“Oh ! ’tis a fearful thing to glance
Back on the gloom of misspent years :
What shadowy forms of guilt advance,
And fill me with a thousand fears !
The vices of my lite arise,
Portray’d in shapes, alas ! too true ;
And not one beam of hope breaks through,
To cheer my old and aching eyes,
T’ illume my night of wretchedness
My age of anguish and distress.
If I am damn’d, why find I not
Some comfort in this earthly spot?
But no ! this world and that to come
Are both to me one scene of gloom !
Lest aught of solace I should see,
Or lose the thoughts of what I do,
Remorse, with soul-felt agony,
Holds up the mirror to my view.
And I was cursed from my birth,
A reptile made to creep on earth,
An hopeless outcast, born to die
A living death eternally !”
~ C. Tennyson
The sun had been up for an hour already and the delays were finally coming to an end, Proctor thought. Satisfied his weapon was clean, he reassembled it and leaned it against the couch where he sat.
It was a gray day, full of wind and sleet. Ice had accumulated on the tree limbs and the few power lines that could be seen from the camp. Smoke still rose from the burned out vehicles around the secondary ring of the camp.
What worried him was how much fuel was still left in the big rigs that had been started off and on all night to keep batteries charged and sleepers warm. He tried not to think about what Kronnen reaction was going to be when he found out and to be honest Proctor wasn’t sure they would make it to the Advanced unit, not if Stone attacked first.
Who in their right mind would have expected men to Parachute into the camp. It was something he hadn’t planned for, and neither Watts or Kronnen had ever thought about. Which we damn well should have, we have planes and a Helicopter and we know they have planes. But not one of us expected paratroopers.
If I had thought of it, I would have damn well made sure that the guards had stayed in place on the vehicle wall, and had made sure people were placed in or around the critical vehicles keeping watch.
But like some idiot third world leader, I let my people relax, who could attack a camp this size with so many undead outside with out us hearing them approach and fight their way through the undead.
We have gotten so used to dealing with desperate survivors who have shit for brains, the kind of people that think charging headlong with assault rifles or playing sniper makes them soldiers. Not People like Stone and his men, and I knew this I warned Kronnen about the dangers a group like Stone’s represented and I still let my guard down.
And Stones people had planned it for the right time, He thought, 0400hrs, when the vast majority of people would be asleep and sentries would be flagging and inattentive. It was SOP and he hadn’t even considered the use of paratroops. And we had helped the enemy by not being on the walls or walking the paths around the camp. Enough, you cant change it whats done is done. He told himself.
Proctor looked up as there was a knock on the door to the motor home, then the door opened and Eight men grim faced men in Military ponchos covering their winter coats and pants entered letting in a gust of chilly air.
Proctor wasn’t surprised to see Eklof, but Raymond Lister, Paul Shandy, and Erin Clark did surprise him. Lister commanded A companies, Fourth Platoon. Shandy led the original MP detachment, and Clark led B companies Third Platoon. Which had been Eklof’s command till he had angered Kronnen. Which should not have made Clarks presence a surprise, he and Eklof had been close.
The others like Ted Sharp were squad leaders, over sized squad that had once been platoons.
Eklof his blond hair stained with blood and something else, pulled off his poncho and dropped it over a chair, then looked at Proctor his eyes ringed by dark circles.
“I think,” Eklof began with a glance at the other who nodded. “we need to discuss what is going to happen when we show up at advance units camp.” . Proctor eyed the squad and platoon leaders, who gazed steadily, back him.
“ I think we need to worry about getting there first” Proctor said, the pushed on ignoring the question. “Stone is not going to just leave us alone now that he has fuel so we are going to break camp and rejoin the advance unit which will give us the advantage. If we stay here, I suspect Stone will return and attack the camp and to try and sieze our supplies in an attempt to cripple our capability for a long protracted battle.” Proctor replied, knowing that wasn’t Eklof meant.
“They stole our fuel trucks, Proctor, you know what Kronnen is likely to do when he founds out that we lost the trucks and abandoned the camp he ordered us to remain at.” Eklof stated not caring about any long and protracted battle or anything else other than what Kronnen was probably going to do when they got back, the other men nodded in agreement. “he is not going to be happy.”
“My orders from Kronnen were to do what ever it took to ensure the safety and survival of the camp, what ever problems he has with my orders and the failures we have experienced begin and end with me” Proctor said, but he could tell the men were unconvinced. Kronnen had a history of dealing harshly for failure, and once upon a time, these men had back it. back when they had not fully thought out the whole survival of the fittest, only the strong survive ideals that Kronnen had sold to a group of men who had lost family, friends and their world. Till the true cost in lives and in stains on their souls had become apparent.
At least half the former guardsmen had privately turned away from those ideals, Proctor suspected, some few knowing they could trust proctor, as long as they didn’t advocate anything remotely suggesting rebellion, had confided him in, pressed him to get Kronnen to lay off. Hoping that some semblance of sanity would break out.
Proctor sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose, he had tried and even eventually succeeded in convincing his old friend to lay off, but like most things in his life it had been a day late and a dollar short, the reign of terror had done its damage, and what ever trust these men had once held for the man who had taken charge and led them out of the Hell that had become Las Vegas, was gone.
He took a moment to compose his response, looking around the motor home. the wood paneling gleamed, the microwave was spotless. The three prized cast iron skillets hung over the small stove. Pictures of Kronnen and some of the very men standing here now, hung on the walls, taken in the days before the dead had risen. a smile tugged at his lips as his gaze centered on the picture of two women hanging on Kronnen and himself it had been taken at Eklof’s Birthday party four years ago.
Clearing his throat, he turned his attention back to them. “we are going back, we have no other choice, but…” he paused as he let his gaze move from man to man. “ when we get there, I will go ahead and meet with Kronnen. I know him, and even as odd,” you mean mad don’t you, he told himself, “..as he has been acting I believe he will listen and you will not be blamed for this failure, I will, if convinced he is serious about not blaming you, send a message back with a code word we will figure out on the way, so you know I believe its safe for you to risk entering the advanced camp.” He said, feeling the exhaustion of the last year and half sinking into his bones. “ and If I think he is playing me to get the rest of you gathered in one spot, then I will do nothing and when the order to appear in the FOB arrive then you know to do what ever you think is right at that time.”
“We shouldn’t even have to deal with this kind of crap” Raymond Lister said angrily.
“What more do you want me to do? Raymond, say its over lets split up the gear and supplies and run.. we have civilians to protect, I’ve done and allowed to be done a lot of things I’m not proud of since this started, No let me be honest things that make me sick now. But what little self respect I have left wont let me just leave them to fend for themselves.” Proctor said stiffly. “some of those civilians are your families, what are your and their odds of survival with out a large organized group.”
“I can do the best I can to protect them,” Lister said. “and you know a lot of the civilians are not happy either.”
“I can’t continue helping Kronnen gathering slaves” Eklof said breaking in, self disgust dripping from his words as every one stared at him. He was making his stand openly which placed him right out in the open for Proctor to slap him down and have him killed for treason.
Proctor couldn’t slap him down not when he had been having his own doubts and internal conflicts, he started to protest, started to spout the same old tired line about those people being volunteers, he didn’t turn his head to look at the door to the small bedroom in the back to see the pretty blond girl, that Kronnen had raped to know it was a lie. His kept his mouth closed never uttering the meaningless protest, there was no point they all knew the truth now.
You know if you go back, Kronnen will just rape her, and abuse her till she is like his other woman, less than human, a flesh and blood sexual robot with no name, Proctor thought even more disgusted with himself for not being able to remember the woman’s name himself.
There was silence in the Motor home as the soldiers waited for Proctor to speak, that they still trusted him and respected him enough to even come talk with him instead of just taking what they could and sneaking away into the night, meant a surprising amount to Proctor who felt something deep inside change, like a little ray of light that pushed aside some of the darkness that had covered his soul, it didn’t change his dilemma it only made it harder as duty and loyalty warred with the fundamental beliefs that had driven him to serve in the guard in the first place.
