Chapter 30

“There is a glory of the Stars,
Perfect on stilly ways;
But such as follow present wars
Pursue the Comet’s blaze.

There is a glory in all things;
But each must find his own,
Sufficient for his reckonings,
Which is to him alone.”

~kiplling

Smoke and fire billowed up to the north and west, from the middle of the Yard north and west, there was nothing but wreckage and ruin, dotted with Craters large and small, crumbled and ripped containers were scattered across the fire wracked landscape. The horde of undead, on that side, which had been the bulk of the walking dead, had been crushed by flying containers and equipment, shredded by shrapnel, burned and pulverized. the Ops center was a gutted ruin, the clinic was gone. The smaller buildings no longer even existed.

The rail yard had only caught the edge of the shockwaves, and had rode out the destruction of half the Storage yard, with minimal damage. Falling debris littered the ground, a few scattered fires burned, a CONEX had slammed down through the roof of a small shed. But overall the rail yard was intact. Beyond the Goods storage buildings and the Train house, lay the wooded stretch that separated the Eastern side of the Terminal from the Marsh.

“when I said you need to stay positive Jansen, I did not mean being positive we are going to die” Jill whispered as she peaked around the steel box once more at the undead between her position and the Train with the loaded rail cars.

“I said I’m positive we are screwed, not we are dead” Jansen whispered, more interested in keeping Jill from dwelling on what might have happened to Jared than anything else. Jansen had been more than willing to die earlier so she could get away, now he was certain if she didn’t have some one to focus on, she would do something intensely stupid like go look for Jared and the others.

“theres only a hundred of them scattered around the yard, I can take them easily” Jill muttered. Jansen stared at her for a moment, then realized she was paraphrasing an old movie.

“No its to perilous” he replied softly, Jill shook her head the ghost a smile flitting across her face. “What we need is a holy hand grenade” he added.

“Stop it” she admonished him. “and do not suggest I need oral sex and have to knit exciting underwear” Jill said, with a slight smile, thinking that was something Ronny would have quoted. “I have a plan, but its dangerous as hell” she said seriously, knowing that they couldn’t stay in their temporary shelter for long. They were sheltered in a L shaped alcove formed by stacked crates if the undead spotted them, they could only attack from one direction, and Jill would just shove crates over to block their access, Which would leave Jansen and herself a little breathing room.

“and your plan is” he asked not sure he wanted to really hear it, she watched him for a moment but his expression was unreadable.

“I leave you here, climb up on top of these crates, leap on top of that container, get behind that train on track two, and raise a ruckus, and try to draw them after me, which hopefully will clear out the area around the train, then Ill lose them, slip back grab you and we get on the train” She said in a voice so low she was speaking directly into his ear and even then he had to strain to hear her.

He sat there for a few minutes thinking about it, and couldn’t come up with a better option, not with the gear they had on them. They were back to doing what they could like the early days after the undead had first come back.

He held out his rifle to her, but she only shook her head, placing her hand on the hilt of that god-awful sword she carried. “I’m good Jansen, I have plenty of ammo for my weapons and I have my sword. And I don’t plan on getting into a last stand situation if I can help it.” She said rising

He watched as she climbed to the top of the crates and vanished from sight. He would have prayed for her, but he had started to believe that maybe God wasn’t listening anymore. .

Jill slipped down off the container and silently darted behind stacks of Pallets, breathing a sigh of relief finding no zombies waiting for her. She glanced towards the orange glow in the distance, and pushed away the worry. Jared would be all right or not, she refused to borrow trouble as her mother had used to say.

Taking a deep breath, she steeled her nerves and stepped out into full view. “ hey, you, yes you.” she said to a zombie twenty feet away. He had once been a halfway decent looking guy, back when his eyes were not sunken into the sockets, and his white teeth didn’t gleam from the hole in his cheek. The head ratcheted around and the dead eyes fixed on her. “ Hi” she said and fired a burst into his body letting the recoil walk the rounds up till one punched into his head dropping him. Every zombie in sight turned at the noise, and started towards her.

They were spread out enough she could run through them to that line of containers that still waited to be loaded onto the train by long dead handlers. Once she got up there she could leap onto the container forklift parked behind that, and then jump to the next line of containers slip down the side, circle the train house, hit that wooded stretch and work my way back to Jansen then get on board the train and get the hell out of here.

She put plan to action and ran firing occasionally to put down those closet to her, but mostly shouting to draw attention, instead of wasting rounds. She ran between them, passing three warehouses stopping long enough to make sure she had the undead’s attention and saw that it was not going to be as simple as she thought. there were far to many zombies spread out across the yard towards her. she would have to lead them further out and then circle back, her mind made up she jogged away heading north west, towards the trees and the Marsh beyond. .

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

The sun was shining down on the Battlements of Fort Multrie, the water beyond was a light greenish brown, Gulls circled overhead, occasionally diving into the water to snatch up some dinner. One the other side of the Harbor, he could see the grey and dismal towers of Charleston poking up into the bright sky, a city of the dead.

Heat rose from the cement and warm sunlight heated Jared’s skin as a salt laden breeze blew over him.

He looked around, trying to make sense of what he was seeing; the last thing he remembered was diving into the LAV as a sheet of fire swept towards the vehicles.

There was no one in the courtyard, or along the walls. Even the street beyond was empty. Dream, another fragging dream Jared decided, he had hoped he was done with the weird dreams, but apparently not.

He leaned back against the wall, the harbor at his back, after a few minutes he saw a man walk through the main gate, the newcomer shaded his eyes looking around, then spotting Jared he broke into a jog and heading straight for the stairs that led up to the battlement.

Sunlight gleamed on his shaven head, lips parted in a smile, showing white teeth against tanned skin.

“Aren’t you dead?” Jared asked, with something approaching real humor.

“I got semi better.” Steve said as he jogged up beside Jared and stopped. “your looking like Shit” Steve observed.

“Id like to point out your dead, you have no room to talk” Jared said in his own defense, then something occurred to him. “ I didn’t get killed did I, oh this is going to suck.”

“What, spending eternity with me is going to suck” Steve asked, smiling again then shook his head. “ no your not dead, you just got knocked out when you were bounced around inside the LAV.”

“other than getting to see Jill again, I cant say I’m thrilled with that news that I get to live.” Jared said sighing as he shoved his hands into his pockets, and took a deep breath of the harbor air. “I Take it you have something cryptic to tell me, hints and portents to jack with my mind”

“Something like that, at least you finally got rid of that bowler hat wearing shit” Steve said , as he leaned on the battlement staring out over the water.

“I wouldn’t mind seeing him around here just to kick his ass again, Ed was the one that killed him by the way not me.” Jared said as he turned and joined Steve in watching the water.

“he is … somewhere else,” Steve replied, Jared only shrugged he didn’t really care. Jasper Brown was dead. He turned to look at Steve raising in eyebrow in question.

“he is dead isn’t he, I mean really dead and not coming back” Jared asked his emerald eyes boring into Steve, who met the gaze calmly.

“yes, he is dead, but he can still hurt you badly, which is why I’m here. that and I wanted to see you again.” Steve replied.

Jared sighed, “your kidding me,” Jared replied, “Its not enough we kill him. what the hell are the rules then, if your evil you get to keep trying till the other side surrenders out of disgust.” Jared snapped, “okay relay this on to who ever is in charge of this cosmic fuck up, Dead means dead, which means doing nothing. enough already.” He said angrily than forcibly calmed himself. “ sorry, I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired, drop the info bomb on me so I can wake up to the shit hole life has become.”

Steve actually chuckled which did nothing for Jared’s frame of mind, “well, Brown is dead, no coming back, he is just not here. I guess you could say he is in hell, or something like it. don’t ask I cant tell you. but what you don’t know, is he had a couple of helpers who are still alive and out there, and they are both heading to Sullivan to finish what their master started. And Jared, there are more people out there seduced by the Dark that could help, don’t ever forget that.” Steve explained, the amusement from a second ago gone.

“I’ve already figured out there are two more left of the Darks trinity” Jared said, hoping the other two were not as hard to deal with as Bowler hat had been.

“Well you got that part right, but no these two are humans who served Jasper. the other two members of the Darks little play party are occupied elsewhere, or should be at any rate.” Steve said sounding less than sure. Which made sense, he didn’t think that the Dark filed a fuck with the living itinerary with the Light to keep them informed of what their plans were, and speaking of plans he thought.

“what is the damn deal with jacking with us anyway?” Jared said, “ we cant be that big of a threat to the dark, I mean there has to be someone else out there that’s a bigger threat than we are. Or is has it just been slow in hell lately and the Devil got bored.” Jared said bitterly then cussed a long blue streak.

Steve waited till Jared had ran out of cusswords, even with the limited multi lingual vocabulary it took him a few moments. Pappy would have been proud to say the least.

