Chapter Thirty Three

“Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, some great decision, offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever, ’twixt that darkness and that light.

Then to side with truth is noble, when we share her wretched crust,
Ere her cause bring fame and profit, and ’tis prosperous to be just;
Then it is the brave man chooses while the coward stands aside”

~John Whittier

1100hrs Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

It was quiet in the large conference room, for once Trudy and Abe weren’t making out, in an odd way that bothered it, it was a sign that the new normal was being upset. He suspected that making out was their way of dealing with the stress, Brody thought as he sat aside the Electronic Circuitry book he had been reading, he rose and stretched, unlike most of the others he had no desire to sit up on the roof and listen to the sounds of distant battle. It wasn’t a damn movie after all, men were dying over there. he turned hearing the door open and saw Maurice Gimple enter the room, red faced like he had ran here. .

“You need to come up onto the roof, Alyssa wants you to see this” Maurice said as he patted his pockets for an inhaler he no longer had.

“Sit down and get your breathing under control,” Brody said as he started for the door. “last thing we need is for you to suffocate.”

The place seemed empty, he thought as he walked down the halls, hearing only his carpet muffled footsteps. He barely noticed the posters and art work on the walls any more. They were just so much visual noise. he did notice with a little anger some one had been peeling wallpaper off the walls in spots. What kind of asshole did that, he didn’t want to live in a crap hole, and there was no one left to come in and fix things and make it look like new again.

He climbed up onto the roof, and saw most every one crouched along the edge of the roof staring down. The smell alone was enough to tell him what he would see or so he thought till he came to a stop beside Alyssa, the stench of the dead almost taking his breath away. But what he saw below was far worse then his imagination had conjured. On the street below, in fact every street he could see from up here was filled with the walking dead, shoulder to shoulder, stumbling, lurching, even crawling and all of them were heading towards the distant fighting.

Alyssa motioned to him to follow her, once they were back down stairs, and they both felt safe to talk, she turned to him and said ”we have to warn them.”

“we cant” Brody said, hating himself for even saying it. Jared’s warning had sunk deep, and there was no way he was going to risk using that radio and have Jared’s enemy over hear and come looking for Brody and the people in the convention center.

“if we turned on the sound system, many of the dead would stop heading toward the Mall,”

“and then we would be surrounded and they wouldn’t leave for weeks if ever Alyssa, we would probably starve before they left. No, we cant do that either.” Brody said, seeing the distant look that she got any time she had one of her visions. Not for the first time he wondered if she faked those visions. But she had so rarely been wrong, it was hard to doubt her. she seemed to listen to something for a moment then nodded her head.

“I ask you to trust me Brody, start the sound system. Its what we have to do, we will survive.” she said playing a hand on his arm that sent a shiver through him. “Please Brody, we have to help them.”

Brody started to argue, there were to many lives in this place to risk for virtual strangers. But the look in her eyes and the desperation in her voice stopped him. “Go find the medic, Shawn, Laurie, David, Karen and Jimmy send them to meet me in the small conference room, then have every one gather in the Hall, I wont do this with out telling them why and getting their approval.” he said, “oh and Alyssa hurry.”

The small conference room was still a neat and clean as it had been the day the dead rose, it had that off white modern look, with just enough wood trim to suggest old world class. The place had ever modern convenience, except for the power to run all the gadgets. It was to large for the small group of men and women who had gathered to listen to Brody’s plan. They sat in the over comfortable chairs their eye constantly drifted to Alyssa as Brody talked quickly. She didn’t seem worried in the least about what might happen if they agreed to this insane plan that Brody seemed to agree with.

As soon was Brody stopped speaking Jared’s medic, James Lee, shook his head and stepped forward. “NO, you cant do this. Those are my friends, hell they are family and there is no way Jared or the others would want you to get your selves killed trying to help them. I don’t want you to get yourselves killed.”

Brody looked at Alyssa, who gave James a smile that would have most men falling in love with her. “your mother name was Bai, her parents paid to smuggler her out of china with a sister and Aunt, she met your father in San Francisco, where he was stationed at the navy base.”

James’s mouth sagged open, Brody knew he wanted to say something like lucky guess, or something along those lines every one did when she went all Oracle medium on people. But the days of goggling background information were long over and she hadn’t spoke to him other to say thanks and to welcome him here so she couldn’t have pumped him for information as Lee well knew.

“She says that you need to trust me, it will be all right.” Alyssa added.

James closed his mouth then stepped back, whether convinced, confused or not willing to consider what he had just heard Brody didn’t know.

“Well whose in” He asked into the silence, slowly every hand in the room raised, as they all stared at Alyssa like she was some sort of prophet.

1300 hrs, Defense position one Capitol Grounds, West front. .

Brian, knelt beside a dying man administering last rites, behind him he could hear more gunfire as Kronnen’s men probed forwards once more. This was the sixth time Kronnen’s men had advanced under smoke with their APCS and fired on the Jared’s defenses.

The man, Wilson pierce, took a last shuddering breath, his hand squeezing Brians knee then went limp. “Rest in Peace Wilson” Brian said then drove the knife he held into an eye socket and up into the brain. He cleaned the knife carefully, the picked up the note book beside him and added Wilson name to the growing list. They would not be forgotten if he could do anything about it.

“You all right?” Reese asked as he finished speaking with a wounded soldier and walked over to Brian. .

Brian nodded, “I will be yes, this is not the first time I have been in a war zone.” He said rising to his feet, his knees creaking.

“You’re a Vet?” Reese asked surprised.

Brian didn’t answer his past was his business. “I am a survivor, like every one else” Brian replied finally.

Reese knew when not to press so he let the subject drop. “the men appreciate what your doing here.” he said, wondering if that sounded as inane to Brian as it did to himself.

“I should be out there fighting,” Brian said his gaze dropping to Wilsons corpse “billions died alone and terrified, and I feel an obligation to make sure they don’t die alone, they deserve better at the last hour of their life.” Brian said some would say compassion in this new world, was a luxury that a man could ill afford, Brian believed that Compassion and other real morals were not a luxury, with out them you were not a man but a savage.

“Amen” Reese said in full agreement. “ Before this night is over Brian, youll be fighting along with every one else.” Reese added.

“Its going that bad?” Brian asked, his tone neutral.

“Its going better than we expected to be honest, but Kronnen’s men still out number us, at some point we are going to have pull every one back to the terrace. Either when they make a major push or the undead finally show up in numbers that we can not deal with spread out like we are. The height advantage of the Terrace, coupled with the obstacles and the barriers that the US government put up around the grounds to stop car bombs directed at our dear leaders will give us a huge advantage against Kronnen’s men and the undead funneling them in, and then they only have the two sets of steps to climb to gain access to the Terrace.”

“And trap us up there as well,” Brian said.

“That was always part of the plan,” Reese said simply. “Jared never lied about that, this is where we make our stand, maybe we can get some people out. But I’m not promising.” Reese said softly. Then stopped for a moment looking around as he had heard something, he glanced up at the sky then shook his head. .

“Jared is right father,” Reese said. Brian didn’t even correct him for once. “I can feel it now, its odd like electricity in the air, like just before a storm . I don’t know how I know it but what ever is going to happen is going to happen soon all we have to do is hold on a little longer and Kronnen will not be able to make it to where he needs to go.” Reese fell silent once more as two more of his people were carried in.

A man and a woman both sporting bloody bandages and blood stained clothes were carried over and placed near the wall, Haslom moved quickly to assess their conditions, and Brian was relieved to see they were sent to the section reserved for those who would live. Not that they were likely to live much longer anyway, but there was always faith that something would happen to change things. Jared had managed to pull his people out of situations as bad before.

“Why did you stay with us? This isn’t your fight” Reese asked suddenly.

“Yes it is,” Brian, said his hand touching the sword that hung at his side, the motto etched on the blade burned in his mind. “you stand for something I believe in, and I am supposed to be here.” he said quietly.

Reese looked at him oddly, but Brian just shrugged. “like so many other things in today’s world it makes no sense, but this is where I’m supposed to be. I might have lost faith in the things I was taught, but I have faith that there is some one up there helping us, guiding us and pushing us to become better than we were before. Maybe I’m just delusional and its all in my mind, but its still one nice thought.”

“well thanks for coming along on the ride with us Father,” Reese said then turned to walk over to the new arrivals, he looked back over his shoulder. “Being a priest wasn’t always about doctrine and teaching either. But leading and setting an example, your doing both in spades”

1400 hrs. The National mall.

Private Murphy, had apparently finished with screwing with who ever he had been occupied with and now turned his attention toward Washington DC, specifically the men fighting on the mall.

National Guard Sergeant Madison Cox, one of the very few women willing to serve Kronnen, was tired, hungry and stressed reached for the metal case holding 18 40mm HE rounds. She stumbled and knocked the case over as the M113 lurched forward. She stared for a moment as the lid came off, and the bullet shaped grenades fell onto the floor of the APC and began to roll.

“Stop, bail out” she yelled as she threw open the hatch above her and scrambled out, she barely saw the undead, and knew if she moved fast when she hit the ground she could make it back to the camp and take cover in the Washington monument, she leaped from the top of the APC, as the rest of her squad climbing up behind her.

40mm grenades are fairly safe to handle, until they are in flight and rotating, after eighteen revolutions, they become armed. As any one who had used them knows, that they do not have to be in flight, just rotated counter clock wise the appropriate number of times and then make hard enough contact with something. In this case, the it was the boot of a National guard soldier who kicked as he leaped up while escaping, like a wild shot on a pool table that grenade struck two other grenades, no one, least of all the men in or on the APC, would ever know exactly how many grenades detonated, there was just a rolling explosion that might have been two or more grenades, fire and shrapnel belched from the open hatches of the Troop bay, killing three on top, the vehicle clanked to a stop the driver dead.

Georgetown, the Walter E. Washington Convention center.

Brody looked around at the men and women who had assembled in the Hall they normally used for socializing, Every one looked scared as they considered what Alyssa had to say. The fact that Brody had stood beside her, with out commenting let them know that He backed her one hundred percent which surprised them, brody being as cautious as he normally was.

“Your sure, this isn’t, well you know” Devin Brines asked carefully.

“a delusion, a fantasy, wishful thinking” Alyssa asked, a smile lurked behind her words. “I wish it were, I want to just hide here safely like you but we cant. So lets do this with a show of hands.” She said her eyes sweeping the crowd. “all those who say yes” she asked.

There was a long pause then a hand went up, then another, that was like opening a dam, more hands shot up like it was a contest.to get a hand up faster than their neighbors. Only a few hadn’t voted, but they didn’t raise their hands when Alyssa asked for the nay votes.

Brody climbed up beside Alyssa and singled out one of the men who hadn’t voted. “you didn’t vote, why not” Brody asked.

Nicoli Spas shrugged, “ I cant make up my mind, so I abstained.” He explained. The other non-voters nodded in agreement.

“Okay then the ayes have it” Brody said, as scared now as he had ever been in his life. “Did we get every thing we might need, like food and water, up on to the roof top.” He asked Jimmy who nodded. “Then every one needs to move on up to the roof, Ill start it playing in five minutes”

The group filed out, till only he and Alyssa were left in the room,standing there amidst the booths and memorabilia that had once meant so much to them. He picked up a Superman comic that had been pristine before the dead. Now it was dog eared from having been read so much. he placed it back on the table, then started walking towards the door that would take him down to the delivery and service area.

