Chapter 34 part one

“Crystal water turns to dark
Where ere it’s presence leaves it’s mark
And boiling currents pound like drums
When something wicked this way comes…

A presence dark invades the fair
And gives the horses ample scare
Chaos reigns and panic fills the air
When something wicked this way comes…

Ill winds mark it’s fearsome flight,
And autumn branches creak with fright.
The landscape turns to ashen crumbs,
When something wicked this way comes.”

The hundred-foot black-hulled sail boat knifed through the water under full sail, sunlight flashed off the water. Up ahead off the port side, he could see the dark shape of a zodiac bobbing in the water. Opening the teakwood console he pulled out a pair of binoculars and lifted them to his eyes.

Seven men dressed in dirty military camouflage uniforms, heavily armed. A man in the bow of the zodiac, easily one of the biggest men Casey had ever seen, sat up shading his eyes and looking towards the approaching Sailboat. Casey saw the mans lips move, as he spoke to the other men in the boat. but Casey’s eyes kept drifting to the weapons that every man in the zodiac carried.

Friend or foe that was the real question, But part of him, wanted, no needed to talk to more human beings. Just the knowledge that he and Lauren were not alone in the world made him want to dance a jig on the deck.

He could at least get close enough to talk, see what they said, how they acted. Besides, even if he changed course now, he was pretty sure the Yacht was in range of their weapons, which meant he and Lauren were with in range.

That pretty much decided him, Casey hit a button on the console, and a motor whined as sails began to lower. “Lauren, furl the sheets” he called out.

He couldn’t help but watch her long legs flash in the sunlight as she nodded and ran to do as he asked.

He was surprised that she had picked up boat handling fairly fast, far from an expert of course, but doing much better than most landlubbers. she would make one hell of a crewman in a few months, assuming she wanted to keep sailing that is. He grinned suddenly remembering how long it had taken him to finally start getting the hang of sailing, his dad had been about ready to leave him behind when he finally got his crap together.

With the safety that the sail boat granted them, being isolated from the undead by deep waters, Lauren had begun to relax on board, and had taken to wearing shorts and a bikini top, reveling in the pure joy of being out in the sunlight, and feeling the sun and wind on bare skin with out having to worry about being attacked by the undead.

It was funny how little people had appreciated such a simple thing before the undead. if those things every died off, he was going to spend a summer naked, just because he could. Well assuming that the human animals didn’t go all violent with each other after that.

He turned his attention back to the drifting zodiac, it wasn’t a typical zodiac, it some kind of angled low wall on the sides, and there appeared to be men on board. The old Maritime tradition of always assisting other boats in need, might need revising in the here and now, he thought as he brought the sailboat a point to starboard to keep well clear of the zodiac. There was no way in hell he wanted to get to close.

In the past he wouldn’t have hesitated to render assistance, but that was before damn near every one had become undead cannibals. Of course till a week ago, he had thought he was alone in the world, till he had washed up in Laurens yard, and now, a week later eight people in a zodiac, eight heavily armed people he thought.

He had seen enough end of the world movies to know not to trust anyone, for all he knew they were out here to grab a passing boat to escape from the mainland.

With the sails furled the yacht slowed in the water, before it could come to a stop he started the motor, then waved Lauren to his side. “ take the wheel, keep us about a hundred feet out from that small boat.” he said as he picked up his rifle and slung it over his right shoulder, then walked to the rail.

Cupping his hands around his mouth he called out “ Hello the zodiac”

“Hey, mind giving a few soldiers a tow” a dark haired, wide shouldered man in the bow of the zodiac replied, as if the world was just the normal old place it had once been, the man’s face still bore streaks of Camouflage paint, and dirt.

“Soldiers, there aren’t any more soldiers’ Casey replied, nervously, knowing that they were to close to escape the weapons those men carried.

“You got me there, we are actually Zombies disguised as 5th SF out of Fort Campbell. And one of us is as close to a Doctor as you can get.” The man replied, grinning at Casey.

Casey’s eyes drifted over the wide array of weapons, the men carried. He supposed they could have opened fire on he and Lauren then swam over and taken the yacht. Or more likely if they intended harm, they might be waiting to board, needing Casey and Lauren to work the boat for them.

“Your pretty heavily armed zombies” Casey called back, playing the part, and trying not to show just how nervous he felt, wishing he had gone far around these men and left them behind.

“I’d say heavily armed describes about all of the survivors, wouldn’t you. I’m Sergeant First Class Eric Stone, our motor died on us” The soldier replied, his smile fading slightly.

“Where were you coming from?” Casey asked.

“An Island you really don’t want to visit, if you plan on leaving again that is” Eric stone replied. “Listen, you have no reason to trust us I know, but we really do need some help. if you have a working radio, Ill give you a frequency to use and a message, relay the GPS co-ordinates for our location and the message then haul ass, our boat will pick us up”

GPS, radio, yes he had all that onboard, but he hadn’t bothered to even turn it on. Till this moment he hadn’t thought there was any one to talk to anyway, and GPS, he hadn’t even thought about, He had charts to figure out where he was.

But now as he watched the men in the zodiac he wondered just how many chances he might have missed to meet other survivors, or at least to hear transmission that would have let him know he wasn’t alone in the world.

He studied the men for a long moment, as Lauren circled the zodiac, they looked exhausted and dirty. And more importantly not one of them had given Lauren more than a passing glance.

“Well” Eric Stone prompted, as the zodiac bobbed in the water. .

“Bring us closer, Lauren” Casey called out as he grabbed a line and coiled it using his hand and elbow. When they drew close enough he tossed the line to Stone. “one of you can come aboard, unarmed, the others can wait in the zodiac till I’m sure that I can trust you” Casey called out.

“Its going to be a long wait in the zodiac then” one of the men muttered, his voice carried easily over the water. “None of us look like the bring the boyfriend to meet momma type”

“Can it” Stone said, though he was smiling. “Blaine you go aboard, raise Jackson, they should be aboard by now, if not they are just as screwed as we are. And if that’s the case your going to have to talk these fine folks into helping us find them.”
Laurens Story *****************************

Sullivan Island once home to 1,500 people, it had been buffeted by the Hurricane, but there had been little damage across the Island which was a miracle as far as the people who sheltered there were concerned. Initially the Barricade at the breech had been rebuilt using abandoned cars, as the men and women worked day after day, riding around in dump trucks and Deuce and half’s, clearing the undead, two more barricades had been built, the first had spanned station 18, allowing them to completely clear the southern end of the island around Fort Moultrie, the second had been established across Station 19, to bring the light house into the occupied sector. The number of survivors had swelled rapidly, as the Soldiers that Jared had invited from Fort Jackson put in an appearance, bringing with them the few civilians whom they had gathered around their base and along the way.

With their arrival, things went to full speed, but there was increased tension between the military and the civilians elements. Ashton, Jeff, Kevin, Sharon and Bridget and Linda were doing their best to keep that tension from building past a simmer and boiling over.

The island was coming along well, Jeff Sloan thought as he watched a team of ten men pull down electrical wire from a series of poles, along a street that wouldn’t be occupied for years if ever, by this time next year, assuming they all survived they would have stripped every home and business, every street pole and warehouse of anything usable.

A line of dump trucks rumbled by, carrying the bodies of the zombies that had been put down during a sweep of buildings. they were taken to a point down near the breech and burned. On the rare occasions the wind shifted and blew the smoke back across the far end of the island where the survivors called home, the sickly sweet smell of burning meat and the reek of the undead, made it almost impossible to be outside with out some kind of mask.

A siren wailed from the Port control building, Jeff strode across the walls past ancient and not so ancient cannon, till he could watch a Tug push a large industrial barge up to the Dock, men packed its deck, squeezed in between vehicles, and conexs.

The soldiers and civilians packed onto the barge leaped onto the dock, they were all soot covered and sweaty, even from here he could see the relief flow through the crowd as they stood on solid non moving ground.

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

Jared rose slowly, hiding how unsteady he felt. he donned his gear, slung his rifle and headed to the living room, where the others were gathered, waiting for Ronny to arrive. Ori gave him a speculative look, “glad to see your up finally, we have everything we can pack onto the UTV’s ready so the plane comes to a stop. We can carry it out and load.” Ori remarked.

“which is going to have to be fast, Jeb called they are ten miles out, and he says the numbers of undead are growing.” Jill added the worry she felt not evident in her voice or manner.

“Ronny is trying to time it so he lands when they get here,” Ori added. “ he had to land and dismount the floats figuring he was going to have to make a rough field landing.”

“Sounds like a plan” Jared said, as he started to pace but stopped as pain lanced up through his leg. Something in his expression must have changed, giving away the pain he felt.

“You okay” Ori asked.

“Finer than frog hair split three ways” Jared replied, determined to keep on his feet till they were airborne, passing out in a aircraft was ideal in his book, that way if the damn thing crashed he would never know it.

“Look on the bright side Ori, in a couple of hours; you will be seeing Beth again.” Jared said cutting off any comment Ori might make. “So, what supplies are we taking out of here?” Jared asked.

As Ori delivered a detailed list of the supplies they were taking with them, he watched Jared closely, Jared looked pale, sweaty and was not moving with the easy casual grace he normally would have. He was worse today than he had been yesterday and that worried Ori considerably.

