them do their thing, sure Daws had a plan, she thought angrily.

She found herself walking over to the Stryker her eyes never leaving Daws, the conversation died as she came to a stop in front of him. “what happened,”she asked, her voice flat, edged with anger and grief.

Ed started to say something soothing. But Eric stepped in between Daws and Jill, and motioned for him to remain silent, for which Daws was shamefully thankful.

“He is alive Jill, so is Ori, Ori was trying to drag Jared to the Stryker, we were moving to assist, when the enemy started skirmishing forward with that LAV rolling up in support, the fog was starting to thin and visibility was improving at that time. Daws popped smoke and started maneuvering, to keep that LAV from chewing it up. the Bushmaster on that LAV would have fucked the Stryker up badly, and….” Eric said then Daws interrupted.

“we were hoping to draw the LAV away, deeper into the compound, so Eric could move up and secure Ori and Jared with out worrying about the LAV.” Daws explained, “it didn’t take the bait,”

Eric nodded, and continued “by the time we got on scene, the LAV had stopped, its crew had dismounted trying to Capture Ori and my brother, two of the crew had survived and were firing into the smoke, at where I assume Ori had fired on them from. We took out those two men, under blind fire from the skirmish line the entire time, we captured the LAV, Martinez, Blaine and Parks tried to find Ori and Jared, but Jared must have been mobile by then because they used the smoke to get the hell out.” Eric’s eyes never left Jills as he spoke

“so you left them,” She snapped.

“we had no choice damn it Jill, we were being advanced on by both foot and their reinforcements that included more armor, we couldn’t hang around and neither Ori or Jared were responding to any radio calls.” Eric said, anger and something else flashing in his eyes as he matched Jill glare for glare. “Ronny did a fly by and spotted Ori and Jared on the far side of the compound heading south towards the Train tracks, pushing dirt bikes, by then more men and vehicles had arrived on scene, with Heavy weapons and anti armor weapons, We couldn’t allow the convoy to lose the Stryker or Daw’s people, and the LAV even short on ammo for the big gun is a hell of an addition for the security of the convoy. So I made the same call Jared would have made.” Eric said, as Jill glared at him,

“Jill the only thing that would have happened if we had gone after him at that point was to lose Daws and his people, the Stryker, the LAV and probably my team as well. and we would have led them straight at Jared and Ori, so they probably would have been killed to. My call, hate me if you want.

But as soon as you get the convoy straightened out, I’m taking my men down to the Frenchbroad parkway, once we hit the tracks we can follow them till we run into Ori and Jared. You need to head straight to the camp that Jared selected and wait. We will be there by midnight with Jared and Ori in tow.” Ed told her, never flinching at the anger in her eyes.

Jill took a deep breath, she knew the decision had been the best one at the time, not the best one for the sake of her husband, and his best friend, but for the whole group. and Eric was right, Jared would have made the same call to protect the convoy too. That thought didn’t lessen the anger and the loss she felt, but it had been the right decision.

“Eric, take the ELSORV and you find them and bring them back.” She said angrily after a minute. Then took another breath and visibly calmed herself. “ and don’t get yourself killed in the process either” she added.

“Ed, lets get our dead buried, top off the tanks of those that need it, then get back on the road, I wouldn’t be surprised if that religious nut job sent men after us, so lets be gone before they get here.” Jill called out, as she walked back towards the ELSORV. “ mike get those maps out and lets make sure every one knows what the route and destination is so every one can find it if we get separated.”

Eric watched her for a moment, a smile playing over his lips as he watched. She was so like Jared in so many ways. He turned and trotted over to Kat, who had been waiting by the ELSORV, their reunion was short but intense, and then he was busy loading up extra gear, weapons and ammo just in case. five minutes later the ELSORV was pulling out of the gate and turning south.
*************************
Ily, her eyes reddened from crying sat in the RV holding Amy in her arms, her eyes drifted forward to the drivers station, but didn’t really see it, as she thought about Mike up ahead riding with Jill, who herself must be emotionally torn. Every since Carrie had vanished from the house, Mike had been distant, avoiding her.

“Do you think he felt anything,” Amy asked, referring to benji, the 18 year old from Drakes group who chosen to link up with Jared’s group, partly to stay with his friends who were going along, but also because he and Amy had become close.

“No honey I don’t” Ily, said her Puerto Rican accent thicker than usual.

Amy had actually started thinking about a life with Benji, as stupid as that had been, Amy decided, and now she was hurting at his loss and angry with herself for ever dreaming of love, life and marriage. Not in this world, not with those things out there and people running wild. She wanted to hide away, deny her feelings, and never let any one close again.

“it hurts Amy, I know it does, but you cant let his death make you give up.” Ily said, hugging the girl tightly for a moment. “if you lose hope, if you give up on holding on to whats important in life. Then it wins” Ily said with a passion that shouldn’t have stunned Amy, not when Ily had been carrying a torch for Mike silently for so long now. and she knew exactly who Ily meant when she said It, the dark, the bowler hat thing, evil, what ever it was that drove the undead.

She began to sob again, but it was a cleaner grief than it had been. one bright spark of hope filled her as she realized she might be able to at least say goodbye to Benji in her dreams. God let me see him tonight she prayed through her tears.

Amy wasn’t the only one grieving in the convoy, nor was her loss the most intense, but the tight knit group had succeeded for so long with so few losses, that they had almost started thinking that they were protected or just better than any one else.

They were a hardened group now, and nothing was going to stop them from getting back to their new home, and protecting the people who now lived there. the convoy moved out an hour later, heading south.
***************************
“Come on asshole you can move faster than that” Ori told Jared who limped along beside him, both men pushing dirt bikes they had snagged from an abandoned guard post, Ori had watched as the three men manning the post had rushed back to complex behind them, probably to help put down the undead, and put out the fires Eric and his team had left behind them. Ori debated on trying the radio but again decided against it, when they had first been pinned down he hadn’t had time.

Then the tactical situation had changed with all the armor, Eric and his men would have been wiped out by that damn Bushmaster so he had decided against calling for help. Any one that came back to get them out would have been killed. It was the Jamming that had started that made him turn off his and Jareds Radios, if Landry and his people had Jammers and knew how to work them, they might also know how to track signals back to their source, and encryption didn’t stop that. So here they were heading south away from the enemy.

Finally he decided they were far enough away that he felt they could start the bikes with out to much notice or at least attention. The dirt road they had been following had finally swung to the west till it met the train track. He swung a leg over the seat and smiled, remembering riding a few military Dirt bikes on scouting missions. Not to mention racing his own as a teenager, in the town organized Demolition derby and Dirt bike Bonanza week, each year.

Jared winced in pain as he straddled his Bike, he was pale from blood loss, but at least he was coherent, stable, and most importantly mobile, Ori thought.

Ori rammed down the kick-starter and nodded in appreciation as the Bike turned over on the first try.

“Come one Jared, lets go, you have a very hot and worried wife waiting for you” Ori said.

“Fuck off Ori” Jared muttered, as he set the choke, and kicked down, the bike coughed and Jared twisted the throttle giving it enough gas that it caught and roared to life. “you do realize, that zombies can just yank us right off these things right”

“I guess we could hitch a ride on that LAV back there, or maybe one of their Strykers” Ori remarked, as he pulled the goggles down over his eyes.

“Thought about that, but I don’t have the money to pay them for the gas” Jared said as he tightened the strap on his battle helmet and then pulled his own goggles down. “bright side is, I can milk this wound for a lot of sympathy from Jill”

Ori nodded and flashed a grin, they had sat here for almost to long in his book, he popped the motor cycle into Gear, and poured on the power, the front tire came of the ground and Ori Rode the wheelie for almost ten feet before he put the front down, and looked back.

