chapter 29

“ Hear the tolling of the bells,
Iron bells!
What a world of solemn thought their monody compels!
In the silence of the night
How we shiver with affright
At the melancholy menace of their tone!
For every sound that floats
From the rust within their throats
Is a groan.
And the people—ah, the people,
They that dwell up in the steeple,
All alone,
And who tolling, tolling, tolling,
In that muffled monotone,
Feel a glory in so rolling
On the human heart a stone—
They are neither man nor woman,
They are neither brute nor human,
They are Ghouls:”
~E.A.Poe

The tug, pulled away from the dock, water churning at its stern. The barge slow to move at first, finally slid away as men ran and leaped on board. It slowly gained speed, men leaping the ever widening gap.

Lance Carlson driving the last FMTV came around the curve, with undead on his butt, and saw the barge pulling away. It was only five feet from the dock but the gap was growing.

The other trucks had been a couple of minutes ahead of him, and the men those trucks had carried were leaping from the dock and onto the barge or leaping into the water and swimming to the side of the barge. But there was no way Lance could make it down the dock before the barge was to far out from the side of the dock, for he and the men in the back of the truck to board.

Gritting his teeth he floored the gas pedal, “ hang the hell on” he shouted as he aimed for the water. the truck surged forward, then the feeling of tires on road were gone, the motor was still roaring, and then he was thrown forward as the hood of the truck buried itself in the water, water that washed up over the windshield in a white tide. Lance grabbed his pistol and shot out the window, then lunged out into the dark water.

Jill stood at the barricade, firing steadily into the mass of undead coming from the tree line and now a mass of undead came around the curve of the road, following the trucks that had fled for the docks. she could only stare as the FMTV still speeding, shot of the dock and nosed into the channel, a sheet of water sprayed over the rapidly sinking truck, , men bailing out as the truck as the cab sank first lifting the bed almost 45 degrees out of the water then sank quickly. The men swam for the barge, where ropes were being tossed out to the swimmers. The survivors grasped the ropes and were pulled to the barge as fast as possible.

The undead that had been following the truck walked right into the water, sinking out of sight. It was like watching Lemmings, she thought as several hundred just walked right off the landing area into the water.

Mortars were now walking back and forth from curve where the road came around the line of woods, east through the woods themselves. Where they struck pavement, dirt and body parts were sent catapulting into the flame wracked night, Fires raged amidst the blackened trunks and shattered stumps. Hellish lit smoke billowed up into the night sky. And then suddenly the whistle of mortars and thunder of explosions stopped.

The Gun tracks backed up blocking the dock as much as possible, leaving a gap that was as large as one of the gun tracks themselves, then the gun crews leaped out and raced past the Barricade to leap into the water and swam for the Barge. .

“Mary, I really hope ten passengers isn’t the top limit” Jill transmitted. “ fire the bird up, we are coming your way.” She said, casting a glance at the burning transport. God knew how long they had before that thing went up, and took out the docks.

“Okay guys, time to run, head for the plane,” she shouted pointing at the plane, whose motor was turning over. The men who had been manning the barricade with her, lowered their weapons and ran towards the escape the plane offered, not wanting to be left behind to face the horde of Hungry pale horrors staggering towards them.

“I’m not sure, Ronny said it could probably handle twelve maybe thirteen. But with all the gear….” Mary replied, Jill could almost see Mary shrug in doubt as the other womans voice trailed off.

Jill felt her stomach drop at the news, the plane had to be able to take off. The barge was already to far out for them to swim for it unless they dropped every bit of gear they had, including weapons and ammo to swim for the Barge now.

They didn’t have time, she realized as she looked at the one remaining soldier beside her at the barricade. He looked familiar to her, but she couldn’t place his name, he had leaped off a truck as it passed the barricade, determined to help hold the Docks so the barge with its load of cargo and men and women could escape. .

“Get moving Soldier” Jill told him in her best military sounding voice. he smiled at her.
“ No maam, I’m not moving till you are, Jared would kill my ass if I left you here.” He replied. it was his deep voice that sparked her memory of his name. “Jansen right?” she said, not really asking.

He nodded slightly, his weapon coming up and began to fire into the approaching horde that was almost on top of the gun tracks.

“Thor Jansen, and what ever your planning on doing, you had better do it fast” Jansen replied.

:”I’m not leaving” she said simply.

“You not what?” he asked in disbelief. “ If I have to I’m going to knock you pretty ass out, and carry you to the plane, and cop a feel just to add insult to injury, if you don’t start moving now” Jansen replied.

“ The plane cant carry 14 people, with weapons and gear, I’m not even sure it can carry thirteen people either, so I’m going to make a break for that armored tank thing over there” she said pointing.

Jansen, thought about it for a moment, she was right he knew. Overloaded the plane wouldn’t be able to take off. And god knows how long they had before that Transport blew up, it was the right call to make. Even if it planted his ass right there next to a huge ticking bomb. Caught between being the main course for undead cannibals or being BBq’d alive, just got to love Gods sense of humor.

“That’s not a tank it’s a … oh hell never mind.” He said firing again, he was staying with her, his mind was made up. “Doesn’t matter what it is, and your right, lets do it”

“Jill, get on the damn plane” Mary said almost begging.

“ cant Mary, I wish I could, but the plane wont be able to take the extra load, Jansen and I are going to stay behind and try to get out using a vehicle” Jill said, she wanted to, oh god how she wanted to be safely away from here. away from the approaching undead, but she couldn’t, she could not let others die because she was scared to do the right thing. she knew Jared would understand her decision and respect it, no matter how badly it hurt him.

Jansen felt a surge of respect for the woman, he didn’t know what she had been like before the zombies, he suspected she had always had the strength of her convictions and had never been a vain, petty or shallow person, no matter how pretty she was. If she were a soldier and the Gov were still up and running he would have put her up for the Silver Star and every other citation he could thing of, for the decision she had just made.

She slung her rifle over her back and drew the Katana on her hip. The blade hissed free of the scabbard, glittering like a living flame in the light of the fires.

“your insane” Jansen cried out as Jill bounded forward, he came after her moving in a crouch firing steadily into the undead that were already past the Gun tracks.

For the first few years of Kenjitsu, Jill had studied the traditional form, which involved the use of a single blade, but as she gained more and more proficiency, her sensei had encouraged her to study Niten Ichi ryu Kenjitsu. A form developed by the the Kensai Musashi Miyamoto himself.

As she rushed forward, Katana in her right hand, she drew the shorter blade that jutted up over her shoulder, it wasn’t a wakasashi, but a cut down saber that Rob and Ori had made for her more like a slightly curved bowie knife than a sword, it was only a few inches shorter than a Wakasashi, but its purpose was the same it was a weapon.

To most westerners, the way was mysticism, a spiritual myth that held no meaning in the real world. But she and others like her had learned, and learned well,. with years of long practice, she let all thoughts fall away, all fears and preconceptions, she became empty and yet full, as Musashi had taught “In the void is virtue, and no evil. Wisdom exists, principle exists, the way exists. Spirit is Void.”

Jansen gawked as she exploded into the undead that blocked her way, he had heard several times that the blade she carried was no wall hanger but the real thing, but to him that meant a western style sword with all the limitations that came with it.

The blades in her hands flashed as she flowed and spun through the undead, removing limbs and even heads, he had once heard Ronny jokingly call her a warrior Goddess, but by god that was what she was he thought. She rushed a zombie leading with her left shoulder, ramming it so hard its rib cage shattered and it was thrown backwards knocking over several more. She never even paused, just whirled and cut down the zombie closest to her, before launching into a snap kick that shattered a third zombies jaw, the sound so loud Jansen heard it as he fired.

The numbers of undead were growing, forcing their way through the gap between the two Gun tracks, as Good as Jill was she could only do so much.

The men from the barricade were almost finished loading onto the plane, Mary was shouting over the radio at Jill to get her ass on the plane.

. “take off now” Jansen transmitted. “ Ill make sure she gets out” Jansen said softly
Mary sat at the controls of the plane, and nodded silently to herself, refusing to cry. Like Cross, she could save those onboard, or get them all killed by trying to save even more. It was a hard, hateful choice, not something that many before the zombies would have understood, but there was no survival using the old way.

“last man on board” some one shouted from the back. Mary nodded silently, then fed power to the engine turning away from the Dock and her friend. “God keep you both” She transmitted, trying hard not to cry.

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

The hallway was shrouded in shadows that writhed and twined around the two men like living things. The building shook, its windows vibrating at the regular explosions outside.

They had cleared a little less than half the rooms on the third floor, finding only two more body’s. Bracketing the last door before the landing of the blocked off main stair case, Mike steeled himself, entry into an uncleared room was always nerve wracking, and at Ed’s signal moved through the open doorway quickly.

This room was a file storage room, filled with rows of filing cabinets. It was a typical filing room, bare walls, industrial carpet, and nothing else to draw the eye but the serried ranks of file cabinets.

Mike entered moving to the right, Ed went left. Pointing Mike moved down the aisle between the row of cabinets while Ed moved slowly along the left hand wall to peer down the next aisle.

Mike reached the far right wall and moved to the next aisle directly across from Ed. Then together they moved to next aisle between cabinets.

In the hallway, mike heard a distinctive noise, something from his military days. He whirled around weapon up, to see smoke billowing in through the door. smoke Grenade he thought, it was a great NVG equalizer, and a great distraction.

Ed, turning towards the door, almost at the same time as Mike, heard a soft footfall behind him, and started to turn when something slammed into the side of his head. spots danced before his eyes, as he swayed drunkenly and collapsed to his knees.

He did it to me again, Ed thought dazedly as he fell to his knees, gunfire erupted, and then mike was kneeling by his side.

“You okay” Mike asked, making sure he kept his back to the filing cabinets against the left wall, it at least cut down on the directions they could be attacked. “I didn’t hit him, or at least I didn’t hit him in the head, he moved to fast.” Mike said, then more quietly. “What the hell is he?”

“Demon, devil, Satan’s right hand, what does it matter” Ed replied shaking his head, as his mind cleared.

“Will shooting it in the head even work” Mike asked, then fell silent as a dark hate filled laugh rippled through the room.

“Far to late to be asking that question Michael, and the answer to that question was available to all of you” Jasper said. “ to bad, some one kept it hidden from you”

“What are you talking about” Mike asked angrily trying to look in all directions at once.

“Oh a book, but its nothing you’ll live to see Michael” the cold hideous voice replied, seemingly from the back of the room near the window on the right hand side of the room.

