Chapter Twenty Eight

“Although it is the day’s last hour,
Look with no fear:
For the torn storm lets in, at the world’s rim,
Three streaming rays as straight as Jacob’s ladder:”
~T. Menton

A Cold wind blew in off the Potomac as Kronnen stepped down from the RV that had been his home for so long now.

He smiled cruelly as he watched two prisoners hauled out of the back of a truck and dragged over to a light pole. They struggled of course like any trapped animal, desperate for one more minute of life even though they knew that death was here for them.

Ropes were tossed over the arm that jutted out from the pole and soon both men were hauled up to twitch and jerk till they died. He didn’t turn away till he saw their bodies jerk and twitch again as the corpses reanimated.

The fighting at the gates had finally died down and the sound of armored vehicles starting up rolled over the former Marine base.

“what’s the status on clearing” he asked turning to his new Aide de Camp.

“Morgan reported in just a minute ago and said they are making progress.” Toffler replied.

“Good” Kronnen replied the new tactics or really retro tactics combined with the water cannons were working far better than he had hoped they would.

“Sir, if you don’t mind my asking, how are we going to find this Stone guy in DC, I mean it’s a city. He could be anywhere.” Toffler asked, praying that Kronnen wouldn’t get upset at the question and think he was being defeatist.

“I have a very good idea of the three places he might be going” Kronnen replied. “And I know he is not there yet.”

Toffler gave him an odd look but didn’t press, if Kronnen wanted to share how he knew that Stone was not in DC yet, he would but Toffler was not foolish enough to even appear to question Kronnen.

“I want ten men put in a boat to head to DC, I want them to find a place to set up near the national Mall. When Stone arrives, he will be in that area sooner or later.” Kronnen said “Make sure they understand they are not to engage”

Toffler made a note in his ever present notebook, nodding to himself. “ Anything else Sir” Toffler asked politely.

“I want a complete inventory by 1800hrs, with the loss of the main camp, we had to have taken a hit on Ammunition as well as fuel and other supplies. If we need to scavenge more before we attack then so be it, but I want enough to make sure there are a few thousand rounds per person in Stones group.” Kronnen stated.

“Yes sir, Ill handle that personally” Toffler said.

“not trying to get out of spending time with me are you Toffler” Kronnen said with a tight smile.

“NO sir, I only want to make sure the inventory is done correctly and in a timely manner” Toffler replied hoping that Kronnen was only joking.

“I was joking Captian” Kronnen said, Toffler didn’t sigh with relief though he wanted to. He did smile hearing his new rank, Promotions in the apocalypse came hard and fast, one day a lowly sergeant first class, the next a Captain.

“oh one more thing, I want Tyler sent with the Scouts into DC. He knows Stone and how the man operates he will be a major assest” Kronnen said, and it was about the only worth while thing the shit could do. Tyler was cold, ruthless and loyal but he was not a soldier.

“Ill deliver that order personally” Toffler said as he made another note.

Toffler was no Proctor Kronnen thought, but he was efficient and more importantly he was loyal.

Kronnen was still hurt by Proctors treason. Not that he hadn’t seen the betrayal, of his oldest and best friend coming Proctor had refused to fully embrace Kronnen’s ideals, argueing at every chance to rein in Kronnen’s actions, there were times he had been right, but mostly Proctors reluctance was based on weakness, the inability to let go of the rules of the old world. He had hoped to the very end that Proctor would come around but in the end Proctor had surrendered the camp to Stone. when I see you next old friend I will kill you with my bare hands its what you deserve for your treason.

He hid the smile of cold satisfaction behind a façade of thoughtful indifference. “lets get started Captain we have miles to go before we get to the end.” Kronnen said with false cheerfulness.

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

February 15th, somewhere under ground.

The convoy came around a gentle curve doing no more than fifteen miles an hour, the light splash from the headlights and search light glittered off the damp rough hewn walls making it seem a little brighter in the stygian gloom.
Jansen stood in the gunners hatch of the HET using the spotlight to look ahead of the convoy’s head lights. The track ran straight ahead then suddenly split into a fork where the tunnel widened out into a chamber that was cloaked in gloom and darkness beyond the beam of the searchlight.
He could see in the glow of the light some one had piled junk across the tracks at the mouth of the chamber. Pipes cut at an angle to form a point had been welded together to make a X shape with the points facing out, then a long pipe had been laid in the across the X’s and welded into place forming a Stake fence or hedge beyond the Hedge, train rails, cinderblock and more pipes had been stacked creating a second obstacle wall that fully blocked entry into the Chamber.
As they drew closer and the angles changed he was able to get more light into the chamber where he could see beyond the barricades, the side tracks ran up to a platform set into the right hand wall of the chamber. Two off white train cars sat parked in front of the platform, their windows smeared and dirty.
He had the HET roll up then stop twenty feet from the Mouth of the chamber, till he could shine the searchlight directly on the Platform and saw some one had erected what looked like floor to ceiling scaffolding across the width of the platform then added pipes in the framework to make a wall of pipes, each pipe placed eight inches from another.
“Tolliver I want you up here on the Ma Deuce, 1st squad dismount we are going to clear that chamber.” Jansen said as he slid down into the cab of the HET.
By the time he got to the ground outside, Jared and Team one were heading up to join 1st squad.
“Glad to have you” Jansen said as he lifted his M-4 to high ready watching the entrance to the chamber.
“Cant say we are glad to be here” Ronny muttered. “ personally I would almost rather be at Proctologists office for a check up than here.”
“I think I might agree with you” Benton said with a tense smile.
“Ori get up on top of the HET, you can snipe from there” Jared said ignoring the by play. “Don’t argue, I don’t want you on the ground till your completely healed. ”Jared pointed up then keyed his radio. “Tolliver stay on the MA Deuce but don’t fire unless a horde appears let Ori do most of the work” he transmitted.
They waited till Ori had gotten onto the roof of the HET then started forward. Pausing only long enough to move on a section of Hedge, then clambered over the make shift wall behind it while Team one covered them.
They moved slowly across the chamber weapon mounted lights sweeping around as they searched for threats. Shining their lights around they saw the Chamber was roughly three times the width of the train tunnel, box shaped with a curved roof, beyond the beams of the headlights and the searchlight it was cloaked in darkness.
“This is fucking creepy” Ronny said in a low voice as he panned his light across the train cars. The dried blood and gore smeared on the inside of the windows looked like some demented painter had attacked.
Jared nodded in agreement, forcing away the uncertainty that they should be here in this place where the unrelenting darkness pressed in around them waiting for the lights to gutter out so that it could rush in and crush them under its repressive weight.
With a thud a zombie appeared slamming against the window of one of the train car, beyond the dirty glass shadows moved inside the car. Then more faces appeared pressing against the windows, pale dirty hands pawing at the glass.
“As long as they are in there, I’m in no rush to meet them” Ronny said.
Jared nodded in agreement, his eyes fixing on the door in the wall beyond the pipe and scaffold fence that stretched across the platform. Something about this place really bothered him.
“Why would they just drop two rail cars here” Jansen asked looked up at the cars where the undead pressed against the windows, mouths opening and closing.
“Could you ask a fucking serious question” Ronny said jabbing his weapon at the windows of the rail car. “I think there are windows full or reasons”
“No, he is right” Jared said. “Some one built those barricades, and I cant see them leaving a load of undead in those rail cars when they were trying to keeping them out.”
“Unless they weren’t trying to keep them out but in” Jill said shivering.
There was silence for a moment as all of them thought about that. Then Jansen shrugged. “Doesn’t matter, we have to move the convoy through here unless we are going to back up fifteen miles and go back into Mt. Weather.” Jansen said, “and I don’t like the idea of not clearing what ever is behind that door on the platform before we move through here.”
“What if there’s some kind of facility back there and its full of the undead” Jared said “we open that door and we could let them loose.”
“Times wasting,” Mike said his eyes fixed on the train cars,“check or don’t check”
“Lets get the barricade across the tracks moved so we can get through here and then decide.” Jansen said. “Personally my vote at the moment is not Check.”
“Chris get a crew up here to move this crap,” Jared transmitted. “Jansen go check on the other entrance to the tunnel, make sure there are no stink bags over there. “
As the group moved away, the light went with them plunging the platform back into deep shadows.
Chris climbed out of the Van, then stopped having to clutch the door for a moment as vertigo struck. “you okay” Brock asked.
“Yeah, sorry just suddenly felt dizzy” he said. After a moment the feeling passed but he still felt a little weak. Buck it up old man, he silently chided himself as he coughed a couple of times.
“All right people, we need to clear the route lets get busy” Chris said then began calling out names.
Once he had his people assembled they started walking down the tunnel, Chris staggered once catching himself on a fender. “you sure your all right” Brock asked.
“Yeah, guess I’m coming down with the flu or something” Chris muttered.

