“THE drummer with his drum
Shouting “Come! heroes, come!
Forward march, nigher, higher!
When the veterans turned pale,
And the bullets fell like hail,
In that hurricane of fire
Beat his drum,
Come! come! come!”
And the fife,
In the strife,
Joined the drum, drum, drum—.”
~Civil war “ the hero of the Drum”, George W. Bungay
The sun rose slowly, in all its red gold glory, glinting off the water of the lake making it looked like burnished gold. A thin mist hung over the lake, and the cry of ducks echoed off the trees that covered the banks.
Jared worked his way thru the kata’s of four different styles, totally relaxed and sweat soaked. He was alone this morning; Jill was with Sharon and the new baby. Well almost alone, he thought as he glanced over at Stephanie who was practicing the few forms he had shown her.
He watched her for a few minutes then moved to her side, “ keep your elbow tucked in, and move your foot” he said, using his foot to move her right foot to the proper place. “ you want to keep your center of balance right there” Jared told her. She nodded and went back to practicing, even more determined to get it right. Jared watched, occasionally pointing out mistakes and then showed her how to correct her mistakes.
Mai Linn, dressed in camouflaged cargo pants and a t shirt that was almost too tight. joined them with a half smile. She looked freshly scrubbed and her jet black hair braided into a short pony tail looked damp. She tossed a towel over the back of a camp chair, and scanned the portable walls and checked the locations of the guards before placing her rifle and pistol on the chair.
“ Morning” Jared said, as Mai began to limber up with a series of stretches. if she got much more limber she would be boneless he decided. Ignoring his mind as it tried to form a few very interesting pictures for his viewing pleasure. note to self get Jill to practice with her he thought with amusement.
“ good morning, I hope I have time to work out” she said, flashing him a dazzling white smile.
“ you should have” he replied, “ I figure every one needs the extra time this morning”
“yes the last day or so has been exciting” she replied, just a slight trace of an accent in her voice.
“ what styles do you know” He asked suddenly, curious. he moved closer to mai to talk more quietly but his eyes never left Stephanie.
“ Shotokan, and Krav maga” she replied with a slight grin. Krav wasn’t a style most would associate with a woman or at least not in America. Mai was at least starting to come out of her shell he thought. but damn krav was an awesome art. He had taken the style for a year, and incorporated what he had learned into his own. But he was no expert in Krav not by a long shot.
“Krav is a great style for a woman to know “ he said after a moment. Hard, brutal and fast, the perfect self defense style for any one, but especially for a woman.
“ and you?” she asked arching a delicate eyebrow. As she bent at the waist and placed her hands flat on the ground.
“ Akidio, jujitsu, Hapkido, Filipeno stick, Kick boxing, Kenjitsu and Krav” He replied, with a shrug, “ started as a kid, kept it up thru military where it was encouraged” He replied with a laugh. “ even had a girlfriend that tried to get me to fight in the MMA.”
“ why didn’t you.” she asked curious.
“ I don’t see any reason to beat the hell out someone just to prove how tough I am “ He replied with sincerity. “ and like an unarmed instructor I had once said. The first rule to unarmed fighting it is to find a weapon.”
Her laughter was just as delicate as her features, he decided. “so why do you still do unarmed fighting” she asked.
“ because sometimes you have no choice, and its another weapon in the arsenal. And it helps me stay calm and centered, and in shape.”
She eyed his shirtless torso for a moment and nodded in appreciation. But held her tongue, she wasn’t going to flirt with him. she had far to much self respect and respect for Jill to do such a thing.
He had a strong angular jaw, with the beginnings of a mustache and beard, that was just as red as the hair on his head. but it was the Bright emerald green eyes that really caught her attention. That and his smile, she thought, down girl she told herself sternly.
He nodded to her leaving her to work out as he returned to Stephanie who was having problems with a difficult move.
It was maybe 0700 when Ori appeared, he had slipped out of camp to hunt, which ticked Jared off, if Ori had ran into trouble out there alone, no one would have been able to help him. But the Feral Pig Ori had over his shoulders slightly cooled Jareds anger.
Ori hung the carcass to drain while Jared finished up with Stephanie whom he had to admit was coming along nicely. “your doing pretty good Steph, get with me tomorrow morning and we can do this again” Jared told her. She thanked him and then headed off to clean up.
“We need to talk little man” Jared said as he joined Ori at the Tree, with out shame he stripped down to his boxers. “lets get this thing butchered, and Ill bitch you out while we work.”
“sure ruin a great moment, and I have to see you in your boxers. Do you have any idea how disturbing that is for me” Ori complained.
“oh spare me, you were the one that got drunk and got pulled on stage in boys town mexico with that woman who did that little trick with the ping pong balls and cigarettes” jared said, laughing as Ori shuddered at the memory.
“At least I know that those pictures are now lost to history” Ori commented as Jared pulled out his hunting knife.
“okay lets get started,” Jared said, making the first cut. “and if your happy ass ever leaves camp again with out taking some one with you and leaving a message for me, Ill nail a body part of yours to a tree and beat you like a piñata.”
The first few cuts they made were taken by Mary to be served for breakfast, just to raise Morale. God knew when they might have another day or two with no zombies hanging around, so they were determined to make the best of it.
With Deft strokes of a knife, Beth cut slices of bacon and then ham and started cooking, while mattie whipped up homemade biscuits and powdered eggs. Which when doused with black pepper, and Salsa weren’t all that bad Jared thought, but he couldn’t wait till they could stop and get settled so the chickens Lloyd had given them could calm down and start laying.
As the smell of fresh biscuits and cooking ham and sizzling bacon filled the camp, people began to emerge from their Rvs licking their lips. And descending on the kitchen set up under the awning of Steves RV.
Others joined Ori and Jared, wrapping the fresh cuts in wax paper then saran wrap for the RV Freezers, while Jared and Ori finished butchering the pig. As soon as they finished, they left the small group to finish wrapping while he and Ori dove into the lake to clean up.
By the time they were dry and dressed the whole camp had gathered for breakfast, the conversations were quiet and almost subdued but there was an undercurrent of excitement that was usually absent.
Jill watched, as Jared ate his bacon and had to hide a smile at the expressions that crossed his face, with each bite of crunchy bacon, then fresh biscuits and jam. By the time he was finished the plate looked like it had been licked clean and he had a satisfied look on his face that she was more familiar with in settings that usually involved a bed.
“ I never want to be a zombie, imagine missing out on bacon and biscuits.” Jared said rubbing his belly. “ We need a cow, so we can get milk for milk gravy, and then Mattie is going to cook up some biscuits.” He looked at Kevin who sat with his arm around mattie looking contented. “ if she keeps that up Kevin Im going to steal her from you”
“ Keep dreaming “ Jill said laying a large knife on the table.
“for a cook Jill for a cook, damn woman” Jared protested lifting his hands in the air as if to defend himself. “ cant even appreciate good food with out being threatened, you have been hanging around mary too long’
Finally breakfast was over, plates were fixed for the men out on patrol, and the rest was cleaned up and packed away.
Jared walked down to the river, looking at the Duck waiting for Ronny. “ Im ready to take off.” Ronny said as he joined Jared. “ good, I have something I want you to do. And I need you to take Ryan with you.” he said then spent five minutes explaining.
He smiled to himself as he watched the Plane move out into deeper water then pick up speed before finally lifting off, water flowing off the floats in a spray that glittered like diamonds as it fell back towards the lake. It banked towards the east and vanished from sight.
He headed back into camp, he had a few things to take care of and then most of the convoy was going to be heading out. One eye was going to have to make a decision at that point and Jared was pretty sure he would hang around and try to find out what Jared was up to.
*** *** ***
Mikhail watched, somewhat confused as the convoy pulled out of the camp, leaving a small group of men and vehicles behind. The vehicles that remained were one of those damn modified military trucks sporting a .50 caliber machine gun and a cattle catcher up front, that odd looking six wheeled truck driven by the muscle bound friend of Jared’s, the heavy duty off road van and a boxy old looking brown off road vehicle and a semi truck.
Mikhail had a dilemma, he couldn’t follow the rest of the convoy with out having to go far out of his way to keep out of sight of the people that remained. No he would do as he usually did and wait till they had started up and left then start his own vehicle and follow behind them.
It was apparent that Jared was up to something , it was the only reason for the red head to change how the group operated that made sense. He wants me to make a mistake, the main group or this one.
As Mikhail watched, two men set to work on the old brown vehicle, they removed the hard top and set to work with a welder and cutter. Half an hour later he was slightly impressed as he realized they were installing a home made pintle mount on the old vehicle. He watched as they thickend the rim of the new hatch on the hard top, then they lifted it up, bolted it on then attached M249 SAW to the mount.
This was not the reason they stayed behind Mikhail thought. Not this, no Jared was up to something and Mikhail was certain that Jared suspected he was being followed and that Mikhail had to be close by and this was only to keep Mikhail from tailing the rest of the convoy. It could be as simple as Jared was hoping to get the rest of the convoy closer to their final goal, but that made no real sense, they didn’t know that Mikhail already knew where they were going, but even if he didn’t he only had to follow Jared, who would eventually rejoin the rest of the convoy.
For a moment he considered shooting as many of the men around the old vehicle as he could, but he dismissed the idea as entertaining as it might have been. He had no Idea where the short blond Bastard who wore glasses was, and Mikhail was not going to risk counter sniper fire from the blonde whom Mikhail knew was a good shot.
Mikhail had been toying with this group and underestimated their skills once to often, but no longer. When he hit them next he wasn’t going to dance around using the undead, he would hit them brutally kill and main as many as possible then fade away to do it again later.
He frowned slightly remembering the cheers and excitement in the camp yesterday, all the work he had done to create fear and tension undone by the birth of one baby, on single baby. “I think Ill shoot the little govniuk when I get the chance” he muttered, it wouldn’t be his first child, but it would be the first newborn and he felt a thrill of excitement at the thought. Mikhail looked down at his watch then quickly climbed down from the tree.
He had the habit of not staying at any one spot to long. It was possible that the blonde was out hunting him, and if he was, Mikhail wasn’t going to make it easy for the little bastard to find him.
He started back for his truck, slipping silently through the woods with ease. might as well see what they do if they hear a motor. He thought with a smile..
Jared looked up as the sound of a vehicle starting reached them. it was hard to tell where it might be. But he was pretty damn sure he knew who it was. he smiled as he looked at Steve.
“ I think he bought it” Jared commented. “ Now lets see if he hangs around watching or goes around the long way.”
He watched as Rob finished the modifications on the Scout they had found in the Campground. It was an old 74, with a Dana 40, two inch lift, and run flat off road tires. It was solid metal, one of the rolling tanks America had once made till they went with lighter usually crappier materials.
Ashton looked excited at being able to get his hands on the old scout for team four, at least until they could get a stryker or Humvee. But judging by Ashton’s reaction he might just hang on to the scout no matter what they stumbled across. . The gas mileage how ever was a problem but for what they need it for and how far they were going it shouldn’t end up being a problem. Even though Rob insisted he could improve the gas mileage by altering the Carb.
He glanced at his watch, and then had Jones and Crippen set up the Com tower. As Spacey was getting the genie fired up Jared climbed into the trailed and sat down on a box in front of the Base unit. “ wiley coyote to daffy” he said as soon the generator was running power to the base. This was the last time he let Ronny pick the Call signs. At least it wasn’t BDSM related he decided. He could already hear those. Cock ring to pony boy, whats your bondage. No Ronny didn’t get to pick them again.