. “Thank you for believing me. I wont leave till you do.” Alyssa said as they entered the large room, where the vehicles were kept. . Brody stopped beside the generator then turned towards her. reaching out he cupped the back of her head pulled her toward him. their lips met and He kissed her lightly then stepped back. “In case we don’t make it, I wanted to do that just once.”

She smiled, then reached out and placed her hand over his then looked at the generator, he had hooked up to the sound system before the meeting. “ we do this together” she said softly in his ear.

He nodded and reached for the button, a second later, Music blared, a Nerd Anthem flung defiantly at the dead. The Theme music from Star Trek roared out, the walls shaking, the roll up metal doors vibrating in their tracks.

The undead closet to the Center instantly turned and flung themselves at the building. The Music was like dropping a rock in a still pond, the attention rippled outwards, till the Convention Center lay at the heart of a Sea of undead, a sea that sought to get inside.. But part of that huge crowd were not distracted and continued on towards the mall, a Tsunami poised to wash over what ever stood in its way.

1600hrs Defense position one, capitol grounds, west front.

“Contact north side,” Jared heard in his ear bud. “Undead, standby.”

“Team one with me,” Jared called out, knowing Team one, what was left of it, wasn’t enough. “Jansen, its time, get the HET over to the north side.” Jared transmitted as he led Team one at a run to the north side.

The OP team on the north suddenly spoke again “ the count is, one hell of a large crowd.”

“I told you not to offer half priced tacos on Saturday,” Ronny transmitted as he limped along behind the rest of the team.

“Can it goat boy” Jared replied, almost grinning, but what little humor there was died as Kronnen’s men launched another Probe. Two threats, if Kronnen’s men realized how over extended his people where, they would throw everything they had at the Position, Jared thought as he heard the slow steady gun fire to the north side. He resisted the urge to run back and support the West defensive line, by the time he got there, the probe would have fallen back and he would have to race back here to help

Then he cleared the line of big vehicles that blocked his view and saw the crowd of undead staggering down from the North and north west, across the Upper Senate Park, then they crossed Constitution Ave, and northwest street to pour through the Bollards meant to block vehicles and onto the capitol grounds.

Horde was a more accurate word, crowd just didn’t not encompass the sheer number of the dead. And every one of the few thousand undead would just soak up bullets he needed to fight Kronnen, they were streaming toward the Line, maybe two hundred yards from the derelict vehicles that had been placed carefully to break up large numbers and funnel them into kill zones.

Jared silently watched the dead stagger forward in that lurching slow jog they used in place of running. Many seemed to be having more problems than usual, maybe they were finally drying out or the muscles had rotted enough to make even that slow jog hard for them. What ever it was it wasn’t happening fast enough to reduce them to a crawl before they reached the north side line.

The HET rumbled up then turned broadside clearing the weapons in the fire box mounted on the rear for action the moment they got the order.

The Washington Monument.

Captain Toffler, USNG, was happy more or less. The First two attacks had been mauled, but his new plan seemed to be working. His probing attacks, had revealed Several things, Stone was out of Javelins and other rocket type weapons, and he had few heavy weapons on the line.

When Toffler got his orders to launch the a third attack, he was confident that his armor would make it all the way into their position this time. All that needed to happen now was for Kronnen to reach position.  Currently he was waiting to link up with the company that Captain Markham had led up north then back down and round to the east before entering the city. Markham’s company had been fighting their way through the horde’s he had reported encountering for the last four days. Which Toffler suspected meant that his company was not up to strength, but Markham had reported he was at full combat strength and would meet Kronnen in another half hour.

After that Stone and his people were in for a hell of a surprise, Toffler thought with a cold smile. Assuming the undead coming down from the north didn’t tear them apart before hand.

North side of the capitol grounds

The undead reached the obstacles, the men assigned to the long range fire, were joined by the close in defenses, and then the undead reached the first of mines that Ori and Darius had designed and had dozens of men help them assemble over the last week.

Every bit of RDX and HDX, had gone into making the mines and IEDs scattered around the position, even with the mines they had found still in their cases inside the vehicles here at the Shelter there were not enough to cover every square inch, but the obstacle field allowed them to place the mines where they had to maximum effect.

The RDX mines, had been packed with penny’s, nails and crap metal. The Pennies would be the most devastating component, Jared had thought Ori had gone insane when he had insisted they find every roll of pennies they could after leaving Kingsport, but once he had explained Jared had endorsed the idea. . The heat from the RDX would reduce the copper pennies to a near molten state, the penny would elongate forming a dart that would solidify enough to rip and tear. Something like it had been used against Light armor over several wars. The RDX mines were devastating or so Jared thought till the undead crossed the first of the HDX bases mines.

The HDX based IED mines were the most effective of the home made devices, where they detonated they destroyed undead, the shock waves from the devices ripped away limbs, crushed and rip away skulls and generally left very little of the undead, but for all those killed more surged forward filling the gaps like a tide.

The next pattern of mines wiped away more of the dead, then third detonated. Bodies were piling up all through the obstacle maze, but the undead in the rear just kept coming staggering, crawling and climbing over the mound of bodies between vehicles. Mounds of bodies that rippled and surged as the still mobile cripples in those piles tried to crawl or wiggle free and reach the living.

“God” a man near Jared muttered, he was terrified and Jared didn’t blame him, they had never faced such numbers before, and there were still more than this all over the city, all of them probably on their way, being funneled by the streets into one unstoppable mass that would sweep over… Stop it, he told himself.

“It’s a sight aint it” Jared called out. “we can take them, just do it like you’ve been trained.” And be ready to fall back, Jared thought but didn’t say aloud..

Jansen checked the ammo cans one last time, then straightened up and grabbed the pistol grip of the mini gun ready to fire if needed.. Hopefully he wouldn’t have to use it. The Ma Deuces with the HEIAP rounds should be able to handle even this crowd.

“Open fire” he ordered as the dead flowed across one of the curving paved paths, the heavy weapons spoke in anger, and he could feel the Gun box vibrating in time under his feet.

The slaughter went on, the HEIAP rounds were not as effective when aimed directly at the undead, passing through the flesh of the corpse, and usually through the next three undead behind the target, tearing large holes in their flesh.  But when the rounds struck bone, or the pavement The explosion would rip away a limb or shatter a torso. It was a hurricane of body parts and gore. The bodies piling up, some smoldered or where in flames.

But the undead waded through the gun fire oblivious to their losses, they came closer and closer, weaving around the derelicts placed as obstacles, stumbling through the mines, that tore away limbs. Then the first of them exited the obstacles and merged once more wading through the web of claymores that shredded them with out mercy, they never stopped advancing over the bodies of the newly dead or crippled. Even the cripples squirmed and wiggled, inching forward teeth snapping.

The Washington Monument.

Toffler could hear the explosions in the distance, large ones, then more explosions on a smaller scale, two overlaying patterns of sound that beat out to the fire time of Ma deuces. “so they have HE rounds for their M2’s, good to know” he said, thankful for the undead, if his APC’s had faced that fire, they would have died quickly, and so would the LAVs. I hope that Stones people will burn through their ammo with this horde. He thought trying not to worry about the fact that neither Kronnen nor Markham had reported in yet.

He had no idea what he would do if Kronnen died, he could guarantee that the former prisoners would either revolt or leave, what the Guard, those that remained, would do he had no clue.

“Should we launch an attack” Lt. Stanton asked quietly.

“Negative, I don’t want to do anything that might draw that horde down on top of us. If we are lucky they will over run Stones people and do our job for us.” Toffler replied.

North side defense line.

Jared dropped his fourth Magazine, and slammed in the fifth, at this rate they would still be shooting undead till midnight and probably run out of ammo.

Mechanically He fired quick bursts, shifting from target to target with cold precision, time meant nothing just the wave of the dead that swept down on them. He no longer paid much attention to the hands that reached out grasping air, or the mouths that opened and closed, over and over again revealing broken blood stained teeth. They were only targets to be serviced.

This was what the police and the army had faced in the first week, he thought. the difference is his people knew how to fight them now. Back then by the time the military and the every one else had figured out what they were dealing with and how to fight it, there were to few of them left for that knowledge to do much good.

Well things have changed, I just hope we have the manpower and the Ammo to do the job, Jared thought grimly.

The horde had begun to spread out across the northern side of the capitol grounds on this side of the Obstacles and finally reached the wide paved path forty feet from the defensive line, that ran straight to the Capitol building. . Jared watched intently, then finally keyed his radio. “Thor, tear em up,” He transmitted, “Bring up the thresher” he added.

Behind him the .50 caliber machine guns on the Gun box that had fallen silent begin to fire standard rounds now, the sound hammering the ears of every one near by. The rounds tore through the advancing ranks of the undead but they didn’t notice, single minded they came on seeking the living, teeth snapping, hands already grasping the air in anticipation. This was how the undead how won so many times, for every one crippled or actually killed, ten more took its place. But today, thanks to Kronnen, he had a weapon that would save the day.

With a roar the old trash truck came to life. the forks that had once lifted dumpsters, now had a drum attached between them, from the drum hung long lengths of chain. The forks lowered the barrel already starting to spin, the chains hissing and groaning.

Kronnen’s men had done some inspired work installing the device that had once graced Sherman Tanks in WW2 used officially as an anti mine device. The chains slammed the ground tearing gouges into the earth and had set off any mine they went over, but someone in Kronnen group had came up with the design to use against the undead, and it was hideously effective.

A cattle guard had been installed over the front of the Garbage truck to keep the undead bodies from getting up under the tires slowing or even stopping the vehicle. .

It moved forward, undead turning at the sound and slowly lunging towards the new source of noise, the chain ripped them apart, leaving crushed and mangled bodies that if not dead a second time had no way to move. the Ma deuces fell silent leaving the mass of the dead to Thresher as Jared had started calling it. the undead that got around the vehicle advanced on the fortified position were put down by men who manned those fortifications.

The Thresher reached the farthest point, and lumbered around and started back, the chains flinging, body parts and gore into the air in a spray of black goo.

It seemed that it went on for ever and not one of the men and women on the northern line would ever forget the sickening sight that littered the field . Finally the horde was down to manageable numbers and the thresher returned to its parking area, while the Men on the line finished off the remaining undead.

As a moment of rare silence settled of the area, Jared sank down into a crouch, and wiped the sweat from his forehead as a ammo resupply truck rumbled up. Another wave like that, and there probably wouldn’t be enough ammo to refill magazines, he thought at least not till his people fell back to the Terrace

“As soon as its clear again, refuel the thresher.” Jared transmitted, as the HET started back its previous position where it could easily move to any one of the three lines to offer support if need.”

“Kronnen blew his chance, if he had sent in a spoiler attack during that we would have had to fall back to the terrace.” Jared said as he inspected his HK. “I think I need a new barrel, my grouping was crap.”

1450hrs the White House.

Bedford dismissed his new aide, sending the man to pass the orders to the Ranger Platoon and Captain Sterns to start moving into position to attack Stone in support of Kronnen’s force. It felt good being in complete command, not having to worry about some pinheaded politician who lived for reelection and his precious polls, interfering with military matters.

He leaned back in the very comfortable chair behind the Presidents desk, evening sunlight slanted through the window illuminating the rug on the floor with the presidential seal. With the grounds cleared and the gates secured, there was no reason to cover the windows, and he had no desire to do so, if the dead got inside the grounds he would retreat down into the tunnels before the breached the white house.

Sterns would take out the SF team on the roof of the Natural history museum he had been observing, while the Rangers led by Major Givens would do a direct assault on the survivors of the horde attack, assuming there were any, while Kronnen’s men attacked from two directions.

