Chapter 24

“Those forms we fancy shadows, those strange lights
That flash on lone morasses, the quick wind
That smites us by the roadside are the Night’s
Innumerable children. Unconfined
By shroud or coffin, disembodied souls,
Still on probation, steal into the air
From ancient battlefields and churchyard knolls
At the day’s ending. Pestilence and despair
Fly with the startled bats at set of sun;
And wheresoever murders have been done,
In crowded palaces or lonely woods,
Where’er a soul has sold itself and lost
Its high inheritance, there, hovering, broods
Some mute, invisible, accursèd ghost.”
~Thomas Bailey Aldrich

Ricky Memsy dumped his pack in the corner of the room, ignore the men carrying the corpses out. “ Great place to spend the night” he exclaimed sarcastically.

“Shut it Ricky this is where Hanson wants us till this storm is over” Scotty said, with a frown. “ And it’s safer than the vehicles during the storm and you know it”

“To hell you say” Ricky said, as he unrolled his sleeping back, “ what happens if zombies surround the building?”

“That’s why the vehicles are being parked around the back doors so the undead cant get near the door, and we can get to the vehicles, its going to be fine Ricky.” Scotty replied.

Ricky didn’t say a thing, he didn’t have to. he wasn’t happy, most of the men weren’t happy. This whole damn thing was a mistake, chasing another group across country trying to beat them to a mythical Terminal that might be filled with ammunition. At least their families would be able to spend what was left of tonight with them.

Scotty tried to keep the frown off his face, the entire force was scattered between three buildings, which might make the survival of some assured if things went wrong, but like Ricky he believed they should have just stayed in their vehicles for the storm. But this was what Simms wanted to do, and Scotty was not about to argue with that hard ass.

Simms, lay on the couch in the small office, listening to the wind howl outside, if anything it had grown stronger. He had thought that the storm had passed around 0430, when the wind had fallen and the rain had become drizzle then stopped. But now it was back.

His plans hadn’t changed, not at least in any appreciable way. But he was beginning to think that it was a mistake to rely on the Militia units, not that he had, had a choice at the time. Hanson was on the only truly stable commander of the lot, just the few conversations with Landry and Calloway told him exactly why Hanson and his people had left Hot Springs in the first place.

Now there was no contact with Landry’s people, and he knew they were close enough to be picked up by the Radio Gear that Simms used. of course they could have lost their antenna’s in this storm, or they could have been wiped out by Jared Stone, who appeared to be either a lot luckier or a lot more skilled than Simms would have believed.

More likely a bit of both, I suppose, Simms thought, as he laced his fingers behind his head and stared up at the dark ceiling. At one point he had dreamed of uniting and training all three militia units up to his standards, making them his Army, and setting up his own nation, and the Terminal had been the Key, with that much munitions and good troops he could seize damn near any where he wanted.

He wondered what that thing that had haunted his dreams had planned, now that he had some space from its presence, he realized that not only did it hate Jared stone and his group, but feared them as well.

Maybe Stone pissed it off like I did, he thought, but that didn’t account for its fear, Simms was damn sure that thing didn’t fear him, like it did Stone and his group. so what made them different.

His mulled over that for a while then his thoughts moved on to Sheamus and Maggie, whom he was certain were actively supporting that thing. Thing, I’m not even sure that its real. or at least not real in the sense of being solid and able to affect things.

He couldn’t tell any of the rest of his unit about the thing, the it, or what ever, or that he thought Sheamus had, well he had no real word for what Sheamus had become. But in the last few days before Sheamus had left, he had made comments that were almost word for word comments that thing had said in the Weird dreams that Simms had been having

Down below, the sound of glass shattering could be heard, Simms cursed and sat up, shoving his feet into his boots, slipped on his combat vest, and grabbed his weapon before running into the hallway, where others were just starting to stumble out of the rooms they had claimed for themselves.

Down stairs he could hear shouts, and then gunfire, Simms checked his weapon, jacked the slide and bounded down the stairs till he located the source of gunfire.

A tree had toppled over, taking out part of the wall facing the street; zombies were struggling to climb thru the wet, broken and bruised limbs of the tree,

Simms lifted his rifle to his shoulder, and began to fire short bursts, advancing behind his shots. His weapon sweeping left to right,

The two guards, relieved that they had cover fell back to Simms and the three men proceeded to wipe out every zombie that tried to crawl inside. the wind tore at Simms, rain hammered thru the hole creating a steadily growing pool of water.

There was nothing to close off this hole, and when the storm abated, more undead would appear, it was going to be nasty.

“We need to block off this hole” Simms yelled to Mulligan. The wind was too loud for normal conversations.

“ We could pull the tree out with a Stryker and pull a semi truck and trailer up to block it’ Mulligan yelled back. “ or its almost Dawn, we could just move to another spot”

“The Strykers could make it in this kind of wind, but the trucks, trailers and cars would be blown allover the road” Simms replied, as he pointed to the two guards and two other men and indicated they needed to stay, then led Mulligan out into the much quieter hallway.

“I don’t see any other options, we block the hole or we move” Mulligan stated, wiping water from his eyes.

“ Your right, I don’t see one either” Simms admitted, “ round up some men and lets get this done I don’t…” Simms Cocked his head, listening for a moment, his lips pressing into a frown.

Somewhere in the distance there was a steady rumble that was growing louder by the minute,

“What the hell is that? “ Mulligan asked.

Simms didn’t reply at first, but the sound was familiar to him. Then his eyes widened, he bolted for the stairs, taking them two a time, Mulligan on his heels wandering what was going on.

Simms rushed towards the back of the floor and into a room being shared by some of the wives and girlfriends of the men.

The women looked up worry on their faces as Simms ran to the window and looked out. Mulligan started to ask him what was going on, and then in a flash of lightening he saw the dark funnel cloud moving towards them.

Simms turned away from the window. “get your stuff and get in the hallway or in the bathrooms, don’t leave anything in here if you can help it, but hurry” he told them urgently, “ Mulligan get downstairs and get them moving” Simms said as he headed up stairs. If that thing actually hit this building, they could lose everything even their lives.

“I tell you I’m fucking tired of all this shit” Ricky said as he studied the hand of cards he held. “We have been chasing this asshole across two states, its getting old”

“Would you rather he got his hands on all that ammo to use on us” Sam Posteen, a wiry Virginian commented. None of them were able to sleep, the storm had them all on edge, which was how they found themselves playing poker at 5 am in the morning

“I’d rather just get there and wipe the shit head out, I want pay back for last Christmas.” Ricky said “ hit me with two”

Sam dealt him two more cards, as Ricky looked up. “ What is it” Sam asked,

“I hear something.” Ricky responded, suddenly the room began to shake, dust filtered down from the ceiling. Windows vibrated, and a sound began to grow filling the room.

Suddenly the windows shattered the glass sucking outwards. Sam gaped for a moment, as Frankie, a man he had know for five years, was sucked, screaming silently out the window. Sam leaped up in terror and rushed for the door, he had faced many horrors in the last year, but this was too much.

Sam reached the door and looked back as a loud tearing noise filled the room. The playing cards forgotten were flying thru the air, and then the ceiling tore free.

“Get in the hallways, get in the hallways” some one was shouting, Sam didn’t hesitate, he dove into the hallway, looking back and wished like hell he hadn’t, Ricky, Chris, Hank, Tony, and Michelle, screaming, arms and legs thrashing were lifted up and out of the room into the Maw of the Tornado, and then nothing as the hallway collapsed down on him burying him in darkness.

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

The darkness of the night was slowly giving way to grey, trees were bent over as the wind pushed them. Malone saw one tree across the street on the inter coastal side bend over then its roots ripped free, the tree smashed down on the road, as part of a roof from a home down near the water sailed through the air and crashed to the ground down in the parking lot, crushing a car.

Malone jumped out of the Peacekeeper command vehicle, ran inside the two story brck building. Once inside, he turned to the window and stared in shock. The vehicles left in his convoy were still struggling down the road where, waves and tide, pushed by the wind washed across the road.

A deuce and half arguably one of the toughest vehicles ever built, was in the lead of the strung out column or what was left of the column, the water hit it broadside, and pushed the truck across the road, it came to a rest sixty feet from the inundated roadway, half submerged, then slowly sunk cab first. Till only half the bed was sticking out of the water.

This was no regular storm Malone decided, he had been thru tropical storms before, back when he had worked down along the gulf, and this was stronger. He watched as another truck crossed over the narrow bridge, water battering it against the rails, it finally rolled off the bridge and like the Deuce was pushed inland, its tires spinning throwing water and what looked like mud.

He turned away, this whole venture had been cursed from the start, he could only hope that the vehicles that had vanished last night, scattered by the storm, were fleeing back to the Towers, and the relative safety it offered.

All he had left were the ten men with him in this building and those still left out there on the two trucks that had actually made it across the bridge and were pulling up to the doors of the building he had chosen for them to hide in.

He could only be thankful that the families and other survivors that had traveled with his group for so long had stayed behind at the Towers; at least they would survive this fiasco.

Outside, the waves from the open water were pilling up and smashing their way inland. Buildings already damaged from the riots and fighting of the ZA, and the subsequent storms of a year and two months, were collapsing and the debris was being carried inland on the crest of the waves.

The last twelve men from the trucks managed to get the doors open and slip inside, water sweeping in with them. Three men forced the door shut, but it was only a temporary relief.

“We need to get upstairs sir” Lionel smith said at his elbow, Lionel was right, water was washing up against the buildings wall, leaking around the edges of the door, he could see waves slapping at the glass..

Malone nodded, running his hand thru his greasy hair, that was now more silver than black. He turned and walked heavily to the stairs with out a backwards glance. There was nothing he could do for the men trapped outside, other than hope they could make it to the building.

“What do we do now,” Lionel asked as they entered the room upstairs where Malone’s remaining men gathered, looking like drowned rats, at least most had held on too their weapons and ammo pouches, a few had even had the presence of mind to grab their rucks.

“We wait this storm out, then we head home, Id rather break my word, then lose the rest of you.” Malone said already feeling shame for giving up, he saw the looks of relief on their faces, and he at least was grateful for that, he had already lost to many to be able to sleep easily at night that they still trusted him was a blessing.

He was a broken man, the anger, the hard shell he had developed over most of his life, was finally cracked, and it had only taken being forced to see the results of his actions, it had only cost other men their lives for him to see, just how wrong he had been.

Funny how life works out isn’t it. The undead didn’t shake my core beliefs, but this, watching man after man die, and realizing it was all pointless, I made a deal with the devil to get the towers, when there are others places just as secure and empty of life, then I haul my people across hundreds of miles, in pursuit of a man who did nothing to me, to seize munitions to attack a safe settlement the same man had set up.