They had decided to start using ComSec, since they suspected Mikhail might have a radio and might have been listening in on their conversations. Which is something else Jared should have thought about much earlier. But with all that was going on in the world, he had been a bit more worried about the undead and weird dreams than Comsec, and the fact that zombies didn’t tend to use toilet paper much less radios, it hadn’t been something to worry about. lesson learned don’t repeat the mistake he told himself.
He repeated the call and waited after two more minutes the radio crackled to life. “ this is daffy to Wiley. Met up with Yosemite Sam who agreed, will be at the picnic table in twenty”
Jared saw Ashton climb into the trailer and roll his eyes “ Roger that Daffy, Marvin is on and should be at the Picnic table by now.” “ Roger Wiley, Duck dogers of the 24th and a half century out.”
“ that has to be the weirdest message I have ever heard, except for the time my first sergeant in Korea arraigned to have ten hookers dropped at our fire base for some R and R.” Ashton said grinning.
“ I think I heard about that one, operation Nookie night wasn’t it” Jared asked as he turned off the radio.
Ashton laughed, “ how did you hear about that.” he asked. “ I was Deployed there during my tour in the Reserves, it was a big story in the Barracks.”
“ man that was the funniest thing ever. Truth is they weren’t hookers, they were just really happy USO female Performers a couple of them got a bit drunk did a pole dance in the NCO club tent, sans clothes and ended up doing a few things they didn’t seem to regret to much in the morning. Lets just say moral for some guys rose a lot that night.
The Top had to sneak them in because the brass didn’t think we were in need of Some R and R, Top disagreed.” Ashton said smiling at the memory and friends long lost.
“ So why call them hookers” Jared asked.
“ we didn’t, not till later. every one else, not there, called them hookers. I mean who would sneak in USO performers. So to preserve the honor of the USO females who brought such happiness to the camp, and the fact we just thought it was a funnier story if every one thought it had been hookers. We just went along with it” Ashton replied with a grin, that made his eyes gleam.
Jared laughed softly as he packed away the base unit.
“ hows Angela doing by the way” Ashton asked.
“ recovering, according to Linda. She gave me some long medical name for the illness Angela had, and she had the meds to treat it. which is something else we are need to restock soon, before our supply gets low.” Jared said. “ Linda said Angela should be back up and about in two or three days, and able to pull guard duty in other in a week. Unless we really need her before then.”
Ashton nodded, thankful the girl would pull thru. “ at least Jenkins is back on his feet, he is a good trooper all the way around. Just had some bad luck with that accident.” He said.
“ had a guy in my unit back in the sandbox, best shot, best sneek, and the worst luck off the battle field you ever saw. Hooked up to Rappel during an exercise, tripped and went right out and down to the ground. another exercise, he was sneaking cross country, came under fire, took off running and ran right off the edge of gulley, fell twenty feet and broke a leg” Jared said laughing. “ had a building wall fall on him on Leave, survived that with only a concussion. But get his ass in the real and dirty, and he was aces not a single mistake. And you really didn’t want to invite him to a BBq, damn near set the Tops house on fire when he tripped and knocked over the Pit.”
Ashton laughed heavily as Jared looked at his watch, “ ten more minutes and we can leave. Whether he is still close by and watching or going around, he wont make it in time to see what we were up to” Jared said. Wondering if Ori had finally stopped being mad at him. Ori hadn’t been happy with the plan, when Jared filled him in, but had gone along with it because he understood exactly what Jared hoped to accomplish.
Crippen walked by at that moment humming an old song and Jared almost lost it, Asthon looked at him curiously. “ what?”
“ I just suddenly realized who he reminded me of” Jared explained.
“ and?” Asthon asked.
“ Adam Sandler, only with a build.” Jared replied laughing again.
Ashton chuckled along with him for a minute then rose slinging his Rifle, “ Ill get my people together” he said and strode from the Trailer.
Jared Climbed out and closed the trailer up then headed for his van. Minutes later the sound of large motors filled the air, and they pulled out, passing twenty zombies wandering down the road towards the camp.
Jill sat in the RV, not sure whether she should be pissed at Jared or not, for leaving her with the main group. Oh he was right at needing proven combat types to stay with the Convoy, but just lately he had been showing a little protective streak that didn’t make her happy. Not that she could blame him, not after Mikhails trying to kidnap her. But still, she thought.
They pulled out onto US 52 and waited for Jared’s group to catch up. Jill looked out the windshield not saying much to Tatiana as she took in the line of vehicles that filled the south bound lane. Just seeing thousands of vehicles sitting there, some with their doors still open, sunlight reflecting off the faded paint of old trucks, cars and even semi’s drove home the death and devastation once more.
She could see a small number of undead wandering between the vehicles. Drawn by the sound of idling vehicles. Chad had his team outside, half of them on RV roof tops, safely up and out of reach of the undead. those with silenced
The longer they were parked there with the vehicles idling, the more the undead grew in number coming from the woods on either side of the road, some came from ahead of them wandering through the long abandoned vehicles, and more had appeared behind the convoy. Chad’s team held their fire for the most part since it would only draw even more undead to the scene and there wasn’t any possible way for the undead to get inside the vehicles with out being let in.
At least the first part of the plan had gone well, she reflected, now if they could just keep Mikhail seeing exactly what Jared wanted him to see for a few days, this might just work out. I hope so at any rate.
Jill looked once more into the side view mirror looking down the path they had created by pushing vehicles out of the way on their way here, and smiled as she saw the other deuce in the distance. Growing in size as it drew closer. “ got the others spotted” Neal said from the Roof the RV as he spotted Jareds approach. .
“ how did it go?” Jared asked over the radio a moment later. She smiled hearing his voice.
“ Great, better than we had hoped actually.” Jill replied as Tatiana started the RV.
‘ Lets get a move on, we have miles to go and not a lot of time. to get there.” Jared said. “ See you soon babe”
it took two hours to get six miles, once they got off the interstate, they found even the state roads were jammed for the first couple of miles where people had tried to flee off the interstate only to abandon their vehicles as the traffic jam had spread and finally trapped them in place.
Where, Jill wondered, had they thought they were going to go to. She tried not to look at a family of zombies, she was pretty sure the six people, two adults and four children had been a family they looked enough alike. She tried not to think about how they had died, they were dressed for summer so it had to have been last year at the beginning.
They were already officially in the Francis Marion National forest, and Jared like usual had topo maps that showed obscure roads, campsites, and other landmarks. Following his directions they were soon off the main state road and zipping along at a steady 40 miles an hour, on a gravel road with the convoy strung out over a mile. They blew thru one town, Huger, after skirting Cordesville, slowing only because of wreckage in the road. They plowed thru a group of zombies that were clustered around the wreck. Sending bodies tumbling left and right.
The undead stumbled from a small grocery store, a barber shop, a church run thrift shop, and a bunch of other buildings as they passed, leaves and trash swirling up in behind the column of vehicles. They turned onto 41 heading south, the long stalled out traffic not as bad here as other places, and easy to weave around.
In her nightmares, every zombie from every town and area they had passed thru were slowly following them and one day they would wake up to a couple of million undead surrounding them.
Around two in the afternoon they pulled into a parking lot of a burned out strip center that had once been a outlet center off of 41. while some stretched and worked out the kinks outside under the watchful eyes of guards. Team four with Logan and Jason swept the area and then swept the wreckage of the stores, recovering jeans, tshirts, boots, plates, and a slew of coleman gear that they had others load onto the semi’s. all of it smelled like smoke, and had soot stains and ash on it. but clothing was clothing and they could wash it in the washing machines in another day if they stuck to their schedule of power usage at any rate.
Jared studied the map, trying to see if there was a better campsite than the original one he had chosen, not sure if the first one was large enough for all their vehicles. He was actually missing the duck at the moment. But he wanted it exactly where it was at, for later.
He felt the tension deep inside him growing in strength. they weren’t more than fifty miles from Sullivan island, but it would be about five days before they could reach it, between the back roads and coordinating with Ronny. He wanted to make sure they reached their destination as close to the same time as possible.
He really hoped Mikhail tried something tonight or tomorrow. He planned on handing the man his ass on a platter. But if not Jared could live with out the satisfaction..
He smiled to himself as he thought of the finger they had found by the fence where Mikhail had climbed over. The SOB had lost One eye and now a finger, Life was not being kind to the little Russian bastard. And Jared wanted to personally hand the Russian prick his balls too. He shook the thought of savage satisfaction away.
Pappy was right, he couldn’t just indulge in Violence because he could. No it was either going to be clean and fast in combat, or not at all. But the ghost of Little Billy still haunted him, he couldn’t shake the image of that pale little body laying still and silent in the snow, tortured to death and left to come back as an undead. what kind of sick fuck would do that.
Jared suspected the man had been Russian mob, Tatiana believed that Mikhail might even have been KGB before the Soviet union fell, which would make him late forties. Just a few years older than Jared at any rate. There were times he fondly remembered the cold war, he had been twenty at the tail end, just before the wall came down. And the Soviet empire had fallen.
He had been on leave in Berlin when they officially opened the wall. He still remembered the crowds, the wild exuberant energy that radiated off the people there. he felt a chill go up his spine even now remembering the men who had climbed atop the wall and the East German guards who had watched them, ready to shoot them off, and then one Berliner had slipped and almost fallen and an East German guard had caught the berliners arm and pulled him to safety, a wild cheer had gone up as the same Guard began to help west Germans climb up on top of the wall, while others attacked sections of the hated graffiti covered wall with sledge hammers, hammers and anything else they could get their hands on. Concrete had cracked and splintered falling in chunks, while thousands cheered and sang.
It was one of the proudest moments of his life, knowing he had been part of what had helped bring the wall down and had actually been there the day that hated symbol came down, just like his own father had been there when the wall had gone up. two generations who had held the line against the soviets. Two Generations who had seen the soviet threat crumble and die like the wall, a symbol of death and oppression for thirty years. He still wished his dad had lived long enough to see the end.
But now everything had died, civilization had, had its heart eaten out. Leaving moments like the end of the Soviet Empire as pointless as the actions of the good men and women who had opposed them.
He wondered if any one recognized a golden age while they lived in it or was it only after it had fallen into darkness and ruin did people, those that still lived, realize just how good it had been and how much honor and good had been accomplished.
And this is about as pointless a line of thought as you can have, history doesn’t really matter any more, except to pass down to those who come after. So they know what had been accomplished the good and the bad, the glorious and the ignoble, the wrongs and the fight to overcome those ills and become better than they had been. Guess that was the whole point to life and history, to learn and grow better.
He shook the memories and the philosophizing away and concentrated on the map and what future he wanted to create. To hell with the Devil, and the undead. He could at least get these people some place halfway safe, and maybe they could all come up with a better way to live than what had gone before them.
Mikhail leaned back in the seat. Watching the trees go by, and just as tired of crossing the swamps that seemed to be everywhere. The last bridge had felt like it was going to come crashing down. If he were Jared he would rather have taken a chance on the interstate even if miles long sections were like parking lots. But no the mudak had to get back on the narrow back roads that ran through the swamps of this Forsaken Corner of America. And now they were no longer on Pavement but gravel. It was like Siberia only not as cold but even less interesting.
Tailing them on backcountry roads was a pain in the ass, he had to stay just on the edge of the dust they raised, so if that damn plane did come back around, which it did occasionally it wouldn’t notice a totally separate trail of dust. Though come to think of it he hadn’t seen or heard it since this morning, which was unusual. And there was little conversation on their radios today. They must have assumed he was listening in, it had taken them long enough.