After that, if any of his men survived they would leave immediately with Kronnen’s men and race through the night to reach the Traitor who called himself the Scribe, he wanted that commie loving pinko ass dead and walking before dawn.

He glanced at his watch and smiled, they had plenty of time, as long as they were on the road before midnight they could reach the School where the Scribe had set up his faction and wipe them out by dawn maybe an hour after.

He smiled again enjoying his new office, picturing in his mind once more the last video image he had seen of the president as the dead had swept over his few remaining Secret service guards and a handful of marines who had stood to their duty to the end. He even grudgingly admitted that the president had died with dignity but die he had. I would have preferred screaming and begging, but it doesn’t matter it placed me where I always belonged, He thought as he reached out and stroked the desk top, I am finally home.

For the rest of the day Kronnen’s men launched probing attacks against Stones position, trying to gauge what he had left. but more importantly to get stones people to waste ammunition. Toffler had to grudgingly admit that Stones men were not prone to wild shooting and used far less ammunition than his own men. At sunset he pulled his men back and ended a long day. His casualties were higher than he liked, but Stones had to be worse.

1900 hrs. First defensive position, Capitol grounds.

Jared didn’t even notice the crack of rifle fire as yet another small group of undead heading towards their position were put down. He leaned against the table studying the map cards that had been left behind by the Army unit that had been here two years ago.

“Can any one explain to me why they haven’t tried flanking using the side streets” Jared asked. “they just keep coming straight down the mall, and that’s suicide” He looked at Proctor, and his shadow Eklof.

“Two reasons I can think of” Proctor said slowly. “the first is They are buying time. Kronnen isn’t over there, Toffler is in charge of this attack.”

Ekloff nodded in agreement, but remained silent more than willing to let Proctor do the talking.

Jared felt his stomach sink was it possible that Kronnen had just kept going after the scribe leaving enough men here to pin his people in place. “how do you know he isn’t there?”

“if Kronnen were there and in charge they would have just kept coming losing what ever it took to wipe you out. No that’s Toffler over there, he is cautious with troops and uses probing attacks a lot. Usually when waiting for Kronnen to arrive. He isn’t one to do much more than scout out around the area, anything else he waits for Kronnen to give him orders to do. But once he has those orders, he does a damn good and some times imaginative job.” Proctor said. “ the other reason they may not be flanking, is the dead. Kronnen sometimes seems to know where large concentrations of the dead are and keeps the men away from them. He says its because of dreams but what ever the truth he was never wrong while I was there. And one more thing is there aren’t enough men out there.”

“There more than enough for me” Ronny muttered.

“I think Kronnen is flanking with the another group, probably from the south or the east, I would say the south. LCACs could have dropped him off before this group arrived.

Toffler keeps us fixed on him while Kronnen works his way around the dead and strikes us from the south.” Proctor added, considering how long he had served Kronnen, he wouldn’t be surprised if no one here listened to what he had to say.

“He might have just kept going” Reese said, voicing the concern Jared hadn’t refused to say aloud. “or could strike us from any direction. Why the south.”

“No, you have to know him” Proctor stated, “ He is obsessive, he wants you died Jared and he wants to be here when you die. He thinks he can strike you hard, roll over you and then go finish this scribe you talk about. I know that’s what he will do because I am not there to try and curb his impulses. And before you ask how can I be so sure, Toffler is a yes man he will agree with anything Kronnen wants.” Proctor said. “if your right, and time is running out, then Kronnen will believe he can still kill you and do what the Dark wants him to do.”

Ronny started to ask why Proctor was certain that Kronnen would attack from the south when Eklof finally spoke. “I believe he will attack from the south because there is Navy ship yard down there, that is where he landed so he can spend a little time scrounging for weapons, ammunition and fuel, before coming after us. Proctor is right Mr. Stone, Kronnen is coming and he thinks he can take you easily.”

“Then he will find he is wrong” Jared said grimly, wishing he could get Ronny up in the ultra light, but Erics Drones would have to do. “Reese, Contact my Brother, I think we need one of his drones to scout the streets on the south side closest to the Capitol grounds.”

1640hrs. South of capitol hill.

The small drone, moved slowly across the city streets south of capitol hill. Its camera spotting nothing but wind blown trash and abandoned vehicles. then it crossed a line of buildings and below, stood the undead. as the drone circled to cover a larger area, they found that the undead were mostly gathered on 7th and 6th St sw, just south of the D st. intersections and then spread across E street SW. and more were converging on I –395 south of E street. The area look to be mostly commercial, with large buildings and complex but south of the highway, was residential and Eric didn’t have to send the drone that far to know that was were most of the dead were coming from.

“control is starting to lag” Parks said, his modifications to increase the range had been the only thing that allowed them to sit here instead of finding a new position.

Eric squatted in front of the controls, staring at the screen. the undead just stood there staring north, shoulder to shoulder, still as statues. Parks looked back at Eric his face pale, if they had pushed south in their recon they would have run right into that, horde didn’t even begin to describe the number they were looking at. There was no way, Jared could stand against that many undead. Eric knew, not felt but knew everything that happened since this morning had been to force Jared and his people to expend ammo, and when the time was right the undead that waited would roll over them.

“Whiskey Tango to Alpha Fox one,” Eric transmitted, Jared wasn’t going to like this.

2200hrs, Jared’s van.

Jill was quiet as she watched Jared sit and stare out the window into the darkness. Eric’s news had been a hammer blow to every one, the only saving grace to the whole situation was, they had far more ammo than Kronnen suspected, not only what they had started with or what they had captured from Kronnen supplies, but they also had what they had found at Mt. Weather, and what had still been in vehicle around the Armys abandoned position.

Outside she could hear the rumble of engines, as vehicles were being moved to new locations in preparation of the undead attacking. For the first time she wished she was less stubborn and had stayed behind to keep their unborn child safe. But she hadn’t and she would have to deal with that come what may.

“I want the truth Jared, can we survive this” She finally asked.

He shook his head slowly then turned to face her. “I doubt it, Ill do what I can to make sure some of us survive, but we would have to kill every zombie with a single shot to make it out of this, if we all shot like Ori, then yeah maybe. But currently no, they can just soak up our fire till we finally run out of bullets and then its down to hand weapons, and we die one by one. That’s if we stand on the line, the terrace will give us more of an advantage, with the trucks positioned to block off the stairs when we retreat up, will slow the undead. but sooner or later they will get past the trucks.” He said with a shrug.

“but we can retreat into the capitol building, there has to be a way to escape from there.” She said.

He leaned forward intently, and placed a strong callused hand on her knee. “think it through Jill, the tunnels down there are probably packed with the dead. And any tunnel the dark doesn’t know about, I’m pretty sure we don’t know about either.

I will try my best to get as many out as possible, but the odds of success are slim.” He paused, his emerald eyes boring into her Sapphire blue eyes. “I want your promise that when the time comes, and I tell you to go with Jansen, Ronny and Ori, that you will go no arguing no delays, just go. I be damned if I wont at least get the woman I love and my best friends a chance to escape.”

“While you stay behind and try to hold the dead back, is that it” she asked quietly.

“something like that,” He admitted. “these people followed me here Jill, I will not turn and run while they stand and die. I don’t want to die, God I don’t want to die, I want to be around to see you grow old, I want to have kids with you, and I want to finally lay on a beach with no fear of the dead just holding your hand and listening to the waves roll in.

But those choices were taken away when I led every one here. I knew that then and I still did it and you know why. If any one was ever going to have the chance to lay on a beach and listen to the surf again then this had to be done. So promise me” he said, a quiet desperation in his voice. “Promise me you will run when I tell you to, so I know that you might end up safe.” Any other woman Jared would have feared would take what he had just said as an insult, that she couldn’t protect herself. But not Jill, never Jill, she wasn’t insecure, she knew he respected her and she knew this was out of love.

“I Promise Jared, but only if you promise you want just throw your life away at the end, fight to stay alive and come find me, promise me that and I will go when you tell me to.” She said.

He came to sit beside her and slipped an arm around her shoulders. “I Promise, that I will move heaven and kick the darks ass to try and come back to you alive.”

She leaned over and kissed him, and then they clung to each other silently knowing this might be the last night they shared together.

0333 hrs.

Jared woke, his arms still around Jill who leaned against him. something had changed, he wasn’t sure what it was, but something was very different. It didn’t register till later that it was the O333 on the 3rd month of the year. He looked around once more, but hearing nothing, no radio’s, no screaming, nothing. he closed his eyes and went back to sleep.
. .

March 3rd , United States National Mall

The sun was just rising, when Kronnen’s unit began to come to life. the undead that had wandered into the mall during the night, went crazy at the sound of motors turning over and men shouting orders. Those not already around the camp at the Washington monument, turned and began to stumble towards Kronnen’s men.

Kronnen’s men safely encircled in armored vehicle, ate breakfast. Double checked weapons and gear. A hasty briefing was held and as soon as every one knew what was expected they board vehicles and waited for the fight to kick off.

1200hrs, Zero hour.

M113A2’s rumbled forward flanked by battered LAV 25’s that were spewing another smoke screen, behind them the LCACs, loaded with troops roared to life, plenums filling lifting the craft up onto a cushion of air.

The Behemoth, the former crane now turned gun truck, advanced into the smoke, its treads crushing undead into the ground it was ripping up as it trundled forward.

“here they come” Eric said, his voice sounding tiny in the earbud Jared wore. He sounded relaxed and confident, but Jared knew his little brother to well to miss the slight tension behind the words. “its not a probe, every thing they have is committed.”

Jared nodded, then switched Freq’s, “All right people, I know your tired, I know you hurt and I know your scared. But we have a job to do and Kronnen is finally on the move. when you get the final order, you know what to do, keep your wits, cover your buddies and they will cover you, as Patton once said, your job is not to die for your country but to make the other poor son of bitch die for his.” Jared closed the channel, switched back to Eric’s frequency, and waited watching the wall of smoke roll towards the line.

They had only two Javelins and three rockets for the M202, Eric had a few surprised that he had been withholding, and the IED mines in the reflecting pool were still mostly in place. Reese was certain that they had a few ATGMs in one of the trucks, but Jared was pretty sure they had been used already.

“Do you think the two remaining Ma deuces with the HE rounds on the west side will do the trick against the APC’s?” Mike asked as he tried to adjust the body armor he word.

“They are going to have to, aren’t they. The Thumper will damn sure do some damage” Jared said, “unless you think letting Ori tell them jokes might be more effective.”

“Hey, you do realized your on Voice activated right” Ori said in Jared’s Ear bud.

“was I? Sorry” Jared said with a grin as every bit of tension and exhaustion seemed to bleed away. “we know which channels they use, try some knock knock jokes”

“Bite me Jared, if I didn’t like Jill so much I would just shoot you.” Ori replied.

“take a number, there’s a lot of men about a quarter of mile out that have all been waiting for a while to shoot me.” Jared joked. He thought about trying to give another speech, but decided against it, his people didn’t need speeches, they didn’t need anything but his support on the line.

“All right folks, get ready.” Jared called out, his voice also transmitted to those who had radios and spread the word to the people around them.

All along the line, many of the men and women, believers or not said silent prayers to who ever might be paying attention and feel like helping them. Others were quiet, their hearts beating like a trip hammer as a cold sweat rolled down their spine. Clammy hands gripped weapons tightly as they waited for combat to crash over them. But not one of them even thought of trying to escape.