Jared was catching up fast, and Ori frowned as he saw blood leaking out from around the pressure bandage on Jared’s leg. They followed the Train tracks that ran along the slope of Hot Springs Mountain, the tree covered mountain side rose 2438 feet above them, the French broad glittered to their left.

Jared and Ori both knew this area pretty well having hiked the AT which passed through the town, and they had known even with out the maps, that the tracks, ran down to Lovers leap rock and then crossed the French broad using the deep water bridge.

“your sure we can link back up with them by following the tracks right” Ori asked Jared, as they stopped at the rail road bridge, jared nodded, not looking to wall Ori noted.

“Check the maps, if no where else we can meet them in walnut, we should have enough fuel for that, thankfully those kind folks who loaned us the bikes, believed in keeping the tanks full.” Jared said.

“Its either we follow the tracks or we take the trail on the shore by Mountain island and ride up onto the AT. One of the camps I marked on the map for us to use if there was a problem is right off the AT, but if Jill keeps them moving following the tracks and heading to Walnut is our best bet.” Jared said as he pulled out a canteen, then tossed it to the ground, before pulling out a second one. “some one shot it” He explained, then took a long drink of cool water.

“isn’t there a small town or something near Piney mountain, on our side I think it would be by pump gap or creek or something like that.” Ori said, as Jared replaced the canteen.

“pump branch, and I think so.” Jared replied not looking forward to anywhere that might have zombies. “ I think its only a town on the map, don’t really remember” Jared said, looking puzzled.

Ori didn’t say anything, usually Jared, after looking over a map, could rattle off roads, landmarks, campgrounds, and anything else that was of interest. Not remembering something so basic to Jared’s personality was almost worrisome.

“after that spot there’s Stack house, I remember that from one of the rafting trips we ran, remember it used to be a town, but the only thing left is that old white Victorian with the black roof you can see from the river, the rest of the town is gone, nothing but foundations left, but theres a decent state road that comes into town, 1318 or is it 19. Which ever its called it will take us up to Walnut, Jill has to swing further north, before coming south. and they have to deal with what ever traffic was left abandoned on the road, I think we can beat them there.”

They crossed the train bridge, which gave Jared problems. Ori suspected Jared had a broken or bruised rib, or ribs, along with the massive bruising on his chest from being shot. god don’t let him have any internal bleeding, Ori prayed.

Once on the other side, they rode at a moderate speed to conserve fuel, Jared didn’t say much, when ever Ori looked back at him, he looked like he was chewing on his lip, as if in pain and trying not to show it. Mountain island rose up ahead of them, so named because as the name suggested it looked like a miniature forest covered mountain in the river. Just past that the tracks swung around the curve of Lovers Leap. Coming around the curve Ori spotted two zombies, who must have been drawn by the sound of the Motors. He hit the brakes and stopped the bike sideways to the zombies. He brought his rifle up, shooting left handed, so he only had to twist a bit at the waist to get a bead on them.

What really are the odds of running into Hikers you know from hiking the AT, as zombies on this particular day he wondered absently as he realized he knew the female zombie in Hiking shorts, torn brown Tshirt, and long dirty dark hair. She had been on of those almost hippys, who hiked the trail like a religion. Almost lived there. Friendly, caring and tended to mother those on the trail she considered a friend. Every one that hiked the AT met her sooner or later. She hadn’t deserved to die like that he thought bitterly.

Normally he would have appreciated her slightly above average sized breasts and almost Perfect butt, not now, there was nothing about the dirty, corpse that staggered towards him, that was even vaguely sensual. Her lips and nose had been torn off as had part of her cheek, several chunks had been taken out of the insides of her thighs. Her once brilliant blue eyes were clouded over, and her bloody teeth were bared as she bore down on him. He couldn’t even use her name, he didn’t dare. He laid his sights in the center of her fore head and put her down with two shots.

Even before her corpse had hit the ground Ori had shifted to the next target, this one a burly looking hair covered man in blood blackened boxers. His chest arms and stomach were smeared with dirt, blood and goo. He put that one down as well, then turned to Jared, “I’m almost out, I have two Magazines left for the HK. Mind letting me have your remaining Mag’s?” Ori asked.

Jared shook his head, and pulled out three magazines and passed them to Ori, then as if that had reminded him, he checked the MK23 on his right thigh, and the Glock.40 in the shoulder rig.

“What happened to my HK” Jared asked suddenly, as if he had just noticed. Ori gave Jared a worried look.

“it went flying, when you went down, I didn’t really have time to search for it, I was to busy getting us out of the line of fire and away from that LAV with the really big gun.” Ori explained, hoping that Daws had managed to get away from the LAV, that bushmaster would have blown through the Stryker.

Ori glanced up the slope, which rose to 1600 feet, at an angle that was almost sheer before it sloped up more gently to form the mountain. “ready” Ori asked Jared who only nodded, Don’t fall off that dirt bike or I will by god make fun of you Ori vowed silently to Jared. “Lets ride” he said aloud. The two men sat off once more.

If it hadn’t been, for the fear that the undead might be lurking anywhere, and that Jared was losing blood and might take a spill. Ori would have really enjoyed the ride. A light breezes stirred the trees and set the grass and weeds to waving. A hawk Stooped down and scooped a rabbit up a hundred yards ahead, he even heard a few splashes in the river as Fished leaped around. Mountains loomed over them on both sides of the river. Occasionally they could see bands of rapids, that had been fun to shoot in Kayaks before the zombies.

Riding along the gravel, they made good time, crossing the next bridge over a wide creek that ran down from the mountains, which spilled, into the River. It couldn’t be more than ten miles from Hot springs to Stackton, at least following the river, Ori really thought they would miss the convoy, who only had fourteen and a half miles or so to go from Hot springs to the town of Walnut. If that Landry Asshat had cleared the highway to walnut, Jill wouldn’t have to slow down. and from there, if she followed the route that Jared had already marked out, she would take the convoy on a series of back roads, thru the National forest avoiding most of the heavily populated area’s.

They came around the curve of the river, and sped up slightly then suddenly Ori could see a parking area to the right of the tracks, where rafters, canoe and Kayak were picked up or put into the river, up the slope in the middle of a large lawn, sat a Victorian home. Ori slowed, then stopped as he saw the crashed helicopter on the road. He could still see the News Logo on the scorched metal.

“Pretty remote for a news chopper to be all the way out here.” Ori remarked,

“Probably escaped from one of the cities like Ashville” Jared said, as he tried to find a position that didn’t hurt.

Out of the corner of his eye Ori saw movement up by the old Stackton House, he was already turning towards it, when a bullet tore by followed by the sound of gunfire. Ori threw himself off the bike, and hit the ground shouting at Jared to take cover. Jared hit the ground a second later, the blood draining from his face as pain washed over him.

“Son of bitch I’m getting tired of being shot at” Jared said as he lay behind the dirt bike and shrugged off his pack. The sniper and the term was used loosely fired another round that struck five feet to Jared’s left.

“Worlds worst shot” Ori said, actually laughing. Jared grunted in reply as he drew his pistol.

“What was it they used to teach, shoot to wound aim for center mass” Jared asked, as he leveled the pistol across the bikes frame, keeping away from the hot motor. The motor chose that moment to die, Ori’s followed a second later.

Jared was intently focused on the porch and finally saw a flash of color behind one of three barrels on the porch.