Ed placed a hand on Mikes arm, his mind racing as he considered the smoke that filled the hallway that had drifted half way into the file room. there really was no choice, but to move into it and what ever it hid. Or just sit here and wait to die.

“Try not to talk to him, he is a lying sack of shit” Ed said, Mike half expected the thing to respond to the insult but there was only silence.

“Ready” Ed asked, tilting his head towards the smoke, Mike nodded. “ Then lets do it”
the two men rose and moved quickly into the smoke.

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

“How are you set for Ammunition” Eric asked Jared who sat squeezed in beside Martinez, the LAV was badly overloaded, but there was no real help for it. Jared looked like crap, his forearms and chest were bandaged, his pant leg was bloody where the thigh wound had opened up again, at least he had changed into a clean shirt that Eric had offered him, leaving the bloody rag he had been wearing on top of the LAV.

“Well I don’t have enough to fight my way out of this horde if that’s what you mean” Jared replied, trying to keep his tone light. All it was going to take was one person to sound panicky and it would sweep through the others like the flu.

“Maybe three hundred fifty rounds or so for the HK and four extra mags for the Mk 23.” Jared replied,

“I’m completely out” Ori responded from where he sat on the floor his back against the hatch.

“Well your waiting here, so you don’t need any at the moment” Jared replied.

Ori gazed at him for a moment, the muscle in his jaw jumping. “Jared I love you like a brother but don’t ever, try to pull that kind of bullshit on me. Its my decision, Ronny is my friend too, for that matter so are Ed and Mike, so there is no way I’m going to sit here like some southern belle with a case of the vapors moaning oh lordy me while the men folk go out to do battle with the minions of the Devilish northern aggressors”

Eric wrestled a duffle bag out of the pile strapped on the floor, the LAV was really tightly packed with people and materials, then opened it up retrieving Magazines, he silently passed to Ori to fill his empty Ammo pouches.

“hey where did you get that” Ori asked noticing something else in the Bag. Eric looked down then pulled out a large Journal.

“this, some old guy gave it to us down near Springfield, insisted that I had to get to someone that was part of a mystical group of hero’s. he was kind of nutty, its filled with a lot of ancient myths, and other stuff mostly about demons, vampires and stuff about sacred numbers” Eric replied, he stopped talking when he saw the look on Jared’s face.

“Please do not tell me you believe in a group of mystic Hero’s who need a book to save the world” Eric said, as Jared held out a hand. “ great, humanitys fate rests in the hands of the librarian association.” Eric muttered as he passed the book to Jared, who flipped it open, and began to leaf through the book, stopping occasionally to read something more deeply.

“no, not to save humanity” Jared muttered.

“almost there,” Blaine called out, “ how do you want to do this”

Eric thought about that for a moment, they could drive straight into the building and block the stairs, then fight their way up stairs, or they could park against the wall and use the grapple guns and go up the side, or use the crane. To be honest the Crane might end up being the safer way. Get on the roof and go down to the third floor, get the men together and lower them down, but they were going to have be strapped on up top there was just no more room inside either the LAV or the Stryker. Campbell was out there in one of the ELSORVs, but getting people into it with out getting grabbed by the undead was going to be hard. What they needed was a truck. like the one over by the Clinic that had been loading people from the roof when the evacuation of the dock began.

“ Martinez, get out the Grappel guns, Bailey see if you can raise Chris in the Crane, have him park far enough back to lower the cranes boom to the roof top. then pass this on to Simms, I want one of his ABV’s to clear a way to the truck at the clinic, see if they can hold any more people, if so have that ABV lead the truck out of here.” Eric said after a moment.

Jared was seemingly engrossed in the book, as men readied their weapons, and equipment.

“Remember we don’t have a lot of time, speed is of the essence” Eric told his men, “Castor, I want you to stay with Ori, your both good, and he has been though hell and needs some one to keep him steady if needed.” Eric said, glad Ori remained silent and didn’t protest.

“Jared, you need to reload” Eric suggested tapping his brothers knee.

“Probably” Jared replied absently.

“Come on Jared a book isn’t going to help us out, its just a book its not magical. Its big enough you might be able to beat some one to death with it, but that’s about it.” Eric said.

“Maybe, maybe not” Jared said as he continued to leaf through its pages, a feeling of dread settling over him.

“Well on the bright side of things if there is some Undead ass kicking Librarian association, its bound to have some hot women with those little glasses and….” Ori began then grinned at the looks being tossed his way “ I know, shut the hell up”

Ori noticed that something had grabbed Jared’s attention in the book, but the redhead remained silent, then closed the book. “Mind if I hang on to this for a bit” Jared asked Eric, who shrugged.

“Go ahead, to be honest I’m not even sure why I’ve hung on it to.” Eric replied, as he checked his own gear.

Jared flashed a cryptic smile at Eric, then tucked the book into Ori’s pack. “sorry mines in the ELSORV, next to the M32, for once I was caught with my pants down around my ankles”

Eric leaned back forcing himself to remain calm, watching Ori who fidgeted nervously, not eager to go back into the grinder, but even more determined to stick by his friends side with dogged determination that said far more about his personality than any test or series of questions could.

Jared rifled through the preloaded magazines making sure the ones he picked were for the HK, then stuffed them into his ammo pouches, four Frag grenades finished off his preps.

Eric smothered a grin watching his older brother, the man was as calm and collected as any SF man. If he were worried, it didn’t show in the least, they were a lot alike in that respect. Their taste in women were a bit different though, not that Eric didn’t find Jill a real hottie, she was.

“ About ready?” Eric asked, as Jared checked over the gear attached to his combat vest.

“About as ready as I can be” Jared assured him. “ Figures the first time I break my rule about keeping my gear close at hand, and the world falls down around my ears.”

“Ill get Campbell to come up along side and pass you your gear.” Eric told him.

“thanks,” Jared said seemingly still distracted.

The LAV lurched suddenly, and then Blaine called out. “ in position.”

“Bailey pass to Campbell, to come along side, so we can get Jared and Ori’s Gear from the ELSORV” Eric said, “ Martinez, Castor , up top and get the grapples set.”

Martinez nodded and grabbed one of the grapple guns and climbed up through the hatch, Castor followed a moment later carrying the second Grapple gun.

“Shut her down Blaine, and then switch with Bailey, I want him in the Drivers seat, your going in with us.” Eric said, a moment later the motor fell silent. “ Bailey keep it off till we are ready to leave, we need every bit of fuel still in the tank so I don’t want it wasted sitting here idling.”

Bailey nodded then moved forward squirming around Blaine to get in the drivers seat.

“lets do it” Eric said, Jared slung his rifle and climbed up through the hatch into the darkness. The flares had died leaving the terminal in darkness, but the rustling of clothes, and the thumping on the side of vehicles made Jared think of a millions of giant cockroaches scuttling unseen in a dark kitchen.

“get the lights” Eric called out in the darkness, keeping a large hand on Jared’s elbow. One misstep up here and a man could tumble right off the LAV and into the undead below, a short, horrifying death would follow.

A moment later small million candle spots, Placed on the top of the LAV by Martinez, came to life bathing the side of the building in light. No sooner had the lights came on than the cranes clanked forward again, maneuvering into position so that its boom could be placed over the roof.

A Duffel bag was passed up from below, Eric took the bag and opened it and pulled out a box like contraption with a handle on it. “ this is a powered ascender, we have three, once I hook them up to the ropes, we go up the wall three at a time, do not move away from my people, do not get in the way of my people” Eric said, if he were expecting an argument from Jared he didn’t get one.

Jared had no intention of getting in the way of the SF’s Team, like his own people, they were used to working with each other, knew their jobs and exactly how each man would move and react in a given situation.

“don’t worry about it, Ori and I will stay out of the way.” Jared said casting a worried glance at the smaller blonde man who looked exhausted as hell, Ori was bruised and battered and didn’t move half as fast as he normally could have.

While Eric and his men readied the ascenders, the ELSORV pulled up along side, leaving no gap for the undead between the ELSORV and the LAV. A moment after it came to a stop, Campbell called up to them, and as soon as Ori and Jared were ready, passed up their gear and the few weapons they had left in the ELSORV.

With a sigh of relief, Jared dug into his pack and removed his Khurki, and two grenades and added them to his harness. Opening a gear bag, Jared pulled out a bandolier of 40mm, shotgun shells, as he called them, and slipped it on, before quickly checking the M32 and slinging it along his left side.

“hell Jared, Got enough weapons” Eric asked with a laugh that might not sound Nervous to any one else, but Jared.

“not yet” Jared assured him, as he strapped a holster for his SIG around his left ankle and clipped the holster for his Berretta 92F to his harness.

“ grab what you need” Jared told Ori, who rifled through the bag and pulled out two pistols with two mags each.

“as soon as you two are done strapping the armory on, we are ready” Eric commented dryly.

“the next time you find yourself running across a huge parking lot with undead closing in around you, and you find that the two weapons and mags your carrying aren’t enough you can laugh at my paranoia” Ori stated as he added a machete to his left Calf. Going old school he thought as he slipped on his own pack and then signaled he was ready.

He stood there for a moment, then took a deep breath to calm himself and instantly regretted it. the stench of the undead almost gagged him.

“you sure, your up for this” Jared asked him softly.

“is a porn star up for Multiple takes?” Ori joked weakly.

“Don’t bullshit me, Ori, if your not, theres not a damn thing to be ashamed of if you need to sit this one out” Jared told him pitching his voice so low that only Ori could hear him.

“Jared you look about as injured as I do, if your going so am I” Ori told him, there was no give in his voice.

“I’m going Ori, because that Bowler wearing shit is in there, and I am going to Kill it once and for all, for Billy thornton, Steve, Mark and every one else that thing killed or had killed.” Jared said his voice still low. Ori blinked in surprise at the Cold hatred and Iron determination in Jared’s voice.

“what if it cant be killed?” Ori asked finally touching on the subject that all of them had tried to avoid for so long now.

“it can, I know it can” Jared assured him, he had known deep down for a long time that the thing could die. “think about the fact its always hidden in shadows, used human tools and zombies to attack us, if it couldn’t be killed it would have just walked into our camp one night and slaughtered us all.” Jared said, there was no doubt in Jared’s voice, that Ori could detect.

Ori had to agree with the idea, it made sense, but that didn’t make it true either. the dead rising and eating people made no sense, but there they were around the vehicles with their bibs on and waiting for an entrée to fall into their laps.