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

Jared, followed by Team one walked slowly along the chamber wall, instead of rough rock it had been faced in cement. “What are you looking for?” Ronny asked looking back at the men who were working to clear the tracks under the glow of the search light.
Seventy feet across Jansen and his men had climbed over the next hedge and obstacle wall and were exploring down the tunnel opposite the work crew.
“I want to make sure there are no access hatches or maintenance tunnels.” Jared commented. “ I don’t like the thought of one standing open to allow undead to swarm out on us.”

On the platform in the gloom, unseen by any one in the chamber, a door opened, from the darkness beyond the door, shapes filtered out. Over the rumble of idling motors, the sound of a gate in the pipe wall creaking open could not be heard.
Chris leaned against the tunnel wall, wiping at his forehead, he felt feverish and the weakness seemed to have grown worse. He coughed into his hand as he watched as the work crew began to pull the barricade apart and carried it out of the way, dumping it beside the side track.
“You look like Crap” A woman said, Chris blinked slowly realizing it was the woman who had spread the rumor about Jill, he had been going to talk to her about that crap but Jared had rushed their leaving and Chris had been to busy to dress the bitch down. “Do you need water or something?” she asked as a smile flashed across her face..
“I.. no, I’m fine” he said shoving himself up right to prove his point..
“Have it your way” she said with an odd smile. “If your sick you need fluids” she added tapping the canteen at her side.
She turned and walked away, adding a little extra swing to her hips. Bitch, he thought as he saw Jared and the others approaching.
He started to walk towards Jared and the others and felt the world spin around him, he fell to his knees then fell forward his head striking the cool stone of the tunnel floor.

“Chris!” Jared shouted running forward. “We need a medic up at the front” Jared shouted into the radio as he ran up and dropped to his knees beside Chris whose clothes were soaked in sweat. Work stopped as the others gathered around trying to see what was going on but Mike and Ronny kept them from pressing in too close.
“This is Blaine, I am on the way.” Jared heard as he reached down and rolled Chris over, praying he wouldn’t see what he feared.
Chris looked pale, but not the dead white of the undead, the bluish tinge to his lips scared the hell out of Jared. Chris’s eyes were closed and his chest rose and fell, but his breathing sounded wet. “shit he is burning up” Jared said pulling his hand away from Chris’s forehead.
“ Blaine, Hurry your ass up” Jared transmitted trying not to shout or scream at the man. He knew Blaine was not dragging ass but that did nothing to lessen the fear he felt.

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

Toby Moore, Caren Alsen and Skye Zander had just finished stacking the cinderblocks they had carried over to the side track, as they turned to head back to the growing crowd in the mouth of the tunnel they were hit from behind, Toby and Felix were killed instantly, Skye managed to half shout half scream a warning before a Pipe silenced him.
Alex Neville was halfway to the edge of the crowd when he heard a some one scream it was almost drowned out by the idling motors of the convoy, he turned in time to see Caren Alsen being dragged off by something that looked human. It was too dark over by the Platform to be sure of what he saw. But he was sure he saw three pale figures running towards him, his shout of alarm was choked off when a chain snaked out of the darkness to his right, it wrapped around his neck cutting off his oxygen. He was yanked off his feet and dragged into the shadows towards the platform.

In the darkness figures rushed forward unseen and unheard spreading out sticking to the darkest area’s of the Chamber till they could fall on their victims who were distracted by the emergency.
Chaos erupted as pale figures leaped onto men and women at the edge of the group. Shouts of alarm filled the air as men were pulled down and dragged away.
Men and women bolted trying to put a safe distance between themselves and the threat that had suddenly appeared in their midst.
Jared’s head shot up as some one screamed from the back of the small crowd. Instantly men and women scattered. As another scream rang out some of the group dove for cover behind the remaining obstacles, others the largest number, trying to put distance between themselves and the surprise threat raced back into the tunnels seeking shelter in their vehicles. they succeeded in blocking, not only each other, but the lines of fire that the men already in the tunnel could have used to make a sudden and decisive difference
Jared stayed by Chris, Ronny and Mike joined him and together they kept Chris safe from being trampled.

Ori lay on the top of the HET, ignoring Tolliver’s anger at not being able to fire, there were to many people in the way for him to open up with the Ma Deuce. But that wasn’t true for Ori, who spotted a ghostly pale figure dart out of the darkness and in the confusion it seized a running woman by the hair and started to drag her backwards into the darkness.
Tolliver turned the Ma Deuce and caught four figures in the beam of the search light, They had been about to attack men who had been moving forward to try and engage, all four covered their eyes and ran back into the sheltering darkness as the men they had been about to ambush opened fire on them.
When the hell did these things start running Ori asked himself seeing another figure leap at Dalton Green who had been shooting at something up on the platform, Daltons weapon was to far off target to be brought around and put on Target before he was taken down by this newest threat..

Ori laid his sights on the thing pulling the woman away, he could see its ravaged face, open sores leaking dark fluids, peeling skin and what looked like mold freckling its forehead, Ori stroked the trigger putting a bullet into its forehead. Blood and bone sprayed out the back of it skull.
He turned his weapon to the figure that had dove at Dalton . Dalton had stumbled and fallen to one knee, the thing attacking him had one around Daltons neck and was beating on him with a pipe.
Ori started to squeeze the trigger then stopped as Logan ran up beside Dalton and rammed the barrel of his AR into the head of Daltons attacker and fired sending a gout of gore flying from the exit wound.
Definitely not undead Ori thought as the sight of the blood finally registered, they were men. “they ain’t undead” Ori transmitted as he searched for his next target.