It was far to late to wander if the man who had held the towers would have welcomed them in, if they had punished the rapists in their ranks and returned the girl and then asked to join, hell there was room enough for a thousand people in the towers.

The real obscenity was fighting and killing each other when the world was infested with the undead, there was an entire empty country out there to inhabit, and they were busying playing Nero, fiddling while Rome was eaten. It was to late maybe to rediscover his conscience, but he had, and he had to stare the last years worth of Decisions in the face and acknowledge he had become something he didn’t like.

Well doesn’t matter now, what’s done is done, and I go no further with this plan, Simms and Hanson and that bastard Sheamus can take the fight to Jared Stone. And I hope Stone wins.

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

The industrial complex, that Landry and Calloway had chosen to leave their hostages and supplies had been a great choice, the Massive fenced in six acre complex had been abandoned long before the undead. By 0430 in the morning, the buildings had been swept by Jared’s people and the vehicles had been moved inside one of the largest buildings equipped with bay doors. What it had once been used for no one knew, but it now acted as a shelter from the storm.

The fury of the storm had faded again for a short time then came back with a vengeance around 0500, the sound muted by the thick brick walls.

Blaine checked on the last of the wounded, yawning. It had been a long night for him. Only five men had died, three of them from the Hot springs group. four more of Jared’s people were badly wounded but stable. Jared hadn’t taken that well. Blaine was a tough man, but when Jared had watched the younger man who had been driving the beast die, Jared had personally put the man down, before his corpse could rise. And the look in Jared’s eyes had had sent a shiver up Blaine’s spine.

He wondered just how well Eric truly knew his brother, Jared stone might be friendly, even a good man, but there was a hardness in him, that came out on occasion and god help who ever caused it. He was the kind of man who came into his own, in this kind of world. Blaine wasn’t sure if that was a good thing, or not.

Ed stirred and opened his eyes, “ take it easy Ed, you need to rest.” Blaine told him. Ed ignored him and levered himself up on his elbows, he looked down and realized he wore only his pants.

“I never knew you special forces guys, swung that way” Ed said, his lips twitched as if to smile then he groaned as the head ache slammed him.

“oh I love stripping patients down to the pants, gives me spare clothes for later” Blaine said as he rummaged in his bag and pulled out something for the headache, he passed the tablets and a canteen to Ed who took it gratefully.

After downing the tablets, Ed looked around. “ I think this is the happiest I’ve been to wake up.” He commented. “how’s Steger?”

“ Steger is good, he can thank god for buying some damn good body armor, it was better than the typical SWAT Armor, you were lucky you were wearing a helmet, you had a couple of other minor wounds, a graze on your bicep, another on your side, the rest hit your armor.” Blaine told him.

“guess if we cant have a doctor you’re the next best thing” Ed said, Shrugging off his near date with death.“ where’s my stuff, I need to talk with Jared”

“Your not going anywhere, just yet Officer Stanton, just give it another hour or two, Jared is still asleep, which is something he damn well needed after the last three days.” Blaine told him with that Doctors voice that brooked no argument.

In the civilian world, there was a general thought that special forces medics were just glorified Paramedics. In Truth SF Medics were trained in all types trauma surgery and were expected to work in an ER to keep their skills up when not deployed. Blaine, before the end, had been working towards becoming a Doctor for his eventual retirement from the teams.

“How are they doing” Ed asked motioning to the other men around him, regretting the movement as soon as he had finished.

“Stable, but that’s all I can say good. As soon as I can get them back to the Medical shelter, and all its gear, I can say with more authority what their odds of pulling through are.”

Blaine moved to the back of the FMTV and waved Garret over, the teen ager seemed older somehow after the battle, Blaine felt for him, but no one but the very young could still cling to their innocence in a world where the dead had risen.

“As soon as Jared wakes up, tell him Ed wants to speak with him, but don’t you dare wake him up to tell him. “ Blaine told him. Garret nodded not willing to risk the SF mans wrath, but he was scared more of Jareds wife.

“No problem, Jill has already said if some one wakes him up with out a damn good reason, they are not going to have to worry about having children later.” Garret said with a grimace at the thought.

Blaine almost laughed, at the look on the boy’s face, “ Like I said, as soon as he is awake. I don’t want to have to sew your jewels back on.” Blaine said with a chuckle.

Jared woke up, and lay there for a long moment enjoying the feel of Jills body pressed against his own, Nibbler stirred, where she was pressed against his side, the dog lifted her head and stared him before placing her head on his thigh.

“Sorry, you’re going to have to move” Jared said as he climbed out from under the blanket. Waking Jill up in the process, “sorry hun, nature calls” minutes later he was done, and headed to the front of the RV, pausing only long enough to pick up his Rifle and slung it across his back.

He stepped out, the cement cold under his bare feet. Dim grey light spilled thru the narrow windows high up on the walls. He could hear the wind howling outside, almost but not quite drowning out the hammer blows of the rain on the roof.

He turned hearing footfalls and saw Garret, “what can I do for you” Jared asked.
Garret stood there for a moment, not sure what to say to a man wearing nothing but boxers and an HK. His eyes drifting over Jareds body, counting the scars and recent wounds. Shaking his head he looked up feeling like a total jackass, “Ed needs to see you as soon as your ready.” He said, his eyes dropping back to the bandage around Jareds thigh. “I need to ask you something” he said hesitantly.

Jared raised a golden eyebrow in question. “ ask away Garret Im in my boxers, no secrets here.” He said with a chuckle.

God that was the truth Garret thought blushing like a total idiot. “did that, those hurt” he asked, that was the thing he was most scared of the pain. He wasn’t sure what getting an answer would do to help him get past it but he needed to know.

“yes, they hurt” Jared said then shrugged. “sometimes you don’t notice the wounds till the fights over and the adrenalin shakes set in, other times, it hurts like hell the moment it happens.”

“how do you make your self keep doing it then” Garret asked.

“I could say Duty, honor, or even stupidity and that would be the truth, Jill especially agrees with the stupidity part. The truth is Garret, I do it because some one has to protect those that cant. I do it for friendship, love and duty. Honestly I cant sit back and and not do it, and still like the man I see in the mirror.

But if your worried about what you can or cant do, follow your heart and your instincts. Scared is good, any soldier will tell you he is scared before and during a fight. Well the honest ones will. Its one of the reasons we joke so much.

As far as your concerned, you’ve stood the line against the undead, Eric said you handled yourself well at the Airport battle, and you fired back during the run thru hot springs. You’ve done your duty and then some. And one day, you might wake up and not be able to do it again. Some men just have to stop or lose themselves if you reach that point listen, stop and find yourself a good woman, settle down had have a few kids and die old and in bed knowing you did your duty when it counted.

Now go tell Ed, Im awake, and he can come over once I have pants on, I don’t trust him to keep his hands to himself when Im all sexy like this.” Jared said then laughed. “that’s a Joke Garret.”

Garret managed to chuckle then darted off.

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

The Hurricane that in another reality would have been named Irene swept across the outer banks at 0700. Buildings that would have withstood the assault in years past, stood open, windows uncovered, many already broken from the chaotic days of the outbreak. Neglect and damaged already, the many of the buildings were no longer able to stand up to the assault of the storm. They were swept away by the rising storm surge leaving little to show they had ever existed.

Inland, water was pushed up into inlets and rivers, flooding huge areas. Tornado’s were spawned and ripped through abandoned areas, sucking up buildings and undead alike.

Towns what wouldn’t normal have flooded, filled with water, the ditchs and rivers that normally would have carried the excess rain away, had not been cleared of the blockages created by debris and fallen trees, that hadn’t been cleared or dredged for over a year.

Roads were washed away, in places Bridges collapsed, rising water pushed light weight trucks and cars into buildings damage them even further, the wind peeled away roofs, and sent debris sailing thru the air to smash thru even more windows.

The living who still hid along the coast line, suddenly found their shelters being torn apart around them, they were faced with trying to hide in the ruins of their shelters or enter flood waters and reach intact buildings, flood waters carrying undead along in the fast moving currents.

Every where, downed power lines snapped around in the wind, power poles sagged to one side or the other pushed by the wind, some fell into the flood waters.

Undead were pushed through broken windows, into buildings they had never been able to enter, and occasionally those buildings had living beings inside, who woke to the wet, battered undead staggering up stairs that had once been safe and into their rooms, and where that happened blood flowed and people died.

There was no way to wholly or accurately know how much damage the buildings and infrastructure of the dead world had suffered, but what those who went thru this storm at this time found out was that it was more than enough to cause the damage to be far out of proportion to what it would have been had it been even a year ago with such a hurricane.

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

Simms stood on the second floor looking out into the rain, his eyes focused on the ruins of the building across the street where twenty two men and their families had been bunked. Where a three story modern building had stood, there was now a pile of rubble, sticking up out of the flood waters.

He had split the entire group between three buildings to lessen the risks. But in the dim light of day, faced with the destruction of the building, he wanted to question his decision, even though at the time it had been the best option available..

“Ready sir” Mulligan said, appearing in the doorway.

Simms nodded, picked up his pack and headed for the stairwell. At the bottom of the stairs the floodwaters were about waist deep, Simms didn’t hesitate as he stepped into the water. Surprised it was at how cold it was, he refused to thing about all the chemicals, trash and who knew what else was in the water.

The bands of storms that had cross the area last night, giving them respite between the storms had turned into one massive storm that had struck the area around 0500 and had so far failed to move out.

He waded thru the water to Hanson who stood before the floor to ceiling windows that the tornado had sent debris through. He barely glanced at the VW Bug that had been placed neatly in the middle of the lobby. Tornados did some of the oddest things.

“You ready for this “ he asked the older man, who looked pale and shaken, he had lost so many in a matter of moments that it had shaken him to the core.

“Ready as Ill ever be,” Hanson replied.

Simms turned to the men gathered in the Lobby, all of them looked nervous, and he didn’t blame them a bit, the storm still raged, the undead were still out there and this was going to be dangerous. But to stay in a building they could no longer secure, hoping no undead could move about was asking to die.

“All right you know what you have to do, we secure the vehicles first, move them into position so that the men and women upstairs can load the gear, after that we help the rest of our people in the Business tower next door.” Simms said.

“What about the people trapped across the street” someone asked angrily.

“We will take a look, but don’t hold your breath people. We don’t have the manpower, the time or the gear to rescue any one trapped to deeply under the debris.” Simms replied.

“Sure we don’t, its to important to reach the terminal” the same man said, stepping forward, broad shouldered, once pleasant faced but a year of surviving, combat and near starvation had made him hard.

“in part yes, but the truth is we don’t have the men to hold back a large number of undead, we don’t have the men to use earth movers and other gear to move large amounts of debris and we damn sure don’t have the ammo to hold off large amounts of undead. And any one that died in that building turned, and you can bet if they could reach other survivors they ate them. I’m sorry but is the hard reality of the situation.” Simms replied.