“guess we are going to find out” Ori replied

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

Ily woke to darkness, she set up and felt pain flare in the side of her head, her right eye felt swollen and tender. Where ever she was, was pitch black, there were no windows to let in even the small amount of light from the night. She moved her hands experimentally and found to her relief were unbound. Kicking her legs told her that they were free as well. she climbed unsteadly to her feet, terror filled her as she tried to pierce the darkness, for all she knew there were undead in the room with her. she breathed as silently as she could through her nose, and was relieved that there was none of the typical smell of the undead in the room.

Who had attacked her, where was Amy? The last thing she remembered was walking down the hall, and then something hit her in the head. it had to have been one of the soldiers, and that meant…. She really didn’t want to think of what they might be doing with the pretty teen aged girl.

Even if there are undead in the room I can’t just stand here she told herself. She reached out blindly and moved slowly forward. it didn’t take long to find and follow the walls. The door on one wall was locked, and the rest of the room seemed to be filled with metal boxes and conduits, towards the back, or what she was calling the back, which only meant it was opposite the door, she find a ladder bolted to the wall.

She had to be in the mechanical room, the one that had access to the roof, excited she climbed up the ladder till she bumped into the hatch. Running a hand over the smooth metal she found a handle, that had a padlock dangling from it. Pissed she slammed her hand into the hatch as if she could push it out of its frame. Then climbed back down, and began a more careful investigation of the room.

She had no idea how long she had search but finally she discovered a tool box and tool belt under something that she thought might be a metal table or bench, fumbling around she found a flash light, pushing the button, nothing happened. She pushed the button a few more times then angrily hurled it across the room.

What did it matter, who ever had knocked her out and locked her in here, had taken her weapons and gear. If she reached the roof, she was stuck up there, if somehow she got out of this room and into the hallway, she wouldn’t have a weapon to defend her self with anyway.

You are not some dim witted, big breasted Hollywood star, who screams and trys to run in spiked heels, she told herself angrily as she rifled through the tool box and after a moment found a long screwdriver, and what felt like a box cutter. Better than nothing she decided as she pocketed the cutter.

As she searched the tool box for anything else she might be able to use, she touched a rectangular device slightly larger than her hand, with rounded edges, she ran a finger over it, and pushed the buttons she could feel, she was just about to give up, when a screen came to life with a blue glow.

YES she thought, it wasn’t much, but it was something, she turned the device over, and used the light from the screen to exam the contents of the tool box, spotting a tool with a wooden handle and a hooked blade, she pulled it out, it was maybe eight inches long all told, the blade was maybe three inchs and the edge on the inside of the curve was razor sharp, she was lucky she hadn’t sliced her fingers on it.

The light from the screen faded suddenly, Ily desperately pushed buttons again, and was rewarded with the screen lighting back up. she flashed it around like a flashlight, it was bright enough to see things with in a few feet of her.
Something thumped in one of the metal ducts behind her. Ily tensed turning slowly, to eye the large metal box with all the ducts that sprang from it.

She saw a light glowing from inside a grate that covered a fan of some sort, she covered the small screen and let the light fade out. then readied her self. She was not going to let the bastard get a drop on her again.

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

Mike stayed close to Ed, whom he could barely see through the smoke, they had both tied rags around their noses and mouths, but that didn’t stop the acrid smoke from irritating them badly enough to send them into coughing fits on occasion. Bright side as far as Mike was concerned was that it wasn’t the old fashioned smoke grenades that used White phosperous,

They had cleared more than half the corridor, and found nothing. no sign of Amy and no sign of the remaining soldiers. The smoke had started to thin, for a few moments then another smoke grenade had been dropped filling the hallway up again. they were forced to use the tac lights on their weapons, which didn’t help much for their vision, it did keep them from bumping around in the dark and smoke, but that was about all it really did, aside from pinpoint their location to any one not using lights.

“guess he is determined not to let my NVG’s be of any help” mike muttered.

“he is just screwing with us” Ed replied softly as they moved past the barricaded stair case that led down to the second floor.

Mike started to reply but fell silent as he saw the smoke edddie in front of him like a soft breezed had moved through the hall way. A shape appeared in the smoke, small and frail looking, just a silhouette at first then, a girl staggered out of the smoke, her dark skin charred and blackened, her thin blouse had two bloody bullet holes in it, her eyes were dark and dead.

Mike gasped and stepped back, weapon centering and then he sent six rounds punching into the child. Who only stood there, staring at him, one delicate charred hand rising towards him.

“ you could have saved her Michael, but you didn’t, you killed her, you hated them, and you let that little girl pay the price for that hate.” A cold flat voice whispered in his ear, Mike strangled a scream and wheeled around, only to find Eds large hand on his shoulder.

“There’s nothing there Mike, he is screwing with you.” Ed said softly,

“I’m here Michael, I’ve always been here, I’m the monster that lurks in your soul, the monster that came out during the war. You enjoyed the killing didn’t you Michael, you craved it. you laid awake at night sometimes, dreaming of killing your wife didn’t you Michael. Sweet loving Carrie.” The voice whispered again, from every where and no where.

“Fuck you” Mike snarled, “you’re an abomination, you should never have been born”

“that is exactly what Otis, my father thought so many times” Brown said laughing. Mike couldn’t pinpoint where it came from. “fate is such a grand thing Michael, I worked towards this fate from the age of ten, and what was your fate, oh yes to slaughter a little girl and let a busload of children burn to death in war zone. And of course we cant forget failing your lovely wife now can we. Such a lovely couple, she was my masterpiece Michael.”

Ed looked around his head cocked to one side, he couldn’t really hear Brown, just a noise that was much like people whispering, it was every where and no where. No recognizable words, not for him. but Mike obviously could hear it. Ed could see Mikes face, and almost stepped back in surprise, as the fear in mikes eyes vanished as his lips twisted into a hate filled smile.

“you had better kill me fast, what ever in the hell you are, because if I get the chance I will pull off your arms and legs and carve your rotting corpse into pieces and leave you fucking head on a pike.” Mike said, his voice hard and hating.

Ed punched mike hard in the shoulder, the other man rounded on him, fury in his eyes, Mike lowered his weapon, lips pressed together. “ lets find her now.”

Ed nodded, his mind chewing over what he had just seen. or rather not seen. after his first encounter with the undead version of Brown in the hotel on Sullivan he had mulled over what exactly had happened.

The two men moved deeper into the hallway, clearing rooms was almost impossible when you couldn’t seen the room you were trying to clear. They swept one room, finding nothing, just a large desk, the blotter covered in dried blood, a few pictures lay on the floor behind the desk. And not much else, they moved back into the hallway. Behind them unseen and unheard a ceiling tile was lifted out of place.

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

Ronny wiggled up into the Air handler, or at least that’s what he thought it was, and flashed his light around, there was room enough to stand inside the thing which was a good after the tight climb through the Duct.

He turned and knelt dropping a line down to paddy, who tied a Ronnys ruck and tugged the rope when it was ready. It only took a few minutes to haul up both packs, and then haul Paddy up. Ronny held a finger to his lips, from what he could tell the Room outside the air handler was dark. He wanted to make as little noise as possible, since they had no idea what was going on up here, but if some one had died and had come back and attacked the others, it was possible there were zombies up here.

He pointed to the metal hatch in the side of the handler, then moved over to it, he turned the first of three handles, which made more noise than he liked. He stopped and listened almost positive he heard something moving on the other side of the handler, a soft sound like cloth brushing against metal.

He gritted his teeth and turned the second and then the third handles, he glanced at Paddy who looked like he was about to piss his pants, but Paddy was determined to man up and do what needed doing.

Ronny pushed the door open with the barrel of his rifle, he could only see a bare cement wall five feet from the door, no zombie tried to climb into the handler, so he got a handle on his fear and stepped out, already turning to the right away from the door.

His first major mistake was forgetting that Paddy had no clue that he was supposed to move out right behind Ronny and cover the left, not that paddy was standing still, he was just ten seconds behind Ronny.

A shape shot up in front him, something slammed deep into his side, and pain washed over him. his finger tightened on the trigger, just as a face full of fear and anger appeared in the light from his tac light. He just barely pulled his finger away from the trigger before falling heavily to the side, blood gushing from the wound in his side.

“oh my god, Jesus, I’m sorry” Ily cried out, letting the bloody screw driver fall to the floor, as she saw Ronny’s face in the light from Paddys weapon. She ripped off her shirt and used it to try to staunch the flow of blood.

Paddy nearly shot her head off, he was half an ounce from tripping the trigger on his weapon, before his fear fogged mind realized who she was and what was happening.

“Pressure bandage” Ronny said through gritted teeth, “pouch, left side, harness by shoulder” he got out.

She spotted the pouch and opened it, ripping out the bandage with in, Ronny managed to tell her how to bind the wound, then fell silent. Paddy slung his weapon and helped Ronny to sit up with his back against the Air handler.
“I thought it was the bastard who attacked me, I never thought you or any one else would come up anywhere but the stairs, Ronny, I’m so sorry,” She said tears sliding down her face.

“I got that” Ronny said weakly. “ you know whats good for stab wounds” he asked.

“what, tell me how to help” she said desperate to make up for what she had just done.

“Oral sex” he whispered.

She stared at him for a moment, “ you bastard” she got out, and surprised her self by snorting a laugh.

Paddy stared for a moment at the pain filled smile that crossed Ronnys face, and shook his head.

“got you …” Ronny said, wincing “calmed down” he finished. “just don’t ….tell Mary”

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

“access hatch secured from the inside” Castor announced as he checked the roof hatch.

“Blow it” Eric ordered.

Jared remained silent, this was Eric’s Team his ODA to more accurate, they had operated together for years.

Castor set up a quick demo charge, and stepped back.

“when we breech, we grenade and then use the ladder.” Eric told Jared.

“Hang on” Jared said holding up a hand. “ I don’t want to step on your toes Eric, but I have people down there, Id really like to not frag our own people”

“all right Jared, no grenade till we know.” Eric said by way of agreement. “ since we didn’t bring any flash bangs, which do nothing to undead”

Jared nodded his thanks, and stepped back to stand with Ori. who was rock still, totally in the zone, ready to rock and roll. Jared wanted nothing more than to keep Ori and Eric’s Team out of harms way the men of the ODA had skills and knowledge that were invaluable and not just combat skills, he didn’t want to lose it. and there was no way in hell he wanted to lose Ori.

“GO” Eric called out. Caster turned away and triggered the breech charge, a flash of light and smoke, and then Martinez was flipping open what remained of the hatch while Bailey shined a light down below.