He was pretty sure they were not more than fifty miles from their destination. According to the late and unlamented Allen, they were going to set up at Ft. Moultrie on Sullivan’s island before seizing that Island fortress, Ft. Sumter if he remembered Correctly.
He mulled that over along with the dream he’d had last night. Debating on what to do, he had no doubt that Jared would try to set a trap for him over the next couple of nights. Mikhail wasn’t stupid, that’s what he would do as well. So what to do, he asked himself. he reached an intersection of three gravel roads and one paved. Dust was still settling on the one that ran northeast. That didn’t make sense they were headed to the island, which was southeast of here.
They should be heading back to 41 towards Wando or down to Whitehall terrace. Neither of which was northeast. He wished he had a better map, none of the roads they were on, were listed on the maps he did have. But the paved one had to run to a town, or a highway. There had been no radio message like usual, telling the lead vehicles to turn. Which could mean they had stopped and Jared had told them which direction he wanted to go. he was getting cagey Mikhail thought. and he had to know that Mikhail was close enough to follow the dust so why even bother with any effort to lose him on gravel roads.
“ any time you feel like making a suggestion Id love to hear it” Mikhail said aloud. “ My dreams last night weren’t real encouraging, so a bit of help would be great here, a suggestion, something”
he heard something move in the camper, and felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise. There were times he was certain that what ever this thing was it was physical, times like now.
“ Paved” a soft sibilant voice said in his mind. Even with only one word there was malice in that voice, something that the reptile part of his brain reacted to, urging him to flee. He stifled the impulse, no point it would just find him anyway. He put the truck into gear and began to drive.
An hour later he saw an old truck parked across the road. but no men in sight. He slowed then stopped thirty yards away, expertly scanning the woods on either side. it all appeared to be new growth. But there were plenty of places to hide in there even still.
He studied the truck for a moment, no leaves on it, the paint wasn’t faded like it had sat there since last summer. No accumulate dirt or grime. Putting his truck into Reverse he backed up quickly, and saw two men leap up from behind logs in the woods, three more stepped out from behind the truck in the road. he hit the brakes, and slammed the truck into Park. Then climbed into the camper, he eyed his draganov but dismissed it, only a couple rounds left. the AK 74, that was the weapon he wanted good old Russian equipment, he buckled on the web belt with the ammo pouches for the AK then slung the weapon before he grabbed the M79 grenade launcher and the bandolier of 40mm rounds. he grabbed two smoke grenades , and tossed one the moment he opened the back door.
The smoke billowed out, and in moments engulfed the truck. there were shouts down the road. and then random gun shots. Mikhail ignored all that, as he stepped out into the smoke and tossed the other grenade to the left. soon there was a wall of smoke across the road and drifting into the woods.
Dylan swore loudly as he saw the smoke. He crouched down by the bumper of the truck watching carefully. He knew that who ever that guy was he had used the smoke to slip into the woods. But he couldn’t see a thing thanks to the smoke Jeff put another round into the windshield of the intruders truck.
“ Hold your damn fire you idiot” Jeff snapped. “ might be stuff in there we don’t want to be shooting at.”
“ Fuck you Jeff, who died and made you the king of Turd mountain” Dylan snapped then opened his mouth to say something else but what ever it had been was lost forever as a single bullet took him in the forehead just above his right eye. A geyser of blood, bone and Brain erupted from the back of his skull landing on the back of Jeffs truck.
“ Son of bitch, son of bitch “ Bubba was saying over and over again as he dove under the truck and wiggled under it as fast as he could.
Jeff ducked back behind the truck and cursed again as a second shot rang out and bubba stopped crawling to lay still in a spreading pool of blood.
He peered up over the hood of the truck and saw the smoke was slowly dissipating. Suddenly something round and hard was pushing against the back of his head. he felt his bladder loosen and warmth spread down his leg. “ I really should just kill you here. but I might just need your help. How would you like women to fuck, food to eat and lots of weapons and ammo” a voice with an accent said.
“ You really expect us to eat that.” Mai Linn asked as she eyed the snakes that Chris had caught and cleaned. “
“ Trust me they will taste awesome.” Chris assured her. She stared at his stubbly head and then frowned.
Jared laughed lightly, “ It will, it tastes like chicken” he said as Steve started to laugh too.
By the time the sun had set, they had a nice fire going in the center of the clustered Rv’s. “ we have a boat in the swamp” steve said over the radio. Jared rose and picked up his commando. “ Looks like live people, since they are paddling” Steve called out.
Jared walked out of camp stopping as soon as he was in the dark and let his eyes adjust. Then headed down to the edge of the swamp. He didn’t want to use the NVG’s just yet, a couple of the batteries were getting to where they didn’t hold as much of a charge as before.
He could hear the quiet splash of a paddle in the water. Drawing closer, no doubt drawn by the glow of the camp fires behind the RV’s. Finally, Jared slipped on his NVG and turned them on the Canoe which was almost to the shore. A Man paddled in the bow, while what looked like two teens sat middle and forward, there was no sign of gear.
“ Need some help” Jared asked, the man paddling damn near flew out of the canoe but quickly calmed himself.
“ Yeah we need some help man, you’re the first people we’ve seen in months” the man said.
“ Beach the canoe and get out kind of easy. We’ve had a rough time of it since last June” Jared replied watching
A moment later the canoe scrapped against the shore and the man leaped out and dragged it further up the bank.
“ Im going to turn on a light don’t panic” Jared said as he turned off the Goggles and let them dangle around his neck, before turning on the Mag light which he kept pointing at the ground.
“ Welcome to our Camp “Jared said, indicating the glow behind him. “ I’m Jared and Ill be your tour guide today.”
“ You always this much of a smart ass?” The man asked, who had to be at least six foot and black as the night. He had a narrow face with a scar on his right cheek, high cheekbones and a shaved head, and looked haggard as hell.
“ Pretty much, when I’m not being chased by zombies or shot at by random assholes” Jared replied. “ And your name is?”
“ Most folks just call me Tucker” he said his voice deep, like a subterranean rumble.
“ Get the kids and come in into camp” Jared said as he looked around for any undead that might have walked up. He wasn’t real worried about it, silent they might be, but even they would make a racket splashing thru the swamp behind the camp.
“ How did you know I had kids” tucker started to ask fell silent as Jared lifted the flashlight to show the NVG unit around his neck.
“And go ahead and bring your guns, I’ll take a chance on you three desperados” Jared said jokingly trying to set the man at ease.
Once Tucker had gathered what little he possessed out of the canoe, Jared led him into the camp, where tucker and the two teens gawked at all the vehicles, and their mouths watered as they smelled the food cooking over the fires.
Tucker had a Sig 9mm on his hip and a Winchester lever action slung over his back. his and the kids clothes were ragged and looked close to falling apart. All three of them were barefoot. No surprise boots and shoes tended to fall apart in swamps.
Mai Linn brought all three of them glasses of Tea as Tucker and his kids sat looking around at all the people who dared to sit outside. The look of pure pleasure on Tucker and his sons’ faces as they tasted the sweet drink was beyond description.
“ Dinner will be ready soon, but I think we can scrounge up something to eat now.” Jared said nodding at Jill who climbed into their RV and rummaged around returning two minutes later with snack food, Crackers and three Cans of Chili. She opened the cans with an old p38 and placed them in the fire then passed Tucker the bags of chips and a pack of cookies.
He handed them to his kids, and to her surprise tears formed in his eyes. “ thank you, thank you so much.” He said looking away, in embarrassment wiping at his eyes.
By the time, the chili was warm enough to eat and placed in bowels. The boy and girl had finished with everything else and settled in to eat the chili.
Jared sat watching while the rest of the his people went about what ever it was they had to do making a point to pass by at some point to get a look at the Strangers. Tucker and his kids ate quickly, not wasting a drop. the girl had a distant look about her, and ate mechanically, only occasionally showing any interest in what was going on around her. They must have had a hellacious time of it. Jared thought as he took in the really ragged state of their clothes. Another month or two and they would be living naked in the wilds of the swamp.
“ Jill, Mai Linn, could you get these kids into Steve’s RV and get them a change of clothes and a Bed to sleep in.” Jared asked.
“Sure, you kids look worn out. Lets get you cleaned up and in a real bed.” Jill said with. “You will feel like whole new people come breakfast time”
Tucker held up a hand as Jill reached out to touch the Girl. “ let me talk to her first, she reacts violently if some one touches her.” Tucker warned and knelt in front of the girl who seemed to focus completely for the first time that Jared had seen. “ Missy, these two ladies are going to take you inside and get you clothes and a place to sleep for tonight okay. I will be there shortly I promise” Tucker said gently cupping the girls chin and staring into her eyes. She nodded slightly and he stepped back.
Jill touched the girl who flinched but did nothing else but rise to her feet, Aden her brother took her hand. “Come on Missy, its going to be all right” He said looking at Jared, silently pleading for that to be the truth.
Jared watched as the kids followed the women into the RV before turning to Tucker who looked like he was about to pass out. “thank you man, I don’t even have the words to tell you how much this means to my kids and myself.” Tucker said. “ I was scared you folks might be the type to not want to share and shoot first, or the last surviving racists in the world. But they needed food and help so badly I was willing to risk it, I’m just glad that my luck finally changed today.”
“ Don’t worry about it, and I’ll have Linda our resident Doctor take a look at the three of you once you’ve gotten some sleep.” Jared said watching the play of emotions that flowed across Tuckers face. Tucker wiped away the tears of joy and relief that ran down his cheeks.
“ How long have you been in the swamp” Jared asked forcing himself not to get all emotional himself.
Tucker grimaced “ To damn long honestly, since last fall. Found an old historical plantation house to hole up in. How’s that for irony.” Tucker said.
“ better than a meat packing company, Id say” Jared replied, with the ghost of a grin.
“ We, we were in Myrtle Beach when it started, went there for a damn vacation. Me, and the family and another family we were friends with. Drove up there from the NAS to spend a week of sun and fun. Saw Jennifer Love Hewitt on the beach the first day, thought this is going to be fun, 24 hours later, George his wife and kids are dead and eating on my wife on the beach. Missy never got over seeing her momma like that” Tucker said sadly. But there was an anger below the surface.
“ it took us three days to get out of there, hid out in sheds, and dumpsters, finally stole a cab, then a bus, and then some old VW van, the hippies that owned it were dead and walking around it. Zombies wearing tie dye and Peace symbols, damn cosmic joke is what it was.” Tucker said with another grimace. “ When that ran out of Gas, we walked till we saw a bunch of canoes and took to the swamps, then found that old House four days later. winter was hell but we managed to survive, but foods been getting more scarce and I seem to run into those things a lot more often now. Like they are spreading out and hunting people down now.”
“ Snakes ready.” Chris called out as he finished frying up the last of the snake and the fish that they had taken out of the freezers.
“Snake?” Tucker asked.
“ Snake, dipped in a spicy hot batter and cooked to perfection.” Jared replied. “ along with some rice, gravy and lake Bass.”
“ Damn you people are set” Tucker replied looking around at all the RV’s and thought about the Big rigs he had seen outside the camp.
“ We are, but its been a long trip, a very long trip” Jared said as he took a aluminum plate and fixed himself dinner.
“You don’t sound like your from South Carolina, so where are you from” Tucker asked.
“ From up Nashville way at least the people I started out with were, we picked up quite a few on the way here.” Jared replied.