The first tracer rounds lashed out from the smoke, but Jared’s people were laying down on the ground as the storm of fire swept over their heads, a few were unlucky enough to raise their heads to look up or not be lying completely flat on the ground and died.

Eric, the thermal feature of his sight activated laid his cross hairs on his target, slowed his breathing and began to time his heartbeat. He finally pulled the trigger and the 25mm roared, sending AP/HE round downrange. A LAV though tougher in many ways than an M113 was still not capable of standing up to the weapon Eric was using. And now that the gloves were off, he was free to burn through every bit of ammo he had.

The engine of the LAV died with the small explosion, it rolled on forty more feet before coming to a stop and was quickly surrounded by undead. Eric smiled mirthlessly as he shifted Targets.

Castor, kneeling beside Eric had a different job, today he held one of the two M32 40mm Grenade launchers, every tube in the cylinder load with the 1066 Thermobaric rounds. his face blank he sighted and pulled the trigger as fast he could. Sending round after round into the smoke. the explosions were violent and stripped away the smoke where they detonated.

Darius knelt Javelin ready, even from here he could hear the bushmaster firing from the LAV closest to his position and that was his target but as he saw the Behemoth through the smoke that suddenly thinned as it was lifted, swirling in a vortex of fire created by a 1066.

It had moved into the lead position while in the smoke, and now its weapons opened up, SAW’s and Ma deuces sweeping the undead from its path as it clanked up onto 3rd Street.

“Paladin, Hunter, the Behemoth is crossing 3rd, permission to engage.” Darius asked.

“Negative Cowboy, leave it to us, stick to primary” Reese replied.

Bare Ass Bailey ran along the roof heading to his new position, when the enemy finally figured out where the sniper fire was coming from. He saw something fall from the sky landing amongst a tangle of pipes and fan housings, he was till diving for cover when the 40mm grenaded detonated, blowing apart the pipes and fan housings adding their debris to its own shrapnel. Bailey felt pain all over as he hit the roof and skidded then there was another explosion and the world went black.

Eric grunted in pain as at least two SAWS opened up on his position, shards of marble slammed into him ripping bloody furrows, something struck him in the side of the head and his left eye went dark. He rolled away, dropping the Anti material rifle.

Castor, leaped backwards landing on his back, banging his head on the roof top and saw stars. But not before he saw Holston one of the Recruits get cut in half even as he tossed Melody out of the line of fire.

Castor rolled over his body aching, his eyes drifted, and he was tired as hell. . get your butt up son, he told himself. Its not over men are dying and you have a job to do.

Darius swore, as he saw the Behemoths weapons open up on Eric’ position on top of the Natural history museum. To hell with orders, if that thing isn’t destroyed by the mines in the pool, it will be stuck and close enough to shred the defenses, when that Grenade launcher and Minigun were finally used.

“Taking the shot, you can shoot me later” Darius said as he laid his sights on the Behemoth.

Eric would have been proud, Darius did everything exactly right, right down to a range perfect stance. Some one must have seen him up there silhouetted on the roof, because gun fire reached up for him from the men in one of the APC’s.

Darius fired, sending the Javelin racing across the quarter of a mile, where it impacted, not on a weapon or in the middle of the men clustered on its deck. But on the armored control cab, armor that was home made and only good against small arms fire.

The cab seemed to vaporize, the shock wave drove shattered glass, and ripped metal through the men clustered on the deck. The men that didn’t die, wished they had, as they desperately tried to stop from bleeding out and put down the bodies that were quickly reanimating around them at the same time. They were not overly successful. The Behemoth stopped dead, and the rest of the attack force circled around its dead hulk and kept moving. .

Darius dropped to the roof top, with only minor injuries. Kafil rose to one knee, sighted and fired one of the M202 rockets, right into the open hatches that the men in the M113 were standing in firing at them. They died in fire, but Kafil fell back wounded.

“Lets go” Darius said as he hooked his hands under his friends shoulders and began to pull Kafil towards the center of the roof and hopefully beyond the angle of any return fire.

The first M113, hit the reflecting pool and made it six feet before it struck a IED mine that had finally been armed. The explosives inside, were far more powerful than any normal mine, it ripped away the track, and tore into the bottom of the aluminum shell of the APC, parts of the drive train and engine were reduced to more shrapnel that tore through the men inside. The APC stopped dead leaning down on its trackless side the white phosphorous component of the mine billowed, like glowing tendrils of smoke out of the hatches.

The remaining Armor turned away, and the LCAC’s finally committed, roaring forward into the smoke that streamed off its flanks.

Western Defense line, The capitol ground.

”What are they doing?” A white-faced man near Jared asked. He was on the brink of breaking Jared had seen it before.

“They are going to hit us with the LCAC’s, drop their troops then the Armor will come in to support at the same time.

“We can’t stand against that” the man said.

“What’s your name?” Jared asked quietly moving closer.

“Tony, Tony Weathers.” He said his voice cracking.

“I want you to concentrate Tony, the people around you are counting on you to cover them, and we will cover you. You’ve been through worse, you made it through the dead over running your home, you’ve survived everything the end of the world has thrown at you and you will make it through this. You’re a tough man. ” Jared said as gun fire ripped over their heads. Tony ducked, breathing hard but nodded.

“Good man,” Jared said as he popped up and sent a grenade from his M203 sailing up towards the top of M113. he dropped back down behind the line. “besides Tony, we are going to be bugging out here in five minutes. Then its up to the terrace, where we have the advantage.” Tony nodded again, and his shoulder stiffened with resolution.

It was time, the thing that had once been Jasper Brown thought as it paced in front of the 3rd Street tunnel. It was to late for Kronnen to make a difference, far to late, the scribe was heading for his date with destiny and neither he nor the thing he had worshipped in life and in death knew whether he would be successful or not. Jasper did not care, no matter what the scribe did, he wanted Jared Stone and his people dead.

Behind him the undead that had waited for so long began to stir, then move out of the tunnel, they never noticed they walked straight through the spindly armed figured with its jauntily tipped bowler hat. Jasper adjusted his clothes, and began to walk with his brethren, he would be there when the end came.

He had one final masterpiece to create, shade or not he would be there to see Jared Stone and the cop die.

The attack came on, with both LCACs speeding forward, while the Armor’s weapon suppressed the area.

Jared wanted to do something anything, but there was nothing he could do as a 25mm bushmaster chewed through a defensive position, killing every one inside. as it turned out, he didn’t have to do a thing.

Graham Purdue, was terrified but still alive as the fire from the bushmaster finished chewing the hell out of his position and moved on. He looked around and saw Kary Green, and Pete Niflen were still alive it was a miracle really. “Pete, see if we can get the motor started.” Graham said a he got off the floor and sat down behind the Mk 19. he could see Kronnen’s men surging forward, firing as they came, but the big threat was the LAV.

He turned the Mk 19, sighted and pulled the trigger, the weapon Nicknamed the Thumper due its distinctive sound when firing could put 40 40mm rounds a minute down range with sustained fire, but Graham wasn’t interested in sustained fire, not yet. at the moment he wanted that LAV to die, the fury he felt seeing the vehicle was from being on the receiving end of its weapon. And now it was about to receive the full 60 rounds per minute of rapid fire from his weapon. “hope you assholes like it as much as I did yours” He said.

40mm M430 grenades reached out and hammered against the side of the LAV punching through the light armor with ease, his fire walking from right to left in a series of rolling explosions. Any convict or soldier with in five meters of the side of the LAV died only to rise again, and attack former friends..

Graham was smiling as the LAV streaming smoke rolled to a stop its main gun silent, Graham shifted his fire to a concentration of enemy soldiers who were grappling with the newly risen dead. He was no longer the terrified civilian, who had managed a McDonalds barely escaping a Party of undead children who had been looking for a McGraham meal after eating half his staff. Not today, today he was a soldier.

Jared had wanted the thumper to be used as a last ditch weapon, preferable against the undead. But as far as Graham was concerned this was last ditch and every man down range of him were about to become undead. men died as the explosions walked through their ranks. But they managed to return fire. Graham, blood flowing from wounds to his arms, sides, and even the side of his head, held on to the trigger till he had ran through belt of grenades, only then, as the truck finally started, and lurched forward, did he collapse.

One LCAC, with a more competent pilot roared ahead of its fellow and onto the Reflection pool. It only made it halfway before, the mines under the water detonated, copper darts that had once been pennies, nails, and other bits of metal rode the shock wave up, punching through the plenum and doing damage to the actual hull. the LCAC bored forward as water sprayed up around it as more mines went off, the damage grew, and then as it lurched up out of the pool, a final mine detonated.

No one would ever know exactly what happened, but the LCACs stern lifted up out of the water, then secondary explosions wracked the craft and a fire ball rolled into the sky. The now dead LCAC slid across the walkway with a shriek of metal and screaming burning men before it slid up one of the two sets of steps and came to a rest its burning bulk blocking the steps. The LAVS roared forward once more weapon firing covering the Second LCAC as it went around the reflecting pool and any mine that might still be in the water.

“ Fall back to the Terrace” Reese ordered, there was no way they could keep Kronnen’s men out of the first position now. Instantly, the men and women of the Sullivan island forces, fell back popping their own smoke grenades and moved away using prepared routes. the last few stopping as ordered long enough to arm booby traps.before following.

Under heavy fire, Jared had his people fall back, the previous emplaced obstacles now acting as shields against observation and light fire as they ran towards the capitol building.

Behind the retreating defense force the flames from the burning LCAC reached for the sky. The second LCAC had reached its destination twenty feet from the only set of steps that could now be used, it dropped its ramp and the waiting Men raced out, the convicts were easy for the snipers on the terrace to spot because they clumped together but the real soldiers were the targets. As Squads and Platoons raced forward getting their men into order and spreading out on the move, sniper fire smashed them down.

The result was they had to slow the assault or take heavy casualties. a National Guard Captain and two Lieutenants learned the hard way not to be to obvious about being in command. The men who filled the void after their deaths were not stupid and survived longer.

Tony limped along ahead of Jared, carrying an unconscious woman who probably wouldn’t make it, but Tony wasn’t going to leave her behind. saving her was the only thing that kept him going.

Jared slowed turning back to the men and women still struggling the stairs that would take them to the terrace. They were tired beyond anything they could remember it was a feeling that most soldiers were familiar with. “come on, we are almost there. you can make it.” He called out waiting till the last of the stragglers had passed him then turned and followed them.

“be ready to return fire,” He warned his team as he looked back towards the positions they had just abandoned, he could see shadows moving in the smoke, and the wink and flash of Weapons fire as Kronnen’s men fired blindly in the direction of the capitol building.

He could hear IEDs detonating, claymores going off, and the occasional grenade clusters removing more men from the face of the planet. He knew that for the how ever many men were dying more were dismounting from vehicles and from the LCAC and then things were going to get interesting..

Jared tried not to think about Eric, the roof top the SF team had been posted on was burning and there had been no contact with his brother for half an hour. But his Brother and his Team were not the only ones, Darius and his team as well as the other teams placed on rooftops were silent as well, and the grief he felt for the loss of so many good men were added to what he already carried locked away.

The defense’s could have been better, but limited supplies meant that Kronnen’s men would take heavy but not significant damage as they charged into the smoke screen that covered the defense position.

The smoke swirled around them, making the battle field a surreal nightmare of shape and shadow, their sight was restricted to shadowy sand bag positions under the looming shadows of derelict military trucks and civilian cars that made up the maze beyond the Maze were tents, scaffolding, a huge white covered band stand and other things they would have to traverse to get a clear sight picture and field of fire on the enemy.

