Chapter 31

“When the Horror passing speech
Hunted us along,
Each laid hold on each, and each
Found the other strong.
In the teeth of Things forbid
And Reason overthrown,
Helen stood by me, she did,
Helen all alone!”
~Kipling

Mary sat on the floor, her hands bound behind her back looking around the room, lit by a propane lantern; it had the typical off white paint, and motivational posters she had come to associate with the military. The carpet was an industrial grey, with no cushion at all. More like indoor out door carpet.

A black metal desk with a fake wood top sat near the door, with a standard issue desk chair, in short not made for humans to sit in. from her vantage point it appeared to have file folders stacked in the in box, and what looked like a folding picture frame on one end of the desk.

She had no idea where they had taken Hannah who had unhappily surrendered her weapon. The men had separated them at once, taking Hannah off to one of the Hangers, Mary to the ops center.

She was certain she had sat there at least an hour, her mind refusing to stop speculating on what was happening to Hannah, which only increased the knot of tension in her stomach, her heart was beating to hard and too fast. Which pissed her off even more than her screw-ups had done.

She was in the middle of silently berating herself, when the door to the office opened, and a man in MAR Cams stepped into the room, beyond him she got a glimpse of another office area with at least three armed men.

The Man, Marine?, was around 45 or so she thought, with salt and pepper hair, and a physique of a man who lived to stay in shape. The only weapon he had on him, was the holstered pistol that hung on his web belt. He was silent as he sat down, his eyes, a dark brown with gold flecks, studying her intently.

Finally he cleared his throat “ you have violated the closed airspace of this base, your a civilian who is in possession of a US Army reconnaissance plane, and stole Fuel from a US government facility, would you like to say anything in your defense?” he said coldly.

She gaped at him for a moment, “your kidding right?” she asked, from the firm set of his shoulders she realized he wasn’t.

“Do I appear to be kidding Maam,” He asked.

Mary climbed to her feet, ignoring the mans hand dropping to the butt of his firearm,

“first, My friend had better be untouched and alive, second That is my Husbands plane, and lastly, there is no US government any longer, or marine Corp, or anything else left from the old world you dim wit.” She stated.

The Officer, at least that’s what she figured he was, watched her for a moment then smiled, the way an adult smiles at a slow child who is caught up in telling tales. Which pissed Mary off to no end.

“Your name” he ordered.

“Bite me” Mary replied, wishing her hands were free so she could give him the bird. She had lived in day to day fear of the undead for so long that nothing this big macho acting military pomp injay could do or say that would scare her any worse.

“Your name” He ordered once more.

“Kiss my ass, idiot.” She snapped angrily, refusing to give in to this cretin.

He rose from behind the desk and stepped towards her, Mary smiled a smile that stopped him in his tracks. She wasn’t any kind of expert in martial arts, but Jill and Jared had spent months training almost every one in the group in basic self defense, Mary had done pretty well at it, and right now she figured she could kick the ass hats head right off his shoulders.

“What’s the matter Big man, Little lady with the perky boobs, intimidates you” Mary said hoping he charged, she knew exactly what to do to take him down. that he could shoot her, wasn’t an issue, she doubted that she or Hannah were going to get out of here alive anyway.

He stood there for a moment longer, as if he were debating on what to do with her, then turned and walked out the door, almost slamming it angrily behind him.

Get a grip girl, you have to play for time, even if you get beat on or raped. Do not push him or any one else into just killing you. Ronny and Jared will eventually figure out where your at and then Mr. Nut job will find his head shoved up his ass, she told herself silently. .

She paced the room angrily, forcing herself to calm down then leaned on the wall, with its faded flaking paint, watching the door for what seemed like hours before it opened again, The same man had returned but this time he was accompanied by a woman who looked fit, and decently fed, with strawberry blond hair pulled up on a bun. She too wore MAR Cams, and bore a side arm holstered on her side. She was pretty in a severe way, but any man would love to stare into her green blue eyes, she decided.

“The Colonel here, tells me your being difficult” the woman said, her voice had a accent that sounded like she was from Maine.

“Yes, I’m sorry, I, well I lost it for a moment” Mary said determined to stick with her plan to play for time. The Colonel looked surprised she admitted being a bitch, well to bad bubba, you don’t know just how big a bitch I can be, Mary thought.

“I’m Major Samantha Collins” the woman said, as she glanced at the single chair in the room, and frowned.

“Mary” Mary replied as nicely as she could. Be cooperative to a point she told herself.”

“Mary what?” the man asked, again with the ordering. Collins flashed him a look, but held her tongue.

“Mary Nun Ya,” Mary said mentally wincing, that man just brings out the bitch in me. “do we have to go through this again, Mary is what you can call me, its what every one calls me.”

Collins placed a hand on the colonel’s forearm in a very un military gesture. “Colonel could you wait outside and let us have a little time for girl talk” Collins asked.

The colonel hesitated then nodded abruptly, turning on his heel, before he reached the door, Collins said. “And could you have another chair sent in, so we both have someplace to sit.” The Colonel only nodded as he yanked open the door and stalked out, clearly upset.

A moment later, a lean looking young marine opened the door and carried in a second chair and sat it by Mary, he gave her an apologetic look, then left her alone with Collins. Mary wasn’t sure what to expect, though she suspected this was a version of good marine, bad marine.

“I want to know what you’ve done with my friend.” Mary asked, staring into Collins eyes. She didn’t flinch or move when Collins stepped towards her and drew a knife.

“Turn around please” Collins said, Mary didn’t appear to hesitate, as she obeyed and a second later her hands were free from the quick ties. See so far so good, she didn’t slit your throat like you thought she might.

“Thank you” Mary said rubbing her wrists as Collins walked to the desk and sat down.

“Your welcome” Collins said, and sounded like she meant it. “ your Friend, Hannah isn’t it?, is okay. Of course all she will share is her name rank and serial number at the moment, and demanded to know if you were okay.” She paused then shook her head.

“You’re not going to be raped, that I can promise you”

“Just beaten, and badgered then” Mary said, “Good thing I like a little pain”

“No, you will not be beaten. Colonel Walker will relax in a day or so, and then he will let you walk around free, as long as you don’t piss him off. That’s what he has done with the very few others who have ended up here.”

“if you will excuse me for saying this, but he is a few bats short of a belfry” Mary replied, not happy with the fact she was actually believing the other woman.

“yes and no” Collins said with a frown. Not happy apparently with the disrespect that Mary displayed towards her Commanding officer.

“You have to understand, most of the men and women here were part of a Reserve unit, we lost a lot of people, almost a third of our unit, to suicide, disease, and the infected.” Collins said. “and every one here, had a front row seat listening as the news broadcast the infected rolling over their towns or neighborhoods, I got to see the infected roll down the street where my home was before we lost power here, even saw my house with the front door standing open, the house where my husband and my son were at. All on CNN” Collins said softly, Mary could see the Grief in the other woman’s eyes, and her heart went out to the woman, and the pain she must be suffering through.

Collins blinked a few times and forced herself back to business, “ The Colonel is of the firm belief the US government is intact and functioning somewhere, and further believes it his duty to hold this station till order is restored.”

“I’m sorry about your family,” Mary said meaning it, Collins seemed to accept the sincerity behind those words, and nodded her thanks. “My friends and I have lost a lot too, every one has. And I guess I can understand where the Colonel is coming from, but it would be wise to let us leave.”

Collins shook her head, “ he wont, he isn’t evil, or insane at least no more than the rest of us, but the Colonel will follow the regulations, and his orders. The only exception he makes at this time, is allowing prisoners, who are not bitten, to roam free since there is no where they can go anyway, unless they can swim several miles and want to deal with the infected on the mainland when they get there.”

Mary just looked at her, how likely was it that Ronny would figure out where to look, she asked herself. She didn’t know, but for now escape was her last plan. She would give Ronny two days, then she would figure out a way to get Hannah and any one else that wanted to leave on the plane and fly right out of here.

Collins sat back in her chair, crossing her legs. “all I can tell you Mary is, any rescue will be hard on who ever trys to pull it off, and escaping by plane will be even harder.” She leaned forward, “but for your sake I hope either of those options works out for you.”

“For your peoples sake, you had better convince them to let us go before our friends come looking Major, you really wont like the can of whoops ass My man and his buddies will open on you guys.” Mary promised her with a grim smile, then decided to share a little information with the Collins who had at least been decent so far.

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

The sun was rising like a fireball, sending flames rippling across the ocean, lighting the sky with orange, red and gold, reflecting glory from the few scattered clouds on the horizon.

Collins stood with her hands in her pockets, enjoying the chilly ocean breeze that blew over her, setting her hair to fluttering. She would have enjoyed it even more if she didn’t have to have her rifle and pistol with her. In fact she thought as she felt the warmth of the sunlight kiss her face, I would really enjoy this moment if My Husband and son were still alive to experience it with me.

She turned away from the rising sun and looked north to the few beach houses in the distance, two were nothing more than debris at this point, one was sagging ready to collapse. Brush and weeds had reclaimed the little yard around it. another sign that no one was left alive to take care of the place, for some reason the sight caused her to remember the panic that had set in, in the first few days after the dead had come back.

