Chapter 32

“DARK Angel, with thine aching lust
To rid the world of penitence:
Malicious Angel, who still dost
My soul such subtile violence!

Thou art the whisper in the gloom,
The hinting tone, the haunting laugh:
Thou art the adorner of my tomb,
The minstrel of mine epitaph.”
~Lionel Johnson

The Train began to move slowly its horn blasting, drawing the undead from across the ruined terminal. It picked up speed, leveling off a ten miles an hour, rolling over and crushing the undead on the tracks leaving only red ruin behind it.

Moving across the ruined east side, the train slowed pushing a scorched shipping container off the tracks, then finally rolled across the marsh, with the undead in slow pursuit.

Many of the undead became bogged down in the marsh, the mud sucking many of them down to their knees and or even waists. Clearing the marsh it cross the west side of the Terminal in minutes blowing its horn four times.

“That’s the signal” Eric called out, as he pulled the chains and got the bay door rolling up on its track. The sound of an AK hammered his ears as Jackson fired at the few remaining undead outside. Eric stepped back clearing his line of fire and added his own fire to Jackson’s.

The Deuce and a half was the first out of the maintenance shack, loaded with men, parts and tools. As the Truck passed Jackson he ran and climbed into the back, the men in side hauling him up into the safety of the Deuce.

Eric ran the short distance to the Waiting Tacoma and climbed into the Back, grining at Roosevelt who grinned back at him. “got to say you boys have really got a system for scavenging in undead territory.” The Older man said.

“Thanks” Eric said as he stepped up to the M2, grasped the handle, charged the weapon and waited.

The three trucks charged across the terminal with little to no opposition from the undead whom the majoriy were off chasing a train.

“Tacoma one, pick up the snipers, Tacoma Two will cover, Deuce and LAV proceed to egress point. ” Eric said, bracing himself as the truck he was on turned sharply to follow its sister. Tacoma one raced across the rail yard, where there was still a large number of undead, but nothing like earlier. Eric leveled the M2 and begin firing short bursts into the undead, sending the zombies tumbling. He wasn’t concerned with putting them down, instead he used the weapon to cripple.

He fired and kept firing, running thru five hundred rounds in no time, all around the yard were piles of crippled and maimed undead. Tacoma one reached the water Tower, pulled up below the ladder, where Castor Slid down the ladder and dropped into the bed.

“Passenger secured, moving to next position”

“Roger.” Eric said swinging the Ma Deuce to the next cluster of targets.

Tacoma one pulled up under the eaves of the Warehouse, as a cluster of undead swarmed towards it. Eric laid his sights on them, tripped the trigger, and walked his fire back and forth hammering them into dog meat.

“Passenger secured, moving out.” Ross reported.

“Roger moving out” Eric replied, as the truck he was on turned sharply and chased after its sister who was already barreling out of the yard through the fence they had torn down on their arrival.

They pushed through the marsh and back onto the main road, Eric secured the M2 and sat down in the bed, tilting his head back and gazing at the blue sky. “ I can not wait for the day those things are gone” he said aloud.

“Amen,” Roosevelt said, “you a religious man then Sergeant.”

Eric started to shake his head, but stopped himself. “I guess. I believe the proper term is spiritual. And considering what’s out there, any one that doesn’t believe in something must really be panicking to come up with a reason for the undead.”

“We talked about that a lot for awhile” Roosevelt said with out elaborating, as he dug into a pouch and pulled out a package of chewing tobacco then put a plug of the stuff in his mouth. “shits stale but better than nothing.” Roosevelt commented.

Eric shook his head, contrary to what the public might thing, the anti tobacco hysteria had never really hit the majority of soldiers. He never understood that, but had always chalked it up to high stress situations, and who cared if tobacco could kill you when you were far more likely to be shot or blown up long before tobacco could do the job. about the same applied these days. The undead would most likely eat you before you could die of cancer. Either way Eric didn’t smoke, chew or dip and had no intentions of starting, now a good bottle of scotch, or a cold beer with a woman like Kat and he was set for his vices.

An hour later, they rendezvoused with the train, where Jared and the others transferred to ELSORV and half of the Soldiers who had been with Pierce transferred to the train. And they were under way again before the undead in the area could reach them. Operation Rescue entered its second phase.

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

“Well any ideas?” Hannah asked in her normal quiet voice, as she eased the outer door of the hangar closed.

“That’s why I thought you wanted to take a look” Mary said, her stomach sinking. Collins had helped them get out of the room. but it seemed like that was as far as she was going with her help.

“The back door” Mary said after thinking about it for a moment. Not that there was any other choice that she could see. “ that barracks room, was empty, we can try out the back door”

“What about the plane” Hannah asked, “ I don’t see escaping here, only to wander around a small island being worth much.”

“Ronny and the others will find us, Hannah, we only need to hide till they get here. if they don’t show up in a few days we can find a boat, there has to be a few on an Island” Mary said quietly,

“Unless they went around and poked holes in all the ones they didn’t feel like guarding.” Hannah mumbled but followed Mary back across the hangar and to the empty Barracks room.

Mary opened the door and moved into the room, quietly in case there were spots she couldn’t see from the door that had people in it. they moved quickly across the Room, Hannah pausing to snatch up a loaded Ruck sitting on a bench.

Mary peered out the window in the back door, there were buildings across a cracked street, but they looked deserted. “well we can stand here worrying about people hiding across the street watching this door all day, till we are caught or we can make a run for it across her back, and acted casual.

As soon as Hannah joined her, they walked down the street, till they reached the first intersection, to the right the road led between Hangars, the left would take them deeper into what Mary thought had been base operations buildings and housing, beyond the roof tops she could see trees.

They turned left and acting like they had a reason to be here, strolling as casually as they could look down the street between the old buildings. It felt odd to both of them to walk down a street, and not see a single zombie, and in a way it depressed them to see the desolation, they had only walked two hundred feet when they heard a motor.

They ducked between a Quonset hut style building with a sign on the front that was faded only the word USO still legible. And a building that had a sign that read MWR. Reaching a side Door in the MWR building Mary tried it and found it was unlocked, quickly the two women slipped inside.

The room, was maybe 18×20, with two pool tables, couches, chairs, a book shelf filled with dust covered books, a Fridge sat in one Corner. A pair of panties lay on the ripped and stained green felt of the pool table, beside two opened condom packages.

“Great we found the make out spot” Hannah said picking up the panties, with the barrel of her rifle. “cute panties though” she said tossing them onto a couch. Mary wanted to laugh, Hearing Hannah talk like that with her quiet shy sounding school girl voice made it sound dirty.

The vehicle sounded like it was just outside the building now, the engine rumbling, then the pitch changed and they could tell from the sound the vehicle had come to a stop.

Then the squeal of a door towards the front of the building alerted them some one was entering. . Mary looked around quickly, and then pointed to the couch. “help me” she hissed quietly.

“Hurry it up Quinterro, we don’t have all day” some one yelled out front.

“I’m just grabbing a book, to read for later” a Man yelled back “ don’t get your panties in a wad”

Together the two women got the couched moved out from the wall enough to crawl behind. It was a tight fit, but it placed them deep in the shadows of the room and out of sight of the Marine. Who clumped into the room a moment later.

Mary lay there feeling the dust tickle her nose and the back of her throat as Quinterro, thumbed through the books, hurry up and pick one she thought, it’s the end of the world does it matter that much.

“I hate being on patrol, its stupid” she heard the Quinterro mutter, “what are the undead going to stage a amphibious assault on the island. Or maybe two more good looking women in planes are going to land. Walker is such an asshole”

Outside Mary could hear a man shouting for Quinterro to stop jerking off and get back to the Hum vee. Mary wished he would hurry, she knew if she stayed here much longer she was going to sneeze.

“I wish I was jerking off, at least that would feel good” Quinterro muttered. Mary who had a very vivid imagination had to force herself not think of all the jokes that wanted to run thru her mind she lay there listening to books thumbing as they were removed and replaced for several minutes. The feeling of a building sneeze grew stronger.

“aaah Stakeholder,” Quinterro read “ Marine Sergeant major Bill Sykes, rampaging though Las Vegas in his latest action adventure.” Quinterro added even as there were more shouts for him to hurry up.

“All right all right, you assholes” Quinterro yelled back. “I’m coming” he added as he stormed out of the room.

Mary waited till they could no longer hear the vehicle, before climbing out from behind the couch. “Nice thing about people, they leave, Undead are like the asshole relatives who come in November to stay till after Christmas”

Hannah didn’t say a word, though she was smiling slightly.

They left the MWR building, and worked their way through the old buildings, most looked to have built during or just after WW2, the more modern buildings were clustered by the runway.

“sssh” Mary said placing her fingers to her lips, wishing she had taken the time to learn wood skills from Ori, who was a damn ghost when he wanted to be.

They crouched between two buildings, listening, in the distance they could hear music, and men talking. Directly across the cracked and pitted road, was an open field then a wood line.

People see what they want to see Ori had said once; the whole trick is to show them what they want and expected to see. He had laughed and told her about a guy he had once known in the military who was a pretty large fellow, and yet could vanish behind a sapling. The man had always claimed he just sat there thinking I am bush I am a bush and people saw a bush, Ori had laughed at that saying the man was to large to be a bush more like a hedge, but it seemed to work for him.

What amazed her was there had no alarm yet; certainly they had to have noticed by now that She and Hannah were missing. You would complain if some one gave you a barrel of water while lost in a desert, she told herself.

“Lets go” Mary said deciding to take a chance. “ We hit the grass and make like leaves when we reach the other side.”

Hannah nodded; looking doubtful about how well they could do passing themselves off as leaves, but she wasn’t going to waste time arguing she was more shrub sized then leaf sized.

They rushed across the road; Mary dove to her belly in the grass, and lay there for a few minutes listening to see if anyone had spotted them. Hearing no shouts or blaring alarms, she began to low crawl across the field.

Finally they reached the wood line and slipped into the trees, Mary crouched next to a tree looking back at the base, but still saw and heard nothing to show they had been spotted.

She turned her head towards Hannah and smiled. “ you know I just discovered a reason women are not as good at this sort of things as men” Mary said as Hannah, raised an eyebrow, obviously ready to disagree.

“Men do not have boobs to drag along the ground when low crawling, I’m going to have to spend an hour pulling stickers out of my tits.” Mary continued, Hannah managed to choke off her laugh. “lets go, the deeper into these woods we get the better” Mary said leading the way.

The woods were not as deep as she had thought, Mary realized as she stepped out onto a rise and looked down at a sand and dirt beach, where a few gulls were swooping and calling out to each other.

The water washed rhythmically sweeping up the sand and then sliding back out, she looked up and down the drift wood and debris covered beach, but saw no people, boats or undead. But to the south just where the beach started to curve east, she saw what looked like the corner of a beach house or some kind of building at any rate. she was tempted to head for it, but any one looking for them would search the buildings first, they were better off finding some place else to hide.

Walker strode into the room the two women had escaped from, and glared at the two men who had been tasked to Guard them, then turned to face Major Collins, who looked just the two guards. No matter how much he suspect she had played a part in their escape, he couldn’t prove it.

“So Major, did those special forces spooks waltz in here and take their women back, or do you think those two over there fucked up.” Walker asked, trying to keep the anger out of his voice.

“ I think we should have searched them better Sir, there’s scratches on the lock inside the room, and the Lance Corporal and Sergeant were struck from behind, with we assume the metal chair leg we found laying beside them. Unless the Colonel would like to offer his speculation to what has happened “ Collins said. Walker ground his teeth together, the disrespect she was showing was enough to make him want to jack slap her ass right out the door.

“No I do not wish to speculate Major Collins,” He said stressing her rank, already annoyed he was heading towards becoming angry “ how many search teams are out looking for them and why was the alarm not sounded.” he asked wanting to get to the important issue at the moment he would deal with her Insubordination in a little while.

“Two Colonel, and I doubled the guards on the aircraft, just in case they were foolish enough to try to get it off the ground” Collins reported.” I sent one squad to check out the Rescue station on the north side, they will sweep south along the east beach where the majority of the homes were.” Collins stated crisply. “as to the Alarm Colonel, I decided that sounding the alarm would only alert the women that we were after them, I have used Runners to spread the word, and have the patrols keep an eye out for them and search any hiding places along their patrol route”

“Good, thinking” Walker said, wishing he had another officer to replace Collins as his second in command. While she was pleasant to look at, and good at her job, he was almost certain she worked to under mine his authority every chance she got. But, she was also a dedicated Marine, at least in so far as where the troops were concerned, and the men knew it and respected her for it.

“I want them found and brought back here, this woman is most likely a scout for raiders, she will be looking for a way to contact her allies and tell them all she has learned.” Walker said.

Collins nodded in agreement, not willing to show any public disagreement with the Colonel it would be bad for morale. Besides she had pushed him enough for the moment, it wouldn’t help her to keep on pushing him. There was no way Mary could contact any one on the main land with out seizing the communications room, she thought, and trying to link her to raiders in front of the troops was a face saving gesture to explain why he was worried about their escape. Of course most of the Marines didn’t know about Mary claiming to be working with a Special Forces team.

Maybe Walker was starting to take Mary’s claims seriously, now that the two women had taken out two burly country raised Marines, and leaving one with his pants down around his ankles.

Collins was not about to admit to being the one who had knocked both men out and opened the door, so the women could escape, then returned and scratched up the lock so the Sergeant at Arms would find proof the two women had picked the lock, overpowered two tough marines and taken their weapons and gear.

She glanced at her watch, the two women had been gone for almost half an hour at this point, and the sun would be down in another half hour. When that happened the search would be called off till dawn, unless the Colonel ordered otherwise. He shouldn’t, searching with out NVG’s, was too risky, the chance of a marine getting injured was to high, with limited medical supplies, it was just stupid to take that chance for two women who couldn’t escape the island in the first place.

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

The sun was sinking into the west, setting the horizon alight in coal red and orange.
The two vehicles moved slowly down the crater pocked road, past bombed and burned out buildings, where rebar and support beams stuck up from the ruins like the bones of some mythological creature, in a two hundred years that’s all this place would be a legend a myth of the good times before the great plague..

No one would know what it had once been called, or the names and history of the people who had lived and died here, even the hundreds if not thousands of skeletons that littered the roads and rubble would be long gone. And there would be nothing to mark their passage.