Reduced to a virtual crawl, Kronnen’s men were shredded by hastily placed claymores and grenade traps between fighting positions and Derelicts. Their only save was the limited supply of such devices that the Sullivan Island forces had to deploy to cover their retreat.

They were slowed even more by having to stop and put down their dead before they could rise and attack their former friends. By the time they were advancing once more through the Maze Stones forces were climbing the stairs to the terrace while vehicles rolled into place to stop pursuit up the stairs.

Up on the Terrace, five men using M203 grenade launchers sent more smoke grenades falling into the former defense position and the area just behind it. . with that job done they switched round to the 40mm double flash bang grenades then waited under cover for the enemy to emerge from the smoke.

Toffler wanted to rip off his headset and throw it as he heard his men dying, he could see the flashes of lights and hear the hammer blow of sound from here, that were disorienting his men a they charged out of the smoke. Stone men were cutting them down as they stumbled around dazed from the flash bangs.

Kronnen had been wrong about this group, They were not fools or cowards, but they were strong enemies, Toffler didn’t even want to consider how deadly they might be in something close to even numbers and equipment.

He looked through his binoculars again, barely able to see part of the stairs over the smoke, men were till climbing up to the top. “LAV Commanders, Cut them down on the stairs” He ordered.

The LAVs started forward, crossing the no mans land that had once been covered in IEDs and mines. Bodys lay scattered around but the men in the LAVS didn’t pay attention, the dead had cleared the way through the mines for them.

They slowed as they approached the set of steps, The steps up were not wide enough for more than one LAV at a time. a LAV rolled out of formation and started to climb the steps, it would push through the obstacles and lead its fellows to into the camp to find a clear field of fire and engage, and when they did the enemy would die. .

Kafil, his ebony skin ashen from blood loss, pulled himself to his feet and with difficulty got the Javelin launcher up on his shoulder. His thoughts turned for a brief moment to his family probably long dead now, and to Darius who hopefully had made it back to Jared’s position. He had argued with Kafil about going but Kafil had convinced him in the end. Now it was just Kafil and the dead here on the roof.

As the first LAV mounted the only set of steps that were clear, between the statue of Grant and the Artillery Cassion, he fired.

Jared high up on the Stairs looked back at the sound of the explosion and saw black smoke shot with flames licking up through the smoke screen, he could hear two LAVS firing, he quickly searched for their target and finally saw they were shooting at the American Indian Museum, where Darius and his people were. The combined fire of two LAVs chewing the hell out of the facade that had been designed with the graceful curves of wind sculpted rock.

Fire flared just under his right ear, and blood poured down his neck , soaking his shirt, a line of soldiers was clearing the former defensive position and the smoke and were firing as they came. The new group were spread out making the flash bangs that fell amongst them less effective. Even now more of Kronnen’s men were emerging from the smoke and advancing. A 40mm grenade from the enemy fell amongst the vehicles parked at the base of the stairs, killing three of Jareds men firing from the back of a deuce.

“Move it, lets go people almost there” Jared shouted, stopping on the stairs and making sure those who were so exhausted they were stumbling kept moving. He knelt and fired back at the advancing soldiers, bullets tore the air around him. but he paid them little attention.

Jill and Team one stopped as well adding their fire to Jareds, from the Terrace Jared could hear the crack of Ori’s sniper rifle as he and the other snipers entered the fray, picking off soldiers with ease.

Then suddenly they broke off. The Men turned and ran back towards their distant vehicle which were already dropping ramps or opening doors so the men could board. Kronnens men ran as fast as they could back the way they had come to clamber into their vehicles.

“South side, undead, to many to count.” Reese said over the radio. “they came out of no where,”

The undead to the south poured up the hill unopposed and entered the obstacle field, sheer numbers rendered the mines and claymores there worthless, every ten undead killed had hundreds more behind them.

Kronnen’s men boarded their surviving vehicles, running up the ramp of the LCAC, some climbed into the vehicles Jared’s people had left behind. many found that those vehicles had been sitting there for almost two years and were not going anywhere and were now trapped.

The dead flowed across the grounds, many stopped at the southern set of stairs to the terrace, where the HET still manned fired into the ground. The dead pawing and slapping at the trucks parked in front of the steps. But still more came on, heading for the northern set of stairs, that Jared stood on.

Hannity, rocked the trigger of the .50, sweeping his weapon from side to side. The barrel red hot and starting to droop as round after round was pushed through it.

“Cease fire Hannity” Jansen said. “dismount that weapon, change the barrel and get ready to hump it and its ammo up top.

Hannity nodded and got to work. Behind him the mini gun whirred to life, spitting fire.

Jansen walked the weapon from side to side, watching the undead tumble over, shredded, crippled and mostly dead. They fell like wheat before a scythe and if he had more rounds he could have personally dealt with the entire horde by himself. But Jared had insisted that two belts be kept up on the terrace for the inevitable last ditch fight.

He burned through his ammo, then quickly dismounted the weapon, which was far lighter than the earlier versions. “bug out boogey, every one knows the dance steps” he said. Men piled out onto the steps behind the HET, nervously eyeing the boards and crap that had been placed to keep the dead from crawling under the trucks, waited till weapons and ammo cans were passed down to them, then once the whole squad were together did they climbed the stairs as rapidly as possible.

The last of the stragglers, wounded all, were making their way up passing Team one. They were damn close to being the living dead themselves.

Jared caught a man who stumbled and fell on the stairs. “come on, you can make it” Jared said, the man tried, but his legs were like rubber. “Cant, I cant” the man cried weakly.

“yes you can,” Jared said, looking down into the defense position and seeing the tide of undead sweeping towards them, those that had been killed on the stairs by Kronnen’s men were starting to rise as well. “to hell with this, you owe me” Jared said grinning tightly as he grabbed the man and slung the civilian across his shoulder and started up the stairs, as the last of his fighters passed him leaving only team one below him to cover the stairs and the newly risen dead on its steps.

The man he carried was no lightweight, no matter how he might look, he had to weigh close to two hundred pounds, and Jared was already carrying 180 pounds of weapons, and gear.. Jared’s legs burned, his back protested but he kept moving as fast as he could.

“I am to old for this” He muttered, “buddy if you conscious, Id appreciate if you shoot any zombie trying to catch up to us.” There was no answer.

He reached the top and dozens of hands reached out to take the man from Jareds shoulder. He turned to see Jill and the rest of the team still sixty feet down, firing into the undead who had just minutes before been friends and comrades, now they stumbled up the steps but not from exhaustion but out of hunger. Team one put them down.

Jared looked down onto the mall where Kronnen’s men had fallen back, being followed by part of that horde. But the rest of that horde was still coming, and as he looked past them to the south he saw even more, those had to be the ones that Eric had reported, he thought. he felt his stomach sink as he looked to the north and saw more undead

The undead were streaming down Pennsylvania Ave. from the north west, across Senate park from the north, and they were probably coming around the building from the east side as well. He had never seen so many undead. He didn’t show his doubts about their survival he stood there weapon in hand watching what was left of his team climb the stairs two at a time to reach the top and catch up with him. .

“well this is a fine mess you’ve gotten us into, Laurel” Ronny said as he reached the top. “Any plans now” Ronny asked, rubbing his thigh hoping the pain would go away.

“yeah we hold here for as long as possible then, we retreat into the building and head down into the tunnels.” Jared said not looking forward to it, but there was no other place to go.

The people manning the barricades at the top of the stairs began to fire, slow, careful shots into the horde that had reached the vehicles down below. The dead were squeezing around the trucks, even as they watched the boards, boxes and other things under the trucks to block the dead were slowly being pushed out of place but at least it was slowing them down allowing the defenders to pile up corpses as they crawled through newly formed gaps, the bodies helded slow the dead behind them. But sooner or later they would be inside.

1330 hrs White House, Oval office.

Bedford paced around the office waiting for reports from his teams, they should have reported in by now, but in battle things rarely went as planned and his people could still be working towards their targets.

The room seemed to darken for a moment, he turned and a smile spread across his face as he saw his daughter her long dark hair hanging down on either side of her face.. He took a step toward her, holding out his arms but something about her made him stop.

“You have failed” she said, her voice different, deeper but emotionless. A Dead voice from a dead woman.

“What? The battle isn’t over yet. My teams will wipe them out.” Bedford said, stepping back as he saw the familiar eyes of his daughter, turn slowly black, like ink was swirling around in side till nothing remained but those jet black orbs that seemed to suck up the light around them.

“I have done all you asked, you owe me” He said, his men, his own daughter wouldn’t recognize the man who stood there now, almost babbling in terror.

“and you shall be paid,” she, it said. He heard gunfire from the outer office. he looked back toward the door shock and surprise temporarily replacing the terror he felt. When he turned back she was gone from behind the desk. The Door into the Oval office burst open and hard faced soldiers, with the SOG flashes poured into the oval office their weapons covering him.

“General Bedford” Captain Frost said entering the room, blood and gore splattered on his Multi cam. “you sir are under arrest for Treason, the murder of the President, the chiefs of staff, and other surviving elected and unelected officials a well as the murders of thousands of Refugees” Frost said.

“I, what are you talking about” Bedford said, getting control of himself. “The President died during an outbreak in his shelter, as did all the others.”

Frost eyed him coldly, then tossed a thumb drive on the floor in front of Bedford. “If you’re stalling for time till Sterns and the others return, you can forget it. I intercepted them last night and showed them what’s on that Drive. They are probably on the way back home by now.”

Bedford looked down at the thumb drive and felt a cold chill settle over him, “that General is a copy of the recording from the interrogation of one Jared stone, in the Mt. Weather facility, I should just call it torture because that is what it was.

After all the movies and books you’ve seen and read over the years I would have thought that you would remember that evil crap bags like you should never take the time to brag about your plans especially in a room that was rigged to record everything said and done inside.”

Bedford drew himself up straight. “ I am the leader of the free world,” he snapped, determined not to cower, but his skin still rippled from the terror of his previous visitor. Behind Frost, he could see the Receptionist desk, and the sprawled body of his aide de camp across the top if the desk. But it was the woman, who stood behind the desk, a cold mocking smile on her face, as those jet black eyes bored into his that struck the fear of god into him.

Frost, stood there for a heartbeat surprised as the color drained from Bedfords face, The Generals eyes grew wide as he stared at something behind Frost. Bedford stumbled backwards, his hand dropping to the side arm he wore.

The dream like slow motion stopped as six weapons, flashed into position and spoke almost as one. General Nathan Bedford, would be leader of the Free world, and the greatest traitor his country had ever known, died in the office he had coveted his entire life.

“What now Captain” SSgt Healy asked.

“We create a diversion and take some of the pressure off Stone, at least try to give them a chance to survive” Frost said. Glad that things had turned out this way, his original plan had to been to ask his men a verdict on the charges and then haul that piece of trash out side and shoot him on the lawn. This way was cleaner for his mens souls. He suspected his own was long since lost.

1455hrs Capitol building,

Kronnen strode down the wide hallway, not even noticing the statues, or the art work. It was all the work of the weak, there was no place for such things in his world. his surviving men followed along behind him. their footfalls ringing hollowly on the marble floors.

The place was as empty as Bedford had promised, what few zombies wandered its halls were only hand full, people who had been to slow to reach the last train out. And even now disfavored as he was with the Dark, the dead still did not notice him. he dispatched them easily as they tried to pass him to reach his men.

