Chapter Twenty five

“Those forms we fancy shadows, those strange lights
That flash on lone morasses, the quick wind
That smites us by the roadside are the Night’s
Innumerable children. Unconfined
By shroud or coffin, disembodied souls,
Still on probation, steal into the air
From ancient battlefields and churchyard knolls
At the day’s ending.

Pestilence and despair
Fly with the startled bats at set of sun;
And wheresoever murders have been done,
In crowded palaces or lonely woods,
Where’er a soul has sold itself and lost
Its high inheritance, there, hovering, broods
Some mute, invisible, accursèd ghost.”
~Thomas Bailey Aldrich

The stench was incredible, Jared thought as he grabbed Reese and pulled him back to the Decon room. Beyond the three foot thick blast door, a light twenty feet down the passage, flickered, casting a an erratic pool of light in the stygian darkness. i

It was like a strobe light in a nightclub from hell as the undead trapped behind the blast door surged forward, the only sound the rustle of clothes and the scuff of shoes on cement.

Thank god they are so slow, Jared thought “no fire arms, grab those desks and shove them across the hallway.” Jared said as he drew his Tomahawk and Khurkri, Jill who had decided leashing nibbler was a good idea when they started down the stairs, passed the leash to Sarah then ran up to stand beside Jared as the first of the undead staggered into the hall.

Sarah was almost pulled off her feet as Nibble lunged against the leash she held, eager to go help Jared and Jill. Sarah dragged the dog back towards the door they had used to enter the room.

“Ed, Help me” Eric said as he grasped one side of a desk, Ed taller and easily as big as Eric rushed over and lifted the other side of the desk as the undead reached the two men and one woman who blocked their way.

Jared and the others stood just beyond the entrance to the hallway giving themselves just enough room to engage with out tangling up with each other. The first Zombie was a man in a suit, half of his face and an ear gone. Jared split his skull, and kicked it in the chest sending it smashing back into the zombie behind it, which did nothing, there were to many zombies behind them to knock the next zombie down. It was like a nightmare scene from a movie, a sea of arms reaching for the living, gnashing teeth and a stench that turned the stomach

He saw Jills sword shining in the light from the flash lights cleave through a skull, brute force and skill for the win, he thought as he hacked down the next zombie with his tomahawk. Reese was using a demolition tool that looked for all the world like mixture of a machete, pry bar and axe, and wreaking havoc with it, crushing skulls easily.

Black ooze flew splattering the walls, a hand grasped Jared’s combat harness. “move out of the way” Eric called out.

Jared tore away from the hand, relieved to see Jill leap back and to the side. Jared grabbed Reese and leaped to the right dragging the bigger man with him. the undead surged out of the narrow hallway, but it was too late for them.

Eric and Ed rushed forward using the desk like a battering ram as the undead stumbled forward only to be bowled over.

Ori Machete in hand and Logan brandishing his axe ran up and put down the undead that had been knocked to the ground and trapped under the desk when the two men dropped the desk blocking the hall.

“Silencers” Eric said moving back from the desk pointing to his men. “single shots, slow and steady”

Lew forced his breathing to slow down, his nerves were tingling and his stomach was knotting with the flood of adrenalin as he attached the silencer to his weapon then he and the others formed a line and began to fire into the mass of undead as the desk slowly inched back into the room pushed by the weight of the dead behind it.

Muzzle flashes flickered in the semi darkness, like hellish tongues of flame, the soft cough of weapons firing filled the air. Eric saw the surprised look on Jared’s face at how quiet the weapons were and almost smiled. On the way here he had dipped into a cache and retrieved subsonic rounds that when coupled with a silencer produced very little noise. he had picked up a few other little toys that would be very useful both here and in D.C. but the numbers were limited and he would conserve them if at all possible. .

Bodies tumbled to the floor, tripping up the dead behind them that surged forward to fill the gap and then suddenly it stopped, it didn’t slow to a trickle but just stopped, nothing moved in the hall way or past the blast door where the light still flickered madly.

“well that was fun” Jared muttered as he walked to the desk and saw a few of the dead were still moving, trapped under bodies that had fallen on top of them. “a few are still mobile” he commented as he pulled aside the desk.

Gore and goo dripped from the ceiling or ran down the walls, the group began to haul bodies out of the hall, covered by Eric’s men, the bodies were piled against a wall in the Decon Room, no one was willing to walk on the corpses just in case. As they reached those that had fallen and become trapped by the bodies on top of them, the still mobile dead were dispatched with Axe or sword.

Finally it was done, Jared walked to the other side of the room away from the corpses and leaned against the cool tiles, and wiped sweat from his brow. There had been a hundred of the things, god knew how many were still in there wandering around. He wasn’t sure this was a good idea any more. But one way or another, using the train tunnel or using roads they were going to have to fight their way through huge numbers, and there just wouldn’t be the huge hideous numbers down here as there were up there on the surface filling the roads and streets around D.C.

“You okay?” Jill asked joining him.

“Yeah great, no matter how much I had thought about that happening, I wasn’t really prepared for the reality of the situation.” Jared said quietly, his head coming up as he heard the clicking of claws on tile and saw Nibbler pulling Sarah across the room till the dog could leap up placing both forepaws on his chest and lick him in the face, whining softly.

“Good dog” Jared said petting the dog “ Down” He ordered. “I wish my first wife listened as well as you”

Jill punched him in the shoulder, she managed to smile, feeling some of the tension flow away when she did.

“Thanks for keeping her out of that” Jared said to Sarah who nodded.

“She almost wrenched my arm out of its socket but I managed.” Sarah said, still surprised at how quiet the dog had been and said as much to Jared who nodded and stroked the dogs head..

“She’s a survivor, she knows to be as quiet as possible when the dead are around” Jared remarked as he stood up straight. “time to get started,” he said abruptly and headed for Eric and his team where they stood guarding the hallway.

Sarah stood holding the leash, not really upset with being made the dog sitter, she wasn’t a grunt she was a pilot, but that didn’t stop her from feeling a little guilty about not being involved in the fighting.

“How are you holding up?” Logan asked coming to stand by her side. There was so much concern in his voice that she smiled.

“I’m fine,” She said refusing to think about where they were about to head.

“Good, I know you’re not used to this” He said motioning towards the pile of corpses.

“I’m used to killing them, just not used to facing so many at once” she said, which was very true, she had faced one to two several times, even more if they were spread out, but had made a point of running from large numbers. Being part of a group that knew what they were doing and how to take advantage of their surroundings was far different and the main reason Jared and his people had survived this long. Groups had a chance, and the larger the group the better the odds, any one that didn’t believe that were either slowly starving to death and hiding or already dead and walking. Very few individuals or really small groups were still around she reflected.

Impulsively she leaned forward and kissed him softly on the lips, praying she hadn’t just jinxed them. She pulled away before that kiss became something more passionate and smiled at him again. “when we get out of here, we need to have a long talk” She whispered. Logan nodded, a silly grin spreading across his face.

“Lets move out” Jared called out. “check your radios, use the buddy system and stay close. No one lags behind or wanders off.”

The group formed up and moved slowly and silently into the dark Passage way of the Facility.

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

Julie scraped snow and ice off the windshield of the truck, fully aware of the men who seemed to be watching her, she smiled at Max who was loading supplies, acting for all the world as if she had no clue she was being watched.

All the women were being watched, she had noticed it earlier. Which suggested that some how Stone or some one else suspected there was more to Wells hanging himself than they had let on. It was probably moving the camera, she thought, that and she must have done something or left some kind of clue behind that led them to suspect that a woman had been with Wells or Nate had woke up in the Bunker and told them he had been pushed by a woman. No They would have radioed that to the convoy pretty fast she thought.

Just the fact they were watching all the women told her they didn’t know who exactly had been involved, only that it had been a woman.

Finished with the trucks windshield she moved on to the next vehicle, where Mikhail was filling the tank with a gas can, “Hi, glad to see your feeling better” she said cheerfully in her best dumb bimbo act. “does it still hurt” she asked pointing at his eye with a scraper.

“No” he replied, “its feeling much better.”

“Good, I’m glad to hear it” she said. She started scraping the ice from the windshield talking a mile a minute to Mikhail about how great it felt to be around people again. she even flirted a little with a watching soldier.

When he smiled back she gloated inwardly, he was less likely to be suspicious of her later which was a good thing. She kept scraping as she saw Brock heading towards the Mobile C&C RV, he was one of the few men allowed inside and her next target.

You owe me Jasper, I have to make them look like suicides or accidents and other than Jayden I haven’t had much fun with this, she thought but Jayden had been a lot of fun. He had struggled as hard as he could till she had finally emasculated him. with the loss of his manhood, all the fight had gone out of him and he had died shortly after. She had really wanted it to last longer, but she and Mikhail had needed time to clean up and sneak back into the camp so it had been fortuitous really that Jayden had not lived as long as she would have liked.

What annoyed her was that Jared had thrown a kink in her plans when he had left taking Ed and his brother with him. Though Eric stone isn’t on my list to kill, I am seriously considering slaughter him just for the effect it would have on Stone.

In fact tonight was to have been the night Ed died and I could have left immediately afterwards. But now I am having to delay my plans and pick new victims and that was just bothersome.