To Jill that was the most depressing and loneliest thing she had ever thought of., across the world there were places just like this, not just the citys and towns that the military had leveled trying to stop the spread of the undead, but all the other places where the entire populations had died. Maybe at some point, all the data still on the Net servers would be available again, and the words and pictures of millions of lives would be there for those who came after, but even that was doubtful.

Snuggled against Jared, she watched the shadows creep like long dark hungry fingers across the ruins, as darkness readied itself to engulf the world, and the fiery sunset slowly faded, leaving the world at its mercy.

The train should be well on its way, by now, assuming it made it out of Leland, with Daws men to guard it, there shouldn’t have been a problem along the way.

Jill grunted in surprise as Nibbler, who had been delighted to see her again forced her way up into Jill’s lap and began to bat at her arm with a paw, demanding to be petted.
“Far cry from when she was jealous of you “ Jared observed watching the dogs antics.

“Yes it is” Jill said as she rubbed the dog behind the ears.

Before Jared could say anything else, the radio crackled to life. “Just up ahead is a road to the left, take it.” Eric transmitted.

Jared felt odd and even a bit uncomfortable taking directions from some one else, but at the moment he had no choice, shortly after leaving the train they had stopped at the House. While Jill got cleaned up, and they reloaded and checked over Gear, Eric had sent Campbell, Jackson and their friends off to scout out a boat they could use to the south. Apparently they had found a great one.

“Turn left up there” Jared called up to Chris who was driving the ELSORV while Ronny rested in the passenger seat. Chris nodded, the sunset flashing off his shaven scalp.

They turned onto the shadow filled road, Chris flipping on the headlights, to chase away the shadows. Jared hated that, the lights would draw the undead like moths to a flame, but the few NVG units they had were low on juice and he wanted to save it for when they really needed it.

The few buildings on either side ended and they found themselves driving in what for all appearances was a forest. About two miles in, the road widened to four lanes, and up ahead some kind of Skeletal looking circular framework could be seen.

“What is that?” Chris asked, as they saw multi storied buildings beyond the frame work.

“Your guess is as good as mine” Jared said, as they passed a gate with a guard shack, complete with zombie guard locked inside. “we could stop and ask the first person we see, but the locals aren’t real talkative.”

“Your right about that, those zombies are the worst conversationalists” Ronny tossed in, almost sounding like his old self.

The complex was huge, with more than half contained with in a fence line, to south where they had entered, were huge parking lots, once they passed through the security checkpoint, there was a yard to the left filled with conex’s and stacks of pallets, over head cranes, much like straddlers on tracks, that had been used to load the conex’s onto the waiting flat bed semi trailers.

A series of buildings that looked like warehouses, were just past the Yard, the Massive multi storied building to the right covered acres of ground on its own. Abandoned vehicles were scattered along the main road. Past the warehouses, they could see the shadowy outlines of two and three story buildings.

“LAV taking point” Eric said in Jared’s ear bud, as the heavy armored vehicle roared around them and took the lead as they moved deeper into the complex.

“I guess I’m supposed to follow them” Chris said, “have I mentioned there is a big trust issue lately where your Brother is concerned.” Jared felt Jill stiffen beside him, but said nothing.

“Eric has been there when we needed him, so let it drop” Jill replied.

“Didn’t say he hasn’t, that’s right you don’t know do you. you were stuck in that building when we found out” Chris said, realizing Jill had no clue what he was talking about.

“Drop it Chris” Jared said, wanting this conversation over.

“What, drop what? What did you find out?” Jill asked, turning to look at Jared. Jared was glad it was dark enough that she couldn’t see the expression his face. He glared Daggers at Chris, but didn’t jump him. Chris had a right to feel that way, but the dumb ass should have not mentioned it around Jill. All he needed was for Jill to be angry at Eric. .

“Its nothing Jill” Jared said, as he reached out and ran his hand over Nibblers head. The dog leaned against his knees, wiggling happily.

“Sure from the sound of your voice it sounds like nothing” Jill retorted.

“Eric has been in contact with the military for a while now, using that supposedly broken Sat Com. Apparently a few days ago, he was given Orders to Secure the Terminal and await US forces to take control of it. Cutting us out….” Jared said, knowing she wasn’t going to let it drop till she found out anyway, she was like that, he then explained the whole story, hoping Chris could feel the daggers he was shooting at him with his eyes.

When he had finished Jill sat there quietly, watching the buildings of the complex as they drove past, she didn’t want to believe that Eric had lied about not being in contact with others, but in the end he had refused to follow orders from a questionable source and he had helped, again, to save as many people as he could.

“So what, He told you what his reasons where, Chris, I for one will not pretend I understand how difficult it was for him to reach the decision that he did, but it seems to me he proved he was going to stick by Jared’s side over that of some unknown General who is hiding somewhere out west” she finally said, Jared relaxed beside her. “He didn’t follow those orders, and helped us recover the train.”

“And rescue you” Jared pointed, with an unseen smile as he slipped his arm around her.
Chris fell silent, and Jared was thankful Ronny hadn’t leaped in, he knew Ronny was unhappy with the situation too. But he also knew Eric was doing what he could to prove to them he wasn’t going to betray them. Eric and his men had made their choice, their duty to see that the Civilians who were still alive would remain that way, and no orders were going to cause them to betray what they saw as the one solemn duty of an American soldier, to protect the Civilians from harm. In the future if they survived, some might argue over whether they had a duty to follow their orders, or not. But in the here and Now, as biased as he was, Jared felt they were doing the right thing.

“Look at that” Ronny called out. as they rounded the corner of the huge building and headed east along the building, the road ran down to what appeared to be a canal, where several barges and other vessels were tied off to the quay.

Lights glowed from one large boat, the friendly yellow light glittering off the water, there were also almost sixty zombies gathered at the quay and around the Trucks Jackson and his friends had been driving.

“Good news, they found a boat, bad news, the locals want to say hello” Ronny muttered. As more than half the undead turned, drawn by the sounds of motors and headlights, and began to stagger towards the oncoming vehicles.

“LAV vs Zombie, who will win” Ori muttered, not looking forward to what was coming.

“Run them down” Jared said, surprising every one. “ I don’t feel like wasting time or ammo shooting them.”

“But theres only sixty or so of them” Chris commented. “ surely there isn’t to much peril”

“it far to perilous,” Jared replied as Ronny snorted a laugh.

Jill groaned, “please I just said that yesterday I think. Pick a different movie to quote.”

“knit any exciting underwear” Ori asked chuckling.

“Okay then” Jared said, then grinned in the dark. “Ori lets see how bowling for zombies plays out in the ELSORV.

The vehicles accelerated towards the undead, aiming straight for the center of the group.

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

They sat in the darkness, sheltering in the midst of a stand of brush, between three trees, listening as a squad of Marines moved off down the beach into the darkness. Once it fell silent again, Mary scrambled up the low rise next to their hiding place and scanned the beach, The Marines were maybe a hundred and fifty yards down the beach, now, and had stopped. it looked like they were taking a break.

She watched them for a little while, keeping perfectly still, and keeping them mostly in the corner of her eye, remembering something else that Ori had once mentioned, about people seemingly being able to sense when they were being stared at. She didn’t know is she believed it or not, but she wasn’t going to take the chance and find out he was right.

It was hard to tell what they were doing, but from the snatches of conversation, she caught occasional over the wind, it sounded like they were eating.

Satisfied for the moment she slipped back down the rise, into the brush again. and found that Hannah was gone. Her first thought was that the Marines on the beach had been a distraction and other more sneaky marines had slipped up and captured Hannah, but if they had known Hannah was hiding in the thick brush, there was no way they couldn’t have known where Mary was at. So for whatever the reason, Hannah had moved.

Mary hunkered down in the darkness, listening to the wind rustle the brush around her. Straining to hear everything around her. Images of the undead moving through the forest kept her on edge, she almost wished they would recapture her, just so she would not have to be hiding out here in the open, where instinct honed over the last year and some odd, told her she was vulnerable.

A slight noise drew her attention, then a sliding noise like something moving through the leaves. It was barely audible over the light wind, and it set her skin to prickling. The sound stopped. Mary could well believe that a zombie had been missed by the marines, and even now its legs gone, was dragging itself through the woods, its intestines strung out behind it, as it sought fresh meat and vengeance on the marines who had crippled it.

Stop that she told herself sternly, there’s no smell, zombies stink, you cant miss that smell.

Again to north she heard the dragging noise and limbs rubbing together. She lifted the rilfe to her shoulder in a perfect kneeling Position. Ready to shoot and to hell with letting the Marines know she was here. Better trapped with them, then being eaten alive.

She stared into the darkness, trying to catch a glimpse of what ever it might be, but what moonlight there was, did nothing to light up the area under the trees. Suddenly she saw a dark shape on the ground, man shaped, with a humped back. Her blood ran cold, her eyes franticly darted to the area where the head should be, searching for a bowler hat.

“Mary” the voice was barely above a whisper, and it was Hannah’s.

Mary wanted to cuss the other woman, shout for joy and hug her, and shoot her in the knees just for putting her through all this.

“Hannah” Mary replied just as quietly.” Where have you been”

“Scouting, I found a place to hide” Hannah said rising to crouch beside Mary.

“Where?” Mary asked.

“Right under where you were laying watching the beach” Hannah said, white teeth suddenly shining in the darkness. “Come on Ill show you”

Hannah slipped back into the brush with Mary following, she moved slowly so that Mary could see her in the darkness, and keep up. They moved slowly half way around the rise, then Hannah lay down and slipped into another mass of brush. Mary wasn’t thrilled with the idea, but she wasn’t going to back down either. If there is a snake in there, Hannah will really regret this Mary thought. she slipped in on her belly like Hannah had down and found her self sliding into a hole, the sides rapidly closed in and there was no more light from the sky. She lay on the thick dirt and leaves, afraid to move for a moment then reached out and touched concrete to her left.

“You can stand up” Hannah said, as flicked on a flashlight with a red lense that she had found in the pack she had taken, and shined it around. Mary saw that she lay in a in narrow cement box where dirt had spilled down into the box half filling it, a doorway loomed ahead of her. Roots dangling half way down the entrance.

“Come on your going to love this” Hannah said, as she entered the doorway.

Mary rose to her feet and followed Hannah down a short cement hallway, that turned right, then left, opening up into small room with another door. there were old moldy boxes, and crates stacked against one wall, but Hannah ignored those and entered the second doorway, into a fairly large circular chamber, ten by 12 at the least, towards the ceiling she saw slits set into a semi circle about three inches high and three foot long, filled with dirt, roots spilling out and dangling down the wall.

“What the hell is this” Mary asked, looking around.

“A Defense Bunker” Hannah said as she slipped the pack off and sat it on the floor. I got to thinking about that rise, and how I had noticed others while we were moving around, and they all seemed equally spaced. Being a military history Buff, I remembered a lot of the islands with bases on them had been set up with bunkers and coastal defenses in case of German subs and ships. They are scattered all along the east coast and the Gulf, so while you were busy watching the marines I went looking and literally fell into this one. I bet they don’t even know these are here” Hannah said as she opened the pack and began to pull out its contents.

Pants, socks, five MRE’s, a multi tool, matches, a firestarter, a small first aid kit, a Playboy magazine. “ooo our boy was kind of kinky” Hanna said with a laugh as she pulled out a jock strap.

At least Hannah’s normal talking voice was so low most people had a hard time hearing her at the best of times.

“or gay” Mary added, then walked up and lightly Gibb slapped Hannah. “don’t ever scare me like that again” Mary said, though a smile played across her lips.

“My aren’t you the dominate one” Hannah said with a wink.

“You don’t know the half of it, piss me off like that again and Ill paddle your ass” Mary stated.

“And here I thought being trapped behind enemy lines wasn’t going to be fun” Hannah remarked quietly as she finished removing the last of the gear and spreading it on the floor. She looked up at Mary and smiled.

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

The Boat, or ship Jared wasn’t sure what to call it, was a 47 foot vessel, painted red with a white stripe encircling the hull. From what Jared could see between the lights and the moonlight it looked like a coast guard Rescue boat, but this one had a corporate logo emblazoned on the hull.

The deck house was dark except for the a slight glow from the instruments, light spilled out of the oval windows of the main cabin onto the deck. The Gear the Rangers had brought with them were stacked and strapped on the stern deck. There was a large canister strapped down as well, one that Jared did recognized, one that held an un inflated zodiac.

Eric was talking quietly with Jackson, who kept glancing at Jared, then nodded in agreement to something Eric told him. When they finished, Pierce gathered up the men and women who had come with him and the survivors they had rescued and along with Jeb headed for the dock.

“Jeb and the others are going to take the Vehicles back to the house we were using, and wait for me to call him to come pick us up. that will only leave us Jackson and his folks to back us up, but that should be enough” Eric told them.

Chris didn’t say anything, he just stood there out of the way, and guarding the pile of gear they had taken from the ELSORV. Ronny was practically twitching he was so eager to get under way.

“Sounds like a plan, now when do we get underway, isn’t that what the navy says, and how long till we get there” Ori asked as he sat on the deck, his back against the Gunwale, and crossing his ankles. Nibbler took that as an invitation and leaped on him licking his face wildly.

“oooo god, dog tongue” Ori said snapping his head to one side and spitting.

“Wait till I tell Beth you were kissing a dog and with tongue too” Jared said with a laugh, Ronny surprised them by laughing too.

Eric watched as men exited the boat and climbed into the vehicles before casting off. Wanting to make sure they were safely on their way. “Looks like McHale’s Navy is ready to put to sea” He remarked. The motor rumbled to life and the boat pulled away from the quay, then turned slowly and cautiously till they were safely heading down channel before picking up speed.

“There is a good point to the end of the world” Ori remarked a little later as they emerged into the intercostal, which was more rightly part of the Fear river than the intercoastal,

“And that would be?” Jill asked, enjoying the feeling of the wind tossing her hair and the spray of water that occasional struck her.

“We could never have afforded this boat before the zombies.” Ori said.

“We wouldn’t need to rescue Mary if it was before the zombies” Jared pointed out.” a phone call or two, pay a fine and get her out of jail. Then we could all go to a BBq, you could go pick up your stripper girlfriends and all would be right with the world.”