“ Good” Jared said as Ori finished with his list, “ lets make sure this place is locked down when we leave, I think sending an Advanced team back here, to man the radios, and set up a small FOB would be a good idea, there has got to be a lot left at the Terminal to pick up, even after the destruction, and this can be both a the jumping off point for what ever teams we send down, and a radio relay back to the island. You did try to raise the fort on the Ham unit didn’t you” Jared asked suddenly.

Ori shook his head, “ to be honest it slipped my mind, I’m so used to not being able to contact any one more two miles away, I didn’t think about it”

Jared shook his head slowly, “neither did I till just now,” He admitted.

“okay, every one do a last sweep and lets make sure we missed nothing” Ori said as he turned and headed back to the room where the Radio Gear was located.

Jared checked the boxes Chris and the others carried into the living room, then carried them into the garage and loaded them into the back of the SUV, when they left the house, it was going to have to be in the Vehicle, there were just to many undead on the other side of the fence out back, and there was no way they could stop and shut the gate to the fence when they left, which meant the undead would get into the garden and destroy it.

And that would put an end to his idea to turn the place into a Radio outpost for the Island, the garden meant some self sufficiency for who ever got posted out here. with it gone, there would be nothing to do here but strip it bare and leave the place to fall down.

He lugged the box over and stared to push it into the back of the SUV, when a a wave of dizziness swept over him, Jared staggered dropping the box to the floor and caught himself on door frame of the SUV, then a chill had settled over him setting him to shivering. Fever, he thought not a good sign, but there wasn’t much he could do about it either. he had looked over the first aid supplies and there had been no Antibiotics.

He managed to bend over and picked the box up, but didn’t trust himself to take the last step to the SUV.

“ here let me” Jill said, taking the plastic storage box from him and slid it into the Back of the SUV.

“I think I can handle a box or two” Jared said moodily. Which was a glaring admission to Jill just how bad he must be feeling.

“I know you can, normally, but your not feeling normal are you?” Jill replied, with just an edge of worry and anger to her voice. “don’t try to bullshit me Jared.”

he shook his head and regretted it instantly as the world revolved slowly around him for a second. He gripped the hatchback Frame to steady himself. “no, no I’m not. But Ill be okay”

“You had better be” Jill said, and then hugged him, ignoring the heat that radiated off his body. She refused to let her doubts and worry show. He would worry enough for her, she knew. And he would be even worse about it, if he knew just how badly she was taking this.

“Go check the Garden, grab some of the fresh veggies, for us to take. And some of those peaches and strawberries, God Id kill for those” she said with a smile that held just a trace of worry.

“no problem” he replied quietly, she watched him walk carefully from the room, one hand trailing the wall, in case he lost his balance. Only when he was out of sight did she let the tears come, silent and only for a moment, then she went back to gathering the supplies they intended to take with them.

Jared stepped out into the garden, trying to ignore the pain that throbbed up his leg. He took up a bucket and gathered a few peaches, and strawberries for Jill, then collected a dozen fresh tomato’s, two heads of lettuce and with another bucket added some beans and other things.

He could hear the plane now. Ronny must be approaching the field behind the house, he thought setting aside the buckets and walking to the fence at the back he stepped up onto a bench, for a moment he felt dizzy, and stood there swaying, then it passed.

Carefully he looked over the top of the fence, and saw the undead that lined the fence line from one end to the other, two deep. Across the field in an arc from west, north and east more were staggering out of the woods behind the property scattered in clumps across the field, heading for the house. Ronny was not going to be able to land with out some one clearing them out, Jared thought.

Jared sagged against the fence feeling suddenly weak, it passed after a moment but it promised dire moments to come. so did the sudden chill that swept over him. this wasn’t good, there was still way to much to do.

He turned and stumbled off the bench, and started towards the door, only to see Ori standing in the middle of the main path watching him.

“ Glad to see you got the SUV running,” Jared said trying desperately to make himself sound coherent. But the very deliberately paced speech just proved how badly he felt.

“ I got it fixed while you were passed out, wasn’t that big of a deal, wired up the generator to the Garage door opener too, and disabled the electric eyes that will cause the doors to stop closing if something breaks the beam. Would rather have a few zombies trapped in the garage than leave the damn thing open.” Ori stated.

“once we get out there, I ne…”

“you need to do nothing Jared, not one damn thing” Ori stated flatly.

“Ori listen to me, we are going to need every weapon we have to clear those things out so the plane can land, and even then its going to have to be fast.” Jared explained, to the two Ori’s that stood frowning at him.

”You can barely walk Jared, I’m betting you wont be able to hit much of anything, and even worse, Jill will be distracted trying to make sure you stay safe. So what would you do if you were in my shoes?” Ori asked hoping that question would get Jared to think.

Jared shook his head, ready to argue, but that movement was the wrong thing to do, he realized as Vertigo washed over him. He staggered to one side, only half aware that Ori had leaped forward and caught him before he hit the ground.

Jared tried to shake Ori off, but it was too much effort. “Jesus Jared, your burning up” Ori exclaimed.

“Get down here, and bring that first aid kit” Ori shouted, Jared wasn’t sure who he was talking to, but to be honest he was to busy trying to focus his eyes on the tomato that seemed to blur, then expand before shrinking again. finally it passed, he managed to sit up as Jill and Chris burst into the garden carrying the first aid kit.

“Unless your going to Kiss me, you can let go now” Jared said attempting to a joke.

“only if you like tongue” Ori replied as he had Chris open the kit. “ get some aspirin out, and see if theres any antibiotics in there”

“I’m sick and your still not funny” Jared said, as a very weak chuckle escaped him. Chris find the aspirin opened the pouch and passed two to Ori who slipped them into jared’s mouth and held a canteen to his lips. “swallow butt wipe.”

“no antibiotics in here” Chris said, worried now as well, he watched Jill who stood there trying not to cry.

“with pappy’s bed side manner you wont get far as a doctor” Jared said as soon as he had swallowed the pills.

Ori wrapped an arm around Jared, “come one its time to leave, Ill help you to the SUV, and don’t you dare argue asshole, Or I swear I will knock your happy ass out.”

Jared didn’t protest, he was to busy shaking from the sudden chills that wracked him.

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

The SUV shot from the Garage, barreling through thirty undead. Chris and Nial’s shooting from the windows, Ori hit the brakes then backed up over two that had some how escaped being run over or shot. by then the garage door was shut, much to Ori’s relief he been afraid the battery back up hadn’t had time to charge enough. And the door would have been left half open.

Jared leaned against his wife, pale and sweat soaked. Not a good sign Ori thought as he floored the pedal and the SUV roared off the drive way and into the overgrown yard. As he swerved around the north west corner of the house, the ELSORV came racing in from the street, a SAW roaring from the gunners position.

It might not kill the undead but it by god sent them tumbling to the ground, who ever was firing was raking the shots across the hips and legs and abs of the undead, tearing away limbs, shredding the torso and even removing sections of spine. In a situation like this, Crippled undead were just as good as destroyed undead.

The SUV throwing rooster tails of dirt sped around the house, bouncing over ruts and holes, as the UV sans floats came in for a landing. They were going to need those floats to get Blaine and to land at Sullivan. But at the moment Ori wasn’t going to worry about it, just getting the hell out of here, was good enough.

The undead that had been massed along the fence that enclosed the garden and the back of the house, turned at all the noise and began to head towards the vehicles and the plane. But the undead were to slow to reach the plane before the living would be able to board, , it was the knots of undead that had been staggering across the field towards the house that would be the problem. Many of those were close, and would pose a danger fairly quickly.

On of the big benefits of the Pilatus PC 6 as a UV was that model of plane only needed room about as long as a soccer field to take off. A mere 416 or so feet, the field was more than large enough, and as long as no groups of undead got in the way, they could get airborne quickly.

The ELSORV pulled ahead of the SUV, then raced past the Plane as it came to a stop, the Gunner hosing a knot of zombies sixty feet from the plane with the SAW leaving red ruin and shredded body parts, the Vehicle plowed over what was left of the group a second later.

Ori parked as close to the plane as he could, turning so the hatchback faced the Door to the plane. The ELSORV was racing around firing and playing bowling with zombies but small numbers were getting through anyway.

“Contact” Chris shouted leaping out of the passenger side door, grinning with delight as he fired the Siaga 12ga they had found in the weapons closet of the home. the alternating buck and slug shells ripped apart four zombies, but six made it through, Ori had already popped the hatch, and leaped out the drivers door, seeing five zombies coming in from drivers side, they were just far enough away he could ignore them for a second and assist Chris taking down the zombies on the passenger side.

He leveled his HK across the hood and fired into the six zombies, as Nial’s and Chris added their own fire. Then all three shifted their aim to the group that were on Ori’s side of the vehicle.

Jared slipped out of the SUV, dragging out his pack one handed, but oddly it felt heavy, to heavy. Heavy enough he had trouble lifting it. Damn it he thought, as he managed to get it to the now open door of the plane, where Ronny waited looking worried at the sight of a pale sweating Jared.

“Come on got stuff in the back” Jared said pointing to the SUV, where Jill was already pulling out a large blue storage tub loaded with supplies.