They had landed here the day before the chaos, ready for a minor exercise, as a work up for Deployment, only to wake up the next day and found they wouldn’t be heading out to a war zone after all, a war had come home to every one.

The Few active duty Marines and the Reserve unit on the island had fought bravely, wiping out the undead, and clearing the island, destroying about half of the civilian buildings, once they were sure the undead were gone, They had sat there listening to the frantic reports, the cries for help on the radio that had one by one fallen silent over the period of three days. The first two days they’d had Satellite TV channels, but the Colonel had pulled the cables from the Dish, after five suicides had taken place after watching the 24hr news feeds.

Things had calmed down after that with sporadic communications with a carrier task force that was lurking out near the Bahamas. Then that had been lost too, she suspected that the fault lay in their own old communications gear.

Things had actually seemed to be improving then the fall had rolled in and the first disease had hit, taking them by surprise, no one, but their medics had even thought about it much, and then the first coughs started.

They had lost thirty men and women to the bug, she didn’t even remember what the Medics had called it, and lost twenty more to those who died from the bug,. Ten more to suicides after that, and then winter had fully set in. when spring had rolled back around, they had lost six more to the flu, or what ever it had been.

But this time the sick had been isolated in locked rooms, secured to their beds and put down when they died. it sucked she thought being sick as hell and you couldn’t even be made comfortable, instead tied to a bed so you couldn’t get up and kill your buddies.

Hearing the radio crackle in the Hummer she regretfully turned and walked back to the HumVee, “Major Collins, Come in” Lance Corporal Davis was saying, as she climbed inside the vehicle and shut the door.

“This is Collins, Go ahead” she transmitted, thinking it might be wise to start using ComSec again, since it appeared that Col. Walker was determined to create an Enemy who had the Technology to listen in on their transmission at least if what Mary had shared with her was true.

“The Colonel wants you to Return to Ops Maam” Davis replied.

“Roger, On the way, out” she said, starting the Hummer with a push of a button.

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

Come on” Jill said helping Jansen to his feet.

“Seemed like a nice spot, except for the view” Jansen said looking back a the window in the door, where pallid faces and hands were pressed against the glass, leaving smears “ where are we going” he asked, putting some weight on his broken leg, the Splint helped, but not by much.

“Up there” she said pointing with her free hand to the elevated office section.”if anything gets in, it has to come up that single stair case and we can block that off and hold it easily.”

“if we have enough ammo” Jansen said meaningfully. Jill didn’t respond, they had both fired a lot since yesterday evening. She was down to two magazines, for her rifle, but had four for the pistol, and of course she had her katana, and a few other edged weapons at her disposal.

Nial’s stood there looking down at the bay, as they mounted the stairs. “someone should check around, just to make sure” he said. Jill halfway up the Stairs, looked back at him

“We do it together, once I get him situated in one of those rooms up there” she called down to him.

“Still don’t trust me” he replied, Jill shook her head and started climbing again.

“I doubt you trust me either” she said. Nials smiled with out humor, he was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt at the moment, but trust was something hard to come by.

The office, she ended up picking was the center office, which was no more than a cinder block room with a small window that overlooked the work bay, the main reason she picked the room how ever was not the battered desk, the pictures of an overweight family, or the framed pictures of the president and various trains, but the ladder mounted on the wall that led to a steel hatch set in the ceiling of the office.

She got Jansen settled in the corner by the ladder, then turned to find Nials standing in the door watching, an unreadable expression on his face. “you about ready” he asked.

“yes, I am” Jill said as she checked her weapon out of habit, then waved him out the door, she followed him out and shut the office door. “ just in case” she told Nial’s in answer to the questioning look he gave her.

Jill led the way, knowing that the trust issue would lead to wasted time over arguing about who would lead, she moved through the shadowy walk ways, passing through the splashes of light from the high windows. She brushed past a chain to an overhead hand crane, setting it to swinging gently with a soft clinking noise.

Their footfalls sounded hollow, as they stepped down onto the Bay floor, and crossed the two sets of tracks, then past the elevated work platforms on the other side.

They could hear the undead beating on the roll up doors, it was sound that could drive you insane after a little while. Nial’s watched Jill almost as much as he watched the area around him. She carried herself with a confidence that was rare, totally in control of herself and her surroundings.

It bothered him a little bit to be honest, but he knew she felt the same fears as any one else, she apparently just controlled them better than others did. It was in short, a turn on in way. Her husband was a lucky man

On the north side of the building behind platforms and walkways was a shadow filled caged in tool and parts area, Jill produced a flashlight and shone it around inside the cage, but saw nothing out of the ordinary.

“Looks like we are safe in here” he observed, Jill didn’t respond, but walked past the Cage and stopped.

“Not really” she said softly and pointed.

Nial’s joined her and had to change his opinion, a small door, with an exit sign over it was just past the Cage, the wall had cracks running through it, probably caused by the explosions last night. Around the doorframe several of the cracks had joined and the door was slowly moving less than an inch back and forth, but soon, with the number of bodies pressing forward, the door and maybe even some portion of the wall would collapse in, and the undead would flood inside once that happened.

“What do we do now?” Nials asked heart sinking. .

Jill looked around noting all the metal in the building and frowned. “ first we find out if there is a way up on to the roof, so I can use my radio to tell the Calvary where we are at” she said turning and heading back to the Offices. Nials followed along behind her noting the use of we in that sentence and wondering if she meant all three of them, he rather suspected she did.

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

The drive though the town had been eerie, leaves and trash blowing across empty roads, doors swung gently in the wind that moaned softly through the shattered windows and between buildings, but not one single zombie had been seen. the Town appeared totally empty. And the silence was enough to drive you insane if you had to spend a lot of time in it he decided.

They turned down another street, this was as empty as the ones before, Uphead was the sign for a high school, Eric’s plan was simple really. Jared wasn’t to thrilled with waiting yet another day or two but Eric had a point they needed data to operate with. As many undead as there had been in the terminal when they had left, it would be insane to go back and try to hunt around for parts and other supplies with out knowing what had changed, where the bulk of the undead were.

They turned into the High School and drove around back to the football field. Rolling up to the gate, one man in smoke and blood stained ACU’s pulled the gate open, while another stood guard. Passing through the gate, Jared got a good look at the man who had opened the gate, and smiled in relief. Jared didn’t remember the soldiers name but he was another survivor of the Terminal. “ why are they here, instead of at the house” Jared asked Jerking a thumb at the cluster of soldiers around two battered and scorched Deuce and halves.

“I only got in contact with them late yesterday, so I sent them here where I was going to meet with our new friends, it was closer and they needed to get the hell off the road.” Eric said

Jared held his tongue at the new friends comment, Eric trusted them yes, but there was no real reason for Jared to trust them. Which is why they had been sent here, where Jared and Eric would meet with them.

Eric had revealed last night that he had been in contact with a man named Kevin Jackson, Special Forces Retired, who was leading seven other men searching for Jareds group after receiving a Message from Campbell who was apparently an old buddy.

How exactly that had been accomplished Jared didn’t know, but was going to find out. And if Eric could convince him to trust them, they would be a major asset to the island.

They parked near the snack bar, next to the two heavily modified trucks. Jared climbed out, studying the eight men clustered around a Coleman stove, talking quietly. Behind them a dually with an attached travel trailer was parked behind the snack bar.

But it was two trucks parked beside the Travel trailer that really drew his attention.
They looked like tough, jacked up, armed and armored versions of a Toyota Tacoma, in fact they reminded him of the vehicles used in that stupid movie about aliens in South Africa. Armored louvers over the windows, smoke dispenses on each side of the truck bed, a fuel rack with the slim five gallon flat cans and a full sized spare were mounted where the tail gate should have been. roll bars jutted up over the cab with some kind of light bar mounted under the top of the roll bar.

Some one had mounted a machine gun just behind the roll bar. The bed of the truck was protected by an expanded metal shield which added two feet to the bed walls height, making it impossible for the undead to reach into the bed. It looked like both vehicles sported a full off road package as well. with at least a four inch lift and snorkel.

“your Jared Stone right” Jared turned towards the voice and saw a filthy soldier, leading the others up to the ELSORV.

“Yes, and Im glad as hell to see more people made it out of the Terminal” Jared replied,

“Im Sergeant Ty Pierce, we are whats left of the west wall guard who got trapped when the stinkys got inside the wall. I don’t think there’s any one else from the wall guard left in there. We just wanted to say sir, that we are with you all the way. Just tell us what you want us to do, and its done sir.” Pierce said.

Jared stood there surprised for a moment, then nodded. “ at the moment Pierce, I think you and your men need to get something to eat, some sleep and clean clothes, sadly I cant do much about the first or the last part, so that leaves sleeping.” Pierce smiled suddenly, and nodded his head towards the Deuces.

“when you get done talking with those guys, drop by.” Pierce said still smiling.

“Im hoping your going with us, when Im done.” Jared said,

“count on it,” Pierce replied.