“Yeah, except I would never have met Beth, “ Ori commented seriously. Jared had nothing to say to that, Ori took off his glasses, placed them in their case and slipped them into his pocket before tilting his head back and falling asleep where he was.

Jared watching Ori for a moment, amazed in some ways at the changes in his friend and amazed at how the end of the world had seemed to bring some people to exactly who they should have met. Maybe there is fate, he thought then shrugged doesn’t matter. I have Jill, Ori has Beth, Chris is happy as hell with Shelly, and Ronny, who else would spank his ass and keep him in line if something happened to Mary. Only Sharon and Bridget were alone now, and Jared had no idea how to help them become happy again. Cant fix everything can you, he told himself.

They crossed the waterway, taking “Snows Cut” to get out to the ocean, the dark land mass to the north and south slid silently by, then at long last they emerged into open water, where the reflected moon on the water was shattered into a thousand rippling pieces.

They turned and followed the coast north, staying on the ocean side of the islands they passed.

Ronny stood at the bow, watching the dark water, each wave tipped with white. He stared off into the Darkness ahead, worried, a part of him angry that Jill had been rescued first, and he felt like an ass for that anger. She had been in danger, and they were close by, he knew it made sense, to rescue her first. But no matter how ashamed he felt about his emotions on that score, Mary was out there somewhere, in god knew what kind of Danger.

Suddenly a hand struck the back of his head, “get it together Ronny” Jill said from behind him. “Mary did ask me to spank your ass if you needed it” she said before he could say anything he might regret

Ronny turned his head and gave her a weak grin, then felt even worse as she slipped an arm around his shoulders. “I know you wish you could have gone hauling off after her earlier. But I’m glad you didn’t, or we would all be worried about you and Mary. And this way you have your friends at your back, like Jared did when he came after me.” Jill said “ but that’s not what’s really bothering you is it, your angry, it took so long and your angry that it took you till now to realize all the things you wanted to say, and never did”

Ronny nodded in agreement,. “That’s its pretty much, I know there was no starting earlier, and … “ his voice trailed off, even now he found it hard to say how he felt. But if he couldn’t say it to Jill he would never be able to say it to Mary.

“I know I come across as an asshole, but.. Well Mary is my life, she means everything to me Jill. She kept me from self destructing, showed me a different way to handle things, and to be honest I wouldn’t have made it this long after the dead came with out her, and the sad thing is I have never told her that” he said, “and now I might not get the chance” he added softly his eyes never leaving the water, he pretended the stinging sensation in his eyes were from the ocean spray.

He winced as Jill Gibb slapped him again. “She knows you love her you clod, but you need to tell her and you know damn well she would find a way to say good bye if she had passed on Ronny, hell she would probably find some way to spank your ass from beyond the grave.” Jill said with total conviction.

Ronny grinned despite himself, and slipped his arm around Jill’s waist, “thanks Jill, I cant help how I feel, but your right. Ill shake myself out of it.” he said as he started to slide the hand that rested on her hip up her side.

“Touch my boob and I kick your ass” Jill said with a laugh, Ronny with drew his arm and gave her a weak grin. “ But at least that’s a start to getting back to yourself.”

“Can’t blame a guy for trying” Ronny said shrugging, with such an innocent look on his face Jill started laughing.

Jared watched from the enclosed bridge, turning away to face Eric who was studying a nautical map. “ Does that thing make any sense to you” he asked,

“Did you get tired of spying on your wife and your friend” Eric asked with a half smiled.

“Screw you” Jared replied, and then sighed. “ Truth is I’m worried about him. He hasn’t cracked a real joke since the news about Mary being missing. I’ve seen Ronny close to the Edge once, back in the sandbox, and I think this is worse.”

“ He will get past it or not, nothing you can do about it Jared. no matter how much you want to.” Eric said then chuckled “ listen to me lecture my older more experienced Brother.”

“It is a surprise, but then you being straight surprised me” Jared tossed out with a laugh.

“You thought I was gay, even after the whole San Diego trip” Eric asked surprised and feigning being hurt.

“I had my doubts a few times, remember the Jello incident” Jared asked, Eric glared at him then laughed.

“You are an asshole” Eric replied, as Jared clapped him on the shoulder. “tell me you haven’t told Jill that story”

“not yet, Im saving it for later.” Jared replied with a smile.

“And yes this map makes sense to me,” Eric replied answering the previous question and changing the subject before Jared got evil and decided to spill that story with Jill. “We are here” Eric said as placing his finger on the map. “we will be closer to the Island than Lejune before dawn.”

“I thought Ronny said they were about the same distance, give or take” Jared said, making as if he were going to call Ronny into the discussion, “and how do you know we are exactly there”

“GPS, you ludite” Eric responded, gesturing towards a console. Jared grinned ruefully, feeling a bit dense; it wasn’t like he hadn’t used GPS since the world ended.

“ Ronny was thinking about going overland, till we reached this point” he said tapping a spot north of Wilmington. From there we could have taken a boat and both locations are about the same distance away.” Eric explained, “ I talked to him about while you and Jill were being all mushy, and I still don’t see what she see’s in you”

“That’s because I’m wearing clothes” Jared replied casually as he studied the map. Behind him the Ranger steering the boat, gave a soft laugh.

Eric shook his head, glad that Jared didn’t seem to be holding a grudge, or still angry over the revelations that Eric had dropped on him. Eric and his men had made a choice that there was no going back from; if in fact they had been issued legal orders. But not even that thought bothered him much, they were doing their duty no matter what some flunky in the chain may think. But the point that Jared hadn’t raised, and Eric knew his brother had to be considering it, was that at some point, some one calling themselves the US military might just show up and try to take over Sullivan.

Eric had no idea what would happen then, but Jared wasn’t likely to just stand idly by either. For that matter he had no idea what he was going to do either. He pulled his eyes away from his brother, once more wondering where his duty would take him, or how much else it would cost him. the whole thing brought a passage by Seneca to mind.
” Jam non consilio bonus, sed more eo perductus, ut non tantum recte facere possim, sed nisi recte facere non possim” he could nothing less than what was right, and pay the price for his actions no matter what it was.

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

Nials, stood at the stern watching the churning water, enjoying the noise of the motors, the slight comforting vibration, and the gentle rocking motion of the boat, it reminded him of the one time he had gotten to go deep sea fishing. He still didn’t know what to make of these people.

He was surprised at how organized they were, how much gear they had, hell they had been talking earlier about being low on Ammo, and the numbers they were calling low he would have sold both his testicles to possess. Most of them were soldiers or Vets, but from what Jill had told him, that hadn’t been the case early on, Her Husband Jared and his friends, had been the only ones with any kind of training, and had led the small group around like modern nomads slowly gathering other survivors all or most all of them civilians.

However they had ended up with so many military men, didn’t really matter, they were they antithesis of the survivors he had come across in his own semi nomadic wanderings.

They actually helped strangers, they wanted to rebuild, and were trying hard to do so. And above all they did not leave their people behind if it could be helped.

It was possible, that at long last he had found people he could actually stay with and respect.

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

Mary woke as Hannah pulled away from her, cold air rushing in to wipe away the warmth from Hannah’s back. She lay there silently, watching as Hannah vanished into the doorway that led into the other much smaller room.

All thoughts of sleep fled as she decided to get up and see what was going on. She rose silently, she didn’t know it, but Ori would have been proud of how quiet she was. Drawing the pistol she wore, she moved to the doorway, where she saw a dim splash of red light on the floor. Hannah was crouched at a slit in the cement wall that faced the out side door.

she turned her head, and almost jumped as she saw Mary standing in the door way. Hannah lifted a finger to her lips then pointed through the slit at the outside door.

Mary strained to listen and after a moment she heard a mans voice, “ well they were here, must have hidden in that hole after spotting the patrol, then moved on. At least one of them was on the rise watching the beach.”

“aint no tracks showing they moved on” another man replied.

“Well they aint in the hole either, so they had to have moved on. At least one of them has decent wood craft skills” the first man replied.

“So which way” the second man asked.

“Well they have been moving steadily towards the north end of the Island, so I say we sweep up to the old Rescue center, bet we find them hiding in a closet there.” The first man said.

“Yeah might find them engaged in some hot lesbian action” the second man said with a laugh. “ Now that Id pay to see”

“You’re a perv Hollingston. But yeah it would be hot” The first man said. “Lets move out.”

Mary distinctly heard something thump on the ground on the other side of the door, then nothing.

“For halfway decent trackers, they suck, never even climbed down into the hole, if they had they would have spotted the door behind those hanging roots and weeds.” Hannah whispered in Mary’s ear.

“I’m going to go check and make sure they are gone” Mary said, “ I think one of them dropped something too.”

“Motion sensor or something I bet” Hannah said, as Mary rose to her feet and walked quietly to the outside door. “Mary it might be a bad idea to open that door” Hannah whispered through the slit, watching as Mary stopped at the door, and brushed the rocks and small chunks of cement from behind the door she had placed it there. To make the door hard to open, so if any one found it, they might assume the door hadn’t been opened in a long time, and go look some where else.

She had an idea what was waiting outside, in fact the first man might just be one of Collins really careless people. She pulled the door open, just wide enough to climb though. It was still dark out, and with out a watch she had no clue what the time was, but with the temperature and the heavy smell of dew she suspected it was early morning.

She felt around the hole that had once been a square cement entryway, now covered in dirt, brush and weeds. Till her hand bumped up against something hard and still warm. She ran her hand over it and smiled as she lifted the radio up, paper crackled under her hand as she slipped back into the Bunker.

Back inside she pushed the door closed and pushed the rocks and small chunks up against the bottom of the door, then headed back to the main chamber. In the red light, she saw that some one had wrapped a narrow piece of paper around the radio and secure it with a rubber band. Hannah looked surprised, “ guess who ever left us the rifles and the ammo, is still trying to help us.” She muttered.

“You think” Mary replied absently as she removed the note, and quickly scanned the short note, written in neat handwriting.

“What’s it say.” Hannah asked.

“One I have to eat the note after I read it” Mary said, rolling her eyes.

“Two it lists the two channels to listen in to, if we want to hear whats being said, and lists one Channel we can use with out fear of being overheard.” Mary replied.

“Why would some one here help us like this” Hannah asked.

“coup maybe, maybe they just think they are doing the right thing.” Mary said, she had no idea her self why Collins wanted to help them.

She studied the radio checking to see if the channel she used on the aircraft was in the same Frequency range of the radio, once she saw that the radio could indeed broadcast and receive on the same channel, she breathed a sigh of relief. At least now, she could hear any broadcast made to her on the planes channel, and hopefully the Marines didn’t have a way to detect her short of tuning into to the same Freq accidentally

“Well we can now contact Ronny and the others assuming they get close enough” Mary said.

“Nice, but we are going to need food, water and hopefully a change or two of clothes. In case you haven’t noticed, we are pretty filthy too.” Hannah pointed out.

“True, and I think I know where we can get at least some of that” Mary said, Hannah gave her a quizzical look, waiting for an explanation.

“I think that guy was talking to us as much as he was talking to his buddy.” Mary said, “He knew or suspected we were close enough to hear him, and possible see him. or he wouldn’t have dropped the radio. And while he is talking to his buddy he just happens to mention one building out of the twelve or so buildings I saw when we came in for a landing. Not lets check all the buildings on the north side, but one specific building. I think he was letting us know where to go.” Mary said.

Hannah watched her for a moment longer then shrugged. “ you realize there are tons of holes in that logic, but short of sneaking back into the base and stealing what we need, I don’t see we have anywhere else to go, unless we can swim to the mainland.” Hannah said, Mary nodded all to aware she was taking a big leap but it sounded right to her, a gut instinct as they called it in the old Tv shows.

“We might as well get a move on, unless you want to sleep cuddled up together again, if your right there might be some blankets there to use, not that I mind cuddling with you” Hannah said smiling at the last. Mary smiled back, then motioned to the door.

“ Might as well give it a shot, I bet we can be there before dawn.” Mary said, nervous and excited to be on the move again.

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

The Ocean liner drifted ahead of the small boat, a black mass against the blue black horizon, only bits and pieces of its deck and super structure illuminated by the moonlight, as it floated under a star strewn sky.

Jared eyed the dark ship, then turned to Eric who stood beside him watching the eerie sight as well. “I think boarding that thing would be a huge mistake” he said.

Eric shrugged. “ I wasn’t going to suggest it, and I totally agree, there could be a few thousand undead on that thing, and nothing I can think of we might need on board.”

The hurricane must have sent quite a few ships towards the mainland, and now that the storm has passed, those ships, not sunk during the storm, are now being carried by the currents and the wind, Eric thought. To bad they all didn’t sink out there. Sooner or later one ore more will wreck on a shoreline and the undead aboard will escape onto the mainland.

“Good, just making sure.” Jared commented, “ To many people lately have this notion to explore everything we come across.” Jared said, turning his head to study Ori who lay sleeping on the deck, Nial’s was curled up beside him. the two men had talked for a couple of hours, making Jared wonder exactly what the usually taciturn Ori had to talk so much about.

“Now you need to go get some sleep, the sun will be up soon. And we will be close to the island. I hate to point this out, but your wounded, your friends are wounded, and you all need as much sleep as you can get. And as far as I can tell, zombies cant walk across water and board us, so your as safe as you can be unless we sink.” Eric said.

“That makes me feel so much better.” Jared commented, “ but at least there are no fucking clowns out here”

“Unless one is on that liner” Eric suggested, not able to stop the evil streak to tease his older brother.

“Another reason to avoid boarding that derelict” Jared replied as he turned and headed below deck to the cramped cabin where Jill was already asleep.

Eric watched Jared vanish into the hatch, then looked back over the sea, knowing he should get some sleep but the dream he’d had earlier, was not one he wanted repeated.

Burning towns, people hanging from light poles, and a man walking down a street, between burning buildings, heading east. three ravens, circling in the sky overhead. He had no idea what if meant, or if it meant anything at all. After they got Mary back, he planned on going over both those books, no longer as opposed to the idea they held knowledge that might prove useful.

“Hollywood, you need to come up here” Blaine called out from the upper bridge. Eric turned and moved quickly across the gently rolling deck and scrambled up the ladder.