“I’m in the mood to play nice today” Jared remarked, almost thankful that Steve wasn’t with them, he would have argued about being nice to any one these days. he fired twice putting both rounds two inches above the barrel. Any one that was that bad of a shot was probably not wanting to kill anyone, Jared thought. Of course he could find about two hundred holes in that particular bit of so called logic

Jared waited a moment, but there was no return gunfire. Finally he climbed to his feet, Ori noted his pant leg was soaked with blood. “I’m guessing the shooter is trying to find toilet paper” Jared said as he limped forward, God help them if he gets pissed Ori thought, almost smiling, Jared was one scary as hell shot with that damn Mk23, hell with any pistol.

Ori moved up behind Jared flanking him, knowing this was stupider than hell, two men advancing in the open on an unknown number of aggressors. One wounded and bleeding heavily, But he wasn’t going to let Jared walk up there by himself.

“Hello the house, I was being nice, you might want to consider, holding your fire, if not outright surrendering. Because if you don’t get me with the next shot, I swear I will blow your ass into next week,” Jared promised.

They were ten feet from the porch when a man, about five seven, athletically slender, with blond hair, and a triangular shaped face stood up from behind a metal 55 gallon barrel, his hands over his head.

“Well that was pretty smart of you” Jared said as he limped up and then leaned against a porch pole.

“Step away from the weapon” Ori said, “ Any one else with you?” He asked.

“Uh, no just me” the man replied looking terrified.

“Bullshit, your lying where is she” Ori asked, he had spotted the mans eyes darting to the door of the house. He made a leap on the sex, but he was pretty sure he was right.

“I don’t know what your talking about” The man said.

“Let me put it this way, if I have to clear the house, bullets will be going ahead of me, so better fess up now” Ori said.

“Kasey, her name is Kasey” the man blurted out, “ don’t hurt her, Please.” He asked almost begging.

“not planning on it, call her outside”

The man, his voice quavering did as he was instructed, Ori stepped back away from the door, trying to keep an eye on Jared who didn’t look so well.

finally the door opened, and woman stepped out. she wore jeans that were held tight around her waist with a bit of rope, a mans flannel work shirt, and boots that were probably a size or two too big. Her long dark hair was pulled back into a pony tail, she had an oval face with full lips and high cheekbones. And she had all the assets that Ori normally liked too, in all his favorite proportions. She had her hands up at shoulder level, her hazel eyes wide with fear.

“Have any weapons on you” He asked.

She nodded, “a pistol and no I wont toss it, not when theres corpses walking around.” she replied, with that stubborn set of her shoulders and a look that promised it would be cheaper and easier to kill her than to try and talk her into giving up the weapon.

“are you all right Rich” She asked turning to face the man Ori held at gun point. Ori resisted the urge to point out they were armed.

“I’m okay” The man, Rich, replied.

Kasey turned to face Ori and Jared, “your not from hot springs are you” she said, it wasn’t really a question. “but it looks like you met them” she said looking at Jared’s bloody leg.

“oh man did I do that” Rich asked, shocked, staring at Jared’s leg, for some reason hearing the man who had shot at them become upset at thinking he had shot Jared struck Ori as morbidly funny, especially when he couldn’t have shot the broad side of a barn from the inside with flood lights while standing two feet from the wall.

“no you didn’t do that, the nut jobs in Hot Springs did that” Ori said,“ and I would say they came out a lot worse than we did” Ori said with a slight smile that faded as he looked at Jared. his anger at being shot at by Rich dimmed, who the hell wouldn’t think of shooting first with neighbors like those folks, get it through your head, the world has changed, Ori told himself.
Kasey was silent for a moment, a look of pain flashed thru her eyes, but she stood ramrod straight. “Rich wanted to protect me, two months ago, they sent a patrol up the tracks, they stopped here, Rich was out looking for food, which I guess was good or they would have killed him, they took turns raping me, then left me laying here.” Kasey, said with no emotion on her face.

“and next time they show up Ill kill the bastards.” Rich promised angrily.

“don’t have time for this” Jared said, as he suddenly sat down on the steps. “need to get going.

“shit” Ori said as he rushed to Jared’s said, slinging his rifle then drew his combat knife as he knelt and cut away what was left of jareds pant leg. Blood had been oozing down his leg, and filling his boot. “if your really not assholes, now would be the time to prove it by not shooting me in the back” Ori said as he shrugged off his pack, and dug out the first aid kit he always carried, calling it a first aid kit was really like calling a Paramedics bag a first aid kit.

Using surgical tubing he created a tourniquet to stop the blood flow, then removed the pressure bandage, which hadn’t done its job anyway. At least he had the time now to deal with the wound. should have done it once you got away, you stupid fragging idiot Ori told himself. not waited twenty five minutes or so after you made your escape.

“this is gonna hurt brother” Ori said as he pulled out a pack of quick clot. “hurt like hell actually” he said as he ripped the package open and poured half of it into the wound, Jared gritted his teeth hissing in pain.

“oh damn that hurts” Jared said weakly. “I think, I’m going to punch you, my momma always said it was nice to share.”

Ori chuckled, casting a look at Kasey and Rich who didn’t seem the least interested in shooting him in the back. Which was a good sign, or they might just be waiting to poison them both with mulberry wine or some thing.

“Only half finished” Ori told Jared, “Gonna have to do the other side,” and we are damn sure going to miss Jill and the convoy, he thought. This day just gets better and better. “Rich if you want to make amends for shooting at me, help me get him face down. So I can treat the exit wound.” Ori said.

It only took the two men a couple of moments to get Jared turned over, and once Ori had the quick clot poured into the wound, he applied another pressure bandage then wrapped it, before removing the tourniquet.

“Ori, we have to go, got to meet Jill” Jared said as Ori helped him set back up.

“Unless there’s a truck sitting around here, we can take, I don’t see a choice Jared. I was stupid to even think a motorcycle would be good for you to be on.” Ori said, and if we don’t show up, Ronny saw us on that fly by, he might take a trip along the river to look for us, even if he does hate flying in the mountains Ori thought.

“do you have a vehicle” Ori asked Kasey who shook her head. then pointed at the crashed Helicopter.

“That’s how we got here, I was a reporter out of Asheville, Rich was my sound guy, six of us got out in that thing, two died in the crash, two died over the winter.” She said, with a haunted look in her eyes. Ori understood, they had to put down their dead friends, and it had taken its toll on them. and that explained why they were still in the old Victorian, no wheels and walking was dangerous.

“Look I don’t know you from Adam, and you have no reason to trust me, but I have two choices, here. Sit here and let him have a couple of days to heal up some. Or go for help.” Ori said, watching her expression.

“There’s no one that can help you” Kasey replied. “no doctors, no people, nothing, there’s hardly any food, rich scavenged everything he could find, along the river and even made it to Walnut twice.” That admission surprised Ori, that was close to a ten mile walk with zombies running loose, not a trip that would have been easy on the nerves, Rich did have a set of big brass ones after all, Ori thought as Kasey said “ I don’t think we are going to make it more than another few weeks to be honest.” She seemed resigned to her fate. “outside of the those assholes from hot springs, we haven’t seen another person since the last of our friends died until you showed up.”

“what if I told you that we have friends that should be reaching walnut about now, and we have truck loads of supplies, you let Jared stay here, and Ill go get help, and bring back food, after that if you want to go with us, or stay here that’s your choice.” Ori explained.

“Friends,” she said suddenly suspicious. Ori didn’t blame her in the least.

“Friends, some of us are military, most are civilian, we are heading home, and taking a few new folks with us.” Ori said, as he walked over to where Rich had been kneeling behind the Barrel and saw the Mini 14, he picked it up and checked it over. Letting Kasey mull that over for a moment.