Jared stayed crouched beside Chris, his HK ready as he saw two of the attackers go down, like Ori he had seen the blood and realized what they were dealing with. But with all the people running around, and shooting wildly he couldn’t risk firing or do much else with out being shot himself.
More gunfire reached out now that the shock and surprise was wearing off, two more attackers went down. He saw a man as pale as one of the undead, like others dressed in rags leap out of the darkness swinging a pipe at Logan. Logan managed to get his rifle in the way and blocked the pipe which saved his head ,but his attacker was quick, with a flick of his wrist the ghoulish looking man snapped the pipe around and smashed it into Logan’s side. Bone snapped and Logan gasped in pain
“Hang on Chris helps on the way” Jared said as he flowed to his feet unable to stay put with Logan endanger, his weapon snapping into position. He could hear Jansen shouting questions over the radio, but Jared only cared about the danger in front of him, the fact that Jansen and 1st squad were heading back to the chamber was a plus but they would probably arrive to late to be much help.
Logan tried to back pedal but tripped over a cinder block and fell heavily as his attacker loomed over him, pipe raise to smash Logan’s skull in.
“Down” Jared bellowed at two men who stumbled into his line of fire as they tried to escape the chaos and confusion. Jared shouldered one out of the way, then both men dropped to the ground, the pipe had begun its descent as Logan struggled to bring his AR on Target. Jared fired twice, blowing the attackers chest into bloody ruin. The body tumbled to one side.
Logan started to scramble to his feet when another man in rags lunged out of the shadows, and leaped on him fists pummeling into his side and head.
“Mike, Ronny, Cover Chris” Jared yelled as he raced forward bowling over a man scrambling to get to cover. He hurtled a stack of Cinderblocks and raced to Logans side where he grabbed Logan’s attacker with his off hand.
With a heave, he pulled the man off of Logan and tossed the foul smelling, filthy man shaped animal away from Logan. The man hit the floor and tumbled across the chamber floor. Jared fired but missed as the man came to a stop beside a stack of cinderblocks near the side track.
Jared fired again, this time hitting his target in the chest, neck and head. Jared could see in the light from his Tac light a haze of pink in the air as the body collapsed.
Jared worried about Chris, Jill and every one else, glanced back to make sure Chris was being protected and that distraction cost him.
A sudden movement to his right caused Jared to spin around as a man lunged out of the darkness. He had been hiding against the wall to the right of the mouth of the tunnel out of the line of fire and out of the light and sight.
He was fast, Jared realized as a seven foot length of pipe smashed into his forearm sending pain roaring up his arm. His attacker, snarling, almost contemptuously backhanded Jared in the face with the pipe sending Jared to the floor in a sprawl, lights dancing in front of his eyes.
A second figure leaped out of the darkness at Jared, wrenching the HK from the dazed red head and tossed it away. The man stank of sewage and rot, as he dropped onto Jared’s chest lifting a blood-stained knife up into the air over Jared’s heart.
Ori saw an attacker leap on Jared, a knife rose into the air. Ori laid his sight and put a round in the man’s head. Jared’s attacker toppled over. Ori had just enough time to see another attacker racing forward making an odd motion with his right arm like he was swinging something around. Ori heard a buzzing sound as he laid his cross hairs on the mans forehead then the Searchlight mounted above the Ma Deuce shattered and went out. Ori squeezed the trigger still on target.
It was chaos in the chamber, lights flashed and spun around, the weapons fire was sporadic as the people from Sullivan tried to keep from shooting friend instead of foe in the swirling mad house of hand to hand fighting that had sprang to life.

Jill ran forward Katana in one hand, the Modified saber in place of a Wakasashi in her left hand. She had no idea who these people were, and she didn’t care, Jared was in trouble. A man lunged at her indistinct in the darkness and the flashing lights till he got close. He held a pipe with both hands that was raised over his head. The Katana glittered in the light as she took his hands leaving him to fall to his knees screaming staring at the bloody stumps that had once hosted hands.
Jared pushed the corpse off his chest and rolled to one side before getting to his feet, the man with the pole he used as a Staff advanced on Jared spinning the pole around in a complex maneuver designed to intimidate. Jared could only see the man in the strobing lights and muzzle flashes but it was enough to tell him who ever this guy was he had at least some training.
Jared backpedaled trying to keep out of reach of the weapon. He reached for his pistol ready to end this hard and fast only to find the Mk 23 was gone.
Suddenly Jill was there putting herself between Jared and his opponent, blades and pipe met in a flurry of strikes and blocks, sparks flew.
Jared saw his pistol laying on the ground beside the corpse that had fallen on him, he dove for his pistol snatching it off the ground only to gasp as something smashed into his shoulder.
“Son of whore” He bellowed as he hit the ground, hand closing around the pistol as he tucked into a roll. He rolled up into a crouch balanced on the balls of his feet and saw a man spinning a length of chain that hissed through the air where his head had been moments ago.
“Ever see Indiana Jones” Jared ask conversationally as the man yanked the chain back and then snapped it out again. In the blink of the eye, Jared’s hand was rising pistol roaring twice, the attack was dead before he even realized what was happening. As the body fell over with two gaping holes in its head, something moved to Jared’s left instinct had Jared rolling to the right coming up on one knee pistol leveled and he fired again.

Jill deep in Zanshin, a state of intense awareness, flowed on the current of consciousness where time seemed to crawl. She could clearly see each attack and shift in strategy of her attacker with time to counter but her opponent was just as skilled as she was and adapted just as quickly.
They spun through counters and attacks, from one form to another, the sound of combat rang like muted thunder in the chamber. Light flashed from her blades as she fought. Their wills clashed, spirally twining together as they fought to break the stale mate.
A strike slipped through, numbing her left shoulder, she pressed in sliding along the extend staff and with a flick of the saber drew blood, her opponent slipped away with only a superficial wound. They clashed together again, and again they scored minor injuries before they broke away from each other, circling and feinting in a flash of weapons and limbs.
Time to change this up she thought as she saw her opponent spin the pipe into a strike that would come down on her head. She lunged forward dropping both blades, and slapped her hands up catching the pipe, pushing it aside she leaped into a spinning kick. Her boot smashed into his jaw, he reeled back off balance light dancing before his eyes. She was too close for him to use the pipe effectively so she pressed in with a series of kicks that battered the man backwards till he struck the wall of the chamber dropping the pipe.
Jill flowed into another attack; an elbow strike dislocated his jaw, a chop to his throat closed off his wind pipe. He fell gagging, grasping his throat with his hands. As if that would help. She thought as she turned and raced back and swept her blades from the ground only to find there were no more attackers.
“ Damn” Ronny muttered as he knelt beside Chris covering both Chris and Blaine who was examining the downed man. “She really is like some ancient Goddess of war.”

Jared stood amidst the corpse’s looking around with no expression on his face, he had seen this far to many times to be bothered by it but he was damn tired of killing.
He knelt and studied one of the bodies, The man was mal nourished, with thin arms and legs, his skin was so filthy it was almost grey, half his face and one arm were covered in Raw weeping sores. Several of the sores were so large it looked like chunks of the mans skin had been ripped out. Giving him the appearance of having been chewed on by one of the dead.

The mans other forearm seemed smaller and was covered in thick scar tissue. Using his Khurkri Jared moved some of the ragged clothing to get a look at the mans torso, which was in as bad a shape as his arm and face.

Not good he thought as he stood up and moved away from the corpse. “Stay away from the bodies, I want Haslom to examine them then get ten men in gas masks, and gloves to carry the bodies over to the far side of the chamber, douse them in gas then toss a Willy P on the pile.” He transmitted on the convoy channel so every one could hear.

Pulling a package from a thigh pocket, Jared pulled out a anti bacterial wet wipe and wiped his hands down, just to be safe then wiped down the blade of his Khurkri. He had no idea what this man or the others had and he prayed it wasn’t infectious and spread through out the Convoy.