He could hear the gunfire, even smell the gunpowder and smiled, Stone was on the ropes. The Dead might actually kill him before Kronnen did.

He approached the entrance to the terrace and lifted his radio to his lips, this time he was using one of his normal channels, he wanted Stone to hear this order. “Toffler, blow their barricades.”

He couldn’t see it, but he knew what was happening, Three men armed with Javelins, were setting up and taking aim on the Barricades at the foot of the stairs, he had seen them in his dream. With those gone, the undead could reach Stones men and destroy them, tear them limb from limb as they ate the dripping read meat, blood running down their chins. His stomach rumbled with hunger, just a little longer, he told himself. In just a little bit I will eat Jared stones still beating heart.

He smiled as he directed his men to their positions, if Stone’s people didn’t come running inside in a few minutes he would go meet them. Either way in less than twenty minutes he would be fighting Jared stone’s people at close range.

West Terrace, capitol building.

Jared didn’t let his misery show, as he realized how few of his people were still mobile. He had started with a little over two hundred men and women. A pitiful force against the 1500 to 2000 thousand that Kronnen could field with out calling in troops from St. Louis or other places.

But now, he had maybe eighty, who were either walking wounded or completely unscathed. Twenty were dead for sure, and ten more were probably not going to last the day. The rest ranged from badly wounded and unconscious to those who could fight if the undead reached their cots. Or lost in their own world, he thought seeing a man just sitting against the wall of the capitol building, mouth open as he stared up at the blue sky, his eyes blank.

He started to walk over and try to talk to the man, then stopped as he saw Brian appear, the former priest knelt and talked softly to the mentally wounded civilian. Then got the man to his feet, and led him shuffling towards the Medical shelter that they had carried up here and set up day before yesterday.

The man had just reached the point he couldn’t take any more, it was something Jared had seen a few times in years gone by. Every one had their limits, and to be honest with himself, he was surprised he hadn’t reached his own yet. How much could one man bear, he asked himself.

Jared started towards the medical shelter when Reese’s voice exploded in his ear. “ they are going to blow the barricades” Before Jared could do or say anything, three Javelin rockets streaked across the old defense position., barely above the heads of the undead. two struck one M935 truck, one hit the Deuce and half parked bumper to bumper with the M935. burning wreckage erupted into the air, and the dead streamed through the fires and the burning wreckage starting up the north side steps, shambling torches streaming thick black smoke.

Only two Ma deuces were placed on the north stairs, they opened fire along with every man at the sand bag positions. Jansen and his men raced along the terrace from the south side, carrying their weapons and ammo.

“Daws, get your squad over to the doors, Haslom get the wounded moved so they are ready to be carried inside, Reese get ready to pull every one off the south stair case, they will be entering with Daws and his squad and securing the interior if possible” Jared ordered, wishing he had time to reload his spent magazines, but what he had, he had.

“Jared,” he turned to see Logan approaching, heavily bandaged but mobile. His rifle slung over his left shoulder. The younger man held something out in his left hand.

“Thank god your okay” Jared said relieved then saw the look on Logans face. “what is it”

“some one asked that I give you this, and a note” Logan said as he passed the object he held to Jared who took it only then realizing it was a detonator. Logan held out a slip of paper that Jared took, almost certain he knew who this was from.

-Jared Stone, I have at this time decided to withhold my hand. The dead will probably finish you off, but if not at some time, when I am free of other influences I will return to deal with you with out their chaotic interference. You have proven to be resourceful and I have rather enjoyed traveling with your group. Good luck, I hope to be able to kill you at a place and time of my choosing.

PS, thank the priest for dealing with Julie it saved me the trouble. Mikhail

Jared, shoved the note in a pocket he had things to do. At least Ori wasn’t mistaken when he said that five pounds of RDX were missing. Mikhail must have planned on blowing up vehicle and peoples and gotten caught up in all this fun and changed his mind.

“Thanks Logan” He said, his eyes like chips of green ice. “get your gear and get ready to evac” Jared said as he turned and started walking along the terrace. “Lets go, every one not holding stairs, get your gear and line up here along the wall.” Jared said as he tromped over decorative flower beds on the terrace. “move it people” he bellowed. Then the first smile of the day bloomed as he saw Nibbler dart out of the sandbagged position that Reese was using as a CP and where all three dogs were being kept.

“good dog” he said as he headed over to team one, he hated to think she was about to die, but he knew Nibbler would stay with Jill if he told her too. “Nibbler, stay” Jared said pointing to Jill, the dog looked annoyed, her ruff bristled. Then she turned pointedly ignoring Jared and licked Jill on the hand.

“Daws, in three minute you enter, if the place is not packed, your to sweep ahead but stay in sight of the door. Once we get every one inside, we will proceed to the basement level and try to find a tunnel out of here.”

1500hrs

Kronnen smiled in anticipation. He could hear the steady fire of M2’s, and small arm fire. He glanced at his watch, and saw it was time. “we go outside, I want one squad to hold the door, so we can fall back from the undead with a clear route.”

He had just started towards the door, when several things happened at once. The door to the terrace boomed open and a squad of men burst in was the first and most immediate threat. The second thing that happened was a very familiar voice behind his men.

“I think you all are long over due for an ass kicking” The Hunter said then voices were shouting in French and English, and gun fire broke out behind and in front of his men.

Kronnen wheeled around, and started running for cover. Bullets slashed the air around him, he stumbled once as at least one struck his body armor, but he never stopped. How did they get behind him. where did Stone get the extra men, he asked himself as he spotted a stair case and aimed for it.

The LST, the men at the shipyard, those had been Stones people, re enforcements that was the only answer. They had been the ones to slaughter most of Markhams men as well. Stone had been on to his plan from the first.

You did this because I failed to kill Stone by midnight didn’t you he asked silently. “if you had cleared the undead from my damn path I could have been here by midnight and finished this, you bowler hat wearing freak” he snarled as he reached the relative safety of the stair case with five of his men.

He turned and fired, shooting down one of Stones men, he hated these people like no one else. he fired again, then again,. but he had been spotted and the return fire killed two of his own men.

“Kronnen is inside” Daws shouted over the radio. “in contact, under heavy fire. Two men down.”

Jared wheeled around. “Reese fight the stairs, Team one and Jared’s own with me” he called out over the radio as he ran for the door.

“you know, that just sound so medieval” Ronny quipped, “Jared’s own, next you will be calling yourself a war chief, and prince.” He was falling behind, but thankfully he didn’t have far to go to reach the doors.

“bite me Ronny” Jared said as he dropped into a combat crouch weapon up as he burst into building almost slipping on the bloody floor.

“grenade out” Daws shouted ahead of him.

it was insane, the crash of combat, the smell of blood, the strobing of muzzle flashes, Jared fought to turn the confusion and chaos of battle into some kind of order. He stumbled as a bullet clipped his leg. .

“Spread out, push them out we need room to get the wounded and every one else into the building” Jared called out as he glided past Daws and his squad.

He spotted a shaggy bearded clown in jeans and a biker colors, he put a burst into the mans chest then a second burst into the mans head. Six rounds down, he thought a he settled into the groove, his mind counting shots a he glided forward shooting each target. Jill stayed at his right hand side, Logan shooting a pistol was on his left. Mike to Logans left, Ronny to Jills right Jared’s own broke down into two units that flanked team one. Nibbler bounded forward leaping on a man who had been hiding behind a statue, he screamed in terror as she bit down and dragged him out into the open, shaking and slinging him from side to side.

Kronnen saw the organized and intact group sweeping forward towards the bulk of his own men still in the corridor. Damn them he thought a he ducked down, signaling the two remaining men with him to do the same. Stone had his people caught between two fires, there was no way out for them. But he could still escape, link up with Toffler and fall back. Once they had regrouped he could head straight for that damned island, burn every building there to the ground in revenge, kill and eat every living person.

He had no doubts now that his siege had failed. But once he got the bulk of his men called up from as far back as Kansas city, he would have more than enough to do this job. I said I would serve you even if you lost, and I will. I will bring a storm down on these people and I will send you every one of their souls he vowed.

Jared saw movement through the smoke and haze of combat, he twisted bringing his weapon into line, he pulled the trigger and fired the last three rounds, missing, as he slipped in the blood and fell to one knee. The man, a National guardsmen by uniform grinned his finger tightening on the trigger. His head suddenly sprayed blood and grew a axe, a very large axe that was wrenched free. Jared only had time to notice the blond hair and braided beard of the axe wielder and the slender younger woman with a bow, even as four National guardsmen broke and ran running for a side wall, Lany and Harold Grimmson between them.

Jared dropped his HK, his hand a blur as it dipped down and rose, fire spitting from the Mk23 .45 caliber pistol that had appeared as if by magic. Men crumbled and went down, he pivoted, shot down two more who were trying to run. Then saw more men sweeping forward, covering each other as they moved in leaps and bounds. Six of them carried French FAMAS, and wore green berets.

It finally registered he was hearing French shouts mixed in with the English. “ Half of Kronnen’s men are retreating down the side Corrider” Daws reported over the radio, Jared almost smiled as he saw Cal Simms stride forward. Blood dripped off his bayonet, and he had nasty gash across his left cheek. “Support Adjutant Simms’s men and clear them out.” Jared replied.

“Simms?” Daws replied. “I thought… never mind.”

“Kronnen made it to a stair case, Darius went after him” Simms said pointing. “go take care of it. I’ll clean up this mess.”

Darius, how in the hell did he get here, Jared wondered as he saw Lany and her Norwegian chopper pilot, Viking warrior husband putting down the dead before they could rise. “Ill ask later, keep safe and thanks” Jared said finally feeling like they might all make it out of here.

He turned and ran for the stairs that Simms had pointed out. There were three bodies but no Darius or Kronnen.

“Jared wait up” Ronny shouted as Jared vanished down the stairs. “I will only slow you down, you folks go on after him, Ill stay here and help” Ronny said. “Go!’ he said urgently pointing at the stairs.

Mike nodded “ lets go” he said and started for the stairs.

West Terrace.

The wounded were moved into the building as the fighting moved away from the doors. while men fought at the stairs trying to give them time to get inside.

Ed lay on a stretcher; an IV hooked to his arm. Two men struggling to lift his bulk jostled him as they got him up and started moving to the door that into the capitol building. He could hear the Roar of only two Ma deuces now, and the Mini gun had stopped firing. It wouldn’t be long, before the dead reached the terrace he realized. “wait” he told the stretcher bearers. “my stuff is right there, get my pistol and magazines, I want to be able to fight.”

One of the men started to argue but his partner only called another man over, seconds later the grim faced, dirty looking soldier pressed Eds pistol into his hands, and laid the extra magazines beside Ed. Then to Eds surprised the man lifted Eds head and slipped the chain that held the police Badge over his head. “Figured you might want that at the end” The man said then turned and ran for the northern stair case to help hold the dead back as long as they could.

Some where in the Capitol building.

Jared moved silently down the marble floored hallway, passing under chandeliers that your average American would have to work for several years to afford. Kronnen must know his way around here, Jared thought already turned around, he had barely managed to follow Kronnen down the stairs, through several hallways, then back up a set of stairs and more hallways. The place looked more like a palace, with the art work, gold trimmed hangings, statues and decorated walls, and ceiling murals, he thought, maybe that’s one of the reasons the nimwits were so out of touch.

Hearing gun shots from up ahead he moved faster. I wish I had actually studied a brochure that showed the lay out Jared thought as he caught a glimpse of the rotunda down a hall that branched off the hall he was in. He slowed as he saw two body’s sprawling in pools of blood. at least two shots to the chest and a gaping hole in each skull. They were not coming back, he thought, as he moved along the hallway.