Hopefully when we arrive at this Mt. Weather, what ever that was, I hope I will be able to forget Brock, kill Ed then Max and finally leave the camp. Maybe leave some poisoned water behind as a fare thee well and torch a vehicle or two on my way out. .

Warm hands slid around her waist and she plastered a smile on and leaned back against Max feeling his interest in a little privacy against her back. Privacy, she thought, almost every time they had, had sex there had been a room full of witness’s, it was the way life was for these people and quite fun as far as Julie was concerned. “hey lover” she said grinning and wiggling against him.

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

Jared knelt covering an intersection as his Brother and two others glided across it. in the light of the flashlights, he could see the walls were pockmarked with bullet holes, and smears of blood between blackened scorched spots that marked the use of explosives. They were deep into this hub, having passed several doors all of which were closed thankfully.

Shadows lay thick between the stanchions, and danced across the ceiling as the red lensed tac lights swept from side to side.

He glanced at Reese who looked calm, but had to be upset at what he saw around him. He remembered Reese saying he had been dating a woman down here and knew that it had to be hard on the man to have to wonder if she was one the walking dead or was somehow still alive and hiding down here.

“How much further” Jared asked Reese in a whisper.

“Second left up this corridor, then a hundred feet to the door that will take us to the core of this sector where the Command center is.” Reese replied.

“Contact “Eric said over the radio, as he watched two then five then more swarm out of three open doors down the side corridor.

Jared jerked his eyes towards his brother who began to fire into the undead . “ Castor, cover our backs with a claymore” Eric said still broadcasting, he most have gone to voice activated Jared decided as he saw Castor pull out a small claymore from the thigh pocket, it was a MM1 or Minimore as it was called, Jared had heard of them but had never seen one before smaller and lighter than the standard claymore.

Designed for and used by the SF when detonated it created a much smaller cone of damage, some where around 4 meters wide, at 15 meters from the Minimore and packed in half as many projectiles in a package a third the size of a standard Claymore. It was in short perfect for use in this environment.

“That hall leads to one of the Barracks, and a small Armory” Reese said, as Castor placed the Minimore then waved the group through the intersection instructing Lew to go point.

As Daws and his men trooped through the intersection, Spacey shone a light down the corridor opposite the one Eric and two of his men were clearing and gasped despite himself at the sight of the silent shuffling crowd.

“Run” Castor ordered pointing to the minimore, Daws nodded, and got his men moving even faster to escape the back blast of the mine.

Eric, Bailey and Chad covered one side, Lew, Melody and Pete covered the other side as the last of the group cleared the intersection, halfway down the main corridor, Castor pulled another Minimore from a thigh pocket and began setting it up as the six men playing rear guard fell back into the main corridor then raced after the group.

Just as Castor finished rigging the second Minimore, the first detonated, the sound of the explosion magnified by the close walls, he could hear the buzz of pellets and the wet ripping sound as they tore through flesh and the snap of bone.

The group reached the turn and found bodies sprawled along its length as they moved cautiously forward, checking to make sure each corpse was actually dead before moving past it, every second wasted allowed the crowd of undead behind them to get that much closer.

Behind them the second Minimore detonated, spurring them on to move faster towards the door they could now see at the end of the tunnel. Beyond that door lay the Core of the Sector it was marked with a big green C1, on the wall beside the door was a security panel.

Eric had half his men move to the rear for cover, while the rest trained their weapons on the door as Reese punched in the codes. As he punched in the last number a green light flashed and the sound of the steel bolts sliding out of position was loud in the quiet of the corridor, as the locks disengaged with a click Reese grasped the handle and at Erics nod, pulled open the door letting light splash into the corridor from the other side.

“Clear” Eric said, waving them through. The group started filing through the door into the core, looking around at the well lit hall.

“Contact” Lew called out as the group was almost into the core.

“Shit” Ronny shouted as he turned and saw the undead, shoulder to shoulder, wall to wall advancing towards the light.

“ Move it” Eric called out as he grasped Ronny by the shoulder “don’t stop, we can escape them” Eric said, as every one else hurried past the door, Lew and the rear guard were already firing into the advancing horde. Ronny nodded and limped into the doorway to stand beside Jared.

“Fall back, Boomer” Eric transmitted.

“lets go” Lew said backing up still firing into the advancing nightmare horde, it was funny how fast those things can seem to move on occasion, he thought as three of them some how made it through the fire and dragged Pete down, teeth tearing away strips of flesh. Pete screamed like a damned soul as his lifes blood sprayed up and over the dark green wall.

Chad kicked a zombie out of the way, and rammed his barrel down into Petes forehead. He saw the look of gratitude in Pete’s eyes as he pulled the trigger and put the other man down.

There is a price for everything even Mercy by diverting his fire to put down Pete, several undead were able to draw closer. It was over and Chad and the others knew, to many of those things were now to close to stand and try to hold them back. .

Jared seeing what was about to happen center slung his HK and pulled the M32 from where it dangled from his pack, he stepped up to the door way, ignoring Nibblers Deep basso growl. “Cover me just in case Ronny” Jared said as he lifted the weapon to his shoulder ready to fire the moment the last of the men were clear.

“Gotta go” Lew shouted as he grabbed Melody and pulled her back, Chad and Richard Stueben fell back next firing steadily. Carl LeGalbo was the first into the door, then Chad and Stueben. Lew reaching the doorway pushed Melody through, then stepped backwards past Jared and the doorway still firing at the undead who were only ten feet away. Eric grabbed the door handle and began to pull the thick door closed as the dead surged forward trying to get at the living who were almost safe.

“I am sick to death of you” Jared said as he pulled the trigger on the M32 firing a anti-personnel round that shredded the first three zombies in the rush, killing two of them outright, crippling the third. “Mother puss bucket sons of whores” he said firing again and four more went down chests ruined, chests shattered their bodies tripping up those behind them. He fired a third time, crippling or killing two,. he didn’t know, the door clanged closed and there was series of heavy sounding thuds as the steel rods slid back into place sealing the door.

“Mother pus buckets sons of whores?” Ronny said, “ having a little trouble channeling pappy or what?”

Jared gave him a tight smile but said nothing “where too” Jared asked Reese as he reloaded the M32, it was probably the best weapon to use in this place, at least till he ran out of Anti Personnel rounds.

“ We wait” Reese said pointing to a camera high up on the wall that was pointed right at them. “if the core is clear of undead, and some one is alive they on their way.”

“ I just have to say something now, if we end up having to go through a corridor that’s really narrow has glass walls and lights, to get to the core. I’m waiting outside, I’ve seen that movie and you guys can get sliced and diced by lasers to talk to the annoying British hologram girl by yourselves.”

Jared chuckled as he half turned towards the entire group, “Weapons at low ready, be as non threatening as you can be” Jared told the men and women around him. “Sarah hold tight to Nibbler,” He said, wishing he had left the dog behind now.

As he finished reloading the M32,
the sound of people running reached his ears. “stay calm, no shooting unless they shoot first” he said looking up the corridor where it ended in a T, hopefully they would not lob a grenade around the corner first.

If this came to a firefight they were going to be slaughtered, there were only support stanchions every ten feet that they could use to hide behind and that was it for cover, that they reminded Jared of Ribs did not help the situation any. .

Reese listened closely and when he judged the new arrivals were close to the intersection he yelled out “I am Staff Sergeant Reese B Company 3rd , hold your fire.”

It got quiet around the corner then a man in ACUs stepped around the corner, slim, head shaved to stubble under his Cap. He held an M4 and all the cards and knew it.

“Lt. Colson” Reese said snapping a salute.

“Sergeant Reese,” Colson acknowledged, “we thought you had died when you were trapped up top”

“I would have but this man and his friends took Myself, Ellison and Johson out and saved our lives.” Reese replied.

“well you picked a real crappy time to come homer Sergeant, but I will let the Colonel and Sar major Hines fill you in on the details. Have your friends sling their weapons, I give you my word they are in no danger from us.” Colson said eyeing the group behind Reese, most were in Uniform. An eyebrow went up as he saw the SF flash on several uniforms.

“Sling em people, we came here to talk anyway” Jared said as he hooked the M32 back on his pack. As soon as weapons were slung the Lt. led them deeper into the sector, his men unobtrusively acting as guards, passing several doors and side corridors till they entered a circular lobby like area whose ceiling reached up twenty feet, half of one side of the Lobby was a glass floor to ceiling glass wall that allowed them to see what looked like a auditorium filled with rows of desks on each terraced level, each desk was held a computer but it was the massive flat screen monitors that hung on the back wall that dominated the room. Most showed only a black screen, but those that were active, were split into eight or more quadrants showing, halls, rooms and vital areas as well as several graphs and what looked like Sine waves none of which Jared understood.

Across the lobby was another glass walling this one only eight feet high and opaque with a door in the middle of it. Colson stopped at the door. “Reese I can only let you and two others inside, unarmed, I’m sorry but that is the way it is going to be, the rest of the group will be escorted to the R&R lounge, where they are going to leave their weapons inside by the door and under guard by two of my men, in case of attack by .. well who ever, they can retrieve their weapons at such time”

Reese nodded, wondering if Jared was going to go for that or not. Jared walked up to the door and shrugged off his combat vest, and pack and placed them beside the door then added his HK, hand weapons and his pistol. Reese blinked in surprise but said nothing he had expected Jared to protest.