Ronny and Jill worked quickly emptying the back of the SUV, neither could miss the fact Jared moved to slowly, and his coordination was shot. Jared placed the third box he had managed to carry, trying to keep the dizziness at bay. He turned to go back, and saw that five undead had come around the tail of the plane, unseen till this moment, one was six feet from Chris.

Jared didn’t waste time with trying to bring his HK into play, chances are he wouldn’t be able to hold it steady. He drew his pistol, and fired three rounds, one struck the zombie in the shoulder, the sound of the bullet ripping past Chris’s head, cause him to snap around and see the threat, Jared’s other two rounds went wild.

He knew, he had been lucky not to shoot Chris accidentally. He stared at the pistol in his hand, then realized he was losing it. his head jerked up, to see, Nibbler rush past him, snarling, the dog threw her self on a zombie that was bearing down on Jared, effectively body blocking the zombie, sending it tumbling to the ground. The pit bull scrambled up and lunged at the downed zombie

The pit bull bit down on the things neck, twisting and tearing till the neck snapped. Then the dog ran back and stood beside Jared snarling deep in her chest looking around for more threats to her human. Jared tried to pet the dog but he was shivering to badly, the chills wracked his body.

“Jared” Jills voice came to him from far away, he turned, slowly like the air had become thick as honey. He saw the look of concern on her face, she was pointing to the plane, which was stupid she knew he hated to fly, the thought of escape took a second to bloom to life once more.

Around him weapons were hammering, driving back the groups of undead closest to the plane, and then suddenly the ELSORV was pulling up next to the Plane, and men were piling out mowing down the undead.

“gotta go, there’s a path but it aint going to last,” Jeb shouted, as he ran up and tossed his pack into the Plane.

For Jared the light suddenly shrunk down to a tunnel, he really began to shake with the chills, and then the dizziness washed over him worse this time, he stumbled, and fell to his knees, then threw up. he could hear Jill shouting. Vertigo hammered at him sweeping him around and around, he couldn’t control himself, he was falling backwards and then suddenly Ori was holding him.

“oh fuck” some one shouted.

“help me get him in the plane now” Jill was almost screaming.

Jared blinked and suddenly Ori was looking down at him “ got you buddy, your going to be fine.” Ori said his voice muffled, Jared blinked and he was being carried.

Everything came at him in strobes of lights, voices, faces, being strapped down, and Jill always Jill, and Nibbler, beside him.

There was lots of shouting, more gunfire, then quiet broken only by the roar of a engine and some one crying beside him. a warm weight settled over his legs, and then light and sounded faded again to blackness.

He sat up suddenly, finding himself sitting alone in deep green grass under a sapphire blue sky, an apple crib just ahead of him. he turned his head, and saw smoke curling lazily out of the chimneys of several log cabins. He climbed to his feet, and looked around. He was at the farm, he realized. he started walking past the buildings peering into windows, but saw no one, finally he reached the picket fence the separated the cabins from the crops, and could see down by the river, Past the waving Mustard greens and rows of beets, some one sitting on the bank, he started walking across the fields. He was almost to the bank of the river, when he stopped in surprise, his eyes widening as the figure down on the bank stood up. the moving water glittered behind the small boy, as a chubby arm waved wildly, a smile split the chubby little face of Billy Thornton, sunlight flashed from the Dog Tags around the seven year olds neck. shouting “Mister Jared” the Kid ran happily towards him, his little legs pumping.

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

Eric sat on a comfortable fake leather couch on the open rear deck of the Yacht, watching the very attractive girl in the bikini top, work. I really should feel guilty about sitting here in comfort considering what others are doing right now to stay alive, he thought as he wrenched his eyes away from the sight of Lauren bending over to pick something up.
To be honest Lauren made him wonder if Kat was okay. He wasn’t sure that she was the one, he was almost certain he loved her, But that minor doubt wouldn’t go away. After all they had been through together he was more than willing to wait and find out, which maybe should . she was no Jill, and in that regard he was truly jealous of his brother. Jared had truly lucked out in finding a woman like Jill, who loved him and was tough as nails.

He knew Casey was watching him closely the man had finally decided to trust them, and allow them on board. But his trust only went so far, and where the woman Lauren was Concerned there was no trust extended to Eric and his men. he got the impression they were not lovers, but they had spoke very little about where they had come from or what they had gone through, it was only little comments between them that he suspected they hadn’t been together for long.

“Something funny” Casey asked, trying very hard not to be intimidated by the large hard looking man and his buddies.

“Not funny ha ha, just amusing I guess. I was thinking about you and Lauren to be honest, and my brother and his wife.” Eric said being totally frank with the man. He leaned forward; glad none of his men were close by.

“Ill be straight with you Casey, don’t waste any time, if you like her, go for it. all of us could be dead in by sundown, or at any time. I wasted far to much time, and worst of all, I’ve wasted more since the world ended, even though I have a woman who seems to love me.” Eric said in a low voice.

“What makes you think we aren’t a couple” Casey asked, trying to make light of the comment as if it were ridiculous to even suggest it.

“The looks you give each other when you think the other isn’t looking, the little comments between you where you don’t quite know things about each other that a couple would. and the fact she has referred to her Cabin, not ours. “ Eric said, wishing he had a cold beer.

Casey sighed and rubbed his jaw, then smiled slightly, it wasn’t a friendly smile, but it wasn’t angry either, Eric would take what he could get at this point. He was to tired, and to bothered by what had happened on the Marines Island to be much in the mood for being nice and polite.

Collins, was a tortured wreck as were many of her people at what they had done. Like Jared he had suspected they had been manipulated with, and before he left, he had contacted Collins and found out that one of the Colonels hand picked men, had rolled over and admitted that the Colonel had been taking orders from a Mysterious General over the Sat com, for a while now.

The General was the one who had given Orders that Mary and Hannah were to be caught, tortured for info and then executed for treason. The orders that had set off the civil war or mutiny if you wanted to call it that. General Bedford, had an axe to grind with Sullivan Island, and now Eric and his men, which did not bode well for Eric, his men and the People his brother had busted his ass to save.

“Zodiac Dead ahead” Lauren called out, from the bow.

Eric didn’t bother to watch Casey, it might make the man suspect he was about to be hijacked or what ever it was called on the water. he rose and walked to the rail, and waved to Jackson and his men.

The Zodiac that contained them still had a functioning motor, but the Sail boat would be a hell of lot easier and faster to meet up with the Boat.

“I Promise you Casey, we are not going to harm you or Lauren, or take your yacht. Hell we couldn’t sail this thing if we wanted to, and I doubt we could force either of you to crew the damn thing and do a good job for us if we did.

To be honest we are ground pounders, and the sooner we have nice solid ground under our a feet, the happier we will be” Eric said as Casey deftly brought them sliding up along side the zodiac.

“And for you help, Ill leave you a weapon and some ammo, and let you have the zodiac with the working motor. And.. well, if you want to be around a lot more people several hundred at last count, Head south to Sullivan’s Island, they even have some power to use, or So I’m told by some of the people I’ve met from there.”

“How do you know they are telling you the truth?” Casey asked, he wouldn’t be so trusting to believe a story like that. why this soldier did was beyond him.

“Because, several of the people who told me helped get the power on there, and brought a lot of people to the island. One of them is my Brother and the others are friends of his I Grew up around. if they tell me something, it’s the truth.” Eric replied watching as Jackson and his men scrambled aboard with their gear, more than half of them slumped to the deck, ready for a long day or two of doing nothing.

“Day aint over yet Ladies, get your asses up and see where the captain of this… Boat, wants your asses.” Jackson called out, as he strode across the deck, to Eric noting the incredible luxury just on the rear deck alone.

“Well Well SFC Stone, Leave your ass in a zodiac, and you show up in a Yacht. You are either the luckiest SOB I have ever met, or you had this set up from the beginning. Probably been lounging on this thing for days on end, while we slog through the mud and the muck” Jackson said with a smile.

“a Grunt bitching and moaning, say it isn’t so” Eric replied as the two men shook hands.

“Sorry job, that was” Jackson said referring to the Marines.

“Truth there, but at least we didn’t have to kill any one” Eric replied more relieved than he wanted to put into words. Then he motioned to Casey who looked Nervous at all the armed men on his Deck.

“Meet Casey the Captain of this ship of wonders, who is worried we are going to whip out peg legs, parrots and hook hands and seize his boat to become Pirates.” Eric said with a smile. “Casey meet Kevin Jackson, US Army retired, like all Grunts, he thinks he is put upon, and loves to bitch about how badly he is treated as one of Uncle Sugars Step Children”

“the bastards better pay me back pay, when things get back to normal” Jackson said with a tight smile as he held out a hand to Casey who took it and shook once before letting the hard callused hand go. “Im a contractor, I expect to get paid.”

“hell yeah, I might finally be able to get a new Flat screen. And you know they will have to add bonus pay and combat pay into it, I might actually have enough to buy dinner after I buy the TV.” Eric said.

“if you take off your boots and drop tro, you might be able to count up high enough to figure it out” Jackson said with a real laugh. “where do you want my men” He asked turning to Casey who shrugged.