“Give me time to think about this and regardless of what I end up deciding, we still need to get on the move, once we are out of the area, we will stop at the next safe spot we can find and discuss it. and we all know that there are squads and platoons here in the camp that will not go along with you leaving if that’s the decision you, we end up making” Proctor said with sincerity that the men seemed to believe.
Decide to abandon my best friend, or stick with him on his descent into madness and death, you would think it would be an easy choice Proctor thought, but he still felt he could some how drag his friend back from the edge and maybe save his own soul in the process. But what if he couldn’t Proctor asked himself. You couldn’t stop him from working with that sick bastard Williams, why should you be able to know.
And all that was not even the worst, there was the thing, the feeling of darkness that hovered around Kronnen, and sometimes you could smell rotting blood and spoiled meat
You’ve been touched by it yourself, a voice in his mind whispered, changed, warped and damned. Proctor ignored that voice, he had to, if he listened he might open a door that scared him contemplate.
No matter what he decided the unit was on the verge of splitting apart, and he had not idea if he could stop it, or if he should even try and he wasn’t really sure he wanted to.
Eklof reaching into a pocket and pulled out a folded map, and passed it to Proctor, he had marked a location on it. “ its an old quarry, it looks like it should be large enough to hold this camp and there probably wont be many undead there.
“ If you don’t stop there, Me and my men will be leaving and taking what ever gear and supplies we think we need.” Eklof warned Proctor, which would mean blood shed and fighting they both knew. “ I came to talk to you, because as screwed up as all of us have become, you’ve tried to do the best you could by us and even the comfort women” He said with a nod towards the bedroom at the back of the RV. “ you still have power and sway here in the camp and I thought you deserved a chance to make this right. Kronnen isn’t the same man as he was Jeff, he isn’t the man who was the best man at my wedding, not any more.” Eklof said as he turned and headed for the motor home door.
The others stepped aside and let him pass, and that’s when Proctor realized the men that were left had no clue what to do, they were torn and wanted his leadership. You men are screwed up worse than I am if you came to me for leadership. He thought shaking his head. He handed the map to the Lister “remember that location, if I don’t stop there, do what you feel you have to do. Because at this moment I have no clue what I’m going to do. But you have my word I will not warn the loyalists in camp, assuming there are any, and if I decided to go all the way to Kronnen I will take the blame and try to shield you. ” He said turning away from them. “no matter what happens, Good luck and I’m glad I served with you.”
He stood there for long minutes after they left listening to the vehicles starting up all over camp. What the hell are you going to do, he thought looking towards the bedroom, were three women waited their lives completely in his hands. You know what the right thing is, a voice in his mind said. “do your duty and you can not go wrong” he said aloud, the real question was what was his duty.”
His driver and Communications guy entered the Motor home and Proctor knew the camp was ready to depart. He sat down on the couch and stared at the Map Lister had left on the small table.
Jared pulled his cap lower to keep the sleet out of his eyes as he looked over the ambush site. If his eyes lingered on his wife and a few others, it was out of concern. They had no place being in a combat situation like this but he and they had no real choice either. But if the ambush worked the way they had planned, it would only last minutes with no assault or chance to be assaulted. At least they were the back up force if the ambush went south and wouldn’t be exposed to combat unless needed.
“do you think Kronnen’s people are going to stay camped where they are at?” Jansen asked quietly, he looked as exhausted as Jared felt.
“its possible” Jared replied, “I’m not a mind reader. I bet they know we do not have the manpower for a direct assault into the camp, at least not one that would leave the supplies intact and keep the prisoners alive. even there was a parity in numbers, our chances would still be lower because we would have to deal with the dead was well as the living and they would have the advantage of defense.” Jared said “And its possible that they do not have the fuel to leave now that we have taken their supply.”
“I really hate it when I throw a party and no one shows up” Jansen muttered, then shivered as a trickle of icy rain slid down his neck. “and I really hate this weather.”
“Think this is bad, you should try Korea some time, got so cold there camp fires froze” Jared commented. “I like heat, and I swear when this is over I’m…”
“Finding a tropical Island to lay around Naked on” Jansen finished for him and laughed. “ I will believe that when it happens” Jansen said.
“Just wait, my naked butt will be running for the Caribbean. Before next winter” Jared promised. “maybe Tahiti, or Bora Bora. Yeah the south pacific for the win” Jared said with a grin. they stood there in silence for a moment as the sleet fell around them.
The undead, hearing the motors rev became agitated, slapping and pawing at the vehicle walls, mouths snapping eagerly for hot red meat. From with the camp a new noise began, first the sound of chains rattling, then something that the dead if they had been able to remember, sounded like a massive fan.
The vehicle blocking the undead from the interior of the camp, moved, the cattle catchers over its grill pushing the undead away as it advanced, behind it a large garbage truck advanced.
The booms that had once been used to hook onto and lift dumpsters had been extended out seven feet using steel pipe and bar. A drum ran from one arm to other and was spinning at high speed, the chains welded to the drum were a blur. It rolled out of the gap in the vehicle wall, as the arms lowered and then the chains began to strike undead flesh., crushing bone, ripping flesh, the former garbage truck led the way, as the camp dissolved behind it in an intricate pattern of vehicles that fell in to formation behind the beater as the garbage truck was called.
Back when they had sheltered at a remote base in Nevada, one of the Guard Mechanics had come up with the idea for the Beater from a Tank on display at the base, and old Sherman crab. The man and his crew had worked for almost a week, installing PTO’s on Transmissions, drive shafts, scrounged up heavy duty chains, and steel block to weld to the end of the chains, till five beaters had been built.
One had been lost crossing the Hoover dam it had broken down and the men crewing the thing had barely been able to transfer to another vehicle, the second loss had occurred when a Beater was crossing a Bridge that spanned a canyon, when the bridge collapsed taking the beater and three trucks with it.
The beaters had been one of the many reasons they had been able to clear huge numbers of undead in cities were they had established outposts.
Proctor, even in his Motor home, winced as he heard the beater doing its job, if Kronnen hadn’t taken the other two beaters Proctor could have cleared out all the undead around the camp before they left.
Eklof was right to be worried about Kronnen’s reaction to the raid on the camp, two fuel. Trucks gone, two of the small fuel trucks destroyed, as well as a few other vehicles.
They turned onto I 64 and headed east, far above them unseen a small Drone kept pace with the convoy.
“Reaper six to Doorstop, We have movement” Eric’s voice said in Jareds earbud. Jared felt his stomach tighten with the familiar pre combat jitters.
“Roger, Copy movement. Good luck Reaper” Jared said.
“You too Doorstop.”
“well looks like the party is still on, Get too your men and good luck” Jared said holding out a hand to Jansen. The two men shook. Then Jansen turned and jogged towards the Position his men held.
“All right folks, you know what your supposed to do, listen to your orders, and don’t try to be a Rambo and you will make it through this” Jared transmitted. Just let this go off as planned, he asked the heavens silently as he trotted to his own position, no matter what happened at least Ori had his back, it was hard to lose with Ori on his side.
The convoy rolled down the interstate, the fields and woods on each side broken by small homes, a convenience store, a burned out truck stop, and staggering bands of undead that turned and began to follow the vehicles. They soon fell behind and lost sight of the convoy but continued on following the noise.
The sleet and rain returned with a vengeance ten miles down the road they rounded a gentle curve that took them into a series of low rolling hills and winter bare trees, a mile ahead was another curve.
Eric lay on the farm house roof, the sleet falling around him. if he was cold it didn’t show. He scanned the ambush site through the scope of his rifle .
Jared had done a bang up job of planning this, Eric thought, part of the problem was not Kronnen’s men but the undead. But Jared true to form, and more like a SF man, believed there was no problem you couldn’t solve by yourself, or with your team. Impossible was only a challenge to overcome. Eric smiled softly, Jared might not realize it but he was just like their dad and that was about the highest compliment he could have given his brother.
The plan was simple Eric thought as he watched the long line of vehicles that rolled past his position.
Deny the enemy their armor, simple direct and quick, he thought. What little undead had been in the area they had cleared out, but more would arrive and there would be no telling how many or how few it might be and no one wanted to be caught in the middle of a fire fight by the arrival of a horde of undead.