“The only reason I’m not bitching Lt. is I met your Sergeant Major Hines and he was a good man.” Jared said as he motioned for his Brother to join him. Eric his face blank disarmed leaving his gear beside Jared’s. Reese did not doubt both men had a weapon or more than one tucked away some where on their person. The LT. seemed willing to trust them which was a good sign Reese thought, he didn’t even have them searched.

Jared whistled and Sarah taken by surprise almost went face first into the floor as the dog lunged and tore free from her.

“is there a problem “Jared asked Colson who looked unhappy about nibbler, was leaping around happily trying to lick Jared, she even rolled over in front of Colson wanting her belly scratched. “Tell me you like Dogs” Jared said.

“Love them, but usually the small kind” Colson said not sure if he should let a potentially vicious animal in side with the Colonel. “what kind is she” he asked.

“Boxer” Jared said innocently saying pit bull would probably get his Dog shot and then he would have to start killing people. .

“I guess that will be all right then” Colson replied as he reached for the door, not able to tell the difference between an American pit and a Boxer anyway, as he pulled the door open Colson ordered two of his men to Guard Jared and Erics gear, then led them inside.

the office was not typical military, Jared decided, which didn’t surprise him considering where he was at. It had been designed by civilians for civilians and it showed in the paneling, beige carpet and glass and chrome desks. The only thing missing was abstract art and modernist sculptures in niches.

The desks were manned by soldiers who were busy working the computers in front of them, one of the soldiers in question was of the attractive female variety. All four were armed with Side Arms from the look of the pistol butts he could see they were older pistols probably Berretta 92 f’s.

Colson escorted them across the room, to a steel staircase set in an alcove that looked more like a work of art or something from a sci fi movie set than a functional stair case.

Nibbler chose that moment to break free and trot over to the woman, throwing herself on her back and waggling her legs till the female solider laughed and leaned down and rubbed the dogs belly.

“Sorry” Jared apologized to Colson as he grabbed the leash and returned to the stairs. “She is an attention whore”

“My ex wife was like that too” Colson said, a grin flashed across his face. With that he led them upstairs into a narrow hall that circled around till it let out in a large office with a single desk, flanked by an American and Army flag. Behind the desk was a huge window that looked out over the Command and control center with its huge monitors.
A man sat behind the desk, while two others sat in chairs on either side.

The built in book cases and cabinet tops on both sides of the office were almost bare of decoration but Jared wasn’t paying any attention to that his attention was fixed on the lean muscled silver haired man in ACU’s who rose from behind the desk. Faded blue eyes under thick brows flicked from Jared to Eric then to Reese as a warm smile spread across the Colonels face.

“Staff Sergeant Reese, its good to see you again, I’m glad your still alive”

“Good to see you again too Colonel Stanford.” Reese said.

Damn son I thought I got you killed, glad I was wrong’ Command Sergeant Major Hines said, extending a hand to Reese. The two men shook. But the third man in the room, fixed a steely glare on Jared, there was nothing on his uniform beyond a USASOC flash and his name and Rank, Captain Frost, the name went with the eyes Jared thought. what was a member of Delta force doing here.

“aah Sergeant Stone” Stanford said “good to see you again as well.

“I’m not a Sergeant any more Colonel,” Jared said, what ever the Delta force man was thinking it didn’t show. “ and this is my Brother Sergeant First Class Eric Stone, 5th Special forces, ODA 562”

“You have an impressive record SFC Stone, or do you prefer Hollywood” Standford asked sitting back down behind his desk. Seeing the surprised look on Erics face the Colonel smiled. “its like magic I suppose, but the truth is son, there’s a server here that all the personnel files were back up on, in case of a nuclear war or other disaster so the government could get back up and running once things were back under control, I checked your Brothers file then cross reference over to yours, when he was last here.”

Eric shook his head, this conversation was the oddest he had had since the dead rose, the Colonel was like a relic from another time, talking about his computers, and files, with his men manning desks and what not, when the world was pretty dead beyond this facility.

“thank you sir, not that any of it matters now” Eric replied.

“bullshit Sergeant” the Colonel said sternly. “you accomplished a lot of good both for your country and others, the world may be circling the drain but never stop thinking you did good. Its about all we have left”

“ Your right of course:” Eric replied diplomatically. “but to be honest, what I’ve been doing lately is the most important and best mission of my career and life.”

“I’ve heard a little about what you men have been up to” Stanford said drawing a puzzled look from both Jared and Eric he said indicating Captain Frost. “The good Captain has some less than flattering criticisms about your activities,” Stanford said. “ So I have to ask you what exactly have you been doing with your time, and why you’ve chosen to return here.”

Jared stood there holding Nibblers leash, studying the captain, noting the callus’s on the edges of his hands, the way he stood, his weight resting on the balls of his feet ready for instant action. In a fight with the man Jared wasn’t sure if he could win or not but he wouldn’t back down from one either.

“before we get into that Colonel, what in the hell happened here” Reese asked butting in, but he could no longer contain himself either.

Stanford turned his gaze on Reese, then smoothed the front of his uniform blouse giving himself a moment to think. “you were dating one of the civilian women from B Sector if I recall.” The colonel said with a look of pity that hit Reese hard.

“Simply put, the Senator had moved men into many positions around facility for his coup. Not only were we hit up top, but they tried to take the C&C, the life support and storage area, and B sector.” The colonel stated, but cold fury flickered in the back of his eyes. “Brown sent twenty men into B, to liberate them. Those who resisted Browns leadership were executed, others tried to stop it, in the confusion and the fighting some of the infected rose and attacked, it might have stopped there but Browns men instead of putting down the infected chose to leave and sealed the doors to B, leaving unarmed civilians to fight with what ever they could find, which wasn’t much to be honest. I watched it on those screens till the end” Stanford said tipping his head towards the huge flat screens.

Reese stood there silently, but Jared had been around him long enough to know the man was furious. “your saying their all dead in there” Reese asked, ready to walk down and go after the Senator and his goons bare handed if need be..

“No Son I’m not, but a lot of them died, I sent a platoon over there, with weapons and ammunition to help, lost half of them fighting their way through the commons. The rest Got into B, cleared out the undead inside taking more losses in the process and are still there guarding whats left of the civilians we were supposed to protect.”

“Currently we hold the core, the life support and power plant and main storage areas, the Senator holds, A sector, and the FEMA and DHS sectors in Area B including what now appears to be a sizeable armory and storage areas all their own. We took some serious losses early on due to booby traps that had been laid earlier and the infected later, currently the Senators men out numbers us, but we have the training and the skills to kick their butts right back to A Sector.”

Jared watched Reese for a long moment, then stepped up. “ you asked what we have been up to and why we are here, well Ill start at the beginning, but its going to take a while” Jared said, hoping to give Reese time to process all that he had just heard. .

“Sergeant we seem to have all the time in the world at the moment” Stanford said.

“Well it started in Nashville on Jun 23rd, I was at the Dojo……” Jared began to talk, as the others settled in.

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

The lounge was nothing like she would have expected, it was carpeted, with bookshelves full of books, a Flat screen TV mounted on the wall with a rack of DVDs underneath, tables and chairs made of wood, along one wall were alcoves that contained Desks with Small flat screen TVs, each desk had a keyboard and mouse as well as a PS3 system and a rack that held games.

Most of the group sat down in the overstuffed leather looking chairs, or at the tables, not sure what to do and not interested in talking. Jill paced the room worried about what might be happening to Jared, and Eric too.

An hour ticked by and several of the men had migrated to the alcoves and were playing video games, something they had never thought they would be able to do again. it was surreal to hear computer game gun fire, or squealing tires, and the voices that reminded her of how cities used to be full of people and know that outside this place, everything was falling into ruin and only the dead prowled the streets.

Sarah and Logan sat on a small couch, talking quietly and occasionally kissing, she was happy for them both, and could only hope they both made it through the night mare this world had become. But what she wanted most was to hold Jared again in a world with where the dead were gone.

Jill knew her pacing was getting on peoples nerves but that didn’t stop her from doing it, and it kept her from chewing on her nails. She glanced at the clock on the paneled wall surprised to see another hour had passed. When the door opened she turned towards it, hoping it was Jared instead four men entered carrying trays of fresh strawberries and other fruits, and two large metal bowls full of salad and tongs.

They placed the trays and the large bowls on a table as another man entered with salad bowls; dressing and silver ware and placed those beside the Huge Salad bowls.

“where did these come from” Jill asked as she scooped up a Strawberry and popped it into her mouth. The soldier who had brought the bowls and other things paused and smiled at her.

“We have a Hydroponics lab where were grow this stuff, eat up there’s plenty” he said then headed for the door again as Jill helped her self to another strawberry, wishing she had some chocolate to go with it.

The door opened again and She looked up to see Jared and Eric enter, carrying their weapons and gear, which they placed by the door where the two sentries could keep an eye on it. all but jareds pistol which rode his thigh again, the Lt. who escorted them said nothing about the pistol so it must have been cleared.