No one wanted to think about what it would be like to be trapped, hearing screams coming from other parts of the destroyed building. then in the darkness, the sound of rubble moving, being pushed aside, the fleeting hope of rescue fading as a cold hand grasped an exposed arm, or leg. And then the pain in the darkness as the undead feasted.

There was silence, which Simms let linger for a moment then shrugged. “we will take a look before we leave if theres any one we can reach we will get them out.”

They waded outside, holding their weapons up to keep them out of the water, every one was tense waiting for the undead to attack. Trash and limbs that had been ripped from trees swirled by in the rushing water. Simms and his people reached their Vehicles first, and thankfully climbed into the Strykers.

Jack Knowles, waded thru the waist deep water, scared shitless, his testicles had drawn into his throat, if he opened his mouth they might fall out. something bumped up against his leg, with a strangled scream he leaped back, half expecting a hand to grab his leg, or teeth to tear into his calf.

There was nervous laughter behind him; he raised a finger in salute to his people.

As he headed towards the military truck that was his destination, he never say the zombie that rose up out of the water behind him, his buddies shouted a warning and then began to scream as other undead bobbed up around them and attacked. Jack managed to wrench free of the zombie, that had wrapped it arms around his shoulders, how he escaped being bitten he didn’t know he staggered through the water and somehow reached the truck, he clambered up the steps and threw himself into the cab slamming the door behind him.

Simms, hearing the shouts and screams, climbed up into the gunners position, and swiveled the .50 on the pintle around. Men were scattering, but almost twelve were being eaten alive. He charged the weapon took aim and swept a line of fire across the feeding frenzy. Body’s tumbled into the water, Simms realized this wasn’t the brightest way to deal with this situation. “get out of the water” He bellowed to men panicked men down in the water. Over the radio he could hear mulligan warning those waiting in the bank of the threat of undead in the water.

Men were scrambling up into their vehicles, he saw one man almost to safety get dragged down as two zombies rose from the water behind him and pulled him back down. Simms gave up on the fifty, and pulled himself onto the top of the Stryker and drew his pistol.

He ignored the wind and the stinging rain, and settled his sights on the screaming mans forehead, some how he even ignored the zombie ripping the mans nose off and chewing happily. He pulled the trigger and put the poor bastard out of his misery, with a shot to the head, then put down both zombies, sending them to hell along with the dead man.

He dropped back into the hatch, “ get us moving, over to the fallen building, lets see if any one can be reached. Get those trucks in position, and get every one else out of the buildings. if you can get the vehicles into the lobby and back them up to the stairs”
He didn’t expect any one to be alive over there, but he had to at least make the effort.

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

First Sergeant Ben Cross, pulled off his boots, then his socks and wrung them out. the storm surge had pushed up into the ground floor of the Operations building, shortly before dawn, sending them scrambling for the second floor. It had taken almost half an hour to move all the supplies up stairs.

Jared should have been here last night, but must have been delayed by the Hurricane, he he didn’t need a weather forecaster to tell him that, any one with half a brain could tell that just by walking outside, it at least wasn’t a big one, not like Katrina had been,

Across the room, his Civvie soldiers, were relaxing, he wished he could have left them back at Sullivan but Ashton had insisted, they go with him.

At least the tall one Chris, was a veteran, his Wife/girlfriend, Shelly, was a hot little number and armed to the teeth. They were good friends with Jared so Ashton had told him, the Fact that Chris had only just recovered from a bruised spine that had kept him from walking bothered Cross, what if the man had a relapse for instance.

There was Cole, Tommy, Frank and his former trophy wife, and Jeff Sloan. Thank god the mans Father, Pappy as every one called the foul mouthed old Marine had been left behind. A half crippled, well armed, senior citizen on a hover around would have been to much to have to deal with.

The rest were a motley crew, who all believed they owed Jared their lives and were more than willing to put their lives on the line to help him out. for his part Cross hoped that they wouldn’t have to turn this into a rescue.

Which would be an interesting event, considering that just before the storm, zombies had begun to pile up along the fence line. he doubted that they had just vanished from the fence even with this storm. The winds were high, but not high enough to blow a zombie away. Damn the bad luck he thought.

He looked up as the door opened and Private Benton, his red hair plastered to his head, entered, looking exhausted. Seeing Cross, Benton gave him a thumbs up, Cross nodded. He didn’t want anything being said in front of Chris and the others, not yet. He had sent Benton and his squad around the terminal placing Demo Charges, if the undead or the enemy got inside and there was no way they could hold the place, Cross was going to blow it to hell and back.

“how’s Will” Benton asked suddenly, Will Grant the only survivor of the Terminal, had been found in the clinic, suffering from an infected wound he had gotten fighting and killing a number of zombies. They had only gotten sketchy details, but from what Ben had gathered, from the wounded man, he had been trying to keep the last zombie from biting him, when it ripped a chunk of meat out with its bare hand.

Will had thrown himself into the water, to rinse the gore off and didn’t remember much till he had woken up in the clinic with soldiers around him. The other part of that story that had gotten around was two of his men had sworn they had seen a man by the patient, a man that not only vanished into the thin air, but had looked like a corpse they had discovered in the Admin building up by the gates.

Cross knew his men had talked about it quietly, when he wasn’t around. as far as he was concerned there was enough supernatural shit to worry about on the other side of the fence. He wasn’t really interested in a possible ghost.

“Sheridan is checking on him at the moment, but from all accounts he is pulling through the worst of it now.” Cross replied.

“cool beans,” Benton said as he walked over to the chow line, which was nothing more than two cases of MRE’s. he rummaged around for a moment, then pulled out a package. “ if you pricks would leave the Ham meals alone, I will owe you” Benton called out, then pulled out a another packaged and tossed it at the man who entered the room behind him.

if there was another human being on the planet that could pass for Chewbacca, Cross had never seen him. The man was so hairy he could lay down naked in front of a roaring fire place and people would just assume he was a small bear skin rug.

“Speaking of what the cat coughed up” Benton called out, as Lane snatched the Package out of the air. “ its Lane, call sign Hair ball”

“Fuck you Benton, your red headed wanna be Leprechaun.” Lane said as he flipped the package over noting the name of the meal it contained and said “my favorite, your not so bad for a red headed asshole after all”

“You know you love me” Benton replied as he snagged a warm beer out of a bucket. No one knew where in the hell Will had found beer, but there had been sixteen cases of Bud stashed inside the ops building and on the Container ship tied up at Dock one.

“love you like the clap” Lane muttered.

“have you ever really been laid, I mean with all that hair, most women would think they were being attacked by some kind of wild animal.” Benton asked with a snarky grin.

“His dates just slapped a wolf mask on his head and pretended he was a werewolf” Sheridan said entering the room.

“Screw both of you” Lane said as he pulled up a box and sat down to eat.

Cross tuned them out, they could go on like that all night, not only could but had on several different nights.

He dug thru his ruck and pulled out a dry pair of socks and pulled them, before slipping on his spare, Dry, boots.

“How’s the patient?” He asked Sheridan who was opening his own MRE, something that claimed to be Mexican food, but smelled like it was part Cat Food and part Compost pile.

“Damn good actually, he is asking for a book or something to read. He also said to tell you that you need to check along the banks, for floaters as soon as this storm is over. That’s where the ones that attacked him came from.” Sheridan commented. “he said other stuff, but it was more or less a list of chores he said would need to be done as soon as the storm passed.”

Cross rose to his full height, and looked around the room at the men and women who didn’t seem to notice just how much they had changed, the terror, and uncertainty of the early days of the undead had faded, oh sure it was there anytime they had to face the undead, but it no longer hit them so hard, they no longer sat staring at walls wondering when the horde was going to sweep over them. now they socialized, and planned for the future. They had accepted they would most likely die, and accepting it, were moving forward with their lives. That was the only thing a man or woman could do he thought.

He walked out into the hallway, nodding to Wells and Chandler who had guard duty at the stairwell. “ Keep a sharp eye out, men. if some of those things get washed up on the docks during these storm, the last thing we need is to wake up with those bastards trying to eat us.” He said as he passed.

Both men muttered agreement, but Cross had already switched his mind to something else. Jared had no clue Cross had wired the munitions to explode, but this place was to important to allow it to fall into the hands of raiders, he had made sure they had loaded as much 5.56 and 7.62, as well as grenades and every other worthwhile items they could find onto the Yacht that had beached itself down the water way, and on the barge down at that docks, that they would be set for a long while. As long as neither craft sank in this storm, which he doubted would happen.

Munitions weren’t all that had been shipped out of the terminal, it had been a veritable treasure trove of Module shelters, batteries, MRE’s, tools, parts you name it. Cross wanted to save it all, and not just for the Island, there was a chance that something of the US military had survived, and he wanted to make sure this was ready for them to use, but if push came to shove, he would destroy it all to keep Raiders from getting their hands on it.

He entered the office he had decided to use as his quarters, and walked to the window. He stood there watching the storm, trying to ignore the feeling of impending doom he felt.

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

Jared sat drinking a cup of so called coffee, watching as Ed sat down across from him, the relief he felt at seeing the former cop alive and well, was intense.

“Good to see you up and about” Jared said, as Jill poured a Cup of Coffee for Ed and passed it to the man.

“its good to be up and about, all things considered” Ed replied taking the coffee and thanking Jill. “Brown is waiting for us” Ed said getting straight to the point. “ I don’t understand how, but he manipulated this whole thing to get us all together. Us, Simms, and others to get us to wipe ourselves out.”

“And you now this how?” Jill asked curious.

“a dream, some one really close to me decided to have a chat.” Ed told them.

“ I don’t get this, what the hell is so important about us that the Devil or who ever wants us dead” Jill asked, shaking her head in disbelief.

“its not us, or rather its our attitude” Jared said quietly. Then smiled at Jill. “ Hope Jill, we all have hope. You can bet theres people out there right now, alone and scared, or in small groups, that have lost all hope. They think they are alone, the last of the human race, waiting to die. Think about it, most people are going to stay in place and hide.they haven’t and wont risk moving about. So they are isolated, easy prey.

we have traveled a lot, seen towns were people were in hiding but alive, gathered up others and took them with us, we have a place we secured, and have limited power, food, weapons and transportation. We have hope, we are making plans. And we are one of the few groups doing so. It wanted us dead for that and for saving those kids, if its truly evil, then we spit in its eyes when we did everything we could to save a bunch of kids that we had no ties to.

We risked our lives and some of us died for children that weren’t ours because it was the right thing to do. How many people fled and left those kid to die. We aren’t saints but we damn sure try to do what’s right.” Jared said, then downed his cup of coffee.