As soon as the armor was destroyed or disabled, his and Jareds people would be heading east to the next ambush site were they could launch another ambush this time with the goal of whittling down the Guardsmen.
It should work out pretty well, unless who ever was leading this convoy decided to try his hand taking back roads and avoid the cleared and direct route to Kronnen where he would end up passing through the third and hopefully final ambush site.
The only vehicle that worried he and Jared was that damned AAV with its 40mm and M2 weapons.
“stand by Door stopper” he transmitted over the secured comm. as the two M113’s and a Hummer that made up the lead element of the convoy approached the Curve, where Reese would kick off the ambush. Behind the Hummer and APC’s were several Deuce and a half’s with covered beds.
As the first vehicles approached the curve, he transmitted. “ Door stop, they are on the porch,” There was no response he hadn’t expected one either.
Marty “Bucket” Miles, sat in the passenger seat of the Hummer, trying to pay attention to his surroundings. But he was distracted, the early morning attack had hurt moral, even his own, and knowing they were going to have to face Kronnen at the end of this trip did not inspire him with confidence he was going to see a future beyond this road trip.
Kronnen was not the same man he had been before all this shit, but when the chaos had hit and the Colonel and the rest of the command staff were killed, Kronnen had stepped in taken charge and led them out.
At firsts things had been so bad, they had only time to do what they had to, to survive. no real chance to sit and think, to question, eating and staying alive had been the driving factors, but as they gathered more supplies and more men, and, though not assured, there was some safety, the urgency the desperation that had driven them across Nevada and into New Mexico had begun to fade and a sense of normalcy had set in. By Colorado, many of the things they had just accepted at first, like the rebuilding, survival of the fittest, and other things had made less and less sense. NO you began to see them for what they are, He told himself, it was pure Bull shit or that’s how it looked these days.
“Not good” Weber his driver said as they drove around the curve in the road.
His attention pulled fully back to the real world, “Bucket’ Saw the vehicles that had been pulled across the road blocking any further travel.
The barricade was made up of Two delivery trucks, and a pick up behind that was a Semi truck pulled across the road. “Ambush” Bucket said, feeling the hairs on the back of his neck rising and his sphincter tightened.
Weber hit the brakes swerving towards the side of the road out of reflex, but was already too late. One of the M113’s that mounted a Mk 19 40mm, clanked past the Hummer, there was a flash of light, and the APC exploded debris rained down over the area.
The Hummer rocked under the shock waves, “go go go’ Bucket shouted, Weber slammed the Hummer into Reverse and began to back up, only to hit the brakes again and swerve to avoid the second M113, that was racing up behind them.
Weber barely avoided the Second ACP that clanked past them. the. 50 caliber mounted on its pintle was already firing ripping through the barricade like it was tissue, then fifty feet from the barricade it rolled over a second IED and died. Weber was already backing up around the curve, and slammed right into a Deuce and half coming up behind them. The Hummer got pushed forward twenty feet back around the curve before the Deuce stopped.
Bucket was thrown forward, then back whip lashing his head and back, when the hummer finally stopped, he managed to get the door open and fell out onto the road, moaning in pain.
He managed to sit up and place his back against the side of the hummer, staring around him for any undead but so far there were none. He turned his head to watch the men in the deuces dismount and begin to advance, using every bit of cover they could find as they worked their way towards the Barricade pausing only long enough to put down the undead in the two wrecked and burning APC’s.
One moment the men were moving forward, the next all hell broke loose and the area became an Abattoir as three claymores placed slightly under the vehicles to either side and ahead of them detonated sending 2100 steel balls ripping through flesh and bone with the sound of a angry bee’s . at the same time a group of men in ACU’s rose up from behind the barricade and opened fire into the guardsmen.
Bucket gaped at the carnage, 40 men had dismounted from two deuce and halves been advancing and now only ten maybe fifteen remained, and they were limping and staggering back towards the curve trying to get back around the curve and presumed safety, blood streamed from their wounds, they were broken men. Their will to fight gone. behind them amidst all that carnage, shattered and shredded bodies with intact skulls began to twitch.
Bucket, got his feet his back and neck on fire, and stumbled towards the curve where even now a second platoon was emerging from around the curve. Not wanting to be caught in the cross fire he dropped to the ground again and moaned in pain as two machine guns, one a .50, the second sounded like a SAW opened up from the barricade.
At the same time, the rear element of the convoy came under fire from both Machine gun fire and small arms fire from a stand of trees about 475 yards or so away, the three M113’s in the rear started to pivot around to face the incoming fire, ramps beginning to lower.
Eric laid his sights on the glowing red blob of an engine and fired the 25mm payload system, then shifted to the next target the gunner, he stroked the trigger and the mans head and shoulders vanished in a spray of red and gray. Mere flesh and blood was nothing to a 25mm round,
Ori and Steger sniped the other two gunners, by then the ramps were facing away from the combined fire of the Reapers Ma Deuce and the SAW, and the troops inside the APCs were spilling out, sheltering behind the APCS.
“wont do you much good” Eric said as he took out the motor of the next APC and shifted his fire to the third and final M113. “Lew, Castor, hit them with the 40mm then get ready to bail.” Eric said as he slid towards the edge of the roof.
Jared knelt in the shallow trench they had dug, 500 yards out from where the convoy had come to a stop as it was attacked from the front and rear, the only vehicle on his list to kill this time was the Marine AAV 7A1. that little bitch had both a 40mm thumper and a ma deuce and it was maneuvering out of the line so it could head up to the curve where it no doubt intended to wipe away Doorstop and the barricade. .
Guards men were pilling out of trucks and other vehicles to guard the sides of the convoy, but they were not his targets at least not directly. Training would lead those men to assault doorstop, and the way they were shaking out they were following training, but they would also suspect an assault from the flanks which they were about to receive.
“Benton, blow that thing to hell” he said as the AAV cleared the convoy and turned east towards the curve, presenting its side to Jared and Jansens squad.
Proctor grabbed his weapon and leaped from his RV where Eklof’s squad waited, pointing to the east. They jogged forward and had barely cleared the line of RVs and were a hundred feet behind the AAV, when machine gun fire erupted from the field south of the road. Proctor saw the men of second platoon just ahead him tumble to the ground, the fire sweeping towards him.
Eklof and his men dove for cover, Eklof grabbed Proctor on his way down and dragged the other man down with him. Proctors face struck ice and gravel, the cold shocking him out of his momentary paralysis he reached for his radio.
“stay low and get clear of the RV’s get the enemy’s fire away from the civilians” Proctor said into his radio, his face white with fear from the near miss.
“you heard the man” Eklof said with just a glimmer of respect for Proctor actually giving a damn about the non combatants in the RV’s “GO,” He bellowed.
Lister shook his head hearing the order over the radio, then nodded suddenly as he realized what Proctor wanted. His men were already covering behind the Cars and trucks on the side of the road trying to figure out where the snipers were firing from, they were closer to the rear of the convoy than the lead. “ Listen up, we need to take the fight west, move and stay low” Lister said as he led the way to the rear of the convoy, where 40mm HE rounds were falling on the Guardsmen, whittling them down.
Benton rose to one knee placing the Javelin across his shoulder and laid the pip on the huge tracked vehicle, Tolliver opened up with the SAW and Baker tripped the trigger on the Ma Duece. Both men raked their fire across the guardsmen , some who were behind abandoned vehicles that had been cleared from the road, others were kneeling and looking out into the field where Jared and the others had hidden.
Sporadic return fire started up, as Benton fired the javelin the missile leaped out of the launcher to a safe distance then its motor ignited and it raced across the field, as the turret mounted 40mm on the AAV was turning towards them.
A Marine AAV 7A-1 was lightly armored, tracked vehicle capable of carrying 25 marines, or in this case Guardsmen as well as a crew of three, it could stand up to small arms fire, and carried a Mk19 40mm grenade launcher, with a ma deuce on the pintle. For all that it was outclassed by the Javelin.
What Jared hadn’t known, was the AAV did not carry men, Kronnen and the former commander of the Convoy Watts had loaded the large vehicle with Javelins, stingers, high explosives and anything else that they didn’t want a disgruntled Guardsmen or civilian getting their hands on. It had been like a mobile vault that kept the weapons and ordinance out of reach of any one that might want to used it against Kronnen.