“I hate to be insulting,” Ori said as he examined the rifle, the folding carbon fiber stock was top dollar, and who ever had upgraded the Tactical model, had added a pretty expensive red dot holographic sight, and a floating rail with a tac light and laser. “ but man you have to be the worlds worst shot to miss with this thing.”

Rich, relieved that he hadn’t shot Jared, laughed. “ till I found that thing, ive never even touched a gun.” He looked embarrassed.

“Firearm” Ori corrected, and then laughed at himself. Who cared what the proper term was these days. “This is my weapon this is my gun” he chanted pointing to his crotch at the word gun, “this is for shooting and this if for fun” he grinned at Rich for a moment. “it was the way I was taught as a kid.” He explained.

“all my dad showed me how to do was mow lawns, and where not to hide playboys” Rich said.

“at least you learned a lesson about the need for firearms, with out getting eaten like so many others, who didn’t have a weapon or like them.” Ori said, as he noted the weapon needed to be cleaned.

“I want Rich to go with you” Kasey said suddenly. “I trust his judgment, even if he cant shoot.”

“but what if they show up while we are gone” Rich said, meaning the asshats from Hot Springs. “ Some one has to be here to protect you.”

“Rich, I know you would try, but you cant shoot. Its only ten miles to Walnut, if those folks are really there, you can be back here in an hour, hour and a half tops. It wont be like last time. Besides even wounded I think this guy can probably shoot, pretty well.” Kasey said, ignoring the fact that Jared looked like he was about to pass out. if she was offended by the notion of needing to be protected she didn’t let it show.

Ori rubbed an eye with his knuckle, the ran a hand thru his hair, as he studied Jared for a moment, he hated the idea of leaving Jared with a complete stranger, but Jared had lost blood, and might even be in shock. Ori didn’t really know, if it was shock, he was no medic, he had just picked up things over the years being friends with Medics and paramedics. He really needed Justin or better yet Blaine down here. Assuming Eric and his SF guys had escaped.

“and if your friends aren’t there, what then” Rich asked,

“then I find a truck that runs, lift some gas, load the bikes in the back and come back here pick up Jared, and then you two can either stay or come, because I can know what route our friends will be taking and can catch up to them.” Ori replied, as he rubbed a hand thru his hair, his nerves were almost shot. “and its even likely a plane will be flying through here, today or tomorrow looking for us”

they gaped at him for a moment. Ori had to laugh at the looks of hope and disbelief on their faces. “Didn’t I mention we are rebuilding down southeast way and we have some pilots, helicopter and fixed wing. And might even have a train by the time we get back.” Ori commented.

“ a train” Kasey asked glancing towards the horizon where hot springs lay.

“well see, we kind of helped Liberate the train from hot springs, the trains crew didn’t like their families being held hostage to keep them working. So we offered them a place to stay. Don’t know if they will show up or not, but I’m betting they will.” Ori said, as he held out the Mini 14 to Rich who shook his head.

“give it to your friend to use, while we are gone. Your right I suck with it, I’m likely to shoot what I’m not aiming at anyway till I can find ammo to practice with.” Rich replied, Ori shrugged and passed it to Jared who took it, then checked it over.

“can you ride a bike” Ori asked pointing to the Dirt bikes.

“that I can do believe it or not” Rich said. “ well assuming riding off road isn’t all that different from riding on a street..”

“no difference in the basics, but there are some major differences,that takes some learning.” Ori told him. “ don’t worry about Ill talk you through it.” He had talked more in the last couple of weeks than he had in the last year, it felt unnatural somehow. He thought with real humor.

“help me get him inside, by a window so he can keep an eye out for threats, and then we are hauling ass.” Ori said.

“I can walk idiot, it just hurts” Jared said some what stronger than before.

“yes you can, but lets let that leg rest some, Idiot” Ori retorted. “I promise Jared, I will get you back to Jill and the convoy. Just stay off that leg, unless you have to use it. Promise me” Ori said as he and rich helped Jared stand.

“okay I promise, I need to be on my feet and steady by the time we reach the terminal anyway.” Jared promised.

The two men damn near carried Jared inside and upstairs to the top of tower room, which would give Jared a good view of the surrounding countryside.

Ori pulled out two MRE’s and set them beside Jared’s packs. “ Kasey, if for some reason we don’t return, each MRE has a full days calorie intake, so you only need to eat one a day. theres four or five in Jared’s pack, so you two will have food for a couple of days.” Ori said as he rose to his feet.

“we have some food tucked away, but thanks” she replied.

“Jared I know she is hot, and all but remember you’re a married man, and after Jill kills you for flirting, she will kill me for letting you flirt. So either don’t get caught or don’t fall to temptation.” Ori said with a smile as he headed for the stairs.

“some friend, doesn’t even want to be killed by my wife out of friendship” Jared said behind him.

Ori and rich trotted down the stairs and out of the house, where Rich waited.
“okay, if we come across a large group of undead, don’t try to ride through them, they can pull you off pretty easily. Just turn around and ride back, we can get them spread out then ride through.” Ori told Rich, as they crossed the overgrown lawn to the dirtbikes, Rich nodded in understanding.

They righted the bikes, and let them stand for a few minutes so the fuel could filter back into the system, then Ori started his, “I don’t plan on going slow, so stay close, but far enough back to stop if you think your going to have problems.” Ori told Rich, and then tore out in a spray of dirt and grass.

Rich followed a moment later having to really speed to catch up. He wanted to whoop with delight at feeling the wind tear at his clothes and the sheer joy of being back on a motorcycle.

Jared sat in the chair, trying to ignore the fire in his thigh, and the pain that radiated thru his chest and side, he was pretty damn sure he had a few cracked bones, if not it was the worst damn case of bone bruising he had ever had.

At least he wasn’t feeling woozy now, as long as he could avoid in infection he would be aces in a few days. he had better be at any rate, he had a battle to fight.

And if Jill delayed to look for him, Simms and his people would reach the terminal well before Jared could catch up. And with that much ammunition and ordinance, simms could lay waste to most of Jared’s people and then steam roll over the Island.

Not to mention the problems the incredible numbers of undead along the freaking coast line were going to cause Jared’s people even if they somehow survived an attack by simms, no they needed that Ammunition and they needed the threat Simms and others like him represented gone too.

“How long have you been on the road” Kasey asked interrupting his thoughts.

“Since last July, with a few months spent at My camp on the Plateau, and then another month and half on Sullivan.” Jared responded, happy that his mind seemed to be working better now.

“I cant even imagine how bad it must be out there” Kasey commented. “what I did see last june in Asheville, was horrible, it was a total mad house. But since weve been here, we haven’t really seen many of those things.”

“its bad, but some places are damn near empty of the undead, other places are wall to wall, shoulder to shoulder undead. And they move around, almost like they are looking for people, or migrating or something.” Jared responded,

“why would they do that” Kasey asked, “I mean they are damn near brainless right”

Jared looked at her for a moment, “I think they are moving to areas were large numbers of people are still hiding and surviving. I think we are heading into the end game of some fucking cosmic battle, and we either win or lose, survive or die as a race.” He said.

“You really think all this is supernatural” She asked, looking doubtful.

“what you haven’t had the weird dreams, or noticed that those things are dead. They aren’t infected Kasey, you can shoot big holes in their chests, blow out their hearts, lungs, what ever and they still keep moving. They don’t really rot much and they don’t stop till their brains are destroyed. And then there’s, other things out there, ” He said, pausing. She could see the fear and something else in his eyes, he really had seen something she realized. “And once you run into those you don’t doubt the supernatural side of this.” Jared said with such conviction, that made Kasey turn pale, her own doubts fleeing in the face of his conviction.