“Jared come on you know exactly why it takes an interest in us, I mean you. how many people have we gotten to gather on Sullivan. To many as far as the dark is concerned, and to make it worse, you have given them all hope brother. Makes it harder for the Dark to twist some dumb SOB around till he snaps and opens a gate or goes on a killing spree, but more importantly, it also means that trinity has an ally whether they know it or not at this point.

There are other reasons as well, we really pissed it off, we didn’t just piss off Jasper, we peed in Old Scratch’s cheerios too. Apparently giving him the bird repeatedly was not the wisest of moves” Steve said with a genuine laugh. “the whole point behind this shit, is to win our right to survive, and the more people the dark can kill before the scribe wins or loses, the better in its mind.”

“So why didn’t it send Bowler hat after the trinity? That would make far more sense than after us.” Jared commented.

“Because it wasn’t allowed to under the rules, the scribe has to reach his decision with no interference, or rather no real supernatural interference, like Bowler hat or being stuck by lightening. but pawns can be used against the trinity and if a pawn can kill the trinity then that’s fine. But the scribe cant be screwed with using Dreams, and neither can the people close to him.

But people that aren’t close to the scribe or the trinity, can be jacked around, some are sent to attack the trinity, others are used to destroy the groups they are with, and some serve the Darks version of the trinity. Which is what is coming at the Island” Steve said, Jared was certain there was more left unspoken that Steve wasn’t allowed to tell him,

“So what about the books?” Jared asked changing the subject, as he turned to face Steve, “ what exactly is the big deal about them?”

“Knowledge Jared, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened, oh sure this time the scale is bigger.

There’s a reason we have all those legends of vampires, ghouls, and the like. Some town or kingdom, messes around and really mucks up the grand scheme, and wham the dark gets to kill as many as it takes for them to learn their lesson. Usually its only one person that has to figure it out, like Job in the bible, only the boils have a major bite this time.

Call what happened in the past warnings of what was to come, and those same warnings need to be passed down, assuming we survive. because if we, well Humans, do survive, sure as hell we will probably end up in the same position in a few thousand years. we seem to be a little stubborn and short sighted. “

“So nothing really special about the books then?” Jared asked, watching Steve closely.

Steve smiled, half-heartedly. “ Rules Jared, you have to find out some things for yourself or there is no freewill, if your just told do this or do that, you might as well just be led around by the nose.”

“ To be honest I don’t really care if there’s some weird power in those books, Ill stick to fire arms and cold steel and science. Sooner or later both books will be heading towards the trinity, and not carried by me” Jared stated “ I’m done with all grand save the world crap.

the only goal I have is to keep my people alive and punch old scratch in the nose every time he pokes it into my business.” Jared said flipping a middle finger up defiantly. “and if you show me where his bowl of Cereal is, Ill pee in it too.”

“Way to go Jared piss it off a bit more” Steve said shaking his head.

Jared only smiled; it was a hard smile, one that would have chilled Steve to the bone if he had still been alive. Jared didn’t have to make any grand statements of defiance; he didn’t need to, if the dark moved against him he would make sure that it knew it had been in a fight.

“Okay enough of this bullshit, the end of the world has screwed with my time enough. I need to tell you something before you pull the fade on me.” Jared said, waving a hand in dismissal. “so while I have a chance I want to say, I’m sorry you got killed, and god that sounds odd to say even in a dream. Ill do my best to protect and take care of Sharon and Bridget for you and Mark. I .. I love you Steve, and not in a gay way. You, Mark, Ori and Chris are Brothers to me, and I miss ya man.”

Steve as silent for a moment then slipped an arm around Jared’s shoulders. “ Miss you too Jared, and I’m sorry for some of the crap I put you through. But bright side is, we will be kicking back and Drinking some Good Heavens label shine one day and all this will be nothing but a bad dream to us.” Steve said softly

“so there is a Heaven?” Jared asked.

“Figure of speech, but there is something after life isn’t there.“ Steve laughed indicating himself. “That’s all I can say, there are rules about what I can tell you. you know that.” Steve said then squeezed Jared’s shoulders with his arm “Love you Brother. Now wake your ass up and get moving, you have places to go, and a few people still to kill” Jared had the distinct impression he would never see Steve again, but before he could feel depressed about that idea, every thing around him began to fade into mist, and then his eyes opened to the blue lit interior of the LAV, and Blaines face peering down at him.

“if you kiss me, I’m going to jack slap you” Jared muttered his head aching.

Blaine gave him one of those fake Doctors smiles then said, “your going to be all right, just banged up”

“Great, glad to hear it, stop drooling on me,” Jared said sitting up, realizing that the LAV was in motion. “where are we”

“Small town outside the Terminal, Ori, Chris, Castor and your dog are in the ELSVOR with Campbell, they located a place we can hole up and try to repair the Stryker and the LAV. We havent seen a single zombie since we left the Terminal.” Blaine said as he repacked his med kit and got to his feet, helping Jared up to sit on the bench.

“repair? What the hell happened” Jared asked, hating not knowing what had gone on.

“Cross’s fail safe went off, or part of it at any rate, the explosion ripped off our aerials, some of the exploding ordinance damaged the strykers drive train, and turret, we took some damage too, but not as severe. Upside all the parts we need are close by, down side is we have to return to the terminal to get them.” Eric said from where he sat.

“we need to hurry, there’s going to be an attack on Sullivan” Jared commented, ignoring the looks he got from the SF men in the LAV. He didn’t bother to explain about his dream, if they hadn’t had one they wouldn’t understand or believe. “there were two others helping that Bowler hat wearing piece of shit, and they escaped. And I don’t think they are just going to stop because its gone.”

Eric sat there quietly, watching Jared, then cleared his throat. “Jared, Theres been no contact with Jill since the fail safe went off.” He said as gently as possible.

It was like a bolt out of the blue, his stomach rolled over and his nerves sang with the fire that rolled along them. No damn it, no she cant be gone he thought almost desperately. then he settled down, the men watching him saw his face twist with worry then smooth and relax.

“She’s alive” Jared said with total confidence, Eric didn’t argue, he wanted to believe it as much as Jared, but Jared must have seen a flicker of the doubt in his younger brothers eyes.

“Eric you know about the dreams, and if any one was ever going to come back, and say goodbye its Jill. so till I see a body, I will believe she is alive” Jared said, as the two brothers looked into each others eyes. Eric blinked and nodded, impressed really at how much Jared loved and believed in his wife.

“We have no way to contact her, to find out where she might be hiding to Get her out Jared” Eric pointed out, feeling it was more important to operate as if Jill were alive, they would find out sooner or later if it were true..

“if we get closer we can contact her with the hand held’s. So that’s not an issue” Jared replied, Eric knew he was right, and they did have to return to the Terminal anyway. In fact I can take the ELSORV and a couple of men and head back tomorrow after noon.”

Eric nodded, and settled back in his seat rubbing the knot on his own head. at least that was settled, he watched Jared out of the corner of his eye, as his older brother set to reloading his weapons, while he had the chance.

Abandoned cars littered the street a few vehicles sat on the overgrown lawns along Carson street. The dark homes with their broken windows loomed over the street, here and there a roof had collapsed. The wind sent fallen limbs and leaves skittering.

Light suddenly bloomed at the end of the street, the silence broken by the rumble of motors The vehicles swung onto Carson their lights knifing through the darkness, sending shadows dancing away . The three vehicles rumbled down the road, weaving around the long abandoned vehicles.

The lead Vehicle, turned up the driveway of a two-story home, and stopped. a moment later armed men piled out of the scorched and battered armored vehicle.

Jared climbed out of the LAV, looking around at the storm damage. A huge old tree, had been blown over in the yard, crushing a Prius that had some how ended up in the grass, clothes fluttered from a line of hedges that separated the house from the property to the immediate west.

The Stryker rolled by, splashing through the minor flooding on the street from the storm, Daws standing in the hatch with a hand held three million candle power spot sweeping it across yards checking for undead.

The Breeze thankfully came from the direction of the water and not from the Terminal, rattling the branches that had been stripped of their leaves when the hurricane passed through the area.

Every shadow seemed to hide a threat, and what little moonlight there was, did nothing to brighten the landscape.

Jared being injured, had guard, while Eric and his men cleared the house again, even though it had been cleared by Campbell, Chris, and Ori earlier, Eric was taking no chances.

The ELSORV came to a stop at the end of the driveway, the passenger door swung open and Ori and Chris exited the vehicle, there was an excited bark and Nibbler leaped across Ori and hit the ground running, sliding to a stop beside Jared, tongue hanging out, tail wagging wildly.

Jared knelt and rubbed the dogs head, then surprising Ori and Chris he hugged the dog for a second, and got his face licked wildly for the attention. “down Nib,” he ordered, the dog subsided instantly, her tail wagging so hard and fast her entire body shook.

“Apparently I missed some stuff” Jared said as Ori and Chris joined him. “ I got knocked out.” He explained.