She smiled as Nibbler pulled free of Jared and bounded over to leap up and lick her face wildly. “Good dog” she said chuckling then pushed the dog away and stepped forward to hug her husband.

“what’s going on” she whispered into his ear.

“no need to whisper, the colonel is willing to let us use the train tunnel, but wants our help in dealing with another little problem.” Jared said. “he wants us to help get the remaining civilians out of the Area they are trapped in and get them back here. the only problem is there are undead in the area they have to cross to get here.”

“Jared..”

“Don’t Jill, I’ve already given my word, we have to get to D.C. and that tunnel is the safest way to get there. If we don’t help, we have to find another way into the city and don’t think we will live to get through the undead if we try that.”

“ So all we have to do is kill a bunch of zombies, get some people into this sector and then we can use the train tunnel.”

“Not we, just me and Eric’s team that was the deal.” Jared said softly.

“Jared I do not need you to protect me” Jill snapped.

“Maybe not, but its my job to protect you and as many of the others as I can whether you like it or not. So deal with it” Jared said

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

Stanford’s men swept out of the Core and into the Commons, moving hastily through the dark passages, Jared now understood how they had taken such heavy losses from the Dead when the rebellion broke out here in the facility. Stanford’s men having been isolated from the outside world, and rarely having dealt with more than one or two undead at a time, still used the same Tactics they had been trained to use against humans on the battlefield, with the undead there were no safe zones that were not clear out prior to engagement, they could be anywhere a person could have crawled to die, cabinets, closets, basements. Take shelter in a door way as you advance down a street or corridor and hands could reach out and drag you inside. .

If they had listened to Jared he would had them block off at least some of not all of the hallways that connected to the main corridor they were using, seal them off with what ever they could find and leave the corridors sealed if there was nothing in that area that was needed. But not these men, there were no shields, no hand weapons beyond E tools and knives, just M-4s and M16s and grenades. Noise makers that would draw every zombie in the Sector.

But their one exposure had left them scared, they had taken serious losses

As they paused to move quietly through an intersection, Jared caught Colsons sleeve. “have you scouts use their E-tools to take out the und… The infected, as long as there are only one or two, the longer we stay quiet, the better it is.” He told the nervous Lt.

“Too risky” Colson said.

“bullshit” Jared said quietly as he drew his Khurkri. “ I’m taking my people up front, when your people run across the infected,” Jared hated that term it was bullshit, but they refused at least for now to believe the undead were anything but sick men and women. “Me and mine will deal with them. Because if a weapon fires in here, every pus bag in this sector will come down on us. Tell your men we are coming up” Jared said.

Colson hesitated for a moment, then nodded if Jared and his people had survived for almost two years traveling around up there, they must know hot to deal with the infected. The Colonel could be annoyed if he chose, but Colson wanted his men to live.

He spoke quietly into the boom mike over his mouth clearing Jared and his people to join the scouts, then waved Jared and the others Ahead.

Colson stayed crouched watching as Jared and his people ghosted through the intersection, far quieter than his own scouts. Especially the short guy, who seemed to disappear into the darkness like a ghost.

Corporal Brin Yarnell, almost flew out of his skin when a hand touched him. he somehow managed to stifle that response but it was a near thing.

“My people are taking the lead, stay behind us but stay close, you know where we are going.” The voice was deep and almost a whisper. “so which way now” he asked.

“Up a hundred feet then left, then two hundred feet into the Common area main lobby.” Yarnel said just as quietly.

“Thanks, remember stay close and keep an eye on the side passages.”

Jared grinned as he moved into position, scaring the crap out of the Scout had been amusing, no wonder Ori was always doing it. a quick flash of a red lense light showed him where Ori was.

They moved silent as ghosts down the corridor, Eric and his team at least could use their weapons, thanks to the silencers and sub sonic rounds, but Jared and Ori would engage single and small groups with hand weapons, just in case even the quiet firing weapons could draw attention from undead close enough to hear the soft spitting noise.

He moved forward and was just pieing a side corridor when he saw a zombie squatting on the floor, it must have heard a scuff or even breathing, maybe it could see the dim red light, it rose and shambled towards the main corridor.

Yarnell was ten feet back and saw Jared step back from the side corridor, a dark shape with arms reaching out, followed him. then suddenly there was a blur as Jared hooked the things neck with the bearded point of his Tomahawk, pulled it around to throw it off balance as he slammed his Khurkri down into its skull with a crack that probably could be heard all the way into DC.

A rising knee caught the body while another man grabbed the body by the collar and lowered it silently to the floor.

Finally they emerged into what was called the main lobby as it was called, was the nexus point where six corridors met, each side of the Hex was ten feet wide with the entrance to a corridor in the middle above the mouths of each corridor was a letter and a number, the ceiling of the Lobby was twenty foot high, Planters filled with dead plants sat under dark glow lights, the furniture that had once been placed in conversation pits around the large Hexagonal chamber lay over turned and scatted around.

The red lensed lights did little to dispel the deep shadows, or show them much beyond where the beams splashed pools of light. .

Yarnell crouched at the entrance to the lobby watching the fourteen men sweep the room, as they came back to the hall a man with a oddly shaped sword looking weapon crouched beside him. “ Which way” the man asked in the same deep voice from earlier.

“Take the Tunnel marked M-2, it runs to a T, you can go fight or left, it ends up in the same place.” Yarnell whispered back, hoping he didn’t sound as scared as he felt.

Jared nodded his thanks then rose and moved to the indicated corridor, his own nerves singing with tension, any moment now he expected to run into a horde that would come pouring out of doorways, mouths yawning opening. Stop it! get on mission and stay there. He stepped into the corridor and his men followed.

The door to Sector B had twenty undead pawing at it when Jared rounded the final turn, he stood to one side and let Eric and his men go forward, they dropped into position and began to fire, their NVG’s proving decisive. Each shot found its targets, they had worked their way through half the undead before the rest realized there were people behind them all but one of undead at the door turned and staggered towards the living.

Another volley of shots and the last of the undead at the door went down, quickly the bodies were checked then dragged to one side clearing the doorway, as soon as it was clear Colson moved up and entered the override code into the security system, he waited for the bolts to withdraw and the mag locks to disengage then pulled the door open,

Jared breathed a sigh of relief to see, the men with weapons kneeling beyond the door, behind them were civilians. Jared stepped up to Colson, “Listen to me, if you want these people to live, we need troops blocking every intersecting hallway on the way back. Trust me on this.” Jared said, seeing the same nightmare reflected in Colsons eyes that Jared had flowing through his own mind. “Soldiers die to keep civilians safe, its our job.” Jared said his voice hard as steel.

“I… Your right” Colson said summoning his squad leaders. Jared stepped away, his eyes sweeping the corridor behind they had just come down. He could feel the cold stares from the men who were receiving their orders. Go ahead and think I’m a bastard, I am. you wear the uniform, your job is to die if needed to save others.

Colson finished with issuing his orders, then with out looking at Jared he strode into B Sector, “ All right people we are getting you out of here. Charley company you are going to cover the rear. Do not panic do not run unless told to do so, be as silent as you can.” Colson said his eyes falling on the children, who stood shaking in terror at the thought of leaving the safety of B sector for the Dark halls of the Common Sector.

Finally they moved out, the civilians casting one final look back at the brightly lit sector that had been home for so long. The last man out closed and sealed the door.

Jared stepped into the lobby, looking around carefully, then gave the signal and squads moved up to the pre assigned corridors they were to cover while the civilians withdrew.

The line of people made a hard right and streamed down the corridor that would take them to Sector C.

A minute ticked past, then two, then three minutes, more than half the column were now in the corridor to Sector C, and it was that moment that Private Murphy reared his head. As cries of contact rippled around the room.

As the gunfire started, there were screams of panic from the civilians. Jared shook his head, remembering the panic on the streets the when the dead had first risen, that had gotten far more people killed and turned than anything else.

Soldiers were holding their own for the moment, but the dead just kept coming, rolling forward climbing over the bodies that were littering the corridors, at first it was one hallway, then they appeared at another, then another till four of the eight corridors were filled with undead trying to push out into the lobby to get to the living they could see and hear.

The air was thick with screams as the civilians tried to rush, and the soldiers assigned to keep them inline and moving were shouting and trying to get them to stay together with out panicking.

It was bound to fail and it did, when one soldier post with his squad at tunnel A4 stumbled, and fell out of line, undead surged forward and fell on him, and the men to either side, the squad broke and ran as their buddies were ripped apart their blood spraying on the walls.

Panick hit the civilians, the soldiers tried to contain it, but they stampeded towards the corridor that promised safety.

Jared saw a little boy go down as the crowd surged forward. He knocked a man out of the way before he could step on the kid. Jared picked the kid up and passed him to a soldier. “get him out of here’ Jared said as he pulled the M32 off his back and headed towards the break out Ori at his side.

“your nuts you know that” Ori said as Jared began to fire,

“Yarnell lead them out of here” Colson transmitted. A Company cover them.” Colson shouted as he heard men dying. He turned to see his men going down, some were being buried under the dead.