She rose not really wanting to talk about the subject, that was one of the saving graces to living here in the old elegant home. Few of the zombies or what ever they were, showed up down here, so she didn’t have to really consider what had caused it, or anything else.

She started to head down stairs, to retrieve a bottle of scotch Rich had scavenged, when she heard the distant sound of motors.

“looks like some one saw us making our escape after all” Jared said, the vehicles were still out of sight, hidden behind trees and the mountain flank.

“ Run downstairs and open the front door, then get back up here, and bring every bit of ammo you have for this thing.” Jared said.

“why leave the door open” She asked.

“I’m hoping they take it to mean you no longer live here, no one just leaves a door open these days with out standing in front of, or in the door with a weapon. so if your not in sight and the doors open, obvious conclusion you left.” Jared said, smiling grimly.

“and if they don’t believe it” she asked, starting for the door.

“then a lot of people are going to die” Jared assured her, leaving out the fact that he and Kasey might well be amongst the dead. He waved her downstairs with out looking away from the window.
***************
In better days, he would have loved this ride, Ori thought as he rode up 1318, enjoying the gusting wind, the trees that covered the slopes and hollows. Here and there, reds, golds, oranges and even a few pink trees were scattered. Come next month this entire area would be a riot of fall colors.

The road wound along the flanks of the walnut mountains, somewhere below between the two mountains a creek ran, but the trees and scattered blocks of rock blocked any possible view of the creek.

Rounding one sharp bend, Ori saw, a truck that had ran into the rock face on the left, and a car piled into its rear end. He slowed watching the wreck carefully, just in case there were undead just out of sight, then speed up once he was past. Stackton road finally ran down the mountain and cross US 25/70, Ori eyed the highway, noting the vehicles scattered along the side of the road. some looked as if they had been pushed out of the way. Ori turned onto the highway, followed by Rich, half a mile down he noted a sign for a guide and outfitters shop, and filed it away, if Jill and the others had already passed thru, Kasey and Rich were going to need gear, and that was about the best place to look.

The highway flowed past, occasionally Ori spotted a zombie out in one of the fields or by a barn that was far off the road. but nothing close enough to be any real threat. About half a mile outside of walnut, Ori slowed then stopped. turning off the motorcycle he pushed it into a stand of trees with low hanging branches, “park it there” Ori told Rich who looked puzzled.

“I thought we were going all the way into town.” Rich asked, “your friends are supposed to be there and all that”

“they might be, but think about it, if they decided to stop and wait, all the undead will be heading towards where ever they are, if they passed thru heading towards our next camp site, the undead will be stirred up and walking around. and the sound of these motors will draw them down on top of us faster than crap” Ori explained patting the dirt bikes. “in and out quieter than a mouse.”

Rich pushed the other dirt bike up next to Ori’s then stood watching as Ori used branches and other materials to camouflage the dirt bikes. Rich was impressed even knowing the Dirt bikes were there, he couldn’t really make them out once Ori was done.

Ori squatted his rifle ready for instant action, “okay you’ve been in town before, first where can a large group of Vehicles, gather, any truck stops, semi parking area’s big ass parking area, near the main road preferably Jill isn’t going to want to drive all over and waste fuel looking for a location.” Ori asked, watching Rich, who looked thoughtful.

“ the only place I can think of, that’s on 70 would be near the country store, as you go down 70, theres a hill just before the turn off to the store, on that hill is large fenced in power substation, it looks big enough to hold several trucks. And theres no food in the store, the place was stripped clean last fall I guess, theres nothing left in side but trash. But the parking lot is big enough to hold a decent amount of vehicles.” Rich said looking nervous at the thought of going back into town, where there might be hundreds of zombies already stirred up and looking for their next meal.

“if you want to, hide here by the dirt bikes, Ill go alone” Ori said, as he settled his pack and tightened the straps.

Rich shook his head, “no I can help, but I’m just not that good at killing, I’m sorry”

“How did you survive this long with out killing a lot of those things” Ori asked as he contemplated giving Rich a pistol then decided against it.

“theres been very few of those things down by the house, I’ve only put down eight, Kasey two. And it tore her up.” Rich commented, and from the look on his face it had effected him just as badly, Ori thought.

“trust me you can kill those things if you have to” Ori said, hoping he was right, with that thought in mind he drew the machete strapped to his lower leg and passed it to Rich who took it gratefully. Not good at killing or not, it was obvious the man felt better with some thing in his hands to protect himself with.

“Let me try something before we start walking” Ori said as he pushed the transmit button “this is the prodigal son, calling Daws.” He waited for a minute then repeated the broadcast; there was only silence in return. “it was worth a shot,” Ori said shrugging.

“does it mean they aren’t here” Rich asked,

“it doesn’t mean anything really, the trees, and rocks cut down on the signal strength so they might not be getting it, or they might not have arrived yet, or they showed up and left already. I can deal with the first and last options, but if they aren’t here yet, that could be bad news.” Ori said, as he started walking.

They stuck to sides of the road, working their way thru the brush and trees, Ori had to explain that walking down the road just made it easy for zombies to spot them. Rich was at least halfway quiet in the wood line, but Ori chose the best paths he could find to reduce the noise ever further.

The town itself was small and wooded, surrounded by mountains and knobs. The homes here were nothing fancy, many were old farm houses, or clapboard sided wooden homes, and Mobile homes had been making inroads as well.
At on point across the road, there was eruption of sound, as the sky turned dark with crows taking wing from a field across the highway. Ori didn’t say anything to Rich, but he had a feeling that the crows were upset at undead entering the field.

The birds wheeled and screeched at what ever had them riled up, but Ori ignored it and kept moving, slow and sure thru the wood line. As the skirted the backyard of a home, Ori stopped, and peered thru the limbs at the large back yard, where some one had built a large unattached garage behind the house. A four wheeler sat near the large open door, but inside he could see a vehicle, judging by the grill and headlights, and the boxy front end it was a Scout. .

Leaning close to Rich’s ear Ori said “we are going to check it out.” Rich nodded, scared spit less but not willing to back down and look like a coward. It had taken every bit of courage he had to enter the places he had on his two trips here, he wasn’t about to back down now that there was another man with him.

Ori moved out of the wood line, looking around intently but saw nothing, and no place in the yard for undead to be hiding. The back door to the house was shut so any zombies inside wouldn’t be able to reach them that way. Any undead would have to come from the front or be in the garage to become a threat.

Ori approached the light tan building and peered inside, the back half was cloaked in shadows, Ori listened closely and heard something move in the back. Holding his fingers to his lips he motioned for Rich to stay outside.

And now that he could see the truck clearly, it was a SSII, a super scout II, with a two ton winch mounted on the front, with a massive tubular steel brush guard, and a eight inch lift, it looked to be a 78 model. Ignoring the vehicle for the moment, Ori stepped in side the two car bay, the second bay had a trailer used to haul four wheelers and beyond the trailer he spotted a pry bar hanging on the wall over a work bench.

Pulling it down he turned to see, not one but two zombies coming at him from the back, one was a kid, dressed in a blood splattered, once cute dress, and dress shoes. She dragged one little leg behind her, the other zombie was a slim, ropy muscled male, mid forty’s, half his dark hair had been pulled out of his scalp, an eye dangled down his ravaged check.

Father and daughter, Ori decided, feeling a bit sick at the idea. Hoping that neither one of them had been responsible for the others death. The horror of being eaten by some one that loved you, that… he let the thought go, not wanting to consider it any further.

Ori hefted the Pry bar and stepped forward, he kicked the kid in the chest sending the zombie tumbling over on to its back, and then skipped back out of reach of the males grasping hands, he raised the pry bar, putting all his weight behind his swing as he aimed for the mans head. the skull burst with a hollow sound, spraying goo and gore onto the floor, and the body collapsed.