The AAV was just passing three trucks, when the missile struck it dead center in the right side, and exploded, no one would ever know exactly what detonated first inside the AAV, but there was a serious of massive explosions that sent shock waves and flames sweeping out, twenty two Guards men died instantly, two of the three trucks were destroyed out right, becoming flaming debris, the third was knocked over on its side and slid ten feet off the side of the road and into two abandoned cars on the side of the road, windows in every vehicle for eighty feet were blown out.
40mm grenades rained down over the area, a small percentage had rotated enough in flight to become armed and more explosions rippled across the forward part of the convoy as they landed.
The guardsmen on the edge of the blast were sent tumbling, many couldn’t hear. The rest stopped firing stunned by the devastation that had just occurred.
“holy shit” Benton said as the gun fire stopped from the convoy. “don’t just stand there, lets go” Jared ordered as he turned and ran for the woods at the edge of the field, their vehicles were hidden on the other side waiting to take them to the next
Proctor lay there stunned, his eyes drifting over a scene straight out of hell where men had been ripped apart and cooked alive, he could see charred bodies twitching as they started to reanimate.
“put them down” He ordered as the enemy machine gun fire stopped. “ the dead, put them down” He ordered again as he got to his feet not even caring if he got shot.
some of his men were assaulting the field, where the ambushers were falling back
“cease the assault, there’s probably mines out there” Proctor transmitted to the assault force.
He stared around at the damage, and the dead. It was over, and he knew it. there was no way he could take these men back to the Advanced unit, hell most of the guard who had been totally loyal to Kronnen had died with their APC’s.
He had seen combat before, in the sandbox but nothing he had seen came close to what he had just witnessed, as he watched men worked their way carefully through the dead to put down the twitchers before they could reanimate. He flinched at each gunshot, then looked out across the field where he could see stones men entering the wood line, about a squads worth. He knew what he had to do now, he couldn’t be a party to killing more of his men because his old “friend” wanted to wipe out any one large enough that could oppose him, something finally snapped inside of him.
“Proctor, what..” Eklof said then clamped his lips shut as Proctor walked over and picked up a pillow case that fluttered to the ground in front of them, it had been stored with other supplies in one of the destroyed trucks.
“What you doing” Eklof asked.
“Surrendering” Proctor said, shame, grief and grim sense of relief warring for control in his heart. “ All units, fall back and cease fire” Proctor said into his radio.
“You cant” Eklof said as Proctor walked towards the field waving the singed white pillow case as the sleet fell steadily around them.
“You wanted me to do something, well I’m doing it. We cant go back, and we cant have Stone and his people chasing us and picking us off a little bit at a time.” Proctor called back angrily over his shoulder. “ we have been beating around the bush for too damn long Eklof, none of us are happy at what we have become, and now more of us have been killed for a fight we didn’t want to be in the first place. Well I’m ending it unless any of you want to kill me and trust that Kronnen isn’t going to kill most of the survivors as an abject lesson in why not to fail.” Proctor waved the pillow case angrily. “think about this Eklof, Stone’s men avoided firing at the RV’s, would Kronnen?”
Eklof nodded, Kronnen would have torched the RVs along with the armor, Stone had attack strictly military targets. Spotting Shandy, he called him over “go round up platoon leaders and the company commanders, lets try to keep Proctor from getting killed for treason” he said.
Jared was almost to the waiting vehicles parked behind a collapsing farm house that was just behind the line of woods, when Eric called him. “we have a man walking into the field waving a something white, what do you want to do?”
“What!” Jared asked not sure he had heard right, the rest of the men came to a stop and watched him.
“The drone is showing it clearly, we were breaking contact when I was told. “ Eric said.
“Second squad, report” Jared transmitted.
“Second squad, we are secured and ready to head to the next marker, I have three wounded but no dead, and am not under fire or being pursued.” Reese reported. “they started to assault then fell back around the curve after you blew the hell out of that AAV”
“Roger hold position,” Jared said as climbed into the ELSORV. Nibbler who had been waiting in the ELSOR with Jill leaped in his lap and licked his face wildly. Her tail beating Jill in the face and shoulders.
He waited till Logan, Ed , Darius and Nate squeezed in side then put the vehicle in gear. Jansen and his squad mounted up in the Stryker and followed.
Proctor stood there waving the pillowcase, about to give up when he saw a vehicle appear out of the woods behind the field and start towards the convoy. Behind it a stryker appeared.
“oh hell, we are screwed “ Eklof said, as he chivied his men into sparse cover.
“put your weapons on the ground till I tell I’m done or the undead show up” Proctor transmitted.
The military looking Jeep like Vehicle with a M2 on a pintle mount stopped at a hundred yards, then the door opened and a man stepped out, followed by a tan and white dog.
Proctor lowered the pillowcase, fear boiling in his guts, which at least kept the exhaustion and misery at bay. As the man drew closer, Proctor saw he had wide shoulders, thick red hair cut high and tight and chiseled features.
He stopped fort feet from proctor, his hand hooked in belt just over the pistol holstered on his thigh.
“I take it you want to surrender” The red head said, the dog at his side growled low in its throat as it watched Proctor, but didn’t move from the mans side.
Proctor stood straight and squared his shoulders, swallowed the humiliation he felt. “Yes, I am Jeff Proctor, I want to…. “ he hesitated, “ Surrender my men and the convoy for the sake of the non combatants.”
Behind the red head more doors opened and men and one women climbed out, his eyes widened as he saw the man in the cowboy hat, who strolled casually up to stand beside the red head.
“I’m Jared Stone, and judging by the look on your face, you recognize Darius Macalister” The red head said.
Proctor nodded “ the Hunter, yes I’ve seen him before”
“Then you know his reputation, so let me tell this much, I’m worse and you and Kronnen have royalty pissed me off.”
“That Jared is Kronnen’s second in Command.” Darius said, a half smile flashing across his face.
“you could say that, but in truth only Kronnen was in Charge, he would delegate authority, but no one was his Second in Command. He didn’t want any one in a position that might be able to challenge his authority.” Proctor said stiffly. “I tried to be his advisor,”
“Jared we have undead showing up. “ Eric warned him.
“Tell you men to board their transports but leave their weapons on the ground” Stone told him. “ I will allow one platoon sized unit to remain outside under arms, to help put down the undead, they can also collect the weapons left outside and load them in a truck as well as dispose of the dead how every you wish and with in the time we have.
Proctor relayed the order his eyes burned with shame as he watch Stone whose face showed nothing, except the steady jump of a muscle in his chiseled jaw. .
“Reaper and Second squad you are cleared to put down any dead that get to close, but do not fire near any enemy vehicles unless we are fired on” Jared transmitted his emerald green eye’s never leaving Proctors face. “ I am allowing one platoon of the enemy to remain outside and under arms.”
Captain Carl Winn, formerly of the Nevada National Guard, stood in the shadows of a Deuce staring at Proctor, who was meekly surrendering the convoy. He had already seen Shandy and Eklof talking to other units revealing themselves as traitors as well.
Winn was stunned that Kronnen’s right hand man could even consider betrayal, much less surrender, and the thought left him furious as hell.
“it aint right, Winn” Bill Carter said, “Proctor is a fucking traitor, I aint going to be no POW for some upstart Warlord.”
“ we can take them out right fucking now” Private Chris Boon, snapped, he was holding his rifle down close to his side leg to keep it out of sight.
“the rest of the men will join us the moment we start shooting, we take out proctor and that red headed guy and its over.” Carter said as he stepped over to stand beside the SAW he had dropped, minutes ago.
Winn, looked back at his men, what was left of them. “Lets do it, before that red head gets any more of his men in place.”
“Jared, Get down” Eric shouted over the radio. Jared didn’t hesitate, he grabbed Jill and hit the deck shouting at every one else to do the same as gunfire rang out, Proctor stumbled forward, struck in the shoulder and thigh, Eklof leaped forward knocking Proctor to the ground and out of the line of fire, but was shot himself.
Jared rolled over on top of Jill to shield her from the gunfire, as men shouting kill the traitor rushed towards them.