“ What in the hell brings you down to this place then” Tucker asked curious
“ Long story but the short version is we are bound for Sullivan Island, and Ft Moultrie, after that Ft. Sumter. Figure once we have all that secured, we might check out some of the coastal islands so we have room for any one that shows up needing a place to live.”
Jared stopped and looked at Tucker for a moment. “ You and your family are welcome to go with us, but we have been through a few scrapes all ready.” He said after a moment. “ we seemed to have ticked off a one eyed nut job who has been following us since around Christmas.” Jared said not wanting to explain about the dreams, the destination or anything else that smack of the supernatural. And what he had said wasn’t a lie, it just wasn’t the whole story.
“ I think if it gets my kids out of this swamp, and into decent clothes and a decent meal once every couple of days I am a happy camper” Tucker said.
“ Good, you and your kids are welcome to bunk in Steves Rv, tomorrow we can move you to one of the smaller ones, we can get you kitted out then too and see how good you are with that pistol. Sorry we don’t have much 30 30 ammo for that rifle at the moment.” Jared said.
“ Mister at the moment, just the food, some clothes and a place to sleep that’s not in the swamp is more than I could have asked for.” Tucker replied.
“ You said you were from the Naval Air station.” Jared asked. Tucker nodded. “ civilian contractor for Aircraft Maintenance, I worked on the birds there, Mostly it was Avionic trouble shooting and replacement” Tucker replied.
“ So your not a Aircraft mechanic” Jared asked disappointed.
“ I cut my teeth on Aircraft engines, everything from those prop driven trainers to Tomcats.” Tucker replied proudly then the smile faded. “ Guess there’s no call for that no more”
Jared gave him a smiled. “ oh I wouldn’t say that, no I wouldn’t say that at all”
Jared climbed down out to of his Rv wearing nothing but boxers and took a deep breath enjoying the cool air. The camp looked peaceful in the predawn light. “ put on some pants perv” Jill called out tossing him a pair of sweat pants out the door. “ I was hoping to offend the neighbors.” Jared said. “ half hour of naked stretching followed by a good long morning pee off the steps.”
“ Hillbilly.” Jill replied stepping out past him wearing a sports bra and shorts, and pistol clipped to the waistband. This morning she carried a wooden staff to practice with.
“ At least I am not an inbreeder” he retorted with a laugh as they walked out of the camp nodding at Ashton who was on guard. Jared looked out into the misty swamp, where the Cypress trees rose out of the mist shadowy and indistinct. They could hear the drip of water somewhere off in the swamp.
Picking a grassy spot near Ashton and where Jones on the Roof of one of the Trailers could see them. they stretched and then began to work out, Mai Linn and Stephanie joined them, as did Rob, Erik and Kyle and Jack.
The sun was rising by the time Jill and Jared were able to leave the others to their own devices, and square off to spar, Jill with a staff and Jared with two, two foot long sticks he had cut from saplings.
Ashton watched the two spar, impressed though he saw no real need to learn martial arts, it was hard to dodge a bullet or snatch one out of the air. He had to concede martial arts might prove useful against zombies at least the staff and sticks might do some real damage to zombies. he had yet to see Jill in action with that katana she carried almost constantly. Like many he assumed it was a cheap wall hanger not the work of art by master craftsmen it was.
He was impressed by the sheer speed and power they exhibited as they flowed in and out of attack and defense moves, their weapons a blur. Then suddenly Jareds sticks went flying as he tossed them up into the air and grabbed Jills staff, he flowed thru an intricate maneuver that sent her flying to the ground disarmed.
He helped her up and they were laughing, what a couple he decided, but god help them if they ever got really angry at each other. he laughed at the mental image ignoring the looks he got.
Tucker had gotten up early or so he had thought, drawn out side by the steady thud of wood on wood, and watched Jared and the Woman, Jill, spar. It might be that he had actually fallen in with a decent group after all, at least one that could defend itself. Not like the people who had sheltered at the plantation with he and his family and had died screaming in abject terror when the walking dead arrived.
Finished the impromptu class the group headed back into the security of the camp and cleaned up. Many just stripped down and stepped under the portable showers they had set up. Jared walked over to Tucker who was looking on in shock at the sight of so many people carelessly getting naked and showering outside.
“ We have guards all around the camp, keeping an eye out.” Jared explained. “ how many magazines do you have for that thing” he asked pointing to the pistol stuck in Tuckers waist band.
“ Just the one, didn’t have a lot of time to get the others off the dead guy.” Tucker said dragging his eyes away from the showers. Well there have been worse things that my kids have seen, people bathing isnt’ a big deal.
“ Come on, let’s get you set up then” Jared said. An hour later Tucker was clean and wearing clean jeans, socks, a pair of boots only half a size larger than he normally wore, and a clean damn shirt. Jared had found a holster for his pistol and a three magazines.
Tucker really didn’t know what to do, or even whether to be suspicious or not. no one was this free with stuff these days. The final gift was three days worth of clothes, and MRE’s in a backpack that already had a small tent, and other supplies packed in it. “ aint the best pack in the world but for now it will do.” Jared said as he ran a hand over the blue and white pack. “ it belonged to a friend of mine who died last fall. Im thinking he wouldn’t mind you having it.”
Once he was kitted out, Jared had him shoot thru a magazine at some bottles and cans that Jared had set up. He wanted to make sure Tucker knew how to safe his weapon and change magazines. “not bad, if we can stay in ammo so you can practice you could end up a crack shot” Jared said as he led him to a Small Van like RV.
“ you and your family can use this one, till we reach Sullivan.” He said. “ what happened to the folks who used to own it.” Tucker asked feeling his stomach clench at the answer he was sure was to follow.
“ oh they might want it back when we get there, but not till then.” Jared said with a tight smile.
** ** **
Ori walked up on deck and gazed into the woods on either side of the river, but saw nothing but a few ducks and a spreading pool of ripples where a fish had come up to feed.The sun had been up for almost an hour and the slight mist had burned off pretty quickly.
When Jared had first come up with this hare brained idea he had thought his friend had finally gone nuts, but now he was actually thinking this might be the best way to go.
Ronald the owner and captain of the big Chris craft cabin cruiser Lucile had agreed to help when Ronny showed up with the note Jared had written. Ronald and a couple of other boats captains had agreed to at least meet at the Ramp to discuss the proposal.
When the convoy had come rolling in, there had been some panic. But they had stopped short of fleeing. It had to have been the sight of Fuel tankers, and semi trailers loaded with supplies that had swung the issue. Or the fact that Ori had taken it on himself to hand over some Anti biotics as a down payment.
Ori and Ronny had done a lot of talking to get Ronald and the other River rats to agree. Jared might end up thinking the price was a bit high but considering the reasons they were doing this it was cheap enough in Ori’s book.
Once the Deal had been sealed, a small group of 15 boats had gathered up two Luxury house boats and two cabin cruisers and taken the duck under tow. They had met the convoy at a river ramp while Jared and the others played rear guard against Mikhail the Russian prick.
Once the promised food and ammo had been exchanged and a couple of weapons, they had not only released the boats they had gathered for Jared but asked to join up. Ori had instantly said yes.
Ronald was sixty something, silver haired with a twenty five year old wife. He was as Jared would say a total hoot. According to Ronald there were plenty more boats on the river, but most stayed hidden, not only to conserve fuel, but afraid some one might board them for supplies. Ronald and his group had banded together, so they had enough manpower to raid Boat docks and ramps for fuel and food making it safer for themselves over all.
The kids seemed love the houseboats, the Adults accompanying them were mixed on the idea. The flotilla, there was no other word for it made its way slowly down the river.
Jared had wanted them to reach the harbor in four days so there was no reason to rush . Ori watched as the boat slid slowly past a the tree lined bank and could see a multi million dollar home built back from the river, zombies wandered around its yard. But none of the undead seemed to pay attention to the drifting boats so far.
Finally, he lost sight of the yard as they hit another stretch of thick-forested bank. Beth appeared on deck with a steaming cup of coffee which she handed to Ori. “still angry at him for pushing you off to a safer place” she asked leaning against the bulkhead.
“ yes and no. but I would have been more pissed to be separated from you for days with out knowing if you were safe or not” he replied kissing her on the forehead.
“ good answer. “ she said grinning at him. “ at least the kids go to sleep easy with the rocking of the boat, and they seem to feel safer here than on land.”
“ good that was part of the whole idea, and the one eyed asshole cant just sneak up on us this way either. Not that he is likely to catch on to the fact half the group is missing just yet.”
He wanted to wrap his arms around her and just hold her, but he didn’t. if something happened he wanted to make sure he was free to move and shoot. Instead he just blew her a kiss, wondering why in the hell it took the end of the world to finally find real love.
The hours rolled by as they floated past, restaurants, baitshops, jetski rental places, wooded areas, river homes. Abandoned boats, and all manor of debris in the water. he wasn’t looking forward to when they reached Goose creek, part of him hoped that there would still be navy ships and planes at the NAS station. But wasn’t about to hold his breath. But once they reached the heavily populated areas, he was all for starting the motors and getting out into the deeper water, and away from the dead city and environs.
Ronald’s cabin cruiser came along side and His wife Regina tossed a rope to Ori who tied it off. Ronald leaped nimbly aboard, his smile was very white in his tanned face. he looked a lot like a square jawed Cary grant. “ we probably need to anchor soon, there’s a cove up ahead, were we can spend a couple of days. Its got a nice little beach, and no easy access from a road.” Ronald said as they walked aft and sat on the bench seats in the stern.
“ sounds okay, but none of our people are getting off these boats unless they catch on fire or start to sink” Ori replied as he looked up river at the boats still strung out behind them.
“ its okay, we’ve been there several times to just stretch our legs, and with your folks to stand guard it should be a lot safer. But I don’t blame you for wanting to keep the kids on board. But you have to admit with this many kids and Adults these boats are packed to the decks.” Ronald pointed out.
“ pretty much, but unless we can locate a some bigger boats, it’s the way its going to be.” Ori replied. Ronald looked thoughtful.
“there is a bigger boat that could actually hold your entire group” Ronald finally said.
“ whats wrong with it” Ori asked.
“ its got undead on it” Ronald replied. “ but with your weapons, I don’t think it would be a problem its tied off maybe a mile down river. It was one of those luxury barge hotel boats. I don’t know how a zombie got onboard, unless someone died on board after they escaped. But I know when it all started she escaped the harbor and headed up the River to get out of the heavily populated areas, to wait it out. we talked to them several times, and then the last time, they were begging for help saying that some how the undead got onboard and that was it. 45 people were on board. Plus crew, I think six to ten. Maybe a few more or less.” Ronald said.
“ fifty or so people” Ori mused. “why mention it now” he asked.
“ simple you need the room, its much more stable craft, its not a pull or push barge it has its own motor. Its got plenty of rooms, and can hold a lot of supplies. Truth is its perfect for you. and then we get to keep the houseboats if you keep the barge. And trust me we need someplace bigger to kick back on if we are going to keep living out here. Lucille is a great boat, but she really isn’t something to live on for a long time.” Ronald said.
“ I might be interested, but why didn’t you just take the house boats in the beginning” Ori asked.
“ we did, how do you think we were able to get all these boats so fast for you.” Ronald said laughing. “ I guess I should have said we get, to get our house boats back.”
ten minutes later ori had Cole on board and presented the plan to him. to his surprise Cole was thrilled at the idea.
“ all right then lets get the team together and take a look at the damn thing” Ori said.