“I think your right, and I know I’m not a saint “ Ed commented with a laugh.

“okay assuming your right, how did Brown lead us around by the nose” Jill asked.

Ed looked at the steaming cup in his hands. “do you really think a Stryker with all those maps, notes and com channels written down, just happened to stop in the middle of a road we were traveling on, so the men inside could kill themselves did you.” he took a deep breath and looked at Jared. “ and you don’t think some random sniper decided to just shoot Steve in Nashville did you. it wanted us there, and it played us. Think about it, we almost died there, right after we found where Brown died at, and then suddenly half the undead in the city show up, and we barely escaped with our lives.

Think about that boy, Joshua, and what he said Jared, what about the people that have suddenly just gone traitor, and tried to feed us to the undead, or that guy that started killing your people, Allen or what ever his name was, and then theres Mikhail. And now that guy Williams, who killed so many of Drakes people, and fed him a line of BS about your and yours to get you both into fighting.” Ed said pointing out all the stuff that Jared had been thinking about himself, but had never really brought up with the others.

“Not to mention Landry and his happy go luck band of Merry religious cut throats just happen to end up in the same damn town we are, and then another huge horde of undead show up to try to kill us.” Jared said, suddenly worried.

“Jill go tell Daws to get ready to move out, Ed I want your people ready to move out, pick who ever you need to fill in for the wounded. Make sure the 88 is ready to roll, as well. we might need it.” Jared said rising

Jill look confused for a moment at the sudden change in Jared, and the urgency he was showing.

Ed nodded, then downed his coffee.

“whats wrong?” Jill asked, feeling dense.

“if all that we just talked about is true, and this thing has been manipulating, or at the very least, taking advantage of every situation it could. Mary and the others are hiding in that hangar building, with tons of undead that many not have gone anywhere. We only assumed that they would follow us out, and that when mary and the others decided to leave, there would few if any of the undead left. But what if, that entire horde surrounded that building and Mary and the others cant go anywhere. We might have left them there to die” Jared said, as Ed turned and headed for the door of the RV.

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

Williams struggled with the jeep, as the wind tried to push it off the road, a downed power line slapped against the side of the vehicle as he stopped on a rise and looked down at the flooded road before him, a clothes, toys, anything that that floated was being washed out of homes, and was being carried by the current. Including the undead he noted.

He cut across and followed the high ground, around the flooded out area, till he reached another road this one out of the flood waters. Twenty minutes later he was crossing a swaying bridge, the hotels were Sheamus and his people were holed up.

He pulled into the parking lot and ran down two zombies, before parking next to one of the off road trucks parked in front of the lobby doors.

He grabbed his rifle, and leaped out into the storm, and rushed to the door, the overhang that once had protected guests from bad weather had been ripped off last night and now lay half in the building across the street.

One of the Guards let him in, he wiped rain from his eyes “Wheres sheamus” he asked. one of the men tilted his head towards the upstairs.

“he doesn’t want to be distutbed” the man said, his face scared from chickpox.

“to damn bad” Williams replied. “is Maggie with him?”

“when isn’t she with him” The guard replied bitterly. Williams gave the man a tight smile. Damn near every man in the unit lusted after Maggie, she was a hot, Williams thought. She used that body to play sheamus like a cheap fiddle.

Upstairs he walked down the dimly lit hallway, not paying attention to the cheap prints on the walls. That were nothing more than prints of pictures of other hotels in the chain in different locations. The carpet, was worn, blood stained and starting to get musty.

At the Door to Sheamus’s rooms, his usual bull dog stood guard, short, with a barrel chest and a keg for a stomach, Williams had seen malnutrition before, and Dog as he was called, would probably be dead in another year.

“he doesn’t want to be disturbed “Dog said as Williams came to a stop at the door.

“let me put this in simple terms for you “ Williams said, any one that had known him before, would have been surprised at his confrontational words and even more surprised at the steel hard tone of voice. He was almost as far as from the peace loving anti gun Hippie that it was possible to be. “ you will open the door and tell him I am here to speak with him, or I’m going to grab a handful of your nuts and twist them till you scream.”

Dog sneered at him, his hand rock steady on the grip of his rifle, and made no move to do as Williams had told him.

Dog’s contemptuous sneer vanished as Williams darted forward before Dog could react and grabbed a handful of testicles. He squeezed and twisted, as the older man doubled over Williams punched him in the face. Dog fell to the ground gasping in pain. Williams looked down at him dispassionately, then stepped over the man and threw the door open and stepped inside.

Sheamus sat up angrily, pushing Maggie to one side, glaring at Williams who only smiled coldly. “ You need to get your people rolling on the Terminal, in the next hour or two” Williams said.

“I don’t take orders from you Williams” Sheamus snarled.

“then sit here and when you finally get there Jared Stone will be waiting for you, and you’re the one person he really wants to meet Sheamus, you shot his best friend. you stirred the pot, you got him gunning for Simms, and pointed him right at the Terminal.

He wiped out Landry’s force last night, wiped them all out, and he was outnumbered, and had time to set up a defensive position. Do you really want him to be waiting for you in a prepared location with Ammo to waste.” Williams said smiling, but there was no humor in his eyes. Those eyes were the coldest Sheamus had ever seen, almost black really. Like a sharks.

“I don’t care if he does know I was the one that shot that muscle bound gorilla, I plan on killing him too, painfully and slowly.” Sheamus stated, as he threw back the sheets and rose to his feet snagging his pants off the floor.

“what you plan and the reality will be is something entirely different Sheamus, we both know that. but at the moment you have a chance to reach the Terminal before he does, if you waste that chance it wont matter if you kill Stone or not, his people will have all the ammo they could use for the next few years, and they will hunt you and your entire unit down for Killing Jared. you might think they are goody two shoes, but they hold a grudge when one of their own is killed.” Williams said.

Sheamus cast a glance at Maggie who nodded in agreement, she hadn’t even bothered to cover herself and that angered Sheamus even more.

How dare this little prick talk to him like this, he had been killing men like Williams since he was 12, this was his unit.

Williams smiled cryptically, “ you don’t want to screw this up Sheamus, you really don’t. like it or not you’ve had the dreams you know theres more to it than just killing a pain in the ass like stone.

So go ahead, piss off who ever is pulling the strings. I can tell you that it will get its way, sooner or later. Or some one else will have the dreams and it will have secured a new tool, and leave you hanging out there for the undead to take care of.” Williams said as he walked over to the table and picked up the bottle of Vodka.

He poured himself a glass and looked around for a moment for black pepper, finding none he tossed back the drink and sighed with pleasure. Ignoring the look of pure hatred sheamus was giving him.

Williams seem almost amused, Sheamus thought, there was something really odd about the man these days, he was nothing like he had been when they first met. He was colder, harder, in some ways he acted like a completely different man than he had been.

“we can link up with Simms, he was supposed to be on the outskirts of Wilmington yesterday.” Sheamus said as he pulled on his pistol belt, angry at the fact he felt safer from Williams with a side arm strapped on.

“That’s up to you, but we both know Simms will demand to be in over all charge.” Williams said,

“Regardless of whether you like him or not Williams this is what he excels at, stone might have beaten Landry, but Landry was a nut job leading a bunch of other nut jobs. But I can promise you that Simms, has been working on training the men under his command. And with his….” Sheamus said then glared at Williams who cut him off in mid sentence.

“I told you its up to you, as long as you realize, that Stone has to die, no matter what Simms may or may not want.” Williams said pouring himself a second glass of Vodka, he raised it high “Ty chto mumu yebyosh?”

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

The three vehicle moved at a crawl down the road, the LAV 25, being the only truly amphibious capable vehicle of the three led the way, Jared wanted it up front to check water depth along the flooded roads.

Once they had a route marked out, the rest of the convoy would follow along behind them to new Rendezvous point.

What had taken five minutes to traverse when they left the Airport last night, took half an hour now. trees and power lines were down, or leaning drunkingly along the sides of the road. they had to go almost six miles around to reach the Southern fence line of the airport

“keep trying to raise Mary” Jared said as they drew close to the airport. he doubted she would have her radio’s on, since the plan had been for her to wait a while then bug out, while Jared and the others secured the Rvs’ then moved on to the Terminal.

“airports just ahead” Eric said from the LAV, “nothing on visual, switching to Thermal.”

Jared tapped a finger on the console, as they drew closer to the Airport, they had begun to pass small bands of undead, but nothing like the crowd that had been there just hours before.

“why thermal, they are dead, room tempature” Ori asked.

“because Ori they move which should mean they are a bit warmer than room temp. and even if it doesn’t show its worth a shot.” Jared said, he wanted to see the undead well before they got to them.

“sounds nice and logical, except they are also dead, and logic says they shouldn’t be up walking around and eating people” Ori responded. Jared had to agree with that too he snorted a laugh.

“you have a point Ori, but I promise if you comb your hair and wear a hat we wont notice it any more” Jared responded trying to keep the mood up, but every one was feeling the tension, as they drew closer. Worrying that maybe the undead had already gained access to the hangar and eaten every one inside.

Ronny was unnaturally quiet, he was worried about Mary, and couldn’t help but worry that the lack of contact was because every one was dead in the hangar.

Jared caught Ronny’s attention “shes going to be okay brother, just trust in that” Jared told Ronny wishing he was as certain of it as he sounded.

Ronny didn’t reply, but he did flash Jared a weak smile that tore at Jared. for all Ronny’s bullshit, and joking around. when he fell for Mary years back, he fell hard and never fell out of love with her. others might think he was whore dog, and would sooner or later move on, but they didn’t know Ronny like Jared and Ori did.

“how are we going to get them out with out wasting a butt load of ammo” Logan asked “and lets face it we cant keep running over every zombie we encounter, to much damn wear and tear, not to mention the fact that the vehicle stinks with all that zombie goo on it.”

“ we lead them away, but first we have to get in contact with Mary, so we can tell her the best moment to open the doors and get every one rolling.” Jared said.

the LAV finally got close enough to get a good look at the long low hangar, and Eric’s jaw sagged for a moment as the sight of several thousand undead clustered around the building pawing at the walls.

“Jared your not going to like this, “ he said over the radio.” Theres a few thousand of the things around the hanger.”

There was silence over the net for a moment. “ we still cant raise Mary.” Jared finally said.

“the hangar looks intact, so they are probably safe inside” Eric replied as he studied the scene.

“ I can get a man inside Jared, pull up along side, I want Ori to go with him.” Eric said.

“to hell you say” Ronny barked over the open channel. “ my wife, Ill go”

Jared turned to look at Ronny and didn’t argue, if it were Jill in there, he would insist on going too. “you and Ori go, and Ronny?”

“yeah “ Ronny said as he hastily checked his ammo load out and the gear in his combat harness.