“Got your back” Ori said in Jareds ear bud. His voice flat.
Carter grabbed the SAW and ran to the right to clear himself a field of fire that wouldn’t endanger the men of his platoon, he was grinning, he loved this kind of shit. He was still grinning and looking forward to riddling the Red head and his people with his SAW when a .308 punched right between his eyes, his body ran on for three more steps then fell over.
“one down a few more to go” Ori said in Jareds ear.
“Get the hell off me Jared” Jill demanded as he brought his HK into play.
“shut up and stay down” Jared said with out thinking, scared she might be shot. He fired a burst at the advancing platoon, bullets ripping past him. Men scattered seeking cover and firing back at him. The stryker rumbled up the pintle mounted fifty, began to spit fire.
“Non combatants” Eklof shouted and pointed at the RV’s.
Jared nodded. “ Jansen try not to shoot any RV’s and..” He paused as he fired at another guardsman, who died quickly. “try not to shoot at any vehicles where there is no fire coming from” and to think I was trying to avoid a pitched battle, Jared thought as
He leaped to his feet, and raced for an abandoned car, he slid up to the side and fired a burst over the trunk. A second later Kafil joined him, the muscular black man gave him a sad smile, “the more things change” He said his accent made the old saying sound exotic.
“Shut up” Jill said angrily, as bullets whizzed overhead. “Jared Stone, I…. “ She was so angry she couldn’t even think of something to say.
She got her Commando into position and began to fire supporting Jared, as Logan wiggled up beside her. Anger seemed to improve her aim, but the uprising was spreading across the convoy.
Eklof lay on the ground beside Proctor, his M-4 with in reach, to hell with it he thought as he grabbed his M-4, rolled over and shot down Winn. Winn hit the ground, blood pumping from his chest, he tried to pull a grenade from his pouch, only to die as someone, who knew who in this chaos blew his head off. “ Sharp, tend to Proctor, the rest of us are going to help keep Stone and Proctor alive” he bellowed as he shot down two more loyalists and sprang to his feet.
Boon, smiled mirthlessly as he aimed at the muscular black man, Gonna get me a ghetto bunny, he thought, he had never been racially sensitive, calling him a bigot was an insult to bigots as well, but he had hid it well back when there had been people to enforce the rules. Under Kronnen, he had been mostly free to say what he wanted, unless it pissed off one of Kronnen’s buddies. Which rarely happened, since most of them thought it was funny.
His finger tightened on the trigger, when something large slammed into him knocking him to the ground, Teeth bit down and with a toss of a large head, ripped skin and muscle from his arm, he screamed in Agony, and then only gurgled as the Dog did the same to his throat, then it bounded away after another loyal guardsmen leaving Boon to gurgle out his last moments.
Jill leaped to her feet and went after Jared, who with Darius, Kafil, and Ed were fighting furiously from behind two abandoned vehicles on the side of the road.
“Logan get to the ELSORV and use that big gun” She said not remembering what it was called and not caring, Logan knew what she was talking about. He nodded and sprinted towards the ELSORV, drawing the fire of at least four men who had crawled under a deuce.
Jill unable to reach Jared due to increased gunfire, turned and ran for the closest cover she could see, A Truck on the side of the road that sat on four flat tires. She fired blindly at the enemy, making them duck
Dahl Grimm, saw the good looking woman in Leather with the odd looking armor that covered one arm and her shoulders and a stupid sword in her belt, running towards the red head and his men. She turned suddenly and ran for the truck on the side of the road close to the Deuce Dahl crouched on. She would make on hell of a comfort women he thought as he leaped from the top of the Deuce to tackle her.
Jills only warning was a shadow that fell over her, she sprang into a roll, losing the commando, she came up in a crouch and spun towards the man. He was to close for her to try and draw her pistols.
The man was Bald with round face, thick lips and squinty narrow pig like eyes, he smiled showing broken teeth and came at her arms spread wide.
His buddy’s took her so se=riously they were not even shoot at her, probably hoping piggy could take her down so they could rape her when the fight was over.
She flowed into the proper stance, right foot forward, balanced on the balls of her feet, hand slapping the silk wrapped hilt of her katana, her hand closed around silk and sharkskin and her perception of time slowed. She had all the time in the world, as she glided forward closing the short distance, her blade whispered from its sheath, she cut as she drew from piggys left hip to right shoulder, stepping to the right at of his arms and spun both hands on the hilt of her katana as she raised it into high Guard and brought it down at the perfect angle between the base of his skull and the first vertebrae.
Piggy’s intestines slid out of his now open abdomen, as his head tumbled to the ground.
Jill was already running, as some of Piggy’s friends finally fired at her. She reached the truck, Bullets tore through the bed and out the other side.
This wasn’t going to work she thought as she ran around the front of the truck across the ten feet to the road and in between two vehicles leaping onto the hood of the truck behind the Deuce and saw a man laying on the trucks bench seat his hands over his head. She twisted around and leaped into the back of the deuce. a surprised guardsman who had been firing through a slit in the canvas turned and tried to bring his weapon to bear on her. She ran her Katana into his stomach as he doubled over she took his head.
It bothered her that this no longer made her sick, but as Jared said it was the world now. To do anything less was asking to be raped and killed.
She spun the katana with practiced ease flipping the blood off the blade then sheathed it in the same movement then grabbed the M-4 of the dead man. Just as another guardsman poked his head up to look into the back of the Deuce. She fire and missed, but that was okay, he ducked down. Keeping the weapon aimed at the opening she fumbled three magazines out of one of the dead mans ammo pouches and shoved two into her pocket.
Seeing the top of a mans head, she fired at it, and saw blood and hair fly. There was a scream of pain. And something round and green landed in the bed of the Deuce, Jill dropped the magazine she held and leaped out of the deuce onto the hood of the truck then dove as far as she could manage towards the side of the road on the opposite side of the road than she had started on.
Ori seeing the number of the undead coming in from the north side, and the relative lack of combatants around Jared and the others, began to fire on the closest of the undead, but if this battle didn’t wrap up soon, they would be over run by undead.
The fighting was spread up and down the convoy, three loyalists, holed up in a RV were killed by the civilians inside, who tossed their bodies outside. Four loyalists, snuck between two Vehicles attempting to get behind Shandy and his former Mps, found out the man driving the Delivery truck was not a fan of Kronnen when the driver slammed his truck into gear and rammed them crushing them against the bumper of the truck in front of the delivery truck.
Oscar Pedlon, rammed the knife he held into the chest of the Traitor, laughing as the man gasped one final time and died, he lifted the knife again and waited as the blood dripped from the blade and his hand. He could hear the gun fight on the other side of the convoy and smiled, eager to hunt down another traitor.
“Teach you to betray Kronnen” he snarled waiting for the corpse to rise. He never saw the man who wiggled out from under the vehicle behind him.
Pain flared in the back of his head as something stuck him hard enough that he saw stars, he shook his head, then a weapon fired destroying his hearing and his hand that held the knife leaving only a blood spraying stump.
A hand grasped the back of his head and pushed his head down till he was face to face with the corpse whose eyes opened, he screamed as the pale lips skinned back from teeth that yawned open. .
Darius stepped back and calmly reloaded the sawed off shotgun, as the zombie finished its meal. “next time pick the winning side” He said as he fired one barrel into the zombies head, then the other into the dead mans head.
Hearing more gunshots to the east, Darius crouched and moved towards the sound, he had a score to settle and a few more men were going to pay their debts today.
The loyalists already decimated by the ambush, died hard at the hands of the Guard who had, had enough of Kronnen’s rule. Silence finally fell over the convoy broken only by the moans of the wounded.
Jared leaned against an abandoned car and replaced the magazine in his HK, “your bleeding” Kafil said, gesturing to Jareds right arm and side.
“just grazes” Jared said as he looked over to check on Jill, then stood upright when he saw she was gone.
Scared he called her name, and took a step towards the convoy then stopped as she walked between two Trucks, there was blood splashed across her face and in her hair, Nibbler trotting beside her, the dog had a few gashes and was bleeding but not badly.. relief flooded him as he realized the blood was not hers, then he saw the look on her face.