“You didn’t miss much, we barely made it out of their Jared. Fires and explosions everywhere, ammo cooking off, really nasty. “ Ori said, then told him of the near destruction they had rolled through the shock waves and fireballs, thrown off by the exploding ordinance had stripped away the antenna’s on the LAV and Stryker, killing long range communications, the Lav had lost a tire, and only the central inflation system had kept the punctured tire inflated enough to get out of the terminal.

The Stryker had fared even worse, losing another Tire, taking damage to its drive train, and remote weapons Turret which was a total write off according to Eric. Both Vehicles were scorched and scarred. The ELSORV had been luckier, Campbell had been in a sheltered position picking up another survivor when the explosions had rippled across the stacks, setting off the chain of sympathetic explosions in the about half the stored munitions.

The north western side of the stacks and the wall, had been the worst, apparently several containers of Air Force bombs, thousand pounders and larger had gone up, destroying the containers close by, sending those containers further out tumbling across the landscape, crushing undead and people, and completely wiping out what had been left of the northern and north western Container wall.

The Berms had down their job and sent the shockwaves rolling back across the yard, hitting it with a double whammy, which had almost flipped the LAV, Bailey had some how kept the vehicle upright.

“ And that’s pretty much it” Ori finished. “ we left the terminal, stopping long enough for Me and Castor to Transfer over to the ELSORV, we came ahead and scouted out a decent spot to hole up in for a night or two. and here we are”

Jared scanned the shadow filled empty street, “you sure this place is cleared of undead” Jared asked Ori, as he knelt beside the dog, who leaned against him happily, he could feel every bit of the pain and exhaustion he had kept at Bay during the fight at the terminal.

“we checked half the houses on this street, and not one zombie. Not a single zombie on the streets, even saw two stray dogs, So yeah, pretty sure.” Ori replied.

Jared nodded, fighting a yawn, not even his worrying over Jill was enough to banish the exhaustion he realized, turning his head towards the house as Eric and his team exited.

“its clear” Eric said, waving till he caught Daws and Campbell’s attention, then motioned for them to park. Campbell parked the ELSORV by the Front Door, Daws parked at an angle behind the ELSORV, almost completely blocked access to the front door of the house. which meant in an emergency they would have a very short run, through a limited number of undead to reach their vehicles. The ramp dropped on the Stryker and two Soldiers emerged carrying Ed on a stretcher.

“ You big brother look like hammered dog shit, and you Ori look even worse” Eric said coming to a stop beside the Two men, while his team gathered up all the gear inside the LAV including Jared and Ori’s gear and carried it inside.

“I would normally take offense to that, but not tonight” Ori said quietly, glancing up at the night sky where the thin moon was setting.

“Good, Id really hate to have to pummel two battered senior citizens into submission, wouldn’t look good and wouldn’t be a fair fight. You two assholes play dirty” Eric said with a grin, as he walked to the LAV and grabbed his own pack.

“That’s it, I’m going to find some Debbie Boone music and play it over and over while he tries to sleep” Ori vowed, watching as the wounded were carried inside.

“You do, and I will kill you, because Ill have to listen to it too” Jared replied,” Besides I’m surprised you don’t already have some Debbie boone music to annoy me with”

“I’m only trying to annoy you, Debbie Boone music is to drive people insane.” Ori said as he turned and headed for the house. “you know I don’t like you when I play Jim Neighbors sings Opera”

“Jill is right, I have the weirdest friends” Jared muttered following Ori into the house.

Jared crouched by the fireplace, looking out the window at the storm ravaged area. the sky glowed orange to the north as the Terminal continued to burn. He should be sleeping, but no matter how exhausted he was, sleep was elusive tonight.

“Weird not to see undead” Eric commented, as he touched his bandaged head, he had banged it pretty hard during the escape.

“I think most of them were drawn to the terminal, we probably wont see a lot of them till we get out of this area.” Jared replied, his eyes clicking past each abandoned vehicle out on the street. Still no sign of the undead which bothered him a lot him. where could they be, there was no way enough of them had been killed a the Terminal to empty the area out .

“Ill keep watch Jared, go check on your friends” Eric said softly, moving to crouch beside Jared and looked his brother in the eyes. “you need to take care of yourself, for your people if not for yourself Jared.” Eric said softly.

Jared nodded silently then rose to his feet, he started to the dining room that Blaine was using as a temporary clinic then stopped turning half way around and looked back at Eric. “ Im glad you survived all this” he said then turned and headed into the living room.

Ed was by far the worst of the lot, he lay on the table wrapped in enough bandages to land the lead role in the mummy, he lay on the once expensive dining room table, two IV bags were hooked up rehydrating him.. Blaine was worried that with out blood Ed would die.

Ori was the largest walking bruise that Jared had ever seen, but would be okay in a day or so. Ronny, lay on the couch, hooked to another IV, but stable, he should be up an around in a day or two, he wouldn’t be running any races, but he would be semi mobile.

Amy, sat with Ily, looking none the worse for wear, but Jared suspected she was far from over her ordeal, not that he could do a thing to help her, and that bothered the hell out of him. the man who had done this to her, and the thing that had terrified her were both dead.

But, Jared thought, I have failed in so many ways, and it had cost people their lives, or like Amy who isn’t just wounded, but has lost her self respect and confidence, confidence she had built up over the months.

Jared didn’t know how to convince her it wasn’t her fault, or to get her to believe that no matter how good a person was, as cold as it was to say, shit happened and there was nothing you could do but move past it and try to keep it from ever happening again. There were no victims anymore only survivors and the dead.

And all of that didn’t even begin to cover the tangled web of Emotions he felt about Jill being gone. But he could damn well, search for her, for the rest of his life if that’s what it took. He believed what he had told Eric, but that didn’t mean his wife wasn’t in great danger and could die any moment, so every hour he sat, was an extra hour Jill was alone and at risk.

If something happened to her, while he sat here safe and sound, Jared would never forgive himself. Ori climbed off his cot, moving stiffly, wincing with each step and came to stand beside Jared.

He knew what was on Jared’s mind, no matter how much his friend tried to hide it. Always have to keep that detached commanders façade up don’t you, Ori thought, wanting to do something to give his friend some support and human contact.
“When you go back tomorrow, I’m going with you” Ori said as he leaned against the doorframe.

Jared shook his head almost sadly. “No Ori, no you wont. But I appreciate it.” Jared said, then as Ori opened his mouth to protest Jared cut him off. “ Listen to me, You’ve almost died several times, Steve and Mark are dead, Ronny is wounded, Ed is seriously wounded, one of Eric’s men died, Amy was almost tortured, Billy Thornton was tortured to death and that’s the short list Ori, the really short list. I don’t even know how many died at the terminal, that I wanted so badly.” Jared said angrily.

Ori looked back at Jared Defiantly for a moment, then relaxed slightly. He had Beth to think of and their unborn child, and that was exactly what Jared was thinking about too, Ori knew.

Jared turned and walked from the room, with Ori limping after him, not sure what to say or do for Jared. Jared entered the garage and lit the lantern they had placed there earlier.

“Ori when this shit started, I didn’t think, I just reacted, we had a plan in place for disasters and we followed it.” Jared said his back to Ori. “then our little group grew and I became the leader, no vote, no one asked me, you dumb assess just followed along with my plan to save as many people as we could and salvage at least some technology and set up a place to live safe from those things. And then the dreams started bringing dead friends to visit and one was my dead father, and you idiots still followed me like I was some fucking prophet sent to lead you to the Promised Land, instead of the nutjob who sees dead people.”

Jared finally turned to face Ori, his eyes red. “ Well people have been getting killed ever since Ori, and I cant take much more of this crap okay, how do I defend against something that hides in people dreams and gets them to kill the people around them, plants ideas in their minds to set fires, poison water supplies, plants bombs, opens the gates so the dead can enter.”

Ori was silent letting Jared get it out, there was nothing he could say. Jared had always been the strongest willed guy in the group, the natural leader of the group of friends, and every one of them trusted Jared to hold it together and get them out of shit if there was any possible way of getting out, and those who had joined them had all felt the same way.

Ori knew Jared had kept this bottled up for a long time, probably even from Jill.

“Do you think it would have been any better if Steve had been in charge, or Ronny, hell even if I had been in charge?” Ori asked suddenly. “Steve, was a great guy Jared, but he was just as likely to spend weeks debating himself, as he was to skip the whole debate and charge in where even Angels feared to tread. Ronny is a great gunslinger, follows orders well, but not a leader. And we both know my short comings.” Ori said locking eyes with Jared. “you didn’t get any one killed, they died because the world has gone to hell and Shit still happens.” Ori paused, he was not one to usually make long speeches, “I don’t know that we can fight something that haunts our dreams and tries to warp and twist us, but I do believe if it was that easy for the dark to do, all of us would be dead by now.”