“we should only be aboard another hour, maybe two, depends on how long it takes to reach the boat and transfer.” Eric explained.

Jackson nodded then turned to his squad, “ all right men take a breather. We wont be aboard long. So no sniffing around the bar,” He said then glancing at Casey he added “or sniffing around the Lady. Or I will by god put a boot up your ass” He had no real concern in that regard and his fellow retiree’s knew it, it was for the Captians peace of mind.

Casey heard every word of the warning, and appreciated it. He was trying hard not to be to suspicious of these men. that kind of comment made it a little easier.

Half an hour later they were far away from the Island of the Marines, and passing Wilmington. There was a grey lifeless air about the ruins of the city, even this far out they could see many of the taller buildings had shattered windows, some had scorched sides where fires had burned themselves out.

Eric just happened to look at Lauren and saw the sick look of shock on her face as she saw the city, but all their attention kept being drawn to the south where black smoke still boiled up from the Terminal.

“that’s one hell of a big fire” Casey commented.

“it was one hell of a lot of explosions” Stone replied.

“You were there” Casey asked amazed.

“Yes, me and a few others, and a few thousand undead who breached the fence line to come visit. “ Eric commented.

“Hollywood” Bailey called out, using Eric’s Team name, as he appeared in the doorway, or hatch or what ever it was called. “Ronny is on the Radio, saying its an Emergency and wants to talk to you”

Eric frowned and rose from his seat, heading for the Radio inside. he barely noticed Casey handing the wheel over to Lauren and following along behind.

The interior Bridge, was spacious and filled with modern equipment along side old fashioned compasses and even a morse system. Bailey handed him the Microphone, and stepped back.

“this is SFc Stone, go Ahead Ronny.” Eric said.

Ronny started talking fast, Eric could hear Jill in the background, sounding as upset as any one he had ever heard. Eric couldn’t help but feel his stomach drop at the News Jared was down. his eyes scanned the console till he spotted the GPS, and the co-ordinates on the small screen.

“Ronny, we are north by north east at …” he rattled off the info, then paused till Ronny acknowledged the transmission. “we have Wilmington in sight
if that helps you any” Eric added helpfully.

Casey stood there, shocked really, first Lauren, then Eric and his men, then another zodiac loaded with men, whom he was taking to a boat loaded with more men, and now another group. the world was rapidly becoming crowded.

“how many boats and people do you have?” Casey asked, as Eric headed back to the deck.

“boats one, People lots of them, at least at the FOB,” Eric replied absently as he stepped out onto the deck and began to scan the southern horizon.

Casey fell silent, not wanting to bother the large muscular soldier, whose brother might be dying. But a thousand questions suddenly burned in his mind.

He had just worked up the nerve to bother Eric again, when a noise in the distance drew his attention, after a few seconds his mind finally recognized the almost forgotten sound of an airplane. His jaw sagged, as he followed Eric’s gaze and finally saw an olive green air plane, descending quickly as it neared the Yacht.

As the plane touched down, Casey took over the wheel from Lauren who set to work furling the sails, finally they came to a stop, as the plane taxied up, and stopped sixty feet off the port side.

Eric turned to Casey, while two of his men climbed aboard the Zodiac. “ thanks, My men and I owe you. if you ever need anything show up at Sullivan and pass the word.” Eric said as he picked up his pack and weapon. “You can trust Jackson to do right by you. I Promise” Eric said.

Casey nodded, not sure what to say or do. He really didn’t know these people, but Eric at least sounded sincere, and from the look of it, most of his men were staying. “ Good luck” Casey finally said, hoping that wouldn’t be taken as an insult.

“Thanks, don’t forget what I said about Lauren.” Eric said as he walked over and passed his gear down to the waiting men in the zodiac, then climbed over the rail. a moment later the zodiac sped away from the Yacht. In moments it was beside the Plane Transferring Eric and Blaine, and their gear to the plane before the last man on the zodiac pushed away from the Plane then turned and sped back to the yacht, as the plane began to move again.

“who are they Casey” Lauren asked at his side, he had been so busy gawking at the aircraft he hadn’t even noticed her walking up. “I mean they have a plane, fuel, boats,”

“the government I guess” he replied, it was the only thing that made sense, the men on his Yacht were real soldiers, that had been a military plane. He shrugged only to hear Kevin Jackson.

“those guys are the ones trying to hold on to what we had, and to rebuild some if not all of it” Jackson said, watching the plane as lifted off and flew south.

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

Llewellyn, Lew to his friends, leaned on his shovel, tired beyond words, sweat ran down his bare muscular torso. A few of the new comers working on the clean up detail, stared openly at him, or really at the tattoo’s that covered both arms, his shoulders, his left side, and left pec, if he were wearing shorts, they would have seen the Tattoo’s that covered both his legs, all intricate Celtic knot work.

He doubted any of them would believe, the muscular, savage, had been a plain overweight office working when the world went to hell and back.

“Nice Tat’s” Jack Strider commented as he pushed a wheel barrow over and began to load up all the hardware that had been stripped out of the home they had torn down. Doorknobs, locks, hinges, nails, light fixtures, switches, everything that could be reused. .

Another group was busy with one of the spoolers, as people had started calling them, basically a metal frame, four foot height, that had a long bar with a handle that ran the width of the device, an empty wire spool of what ever sized was placed on the bar, one end of the salvaged wire was run through an eyelet then hooked to the spool, and who ever manned the spooler would turn the handle and wrap the wire onto the spool.

Forty more people were busy collecting all the studs, and other boards, removing nails and carefully placing the salvaged lumber on pallets, once enough lumber was loaded, it was strapped down and a fork lift would pick up the pallets and load them onto a flat bed trailer for transport to the storage yard they had set up.

All bricks and cinder block were transported to the wall, that was being built just off the beach. Back hoes had already been used to dig trenches, and the dirt had been used to form earthworks. It was hard back breaking work, but Lew loved it.

“ thanks, Katy, my girlfriend did all of them” he replied, Strider sat down the wheel barrow and turned to Lew, “wasn’t she some kind of pop star or something, I remember seeing her on the news or the net or something, back before…” he gestured towards the mainland.

“Yeah, back then she was.” Lew replied.

“Guess she’s got more than one talent” Strider said with a wink. For some reason that bothered Lew, but he said nothing, instead he pulled his shovel out of the dirt, and headed towards the work truck and the cooler sitting on the tail gate. Water sounded damn good right about now, he decided.

he walked across the churned dirt, sighing as he saw two old men in hover arounds, he shouldn’t be surprised, every one on the island had already heard the rumors the geezer militia followed Strider every where convinced he was a communist spy or some shit like that. all Lew knew was that Pappy could be annoying as hell, he had actually named Katy’s boobs and frequently talked to them, not to Katy but actually to her boobs.

Jeff Sloan the old coots son, had gotten Lew off to one side not long ago, and explained Pappy, did it just to jack with Lew and Katy waiting to see how long it would take before one of them “ grew a spine” and told the old fart off

Lew had taken the advice and reamed pappy a good one, only to see the old man grin at him, then proceed to lay in so many obscene insults into his apology that Lew was left confused at the end if the old man had actually apologized or basically informed Lew, he was the child of a syphilis infected Korean hooker, from New York city, cursed with a small penis and was only slightly better in bed than a drunken Albanian monkey. The upside, was Pappy had left Katy and her breasts alone after that.

“Afternoon monkey boy,” Pappy said as Lew poured himself a glass of water. “if you need tips on good sex, I can write some instructions for you to follow and get Paul to loan you some of his Viagra. You know Erection pills.” Pappy said with a laugh.

“Old man the last time you had sex, Christopher Columbus had just landed, and they had invented a new position called the missionary.” Lew said, after taking a drink of water.

“Those were the days, I think that was when I got my second case of the clap” Pappy commented.

“How many t…… no never mind. I do now want to know.” Lew said regretting his mouth opening.

“Well the first time, was with what you youngsters call a MILF, had titties like your woman too. I was sixteen, and by god she knew things women today have no clue about.” Pappy said with a leer.

“That was when back before the Ice age, or after.” Lew asked. “which explains why women today don’t know the stuff it vanished with the civilization you grew up in.”

“Your a witty prick aren’t you “ Pappy observed with a laugh.

“Only when I have to be” Lew commented with a grin.

“At least you know how to use a shovel, I tell any one that will listen, that after years of playing with that tiny pecker, you can handle a shovel like a pro.” Pappy said dryly.

“At least I don’t have to use a marker to draw a road map through the wrinkles to find mine” Lew said, thinking that one really sucked. In a way he enjoyed his little spats with pappy.

“What did that dim witted shit Strider say to you” Pappy said dropping the banter.

“Just that he liked my tats” Lew replied. “why do you distrust him so much” Lew asked.

“Because he is a slime ass, I can sense that kind of thing.” Pappy said.

“Sure, you and Madame Cleo, should we start calling you Lord High Poopah, Grand Psychic of the Apocalypse, Keeper of mysteries and wearer of the Holy depends” Lew said, breaking into a smile as Pappy glared at him.

“I aint got no need of Depends, I aint pissed myself since them japs had me pinned down for two full days. why ….”