“stay safe,” Jared said, then transmitted. “Ori and Ronny are going in, once they are inside, they will get every one ready to move out, the big problem is that building has ten hangars inside one building, that means ten doors that have to be opened….” Jared outlined his plan as Daws Pulled up along side the LAV, two hundred yards out from the horde, the sound of the vehicles for the moment were masked by the storm.

The transfer went smoothly, Ori and Ronny were safely inside the LAV before any zombies noticed. The Stryker pulled away and headed east before looping around.
Jared eyed the Flash drive that Ori had handed him, wonder what new form of musical Hell Ori had picked for him this time, where the little asshole managed to find half the music he played was a mystery to Jared, though he had heard a rumor that Steve had been responsible for the ongoing joke. He smiled sadly, wish Steve were here, then plugged in the Flash drive. Rob had added external speakers, and a patch in so that a laptop or Cd player could be plugged in.

The undead surrounding the building, were beating on the walls and doors of the long hangar building. rain pouring off of them. some less coordinated than others, would be blown off balance by the wind and slip and fall in the water. Only to have others step forward on top of them.

White arms and hands waved and beat, a sea of undead arms, undulating like some obscene plant.

Over the storm, the sound of a Single bell tolling came, then again it tolled,. Heads closest to the noise turned, and then as a guitar wailed, those few began to head towards the noise, attracting the attention of even more, soon, more than half the mass began to stagger into the wind and rain, Following the sounds of Ac/Dc’s hells bells.

“that’s a sight I really don’t want to ever seen again” Jared muttered as he watched the army of undead advanced towards the retreating Stryker.

“I take it you don’t want to open fire” Daws asked,

“Not today no” Jared replied.

“Any reason you don’t?” Daws asked trying not to laugh at the odd conversation.

“ Waste of bullets, besides, half of those idiots cant walk more than five feet with out falling down. this is the slowest chase in history, and that’s counting the OJ slow speed pursuit” Jared replied. “but If you spot a clown let me know”

“okay, continuing to evade at five miles an hour.” Daws commented with a laugh.

The LAV finally moved forward as the crowd thinned out, it accelerated steadily splashing thru the standing water on the taxiway. The few hundred undead at the hangar finally heard the vehicle and almost as one turned and swarmed towards the LAV.

The LAV skirted as many as it could, then finally smashed into the mob, rolling over the walking corpses leaving broken and twisted body’s in its wake.

As they pulled up along side the hangar, Bailey tried raising the people inside once more, Ronny looked up hopefully, then after a moment frowned.

“This is Mary, its damn good to hear your voice.” Mary replied.

Bailey waved Ronny away from the radio impatiently. “ whats your situation”

“we are ready to roll out, but there were so many of those things outside, we didn’t want to risk opening the doors, and losing the people before they got back to the vehicles” Mary replied.

“Jared has drawn most of them away, at the moment the three furthest northern hangar doors are clear.” Bailey replied.

“tell her to get those moving, I have a plan for the rest of them” Eric said.

Minutes later, hangar doors rolled open, some undead, were drawn to the noise and stumbled towards the new openings, but before they could get close, FMTV’s and M9393s rolled out and headed south on the Taxiway, some of the undead followed in their wake, thinning the numbers of living dead out even more.

As they rolled across the parking apron, the 88 passed the fleeing vehicles, as it headed north on the taxiway. Ronny climbed up on top of the LAV, ignoring the reaching hands and the stinging rain. At least the plan to climb up on the roof of the hanger and enter thru a sky light to establish contact was no longer needed. but tension swirled in his gut.

He watched as the 88 clanked past, crushing undead under its treads as it maneuvered around and parked in front of a hangar door. he knew that Bailey was giving the men behind the first door, the all clear over the radio. The large door rolled back and a moment later the 88 moved forward and blocked off the next door, as trucks emerged from the hangar it had just left.

It moved from one door to another, blocking the doors long enough for the men inside to open the door then retreat to their vehicles. Finally it peeled away, leaving two doors unopened. One Ronny knew held nothing but a few planes, the other contained the UV.

He crouched there, hanging on the hatch, watching till the Big Custom RV that had belonged to Steve pulled out, Mary at the wheel. Feeling relief, he dropped down into the LAV and buttoned up the Vehicle.

“Jared, its time” Bailey called out.

The entire group moved south, the Stryker joining them at the torn down fence. Stopping only once, long enough to Link up with the rest of the Captured vehicles and the rest of their crew. Ronny switched to Steve’s Old RV to ride with Mary. And then with the LAV in the lead, they headed NE, driving deeper into the storm.

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

Malone woke shivering, something was wrong. He climbed to his feet wishing he had dared take a room with a window. He listened at the door, but heard nothing. Slowly and quietly he cracked the door open, and peered out. He still saw nothing, picking up his rifle he stepped out into the hall, and looked around. then headed to the staircase. As he approached, his nose wrinkled as a rank smell filled the air, the hair on his neck rose,” oh no” he muttered. Oh hell. He stepped forward and clicked on the rail mounted light on his weapon and felt his gorge rise. The undead were shoulder to shoulder climbing the steps, their bloated faces were upturned staring at him. Hands rose and they came on, Malone, began to fire, shouting at his men to prepare.

He was still shooting when the undead finally gained the top of the stairs, he screamed in pain as a teeth tore into his wrist, shoulder, calf and thigh, one dead hand grasped the barrel of his weapon, smoke rose, as the dead skin sizzled, it dragged the weapon out of line. Malone let the rifle go, and drew a grenade, he pulled the pin, let the spoon fly and shoved the grenade into the things mouth even as he was being dragged down.
He was still alive when the Grenade detonated, he died smiling in victory.

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

“ Darker—still darker! the whirlwinds bear
The dust of the plains to the middle air:
And hark to the crashing, long and loud,
Of the chariot of God in the thunder-cloud!
You may trace its path by the flashes that start
From the rapid wheels where’er they dart,
As the fire-bolts leap to the world below,
And flood the skies with a lurid glow.

What roar is that?—’tis the rain that breaks
In torrents away from the airy lakes,
Heavily poured on the shuddering ground,
And shedding a nameless horror round.
Ah! well known woods, and mountains, and skies,
With the very clouds!—ye are lost to my eyes.
I seek ye vainly, and see in your place
The shadowy tempest that sweeps through space,
A whirling ocean that fills the wall
Of the crystal heaven, and buries all.
And I, cut off from the world, remain
Alone with the terrible hurricane.”

~William Cullen Bryant

Cal Simms, stood on the top of the Stryker helping one of the survivors climb up. Out of twenty men, they had found six, five men and a woman. She had been naked when Mulligan and Ivan spotted her in the debris, the story as Far as Simms had been told, was she had been standing near a window when it blew out, and the wind from the tornado had literally stripped the clothes from her body as she hung on to a beam for dear life, then the roof had collapsed on her. somehow she had managed, with a broken arm, to crawl and wiggle thru the debris till she had felt air and moisture, a few minutes later Ivan had spotted her.

With so many undead around, Simms did not dare open the ramp on the Stryker; instead the wounded were pulled up on top of the Stryker, then passed over to the Truck that served as their makeshift clinic. People were trying to stay out of the water as much as possible, at this point.

“lets wrap it up” Simms said, as he let two of his men pass the wounded man over to the Clinic truck.

He looked towards the distant city, invisible in the rain, wandering if maybe, he should just hit the terminal take what they could carry and find some place else to claim as his own, because sure as hell, all his problems seem to have started the moment he had gone after Jared Stone and that damn island.

There were plenty of island out there, that would be easy to clear and decent places to live. The truth was, Simms was starting to feel like one of the many warlords he had helped put down. he shook his head, dismissing the thought, he was what he was, and Stones island with its forts was one of the best places to settle. He ignored the quiet inner voice that whispered he could always change.

“there might be more” Mulligan said climbing up top, water pouring off his boony cap.

Simms pointed to the undead that were trying to wade thru the water towards them, fighting the fast moving current. “ We both know there’s undead in that rubble, and theres to many out here to deal with from the ground. We leave now, before we get trapped and lose a lot of people.” Simms replied. “ We will leave a truck with some food, and a couple of weapons parked next to the rubble, if any one gets out of the debris, they have a way out of here.”

Mulligan nodded, then slipped down into the Stryker, Simms stood there a moment longer, fighting the wind, as Ivan climbed up, then both men retreated into the safety of the armored vehicle.

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

Jared Brought the ELSORV to a stop, and eyed the fallen trees that covered the road.
“Jill, Tell every one to hang back, we are going to scout this out” Jared said as he put the Vehicle into Gear. He drove around the trees when he could, the heavy Off road tires chewing up the limbs and debris that littered the road.

tree limbs from the fallen trees scrapped the sides of the vehicle, as he drove deeper into the destruction, peering out into the rain he began to see the trail of destruction for what it was, a Tornado had swept down the road, leaping from side to side, literally destroying every other house and building. leaving a half mile wide path of destruction that appeared to run east for quite a ways.

There were no signs of the undead, which didn’t surprise Jared in the least, if he had money to bet, he would bet zombies were piled up around the terminal just waiting for their arrival, Which wouldn’t be a problem if they were only planning on driving through, which they weren’t. two miles later he came to a stop again, looking at an 18 wheeler that lay on its side, a Camero sat on the side of the trailer, completely undamaged.

“I don’t think we are going to be able to make it thru this easily” Logan said from the back seat.

Jared didn’t respond, but he did pull out some maps from his bag and started going over them.

“ I don’t have a topo map for this section” He finally said, as he regretfully pulled out a road map. “ I hate these things” he muttered as he opened the Rand Mcnally. “ they are great for finding major roads and highways, but the backroads I like to use are never on them.”

he ran his finger along 211 maybe two miles from here it passed thru Clarkton and then ten miles after that it crossed 74 and the town of Bolton, from there they could follow 211 all the way to the coast, which would place them almost on top of where they needed to be.

He looked back up and considered the debris, he doubted this kind of debris covered the entire coast, in fact most of the areas they had passed thru had been heavy on rain and short on destruction. Low lying spots were flooding, and many buildings were damaged, limbs and leaves covered many of the roads.

“ this is going to have to do” he finally said, “ Rob, lets get the 88 up here and push those trees and this wreck out of the way, then load it up on the Trailer, I don’t want it to break down or throw a track, we might need it at the terminal.”

Jill stretched in the seat next to him, arching her back which immediately drew Jared’s attention to her chest, he smiled at his own distraction. Then glanced in the back Logan and Ori sat quietly. Ori wore that tight worried look he usually got when he thought things were about to hit the fan and blow back would splatter on him. Logan was half asleep. Mike was squeezed in between both men, since there was no need for a gunner at the moment.