Julie stood with the others weapon in hand ready to repel any undead that might rise , which was pointless since they had to get past the men at the head of the convoy. It had allowed her a good view of Jills battle and her dislike had grown by leaps and bounds. As had her respect for the obviously dangerous woman.
She hid a smile as she saw Chris being loaded onto a stretcher as Jared walked up and had a few quiet words with the Medic. Soon you’re a dead man Chris. Jasper was right there are better ways to take out truly dangerous assholes like you people.
It both annoyed and relived her that Jasper wanted Jared and his wife left alone. It was a pity that she couldn’t used the same poison on them as she had used on Chris. It would be so easy to slip the last of the poison she had made into their water. But Jasper had plans for them in DC and she wasn’t about to disappoint the man who was more of a father to her than the one she had grown up with.
But how she wished she could use a blade on those smug, self assured faces, as Jasper had once said, they are just meat over the beauty of death.
She watched silently as Jared sent Thor Jansen and his people to clear the platform, something that jack ass should have ordered before this happened. I wonder if he enjoys the deaths as much as I do. She kept her expressions tightly controlled, projecting only nervousness and fear like every one else. She did not want any one to realize how amused she was at what was happening to Chris or how much she actually despised them. Especially Max, who had refused to talk to her since he had blown up at her for the rumors. The moment she could get near Max’s canteen or get him alone he was a dead man.
Jared watched silently as they hauled Chris away to the make shift vehicle clinic at least it was well stocked with all the portable gear, and supplies they had taken over the last year and some odd. Blaine had been noncommittal on what might be wrong with Chris and that scared Jared badly.
He would never admit it but at the moment, all he wanted to do was just sit down and give up. He knew he wouldn’t it wasn’t who and what he was but god it would be nice to let someone else deal with this. Every decision he had made had led to death at some point and the amount of blood on his hands was all most to much for his soul to bear. All he had to do was close his eyes and the faces of the dead would parade across his minds eye a montage of lives cut short in a hellish world none of them had made or wanted.
And now Chris was sick with something, who knew what and Jared couldn’t stand the thought of losing another friend, and worse the fear that what ever Chris had would spread through the convoy terrified him.
If that happened, it would be devastating even if what ever it was didn’t kill a single person, it would leave them unable to defend themselves against the undead, or people like those they had just killed. Much less be able to face Kronnen and stop him before he could march on the Trinity.
I am so tired of this, I am burning out, if it werent for Jill and these people I wouldn’t mind dying. Find a nice quiet place like the ridge over looking my Camp and eat a bullet as the sun sets. But I will keep soldiering on, Duty, honor, and devotion. Cold companions but they are all I have
“You okay” Ronny asked placing a hand on Jared’s shoulder. The look of worry on his face hit Jared hard, obviously some of Jared’s emotions had shown on his face.
“Yeah. I’m fine, just worried about Chris” Jared replied, forcing aside the mental exhaustion and all the doubts and fears that came with it, knowing that when he finally had to deal with it he might not survive it.
“Me too” Ronny admitted, “don’t tell, but Ori was like my Lucky Charm, as long as he wasn’t hurt I could believe we would make it through this. But now..”
“I’m your lucky charm” Ori said from behind Ronny, who almost jumped out of his skin at the sudden appearance.
“I was just being nice to Jared, I didn’t mean it” Ronny protested.
“Sure you didn’t. you got a man crush on me. Sick but funny.” Ori said
“I’m not the one who was naked with a bunch of guys and a bowl of jello” Ronny shot back.
“Neither was I that was Eric,” Ori pointed out.
“Uh, yeah right, one day I want to hear that entire story” Ronny said shifting mental gears
Jared shook his head. “Good luck with that” Jared said, as his eyes turned back to the dead that still littered the chamber floor. All this was his fault, if he had just cleared that room behind the platform. But he hadn’t, the door had been clearly closed when he had looked at it. He had been thinking about undead. who could not open a door on their best day, instead of nut job half starved people. Because of that oversight, he had made yet another mistake that had killed more people.
He watched as men in gas masks picked up two more bodies to carry over to the pile being made across the chamber. It was worth the wasted gas to burn those bodies he thought.
How much more blood can I get on my hands before I eat a damn bullet? He had no answer for himself. Up on the platform he saw lights as Jansen and some of his men stepped out.
Jared, followed by Ronny and Ori, walked silently over to the platform.
“Jared you might want to see this” Jansen called seeing Jared approach, mingled anger and disgust in his voice.
“What is it” Jared asked as he leaped up onto the platform then helped Ori climb up so the man didn’t strain himself.
“I would rather you saw it” Jansen said shaking his head.
Jared followed Jansen through the narrow gate in the pipe and scaffold wall that no one had noticed till after it was to damn late, and into the wide door at the back of the platform.
It wasn’t just a maintenance room after all Jared thought as he stepped into the hallway lined with six large doors. Dim lights covered in wire mesh glowed above each door. The lights were so dim they didn’t really do a thing to light the hallway.

“Another facility?” Ronny asked,
“No it looks like this place was a Maintenance area for the tracks.” Jansen said as he led Jared down the hall and into a room at the back.
the single dim light in the ceiling of the room did little but create a million shadows that washed against the small circled of light cast on the floor, as if trying to drown it.
Jansen turned on the Tac light mounted to his M-4 and shown it into a corner at the end of the room, his mouth twisting into an angry frown.
“Oh Jesus” Jared said sickly as he saw the stack of skulls in the corner and the pile of bones beside them.
“They have been eating the dead and probably a few living too” Jansen said as he walked across the room then knelt and shined a light on a thigh bone to show Jared the scoring left by a knife. Jared had cleaned enough game in his life to recognize the marks for what they were. Some one had cleaned these bones like they had been so much venison “I guess the train cars are, were their pantry” he commented, forcing his stomach to his will.
“I think I am going to puke” Ronny muttered as he headed back into the hallway.
“We found a notebook that one of them had kept a diary in, I glanced at it long enough to see what it was, but I haven’t read it” Jansen said as Jared rose and walked over to the work bench that where a large knife had been stuck into the work top. From the bloodstains and cuts in the bench top it was obvious the cannibals had used the work bench as a butcher ‘s table.
“I’m not sure I want to know what happened here” Jared admitted. “ Keep it, when we get back to Sullivan we can toss in with the other diaries and Journals people have been writing and giving to Beth for the library. We can label it diary of a sick cannibal” Jansen nodded his agreement. “is there anything worth salvaging in here?” Jared asked.
“No, not really.” Jansen said happy to get away from the topic of cannibalism “A few firearms with no ammo, knives, mostly home made and other home made weapons. Lots of ruined uniforms and civilian clothes, watches, rings, wallets and purses even a few briefcases and worthless smart phones. A few blankets but no camping gear, no survival gear. I think these guys were somehow trapped down here, maybe some of them were maintenance crew, the rest might have been on a train or those two rail cars. Maybe the whole story is in that diary.”
“Probably” Jared said as he turned and walked out of the room of horrors. Jansen followed him out into the hallway. “you would think after all we have been through that something like that wouldn’t bother us, or at least wouldn’t bother me. But it does.”
“Join the club Spanky” Jansen said. “that the most disturbing thing I’ve seen since this whole damn thing started.”
“Yeah it at the top of the list for me too.” Jared said. “Lets get out of here we have barricades to clear and bodies to burn.. I just wish we could burn this whole place down. Even though the dead can walk, Stone still doesn’t burn.”
It took half an hour to dismantle the barricade that the cannibals had thrown up across the tracks, as soon as the tracks were cleared they drove through the chamber determined to leave it and the horror behind.