“You were pissing your pants, when my daddy wasn’t even a wet stain on my grand fathers skivvies, or something like that, wa wa wa..” Lew said really grinning as Pappy sputtered to a stop. “I actually kind of like you Pappy” Lew said laughing.

“Just what I need a wet behind the ears, small peckered, Clap infected… “

“Child of an incestuous Hooker of some Asian Nation that you spent more than twenty four hours in” Lew supplied helpfully.

Pappy stopped again glaring, then he cackled a laugh. “You aint such a pussy after all.” Pappy said after the coughing fit brought on by his laughter passed.

“but trust me on this youins need to keep an eye on that shit Strider, he is up to no good” Pappy said, turning his full powered glare on the object of his irritation. “no good at all.”

Before Lew could say anything, the entire Old Coots motorized militia arrived in force and formed up along side pappy, like a line of geriatric vultures waiting for a car to create road kill. It was kind of creepy to see them all perched on the edges of their seats leaning forward, faded old eyes fixed on one man.

“well Guess I will leave the Depends Brigade to their Vigil” Lew said, setting the used cup in a box, so that it could be washed and reused later. He had to stifle a laugh as one of the older men, Paul Gant lifted a shaking hand and slowly gave him the bird.

“F…F…. F.. Fuck you” Paul managed to say, having trouble speaking today.

Lew returned to his digging, noticing that Jack Strider, was giving him covert glances off and on. The man had to be curious what his arch foe had been talking to Lew about. Arch foe, Lew thought chuckling, Pappy the Lex Luther of the Nursing home.

**************************
The flight from the field to Sullivan had taken only two and half hours, with half an hour spent landing in a fenced off parking lot, where Ronny had dismounted the floats, they had worked quickly reattaching them so they could land on the water and pick up Blaine And Eric.

Now an hour later they were finally approaching Sullivan, and every one but Jill and Blaine gazed out the windows of the plane to see the Island that was now home, or in Nials case to get his first view of what might end up being his home.

Ori gawked out the window, as he finally got a good look at Sullivan, in just a few months it had changed considerably, from the air it looked like there wasn’t a single zombie left on the island. He damn sure hoped that was true.

Three deuces were heading out past the barricades, and five dump trucks were returning from a roaring fire on the Beach near an old Hotel close to the Breech inlet. “Look at that” Chris said pointing to the Barricade on the bridge that connected the Isle of pines to the Mainland.

It wasn’t a sight Ori wanted to see, the entire bridge was filled with undead, that spilled off the bridge onto the mainland and spread out for a mile to either side.

The plane flew over the Breech where the Thompson Memorial bridge connected Sullivan Island to the Isle of Pines. He could see the Manned fortified buildings to either side of the barricade road. for a moment he remembered the pitched battle to break through that same barricade, when they had taken the island from the nut job colonel.

As the plane flew across the island, Ori could see the clearing teams, and the burn pits. Then the he got a good look at the Ben sawyer blvd bridge that connected Sullivan directly to the mainland. The pivot bridge, which turned 90 degrees to one side, instead of lifting like a drawbridge was still turned out of place keeping the undead from sweeping onto the island.

But the mainland side of the blvd, was filled, a huge crowd filled the span all the way from the gap to the mainland. If that pivot bridge was ever turned back, a few thousand undead would sweep onto the island with only the double barricades across the width of the island at stations 19 and eighteen to stop them from reaching the people that sheltered in and around Fort Moultrie.

He glanced at Jared who had was white as a sheet, dripping with sweat, Blaine had hooked him up to an IV. Nibbler lay sprawled across his legs, and not even Jill could get the dog to move. God, I know I aint been the greatest person on the planet, but I’ve tried. So if you could do me one favor and don’t let Jared die, Id appreciate it , he prayed silently. His eyes lifting to Jill, who hadn’t said much since Blaine had checked over Jared. her eyes were red and slightly swollen, tension spilled off her and anger that had no target.

It had been a brief conversation, Blaine had asked Jill and Ori a lot of questions, mostly typical question a doctor would ask. As he talked with them, he took Jared’s temperature, and blood pressure, checked his pupil responses, then he had cut off the pant leg removed the filthy tattered bandage and studied the wound closely pinching and poking. Puss had oozed from the leg wound, and the smell had been horrendous.

“Didn’t he clean the wound” Blaine asked surprised. As Jill wrapped a hand around Nibblers collar afraid the dog might attack Blaine, but the dog seemed to understand that Blaine was trying to help. Nibbler whimpered occasionally, whined a few times but lay there watching intently.

“he did repeatedly, but we were in a lot of tough situations with out a lot of time to deal with issues. The wound kept getting torn open” Ori explained.

Blaine had set to cleaning and debriding the wound, seemingly oblivious to the smell that was turning every one else’s stomach. With that done he dressed the wound with clean bandages, and then hooked up the IV with the ease of a man used to working fast and in difficult situations.

“I’m giving him Cefotetan a wide spectrum Antibiotic to help with the infection, and large amounts of crystalloid fluid for septic late stage Hypodynamic shock.” Blaine explained. “beyond that, not much I can do.” He had explained.

Eric had sat quietly, and Ori didn’t have to wonder what Eric might be thinking, if Jared died, his entire was family was gone. It had been rough on Eric and Jared when their folks had died, But Jared had stepped up to the plate and did what he had to for his younger brother,with out regret or anger, and never had asked a single thing in return other than Eric follow his dreams. And like Jared, Eric wondered if he had failed his brother.

Ori felt the plane bank bringing him back to the present, and then his ears popped as Ronny rapidly descended. “hang on folks I’m landing now” Ronny called out.

Nial’s had sat staring out the window at what he could see of the island, in total disbelief at the people and vehicles moving about, the two fishing boats he could see moving out to sea, and another boat heading out towards fort Sumter.

Ronny landed the plane smoothly, and taxied up to the Dock, where it looked like half the fort had gathered.

Jeb slid the door open and leaped out tying the plane off, then the Rangers bailed out quickly, moving aside to get out of the way.

Ori stepped to the door, “we need a stretcher, to pass him out” he called out to Linda who looked worried sick. Justin, the former Paramedic, was prepared; he passed an old fashioned stretcher to Ori.

Between Ori and Blaine they got Jared onto the stretcher and strapped down, then carried him out onto the dock, where Carol and Justin took over. Jill stepped out, the ocean breeze sending her hair floating around her face. Followed by Mary who wrapped an arm around Jills shoulders in silent support.

As they followed Linda and Justin, Sharon, Bridget, Jeff sloan, and even Pappy on a Hover around joined them as they passed through the silent ranks of the Survivors. Linda had Jared Taken to the Medical shelter, instead of the infirmary in the Fort. Blaine and Justin got Jared on the bed, and hooked up to the equipment, and oxygen. Then Blaine told Linda quickly and concisely what he thought was the problem and what he had done.

She nodded as she rounded on the crowd of people in the medical shelter. “unless your dying, or family, get the hell out. and take that dog with you” she ordered.

Ori reached for Nibbler, who growled low in her throat and bolted over to stand by the Bed that contained Jared and laid down on the floor beside it. Jill stepped forward talking to the dog quietly, Nibbler was fine till Jill tried to take hold of her collar. Then the dog started growling till Jills hand withdrew.

“okay the damn dog can stay, I don’t want any one ripped up by a pit bull.” Linda stated. Then shooed every one out but Jill and Blaine.

Ori stepped out into the sunshine, blinking rapidly the bright sunlight, causing his eyes to tear up. at least that was his story and he was going to stick to it. he leaned against the side of the shelter, ignoring the crowd of people asking questions.

He was so worried and deep in thought that it wasn’t till slender arms wrapped around him that he realized Beth had arrived. He hugged her tightly lifting her feet off the ground, then kissed her till they both had to come up for air, ignoring the amused, but muted laughter.

“Jared promised me, we would make it back so I could be here for you and the baby” Ori whispered in her ear. “and I’m not leaving again for a while.” Ori promised.

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

Nial’s was in shock, had been since he had stepped off the plane and saw all the people. Yes they had told him about the island and the survivors, but the reality of seeing so many people, people out in the open, with out fear, wary yes, on alert definitely but no fear. And the fact they had gathered because of the man on the stretcher and his friends was humbling and spoke volumes about what those people had accomplished. At least there were no statues erected to them, or a new religion springing up. he smiled at that thought, Jared would climb off that stretcher and kick some ass Nials suspected if they had formed the religion of Jared.

But it was the sight of children running across the grass, playing under the walls of the old fortress, that brought tears to his eyes. the only kids he had seen since last june had all been undead. at that moment he vowed to help protect this place, for the kids if for no one else. Not one group he had met, till now, had children, he didn’t know why, and didn’t want to think about it.

He saw two men start towards him, but Mary and Ronny stopped long enough to say something to them and they backed off and spoke into radios. He waited outside as they others entered the Medical shelters yet another surprise for Nial’s, at least from the glimpse he got of the interior as the door opened. The banks of operating computer screens, monitors and all other the flashing and beeping devices that Doctors had seemed to love filled the place.

