Chapter Twenty Four

“O that I fell in true love with the queen of hell,
Bearing morbid torment, here I have to dwell.”
~Abhishek Rath

It was quiet in the RV, the only sound was that of Nibblers tail thumping on the floor as she watched her person.

Jill sat aside the page she had been reading and idly tapped it with a finger as she gazed at Jared as he rubbed his temples.

“do you really believe that some ancient Mesopotamian Goddess or Demon is alive and well in our camp right now.” She asked calmly.

“Oh hell, No I don’t” Jared said, “Okay, yes Jasper Brown was a Draugr at least by the description, but no in general I don’t believe the rest of the myths or legends in Gail’s Books or the one that Eric was Given are real.” Jared said tiredly. “what I do think is at some point in the past, this…” He said waving a hand around encompassing the world and the undead “ has happened before, at least on a small scale, maybe a town or a kingdom got uppity or broke one of the stupid rules we aren’t allowed to know, and so the Dark was allowed to act against them, Maybe back before the ice age there really were kingdoms and huge masses of people and they were almost wiped out like is happening to us today. but my point is maybe those ancient Demons like Lilith or Baphomet there were really living humans who served the dark during the fall, and all we have left are legends and myths that have been twisted and warped over the Centuries”

“But Jared, you have to admit that’s a leap. Yes I know what’s going on out there, but if this had happened in the past there would be evidence of it.”

“you mean like Kingdoms that never knew existed except for legends till they were rediscovered or maybe cities like Dwarka or mohenjo-daro. Alive one day, the next gone and buried leaving nothing behind but the bodies of its citizens and no clue what killed them. Those kind of signs” Jared asked.

She shook her head not wanting to acknowledge his idea. But two years ago she would have scoffed at the idea of zombies, ghosts and dreams full of portents.

“and Ishtar said I will bring up the dead to eat the living and the dead shall outnumber the living” Jared read from a page. “The epic of gilgamesh, funny that story is from around the same time so many ancient cities just died and vanished from history till the were rediscovered around the world in the 20th century. The Epic is from the same culture that gave us Lilith and Baphomet who were said to be the brides of Tiamat up to Satan.”

“okay assuming this information is correct, and I’m not saying it is. Then yes it does seem possible, on the extreme end maybe but possible that your right. But Lilith Jared,

“Bride of Adam, Mother of Demons, Succubus, later the wife of Satan. Who according to this represents Chaos, Seduction and ungodliness. Read as against the light.” Jared said. “ in early myth said to have been the goddess with no face who stood at the gates of the underworld to take possession of the souls of the dead.” He sighed then laughed. “I sound like I should be on that old nighttime Radio show talking about giants and being abducted by aliens and probed. The show Ori listened to.”

“Ill grant you that symbolically both Baphomet and Lilith fit, in an odd way, with whats going on, But I can not and will not believe that some moldy Babylonian Goddess is riding around in our convoy seducing men then killing them.”

“demon” Jared corrected “and no, who ever The bride is, she is as mortal as we are.”

“At least you believe that she is mortal” Jill said shaking her head, despite all that she had experienced, it was almost impossible for her to believe in the alternatives.

“The trinity is human, the scribe has to have free will to do what ever it is he or she needs to do to end this war, So it stand to reason that the dark has to have humans who have free will to serve it and its ends too. The rest of this stuff is symbolic” Jared explained pointing at the pile of papers. “ at least most of it” he said thinking of bowler hat.

“then you should have said that first” Jill said as she rose and began to unbutton her shirt revealing lots of cleavage. “ I’m tired of talking about this” she said “Now how about my husband takes me, his very human and very frustrated wife, to bed and show me some earth moving and lights in the sky miracles before I cut him off for good.”

“But I have more wor…. “ Jared protested but stopped and laughed at the glare she focused on him. “ I cant finish that sentence and keep a straight face.” He said as he pulled off his shirt then stepped around the table and swept her off her feet and carried her into the bedroom of the RV.

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

January 17th, 2012. Rock fish gap.

It was actually warm in the old conference room, due to the body heat generated by the group of men and women participating in Jill’s Martial arts class. Jared had dropped in every morning for about half an hour to spar with either his brother Eric or Jill.

Emily and Sierra, armed with fighting sticks, moved back and forth practicing strikes and blocks under Jills watchful eye. Occasionally she would stop the two girls to correct their stance, or offer advice on how to improve a strike or block, but mostly she left them alone, letting them learn by getting bruised some. All in all Jill was satisfied with their progress.

Now if I can only help Emily’s cousin get past what was done to her, and get her to learn how to defend her self it might go a long way to helping her move on., Jill thought as she noticed the dark haired woman, Julie, watching from a corner. Jill kept herself from frowning, there was something about that woman she didn’t like, and she couldn’t figure out what exactly it was about Julie that bothered Jill.

“Morning” Thor Jansen said from behind her, Jill smell the coffee before she turned.
Smiling he passed her a cup, “figured you might want some” he said, his attention fixed on the two girls for a moment.

“Thank god Jared isn’t here, he would kill or maim one of us for a cup.” Jill said with a light laugh.

“don’t worry I sent Benton to find Jared and deliver a cup before he kills some one. He seemed pretty grumpy this morning at Guard Mount.” Jansen said.

Jill smiled then lifted the steaming cup to her lips and took a sip. She loved coffee, but Jared was addicted to the stuff. When they had found cases of coffee and coffee beans in an old Coffee shop, Jared and Ori had almost been in hog heaven.

“You’re a good friend, you know that” Jill said, placing a hand on his forearm, he could still feel the heat from her touch long after she pulled her hand away.

“I try” Thor said with a self depreciating shrug then flashed her a boyish smile that made him look ten years younger and the picture of innocence.

“I heard that Beka likes you.” Jill said suddenly, her face unreadable. “she is a very pretty woman/”

“Yes, she is” Thor replied. “but I’m just not interested”

“Thor” Jill said, then shook her head slowly, changing what she had been about to say. “ you need to find some one, you don’t need to be alone.”

“ At the moment, I have no desire to see any one, its that simple Jill.” Thor said, looking uncomfortable.

“its not fair what your doing to yourself Thor, you deserve some one.” Jill said with a much lower voice. “I don’t… “ she said her voice trailing off for a second “ I don’t want you doing this because of me.” There was pain in her voice and it hit him like a lodestone.

“Don’t worry about me Jill, if I feel I need some one I will find them for a night, a week or a month, but at the moment I have no desire.” Thor said. He refused to tell her how he felt about her, even though she knew, once those words were said things would change, it was better to have her as a friend than to lose her over three words.

“I want you to promise me, you will at least talk to Beka get to know her.” she said, her blue eyes boring into him. She was serious he realized.

“I promise” he said meaning it.

“and I don’t want you pulling a Ronny and crossing your fingers or what ever, like that gets you out of it.” Jill said sternly.

He laughed and showed her his hands, “I Promise” he said again.

“Good, and thank you” Jill said.

Now isn’t that interesting, Julie thought watching Stones wife and the Soldier, if that isn’t an awful lot of Sexual tension between them Ill stop killing people .

She saw a possibility in what she had just seen, one that might drive a wedge between Stone and his people, all she had to do was pick the right person and ask innocently if Jill Stone and the Soldier were dating, the gossip she chose would take that and run, and by the fifth person it wouldn’t be a question it would have been twisted into a statement that some one saw Jill and the Soldier having sex. Human nature was so predictable, she thought.

She silently left the improvised Dojo and headed outside, Today Mikhail was being released from the Rolling clinic; hopefully he would feel like helping her with a little project she had planned.

1200hrs

the temperature had risen just enough that what fell from the sky was rain, Ice cold rain, and by sunset when the temperature dipped back below freezing after dark, all that rain would become a sheet of glass.

Jared climbed up a ladder and onto a semi trailer where Jansen and Reese stood watching three zombies who were slipping and sliding around on the icy pavement of a parking lot across the street.

“is there a reason we are meeting up here.” Reese asked, hands shoved deeply into his jacket pockets.

“I just wanted to see you two being miserable” Jared replied with a grin that faded as he looked out at the trees bowed down by their load of ice.

“Seriously though, I have a bad feeling something is going to happen, and I want you two to figure out how to increase security with out making it obvious.” Jared said.

“You think that some of the new folks might still be loyal to Kronnen?” Jansen asked.

“Something like that” Jared replied.

“We should have made them all leave,” Reese said, “It would have been safer that way.”

“Probably” Jared said. “no, it would have been, but would it have been the right thing to do?”

“Being killed while doing the right thing is cold comfort” Reese said flatly, Jared gazed at Reese, he not only looked like Steve but sounded just like him right now.