“don’t shoot,” A woman’s voice called out.

“Got a woman down here,” Bailey reported, the voice was familiar to him, then he saw the golden brown skinned Puerto Rican, the mostly topless, golden brown skinned Puerto Rican, he amended silently, a part of his mind wishing she wasn’t wearing the skimpy bra. But it was a rapid thought, almost not even noticed by his conscious mind.

“we need a doctor, or a medic or something down here” She called up. “Ronny is down”

Jared hearing Bailey relay that was past the man and sliding down the ladder in a heart beat, Ori right behind him.

Ily turned pleading eye s on Jared, her face badly bruised. “ I didn’t mean to Jared, I thought he was the asshat who did this to me” she said pointing to her face.

“ where is he” Jared asked, then followed her pointing finger and rushed around to the side of the a large piece of equipment with ducts and fans.

Ronny sat with his back against the metal wall of the device, his face pale, a bead of sweat across his brow.

Jared knelt, resisting the urge to shout at Eric to Hurry, but they had to get Blaine up from the LAV, where they had thought the Medic would remain safely.

“you okay” he asked gently eyeing the pressure bandage on Ronnys side.

“Ill live, she ripped off her shirt while trying to seduce me in my weakened state.” Ronny said his voice pain laden.

“you lie like a damn rug Ronny” Jared said with a tired concerned smile. Ori frowned.

“I’m surprised you didn’t hit on her, and try for the pity ploy” Ori commented, his eyes rarely leaving Ily, he wasn’t going to relax his guard till he knew what happened.

“what happened” Jared asked Paddy, who quickly explained.

Ily remained silent, thankfully that Jared hadn’t at least tied her up, there had been to many instance of people going nuts over the months. Ori how ever kept watching her, his gaze cool and empty. The usually friendly Blonde was some one else today, some one that wouldn’t hesitate to shoot her, if she even acted like she might be a threat.

Once Paddy explained what had happened, Ily noted Ori relaxed slightly and only then did his attention moved away from her.

“I knew he would use the pity ploy!” Ori stated with the ghost of a smile.

“coming through” Blaine called from up top, and then slid down the ladder. A heavy bag slung over his shoulder.

Jared moved to Ily’s side while Blaine Checked Ronny over, then waved Paddy over. “ I need to know whats been on going on in the building.” Jared said eyeing Ily’s face. “you start”

He listened as she told him everything, the confrontation between Mike and Carrie, Carries death, and being assaulted by some one in the hallway. When she finished, Paddy added in what he knew.

Jared sighed and leaned back on his heels, looking up at Eric who stood nearby listening.
“what the hell is going on Jared, I don’t get this, what the hell is this bowler hat thing, you people seem to think is like the boogey man” .

“Ori help me rig the door for a breech” Castor called out, he had no interest in the conversation. Neither did Ori, bowler hat scared the hell out of him. with an apologetic glance at Jared he headed for the door.

Martinez, leaned a little closer, in the time they had spent with Jared’s crew, Martinez had heard several stories about the weird zombie, he didn’t really believe any of them, figure fear and stress had caused the other wise rational and in control of themselves men and women of the group to misconstrue some of what they had seen.

“I know what it is, or at least what it resembles. I didn’t till earlier” Jared said quietly, as Ori set the det cord to breech the door.

“ and what is it?” Martinez asked, not really buying that this bowler hat thing was anything more than a zombie that just really spooked them. if there was an edge of sarcasm to his voice Jared didn’t seem to notice.

“ the answer was in the book Eric had, some of it was in the book I had been given by Gayle, that thing is a servant of the dark, the darks undead champion if you will, one of three that were sent to offset the trinity who are of the light.

Martinez, catholic by birth, snorted at that. the whole trinity concept pissed him off badly, it went so against his own religious beliefs. And Bowler hat as the boogy man, was right below that. “so this Bowler hat thing is the Anti Christ?” Martinez asked, frowning.

“The Norse called it a Drauger, the irish a Dreag’,” Jared said, ignoring the hostility that radiated off Martinez, as he moved to Ori’s pack and extracted the book and flipped it open to a section he had marked. “ the Sumerian’s called it a demon”

“your trying to tell us that all the legends of vampires, werewolves, an all that other shit are real?” Martinez said, Jared didn’t have to look at him to know the man was rolling his eyes.

“ I have no idea, but zombies are damn sure real, or do you need to go look off the roof to remind yourself.. But Bowler hat is something special, almost a zombie but not quite.”

Jared eyed the underlined text in the book, that a man named paul had seemed to find so important. “ Drauger means ‘the after walker, the one who walks after death’, it is said to be strong, to reek of decay, and Paul underlined, ‘the ability to drive the living insane, to influence and walk through men’s dreams and thoughts, he notes that there are multiple legends, through multiple civilizations, of creatures much like this, and though all of them have many so called powers, they all share certain powers that are exactly the same in every culture, and all of them ate the flesh of the living, some drank their blood as well, and these legends date from the time of Sumerians to just a few hundred years back with some native American tribes.”Jared paused for a moment. “ the same powers that this bowler hat thing seems to have.”

“you mean this thing has been stalking around the world for thousands of Years” Ily asked shaken, even though she was more than ready to go save Amy the thought of something ancient and evil scared her beyond belief.

“no, Jasper Evan Brown died Jun 23rd, in front of a motel in Nashville. In Gayles book she thought that the dark has for centuries used pawns to influence societies, whole civilizations. Sometimes it was overt like The living dead, most times, it just found corrupted, evil Sons of whores and twisted them even more then pointed them at the innocent.” Jared didn’t have to consult Gayles book, he had read it so often over the last few months had had damn near memorized it.

“I don’t believe it” Martinez stated. “the undead out there, have some kind of logical basis, we might not ever know what it is, but it has a logical natural cause” he insisted.

Jared only shook his head, “from that perspective, Jasper Brown, is infected with what ever, but somehow retained his already twisted and warped mind. So what we are facing in that case, is a crazed serial killer, who killed for decades, and was only captured when he allowed himself to be. he is smart, strong, and wants to kill every one of us.” Jared said refusing to argue with Martinez, who seemed on edge for the first time since Jared had met the man.

“any time you folks are ready to breech, the door is ready” Ori said as he donned his back again.

“that makes more damn sense than some legendary supernatural being” Martinez said, “ now lets go kill the bastard, rescue the others and get the hell out of here.”

“one more thing, as far as I know of, since jun 23, he always has a human acting as his aide, or minion or what ever you want to call it.” Jared added.

Martinez, gave Eric a look as if to ask , whether Jared had always been a nutjob. Eric didn’t reply, he felt no need to, Jared had never believed in this sort of thing before Jun 23, and with the zombies out there, Eric saw no reason to doubt that maybe Jared and the books were right, he was a logical man, Jared had taught him that, but Logic didn’t seem to be the basis for to much that had been happening the last year and some odd.

“all we need to know, is how to kill it” Bailey said as he moved into position to breech.

“Remove the head, burn the body, according to the legends, shooting it in the head will probably work just was well, and then we burn the body to be on the save side” Jared replied as he had Ily stand behind him.

“and then take off and nuke the site from orbit” Ori added, almost grinning, his finger tapping the side of his Rifle nervously. He stepped into position beside Jared, and his face smoothed and his finger stopped tapping as he slipped into game mode.

“I’m all for that” Eric replied with a ghost of a smile, “anything else you need to share with us about Jasper Brown?”

“Ed is the expert on that topic, but what he always said about Brown, was that Brown was like a stage magician, he would distract you with one thing so he could hit you from another direction. He showed you what you expected to see, so you didn’t question what you didn’t see. Its how he stayed ahead of the FBI, for so long.” Jared said, then silently vowed to make sure that Ori, Eric and Ily got out of here, no matter what happened.

“a zombie serial killer, guess it’s the bastards wet dream” Martinez said his voice flat.

“Lets get Ronny up to the Roof, where at least the undead cant get to him, blaine you stay with him.” Eric said, “ Castor, Parks help Blaine” Eric said, placing a hand on Jared’s chest “ let them do this Jared, you get control of yourself in the mean time.”

Once Ronny had been transferred to the Roof with Blaine, They assembled at the door, Paddy and Ily who refused to be left behind were part of Jared’s back up team.

“all right, lets do this, hard and fast, we find the Girl and secure her, then locate any survivors then we get the hell out of this place” Eric said motioning to Ori, who nodded and tripped the detonator.

The explosion sent the door into the hallway, and then the plan came apart, as thick smoke billowed into the room.

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

“Jill you aren’t going to make it to the Gun track, head for the trucks” Jansen shouted as more undead poured between the parked vehicles, Jill had crippled or killed enough undead to created a low mound around her but she had gotten no closer to the gun tracks. Jansen cast a nervous look towards the burning transport, than back at the trucks that had been parked further down the docks.

“come on Jill, follow me” Jansen yelled, waiting only long enough for Jill to back away from the tide of undead that was surging forward, and look back at him. he pointed to the truck and almost laughed as she got a “ why didn’t I think of that Look” on her face.

Simple, he thought the gun tracks were closer to us, he thought as he took off running for the nearest truck thirty feet down the dock.

Jill was much faster than Jansen, if judging by how fast she caught up to him, she sheathed her katana on the run, but held on to the shorter blade which would have been difficult to sheath at the best of times, with the sheath strapped to her back.

Reaching the FMTV, one of the ones with the armored cab package, Jansen climbed up and threw the door open, before scrambling inside. Jill opened the passenger door, tossed in her pack then scrambled up into the cab and slammed the door as Jansen started the truck.

The dock, being made for shipping was more than wide enough for Jansen to twist the wheel and do a sharp turn and start towards the end of the dock, he pushed the petal all the way to the floor and the truck surged forward heading straight for the undead.

“Hang on” he shouted as they hit the mob, the truck lurched and bounced, bodies flew away from the heavy bumper as the truck slammed into the leading edge of the Tidal wave, the truck slowed, but it didn’t stop thank god, Jansen passed his weapon to Jill, and jerked his head towards the gunners position in center of the cabs roof.

“if we have to, climb up there and start shooting, but give it a few moments” he said, watching as the undead closer to the edges of the dock fell into the water with a splash, pushed in by the mob being forced to either side of the truck.

Then the truck bounced over the dead they had left scattered by the gun tracks, “this is gonna hurt” Jansen muttered as the truck slammed into gap, the drivers side jumping up, as the tires on that side mounted the downed ramp of the gun track. The side view mirror on the passenger side was ripped away, something struck the truck so hard it shuddered.