He looked around totally mesmerized, soaking in the faces of all those around him. it seemed like thousands but it was only a hundred or so, maybe a bit more. He froze suddenly, the smile sliding from his face. he blinked but the face he had thought he had seen in the crowd was gone. It couldn’t be he thought, Jack Griffen had been living in New mexico when this shit started. And there was no way a real Asshole like Griffen would want to hang around a place like this. To many decent people, armed decent people who were more than willing to protect themselves against the former Mob muscle, who was used to being feared by unarmed, and scared citizens.

He scanned the crowd intently but didn’t see the man again, maybe it had been his imagination. He wouldn’t be surprised that his mind was seeing faces he knew, in a crowd of people he had never really thought to see in the first place.

By then every one but Jill, Eric and the SF medic were coming out of the Shelter, and he dismissed the face and stepped up to join the group of friends to lend some moral support for a man he had come to respect if not actually like.

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

son of a bitch Strider thought, as he walked down the street, a smile plastered on his face, no one could see the seething anger below the surface. His plans were going to hell and back.

First all those damned soldiers had arrived yesterday on that barge, with plenty of weapons, ammo and even a few military vehicles with big weapons on them, then that damn plane had landed, and Strider had finally saw the Second coming as every one not on some kind of detail gathered to see the man and his friends whom they all seemed to think could walk on fucking water, heal the blind and raise the dead. He snickered silently at that one. but the biggest Surprise, was seeing Nial’s. the little bastard had turned do gooder, years back.

But it bothered him in a way, that one man who could Identify him as some one other than Strider, just happened to fly in with the second coming, was disquieting. He was already going to have to have to either rethink his plans, or enact them immediately. But rushing it, wouldn’t have the results he really wanted. Death and mayhem.

But his primary mission was completed, he had gathered a lot of intelligence for his boss, and no matter what else happened he had to escape to get that information back.

He was still suspicious of the man who had contacted his boss, with information about this enclave so far from his leaders control, stressing the dangers the island and its leaders posed for his bosses plans out west. But he had been sent here anyway, as it had been pointed out, even if the threat is bullshit, this was a well organized group with access to equipment that his people needed, and this island would make one hell of a colony for his leader.

But no one at the time of his departure knew about the large numbers of well armed soldiers, real soldiers, and real military helicopters. He had seen them flying overhead several times. Doctors, paramedics, and all sorts of knowledge that would benefit the Man and State he served.

I will stick it out, tonight I start phase one, then tomorrow night Phase two, then I can leave and the rest will play out with out me being around, Strider thought. killing the two women would be bonus for him. he smiled at that thought. and I think I might just put a bullet into their glorious leader while he is passed out and on drugs in their clinic. That should really put a crimp into this place, he thought feeling an intense satisfaction at the thought.

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

Pappy had been watching Strider, in the crowd, when he saw the man react to something he had seen at the medical shelter entrance, he looked towards the shelter, wondering what it might have been, when he saw, the man who had arrived on the plane with the Jared and the others. The New comer looked surprised his eyes darting over the crowd as if seeking some one or something. Finally the man shrugged silently, and seemed to relax.

Pappy knew in his bones, the man had been looking for Strider who had vanished into the crowd, and if Pappy was correct, and he was rarely wrong, the newcomer might just have enough information to pass to Ashton to prove that Strider was some one that should be shot or run off the island.

With out a word to Paul Gant who sat beside him, Pappy put the hoveraround in motion rolling out of the crowd and across the grass to his son who stood with Ori and the others. Pappy, despite what others might think, had always liked Jared Stone. Stone had been a good friend to Jeff, even keeping his son out of jail after one drunken weekend down at the lake. Pappy hoped the Man pulled through, and to give credit where due, Stone had saved Jeff and his family, if they had been on their own, they probably would have died last year.

“How’s the boy?” Pappy asked, nodding his head towards the medical shelter.

“Bad sick, pappy, but Linda hasn’t said what his chances of pulling through are” Jeff replied.

“did they say what it is, that brought him down.” Pappy asked, his eyes constantly drifting to the stranger beside Ori.

“a wound got infected” Jeff replied, seeing Pappy wince.

“saw shit like that during the war with the Nips” Pappy replied, not caring that the word bothered his son.

“they are Japanese dad, not Nips, or slant eyes or what ever it is your calling them this week.” Jeff said reproachfully, also noting what was drawing most of his fathers attention.

“You were always more like your mama” Pappy commented. “sensitive and all that.”

Jeff didn’t rise to the bait, he just sighed heavily. The two men stood there in silence for a while. Suddenly Pappy reached out and touched Jeffs hand. “ I know I aint been the best pa in the world son, or treated your friends as well as maybe I should have. But that’s just my nature, I… well I love you, just as much as I ever loved your Momma, when she died, well I aint going to make excuses, I could have done better.

And that Stone fellow, he has been a damn good friend to you, and to us. I hope he pulls through.”

“thanks Pappy, and you can tell Jared that when he wakes up” Jeff said, touched. It was rare the old man got all emotional, except about his grandkids who had him twisted around their fingers like taffy.

“naw, if he wakes up and sees me, it will be back to depends jokes and pissing contests.” Pappy said with a smirk that he used for a smile.

Spotting Lewlleyn Moore in the crowd, he grinned. “that’s a good man over there too” he said pointing at Lew, again taking Jeff by surprise.

“are you okay, being all emotional and complimenting two people in one day, exceeds your once every two decade limit.” Jeff asked puzzled by his fathers behavior.

“ I’m fine, don’t get your panties bunched up.” pappy said with a laugh, still watching Nial’s. “so who is the new panty waist?” Pappy asked, the question was almost certainly the whole point to the conversation Jeff thought.

“Nial’s, from Texas, that’s about all I know, other than he helped Jill save one of our people” Jeff said. “why do you suspect him to be part of some mysterious conspiracy to hide the existence of aliens or Dr. who?” Pappy only glared at his son.

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

the sun was setting in glorious reds, golds and orange, a gentle breeze blowing in from the ocean. The group of friends had taken turns to go shower and change into clean if faded clothes. Showering and clean clothes were something like a minor miracle to Nial’s, who had only barely hesitated to shower in public, before tossing embarrassment to the wind and plunging under the sun warmed water and sighing with a pleasure that put the experience on par with a gift from god.

The clean clothes he had been given were treated about the same way, but it had been when the sun had finally sunk below the rim of the world that his eyes had widened with wonder, and then glittered with tears at the sight of the soft lights that glowed from the RVs and the entrance to the fort, and the solar powered garden lights that lined the paths that connected the RVs, The fort and the mobile Military shelters.

Ronny heading to the showers, had taken the time to escort Nial’s to the outdoor cafeteria that had been set up in the courtyard of the fort. Nial’s looked around at the all the strangers then forgot about them as he saw the trays loaded with boiled and fried shrimp, salad, mashed Potato’s and an assortment of other foods. It wasn’t as extensive as say a pre zombie buffet, and the portions were not large by pre zombie standards, but it was heaven.

He polished off the last of the Shrimp, eyed the fishbones, wishing there was still meat on them. then leaned back and sighed with real pleasure as he rubbed his stomach. He watched as an old man on a hoveraround fitted with solar panels approached his table. Nial’s remembered seeing him at the Medical center. Half his body appeared paralyzed, But beyond he knew nothing about the guy

“can I help you” Nial’s asked trying his best to be polite, which was something he had never had a lot of practice at.

“you offering to hold my pecker while I pee” the old man asked with a cackle.
Nial’s stared at him, that was not what he was expecting. Obviously it was no surprise to the people around him.

“Not really,” Nial’s replied, hoping the crazy old gay guy would leave.

“well aint that some shit, anyway I came over to welcome you to the Island. I’m Pappy, leader of the seniors mobile patrol.” The old man said.

“your part of a patrol” Nial’s asked surprised, “ but…” his voice trailed off.

“but I’m what, Crippled, a bed wetter maybe, a closet homo liberal commie, small dicked democratic Hippy.” The old man asked, but the smile, better described as a leer, never left his face.

“Ill go with crippled it seems the less insulting thing to say” Nial’s said, as some one at a table behind him snorted a laugh.

“good, Id have to shoot your balls off, if you called my a liberal commie democrat” Pappy replied. “so what is your name, where are you from, and can we take your fingerprints”

Nial’s shook his head in disbelief, then laughed. “my name is Nial’s, I’m from Texas, and no you cant take my fingerprints”

“Texas, back in the war, one of the guys in my company was from Texas, pissed his pants every time a weapon fired. had to stand in formation one day for some parade or dip shit thing like that, and a car backfires and all Pulis pissed his khakis so bad he was standing in a puddle. You aint related to Pulis are you?” Pappy said.

“not really, no bedwetters in my family” Nial’s replied feeling like he was trapped in the twilight zone, this was by far the weirdest conversation he had been in since the world had died.

“that’s a good thing, Bed wetters end up commie loving hippies. I have no beef with the free love thing, it’s a hell of lot cheaper than hookers, but the rest of that shit they spout aint for me. Dumber than a bag of bricks.” Pappy said, his eyes fixed intently on Nial’s.

“now I have another question?” Pappy said lowering his voice, so only Nial’s could hear him. oh great he is about to hit on me, I’m going to be so sick, Nial’s thought

“how do you know Jack strider?” Pappy asked bluntly.

“who?” Nial’s asked, puzzled.