Jared sat down on the riding lawnmower as Ori pulled the silver flask from hip pocket and tossed it to Jared who laughed suddenly, there wasn’t a lot of humor in that laugh but it was a start. “ I thought that just a few minutes ago about Amy, shit happens and you have to deal with it and move on. I guess I needed my own words tossed back at me” Jared opened the cap and took breathed in the smell of cinnamon and apple that reminded him so much of pie. “thanks, I’m surprised you still have any left” .

“I’m running low these days, but I still have a stash., and I’m going to set up a still when we get back and start making my own, it will never be as good as that stuff, but I can get close” Ori said as Jared took a swig and passed the flask back to Ori.

“You will go down in history if you do” Jared commented wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.

“Maybe?” Ori replied as he sat on the Dryer, watching Jared for a moment.

“I know your heading back tomorrow to get the parts that we need, and I know you well enough to know your going to search for Jill while you there, so I’m going, and don’t give me any of that shit about how I need to stay behind and be protected stuff either Jared. I couldn’t face Beth or you later If I don’t help. you would move heaven and hell to find Beth if she came up missing, don’t expect me to do any less for Jill.”

Jared sat there for a moment, almost asking for the flask back, getting drunk wouldn’t help anything.

“Be ready to leave by Noon, I’m taking Jeb, Chris, and Logan. And the dog” Jared commented. “ And if you get killed I swear I will tell Beth you died screwing some hot secretary we met along the way.”

“She wouldn’t believe you, she thinks I’m a saint” Ori said smugly.

“Don’t worry I have pictures to prove your not a saint” Jared said with a grin, “ remember I do have my old laptop.”

“You sir are an evil, evil man” Ori said with a grin, not worried at all about the threat.

“Me evil, play YMCA one more time and Ill show you Evil” Jared growled, then held out a hand for the flask, one more shot wasn’t going to hurt.

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

it was still dark, when he awoke, the dreams that had haunted him all night still fresh in his mind. Cautiously he moved and peered out a crack in the blinds of the building he had taken shelter in, and saw no undead. had to be a coincidence he thought remembering the emotionless voice in his dreams that had whispered of things dark and deadly, that had promised him much if he only served it. The human race was doomed, he knew that, had known it from the moment he had first seen the undead.

All he had to do was step outside the building, and head south where two others awaited him, and the voice has said, when he awoke the zombies would be gone from outside the building he had hidden in since yesterday, when his men and his truck had been taken out by a mine placed by that red headed Bastard, that was the proof it had promised.

Maybe he was going insane, maybe he wasn’t. but there had been thousands of them out there last night, even after the explosions that had gutted the terminal, and now not a single one of the stinking undead were in sight.

He smiled to himself, even if it was just his imagination; he wasn’t going to sit here waiting for the undead to come back. He packed his gear quickly, he might as well head south too. Even if the rest of his dream was horse shit, he might still get a chance to kill that Red Headed asshole and his wife and that would make it worthwhile.

He slipped out the door silently and looked around, once he was satisfied there were no undead in his line of sight he started for the gate. At the least the Terminal on the west side of the marsh was intact and mostly undamaged he thought looking east, where the rising sun was shrouded in black smoke, and the orange glow from the still burning fires lit the underside of the smoke, like hell fire boiling towards heaven. There were still explosions as munitions cooked off, but nothing like last night. .

No matter what else happens, your going to pay for killing my friends Jared Stone. Pay with your life. Jeremy Starling vowed silently.

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

The barge was passing out of sight beyond Cape Fear, as Mary got out a map, and spread it on the floor of the Passenger section of the UV. the plane rocked gently on the water, as Mary studied the map, trying to pick the spot to start her search outside the Terminal.

She had tried to fly over the terminal right after the Explosions, but the rising heat had created turbulence or what ever it was called, reminding her that she was no pilot. She had circled once trying to spot survivors and then had to land so that the men on board could transfer over to the barge, with out their weight her fuel would last longer, allowing her to search a larger area.

She looked up from the map at the Female soldier that Cross had insisted go with her, Corporal Hannah Weber, a five foot, petite, blonde, who had said very little once she had boarded the plane, Hannah had only sat cradling the assault shotgun in her arms, and watching the dark water.
.
“Any suggestions would be helpful” Mary said aloud, as she straightened up and tied her hair into pony tail.

“ I don’t know anything about flying a plane” Hannah replied, the woman had a soft voice, that most men would probably like in the bedroom, Mary thought, and its going to be a long flight if I have to pry every word out of her cute butt.

“I was talking about where to look for survivors. Do you think a Stryker or a LAV could have made it through all that and escaped the Terminal.” Mary asked, determined not to get annoyed.

Hannah shrugged, her face blank. “ I don’t know” she replied in a voice barely over a whisper.

Mary sighed, resisting the urge to jack slap the other woman, take off chase down the barge and dump Hannah out the door to fall onto the deck.

“Hannah, I’m trying really hard not to be a bitch. I know its been rough on you lately, on all of us, but My husband and my friends were back there risking their lives to rescue men trapped in the ops building and get them out. So help me out here, I need suggestions and advice.” Mary said as calmly as she could.

Hannah finally turned her head and looked at Mary, her pale blue eyes looked empty. “I really don’t know, I was a paper pusher when the undead showed up. I volunteered to help hold the line, to free up Combat Vets to escort and guard the Evacuee’s. I’m not being a bitch either, I know how to shoot, follow orders and stay alive. Beyond that, I hate to say it, but I’m pretty much useless when it comes to explosions, vehicles, damage they can take, hell I barely know what to call the weapons I carry. I’m really sorry, if you land, Ill cover your ass the best I can, but till then I don’t know what I can do to help you.” Hannah said, and she did sound apologetic to Mary. And embarrassed, Cross the asshole has sent Hannah to guard her, not any one with real knowledge and that got Mary angry all over again.

“Okay, then.. Lets start this by showing you a few things to make you more useful on this trip” Mary said as she abandoned the map for a moment and headed up front retrieving the manual she had dog eared reading it so much. “ lets start with the FLIR” Mary said opening the manual to the correct page and passing it to the woman.

While Hannah Studied the manual, Mary sat down, considering her options. Shortly after the explosions she had tried to raise Chad on the Radio to get him to send a team out to help her search, but he had already left the College, leading the men and women there to Sullivan. He should be there a few hours after dawn , but that presented a problem for her.

The problem was a big one, the Fuel truck for the Plane was with Chad. She could fly over the area searching for an hour maybe two, but after that she would need fuel she, and fuel meant landing at a small out of the way airport. Assuming there was any fuel left at the airport she chose. The odds were not great, in fact she agreed with Ronny that the largest amount of fuel for air craft would be at large airports, which had fallen fast to the undead. And even those that stayed open for a week after the dead had risen wouldn’t even touched the tanks at the fuel farms on most large commercial airports.

After the large commercial airports, the ones that were most likely to have fuel, were the small private to semi public airports closer to the major cities that had been overrun fairly quickly in the first day or two, before more than a few pilots had managed to get out of town, and that meant heavy numbers of undead, undead that would hear the plane and follow the sound to the airport.

So her window was two hours of flight time then she would have to head to Sullivan or find a place to refuel. She was going to have to make her search areas count, Ronny and Jared might be in need of a fast escape by air when she found them, and it would really suck if she had almost empty tanks when she did find them..

The sun was rising as she strapped herself in and started the engine, as the plane began to pick up speed sending a glittering spray of water up into the air behind it, Hannah looking pale and nervous, glanced at Mary. “your are a real pilot right” she asked.

A thousand remarks flashed through marys mind, she smiled thinking of Ronny. “sure, but do me a favor would you, check the section in the Manuel on how to take, off, I don’t remember what airspeed I need, or what pitch the nose should be at when I take off”

Hannah paled even further, and furiously flipped pages to the index as mary started laughing. A second later the plane smoothly left the water and took to the air.

For a non-pilot I’m not doing a bad job Mary thought, as long as nothing happens, the weather stays good and there are no complications. Then it will get interesting, but hopefully Ill have my husband back behind the stick before noon.

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

Jill had been gone for he guessed hours judging by the Red and pink light spilling across the horizon, Jansen thought as he sat with his back against a crate, listening to the wind blow.

Hiding in a the middle of a stack of crates with only a narrow L shaped path to cover was as safe as he could get at the moment. As the hours had ticked by, he had to wonder if Jill might have been killed. He had heard no shouting, no gunfire since shortly after she had left him, he tilted his head back, watching the stars vanish one by one as the sky slowly lightened. His leg throbbed painfully as he shifted slightly, a soft groan escaping him.

He sat up straighter as heard something scuff on gravel, then the sound of fabric sliding along the side of a crate. Just fucking great he thought as he drew his combat knife, he would rather use his rifle, but the noise would bring the others, he could only hope that it was only one.

levering himself up, he leaned against a crate, watching the bend, waiting for what ever it was to step around. Tension rose in him, and as much as he hated to admit it, anticipation. The waiting was getting to him he knew, and lets be honest, you miss your squad.