“Shut up, you told me to shut up” She said angrily, he stepped forward and went to wrap his arms around her but she placed both hands against his chest and pushed him back. “you are an asshole” the fact she was cussing told him a lot about her mental state, she was well and truly pissed off.
“You need to treat your wife better than that” Eric said in his hear.
“shut up” he said then clamped his mouth shut then tried to explain. “not you Eric he was… “
“If we live through this you are cut off, I cant believe you just told me to shut up again” she said. Nibbler gave him a disdainful look and followed Jill to the ESLORV.
“Oh man even your dog is coping an attitude” Eric said with a laugh.
“ I swear Eric I am going to beat you so bad, your bruises are going to have bruises.” Jared vowed.
“ Get Haslom over here, we have wounded,” Jared said as he saw Quentin tying a rag around his calf. Kafil had been shot through the bicep, Ed looked okay but there was blood on his coat that may or not be his.
Jared walked over to where Proctor lay, and knelt beside the man, a Medic was bandaging his wounds. “I think under the circumstances, I believe your intent to surrender is genuine” Jared said.
“how is he” Eklof asked Sharp as he walked up and knelt across from Jared.
“his shoulder is screwed, unless we stumble across a surgeon in the next day or two, but other wound was a simple in and out,” Sharp said, “the bullet entered his buttock and exited out the other side with out hitting anything.”
“make sure the dead are put down,” Proctor said as Eklof helped him sit up. Proctor sat there for a moment then ordered Eklof to help him stand. He stood there for a moment obviously in pain. Then looked at Jared. “we need to check on the former prisoners to make sure they are okay after this” he said worried the loyalists might have decided to kill them during the fight.
There was a rumble of a heavy motor and Proctor saw a HET push out of the knob of woods at the Curve where so many had died, it rolled across the field then turned to clear the Gun box mounted on the back, his eyes widened slightly at the Mini gun, and two Ma Deuces mounted in the box.
With Eklof’s help Proctor led the way to the first trailer that held the prisoners. Where Darius joined them, he reeked of gunpowder and blood, a point not lost on Proctor, who also couldn’t miss the hatred in the other mans eyes.
“ so lets talk about your prisoners, and what we are going to do with your men.”
“ The former prisoners are yours,” Proctor said. “my men, you may not believe it but they are not all bad, most of the men with the convoy were against Kronnen’s excesses.” Proctor explained.
“and yet they did nothing to stop him slaving, murdering and raping.” Jared pointed out.
“it isn’t that easy” Proctor said.
“Fuck you it is that easy” Darius snapped lifting a bloody hand and jabbing a finger in Proctors face.
“No it wasn’t, Hunter, it was.. well it doesn’t matter what it was like, you wont believe it.” Proctor said. How do you convince someone it how it was like living in a fog that corrupts everything it touches, and only over time did they begin to realize what they were helping and by then you had to be very careful about what you said, and who you talked to or you might just vanish in the middle of the night.
Darius just gave the man a look of pure contempt then gestured towards the trailers,
“If they cared so much, why are your prisoners in those” the hunter said coldly. “I want to see them now”
Proctor was thankful that Watts had ordered plywood installed on the interior walls and had placed carpet and rugs on the floor for the prisoners, if he had lived Watts might have turned out to be not as loyal as Proctor.
Kronnen hadn’t cared about the carpeting and sealing the trailers from the weather, so Watts had handed out blankets and sleeping bags as well, and eventually installed small propane heaters to keep the prisoners from freezing to death.
At least it looked the prisoners had been treated like people not animals. Proctor thought, but when they heard about the way some of the prisoners were treated by the inmates and Kronnen himself, he frowned nothing he could do now but face up to what they had done.
They made their way over to the first Trailer, Jared hearing a bark looked around and saw Nibbler running towards him, the dog slid to a stop beside him. staring at the men who had been enemys just minutes before, her blood stained muzzle wrinkled into silent snarl of disapproval.
Nate stood there as the trailer door opened up, and saw the men, women and children that were held in side. All of them looked thin, but they all wore coats and warm clothing and the trailer had been fixed up to block out the weather. That did nothing to still the hatred for Kronnen and his men that boiled in his heart. His eyes scanned every female face but he didn’t see the one face he longed for.
“your safe now” Darius told the prisoners. “there’s dead out there, so I’m going to shut the door.” He told them as he closed the door and latched it. with out the lock on the outside they could open it from the inside.
“Next trailer,” Nate demanded thankful that Jared didn’t try to interfere. At a nod from Jared, Proctor led them to the next trailer. Where they found twelve of the men and women that they had been hunting for. Darius almost fell to his knees he was so overcome with emotion as it finally hit him that it was almost over.
Outside there was gunfire, the steady deliberate fire of putting down undead. Darius shook hands and hugged the astonished men and women who couldn’t believe that Darius and Nate were there, so far from where they had been kidnapped. “ just wait here, I swear your free, all of you.” Darius said. “ we have to check the rest of the trailers and then work a few things out.”
“Where’s my wife” Nate asked desperately stepping in between Darius and the others. “ one of you has to know”
Darius stayed silent, they had been told month ago that Nates wife had been sent to their main base out west, where ever that was. But there was a chance, especially if Kronnen had ordered her brought forward again, like he had down with Kate and some of the others.
Conrad Stimple, a former banker, who had been a really nice guy if high strung as Darius remembered him, stepped forward, his once dark hair now gray and there was a nervous twitch in his gate. “They pulled her out of our group in Kansas City, Nate, Havent seen her since, but we were not allowed out of the trailers all that much, she could still be here” Conrad said softly. Darius looked down and felt anger start to boil as he reached out and lifted Conrad’s hand and saw the scars and the lack of fingernails.
“one of those inmates did that to me, when I tried to keep him from raping a ten year old girl” Conrad said yanking his hand back and shoving it into a coat pocket to hide it. “a couple of those guardsmen stopped him from doing the same to my other hand”
Darius turned a cold eye on Proctor.
“we did what we could, But the inmates that serve Kronnen could get away with a lot, and usually waited till the Guard were not around, so they could do what they wanted with out interference” Proctor said.
Nate stood there in front of Stimple, his shoulders shaking then he turned and ran back outside, grabbing Proctor by the collar, he had no idea what he intended to do, and what ever it might have been he would never find out, one moment he was in a cold furious rage shaking Proctor and the next he found himself on the ground Jared looming over him, a growling pit bull by his side.
“Flag of Truce Nate” Jared said as calmly as he could, as if that nonsense meant shit in the real world, Nate thought. “ Keep yourself under control” Jared told him, his hand casually hovering over the butt of that damned pistol.
It wasn’t his damn wife, Nate thought angrily, he was so close to breaking down, she had to be here, he had spent to long looking for her, Maggie had promised she was here, she had to be here.
“let me into the last Trailer” Nate grated as he got to his feet waving of Jareds offer to help. that bastard could rot for all Nate cared.
Proctor, Followed by Jared opened the last trailer and Nate had to grip the door to keep from falling to his knees when he didn’t see her face in the small group of prisoners who blinked at the light that now flooded the trailer.
“where are the rest of the prisoners, the women that aren’t here” Nate asked hotly, fists clenched at his sides.
“Scattered all over the vehicles of the convoy, some are with the Advance unit under Kronnen’s command and the rest are scattered from here to Denver.” Proctor said, lowering his eyes. “some of the prisoners we took from that town you were in, were sent out to the Main base in New Mexico, an old army base out in the desert.”
Darius glanced at Nate, who shook his head, determined to keep believing that his wife had to be here. Another prisoner they had freed earlier this year had told Nate he thought she had been sent out west and Darius was willing to believe it, except, except Kronnen had brought Kate forward along with some of the others hoping to use his sister and the others as a bargaining chip and as human shields.
“NO, she is here, she had to be here, Maggie told me she was here” Nate shouted at Proctor, then turned and ran to the closest RV, shouting her name,
Nate turned away and ran to the closet RV “ Kelly, Kelly its me Nate, where are you” he shouted desperately as he raced down the line of vehicles.