There was a loud shriek of metal on metal, as the truck barreled between then past the Gun tracks.

Jansen twisted wheel and swung to the left heading south towards the fence line, a deep rolling boom filled the air, shaking the truck, behind them a fireball rose above the transport, like a hideous flower bursting into bloom.

Jansen pushed the petal harder, as if that would make the truck go faster, his lips moving in silent prayer. He shot down the road that connected the three main docks, then cut up between storehouses and small buildings, not paying a single bit of attention to the undead that trailed in the wake of the fleeing truck. they raced away from the docks, the more distance between them and the explosion the better, Jansen decided, as he sent the truck bursting through a chain link fence that enclosed a series of munition storage centers.

Deep in the transport timers reached zero, the explosion that should have gutted the vessel and created a sympathetic detonation of the bulk of munitions on board, blew out sixty feet of the starboard side, ripped off the stern, and broke the transports back. But the fires already raging from the preceding explosions had broken the carefully laid chain of bombs.

The explosion was nothing like what had been planned, but it was bad enough, the over pressure wave rolled through the mass of undead blowing them forward like leaves in a gale, pummeling them, breaking bones, shredding skin, rupturing organs, and in many cases turning the brains into Jelly, the fire ball that followed in its wake, wiped away even more. Trees shook and snapped, limbs were ripped away and sent hurling, Straddler’s were knocked over, Dock cranes, were bent and twisted, the abandoned trucks on the docks were crumbled like children’s toys and sent hurling into the water.

Jansen heard the explosion his eyes shot to the side view mirror, and saw the building just behind them disintegrate, swept away by the shock wave that slammed into the back of the truck, and there was a roaring noise, and heat then it went dark.

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

Williams sat in the launch, wanting to detonate the Scorched earth chain of bombs that Stones people had so conveniently placed, it had just been waiting for him to slip his own detonator into the chain.

He watched the fire and debris boil up into the sky, he could see the splashes that in the water way created by the falling debris, some of it had to be the bodies of the undead, but most were crates, and bits and pieces of equipment from the docks.

He had thought he was free, finally free. but he wasn’t, he could feel his”FRIEND” knew what it wanted, he had to wait just a little longer, and then Jared Stone and his friends would die together. And then it was on to the island were children waited to die at its hands.

A thought in Russian ran through his mind, he could almost hear a laugh, he was mad, he knew he was, three people lived in his mind. Which one really existed was beyond him. all he knew was the Old John Williams was gone, or what was left cowered deep in a dark corner of his brain, the New Williams, beaten, Scared and a killer was in control, the psychological child of a dead Russian Hit man, and a Seventy year old Serial killer, who might not even exist as far as he knew, they both might just be creations of his deranged mind.

None of that really mattered, real or not his “friend” scared the shit out of him, and he would do what ever it wanted.

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

Fate was something that the Survivors had once dismissed, before the coming of the undead, when the touch of the supernatural had been a laughed at in the light of day, but in the darkness of the night, when only the creaks and groans of a settling house echoed in the vaults of the mind, when the wind moaned softly past the windows, and shadows twisted into fantastic shapes, they could believe that the spirits walked amongst them.

But now tangled in the skeins of the Norns, some believed in Fate, that they were destined to live or die at a given moment they dismissed, in destiny there was no hope for the future. Fate was the chance to alter things for better or worse, Fate put your feet on a path, its end dictated by your actions, Free will decided the outcome. Fate had brought them together here, and here a few of the survivors at the end of the world would stand or fall.

It was dark and silent in the building; dust still fell from the ceiling, shaken loose by the massive explosion moments ago. Ed had no idea what was going on outside, but he didn’t doubt that Jared and the others would if at all possible come hunting for them. Even if they showed up late, they would show up.

Ed had no doubt that the thing that had once been Jasper Brown might have circled around behind them. or rather if his suspicions were correct, the person who Brown was using would circle around behind them. The smoke made it damn near impossible to see it coming.

Keeping his flashlight angled towards the ground to cut down on the glare, that resulted from shining it directly into the smoke, Ed peered into the billowing smoke, with no real success. Any moment now something would appear out of the smoke, just a shadow of a shape, hands outstretched, mouth yawning wide.

After watching Mike respond to something Ed couldn’t see or hear had made Ed think of being trapped with Brown in the Hotel room on Sullivan. He had seen what Brown had wanted him to see, the ultimate Illusionist which fit in with Browns MO when alive, Misdirection, Illusion, confusion.

Ed moved quietly through the smoke, knowing that in another forty feet, they would reach the north side, east west hallway.

Mikes was tired, his emotions had been whipsawed all over in the last hour, seeing Carrie die, having to face his failure to save her and the fact that a teen aged girl had to step up to end the whole sorry mess, the same girl who was no missing along with the woman he thought he might have come to love, and seeing the worlds largest concentration of undead. So he might be forgiven if his attention wasn’t as complete as it should have been, when the loop dropped around his neck. his breath was cut off, as it tightened yanking him into a doorway, he tried to gasp the door frame with one hand, losing his rifle in the process, while using the other hand to keep from strangling.

Ed heard something heavy strike the floor, followed by the distinct sound of a door slamming. Dread filled him, as he turned and forced himself to move carefully back through the smoke “ Mike?” he whispered.

“Mike cant talk with you right now” a voice laughed in the smoke and the darkness. “just you and I now Edward. But you had better hurry, you see, some one opened the door downstairs, and the damned are on their way up.” The thing that had been Jasper Brown called out.

Remember, he told himself, what ever you see, is going to be human, its tool. Ed started to move back towards the last door they had passed, almost certain thats where Mike would be.

“you have a choice Edward, save the man or save the girl. Time is wasting Edward.” The voice was dry, almost dead sounding, conjuring images of dusty places long disused places. “she will be a real masterpiece”

Ed gritted his teeth, he knew what Jasper considered a masterpiece, he couldn’t let that happen to another person. Even if it meant leaving Mike to defend himself, but Mike could defend himself, Amy couldn’t.

“You’re a real bastard” Ed growled.

“Poor English, Edward, I know who my Parents were. Both long dead now.” the voice hissed sounding almost amused.

He turned and headed down the hall once more, faster than was prudent but he was tired of wasting time. He only barely saw the shape that loomed up in the doorway to his left, rising out of the smoke like a illusion made real, hands outstretched, and those eyes, those cloudy eyes, as the former soldier leaped on him.

Ed pivoted and threw himself out of the way, stumbling at the last second, and striking his shoulder against the wall. The Zombie crashed to the ground where he had been just seconds ago. Ed fired into its back walking the bullets up to its head and put it down with prejudice.

Another Soldier, his throat slit, stumbled out of the smoke, one pale hand grasping Eds Arm his mouth dipped down.

With a shout Ed yanked his arm out if its grasp and stepped back, tripping over the corpse on the floor. he landed with a thud and the zombie loomed over him.

The smoke had masked the smell of a small number of undead he realized, as he crabbed backwards then climbed to his feet, watching as the smoke swirled about the legs and torso of the zombie as it stumbled towards him.

“Screw you” Ed called out as he shot three times, two of the bullets taking the thing in the head. the wall of smoke eddied, and swirled as a figure appeared its pale hands wrapping around the shroud of Ed’s rifle, he stepped back trying to pull the rifle free, even as more hands grabbed his left arm, fingers digging deep.

He wrenched free, and let the rifle go, pulling his Glock .40, his mouth twisted in a rictus of hate as he shoved the barrel of the glock into the forehead of the zombie that had grabbed his arm and pulled the trigger. Almost thankful the smoke kept him from seeing the shower of gore that would have erupted out the back of the zombies head.

He turned to shoot down the next zombie and something stuck him in the head, there was some one behind him, he realized, spots danced before his eyes, Ed reeled and fell to his knees, feeling hands on his shoulders, another hand grabbed his wrist, squeezing hard. . Out of the thinning smoke a figure scuttled forward, a bowler hat perched on its oddly shaped head. The zombie holding Ed’s rifle let the weapon fall, and came forward, mouth yawning open.

“Do not touch him” that cold sibilant voice said softly, Ed tried to focus on Brown, who crouched in front of him, long arms draped across his knees, it clasped a knife in its rotting hand. “He is mine” Browns voice, was colder than death. The zombies around Ed froze staring at Ed with cloudy dead eyes. “Ready to die Edward?” it asked almost gently, its lips pulling back into a quivering smile that bared its jagged teeth, dead eyes peered at Ed from under the shadowy brim of its bowler hat.

Mikes eyes opened to a dark room, his throat was on fire, where the loop of rope had damn near strangled him, and his head throbbed where he had been beaten unconscious, apparently Brown or who ever had been in a hurry and couldn’t wait for him to pass out from lack of oxygen.

He had no idea where Ed was, or if the muscular cop was even still alive. But there was nothing he could do about it Ed at the moment. So he concentrated on himself.

His rifle was gone, and a quick check showed him his holster was empty as well. oh just fucking great he thought angrily as he checked his gear quickly in the darkness, his NVG, and Radio had been taken, and the combat knife strapped to his harness was gone as well. They had missed the boot knife, thank god, not that a single knife would do much against a horde of undead outside, but one problem at a time.

Mike climbed to his feet, and walked till he bumped into a wall, thankfully what smoke had spilled into the room had dissipated. Following the wall, he stumbled across desks piled against a wall, and stacked chairs. Then his hand hit something that moved, Blinds, he realized as dim light flickered into the room from the moving blinds.

In that light Mike saw some one hanging from a exposed beam in the center of the room by their arms. Amy, the thought was like a flash of lightening, anger boiled up from deep inside. He grasped the blinds and yanked hard, tearing them from the rail that held them up.

His eyes scanned the room but saw nothing that could be a threat. Moving as quietly as he could he approached till he could see clearly enough that it was Amy hanging there from the ceiling. Some one had made several shallow cuts on her back and the inside of her thighs,

He reached up to pull the duct tape off her mouth, and jerked his hand back as she shook her head wildly, then pitched her head up towards the ceiling. Mike looked up and saw some thing wedged between her hands, something that had a wire that ran up into the ceiling.

Just great a damn booby trap he thought as he darted a glance at the door he could now see. Okay first things first, block the door with something. If Ed showed up, he could open the door, at least it should keep the Human and Undead asshats out of the room.