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

The sun sank below the horizon unseen behind a mass of clouds. The Grey light faded plunging the world into darkness. A darkness filled with a wild energy, something that had been growing in power every day like a Storm that was building and would soon sweep down on the world.
It was a wild fey thing that couldn’t be avoided; it was destiny finally coming around at last.
Kronnen walked slowly down the street past the deserted buildings, empty of life but not undead, on each side of the street. Easily stepping out of the way of the undead who could hear the his footsteps, maybe even hear him breathing but they couldn’t see him.
He stopped watching a zombie that had once been female, his night vision was far sharper now than before he his heart had been restarted in the hospital. She wore what looked like a once expensive designer dress, the diamond bracelet on her wrist and the matching necklace had once cost tens of thousands of dollars. In life she had probably been a looker, but no longer, her face and arms had been ravaged, one eye was missing. She had been the type of woman men lusted after, the type who had been bought and sold for expensive gifts and marriage licenses.
“your sugar daddy didn’t protect you did he” Kronnen said shaking his head. At the sound of his voice she headed straight for him, head cocked as if she were curious why she couldn’t see him. “you were part of the disease that doomed the human race. You were worth nothing beyond sex and good looks, and you got what you deserved” he said as she stopped in front of him her mouth yawning open in anticipation of hot meat, the foul rotting sewage smell of the undead washed over him. He smiled as her mouth closed and she tilted her head like she was sniffing the air.
Undead shuffled towards him, drawn by his voice but like her they couldn’t see him. He pushed her over to land legs spread on the pavement. “still lusting after men in death what a pathetic bitch.” He said watching the corpse struggle to get back to its feet.. He stepped over her and walked on in the direction of Washington DC. He felt nothing for the people who had died in and around Washington or anywhere else. If they had been stronger, they would have survived. If they had some how survived the rising of the dead, they would have died when he found them. Weak, coat tail clingers, who were worth less than trash, they contributed nothing to the world around themselves.
His purpose in the end was to cull the human herd. Those that were strong enough to last to the end would be bred and used till they died. Because in the end the Dark, if it won, would wipe away the few that were left and the world would start over again.
If the Dark were to lose, if the Trinity were to somehow defeat it, then Kronnen would still be here to build a new country, an Empire, where weakness would be bred out of the survivors, its warriors loyal only to him not to some idiot ideal espoused by weaklings and their beliefs about divine rights and fairness.
Rights were taken by force, and only the strong would have rights in his new world. but only if the Dark lost of course. How humanity would last after the Darks victory Kronnen didn’t know and didn’t really care. What would be would be in the cosmic battle that was raging around him. Till it happened he would build the world he wanted to live in and People like Stone would be put in the yoke or killed.
As the zombie sat up, he drew the knife that hung from his belt and drove it into the top of her head. Weak in life, weak in Death, he thought as he pulled his knife out then knelt and wiped it on the rags of her dress.
He looked around and saw the undead that had been approaching had turned and were wondering away again.
He rose and walked to the small park down the street, ignoring the small number of zombies scattered around the park sitting on benches. Who knew why they sat, he had even seen some that would sit on the floor back against a wall, heads slumped down as if they were bored or asleep, possibly even faking being dead.
Once he had seen two zombies holding hands as they stood in the middle of a street, and child zombie in Sante Fe that clutched a bloody teddy bear. In Kansas city he saw a zombie sitting in a police car with its hands on the steering wheel. Who knew why the dead did the things they did, maybe it was the Dark trying to sow confusion and fear.
As he walked deeper into the park he saw a zombie that would have upset most people, a baby missing a leg dragging its self slowly down a path in the park. Kronnen stepped on its skull and kept walking.
He walked slowly knowing that the thing he sought would appear sooner or later, it had to. Kronnen’s dream had grown more chaotic. Visions of dark tunnels, the lightening strobes of muzzle flashes as the dead swarmed down corridors.
There was a woman, with a dark soul and a heart of Ice, and pretty she was with Mikhail, his face ruined and missing an eye, in most of the dreams. In other dreams there was a school surrounded by Water and wooden walls, filled with people. but the one man in that school that he could see clearly was different than the rest, he shone with a light in Kronnen’s dream, marked and protected from the powers of the Dark. A hard man with a Mohawk that was going to die when Kronnen got there.
But only if I kill Stone first, I can not leave him at my rear and March on this school, Stone was the type of man to chase after us and fall on our rear. He frowned, he will attempt to ambush us, its his and Darius’s style.
He mulled over that as he walked slowly heading back to the HumVee that had brought him here. as he walked he slowly became aware of a shadow that walked beside him, a spindly legged shadow that wore a bowler hat.
“I had started to think you were not going to appear” Kronnen said quietly. “ I only came here because of the dream.”
Bowler hat, pointed to a side street. “I do not have time for games” Kronnen said as he turned down the street, and found himself walking past old homes and small apartment buildings that squatted on lawns chocked with dead knee high weeds and bare limbed trees.
He walked almost two miles, not even noticing the reek of the dead that filled the air as he followed the silent directions issued by his companion, till he found himself on a narrow street with old brick business buildings, at Bowler hats urging he turned and walked down a street between two buildings to a fenced in area. The fence was eight feet, topped with Razor wire and had privacy slats inserted to keep prying eyes from seeing inside.
Kronnen walked up to the gate and peered through a gap between the gate and the fence post. As his eyes lit on the Fuel storage tanks inside he smiled.

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

The darkness and being in a confined space was getting to everyone, and the slow pace was only adding to the anxiety. The Chamber of horrors was only fifteen miles behind them and now this Jansen thought as he gave the order to stop.
“Who would have thought there would be a wreck in train tunnel” Jansen muttered as he gazed at the three hummers and the rocks that were blocking the tunnel. The undead scattered around the wreck were already stumbling towards the convoy.
“You know Sarge, I’m getting damn tired of those things” Benton said.
“Join the club” Jansen replied as he relayed the sighting to Jared.
“Roger, that keep your squad mounted, Team one will dismount since we are not in direct danger.” Jared replied.
“Copy, staying in place” Jansen replied as he watched the undead coming closer.

Jared, Logan, Ed and Steger moved up the Tunnel on the left side, Jill, Mike and Ronny moved up the Right hand side of the tunnel.

The majority of the small crowd of undead on this side were pawing at the Drivers side of the HET, where Jansen leaned out the window taunting them to keep their attention focused on the Truck and not the men moving up along side the convoy. Benton was doing the same thing on the passenger side.

Jared drew his Khurkri and Tomahawk, and led the way forward. A zombie must have seen or smelled something as it turned slowly as Jared headed for it. Not that it helped the zombie much. The Khurkri slammed down into its head with a sickening sound.

Wrenching the weapon free, the body dropped like a sack of potatoes. Logan moved past Jared, the axe he carried spinning effortlessly in his hands as he cracked one skull, then weapon spin around his back then flashed up and hissed in from the side cracking a second skull.

Ed stepped up beside Logan swinging the Sledge hammer he carried, he shattered a zombies knee. The undead pitched over and fell to the ground, only to have the sledgehammer crush its skull with a pop like an overripe Melon.

Jared snapped kicked a portly man with blood crusted silver hair in the back slamming him against the side of the HET, then twisted into a spin and hooked the Bearded point of his Tomahawk behind the knee of another zombie. Pulling hard Jared sent the zombie tumbling over, half severing its leg.

Jared slammed a foot down on its chest to hold into place, its hands tearing at his pants leg its teeth rapidly snapping together as it tried to bend its neck enough to reach Jared’s calf, Jared chopped down another zombie that was reaching for him. Then slammed his tomahawk into the head of the thing he was holding down silencing its snapping teeth forever.

He wrenched his Tomahawk free of the ruined skull as a fit of revulsion swept over him, so strong that he wanted to hurl.

Seeing the rest of the undead on this side were down, he checked to make sure Jill and the others were okay then sagged against the HET. “I am so sick of this” Jared said softly then pushed himself upright. “lets check those vehicles, then see what we can do about cleaning this crap up and out of the way and be careful in case one of the undead is under a vehicles or half buried under rock.”

The team quickly reformed in front of the HET, with Tac lights on they walked slowly up the tracks to the wreck walking carefully through the fallen rocks, some as large as Basketballs. Jared shined his light along the tunnels walls for a moment noting the bullet holes and one large fire blacked hole in the wall to his right and another in the roof. It only took him a minute to locate a Javelin launcher that had most likely created those holes, laying on the ground beside the second banged up hummer.

“Not much left inside” Ed said as he peered into the first Hummer that had rammed into the wall of the Tunnel. “Lots of old dried blood streaked on the windows too.“

Jared stepped over a large chunk of rock and looked inside the second Hummer that had plowed into the back left of the first hummer, corroded spent brass lay scattered around the drivers door, seeing nothing sitting in the front seats he pulled the door open and shown his light inside.