Leaving the boats safely anchored, Ori and Ronny with Team Three headed down river on the Mary molest, a fairly large cabin cruiser owned by a Thomas Winn. Ronald and a friend of his Marty Mills had come along to help.
Zombies appeared along the river bank as they passed, drawn by the sound of the motor. Some waded into the water and slowly sank out of sight. “ would suck to be a diver these days” Ronny muttered as the barge they had come to find came into view.
Three years ago La Croix a French luxury hotel barge line had hoped to start a market in the US and had picked the Charleston area. there it had run the two River barges out of docks in the French quarter and hoped to expand. The Two River barges, The Royal Charleston and the Charleston Princess, had been built locally, but to French specifications and had been quite the novelty in the quaint historic city. The Royal had housed a hundred people but looked more like a small luxury liner than a Barge, the Princes had a full capacity of 140 people with a crew of six, not counting the Chef, and full kitchen staff, and assorted customer service staff members.
Access to her main deck was via a gangway on her forward port side. when not docked, the deck was used for outdoors dances and parties. The Standard Cabins where located on the main deck, with only three hatches giving access to the Cabin area, one forward, between the two sweeping stair cases leading to the Francis marion Deck and one to the port and one starboard. An interior staircase from the large lounge forward the dining room led to the marion deck as well.
The Marion deck was where the real luxury cabins were located. The two stair cases let out onto the upper teak deck where a eight man hot tub and eight lounge chairs were located. Just past the Lounge chairs was the hatch into the glassed in lounge for the first class customers, it came complete with a bar. A cherry and mahagony stained door in the center of the wall let into the central passage with four cabins on each side. potted plants sat to either side of the interior stair case.
Thirty minutes later, Ori laid eyes on the Princess and whistled appreciatively. She was a large boat, or barge. He was no sailor so he wasn’t sure what to call it. She was anchored out of the currenther bow had been tied off to shore with a wrist thick line that was slowly fraying. He could see a few zombies on the main deck and assumed that the majority of the undead were in the Cabin areas.
Thomas brought the Mary around and then along side the Princess. Undead were already coming out of the doors onto the party deck. Ori had already decided the best way to deal with them was to just stay on the mary and draw as many of them out of the interior as possible.
He and Ronny along with Team three spread out along the Mary’s port side and began to pick off zombies methodically till the deck was littered with bodies. The gunfire echoed off the water and could be heard for miles. Finally no more zombies emerged from the Main deck cabins. It was time for the dangerous part of the mission,
“Frank stay here and cover our backs” Ori said, he had already discussed what he had planned with frank earlier, while he had the chance to be alone with the man. Ori wanted at least one person left on the Mary in case this was an attempt to separated the heavily armed Team from the others, just in case Ronald and his folks were thinking about seizing the supplies they had brought to feed themselves.
As the Mary bumped against the Princess Ori leaped onto the deck almost tripping on a corpse, he managed not to Scream out “ aaarrgggh avast ye Mateys” but the image of being a pirate had probably already occurred to the others, he thought as he saw Ronny grinning wildly as he landed bent kneed on the deck
To be safe they walked slowly thru the corpses checking to make sure they were really dead, not just deadish. Reaching the superstructure he peered thru the windows into the lounge. The lounge was empty, which left only the cabins on the main deck.
“ Cole your people go down the right side, check the windows into the cabins as you pass, then wait at the starboard door, Ronny and I will take the door from the port side” Ori said. Cole nodded giving Tommy a signal and his team went starboard.
Ori moved left along the narrow deck beside the cabins. The teak dulled from long exposure. Ori glanced in the port side cabin windows as they passed, four of the cabins had zombies with in. Reaching the hatch, he went high ready and peered thru the inset window, and saw nothing but Cole on the opposite side looking through the opposite door. “ On entry Cole you go forward, Ronny and I will go aft.” Ori transmitted ignoring the look that Ronny gave him.
“ go go go” Ori said throwing up the door, and entered fast, reaching the central passage Ori faced aft and knelt with Ronny standing behind him. “contact” Ori called out spotting two zombies at the end of the short passage, just inside the hatch that led to the crew areas. One, had once been a beautiful woman, long legged, long blonde hair, wearing a bikini top and shorts, the other looked to be a steward. Ori double tapped the woman who was closest, shifted aim, targeted, and double tapped the steward. The AR was almost deafening in the passage. He heard two weapons fire from Cole’s team. “ Passage rear secured” Ori called out. “ Forward secured.” Cole responded. Ori quickly told him which cabins port had zombies and left the room clearing to Cole and his team.
Ronny glanced forward once, making sure that Ty was at the Stairwell to the Marion deck then relaxed slightly seeing the guy in position. Ori saw a white hand appear in the doorway ahead of him, and then saw the rest of the zombie appear, a man in dirty coveralls, blood stains on the chest, from where his throat had been ripped out. Behind him was another man in a blood stained white uniform, with a captains hat on his head.
“Contact” he said firing almost before the words were out of his mouth, he shot the first zombie, Ronny took the captain, behind them were more, six more to be precise. Passengers from the look of them.
Gunfire rattled windows of the barge and echoed across the water, drawing zombies along the bank. Ronald Looked nervous but wasn’t about to cross over onto the barge. He noticed that the Mary had moved to far back if the men on board needed to get off the barge and turned to Thomas, “ Bring us back along side, I’ll hold us there with a gaff.” Ronald told him.
“ I don’t want to get any closer than this” Thomas said obviously frightened.
“ Bring us along side Tom, if they have to get off in a hurry, we are to damn far out” Ronald insisted calmly, noticing that the man Ori had left behind was looking decidedly dangerous now.
“ Get this damn boat along side her, mister. I really don’t want to be an asshole, but if you put my best friend in Danger Ill blow you balls all over the floor” Frank finally said thru gritted teeth.
“ Tom, he can deal with any zombies that might come towards us, and all I have to do is drop the gaff.” Ronald said. Tom nodded jerkily looking as pale as if he had been bitten, he edged the throttle up and moved the Mary along side. Ronald picked up the gaff, then changed his mind and picked up the mooring Rope.
“ you said you’d use the gaff” Tom protested.
“ I’m just going to leap over and hold the rope Tom. Trust me buddy I’m as scared of this as you are” Ronald said as he tensed, trying to prepare himself to leap onto the deck of the ghost ship.
“ Hey” Ronald looked up and saw frank holding out a pistol. “ Just in Case.” Frank said, Ronald took the weapon, and nodded his thanks unable to speak, the fear he felt was too intense for him to speak.
Ronald leaped to the Deck of the Princess. Purposely not looking at the Bodies that lay strewn around the teak. He didn’t want to remember the wild escape from their home with his wife as zombies chased he and Regina. The chaos and death he saw as he sped thru the city, barely avoiding being hit by other drivers. The marina had been quiet, when they pulled in, but there were twenty of those things following the car, and he wasn’t waiting. He damn near had dragged his wife down the dock to their boat slip. Remembering Charles Buchanan who had come out to see what the noise was, and had been taken down by the undead that had followed him into the marina.
He held the line fast keeping the Mary along side, watching everywhere. The gun fire burst out again, fairly intense this time. But then it got quiet, and Ronald felt his nerves tighten as the silence dragged out.
“ damn that was a real fucking mess” Cole shouted down from the Marion deck, the sudden break in silence almost sent Ronald over the side.
Cole grinned down at him “ thanks for waiting for us.” He called out as Ori appeared next to him and then trotted down the stairs to the main deck.
“ Lets get these bodies overboard.” Ori said looking with distaste at the bodies strewn across the deck. “ I’m going to need you to look over the Engines as soon as we have the bodies cleared off okay” he said looking at Ronald who nodded numbly, then gave Ori a shaky smile.
“ Sorry its just been awhile since I had to be this close to those things” Ronald said.
Ori shrugged, wishing it had been a while since he had been this close to the undead himself.
Grabbing a body Ori heaved it up and rolled it over the rail, Cole and his team came down from the Marion deck and joined in. It was going to be a long day.
** ** **
It was a beautiful day, a light breeze stirred the trees, and the sun shone down from a crystal clear sky. The kind of day that in the past, you could have sat on your porch hearing lawn mowers, and the buzz of honeybees with the scent of fresh cut grass hanging in the air. But lawn mowers like fresh cut grass were a thing of the past now.
The convoy exited the narrow state road turning onto the two lane southbound highway17m just outside Awendaw’s; many of the old stalled vehicles littered the median that separated the southbound lanes from the northbound lanes. The stalled traffic on the actual road was light; it appeared for whatever reason not many people had tried to flee from Charleston or George Town on 17. They drove slowly, the deuce pushing what vehicles littered the path out of the way.
“ Not much of a town” Jill remarked as they passed a vegetable stand, that had blue and white lattice for walls, and a tin roof. It sat on a small lot that couldn’t have held more than six cars at any one time. and currently three, long abandoned, were parked in front of the place.
“ The town center is probably down one of the state highways” Jared commented, on the north bound side, he spotted an old church, surrounded by large gnarled oaks, its parking lot full. There were a few out buildings around the church, most likely a Sunday school and a hall. Jared eyed the vehicles in the parking lot and didn’t even want to consider how many zombies were probably locked inside the place.
On the sign out front some one had placed the message, “ if the end is near are you ready?” “ I’m betting you weren’t” Jared commented, pointing to the sign. Jill chocked back a laugh.
“ Back in Nashville as I was heading to your place. I passed a zombie staggering down the road wearing one of those sandwich boards with the message the End is near on the front and back.” she said then her smile faded as they passed a school bus on the side of the road, zombie kids pressed against the bus windows pawing at it wildly.
“That’s really disturbing” she commented in a disgusted tone.
Jared nodded, every time he saw a child zombie he couldn’t help but feel the terror they must have gone thru as the world went to hell around them. as they were chewed on by friends and family or those they had trusted to protect them.
“ we have a problem up here” Rob said from Deuce one.
“ What’s the problem?” Jared asked, wondering if he was going to have to haul it out of the man.
“ some one has piled up cars, trucks and trailers across the lanes on both sides” Rob supplied. “ and there’s a butt load of zombies up here.”
“ fall back to the main column” Jared said instantly. Some one might have done that months ago, but Jared suspected Mikhail of doing it, or at the very least taking advantage of the situation to lay an ambush.
Ashton Driving the scout whipped around the line of vehicles and raced back to position on the right side of the column, to guard against an ambushers that might be hiding in the four buildings on that side.
Jack driving Beast two moved into the median but didn’t go to far so that Conner on the .50 could still cover the rear of the convoy as well. they could see zombies wandering thru the dead vehicles heading their way but so far nothing serious.
There was no way they could get most of the large vehicles across the median, with out getting stuck Jared realized as he watched beast one speed back to the convoy. “ Chad get your team out and cover the left. Start clearing zombies over there, hand to hand if its safe to do so.” Jared said as he pulled the van over into the side of the road.
Jason was just sliding the vans side door open when an RV exploded. “ Go, go, go,” Jared, shouted as the team piled out the door having to shoot undead while seeking cover. “never taught this in the military, fire, maneuver around zombies, go to cover” he muttered as he ducked behind a truck , the tarp covering the bed straining to hold the load under it.
Ashton spotted the muzzle flashes coming from a small home sat off the road, about in the middle of the column, and wove in and out of wrecks and stalls while Daws Hammered it with the SAW.
Wood splintered and flew, and they could hear shouts from with in as men tried to shelter from the furious pounding.