With that thought firmly anchored in his mind, he dragged one of the desks over and pushed it against the door. Then turned to Amy, even in this light, he could see the tears tracking down her face. “its going to be all right” he told her, with no clue how he was going to make sure of it.

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

Darkness and pain, were the first things that registered. Got to get moving, a voice said. Jill shook her head, her mind rapidly clearing. In a flash she remembered fleeing the Dock, the undead chasing them, the explosion. She opened her eyes and found her self floating over the seat of the truck, no I’m laying on the roof, the truck was blown over she corrected as she shoved a pack, off her stomach.

“Thor, you alive” she asked in a whisper, as she got to her hands and knees, and found that the door still opened, the armored cab hadn’t warped or twisted when it tumbled.

“Thor?” she asked as she pushed the door open and looked back towards the docks, broken masonry lay everywhere, bodies had been scattered to hell and back, many were around the truck, struggling to get to their feet. Fires raged all along the docs, and the wooded area that had already been hammered by Mortar fire, was now burning brightly.

She could hear the roar of the fires even here, and could almost feel the heat. The smell of burning wood, chemicals and heated metal filled the air, almost drowning out the smell of the undead.

Still not getting an answer from Jansen, She turned, half expecting to see the man had become one of the undead ready to bite her, “I’m alive” he groaned from where he lay on roof of the cab. “I think my leg is broken”

She searched rapidly, till she had located both rifles and her katana, then pushed a weapon into Jansen’s hands. “your going to have to move soldier, no malingering, or Jared will kick your ass.”

Turning back to the door, she pushed it all the way open, and then dragged Jansen outside, as he moved he sucked in a sharp breath, biting his lip to keep from shouting.

Once outside, she took only long enough to get her pack on, sling her weapon and place the tuck the Katana in her belt, the helped Jansen to his feet, more accurately to his foot, his left leg had an odd kink to it.

“Getting crowded around here” Jansen observed, watching as a zombie shoved its way out of a pile of debris about ten feet from them.

“SNAFU, is what it is” Jill said borrowing one of Jared’s Phrases. “ now don’t wimp out on me, we are moving soldier” she said as they started forward.

“Did you know that the word Wimp, came out of the military during World war two” Jansen said as they headed for the distant wall of containers. “it stood for weak, ignorant, malingering pussies, I only share this to keep from blacking out.” he said hissing in pain as his left foot bounced off the pavement.

They were moving faster than Jill had thought, but not anywhere near as fast as she wanted to be moving.

“Keep your mind on moving, concentrate on your breathing” she said, softly, “in and out, nothing else exists.”

“Are you trying to hypnotize me” Jansen asked, surprised enough to snort in amusement.

“No, just trying to give you something to think about other than the pain” She replied as they passed between two small buildings, where there were no undead visible, one glance back, and Jansen felt his testicles climb into his throat, at the sight of the horde silhouetted against the fire, that shambled after them.

“ I think your going to have to leave me” He said suddenly trying to pull his arm free.

“Bull shit” Jill said angrily.

“Jill together we are too slow, you can make it with out me, Ill cover your six” Jansen said his voice flat with dread at the idea but there was no give in his tone.

“Bullshit” Jill repeated, “this is no stupid movie, we make it together or we don’t” She said her eyes darting around as she half dragged the wounded soldier. “you made it this far Thor, your not going to die now”

“call me Jansen, sounds odd to hear some one call me by my first name after all this time” Jansen told her then grunted in pain and surprise as she suddenly changed direction.

“What?” he asked then saw where she was headed, behind them the number of undead were growing, and steadily advancing on them.

The floor dolly she had spotted was the perfect thing, it was used to manually move pallets around, the one she saw against the wall of the low brick building, had a load already, the pallet of goods was maybe three feet high, she lowered Jansen on to the top of the goods, then grasped the handle. “ you had better hang on” she told him, as she yanked and the dolly slid forward. they lost precious distance and time getting the dolly through the rock and dirt on the pavement, but once they hit the clear section, she was able to almost run, pulling the dolly with one hand.

Jansen hung tightly onto the Plastic wrap that secured the load to the pallet, as prepared as he was to sacrifice himself so she could escape, he was no more eager to die than the next man. He watched as they drew ahead of the horde, hoping that no zombies came from the west side.

“Cross to Jill stone, Cross to Jill stone” Jill almost screamed with surprise as the voice erupted in her ear. Feeling foolish, she smiled grimly to herself, then keyed the transmit button.

“This is Jill, go ahead”

“What’s your situation?” Cross asked.

“on foot, heading for the south side wall” she replied, spotting a lonely straddler crane that straddled the containers that formed the wall. “Jansen has a broken leg. But I’m good”

“Roger, once you get over the container wall, I want you to head for the rail yard, there is a train loaded with containers and vehicles that is primed and ready to roll. Once you’re onboard contact me again, and Ill tell you how to get it started.” Cross said.

“Got it” Jill replied, glancing back at Jansen who had his rifle ready to fire if any of the undead got to close.. the crowd had gotten closer than she had realized, and now there were leakers from the west side of the yard.

She moved faster, determined to reach the wall and save both their lives, not sure if she was going to win this race after all.

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

Jared stood back, watching as Eric and his Team entered the hall before the sound of the explosion had faded. The gun fire from somewhere in the building a minute ago had stopped.

“Clear Right” Martinez called out

“Clear Left” Eric added, as the rest of his team spread out, “secured”

“Moving” Jared called out, not showing a trace of the emotions that raged inside, as he led the others out into the hallway.

The Mechanical Room was in the center of the building, its door opening into the east side, north to south hallway. From earlier Jared knew that the center section of the building held a few private offices and a conference Room. the outer wall rooms were all offices, file rooms and a break room.

“Jared you people cover the south end of the hall, we will clear all the way up to the East west hall. Then you join us” Eric said, wondering if Jared could hear the transmissions from down by the docks, Probably judging by the looks that Ori kept giving Jared every few minutes as if he waited to see Jared explode. Jared for his part ignored Ori, and seemed to be normal, it didn’t fool Eric, he had grown up with Jared, and he recognized the tense set of the shoulders, the hard eyed dangerous look in his brothers eyes.

“Roger” Jared said apparently oblivious to Eric’s intense gaze.

Paddy was edgy, worried about Ed, and Ily, so worried first for Amy and now Mike looked like she was about to rampage down the hall kicking in doors in a single handed attempt to save them both.

As soon as Jared had his people in position, Eric’s team moved with quick and lethal efficiency going from room to room, clearing them rapidly. but as they approached the East, west connecting hallway on the north side the could see thinning smoke eddying around the corner. From the Smell They knew it was from a smoke Grenade.

“Jared better Hurry this up.” Eric transmitted. As soon as Jared and the others had caught up, Eric had Ori move up, and together Ori and Castor vanished around the corner.

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

Something moved on the third floor, something dark, a presence that moved on a cold breeze that sent the tendrils of smoke swirling madly, the smell of dead and rotting meat filled the air, stronger than that of the undead. over Browns shoulder, Ed could see a shadow, that moved and twisted constantly changing shape, he blinked his eyes rapidly trying to clear them, trying to ignore the pain wanting to know if he was hallucinating.
It was so familiar, but he couldn’t place it.

Then it came to him, The day of the last Raid, when Brown had held a woman at Knife point. It was like the strongest Déjà vu he had ever experience. there had been smoke that day too, smoke that Brown had used to escape. Was it possible that this was really the animated corpse of Jasper Brown wielding the knife that was leaving bloody tracks on his chest and abdomen.

Ed gritted his teeth in pain as the knife cut across his pec, the cut was shallow and superficial, but it bled profusely.

Brown stopped, his head cocked to one side , then he looked back over his shoulder a wide joyful smile on his face. When he looked back at Ed, his eyes looked almost clear, he couldn’t say alive, at the best of times browns eyes had been flat and dead. . “he has come, to see you die Edward. It was only fitting you know.” Jasper said, but for the first time Ed realized his lips never moved.

“Your not real” Ed said, the point of the knife pushed into his sternum making him gasp in pain.

“Are you sure” Brown asked. “I have been reborn Edward, I serve at the Right hand of the Dark.”

The smile fled from the moldy stretched leathery like face of Jasper Brown as an explosion on the other side of the building ripped the night apart. The shouts of the SF men clearing the hall, and then starting on rooms could be heard clearly.

“You weren’t expecting company were you” Ed said forcing himself to laugh. Seeing the look of fury that twisted the face before him, he spit in Browns face. “your dead and you know it, there is no escape, not this time”

“No Edward, I’m not, but how ever you are. And so are all the people coming to rescue you.” Brown said, the emaciated arm in the bloody, ripped and torn old fashioned coat lifted and pointed behind Edward. “they cant escape the damned”

Edward stared into the narrow triangular face, at the high cheek bones, and oddly shaped eyes. The wispy white hair that hung down from under the bowler hat looked matted with dirt and dried blood.

The blood stained white skin around the mouth twitched almost angrily, and he knew it hesitated out of fear, hopefully out of fear, he prayed.

“Your dead Jasper, finally.” Ed laughed.

Gunfire erupted down the hall very close by, and suddenly Jasper was scuttling backwards on all fours, away from him, like some obscene cockroach. “Kill him” a voice said out of the darkness.

Ed screamed as the thing that held his shoulders bit into his neck, and ripped a huge chunk of flesh out, just as gunfire smashed into the undead around him. gore splattered over him. lights flashed on, and in their glow he saw his Pistol.

Ed scooped up his pistol and plunged into the dark room after Brown, only to wheel around in surprise as the door slammed shut behind him. He knew he had screw up by the numbers by following the thing a dark room, but he couldn’t, no wouldn’t let Brown get away not this time.

“persistent aren’t you Edward” Browns voice drifted out of the darkness. “you’re a dead man walking, you know”

to his own surprise Ed snorted a laugh “ that’s the pot calling the kettle black” he replied, weapon up and sweeping the room, while his life pumped out and ran down his side.

“its over Brown, your not getting away” Ed called out, ignoring the rising crash of gunfire outside. the last time he had said that to Jasper Brown, a woman had, had her throat slit and the little freak had escaped in haze of smoke.

Ed dipped is free hand into the cargo pocket of his Tactical fatigues, and pulled out the badge he had found laying where Jasper had died. he had debated on wearing it for a long time, but here and now it felt right. With his back against the wall Ed slipped the badge onto the chain around his neck. The feeling that swept over him was like coming home again.

“Always the Police Officer aren’t you Edward. The world has ended and you still think you’re the Law.” Brown laughed from the darkness.