There were items scattered around the front of the vehicle, but he ignored them for the moment as he opened the rear door and recoiled a step back as he saw a head laying on the floor board. Its mouth opened in a silent scream then it snapped closed with a clack of teeth. “Bet you wish you could drag yourself with your tongue” he told the head as he reversed the Tomahawk in his hand then brought the butt spike slamming down into the skull impaling it on the spike then tossed it outside to land on the floor of the tunnel.

“Jill, Ronny Check the last Hummer and the Truck, Mike and Steger go to the truck and keep watch make sure no undead are coming down the tracks towards us.” Jared said then turned back to the Hummer.

The front of the hummer was pretty much bare, except for an Empty mag for an M4 that he pocketed, and several .12ga rounds which he took as well. the back seat had several empty MRE boxes and Battery’s laying on the floor board, as he tossed the trash out he found a laminated page. “oh hell yeah” Jared muttered as he saw a map of the tunnel system.

If he was reading this right, there was another chamber a few miles up track, there was no name just a Designation C1A. it that chamber was as large as the last one, they might be able to push the wrecked vehicles up to the chamber and get them off the tracks.

The tunnel wasn’t wide enough to just shove them off to one side and pass. So it was either find a place to move them or give up the tunnel and back up all the way to Mt. Weather.

“Reese, have the vehicles shut down and I want every one to stay inside for now, I have no clue if the ventilation system down here is still working and don’t feel like choking to death on exhaust fumes. Have Chris..” Jared Transmitted then shook his head “Darius organize a work Detail to start clearing the rocks out of the way, and then Darius and Kafil are going to join us for a little scouting party.”

“What are we going to do for lights? if we keep the vehicles lights on we drain batteries” Reese replied.

“Use those portable floods and that battery pack, Rob promised it would keep those lights powered for up to five hours lets see how long it actually works, and make sure to point one back along the vehicles, just to give every one a little bit of light.”

“Roger that, Reese Clear”

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

Ori sat on the roof of the HET, his finger tapping steadily on the stock of the sniper rifle across his thighs as he watched Jared talking with Darius and Kafil. He wasn’t sure he like Darius, the man acted to much the cowboy. But Kafil, Ori liked the African, though he wanted to shave off the small goatee Kafil wore. For some reason that goatee bothered him, Ori laughed silently at his own perverse nature.

“are you going to join us today or what” Jared asked over the radio.

“I thought you wanted me to stay out of harms way” Ori replied, knowing he sounded snippy.

“I do, but I still want your happy ass along on the scouting trip.” Jared replied. “did we pack those dirt bikes you kept hauling along.”

“As far as I know of” Ori replied.

“Go find out, who ever was helping Chris do the inventory should know.” Jared replied.

“Copy that, Ill hurry.”Ori said.

Jill watched Jared Straddle the dirt bike and frowned she had never liked Motorcycles. And now her idiot husband expected her to ride on the back of one, in a Train tunnel that in addition to the threats of being thrown off the bike, crashing or what ever else could happen, they might have to deal with undead that could drag them off the back of the bikes. “ you realize you’re an idiot right?” she said, ignoring Ori’s laughter.

“ Calm down Jill we have both been riding dirt bikes since we were knee high to grasshoppers” Ori said trying to calm her.

“that folksy saying is supposed to make riding a two wheeled death trap smarter how?” She asked as Mike Chuckled.

“SURIT” Jared said with a grin.

“what does that mean” Jill asked.

“Shut up and ride it” Ori said helpfully.

“Smart Ass” Jill said as adjust the Katana so it wouldn’t be in the way then she climbed on behind Jared, wrapping her arms around his waist. “what if I have to shoot something” Jill asked.

“use one hand, or just hold the Katana out as we go by” Jared replied.

“I’m beginning to suspect if we had dated before the dead, I might have realized you were nuts before I married you.”

“Probably, but you still would have married me, I’m handsome, well hung and fun to be around.” Jared laughed trying hard to sound normal so she wouldn’t realize just how depressed he really felt.

“You get more uppity every time your shot or injured” Jill remarked then choked back a scream as the Bike shot forward and Jared shifted his weight and pulled back putting the bike into a wheelie.

The four dirt bikes raced forward into the dark headlights cutting through the cloying black like a knife. the sound of the engines bouncing off the walls of the tunnel till it was almost ear splitting.

Jared found himself half enjoying the wind as it washed over him, the last time he had been on a dirt bike he had been slowly bleeding to death after escaping a major fire fight. At least he could enjoy this ride till they reached their goal or came across undead. it would have been more fun if he didn’t have to ride double, but four dirt bikes, eight people with gear meant no playing. Well not now that I got one wheelie out of the way.

They raced through the darkness covering eight miles pretty quickly all things considered. The tunnel suddenly opened up into a large Chamber, and Jared hit the brakes and spun the bike around, Jill almost cutting him in half as she squeezed his waist, till the headlights were pointed at a platform to the right of the Tunnel they had entered from. Like the Mt. Weather Platform, the platform and wall behind it were white tiled unlike mount weather there was only a large door, ten by ten set in the center of the platform wall, with C1A in large black letters on the wall to the left of the platform.

“No undead, and a place to put the wrecked vehicles” Ori said pointing to the open left side of the chamber and the side tracks that allowed the trains to pulled up to the platform and off load with out blocking the main track in case of a second train.

“Maybe I can just stay here till you get the convoy up here” Logan said loosing the vice like grip that had kept him glued to Ori.

“Sure, assuming there are no undead further down that tunnel heading this way or a band of cannibals living on the other side of that door” Ori remarked with a grin. “always figure you were a tough guy, thank god I was wearing pants, if you had gotten any closer on the ride here I would have lost my virginity.”

“Funny ha ha,” Logan said happy to see that Jill looked no less thrilled than he was.

“Think he was bad, Mike was trying merge with me” Ronny called out.

“Do you actually have a plan to move those vehicles” Jill asked as she slid off the back of the bike and stretched, drawing the eye of every male in the group but Ed, totally unaware of how sexy she looked when doing it.

Jared glanced at Ed, who sat there quietly his hands dangling over this handlebars, Steger didn’t seem fazed in the least by the ride.

“Actually yes, if we get the larger vehicles to pull over to the side we can get the ELSORV, and the H3 and two hummers out of line and up to the front, it will be tight but we can do it, then we tow the wrecks up here, dump them off and the convoy can follow along behind us, then we can get back in line and let the HET lead the way past this chamber. “ Jared said.

“How much further past this place till we get to DC?” Logan asked.

“ Twenty or so miles, I guess it depends on how straight the tunnel is. But when we get there then its going to get hard” Jared said sure that once they got up top things were going to go to hell in a hand basket pretty quickly.

”So you don’t think its been hard till now” Ronny asked. “you have a strange definition of hard.”

“All things considered, yes its going to get harder. It knows we are coming, and it wants us stopped.” Jared said, “I’m not ordering you to keep going, in fact I would be happy as hell if you guys turned around and headed back to Sullivan, no matter how badly I want you covering my ass. But If you keep going, I want all of you to promise that you will not take stupid chances.” Jared said, knowing that they all understood the unspoken especially not to save me, which mean Jill was going to be angry and tell him what was what later.

“Lets get back the sooner we can get those vehicles moved the better things will be.” Jared said. Jill silently climbed onto the bike, with her arms tightly around his waist she placed her head against his back.

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

The Undead that filled the road, stood there still as stone, rank upon rank of rotting mobile flesh for as far as the eye could see. Then as a distant sound in the distance reached them, they began to stir. They began to stumble down the road towards the sound, at first a few, and then more, soon the trickle of dead had become a flood as the first vehicle appeared in the distance.

I might be able to walk amongst them with out being noticed, but my men do not have the ability. Kronnen smiled as the Pumper trucks moved up and began spraying the undead. he would have used the acid compound that they had experimented with, but after locating a chemical supply warehouse, the idiot who had been mixing the solution in the fifth pumper truck added to much Hydrogen peroxide to the solution and died in the resulting explosion.