He turned back to the small group of men, who were watching intently, while they sipped at their coffee. He gazed back at them, as he and Eric walked forward with Campbell and Ronny trailing along behind them. As they approached one of the men rose to his feet and strode forward.

“I be damned Jackson, your looking older” Campbell said, smiling at the approaching man who was tall and wide shouldered with dark chestnut hair shot with silver, Bright blue eyes peered out from a tanned face, that Jared supposed women would find handsome in a country boy sort of way. A colt 1911.45 was holstered on his web belt, an AK 47 was slung at his side.

“your one to talk” Jackson said as he came to a stop in front of Jared and Eric.
“Kevin Jackson, and you are” He said giving Eric and Jared an appraising look.

“Im SFC Eric Stone, and this is my Brother Jared.” Eric said, extending his hand. Once the Ritual handshake was finished, Jackson turned to Campbell.

“if that message hadn’t been from you, I don’t think I would have believed it, or gotten me to make a trip like this.” Jackson said.

Jackson, dressed in Jeans and a Cami Tshirt, had the hard fit body of a man used to working hard, all the men with him were built the same way. Jacksons ammo pouches and other gear were strapped to an outdated Y harness, in fact Jared noted, each man wore gear that spanned the years, from Korea to Desert storm. Just like their weapons.

“it sort of took me by surprise as well, but I can tell you that in the short time I’ve been with these folks, they have impressed me” Campbell stated.

“How exactly did you get in contact with them” Jared asked curious.

“Sat phone, the batteries died night before last, it was something I was given for the exercise, like a lot of other gear it proved really valuable for the rising of the dead.” Campbell said with a shrug.

“Lets get the introductions out of the way then we can sit down and start planning.” Eric said

Jared barely spoke as each man was introduced to him, there was Nick Fume, SF retired, 49, bald, last action he had faced was in desert Storm,

Daniel Ross, a Former Seal, retired, Vietnam, he was still damn fit for his age. He had dark rings around his eyes, and his face was creased with worry lines.

Henry Washington, Ranger Retired after Grenada, a streak of silver like a skunk stripe through his jet black hair, smiled and waved casually at them, never moving away from the camp stove where a tin coffee percolator was warming. He carried an old M14 across his back.

Jeremy ‘stumpy’ Wilson, another Retired Ranger, had last seen action in Panama, his weapon of choice was an M16A3 with a M203.

Ralph ‘zippo’ Roosevelt, SF, missing two fingers on his left hand, was maybe sixty five, in good shape with the quiet confidence of a man who could take care of himself. The last one was Daryl Grant, another retired SF guy, somewhere between 50 and 60 his silver hair still cut in a high and tight.

If pappy were here, every war from world war II on would be represented, Jared thought with something approaching real humor.

“ I have one Question, before we go any further” Jackson said as his men gathered around them. “is the stuff you told him about this island true?”

“depends on what he told you,” Jared said. “but if he told you its damn near undead free, its true as of when we left. We had crews out putting down every zombie in every building. If he told you that we have some power, that’s true as well and by Christmas we should have even more power, there’s about three hundred some odd people on the island as of when we Left, we have fishing boats that bring in fresh sea food, and are clearing land for crops come spring. Anything else you want or need to know” Jared asked.

Jackson glanced at his friends then smiled. “oh theres plenty but I understand you are critically short on time.”

“you could say that, are you offering to help” Jared asked, noting that Campbell had fallen silent and was just watching.

“If this Island is all that and Campbell is willing to vouch for you, Im willing to help, but there will be a price for our help.”Jackson said.

Jared studied the man for a long moment then nodded, he suspected he knew exactly what the price would be, and as suspicious as Jared wanted to be, he couldn’t just turn away a group of survivors even if there might be a traitor in their midst.

“You have a deal Mr. Jackson” Jared said, the two men shook on it.

“all right then, Lets get down to planning this,” Eric said as he squatted and picked up a stick, “ this is the terminal and its approaches” he said drawing on the sand that covered the ground around the snack bar. “ this is the…..” men gathered around listening intently. Ronny stood silently next to Jared, Brooding, ready to get out and start looking for Mary. Almost angry that every one was focusing on rescuing Jill, he understood why. But that made it no better to his mental state.

He also Knew Jared would never abandon Mary, so he took some comfort in that. He forced his mind back to the Brainstorm session and made himself to at least look relaxed.

Finally Eric and others finished hammering out the SAR plan, “ lets get you folks packed up and we will head back to the house we are using as a CP, and then I can get scouts out and check the fence line”

Ronny shook his head, managing not to comment about the need to hurry. Silently he followed Jared and his Brother back to the ELSVOR. He would give them tomorrow to get Jill, the day after that, with or with out Jill he was going to go look for Mary.

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

Jill climbed out of the hatch onto the top of the office area, and shined a light around, against the rear wall of the Train house, was a ladder to the roof hatch, the flat roof of the offices, held a six ton A/c unit, duct work, cable trays and dust lots of dust.

She licked her lips, but ignored her canteens. She was operating under the assumption that they could be here for days or longer, so they were conserving their water.

She walked across the plywood roof to the ladder that led up to the buildings roof and shined her light up. Damn, it, she swore silently. The roof hatch was padlocked.

“ You know, if we moved Jansen up here, and some cushions and stuff, once the undead get inside, we wont have to lift a finger. We can just sit up here nice and quiet, and they might leave if they don’t see or hear us” Nials said from behind her, as he stepped off the ladder and looked around.

Jill had to admit that made some sense, they had limited ammo, limited food and water, there was no way they could fight their way out of the building, especially not once the undead got inside, and Nial’s was right, most of the time if the undead didn’t see or hear people they would leave.

“Sounds like a plan, then we need to figure out a way to remove that padlock” She said pointing her light up. Nial’s smiled.

“ I think I can deal with that problem.” He announced as he reached into his pocket and then held up a lock pick set.

Jill gave him a speculative look then shrugged. “ I take it your old job was less than law abiding”

“Actually no, well yes and no, I stared life as a thief, saw the error of my ways, and became a consultant to the Police. The money wasn’t great, but it paid the bills.” Nial’s said.

“Saw the error of your ways? Theres a story there I suppose” Jill said as she looked across the bay towards the cage and the door that would eventually let the zombies in.

“Nothing dramatic, started dating a decent woman, then woke up one day and saw my life and friends in a completely new light. I didn’t like what I saw so I went straight.” He told her.

She was curious about the hows and whys but didn’t push, if he wanted to go into detail he would. But at the moment they had other things to do than stand here and talk. “Lets get Jansen up here, and then strip that couch in the break room of its cushions, and round up anything else we can find to use or eat.” She said walking back to the hatch.

Half an hour later they were gathered on the roof of the office section, or attic space as Jansen called it. They had found five microwavable cans of Ravioli, three cans of chili, an unopened box of crackers, an unopened bag of Doritos, a can of sliced peaches and six bottles of water. Nials had taken all of two minutes to pick the padlock on the hatch, then returned to join them for what passed for lunch, on the roof of the office section.

Somewhere in the bay they heard what sounded like a rock falling to the floor. Nial’s and Jill looked at each other with out a word. Soon the undead would be inside and there wasn’t a damn thing they could do about it.

She rose and dusted her hands off on her pants, time to try and make a call, hopefully some one with a radio was close enough pick up her transmission.

She climbed out onto the roof, feeling the sun beat down her, she gazed at the fires and smoke where the stacks had been, and shook her head, amazed that they had survived.

She didn’t know that the not all the bombs had detonated, originally the explosions were supposed to have run the length of the wall, but Williams initial breach of the wall and the resulting battle had severed several key lines that should have carried the detonation command to the south end of the wall. As bad as it was now, if the full string had detonated, the majority of the east side of the Terminal would be a smoking hole.

“This is Jill to any one listening, come in.” she radioed, after a minute or two she tried again, and still go reply. While she waited she studied the area around the train shack.

What we need is a way out, she decided looking at the row of warehouses, where cargo was stored while it waited to be shipped out by train or transferred to the docks. She turned slowly scanning the yard, ignoring the undead, who had yet to notice her on the roof.

Not a hundred feet away she could see a long cement platform, beside a set of Tracks, a rail car pulled even with it, three vehicles sat silently on the platform waiting to be loaded, a fourth was parked on the ramp.

Even if we could reach them, I don’t even know if they would start, she told herself, and that would just suck to get out of here and become trapped in a vehicle that wont start and the undead beating on it trying to get inside.

“Hey you reach any one” She jerked in surprise and turned to see Nials poking his head out of the roof hatch.

“No, not yet” she answered, as he climbed up onto the roof.

“Guess we are going to be stuck here for a while then” he observe reaching into a pocket and pulling out a pack of Cigarettes, he shook one out and offered her the pack.

“I can’t believe you smoke” she said surprised waving the pack away, with a look of distaste on her face.

“Well I would drink and get laid, but you can get killed going into a bar, and the women out there are real man eaters, so smoking is the safest vice I can think of” he said with a laugh then lit his Cigarette with a zippo lighter.

She had never been a fan of smoking, she didn’t care if others did, as long as she wasn’t trapped in a car or room with them.