Ori, keeping his bile down walked over to where the girl zombie was trying to get to her feet and kicked her over onto her back once more, then placed a foot on her throat to hold her in place. he tried very hard not to think about what he was holding down, afraid he would go mad if he looked at the child. It didn’t matter that it was a walking corpse his mind insisted on seeing it as a child.

He lifted the Pry bar straight up, and then closed his eyes as he drove the bar straight down into the girls skull. Forcing himself to not throw up, at the sound.

With that done, he swept the rest of the garage and found it empty, the two zombies had been in a store room at the back of the garage, a store room rob would have liked, with all of its spare parts, tools and other things.

Once he was sure the place was clear he grabbed a tarp off a shelf and covered the two body’s then had Rich step inside. “Keep an eye on the yard, Id really hate to get trapped in here.”

Making sure Rich was playing guard, Ori went and retrieved the spare battery for the scout he had spotted in the store room, and an electrical meter. The batteries in the meter were dead, and Ori had to remove the batteries in his flashlight to get it working, with that done he checked the charge on the battery and found it was damn close to full.

A moment later he popped the hood on the Scout and checked the battery inside and found it was dead. He gathered the tools he needed pull the battery and then installed the spare battery. Luck was at least with him, the scout had one of the Nissan Diesel engines, a SSD3 if he remembered correctly. Which was great, Diesel was better, and it sure beat the hell out of the AMC motors that had been placed in some scouts.

Now if the fuel hadn’t gummed up the system and was still good, they had a ride that the undead couldn’t just yank them off of.

The doors were not stock, they were some kind of new semi rigid removable doors, which beat the hell out of the soft side doors this one had originally been equipped with.

He turned his attention back to the garage and moved to the storage cabinets and racks, where there was limited camping gear, Spotting one Rucksack and an Internal frame back, neither were great but better than nothing, Ori tossed them into the back of the scout, both had things inside, for once he didn’t even bother to check them out.

He would prefer to check the house for clothes and such for the two, but decided against it, what he really needed to do was to find out if the convoy was in town, after that he could scrounge for clothes and anything else they might need. he took only long enough to add in a Axe, a shovel, a pick, and three Jerry cans, that contained fuel. He searched the pants pockets of the shirtless male zombie, and found a ring of keys.

Climbing into the drivers seat he tried each key, two fit, but the second actually turned the ignition. If he couldn’t get it started by the second try they were going to have to leave with out the scout, the noise would draw every zombie that were nearby.

He turned the key.

***********************
A truck appeared down by the river it was one of those old Crappy Dodge military conversions, that worked fine on a road, just not anywhere else. he remembered them mostly from the sandbox, where they died in job lots just from being driven from building to building the heat and the sand were just to much for them to deal with..

Six men were crammed into the back, three up front in the cab and a odd looking six wheeled vehicle tooled along behind them.

Kasey sat on the floor near the windowsill, looking scared. Not that Jared blamed her.

“Don’t worry, I’ll die before I let them get their hands on you” Jared assured her, and he meant it, there were few things in life he couldn’t stand and rapists were second on that short list.

The two vehicles turned off the railway and onto the road, the house was in full view of them a moment later. Jared watched as they slowed, then stopped. Private Murphy, the prick was obviously intent on paying him more than one visit today.

He rose to his feet, ignoring as best he could the pain in his thigh, “watch them and don’t make a sound,” he said as he gathered a couple of items from his pack and limped out the door.

He worked his way down to the landing, kneeling stiffly he pulled a grenade from his combat vest. Working quickly he taped a grenade to rail, then attached fishing line to the pin with out tying it, he ran the line across the step to the wall, using his Leather man, he dug around a nail head in the wall till he had enough to exposed to slip the small slip knot loop in the fishing line around the nail head, then took up the slack and tied the other end of the line to the pin of the grenade and then made his way back upstairs.

Kasey was standing in the middle of the tower room watching the raiders, as the stood around the truck; one man was standing there taking a piss, while talking to his buddies. Jared was tempted to put a bullet in his head for just being that careless but resisted the urge.

“Don’t go downstairs” he said as he leaned against the door frame, taking the weight off his leg. “I just booby trapped it”

“You were a soldier weren’t you” she asked, suddenly.

“Guilty, as charged” Jared replied, with a half smile. “why were you a anti war liberal” he asked..

“not really, it just explains why your doing what your doing.” She replied.

“you think all soldiers are selfless, defenders of good, apple pie and the American way” he said half joking as he watched the men on the road.

“I think many are, or would be given the chance I guess, all I really know is I feel safer know you’re were soldier” Kasey replied.

“now whose the optimistic dreamer” Jared commented. She gave him a very unlady like finger gesture.

“shit looks like they are curious” he said as he lifted the rifle to his shoulder, and laid the sights on the man he had chosen to die first.

Two of the men started across the sloping lawn, while the rest stay put around the truck and what ever that second vehicle was. Jared watched them as they slowly approached the house, almost wishing he was dealing with the undead, as bad as it was dealing with them, you knew your wiping something foul, unclean even off the face of the world.

But killing the living even those who deserved it, with rare exception wasn’t clean. It stained a mans soul. at least that’s what he thought in his darker moments. And no matter how good Jared was at killing the living, but he had never liked it. and only enjoyed killing once, and that Russian bastard had deserved a lot worse then he got.

A pale blond man down at the truck hollered something to the advancing men, one paused turning back, Jared couldn’t make out the words, but he heard the laughter loud and clear.

There was a little more conversation between the blond and the two men on the lawn, one, with a lightening bolt shaped scar on his cheek, looked pissed, but finally the two men walked slowly back to the truck. In moments they were all mounted back up and the two vehicles were pulling away.

Jared breathed a sigh of relief, as the vehicles vanished up the mountain. Hopefully Ori wouldn’t run into the bastards he thought as he headed down the stairs to disarm his little booby trap, then Kasey was going to have to close the front door.

Once he had the grenade safely returned to his combat vest, he made himself walk down the stairs following Kasey, knowing if he just sat on his ass, his leg would get stiff, and he couldn’t afford that.

“So what do we do now” She asked, turning to Jared who had walked over to the window and was watching the sunlight glitter on the river through the trees.

“We wait.” Jared replied.
**********************
“I cant believe the damn thing started” Rich said as they pulled out of the drive way, then turned green, as Ori ran down two zombies, in the road. the trailer, once used to haul four wheelers, Ori had hooked up to the back bounced over the corpses. With the ratchet straps he had taken it would be perfect to haul the dirt bikes.

“it’s a good thing it did,” Ori replied, as he drove slowly down the tree shaded road. Looking for the turn that would take him back to 70, the easy way of course would have been to cut thru the tree line and back to the highway. But he had thought he might spot a few places to check out for supplies, but with three houses on the scattered along the left and two on the right with a hundred yards between them, he was starting to realize this place was like his home town, there might have been a hundred people who had lived here before the end of the world.

The road ran for a little over half a mile, before it entered the middle of the town, which was only a single red tinned roofed building, the sign that had once proclaimed what the building was, had long since fallen face down on the gravel parking lot. The building sat in the saddle formed by the three main town roads, and the only other building, a small grocery store/hardware store was across the street on south side of the main building.

Ten zombies were scattered across the parking lot, turning and stumbling towards the scout as it came into view. Rich looked nervous, and pointed “take that road there, it comes out on 70, right by the Country store. Then you only have to turn left and go down a tenth of a mile or so and you can turn up to the sub station.” Rich said.