“Look I know we don’t see eye to eye on this, but think about the fact your only here because I decided that doing the right thing and taking you out with us was the best course of action, I cant just turn my back on people we can help, but that doesn’t mean I have to blindly trust they are good and wonderful people filled with the milk of human kindness.” Jared said.

“Okay so separate the new folks from ours, keep them isolated and only allowed to move with guards” Reese suggested.

“Exactly how would you have responded to that Reese” Jared asked.

“Not well” Reese grudgingly admitted

“And that’s my point, that kind of approach only inspires more problems and we cant afford that crap.” Jared replied. “so lets get down to it and figure out a plan”

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

The quiet in the mobile clinic was starting to wear on Mikails nerves, the other patients had one by one been released, replaced by a steady stream of whimpering American mudak’s, who had stubbed toes, gotten splinters, or what ever it was that they came in to complain about. At least the Medic was fairly competent but arrogant and smug in his sense of superiority, which annoyed Mikhail, even know the heart had been eaten out of their country and men like Stone and this medic still thought that the sun rose and set because of them. Suka, blyad, he hated Americans.

That his anger and dislike stemmed from the teachings of a system that he despised and had ultimately failed made not a single impact on his thoughts, he hated Americans and that was all that mattered.

“how is my patient today”, Mikhail jerked in surprise, not having heard the medic approach, that kind of inattention could get him killed.

“ I am fine, much better than before” he said

“Glad to hear it,” The medic said, as he leaned over Mikhail and examined his injuries.

“The lacerations are healing satisfactorily, the bruising is going down. It looks like the infection is gone” The Medic said as he carefully removed the bandages covering Mikhail’s eye, shaking his head at the sight of the damaged eye, which was still swollen and partially protruding from the socket.

He ran Mikhail through a series of tests using a light and his fingers to see if Mikhail was able to see anything. Finally the medic finished. “its possible you might regain some sight in your eye, but I honestly don’t know” he admitted, finally an American who admits he doesn’t know something, Mikhail thought. “at least you wont have an empty socket”

“There is that,” Mikhail said “if you have an eye patch, I would appreciate it. it has been my experience that people tend to stare and I do not want to deal with it.”

“Of course” the Medic said heading up front, when he returned he handed Mikhail a black eye patch.

As Mikhail donned his new Eye patch the medic watched ready to help if he needed it.
“I feel like I am an extra in pirates of the Caribbean” Mikhail said once he had the patch in place.

“Its not so bad, and these days women seem to like scars and things like that, so it might help you get lucky.” The Medic said. As if I would touch one the whores you Americans call women, Mikhail said silently then thought of Julie. The only Woman he had ever met that he respected, he didn’t trust her, she was as ruthless as he and just as cold and would put a knife in him the moment it suited her plans that was intoxicating as well, he decided.

you are supposed to be an average American, Mikhail reminded himself. “I hope so, I need to get laid.” He said, the medic laughed for a moment.

“I think I can in good conscious release you” The Medic said still smiling. “there’s no medical reason to keep you, so if you’ll give me a moment to collect your things, you can dress and get out of here. Then I will show you to the Kitchen, so you can get something to eat, and Ill see what I can do to gather some gear for you like a sleeping bag.”

Mikhail smiled as he dressed quickly, then followed the Medic right into the heart of his enemies camp, he vowed to move slowly, to plan meticulously before he struck because once Stone became aware of a threat in his own ranks he would do everything he could to find and remove that threat.

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

The Storm continued off and on for a little over a week, keeping the gap covered in ice, Rock slides and Downed tree’s. the extra time allowed the former prisoners to not only adjust to being free again but to regain their strength and recover from their injuries and sickness’

By the 24th the weather had cleared enough for scouts to be sent out, followed by teams who cleared the fallen trees and rocks from the road, while the final preparations were made for transport of the former prisoners to the Bunker.

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

January 24th, 1500hrs.

Mary sat on the narrow couch in the RV, idly noting the stain on one of the leather cushions, as she bit her lip trying not to explode and rip Jared a new one, Jill sat beside her lending moral support but that didn’t much help, Jared wanted her to leave, the thought was like acid washing down her throat.

“Mary, I’m sorry, but you’re the only one I can trust to do this and frankly the only one I can spare, and yes the fact your pregnant plays a part in my decision.” Jared said crossing his arms over his chest.

“At least your Honest about it” Mary said wiping at her eyes.

“No reason to lie about it” Jared said calmly. “Another truth Mary is that every one heading into DC may die. I wont sugar coat it. I even tried to talk Ronny and Ori into going back but both of them refused, I would even try to talk Jill out of it but she would just make rude finger signs and ignore me. But the big truth here is I have to have some one I can trust to be in charge of these people and the one at the Bunker, and since your months into your pregnancy, you are it.”

Mary nodded slowly not wanting to admit that she was half relieved to be taking her baby out of danger.

“Good get your gear ready, you’re leaving at 0800 hrs tomorrow.” Jared said as he squatted in front of Mary and Hugged her. “I’m going to miss you Mary.” He said gently as if saying goodbye for the last time, then rose and left her with Jill.

Julie paced the hotel room she shared with Max, angry and frustrated that she had not been able to slip in and finish off Nate, who at least hadn’t regained consciousness. Tomorrow he would be leaving with the former prisoners to return to that damned bunker they had found.

All Three Medics in the Group were staying in the damned RV, which meant she would not be able to get any where near Nate to finish him off, she could only hope that if he regained consciousness, it would be after she had finished up her job, or that he would not be able to remember who had pushed him down the stairs.

Mikhail might be right and they would have to resort to poisoning the water supply and just kill as many as possible as fast as possible, if the cop didn’t die from the poison then Julie could still kill him the old fashioned way with little interference. At least they had a few days to plot and plan.

At the sound of the door knob rattling, she painted a smile on her face and made sure her blouse was open and showing just the right amount of Cleavage for Max.

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

January 25th, 0800 hrs.

Shafts of morning sunlight speared over the mountains into the sky where ragged gray clouds scudded across the bright blue sky. Vehicles idled waiting for the last of the Refugee’s to board.

Mary stood beside the RV that would carry her back to the bunker trying not to cry as Ronny hugged her gently. “its okay Baby, its going to work out” Ronny assured her as he slipped his arms around her expanding waist line. He gently brushed a strand of hair away from her face, then stroked her cheek. “no matter what happens Mary, I love you” he whispered then kissed her softly. She just barely managed to hold back the sobs as she hugged Ronny tightly.

“Load em up” Jared called out as he walked up. Mary glared at Jared over Ronny’s shoulder but it was only half hearted. Ronny stepped back giving her room, but before she could turn an board the RV, Jared hugged her. “I swear Ill do my best to keep him Safe.” Jared said.

“I know “ she replied “Better let me go, before Ronny needs another spanking”

Jared chuckled and released her. “See you on the flip side” He said.

Mary nodded then board the RV, a minute later the group was pulling out onto the road and heading west.

“Ill see you in a few days” Ronny told Jared. “don’t get killed before I get there”

“Ill do my best to wait till your there to see it” Jared promised. “now get that plane off the ground and go play scout.”

As Ronny headed for the UV, Jared head back to the main group, who were almost finished loading up. First stop would be the Bed and Breakfast they had used once before as a camp, then tomorrow they would head north from there hopefully reaching Berryville in three days.

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

January 27th, 2012

Under charcoal skies, the ELSORV came to a stop in the middle of the road ahead of the Vehicle lay a tangle of fallen trees with a few zombies trapped in the branchs and the dilapidated buildings of a dead small town.

Jared climbed out of the ELSORV enjoying the crisp cold air, “lets move it, Chainsaws up front, 1st squad, up and on guard, 2nd Squad cover the rear, every one else stay mounted but watch the sides of the road.

“Ronny seems a lot more like his old self” Jill remarked glancing at the plane as it vanished into the distance.

Jared nodded his eyes sweeping the woods to just off the road to the left. “with Mary safely at the bunker, its taken a load off his mind.” Jared replied as spotted movement in the woods, “contact One, West side” He reported drawing his Khurkri in one hand and his tomahawk in the other and stepped to the side of the road whistling to make sure the zombie focused on him.

It staggered out of the woods, wearing its “I’m with Stupid” tshirt. It had a ravaged leathery face covered in splotches of mold, its lips were gone revealing blackened blood stained teeth which yawned open as it came for him. clumps of hair had at some point been ripped from its head, what hair remained was stiff with ice.

Its cloudy eyes fixed on him its arms came up, almost skeletal fingers hooked as it broke into a slow lumbering jog. Jared waited letting it get close then ducked under its outstretched arms, slid to the right, hooking its knee with his tomahawk pulling it off balance, as it fell he turned and rose gracefully, the Khurkri slamming into the back of the things skull, the heavy blade with its inwardly curved edge, crushed the skull with a sharp crack and it fell face down and didn’t move again.