Hearing voices somewhere up ahead he kept going, finally realizing he was almost to the Senate chamber.

He passed a door, and barely kept from being surprised as a teen age zombie, that had once been a page lunged out, and grabbed at his arm. He spun away, and put a round into the young mans face. Probably get left behind, in the evacuation, Poor kid died alone and far from home and family Jared thought as he saw another two zombies step out of an door a little further down the hall.

He holstered his pistol and drew his Khurkri then advanced on the undead. the gunshots hadn’t gone unnoticed by the undead in this wing. The sound of dinner so much closer than the other sounds of combat drew them.

Bedfords men had been wrong, the building wasn’t mostly clear. They just hadn’t looked in the right places on their way through. The dead had waited here silent and still for this moment. stirred to life by a will not their own.  And now the undead closest to the Senate wing, emerged from offices, closets, and other places and began to head toward the sound.

Kronnen looked around the Senate chamber, then strode down the terraced floor past the desks where men had once sat under the illusion they were the most powerful men in the world. he walked down to the marble Rotrum and turned as the door opened behind him. Darius limped into the room and headed towards Kronnen.

“I have to admit, I thought you had died long ago” Kronnen said conversationally.

“your people weren’t good enough” Darius said, leaving blood on the floor with each step.

“you wont survive this time” Kronnen said, as he rolled up his sleeves.

“Don’t plan on it” Darius said as he lifted his pistol. “don’t plan on a fist fight either.” He said and pulled the trigger, he fired the last few rounds in his pistol and saw Kronnen stagger backwards grabbing at a chair to steady himself.

Kronnen laughed as he straightened up :”Son you, you just don’t have good luck fighting me” Kronnen said as he leaped down from the rostrum and ran for Darius, who was struggling to reload. “see, the first thing to learn about me” Kronnen said as he reached Darius and struck him in the jaw with a right hook that sent the younger man sprawling. “is I died, and when I came back I found I am a little stronger, and a lot harder to kill than your average person.” He said as he took a running start and kicked Darius in the side where blood soaked his shirt. “ I also get a little hungry for something a bit different than steak on occasion”

Darius groaned with pain, but still struggled and retained his pistol. “and I don’t feel as much pain as I used to either. In short Hunter, you never had a chance to kill me” Kronnen said as he reached down and lifted Darius up by the throat, till his feet dangled off the ground. “ now I get to kill you” he said smiling.

Darius could see spots forming in front of his eyes and his thoughts were getting fuzzy, he knew he was going to black out if he didn’t do something. With strength driven by desperation he kicked out, his boot striking Kronnen squarely in the groin. Suddenly he was falling to the floor as Kronnen released him.

Kronnen, grunting in pain, doubled over, cupping his crotch with his hands. “dead man got balls” Darius coughed as he sat up, then found himself falling over backwards as Kronnen backhanded him.

“you just don’t give up do you” Kronnen said drawing the combat knife on his belt.

Jared hearing three gun shots, ran towards the sound only to slide to a stop on the marble floor as undead poured out of intersecting hallway up ahead. Spotting a dark red curtain with gold trim hanging on the wall he yanked it down and tossed it over the undead directly ahead of him, hoping that would slow them down then he turned to run and saw more behind him.

“I’m sorry Jill” He said seeing there was no escape from this. With a shrug He turned and headed towards the senate chamber, making it past the zombies under the curtain was easy, but the ones behind them were a challenged, they were not trapped and could see him and had no intention of letting him pass with out a fight.

He moved forward, drawing his tomahawk and slammed into the crowd in the hallway the Khurki and Tomahawk a blur. Bits of bone and flesh flew, black ooze splashed on him. he could see undead entering the senate chamber, so some one was still alive in there he thought. and that moment of distraction cost him.

He managed not to scream n pain as teeth bit into his arm. Oh hell no, he thought as he pulled free and drove the tomahawk into the things head. Snarling with fury he pushed forward leaving a trail of corpses behind him. Reaching the Senate chamber door, a zombie latched on to Jared’s leg and bit down, he killed it and slammed the door shut behind him, keeping the bulk of the dead coming up from behind him out of the room.

In real life the Senate chamber looked far smaller than on Tv, the traditional dark colored wooden desks, looking right out of a old school classroom, were still neatly arraigned in a tiered semicircle facing the raised marble rostrum. If there was few splashed of dried blood on the blue walls and carpet, it was hardly noticeable. The rectangular room was two story’s the upper story being the viewing gallery where the public could sit and watch the circus that had been modern government in action below them.

Down at the Rostrum he saw Darius,  struggling to pull himself  up onto the Rostrum, a grinning Kronnen striding towards Darius through the forty undead that had entered the room ahead of Jared.

The dead didn’t even seem to notice Kronnen Jared thought as he cut his way through the zombies in the back, by the time he had killed the fourth one, the others realized he was there. Jared didn’t care, he was dying and he knew it. He could feel something already moving through his veins, it was a like fire, burning away his life. all I need is time to kill him and I’m good, Jared thought.

1530hrs West Terrace.

Ori fired the last round through his sniper rifle then tossed the weapon away and pulled his HK off his back. Even though he was following Jared’s order, he felt guilty for not being at Jared’s side. But this was to important, he thought as he saw the undead finally sweep up onto the terrace, the few men still holding the head of the stairs went down screaming and fighting. They didn’t die easy but they did die.

What was left of Jansen’s squad fell back firing as they retreated, Ori linked up with them. If this was his time, then he was going to go down fighting with men he respected. “Bye Beth,” he whispered. “Good luck Jared.” and then there was no more time, just fighting.

Brian sword in hand, stood like a bulwark againt the dead that tried to get past him to reach the wounded, there were to many of them and to few defenders, but that didn’t stop him. Brian only wished that some how his dogs would survive his death.

1531hrs

Two things happened, from the gallery that looked down into the Senate Chamber Jared heard Jill scream, there was fear in that sound but also anger. the undead didn’t notice or care, Jared was standing before them. thirty two of them left to kill he thought as he prepared to die, and then the second thing happened, the undead stopped and didn’t move.

Kronnen surprised and unsure of what was happening turned, surprise that doubled as he saw Jared, then the blood spilling from Jareds wounds registered and Kronnen smiled nastily.

“I see your dying” Kronnen said looking at the ragged bite mark on Jared’s arm.  Behind him Darius was struggling to get a fresh magazine out and loaded into his pistol.  Jared wanted to cuss in frustration as Jill came hurtling down from the viewing gallery, to land bent kneed, Katana hissing from its sheath. Nibbler not to be left behind leaped after her.

“brave woman, stupid but brave” Kronnen said as he watched the pit pull limp to Jills side, growling deep in her chest the dogs eyes darting constantly to Jared.

“Jill, its time, get out” Jared said with out looking at her. “you promised”

Jill shook her head gliding forward, her Katana raised into high guard. the undead suddenly moved to stand between her and Kronnen then stopped again. For the first time Jill saw a glimmer of intelligence in those dead eyes.

“They wont be so easy to kill this time” Kronnen said. “Jasper has been waiting for this moment for a long time and will not be denied.”

“Jill let it be, all of you wait do nothing” Jared yelled up at the gallery where the rest of his team were. The light in the room dimmed and the stench of the dark filled the room, but something was different this time. He could feel it like a thunderstorm rolling in, It was like the world was holding it breath, waiting for something to happen. Not something Jared was going to do, but waiting for the Scribe to do what he was supposed to do. Jared smiled sadly, they had done it, kept Kronnen away from the trinity. No matter what happened now he and his people had done what they had set out to do.

Kronnen strode forward the undead parting for him; his smile grew a little wider. He might have failed to kill Jared earlier but in the end vengeance was good enough. First Stone then the hunter.

Behind Kronnen, something else moved in the shadows. A woman, in a long white gown, her hair hanging down covering her face stepped out. He dimly heard Ronny shout something, then she shifted suddenly in an indescribable way, and Jasper Brown was standing there instead. Carefully the dead Serial killer adjusted his bowler hat, then tugged his waist coat into place, his thin lips spreading into a shark toothed smile of anticipation. “ you killed me father, why did you kill me” Bowler hat said mockingly as he looked up at the Gallery where Ronny stood watching helplessly. His voice was that that of a little girl.

“Your slut is pregnant Jared, I didn’t lie, and now you have been bitten and you will turn and then you will kill her, just like I said would happen, you will rip your unborn child from her belly and eat it.” Bowler hat said, as he flowed forward spindly limbs flashing. “do not damage his head, I want him to rise” he hissed at Kronnen. “ I want this last work of art, my greatest work to be finished.

Jill took a half step forward and the dead between her and Jared leaned forward ready to intercept her. The one directly in front of her, stared hungrily. Then it did something that she wouldn’t have believed. It smiled almost daring her to attack. her eyes narrowed, and darted a look at Bowler hat, somehow he was controlling them. she didnt know how she knew that or that it was even possible but there was no doubt in her mind.

Jared was in pain, but he had years of practice at shoving pain away when he had to, and he had to now.  Kronnen lunged at him, and the fight was on.  Kronnen had thought Jared would be to weak, to scared and in to much pain to fight back, he was wrong.

Kronnen was trained Jared realized in seconds, the man had taken martial arts at some point in the past. They circled each other, attacking and blocking, weapons flashing. Jared was growing weaker, which only made Kronnen’s lower skill level more of a match. .

Jared could feel himself slipping away, as a knife slashed across his chest.  Hhe managed to deflect the worst of it with the tomahawk and brought the Khurkri in and around trying to take Kronnen’s hand off.  Kronnen responded with a flat hand block knocking Jared’s blade away as he snatched his arm back at of danger.

Bowler hat was capering around laughing the sound jagged and mad. One last thing to do, Jared thought as Kronnen lunged in driving the knife straight at Jareds heart.  Jared  dropped both his weapons and slapped his empty palms together catching the blade between them. He pivoted away, ripping the knife away and as Kronnen, off balance, continued forward Jared spun past the Warlord  and drove his elbow into  the back of Kronnen’s head sending the war lord staggering, dazed for a second.

Then everything changed, there was a gunshot, Bowler hat shrieked like the damned soul he was, the room filled with the smell of flowers and honey on a warm summer day. “finish it” a voice that sounded like mark said in Jareds ear. Around him the undead were falling to the floor of the senate chamber.

Kronnen broke his fall with both hands and sprang back to his feet in time to see Jasper Brown fade from view and a pistol appear in Jared’s hand like the last magical act of the apocalypse, then there was nothing but fire and Thunder that chased him down a dark tunnel that never ended.

One minute Ori was fighting for his life, with Jansen and three other men beside him. people were still trying to get into the Capitol building, others had given up and were adding their weight of fire to the defense, determined to give others a chance to escape.

Blood was spraying, as man after man had fallen, and then suddenly the dead stopped. Just stopped, then began to fall over like dominos. In less than a second it was over, and silence filled the day that had been wracked by gunfire and death.

Senate floor.

Jill raced to Jared’s side, her eyes growing wide as suddenly Steve, Mark and others who had died along the way to this point in time stood before Jared. She dropped to her knees beside her husband, sobbing.

“Jill” Mark said as he knelt beside her. “Bind his wounds, its over. Tell him when he comes to, that what he asked for is his. Enjoy it. The dead are gone.” Mark said as he touched Jills hand. “Tell Sharon and Bridget, we love them and will wait” and with that they were gone.