“ Got a runner out the back” Daws called out. Ashton whipped the scout out just far enough to the side, that Daws could get a clear bead on the running man. The SAW shredded him. Daws pivoted the SAW back into position and fired into the building once more.
Jared saw a man pop up in the window of a small shop with a faded red roof and white walls. Jared fired two bursts more to make the bastard duck than to hit him. as soon as the Ambusher was out of sight, Jared shifted his grip and fired a 40mm HE grenade into the window. It detonated and the building coughed glass out its window frames. Shrapnel and glass whined thru the air for twenty meters, punching through thin buildings walls.
Jared was already loading a second Grenade as the first detonated. To the left of the column he could hear the roar of the .50 as Conner found targets. “ Jared we have at least six men across the way on the north bound side, holed up in a cinderblock building next to the church.” Jared opened his mouth to respond when a second Rv exploded, glass flying out the windows.
Gun fire exploded from the remaining Rv’s as the people inside opened windows and began to shoot at the undead to try and help the ground teams. It did help in the sense that they were less likely get chewed on, but it also meant a better chance of being shot by their own people.
Lifes little choices Jared thought as he led the team across the verge and took cover against the wall of the building he had seen the shooter/spotter? Steve rolled his head to peer into the window then tossed a Grenade inside. Grinning at Jared, who spun out away from the wall to face the door and as the grenade detonated, Jared slammed a boot against the door. it crashed against the wall, and Jared and Chris barreled thru. Jared taking the left side dropping to one knee, Chris took the right down and knelt as well, Steve entered and stood.weapons sweeping the large central store area.
“ Contact” Jared said as he saw a zombie, shredded by shrapnel it began to sit up. he put it back down with one shot. “Jill, Jason, secure the door. Every one else with me” Jared said as they moved out in a combat crouch weapons sweeping their areas of control.
“ Contact” Steve said as he shot down a zombie, an MP3SD4 dangling by a sling across its back. “ Contact” Chris sang out as he doubled tapped a man, who had survived the grenades hiding in a bathroom. The man had chosen the wrong time to open the door hoping for a shot at the people he heard outside.
“ Secure” Jared called out as they reached the door again. Outside the gunfire was picking up. Another vehicles exploded and Jared winced as a secondary explosion bigger and louder then the first shook the building they were in. “ son of a bitch got a fuel truck” Steve said as they exited, and moved quickly thru the battle to the next building.
Ashton, managed to back track where the grenades were coming from and had Daws lay down some serious Go to heaven Lead. The shooter was just in the woods behind a stand of brush. Trees shredded, leaves flew as the SAW chewed thru the area.
They were still under fire, from two points. But his driving and the obstacles all around them had kept any one from getting shot so far. But that was going to change he knew it. sooner or later they would roll into a spot that gave he shooters the perfect angle on them.
He was just about to order Daws to take the building under fire when Beast two roared between two semis and Connor swung the .50 around and ripped sawed thru the flimsy wood. It was like watching a Hollywood movie, the building literally fell apart, collapsing down on its self as the fifty caliber ripped away supports and made Swiss cheese out of walls that were no longer able to act as load bearers.
Beast two accelerated once more swinging around and rushing back to the other side of the convoy. A Grenade detonated just behind the Deuce, and only luck saved Conner as the slat walls were shredded by the shrapnel, taking just enough that what got thru only injured the Gunner and not killed him outright. The Deuce jigged right shaking off the Grenade. But another detonated just ahead of it.
Ashton whipped the scout around and took it back along the line as Daws swept his fire thru the brush.
Mikhail smiled happily as he ran to his next position and slammed the breach closed on the M79 Grenade launcher. This was his last Grenade, next time he needed to remember to bring more of them.
Mikhail lifted the weapon to his shoulder using the ladder sight. Supposedly these things had a 400 some odd meter range. Or maybe that was the rifle mounted ones. Either way he was about to find out, as he started to pull the trigger that bastard on the machine gun got lucky and started firing around the area Mikhail was hiding in. Mikhails sudden instinctive move to shelter knocked off his aim. The grenade sailed over the point he had chosen and exploded 15 meters from the Van. It was going to have some shrapnel marks but nothing major damn it.
Mikhail hit the ground and low crawled behind several logs. Waiting for the fire to lift and he didn’t have to have to wait long. As soon as the gunner shifted his aim to another spot, Mikhail rose to one knee slinging the grenade launcher and took the AK 74 from his back. he moved rapidly to another spot that gave him a good view, and fired a burst at the maddeningly elusive Scout. He hit it maybe twice shattering glass, but the rest of his fire struck abandoned vehicles.
He was already moving again and laughing as he passed through an area just clear enough that he could see Jared and his team Assaulting a building that some of the men with Mikhail led were taking them under fire. More importantly Mikhail could see Jared’s woman. He slid to a stop and sighted. He wanted Jared to know he was here, wanted to see the look on his face when his woman went down.
He settled his sights, and time seemed to slow almost stopping. He stroked his trigger almost lovingly, then snarled angrily at his luck. The damned woman had turned slightly to deal with a zombie that lunged out of a car next to her just as he had fired. His shot should have hit her in the base of the throat, instead hit her in the shoulder and sent her to the ground out of sight. The zombie went down a second later, its head gone. So she was still alive.
Damn it, damn damn damn he cursed as he vanished into the brush heading to the truck and the men waiting there.
Jared rushed the building with Steve on his left and Chris on the right. Steves fire shifted for half a second to deal with two zombies that ambled out of the woods. Jared fired into the window at the side of the building, Chris lobbed his last grenade thru the window and all three of them took cover.
The grenade detonated with a loud crump and then Jared was up and leaping through the window his weapon sweeping the room beyond. He landed on a corpse and slammed his boot down just as the eyes snapped open Milky white and staring hungrily up at him and then it was dead again.
Jared felt vaguely ill, a the sharp crack of a breaking skull, but it didn’t slow him down, he moved quickly to the door way, as Steve and Chris joined him. he could hear two weapons firing on the other side of the door way. He flashed a hand sign at steve to go left and both men exploded thru the door way into a living room were two men were firing out the windows. Jared double tapped the blond, near starving guy who was firing an M16, Steve killed his with a single shot to the head. One thing about the end of the world, they were all becoming crack shots.
“ Look at that this” Steve said as he picked something up that was laying next to the man he had just shot. “a Dragon. Wonder where they got this” he said as he slung the anti tank weapon over his back.
“ Wonder why they hadn’t used it yet?” Jared asked thoughtfully
” to busy pissing their pants id guess” Steve said as they cleared the rest of the small house.
“ Jill, Jason, get to the front door” Jared said as they exfiled back out the window. The three men slipped around the front of the house and Jareds eyes widened as he saw Jill leaning against the wall, Linda beside her bandaging Jills shoulder.
He kept his emotions from surging as he asked Linda calmly. “ will she be all right”
Linda nodded. “ it was through and through, she got lucky.” She replied.
“ She got shot and blew away a zombie as she hit the ground” Jason said with something like pride in his voice. “ I’d have pissed my pants.”
“ Doubt that “ Jared said as he scanned the battle field. He didn’t notice the look of pride that filled Jasons face. Linda did and winked at her husband. Zombies were getting thicker but easily dealt with if the bad guys were done shooting at them and it appeared they were. Ashton’s scout pulled up and Ashton and his team leaped out, except for Daws who stayed on the SAW.
Ashton’s face was scratched up from flying glass; Jones had a pressure bandage on his right Calf. And there were bullet holes in the scout and one of the side windows had been shot out. “ might need another ride now” Jared said indicating the Scout even as he looked towards the burning fuel truck down the way. Thank god it was the half full one Jared thought.
“ The crew of Beast two, did it make it, how many died” Jared asked suddenly remember a snatch of conversation over the radio. “ The truck is good, Eric is fine, Connor was wounded but not to badly. He will be back on his feet tomorrow. I just want him to rest if at all possible. Kelly and Tor died when the Rvs were blow up, the driver of the fuel truck is okay which is a miracle. Ben got wounded, and is proud as hell of it. a few others were wounded but none badly. Miracle all the way around if you ask me” Linda said as she eyed her work on Jills shoulder with a critical eye then smiled. “ You’ll heal, but have a scar I’m afraid.” She added.
Jill nodded apparently not upset at the idea, and moved her arm, with only a wince. “ as long as I can still fight “ she said. Jared only shook his head, his amusement at her reaction tempered by the Deaths they had taken.
Jared felt guilty at the deaths, at least they hadn’t shot up Jeff’s RV or Jacks and Keith’s, but he knew if those assholes had, had a chance to they would have. Jeff was already wound up tight with Vickie and his kids being out of sight. If something had happened to Pappy, he would have gone over the edge.
Jared gazed at Jill for a moment, remembering the sound of an AK. A burst or two of fire then a single shot. He had noticed it and logged it away with out really thinking about it. But now, it had to have been Mikhail, he was sure of it. The Bastard had targeted the two RVs, that the kids had lived in, and then tried to kill Jill.
Buddy I promise you that you have opened a can of whoop ass you never wanted Jared thought, then as Steve and Chris started laughing he realized he had spoken aloud.
“it was that Russian bastard wasn’t it” Steve said, Jared nodded. “ Figured it was, Raiders out of the blue, Mr. Rooskie had to be behind it.”
“ I really want to hunt that bastard down and kill him” Jared said his voice cold and flat. Steve didn’t seem to be fazed at the glacial tone.
“ Sgt. Ashton, we are going to have to keep the zombies cleared out, god knows what kind of damage we are looking at, but I can see at least five flats from here, and the zombies are starting to get a bit close and increasing in numbers.” Jared said. “ Rob get some one else to drive One, we need you down here.”
Mikhail almost danced with joy as he climbed out of the truck. Two of the Kids Rvs gone, the men in the one deuce either dead or wounded, and possibly a few more. Never discount luck he thought, as he looked around the men he now effectively led.
Once they had gotten a look at the Semi trucks and RVs they were desperate to get at what was inside. The idiots never even considered they might be able to just walk up and ask for help. Just a group of American male idiots he thought looking at the ragged group. Not a single woman in the whole lot for a year, half of them had been reduced to seeking each other’s company for a bit of down time. Not that he cared one whit. But now that they had seen women in the convoy they were more than eager to get at the women what ever it took.
He really wished he could have been standing there to see Jared’s face when those two Rvs that had sheltered children had gone up. He smiled broadly at the idea. Can’t protect them Cowboy. Never could, I’ll have every one of them. To bad you don’t have a child, I could reprise my little performance from back at the Farm, Mikhail thought the last part was full of regret at a lost opportunity..
What bothered him was this was the second time he hadn’t seen the short blonde with glasses, or the plane. He was sure that it must have had something to do with the red head and the others hanging back the other day while the main convoy had headed out. That made him nervous, what could they be up to.
ut what had the rest of the group been doing while he was stuck going way around Jared’s rear guard. What had they managed to do in those four hours. It was to late to do any additional recon, Jared had started running patrols out, and the men on those patrols were no longer untrained civilians more scared of being in the open with zombies around but trained soldiers who had survived and were not frozen at the thought of the undead.
“ Get our stuff together we have to go after them, a boat would be useful since I know exactly where they are going. And there’s someone I need to meet with before they get there” Mikhail said as he eyed Daryl his second in command. “I think Ill even reward you tonight with out your help I couldn’t have laid that ambush. Your knowledge of the roads around here was invaluable” Mikhail said smiling, though it looked more like the smile a cougar would give its next meal.