“Jack strider, the guy you saw earlier at the Medical shelter, that surprised the hell out of your ass” Pappy said.

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

Lee Givens was smiling widely as he trudged back up to the top of the lighthouse, his smile dipped and faded as he saw his partner had fallen asleep. Nudging the other man awake, Lee picked up the night vision binoculars and looked out over the water.

“wake the hell up Danny,” Lee groused, his good mood from having sex with the New girl Kelly gone.

“what, you finished already” Danny mumbled as he stretched hugely, his dishwater blond hair sticking out all over like the quills of a pissed off porcupine.

“its been over an hour you dim wit, tell me you havent been sleeping the entire time” Lee said, wishing he hadn’t let Kelly talk him into having sex downstairs. Tonight of all nights. He should have known Danny was a lazy shit.

“no I..uh just dozed off” Danny said, Lee didn’t believe a word of it.

he stopped searching the water, the sudden intensity rolling off him actually got through to Danny. “ what is is Lee, what do you see.”

“Theres a ferry out there, being pushed by a tug and its headed straight for the island.” Lee replied, his voice laced with fear. “ call the Harbor control tower and let them know whats going on.” It was probably to late to stop the boats, they were far to close, and it was his fault. If he had stayed up here doing his job, he would have spotted the two boats with time to spare to intercept. But no, he had to get his candle wet.

Danny sat there looking confused, “ why would a tug be pushing a ferry, maybe its some of our guys from the Terminal.. maybe… “ Danny oof’d loudly as Lee pushed him aside and grabbed the radio.

“you stupid shit, they would have called and we would have been told they were coming, you fell asleep instead of watching and I being a dumb ass was busy getting laid. This is our fault” Lee snapped as he lifted the microphone . “ this is lighthouse watch to Harbor control, we screwed up, theres a ferry being pushed by a tug closing on the island, Get a boat scrambled and get that spot light of yours fired up. “

“you had to tell them we fucked up didn’t you” Danny said rising to his full six feet. Angry now. Lee stood his ground, not even staring at the balled up fists the size of Hams.

“yes, I did, because we did. You want to beat me up, give it a try. If not shut the hell up, because if those boats are trouble we are going to have a fight on our hands asshole.” Lee said flatly hoping Danny would make the mistake of taking a swing at him. he would shoot his damn knees out.

Ashton the Commander of the Islands Militia, or Army as the little trumped dictator liked to call it, was already out for Dannys blood, and now this self righteous prick was handing Ashton a good reason to send him to one of the outposts on the Isle of Palms or maybe even toss him out of the community for good, Danny was livid at the thought. He knew no one liked working with him. he even suspected must of them knew he had been a wife abusing alcoholic before the undead came. But he had survived even if his idiot wife had died, not that he could have stopped it. at least that’s what he told himself.

He had only volunteered for the watch duty, to keep from having to go on building clearing details or the salvage teams. It was either Fish, and he hated fishing, Dispose of the bodies of the recently put down zombies, or taking a watch. Not a hard choice really.

Till this moment he had thought guard duty watching for boats approaching the island was stupid. Who was going to attack them, zombies, they couldn’t use boats or swim. Maybe the Chinese were looking to expand he thought acidly his brown eyes fixed on Lee, who still stood there calmly. The little shit didn’t know who he was messing with, Danny decided as he started to step forward, visions of the bloody ass kicking he was about to hand out playing through his mind like blockbuster movie.

He stopped dead in his tracks as he found himself facing a pistol, and the cold hard look in Lee’s eyes actually sent a shiver of fear through him. no one pointed a gun at Danny. No one.

“another step Danny boy and I blow out your knees.” Lee said calmly. “I ignored the warnings every one gave me about you. gave you a shot even gave you a little trust, and this is how you want to play this.” His voice was deadly but conversational, and somewhere in the back of Dannys mind a warning bell went off. “ we both fucked up, and I’m willing to pay for that mistake, and if you hadn’t decided to try and stomp a hole in my ass I would have gone to bat for you with Ashton. But now I should probably rethink that.”

“you wouldn’t dare shoot me” Danny said but stayed put. Growing angrier as he realized he was scared of this little shit.

“go home Danny,” Lee said, hoping to talk the man out of doing anything stupid. Even as that thought ran through his mind, Danny reached for his pistol.

Downstairs, Kelly who still lay on the couch in the lounge, heard three gunshots.

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

Pappy had woken from a dream of danger, surrounded by evil on all sides. He knew he had missed being killed because of sleeping in the fort with Jeff and his family tonight. he had dressed himself with difficulty, and rolled into his hover around, pausing only to look in on his sleeping grandkids and his son and daughter in law. Giving a soft smile that would have surprised most every one that knew him. he scribbled a note, and left it on the small Formica table.

He glanced up at the night sky, at the thousands of glittering stars, and a ribbon of milky way wishing he had spent more time to look up at night. he left the fort through the Main gate, and into the field boxed in by RVs, with the Mobile shelters that had been recovered from Fort Campbell and the Terminal, set up to the left. Ori and bridget were outside with about fifty others in a vigil for Jared.

He took a moment to stop, and hand Ori a note for Jared, then looked the younger man in the eye. “ I aint said it before boy, but you’re a good man, and you have a good woman. You hang on to her and protect her and those kids.” he said then winked at Beth before he rolled off into the night, leaving them staring after him.

He rolled down the dark streets, under the rustling tree limbs, past the dark homes of the dead, his old hair moved in the breeze that swept over him, cooling his hot leathery skin. So many things he had never paid all that much attention to he thought regretfully.

As he rounded the corner heading for the house that had been in his dreams he saw a young boy in overalls standing in the street like a truant Huck Finn, on the run from his drunkard pa.

Pappy had always loved Huck Finn, he had wanted to have his own adventures like Huck when had had been knee high to a Grass hopper. But life, no people, had a way of killing a mans dreams, reducing him to a ghost of what he could have become.

Using his foot controls he waved to the boy as he drew near. “you don’t need to be here boy” Pappy said, not flinching as the cool hand of the boy touched his dead hand.

“I do Pappy, got things to make up for, this is the last and least I can do for you” the boy said, smiling.

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

Strider smiled evilly as he stepped up to the woman who lay on the floor bleeding her life out. He was enjoying the hell out of this, he couldn’t help it. the power of life and death he held over others was intoxicating, and the pleading, terror filled eyes that looked up at him was the nectar of the gods.

Her hand was creeping towards the pistol she had dropped as he stepped on her wrist and ground it into the floor, breaking her wrist with a dry snap. “ cant have that, now can we.” He said “ I can either put you down, or let you come back as one of the undead, its your choice really.” He said conversationally.

“please…don’t kill me” she whispered.

“I already have, the only choice left to you, is end it now, or rise as a zombie” he said with a smile.

“I want to live.” She said, her voice fading.

“okay then, on to the next victim.” Jack said, as he looked at his watch. Anytime now, things were going from bad to worse for the assholes on this island.

He walked out of the room, shutting the door, let the survivors find her walking corpse, he thought as he headed for stairs, he had killed a few, but the woman he most wanted to kill was upstairs. he had chosen Sharon and by extension Bridget, not for any other reason than they were well liked on the Island and considered hero’s for saving so many people. Their deaths would be a blow to the Island, he only wished he could get to the Red Head, but from what he had heard, Jared Stone was heavily guided and would probably die.

He was halfway to the stairs to the third floor, when he saw a shadow on the stair case, he smiled as he raised his pistol.

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

Mary rolled out of bed, grabbing her weapon. Not sure what had woken her, finding her self in a bedroom, confused her for a moment, before she remembered that Sharon and Bridget had asked them to stay at their home.

“what is it” she asked Ronny who sat on the other side of the bed, where he was dressing quickly. Before he reply she heard a gunshot from downstairs, and then some one screaming.

“damn it” Ronny said scooping up his rifle, and heading for the bedroom door. “ you might want to at least put on some panties before going to kill whoever or what ever is down there” Ronny said as he cracked the door and looked out into the hallway of the third floor. he heard a woman Susan from the sound of the voice, start screaming for help, and then more gunshots.

“you stay here, block the fucking door till I get back” Ronny snapped as he opened the door and moved out into the hallway.

Sharon, awakened by the second gunshot, was already dressed, covering the bedroom door, while Bridget gathered up Baby supplies. the babies were thankfully quiet. If some one had died and come back, the last thing they need was for the undead to be drawn straight to the door by the cries of babies. God don’t let it there be any undead she prayed, the horror of her and Bridgets children being ripped apart and eaten shook her to the bottom of her soul.

If it were undead, and they couldn’t escape, Sharon would kill their children, before she let them be eaten. I swear I will god, you might not have lifted a hand to save the kids, but I will if it’s the only thing I can do. She vowed silently.

Downstairs she heard another gunshot, more screams and then Susan shouting for help
She looked at Bridget, who looked sick knowing there was nothing they could do to help. to help they would have to leave their children, and that wasn’t going to happen.

“start moving furniture to make a box in front of the window, if worst comes to worst we climb out onto the roof, and then break into the attic through one of the windows” Sharon whispered.

Bridget nodded in approval and set to work, trying to move as much as she could as quietly as possible ignoring the scream of the women downstairs and the random gun shots.