Ori nodded and put the scout into gear, it ran a little rough, and was as loud as any other scout he had ever been around. and it would make a nice replacement for the Land rover he had lost in Springfield, he decided as they rolled down the road. before they even got to the curve that would take them past the country store, Ori could see up to the fenced in substation.

Looming over the small town, was the hill that Rich had told him of, where the power substation sat on the south side of the hill. Out of the corner of his eye he saw, Riches face fall, as he too noticed the absence of vehicles.

Thankfully the man remained silent, Ori wasn’t in the mood to talk, hell he had talked more in the last two weeks than the last year or so. He wouldn’t be surprised if he lost his voice after this.

Might was well check out the substation, they might have left a note, Ori decided.

Two minutes later they were pulling up the hill and stopped ten feet from the closed gate, where six zombies had been busy leaking goo and shambling around till the vehicle had arrived. Now they were heading towards the Scout.

“sit tight” Ori told Rich, who wasn’t about to get out of the scout anyway, Ori climbed out, his nose wrinkling as the smell washed over him. The undead stunk, badly, he knew, but there were times, it seemed worse than usual, and today was one of those times.

The HK settled into place, and Ori fired dropping one, he shifted his aim, and took down another with two shots, he stepped to the side, away from the scout to get an angle on the next one across the hood of the scout, and shot down another zombie. The sound of gunfire rolled across the town, not that Ori was to worried about it at the moment.

Ori had to step around the front of the scout to shoot down the last three, who were showing an interest in Rich. As the last body dropped to the ground, Ori walked over to the gate and saw the chain that had once held the gate closed, cut and lying in the gravel. Whistling softly he swung the gate open and motioned at Rich to pull the scout in.

As soon as the scout was inside the fence, and clear of the gate Ori shut the gate, and latched it, having already noted the amount of wide tire tracks in the gravel and dirt. He felt his spirits rise a bit at that, at least he knew they had made it here and left.

His smile faded as he saw the ten fresh graves along the north fence line. oh hell he thought, then felt ashamed that he felt relief that Beth wasn’t with the convoy, she was safe back at the fort. He didn’t even try to speculate who might be buried there, instead he looked around the area. By a small white and red metal shack he saw someone had placed two storage tubs, one atop the other, next to the door. Bless you he thought as he jogged over and opened the top container and saw a note written in Jill’s handwriting. Silently he thanked god for that, it meant that Jill was still alive, the note was addressed to Jared, so he shoved it into his pocket.

Inside the top container, he saw a map, MRE’s, extra magazines, extra ammo, an HK, and Jared’s M32 grenade launcher, Jill you took a big risk leaving these here for us, if we hadn’t found them and caught up to you later, Jared would go thru the roof at loosing that grenade launcher, Ori thought, his humor returning if only for a moment. The second container, had extra gear including more first aid supplies.

He removed the map, and two MREs before loading the containers into the back of the scout, then climbed into the drivers seat, and passed Rich one of the MRE’s.

“eat up, my friends left us some supplies.” Ori said as he opened his own meal.

Rich stared at him then at the MRE, before he pulled out a knife and cut into the package, almost drooling.

They were silent for a while as they ate, Rich’s eyes fixed on the gate, and the driveway beyond, where a single zombie wandered up towards them. it had been young and female, slightly chubby, with a cute face. it still wore the Apron with Christy’s hair and nails emblazoned on it with a Christian business logo.

The only thing the zombie apocalypse had done for her was to shave off a couple of pounds on one arm and a thigh, Rich thought, but not even the sickening sight beyond the gate wasn’t enough to put a dint in his hunger.

“For future reference, if you end up on your own again at some point, always check out the bomb shelters in the courthouse’s or the Emergency response centers. Most are stocked up with at least a months worth of MRE’s for their towns population.” Ori said as he sat aside the entrée bag, and then picked up the banana bread package.

“Really, I had no idea” Rich said, between bites. He hadn’t eaten this well in months.

“You can thank 911, and the fed offering money to community leadership to stock up for any kind of disaster.” Ori said as he sat aside the banana nut bread unopened.

Rich started to reach for it. “if you don’t want that….” he said pausing as Ori slapped his hand away.

“look, you don’t come between a man and his banana nut bread, hell I might even be willing to trade my wife for a banana nut bread.” Ori said, almost lightly.

Rich smiled and settled back into the seat, “is she pretty” rich asked, “ I think I can find a way to make some bread for you, if she’s pretty”

Ori looked at him for a moment, and Rich had a feeling he had stepped over the line with that joke, then Ori cracked a smile. “ no, she’s four foot tall, seven hundred pounds, uglier than a basset hound after a botched plastic surgery job. has to shave twice a day, cant cook and has a great personality.” Ori replied.

“wow, if she has no boobs, I’m hooked” Rich replied, Ori laughed for a moment.

“you might just do after all” Ori commented with a smile, as he started to reach for his weapon, “time to finish off our hair dresser and get out of here.” He opened the Scouts door, and then frowned. In the distance, they both heard motors.
***********************

Eric, having found a way to the river, and had found a horde of zombies following the tracks heading towards hot springs. With no way to get around them, he had backtracked to town and was determined to find a way to the river further north. He hated to think of Ori and Jared riding into the horde, they would have been swept under in seconds.

As they came up Barnard road, into town, the sound of gun fire could be heard. He felt a moment of hope surge, but pushed it down.

“sounds like its coming from the sub station” castor remarked, “small arms, AR’s by the sound. And one HK.”

Eric knew the convoy had pulled out over an hour earlier, and the HK could only mean either Jared or Ori was up there right now. or so he convinced himself, there couldn’t be that many HK’s floating around.

As they came up the behind the hill onto old US 70, they still couldn’t see any one up at the substation but there was smoke rising from the front where they couldn’t see.

“think you can drive up that hill” Eric ask Bare Ass who was driving, he only grinned then nodded. “this thing is supposed to be able to do 75 to 80 degree slopes, that slope is about 60 so sure no problem.”

The ELSORV bounced, bumped and rocked as Bailey took it up the hill, limbs and under brush scrapping the sides. Eric remembered a track wide enough for a vehicle that run around the side of the Sub station, the ELSORV, would have no problem getting down it.

Halfway up Eric, slipped out with Castor and Blaine. He snaked forward till he could peer down on the Sub station. Where a Red scout was parked, and it looked like two men were sheltering behind some of the equipment, while other men tried to work their way up to the two. He had thought he was familiar with pretty much all military vehicles and weapons but that odd looking six wheeled military vehicle parked at the gate, was something he had never seen before.

Eric returned to the ELSORV and retrieved what he decided was the best weapon for the moment. They quickly worked out a plan, and then the rest of the team filtered down the hill thru the trees, waiting for his signal.
Ori, slapped in another Magazine and jacked the charging handle, glancing at Rich who was scarred as hell, he held a pistol that Ori had given him. As long as it was pointed away from Ori there wasn’t big odds Rich could accidentally shoot him. And any bullets flying down range stood a chance of slowing down if not actually hitting one of the enemy.

Rich, was proud of the fact that at least so far he hadn’t pissed his pants, pretty proud actually since he had mentioned it at least three times Ori thought as he leaned out and fired at the flankers who dove behind some kind of big white thing with ringed cones on it. he was no electrician, all he knew was more than half the stuff in the yard was big, white and stopped bullets. Some exploded, which was pretty spectacular as long as he wasn’t hiding behind it.

“got another one” Ori said as he pulled back behind the cover, and bullets wacked the other side as the enemy let loose with some heavy fire.

“maybe they will run out of ammo, and then you can poke them with a sharp stick or the machete I loaned you” Ori said, with a half smile. “god I miss Jared and Ronny, talk about witty combat chatter”

“sorry, I’m not at my best bantering when people are trying to kill me” Rich apologized.