“You weren’t one of those smoking Nazi’s were you?” Nial’s asked taking a drag of his Cigarette and then blew a smoke ring.

“if this is leading to some weird fantasy where I wear a skimpy nazi uniform with thigh high Stiletto heeled boots, keep it to yourself” She replied.

“so you’ve had that dream too” he said with a grin, that faded almost as quickly as it came.

“Are you related to a guy named Ronny?” she asked.

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

“We aren’t just going to walk in” Ori said as he sat in a tree half a mile from the Fence line, sweeping his binoculars over the crowd of undead that wandered listlessly around the grounds.

Jeb, who sat below him, nodded in agreement, they had spent most of the day moving carefully checking the fence line. they had barely escaped detection five times now. Jeb still wasn’t sure hiding in a tree was a good idea, but it did give them a little elevation and kept the undead from falling over them.

“Looks like we aren’t going to be able to get any where near the Rail yard” Jeb said quietly looking down to make sure there are no zombies in sight.

“ Don’t bet on that” Ori replied, as he replaced his binoculars into their case.

“Ori, there are to many of them to even try getting into the terminal on foot, and we were only supposed to scout the fence line anyway.” Jeb said quietly.

“ I was thinking more about that” Ori said pointing. Jeb followed the pointing finger to the Cell phone tower that jutted up into the sky to the south of them. “I’m not a complete idiot Jeb, I have a baby coming, I’m not about to do something stupid if I can keep help it.”

“Glad to hear it” Jeb said as he checked the ground below once more, then climbed down quickly. Ori joined him a second later and the two men slipped into the woods parallel to the highway heading south.

Half an hour later Ori was crouched in a drainage ditch, looking across a cracked and broken road, with scattered rusted, dirty vehicles as far as the eye could see.

“Wait till I signal you” Ori said, as quietly as the wind.

Jeb nodded and turned his head to acknowledged Ori, only to find the space the short blond had occupied vacant. He looked around and saw no sign of his partner.

Spotting a group of undead staggering down the road heading north to the Terminal, Jeb slowly eased down into the brush and stayed rock still. The Sun was setting by the time he slipped back up and found the group of undead had vanished into the distance. Wiping the bead of sweat off his forehead, he scanned the other side of the road, clicking his radio once. A minute later two clicks answered him.

Rising he slipped across the road as quickly and silently as possible and into the woods on the other side, he looked around and spotted a dim red light flash twice. The odds of any undead spotting that light were next to zero, unless they were standing damn near on top of Ori.

“Lets Go,” Ori said, as soon as Jeb joined him, together the two men moved deeper into the woods as night fell over them. The woods were silent as a tomb, the one upside was that made hearing the undead even easier. In a city, or any where covered in concrete and asphalt the undead could creep up on you, but not normally in the woods where they made more noise than a group of kindergartners on a sugar high.

The Cell tower sat on a low hill a quarter of a mile from a subdivision. Ori slipped the NVG’s down over his eyes and studied the fence around the tower. Nothing moved inside the enclosure, and they had no reason to open the door to the small building next to the Tower so that removed on potential for danger. At least there were was no razor wire or barbed wire strung across the top of the fence. Tapping Jeb on the shoulder Ori slipped forward through the darkness, emerging from the shadow filled woods into the open area around the tower. A moment later he was climbing the fence, which rattled slightly under his weight.

Dropping to the ground, he scanned the area waiting for Jeb to join him. there were no vehicles, which meant nothing but it did make him think that most likely that little building was empty.

“You do know that Eric swore they had a little drone they could use to scout the yard right.” Jeb asked, they were far outside the parameters of their mission at this point, the mission was to scout the fence line to look for breaks, and to see how thick the undead were on the ground. Then reach the pick up point by sunset. They weren’t supposed to go this far east it was to close to built up areas where there would be huge numbers of undead. Jared was probably worried by now that something had happened to Ori and Jeb. Oh well Jeb decided, he was not going to argue about trying to gain more intell or possibly establish contact with Jill.

“You can talk while we climb” Ori said as he moved over to the tower then, began to climb. Jeb shrugged, and started up after Ori.

Jill, sat in the darkness, listening to the steady thump and scrape of the undead against the roll up doors, she heard another piece of cement hit the floor across the bay. She rose not able to take it anymore. “I’m going up top” she said into the darkness, “to try again to get some one on the radio”

“Your going to kill the battery if you don’t give it a rest” Nial’s voice came out of the darkness.

She didn’t reply, she moved slowly to the back wall and felt around till she found the ladder. She had a flashlight, but that was being saved to spare the batterys, and if they were really lucky the absence of light inside might get the undead to wander off.

She climbed slowly upwards till her head brushed the hatch, then used her hand to push it open. The light breeze pushed the smell of the undead crowd into her face, she grimaced at the assault and began to breath through her mouth as she climbed out onto the roof and sat down, looking up at the stars for a moment. then switched on her radio.

“I don’t know if any one can hear me, but there are three of us stuck inside the Train shack in the Rail yard. We are low on food, and water, and surrounded by the undead. Who are pushing against a wall that’s slowly coming down.” she transmitted, looking back up at the stars that glittered so far above her in the heavens, free from the curse that stalked the world below. “Jared, I know your out there, and I know your coming.

But you need to hurry it up. Jansen has a broken leg, and a guy named Nial’s is with us. he helped us escape the horde. But in case you don’t make it in time, I love you.” she said, falling silent, she didn’t see Nial’s looking out of the hatch at her, or the respectful look that passed across his face, as he slipped back down the ladder.

“if any one is listening, please pass my message along to Jared Stone.” She added after a moment.

“I think I can do that little thing” a familiar voice said into her ear bud. She blinked in surprise and almost leaped to her feet.

“Ori, thank god, where are you, how soon are you going to be here.” She asked.

“Look southeast but not down” Ori said, Jill looked back and forth her eyes straining then finally saw a light flash, high above the tree line in the distance.

“I see the light” she said, “where are you at”

“a cell tower, which I want to add isn’t that comfortable to sit on.” Ori replied.

“Would it be a problem for you to get Jared on the Radio” she asked.

“Sorry Jill, its just me and Jeb, we have been scouting the fence line most of the day, Jared is back with Eric and the others planning the search and rescue effort for you and Mary.”

Jill felt her heart sink, Mary hadn’t returned yet. God let her be all right she prayed silently.

“I’m sending Jeb to the Rendezvous site, and Ill stay here so you know your not alone.” Ori told her, she smiled sadly, He might be weird on occasion, but he was a damn good friend.

“No Ori, its to Dangerous for Jeb to go alone, you go with him, and you tell Jared where we are at, and … and Ill see him in a little while” Jill said.

“Roger that, Ill tell him where you’re at, and that you love him” Ori said, “ Luck to you Jill, Ori out”

She sat there for a moment, not ashamed at all at the tears of relief and worry that slid down her cheeks. She wiped them away, composing herself, then headed for the hatch. At least she had semi good news to report.

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

Eric walked into the living room of the house they were using, determined not to interfere with Jareds’ leadership as he dressed down Ori, for being an idiot. At least Ori and Jeb had shown up, even if it was four hours late. The one bright spot today, other than Ori and Jeb not having been killed, was the revelation that the Deuces that Pierce had used to get his people out, had been stocked with a few cases of MRE’s, Ammo and limited gear. Cross had set them up as Bug out Vehicles for the guards along the wall, just in case crap happened. They were still low on ammo, but they were better off than they had been before Pierce had arrived.

Ori sat quietly listening to Jared tear him a new ass, for mission drift. Jeb sat at a table dressed only in boxers and combat boots, cleaning his weapon.

“….what in the hell did you think you were doing heading that far east, you were right next door to a subdivision you idiot. You and Jeb could have been trapped or killed, and then we would have been setting up a SAR for you two as well as Jill and Mary.”

When Jared stopped to take a breath, he visibly calmed himself. Ori knew Jared was only venting, he had been worried enough about Jill and Mary, and then Ori had not appeared for the scheduled rendezvous. “Okay no more of that you know what you did wrong, but I want to thank you too. At least we know for a fact she is still alive.” Jared said much more calmly now. “But never do that again Ori, hell man, enough of my friends have died, I do not want to lose the ones I have left. “

“Jared, Trust me I’m avoiding doing anything majorly stupid if at all possible. I want to see Beth again and see my baby born.” Ori assured him.

“You said, she reported that one of the walls was collapsing” Eric asked from across the table, one thick arm resting on the table, as he tapped an index finger on the tabletop.

Ori nodded running a hand through his thick hair, a nervous habit he still hadn’t been able to shake. “She did, and she said they were low on food too.”

Jared paced the small room, hands clasped behind his back. “ were you able to see if we could go through the fence near that tower and head straight for the Train shack?”

“You could, but the marsh spills out along the fence line so you would have to cross the marsh, blow through the fence, cross an area that looks like it holds munitions bunkers, then get through the fence that surrounds the Yard.” Ori said, the marsh was the only real problem, the thick muddy bottom not with standing, the depth could range from inches to feet, and any vehicle they used that sank past its snorkel would die, and going on foot would be both slow and dangerous, who knew if there were undead stuck in the mud just under the surface, like landmines with teeth, one wrong step and some one was infected.