Chainsaws roared and the men holding them began cutting away fallen trees and trapped zombies.

Jill turned away from the gory scene of chainsaws cutting into zombie skulls, tired and sick of what her life and world had become. She never complained, never told Jared though she suspected he knew. He was she reflected, pretty sharp that way.

She turned her gaze on Jansen, who with his squad, stood ready to put down any zombies that might pose a danger to the clearing team. In a way it bothered her that she had feelings for Thor, it was more than friendship she admitted to herself, he was a handsome man, decent, kind and funny. But what she felt for Jared was the kind of love she had dreamed of her whole life, and not only did he return those feelings but he truly believed she was his equal if not better in some ways and no other man could compete. Not that she could tell Jared that, his head would swell to the point he would have trouble getting through doorways.

“Penny for your thoughts” Jared said suddenly from behind her. she blinked and looked away from Jansen.

“Just thinking about you” she said

“Watching Thor and you were thinking about me” Jared teased as he came and stood beside her. His eyes sweeping the area for more threats.

“yes, I was thinking about how lucky I was to have ended up with you.” She said then punched him in the shoulder. “I almost didn’t go to your house that day, I reached an intersection and could have gone to that evacuation center or your place, I couldn’t decided then I saw in my mind you smiling at me and I got weak kneed and faint ..”

“okay, okay stop sucking up you liar” Jared said with a chuckle.

“Seriously though, it was close Jared but something told me to go to your place and I’m glad I did.” Jill said

“Something told you?”

“Nothing supernatural Lump, just normal everyday intuition.” She said.

“Hold that thought” Jared said as he drew his Khurkri and walked towards the zombie that staggered out of the woods.

“Incoming” Ori’s voice said in Jared’s Ear bud.

Jared stopped and knelt, a second later a arrow hissed past and struck the zombie in the face. It teetered for a second then the second arrow struck and it toppled over on its back and lay still.

“Thanks” Jared said as he rose, he retrieved the arrows then walked back to Jill.

“so you were saying you were so in lust with me that you had to be by my side for the end of world.” Jared said as he rejoined Jill again,

“Actually I was hoping you friends were better at martial arts than you were so I would be safe, sadly they were all with other women.” Jill said.

“Ori wasn’t single” Jared pointed out, as he hit the transmit button his radio with out Jill seeing him do it. he knew her well enough to know she was going to make some smart ass comment just to get a laugh out of him.

“True, but Ori was just so damn cute, I figured he was gay.”

Jared laughed and released the button allowing Ori to splutter in protest over the radio. Around the area he could hear others laughing too. The laughter at least temporarily swept away the fear and tension the group had been feeling since they had left Rockfish Gap this morning.

“That was just cold” Jill said then smiled.

“He needed it, his head has gotten to big since he got married to Beth.” Jared said.

“The road is clear” Jansen transmitted.

“Load up and lets move out” Jared ordered, as the last man boarded his ride, more undead emerged from the woods, only to have to stumble after the vehicles as they rolled North quickly leaving the dead behind.

By sunset the convoy had only covered forty miles, the recent ice storm coupled with almost two years of neglect, had made huge sections of road impassable with out spending time clearing, and each stop became progressively more dangerous as more and more undead appeared, drawn by the sounds of engines and Chainsaws. Thankfully the ice and fallen trees hindered the undead even more than the living, but it had been close several times now.

They pulled up into the mountains till they found a field big enough to hold the convoy, and set up camp. Using the Ham Radio they were able to get a brief conversation with the Bunker and found that the former Prisoners had arrived and that the requested supplies would be loaded in a day maybe two and flown to the rendezvous point. Jared managed to tell them to wait an extra day before they lost the signal for good that night.

January 28th, 2012

Dawn came with mountain peaks lined with Rose, and thankfully no sign of the undead, as they finished up a quick breakfast of dehydrated eggs and slimy canned meat from the Korean era, Jared found himself facing Max and Reese both looked nervous.

“We need to speak to you outside” Reese said, Jared relieved to escape his breakfast followed them out into the cold and ice.

“Jayden is missing” Reese said, “ Max came to me at first light, and I’ve checked around, Jayden isn’t in any vehicle and no one remembers seeing him after dinner last night.”

“is his gear still here?” Jared asked.

Reese shook his head, “Jayden wouldn’t just leave Jared, I know that for a fact and if he did he would have told me about it, not just up and vanish in the middle of the night”

Jared might not like Max much, but he knew how tight Max and his buddies were, they had gone through hell together before reaching Sullivan and Jared could no more believe that Jayden would just slink off in the middle of the night with a word to his friends than Ori or Ronny would.

“Okay, Reese get with Lee, tell Lee I need him to say one of the vehicles has a problem and we cant leave till its fixed, then both of you keep your mouths shut.” Jared said. “I’m sending Ori and Jeb hunting during the delay, if any one can locate sign it will be Ori” Jared said. “and if any one asks about Jayden just say you don’t know. Hopefully Ori can figure it out before we leave, if not.. we will have to say that Jayden just slipped away during the night.” Jared help up a hand as Max started to protest. “Max listen to, I believe you, but if some one did do something to him, I don’t want them to suspect we are looking for them.” Max nodded mutely,

“all right I understand but I’m not happy about it.” Max said.

“I know Max,” Jared, said his eyes glittering with anger that the younger man recognized.
“Now head on back to your ride, if any one asks why we were talking say it had to do with Ronny.” Max turned and headed back to the RV he had been riding in, as Jared turned to Reese. “Thanks for bringing this to my attention, and don’t pay any attention to what I’m about to do” Jared said then began to angrily dress Reese down for stirring up more crap about the problems between Ronny and Max. Reese found it easy to glare right back at Jared who finally fell silent; Reese gave him the bird then turned and walked stiffly away.

the woods around the field were quiet except for the crack of limbs breaking under their load of ice and then crashing to the ground. Ori and Jeb had worked their way around the field till they were uphill of the camp, where Ori figured any one trying to slip away unnoticed would have headed, crouched he worked his way along the wood line just out of sight of the vehicles, till he found a minor indentation in the ice. “got one” he whispered to Jeb, who was guarding his back.

he moved east up the Ridge, and found three more tracks, “looks like two people, one set of tracks is smaller, probably a woman, the other is large and from the depth weighs more.”

“What color hair did they have” Jeb asked hiding a grin.

“One was blond the other was a red head,” Ori replied a half smile came and went. From the depth of the tracks he suspect who ever it had been they had been carrying something. Three hundred yards out, he found a red stain in the snow. Then another.

They followed the tracks and the blood for forty more yards and entered a small clearing where a large slab of limestone jutted out of the hill, they both saw the pack that leaned against the rock and a trail of blood that ran down the side of the rock to drip into the snow.

“I’ll check it out Ori said. Jeb nodded silently. Ori climbed the fifteen feet to the top of the rock, and as his head came over the top, he saw the body.

Pulling himself up, he walked over the slightly slanted flat top to the mutilated nude body and knelt beside it. the cloths that had been cut off the corpse were piled beside it, soaked in blood and frozen solid.

“you were an ass hole but you did not deserve this” Ori muttered, the tattoo on the corpses shoulder left no doubt in Ori’s mind it was Jayden.

It took an hour to get the body down and bury it, neither man minded, they both hoped that some one would be there to bury them if they died.

Finally finished, Jeb patted down the dirt over the grave then wiped sweat from his forehead before he pulled on his coat. “who ever did that is one evil son of a bitch” he muttered.

“Looks like” Ori said as he studied the area under them. “lets see if we can at least bag a turkey or something before we head back, if we cant find something in another hour we go back to camp, Lee should have the Rv repaired by then.”

Julie leaned against Max, smiling up at him for a moment. he squeezed her tightly then went back to brooding.

By now he had to have found out his buddy, Jayden was gone, which she was sure accounted for his mood. as fun as it had been to lure Jayden out for a quick romp in the hay, then butcher him like the pig he was, it would be far more fun to Destroy max, but instead of killing him, she would make him a weapon and aim him right at Jared Stone. Just for fun of course, she had yet to see Stone practicing Martial Arts, but she had seen him deal with a few zombies and had been suitably impressed and she had heard the stories of about Stone and that pistol he wore, she had no doubt that Stone would make short work of Max, but that wasn’t the point, destroying the groups faith in each other, wiping away the hope they felt and forcing them to break back down into small groups and individuals who trusted no one but themselves.

She would of course be long gone before that occurred, she would kill Ed in a matter of days no more than a week and vanish from the Camp with Mikhail leaving the camp in flames and the cop dead and crucified.