“You need to read more books and watch more movies, all the good guys have witty banter when fighting” Ori said as he pulled a grenade and tossed it.

“sorry I haven’t read my sidekicks 101 Manuel” Rich replied as he stuck the pistol around the side of their cover and began burning bullets. He winced as some one screamed in pain.

“way to go blind fire Bart, you got one” Ori said laughing. He couldn’t see it, but some of the men advancing on their position, stopped puzzled by why the man they were about to kill was laughing.

“old blind fire bart, deadliest gun in the east” Ori said, as he pulled his last grenade, pulled the pin and tossed it towards the position the flankers should be at by now.

“Shakiest gun in the west is more like it” Rich said, Ori gave him a blank look. “ don knots, wild west dentist, people think he is a gunslinger, and…. Oh hell never mind”

“you and Jared need to talk he’s always quoting movies no one has seen.” Ori commented as he heard a motor roar. “ guess they are finally bringing that damn thing into play.”Ori said, as SAW opened up on them.

Eric checked his BORS, snugged the stock of the 32 pound weapon against his shoulder, laid his sights, on the gunner behind the SAW and fired one round.

There are moments that stop a battle even if only for a second, that seems to draw out for hours. This was one of those moments. Every one of the aggressors was watching the old Personel carrier move up, and every one of them saw the torso of the gunner vaporize into a bloody mist, before the sound of weapon fire rolled over them.

Then two more shots punched thru the sides of the carrier, and exploded, the carrier lurched to one side and rolled into a bank of transformers before stopping, smoke poured from the interior. The aggressors distracted for only a moment, started to respond when a withering hail of bullets from the hill side ripped into them.

A grenade detonated killing four men who had been clustered to close together. Ori rolled out firing into the flankers, sending two down, the rest broke and ran dodging behind equipment to keep from getting shot. Ori gaped as a fist sized hole appeared in a huge metal box with cones and cables, the round punched thru all four feet of the box before striking one of the fleeing men and exploding.

“holy shit” Ori exclaimed, as he heard a familiar motor, and turned to see the ELSORV barreling down the hill, the SAW blazing.

In moments the truck and the few survivors were fleeing north. Ori bound the two graze’s he had received before walking over to the ELSORV that had burst thru the fence, four men jogged down the hill, one carrying a huge weapon. Eric actually he realized,

“man its good to see you” Eric said as he slung the m109 25mm sniper rifle. “wheres my brother” he asked looking around,

“he is okay, I left him at the Stackton house down by the river while I came up here hoping to find the convoy. He got shot in the leg, but isn’t bad all things considered.”Ori explained, then looked puzzled as the blood drained from Eric’s face.

“what is it” He asked, as Rich walked up.

“we went south and took a road down to the river, we were going to follow the tracks north, there were thousands of walking corpses on the track heading north. So we came back to try to find a road to the north of town.” Eric said.

“oh shit” Ori said, there was nothing else to say.

************************
Jared stood at the window looking out over the overgrown yard, to the river that glittered in the sunlight, where an empty canoe drifted by, it entered the stretch of class three rapids and bounced and scraped off rocks, already half full of water, only the floatation foam the former owner had installed inside the canoe kept it mostly above water.

In moments it was lost to sight behind the trees, Ori had been gone for almost two hours by now, Kasey was keeping to herself, in her bedroom, no doubt sitting with her pistol in her hands, probably thinking that Ori had killed Rich in some weird plan to get her alone with Jared.

god, he was tired, tired of all this, the undead, dead town after dead town. seeing a city was the worst, the empty ghost filled streets, the wrecks, the homes slowly falling into decay. The eerie silence as you walked or drove the streets. it was there, in the cities that the horror was driven home.

He turned away from the window, and walked slowly down stairs trying to ignore the pain in his leg. He found Kasey sitting in the living room, her pistol in her lap.

“What’s wrong” he asked gently, there was something in her eyes that worried him.

“Just worried, that they aren’t back yet,” she replied, wondering how she would deal with losing Rich if worst came to worst.

“don’t worry Ori can get them out of damn near anything.” Jared assured her.

“I don’t know if I could keep going on, if something happened to Rich” she said, Jared eyed the pistol and wondered if she were contemplating suicide.

He wasn’t really sure what to do if she was thinking about it, talk her out of it, or let her do it. Well brother if all this is about hope, seems you have a duty to try to stop it and give her something more to live for. But what that might be was beyond him.

“Your are going to love Sullivan” he said suddenly. She looked at him oddly, maybe trying to figure out why the sudden change in topic. “three hundred or so people maybe more by now. half the island was cleared of undead when we left, the rest should be gone by now. kids, food, especially sea food. Even limited power.” Jared said.

“really” she asked, not sure if she wanted to believe it.

“Really, its going to take a lot more work, but we should have the place up and running in a year maybe two.” Jared told her.

“and what happens when those things show up outside your doors.” She asked, fear flickering in her eyes, with the remembered horrors of the day.

“we kill them, nothings really changed in the world, its just more in your face. we cant just walk around oblivious anymore” Jared replied. “there was always a danger in the old world you would open your door one morning and a predator, a killer, would be waiting for you. it just seemed remote. This is no different, not really.”

He fell silent, not wanting to get sappy or to go on some long monologue about hope for the future, and what ever else would have spilled out of his mouth.

He knelt in front of her, and place a hand on her knee, “I understand, If something happens to Or I would never forgive myself. Just have a bit of hope” he said then glanced towards the windows and rose slowly, “Kasey get anything you really need and go upstairs, now.”

“why” she said sounding angry, as she rose and then saw what Jared had seen out the window, undead, a black wall of them down by the river, following the train tracks. At the moment none of them were paying any attention to the house, but it was a given that some would wander up here. If they didn’t see or hear anything they would leave, but if even one heard or saw something the whole damn lot of them would surround the house.

“Food, ammo and any other weapons you have.” He said.

“The basement its safer” she replied.

“No up stairs, I can blow the stairs so they cant get up there to us,” Jared replied, he thought she was going to argue, instead she went to collect what she need, while Jared watched the horde that was moving slowly thru the area. She returned a few minutes later with pillow cases full of canned goods, and what sounded like chip bags. “there’s two cases of bottled water in there if you want to get it” she said pointing to the kitchen.

Ten minutes later, they had quite a bit of the supplies gathered in the top room of the tower, of the old Victorian. Kasey ran downstairs to get one more bag of supplies, and that’s pretty much when private Murphy decided to pay them a visit, the bastard.

Kasey stepped into the kitchen, scooped the bags of homemade jerky that Rich had found into the shopping bag she held, and turned and stopped dead, seeing a zombie staring in the window at her. it must have wandered down from the mountain and she could see seven more in the back lawn. A second later it slapped a hand against the window, and pressed its face against the glass, smearing dark goo and dirt across the glass. She grabbed her bag, and stepped out of the kitchen, pausing only long enough to grab a chair and wedge it up under the knob before running up stairs,to tell Jared the bad news.

Outside, like sharks sensing blood in the water, the undead down by the river began to turn and head towards the house, at first it was only one or two zombies, then three, then ten, twenty, eighty, like a tide coming in the rotting horde surged up the hill.

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2 thoughts on “Chapter 18

  1. Okay, still enjoying the story; but I have a question for you. Where is the continuation of this chapter(18)? I’m into 21 now and it seems that the segment with Jared’s leg wound, the girl Kasey, and being surrounded while Ori is looking for transportation has been skipped.

    Or have I just missed it somewhere in the side stories?

    Would appreciate the information.

    Thanks.

    Like

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