Walter E. Washington convention Center.

Brody stood on the roof staring, not sure what was happening. All he knew was the dead had stopped, the streets around the convention center were carpeted with unmoving corpses. For a moment, there was a smell like flower and honey in the air then it was gone.

Greenbrier Hotel.

Mary and Beth walked slowly up the ramp to the surface to see for themselves what the guards had reported. It didn’t seem possible, but as they stepped out into the sunshine that filled the Chiller yard they believed, around the fence and as far as they could see, the dead lay unmoving. As the minutes ticked by, more and more of the people sheltering in the bunker emerged unable to believe what they were hearing till they saw it for themselves.

Like a wave it spread up and down the coast, and across the country, the dead fell over and lay still. In Cherokee, cheers and war whoops rose into the air, men leaped in trucks and raced for the Farm to see if it had happened there too.

Word spread on Sullivan island, People headed for the gates, or took boats across the channel to see for themselves the heaped bodies of the dead that lined the shore where they had stood watching the island.

1555 hrs the National Mall

Lovett stared out the window of the RV, shock and surprise holding him immobile as the dead that had surrounded the RV and beat on its sides suddenly fell over. Every where he could see from the Rv to the Washington Monument the undead now lay unmoving.

LOvett could see that Toffler already had the surviving forces around the monument moving, the tracks and heavy tires ripping and tearing at the bodies as they moved across the deep carpet of the dead. Moved not towards the capitol building where Jared Stone and his people were fighting with Kronnen’s assault but away.

He reached for the radio ready to lay some righteous fury down on Toffler and his men for leaving Kronnen in a lurch, when another voice erupted from the speaker. “ this is Sergeant Randal Garrett, 1st squad, third platoon, The WarLord is dead, I am in command of whats left of the assault, something happened to all the undead in here, they just stopped and stood in place for several minutes then just fell over.

We have broken contact and are falling back, we need transport.”

“Sergeant, fall back to Pick up point Tango Romeo, be advised if you become engaged again you will have to break contract before we will pick you up. Toffler out”

Lovett stared at the radio, Kronnen dead it wasn’t possible. Shaking himself, he began to transmit orders to the units under his command and in moments the whole group was on the move heading towards the distant bridge that had been designated as their exit point during the initial planning.

As the RV rumbled forward through the lane the Beaters were clearing Lovett made his way to the bedroom in the back of the Motorhome, not even shocked at the sight of the bound and gagged nude pregnant woman on the floor beside the bed.

He knelt and cut her bounds free her arms and legs. No matter how loyal he had been to Kronnen, he hadn’t been blind to the increasing insanity of the warlord or been happy about some things like his treatment of this woman.

Her terror filled eyes snapped open at his touch, making him feel unclean. “let me help you up onto the bed” he said reaching for her. she shrank away from his touch.

“Kronnen will kill you for this” she whispered her eyes fixed on the bedroom door.

“Kronnen is dead” he told her

“What? Your lying he cant be killed” She said tears sliding down her face “He wont let Kronnen die. I will never be free again.”

He? Lovett thought. “Kronnen is dead, he wont be coming back” Lovett assured her. “Jared Stone killed him.” He added. For reasons he couldn’t explain he knew that Kronnen had died at the hands of Stone and that Kronnen had somehow been linked to the dead and if the dead were gone then Kronnen’s time was over as well. But his legacy lived on in this woman’s belly.

He should end it now, Kronnen was dead, the society that he had forged and then ruined with his insanity had died with Kronnen and in her belly was the one thing that could lead to more insanity. Considering the rumors that had been circling the unit about the pregnancy or rather the nature of the child with in her belly, Rumors that Lovett hadn’t given any credence till today.

He finally shook his head, as another thought intruded, the wavering loyalty steadied and strengthened, the baby would be born. and he and what ever loyalists remained would protect the child who would some day reclaim all his or her father had once possessed, and that child would finally establish the nation that Kronnen had dreamed of.

1600 hrs Capitol building.

Jared leaning on Jill and Ronny stepped out onto the terrace, the men and women who had survived fell silent as Jared appeared. Bloody and badly injured, he made himself step away from His wife and Ronny and made his way, slowly and unsteadily towards Ori who, came to meet him halfway.

“Thank god you survived” Jared said hugging Ori tightly, leaving bloody spots on the other mans clothes. Ori returned the hug, surprised to find Jared was crying. Jared pulled away and his eyes sweeping the dead for familiar faces. There were far to many of them. He knew. He walked amongst the dead, Jill and the others trailing him ready to catch him if he fell. Cooper lay beside the M2 he had manned to the end. A bullet hole in his forehead, pistol still clamped in his hand.

Over there was Baker his throat ripped out, beside him was Tolliver still holding his SAW. The big friendly and well educated black man who had done more than most to keep his squad and friends sane and safe would never make it back to philly to check on his family. He named each corpse he knew, “write down their names, not one of them is going to be forgotten.” He said.

Jared could feel his strength fading again, but he made himself walk all the way to the stairs and looked out over the mall. There were bodies as far as he could see and the remnants of Kronnen’s forces were leaving.

“let them go, enough of us have died in the last two years.” He said more to himself than to any one else.

his knees started to buckle and instantly Jill and Ori caught him. “lets get you to the medic” Ori said but Jared only pointed down to the streets to the north. Ori looked and blinked as he saw people. people slowly heading towards the Capitol building.

By nightfall, the terrace and part of the stair had been cleared of the bodies. A huge pyre blazed below, more bodies were being added by small work crews. Above them music was playing and soon they quit clearing and joined the party.

Ori sat watching as Brody danced with Alyssa they made a great couple he thought. . Brody’s entire crew had arrived they had traveled on foot, unable to believe as they crossed block after block and saw not one single zombie. Betties group had been doing the same thing and the two groups had made their slowly to the mall, meeting more people, small groups and individuals who had been hiding all over the area, most of them had, had no idea any one else had survived in the city till the battle had started.

Now despite the dead, or maybe because of the dead they were celebrating life, a life that could now be lived in the open. A life where hopefully the dead would never return. Hope had won, what ever the scribe had done had worked. Mankind had a second chance now.

Eric and what was left of his team had arrived shortly after Jared had passed out in the medical shelter. Darius had left only returning half an hour ago with the only two survivors of the group he had led on top of the museum. More men and women from other roof top positions had filtered in.

Reese had finally sent a team to pick up Quentin and Tobias from where they had been hiding waiting for help. Both men were upset at having missed the battle, but Ori knew they were relieved as well.

Chris had pulled through, barely. He had major organ damage from the poison and would never be able to take the field again or do much that was strenuous, which Ori was pretty sure wouldn’t upset Chris or Shelly. He didn’t even blink the few times he thought he saw mark and Steve, in the crowd on the Terrace. He just smiled, they deserved to be here as much as any of the living.

His attention shifted to Cal Simms who sat on the ground leaning back against the stone rail, a cute twenty something girl from the convention center, in his lap. Simms had raced here from Sullivan island after lifting the siege with sixty men, picking up to Grimmson, Lany and five others along the way as well as acquiring two Marine AmTracks and a LST. Simms had lost ten men in the running battle through the capitol building and another five to the dead before they fell over.

From the looks of it, Simms would be trying to become a daddy before sunrise, and the girl didn’t seem to mind the idea in the least. Ori was more than willing to bet most of the women here would be pregnant before sunrise, it was turning into that kind of party, they had survived the darkest years of mankind and now were getting down to celebrating life in the way most soldiers, hell most survivors of anything traumatic, had always celebrated after a big battle or coming home from a war zone.

Reese walked up and stood beside Ori. “I wanted to say, your one hell of a good man, and if we ever get involved in another battle, I would be proud to have you at my side.”

“How about we settle for being friends, and avoid any future battles” Ori said, glancing over to the medical shelter where Ronny had just emerged. “and I need to go check on my friend again”

“That’s good enough for me, I would love to hang up this damn rifle and retire” Reese said tapping the M-4. “Tell Jared I hope he gets better soon.”

Ori nodded and walked quickly over to Ronny who was smiling, feeling his tension drop at the sight, he waved to Ronny and entered the shelter for the third time that evening. Jill still sat beside Jared, her sword unsheathed and across her thighs. Jared looked like hammered dog shit, Ori thought seeing the drawn feverish tight skin. But he was awake and he looked alert.

Blaine was hooking up another IV, and saying something to Eric about finding a helicopter and sending Grimmson to the Greenbrier to pick up more supplies before they ran out and people stared dying.

“Look who the cat dragged in” Jared said waving a hand and wincing in pain. “and no I’m not dying, not yet.”

“So your Dreams were wrong then” Ori said with a smile. Something changed in Jared’s face, something subtle Ori didn’t know what it might mean but then Jared smiled and nodded.

“Looks like” Jared said, casting a quick look at Jill.

“What’s wrong” Ori demanded, he knew when Jared was holding back.

“Nothing, its not important. Its over Ori, its finally over and we can head back as soon as the wounded are well enough to travel. Then you can make shine, get fat and have lots of kids. Ronny can finally get the long overdue spanking he needs when Mary hears about all the crap he pulled and life can get more normal for all of us.” Jared said, his voice was till weak, but much stronger than earlier.

Jill cleared her throat, and looked around. Every one in the shelter at the moment looked at her. “I need to say something, I should have said this a while back, but I couldn’t I was to scared.”

All eyes were now fixed intently on her. it was to her credit and reputation that not one person thought she was about to confess to an affair or something equally bad. “ I’m Pregnant.” She said into the quiet, which shattered as the room erupted in cheers and congratulations. “I’m sorry Jared I should have told you, but I was afraid that if you knew something might happen to you.”

He lay there staring at her, he had suspected as much when she had told him what Mark had said. But now his eyes grew bright, he reached out and touched her cheek. “I love you” was all he said. He didn’t even think about the fact that Bowler hat hadn’t been lying, that didn’t matter any longer. Bowler hat was gone hopefully forever.

Then pandemonium erupted out on the Terrace as the sound of helicopter could be heard in the distance. Eric grinned. “Better late than never, I called for some help ealier.” He said with a grin, Looks like you might be able to fly back the Greenbrier and then to Sullivan.”

Jared shook his head, “no when I leave here, I will go with every one that followed me here. They deserve that much out of me” Jared said. “but first we have to bury our own.”

“Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die”
~Mary Frye

The final chapter is one the way, I hope you enjoy.

5 thoughts on “Chapter Thirty Three

    • thanks for Reading Andrew. I am thrilled that so many people have enjoyed this story. its you and the other readers that have kept me plugging along. at some point I do plan on adding a bit more to the saga. I even had a short story thats may years into the future of the island I hope to finish and post.

      and be sure not to miss the final chapter. Same zombie channel same zombie time. er.. sorry batman tv show flashback LOL

      Like

  1. Dude, absolutely awesome. You’ve done a fine job with this series, start to finish. I know where it sprang from and I dare say, I like it better with no doubt in my mind this could stand with the best of them, shoulder to shoulder. Please accept my text version of a standing ovation.

    Now, the negative (for me). I’ve been waiting for this to finish up to see what you did with Jasper. I haven’t forgotten my little bit and still intend to give it at least some form of resolution, but I needed to see what you did with him before I proceed so I didn’t create any major continuity issues. I have an idea on how to “finish him off”, in a somewhat interesting fashion, without actually getting rid of him. Hopefully it’ll be acceptable.

    Looking forward to the wrap up. I’m sure it won’t disappoint.

    Like

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