Bailey, was sitting on the floor with the Sat com in next to him, listening intently to something. Seeing Eric he interrupted what ever he had been listening to “ Sergeant First Class Stone has just arrived Sir, stand by” Bailey said, removing the head set and punching the mute key. “ god what an annoying son of a bitch” he said passing the head set to Eric.

“It’s the Same asshole, he’s demanding to know why we blew up the Terminal” Bailey said.

So who ever this was had access to Satellite intel, interesting. Eric thought as he took the headset from Bailey.

Eric donned the set, adjusted the boom mike and motioned for Bailey to disengage the Mute. “ this is SFC Stone 5th SF, ODA 562, authenticate Charlie six November ” he waited for a moment, while Bailey watched. Then nodded as he received the reply. “Welcome to the Net Sir, Go ahead”

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

“Sir” Walker woke reluctantly, the dream of his wife had been so vivid, he would rather have stayed asleep, and enjoyed the long slow afternoon in bed, that was forever denied him now. he sat up, trying not to let the anger he felt at being snatched away from her once more, show.

“Sir, your need in Communications” the still youthful Lance corporal was excited, it was his first time on Duty in the comm. Shack, and it had taken Walker a while to make up his mind about that posting, he suspected the boy was part of Collins clique even if no evidence of it could be found. “it’s the secured line Sir”

Walker rose rapidly stepping into his boots, dragged on his uniform blouse, grabbed his pistol belt and was heading for the door, strapping on the belt as he went. It had been two months since the last Call from Command, and it was something he had kept from his people, mainly to keep from getting their hopes up, and then possibly having to dash those hopes.

He knew exactly how it would affect, them, his hopes had been raised and dashed so many times since last June, with this or that message promising help as soon as possible, followed by excuses a day later on why that help wasn’t coming.

“Has it been authenticated” he asked Lance Corporal Kerny. The younger man nodded “ yes sir according to the Master Sergeant its authentic.

Walker made a mental note to remind the Lance Corporal he was to keep his mouth shut, till he was told he could talk. The last thing he needed was word to sweep through the base.

Striding into the Comm shack he was happy to see that Major Collins wasn’t there, there were times he regretted cutting her out of the loop on this, it might have settled her down some, instead of the constant irritation she had become behind the scenes as she worked to lessen the impact of his more obscure orders, orders that had been given him by command. She was a good officer, and the men loved her, her failings were she was a female, and her interference.

Not, he reflected that her being female was a hindrance to the performance of her job, but it was because she was a constant reminder of his dead wife, and female companion ship that he could never avail himself of, since she was in the chain of command.

Be honest here, its the very fact your tempted, which is a betrayal to your wife, not that she is a female per se, and that was really the core of it. When she wasn’t around he could focus, when she was, hell when any woman was, he had a hard time focusing, and that usually led to his bouts of anger. Like that Mary woman, not only was she attractive, but she had stood up to him, and that had almost tipped him over the edge.

With out a word he held out a hand for the head set, then donned it, sending the lance Corporal to wait in the hall.

This is Colonel Walker, over”

“Colonel Walker this is General Walter Bedford, its good to see your still in place, unfortunately this isn’t a social call. At the moment, we have intel that a band of US military Personnel who have gone rogue and are planning on attacking your island for the supplies you have.

I understand that your people have seized the enemy’s Aerial reconnaissance craft, and its pilot. Good work.”

Walker was only a bit startled that Bedford would know about that, but then he realized they must be using satellite’s to keep on eye on critical areas till they could dispatch troops to reinforce the area. The thought quick on its heels was Mary, had been telling the truth to a point, and if part of that truth was some or all of the men she was allied with were special forces, then his command was under a serious threat.

“Yes sir, thank you sir, what are you orders as far as the prisoner is concerned.” Walker asked, not mentioning said prisoner was currently at large on the island.

“Extract what intel you can, and then execute the prisoner for treason against the legitimate Government, Colonel.” Bedford replied as reasonable as if he were discussing last week’s football game, for some reason that bothered Walker.

“I hope you don’t object to your orders Col.” Bedford asked his voice as cool as ice.

“No sir, I was considering which of my men to use to extract the intel.” Walker lied, smoothly. “Is there any possibility of being sent reinforcements, fuel or the critical gear we need”

“I’m sorry No, not at the this time Colonel. As soon as this situation is stabilized we will send you every thing we have. Hang on till then Colonel, we need men like you. Bedford out.”

Walker pulled off the headset and passed it back to the Master Chief, a thoughtful look on his face. he wasn’t thrilled with those orders, no one sane would ever like being ordered to fire on fellow Military members, or American citizens, but these were bad times, worse than any his nation had ever faced before. he had his orders and he would follow them.

“ Lance Corporal” Walker bellowed, as if by Magic the lance corporal appeared already at attention and saluting.

“Yes sir, Colonel Walker”

“You are not to ever mention that we have gotten a call on the Sat Com, I do not have to point out how easy it will be track down the source of any rumors to that effect. Am I clear” Walker stated.

“ Yes sir, I am not to divulge that there has been communication from higher.”

“Good, now I want you to run down to see Gunny Hollings, tell him I want our search parties doubled, I want that woman and her friend in custody as soon as possible, in addition tell the gunny to also double the shore watch’s. once he has seen to that, I want him to report to me.” Walker said, watching the Lance corporals blank face. “repeat it back to me”

He had the Lance corporeal repeat his orders twice, before Walker was satisfied that the man would remember it and sent him on his way. “Master Chief, I want you to call the major one hour after dawn, and have her report to my office.”

“ yes sir” the Master chief replied, as he went back to scanning Frequencies for any radio signals. Walker turned and headed back to his quarters, he could get at least another hour of sleep before he had to be up. Maybe he would dream of his wife again.

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

They reached the rescue station, shortly before dawn, a line of fire and gold could be seen gathering on the horizon. The building, three stories tall, built some time in the late forties or early fifties was a stout, weathered looking, wooden buildings that had seen its share of storms in its lifetime.

Mary crouched in the brush, watching the other buildings scattered along the street, fourteen in all, strung out along a single two-lane road, overlooking the sea, plus six docks, but no boats. A few trees grew between the buildings, and the overgrown yards provided some concealment.

There was nothing moving out there that she could see, but that didn’t mean some one wasn’t hiding in one of the buildings watching for them. there was no way for her to find out with out going from building to building, and she had no desire to waste that much time.

Like inside the rescue center she thought, okay I might have made a mistake, but I don’t think so.

“You cover me Ill check through the windows” Mary whispered. Hannah nodded, as she burrowed down, rifle at the ready.

Here we go, super Soldier Mary single handedly assaulting the enemy position, Mary thought as she moved forward on her knees and elbows, keeping to bushes and behind thick stands of weeds that were in deeper shadows, than the rest.

By the time she reached the wall of the building, she could tell it was getting close to sunrise, there was a bluish tinge to the night, and a light fog was rising, which would make things much easier for Hannah to reach the building she thought, as she peered through the window, and saw an empty room, with foot prints in the thick dust on the floor. That’s going to cause us problems, Mary thought as she ducked down and moved to the next window. This room held several large desks, and old filing cabinets but nothing else. The next window was the closest to the east side, and showed another empty room with two windows on the east wall, and a window directly across from her.

she quickly checked the remaining three windows on the west side of the back wall then waved at Hannah to approach while she stood at the back door.

“You had better be right about this” Hannah said, as she visibly readied herself to enter the building.

“If I’m wrong, the worst that can happen is we are returned to the colonel.” Mary said, trying to remain optimistic, as she opened the door, and stepped inside.

Half an hour later they were standing in a large room on the third floor, where a fully loaded pack, two bed rolls, two extra batteries for the radio and two large canteens had been placed, a folded piece of paper on the top of the pack had proven to be a note.

Mary had quickly read the note, then shredded it, before chewing and swallowing the pieces. Hannah looked amused, at her antics but said nothing.

“I refuse to get her in trouble if I can help it” Mary explained.

“Aaah so it’s the Major with the tight bod, that’s helping us.” Hannah said as Mary walked out into the hallway, and opened the door to a supply closet. “What are you doing now” she asked.

“there’s a small door or hatch that leads to an attic staircase in here.” Marry said, “if you had bothered to read the note, you would know that”

“You ate it before I got the chance” Hannah replied, as moved to stand in the center of the room, to keep from being seen by any one that might be outside on the street, and looked out to see fingers of fire and gold fanning out over the horizon as the sun finally began its climb into the sky.

“Found it” Mary called out, a moment later she returned to the room, she and Hannah collected the gear and returned to the supply closet. The door was only three foot high, it and the wall must have been added after much later. boxes of cleaning supplies concealed it from sight, with only a two foot gap between the boxes and the wall.

Inside was a small room no bigger than the supply closet, with a spiral staircase that led upwards, dim light spilled down from the room above. Mary went first, pistol in hand, just in case. Who knew maybe Collins knew the room was there but had never gone up, and one of the undead might have been waiting all this time for someone to come visit.

The attic ran the length of the building with two dormer windows that looked north the glass was so dirty it was opaque. A ladder led to a hatch in the roof that gave access to the steeple like structure on the roof, Mary guessed it had been used as a look out at some point. Or maybe it was pure decoration.

Clumps of stacked boxes cut off sight lines, making it difficult to see the entire room with out moving around. Mary finally picked a spot towards the east wall, that was hidden from the stair case by boxes, and sat down her pack and spread out the bed roll, sitting down she searched the pack and removed an MRE.

As she ate she turned on the radio and set it to the search function, Hannah ate with her rifle across her knees.

“By the way that was good thinking earlier” Hannah said suddenly.

“What was?” Mary asked, deciding that she actually like this MRE,

“Walking from room to room and back to the exit, with all the wandering around we did, most people will assume we searched the building and left, or hopefully they will at any rate” Hannah said.

“I hope so too, I got the idea from a movie I saw once” Mary admitted.

Hannah smiled and shook her head. “lets hope Hollywood got that one right”

“amen” Mary said as she packed up the trash and then sprawled out on her sleeping bag.

She was drifting in and out of sleep when a voice suddenly came over the radio. “Charlie Squad, beginning sweep of north side”

“Roger, its been checked once last night, but do it right, the Colonel has a real hard on to get those two back, who knows why. Remember if they resist, you can shoot to wound, but do not kill the pilot.”

“Roger, but which one is the pilot”

“The one with decent boobs”

Hannah rolled her eyes. “great, your boobs get mentioned but nothing about me. And I have a damn nice butt”

“maybe he isn’t a butt man” Mary suggested helpfully. “it’s the uniform its not real flattering to your figure.”

Hannah sat there, for a moment “ are we seriously sitting here on the run, and about to discuss flattering apocalypse fashions for Combat mama’s on the lam.” She said after a second.

“I prefer to think of it as fashion to allure and distract hostiles.” Mary said, wishing Ronny were with her at this very moment. he always managed to keep her optimistic with his idiot comments, and acting like he was dumber than a brick. But then again, with Hannah, here Ronny would also be hinting about, as he put, hot lesbian action. I had to fall in love with a dog, she thought fondly. Which was mostly another act of his, she knew he was perfectly happy with her and her alone. They sat in silence after that, hoping they were not found.

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

The two zodiacs had approached the island unseen in the darkness, depositing eleven men and one woman on the beach, before turning and heading back out to sea.

Reaching the beach, they dashed across the sand and dirt into the tree line, getting out of sight as quickly as possible. There was no discussion, they had gone over the plan on the boat before leaving, Jared and his people spread out in a loose circle, taking guard duty, while Eric and his team with Major Campbell ( retired), got ready. they checked each others camouflage, then began to remove the gear they would need from dry bags.

Bailey pulled a small case from a dry bag, it resembled a fat lap top, the reason for the thickness was apparent when he opened it, reaching in and flipped small joystick up into position then punched a command into the small console bringing a screen to life.

Eric and Castor had quickly assembled a small plane shaped drone, at Baileys signal Eric tossed it into the air. A small almost silent electric motor came to life and the drone soared upwards through a gap in the trees.

“Going thermal” Bailey whispered.

The ODA team didn’t have the all the equipment they might normally have, and in this case they could only be updated by word of mouth, instead of integrated vision systems that would have displayed a map that would show the locations of any people and vehicles and any other objects of interest.

“Contact,” Bailey said, then quickly relayed the information.

Ten men, armed moving along a trail. No more than two hundred yards to the west from their position and moving north.

“Better than the undead” Ori muttered so quietly Jared barely heard it.

Bailey circled the drone, and as it swept back over the beach, he detected two men moving into position to watch the beach. As it swept back inland, a hummer was spotting moving along a dirt road towards a clearing that overlooked the ocean.

Eric quickly got his men situated and sent Castor out to scout four hundred yards from their position, Bailey set the Drone to loiter over the area, and closed up the case, placing it in the dry bag and returning it to his pack.

“ Pretty busy place” Jill whispered.

Jared nodded, and motioned for her to be quiet, till they knew who was here and what was going on, he didn’t want to risk contact. But from what he had heard Bailey report it sounded like some one was at home on the base, and were running patrols through the woods, which meant they were not likely to be real friendly if they found intruders.

At least they had eight very tough men on standby to come save their asses if needed, assuming they could find a place for the Jackson and his men to land on the beach with out being spotted.

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

Collins climbed from the Humvee, and sat on the hood, ready to watch the sunrise, it was the one thing she normally enjoyed on a daily basis. But not this morning, sometime around 0400, Walker had gotten himself out of bed and doubled the search parties and patrols, Then issued Orders that Mary was to be taken alive if possible for questioning. That sounded far to ominous to Collins. She wondered if Walker had finally slipped over the edge.

She only knew about those orders and the fact that Sergeant Lyle Demarco had been tasked to question Mary, because Staff sergeant Trimble who had been in the loop was one of her people. For some reason Walker had wanted to keep that a bit of a secret, like his late night runs to the Comm room, that had always puzzled Collins. Surely if he were receiving messages from Command, he would have let the entire unit know about it.

All she could do at the moment was pray that Mary and Hannah were not found, her fears had only been precautionary at the time she helped Mary and Hannah escape but now, with the orders that Walker had covertly sent to his hand picked men, she was almost certain he planned on using force to get information from Mary, what kind of information she didn’t know and didn’t really care.