“ If we go through the gates, every zombie up there will follow us and just make the crowd bigger.” Chris pointed out.

“and if we get stuck in the marsh, or drown a vehicle we are screwed too. Remember there are zombies along the fence line too.” Jeb pointed out.

“Not as many as on the west side of the terminal” Jared said thoughtfully. Glad that Eric had insisted they wait a day or two to gather as much intel as possible. “looks like your plan is shot, time for plan B”

“Plan B” Eric asked, raising an eyebrow.

“That’s his I’m making it up on the fly but don’t want to admit it plan” Ori replied helpfully.

“Oh, the pull it out my ass plan, Eric does that all the time” Bailey said, a ripple of laughter went around the room, dropping the tension level.

“Look folks I hate to point out Mary is still missing,” Ronny reminded them. There were a few guilty looks exchanged around the table at that..

“Ronny we know, I had hoped to have Jill out today, but we have to wait till tomorrow, and as soon as we have Jill, we are going after Mary.” Jared said, then turned to Ronny. “Have you narrowed down where she might have landed to refuel?” Jared asked, looking Ronny directly in the eyes.

“I think so, I know how much fuel she had when she left us, I know she didn’t refuel. So there at the end when she had to leave, she couldn’t have had more than forty minutes of flight time left, she isn’t stupid, so she would have assumed that her first choice could be over run by undead, so that cuts down her flight time to about 15 to 20 minutes, which leaves five airfields she could have reached in that time.” Ronny said.

“Why 15 or twenty minutes” Jeb asked curiously.

“So she could divert to a second airfield, if the first was covered in undead, or had a shit load of planes on the ground, which is a good indicator the field ran out of fuel stranding those planes.” Ronny explained.

“What’s the most likely of those five” Jared asked, determined to let Ronny have the time to talk this out. There was no way in hell he wanted Ronny to ever think that Mary was less important to him than Jill.

“An island 15 minutes away by air, that has an old Marine Corp airfield on it, it was used for training exercises among other things. The second runner up, is an Airfield near Camp Lejune” Ronny said as he unfolded a map on the table and indicated the airfields. Jared studied it for a moment then looked up at a Eric, lost in thought, then nodded to himself.

“This is how we are going to play this out, assuming Eric and his people have no problems with it, Eric and Jackson’s teams will go in with us, to get Jill and secure the train.” Jared said as he sketched out the layout of the terminal and the train yard on the wall using a sharpie pen.

“I want a sniper up on the warehouse loading dock, another sniper positioned at the old water tower. Daws and his people will secure the train while Eric and Jackson’s people thin the number of the undead out on the ground before proceeding to try and locate the parts and materials we need.” Jared said marking the locations on the rough map, “okay so suggestions, ideas, tell me im an idiot?”

“first thing I see” Eric said, leaning closer to the wall, three hours later Jared sat back trying to absorb every new concept that Campbell and Eric had presented him. The plan was about as solid as they could make it. Which meant there was very little of the plan set in Stone, when dealing with the undead the first thing you learned was shit happened, and it tended to happen more often than not. And they were still short on Ammunition and basic supplies.

Eric leaned back, a half smile on his face, watching his brother who was in rare form.
He glanced at Campbell and his friends who were talking quietly and apparently had no problems with Op that Jared had laid out. Eric glanced at Bailey who was sharpening his knife, eyingatching him, Bailey nodded slowly, Eric smiled. They would make Jared SF material before this was all over.

Now all Eric had to do was find a way to keep who ever had taken over at Command from taking a bit of revenge, which was going to be hard. Charleston was a priority target, considering all the military supplies and bases around the area so taking Charleston back was a must and it was a great springboard to take back a large amount
of real estate along the coast.

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

Jill woke quickly and sat up, dawn’s light spilled through the windows set high in the wall. Looking around she saw that Nial’s was awake as well, looking towards the north side of the bay. “What is it?” she asked.

“I think the wall is going” he replied.

Behind the shelves and the platforms, she heard something crash to the ground, it sounded like rock on cement. Then suddenly it sounded like an avalanche, and dust billowed into the air. She crawled to the edge of the offices for a better look.

Dust billowed and swirled down there, at first she saw nothing, then as a vile smell grew in the air around them, she saw movement in the dust. A figure, at first shadowy and indistinct appeared, behind it more faded into sight.

She watched as a man wearing jeans and tool belt, appear his head swiveling around, behind him appeared a nurse, and then a man dress in fetish leathers, a woman in a suit skirt combo who dragged a mangled leg behind her. a boy about ten, dressed in Pajama bottoms decorated with small dogs, whose gut had been torn open, staggered out of the dust.

Then more stumbled silently out of the dust, every shape and size, every color, it was the UN of the Damned, all united on one thing, to find and kill the living in the building.

The undead flowed through the building; they stumbled up the stairs to the platforms and walkways. Jill discovered she was holding her breath as she slid back from the edge and out of sight.

“This isn’t good” Nial’s whispered.

He was right about that, Jared was going to have to work to get them out, and for the first time she was worried about the outcome. She moved quietly to the ladder, she had to get on the Radio and warn them.

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

Jeb hung on the Cell tower, enjoying the ocean breeze for a moment, then quickly set up the radio antenna on the tower. Wth that done he hooked it to the radio he carried slung at his side. “testing, testing, testes” he transmitted.

“Roger, receiving, standing by for report” Jared replied, from the ELSORV.

Jeb hooked himself up to the tower, pulled his binoculars out before turning to look at the fence line.

“ report as follows, there are ten dead in the Marsh, they appear to be stuck, I count …….” He paused for a moment. “Sixty two along the fence in that area. The munitions storage bunkers look clear, the majority of the undead I can see are in the rail yard itself, no way I can count them from here.”

“Roger, one two many to count, out” Jared replied.

Jeb felt a little guilty about being up here safely out of the way, but after the last few days, he didn’t mind to much either. “Good luck to you folks too” he said aloud, not worried about any undead two hundred feet below hearing him over the wind.

“This is Jill, if any one is out there, come in” a voice said into his ear, barely above a whisper.

“This is Jeb, Go ahead Jill, the rescue party is on its way” he radioed.

“For gods sake warn them that the train shack is full of undead now. they cant just walk in and save us.” Jill said.

“Roger, Ill relay your message”

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

The Rescue started off badly, first with the news of the breach in the train shack wall, and then one of the Deuce and half’s, sank down into the mud of the Marsh, till only about two feet of the Cab stuck out of the water.

While half of the surviving soldiers, recovered what they could from the bogged down Deuce and loaded it into the remaining Deuce. Eric’s team and the other half of the soldiers guarded them. Luckily there were few undead in this area, so twenty minutes later Pierces men scrambled into the last Deuce, and they were off again.

Reaching the fence line, They used wire cutters to create a gap in the double fence line, no one wanted to risk getting a piece of fence wrapped around an axle or tire and damaging a vehicle. They rolled across the thirty yards of open ground to the line of woods that separated the munitions bunkers, if that’s what they were, from the Fence line.

A few zombie wandered around in the hundred yard wide wood line, while Eric was cutting another gap in the fence that surrounded the munitions bunkers, a zombie appeared, seemingly out of nowhere and threw itself on Private Chernkov, The undead managed to bite the 23 year old twice, before it was pulled off and put down.

Eric watched with out comment, as Campbell moved up and knelt beside the young soldier, talking gently to the dying man, while the rest of the group stood guard. Then with out warning he swiftly broke the soldier’s neck then used a knife to make sure he wouldn’t rise. As Campbell rose wiping the knife on his pants leg, their eyes met, Eric was no stranger to the pain he saw in the other mans eyes. But it was a mercy that needed doing.

Once through the fence they rolled past what had to be munitions bunkers, cement structures with only a ¼ of their mass above ground, a set of stairs led down to the vault like doors. Eric could only dream of what might lie with in the structures.

Reaching the north side fence of the bunker area, the numbers of undead on the other side, meant there was no way to have a man safely cut a gap in the fence

“LAV taking point” Eric transmitted. There had been some debate about using the LAV, but damaged or not, the LAV was one of the best vehicles to use for what they were doing. Just its weight alone allowed it to push through crowds of undead that would stop light vehicles like the ELSORVS or the Trucks.

The massive Vehicle rolled up and over the fence, tearing it down and crushing the undead under is tires.

Immediately the Deuce sped past, then turned to the west, as a CD player in the Bed of the Deuce began to blare out an oldie but goodie, “United” By Judas Priest. The men in the back began to fire into the undead, trying to lure as many as they could away.

The LAV crossed the eighty feet, passing a brick building, before it slammed into the Fence around the rail yard, Angela who was driving had aimed at one of the heavy posts, the LAV hit it, and shuddered, but then the pole bent over taking the fence down with it.

As the LAV sped across the yard, one of the TACOMAs peeled off and quickly dropped the snipers off at their posts. Once they were safely up and away from the undead the Truck sped back to join the group music blaring.