She glanced at Mikhail was sitting and talking to Wells and two women, telling them a story of his fictional time in the Navy and the places he had seen. She was actually amazed at how different he was, he sounded American, and had some how changed his looks in way that was subtle but made him appear far different than his original looks. Stone was going to be surprised when he found out he had a guest, but by then the damage would be done.

She watched out the window as Ori and some Army guy returned carrying several Turkeys and what looked like a duck. She relaxed slightly, they were coming in from a different direction than where she and Mikhail the left the body. She was pretty sure they had not found the corpse, the two men seemed in no hurry to reach camp and they had obviously spent some time hunting, if they had found it they would have come running back to report to Jared.

Satisfied that the body was still undiscovered, she turned her attention back to Max and snuggled closer to his rock hard body, enjoying his musky scent, it was she thought to bad he was going to die soon.

It was quiet in the RV when Ori finished describing what he and Jeb had found, Jill looked sick, but Ori was more interested in Jareds reaction which wasn’t what he was expecting, Jared looked out the window of the RV frowning with out the explosion of anger Ori had expected.

Finally he turned to face Ori and Jeb, “ not a word about this to anyone got me, Ill let Max know, but we are going to have to come up with a way to lure this psycho bitch and her helper out into the open where I can put a bullet between her eyes” Jared said coldly.

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

I 95 near Dozwell Virginia

Stubbs, hands and feet bound, lay on the cement floor, the cold cutting through his naked body. He shivered but it wasn’t just from the cold, no it was mostly fear. He struggled to break free, but what ever had been used was to strong.

“I didn’t mean to fail,” he said into the darkness. “I swear Ill do better next time”

“sadly Stubbs there wont be a next time” Kronnen said from the darkness. “you know the rules.”

Stubbs’s heart was doing a rapid triple beat, fear made it hard for him to breath. “it wasn’t my fault Sir, it was Beeno, he…. “

“I don’t really care Stubbs, I let the last two mistakes go, I cant allow this one to go unpunished.” Kronnen said as Stubbs began to babble begging for his life.

A dim light flared to life about ten feet in front of Stubbs revealing Kronnen sitting there in a chair, just as naked as Stubbs. Kronnen sat the battery operated LED lantern on the floor beside his chair and rose to his feet, his skin was so pale it seemed to glow in the lantern light. Stubbs realized that Kronnen wasn’t even shivering.

Stubbs mind reeled as Kronnen picked up a tube mad of leather, why was he naked, what was going to happen, I don’t want to know, god let me died right now don’t let him torture me. Stubbs should haven’t bothered trying to pray, because if there was a god he had no interest in saving a man like Stubb’s.

Kronnen knelt beside Stubbs and unrolled the tube revealing a variety of tools, things like scalpels, saws and other items out of horror movies that made Stubb’s genitals try to vanish into his body.

“Please don’t kill me” Stubbs begged again.

“Rules are Rules” Kronnen said finally looking Stubbs in the face, Stubs breath caught in his throat as he saw the cloudy blue eyes, the eyes of the dead he thought. Kronnen pulled a knife from his tool kit and smiled. “Besides Stubbs, I’m hungry”

Two hours later Kronnen sat back on his heels, he was covered in blood and feeling pretty good. He looked down at the ravaged corpse then wiped his mouth with the back of his hand smearing blood across his face. He could feel power coursing through him, the power he had stolen from the living. It might he admitted be all in his mind but it was intoxicating and he fancied he could hear the shrieks of Stubbs soul in his mind.

“I have to admit you taste better than you looked” Kronnen said with a smile as the dead man began to twitch. Kronnen drew the long blade from his kit and pushed it into one of the now empty sockets and up into the base of the brain. The corpse stopped moving.

“Tomorrow your buddy Beeno will be the main course,” Kronnen said laughing as he rolled his kit back up and tied it closed then retrieved the water bottles and towels to clean the blood off. It wouldn’t do for his men to see him like this, they might panic and run and he still had need of his army, once he had secured what ever Stone was looking for and had killed the man, he would be moving against the Scribe.

The Scribe might think he was safe in his little school with all those worthless assholes working for him, but Kronnen’s men were better armed and out numbered the Scribes people by a large margin.

He stopped wiping himself down as he felt the now familiar tingle, sitting quickly he let the vision sweep over him.

He was beside a road, his body moved slowly stumbling fighting the stiff and rotting muscle as it headed towards the approaching vehicles. he saw more undead stagger out into the road to be plowed over by the massive truck that led the convoy.

His body staggered into the road, the plow blade of the lead truck grew larger and larger, but before it filled his view he saw a sign.

Shenandoah Virginia Population 2373, and then his vision went black and he found himself back with the Body of Stubbs. He rose and finished cleaning up Humming happily to himself.

Bradley put the microphone back into its cradle, as he silently stared out the window of the HumVee as he thought about his new orders from Kronnen, locate then ambush Stone, how Kronnen knew that Stone was some where around Shenandoah Bradley had no clue, but that’s where they would head.

“How far is it, I’m not sure we even have the fuel to get there” his driver pointed out.

“I don’t know, give me a minute” Bradley replied as he pulled out a map and began to Bradley studied the map for a moment then grunted to himself. “its across the Blue Ridge mountains” Bradley said finding the town, then looked for the most direct route. . “Id give my left nut for a drone or at least the use of the Chopper” he muttered. “I think if we cross the mountains using 231 we might be able to catch them in or around Luray.”

“Sounds like a plan, but we are still going to need fuel, since the Camp didn’t send the fuel truck to the Rendezvous”

“Lets get off this interstate and head west on 3, that will take us to culpepper, we might be able to find fuel once we are out of the built up areas” Bradley said.

“And if we don’t find fuel” His driver asked,

“Ill have a plan by then” Bradley said confidently, that plan might be finding a way to head to Canada but it will be plan, he thought.

He said nothing aloud, but there was something odd going on back at the Unit, this was the third time he had talked to someone other than Proctor which was more than unusual to say the least, and there had been no sending fuel up to meet his unit to refuel their vehicles. he had no idea what it might mean, unless Kronnen had decided to just abandon Bradley and his men.

Bradley didn’t even flinch as something thumped against his window, the zombie pawed at the glass, trying to reach the man inside, its mouth snapping open and closed.

“move it out, lets get out of these built up areas and out into the country, if Kronnen doesn’t want us scouting ahead, I’m all for it” Bradley said. Truth was they didn’t need to scout ahead not really. The closer they came to DC the thicker the dead became.

The four vehicles pulled out the truck stop, and drove away from the steadily growing crowd of walking dead

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

January 29th 2012, just north of Luray Virginia.

They had skirted Luray avoiding the undead with in the town limits with out incident, the road followed the curves and rises of the Blue ridge mountain. It hadn’t really changed in the weeks since they had last used this road.

Jill sat in the passenger seat of the ELSORV looking out the window, Nibbler lay in the floorboard her head resting on Jills feet. As they passed a hill, she saw there was a break in the trees and she saw an old cemetery, crammed full of headstones and monuments.

A few undead could be seen staggering and lurching down the hill, towards the convoy drawn to the sound of motors and the sight of vehicles that heralded the living.

“I wonder if those things think about anything,” She said aloud.

“I doubt it” Jared said, in truth he hoped not, he couldn’t imagine any kind of mind being self aware and locked in a rotting shell that was driven by hunger. “besides I haven’t seen one of those things yet try to use even a rock to break a window.”

“I did once” Ed commented from the back, “ I don’t know if it had been holding the rock when it was alive or what, but it was slapping the rock and one hand against a window and don’t forget Brown used a knife on us at the Terminal.”

“Brown wasn’t a zombie” Jared replied confidently, “he was undead yes, but he wasn’t a zombie”

before he could say more a tone sounded in his ear bud, “We have a wreck blocking the road” Ori said.

Jared frowned, they had used this road weeks ago when they had left the Old resort up on the skyline and headed up to Berryville and it hadn’t been blocked then. “Roger that” Jared said.

“whats wrong” Jill asked seeing the look on his face.

“Maybe nothing, but Ori just reported a wreck blocking the road, and my first thought is an ambush.” Jared said thoughtfully, “ I want the convoy to wait here, 1st and 2nd squad I want you with me, every one else hold here.”

Six Vehicles pulled away from the convoy and headed north as snow began to fall.

Jeb walked around the wrecked vehicles, ignoring the undead trapped inside as he studied the three vehicles. the Van, a old econoline sat at angle across the road, a SUV had smashed into its right side rear, and a station wagon had struck the SUV.

Ori peered into the Station wagon at the zombies still strapped into their seats, they were rail thin, and looked pretty fresh, they had turned recently. He looked up as something cold and wet struck his cheek and saw snow.