Jared the anti personal grenades converted the M32 launcher into a what was for all intents and purposes a shotgun revolver, undead shredded under the onslaught. The soldiers who had started to break rallied and fired into the mass of undead. forming a line, those still covering the hallways were going to have to pull back before they were cut off or die.

A few soldiers stopped their retreat and rallied seeing Jared advance on the undead, “Slow and steady, aim for their heads” Jared bellowed over the gunfire as he slung the M32 over his back, then drew his pistol firing even as it cleared the holster.

The panic that had threatened to over whelm the soldiers settled into the all to familiar regular fear of combat. “ Steady on boys” Jared called out encouragement.

Jared glanced over his shoulder and saw that Colson and his men had gotten the civilians back under control and only a few were left in the lobby the Lobby, another minute or two and they would be clear.

“This aint going well” Ori said as he serviced targets with out thinking.

“ could be worse, there’s eight corridors and the undead are only coming out of four of them.” Jared replied.

“Break through, we have break though..” the shout turned into a scream as the Sergeant had his throat ripped out.

Jared turned to see soldiers falling back from the other hallways, “ fall back and cover the civilians” Jared called to the Sergeant beside him. “ If you don’t fall back, you’ll be cut off”

Jared ejected the spent mag from his pistol and slapped in a new one as he fell back with the soldiers.

“You had to tempt fate by saying it could be worse” Ori called out.

He fired at the mass of undead, many of whom had paused to rip apart the soldiers they had dragged down, he ripped through a Magazine, reloaded and began to fire again.

Undead were spilling out around the undead that were feeding, there was no way now to hold and no real point, the last of the civilians were exiting the lobby now.

“Move it, Move it” Jared shouted, as they raced to get around the mass of undead while there was still a gap, as well as escape the undead that were coming up behind them.

Jared pulled a grenade one handed from a pouch, pulled the pin and tossed it over his shoulder. He could hear kids screaming from somewhere down the escape corridor.

They were not going to make it, Jared realized, not all of them, and no diversion was going to draw the undead away from the huge number of living they could see escaping them.

Four of the men with Jared made it to safety, then the undead fell on the rest, Jared leaped back dragging Ori out of the way as the men died. Hating himself he saw the undead advancing on him in a semicircle that was closing in on them, there was only one hall way close by that offered them a chance to live. There was no way to reach the Corridor they need, it was not a tough choice.

“Lets go” Jared yelled as he turned and ran. If they could lose the undead and duck into a room and hide, they could wait till the undead lost interest and wandered off. .

“move it” Jared said urging Ori to run faster as the two men pounded down the corridor with a horde of undead coming up behind them. They could still hear firing from the Main hall, where Stanford’s people and Erics Team were holding off the undead while the civilians made it into Sector C

“How exactly did we get cut off again” Ori asked as they neared an intersection. “oh yeah, that damn hero complex of yours.” Ori said

“You didn’t complain about it when I’ve saved your butt in the past.” Jared said.

“Well we didn’t get trapped in an underground bunker in a dark corridor with no idea how to get back that time and I swear to god if a zombie comes crawling along the ceiling with a ten foot long tongue I’m shoving you in its path.”

“I would think you would be happy, right here in the middle of one of those top secret shadow government facility conspiracy things” Jared shot back.

“You mock me” Ori replied then slid to a halt as more undead poured around the corner ahead of them.

“No that was sarcasm, I’ll mock you later” Jared said as he lifted his pistol and shot down the closest undead.

“Oh this is just great,” Ori muttered as he looked around and spotted a door with a sign above it that read “Kitchen Hall A1, Common zone. “in there” Ori said bursting through the door weapon up, Jared joined him and together the two men slammed a stainless steel prep table against the doors.

“You do realize that kitchens are usually connected to Dining rooms right” Jared said as he looked around for doors.

Ori watched the door that the undead were pawing and thumping against to see if it moved once he was satisfied that it wasn’t going to open he turned to Jared.. “cover me for a minute” Ori said, as he knelt and pulled off his glasses, he placed them in a hard case that went into his pack, then with practiced ease slipped his contacts in. “ Lets find the other doors in this place and see if we can get out of here.” Ori said as he lifted his rifle into High guard.

They moved slowly through the dark kitchen, the beams from their lights shining off the stainless steel kitchen appliances and tables, adding a little extra light in the other wise pitch black kitchen.

Jared felt that old familiar singing in his nerves, his palms were sweating, and his heart beat faster from the adrenalin that flooded his system. Just up ahead he thought he heard a sound like a shoe sole scuffing on the tiled floor.

He knelt and slipped the NVG’s from the side pocket of his pack and pulled them on, a touch of his finger and they sprang to life. He flipped off his light and a second later Ori’s went out as well as he donned his own NVG’s.

Jared center slung his HK and drew his hand weapons, they felt like old friends in his hands as he rose and spotted the zombie immediately. Twenty feet ahead slowly walking forward, a woman in a blood stained apron, half the mean on her left arm was gone and two fingers of her right hand.

Her head was turning slowly, maybe searching for the light that had drawn her attention, but she kept moving towards him. his mouth twisting into a silent snarl Jared glided up as silent as a cat. He brought the Khurkri hissing down on top of her skull, skin split, bone cracked and the walking corpse fell over knocking a metal mixing bowl off the table. It fell with a clatter onto the tile floor, Jared ghosted around the table to the aisle on the other side and kept moving not even checking to see where Ori might be, he knew.

He passed the Grills and stoves and stepped over fallen pots and pans that rested in old rotting food. There was the thunk sound that drew his attention to the swinging metal door that had opened allowing two zombies entry into the kitchen, one was wearing Body armor with DHS in big white letters on the front, the other was wearing Military body armor over a uniform.

Great both of them are wearing helmets, butt spike or decapitation. Butt spike, he decided. As he stepped up on the right side of the zombie in uniform and with a flick of his wrist reversed the Tomahawk and smashed the long tapering butt spike into the things forehead just under the brim of its helmet, as the zombie fell backwards to the floor Jared turned to take out Mr. DHS, only to see Ori appear and swing a machete into the things face with all his strength.

The zombie stopped in its tracks, when Ori wrenched the blade free of the skull the zombie dropped to its knees then fell face first into the floor. With out knowing how many more might still be on the other side of those doors Ori decided using the sign language they had developed years back was smarter.

Check the door Ori signed then knelt and checked the two corpses for weapons and ammunition.

Jared eased the door open an inch and looked out into the dining room that could probably seat two hundred people, if not more. Only seven zombies were close to the door and slowly heading towards the kitchen door drawn by the sound of the bowl hitting the floor, or the sound of their fellow undead falling over who knew, Jared thought as he signed what he was seeing to Ori. It was all the undead he could see in the dining room that worried him.

He eased the door closed, we are not getting out of here that way, Jared signed and as he grabbed an industrial mixer, that was far heavier than it looked and placed it in front of the door, assuming a zombie didn’t suddenly figure out it could pull the door open, it would just keep pushing at the door and not be able to get inside.

Any ideas

Depends Jared, do you want ideas that keep us alive or something insane that may or may not work.

Jared shrugged I’d like to stay alive a few hours longer if you don’t mind, but if the insane idea has a chance of working might as well try it.

Ori smiled, well lets gets started on insane then

With that Ori started searching cabinets, the walk in pantry. After a couple of moments they had three fifty pound bags of flour and two twenty pound bags of sugar placed on a table, Ori had three Co2 bottles from the soda dispenser.

Ori explained quickly what they needed to do, your right this is insane Jared signed then cut open the bags before moving over the deep fryer and cut the hose that ran to the natural gas feed.

While Jared was busy Ori used the Co2 tanks to blow the flour and sugar into the air, it took all three bottles to get the entire mess airborne where it filled the room in a fine haze.

Ori might have explained upper explosive limits and low explosive limits and how you had figure out the size of the space you had to fill, then balance the amount of particles to oxidation, or something like that to get a nice satisfying boom. That did not mean I understood most of it but But I did get that the Natural Gas, when it exploded would set the flour and sugar dust off in a secondary explosion.

I thought you hated this stuff, Jared signed

Just because I hate it doesn’t mean I suck at it, Ori signed back one handed holding a cloth over his mouth to keep from breathing in the dust in the air..

Go move the table, then run back here and move the mixer away from the door, then we retreat to the that cooler at the back of the kitchen, Ori signed

No longer concerned about staying quiet, Jared did exactly as Ori asked, he ran to the door they had entered and pulled the prep table out of the way, the door swung open the moment it was clear and undead poured into the room.

He ran back to Ori and pulled the heavy mixer away from the dining room door, and it too swung open.

“lets go” Ori said as the undead from the dining room entered the kitchen and started towards the sound of his voice.

The cooler was one of the heavy duty ten foot deep walk in coolers with six inch thick walls and racks filled with pots and containers, Jared grabbed the cooler door and started to pull it closed while Ori pulled a grenade from a pouch. “hang on, give it a second” Ori said watching, just those few word drew the attention of the undead milling around the swinging door to the dining room. The walking dead started towards the cooler breaking into a slow stumbling jog.