Not for the first time, she wondered if a few of the rumors she had heard, might be true, it would explain so many of the odd orders and Walker’s certainty that Help would be coming sooner or later, or how the Government was clearing the undead from cities out west, preparing to strike on the east coast when the time was right.

But could he really be in contact with someone, higher in the chain of command if so why wouldn’t he let every one on the base know about it. Morale would soar at the idea they were not alone, that their sticking to their duty had a meaning after all.

She had no answers, and probably never would, only a select number of men were ever placed on Communications duty, and they all supported the Colonel unquestionably, so they weren’t likely to spill any secrets to her.

The darkness was fading to the silvery blue of false dawn, a line of fire was spreading across the horizon. This had been her sons favorite time of the morning, unlike other kids he had gotten up early every morning like some pagan sun worshiper to watch the sunrise. She smiled sadly, refusing to cry, Joshua had loved watching sunrises, it was one of the reasons he had gotten into hiking and camping, dragging her and her Husband off to the AT where he could sit on bluffs and mountain sides to watch natures show.

To be honest he had saved his parents marriage with those trips, whether he ever knew it or not, he had been a blessing in so many ways, and he had been snatched from her by the undead, she blanked her mind refusing to think about what their final moments must have been like. God let them rest in peace she prayed silently.

She jerked in surprise as a man in ACU’s and a Boonie hat rose up before her, a stubby assault rifle trained one, before she could ask who he was, five more men dressed the same had appeared around her, weapons trained on her.

“Do not move, “ a wide, thick limbed man said, his deep voice was hard, sending a chill up her spine, she felt an irrational surge of anger that they had disturbed her morning ritual in honor of her son. “We are looking for two women, who might have landed here day before yesterday.”

Mary had been telling the truth, was Collins first thought, thankful as hell she had helped those women escape, it might end up saving the lives of her people.

Collins slipped off the hood of the jeep, wanting to feel more like a Marine than a slacker.

“Depends on who you are, I am Major Samantha Collins, USMC, and you are” She replied determined not to act like a wilting flower.

“Sergeant First Class Eric Stone, 5th SF, ODA 562, now that we have that out of the way Major, did our people land on this island” Stone said, his rifle still trained on her. this wasn’t a full SF team if she remembered correctly there were usually twelve, which meant six more were out there in the woods keeping an eye on the situation.

“yes they did, SFc Stone, at which time they were arrested for violating restricted air space and entering a restricted facility, by order of Colonel Walker, the CO here.” Collins stated looking into the eyes that gleamed from under the brim of the boonie hat..
“:and then I helped them escape,” she said softly, hoping that at the least she could temper their anger to keep them from killing her people.

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

“got a patrol coming” Ori’s voice whispered in Jared’s ear, “half mile south on the beach, ten men, armed with M16’s and M4’s, one 203, and assorted side arms. “

“stay put, but be ready” Jared said, as he glanced to his right checking Ronny, who looked focused and on mission.

“maybe if we post pictures of George Bush senior, we can have a repeat of Desert storm and they will surrender waving flags and chanting his name” Chris whispered into his radio from his position across the way.

“Shut it” Jared replied, as he slipped forward on his belly, to the edge of the woods and looked down on the beach, where the patrol was drawing closer. He slid back and to the side to get under the thick spreading limbs of a bush, using its shadow to help hide him, one handed he flipped Freq’s to access Eric’s dedicated channel.

“Contact, patrol approaching from the south” Jared transmitted. The only reply was a single click.

Staff Sergeant Nick Green, was the first to spot the Humvee parked on the small bluff over looking the Beach, and the shapely Major who stood beside the Humvee. For a moment some very unapproved thoughts ran though his mind, as he watched Major Collins. “Spread out and keep an eye out, I need to go talk to the Major.” Green said. he climbed the bank, and walked over to the Major who looked flustered, she also looked like she hadn’t slept much last night. but then no one really slept much these days, he reflected.

She returned his salute, looking more like herself. “ morning Major, I wanted to report that my patrol has swept the south end, and found no sign of the escapee’s” Green stated. He barely noted the frown that came and went.

“You were supposed to be on the north side Staff sergeant” she commented.

“Yes maam and two hours ago, the Colonel ordered the entire platoon to the south side, and sent Charley platoon to the north side.”

oh damn she thought, Charley was mostly men blindly dedicated to Walker. Was it possible he knew where Mary and Hannah were hiding. She hoped that maybe the women had taken the supplies and left the building, but she doubted it. the attic of the Rescue station was too good a spot to hide and normally it would have been safe, but not if Charley tore the place apart.

“no explanations of course” Green added suggestively.

“I didn’t think there would be any” Collins replied.

“the Colonel also ordered that Young be in charge of interrogating the prisoners, when they are recaptured” Green added.

“that’s insane, the man is a loose cannon, he tried to make a necklace out of zombie fingers” Collins said, suddenly terrified for the escapees. Walker knew exactly how crazy Sergeant Young was. If he was willing to put Young in as the interrogator, some one was going to get badly hurt.

“Staff Sergeant, I appreciate all the help you’ve given me recently, and it looks like if your willing I need a little more help.” Collins said smoothly, “ I have some one I want you to meet.” She said stepping towards the wood and away from his men.

Green followed puzzled, he knew everyone on the island, and only barely saw the man a half second before he rose from seemingly empty woods. “ Staff Sergeant Green, Id like you to meet SFc Stone, Special forces and he needs our help.”

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

Outside, Hannah heard vehicles approaching then doors opening and the pounding of boots. She moved to the dormer window and rubbed a spot til it was clear enough to let her see a foggy picture of the what was going on, squads were pouring into the buildings along the road, deploying from the backs of M958’s, two hummers were pulling up in front of the Rescue center, as she watched.

She quickly moved to Marys side. “Wake up, they are back in force” She whispered.
Mary sat up quickly, grabbing her rifle. “You think our friend narced us out” Hannah asked.

Mary shook her head, certain of one thing Collins had her own her reasons for helping them, but she didn’t not strike Mary as the kind that would set them up. “No, I think this is one of the few spots on the Island that they think we can hide in. we should have run back to the damn Bunker this morning, instead of staying here.”

“maybe, but we are here now. if they come up those stairs what do you want to do. Fight or surrender.” Hannah asked not eager to get in a firefight with Marines.

“I don’t know, I… I thought Ronny would be here by now., he and Jared would swoop in on white horses and rescue us, I didn’t think that far ahead.” Mary said so softly that Hannah felt sorry for the woman, who had just been slapped by reality.

“they might still Mary, but at the moment we have those asshats outside to deal with” Hannah said. “Correction, those asshats inside” she amended as the sound of boots stomping through the building came to them. And shouts as men saw their footprints in the dust.

“They did treat us pretty well all things considered” Hannah pointed out.

Downstairs doors were thrown open, shouts of clear they listened as the marines cleared the first , then the second and finally reached the third floor.

“Make a thorough search, I want those women back in custody, they are part of a separatist movement, and are Traitors to the Country” Mary recognized Walker voice. “if they resist shoot them, but make sure the pilot survives, or Ill have you ass. she has information vital to the defense of this base.”

With that simple condemnation he had just changed their status with the Patriotic Marines, they could tolerate even like the people who arrived on the island seeking shelter. But for men that clung to their duty, waiting for the day to come to rebuild their country, they would have no compassion for so called traitors. Hannah thought her face pale, she didn’t need a translator to know that she was pretty much a dead woman if she resisted, and she doubted she would survive if she surrendered.

“Climb up that ladder and hide in the steeple thing, Ill pull down the ladder and say you swam for the mainland.” Mary whispered pulling on Hannahs sleeve and pointing up.

“no, Cross trusted me to protect you, and that’s what I’m going to do” Hannah said in her too quiet voice, she gave Mary a humorless smile, and patted her on the cheek. “now get back behind those boxs”

“ he didn’t mean against Marines out to kill you” Mary replied, wishing she could find some combination of words to convince the other woman to hide.

“Go now” Hannah said, she knew it was pointless but she was going to try. I’m not going to die as REMF after all, she thought with morbid humor, as Mary moved behind the boxes, which would provide her with little cover, when the bullets started flying. She reached into her pocket and pulled out the wad of soft wax she had scrapped of one of the emergency candles in the pack she had taken. She made two balls of wax and shoved them into her ears.

She heard the storeroom door being thrown open, “clear” some one shouted. Hannah didn’t let herself relax; she wouldn’t till the men down stairs had left the building.

“What the fuck are those boxes, Marine, did you check behind them” a man bellowed, his voice was muted through the wax but she could still hear.
“no Staff Sergeant” a man responded.

“then the dam room isn’t clear is it, if you don’t want to be a marine, I’m sure I can find a high school girl to replace you, now get moving Marine”

“Yes Staff Sergeant” the Marine sounded like a thousand other men in uniform in his response, hidden anger, that would be directed at the task at hand.

She heard boxes fall to the ground, then “ theres a some kind of hatch in the wall back here.”

“and to think you almost didn’t check behind the boxes, Marine. Now check it out, for gods sake or do I need to hold your hand maybe wipe your butt for you too.” The Staff sergeant bellowed. Hannah was beginning to suspect the Staff Sergeant aside from having a circumcision scar around his neck, was not capable of talking any lower than a shout.

“No Staff Sergeant, Checking the Hatch NOW, Staff Sergeant,” the Marine shouted back.

“theres a small room with a staircase back here” the Marine said a moment later.

Hannah tensed, any minute now, things were going to go into the crapper. She heard boots on the staircase, and drew a deep breath. Bring her rifle to high Ready.

A head appeared, and from his shout of surprise he hadn’t really expected to find anyone up here. He ducked back down, “contact one,” he shouted. “surrender your weapons, and come with me Maam, your under arrest.” The man called up, not a tremor in his voice, he wasn’t scared of her, well he was going to be, she decided.

“not a chance Marine, turn around and go home now, and we will call it even” Hannah replied, raising her voice, which still wasn’t all that loud, she hated sounding like she was intimidated.

“I’m sorry I cant do that, if you resist, we have orders to engage.” The man said, sounding like he wanted to be anywhere but on that stair case. he didn’t want to arrest us, she realized. but he would do his duty. Just like I am.

She could hear the Staff Sergeant bellowing orders, summoning more Marines and that damned Colonel, calm as hell issuing what amounted to order to storm the attic and kill her.

She also knew what was coming she back up, not having to wait long, a grenade arced up from the staircase, it seemed to hang in the air for a long while before it plummeted towards the ground. she had picked her place with Care, if they did find the hatch and come up, there were only two possible places to toss a banger, or Flash bang as Mary would call it. she was just far enough away, that the wax should block the worst of the sound effect and all she had to do was turn her head and close her eyes against the light. And hope she was fast enough to get turned back around and her weapon into play before the Marines appeared.

Even with the wax her ears rang, but she was spared the worst of the effect, she whipped around, bring her weapon up and ready, just as the first marine appeared at the top of the stair case.

She fired aiming for his legs, she didn’t want to kill him, or any of them. which would probably get her killed any way. The Marines were taken by surprise, expecting to find two stunned women rolling around on the floor, not one pissed off and determined Army female with a rifle waiting for them.

He shouted and fell heavily, blood pouring from his thigh about an inch from his groin, screaming like a gelding, well I hope I didn’t hit his jewels, I didn’t want to maim the man, she thought as she fired at the next man, he fell heavily, hit in the side. at least two Marines on the staircase managed to get an angle on her, and returned fire, a bullet plucked at her sleeve, another grazed her thigh, at least Cross would be proud she thought as she moved backwards in a crouch, moving from side to side to throw off their aim, the men charged up, and then Mary opened fire.

This was not the first time Mary had fired on living humans, and she really prayed it would be the last, but at the moment, Hannah, was in danger, and Mary could not just sit there and let that brave woman die. and she wasn’t like Hannah, she didn’t shoot to wound, her first three shots started at the base of a marines neck and she let the recoil walk the other two rounds up into the mans head.

She felt sick, but held it back with sheer will power. People might have slapped the title dominatrix on her, and yes she did enjoy the role, but she was truly a strong willed woman, who never stepped back from what needed doing or her own beliefs.

She put the next marine down with her second burst into his chest, but she saw he was wearing body armor; he was only stunned from the impact. As long as he lay there with out moving she didn’t care. Two more grenade sailed up from the Stair case, Mary dropped to the floor, behind the boxes. Wincing as the brutal sound hammered at her ears, at least her eyesight was spared.

Walker snarled, two women, holding off Marines, son of a bitch, he had been saddled with wimps. He drew his pistol and stalked into the store room, shoving marines aside. Reaching the stair case, he joined the queue, “All right Girls two more Flash bangs and then move.”

Hannah reeled the sound waves of the double flashbangs had rolled off the walls and swept back across, even at this distance, with the wax, the sound set her ears to ringing, and she saw spots. She managed to shoot the first marine off the Staircase, Mary got the second. And then it was like a flood coming at her.

Mary saw Walker charge off the staircase, and her instant dislike of the man came to the fore, she placed her sights on him, and fired.

Hannah still crouched tried to retreat towards a stack of boxes and trunks, but two bullets hit her in the thigh, sending her falling to the floor, she saw the Jackass Colonel level his pistol on her, saw fire spurt from the end of the barrel once, then twice even as the hammer of god slammed into her. Her rifle fell from her hands, she felt sadness, she had failed, not that there had ever been any other outcome..

Walker staggered as his armor took the burst that should have killed him and shrugged it off, he had a cracked rib, and would be bruised as hell come tomorrow, but that didn’t matter, he grabbed Hannah by the arm and hauled her up. “ the sooner you stop shooting the earlier this one gets medical attention. he called out ignoring the men sprawled on the attic floor. one dead for sure, several wounded, and lots of bruised egos.

A rifle came sliding out from a stack of boxes, then a pistol joined it. the Mary walked out her hands high. “ Don’t hurt her any more” Mary said, “I surrender.”

“Staff Sergeant Secure the prisoner, then have the Corpsman check this one out, if she can be saved with out using to much of our medical supplies, then do it, if not, let her die, I wont waste the supplies we need on a traitor”

“Yes Sir” Staff Sergeant Aldan Thompson said,

Mary was bound with quick ties, and almost dragged from the attic, as men checked the wounded over.