“its not an ambush” Ori commented as he turned and eyed the busted fence and wheel ruts that crossed the ditch and passed through the field vanishing in the dead weeds heading in the direction of the farm house and Barn.

“I hate winter” Jeb muttered, missing the Texas winters of his boyhood where 45 degrees had seemed like arctic temperatures.

Ori ignored him as he moved to the ditch and studied the tracks that left the road and crossed the field. What ever the vehicle had been it had been fitted with heavy duty off road tires.

Hearing the sound of approaching vehicles, Ori turned bringing his rifle up to high ready, till he saw the ELSORV appear.

He relaxed on slightly calmly checking the wooded slopes above the east side of the road, as the vehicles came to a stop and Jared stepped out, weapon in hand. Nibbler leaped out before he could shut the door and pranced around him her tail sticking straight up in the air.

Jared walked up to the station wagon, as 1st and 2nd squad piled out and took up positions around the wreck.

“looks like a real wreck” Jared observed as he peered into the back of the Station wagon at the gear piled inside.

Ori nodded in agreement, then pointed at the tracks that led towards the farm house.” At least one of them went that way.”

Jared looked up at the falling snow, then back to the field, debating. “Ori, you and Jeb join me and Team one and check the place out, Jansen, put down the undead, move the vehicles off the road and then scavenge anything we might need out of them. Reese, take your men and do a sweep up there” Jared said indicating the wooded slopes. “just to be sure”

Back in the ELSORV Jared put the vehicle in Gear and headed out into the field, followed by Ori’s Scout. The heavy ELSORV bounced over ruts and holes, pushing aside the dead weeds, the wipers swooshing steadily to keep the snow from bulding up on the windshield.

The Barn perched atop a low hill, loomed over the fields below, paint to long exposed to the weather was peeling away in spots revealing dark, aged wood. The tracks went up to the bard and who ever it had been must have parked in front of the door then back up and turned before heading to the house, judging by crushed tangle of weeds and grass before the door.

Jared followed the tracks down the hill then up the second gentle hill where they found a Heavily modded Jeep that had made the tracks parked behind the two story home.

Jared parked beside the Jeep and climbed out as Ori parked his scout behind the ELSROV.

Looking into the back of the Jeep, Jared saw there was still gear loaded inside, a couple of backpacks, and milk crates loaded with stuff.

He looked towards the house frowning debating on clearing the home, when Chris’s voice sounded in his ear bud. “Charley one, Alpha Six actual, we have a problem, two trucks just slid off the road, one lost a tie rod, the other is fine but needs to be pulled out.”

“Roger Charley one, Keep your eyes peeled for ambushes,” Jared replied, as he pointed to the back door of the house, then signed, think its worth the trouble he asked Ori who shrugged

might be, if this weather keeps up, we are going to need some where to hole up and this is as good as any. Ori signed back.

“Lets do it” Jared said leading the way to the door where his team stacked up for entry.

Ori his hand resting on the knob glanced at Jared who nodded in agreement, Ori was leading the entry this time, which was fine by Jared, he was tired of his guts knotting and his pulse hammering in his veins when he was the first one through the door.

Ori entered the Kitchen in a combat crouch moving hard and fast, Jared entered a half second behind him going left and having to kick over the table to keep from falling over it. Ed, then Mike, Logan and Jill entered as the team snaked through the kitchen out the arch into the wrecked living room with its over turned furniture and dried blood smeared on the old fashioned wallpaper.

It took only ten minutes to sweep the entire house including the basement, but they found no sign of who ever had driven the jeep up to the house. There was also nothing remaining inside the house they could use, it had been stripped clean some time before.

Finished with the house Jared stepped out and found the temperature had dropped again, and the snow seemed heavier.

“Alpha six actual, Charley one, hows it coming” Jared transmitted.

“its not even breathing hard” Chris replied a minute later. “we have one truck back on the road, and are transferring the supplies in the second to other vehicles, give us another twenty minutes to get moving again.”

“Roger that Charley one, I can send 2nd squad back to help if you need it.”

“Negative, we have more than enough at the moment. thanks and out” Chris replied

“should we check the barn” Ori asked, causing Jared to Jump. He grinned at the minor victory as Jared swore loudly for a moment.

“One day I’m going to accidentally shoot you” Jared said with a smile once he had gotten over the surprise. “And no we can let Jansen and his squad do it”

“Then I’m going to check out the jeep, if it runs, we should take it” Ori said.

“Its not diesel, and it would just take more of our fuel to run” Jared pointed out.

“I know but look at her, she’s as decked out as both our old trucks” Ori said wistfully.

“Tell you what, if you can get it started, we have a spare tow bar and you can hook it up behind the CNC RV.” Jared said shaking his head, he liked that jeep too, but wasn’t about to say it. Ori grinned and headed over to the Jeep already rubbing his hands together.

By the time the convoy reached the site of the now cleared wreck, the roads were icy again, and the snow was still falling. Jared using the ELSORV guided the convoy up the old drive and get the vehicles parked in a box formation to cover the Front door and the carport.

Ori got the Jeep moved under the carport, then with Lee helping they began to work on the jeep, cleaning fuel lines, adding stabilize to the fuel, replacing plugs, and anything else that needed repairing.

By midnight the group spread out in the house, and the RV’s, was sleeping safe under the eye of the wireless camera’s being monitored from the CNC RV.

January 30th 2012

Sunrise only replaced the darkness with a deep gray light, relieved only by the heavily falling snow that was quickly covering the land. .

“Guess we are not going any where” Mike said as he turned away from window and sat down on the Couch in the RV.

“Guess not” Jared agreed not happy about the delay. “not much we can do, there’s to much ice and the snow is to deep to try and keep moving.” Jared poured himself another cup of almost coffee. They had plenty of the stuff thanks to the coffee shop in Berryville and rationing it, but Jared had decided that cutting it with chickory would allow them to have a few cups more a week than before even it wasn’t as good as pure coffee.

The door to the RV opened making every one look up, to see a grim faced Reese.

“What happened?” Jared asked rising to his feet already reaching for his coat.

“Wells Hung himself last night” Reese said. “he went up in the attic sometime last night and hung himself up there.”

“No one saw him on the cameras” Jared asked as zipped up his coat and grabbed his rifle.

“Somehow the only camera that might have seen him, was moved” Reese said.

Jared thought about that for a moment, Wells could have moved them to keep people from stopping him, but he couldn’t help but think it was the Bride, who ever she was.

“Convenient, what about the sentries?” Jared asked.

“They didn’t see a thing apparently” Reese replied angrily. “I’m thinking they slacked off, since they knew cameras were in place to watch the rooms and vehicles were people were sleeping.”

“Or and Edi you come with me, I want to see where Wells killed himself, The rest of you stay here and try to relax.” Jared said.

Stepping outside, the chill in the air was shocking, there was almost a foot of snow on the ground already, what an official weather station would say was probably lower, but those days were thankfully over.

It was warmer in the house, mostly due to body heat, the attic trap door was down, its ladder fully extended. “it was closed, when we started looking for him.” Reese explained.

Jared looked around for a moment, but remained quiet as Ed studied the hall then they climbed up into the attic, Wells Body lay wrapped in a sheet, the part of the sheet over the head was soaked in blood.

“Where was he sleeping at.” Ed asked Reese.

“The master bedroom with five other people.” Reese replied. Ed nodded to himself then knelt beside the body and studied the corpse. Then he moved around apparently just looking at things

“I think some one helped him” Ed said after a few minutes.

“why ?” Ori asked.

“The camera mostly, its at the opposite end of the hall from the master bedroom, if Wells had moved the camera, he would have been seen approaching the camera. So either some one else was doing something they didn’t want us to know about, or they helped Wells Kill himself”

“Well who ever it was, assuming there was another person, didn’t put him down. I had to punch my knife into his brain after we found him.” Reese said.

“How’s Max taking it” Jared said, his own suspicions were rouse even with out Eds opinion,

“not well, you know how tight that crew is” Reese said. “he’s over in the Med RV at the moment, with that new girlfriend of his.”

“not counting max, there’s only two of his crew left,” Jared pointed out.

“I know, and Ill tell you something else that no one has missed, these are the guys that have a feud with Ronny.” Reese pointed out. “at least Ronny isn’t here to be blamed, but Jared you have to figure a few folks might be thinking that with you being so close to Ronny that you might be behind it.”

“Bullshit” Ori snapped angrily.

“Ori he is right, at least some one might consider that as a theory.” Jared said, his thoughts were fixed on the Darks attempts to destroy the group in the past. Destroying Jared’s credibility and wrecking any hope they might have of being able to survive and beat the dark was right up its alley.

“since we have no proof of foul play, don’t dispute the hanging story. But lets quietly ask around and see if some one saw anything last night. Because I do not believe that Wells hung himself and I wont who ever did it.” Jared said.