“Darius, go help him. keep him out of trouble, and away from the undead.” Jared said his emerald eyes never leaving proctor. “but we are going to have to move out in a few minutes
Darius nodded and left Jared and Ed alone with Proctor. “You bastard, I should shoot you now.” He growled. “how could you have let this happen to these people. You were guard, that was your job.”
“Maybe you should” Proctor said with no real emotion. “how did we let this happen, I have no idea, it all just happened, I’m not making excuses for what was done, I cant, I cant even say I tried to keep Kronnen grounded, I wanted too, but it just never happened. But don’t act like you haven’t had to do things you wouldn’t have done before.”
“ I have, I’ve killed people like you, a lot of people like you.” Jared said coldly, fire flickered in his emerald eyes. “the only reason I accepted your surrender, is the prisoners and the civilians with you. Other wise I would have happily killed every one of you.” He stated. Proctor said nothing, what could he say.
“we need to get this convoy moved out of here,” Jared said as the number of undead being reported over the radio grew. The gun fire putting down the undead that were appearing, had grown from scattered shots to something approaching the sound of a fire fight, and that meant even more ammo being wasted.
“Why should you trust us to follow you.” Proctor asked stiffly
“I don’t, I will have vehicles in front and behind your convoy and I wont hesitate to cut down what ever vehicle try’s to leave the convoy. I can not risk you returning to Kronnen, not with the supplies you have.” Jared said matter of factly. “I want the drivers out in those trucks pulling the trailers holding your prisoners, Ill have my own people drive those.” Jared said then pointed to Proctors radio. “ make it happen, you really don’t want to push me Proctor. Not considering who you serve.”
“Served” Proctor corrected,” there is no returning to Kronnen, no amount of supplies or begging would stop him from killing every man and woman here who didn’t lift a weapon to kill you , myself and the men who put down the loyalists. I took that choice away when I started waving that pillow case” Proctor stated.
Jared only gazed at him for a moment then pulled out a map. “this is where we are going,” He said showing Proctor the location. Ill lead, you follow, and remember what I said will happen if one of your men try’s to run. Lets make it happen, we are almost out of time” Jared said as he pointed to a zombie that wandered around from behind a Rv, spotting Jared and Proctor it stumbled forward, breaking into a slow jog, its hands coming up.
Proctor backed up a step almost tripping Eklof, and then froze as a pistol seemingly appeared in Stones hand, it fired once and the zombies head snapped back, bone and gore spraying out the back of its skull. “make the call” Jared said with a nod towards Proctors radio again.
Rock fish gap,
Under the looming peaks and ridges, of the mountains, lay interchange 19 multiple roads came together, I 64, the blue ridge parkway, the Skyline. At the junction of the skyline and blue ridge parkway were a cluster of buildings, mostly restaurants and hotels. Some had burned at some point, including an old Motor court Motel. The parking lots were empty, and it looked as if they had been empty before the Dead had risen.
The vehicles that had once blocked I 64 had been moved by Kronnen when they passed through, and apparently any of the undead that had been in the area had either been put down or had followed the vehicles east.
Chris, looked up to the low hanging cloud cover, that was no dropping snow on them instead of the sleet. He pulled his cap down lower on his head, and walked over to Lloyd and John Graham, where were talking quietly, as others carried supplies into the restaurant that was attached to a old hotel. Complete with interior door, into the dark hotel that was thankfully empty of undead.
“ you two all right” Chris asked. Lloyd looked up and nodded, then pointed at the Blue ridge parkway, where it snaked up the side of a mountain. “we were just talking about that road right there would take us almost all the way to Cherokee. And discussing sending one of our guys back to let every one know we are okay.”
“not sure how safe that would be, but that’s your call not mine” Chris said. Then looked around the area, which was still undead free.
“Anyway, we need to get the vehicles parked around the hotel, and get the fence and wood barriers installed, before we have company.” Chris said,
“good plan white man, see Lloyd, not all white men are lay abouts” John Graham said with a grin.
“don’t you have a campfire to dance naked around or something” Lloyd replied.
John chuckled, and the two friends headed back to the group.
Chris shook his head, suddenly missing Steve, and even Ori’s bad jokes. He turned and as he started back towards the hotel, he heard motors in the distance.
Becky sat on the bed of the motorhome, wearing a football jersey, while the other two women in the room searched for clothes that might fit her. she hated the fact that she would just start crying and shaking for no reason, but both women assured her it was natural considering what she had been through.
Paige, the strawberry blond, was the sweetest of the two women, Becky thought as Sienna sat down beside her and handed her panties and a pair of pants that would probably be too big, but becky didn’t care, she just wanted clothes, anything to cover her body.
“I still cant believe, he deserted Kronnen” Paige said.
“I cant believe so many of the men sided with him” Carmen said. “and your lucky girl, you wont be Kronnen’s plaything again. that’s one cold, cruel man”
Becky nodded in agreement, but it wasn’t just Kronnen that scared her, no it had been that thing, that ghost that had sat there at night, watching and smiling as she had been raped and abused, and the reek of spoiled meat and rotting blood that had arrived with it.
At least, thank god, Emily hadn’t been taken or her friend, that the two girls were left behind on their own bothered her, but she also knew that there had been plenty of supplies hidden behind the false wall, so the girls would have enough food, water and a few weapons that should last them till spring. If what Proctor had told Carmen was true, then she might be free and could go back and try to find the girls. She could live with being raped, but leaving those two girls to die alone or at the hands of the undead she couldn’t do.
Maybe she only felt the way because it would help take her mind off what had been done to her, maybe she was stronger than she used to think, but what ever the reason, if she could she had to go find her cousin and Sierra.
Carmen walked over to the window and pulled back the curtains and looked out. “ look at this” she said.
Becky dragged on the panties and the pants then joined the other two women in staring at the vehicles parked around an old hotel. She could see men in civilian clothes standing on top of RVs and semi Trailers, there was even three men on the roof of the old hotel.
People, that none of them had ever seen, and there was no shooting, she stood there crying again, not even sure why. Paige slipped an arm around her, “ honey, I know that Proctor was Kronnen’s right hand man, but he tried to keep us safe, and he tried to talk Kronnen out of taking you, he is no saint but he isn’t evil not like Kronnen, and he says these men are good men. So as hard as it will be for you, try not to lose it around them. They might not understand what you’ve been through and might want to deal with women who are damaged goods.” Paige said hating herself for saying such a thing to a girl that had been raped repeated. But this wasn’t the old world where her social work had bee respected this was a harsh world now, one where people were a lot less willing to deal with people with problems, and so far Paiges experience had been if a woman couldn’t make a man happy and pay with her body, he was just as likely to leave her on the side of the road with no food, no weapons and possible even no clothes. And she didn’t want to see that happen to Becky. She just hoped that Proctor was right and these were good men. She couldn’t imagine them being worse than Kronnen and his inmates.
it took a lot of work to get every vehicle parked, in the end they had to park about half of Kronnen’s vehicles around a Diner next door. Then used more vehicle to forma corridor connecting both camps. Finally it was done, Jared parked the ELSORV and climbed out, watching as Proctor emerged from his RV with Eklof’s help.
three women stepped out, behind him. from every vehicle people stepped out, staring around them. “Chris we have a lot of people to put up for the night, so get out here and help me get them set up, and the Guard who surrendered need to be housed away from our people to keep fights from starting.”
He wasn’t to worried about that, not at the moment. Proctors men had been decimated, they had started with two, maybe two and half companies of Guard. But between the Ambush and the uprising there were only a hundred men left, not even a complete company, and most of those were wounded.
Jill grabbed her gear out of the ELSORV and headed for the Restaurant, with out a word to Jared.
“you are in serious shit” Ori said from Behind Jared. Who only just managed not to jump in surprise. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen her that angry with you.”
“your not about to give me marital advice are you” Jared asked.
“No, I have enough problems getting dragged into yours is the last thing I want” Ori said. “which reminds me of a joke”
Jared groaned, “if this is the one about the rabbi, the blonde and a nun, I really wont want to hear is again.”
“no this is the one about the Blond, brunette and the gay guy” Ori said.
“no, no thanks I can do with out it” Jared said watching as Chris and four others began to direct the civilians from convoy to places they could sleep. “ Ed might want to hear it” Jared said.