An hour later they were climbing aboard a cabin cruiser, which had been stored in a boathouse next to an incredible mansion on the waterway. It was more yacht than cabin cruiser Mikhail thought. But the men called it a cabin cruiser so that’s what it was Mikhail told himself. More than half the men had worked boats most of their lives and this one was a piece of cake. It held more electronics than most computer labs, as the consoles flickered to life Mikhail noted that the GPS system was still functioning. Now that might prove to be useful he thought, his mind sorting ways to use it to his advantage.
Two men topped off the boats fuel tanks then filled up fuel cans from the fuel storage tank in the boathouse. The rest of his men ransacked the boathouse for anything that might be of use. They loaded rope, no the men called them lines, a spare anchor, oil, tools and other parts. while three more men loaded all their supplies from the truck onto the boat. Once the boathouse was stripped bare and the supplies loaded they were ready to go.
Throwing open the doors to the boathouse, the long sleek craft slid out into open water for the first time in almost a year. She turned south and soon was slicing thru the water with ease. Gulls circled overhead, occasionally swooping and diving at the water.
In few more days this would be over one way or another, and if he felt any reservations about what awaited him if he died, it didn’t show in his thoughts, words or actions. It was just part of doing business. He almost hoped that Jared’s woman lived thru this, he might keep her around. Minus her hands and feet of course, she would be too dangerous with either. He chuckled at the thought then looked back out over the water, across the water lay his home, he had been exiled from it for far too long.
When this is over, I hope I can find a ship and return to mother Russia, Im sure a few of the old bastards I wanted Dead are still alive and in hiding. How fun that will be, to hunt them down and Kill them one by one he thought with a smile as the warm wind off the water blew thru his hair, and the smell of salt filled his nostrils.
** ** **
Dean paused as he placed the box he carried in the back of the Hummer. He had thought he heard gunfire a few minutes ago, heavy gunfire, like a .50. He couldn’t pin down where it had come from. His hand rested from long habit on the butt of his Glock. Dressed in Black tacticals, he was six foot nothing, jet black hair, and had a handsome rounded face, hazel eyes and a pug nose courtesy of his Irish heritage.
The armored vest he wore still bore the badge he had carried for the last ten years. It wasn’t something he was not going to just forget or give up. it was part of who he was.
“ What’s going on” Ed asked. Ed, 28, still had a large build though not the massive muscle he had sported when gyms had been open and supplements and protein had been everywhere. Before Z day Ed had, had women climbing all over him. he was a handsome man, even if he was balding. Though it had been hard to tell with the close cropped hair cut he had worn. Most men would have loved the attention, but not Ed.
Of Course Dean had known the real reason even if Ed couldn’t talk about it around the Precinct. Not that Dean had given a damn Ed had been a great cop, a good partner and a was still damn fine friend and partner.
“ I heard gunfire, but cant figure out where it might be” Dean replied.
“ think it might be the army” Ed asked hopefully.
Dean snorted. “ not likely, I doubt there is an army left. You remember what happened at the road block the Army was manning on the west side at the beginning.” Ed nodded, it had been a blood bath. Half the army unit had fallen the rest had retreated to their armored vehicles and fired from there till they had exhausted their ammo. they had left town shortly after that, and there were times Dean had wished he had followed them.
By then he was in the Swat teams Armored car with Ed, and they had driven the other way. What was left of Swat had helped them gather as many officers and staff as possible then recover as many familys as they could and get them to the precinct. They had tried at first to save every civilian, but after losing six officers to idiots with fire arms and happy trigger fingers, they had finally settled on saving family and friends. Not willing to risk it for anyone that didn’t flat out ask for their help.
By the time the numbers of survivors had grown to large for the small precinct building to hold, the places that could hold them were swarming with undead.
They had almost given up at that point, but then Ed had tossed a brochure on a table and pointed to the picture of the USS Yorktown, a Carrier that was berthed at Patriots point as a museum. So that’s where they had fled to aAnd that’s where so many had died since that day. Disease, sickness, cold, a few starved to make sure their kids got enough to eat. Some killed themselves. But at least the Yorktown was safer than any building in Mt. Pleasant, or Charleston for that matter.
Today they had crossed Mt Pleasant to check out the airport, and gather anything they thought they might need. They had hit the mother load on this trip. Two military cargo planes sat on the parking apron, loaded to the gills with food and supplies. Most Marked FEMA, the Raiders who had set up on the Isle of Palms, hadn’t bothered with the airport just yet, or the school nearby. Why he didn’t know, but the Cafeteria at the school had been loaded with all kinds of things. Mostly canned and dried but it beat the hell out of starving.
There had been talk lately of finding a ship and taking to the ocean, Maybe find a good tropical island and settle down. Hell that sounded pretty good to him, even if they had kept the zombie count down in this part of the city making it a little safer. But warm sun, white sands and crystal clear water sounded like heaven to him. Dean sighed at the fantasy and came back to reality. Ed was looking at him with concern.
“ Sorry just thinking about how we got here” Dean explained.
“think we should go check it out?” Ed asked.
“ We should if its those assholes that have been raiding through here, we should cut them off at the knees.” Dean replied then stopped as they heard what sounded like an explosion to the north. Dean walked out of the aircraft and peered north but saw nothing.
Ed had followed him out onto the ramp, looking puzzled. “ there it is again” He said listening closely. Dean listened intently and nodded, just barely able to hear what sounded like a fifty caliber then nothing.
“ trucks damn near full “ he observed. “ Get Carroll, Steger, Williams and Barclay together, we are going to take a ride. The rest escorts the trucks back the Yorktown.” Dean said. Ed nodded and rushed off to find the men that Dean wanted along, all of them former Swat.
In moments they were pulling out of the airport, a hummer and a armored car with swat on the sides, escorting two loaded down package trucks to the south, and a single packed HumVee drove east till it hit 17 and then turned North.
** ** **
“ might want to Hurry it up” Steve suggested to Rob who was Changing out the fifth tire. Eric and two others were busy stripping parts off the two Rvs hit with Grenades, piling the parts into wheelbarrows that others would haul to one of the Semis and store, unless Rob asked for something they had on hand.
Tucker, shaken at the savage attack on the convoy had grabbed another tool box and was working on Jeffs RV that wouldn’t start.
“ saying that every two seconds want make this go any faster” Rob commented.
“ maybe they thought that the numbers of undead are growing by the minute might lend you some speed” Steve said eyeing the newest batch who didn’t last long, Beast one drove over them. And then backed up to make sure it finished the job.
“ Got it” Rob said gathering up his air wrench and returning to the van, the compressor built into the van was turning out to be a lifesaver. “ I had to plug the front tire Jared, I don’t know how long it will last, but that one is up and moving. Take me to the next one” Rob said as he stood on the running board beside the drivers window, Jill shook her head and pulled up fifty yards to the next RV where steam billowed out the back.
“ if we are lucky its just a blown radiator hose” Rob said as he grabbed his tool box and headed for the RV.
“ back in the day he could have made a fortune in roadside repairs.” Chris commented. “ its only taken him twenty five minutes to change five flats, plug and air up a tire and replace a battery.”
“ Most mechanics back in the day weren’t trying to work with the threat of zombies eating their asses either” Steve pointed out.
“ We might have another hour before there’s to many of them to deal with, with out shooting. And honestly I don’t want to waste the ammo.” Jared said, wandering which vehicles he would have to leave behind. Half their .50 caliber ammo was gone, they still had plenty for the SAW, a decent amount of 40mm HE’s, and six willie p’s, all in all they weren’t bad off. It was the small arms ammo he was worried about. They had burned through a lot in the last week and he suspected that getting onto the island and taking the fort was going to take everything bit of ammo they had.
What they needed, Jared told himself, was a secure place to camp and work on vehicles. And that’s exactly what team two was out doing, hunting a new camp. But the convoy needed all their vehicles up and running to get to the new camp and with out Rob pulling off a miracle they were going to have to leave behind supplies and equipment. .
Beast one had cleared enough of the barricade out of the way for them to keep heading south, but as late in the day as it was getting Jared really didn’t want roll into a once heavily populated area after dark. No they would have to camp here, and that meant tomorrow he would have to find a way to get in contact with Ori.
“ Hate to bust in, but you might want to come up to the barricade” Cal called out. the once heavy set twenty something that had joined up with Logan was now driving Beast one while Rob worked.
“ what’s up” Jared asked
“ looks like a hummer coming down the road” Cal responded wishing he was safe in bed with his Girlfriend. Not sitting out here as a target for the psychopathic Russian and his band of Nutty henchmen.
“ Stay here and help Rob” Jared told Jason, then led the rest of the team over to Steve’s truck thankful he had gotten it off the tow rack right after the battle. A minute later, they were pulling up to the barricade followed by Ashton and his team.
They watched as a Humvee did a slow crawl across the median till it reached a spot on the south bound lane sixty feet from the Barricade and stopped. Then doors opened and men in Black Police tacticals emerged from inside, complete with helmets but minus the Baklava’s.
Dean had been surprised at the number of vehicles on the lane, some of them had been shot up pretty bad. He had spotted two Deuce and halfs, rigged up with armor over the windows and cattle catchers on the front, one had a crewed .50 mounted over the cab and manned from the bed.
One of the fuel trucks still burned, and he could see men and some women working on other vehicles, as dean and his people approached. He lost sight of them as they crossed the median, and stopped near the hole in the barricade.
Dismounting he had watched as a red headed man strode forward seemingly unconcerned at the fire power he confronted, but the hard faced men and one women with him didn’t seem to be all that impressed either. Nor did the men who dismounted from that old IH scout with the SAW mounted on the roof. And those men were in Uniforms.
All of them struck him as soldiers, the way they moved and stayed together. the way they held their weapons.
The red head maybe five ten, stopped and eyed them warily. Then a slow grin spread across his face. “ sorry Officer, didn’t realize blocking traffic was still against the law.”
Dean stared at him for a half second then heard Ed stifle a laugh. “ heard some gunfire and explosions and came to check it out” Dean said, wondering how much food was stored in those semis. Not the he would even try to steal it, even if these guys were total wimps.
“ the world ended almost a year ago and we still have Cops patrolling the community” A shaven headed man bigger than Ed said with a smile. Though he looked wound tighter than a spring, not a bit of relaxation followed that remark. He was ready to shoot any second.
“Well I have to admit, I have no idea how to deal with this situation right at the moment.” Jared said. “ so since you didn’t start shooting and we haven’t started shooting Im Jared and this is Steve.” Jared introduced every one on his side. And then watched the Cop, who he was sure hadn’t had much of a chance to deal with people that weren’t shooting at him or trying to eat him since the day.
“ Im Dectiv… sorry Dean, and this is Ed” Dean motioned to the rest and introduced them. “ weve been having raiders hitting areas in Mt Pleasant and thought we might be able to deal them some damage when we heard all the gunfire.” He said taking a chance that these folks were not the raiders, but he couldn’t imagine them just introducing themselves and standing there not shooting if they were.
Besides if the assholes on Palm island had this much gear, they would be able take the Yorktown and all her defenders any time they wanted.
“ well I don’t think the men who planned this little party are the ones your looking for, and even if they are, not many of them escaped.” Jared said with a tight grin as he studied the cops, who were trying hard not to resort to the old stand and intimidate the civvies routine that had been trained into them. that kind of posturing would lead to being shot pretty damn fast these days, just like trying to get some one to give up a weapon, in a world of undead. wasn’t likely to happen no matter the situation.