“And what if he really did kill himself?” Ori asked Jared who shrugged.

“If we find no evidence of foul play, I will accept it was a suicide. Besides I cant very well go pointing fingers at any one with out evidence, that will tear the group apart as surely as the Darks plans are trying to.” Jared said.

First Nate, then Jayden, now Wells. How soon before people started worrying about curses or some other crap like that Jared wondered. “Ed help them replace the cameras, I don’t any one being able to walk up and move them with out being seen.” Jared said. “then I want a few extra people bedded down with Max and his friends, since this all seems to be centered around Max, maybe they can spot something that will help us figure out who is behind this.”

It was mid afternoon by the time they had the grave dug and conducted a short ceremony led by Max. Jared stood there in the heavily falling snow, listening to Max talk about how good a man wells was as Jared stood there wondering who in this group was the killer.

They hurried back into their RVs and inside the house, Generators ran using priceless fuel to warm up the vehicles. by nightfall, the snow was almost knee deep and didn’t seem like it was going to stop anytime soon.

Snow swirled over the road as Bradley felt the vehicle drift on a sheet of ice. As cold as it was, he was sweating and had a death grip on the steering wheel. The wind gusted again, and this time the Hummer slid off the road sending snow billowing into the air.

“Shit” he muttered, the knot of tension relaxing slightly as the tires got traction and he was able to move forward slowly.

“Got a problem back here” Carter said over the radio. “we are out of gas”

The Tension surged through him once more, this time it wasn’t going to leave.

Bradley pulled back onto the road and drove back to find a Hummer sitting dead in the middle of the road. to make matters worse he could see undead staggering through the snow towards the stalled vehicle. he checked his own gauge and saw that it was hovering at a quarter of a tank. The truck behind the dead Hummer should have half a tank,.

The best option he knew was for both running vehicles to take off and draw the undead away, while Carter and the others stayed hidden in the dead Hummer. But that would waste more fuel.

He counted twelve undead out there in the snow. “bring the truck up on the passenger side of Carters hummer, Ill pull up to the drivers side, Carter I want you and the others to get on the truck.” Bradley said then pulled the hummer up beside the stalled vehicle.

Bradley weapon in hand climbed out of the Hummer and put down the first zombie with a butt stroke, Carter and his men bailed out and began to transfer their gear to the already loaded truck.

Around him his men were quietly putting down the zombies, but it was apparent there were more than just the twelve more and more dark shapes loomed out of the snow fall, silent and hungry.

The first man to go down was Ryan Poules, he was busying beating a zombies head in when three more appeared out of the snow and latching on to him, he was dragged down screaming, and bright red blood sprayed up in a fan that splattered the side of the FMTV.

Bradley turned started around the stalled Hummer, and that saved his life, a zombie had some how climbed up the back of His Hummer and was reaching for him, when he stepped out of the way, it toppled into the snow with a thud, Bradley whirled around and stomped on its skull till bones broke and blackish ooze spilled out into the snow.

One of Carters men, was passing up a ammo into the Back of the FMTV, when two zombies grabbed him, one bit down immediately on his shoulder the other slipped on the ice, but grasped the mans leg, teeth bite down on the mans hamstring, he fell screaming.

The light was fading Bradley realized, as he saw more dark shapes appearing in the snow fall, he swore and dove into his Hummer slamming the door shut. A moment later Carter dove into the back seat kicking at a zombie finally he knocked it back far enough he could slam the door, Whalen dropped into the Hummer from the gunners position, then Barker and Stephens climbed down. .

“Any one left out there” Bradley asked, the bloody hands pawing at the drivers window pretty much answered him.

“Not that I saw,” Whalen said as he slid into the passenger seat.

“Any one Bit?” Bradley asked, hoping no one lied about it.

There were a chorus of no’s, Bradley shrugged he would have to trust them on that. He put the Hummer into gear and turned around till he was heading north again with the truck following.

Two of the six men from Carters vehicle were still alive, not counting Carter, and two of the men from the FMTV had died as well. They had lost a third of their supplies and were on the verge of running out of fuel.

He had no idea how they were going to make it, but the last thing on his mind was ambushing Stone, Kronnen, the bastard had left Bradley and his men out here with no help and no supplies, Let Kronnen deal with Stone. Bradley was done with it, even if one of his men killed him for treason.

“Lets find some fuel then we have some decisions to make” Bradley said as they drove off into the snow.

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

the Storm rolled over the area, blanketing the land in snow over a foot deep, visibility was poor and kept Jared and his people huddled in the house and their RVs, using just enough power from the generators to keep the temperature above freezing in order to save fuel. By mid afternoon on the 31st the storm finally blew out leaving nothing but piles of snow and sheets of ice.

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

February 1st, 0900 hrs.

Ronny, still shaking from the landing, chocked the wheels then turned and watched as the Twin otter came in for a almost perfect landing despite the snow and the wind.

When they got back to Sullivan he planned on having Sarah Teach him everything she knew about flying. Assuming he lived that long of course. He turned as the ELSORV pulled up and Jared stepped out smiling, then staggered as Nibbler shoved past him and leaped on Running licking and pawing at him.

Laughing Ronny shoved the dog away and the two man slapped each other on the back. “I would have been here sooner but the weather didn’t cooperate” Ronny said, looking at the deep snow that covered fields and rolling hills.

“not a problem, but while the weather holds, we need to get out of here. Ill have the fuel truck rolled out here and get both planes refueled.” Jared said, his smile slipping.

“What’s happened” Ronny asked seeing the tension in Jareds stance.

“This goes no further, “ Jared began and quickly told Ronny all that had transpire since Ronny had left.

“Holy…” Ronny said shaking his head. “do you think its safe for you to leave right now” Ronny asked.

“We don’t have a choice, we have to reach Mt. Weather and get inside so we can find out if the soldiers in side are still alive or if the place is filled with undead before the convoy gets there. if its Overrun and we cant secure the main tunnel to the Tracks, we are going to have to find a new way into D.C.” Jared said obviously not happy with the idea.

Ronny saw four trucks including the fuel truck pulling away from the Farm house and heading towards them. “so who is going on this little trip” he asked.

“Team one, and Eric’s Team, and probably Reese’s squad.” Jared said shouting the last to be heard over the Twin otters engines as it rolled up and stopped nearby.

The engines shut down and the door to the otter opened and the smile returned as he saw Daws, hop out of the plane.

“damn your looking good” Jared said as he walked over, followed by Ronny, and shook Daws’s hand.

“Feeling a lot better” Daws said as the trucks came to a stop and mean leaped out and began unloading the supplies from the planes and transferring them to the waiting trucks.

“Ronny told me about your idiotic plans and I refused to be left behind.” Daws said with a grin. “and I hear you gave my squad away to some guy named Reese.”

“under protest at first, but to be honest he is a damn good NCO” Jared said unapologetically. “

“I’m glad to hear that” Daws said. “just stick me where ever and Ill be happy.”

“I’m thinking I might give you your squad back and make Reese the platoon leader.” Jared said.

“If he knows his stuff, and doesn’t mind giving up the squad I’m game. But don’t remove him just because I’m back.” Daws said.

“No, he deserves it, the man is a good NCO.” Jared said, then stopped and shook his head. “Its funny, two years ago we were just survivors doing what we had to do, now we are building a real military and protecting a civilian population. I’m not sure if I’m actually thrilled about that” Jared added.

“It’s better than living on roaches and freezing to death” Daws pointed out.

“Good point,” Jared said “Lets get this show on the road, if we are really going to get out of here today, lets not wait around” Jared said waving at Sarah who had finally exited her plane.

It actually took an hour to things organized, Jansen was not thrilled with being left behind, but there really wasn’t enough room on the two planes to take so many people.

2nd squad was thrilled to see Daws again, they were happy that he would be leading them once more, and to Jared’s relief were happy as hell to hear that Reese was now acting Platoon leader.

They loaded up gear and supplies then climbed aboard, as Mike was shutting the Door to the UV, Nibbler who had escaped Chris and raced across the field and leaped into the plane.

Jared shook his head slowly “ Call Chris and tell him the dog is going after all” he said, his voice tight. Jill chuckled and placed a hand on Jared’s arm, sweat beaded his forehead. His dislike of flying was well known. He went pale as the engine roared to life, and gave his brother the finger when Eric laughed.

“Welcome aboard Apocalypse air, today’s flight will take us on a slight diversion over the outskirts of D.C before resuming our flight to our original destination Mt. Weather. If at any time you hear screaming from the cockpit, please remain calm don the provided parachutes and leap out as we are about to crash. If we fail to provide parachutes you may of course sue.” Ronny said over the intercom.