Ed didn’t respond, he was moving along the wall, trying to spot Brown. Things had come full circle, maybe it was fate, or maybe it was just some cosmic joke wanting to see how things played out a second time around.

Ed could feel the temperature plummet, and the room seemed to if anything grow darker. A foul stench filled the air, as an oppressive presence filled the room. God how many more things were going to play out like last time Ed wondered remembering his confrontation on the street with Brown.

He gasped in pain almost losing his pistol as a knife slashed across his wrist, he slammed back against the wall, trying to escape. He spotted a shadow merging back into the darkness, and fired.

“You like staging things don’t you Brown?” Ed asked, trying to get the thing talking once more. “or should I say ‘Christopher Markson’, stage magician out of California in the 1960’s” Ed called.

“you were always the most clever of policemen Edward, how did you figure that out” Brown asked.

“The internet, just before things when south, I stumbled across a show poster, a horror show act, and whose face did I see staring out at me but yours.” Ed said, his eyes searching the area around him.

Something changed in the room, Ed couldn’t pin point what exactly it was, but it became more oppressive. Like something large and hungry crouched just out of sight ready to strike him down.

As he looked to his left swing the light in that direction something dark rushed out from his right, a hand clamped onto his right wrist and slammed Eds hand against the wall, Ed grunted as a knife punched into his side.

The rotting Triangular face was inches from his own, the stench was overpowering, the mouth opened and a foul odor came from its maw. Ed might have imagined the glint of malice in the dead eyes that locked with his own. The knife twisted and sliced up, it wasn’t fatal, but it was excruciatingly painful, Ed howled and drew back a fist and slammed it into the side of Browns head, knocking the bowler hat off the oddly shaped head.

Fury filled him as he pushed away from the wall beating Brown in the head, he wasn’t Jared, he was no Martial arts master but it didn’t take a Genius to stick a leg out and trip Brown to keep the thing from escaping, that’s what he always did run away. “not this time” Ed snarled as punched again and felt bone break. And then suddenly he was flying up and away, smashing into the wall. .

His flashlight still lay on the ground, pointing towards the door, Ed pushed him self up, his back against the wall. “How did you like that Jasper?, a victim who fights back., not a helpless kid or drugged woman.” He grated, his head spinning. He staggered up right seeing something move to his left. Not waiting to be attacked he lunged forward.

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

Ori had been the first to spot the undead up ahead in the hallway, as he and Castor had slipped forward silent as ghosts, it had looked like the undead were just holding some one on the ground, Ori hadn’t waited but had started shooting joined by Castor less than a second later. he realized Ed was the man being held on the floor as soon as he had seen something that had been crouched in front of Ed, move away slipping into the darkness, a shadow really, that had vanished into a room, a Shadow that seemed to wear a hat.

He and Castor had shot down the zombies behind and to either side of Ed, who had scrambled to his feet, grabbing a pistol off the floor and raced into the room that Ori had seen the shadow enter and the door slammed shut behind Ed.

Ori hadn’t really had time to think about that, through the few remaining tendrils of smoke, he could see the far end of the hall was full of Undead, shoulder to shoulder, wall to wall, a sea of bobbing pale faces, and milky eyes, that poured down the hall towards them.

He radioed the information back, vowing that if he made it out of the Terminal he would spend a week in bed with his wife, and then months lazing on the beach. He barely noticed when Eric and his team raced forward and added their fire to his and Castors.

Jared led Paddy and Ily down the hall to the now raging fight as Eric’s SF men poured bullets like rain into the undead that packed the hallway further down.

“Ori what happened to Ed” Jared asked as he came to a stop by his friend. “ where did he go” .

“He dove into a room with his pistol, I think he got bit by that one just before I blew its head off” Ori said, shaking his head sadly and pointed to the body on the floor. Jared looked at the body for a moment, then looked more closely, reaching down and touching the blood on the floor for a second.

“he went in there” Ori said pointing to a closed door. Jared nodded, then pointed back at the body. “ whats wrong with that picture” Jared asked as he readied his rifle and moved to the door.

Ori eyed the corpse for a moment, “stepping off the line to support Jared” He told Eric.

“Roger get your man back, Ori and be safe. But don’t take to long” Eric told him. “we are going to have to bail out of here in a few minutes.

“Ily, Paddy, you two stay here, cover our rear,” Jared said point back down the hall in the direction they had come from.

As soon as they both were moving to the position Jared wanted them, Jared looked at Ori, then tried the door. it was locked. Inside they could hear what sounded like a fight.

“Stay by the door when we go in Ori, Don’t let that thing get by you.” Jared said as he drew back his boot and smashed it against the door right by the knob.

The door frame splintered, the door flew open and smashed into the doorstop. Jared was already in motion sweeping into the room. there were people had visited the nazi death camps, who told people that walking into the placed you could feel the despair, the death and anger that hung like a pall over the whole site, entering that room was like wading into a swamp of negative emotions. Bleak despair, hatred, everything vile that could be felt assailed Jared and Ori.

Ed and the Zombie were rolling around on the floor, Ed Held it by the throat to keep it from biting him, and with his left hand was struggling to keep the zombie from Stabbing him. Jared would gape at that later, zombies with knives, was only slightly better than zombies with assault weapons.

Its wispy matted white hair flew around its face, as tried to push its head down, jagged teeth snapping at Ed’s face, there was blood every where, and Ed looked like he was weakening.

A boys face appeared in Jared’s mind, smiling, cherubic, eight years old, with a case of hero worship, as he gazed up at Jared nothing but trust in his eyes, and then Jared saw what was left of that child after Mikhail had finished with him. and that thing right there had been responsible, just as it had gotten Steve killed and so many others.

Jared rushed forward slinging his rifle, he couldn’t shoot with out hitting Ed, and to be honest he didn’t want to shoot it.

No it wasn’t happening, Jasper brown thought as a hand like a steel clamp grasped him by the neck and ripped him off of Edward and sent him hurtling into a load bearing post, and bones cracked.

Jasper reached out with his mind, or soul or what ever one wanted to call it, reaching into Jared stones mind, and recoiled at what it saw there. A hard dangerous smile spread across Stones face.

Jared didn’t know exactly what had happened, didn’t really care. he knew it had tried to mess with his mind and failed, his smile was deadly as he launched into a round house kick that sent Brown flying through the air and smashed into the ground.

Jared bounded forward, and had to slide to one side as the animated corpse rose and slashed at him. he blocked, ,reversed and twisted into a hip throw.

The zombie struck face first and teeth shattered, Jared grasped it by the back of the head, and smashed it down onto the carpeted floor, shattering its nose, and breaking more bone. And then suddenly pain flared through him, his left arm went numb as if he were having a heart attack, he let go of Brown and stumbled back, falling to his knees, and saw a child, a dark haired child that smiled like the damned, its eyes jet black not a sliver of white standing by a load bearing post.

Jasper smiled, his mind more fully his own now then ever before, his friend had promised all those years ago to protect him, and he was, leaving Jasper to finish off Edward, whose time had finally come.

Ori seeing Jared fall to his knees started to fire, but checked himself as Ed limped into his line of fire, Eds eyes fixed on the back of the Zombie, that had climbed to its feet and stared down at Jared.

Brown turned and realized that the momentary distraction of watching Jared Stone suffer had allowed Ed to close, the Huge former cop was running down and still moved faster than Jasper would have thought.

“Not going to give you the pleasure” Jared said as he rose to his feet. Even as Ed lunged at Brown. “ I choose my fate, not you.” the effects what ever it may have been, faded then vanished as if they had never been.

Jaspers eyes widened in their broken sockets, his ruined face twisted with hate, as a large hand Grasped him by the throat, Ed drove the knife in his hand straight into Jaspers right eye, angling it up and into the Brain. Jasper jerked up, up onto his toes, mouth opening wide as to scream, but no sound came out, there was no oxygen in his lungs to make a sound.

“ Well played sir, well playe….” Ed heard in his mind, where it had always been, the voice faded off and vanished into darkness.

Ed stood there for a moment staring at the Body he held upright then with a frown of distaste let it fall to the ground, the presence that had filled the room, flared with rage, then it too was gone. Ed didn’t know what to feel now, he had been haunted by Jasper Brown for so long, by the horrors that thing had committed alive and dead. But now maybe he could move on even if civilization had died.

“You still alive?” Jared asked stepping up beside Ed, eyeing him with concern, Jared noticed the badge that glittered where it hung around Eds, but said nothing about it, It wasn’t like Jared didn’t have his own little oddities.

“For the moment” Ed replied, looking pale and swaying on his feet. .his hand drifted to the badge, and hoped that the Cop who had worn it could rest in piece now.

“Good, lets go” Jared said, “ we can patch you up on the way out of here.”

“ One of them bit me Jared theres no patching me up, I’m dead ” Ed said as he slumped against the wall, pressing his hand over the wound in his neck.

Jared his rifle back in his hands, said “your not infected it was a man who bit you, Ori shot the bastard, and he bled fresh red, and warm blood Ed. I don’t know how a man could stand there with the other undead, but he did. Your not infected so lets go. If you want a really cheery thought, there are two more like that bastard out there waiting to be found”

“Two more like him” Ed repeated looking back at the body of Jasper Evan Brown, and was tempted to sit down and die right there.

“Well honestly I don’t know if they are like him, but if the books are right, theres three for the light and three for the Dark, so that leaves two of them to deal with.. Lets just hope that thing was the worst of them and that the other two are fixated on some one else” Jared replied. .

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

“Come on climb up” Jill shouted” use your damn arms and good leg, Ill be right behind you to keep your butt from falling.”

“You mean to oogle my sexy butt don’t you?” Jansen replied as he pulled himself up, his broken leg hit the ladder and he almost blacked out from the pain that rolled through him.

“Have you seen my husbands butt” Jill called out, looking back at the advancing horde.

“Not really, something about him turns me off”Jansen said, his voice sounded strained as he pulled himself up another couple of rungs, his face white from pain, and sweat dripped off him.

“Oh that’s too bad, I can tell you that he has nic….Damn it” she swore as she saw undead pouring around a stack of containers not twenty feet away.

“Get ready to be pushed” she called out as she scrambled up the ladder.

“ Just be gentle when you grab my butt” Jansen replied, exhausted.

“Don’t make me tell Jared about your nasty advances” Jill said as she started up the ladder after him.

*************************
By the time they got back into the hall things had gone from bad to even more bad, and was heading for lots worse, with a touch of screwed. Ed looked like hell, covered in blood and weak. He leaned against the wall, as Ily bandaged him.