There was something to be said about having people you could rely on to cover your back, he thought as he saw a shadow on the ground, then a boot appeared and a scorched and bloody pant leg, time seemed to drag as he watched whole zombie appear, the man was dressed in ACU pants, a ripped and torn Motorhead Tshirt, his entire right side was burned. Two face Jansen thought remembering the Batman character.

Its head swiveled around, dead milky eyes locking on him, its mouth yawned open, and even from eight feet away, the charnels house smell was almost enough to overwhelm Jansen.

It came at him, hands grasping, he was limited as to what he could do with only one good leg, he caught it by the throat, his left hand sinking into the soft mushy flesh, he managed not to gag, its teeth snapped at the air trying to reach the flesh just out of its reach, its hands clawing at him. Jansen brought his combat knife driving straight into its eye, pushing it deep and up at an angle, the zombie stiffened, then collapsed to the ground striking his broken leg.

Jansen managed not to shout in pain, biting the inside of his cheek hard enough to draw blood. he looked up to see another zombie stepping into the gap, a woman, her clothing blood stained and torn, she stumbled out, pushed by another zombie behind her.

She came at him faster than he had seen before, hands grasping at his combat harness. He slammed back against the crates, barely getting his hand around her throat and holding her snapping teeth away from his flesh. With a heave he pushed her back, and punched her in the side of the head. her head snapped back with the sound of breaking bones.

Desperate now he drove his knife up under her jaw, and through the roof of her mouth. She fell heavily tearing his knife out of his hand.

The next zombie came at him, naked, burned so badly he couldn’t tell what sex it had been. He drew his pistol in the second or two he had, and then suddenly the zombie stopped and crumbled to the ground some kind of short arrow sticking out of its head.

“you want to keep it quiet” a mans voice said from above him. Jansen looked up in surprise, to see a man squatting on top of the crates, a crossbow in his hand.

Jansen turned back and checked the passage but there were no more zombies, for the moment at any rate.

“The yard is almost empty, that crazy woman your with led them all off, but theres still a few around” The man said dropping lightly to the ground in front of Jansen. He was short, five foot five at the tallest, wearing brown Car hart overalls, an old fashioned leather double pistol holster, with matching revolvers, rode low on his hips, tied down around his thighs. A semi auto shotgun was slung across his back.

His black hair was slicked back away from a broad forehead; dark eyes peered out from under bushy eyebrows

“Nials McCormick” The stranger said as he moved to the turn and peeked around the corner.

“Sgt Thor Jansen” Jansen replied, watching the man warily.

“Thor?” Nials said with a touch of humor. “bet you were made fun of in school”

“only once” Jansen replied casually, his pistol still in his hand.

“I’m betting your wanting to know where I came from and what I’m doing here?” Nails said turning back to Jansen, eyeing the soldiers broken leg.

“Pretty much” Jansen agreed, with a humorless smile.

“Well I’m from Texas” Nials replied. “ I was up here visiting a friend at Lejune, then headed down here to do the touristy thing before heading home, and… well the world ended. I’ve spent the last year moving from place to place hiding and scrounging.” Nials said quietly peeking back down the passage.

“Place I was in got flooded during the hurricane, bailed out and saw some armored vehicles passing. Being the way things are, I didn’t flag them down. just found myself a Jeep and followed along at a good distance. Skip ahead, heard the battle last night, heard the explosions, and saw the fires. And thought I’d slip in here and see what I could scrounge, first thing I see, is your lady friend acting like a total nut yelling at the zombies till she had most of them following her. thought she was nuts at first then I got to thinking there might be a reason for leading the zombies off, and I found you.” Nails said with a slight smile.

“Well I’m not going to lie, I was glad to see you” Jansen said with total sincerity. “But I have to ask what your plans are now that you’ve found me.”

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

Jill crouched behind a half sunken truck that had been tossed into the Marsh by the explosions last night, the undead were milling around where they had last seen her, which was good. What wasn’t good was the sheer numbers she was seeing, it appeared that there was many more undead than those at the Yard were converging on the area.

All along the edges of the marsh were crumpled containers, pieces of equipment, parts of a crane, even a wall, a complete brick wall. How that had happened she had no idea, there were also undead stuck in the mud where they had been thrown, just ten feet from her, she could see legs sticking out of the water, slowly kicking the air. Another was close to the edge, and buried up to its chest, it had no arms, . Its one remaining eye fixed on her.

Settling herself, she slipped away using the debris for cover, circling away from the undead and slipping into the smoke shrouded woods, or rather into the snapped and broken trees, where fires still raged unchecked, sending thick dark plumes of smoke into the sky.

She stumbled almost falling into a crater, where limbs lay sticking up like spikes that would have impaled her, like a couple of the undead she could see at the bottom.

She worked her way around the edge, using the tumbled trees and shattered trunks for cover, till she slipped up onto a half crushed container that had been part of the container wall. Time dragged by slowly, she didn’t really notice, to intent on not being seen. Ori was right, she thought at one point; camouflage and stealth can work against the undead.

Finally she was moving through the wreckage on the edge of the rail yard, moving silently and cautiously. It was silent except for the hiss and crackle of fires, and the occasional explosions in the distance, where something cooked off.

That silence was what allowed her to hear the faint drone of a motor, a distinctive engine. Jill had given up on raising any one on the radio after trying repeatedly during her long attempt to draw the undead away from the rail yard.

Now she felt a surge of hope, “ Mary, this is Jill” she whispered as she keyed the transmit button. “Mary this is Jill” she repeated.

“Thank god, Jill this is Mary where are you?” Jill wiped at her eyes, thinking Jared would make fun of her for being so emotional at the sound of Mary’s voice.

“Edge of the rail yard, I plan on getting on that train that Cross was talking about.” She whispered, as she slipped into a gap between two large pieces of equipment, to shield her from sight.

“If you can make it down to water I can pick you up” Mary replied.

“Jansen wont be able to make it that far, he has a broken leg.” Jill transmitted.

“let me fly over the yard and see how many undead there are.” Mary said.

Jill could hear the planes engine pitch change and it began to grow louder, she kept looking from side to side, just to make sure that there were no undead bearing down on her.

“There’s not a lot, but what there are clustered around the train” Mary said after a few minutes. “ and I can se…….” Marys voice chopped off, Jill looked up in alarm wondering if something had happened.

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

“Jared wake up” Eric said poking his Brother with a broom handle.

Jared’s eyes snapped open, his hand instantly filled with a pistol. Seeing there was no immediate danger he lowered the pistol with out apology. “ what” he asked levering himself up onto his elbows.

“get up and follow me” Eric said, it hit Jared he looked excited, almost bouncing on the balls of his feet.

Jared threw back his blankets, and rose to his feet, snagging his web belt, which he buckled on, and strapped the tac holster down on his thigh before holstering his pistol.

“Damn it do that outside” Eric said, waving at him to hurry.

“All right all right” Jared said grumpily, lack of sleep and lack of coffee, filled his mind with images of killing Eric with a meat tenderizer.

He grabbed his rifle and slung it, then followed Eric out side. where surprisingly the street was still empty, a few birds even chirped in the trees, under the morning sunlight.

Eric passed him a radio, just as he closed his hand on the thing, it crackled and a familiar voice spilled from the speaker. Mary was talking to someone one about flying over the rail yard.

“She’s talking to Jill” Eric exclaimed grinning from ear to ear.

Jared keyed the transmit button, cutting across Marys transmission. “ Jill, this is Jared come in” he said, though he was certain the hand held couldn’t range the Yard.

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

Mary stared at the Radio for half a moment as Jared’s voice cut into her conversation, her face split into a wide smile.

“Jared, thank god, is Ronny okay” she asked the felt ashamed, knowing that Jill was down there with the undead, but she had to know.

“Ronny is injured but okay, Where is Jill, is she okay” Jared said, Mary felt relief rush through her at the news.

“Jill is okay at the moment, she is in the rail yard, with a Guy named Jansen who has a broken leg, they are going to try to take the ready train but there are undead all around the engine.” Mary reported as she swept over the yard once more.

“ tell her to get into a safe place, Ill be there as fast as I can” Jared exclaimed. “Keep me posted”

Mary nodded and then transmitted to Jill, who had apparently heard Mary’s side of the conversation. “Jared said he is on his way, to get to a safe place and wait. Ill stay up here and try to keep an eye on the undead for you.”

“Thank you” Jill said smiling despite the situation she faced. Jared was alive, that was enough to brighten even her worst day.

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

Eric watched as Jared pulled on his boots, and shirt, then added his body armor, and began to strap on his weapons. “I’m going with you” Eric said, as Jared popped the Magazine from the HK, double checked to make sure it was full, then slapped it back in place and jacked the Charging handle. .