Mary slipped into her clothes and armed her self quickly terrified for Ronny. Keep him safe she prayed. She wasn’t sure who she prayed to really, the Silver Lady, God, the lord of the hunt, it was to who ever would listen.

She pushed the dresser in front of the door, then eyed the window. Bridget and Sharon might need help, they had babies after all. with that thought she threw open the window and climbed out onto the sloping roof, and began to move quietly around the roof towards the bedroom of her friends.

Ronny was half way down the stairs, when he was shot in the leg, he shouted and tumbled down the stairs losing his rifle. His leg bent at an angle that no leg was ever supposed to bend, snapped.

“thought you would be the conqueror hero, didn’t you” a man said from the darkness. “Sorry to spoil your plans, this will all be over with soon”

Ronny lay on his side, gritting his teeth as he saw a bedroom door open, and a woman step out with a pistol in her hand, she got off one shot, before the stranger shot her down.
“the one good thing about the zombie apocalypse, is I have had a lot of time to become an excellent marksmen” the stranger said, with amusement in his voice, the stranger stepped forward, his pistol leveled at Ronnys head. “hate to do this, but its better than letting you die and become one of those things.” He said.

Ronny refused to close his eyes, his thoughts were on Mary, waiting upstairs for him. he could smell her hair, her skin, see her eyes in his mind. Feel the heat from her skin under his hands as he made love to her. Bye babe he thought, as he stared up at the barrel of the pistol, and rolled to on to his back drawing his own pistol.

Gunshots tore the night apart, in a nightmare of flashes and the smell of gunpowder. Ronny grunted as two a bullet grazed the side of his head, another punched into his shoulder, he got off two shots before his own pistol fell from nerveless fingers, the first missed, the second struck the stranger in the gut.

“oh you bastard” the stranger moaned, stepping over Ronny and climbing onto the stairs. “for that I’m going to let you die and come back as one of them”

Ronny lay there, gasping in pain, out of the corner of his eye, he saw an arm come up over the top step of the staircase.

The man took another step up the stairs, when a pistol boomed twice, a bullet punched into the wall beside the stranger, the second struck the man in the side. Ronny weak though he was, turned his head and saw pappy laying on the stairs with only his good arm and head over the top step of the staircase. The old man fired again.

“Strider, you fucking limp dicked shit, your not killing another soul tonight.” Pappy called out. he sounded weak to Ronny, the old bastard must have dragged himself up the stairs with only a leg and an arm to get him to the top. go get him, you old coot Ronny cheered silently as he felt his hands and feet growing cold.

“oh fuck off you old bastard, I’ve already killed one of your old vultures tonight.” Strider snarled, as he leveled his pistol and fired at the old man, on the stairs. Pappys eyes widened as the bullet took him in the throat, but he got off one last round, that punched into Striders skull, between the eyes.

Strider fell against the wall, then slid down leaving a trail of blood and brains and collapsed at Ronnys feet.

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

Lew had been outside on the porch, not able to sleep when Pappy had passed by, talking to a boy. Curious, and some what worried about Pappy he had stepped inside only long enough to tell Katy he would be back shortly, grabbing his rifle to go with his pistol and then headed out side again and started walking.

In the short time he had been inside Pappy had vanished, Lew kept walking, not able to shake the feeling that the old man needed help. he passed an old church, and smiled to himself, Pappy would probably burst into flames if he entered a church, he decided.

From some where near by he heard gunshots, Lew stopped and listened, faintly hearing a womans scream. Almost panicked now, he started running towards where he thought the sound had come from. He turned onto a street, where he knew only five houses were occupied, and saw lanterns and candles being lit inside all but one home, something moved on the second floor roof as he watched.

“Call the guard” He shouted at a man who had opened his door to look out onto the street, a shotgun in his hand. Lew ran for the dark home, wondering for a second where this new hero Lew had come from.

Didn’t matter not at the moment he thought as he burst through the front door into a dark foyer, a hover around sat the foot of the stairs, upstairs he heard Pappy yell something, the only word Lew heard was Strider, and then more gunfire. Lew leaped up the stairs, seeing pappy sprawled across the top step. A colt 1911, clasped in his hand. He knelt by the old man, who dropped the pistol, his old hand curling into a fist with one finger extended at something near the other staircase.

There was blood all over the front of Pappys shirt, gushing from the wound in his throat, his old eyes already glazing over. “don’t you dare die on me old man” Lew said angrily. “don’t make me have to shoot you.”

Pappy knew there was no coming back, not from this one, after all the times he had almost been killed in the past, by worthy opponents in war, Strider the worthless shit had finally done the deed. He smiled suddenly, as he saw the boy again, Missed you Albert, he thought finally recognizing the boy, we should never have stopped talking, made amends like Daddy would have wanted, the only brother I ever had and you might have lived after the zombies came if I had made the effort, Pappy told the boy, who suddenly was an older man, one that Pappy didn’t recognize, but why should he, they hadn’t seen or spoken to each other for thirty damn years.

“you always were prideful Clark, but so was I. I died of a heart attack the day those things showed up, not from being eaten. So don’t worry about that, but you need to hurry up and come with me, that young man there by the stair case and a few others need help while they still have a chance.” Albert Sloan said extending a hand to his older brother.

Pappy’s hand came up, then pointed towards the staircase that led to the third floor, “help him” Pappy gurgled, blood spilling from his lips. “don’t let him di……” his voiced faded off, and he lay still. Lew closed the old mans eyes, said a quick Prayer then lifted his Pistol. Surprisingly he had come to really like the old man.

Pappy took his brothers hand and rose to his feet, and stood there for a moment marveling at the being able to stand on two legs again. He saw Lew, face streaked with tears, shoot the body that had been Pappy’s for all those years. he was surprised at Lews reaction to Pappys own death. to be honest with himself, he had rather doubted any one but his family and maybe Jared stone would miss him, he smiled and placed a hand on Lews shoulder. “thank you, take care of your woman, now go save Ronny and the others.” he said then turned to his brother.

“come on Clark, She is waiting for you,” Albert said, and the two men walked off into the golden light of dawn that spilled from the end of the hallway.

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

Brandon climbed up to the top of the Harbor control tower, an old world war two relic built into Fort Moultrie. He ignored the trepidation he felt as he flipped the breaker that connected the old spot light to power, hoping Lee was wrong or that what ever he had seen wasn’t a threat, Brandon turned the spot light on.

a brilliant beam of light shot out over the water, like a massive laser, setting the waves to a dazzling glittering white light. He swung the heavy light to the east, towards the harbor mouth, and then froze as the beam struck a white and red ferry, he could even see the rust streaks on its superstructure, but what turned his blood to ice, was the sight of the undead that filled the decks.

“oh my god” he said aloud, as he slammed a hand down on the alarm button.

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

Lew’s head shot up, as he heard Pappy’s voice, there was no way that could have been Pappy, He was dead. Lew rose to his feet, and headed towards the Staircase, where two bodies were sprawled out.

What ever that voice had been, that was Ronny laying there bleeding out, with a broken leg. Lew Stripped of his shirt and cut into strips and started binding the other mans wounds. Outside, he heard vehicles, then off in the distance the air raid siren split the night with a shriek of urgency. The Patrol had just appeared at the top of the stairs following Lews shouts, and shining their flashlights around with a look of shock on their faces at the carnage visible in the hallway.

Justin shoved his way past the Patrol, having been on call tonight. “ move aside Lew,” Justin said gently. “get me some light over here, and some one check the rest of the rooms.”

“But what about the Alarm” a soldier asked.

“To hell with that, till we get this taken care of, some one dies, they come back, and we don’t need that. Besides that, I owe this man and his friends for my life.” Justin said as he opened his Bag and started pulling out what he needed.

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

at the sound of the alarm people fled their newly established homes in the cleared sector, carrying their Bug out Bags, they had learned the hard way to be prepared, they ran for the fort, and its safety.

The ferry, with its Cargo of death plowed through the water, pushed by the Tide, and the tug behind it. Gunfire rang out from the forts walls, even as two boats raced to intercept the ferry, hoping to push it off course. But the weapons were to little, to far and to late to damage the ferry or the tug behind it, and the boats were three minutes away when the Ferry grounded up onto the beach with a crash, throwing undead off the deck to the sand. The undead were behind the barricade, with nothing between them and the people fleeing for the fort, except for trees and homes. Some of the living would never make it to safety, but that wasn’t the only threat out this night. an explosion ripped apart the night apart, and the accomplice that Pappy had suspected Strider had on the island got ready to finish the Job they had started.

Williams sat in the Dory, laughing with Glee, as the Ferry delivered its cargo. He had no idea how many might die, but some would. and that’s all that mattered, and what ever had exploded wasn’t something that was going to help Jared Stone.

The Russian wanted him to land to take things in hand, and Williams was going to do just that come sunrise. If Stone was still alive, there was going to be a reckoning.

Oh yes, I will crush you Jared stone, and then I will kill your woman after treating her like the whore all American women are, Williams said, then paused as he realized he has spoke in Russian. He shrugged none of that mattered, insane he might be, but he was going to do what he had been ordered to do. The thing in the bowler hat might still be alive and Williams wasn’t going to risk angering it, not ever again.

Part two

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