She was deposited in a room on the second Floor where another group of Marines stood guard over her.

The new arrivals glared at her, angry, which she didn’t blame them, not really. She would have felt the same way if some one had shot up a bunch of her friends. But her understanding of their feelings didn’t do a damn thing to help her out of this.

Walker was grim as he had Alpha squad carry out their wounded, and then retire outside, to pull guard duty. While Charly guarded the Prisoner..

The Army woman was carried out onto the front steps where the Corpsman would get to her when he was done checking their own wounded. She would probably die before he got to her. that only slightly bothered Walker.

Angry at his losses, he stormed into the room where Mary sat on the floor under guard, “pick her up” He ordered two hard faced marines. Mary didn’t struggle as she was lifted up, to hang between the two men. “ you work with a group of rogue Military members, who are working to supplant the duly elected Government during this time of crisis. You are a traitor serving Traitors, you can make it easy on yourself and volunteer the information I need, or I will be forced to have you interrogated.” Walker snapped his head jutted forward as he stared her in the eyes.

What ever he expected her to do, he wasn’t ready when Mary spit in his face. “I’m not a traitor you dumb ass” She snarled “and neither are my people, we are rebuilding out there, clearing out the undead, and getting the lights back….ooof” she doubled over his fist, and hung limply in the grip of the two large marines, who looked surprised at Walker punching a prisoner..

“ I don’t want to hear your lies, Lady. Since you refuse to cooperate, I will now be forced to have you interrogated., haul her out and place her in a truck under guard.” Walker said, ashamed that he had let his temper get the better of him, he was a leader, a Colonel in the USMC, he was better than that.

but your about to have a young woman tortured for information, how is that any better than what you just did a small voice asked in his mind. He ignored it, he had his orders, tasteful or not, the world had changed and harsh measures were needed during the crisis.

You can justify a lot with words like Duty and Crisis cant you, the same voice whispered. Walker again ignored that voice, he couldn’t afford to just change his orders that would show weakness and that would lead to his command eventually falling apart.

Mary hung here for a moment, then with out any warning, snapped upright and drove a front kick straight into the Colonels Balls as hard as she could. He doubled over turning beet red. That’s when the hard faced Sergeant who had been standing nearby strode up and punched her twice in the side of the face, she sagged again, but this time a smile of victory hovered on her lips. “big man beating up a restrained woman” she snarled. When Ronny and Jared got here, she didn’t doubt that man would be dead before they left the island. “well come on beat me, rape me. Isn’t that what you do. Your not a marine your trash.”

Sergeant Youngs face twisted hatefully and drew back to punch her again, but another Marine grasped his wrist. “ Cool it Sergeant, Striking a Prisoner, is a court martial able offense.” The man warned. “Ill over look it the first time, but do it again and Ill brig you”

“Yes Gunny” Young responded, glaring at Mary. He could afford to wait, he was going to be interrogating her after all. and she was going to get everything she asked for. Walker should have picked some one else if he hadn’t intended for them to have some fun with their job.

Walker shook off the Marine who was trying to help, “I’m okay” He snapped, forcing himself to stand upright. “bind her damn legs” he ordered, then turned to Young. “ you will treat the prisoner properly is that Clear” he asked already regretting this whole situation. He had a duty to follow orders, yes, but was this a legal order, and would it undermine his authority if he changed his mind, a trial that would be the answer, it was within the rules and if a verdict of guilty were returned, there could only be one penalty for treason.

Anything to justify what your doing right, the little voice that sounded like him said in the darkness of his mind.

Young nodded, acting chagrined. The world had ended, his family had ended, what did any of this matter. As long as Walker left him alone during the interrogation he would get anything she knew, she would be begging to tell him anything he wanted to know. He smiled at her, it was a smile that promised a lot of pain.

Walker glanced at the Gunny, who had been active duty and stationed on this hell hole before the shit went down, he had never liked reservist’s and liked Walker even less, but he had followed his orders to this point. He could see the disapproval in the Gunnys eyes but the Marine said nothing. he had already made his point.

He watched silently as Marys Legs were bound, then had her gagged, so she couldn’t spit on any one again. All under the watchful and disapproving eyes of the Gunnery Sergeant.

“lets get her back to the Base, I want her secured in the base Brig, not where we sleep” Walker said as he turned towards the door.

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

With Major Collins help, they had discovered that the CO had pulled all the search parties off their grids and assembled them to sweep the buildings on the north end, which according to Collins is where Mary and Hannah were supposedly hiding in the old Coast Guard rescue station.

With that knowledge and knowing that the only patrols out were currently on the beaches, they had slipped through the woods cautiously arriving behind the cluster of buildings, Eric had them take cover then attempted to contact Mary on the radio, Collins had assured them she had, just as gun fire broke out.

Ronny panicked, leaped to his feet, and managed to take two running steps towards the edge of the woods, and overgrown field beyond, before Eric had slapped him down, and had Bailey and Parks sit on him.

Ronny had struggled, till Eric had threatened to sedate his ass and leave him in the woods, he had subsided, glaring at Eric, fear for Mary shining from his eyes. it had wrenched at Jared’s heart to see it, but Eric had been right, if Ronny had rushed out, and been seen. he would have been shot down in an instant and the Marines would have been alerted to their presence.

Jared squatted next to his friend, and laid a hand on his shoulder. “Ronny, the only thing you would have done was gotten killed.”

“If Mary is dead, it doesn’t matter” Ronny said bitterly.

“Yes it does, you cant kill the bastards that killed her if your dead too. And most of us would probably have died with you brother, now chill, she might still be alive and if she is, we will get her back, if she is dead, I promise you we will bring some justice to the world.” Jared promised him.

Jared motioned to Bailey and Parks to release his friend. Grudgingly the two men moved aside, ready to tackle Ronny if he made another mad dash. Ronny sat up and stared towards the buildings on the edge of the field anger burning in his gaze.

Jared moved back, not sure what to do, if he had been in Ronny’s place, he might have done the same thing, and he would have been wrong for the same damn reasons.

Jill slipped up and knelt beside Ronny, jerking her head towards Chris. Jared took the hint and moved away.

Ori slid through the high grass with ease, attuned to the sounds of the wind and the rustling grass and weeds, move, stop, scoot to one side or the other, move again. become a bush, then move once more. When he finally reached the back wall of the Rescue center, he didn’t know how long it had taken him to get there, stealth wasn’t a matter of speed. He only hoped it hadn’t take so long that Mary was dead.

He waited till Castor reached his position then, extracted a dental mirror from his thigh pocket. A dental mirror was a simple handle about a foot long, with a small round mirror on the end of the handle, placed at an angle. It took him only a second to look inside the room and saw that it was empty.

“Clear” he whispered. Castor nodded and slipped along the wall, passing the rear door and began to check the three windows on that side. Ori checked the last two on his side, then moved back to a position by the rear door.

At the signal, Jared led his people straight across the field, his only real fear was Jill, she just wasn’t trained for stealth. Eric and his team were going wide around and would approach the Rescue center from a different direction. They were half way across when the rear door opened.

Ori heard the knob rattle as it was grasped from the inside, and instantly dropped down, and scooted back and to his right placing a stand of weeds and a scraggly bush between himself and the door.

Castor had vanished, and If Ori couldn’t see him, then he doubted a bus load of Marines could spot either of them unless he and Castor were wearing big red flags and dancing naked.

The door opened, and three Marines stepped out, one tucked a cigarette into his mouth and lit up, his hands were shaking as he sucked in a deep breath. .

A quick glance showed Ori that Jared and the others had gone to ground, he couldn’t see them either so it was a safe bet neither could the marines.

“Delman, you know the Colonel will have a fit if he founds out you out here Smoking.” A tall Wide shouldered, Marine, with a shock of dark hair said.

“screw him, you know what he did Waterford, I don’t give a damn what orders he passes. From now on.” Delman, the smoker said.

“I wouldn’t say that too loudly Delman” Waterford said

“or what Waterford, you and Zilwiki going to arrest me” Delman asked.

“ hell no man, we agree with you, but you know how things are” Waterford stated as he pulled off his cover and ran a hand over his sweaty scalp.

“The Gunny is pissed to, and Alpha Squad, the guys that got shot up, even fucking agree. The Colonel lost it, he shot that one women even after she had been taken down, and threatened to withhold medical care if the other woman didn’t surrender. “ Delman stated angrily. “he was shouting shit about they were parts of some mysterious group of former soldiers who were out to overthrow the government. Like we didn’t get to see most of the Government get eaten on Live Tv. And then he beats on one of them, and if that isn’t bad enough the shit heel assigns Young, the most unstable bastard on the island to, interrogate her.”

“ and what are you or hell even we, going to do about it Delman?” Waterford asked unhappily

“I’m following the Gunnies lead for the moment, and I don’t think he is going to stand by much longer.” Delman said as he tossed the cigarette to the ground.

“your going to get your ass in a crack Dolmen, Charley is totally behind Walker. Why do you think he just called in their first squad to secure the prisoner and is sending Gunny and Bravo back to the Base, to get the Brig ready.” Waterford stated.

Delman ground out his cigarette, and stalked back to the door, “I don’t care, if things don’t change in a few days, I’m gone, Ill take my chances on the mainland. Go check on my family and my girlfriend, who knows some of them might still be alive.” He said, heading for the door.

The three men returned to the building closing the door behind them. Ori moved quickly to the wall and used his mirror again to see if he could catch a glimpse of the Marines to get an idea where they were going, but saw nothing.

Jared gave the signal and the whole team moved forward once more, three minutes later they were assembled at the wall, beside Ori. who filled them in on the conversation.

Jared nodded, his off hand gliding over his combat vest, checking to make sure that the tear gas and flash bangs Eric had proved were ready at hand.

The plan was to secure Mary while she was inside the building, then get out. Eric and his people would take care of the Marines out front, hopefully with out loss of life, but that wasn’t hard and fast, any resistance would be met with force, lethal or othewise and to hell with making friends.

“Ready” Jared asked Ori who looked nervous as hell, but then his face smoothed and he nodded. He wanted to take a moment to make sure Jill was okay, she had taken Ori’s quick report almost as hard as Ronny, who was thankfully holding himself back with tight control.

Jared took a deep breath, readied himself then rose and strapped tape across the window, then wrapped the butt of his rifle against the glass breaking it. the tape held it together. Once Ori sliced around the edge they pulled the entire window out..

At least this was a stealth mission for the moment, otherwise Jared would have bet money on Ori playing that Damn song Secret Agent man., forcing him to Kill his friend.

It took less than a two minutes to get the team, including Castor into the room, and moving cautiously to the door.

Eric lay under a bush, half covered with old leaves watching the marines in the street in front of the Rescue Station. There appeared to be two opposing groups from what he could see. They seemed tense around each other as well, which posed some interesting possibilities. He watched as a Corpsman forced his way through a knot of Marines on the porch, who arguing.

There was a moment when some of the Marines began to push each other, and one took a swing sending another marine sprawling, then a Gunnery Sergeant and a Staff Sergeant waded through the group forcing them apart. Eric sucked in a breath as he saw a woman who had been laying on the porch surrounded by the Marines, the Corpsman was kneeling beside her working on her wounds.

She wore ACU’s not MAR cam, he wasn’t sure who she was, but Jill had said something about Cross sending a soldier with Mary to provide some back up and Protection for when she had to land and Refuel.

What the hell was going on down there, he wondered, watching as Two Marines slipped the woman onto a stretcher and carried her out to a waiting truck and loaded the wounded woman into the back. The group that remained on the porch were making comments, loud enough for Eric to hear.

“take the fucking traitor, she’s going to die anyway,”

“Don’t worry Bravo, the Colonel knows you pussies cant be trusted.”

All the comments were some variation of the same two themes, from the looks and the sound of it, the Marines were losing their cohesion, the year and few months since the world had end was finally taking its toll on a group that had been, in large part, isolated from the horrors that the rest of the world had seen and were still living through on the mainland. That Bowler hat freak would have had a field day here, he thought, maybe he had at that Eric thought.

A squad climbed into the back of the truck, as the motor roared to life. Eric grimaced, Jared and his people should all ready be inside, but he hadn’t gotten a signal yet, and if he attacked to early, it would queer the whole rescue of Mary.

The roughest part would be trying not to kill too many. He had to agree with Jared at some point they were going to have to deal with these people, and leaving a shit load of bodies behind them was not a good way to prove they were friendly.

Any minute now he thought. I should be getting that signal. The truck was already turning around and heading back down the road, carrying one lonely wounded soldier and her guards.

Jared slipped up the stairs listening, intently, he could hear low conversations, the creak of a floor here and there as men shifted their weight or walked across a room.
He reached the landing, relieved that there were no guards. They must be really confident they were safe, or they were just as exhausted as his people and were starting to get sloppy.

He flashed Chris and Ori orders using sign language, motioned for Castor to cover their rear, and had to trust that Jill and Ronny both remembered they were to enter last. Ronny was the one he was most worried about, but things would play out the way the way it would.

He moved up to join Chris and Ori, placing himself against the wall beside the door, weapon at High Ready.

Walker stood over Mary who glared at up him, the side of her face turning green, purple and black where Young had punched her. Walker already regretted that action, and was glad that the Gunny had stopped Young from hitting her again. His men might not be happy about the woman being a traitor but none of the men in Bravo were going to stand by and let Young or any one else beat on her. He knew he had damaged his moral authority, when he had struck her, his anger had gotten the better of him, but not stepping up and berating Young for his actions had cost him even more.
That realization only made him angrier, which was not good, but he was the commanding officer, and he had a duty to protect his men and his nation.

“Get her downstairs, Young” He snapped, knowing that by not using the mans rank would underscore his feelings on the subject. “ you will not Strike the Prisoner again, do I make myself clear.”

Young nodded, he showed no real contrition, and Walker was going to have to seriously reconsider his idea of using Young for the interrogation,. If for no other reason than to hold his command together.

As two Marines from the loyal Charley company hauled Mary upright, she brought her knees to her chest and kicked Young squarely in the Chest with both feet, sending him stumbling backwards. The Marines holding her almost lost their Grip and one of them raised his hand and smacked her in the side of the head again.