Jared decided to lower the tension levels and see what happened. He slung his commando, across his chest and smiled, it might look a bit forced but it wasn’t filled with tension. “ whose in charge, you?” He asked Dean.
“that would be me” Dean replied.
“ lets take a walk while our friends stare at each other. No shooting unless you really have to” Jared told his people. “ Jason that means you too. If your that nervous sling your weapon and hold your pecker. If it goes off accidentally you’ll only feel good and no one else gets hurt.” Jason Blushed, but understood exactly what Jared was doing, trying to assure the other side, that nothing was going to happen.
He and Dean walked back thru the barricade to the first RV in the line and stopped in plain sight of Dean’s men. “ I can only say that we have no idea about who’s been attacking you, we are heading to Ft. Moultrie. And don’t want to be any ones trouble.”
“ Ft Moultrie, good luck with that. some gang took control of the Isle of Palms and pivoted the bridge from Sullivan to Mt Pleasnt. They run both islands.
Its those bastards that have been hitting us. They snatched a guys wife and kids off the street a week ago. Dumped the boy a day later to be eaten by zombies. luckily the kid was smart enough to get away, and get back to us. You wont get past them easily, and they are well armed and have some training.”
“ well Armed” Jared asked curious.
“ military gear, I guess they took the stuff from Checkpoints and maybe an Armory. They have two strykers too. ATGM’s, a couple of fifties, a few of those SAWs. We don’t see much of their heavy stuff unless they know we are in an area, then they roll it out hoping to nail us. But so far they have mostly stayed on the outskirts of the area we claim as ours, stripping out stores, and any where else they can find to loot.”
“ how many guys?” Jared asked.
Dean gave him a look and said “ Im doing a lot of talking and not hearing much. Why Ft. Moultrie, and where did you folks come from”
Jared nodded watching three zombies staggering across the median. A pistol barked two times from inside an Rv, causing Dean to jump. One of the zombies fell to the ground.
“ take that you crotch rotted old bag.” Pappy hooted from inside Jeffs Rv. “ fucking bee hive hair styles went out years ago.” The pistol barked again, and a skinny weak chinned, thin blond haired guy fell at her side. “ look Ma Inbreeders” pappy crowed then broke off coughing.
Jared could hear Jeff yelling at pappy to lie back down before he had another stroke. “ when did you start listening to a dildo using lesbian know it all Pill pushing twat licker” Pappy said loudly. “ damn it boy give me that pistol back.”
Dean started to laugh but chocked it off. Jared looked towards his team wandering if Jason had heard Pappy, but apparently not. Pappy was not on the list of Linda’s favorites, and Jared could almost bet that Linda had given more than one unneeded rectal exam to the old man just to be a literal pain in the ass. He started to laugh at that but managed not to let the humor show on his face.
“ well, some of us started near Nashville” Jared said as if they hadn’t been interrupted. He gave Dean the readers digest condensed version not wanting to stand out here to much longer with all the undead starting to gather. To many people and to much noise, it was like turning on a Fine dining light in front of a weight watchers clinic.
Dean gave him a respectful look “ that’s a hell of a trip these days” he finally said. “ but why Moultrie, you could have stayed at that Farm.”
Jared shrugged. “ because after Moultrie we are going to take Fort sumter. The Kids with us need a safe place from the undead, and you cant get much safer than a fort in the middle of deep water.” Jared felt no desire to get into Dreams from the dead, or the other odd crap.
“ theres zombies all over Sumter, I guess a bunch of tourist were trapped there, and ended up starving to death.” Dean said. “ we sent a boat out there one day to take a look” he explained.
“ ill deal with that when we have Moultrie in our hands.” Jared said looking thoughtful.
They talked for another ten minutes then shook hands before heading back to their teams who had reached a truce of sorts to shoot down the undead that kept approaching them. Dean waved his men back into the Hummer, then stopped at the door. “ If you can find a place to safely camp. bring a team out to the Yorktown were we can talk safely. And I would appreciate it if that Doctor of yours would come to. We have some sick folks that she might be able to help.”
“ Will do “ Jared said and waved as the Former police officer shut his door and drove back south.
Team two located a place an hour later, a fenced in lot with two warehouse like buildings right on the coast, a narrow state road led straight to it. and there was only one farm house on entire road by then Rob had the vehicles patched up enough to move, and the whole convoy followed Team two back to the camp site.
Jared stood on the dock, as Steve got the vehicles parked in an orderly and defensive fashion. The water lapped against the cement quay the sound almost soothing. Gulls wheeled overhead.
Jared took a deep breath of the ocean air then walked back to the steps that led down to a short narrow sandy beach and stripped down. He ran into the surf, the water was clear enough that he could see that no undead lurked below the water waiting to get a bite of testicle. He splashed around enjoying the hell out of the water, as other people joined him. Soon half the convoy was splashing around in the water, the beach piled with clothing.
The sun was setting, the sky a a rainbow of blues, golds, oranges and reds. As the first stars started to glimmer in the dark vault of the heaven. Jared waded out of the water and sat on a log shivering in the cool evening air.
He might die in the next few days to be honest that thought didn’t really bother him. he had been lucky to live this long. what bothered him was the thought of leaving Jill just when he had finally found love. But if Dying meant getting Jill and those kids to some place safe, then Jared would pay that price ten times over.
For now he appreciated that he got to lounge naked on a beach watching the sun set in a glorious riot of colors with no undead in sight. That alone was almost worth the price of admission to the fight.
“ this a private log or can any one join” Linda asked, not even caring that Jared like every one else down on the beach, was naked.
“ pull up some bark” Jared said motioning for her take a seat. “ whats up, is there something wrong” he asked. “ yes and no” she replied looking down at the sand, then back at the fence that ran four feet out into the water.
“ I’m pregnant Jared” she said, looking sick. “ I can’t be pregnant”
“ well obviously you can be “ Jared replied wondering what the deal was.
“ Jared I have a medical problem, I cant give birth, it will kill me and the baby.” She said with total conviction. “ and this group cant afford to lose what knowledge I have, and I cant give up this child. It would Kill Jason. And if I try to have the child, I will die, the child will die, and you folks are screwed.”
“ Does Jason know” Jared asked. Linda shook her head. “ not yet, I cant tell him. not till I work out how to tell him about my problem too. And that’s not going to be easy Jared.”
“ is there any hope at all.” He asked. she shook her head. “ I cant operate on myself, theres a chance a C section would save both of us. But theres other complications because of my condition. Its why my doctor always wanted me on the pill, it was just safer not to get pregnant. The odds were low even with a hospital.” Her voice trailed off. “ Jared I don’t want my baby to die.”
“ Linda, I’;ll send a damn plane back to the farm to get Doc Winston, if that’s what it takes. He can do the surgery in the MMC, we can find what ever medical books we need in Charleston, I promise we will do our best to find a way, and I want you to start teaching some one how to do this too just in case.” Jared said forcefully. She nodded and looked up to see Jason watching her. She made herself smile naturally and wave at him. “ Not a word Jared, Please not till I decide. But I wanted you to know so you could plan around my being dead.”
She rose as a dripping wet Jason walked up and wrapped her arms around him kissing him lightly on the lips. “ what’s a girl to do, surrounded by so much naked man flesh, but to haul her husband off to bed to molest him. don’t have an emergency tonight Jared” she said leading Jason towards where their RV was parked. He watched them go, and vowed if something happened tonight he wouldn’t drag Jason out of that bed unless the place was being overrun by the undead.
He gathered up his clothes and walked back up to the dock and walked to the end, looking up at the spray of stars overhead, and could see the skien of the milky way.
“ I don’t know if you honestly give a damn, or ever did. But we are fighting and dying down here trying to do some good. And if this is really a battle between good and Evil, then do me a favor and heal my people, I know pappy is crusty, but he is a good man. Kevin should be able to walk again; Linda has done her best to save any one that needs it, so lend a hand for her too. And help us keep those kids safe. Thanks for listening.” Jared said, the closest he could get to praying these days.
He stayed there for while longer watching the sky, then shivered and headed for his RV where Jill was waiting.
** ** **
Mikhail smiled as he leaped into the surf and waded ashore. He had beat Jared to his destination. Well the island on which the fort sat. he stopped in the surf and waited. Ignoring the nervousness of the men around him. finally a shape appeared out of the darkness. Mikhail slapped a hand over Daryl’s weapon before he could fire. “ Don’t” was all he said.
He turned on his flashlight and finally saw the man he had dreamed about for the last week, and exactly where he had been told the stranger would be. Mikhail smiled. Five seven, dark complicated, silver hair that had been that way since he turned 18, the mans eyes were hazel but narrowed with suspicion though they widened for a split second at the sight of Mikhail. He must have dreamed of me too Mikhail thought not really surprised.
“You!” The Man said in surprise.
“ I think we have many things to talk about “ Mikhail said suddenly. “ starting with our mutual friend.”
The man nodded slowly, holstering his pistol.
“ I don’t think we should trust this…..” one of Mikhail’s men said his voice chopping off as Mikhail shot him in the face.
“ any one else want to discuss who I deal with” he asked, holstering the pistol that he had drawn with blinding speed.
There was a flurry of head shakes from all his men, Mikhail smiled. It hadn’t taken much to get them under control and their lust for the women in the convoy and all the food that the convoy had helped Mikhail get them further under his thumb.
“ So Colonel where do we go to talk out of the weather and the undead” Mikhail asked nodding towards several shapes shambling along the beach towards them.
“ Against my better judgment, I’ll trust that I know you well enough to lead you to my Command post.” Colonel Nathan Parks said as he motioned them to follow him. “ if your men are tired of hand jobs and humping each other we even have a few whores they can share.” Park’s said with a laugh .
“ I’m thinking they might like that, at least most of them. ” Mikhail said just to be an asshole. Ignoring the totally embarrassed looks from his men. They wisely held their tongues though.
“ I hope between the two of us we can take care of the nuisance our mutual friends need help with.” Mikhail said. Parks laughed, it was a rough, jagged laugh almost mad really
“ If all else fails I have a way to take out everything with in five miles of my command post.” Parks said cryptically as they entered a fenced in area, a Gun battery built during WWII was at the back of the yard. The two story gray and white house was well lit, the chug of a generator could be heard from a small shed just off the back door.
“ Then lets get down to planning Col, and once we take care of that little problem, I’ll help you clear out the trouble makers holed up in the that fort.” Mikhail said, thinking it was so much easier dealing with the insane than the sane. Not that parks could be blamed, to many visits from Bowler hat could do that to a man. At least to many visits where you had to look into that face and those eyes. He smiled as they entered the house.
Down on the beach, a dark shape stood with water lapping around its ankles. More shadow then flesh if any one had been near to see it. its head cranked around to stare at the corpse that lay sprawled on the beach. Then at the footprints that led up into the grass. It grinned in the darkness, its dead eyes glittering with anticipation.
It had never been that important that the kids die along the way, they just had to die here. The chaos, death and destruction Mikhail had wreaked along the long trip had been a great bonus. But the time was almost here, when one side or the other had to win, and the Dark looked forward to it. The three it had picked were here, now it only remained to see how well they fared against determined bugs like this Jared and his people.
Failure here didn’t mean a lost cause that risk lay to the north, where failure was not an option. No this victory would only weaken man and good overall, destroy hope that might have helped sway the balance later. Hope was something it wouldn’t tolerate.
it hated and despised children, hated the innocence they represented. Hated their laughter and the hope and love they engendered in others to protect them. they would die, horribly it decided.