He had chosen this road, due to the lower number of undead on it, largely the result of one bowler hat wearing monster.

The jets of water swept back and forth across the road, blowing zombies out of the way, when they reached the main mass of undead. The Pumpers spread out and stopped allowing the two Beaters to advance on the undead.

The Beaters had once been front loader garbage trucks that had been equipped with a PTO that allowed a drum, mounted between the two loading arms, to spin. Heavy Tow chains had been attached to the drum. The System had been designed to clear mines from the battle fields and installed on Sherman Tanks in WW2

The arms, once used to lift dumpsters, lowered the spinning drums and the long heavy chains began to beat through the undead, crushing and tearing flesh and bone, sparks flew as the chains slammed into pavement with a bone jarring ringing sound.

The beaters advanced, occasionally swerving right or left to catch large groups of undead and reduce them to slurry. The convoy of vehicles behind the beaters moved slowly forward. By evening they would have reached the edge of D.C and only have to cross the Potomac, his dreams had already shown him where the equipment he need to get into the city lay. Once there they would have to scout for Stone who was probably not in the city yet, and despite the number of undead that blocked the roads in, Kronnen had not doubts that Jared Stone would find a way to get into the city.

He felt as giddy as a kid before Christmas at what was coming, even his men had begun to notice the almost electric feeling in the air as some dark energy were building up, and when the storm it spawned blew up, things would change for good.

“I am coming for you” he said aloud ignoring his driver and the other men in the RV, “and when I find you Stone I will personally gut you” his voice rumbled through the RV, and then I will eat you and your woman. He never saw the narrow bedroom door, opened just a crack, close quietly and probably wouldn’t have cared if he had.

She leaned against the door, hands cradled over the bulge of her abdomen as if to protect the baby inside her. That she had to do something to save herself and her baby was obvious, but what can I do. I am haunted by ghosts and used by a man who was not only mad but Evil. Not the minor evil of yesteryear, of rapists, and murders or even serial killers but a real evil, one that chained him to something dark, something that hungered for all humanity and could only be sated by the death of not just bodies but of the very soul inside each person.

Maybe she had once scoffed at such a notion of souls and real Evil, of ghosts that lurked in the darkness tormenting people, of monsters that corrupted those around them, of something Dark and formless that was as old as the universe and cold as the depths of space. But she didn’t scoff in the world today, Maybe forgetting her name and her old life had finally opened her eyes to the world that had always been there. that world had been hidden under the illusions of reality that Humanity had built up over centuries to hide from the fact that there were Dark things that moved in the world that couldn’t be controlled or harmed by man only thwarted at the risk of his or her life.

She heard Kronnen talking to the men up front and shivered, couldn’t they hear the death and madness in his voice, or where they as damned and crazed as he was. I have to escape; I have to for the baby’s sake. But what if it is as big a monster as its father what if its like the child of Satan in that movie that had scared me so badly when I was a kid.

She didn’t like that thought, a child shouldn’t be condemned for who its father was, but what if the evil in its father had been passed to her, what if that life in her womb clawed its way out, ripping, tearing and chewing till it burst into the world, birthed in a shower of blood and gore.

No, Its part my child too. It wont be evil, it cant it… her thoughts stumbled to a halt, as she saw something laying on the bed. Something that gleamed in the wan light that slipped into the room through the blinds.

She stared at the knife, it hadn’t been there before, she walked slowly to the bed and stared down at the weapon that couldn’t be there but was.

Behind her she heard something slide across the floor, then a thump as if something had fallen. Her skin prickled painfully and the hairs on the back of her neck stood straight out. She continued to look at the bed, to scared to turn around, even when she heard a metallic clicking noise from the corner where the chair was.

She didn’t need to look now, she knew what it was, and she didn’t want to see that ravaged face with its shark toothed grin and those cold dead eyes under the brim of an old fashioned hat.

“Pick it up” a voice said, each word drawn out like the soft breath of arctic wind across her bare back. she shivered unable to move, trapped like a deer in headlights as the room darkened and filled with the stench of rotted meat.

“All you have to do is cut it out, let it die on the floor and your free” the sibilant dead voice whispered almost soothingly. “your going to die no matter what, cut the child free or die as the flesh is stripped from your still living body.”

“No” she whispered tears running down her cheeks as she fought the temptation to kill the child she carried. There was compulsion in that voice, she could feel it battering at her mind seeking leverage. She found her hand reaching for the knife then stopped herself.

“Yes, End your suffering, end the pain. Cut your belly open and kill it” the thing hissed.

She couldn’t speak she was so scared, but she could shake her head wildly in denial as she pulled her hand back away from the knife that beckoned to her to pick it up and use it.

There was a mocking laugh from the corner; she forced herself to turn slowly, her blood like ice water in her veins. It sat there one skinny leg crossed over the knee of the other leg, dressed in old fashioned clothes, cloudy dead eyes filled with contempt and dark humor blazed under the brim of the bowler hat. She felt her knees weaken as the thin lips under the long beaked nose quivered into a smile that bared gleaming shark like teeth.

She couldn’t tear her eyes away from the triangular face with its thin, taut mottled skin.. “Why are you doing this” she asked weakly her unsteady legs threatening to drop her to the ground.

He vanished as if he had never been there, which made her feel no better. “I am going to come for you one night, oh yes I am.” The voice said from behind her, she whirled and saw the bed was empty. “going to strip the skin and fat away to reveal the art hidden underneath.” It hissed, her eyes grew large as she realized it was under the bed.

She slowly looked down terrified at what she might see, and there at her feet, peering out from under the bed was the thing smiling up at her, one leathery hand grasped her ankle. She vocal cords had been almost frozen with fear but not more a scream ripped free from deep inside and poured out of her.

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

“ Is it hooked up yet” Steger yelled out the open door of the Humvee.

“Yeah give it a try.” Lee replied.

Steger gave the Hummer gas, the vehicle rolled forward, suddenly he felt a tug and the sound of the engine changed as it began to pull twice its weight. Thank god, Steger thought as he looked back and saw the other Hummer was moving easily if unevenly.

It had taken almost an hour and half to get the vehicles blocking the tracks turned around, Lee had to cut the crumbled fender off one Hummer so it could actually roll.

In minutes there was a line of vehicles pulling the abandoned vehicles, then the convoy sorted its self out and began to follow.

Jared rode his dirt bike up beside the Passenger door of the ELSORV and grinned at Jill then shot ahead with Ori, Ronny and Darius following on the other three dirt bikes.

At least the convoy was able to go faster than ten miles an hour now that they knew what lay ahead for the next eight miles and it only took minutes to reach the next chamber.

Jared stopped his bike in the middle of the chamber facing the opposite tunnel to that the headlight on his bike would show any undead that entered the chamber from the other side.

As soon as the wrecks were pulled out of the way, he led the other riders into the opposite tunnel, he was more than willing to risk encountering undead on a Motorcycle if it meant the convoy could keep moving at more than ten miles an hour or so.

Four headlights knifed through the darkness revealing nothing but empty tunnel.

At the forty-mile mark in the tunnel, they entered a huge chamber. Dim lights glowed in the roof of the chamber making the place about as well lit as woodland clearing on a full moon.

The four dirt bikes stopped at the tunnel mouth their headlights unable to light the other side of the chamber. Ori shrugged off his pack and pulled out a three million candlepower spot “I’m lighting up” He said in warning then touched the power button. A dazzling beam of light speared out giving them a much better look at chamber.

Ori swept the beam around the room revealing three other tunnel mouths and tracks with switching levers. “Looks clear” He said.

“till they come swarming out of one of those tunnels” Ronny commented sure that somewhere there was a door to the surface open and millions of zombies had wandered down here over the last year.