Walker opened his mouth to tear the man a new asshole, knowing he was responsible for whipping up the dislike that led to this, but it was too late to change things, he never got the words out, light exploded into the room and a sound that tore at his ears, setting them to ringing, spots danced before his eyes, and the room seemed to fade and shift as he stumbled and almost fell, he wasn’t alone either, the marines gathered around were dazed, many clutching their ears, and over it all dimly heard were men shouting,” drop your weapons, Drop your weapons, you will not be harmed if you drop you weapons”

“ down, down down” another shouted.

There were only seven Marines in the Room with Walker and Young, Marines that Walker knew he could trust to follow his orders, they were reservists or had been, though they had seen combat, they were no where near the seasoned Professionals that Active duty Marines were, but the training and experience they did have, was excellent.

But the difference today was a fine one, the voices shouting at them to lay down their arms cracked with authority, the men shouting at them were in Uniform and speaking English, not Farsi, or any other language from the hell hole in Southeast asia, and the fact that they were strangers, who had appeared seemingly out of no where was a shock to the men, most of them reacted like the Civilians they had been. They lowered their weapons, then dropped them to the floor, to dazed and confused to do much else. .

Young unlike the others, was no reservist, his ears ringing his sight screwed up but still good enough for him to make out the woman, who refused to show her fear, the woman who had dared strike him. Young had lost everything in his life that had kept him anchored and sane. He knew he had lost it and didn’t care, People were just meat, his wife had been meat, his mother and father, just meat waiting to be served to the undead.

Only fear gained respect, and only being cold blooded, offered a chance for survival, and because he had come to discover he enjoyed people fearing him, he drew the Kbar on his side and lunged for Mary, Snatching her away from the Marines who held her and drew her back against him, placing the knife at her throat backing away from the doorway

Ori had burst into the room going right, the men in his sector had dropped their weapons, and fell to their knees, still disoriented from the flash bang. He saw a man grab Mary away from two marines, who held her, but it wasn’t his zone. Get control first, he told himself

Chris entered going left, and immediately came under fire from a man in the left corner, who had been partially shielded from the effects of the flash bang. A bullet punched through his left arm, he fired putting his rounds center mass and saw blood bloom, he had assumed the man was wearing body armor. he felt sick at Killing a Marine, but it was either him or the Marine. The man dropped backwards slumping against the wall, his eyes glazing over. Chris put two more rounds into his head and then swung his weapon searching for a new target but there was no one else in his area. .

Another Marine, this one stumbling around half blind, had drawn a pistol and was trying to draw a bead on any one, he saw the shadow of movement and fired once shooting one of his own men, then the barrel swung towards Jared, who got a good look at Mary and saw the livid bruise on her face. the officer fired, the bullet grazed Jared’s shoulder, leaving a bloody gash that burned like hell. Jared coldly shot him in the knees, sending the officer to the ground screaming trying to stop the flow of blood with his hands.

Eric heard the flash bangs go off even from his postion, and saw all hell break loose as the marines surged towards the front door of the building, now or never, surprised or not they were marines, give them a minute to get their wits together and it was going to be one hell of a fight, no matter what Eric and Jared wanted.

“Fire” he transmitted. Grenade launchers to either side of him fired, they were so quiet that no one in front of the building could hear them, even if there had been no shouting or motors running.

The launchers fired again before the first two grenades had even detonated. Two flash bangs went off as one, throwing chaos into the Marines, those on the fringes and little affected whirled around, already searching for cover and laying down suppressing fire as their training took over, he could hear a Sergeant shouting orders, imposing his will on the chaos, that’s one man I should kill Eric thought but kept his finger off the trigger.

Whatever tension existed down there had just been doubled and sent the situation spiraling out control. The group in front of the building must think that the other group had attacked them. they were shouting and firing at their buddies, which was total madness. Eric didn’t know what to think, what ever it was, it seemed they had only been waiting for a reason to start a fight.

The second volley, tear gas canisters, exploded, thankfully amongst the more organized group, who were returning fire. Then another round of flash bangs, dropped into the men around the door. then another round of tear gas, the cloud sweeping over most the Marines, all he wanted to do was incapacitate them, but it looked like as unprepared as they were for a sneak attack, the Damned Sergeant down there, was doing a damn fine job of getting his people to counter attack the Group at the door to the Rescue center and lay down suppressing fire almost on top of Eric’s position. To bad we don’t have him on our side, hell his men too.

It was almost time he thought, Jared should be signaling success any moment now, he thought “ ready the smoke” Eric Transmitted, feeling sick about what was going on, but at least his hands weren’t stained by firing on American Marines who deserved a hell of lot better than this. He tried not to think about the fact that in a way it was his fault, the flash bangs, had started the disaster,

Jared stepped past the howling Colonel, towards the asshat holding Mary, just as Ronny entered behind Jill, and saw what was going on. He shouted and ran forward, and things started to come apart,

A marine on his knees closest to Jared Suddenly lunged up, ripping the HK from Jared’s Hands and throwing it across the room. his buddy to Jared’s right almost flew to his feet, and leaped at Jared, he had already spotted the dressing on jareds thigh wound, and ripped it away, digging a thumb into the hole and pulling, Jared bit his tongue, as the pain roared through his nervous system, he managed to yank out of the grip, his leg on fire.

The First Marine, a bulky blond, lunged at him, in a classic hand to hand attack stance, Jared smoothly slid away from the strike that would have taken him in the solar plexuses, pivoted on his injured leg, which sent a wave of pain rushing through him, he blocked with a fore arm, used a nerve strike at the elbow Junction, then stomped down on the mans instep, shattering it, and taking the man out of the fight.

Jared only barely ducked as the second Marine with the acne scarred face who had thumbed Jareds wound, grabbed his rifle and swung it at Jared’s head, Jared spun into a sweep, taking that Marine down, but not out, a swift and precise Strike finished the job leaving the marine unconscious but alive.

The two men Ori covered were still suffering from the effects of the Flash bang, two more were still on the floor beside the wounded Colonel, stunned, one had blood running out of his ears. Poor bastard is going to be deaf for the rest of his life I bet Jared thought, but it was only in passing, his attention was fixed on the man holding Mary,

Tall squat,and brutish looking, a shifty cast to his eyes. his dark hair shaved close to the scalp. Blood trickled down Marys neck from where the knife had pressed a little to hard, breaking the skin, just the sight of that blood and the immediate danger, brought Ronny to a full stop, fear flickered in his eyes, fear and a dark hatred for the man that held Mary’s life in his hands.

A final Marine recovering from the effects of the Flash bang, and desperate to escape, erupted from his place, heading for the door, with only Jill between him and escape, he grinned and tucked his shoulder down with the full intent to plow through the woman in front him.

His grin transformed into something resembling shock as the pretty, slender woman, almost seemed to levitate up into the air and then a booted foot struck him in the face, breaking teeth and sending him staggering to one side. she landed lightly blocked a desperate swing, grabbed the passing fist, dug her thumb into the pressure point between the mans thumb and index finger, twisted his hand around and with a snap broke the mans arm against her knee. He shrieked like a gelding as he fell to the floor cradling his arm against his chest.

“Get out of my way, or Ill kill her” Young snarled stepping to one side as if to pass Ronny.

“You kill her and you will die slowly and painfully” Ronny grated, his weapon never wavering.

Outside there was shouting and Gunfire, Jared knew they didn’t have much time, they had to hurry, as if to emphasis that point Eric’s voice whispered urgently in his earbud “speed it up”

The noise grew louder, as the front door to the building opened,. “Contact Seven, under fire” Castor reported, as bullets chewed up the Stairs. With his free hand he drew a flash bang, armed and tossed it down the stairs into the cluster of Men preparing to storm up the stairs.

“let her go, and we are gone,” Jared said, watching the desperate mans eyes, he didn’t like the gleam he saw there. Who ever this asshat was he was enjoying this, enjoyed hurting the woman he held. “no harm no foul”

Ronny kept his mouth clamped shut, letting Jared talk. His rifle never wavered from its target. Only fear of Mary being hurt kept him from firing.

“oh please don’t expect me to believe that. Ill kill this cow if you don’t get out of my way.” Young promised, and Jared believed him. he stepped aside,

“There you go, head to the door” Jared said, gesturing calmly, knowing he would get a chance to shoot the asshole.

“tell your man in the hallway to come in here and stand in the corner over there by Compton’s body” young demanded.

“all right” Jared replied looking at Ori then at Ronny.

The confusion in front of the Rescue center seemed to be growing, Eric thought watching as Two Hum vees sped down the road, they must have intended to rush the steps. The gunners were hammering away, then they drove into the invisible haze of Tear gas. The lead Hummer veered to the left and crashed into the side of the Rescue Center, the windows shattered spraying glass over the hummer. The second Hummer plowed up the steps, and over six men before stopping.

Oh hell he thought as he watched the bodys, saw two of them twitching as they started to re animate. No way Eric was going to let that happen, he settled his sights and put a .308 round through its skull. The second corpse was sitting up, when the bullet took the top of its head off.

He swung his sights across the fight, and saw a corpse walking up behind two Marines who were busy firing back at another group of Marines. From years of long practice, his breathing slowed he felt his heartbeat pulsing through his veins, the zombie reached out, grasping one Marine whose eyes widened realizing what was happening.
Eric squeezed the trigger blowing the zombies head off. The Marine looked in Eric’s Direction puzzled at what had just happened then went back to returning the fire of the opposing group of Marines.

He spotted another zombie this one by the porch of the rescue center, and put it down, “Hurry it up damn it” He snapped into the Radio, watching as the men in the hummers bailed out, the crew from the hummer on the porch zigged and zagged, till they could shelter behind the other Hummer to escape the weapons fire..

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

Jared stepped back and away from the desperate marine, who looked like he was about to to go ahead and cut Mary’s throat.

“Well call him off” Young shouted, emphasizing his words, by pressing the knife a hair deeper into Mary’s neck spilling a little more blood.

“All right “ Jared said calmly, far more calmly than he felt, he also knew Ronny was getting ready to do something, anything. The fear and hesitation in his friends eyes was gone, he was calculating the odds, before acting.

“Richland, fall back do not fire” He called out, making up a name. in that moment, Young’s eyes darted to the door, that moment was all Jared needed. his hand flashed down, with the natural speed and Fluidity he had been born with. In less time than it took to blink his hand was on the butt of his pistol, the pistol slid out of the holster, he didn’t bring it up, his hand just lifted the Pistol into line as it cleared the holster and fired from the hip. His first round left the barrel .0146 seconds after clearing the hostler, the second shot was on the way a tenth of a second later.

both .45 ACP rounds, tore through the Young’s shoulder, the shoulder that controlled the hand holding the knife. The knife came away, from Mary’s throat and Ronny leaped forward and tore Mary from the mans grasp, firing into Youngs side the instant his wife was clear.

Young gasped and fell to one side, this wasn’t a movie and Jared wasn’t going to leave a desperate and crazed man behind him. he put a round into the sadists forehead. “secure the prisoners” He barked, as Ronny cut the quick ties that held Mary’s hands and feet together.

“ its either secure you folks or flash bang you again” Jared said, watching as Chris and Ori began quickly securing wrists, while he and Jill covered them.

“ I told you I would come for you, even in Hell baby” Ronny was saying as Mary wrapped her arms around him and they held each tightly. Jared pretended not to notice, giving them a bit of privacy for their moment.

“Who did that to you” Ronny asked furiously looking at the bruise on her face.

“he is dead, don’t worry about it” Mary said, as Ronny helped her to her feet. She walked over and spit on Young’s corpse then stood over Walker.

“I tried to get you to understand we weren’t a threat, and warned you what would happen if you didn’t let me go. I never wanted this Colonel, and neither do my friends.” Mary said, shaking her head and turning away from the Colonel, who only gave her a hate filled look.

“Prisoners secured” Ori called out.

“gotta move people” Jared said, as he moved to the door, limping slightly.

“Eric it’s a go,” Jared transmitted.

“Standby” Eric replied.

Sergeant Wallace wasn’t to surprised when smoke grenades fell amongst the fighting. Who ever it was out there didn’t seem to be too interested in killing Marines, but he would bet they were interested in rescuing the woman inside the building. So they must have already secured her, and were on the move now. They must have come by boat, during the night. which means they were sneaking around by passing our patrols, who ever they were, were good.

No matter his people’s faults, they were not slack, they were well trained and competent. Well most of them Charley was to busy browning nose Walker to put in the practice time or patrol time. But Alpha and Bravo had been the ones patrolling, Walker liked it that way, it kept the bulk of Marines who disagreed with him, safely away from the base.

He could hear shouts of cease fire from Charley, and hoped the men in charley listened; he didn’t want to kill men he had known for so long, men who had suffered through hell together as the world died around them.

“Stand down, only fire if fired on” he ordered his men, praying this was over, they had come to far gone through so much only to have it end this way, with Marine killing Marine.

Inside the building he suddenly heard some one shouting that the Colonel was down, he shook his head, things were getting ready to be a lot worse.

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

it was quiet under the trees, as they moved as quickly as possible through the woods. Ronny with his arm around Mary, offering her support that he probably need more than she did.

Jared wasn’t much better, his leg ached, hell his whole body ached. He was damned relieved when Eric’s voice erupted from his ear bud.

“Stand by Hollywood,” Jared said then motioned at the others “take quick breather” he said knowing that they would all be a lot stiffer after a moments rest.

“Go ahead Hollywood”Jared said, he would have grinned at that handle but the pain he felt was really do damn much.

“Your going to have to hurry, our contact has assured me that she will make sure the other Package will be delivered to your way out. You wont have long before the resistance arrives and try’s to stop you. Apparently things are going to hell with them. Color me surprised” Eric said.

“Roger, I copy, and thanks, out” Jared replied. “lets go folks, we need to move”

He ignored the groans, he agreed with them, but they didn’t have a choice.

“we just sat down” Ori said as he climbed to his feet,

“now your standing, so quit whining” Jared said softening his response with a grin that was more grimace than anything.

The entire party started moving again, somehow staying quiet as they did so.

“where is Eric going to meet up with us” Chris asked a moment later, already limping from his old injuries, the sleeve of his shirt soaked with dried blood.