The Second Tacamo rushed into the gap in the undead that the LAV created and raced to the train where Daws and his people leaped onto the train and set to work securing the few box cars and the train engine itself.

As soon as Daws and his men were aboard the train, the Two Tacoma’s raced away, heading deeper into the destruction in an attempt to reach the maintenance yard.

The LAV, barreled through the undead, escorting the ELSORV to the Train shack, bowling through the mass of undead, like a mad man playing a demented game of bowling for zombies.

“ I Hope you have a second pulled out of your ass plan” Eric said over the radio

“ As a matter of fact, yes, but I’m also out of tactical nukes. So looks like I have to go with my third plan.” Jared replied.

“Mind sharing?” Eric asked then looked down in surprise as the ELSORV pulled up along side the LAV, Ori dropped out of the gunners hatch, and a moment later Jared appeared.

“ You still have one of those Grapple guns?”. Jared called up.

“Yes, your wanting to get three people to rappel down a wall, one with a broken leg, and into one of our vehicles.” Eric asked with a raised Eyebrow.

“ Would you happen to have any of the trolleys or handles in your bag of goodies” Jared asked.

“Funny, we seem to have six of the handles” Eric replied,

“Get them, and the grapple gun and pass them over to me” Jared called out.

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

“Is it me or did this thing move” Jansen asked from where he sat with his back against the wall.

“Just you” Nial’s replied as he dug into his small pack and pulled out a Prepackaged Bear claw, as soon as he opened it, the smell of sugary goodness filled the air around them

“You had better plan on sharing that, Or I swear I will shoot you” Jill said, eyeing the desert treat.

“You’re a sugar nut” Nial’s asked surprised, eyeing the slender woman.

“Just share no questions” Jill said, as Jansen stifled a chuckle.

Nial’s broke the desert in half and passed half to Jill, who smiled in anticipation. She took a bite, and sagged with pleasure “its been three years since I ate one of these” she said quietly.

Nial’s took a bite and grinned, just as the squeal of metal ripped through the air and the office section shivered.

Jill looked around questioningly then shrugged off her pack and dug around inside for a moment before pulling out a plastic wrapper. She slipped the desert inside the wrapper then folded it closed before placing it in her pack. As she closed her pack again, the office section shivered again.

“I told you it moved” Jansen said, forgetting to keep his voice down. almost instantly thumping began on the walls and windows of the office section below them.

“Damn it” Jill said quietly and moved for the edge to look down, the walkway was packed with undead, and more were trying to get to the office section. On the floor of the bay the zombies were pressing forward, staring up at office section. Seeing her head appear, arms lifted and hands began to grasp at the air.

All they needed was to begin moaning she thought, and it would be a perfect horror movie scene.

Down below out of her sight, the undead were wedged under the elevated office section, pressing against the steel scaffolding that held it in place. a cross bar, with to much pressure exerted on it, popped free of the brackets that held it in place. The poles that it had held in place swayed minutely, and as bodies pressed against them slowly, shifted out of position.

Jill felt the tremor through the roof of the office section, and scooted back as the front of the office dipped down and inch maybe two. “its coming down” she said, turning and moved back to Nial’s and Jansen. “the whole damn thing is collapsing .” She told them

“I noticed Nial’s said as he looked at Jansen then at the ladder. “ theres no way we can get him up there” he said, regretfully.

“To hell there’s not” Jill said as she unstrapped the bag attached to her pack, and pulled out a coil of rope and a harness. “ Cut me ten feet of rope off, then cut off a six foot section” she told Nial’s as she began to buckle the Harness on. The office structure was already beginning to sway slightly.

Thank god Jared had insisted she carry a bag of climbing gear, as part of her load out, today it more than paid up for the exra weight. She thought, as she quickly, if sloppily, coiled the rest of the rope and shoved it back in the bag and strapped it back in place.

“Your going to have to help me, I’m going to make a seat for him out of this rope and then your going to tie it to the places on the Harness I cant reach” she said calmly even as the sound of ripping metal came to them. “When you get done helping me, tie the shorter piece onto my pack and carry it up with you.” she added.

Nial’s looked nervous at the thought of standing on the moving office, but after so long of hating people for just leaving others to die, he wasn’t about to leave them here either, she was also taking a major chance in trusting him with her pack too, he thought, then snorted a laugh, like there was any where he could run with it if he decided to steal it. .

“pay attention” Jill snapped drawing him out of his thoughts. “ just help me out here, Once we are on the ladder, we will be safe” she said as she clipped the rope to her harness, then quickly told nials how to tie the rope to make to arm straps, as soon as it was done, she had him start climbing the ladder, the office structure was starting to sway quite a bit and from the motion and sound it wasn’t going to stay up much longer.

“any time your ready” Jansen said, wrapping his arms around her as the office lurched towards the Bay, Jill lashed out and grabbed the rungs of the ladder, her arms and back already straining. She started up, she hadn’t expected Jansen to be this heavy.

She made it up three rungs, then five, then eight, her arms burning with the strain, her legs aching. Down below there was a last screech of abused metal and the Office structures collapsed to the bay floor, crushing undead, and sending dust swirling up. the building shook. Jill was surprised as the ladder seemed to buck, and her feet shot out from the rung, she dangled by her arms, her shoulders screaming in pain, feet kicking in the air, then finally one foot found a rung and quickly she slipped an arm through the rungs and stood there on the ladder breathing heavily.

”You all right?” Nial’s asked from above her.

“Ill be good, carry him is just tougher than I thought” She replied, rather more loudly than she had intended.

Down below the undead gathered below the ladder, silent and waiting. Milky yes fixed on their prey as they reached upwards, as if to snatch their victims off the ladder forty feet above them.

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

“your sure this line is two hundred feet” Jared asked Ori for the second time, as he readied himself.

“yes I’m sure, now if your going to do something this stupid, you need to get a move on” Ori said, taking off his glasses and cleaning them absently, it wasn’t necessary, but it was one of his Nervous ticks, that he couldn’t shake.

“Captain Courageous to the Rescue, right” Jared said with a grin.

“More like Dudley Do right” Ronny called out from the drivers seat. “the adult version”

Jared checked the rig once more then climbed into the gunners hatch as Ronny eased into position against the west wall. The undead swarmed against the side of the ELSORV, slapping at the windows and doors.

The rope attached to the Grapple was a standard 7mm climbing rope, the heavier rope that would be used for the zip line he would carry up hooked to his belt.

“Your insane you know that” Chris offered looking up through the hatch.

“What would shelly say if she knew you were making excuses to check out my butt right now.” Jared asked with a strained smile,

“Not an excuse, you are insane. And she would say you had a nice butt, I would have to disagree, now Shelly’s butt….” Chris said, then gave Jared a thumbs up. “ be safe brother.

“You know it. Chris. Remember as soon as I’m up top Ill secure the zip line, you haul the other end back to the Train and secure it. There should be fifty more feet than we need. Should.” Jared said.

Jared look up, lifted the grapple gun to his shoulder sighted, and fired. the grapple sailed upwards, trailing the climbing rope as it vanishing over the edge of the roof .

He pulled on the rope, feeling the grapple catch, and then tugged twice to make sure it was seated. That was still no guarantee, anything could happen after all, but he wasn’t going to dwell on what could go wrong.

“Okay here I go” he said, as he started to climb,.

Halfway up, Jared realized it had been a while since he had done any serious climbing, at least he had left his pack below tied to the end of the climbing rope, so it could be pulled up after him. He wasn’t sure he could have done this with his pack on. I should have asked Eric for one of those fancy ascenders, hell he should have offered it to me. Note kick my brothers butt when this is over.

a fire began to burn in his shoulders and arms, and hips, he ignore it and kept climbing, he was half way to the top when he saw a mans head appear over the edge of the roof and look down at him.

“You might want to hurry” the man called down, “I’m taking it your Jills husband”

“Know any one else insane enough to climb a wall to rescue you three.” Jared called out wondering who this man was, and where he had come from, he didn’t look familiar to Jared. .

“Considering how hot she is, no disrespect intended, I can think of a lot of men what would crawl naked through broken glass to impress her.” the man yelled down.

“Now that is inspirational” Jared muttered as he pushed on.

Finally he was at the edge of the roof, strong hands grasped him and helped him climb up onto the shallow sloped roof. “Thanks” Jared said, not really sure what to make of the scruffy looking man with a Texas accent.

“No problem, got to say you have balls” The man said, looking towards the roof hatch.

“Thanks I’m pretty fond of them myself” Jared said as he gripped the climbing rope and pulled up his pack.

“Where is she?” Jared asked as he secured his pack to the roof, with a spike.

“Stuck on the ladder, with that soldier strapped to her back”

“What, why the hell didn’t you say so.” Jared said moving towards the hatch.

“Figured you didn’t need the distraction, she is secured. No real danger just stuck. She thought she could carry him, but wore herself out.” the man said. “ I couldn’t figure out how to get them both up, with out some one probably falling.”

“Nials, right?” Jared said remember the name Jill had given Ori.