Jared frowned slightly, the amount of ammo they had blown thru at the Airport had been impressive, and hard on their stores. He didn’t regret it, not in the least, he hadn’t wanted to kill any one that didn’t need it, but now they had only enough ammo to really supply two .50’s and one SAW, Eric was down to six rounds for his monster sniper weapon.

Their futures rested on seizing and holding that terminal, once Ammo wasn’t an Issue, they could really start clearing undead out in whole sale lots from around Sullivan. And deal with any groups that thought they were going to play Alexander the great and conquer the world.

He put the ELSORV into gear and rolled up closer to the wrecked 18wheeeler, and the cars that had been dropped on and around it. he couldn’t see much, not with the storm.

“are you going to kill him” Jill asked suddenly. “Simms, for what happened to Steve”

“Yes” Jared replied, a steel edge to his voice.

“What if he didn’t do it” Jill said softly, knowing the men in the back seat were listening.

Jared was silent at that, Eric had several times mentioned that Simms was a hard ass, but not a cold blooded killer. But the world had changed; a lot of people were hard cases now. Killing was the norm, for a lot of survivors.

“what makes you think he didn’t?” Jared asked with out taking his eyes off the wreck, behind them lights cut thru the storm as the 88 moved up, pushing away fallen trees.

“Jared, I don’t want you to kill the man and find out later he wasn’t the one who did it. you know how you would feel about that if it happened, and we both know we have been played, what if Simms was played too.” Jill replied.

She had a point Jared thought, there had never been a doubt about Mikhail being a total slime ass, or that sick fuck Seth. His mind drifted back to when they had first Rescued Drake and his people, a guy named Williams had done his best to set Drake running straight at Jared with blood in his eyes. So why not Simms, a dream or a tool of the other side, could have pushed this whole damn thing towards a confrontation, to wipe out both sides, and the more that died the better.

“Ill consider it” Jared finally said, Jill glanced sideways at him, but remained silent.

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

Simms stepped into the old grocery store with Ivan behind him. A lantern burned on one of the check out counters.

The store looked liked like World War III had been fought in side, spent shell casings littered the floor around the registers, there were dried pools of blood near the managers office door, shelves had been over turned down some of the aisles.

The rest of the store was cloaked in darkness, Sheamus could have most of his men hiding back there Simms thought as he turned his attention to Sheamus, who leaned against the counter, his arms crossed over his chest. Simms nodded to him, the level of Tension in the room was obvious.

Maggie sat on the counter on slim shapely leg crossed over the other, he could see a rifle lay across her lap and a tac holster on her right thigh that held a Glock.

“Sheamus” Simms said.

“Cal” Sheamus said, not so subtle reminding Simms that they had been friends for a long while.

“You called for this rendezvous, so lets get down to business!” Simms said, ignoring the smirk that flashed across Maggies face.

“I never deserted you Cal, but I had intel that I thought would allow me to Ambush Stone, and finish the threat once and for all. But it didn’t pan out, so I came back to help with taking the terminal.” Sheamus said, his eyes shifting to Maggie as he talked.

“Boss we have undead out there, not a lot and not close, but that’s going to change” Mulligan’s voice said suddenly coming from the radio Simms wore.

Sheamus watched Simms closely; he knew his old friend suspected that Sheamus was up to something. But Simms needed people to take the terminal and hold it, and Sheamus was banking on that.

“what you mean is that Maggie there talked you into going hunting for Stone.” Simms replied.

“You’ve had the dreams too Cal, you know what’s at stake!” Sheamus said, taking Simms by surprise. Considering most every one had, had odd dreams since the outbreak, so it shouldn’t have surprised him.

“yes, and I knew that something was trying to use me, to use all of us to get what it wanted.” Simms replied, it was hard to believe he was even talking about this, something that crept around a mans dreams and talked to him. Insanity was what it sounded like. “And I know what it claims is at stake, but you were never altruistic Sheamus, so why help it.” Simms asked, his attention was really focused on Maggie, whose smirk had faded, she was watching Sheamus closely, almost as if she though he might suddenly side with Simms.

“I’ve always wanted a better world “ Sheamus said angrily

Simms just stood there the storm raging outside, but the real danger was in here, he could feel it. the temperature had dropped suddenly, and his skin crawled as if something had entered the store, something that stood in the shadows just out of sight.

Simms laughed with real amusement “ I know you better than that Sheamus, you lived to blow shit up and you never cared who died, so lets not start lying to each other now”

Maggie started to say something but Simms cut her off with hard hand gesture. “ shut the hell up, or I will shoot you right here right now lady. I’m tired of you and your damn games” Simms said, the feeling of being watched from the darkness beyond the line of dim light through the windows and the lantern light, had grown stronger.

The truth was, he didn’t trust Sheamus, and he damn sure didn’t trust Maggie, but he needed the manpower, assuming that Jared was already on site, if he wasn’t. well that made things easier all the way around.

Sheamus looked like he was about to Protest Simms treatment of the Dragon lady, but he didn’t. “ Cal, you need our help, and I want to help you, for old times sake at the very least. I never intended to screw you over or abandon you, but I cant prove that to you. so what are we going to do?” Sheamus sounded totally sincere, but Simms knew that the former IRA terrorist was good at sounding sincere and kindly when it suited his needs.

No he had started going rogue back in Nashville shooting Stones best friend, and Simms couldn’t shake the feeling that it was a calculated attempt to make sure that he and Stone came to blows.

He also didn’t have time to stand here and argue or debate, he made his decision “ All right Sheamus, your right, Ill give you a second chance.” Simms replied, not bothering to threaten Sheamus if he should betray Simms. There was no need, Sheamus knew him. “ now lets get mounted up and rolling.”

Sheamus nodded in agreement, the two men shook hands, Simms ignored Maggie. No matter how pretty she was, there really was something ugly that lurked behind her eyes.

Simms turned and headed for the door, Ivan, stood there for a moment longer. Watching Sheamus and Maggie with no expression his face. something moved back behind them in the darkness, and a faint smell of rotted meat flowed past him on a cool wind.

The Former Spetnaz soldier had been uncomfortable for a long while around Maggie, and that Man Williams who had more and more often slipped into flawless Russian with out realizing it, before he had slipped away in the night. there had been something so familiar about him at times it had driven Ivan up a wall as Americans said trying to figure it out, he knew it couldn’t be what he thought.

He turned on his heel and followed Simms out into the storm, for better or worse they were heading into the Final act of what ever drama was unfolding, Ivan would be there for Simms to the end, he could do no less Simms had saved his life not once but several times, and had become a good friend. he only hoped Simms saw what Ivan himself saw before it was too late.

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

“not fun” Ori shouted as he grabbed hold of the back of the seat in front of him, as the ELSORV came off the road for a moment, water splashed up against the windows, its momentum carried it just far enough to touch higher ground. The Tires bit and it pulled forward out of the low spot.

“Come on it likes shooting a rapid in a kayak” Jared called back, trying to calm every one down.

“Last time I checked a Kayak, didn’t weigh over a ton and you used paddles to maneuver” Ori shot back.

“Jared, we have another Problem” Eric transmitted. Jared sighed this was turning into a Nightmare.

“what is it” Jared asked tired of this storm.

“We almost lost an RV, when a tree came down in front of it” Eric replied.

Jared frowned, “ can it get around the tree?”

“ Affirmative, but it was close” Eric responded.

“Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades” Jared replied, with a relieved smiled. Trying to transfer people between vehicles in this kind of weather with undead around was like ringing a dinner bell.

“ we will drive as far as Bolton its only a mile further, find a place to park everyone and then see whats, what” Jared said.

“after that what” Jill asked.

“Ill figure that out then” Jared replied.

“good plan, winging it, love it when that happens” Ori said with a strained laugh.

Jared didn’t respond, he looked out into the storm, watching the trees swing in the wind, a as a curtain of rain lifted for a moment he could see a farm house in the distance across a soggy field, then it vanished from sight again as the rain washed over them again.

“its clear, Lets roll” Eric reported.

Jared pulled out letting the LAV take the lead, he wasn’t thrilled with the idea of driving off into a ditch or low lying spot and drowning.

Bolton before the coming of the undead had been a town of four hundred thirty some odd people. Now it was a flooded ghost haunted ruin of wooden houses and brick buildings, many had had their windows shattered when debris had been picked up and slammed thru them by the Hurricane.

Jared slowed as they passed the town hall, a one story red brick building, the sign that was rocking back and forth in the wind, was the only thing that told people what the building had been. With out it, the nondescript building could have been anything.

“theres a strip center up here with a Dollar store and a Laundry mat, it’s the only place I’ve seen with a parking lot big enough to hold all our vehicles” Eric reported over the radio breaking the silence that had filled the ELSORV.

“keep going, lets check out the far side of town, if nothing else we will park on the road, I don’t want to have a lot of buildings around us.” Jared replied.

At least they had enough fuel, assuming nothing happened to the Tankers, Jared thought. But Ammo was low, and that wasn’t a good thing.

Reaching the other side of the small town, the LAV rolled forward, the sky had gone from a deep gray almost black to a sickly yellowish green color. Eric studied it for a moment, the wind still roared, around them and the rain still came in horizontal sheets.
A deep basso thrumming sound in the distance could be heard, But Eric couldn’t place it.

Jeb, sat in the Second ELSORV, watching the same sky as it changed colors, his stomach dropped, he keyed the radio instantly, already hearing a noise he had hoped never to hear again in his life. He looked around fearfully and finally spotted it into the distance, a funnel cloud sweeping towards them. it dangled from the cloud cover, like some alien tentacle wiggling around, as it reached for the ground. “’ Tornado” he shouted over the radio. “ Tornado, NW of our position, moving our way.”

Jared’s head snapped around, he looked out the window, and went pale as he saw the funnel cloud, through the storm. “ Speed it up,” he ordered, “ Eric I really hope you have a place for us to hole up?”

Arthur, felt his stomach drop as he words poured out of the radio on his dashboard. He looked out the window, but couldn’t see anything for a moment then the rain parted like a silver curtain and he saw the funnel cloud in the distance. Then it was gone again.

He pushed down on the accelerator, praying, they had come to far, gone through too much to have it end this way. His wife, still an attractive woman even after all they had gone thru, smiled tightly at him, fear dancing in her eyes. “ I love you” He said.

The funnel cloud touched down its hundred yard wide base wrapped in a cloud of dirt and debris, it passed across a farm house sucking it up off its foundation, shredding it. a truck followed, then the barn and everything inside of it. it snaked across the fields and skirted across the eastern edge of town, destroying buildings.

In the midst of the funnel cloud, cars, trucks, undead, beams, bricks, shards of glass, and a ton of other things circled before being thrown out to rain down over the area.

Jared Hit the brakes and swerved as a couch slammed down on the road ahead of them. boards began to fall from the sky, and then Jill screamed despite herself, as a body slammed into a tree beside her window.