“he isn’t, we are going to take the plane out, he will delay, confuse and screw with the Marines till after we get out of here, then he and the others will leave by sea” Jared replied, limping himself. “Castor will make sure we get to the plane and out, before he links back up with Eric.”

“but the plane is under guard, I don’t even know if the other planes work, and even if they do, the moment you start one up, they will be all over us.” Mary said, then stopped abruptly. “and we are not Leaving Hannah behind” she said, in a tone of voice that usually only Ronny heard. She wasn’t going to be moved, it was an order not a suggestion or a protest.

“ we aren’t leaving any one behind Mary” Jared said as he stopped, his hand going to the wound in his thigh as if that would make it feel any better. “we aren’t, we talked to some female Major earlier who told us where you were at, apparently she got in touch with Eric and told him that she would have Hannah delivered to the plane.”

“Collins, Major Collins, that’s her name, she helped Hannah and I escape.” Mary said, wondering again if the whole escape had been a plot to create this moment. God as if the undead weren’t enough, now there are plots, spys and coups, we are an insane race.

“yeah that was her name” Jared confirmed, “Now lets get moving, those folks may or may not come looking for us, and Id like to be at the plane and taking off as soon as we can,” Jared said as he turned and started walking again.

“ You didn’t see her Jared, that Colonel shot her, twice when he didn’t have to. She was hurt pretty badly” Mary stated.

“ Then all the more reason to move our asses” Jared replied as the whole team started moving at a quicker pace than before.

“you know this is kind of nice” Chris remarked, “on the run from hostiles, with out having to worry about undead. it’s a novel experience these days. gives me hope there might actually be a strip club out there were real women are putting on shows and not the undead kind.”

Ronny stifled a laugh, “when was the last time we were on the run from hostiles, aside from Ori running from a pissed off Madame, or Jared after beating up that clown at the Beer fest.” Ronny said.

“Or Ronny when he got caught dating two women at the same time.” Jared added.

“that’s not the same thing at all” Mary replied.

“it is when he caught on the same night, on two different dates at the same time in two restaurants next door to each other.”Jared said.

“You thought you could get away with that” Mary asked giving Ronny a surprised look. “I am so spanking your ass when we get back.”

“it was nine years ago, well before I met you” Ronny protested.

“I don’t care, you deserve it for being that stupid.” Mary said sweetly, as Ronny stumbled, the over exertion and pain from his wounds, starting to catch up with him.

aint we a sorry sight, Ronny thought. But at least we only had to kill two of their men.

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

Nial’s crept forward, Jackson and that old guy Roosevelt covering him. he had landed with the Jackson and his men just before Dawn on the west side of the island. It had actually been pretty exciting, in a weird way to be operating with these guys. Not that he was even close to being in their league. They had set up an observation post, or OP as they called it near the end of the Runway, behind the wreck of an old Vietnam era fighter plane, he had no idea what kind it was, he only knew what era it was from, from watching the history channel when it had still been on the air.

Their whole mission was to keep an eye on the base. It was odd to be around people who routinely used Radio communications, and for the first time in life understood just what kind of advantage instant communications really was. Shortly after they had set up, Eric had called, he didn’t know what was said, but the Jackson had been somewhat optimistic and doubtful at the same time.

One of them had commented that it sounded great, but sooner or later some thing was going to happen and land them all in the crapper. it must have, because half an hour ago, gunfire had broken out around the base, they had even spotted a couple of zombies stumbling out of one of the hangers. Marines had appeared and put them down, then called off the guards from the plane, before taking a hummer and driving off into the old base proper.

There had been more gunfire, in fact it had sounded like a running gun fight to him. and Ross had said it sounded like every one down there had gone insane or there was coup going on.

Jackson was just getting ready to run a sweep to see what they could find out, when a truck escorted by a Hummer had driven onto the base and rolled along the runway, stopping next to the recon plane that Eric had told Jackson was the one they were supposed to watch, Marines had leaped out and carried a stretcher with a woman hooked to an IV up to the plane then placed her inside leaving a man who Nials guessed, was a medic, judging by the red cross armband he wore. The rest loaded back up into the trucks and drove off into the base proper.

Which is how he found himself creeping across the flight line, with two former Army rangers, using plane tugs, abandoned vehicles and aircraft for cover and concealment.

They were almost to the Plane, which was their target, when he saw a hum vee appear at the end of the flight line. It sped down the runway then came to a stop beside the recon plane and a woman climbed out, to his testosterone filled mind she looked damned good in that uniform.

She opened the door of the plane, leaning in. Nial’s couldn’t hear what she said but the Medic climbed out, and followed her to the HumVee. She looked around, as if looking for something then climbed back inside with the Medic and drove off.

This is really weird he thought, all this shooting and driving back and forth, and Ms. Hotness taking away the medic, but on second thought there had been a lot of shooting, they had to have wounded so that had to be the reason for getting the medic. He started to move again, but Washington, gave him a signal to stay put. Just then to the north of the airfield he saw movement.

Jared hurt, hurt like hell to be honest, he tried not to let it show, but no one could miss the limp, or the blood soaked pant leg. Or the bandages on his arms that were showing blood stains after his little hand to hand fighting match. in fact, oddly enough Jill and Mary were the two least wounded people in the group. figures just like women, go in to rescue them and they come out with nice hair, and no smeared make up while us dumb male apes get the shit beat out of us. well next time I’m the one being taken hostage he thought as the forged through the waist high grass, trying to stay low to avoid observation. Let Jill rescue me from having my virtue sullied. He surprised himself with an almost silent chuckle that drew puzzled look from Jill.

This was the time when an ambush would be sprung, they were almost home free, and they were getting antsy, seeing the end in sight and the urge to speed up, to take chances was greatest.

He hadn’t said anything to Mary, but his firm belief was that Major Collins was using this situation to her advantage, whether because she believed it was the right thing to do, or simply for power he didn’t know

Off in the distance he heard motors, and they sounded like they were heading this way, and coming fast.

“red, just a heads up Brother, about half the men from the north side are inbound and hot for your blood. Get a move on.” Eric reported. “not much we can do unless we want to kill a lot of them.”

“Shit” Jared swore. “ lets go people, no rest for the wicked, the wounded or Weary, or the terminally stupid in Ronnys case.”

“Hey” Ronny protested. “I’m not terminal”

“chronically stupid then, stop being picky” Jared said as he forced himself to speed up, every step hurt, he ached all over and his breathing was becoming heavier.

“was that supposed to be a joke?” Ronny asked Mary. “sounds like something Ori would say.”

The rest of the team picked up their pace trying to keep up, Jared kept an eye on them even as he concentrated on keeping his own body moving. when his feet encountered Tarmac it took him by surprise.

“come on move it” Jared called out, his eyes scanning the hangar fronts, and the control tower windows. He brought his weapon up, letting his people run past as he covered them.

Ronny reached the UV, a smile spread across his face as he pulled open the door. Mary shouted in surprise at seeing a stretcher bearing a woman strapped to the floor. .

Ronny climbed in, and made his way to the pilots seat sliding behind the stick felt like coming home. he began to run through the preflight as fast as he could cutting out anything the thought he could avoid.

Jill waited at the door for Jared, as he walked slowly towards the plane. His energy seemingly at rock bottom. it was the first time she had ever seen him so battered, but he was far from beaten, she thought, as she ran towards him and let him put an arm around her shoulders for support. The engine to the UV roared to life as they reached the door.

“hey, damn it” some one shouted, Jill looked around, even as Jared turned his weapon coming up to high ready. “Its me Nial’s”

Jill looked puzzled, but she finally spotted the man as he came around a Military truck that she didn’t recognize, two of Jackson men were right behind him. one knelt his weapon covering the hangers.

“I thought we left him on the boat” Jill said, Jared shrugged. If it had been Nial’s alone he would have been highly suspicious, but the men with Nial’s made him feel a little better about the surprise appearance of a man in the middle of a situation that was nothing like it should have been.

Nial’s rushed up, and as he reached the plane, Jacksons men turned and vanished back down the ramp.

“how did you get here.” Jill asked.

“Eric called in the Jackson to keep an eye on the base while you guys were cavorting around the island, I insisted on coming along. Stupid of me I know” Nial’s said.

“talk in the plane” Jared said motioning to the door, they climbed inside, and Jill slammed the door shut. They had barely reached seats when the plane lurched into motion.

“Hang on boys and girls” Ronny called out. the plane rolled down the Taxi way, and turned onto the runway, just as trucks appeared in the distance, a Hummer with a gunner raced ahead. Ronny wished like hell the wheeled floats had been taken off again, but things were what they were.

“it appears we pissed some one off” Ori said, hating being strapped in a plane with no way to fight back. Then he remembered Jared, and looked over to see the white faced Jared leaning back, hands gripping the arms of his seat. his lips moving silently. Jill placed slender hand over Jared’s large callused hand, and he seemed to calm slightly.

Marines were piling out of the trucks, and forming up, Ronny could already see the wink of muzzle flashes. It was pretty far for accurate fire but as the plane raced down the Runway the distance would decrease and the accuracy would increase, and his body was directly in the way of all those bullets.

Walker lay on a stretcher in the back of one of the trucks, smiling in satisfaction, being shot had finally snapped his mind completely. He would deal with the traitors who had helped his nations enemies rescue the woman and escape. When these traitors were dealt with he would be leading his men back to the main land to secure his wife and set up a beachhead for the Marines who would finally be coming to relieve his men of their long lonely vigil.

Collins stood in the control tower watching, she felt sick at using Mary and her friends as bait. But she had to get the rest of Charley here and preoccupied, she hoped Mary and her frieds made it, and in just a second the colonels men would have a lot more to deal with than the escaping plane. She had never wanted to stage a coup, but when SFc Stone had heard her story, and then gotten her to one side and told her that there had been and might still be a National command authority, or some one pretending to be such. He had given her the Sat com Channel, only after warning her of the type of Orders General Bedford might try to pass her.

It was only then she knew what all those late night runs to the comm. Shack by Walker had been about, and only when she got back to the Base and got Lance Corporal Kerny in her office had it been confirmed. She had worked for Months behind the scenes to get Walker to accept him for Duty at the Comm shack and it had paid off.

Kerny had told her that last night the Colonel had gotten a call from a General Bedford, Walker had orderd him out of the room, but Kerny had listened at the door and heard Bedford order Marys interrogation and death, and the pure Bs that the men she traveled with, were going to attack the Island for its supplies, there were more supplies on the mainland than anything on this island.

Once she gathered the Senior NCOS, and explained about the Satellite Comm calls, and how Walker had hid that fact from the men at large, and then had Kerny testify to the orders he had heard passed. Green, and other Senior NCOs had stormed the Comm shack and forced Walker’s hand picked duty officer to show them the Sat Com that had supposedly not worked since last fall. Finding the unit not only hidden in a cabinet, but on, set on the Frequency that Eric stone had given Collins. Had set things in motion that for the most part she had hoped never to have to order.

Of course none of them expected Charley to open fire on Bravo at the Rescue center, but that had only driven them to clean out Walker’s men, and secure them till they could get the situation under control preferable with out killing Walker or any one else. But it hadn’t been blood less, and the blood on her hands was about to get worse.

“Do it” she said.

“Lay down your weapons, and surrender, Colonel Walker you are hereby relieved of command.” Greens voice boomed across the field amplified by the sound system in Hangar one. “Please do not make us fire on you.” he added almost pleading.

Weapons began to clatter to the ground, but not enough, and those who refused turned their fire on the fellows for being traitors.

Green couldn’t believe this, he had, had no idea that so many had well and truly lost it. but that was the only way to explain what he seeing. He lifted the Microphone, and gave an Order that an hour ago he wouldn’t have believed possible. “Open fire” he stood there like a stone, watching Marines die at his order, he refused to turn away, he had given this order, and he would carry the image of their deaths to his grave, he had failed to realize just how mentally unstable they had been, and offer them help, he had failed as an NCO to help the men under his command, and he would by God bear witness to their deaths and make sure that later they were remembered with honor, for the courage they had shown, and for their duty to their nation, with out the taint they had gained. No he would carry that taint, he and he alone. They were Marines, first, last and always.

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

No one on the island, had any clue of the conflict being waged across the world, other than the obvious threat of the undead, they hadn’t known about the slow insidious voice that whispered in dreams, warping and twisting and weakening till those it had chosen would listen. Men and woman scared, scarred and alone. And it had worked its will here, slowly drawing no attention, twisting, and tearing at the minds and morals of those it touched, and then chance had placed its enemy right here, in a place already slated to destroy itself, it turned its tools unwittingly against its foe, using them up to destroy, slow or hurt Jared Stone and his people.

The enemy if it had been emotional it would have cursed as its foe escaped once more, if it had been human it would have broken furniture, ranted and raved, it was not human, it cared nothing that those it had twisted to its ends, were dying, it could always make more humans were like that, there was always darkness in the soul and people willing to embrace once they had been shown the truth.

That the Marines were killing each other had been its plan all along, it had only hoped to get Stone and his people in the crossfire. But Stone would return to the false safety of the Island, and then all the hope, all the optimism would die, as his refugee died around him.

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

The plane raced towards the Marines, Ronny blinked it looked like the amount of fire was dropping off. The plane had been hit at least twice, hopefully no where important. And no injuries being reported from the back so he tried not to worry.

Suddenly he realized the Marines were shooting each other again, a group of men in one of the hangers were shooting into the group at the end of the runway. Ronny fed the plane more power and did an emergency take off, getting no where close to the Marines who were dying at the end of the runway.

“ back to the island” Ronny asked.

“no back to the boat, I have a dog to pick up, then to our vehicles, after that we rendezvous with Simm’s and collect the people he and his people got out of the terminal, then its back to the island. Say four more days, a week tops.” Jared said, “and then I’m never getting in another damn aircraft unless there is an army of undead clowns and I have no other choice.” He settled back into his chair, Jill leaned against his shoulder and heard him whisper.

“Lord, wrap Your arms around me
In this hostile, brutal place;
Let me draw peace and comfort
From Your restful, sweet embrace.

Help me do my duty
To uphold what is right;
Give me strength and courage
Each day and every night.

Lord, hear this soldier’s prayer
To You in heaven above;
Protect me with Your power,
And sustain me with Your love.”

~Joanna Fuchs(“A Soldier’s Prayer)

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