“We need to move” Jared called out.

“Cant leave Mike” Ed managed to get out.

“Not going to leave mike, but we are going to leave this damn hallway and get to the roof” Jared said as he fired into the mass of undead.

Music suddenly filled the air, it was coming from Beside Jared. “ Ori, I swear to god I will kill you” Jared muttered as the YMCA began to play, “ I will kill you and leave you to play with your new friends.”

Ori shrugged, as he used one hand to hit the advance button on the MP3 player. A moment later Michael Jacksons thriller blared from the small speakers.

“Don’t change it” Martinez called out,

“I like this one too” Bailey added.

Jared rolled his eyes, “Special Forces my ass, More like a Well armed Gay Pride Parade” Jared muttered, Ed snorted a laugh, then coughed before spitting out blood. “you hang in there Ed, don’t move a lot okay. I’m not losing you, not today.” Jared said.

“Going to try Jared, but I think I’m screwed.” Ed said his voice weaker than it had been.

“Paddy, You and Ily get Him to the mechanical room. Eric Get two of your boys to get him up top. those undead asshats are already spilling over into the other corridor anyway” Jared called out, in minutes knew that the undead would stagger up the opposite hallway and hit them from the rear.

“go” Jared said, “ Get your butts down there Eric, I will be right behind you, My word on it” Jared assured his brother, who looked worried. He should to things were not looking good.

As the SF team and the wounded rounded the corner, Jared got down to business servicing targets.

“Frag out” Jared called, as he pulled the grenade, he removed the pin and lobbed it over the heads of the undead. “Ori you had damn well better find a song I like or I swear I will take that memory stick labeled music to annoy Jared and crush it when we get out of here.”

Ori only grinned, as he swept his fire across the legs of the undead, they were creating a pile of bodies, that was slowly blocking the hall. “when did you know about that?”

“Ha, I knew it.” Jared replied, “ and you….”

“you need to move for the mechanical room now Jared, before your cut off” Eric transmitted. “ and I mean run”

“ you heard the man” Ori said as he turned and ran full out, Jared by his side. as they raced around to the east side of the building into the north south hallway, they could see the undead were almost to the mechanical room. Martinez, Eric were firing into the mass of dead moving flesh, but their fire did little to whittle down the numbers..

“run, your little ass off” Jared told Ori as he passed him. Jared pounded past Eric and tapped him on the shoulder signaling he was past, Ori did the same, Eric took a step back still firing, the zombies were only steps away now, He tapped Martinez, and stepped into the doorway.

Martinez was firing steadily backing to the door, bodies were tumbling some dead others not, distracted he didn’t see the hand that reached out and latched onto his boot, he stumbled and three zombies were on him in seconds. Blood sprayed as they tore chunks out of his shoulder, arm and side.

“no!!!” Eric shouted and lunged back into the hallway, ramming the barrel of his rifle into the head of the nearest zombie, and blew it apart, Martinez pushed the one chewing on his shoulder away, and Eric put it down. “got this Man, you go” Martinez said as the horde swarmed forward, he lifted a hand and showed Eric the grenade he held. Eric nodded, “ Vaya Con dios” Martinez said and pulled the pin, and held the grenade in front of his face. Eric leaped backwards, wanting to curse, to rampage down the hall, but his training kept him doing what needed to be done. As he slammed the door, he saw Martinez go down, pressing the grenade to his face with both hands.

The explosion shook dust from the Ceiling, “Lets go” he said to Jared who waited by the ladder. “Martinez wont be going with us.” Jared silently placed a hand on Eric’s shoulder, then climbed the ladder.

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

Mike had listened to the Gunfire out in the hallway, his hope for rescue fading as it stopped. He could hear thumping against the door, and knew the undead were out in the hallway. There was another eruption of gunfire on the other side of the building that slowly trailed off and then an explosion.

He turned and walked over to where Amy hung, that he was worried and depressed was an understatement. “I’m going to try to figure out how to get you down” he said as he climbed up onto the desk that he had dragged over beside her.

If he set off the booby trap at least death would be fast, he thought as he studied the black device in her hands. The wire that ran from it vanished up into the ceiling, so either the device was the bomb, or the device in her hands was some kind of trigger set off when she was lowered or it was removed from her hands, and the bomb was up in the ceiling. The obvious idea was to cut the wire. But that could set the damn thing off too.

He was so nervous he was sweating sheets, even if he got her down, they couldn’t escape the building with just a boot knife. He had no clue how long he stood there debating, part of him just wanting to set the thing off and end it now, get out of this nightmare. But one look at Amys pleading eyes, and he couldn’t do it. not yet at any rate.

The light from the windows dimmed suddenly as if a shadow had passed across the window. He looked around, just in time to see a man swing towards the window even as gunfire shattered the glass, the man landed lightly on the floor. “ one Rescue coming up” Jared said, as Ori swung down into the room and landed beside Jared.

Mike stared at them for moment then started laughing with relief, ashamed that he had thought that Jared would just leave him and Amy to die here, he ignored the undead out in the hall that had begun to beat on the door and walls hearing the noise inside the room. “Amy is rigged with some kind of device, I havent risked cutting her down.” Mike said pointing.

“Man people losing weapons and gear is the theme for tonight” Ori said as he climbed up beside Mike and passed Mike his rifle. “ hold on to this.” Ori said as he pulled out a light and examined the device in Amy’s hand.

Jared stood there silently, watching as Ori looked up into the drop ceiling from the panel that had been removed.

“it’s a bomb all right two of them actually.” Ori said finally., “good thing you didn’t just cut her down, you would have set off both of them”

“ can you disarm them” Mike asked anxiously. “ and why two?”

“Can your mother cook” Ori replied absently as he took a leatherman out of his pocket and set to work.

Ori hummed absently as he worked in the ceiling, mike finally recognized the tune, it was from a popular eightys band, and had been a big hit.

“Ori you need to hurry” Jared said, the feeling that time was running out hit him hard.

“hurry to much and three of us decorate the wall” Ori muttered. “doesn’t like my music, trys to make me rush in bomb disposal, Ori make this bomb I want to kill clowns, Ori defuse that bomb I want to live to kill more clowns, Ori watch out for the MP’s while I kick the clowns ass. what is it with you and clowns Jared?”

“I promise when we get back to Sullivan Ill tell you the story.” Jared promised, looking over his shoulder out the widow to the terminal beyond, where undead surged forward, towards the idling vehicles and the building that still held the living. Then shrugged off his pack and removed the climbing Harness he wore, then removed his shirt BDU shirt, with that done he replaced his pack and waited.

Ori gently lowered a second black box from the ceiling where it had been hidden and sat it gently on the desk. Then turned to Amy and removed the device from her hands, even more gently than he had handled the first one. “ mike get off this desk carefully and cut her down”

Mike did as he was asked, as soon as Amy was on the ground he cut the ropes that held her wrists and ankles together. Amy burst into Tears and wrapped her arms around Mike sobbing into his shoulder.

“I hate to be a real ass people but time to go” Jared said as he stepped up holding the harness and his shirt. “Amy, I know this is humiliating for you,” Jared said gently as he handing her his shirt. She wiped her eyes and pulled the shirt on quickly. “I need you to get into this harness, so we can get you down to the LAV” Jared waited till she nodded and then helped her into the harness. “now listen closely, I’m going down first, and Ill be waiting in case you have trouble,..” He talked her through rappelling basics, and made her repeat it back to him.

“but how are you going to get down” she asked, touching the harness she wore” you don’t have one” Jared smiled gently.

“ I don’t need one for this” he said, as he had her come over to the window, and set the rope and had her show him how to stop and start, satisfied she could do it. He moved to the second rope and with quick movements cut off a length, hating having to waste precious line, and then made a quick waist and leg loop harness or a swiss seat as it was called. He attached an owl from his gear, roped up, and stepped off the window sill.

Amy despite the pain, and fear that had torn at her gaped in astonishment as Jared swan dived face down, then flipped upright and slowed quickly, landing lightly on the top of the LAV.

“show off, one day there will be a clown waiting at the bottom” Ori muttered, as he helped Amy back off the sill. “do it gently you can walk down the side slowly, you don’t have to swing out or fall like that idiot just did”

Amy hesitated, almost frozen in place, below her was the LAV, behind that was the Stryker. But every where else was filled with undead. “ don’t look down or around Amy just keep looking up a the sky. Okay” Ori said. “now get moving”

She hesitated, then took a step backwards and found herself standing horizontally staring at the sky. Filled with apprehension she took another step and let a bit of rope slide through her palm. Weirdly she felt a rush of adrenalin and the next step was easier, then the next. She walked down the wall, even looked into the window she passed, and wished she hadn’t, the room was full of undead, she moved off the glass quickly afraid it would shatter and she would be snatched inside.

Then suddenly hands reached out and grasped her waist “ I’ve got you” Jared said helping her turn upright and onto the LAV. In moments she was unhooked, Jared had the Harness off and was helping her into the LAV.

Ori pulled the line back up, and removed the Harness that Jared had tied to the end, and waited till Mike was strapped in, “ you sure you can do this” Ori asked.

“damn sure, lets just get out of here” Mike said. as he climbed up onto the sill and went over backwards, fast roping to the LAV below. Ori landed beside him two seconds later.

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

Williams, guided the small boat into the shadows near the bank avoiding the barge, something had happened to the thing that called itself his friend, and he wasn’t exactly sure what it might have been, all he knew was it was time. He lifted the remote and pressed the final button. Soon enough he would be arriving at Sullivan island as a simple refugee, he would finish what Brown had started.

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

Cross was deep in conversation with Vega, making plans for their arrival at Sullivan, he wasn’t sure that the Simms wouldn’t still attack, and there was no sense in not preparing just in case. a sudden noise drew his attention, his head snapped up in surprise as the sound rolled across the water. Fireballs rolled up into the night sky, five, eight, twelve of them, a sheet of fire swept across the north and west side of the Terminal. “the fail safe” he said aloud. “ But how?” he checked his pocket and the remote detonate was still safed.

“ Not enough explosions for the fail safe” Vega observed, though the firestorm that was sympathetically setting off stored munitions in the areas where the bombs had been didn’t make it much better.

“Get on the radio and see if you can raise Jared, hell anyone still there.” Cross barked, over head he heard the sound of the planes engine change as Mary changed course and headed back to the gutted and ruined Terminal. by sunrise, every zombie in a hundred miles would be staggering up he thought.

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