Benjamin Gates, had been nervous all day, the Rv was hard to control in this kind of weather, his hands ached from gripping the wheel. He was trying to keep up with the RV ahead of him, but the old Winnebago he was driving hadn’t been well maintained and was slowly falling behind.

He pushed the pedal further and the old Winnie tried, something seemed to grab the back of the RV, it felt like the back end was lifted up, then it slammed back down, and the Winnie leaped ahead.

There were screams and cries from the passengers, and then the sound of shrieking metal, as something crashed into the Rv, sending parts of the vehicle sailing around Benjamin, the last thing he saw was the tree that was suddenly in front of him. Then darkness.

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

At the call of vehicle down, Jared whipped the ELSORV around and raced back down the road weaving thru the debris that had been dropped on the road by the tornado, the funnel cloud had vanished into the distance, narrowly missing the Convoy.

Reaching the end of the Line of Vehicles he swore softly as he saw the RV that had smashed into a tree, a Tractor hung out of the side.

Jared stopped the ELSORV, “we need to hurry, any one that died is going to start killing the survivors, so lets be careful.” He said then threw open the door, as the LAV rushed up in a spray of water and came to a stop beside the ESORV.

This is my damn fault Jared told himself, as Eric and his Team joined them. If I hadn’t pushed to reach the damn terminal as soon as possible, these folks would still be okay.

Jared walked forward the wind pushing at him, his eyes fixed on the hole in the side of the Winnebago, where the tractor sat. As he got close, a woman, clutching a child to her chest leaped out of the RV, she was screaming so loud that he could hear it over the storm, she landed in the water and started to run only to stagger to a halt as she spotted Jared, it took her a moment to realize that she faced a living man. Behind her, a child its skin fish white, staggered to the Hole, its arms outstretched.

Jared leaped forward, grabbing the woman and pulling her out of the way, as the zombie tumbled out after the woman, its head vanished in a spray of blood and gore.

“ooops” Ori said as he lowered his rifle, trying to act cheerful, but in reality he wanted to throw up, he hated shooting the kid zombies.

Blaine rushed forward and escorted the woman and child back to the LAV, already calling on the radio for a truck to come to the back to pick up the wounded.

Jared peered into the hole, and saw a dead woman, who was beginning to twitch. He put a bullet into her head. the clambered up into the RV, Jill right behind him. The driver, was dead, half thru the windshield his head a ruin, so he wouldn’t be rising. With Jill covering him, Jared moved around the tractor, and saw another zombie a male this time, in the narrow hallway in the rear pawing madly at the closed bathroom door. the bedroom door was shut as well.

Jared slung his rifle and drew his tomahawks, “Hey, you, tall dead and ugly” Jared called out. the zombies head snapped around at the sound of his voice, why it hadn’t reacted to the gunshots, Jared didn’t know, maybe the storm had masked them, maybe it was to concentrated on the people behind that door. it didn’t really matter now, he thought as it moved towards him, teeth snapping, its cloudy eyes locked on his own Emerald eyes.

It seemed to take forever for it to reach him, but at last it reached out, Jared hit it in the chest with a front snap kick knocking it on its back, then leaped over it and drove his tomahawk into its skull. He wrenched the weapon free, sending bone and goo flying.

“if any one is still alive back here, you need to open the doors” He yelled.

A moment later the bathroom door slid open and a terrified woman stepped out three children were crammed into the bathroom behind her. “move to the front, we have a truck that’s going to get you and the kids out of here” Jared said, moving to stand by the bedroom door letting the shell shocked woman and kids move to the front of the Rv.

“any one in the bedroom” Jared asked knocking on the door.

Jill looked up just in time to see the bedroom door slide open and a woman with a pistol step out, pointing it directly at Jared. Jill felt her stomach drop, even as she lifted her weapon and trained it on the woman.

Jared looked down the barrel of the pistol, to the woman who held it. dark haired, anger lurked in her brown eyes even as tears spilled down her cheeks, her mouth was twisted into a grimace. Behind her five kids and two other woman knelt on one side of the bed. Watching the scene unfold.

“you did this, its your fault” she snapped. “you were in such a fucking hurry, we drove thru a major storm to get to where ever it is your going that’s so damned important.” Tears slipped down her cheeks dripping onto the floor..

“I know, and I’m sorry” Jared said softly.”you have every reason to hate me, but we need to get you out of here, and to safety.”

“My son is already dead, what does it matter now if I’m safe” she wailed, as she jabbed the pistol at Jared, who didn’t move. “my own baby killed Celeste, ripped her stomach open where she lay on the floor by that damn tractor.” She said her eyes locked with Jared’s. “what have you lost” She demanded angrily, there was a long silence, broken only by the wind moaning into the holes in the RV, no one moved.

Jared thought about all the people that had died, Alan, Steve, Mark, Henry, Little Billy, and more than he wanted to remember. They weren’t sons, or daughters no, but they had all been family to him. And every death had eaten at him, every single one of them, just as the deaths of this ladies son and the other dead here on the RV would eat at him.

He didn’t answer, no one he had lost no matter how close to him, or how much it had torn at his soul, was as bad as her loss, she had watched her child die, and then watched the child she had borne and raised, loved and held when hurting, rise from the dead and kill.

What the hell could come close to that he thought, and she was right, this was his fault, he had taken the risks with the best of intentions, but that didn’t matter to her in the face of such loss. And he couldn’t blame her.

She stared him in the eye, maybe she could see the loss and pain he felt, the sorrow for every death reflected there in his eyes. He never knew, never wanted to know. She slowly lowered the pistol, and let it fall to the floor. Jared wanted to comfort her, but knew she wouldn’t have accepted it from him, instead he stepped to one side then knelt and picked up the pistol and tucked it into his belt.

Jill stepped forward, breathing a quick prayer of thanks, before wrapping an arm around the other woman and leading her down the hall to where Blaine waited. The woman clung to her sobbing heavily. Jill couldn’t even begin to fathom the loss the woman had suffered. She just held the woman, and waved Blaine off.

Jared got them all moving, there were plenty of men outside now, braving the storm and the undead to help the survivors from the broken RV and carry them to Safety.

The woman who had lost her son was the last to go, Jared made sure that the boys small body was removed before she was passed out to Eric, where she hung limply in his big arms. The rain washing the tears from her face as she stared up at the sky.

Jill started to Hug Jared, who shook her arms off. Before he leaped into the full effect of the storm, and stood there for a moment. hoping that the wind and rain might cleanse him of the guilt he felt.

“we need to go” Ori said to Jill pointing across the road, where the shadowy blurred shapes of undead could be seen in the field across the way, who knew what had drawn them to the area.

“Jared we gotta move Brother” Ori shouted.

Jared nodded, lifting his rifle to his shoulder to cover them as they exited the RV, as soon as they were down he ran with them to the ELSORV. He wished they had the time to bury the dead, but there wasn’t, at least he had, had the child’s body placed in side the RV, next to the other corpses, and covered them all with sheets. That was the best they could do at the moment. They were back on the road a minutes later, Mike driving this time.

Jared had given up on the idea of staying near Bolton, it was safer to keep moving at this point, he stared east, praying that they made it with out any more dead.

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

What should have taken twenty minutes in the old days, took three hours. Every where along the road was scattered the remains of people lives, clothes, toys, papers floated in the water that covered the roadway.. Cars littered the side of the road, where at some point during the evacuations, authorities had actually removed breakdowns and vehicles out of fuel to allow others to pass thru, occasionally the convoy would pass a tow truck still hooked up to the vehicle it had been trying to clear when the undead had swept over the road.

Here and there trees leaned to one side or another, their roots sticking out of the soggy ground, power lines, broken when trees fell across them, snapped in the wind. the column of vehicles slowly wove around fallen trees.

By the time the reached the town of Supply North Carolina, it was nearing sunset. The Dark grey sky grew darker by the moment. They turned north on 17 that ran all the way to Wilmington. Supply wasn’t large by any measure, it had once been the only place for the beach towns to get supplies, but that had been in the 18th and 19th centurys when the River provided the majority of the trade, now its only really claim to fame was a historic area and the medical center.

They drove slowly thru the town, past stores that still stood open, around stalled vehicles. A zombie stood in the door of a local Pizza place, stumbling out onto the rain slicked sidewalk and fell, as Jared’s ELSORV rolled past.

A stroller pushed by the wind rolled into the street from between two buildings, and was crushed by an FMTV, whose driver tried hard not to wander what might have been inside the stroller.

The buildings thinned out on either side, and the road widened to four lanes. The rain began to fall in sheets again, as they passed a sign announcing the Brunswick community college was just up ahead.

“Jared, we need to stop, why not give that College a chance, there has to be at least one building or spot we can use, assuming that there are no undead around, or at the least only a small amount of them.” Jill said suddenly.

Jared thought about it for a moment, then nodded, they were close, so damn close to the terminal, that he could reach it early tomorrow morning in less than an hour depending on the roads, just head up 17 then turn east towards Boiling Springs Lake.

These people needed a break, needed someplace safe for a night at least. Face it Jared, these people have been through a lot in the last two days, a battle, a hurricane, a zombie horde, there were rape victims back there behind him, women and children that had been held hostage so that their husbands and fathers would fight for a psychopath.

“ Just up ahead is an exit to the community college, when I want the convoy to stop, Daws, Eric follow me in, we are going to check it out, if the place isn’t crawling with undead, we are going to find a place for every one to shelter for the night, or longer.” Jared said.

“Roger that, the turn off is just ahead of me” Eric replied.

“Ed, I want your people to come with us too. To all drivers, stay put, unless a huge horde shows up, then reverse and head back south, till your out of their reach. Do not go north.” Jared added as he pulled ahead, turning two minutes later and drove past the LAV and Stryker, the FMTV with Ed and his team following in the rear.

The entry road entered a T Intersection, with the main parking lot directly across, it sat with campus buildings on three sides, a sign showed him that the assembly hall, child center and applied plant center were to the right, the Maintenance building and Brunswick Interchange building were to the right.

He drove slowly thru the T and into the parking lot, which was mostly empty, only 12
cars and a truck were still parked. That was somewhat surprising, he would have expected a lot more. And if the main lot was alike this, he doubted there were many other cars in the lot.

He sat there for a moment looking through the rain, and the gathering shadows, debating. He wanted something that wasn’t in the middle of the campus surrounded by other buildings, he drove back out of the parking lot and headed towards the maintenance building, the other vehicles followed, Parking lot A was more than large enough and empty enough to hold the entire convoy, but Jared really felt uncomfortable being there.