“no your not” Jared said as he added extra mags for his pistol.

“Not going to argue with you Jared, I’m going, and you can bet Ori is going as well” Eric stated, crossing his thick arms over his equally thick chest. “or you can try to stop me” he suggested with a grim smile.

“yes you can” Ori said from the doorway, already in full battle rattle.

“Jared, lets review, your one man, and there are thousands of undead in that terminal” Eric said “Me and mine have to go back in there and secure parts as it is, so we are going to be on site and will help with rescueing my sister in law.” Eric added as Jared grudgingly accepted Eric’s insistence. “besides we are faced with a few problems on this Jared, we need enough men to fight our way through any of the undead, and I’m betting there are still a few thousand in the terminal even now. We cant take a truck with us, and offload what we need, not with undead all over, and if we take the train, the undead will be drawn to the noise and follow it. and….”

“and you don’t think we can fight our way through, do you?” Jared asked calmly. Eric could see Jared was thinking over the problem

“Not with what we have, even if the LAV and Stryker were fully operational, we couldn’t fight our way through that many and make it back out.” Eric said just as calmly, Jared eyed him for a long moment, Eric had something up his sleeve He realized.

“so what’s your plan?” Jared asked, curious.

Eric stood there gazing at his brother, knowing this was the moment he had to fish or cut bait, he had talked it over with his men last night. and they all agreed as hard as it was for any of them to consider, that their duty lay with the civilians and the nation they had sworn to protect over the orders from some unknown who claimed to be in charge of the US military. So Eric had decided it was time to come clean, it might not be the best time, but it was the time to tell Jared a few things he needed to hear.

“My orders were to seize the Terminal Jared” Eric said suddenly, he saw the anger in Jared’s eyes but ignored it.

“I knew you were in contact with higher up” Jared said accusingly interrupting Eric who frowned. This was going to be hard enough with out Jared cutting him off constantly.

“Sort of Jared, let me fucking finish” Eric said his voice flat. Jared visibly got control of his anger.

“We havent been in contact with any one but the FOB, for a long while. Then we get Orders, unauthenticated orders, using the right Freqs, with all the right names, from some one that claims he is now in command, he claimed that there had been some sort of disaster at their location which left him in charge. I was ordered to secure the Terminal using any means necessary and wait for US military personnel to arrive and take it over.”

“What does this have to do with your plan?” Jared asked

“I want you to understand whats going on and why,” Eric said. “I didn’t like those orders Jared, I explained who you were, and what you were doing, and was told the orders were not going to be changed. Who ever this clown is, he doesn’t give a damn about the civilians trapped out here, which made Me and my ODA wonder, exactly why that was, especially when I was quizzed over exactly how you were set up on Sullivan, and how many people you had, how many were soldiers or vets etc.” Eric paused letting the implications of that line of questioning sink in.

“I lied, told them it was mostly kids, pregnant women and all but a few of the men were vets. After that, I started making plans. If it turned out the General was legit, I still wasn’t sure I was going to follow those orders. But there was no damned way I was going to feed him intel that he could use to successfully assault your island. Thank god I know next to nothing about the place.

But now I have no intentions of following the orders I was given regarding you or the Terminal, and neither do my men, any of my men, including those at the FOB, who have been in the process of relocating for the last week. So my plan is this, I have been in contact with….” Eric said and began to explain, Jared was smiling by the time he finished.

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

Jill made it to the stack of crates with out being seen by the undead. she leaned against the side of a crate then quickly climbed up the step like series of crates tills she reached the top. Silently she moved forward hearing voices, more than one, which took her by surprise. Crouching to stay out of sight of those below her as long , then lay on her belly and slipped up to peer over the edge.

A stranger stood in front of Jansen, the crossbow he held wasn’t pointed at the Soldier, but it was in position to be employed quickly.

“So you’re just going to leave me here” Jansen was saying. “Come on Nials, that’s like killing me”

“No that nut job woman your with might come back and help you out, I have things to do and don’t need a cripple slowing me down.” The Stranger, Nials said then almost apologetically. “Look man, I could just have let the zombies get you, if I wanted you dead. But that’s as far as my charity goes. I don’t know you, and I don’t trust you. Just like you don’t trust me either. So enough of the word games, be happy I saved you.” The man said, a look of regret passed across his face. Making Jansen wonder if Nials regretted not being able to trust anyone or he wasn’t happy with his own words, or if it was something else altogether.

Jill moved silently around till she could look out over the yard and say the huge cluster of undead around the Train engines. Each train had its on group, like some one had ordered the undead to guard each one.

She considered her options, and decided that surprising the man might not be a wise move, for either her or Jansen, she lowered herself silently into the long passage, keeping down so the undead hopefully would not see her, then worked her way towards the bend and the short arm of the L where Jansen and the Stranger were.

“Coming in” she whispered, then waited hoping that who ever this guy was, he wouldn’t just go bonkers and kill Jansen.

“Come on in” the stranger whispered.” keep your hands off your weapons though”

Jill slipped around the corner; a feeling of relief swept over her once she was out of sight of any of the undead that might look her way.

Nials studied her silently for a moment, “ damn you are one fine lady” he said in a low voice laden with lust, then shook his head concentrating on the situation.

“I have a husband, who is on his way with friends” she said tapping her radio pointedly.

“Don’t get your panties in a wad, I’m not a rapist. “ The man said, his eyes never leaving her chest. “Anyway, if I wanted to do something to you, I would be long gone before he got here. The undead are thicker than fleas on the west side of the marsh that will slow down any vehicle.” He sounded almost confident that Jills husband was not in the Terminals grounds.

Jansen smiled suddenly. “its not her husband you really have to worry about,” Jansen said. “She is who you should be worried about”

“Look I don’t care what you want,” Jill said, as she covertly studied the man, judging by his body language Nails wasn’t sure what to do at the moment. “as soon as he gets here we are leaving, so go do what ever it is you need to do. Now lets shut up before the undead hear us” she said making a chopping motion with her hand.

Nials seemed to relax slightly, as he moved back and leaned against a crate in crowded alcove. Jill looked around; this space was to close for three people if the undead came at them. They would be pressed up against each other in a fight, getting in each others way.

“I don’t know what you have planned or where exactly where your hiding Jill, but it looks like undead from all over the Terminal are converging on the Yard” Mary said suddenly in her ear. “ So if your not in a good safe place, you might want to find one”

“Mary says undead are heading here from all directions” Jill whispered to Jansen who was not happy to hear that bit of news.

“Whose Mary” Nials asked, guessing that Jill had been told the situation via the radio.

“You don’t hear the plane” Jill asked pointing up.

“Oh, well yeah, I hear a plane, I take it Mary is on the plane” Nials said.

Jill frowned slightly, ignoring him “I’m climbing up to take a look” she said, as she grabbed a crate and pulled her self up.

Nials watched her climb for a moment, his eyes lingering on her butt, which actually irritated Jansen. Who found himself feeling very protective of a woman who was more than capable of handing Nials his butt on a silver tray.

“Sorry its been a long while since I saw a woman, especially a good looking woman.” Nials said quietly, realizing Jansen was less than pleased at his oogling the woman.

Jill reaching the top, stayed low and studied the area she could see, not good, not good at all she decided a moment later seeing the undead flowing in from all directions like tentacles embracing a kill.

They would never be able to make the train, but they could make the train house with out to much difficulty. But they were going to have to move now. she slid back down to the others.

“Okay, the trains out, there are just to many undead packed around it, with more coming in by the minute. I guess my plan of drawing them off didn’t work.” she said, not voicing the thought that it was almost as if some one was sending the zombies to the railyard because Jill and the others were here, she gazed at Nials for a moment, wondering if it was because of him. .

“But we can make the train house, there’s a lot of crates and equipment between here and there, that we can use for cover.” She told them with, no trace of her thoughts in her tone; Nials shook his head slowly.

“Your nuts, you can climb up and then down those crates, but he cant do that” Nials said jerking a thumb at Jansen. “Gimpy there cant climb, and if you just walk out of the stacks, every damn pus bag out there will see you.”

“Ill get him out, you do what you want.” She told Nials. “ you keep standing when I get back up top Ill pull you up” she told Jansen, dismissing Nials from her mind. As she climbed up, Nials looked at Jansen speculatively.

“she is a real tough one isn’t she” he said making it a statement instead of a question, Jansen nodded in agreement.

“You don’t know the half of it” Jansen stated, a half grin flashing. .

“sssshhh, give me your hands” Jill said laying on top of the crates and reaching down.

Jansen reached for her, and then suddenly Nials grabbed him by the waist and lifted. The man was surprisingly strong. Jill grasped Jansen arms and pulled and a moment later Jansen was on top of the crates, pain shooting through him from where he had banged his leg.