Jared ignored Ronny and gripped the arm rests of his seat as the plane began to move. images of the wild ride as the chopper he was on went down, every thing spinning, alarms wailing, smoke filling the interior of the chopper. The bullets punching through the thin skin of the black hawk as Iraqi’s opened up on the Helo.

How the pilot got control and put the chopper into auto rotation Jared had no clue, but he had and saved their lives by doing so. what the pilot called a hard landing, Jared had called a crash. He had gotten the door open and tumbled out side taking fire, and somehow managed to return fire, burning through two mags before a flight of Apaches had swept over head chain gun firing, then both had ripple fired 2.75 rocket pods driving away the attackers.

He blinked and realized they were in the air, he had managed to miss take off. Now if he could do the same when they landed, he would be one happy camper.

“You know Jared, I packed extra underwear for you” Jill said sweetly.

Jared glared at his brother “you’ve been corrupting her haven’t you”

“Not me, but I saw her talking to Ori just before take off” Eric laughed.

“Don’t get me involved, She is a low and devious person with out my help” Ori protested.

“That’s my wife your talking about” Jared said almost smiling

“Exactly, you should know what kind of person you married, with out my having to point it out” Ori said with a grin as Jill tried to look stern and disapproving.

“I think he just made a real joke” Eric laughed.

“Some one write down the date, it ranks right up there with the first time he had sex at 30.” Ronny called back from the cockpit.

“don’t even try to go there” Ori said. “Remember I know all about the monastery” Ori warned Ronny.

“okay okay, forget I said that last part” Ronny said surrendering with a laugh.

Jared leaned back in his seat, listening to the banter using it to help him stay calm which was exactly why they were doing it, at least partly the reason. It kept his mind off the rough flight over the Blue Ridge Mountains but the humor vanished thirty minutes later as they passed over the outskirts of D.C.

“Mother of God” Ronny said dropping low to get a better look at the burned out buildings of Centerville, thousands of vehicles clogged the roads, but it was the undead that stood shoulder to shoulder that filled the road as far to the east as he could see that shook him to his core.

“I guess that answers the question of what happened to all the zombies” Ori said quietly staring out the window.

Jared leaned over and made himself look down and wished he hadn’t, there had to be tens of thousands of undead down there spilling off I 66 and into the surrounding streets and roads. There was no way even with the Beater they had taken from Kronnen’s convoy, that they could make it through that many undead into the city.

Apparently the Dark didn’t want him to reach D.C, well to damn bad, he thought as he sat back his skin clammy from the fear of flying. If I can drag my ass on a plane I can find a way into the city. “Take us on to Mt. Weather “ Jared called out. The plane headed northwest leaving the roads packed with undead behind.

Now it was either give it all up and head back to Sullivan or use the Tunnel from Mt. Weather. There was no other options, and really there was no choice, when Kronnen finished with Sullivan he was heading north to find and destroy the trinity and the only thing in his way was Jared and his people

Mt. Weather was much as they had last seen it, the one major difference was the gate had been closed and the undead had been mostly cleared out, there were still small bands roaming around the Facility, stumbling through the snow and ice going no where slow.

That was a good sign at any rate it meant that there had been some survivors of the civil war that had swept over the facility, enough that they had attempted to clear the above ground section of the facility of the undead.

“when we land we are going to have to run to the motor pool and vehicle storage area” Reese said. “We are going to need vehicles to get to the entrance to the passage.”

“Are you sure you can get us inside” Eric asked. Reese nodded

“Yes, once I had time to think I remembered this place, I can get us in.” Reese assured him.

“Unless of course you open the door its wall to wall zombie inside” Ronny muttered.

“I thought you liked Resident Evil” Ori asked.

“On a Tv screen yeah it was a lot of fun” Ronny shot back.

“ We have a day maybe two before the convoy reaches the facility, that’s it” Jared said then grimaced as Ronny prepared to land. “if we don’t have access to the main tunnel and the train platform by then we will have to find another way into D.C.”

Eric gave him a look, probably wondering why Jared was giving them a two day time table, but he remained quiet.

The landing was not all that bad considering the snow and wind, Ronny finally got the plane stopped and parked it near the lines of helicopters. Helicopters of every type with Everything from US military insignia’s to privately registered ones.

The twin otter landed less than a minute after the UV and as Jared and the others leaped from the UV, it rolled up and stopped beside the UV.

“just packs and combat load outs, we can pick up the rest when we secure vehicles” Jared said as the men in the Twin otter exited the craft.

As soon as every one was ready, Jared led them across the field to the road and headed north towards the motor pool and maintenance bays.

They jogged through the snow across the field passing the helipad control tower, where ten zombies staggered out of the building, and were put down with a precise gun fire. The fenced in visitor parking area just past the Heliport and field was closed and locked so the undead trapped inside were no threat.

They turned east and moved past the main security check point, onto the road and into the interior fenced off area.

Up ahead over twenty zombies most in ACU’s, staggered towards them. Jared signaled a halt. Over the last two years, they had developed and refined killing the undead, and it showed as the men spread out in a crouch, weapons slapped to shoulders, “ weapons free,” Jared called out, a second later slow precise fire ripped out, sending zombies tumbling to the ground.

“contact rear , ten” Spacey called out. The entire group turned and again precise fire took down all ten of the undead.

“move it out” Jared called out as he spotted another band emerging from between two brick and glass buildings.

They ran up the road along the interior fence past the bodies of the dead they had just put down, past the Vehicle maintenance building till they reached a long two story building with bay doors placed along the its ground floor wall.

Reese pointed to the massive fuel tanks that sat beside the building, large pipes ran from the tanks into the wall of the building. “lets get a door open” Jared said pointing to the main office doorway.

“contact” Daws called out. Spotting a crowd of undead coming around the building across the street.

“Ed, Logan check the door” Jared said as he stopped and scanned the area, weapon ready. Nibbler stood beside him growling quietly her ears laid back and her ruff up as she watched the advancing undead.

“Jill stay close” Jared said not worried about her being able to protect herself, but he wanted close by for moral support and because they complimented each other in a straight up fight.

Ori with out a word took position to cover Ed and Logan while Ed pulled out his lock pick gun and set to work on the door.

Gun fire lanced out taking down the undead, but the numbers were growing as more zombies appeared from behind the same building breaking into a slow jog though the foot deep snow as they tried to close the distance to the living.

From behind Jared music started and he had to grin as he looked back and saw Ori had placed a CD player at his feet, Billy Idols “white wedding” blaring.

“Ed you might want to hurry” Jared called out as the crowd of undead streaming at them grew larger with new arrivals from both the east and now the south.

“Almost there” Ed hollered back.

Eric deployed his team to engage the undead approaching from the south, anchoring his left flank with Daws and 2nd squad. The SF men coolly began to fire into the undead, dropping them one shot at a time.

The undead were fifty feet and closing when Ed finally got the lock picked and pulled open the door, “Its open” He called out as he and Logan stepped inside weapons ready.

“Fall back into the building” Jared transmitted as he began to back up adding his own fire to the others, Jill and Ori doing the same.

Ori grabbed his CD player and stepped into the building, followed by Nibbler, Mike, then Jill and then Jared. As if they had practiced it a thousand times both Erics ODA and 2nd squad flowed into the doorway by twos till Daws and Eric were left and then they too backed in and slammed the door closed.

“Ori turn off the music” Jared shouted as a song by Manofwar started. The sudden silence as the music stopped was deafening only broken by the undead pawing at the door and windows of the office section.

“2nd will clear the Second floor” Daws said as he led his men towards the stairs.

“we have the first” Eric said as he formed his men up and led them down the hallway.

Jared and his team stood in the small lobby with its gray carpet and cheap government furniture and shook his head. “there are I times I feel like I could go home and no one would notice I wasn’t here”

“I like it” Jill said, trying to smile. “it keeps you from doing stupid things like charging into rooms and putting your self in danger.”

“I think he is old enough he could retire” Ori said as he replaced the cd player into his pack.

“I got your old right here” Jared said absently watching as a female zombie pressed against the glass in the door, her once smart business dress suit ripped and torn, showing more of the pale rotting flesh than he ever wanted to see.

“That’s just enough to almost put me off boobs” Ronny said as he rubbed his leg.

“I cant believe that’ Ori commented.

“Your right, but it sounded good and those are nasty” Ronny said with a tired, tension filled grin.

Upstairs the sound of two gunshots broke the silence, but nothing was reported over the radio so Daws had the situation in hand.

Ten minutes later, the all clear was given and Team one Joined Eric in the vehicle storage area. Daws and his people arrived minutes later having finished with the second floor.

Inside, there were a variety of support vehicles, Mostly Hummers, a few sedans,Trucks and four black SUVs that had been used by Facility Security, they looked like modified civilian hummers.