“That would be me” Nial’s replied as Jared looked down the hatch, and saw Jill had an arm and leg through the ladder rungs, and was just hanging on.

“See what happens when you try to run away with another man, get yourself tied to a deadbeat.” Jared called down, as he unhooked the Zip line and quickly secured it. “ Ori rope is secured, get moving” Jared transmitted, as he gathered the climbing rope and set up a quick rappel.

“Sure talk big now, wait till I get out of here” Jill called up, her voice sounding strained. “Well hurry up” Jill said.

“sorry forget to say, I’m here to rescue you, and I forget the firemans suit too. That was the fantasy wasn’t it” Jared asked as he hooked up and then slipped through hatch and rappelled down quickly to where Jill waited.

“Hey don’t mind me, forget I’m ever here, since you two seem to want be alone” Jansen said.

Jared shook his head giving them both a half smile. he eyed the makeshift cradle Jill had rigged. He didn’t say anything only set to work cutting Jansen free, it was a tricky process, but Jared got Jansen’s good foot on the ladder, and then got behind him. to hold Jansen in place as Jared cut the rest of the line away from the soldier.

“That had better be a piece of equipment in your pocket” Jansen said, trying not to panic as he found himself fully leaning with his back against Jared, one slip and he would plummet down in to the waiting arms of the hungry dead below.

Jansen reached out and grasped the ladder pulling himself towards the wall, Jared chuckled at a stray thought as he used the remnants of the line that had held Jansen to Jill, to tie Jansen to the ladder, then got Jill moving upwards, staying with her till, Nial’s helped her out of the hatch.

Jared dropped back down to Jansen, “okay this is going to be rough, but you can do this” he assured the soldier.

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

“Got a problem” Ronny said slowing as he started to pass the first train.

“What is it.” Ori asked trying not to look at the undead that were clustering around the vehicle.

“If we go in front of the two trains, the rope will just snag the there when we try to pull in the slack, we need it to go over the top.” Ronny said after a moment.

“Damn it” Ori commented, “always something.” He eyed the train for a moment then shrugged, “Get me along side the first engine, Ill climb up and pull some slack, when I do you drive around up and around slowly, Ill pull the rope up and over the top, you stop where I can jump down, and then we repeat on the second train.” Ori said after a moment

“ Sounds good to me” Ronny said refusing to let his fear and worry over Mary, screw this up.

Ronny pulled up beside the train, as Ori climbed out of roof hatch, looped the rope of his shoulder he leaped up grabbed a rail, and pulled himself up. scrambling to the top he pulled till he was pretty sure he had enough slack then walked on top of the train, till he reached the front, holding the rope up as Ronny drive around to the other side, Ori dropped the rope across the top and leaped to the roof of the ELSORV, sliding into the interior and played out rope as Ronny drove up to the second train, where he pulled along side and waited.

This time there was a gap not much but some, Ori looped the rope once more over his shoulder, and leaped. He grasped the rail, and this time his foot slipped, he slammed belly first against the side, but managed to keep his grip. Zombies were trying to wiggle between the ELSORV and the Train, and one looked it might be skinny enough to make it.

Ori’s pulled with his arms as his feet scrambled for a purchase, the zombie was already at the drivers door. The smell was incredible. Ori didn’t look, he just kept trying to climb, a hand grasped his ankle, and pulled, Ori kicked fighting to keep his grip on the rail at the same time.

A gunshot ran out, and the hand slipped from his ankle. Ori looked down and saw the zombie slumping to the ground, leaving a gory smear on the driver’s door window.

Chris stood in the gunners hatch. “ That’s one Little man” Chris said, smoke still rising from the barrel of his pistol.

“Little my ass” Ori gasped out, and then suddenly he had traction and shot up the side of the train. “Next time your butt is doing this” Ori called out.

Two minutes later he was back in the ELSORV, and they were heading for the train where Daws waited, the train rumbled to life as they approached.

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

“Hold it you want us to do what” Nial’s asked in disbelief, as Jared handed him a harness.

“I want you to put that on, and as soon as they have the Zip line secured on the other end, you will be sliding down to that train that just started, you know the train that’s drawing every undead in the terminal with all that racket.” Jared said.

“Or your bear claw hording ass, can sit up here, till the undead go home” Jill suggested, as she helped Jansen into a harness.

“He has bear claws” Jared asked, looking puzzled.

“Seems your wife is a sugar addict” Nial’s supplied helpfully still staring at the Harness.

“and thought he could just whip one out with out sharing” Jill commented.

“You do know how bad that sounds right?” Jansen interjected. “poor poor word choice Jill”

“How about I go back down the wall climb back up and we start this rescue again where it makes some sense. Remember this is a rescue.” Jared said.

“Rescues usually involve flashing lights, and firemen, with hot paramedics who offer you blankets after your ordeal, did you bring blankets” Jill asked as she got Jansen completely strapped in and read to go.

“Are you okay?” Jared asked concerned, she wasn’t normally this flippant.

“I finally understand, why you guys crack jokes so much, I think if I stop and think about what I’ve been through in the last 48 hours, I might just start crying and not be able to stop. So yes I’m fine, and no don’t hug me that will set me off too” she said, smiling shakily at Jared who had started to slip an arm around her.

“In that case, Maam, I have blankets waiting, the soft kind. Micro plush at that” Jared said acting the part she wanted him too, all he really wanted to do was just hold her

“Good, I like those kind” she said then paused. “Jared this is Nial’s, who has been flirting with me, Nial’s this is my jealous husband Jared.”

Nial’s found himself chuckling at that, even in so short of time, he like Jared Stone. Maybe later he would find a thousand things to dislike about the man, but at the moment, Jared came across as one of the most level headed, cool under fire types Nials had ever met.

The zip line went taut so fast it made a odd noise that jill could only describe a cross between a buzz and a boinging noise.

“Okay Nial’s you first” Jared said as he motioned for Nial’s to step up to the rope.

“Why me, is it because I flirted with your wife?” Nial’s asked, suddenly very nervous. There was a reason he never tried second story work, and heights played a large part in it.

“No if I wanted to kill you for flirting with my wife, I would make you go last, so I could cut the rope when you were halfway there and watch you fall to your death, while I hugged my wife, who delights in tempting men to their deaths.” Jared said, glancing at Jill who was looking back towards the smoke and fires, where so many had died.

“Oh, okay, well. See, I have this fear of ropes” Nial’s said as Jared hook him up.

“That’s okay, face your fears and you beat them. Now on this handle, there’s a brake, your going to need it when you approach the trains, the second train you’ll have to walk across since the Rope is not as high over it as it is over the first Train, I’m pretty sure, men are waiting to get you off that line on the third train.” Jared saw the panic starting to build in the others mans eyes. he gripped him by the shoulders “ listen to me your going to be all right, this is the only safe way to get you out of here.” Jared assured him. Nial’s started to nod his head, when Jared pushed him.

Suddenly Nial’s was hurtling through the air, heading straight for a train, some one was screaming too, which was pretty embarrassing since they sounded a lot like a little girl, he lifted his legs up and shot over the first train, but the second train he frantically gripped the brake bar, and slowed, Jared had been right, he thought as his feet touched the top of the train, by now he was actually finding it terrifyingly fun, he ran and leaped off the other side, and saw men waiting on the walk way that ran around the third train engine.

“Okay are you ready” Jared asked turning to Jill, who nodded slowly. That bothered Jared a lot but he didn’t remark on the timidity of her response. “ Good you’re going to be safe in a few seconds.” Jared told her, then dipped in and kissed her, breathing deeply to soak in the smell of hers skin

“See you there” Jill said, as she leaped off the roof.

He turned to Jansen, helping the man to his feet. And hooked him in. “ you’ve done this before you know how it goes” Jared said calmly. Jansen nodded, turning his head towards Jared. “ I wanted to tell you something Jared, Jill saved me, I would have died out there if not for her, hell I was willing to get myself killed so she could escape, and she pulled the we don’t leave our people behind card. She is one hell of a woman, you’re a lucky man”

Jared didn’t really know what to say to that, other than the truth, “she is that Thor, now get going soldier. There’s a woman that needs a blanket” Jared said pushing Jansen off the roof.

Jared took one look around, made sure his pack was strapped tightly, making sure Jansen had time to get to the waiting train, then hooked his handle to the line, and leaped off after the others.

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

“Sir, I think you should consider that our ‘Guest’ is telling the truth, that she is working with a Special Forces Team,” Major Collins said, knowing she was walking on thin ice.

Walker wasn’t amused in the least, Collins thought watching the mans face as he glared at Collins as if he wanted to strike her. Like Every one else he was on the edge of losing it. But he had to face the fact that Mary could very well be telling the truth.

They had thirty seven Active duty Marines here, and forty three Reserves Marines left, against your normal yahoos, or the undead Collins would back them to win every time. But against Special Forces men? Who the hell was Mary and what was SF doing out here?