Nials scrambled up a second later and joined them,

“I thought this was nuts” she said, looking around, so far so good none of the undead seemed to have noticed them.

“it is, but I have to go this way myself” Nials said, his jaw clenched tightly as he saw the number of undead. “it was almost empty when I found your friend” he said, as he lay down and slid to the edge of the stack and looked down.

Looking over his shoulder he said. “ I’ll go down first, then you lower your buddy Ill help him to the ground and cover him till you get down, after that your on your own” Nials said.

Jill nodded, and helped Jansen crawl to the edge of the stack, while Nials climbed down. With her help Jansen got turned around and she slowly lowered him till Nials could grab him around the waist and lower him down behind a stack of shrink wrapped pallets.
He looked up in surprise as Jill landed quietly beside them

“Ill take it from here” she said, as she looped an arm around Jansen and got him to his feet.

Nials stayed crouched, watching as the man and women started off. The soldier’s leg dragging in the gravel, he knew that had to hurt like hell. I don’t know these people, all I do know is they have a lot of guns, and don’t seem to mind blowing up places. In the last year, he had become part of eight different groups, and none of them had cared enough about each other to do what that woman was doing. It was one of the reasons he had constantly drifted from group to group, he couldn’t trust them.

Six months ago he had taken a risk and joined up with a group of ten people, who had been sheltering in an old bank, they had been terrified of going outside, waiting till they were damn near out of food and water. Nials had been the one that had told them where they could find it, laid out the plan and risked his life to help them get it.

Once they had a truck loaded, Nials and another man, had been fighting to keep the undead from getting onto the loading dock, and they had just leaped in the truck and left them there.

The older guy, Steven Haines, had died as they had escaped from the warehouse. Nials had almost let that one slide, but in the end he had gone back to the bank, the truck had been backed up against the front door of the bank. Nials had set the truck on fire and left, hoping that the food and water was still loaded, it would serve them right the shit heads.

As Jill and the soldier passed a pile of equipment, a zombie crawled out from under a large piece of machinery. It rose to its feet, and reached for them. He started to call out a warning, but Jill had obviously seen it. she leaned left and let Jansen go to catch himself on a crate. She was already pivoting on the ball of her foot, to face the zombie, her right hand falling to the hilt of the stupid sword on her side. Nial’s had noted and dismissed the sword. Only some one who had watched to many movies would grab a wall hanger and carry it into combat and expect to survive.

Sunlight flashed on the blade as it slid free of the scabbard, gore sprayed, and as the head tumbled off the shoulders she snapped the blade around twice shaking the zombie gore from the blade and sheathed the sword with out looking.. The body swayed in place then fell over to join the head in the gravel.

To Nial’s, the entire attack, from drawing the sword to sheathing it, had been one continuous fluid movement that had lasted less than a second, Jill grabbed Jansen and started moving again.

Nials gaped for a moment, then started after them, only to realize that he wasn’t the only one to see the display of skill, though he was the only one that was impressed. The zombies around the nearest train were staggering towards them now.

Nials burst into a run and reached the Jill a moment later, he looped his arm around Jansen. “ Looks like you need some help” he said nodding towards the horde. “ I suggest we run” Jill didn’t say a word, she just ran with him. Jansen dangling between them.

The Train house was huge, two sets of tracks ran up to the massive roll up doors on the east face, on the south side, there was a set of narrow steps that led up to a Walkway, with a steel railing. The walk way ran half the length of the red bricked building, to the Human sized entrance to the building.

“up the stairs” Nials shouted pointing with his free hand. The undead were closing in on them.

“Thought you had things to do” Jill yelled back as they reached the stairs, and started up.

“I do, but with all those things out there, I had a change of plans.” Nials replied as he let go of Jansen and moved along the walkway. It just wasn’t possible for three people to move on the walkway together.

Reaching the heavy metal door with a safety glass window, the kind with the crisscrossed wires embedded in it, he tried the handle and found it locked, “what do we do now” Jill asked, as zombies reached the walkway and were reaching for them through the rails.

She pushed Jansen against the buildings wall, and joined him, pressed against the wall they were just out of reach of the undead that were determined to reach them. Nials had pulled something from his pocket and was doing something with the knob. But she couldn’t see what the man was doing.

“ Hurry up” she called out as zombies swarmed up the steps and started to stagger down the walkway.

“Almost there,” Nials replied as he worked the lock picks in the lock, trying not to notice the growing number of undead. .

Jill lifted her rifle and put down the first zombie twenty feet down the walk way, that slowed them down for a moment. but then they came on, Jill shot down another, stepping away from the wall, her third shot was thrown off when a hand grasped her ankle. She was so surprised she was almost thrown off balance, but then Jansen grasped her other arm and pulled her away.

“got it” Nials said as he threw open the door and entered. Jill helped Jansen and together they piled through the door, Nials slammed it shut and threw the lock once they were clear of the doorframe.

Sunlight fell through the skylights along the upper walls, a row of offices sat on an elevated platform to their left, the cavernous bay was filled with walkways and Platforms that were for mechanics to work on the locomotives.

Jill looked back at the door as the undead began to beat on it, some pressed their faces against the glass snapping their teeth at the living on the other side. Jansen sagged down against a wall.

“ give me a few minutes to find something to splint your leg with” Jill said, watching Nials out of the corner of her eye.

He nodded and leaned his head back. His pistol in his lap just in case the undead got inside.

Jill moved deeper into the train house, looking around, her hand resting on the hilt of her sword. She wasn’t worried about undead being in here, she knew it had been cleared and closed up yesterday in preparation for their departure back to Sullivan, but she wasn’t going to be stupid about this either.

She knew that Nials was following her, but pretended to ignore his presence, in truth she knew exactly where he was. Down near the rails she found two flat pieces of metal just the right length and picked them up.

“Can I ask you a question?” Nials said, his arms crossed across his chest.

“I don’t mind, as long as its not to ask me for sex” Jill replied, wondering if he realized she carried the metal in her left hand, and that her right hand was free and he was just close enough for her to take his head if he tried anything.

“why save him,” Nials asked “Jansen, He is a cripple now. every one else I’ve met would have just left him to die” he explained.

“because it’s the right thing to do, he was willing to give his life so that the last of our men could escape, I wont leave him behind if there is a choice.” She said.

“and if there isn’t” Nials asked.

“Ill deal with that when it happens, but so far we haven’t left anyone behind to die that we could save.” Jill said almost angrily and brushed past him.

“I only ask, because that’s all I’ve seen people do since the undead came, they steal, they kill, they show no mercy but beg for it when they get caught or wounded. Your different. Or you seem to be” Nials said.

Jill looked up towards Jansen, who needed her help then at Nials. “we have over three hundred people gathered together on an island, three hundred people we risked our lives to find and bring together since last fall.

Yes some people were pretty eager to shrug of the rules of Civilization, Weve met a few.” Jill said thinking of Seth and Mikhail. “if they want to be animals, fine, we will put down like a rabid dog, when we encounter them.

I wont preach at you Nials, but I have no patience or mercy for people who shrug off their humanity and decency just because civilization fell apart. And claiming rules of survival is so much bullshit. ” she stated flatly then turned on her heel and made her way to Jansen, Leaving Nials to think about what she had said. A part of him wondered if there really was a place for decency and hope in a world ruled by the Dead, he wasn’t sure if he had an answer.

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

Mary circled the terminal once more, reporting the numbers of undead that still filled the west side of the terminal, her eyes constantly drifting to the Fuel gauge that was getting lower and lower. Ronny would kill her if she had to land and abandon the plane, but she just didn’t have the skill level to land with out power, or handle a real emergency.

“Jill I don’t know if you can receive this, but I have to leave, I’m almost out of fuel and need to find a place to land, Good luck, I hope to see you later.” Mary transmitted, not even looking at Hannah, as she banked and started towards the small airfield she had chosen to refuel at. With any luck there wouldn’t be any undead there, or at least none that were close enough stop her from getting at least half a tank.

“How low are we” Hannah asked quietly.

“low, but we have more than enough to reach any of the four airfields on my list” Mary said as she headed out over the intercoastal and flew over the water.

The first one on her list, was the most likely to have fuel, at least in her mind, it had been an old Marine corp airbase, long ago, from the notations on the maps, it was more of a refueling station now than an actual airfield, and it was located on an island that had only a small human presence before the undead.

They flew over the glittering waters, watching the few clouds that scudded across a bright blue sky, almost able to pretend that the world was like it had once been, and that any moment now, a friendly voice would come over the radio, and they would find themselves having to worry about matching shoes to outfits, dating and wondering who to vote for.

As they crossed over onto the island, Mary banked and came in at a hundred feet, following a narrow, cracked and weed chocked road. After a moment she saw a windsock in the distance. She pulled up a little to get a good look, and saw several helicopters, and five military transport planes lining an old Runway.