He drove slowly, thru the next intersection and turned left, the maintenance building, to his right, to his left was a modern building called the Interchange building, behind that was something that looked like a green house, its curved roof jutting up over a wall of tires and other items. He slowed staring at the place, was it possible that some one was still alive over there. There were several cars parked in the parking lot, and a small transportation bus, one of the square looking ones with black tinted windows. It was almost dark, and he wanted his people secured as soon as possible.

“are you seeing what I’m seeing Eric?” Jared asked over the radio.

“a green house and the back of that building surrounded by a wall of tires and other crap, no I’m not seeing that” Eric Replied.

“smart ass, I should have spanked you as a Teen ager” Jared muttered.

Jared pulled into the parking lot and parked the ELSORV, “Team one is going to check it out, the rest of you, keep watch.” Jared transmitted then lifted his HK, “ wake your ass up Ronny, we have things to do.” He said into the back, then nodded a reassurance to Jill, before stepping out into the rain. The standing water was about three inches deep, and the wind was still strong but not as bad as it had been.

He waited till the team was assembled then pulled his NVG’s down and turned them on. Once every one was ready, NVG’s operational, he moved in a crouch towards the side door of the building that faced the street, leading the way, his HK up and ready. Clearing was the one thing he really hated, the knot of tension in the pit of his stomach was hard to ignore.

He peered into the window inset into the door, and realized some one had placed a board over the glass from the inside, completely cutting off the view.

“do you think some one is inside?” Jill asked.

Jared shrugged, there might have been at one time, but that didn’t mean they were still here. But who knew, he thought remembering the women at the airport. and that green house, there were live plants inside, at least made it possible that someone could be holed in there alive and well.

“if we are going to go inside, Id feel better about forcing the door on the other side of that barricade, than one that’s just open to the street.” Jared muttered.

“contact left “ Ori called out suddenly, Jared turned and saw three zombies staggering across the sodden grass, about twenty feet away, one tripped over a limb and fell face first with a wet sucking sound when it hit.

They had come from the Highway side of the building, probably following the vehicles from the main parking lot Jared thought, as he stepped forward to join Ori. “ firearms or Melee” Ori asked.

“three of them, wind and rain, we go with fire arms” Jared said not wanting to risk slipping and falling due to the water, and wind.

Ori already in position fired twice at a once pretty coed, dressed in mud splattered jeans and a Tshirt. There wasn’t much left of her head, when she fell backwards. Jared double tapped the chubby kid, in a football jersey and board shorts, wearing once bright yellow plastic looking sneakers that made his feet look huge. He toppled over slowly like a tree.

The zombie that had fallen, was struggling to get up, but was having trouble in the mud and wet grass. Jared let Ori have that one, he was already watching for more targets.

“Clear” Ori called out.

“not really “ Jared muttered “ contact, left of you, across the street by the maintenance building, five, no six” Jared called out.

there was still enough distance that he wasn’t worried about it. “Eric get that LAV as close to the tire wall as you can get it” Jared directed over the radio.

A moment later the LAV moved up, and parked close by. “ lets go” Jared said leading the way. “ we climb up, then leap over.” He told his team.

Across the parking lot they heard the Strykers motor rev, they scrambled up to the top of the LAV. Jared was first, the Tire and Debris wall enclosed the entire back of the Interchange building extending out to surround the Green house, there was also a Gazebo and two picnic tables inside the enclosure. Several Barrels and large Trashcans lined the back wall of the interchange buildings, open and filled with rain water.

But no undead, he could see, that didn’t mean the building wasn’t full of them either. Jared leaped over and landed bent kneed in the water logged ground. Bring his rifle up to High ready in an instant, as one by one his team jumped down to join him.

“just what I enjoy, A commando raid on a college, where a bevy of hot college girls may be waiting for rescue” Ronny said with a laugh.

“your thinking panty raid, and this isn’t a sorority” Jill said reaching over and Gibb Slapping him.

Jared shook his head, and silenced them with a hand gesture, once every one was ready, he moved towards the green house doors. Ori positioned himself at the Door, ready to open it, Ronny was to his right and ready to follow him in.

At Jared’s Nod, Ori opened the door, Jared entered hard and fast ready to put down any target, the only thing he saw were rows of tables filled with plants, living plants, at one end of the huge Green house, he saw a series of tanks, with pipes and wires that joined the tanks to some kind of equipment.

“oh man I’m suddenly craving a Salad” Ronny muttered as they moved deeper into the ware house where they could spread out some. The smell of onion and garlic set his mouth to watering.

Jared spouted a trowel that still had dirt on it, he ran the fingers of his left hand over the dirt noting it was still semi moist. Someone had been in here earlier. “we have possible survivors,” he announced over the radio, His eyes sweeping the floor just in case there was a crawler inside. it took them only a few minutes to sweep and clear the building, Ronny had snagged a tomato and some strawberries, the juice ran down his chin as he ate them moaning in almost sexual pleasure.

“They could feed a lot of people with all this” Ori said, as they headed to the door once more. “Thirty or forty at least, and with canning they can keep eating thru the winter.”

“Has to be more than one to have built up that barricade out there” Logan commented.

Jared nodded as he stepped back into the storm, the rain had fallen to a drizzle again and he was thrilled to see it, hopefully the damn storm would blow out before morning.

Ronny assumed the position at the door after they tested it to see if it was locked, finding it unlocked, Ronny opened it at Jared’s signal. Jared and Ori entered together, Jared going left, Ori taking the right. Jared could see all the way down the hallway to the boarded over and barricaded door that led out to the side street. there were six doors on each side of the hallway. Ori’s side ran down to another boarded up and barricaded door. he could see a stairwell about halfway down and an elevator, there were sixteen doors on both sides of his end of the hallway.

The only sound other than their breathing was the water dripping off their clothes that splashed on the tiled floor. “where too” Ori asked in a whisper.

“ we yell and see if anyone’s home, if undead started coming out, we run like hell and get over the wall, if its people we wait and decide if we want to shoot them.” Jared said not bothering to keep his voice down.

“US Army, any one in here,” He yelled, knowing that any second undead students were going to pour out of classrooms and try to eat them. he hoped that by claiming be army who ever might be in here would think of rescue and safety and reveal themselves, not that he would have been that stupid, to expose himself to a heavily armored group with only their word they were friendly soldiers.

“if your in here, let us know, otherwise, we have a large group of people that will be entering shortly, and we will end up finding you.” Jared called out. as he pointed to Ori and Logan then at the Stairwell. Both nodded and moved down the hallway, peering into the open doors along the way, till they reached the stair case before kneeling and covering the Stairwell with their weapons.

“Jill , Mike cover these doors, Ronny with me.” Jared said, together he and Ronny moved down his end of the hallway, checking the rooms there, it turned out that each classroom had two doors for students, which made things much faster. The rooms were clear.

Satisfied that everything was kosher on this end, he headed to down hall, passing Ori and Logan and began to check every door that stood open, he wasn’t willing to open the closed doors till he had the whole team together. The hall turned right just before the seconded barricaded door. and he could see signs over many of the doors, indicating hey had been offices. They were all closed, the few classrooms stood open like all the other class rooms on this floor.

“Notice anything odd” he asked Ronny when they finished checking the rooms..

“No signs of violence anywhere down here” Ronny replied.

“well that, I meant the floors are waxed” Jared said pointing down with the barrel of his rifle at the shiny tiles.

“Jared, we have run over about twenty zombies out here, but so far no swarms, I’m going to bring in the rest of the convoy, Ill send Daws to show them they way, is the building occupied,” Eric’s voice asked in his ear bud.

“It appears that way, but we have only checked the ground floor.” Jared replied. “get the them in Eric, and see if we can find a way to get every one over the barricade with out tearing it down. the ground floor is secure in here, and theres plenty of room for our people.”

“Roger out” Eric answered.

“Jill, Mike on me, we are going to clear the rooms with closed doors” Jared called out as he headed back to the stairs.

“You don’t need to do that, they are empty” A mans voice called out loudly from the second floor. “don’t shoot I’m coming down”

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

the thing that had been Jasper Evan Brown, stood under the trees, watching the Terminal with hate filled cloudy eyes from under the brim of its bowler hat, its thin white hair whipped around its misshapen skull. Its long arms dangled at its sides from hunched shoulders, Dressed nattily in an old wet suit that looked like it was out of a movie in the early 1900’s.

As the weather improved more and more undead splashed thru the shallow standing water towards the fence line, stacking up first two, then three deep, Waiting for something, as they just stopped and stared at the fence

It could sense the living inside that fenced in area, but not the ones it had come for, they should have been here by now. its tools were nearby, resting for the night, it if felt any anger at having to wait, it didn’t show on its almost skeletal face.

When its tools arrived there would be none of its brethren in site near the gates, it wanted the tools to open the gates, to enter and fight with the other living inside, and then once the way was cleared the horde would enter and sweep over all but two, its two.

The one called Abbadon, had failed it, he had refused to bow, to obey and he would pay for that, his men would pay for that. But not till Jared Stone and his wife were dead.

It quivered in pleasure at the thought of the blood was going to flow, its thin lipped mouth parted in a rictus of barred triangular teeth in what might have been called a smile by the mad.

Ed Stanton would die at its own hands, and teeth. It owed that one, it had a score to settle.

There were times that it remembered much clearer than now, times where it remembered years of murder, and pleasure, and remembered Ed Stanton, who had captured him. Only to deliver him to the destiny his dark friend had first promised him as a child by a slow moving river in Texas.

Soon Ed Stanton the fag would be dead at its hands, and it would be free to enjoy its work once more. To hold a glittering knife and slowly flay the flesh from its victims to toy with them, ruin them, destroy their hopes and dreams with each cut, feel the hot blood flowing over his hands, as he sacrificed them to its Master.

For a moment Jasper Evan Brown stood there looking out across the grassy area to the fence line, fully aware of who he was, and the pure pleasure of his work filled him, he would make Ed Stanton his greatest work of art yet. Oh such beauty hidden under that ones flesh, he would peel it away, layer by layer, to reveal the Art under the skin, he woul…. His thoughts faded became incoherent, fading back into the semi conscious state of his undead mind, but that would change it knew dimly as soon as its tool was at hand once more. And then it would live again.

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

The Hurricane slowly headed north, leaving flood and damage behind in the state that had once been called. North Carolina, but it was to do far worse to other places, and the survivors that huddled in its path would find themselves fighting for their lives against not only nature but the undead, most wouldn’t live to see the sunrise.

Those that did survive, would find them selves sheltering on roof tops, trapped by flood waters and undead, roads were cracked and broken, vehicles and buildings were washed away. There was no where they could go, they could only sit there and wait to die. Hope flickered almost dead in so many, and the dark fed on it, reveled in it. soon those who still offered hope to those they encountered would be dead, and then it could turn its full attention to a former school, further north.

“The Dark Is Rising
The End Is Near
The Dark Forces Gather
It is As We Feared”
~unknown

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