Ori pulled the pin on the grenade, “nice thing about this is, you only need a spark” he said as he cocked his arm back. “as soon as I throw the grenade you slam that door shut and run for the back of the cooler.”

“no problems, I’m good with running.” Jared said.

Ori drew his arm back and threw, the grenade. As it flew past the door he was already running for the back of the cooler even as Jared slammed the door shut sealing them in.

The explosion shook the cooler, there was a microseconds pause and then the floor reached up and slapped Jared down as the second explosion ripped through the kitchen, some large and heavy smacked into Jared’s head almost knocking him out. A metal shelf tipped over spilling its contents all over Jared before it fell across his legs.

He lay there his legs pinned, ears ringing, head aching in the darkness. It shouldn’t be dark He reached up to check his NVGS and realized they had been knocked from his head. Blind and scared the cooler might be open to the undead he began to feel around for his NVGs expecting constantly to touch a rotting foot or leg.

“Ori” he whispered, but there was no answer. His hands closed on his NVGs at last, he pulled them on and thankfully they were still working. He twisted around and looked towards the door of the cooler and saw that it was still in intact, with that out of the way he looked around and saw Ori unconscious sitting with his back against the wall, blood tricking down his face from his hair line, metal pots and containers from the rack beside him rack scattered around his splayed legs. At least I hope he is unconscious

“Ori” Jared whispered again, as he twisted around again and lifted the rack enough to slip his legs out from under its weight.

He climbed to his feet and moved to Ori’s side, hesitantly, fearing what he might find he checked Ori’s pulse and sighed with relief to find Ori was still alive. he pulled off his pack then sat down beside Ori. “you know, that was probably the stupidest idea you’ve ever had” Jared whispered, he wasn’t going to try and look outside the cooler till Ori was awake just in case the kitchen was full of crispy, pissed off undead.

He turned off his NVGs to conserve the batteries, then reached over and turned off Ori’s unit was well. He sat in the darkness wondering if the cooler was going to become his tomb. He sat there in the darkness, exhausted, scared and worried, till he drifted off to sleep.

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

Jill looked up as the door to the lounge opened and Eric limped in, his arm around Baileys shoulder for support. He was followed by his team, all of who were injured to one degree or another, and all of them looked, angry and upset. There was one missing but that thought was driven out of her mind as the door closed with out Jared and Ori entering the room.

“wheres Jared and Ori?” Jill asked a cold chill sweeping through her
Ronny grew pale as he too realized who was missing.

“we got separated,” Eric said softly as he slumped down on the couch, where Blaine went to work on the wound in his leg. “ the undead were everywhere, I saw Jared and Ori take off down a corridor with a huge crowd chasing them, and then Senators men came out of no where.”

“and you didn’t go after them” Jill asked coldly, knowing she was being unfair if any one would have tried to get to Jared it would have been Eric. Her fear for Jared and Ori drover her, she should have told Jared she was pregnant maybe he would have changed his mind. she shook her head no he wouldn’t have she knew.

“I tried Jill, My entire team did, we lost Stueben trying almost lost Boomer and Holiday trying to get to them” Eric said, “He is my brother no way would I let anything happen to him if I could stop it.”

“I am sorry Eric, I know you would have tried its… I..” she fell silent, determined not to cry and she didn’t want to talk Eric about her being pregnant.

Eric waved Blaine away, “check the others, I’m fine just some grazes and the pressure bandage on the calf wound will do for now” Eric said as he levered himself up off the couch and wrapped his arms around his sister in law. “we will get them back Jill, I swear. You know Jared he is like a bad penny always turning up” he told her.

“I know” she said determined to keep believing Jared was alive and well. she pulled away from Eric knowing that it had to be tearing him upside as well.

“We are going back out, to try and locate them as soon as Colson gets more equipment. I promise you I will bring him back.” Eric said thinking about the fact that Jared had traveled all the way back from Sullivan to look for him, Eric wasn’t going to leave till he had gotten his brother back or put down his animated body.

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

Jared woke to bright lights, he had a massive head ache and his ears hurt. He tried to sit up and found his hands secured to the headboard of the bed he lay in.

The pale green walled room was bare, except for the naked bulb that glowed from the ceiling, a small table and single chair against the opposite wall, and a small camera mounted on the ceiling that faced the bed.

He blinked, trying to clear the confusion that raged in his mind, the last thing he remembered was sitting in the dark, inside the cooler beside Ori who was unconscious. He hoped like Hell Ori was chained up in another bed somewhere, Jared would kill some one if Ori had been left behind as zombie chow or killed on the spot.

He tried to remember but his mind was blank after he had turned off his NVGs. He gave up after a while and calmed his breathing and slowed his heart rate through sheer will power and just drifted, it wouldn’t do any good to lay here working himself into a panic attack.

Finally the door opened, and a man in a suit stepped inside, “ I’m glad to see your awake Mr. Stone.” Senator Brown said as he pulled the chair out from the table. “we have a few things to discuss before your trial.”

“trial?” Jared asked, keeping his face blank of all emotion.

“For Treason of course” Brown said with a smile that was completely genuine. “General Bedford, who recognizes Civilian authority has supplied us with enough information that your trial will purely perfunctory, a formality that has to be seen to before your sentenced and executed.”

“well since I’m already convicted and all, why don’t you tell me how I got here and what happened to my friend.” Jared said, already plotting an escape.

“My men, loyal Americans I might add, found you and your friend hiding in a cooler. Your were stunned by a Flash bang I thing they called it then you were sedated and brought here. I was told the drug might impair your short term memory. your friend sadly was left behind, he faced no charges and we do not have the food or space to house him.”

Jared had never felt the kind of hatred towards another person as he did now towards Brown, if his hands were free, he would have gladly ripped browns throat out and pissed down his neck.

“so what happens now” Jared asked keeping his voice nice and level, once he escaped he was going to kill this slime ass.

“we are currently in the process of selecting a jury and vetting them, regardless of what you might think we want a fair trial so when we get the country re-established no one can claim we held Mock trials for the traitors.” Brown said with a smile. “that should take a week or two, after that the trial should be swift, the evidence in your case is overwhelming so the trial itself should not take more than a day or two. You will remain here, you will be provided food, and a bucket to relieve yourself in. your jailers will not be allowed to speak to you, not that they want too either I should point out. When you leave this room it will for interrogation, then finally to court and your execution.” Brown said and chuckled. “Please don’t expect a rescue, Stanford and his men have been unable to enter this sector before and will have an even tougher now that I have doubled our guard. Besides I am sure they believe you are dead and walking around.”

“you know” Jared said conversationally “you’re one sick, twisted, silver haired, dog humping, fucknut”

“vulgarity, the refuge of the uneducated” Brown said rising from the chair. “ I look forward to watching your execution Mr. Stone. General Bedford is eagerly looking forward to it as well. and when we take Sector C your wife and Brother will be executed as well. I do so look forward to that Mr. Stone.”

“My wife will castrate you, shove your tiny balls down your throat so you can choke on them, assuming my brother doesn’t pull your arms off and beat you to death with them first.” Jared said sounding cheerful. “you cant win this Brown, I know who you serve, what you serve, and its days are numbered.”

Something changed in browns eyes, which suddenly looked like ink was filling them till only soulless jet black orbs gazed at him, the room seemed to darken and a smell of rotted meat filled the cell. “your time is over Jared Stone, you no longer matter. You will rot in the belly of the dead” Brown said, there was an odd timbre to his voice that sent shivers dancing up and down Jared’s spine.

“I think we will see about that” Jared said bravely refusing to give into the sheer howling terror that voice and those eyes threatened him with. It was a close thing though, very close.

“yes we will” Brown said malice flickering in those black eyes, and then the light in the room brightened again and Browns eyes had returned to normal. With out another word he turned and walked from the room, giving Jared a glimpse of a corridor with three men in DHS body armor outside. The door shut with a boom sealing him in.

Okay, you have mouthed off now how are you going to make it happen, he asked himself as he worried about Ori’s fate.

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

Feburary 2nd 0900 hrs.

It was quiet and subdued group that sat down to breakfast in the lounge, there was little conversation as they ate. Jill knew they were on the brink of losing hope with Jared and Ori gone.

Jared might not like it, but he was a symbol to these people, they drew strength from him and his refusal to give up or walk away from what he believed drove them to try and better than they thought they were, with out him they felt cut loose and cast adrift in a world of madness.

She shoved away her plate and rose to her feet and turned to the Private who waited by the door. “I want to see your commanding officer,” She said, she frowned angrily seeing the look on the soldiers face. “NOW!” she barked at the private who nodded weakly.

“Eric, Ronny you are coming with me, every one else finish eating, we still have a job to do and friends who will be arriving shortly.” She turned back to the private. “ well lets go” she said. The man opened the door and stepped outside, Jill followed not even trying to order Nibbler to return to the lounge, the dog wouldn’t have listened anyway.

As they entered the lobby, atrium what ever it was called, where the CNC and Commanders office were located, Eric whispered. “Keep it up, your doing well”

She nodded curtly as they were led into the outer office then up to Stanfords office area, she hadnt seen the place yesterday and like Jared she was amazed to find such a plush office in a government complex. She didn’t even acknowledge the soldiers at the desk, they were no real threat.