“Colonel, if she is telling the truth, we don’t want to have to engage with other US military forces,” Collins finally said trying not to trip a verbal landmine. She wasn’t about to suggest that Marines couldn’t take Special Forces that would send Walker into a frothing fit. No what worried her was firing on and killing Men and women who had taken the same oath she had. And how many of their own people would be killed or wounded. “And if they are Sir, they could be in communication with higher.” She suggested hoping it might motivate him to be willing to release Mary and the Hannah to their friends, instead of making some enemies.

Walker snorted in contempt, “Her friends are no more Army, than they are special forces, she is just a looter with a band of looters looking to get on the Base and take as much military gear as they can carry” Walker said. “ there will no rescue mission, or Special forces ghosts running around here, she is just trying to bluff us into letting her and her friend go and as far as Communications with a higher authority, I have no worries on that part.” Walker added, that last sounded almost cryptic to Collins.

She didn’t point out that there were plenty of bases along the coast they could easily loot, instead of sending two women out here alone to loot a military base. That he hadn’t already considered that bothered her a lot. But Collins still hoped she could get him to calm down and think about this.

“ But Colonel you fail to consider….” Collins said, but Walker slapped a hand down on the top of the filing cabinet he stood beside. .

“That will be all Major, I do not want to hear about this woman’s scary special forces friends again” he said brusquely. “Or do I have to brig you for insubordination.”

“Yes sir” she said somehow managing not to glare at the Col, who turned away from her and headed back the Desk he used for his day to day work and settle himself down in the old creaky chair once more, staring at the map of the island before him.

Collins left the room as soon as she had spent enough time so as to not appear suspicious. She walked down the corridor nodding to the two sentries outside Mary’s room. Entering she found the other woman doing crunches. Mary had obviously been exercising for the last half hour or more; she had worked up quite a sweat.

Seeing Collins the other woman got her feet, and ran a hand through her sweat damp hair, she gave Collins a wary look but gave away nothing else she might be thinking.

“I need to ask you a few questions, and I need honest answers” Collins said sitting and waved a hand at the other chair in the room, as soon as Mary was seated. Collins got to the point.

“I need to know, are your friends really Special forces?” Collins asked, Mary flashed her a wide smile.

“So they found me, good” Mary said that had been one of the very few things she had divulged, she had no idea how marines felt about Special forces types, but they seemed to put the fear of god into normal folks so why not Marines.

Collins frowned, and leaned back in her chair, looking worried. “No they havent, at least not yet,” Collins replied, “Mary you have to understand how things are here, the Colonel will follow his orders, maybe he is, we all are a bit nuts, but the only thing that’s kept our people going, given them something to live for are our orders and hope that there will be a recovery. I don’t want them to die, because the Colonel follows his orders, we have lost to damn many Marines, in the first place.”

“Then you had better convince him to release me and Hannah, because I promise you Major Collins you do not want to be between me and my friends, they wont enjoy killing your people but they will, they will destroy this place lock stock and barrel if that’s what it takes to get us back. And you had better let the Colonel know if he harms either of us, it will be even worse on your people.” Mary said calmly.

Collins watched her closely, and believed every thing Mary said, “ I think you really need to consider escaping, and soon.” Collins said after a moment, surprising Mary, who had not really expected her captor to suggest escaping.

“I think its probably too late for that.” Mary replied.

“Mary trust me, if your friends attack the last thing you want, is to be with in arms reach of the Colonel, so if the chance presents itself, take that chance.” Collins said. “for your sake and my peoples”

Mary was silent for a moment, she hadn’t been mistreated so far, but the Colonel had come close when she pushed back, she suspected Collins was telling her that the colonel was closer to the edge than she realized. but was Collins truly hinting that she would help Mary and Hannah escape or was this some convoluted plot for her own gain. KISS as Ronny would have said, keep it simple, go with the escape option worry about the rest later.

“You probably wont be able to reach your plane, but there are plenty of places to hide on the Island till your friends show up, there might even be a Radio where you ever you hide so you can direct them to where your at.” Collins said.

“Your people must be pretty lax to be leaving radios laying around.” Mary commented.

“One or two of us are very forgetful, no telling what can happen.” Collins said, feeling bad about helping Mary and her Friend, but she had no choice if she wanted to try and save her men and women from a fight that was unnecessary and would probably kill several of them no matter the skill level of the men coming against them.

“Really sucks to have those kind of people around sometimes” Mary replied.

“Now then lets get you over to visit your friend Hannah, “ Collins said rising and motioning towards the door.

After sending one of the two guards to inform the Colonel, Mary was being taken to visit with her friend, under guard. Collins led her outside, they were trailed by a wide shouldered thick limbed Marine, who looked like he might be a bit slow, but stronger than an ox.

it was a beautiful September day, with a cool wind off the ocean. A few wispy white clouds drifted across the deep blue sky. If she wasn’t being held against her will, she might actually have enjoyed it.

They Passed the UV, which had been moved to a parking spot in front of the second hanger, three marines guarding it.

Entering the hangar, Collins led her past several parked aircraft to cinderblock structure along the back wall, “ do not make me regret this Mary, any attempt to cause problems will only result in your being placed in isolation” Collins warned her, as they entered the cinderblock building, and stopped in front of a door guarded by a single marine. “Patterson stay here and help guard the prisoners, I don’t want the Colonel to think we let security slip.” Collins said opened the door, and motioned for Mary to enter “ Ill give you two hours, that’s it.” Mary nodded and walked into the room, the door boomed closed behind her.

The room was plain, one poster, of a harrier in flight, decorated the otherwise featureless concrete walls, Hannah, who was sitting on a bunk, rose to her feet when Mary entered the room.

“Thank God your all right” Hannah said, her soft voice laden with relief.

“How about you?” Mary asked, glancing back at the door as it shut behind her.

“They haven’t raped or beaten me, so I’m doing good all things considered” Hannah replied.

“Good” Mary said glancing at the door again, as if worried some one might be listening in. She walked up and hugged Hannah, who stood there stiffly for a second. “we are getting out of here, Ronny and the others are on their way.” Mary whispered in her ear.

Hannah awkwardly hugged Mary back. “are you sure, and How exactly are we going to get out of here with no weapons” Hannah asked.

“Pretty sure of it, just wait and act casual, they are listening and watching.” She said then released Hannah and dabbed at her eyes as she were tearing up.

“Their Colonel is a nut job, more or less, but not to bad” Mary said leaning against the wall since there was no Chair in the small room.

She spent five minutes just chatting about nothing, acting as casual as she could manage, tell Hannah about what she had learned about what had happened here on the island since the undead had risen.

She fell silent as the door opened behind them, she looked back but saw no one in the dark doorway. Moving quietly she approached the door, then finally looked out, two Assault Rifles and combat harness’s loaded with Ammo pouches sat against the wall, the two men who had been Guarding the door, were unconscious on the floor. sprawled across each other.

Mary scooped up a harness and slipped it on, waving at Hannah who joined her a second later. She wasn’t familiar with this particular rifle, but a quick look showed her it wasn’t much different than the ones she had used before. Hannah watched the hallway, while Mary removed the Guards pistol and magazines, then with a grin, unfastened the mans belt, and pulled down his pants and underwear. Might as well add insult to injury she thought

“Wish I had some lipstick or a ribbon” she said as she slipped the pistol into her belt and then Joined Hannah.

“Why,” Hannah asked.

“Look at him, he deserves some sort of prize, at least I think so” Mary replied softly.

Hannah snuck a peak and gave a tight grin, “your right, now lets go” she said shaking her head.

The hallway ended at a T, the right dead-ended in a door, the left opened up into the hangar area. Which seemed empty of people. Mary moved to the door, placing her ear against it and listening closely. She heard nothing on the other side, so she took a breath and pushed the door open a crack and looked inside.

The room was half again as big as the one that Hannah had been held in, and held six cots with footlockers at the foot of each cot. Another door was at the far end of the room, a blanket tacked over half the door, she guessed the blanket covered a window.

But more importantly there was no one inside, she turned back to Hannah. Who was motioning for Mary to follow. Mary looked back at that far door, wanting to check it out, but then turned back and joined Hannah.

“We move from plane to plane, use them for cover, then exit out the personnel door in the Hangar door.” Hannah said.

Mary gave her a thumb’s up, and readied her rifle, Jared, Ronny and Steve had hammered the different positions and their uses into her over the months, so she knew that she carried her rifle at High ready. Personally she wished she were with Ronny in the Missionary or maybe the Flying monkey as Ronny called it, but she wasn’t, she was here with a rifle, a very poor substitute for her Man.

They moved quickly out of the hallway and ducked under a Harrier, pausing to listen for any shouts of discovery, hearing nothing Hannah led her to the next plane over, where they repeated the process. Finally they reached the door, “this is where it will get hard” Hannah said as she cracked the door and peeked out through the gap. Three marines were clustered near a plane Tug, talking quietly.

“Really hard” she said letting the door close silently.

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

Far to the south, a long line of undead trudged steadily onward, the rustle of clothing and the scuffing of shoes on pavement the only sound of the horde. If any one living had been watching they would have seen the undead were staring east, as if they could see through the woods and buildings that stood between them and their objective, a small island where Human flesh waited to be reaped for their master. And no one knew they were coming.

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