“spread out and lets check vehicles,” Jared said as he headed towards the SUV’s.

it took almost two hours to get three of the SUV’s and a Van running.

Jared grabbed a pad note pad off a desk and carried it over to Reese, “draw out the route, so every one can go over it, just in case something happens and we get separated.” Jared said passing the pad and a pen to Reese who leaned over the hood of a truck and began to draw.

“okay folks, lets get the these vehicles filled, the gas pump has a manual pump in case of power outages, if the worst happens at least we will have the fuel to get out of here and rejoin the convoy.” Jared said pointing at the fuel supply points in the bays.

While some of the men topped off tanks, Jared, Ori and Reese headed up stairs in the office section to look out the window to see how large the crowd of undead was.

“Well, Got to say, they are excited” Ori said watching the huge crowd down below as they battered at the walls and doors.

“Looks like four maybe five hundred” Reese observed then pointed “up there is the old mine which is where the convoy will have to enter, but I can tell you right now, we are going to have to pick and chose what vehicles to take when the convoy gets here, some of them like your Rv wont be able to make it down there.”

“Putting the cart before the horse, we need to get inside first to open the blast doors in the mine first” Jared reminded him.

“if the place is filled with undead what are our chances of actually reaching the control room to open those doors, and can we seal off the mine from the rest of the place to keep the undead out of the mine shaft.”

He briefly described the lay out, and how the military had been house in central sector, where the armory, C and C and other critical facilities for security were located, it was also the least populated and where they would be entering. The Sector controlled by the senator and his cronies had the hospital and common areas between it and the Central sector while the civilians who had been evacuated from Berryville and two other towns were in the north sector that also connected to the common area.

Each sector was broken down into smaller zones that could be sealed off from the other zones in the sector, which according to Reese meant that any undead out break could be contained with a zone with out endangering the other zones in a sector.

“… there are other areas like those controlled by FEMA and DHS, but we wont have to go anywhere near them.” Reese said.

“Lets hope the place isn’t filled with undead,” Jared said “now the sixty four thousand dollar question, if your unit is till alive and in control of the central sector what are the odds they will let us enter the mine shaft.”

Reese was silent for a moment, “ I think so, I know CMSgt would, The Colonel I have no idea if he would or not.”

Jared shrugged “ what ever happens, happens.”

“Can I ask you something” Reese asked turning to fully face Jared.

“anything” Jared said realizing that he no longer saw Steve when he talked to Reese and he wasn’t sure if that bothered him or not.

“Why not just find Kronnen and attack him now?, before he can get to D.C. We don’t have a real reason to enter the city, Do we?”

“at one point I would have said no, we don’t. but that’s no longer true” Jared said as his eyes locked with Reese’s. “But now, we have too. Don’t ask me why I couldn’t tell you, but between a dream and the fact that the undead are lined up around D.C. to keep us out tells me there is a reason the Dark doesn’t want us in that city and that’s enough for me to want to go.”

Reese was silent at that, he had heard the stories and knew that Jareds old timers believed in the weird dreams and other things, but Reese didn’t.

Jared saw the doubt in Reese’s eyes and grinned “God I wish I could still disbelieve this crap, you don’t k now who badly I wished I could” he said then changed the subject. “so show me about where the entrance to the Tunnel we are looking for is located.”

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

The undead first felt the rumbling before the noise alerted them they surged forward pushing against the building and the roll up doors. Doors that suddenly shut upwards rattled in their tracks as motors roared inside the building. The doors smashed to a stop with a jarring boom that sent dust falling from the ceiling.

The undead against the doors fell forward off balance, but ones behind them pushed forward tripping and stumbling over the fallen. Only to be shoved aside as Vehicles, that had started on the far side of the building raced forward bouncing over the fallen, crushing the bodies and smashing into the undead that filled the door sending many hurtling away from the impact.

Jared held the wheel of the SUV with a white knuckled grip, as he plowed through the undead, hoping the wire metal covers on the headlights and the brush guard protected the front end of the vehicle.

He saw a zombie that had once been a ten year old child vanish under the front of the vehicle, grimaced and gave the vehicle more gas. It was wild ride of jarring bumps, fluids splashing the windshield and the loud snap of bones. Then suddenly the vehicle was free of the undead and racing across the parking lot.

He looked around and saw the other vehicles had broken free as well, he hit the transmit button ordering the others to follow him, only to see Jill shaker her head. “I’m not hearing you on my radio” she said.

“damn, relay that order for me” he said as the SUV bounced over the curb and headed east on the curving road. once he had some distance between them and the horde, he came to a stop and checked his radio. “Batteries dead” he said angrily.

“I got a spare in my pack” Ori said from the back seat, he opened his pack and then passed a fresh battery to Jared who changed his out.

“Test, test” He transmitted getting a thumbs up from Jill, he put the radio pack in its pouch on his combat vest. “Reese lead the way” Jared transmitted.

“Roger” Reese said as the SUV he rode in pulled ahead of Jared.

Jared glanced in the back where Ronny sat grinning, it had been his idea to attach the chain the lifted each door to the axel of a vehicle, once the vehicles jacked up and put on blocks they were started, at Ronny’s signal the vehicles were thrown into drive, as soon as the door were up, the men in the vehicle slammed them into Park before the chains tore free, leaped out and ran for the waiting SUV’s and truck. It had been a good plan Jared decided. “Good job Ronny” Jared said knowing that Ronny would be insufferable for a few days.

They drove east off the main part of the facility and onto a two lane road through an abandoned security check point, stopping long enough to slid the gate closed and wrap a wire around it, to keep the horde that was behind them from following.

Just past a row of buildings behind trees and the firing range, they stopped at a fenced in enclosure that was roughly circular, twenty feet beyond the fence was what Jared could only call a moat the island created by the moat held a single one story cinder block building with Microwave antenna’s, repeaters and other types of antenna’s.

Jared looked around for undead but saw none, then climbed out of the SUV and walked to the gate with is bolt cutters and removed the padlock. Sliding the gate open he returned to the SUV and Drove inside, parking in the small parking area probably used for Maintenance vehicle, but large enough to hold the few vehicle in his group.

As soon as the vehicles were parked, the gate was closed and Reese led them across the narrow bridge to the door of the building that was secured with a with a biometric entry system.

Reese placed his thumb on a small pad and the tiny LCD screen above the key pad lit up. he entered a code and the door clicked open.

Jared followed Reese into the dark room. He triggered the light mounted on his HK and shined it around the room, revealing banks of electronic equipment, consoles and other arcane gear that he didn’t recognize.

As the rest of the group filed inside Reese passed through another door, inside was a stair case that went down into a dark tiled room with a standard size blast door set in the wall.

While Reese punched in the security code, the men behind him raised weapons, ready to open fire in case a flood of undead waited on the other side. A green light flashed on the security console, Reese hiding the shiver that rippled through him grasped the handle and pulled the door open.

Jared stepped up and peered into the dark opening beyond Reese where lights were slowly coming to life, every ten feet down the circular flat bottomed tunnel, which was just wide enough for a two golf carts.

“how far does it go” Jared asked quietly.

“ the tunnel is Three hundred feet long and takes you down almost eighty feet, it ends at a decon chamber with the door into the actual facility.” Reese said.

“Decon Chamber?” Jared asked.

“Check point really, we had guards posted there before you showed up, with the fighting that sprang up, they were probably moved into the facility.” Reese said as he stepped through the door into the tunnel.

“you might have mentioned that part earlier, I think you described it as an escape tunnel” Jared said following Reese.

“that’s what it is, the Colonel posted guards down here just to be on the safe side” Reese said leading them down the tunnel.

“This reminds me of Star Gate the Tv show” Ori remarked.

“Wait till your inside the actual facility” Reese commented. “And no there is no Star Gate”

They entered a steel door at the end of the tunnel, shining their lights around the dark room. The checkpoint was a large tiled room with showerheads evenly spaced around the walls, between the shower heads were old style lockers. Some one had added two desks and a table with six chairs, which had been over turned. A close inspection showed blood on one of the desks, and spent brass on the floor. At the back of the decon chamber was a five foot wide hall that ran for ten feet stopping in front of a equally sized blast door.

“the wall back here by the door is the real blast wall, something like six feet of Cement and rebar,” Reese said as walked down the narrow hall and stopped at the door where he opened a panel revealing another Security console. He placed his thumb on the pad lighting up the LCD screen then punched in the code.

Jared felt the hair on the back of his neck rise at the thump of heavy bolt withdrawing into the wall, then a click as the door unlatched. Tension flowed through the group as Reese grasped the edge of the door and pulled. Air rushed out, and the smell of blood and the dead filled the area.

“oh hell” Ronny muttered.

10 thoughts on “Chapter Twenty Four

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