Stanford rose from his desk as they entered his office, he looked exhausted and his uniform was rumpled as if he had slept in it last night, assuming he had slept at all Jill thought seeing the dark rings around the older mans eyes.

There was another man in the room, something about the way he stood reminded her of Jared and that almost chocked her up.

“Mrs. Stone, SFC Stone” Stanford said with a nod toward them. “ I’m sorry to meet you under the circumstances” he said to Jill

Jill glared at him for a full two seconds “By circumstances are you suggesting my husband is dead” she asked steadily, anger lurking just under the words.

“I am sorry but yes” Stanford said.

“You are wrong, but we will discuss that in a moment” Jill said sternly as she looked at the other man who seemed to find this amusing. “First you made a deal with my Husband, I expect you to up hold your end of the deal, our convoy should already be at the rendezvous point, I need Sergeant Daws and his people led up top to contact them and bring them inside the fence line here.”

“I’m sorry but topside is full of undead, I cant allow that” Stanford said.

“your mistaking me, that’s not a request Colonel” Jill said coldly. “it will happen or my brother in law will do something rash.”

Stanford gazed silently at the petite, attractive woman who stood regally straight her deep blue eyes, steel bright, locked with his.

“when our people get here, they will clear out the undead up top, then they will enter this facility through what ever safe route there is and will then proceed with your peoples help to clear the common area and search for my Husband and our friend, and we will have to clear the undead out to do it so it’s a win for you.”

“and the Senators people will rush in to attack your people in the process, and if you manage to deal with that and find your Husband hopefully alive, while not letting a single infected into the core, how will that benefit me. If you can clear the Common area that will allow Browns men to move freely with out fear right up to our doors and launch an attack.”

“it benefits you because we will help you remove the Senator before we leave.” Jill said she saw Eric nod his approval out of the corner of her eye.

Stanford glance at Captain Frost, the man was amused, he most likely did not take Jill Stone seriously. But Stanford had spent time talking with Reese and believe what the man had told him about this group, if anything Jill Stone was possibly more dangerous than her husband in many ways.

He was also probably attracted to Jill as wel, not that Stanford could fault him for that, if I were twenty years younger I would be flirting my respectable butt right off

“Captain Frost what do you think?” Stanford asked. “ I would hate for SFC Stone and his team to have to do something rash.” He said wrly.

“I think sir, its an offer you cant turn down, the extra manpower, assuming they can fight, is what you need to secure this facility once and for all.” Frost said. “and I will lend my own team to the mission if you approve, assuming Mrs. Stone and SFC Stone wont mind Delta force helping out.”

************************************
Febuary 2nd 0700hrs

Jared lay there eyes closed, listening as the door to his cell opened. it sounded like four people squeezed into the room, only one walked the six paces to stand at the head of the bed. his eyes snapped open as something slammed him in the side of the head, hard enough to daze him.

Working quickly a man unchained him rolled Jared onto the floor then chained his hands behind his back and shackled his legs. “we are going for a little walk, but don’t worry if you stumble doorknobs and walls will stop you from falling.” Jared was hauled to his feet and half carried from the room.

This sector look no different than Sector C, Jared saw, as he was half dragged half pushed down circular hallways, with doors set into the wall every twenty feet. Reaching an intersection the turned left, Jared memorized every turn so when he escaped he would have at least some knowledge of the lay out.

Finally they reached a door and Jared was pushed inside a room that might have once been a interrogation room, today it looked more like a torture chamber. On one wall there was a Large Mirror, there’s probably a observation room on the other side so the senator and his cronies can watch the fun, Jared thought.

A riffle butt to his head dropped him to his knees, and while he was dazed, they uncuffed his hands from behind his back, then cuffed him arms together in front of his torso then slipped the chain over a hook that winched him up till his feet dangled a off the ground.

“This really feels constitutional,” he muttered, and was punched in the face of his troubles.

“Extraordinary times requires it, traitor.”

Jared spit blood and gave the man a look that promises the man major pain in the future then laughed. ‘I think you forgot to read me my rights.” He grunted as he was butt stroked in the stomach.

He swung back and forth, and noted that the rest of the Detail that had brought him here didn’t seem happy about what was going on. Not that it helped him at the moment.

So far this was far more fun than SERE School had been, but give the amateurs time they were bound to get inventive soon. Thank you Colonel Anderson for making me attend that damned course in your attempts to get me to cave and try out for the SF.

Jared had no clue how many strings the Colonel had pulled to get him into the exclusive course, Jared had accepted admission, even though he had no intention of changing his mind about the SF.

Why the Top and the Colonel had been so hell bent on Jared going SF he had no idea, but SERE was something that Jared wanted, maybe he was like Ronny a masochist, maybe it was to prove to himself he could take it, he really never knew why he wanted it only that he did.

The survival part of the course had been a cakewalk, apparently he knew more than the instructors. He had learned a lot during the escape and evasion part, but the mock POW camp had been the real point for him, after that he knew he could deal with extreme adversity. After that there had been little the world could throw at him that he couldn’t deal with.. With that in mind he looked the former federal officer in the eyes and smiled coldly.

‘don’t worry boy I am going to have fun with this” the man said with a grin as he dismissed the men who had escorted Jared to the interrogation room with a hand gesture.
“I’ve been told your some sort of martial arts master, or some such bullshit. I hope that means you can control how much pain you can feel, because I want this to last a while.’ The man said with a grin as he began to tape his knuckles.

‘so how often do you dream of a thing in a bowler hat” Jared asked taking a stab in the dark. From the way the man jerked in surprise and stared at Jared, he had hit a nerve. ”you know its destroying you right, its name was Jasper Brown, a serial killer, child rapist and all around sick fuck.”

“I don’t know what your talking about” The man said as he finished taping his knuckles to keep from cutting them. He hadn’t expected the prisoner to take talk much less try to take control of the situation, it was a good try and showed a lot of balls, but it wasn’t going to work.

“I’m pretty sure you do” Jared said as the man advanced on him with a knife. Moments later his shirt was cut away, then his pants. And the real fun began. He had no idea how long it went on, he would dangle there being beaten, then wake up with cold water splashed on his face and it would start again. finally he woke up being dragged down the hall back to his cell where he was chained back to his bed.

who ever that numbnut was, he knew how to beat a man, he didn’t do any real damage but knew how to inflict lots of pain. Jared lay there staring at the ceiling with one eye, the other was swollen shut, he was pretty sure his testicles were swollen to twice their normal size, and the rest of his body felt like hammered dog shit.

Oh lord take away the pain but leave the swelling, Jared thought with a silent laugh, silent or not it still hurt. At least they left me my boots, that’s something.

He lay there sliding in and out of coconsciousness for awhile, then came to with Brown sitting at the table.

“I guess that answers, it I’m in hell or you wouldn’t be here” Jared said through swollen lips.

‘still the funny man, I see” Brown said. “Tomorrow, if you know whats best Mr. Stone, you will confess to Treason and name your accomplices. I would hate to see this continue for any longer than tomorrow.”

“I’m sure it bothers you” Jared got out.

“No not really but there are moral niceties to observe’ Brown said. “ a man can not indulge in his darker desires with out paying the price for it.”

‘Color me surprised you think you still doing gods work you piece of shit.” Jared got out, then spit blood at Brown.

“I have to say I would have expected something like that in a movie,” Brown said distastefully wiping at the wet spot on his suit.

“why are you helping the dark’ Jared asked, suddenly sure of who and what Brown was.

Brown looked up at the dome above the door and drew his finger across his throat. “do you really want to know?” he asked after a moment.

“Why not, it will beat guessing about your motives after I kill you” Jared said. “your just the only one of the dark trinity I’ve met so I asked.”

Brown laughed at that, “Your wrong there Stone, I am more like a disciple, but you’ve met two of the Darks champions, you just didn’t know it.” Brown said. “as to why I serve it, because people like you have failed Stone, you talked about honor and free will and freedom, and look what it brought the world. Humanity needs to be chained and subjugated, some are only worth being breed stock, others are only worth what services they can provide. Many are just wasting oxygen.” The Senator stated as he rose to his feet, his voice thundering like he was giving a speech on the floor of the senate.

“No wonder you were down in the polls, you dumb shit, you don’t get it do you. The Dark wants us dead, all of us. And to do it, it needs willing help, those are the rules, its warped you, twisted everything you believed in so you would fall at its non existent feet and worship it just because its going to give you for a brief time what you want, power, sex and more power. You’re a fool” Jared snarled trying hard to ignore the pain that had his body throbbing.

“You know nothing” Brown said.

“I know your wife was probably ripped apart and eaten alive, and the Dark, bowler hat did nothing to save her and I’m betting its been talking to you for years, guided you into politics, suggested bills to you while you slept, maybe even got you votes. But it didn’t protect the people you loved, and when the time comes it wont protect you either. Its not just Evil, its chaos distilled and it loves using people like you to create as much of it as you can. ”

Brown only looked at him for a moment, then smiled again. “it wont work, no matter what you think you know, your wrong, and even if you were correct it wont help you now.

Your time is over Stone, People like you don’t belong in the new world. Honor, Duty, what a farce, only strength during chaos wins the day, not hope and sniffing around a woman so you can breed more nits.”