“Eds already made it clear he doesn’t want to hear my jokes” Ori replied. Grinning for a moment.
“and I haven’t” Jared said.
“you’re my friend, if I cant torture you who can” Ori said then grew serious as the guards men were escorted by Reese and his squad to the abandoned restaurant next to the motel, where they would bed down for the night.
“any idea what your going to do with them” Ori asked. “we cant feed them, and we cant afford to keep them under guard.”
“yes I have a plan, we are taking most of their weapons and ammunition, we went through a lot the last few days, and then I’m sending them and any of the civilians that want to go with them up to the lodge on the sky line, the one we stayed out for a couple of days, its safe, easily defended out of our way.” Jared said. “the former prisoners are going to be sent to the bunker, I want them out of this and safely away.” Jared said then quietly explained the rest of his plan to Ori.
Becky stood in the line, with Carmen and Paige. Trying not to show the fear she felt at the sight of so many men, she kept her eyes down mostly which helped, but the fear didn’t really go away either.
She was so absorbed in her own fears, she didn’t notice the older couple who were walking past her to join the line, they stopped and the older woman reached out a hand and touched her on the shoulder.
“Becky, Oh thank god it is you” Aunt Elise said as becky looked up stunned, then began to cry as Elise wrapped her arms around Becky, she didn’t even flinch when Uncle Ted hugged her too. They stood there hugging and crying for a long while.
Paige wiped tears from her own eyes, wishing she could be so damn lucky and she wasn’t alone, Carmen hugged her shoulders knowing what Paige was thinking, they had both lost friends and family, every one had. but in the time they had spent with Proctor they had gained each other and that was a miracle in itself.
They both looked up as they heard a young girl shriek, they saw a pretty young girl rush across the cracked and pitted parking lot and throw herself on Becky and her family.
For the first time since the dead rose, many of the people in that line felt the first glimmers of the people they had once been, as they saw the reunion of a family that brought tears to many an eye
Brian stood at the back of the room, watching as Jared and Thor Jansen sat at a table facing Proctor, and two of his men.
He glanced at Jill who stood beside him and saw the expression on her face. “what is it?” he asked.
She frowned then nodded towards Jared. “he is holding himself back from beating the hell out of Proctor” she said softly. She was still angry with Jared but she knew he hadn’t been a butt head on purpose.
“Im honestly surprised, your husband bothered to let them surrender” Brian said.
“its who he is,” Jill said, as she turned her attention to Darius was talking quietly with Nate who still looked stressed but not out of control, it had taken Kafil and Darius to force Nate into a vehicle to leave, and Darius had almost been bitten, as the undead numbers had grown and surged forward.
“I think they have been touched” Brian said quietly, Jill turned a puzzled look on the former priest. “By… the dark” he said liking that word far better than Satan or the devil.
She only nodded, like Brian she had spent the last three hours talking with the prisoners and many of the civilians from Kronnen’s camp. She had heard stories from most of them that echoed those of the people on Sullivan. Strange dreams, dark presences, and some had even dreamed of Bowler hat. She had no idea what to make of the stories of some that claimed to have seen a ghost that haunted the camp that looked like Bowler hat. She hoped it was just imagination but who knew, things were so weird these days, anything could be possible.
By tomorrow morning, the majority of the people that had just arrived would be leaving for the lodge, the former prisoners would be heading towards the bunker, the ones that were sick or wounded from being abused would be flown to the bunker by Sarah.
The bulk of the food and gear from the convoy would go with the guard, the bulk of the weapons, and ammunition would go with Jared to ensure they did not end up in Kronnen’s hands. Fuel was something the guard was not going to need. Jared would allow their vehicles to be fueled up to get them to the lodge and hunt for fuel later. But not enough fuel that could get them to Kronnen’s advanced unit.
The only thing left that Jared and Proctor were hammering out was whether Proctor and Eklof along with his squad would accompany Jared to D.C. Proctor seemed to believe he might be able to convince Kronnen to stop this madness.
Reese and Jansen were completely against the idea, as were most of jareds men. But as Usual Jared was considering the option dispassionately, the pro’s and cons of the idea were balanced, and she knew he hoped that they could stop any more bloodshed.
She knew Jared doubted Proctors idea would work, but the man was determined to give his old friend one last chance to turn away from what he had become. She could appreciate that, Jared would do the same for his friends. But she thought it was more wishful thinking than anything else.
Jareds current attitude had been partially inspired by talking with some of the civilians, and the so called comfort women, from all accounts, Proctor and most of the guard.while not shining examples of good men, were not the animals that Kronnen had surrounded himself with.
She turned to look at Brian, thinking he really was an attractive man and should hint around to Mary to set him up with a single woman in the group. Since when did you start playing that game, Jill asked herself amused at the direction of her own thoughts, for all you know he could be gay..
“I know your not a priest anymore Brian, but I really need some one to talk to about something.” She said softly.
Brian nodded “ I don’t mind, I can still listen and even offer advice if you want me too and Iwill treat the conversation as under the seal of confession.” He said.
“thank you, I appreciate that” she replied, she had hoped he would say that, she couldn’t talk to Mary or any one else, because sooner or later the news she was pregnant would get back to Jared and god knew how he would react.
Julie smiled at the man who stood beside her, as she listened to Jared stone work out the details of the surrender. the man was cute, she decided as she took in the broad shoulders, and thick thighs, just the kind of guy she liked to have sex, granted she ended up killing them later, but that was life.
He smiled back, a flicker of interest in his eyes, she arched her back just enough to emphasis her chest. his eyes locked on her high firm breasts and she knew she had him. with him she could stay in jareds camp with out arousing suspicion. She would just be another civilian from Kronnen’s group that opted to stay with Jared Stone, and if no one in the Kronnen’s group remembered her, well most of the group barely knew each other they had been kept separated a lot.
When Mikhail woke up in the Medical RV, he was going to be surprised, but there was no way Stone would recognize him either, the only time Stone had seen the new Mikhail had been in the dark, as they shot at each other.
Jasper had promised her slipping into their camp during the confusion as the two convoys were merged, would be easy and as usual he had been right. And now on the inside, they could bide their time and strike when the time was right. She smiled again and leaned against the man whose callused hand slipped down and brazenly cupped her left buttock. Oh yes you are mine, she thought savoring the image of sex with the man then castrating him. later, enjoy it while its attached she chided her self. She turned her gaze back to Stone, imagining all the ways she could kill him.
But Jasper had a plan for dealing with Stone so her own plans could wait. Like the slut she pretended to be she snuggled up against the man beside her letting him know she was his if he wanted. And he wanted her, it was obvious to any one that looked at the mans pants. Her gaze drifted from the man beside her to Jill stone who stood at the back of the room talking with another man dressed in a long black coat, a sword sheathed at his side . A man that bothered Julie, why she couldn’t really say, but there was something about him. like summer light and the smell of some kind of flower. She instinctively knew she would have to move carefully around him to achieve her goals. But Achieve them she would.
Jan 10th. 0700 hrs.
A woman with no name, sat on a bed, staring at the man who lay sleeping beside her. her hands cradled her swollen and distended belly, where a new life grew. ignoring the pain from her swollen breasts. The life that grew with in her was changing her in a way she had thought impossible just six months ago. Dimly remembered flashes of her old life she had almost forgotten flashed through her mind, people spoke to her, treated her as an equal, but the words were muted, and she couldn’t hear the name they called her.
Kronnen opened his eyes and saw her sitting there and smiled “Make me happy woman” he said placing his hands behind his head happy that he had decided to keep her around instead of sending her back to the main camp.
She leaned forward; ignoring the pain in her full breasts and did as he demanded, as she had always done. But a voice in the back of her mind, protested, she had once had a man who loved her, a ,man who was not the monster that lay here on the bed. And for the first time she could truly remember, she was angry at how she was treated.
Kronnen had no clue what she was thinking, even if he believed she could think any longer. She was his toy, his breeder, that was her only worth and he planned on getting as much use out of her before he had to put her down, and then she would perform one final act for him, she would feed him, a smile of real pleasure spread across his face.