“Well we know they are not behind us, so we have a way to retreat” Jared replied thankful it was only four of them here. The three Amigo’s and a sidekick Jared thought almost smiling as he looked at Darius who was at least competent on a dirt bike.

He glanced at his watch and realized it was almost sunset on the surface, the last thing he wanted to do was enter DC in the dark. “I think this would make a great place to camp for the night, its large enough to pack every vehicles into, we can block off the tunnels, and if we get hit during the night, we have the room to turn around and head back to Mt. Weather.”

“Not to mention we don’t know which tunnel heads to DC.” Ronny said.

“I think we are under DC right now” Ori said. “with the way the tunnel has been curving probably near the Pentagon or Arlington. So I bet these tunnels Circle the DC area linking up with Various secured sites, like Fort Meyers, The White House, the Capitol building.”

“Maybe the place were all the UFO’s are hidden is down here too” Ronny remarked sarcastically.

“Wow you can accept zombies even ghosts and the Dark but not aliens, you’re a nimrod” Ori muttered shaking his head in dismay.

“What about bigfoot, or those shadow people?” Ronny laughed.

“Bowler hat? “ Ori said, “ what do you call him, or Mikhail coming back from the dead.”

“Bowler hat was a zombie and a ghost, I think.” Ronny said. “Mikhail is dead, sorry Jared. Maybe the guy you think is Mikhail is like what happened to Carrie, he just thinks he is Mikhail.”

“Nimrod” Ori repeated.

“Trust me Ronny I hope your right” Jared said then let off the brake and rode around the edge of the chamber intent on looking into the tunnels, leaving his friends to follow.

“Way to go Numbnuts, piss him off” Ori said as he rode forward.

“He isn’t pissed, and some one has to be the logical thinker around here” Ronny said with a grin. “Hey, you can start a Radio station and keep that conspiracy show going you used to like so much, maybe even go hunt the goat sucker in your spare time.”

“You mocked the Tunnels too” Ori said in reply. “what exactly are we driving through.”

“Okay you were right about the Tunnels, and Ill even grant you Tom Cruise could actually have been Michael Jackson in disguise.”

“Bite me, I never said that” Ori growled loudly over the sound of the bikes motor. “and if any one was Michael Jackson, it was La Toya Jackson, they were never seen together in public and she vanished from sight after Michael died.”

Ronny burst out laughing “okay that was actually funny” Ronny admitted as Ori grinned.

Jared shook his head, glad to hear them sounding more like themselves. He just wished he could spare them what was coming. Well like me they made the choice all we can do now is to face the consequences and hope we make it through to the end. At least Jill wasn’t pregnant so maybe that means the whole prophetic dream stuff is wrong.

“How long do you think it will take them to get here” Ori asked.

“They were almost done unhooking the wrecks when we left, since We aren’t stripping them, the convoy should only spent a couple of minutes, so say fifteen more minutes to reach here.” Jared replied.

It ended up taking twenty minutes before the convoy rolled into the chamber, as soon as the HET appeared, Jared led the other riders into the Tunnel that the map they had found indicated led to DC.

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

The Huge empty room lay in darkness, the silence broken only by the slow drip of water. It had lain undisturbed for over a year, its final guardians had fled with the others as Death had rolled towards them.

Inside one of the walls, something came to life with an electronic hum, then six soft booms shook the walls. Lights flickered and buzzed to life in the ceiling, more than half the lights remained dark. , half the back wall suddenly began to swing open and the rumble of motors slipped inside shaking dust out from every crack and crevice.

Jared Crouched on top of the ELSORV weapon ready as the door opened, he hadn’t wanted to be on dirt bike if a undead had begun pouring out of the door.

They were in DC, finally. His nerves were singing and his stomach was doing that slow pre combat roll. He couldn’t explain it to anybody else but he knew it that what was coming would change everything. Whether it was for better or worse he had no idea, but when the dust settled it would be different.

“I want 1st squad to dismount, and go in with me, 2nd squad and the Irregulars,” Jared refused to call them Jared’s irregulars, “ are to cover the tunnel.”

Jared didn’t wait for the calls of copy, he jumped down to the tunnel floor and started for the door and the room beyond, Ori, Ronny and Darius joining him.

Once they had crossed under the Potomac, according to the map, they had found a ring of tunnels and cross tunnels. It had actually taken them almost four hours to find the one tunnel on the map that, if the map was correct, lay near the Capitol building and dead-ended.

He had been pretty sure it was the correct tunnel when they had started up the tunnel and realized the ground was sloping upwards heading to the surface. Once they had found the blast door, and Jared’s constant checking of the altimeter on his watch had shown they were almost to the surface he had been sure this was the right tunnel.

With 1st squad bringing up the read, he strode into the large room. A single set of tracks, set into the floor ran across the eighty foot long, seventy foot wide room and passed under the metal door wide enough to allow a train to pass through, at the end of the room.

To the right of the Door was what could only be called a Guard shack, through the large window in the shacks wall, Jared could see monitors coming to life.

“Ronny, Ori go clear that shack” Jared said as he stopped and looked around the room at the crates and boxes stacked on either side of the room. There was no way even if the room was empty they could fit every vehicle in here.

“Okay, Jansen I want you to get with Lee and see if we can block off the tunnel in case undead come at us from the rear. We camp in the vehicles and use this as a common area. And I want people going through everything in here, see if there is anything we can use. “ Jared quickly laid out his plans. If all went well, they would be spending a day or two here. they needed to scout out around the area before they left here.

the shack was twenty by ten feet, made from poured concrete. Half of the shack was a security station, a counter with ten monitors, a computer console and a another console lined with glowing buttons of various colors. One button a large red one was covered by a clear plastic shield. The other half of the shack was accessible only by a door with a security keypad. A glowing green prompt blinked steadily on its small screen.

Ronny limped in behind Ori and immediately sat down at the console and began to study the screens. The main screen showed what looked look an area under construction, a set of tracks ran straight through the area and up to a gate in the corrugated metal fence.

“I’m thinking that’s on the other side of this wall” Ronny said as he studied the controls for a minute then enlarged a picture on another monitor. He could see the outside view of the galvanized fence and what looked like a train yard, at least twelve sets of tracks were in view. the other monitors showed the yard from various angles, and four showed two different streets from different angles. In the back ground of one he could see the capitol building.

“Well good news is, we didn’t end up in New York City” Ronny said. “bad news is, we are in DC.” He said panning a camera, his face drained of color. On the screen standing in the street, he saw a woman standing in the snow, she wore a long white dress, dark hair fell past her shoulders and covered her face. He rubbed at his eyes and looked again not surprised to see she was gone, if she had ever been there.

Ori hadn’t noticed he was busying checking drawers and anywhere else he could think to look for the code that would open the other door in the room. “If Jared wants it opened I guess I can just blow the damn thing down.” Ori said turning to face Ronny who had recovered enough he looked normal.

“Yeah, sounds like a plan, unless there is a little piggy on the other side.” Ronny said, then shoved away from the console. “The place is clear, lets go get something to eat. Then I think I’m going to get some sleep.

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

A cold wind blew through the abandoned streets of the dark city that had once been the capitol of the United States. It flowed past the wrecks that blocked intersections, whistled through broken windows and sent snow swirling up into the air.

A Shadow walked slowly down the street on spindly legs, whistling a merry Tune as it glided over the snow and ice with out leaving a foot step. Its time was coming at long last, the pieces were in place, The Bride the Warlord and the Traitor would finally unite and once Stone was dead and his band destroyed the Trinity’s days were numbered.

It smiled a shark toothed smile, as it climbed the steps of the Capitol building where men had once walked thinking they were lords of creation, the keepers of Justice and Morality, they had died knowing they where nothing but meat, and soon the rest of humanity, the pitiful struggling remnants of an arrogant race would join them in oblivion

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