‘I presume you came here to talk me to death, so can we speed this up, I have people to see on the other side.” Jared said tired of this.

“You’ll get your wish soon enough Stone, after a few more days with my interrogator” Brown said as he headed for the door, he stopped with his hand on the knob and looked back at Jared. “And jasper wanted me to tell you that he may be dead but he is not forgotten.” The smile on the senator’s face chilled Jared to the bone.

He lay there for a long while, feeling his heart beat, praying that Ori was alive and that Jill and the others were okay, his eyes grew heavy and slowly closed.

“You know you look like shit” mark said when Jared’s eyes opened. His old friend was sitting on the end of the bed wearing his favorite board shorts and flip flops. “Actually I would expect Ronny to be the one laying there naked and chained up, he would probably enjoy this.”

“Probably” Jared said as he found himself free. He sat up with no pain and looked around the cell.

“You need to hang on, Help is coming but its going to be a few days.” Mark said with another smile. “And I can not answer any questions. But I can sit here and talk with you about old times. Like that time Ronny got a door slammed on his pecker, remember when he pissed off , what was her name, Helga or something and how she slammed the door on it twice.”

Jared found himself laughing and nodding, the pain forgotten, this was marks gift, and he was going to need it if he was going to survive the next couple of days.

Who knows maybe ultimately this really was all in his head, the dreams were just dreams, the dead were just dead, but for now it was his lifeline and he clung to it.

They talked all night about things they had seen and done, things that mark wished he had been able to do in life, what Jared hoped to do, and a lot about marks baby and Sharon.

“I miss her a lot, Steve does too” Mark said as it neared dawn, how Jared knew that he had no idea but it was. “Funny in life I would probably have killed him for sleeping with Sharon, But when it happened between them they were in love and I was dead. Bridget must be a Saint to have put up with it.”

“She loves Sharon too” Jared said.

“oh the fantasies I could have lived if I had known that before I died” Mark said with a grin.

Jared laughed with him, then noticed Mark was starting to fade away. “damn I want a little more time, but who doesn’t, being dead and all I guess I am pretty lucky just to have had this much.” Mark said. “ you hang on Jared, I don’t know how it will work out, but Jill and your Brother are trying to move Heaven to find you.”

“ I will try mark, My word Brother, But if I fail, tell Steve I want that cold beer waiting for me when I get there.” Jared said feeling pain starting to leach back into his body as he drifted towards consciousness.

“I will Jared, see ya around my man” Mark said and was gone.

Jared woke still chained to the bed rough hands holding him down as he was unchained and a new day started complete with a few new wrinkles in his torture.

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

February 3rd, 0800hrs. Mt. weather Surface facility.

Jill woke alone in the large bed in the RV’s bedroom, she lay there for a moment then rolled over and hugged Jared’s pillow, certain she could still smell his scent on the thing. She let her tears finally flow as she lay there holding his pillow. She knew the Colonel was probably correct and Jared and Ori were probably dead, but she refused to let go that hope, Jared hadn’t when she had been trapped at the terminal, and she wasn’t going to abandon him, and if he had become one of the… one of those things, she would put him down personally. It was the first time she had really had to face losing him, and nothing had really prepared her for the huge hole his absence left behind in her heart and soul.

If he was dead, she would some how keep going because that’s what he would have wanted, and she had their child to think of too. She smiled sadly as she placed one hand on her stomach as if to shelter their baby.

“Need a shoulder” Jansen said from the foot of the bed, Jill jerked upright still clutching Jared’s pillow, tears still sliding down her face. She had been so lost in her own thoughts and emotions she hadn’t even heard him enter.

She didn’t care at that moment what any one thought, she need human contact, she nodded still crying. Jansen sat down on the bed and wrapped his arms around her. it was only then she realize he was only wearing pants. She knew she should stop but she didn’t, she buried her head in his shoulder and cried, feeling like a failure at breaking down like this.

Jansen for his part held her gently, one hand stroking her hair as she cried, there was nothing sexual in that embrace, even if there was love. As her sobs finally stopped, he dipped his head down till it rested on the top of her head. “I am sure he is alive’ Thor whispered. ‘if any one was going to come back to say goodbye, its Jared’

Still in his arms, she wiped the tears from her face then started to wipe off the tears that fallen on his shoulder and ran down his chest, as her fingers grazed his hot skin, she stopped “Thor, I need to ask you something” She said quietly.

“Anything” he said meaning it. she was the only woman he had ever felt this way about.

“I know you love me, and its not fair to you. But why do you keep doing things like telling me Jared is alive or help Jared out when we have our rare snits.” She knew the answer, or at least she thought she did but she wanted him to say finally once and for all admit his feelings.

He stiffened, but just hearing those words from him sent a thrill through him and at the same time his heart sank. In a way he was almost insulted she had to ask, but just feeling her against his bare chest was worth the pain of what was sure to follow.

“Because I cant do anything less Jill, Jared has become a damn good friend and so have you, the fact that …” he fell silent, scared to say those words, after battlefields and the undead he could still be deeply scared of some things was almost as amusing as it was true. Its time just say it and refuse to act on it, its that simple.

“The Fact that I Love you isn’t important’ he said finally.

“it is important Thor, its making you miserable and the fact you respect Jared and I so much that you put yourself through emotional hell to be our friend I can respect.” Jill said then lowered her eyes before she continued. “ as much as I have come to love you,” Jansen’s heart whether he wanted to or not soared hearing those three words. “ I love Jared more. I cant apologize for that, I wont, But I can say I’m sorry for the pain its caused you.” She said wiping at her eyes again this time the tears where for both the men she loved.

“Never apologize for loving Jared.” Jansen said stroking her hair softly. “he is a good man, better than most myself included. I didn’t mean to fall in love with you but I did, so what ever pain I feel, I did to myself Jill. You’ve never led me on so its no fault of yours. so lets never discuss this again” he said quietly.
“now you need to get up and get dressed so we can finish clearing out the undead, then go rescue Jared” Jansen said reluctantly pulling away from her, he climbed off the bed, surprised at how good he felt. his world hadn’t collapsed by telling her how he felt, and even though there would never be anything between them, he knew he could remain her’s and Jared’s friend and that meant more than he could ever explain to any one who couldn’t read minds.

She sat there till he had left the room then rose and quickly dressed, the sooner they got this done, the sooner they could go look for Jared and Ori, she hated the delay but making the offer to help Stanford was the only way she could think of that might sway him. “Tomorrow Jared, We are coming for you.” She vowed as she picked up her sword and headed into the main part of the massive RV.

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

“your men failed General” Brown said as he sat in the soft leather chair with a glass of brandy in his hands. He looked into the large monitor where General Bedford appeared and smiled coldly. “your Delta Force men have gone over to the other side, But that doesn’t matter, Stanford even with Captain Frosts help will not be able to penetrate into the Sector I control. And if you can provide me the weapon you promised, I can clear Sector C once and for all and assume full control of this facility.”

“You will have it, I will personally deliver it Senator.” Bedford said. “I would also like to spend a little time with your Prisoner, I have things to discuss with him.”

“I have no problems with your request, though I fear he may be dead before you can arrive.” Brown said with a smile.

“I can be there in 12 hours Senator, I am already in the area,” Bedford said, as he moved the camera just enough for the senator to see behind him, the General was inside a vehicle, through the open hatch behind the General the senator saw the Capitol building rising over snow covered trees.

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11 thoughts on “Chapter Twenty five

  1. Damn! Can’t wait for the next chapter to find out what happens next! I’m pretty sure Ori is one pissed off dude, and aching for some serious revenge.

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    • thanks Rob, If I can ever get it cleaned up, the grammar corrected, clean up and insert the material I cut I will look in to getting it into print. in some ways I would almost rather make a movie CGI or Live action out of the Clock LOL

      Like

  2. Well, now that I have caught up, I need to see if I can salvage my job and family that I have been neglecting. Amazing story as usual OKelly.

    Oh, yeah. I almost forgot.

    TAP! TAP! TAP!

    🙂

    Like

  3. In some ways, I think you have eclipsed the original AUD story. Chris’ work is steller, but you have taken it in a direction that resonates better (for me at least). Keep it up Man, this is really good stuff.

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    • Thanks Rob, Im glad you enjoy it, and thats a hell of a compliment.

      but in my opinionits like apples and oranges, AUD is about Adrian and how he survives and grows and becomes a better person. not that he was bad either.

      My stuff is more action adventure with a dash of supernatural and a little horror, or as some one once put like a Redneck Road trip through the ZA.

      I guess I..umm delved much further into the supernatural than Chris did LOL its all good.. AUD is one of the best if not THE best zombie story Ive read.

      I can only hope that others will enjoy my little addition to the tale.

      Like

      • I have to agree with you on your points O’Kelly. Jared is like the Mack Bolan of the ZA while Adrian is the “Bard” of this world. Both have a role in this world and both are just as exciting to follow.

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  4. Haven’t I said from the start how much I love Jansen? I love him even more now. He is amazing. It’s about time Jill had it out with him. I expect them to get along even better and to be done with that elephant in the room.

    You can’t overrate a true friendship.

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