The control tower, wasn’t all that big and was attached to a low single story building, there were a few hangers, all to small to house the transports, and beyond that were old run down buildings from when this place had been a functioning base.

Mary flew over the base once, then turned and came back lining up on the Runway, hoping she had this right.

“see anything” She asked Hannah was staring out the window.

“just that it’s a long way to the ground” Hannah replied, but made herself watch the hangars and the Op shack as they dropped lower and lower towards the tarmac.

Mary ran through the landing procedures in her mind, noting the wind direction and speed, lowered the flaps, and reduced speed as she brought the nose up. The landscape was racing past them, then there was a jarring sensation as the tires touched, Mary applied the brakes, not even noticing the screech of the tires.

The plane slowed rapidly, she brought it almost to a complete stop with several hundred feet of runway left, then turned and taxied back to the fueling point near the hangars.

“Okay so you can land and take off, that is a plus” Hannah said with a nervous laugh as she checked her load out and moved to the door. “ you wait till I say its clear” Hannah said in her all to quiet voice.

as soon as the plane was completely stopped, Hannah opened the door, and leaped out, sweeping the area with her weapon, then signaled for Mary to come out. Mary shut off the engine and leaped out, chocking only the wheel closest to the pump, just in case they had to bail out fast.

Hannah kept an eye on the hangars which were closer to them than the Ops building but she did turn every minute or so to check a full 360 degrees around them. Mary busied herself with pulling out the power set up that Ronny had come up with, then removed the cover from the gas pump, she sought out the right connections and hooked the leads from the power pack to the pump. She smiled as the pump began to hum.

She inserted the Nozzle and tapped her foot nervously as the fuel was pumped into the plane.

Hannah, almost missed the man, one moment there was nothing but wind swept over grown grass between two hangars, and then a clump of weeds lifted up slowly then back down revealing a mans face for an eye blink.

Hanna was no combat expert where people were concerned but she knew enough to make no sudden movements, or noise, so that the man and the friends he had she couldn’t see, wouldn’t realize she had spotted him.

“How long” she asked mary as casually as possible

“Five minutes more” Mary replied as Hannah stolled over to stand beside her.

“Don’t look just keep pumping, but I spotted a man between the hangers, fully camouflaged, and watching us. “ Hannah said quietly.

Mary didn’t nod or anything in case who ever was watching saw, and decided to act instead of watch. Two women alone with an airplane was a double target for a man who had been alone and trapped on an island for while.

She causally scanned the area, while she pumped the fuel, across the runway from the hangars; there was a wide sward of high grass, beyond that green trees swayed in the wind, but no sign of people or undead.

The ops center, a dismal grey cinderblock building that sat a hundred feet from the last hangar, the two windows on the front were dark and looked out over the small weed choked grass and the two Hummers, covered in dust, leaves and fallen limbs, that sat parked in the small parking area.

The transports parked on a large apron across from the ops building sat with their rear ramps down, and apparently empty, nothing moved in the shadow filled interiors that she could see.

As her eyes swept across the runway once more to look past the Ops center, where a house sized building sat, she saw something move in the high grass out front, light winked off something then vanished. Either binoculars or a scope she thought.

“Almost done” she said as Hannah moved towards the tail of the plane, acting as casually as if she were walking on the beach.

She was so tempted to just stop fueling the plane and leave, but she didn’t want to take off with a any thing less than a full tank of she didn’t have too.

Finally it was done, she casually moved the chocks with her foot hoping that no one watching noticed. Hannah had moved back near the door, she looked at Mary then at the door to the plane. Mary didn’t say anything just removed the nozzle and dropped it on the ground, before leaping into the plane and running for her seat. Hannah followed slamming the door closed.

Mary dropped into the pilots seat, and started flipping switches, she had already set it up for a fast start, but it didn’t seem fast to her. she looked up and saw a men rising to their feet on both sides of the runway, fully camouflaged in what Ronny had once told her were called ghillie suits.

Three ran forward and spread across the runway, their weapons raised, pointed right at her, even as the engine roared to life.

The taller of the three gave her the universal kill the engine sign, their weapons never wavered. Reluctantly she killed the engine, hating the fact that her hands were shaking from fear.

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

Pappy sat in his modified Hover around, glaring at the Ashton who seemed nonplussed at the attention he was getting from mostly crippled, incredibly offensive old man.

“I wont debate this with Pappy, your not going” Ashton said calmly, refusing to give in, Pappy could scream and yell all he wanted, there was no way Ashton was going to take him out to thin the ranks of the undead for the convoy that should be returning any day now.

“Listen to me, you little shit, I was fighting wars before your daddy was nursing at your grandmas shriveled titties” Pappy snarled, the slur imposed by the stroke he had suffered made his tirades a little more bearable since it was harder to understand him.

“you cant walk, you have one arm and one leg that work, if the shit hits the fan out there pappy, you will be a liability, you will get men and women killed. Your good for defense, but not mobile combat, and if you cant dodge and run from the undead your not going out there, and that’s final.” Ashton stated. “ hell I’m surprised you can get it up, you wrinkled, foul mouthed pervert.”

“You aint going to hear no complaints from Widow Barns” Pappy said smugly. “ takes a real man to make her happy.”

Ashton, rolled his brown eyes, and ran a hand through his thick brown hair, wishing he could poke out his minds eye for that mental image. Widow Barns as she liked to be called, was almost as bad as Pappy, the two of them together could and did cuss and insult in more languages than Ashton had ever heard outside the UN.

Pappy grinned knowing he had struck a chord, and glanced at his wrinkled partner in Crime Paul Gant, who along with Shelby Morris, and Taylor Wicks, made up the core of what every one was calling the senior citizen mobile militia, or as Ashton thought of them the Rat patrol on hover rounds, armed hover rounds at that. .

Gant smiled back, showing pink gums, he had lost his teeth falling down the steps from the wall of Fort Multrie, as he demonstrated just how wrong Linda and Doc Winston were about his not being able to walk.

Ashton at times wished he could shoot the idiots who had figured out a way to install the small one foot by eight inch trickle charger solar panels to hover rounds for the few seniors who needed them. Especially since the only ones who needed them were Pappy groupies.

Ashton loomed over Pappy, his hands on his hips. “Listen to me Pappy, stop being a dick and think like the Marine you used to be. You may not like hearing you’re a liability on the offense but you are. I’ve seen you shoot you old coot, and your good with that pistol, but that’s not going to cut it. Right now there are a few thousand undead at the other end of the Bridge to the Isle of Pines. If they get past the barricades, they will end up on the other side of our barricade here on Sullivan. I need you here, were you can do some good.” Ashton said, then turned and walked away, ignoring the steady cussing from Gant about young dickless army pukes.

“whatche gonna do now Pappy” Taylor asked squinting at Pappy, his eyes runny today.

Pappy frowned, he didn’t like admitting that Ashton had a point, but he did. But damn it he wasn’t useless, not today he wasn’t, he would do himself if he ever got to that point.

“not sure just yet Taylor, and wipe that damn drool from you chin.” Pappy said, then turned his chair around and rolled across the courtyard and through the gate of the old fortress to the tree lined street beyond, the Rat Patrol followed in his wake, hover arounds humming happily.

Pappy reaching the street, turned and headed towards the big old home that every was calling the reception center, where the few newcomers who came by boat were housed, till Ashton and the council gave approval for them to move into the community.

Council my ass, a bunch of boot licking, ass sucking, toadys who think their shit don’t stink Pappy thought as he stopped outside the house the rat packing lining up beside him.

They all looked up at the second floor, old faded eyes full of suspicion, where a man stood, watching them. Pappy didn’t like him, but Ashton ignored pappy’s gut feeling. The man, Jack Strider, waved at them, and smiled. If Jack Strider is really his name Ill kiss my own ass Pappy thought giving the man the finger, then turned his Hover around and led his pack of Wrinkled Vigilantes off.

The man Called Jack Strider watched the old vultures roll away and laughed, it amused him to see how worked up that old fart got. The old bastards days were numbered whether he knew it or not. Jack looked forward to that day, really looked forward to it.

A knock on his door disturbed his daydreams; he turned towards the door, a friendly smile appearing on his face. “ yes” he called out.

The door opened, and Jack had to admit she was a pretty woman; to bad he was going to have to kill her soon. “ its my day to help here at the reception center, I just wanted to see if you needed anything” she said, he eyed her swollen breasts, wondering where her new born was while she was here.

“no thank you, just being here is enough for the moment, I’ve been on the run for a while now. I couldn’t believe this place when I landed here.” he replied, still smiling, wondering what she would be like in Bed, might have to find out before I kill her he decided.

Sharon smiled back. “Every one that finds us says the same thing” she replied, “ well Ill be downstairs if you need anything.” She said stepping back into the Hall. Jack’s smiled twisted and changed to something feral that Sharon would have recognized in a heart beat, it was the smile of a Killer.

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