TCRD Act 3 Part 6

 

“From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.”

Henry V (1599) by William Shakespeare

The moon, wreathed in cloud and haze was surrounded by a halo. what few stars were visible glowed with a cold light over the ruins of Charleston. The wind off the ocean whistled thru the harbor, and through the streets stirring the trash of a lost civilization, sending it spinning into the night sky, photographs, newspapers, office paperwork, once so important, now just rain ruined and sun faded worthless paper. It drifted back down, covering the occasional skeleton that lay sprawled where it had died.

Mikhail enjoyed nights like this. the cool glittering of stars overhead, the sound of the surf rolling in as he walked thru the walled in garden and around the pool that was part of the hotel. The sigh of a gentle wind that brought the smell of the ocean.

He paused for a moment to soak in the sound of the waves washing onto the beach. His mind drifted back thru the decades to the Black sea. It was the night that had changed his life. That night had been much like this one, cool, windy with a bloated moon that filled the sky.

The lights of the distant resort had glittered on the dark waters, like a thousand glowing gems. He had been nervous, looking back he wondered why, but he had been. The weight of the Pistol in his waistband had seemed to burn against his skin, but of course it was only the knowledge of the deadly device being there, not a physical flame.

Pavel had stood on the dark veranda, his arms around a Devushka po vyzovu, in America she would have been a high-class call girl, but a hooker still. Her long dark hair had blown around her face, her naked body fairly glowed like alabaster in the moonlight. Shadows clung to ever hollow and curve; she looked more like a goddess than merely mortal.

That something so dirty could look so ethereal and beautiful had, and it sickened him that she would sully herself with Pavel, a drug lord. An enemy of the state, an Enemy of the KGB meant she was no daughter of the party. Mikhail was no prude, but how naïve he had been up to that point, party, Commissars, the Politburo. Lairs, thieves, deegeneeraat, all of them. but he had yet to learn that at the time. No, at that time he had embraced the party, worshipped at the altar of Lenin and the reveled in the brutality of Stalin against the enemies of the state.

Pavel had left her naked and alone on the balcony to go piss. He was a crude one. Mikhail had slipped up onto the balcony behind her. She had jumped when he first slid an arm around her waist. She had pressed back against him, rubbing her beautiful zhopu, ass, against him. He remembered wondering if Pavel loaned her out. She had to know he was a stranger, she couldn’t have thought he was Pavel. Mikhail’s left hand had risen cupping a perfect breast, she had moaned at his touch arching her back. Her skin had been soft, luxuriant, heating at his touch.

He leaned his head forward and breathed in her scent. She twisted her head around and looked him in the eyes even as he had driven the knife he held, up at an angle under her breast. It scraped bone as it passed between the gaps and piercing her heart. He watched the light flee from her eyes, and gently kissed the whore goddess, then let her fall to the stone floor.

Pavel had come back moments later and rushed to her side, not seeing Mikhail who stood in the shadows. Mikhail had stabbed him just as easily as the woman. then had knelt holding the mans face in his hands and watching as the life fled Pavels eyes as he died.

They had been, his first and second kills for the KGB, and as he had learned that night that nothing equaled the sheer power of watching the life flee its mortal shell or the arousal he felt while killing.

No, other night had equaled that one. But when he killed Jared and his woman he was sure it would surpass his first time.

His mind turned to the other part of his job, His friend, employer as it were, wanted the children dead. Mikhail no real interest in killing the children, nor did it didn’t bother him in the least.   He would because it was his job, it was required and because it would hurt Jared and his band of survivors.

Hurting the cowboy, to let him linger while suffering then to finally Kill him was Mikhails goal and that would mean killing children and his whore.   Mikkhail smiled.

Mikhail could picture the whore lying here in this garden naked under the moonlight, empty eyes staring up at the moon. A goddess on display for all to see while her mortal lover lay gutted at her feet. He smiled at the Iconic image his mind painted, such nobility of form, such perfection in function was the human body he told himself.

And once I have killed her and hurt Jared Stone I will kill that old mans girl, and the cripple who had scarred me and took my eye.

I have scores to settle he thought as he heard once more the water lapping on the shore below a black sea Dacha, and saw the glowing alabaster body, cooling as it lay next to her dead lover and smiled.

 

**                                       **                           **

Benton walked to the front doors of the Red&White store to look outside again but all he could see were cars stacked one on top of the other. The car wall, shaped like a U, its ends butted up against the stores wall covered almost a hundred feet to a side.

They had placed the nested shopping carts in front of the stores large plate glass windows, four deep, as barrier to keep the undead away from the glass. The carts had been chained to poles to keep them from rolling out of place.

Parks called this a defensive position to keep looters and raiders off the island, but in truth it was a prison. A prison that didn’t matter if the prisoners had weapons, they didn’t dare go over the walls to escape because the thousand or so undead out there would rip apart any one who tried to leave.

Unlike the movies, real zombies, how weird it was to say that, were silent, you couldn’t tell the undead were out there behind the wall of cars they had built around the front of store. It was almost peaceful till a man remembered just on the other side of that wall, were the hungry dead.

If he craned his head, he could see trees and rooftops, beyond the wall. and wished not for the first that he could get out of this place and end up someplace where he could just walk outside.

He could see the Green roof of the other strip center, that was catty corner to the center the Red and Dead store was in, There eight other soldiers posted in a subway store, with walls around the front of the store built out of old cars like the one he was looking at.

He stood in the shadows cast by wind blown clouds that swept the sky over the parking lot. Then bright sunlight returned once more as the clouds moved away. He hoped it wouldn’t rain again, he was damn sick of storms and rain. The water seemed to make the stench of the undead, clustered outside the wall, worse.

At five foot six, he was on the short side compared to most people. He had the typical irish look, to go with his strawberry blond hair, that so many women found cute. He hated that word, but if got him laid or a girlfriend he wasn’t going to complain about it.

Benton had loved being a soldier, not for the reasons that so many liberals threw out. Like most soldiers, he had no interested in going to war and killing people. He did believe in what his country stood for, as opposed to what politicians wanted or claimed to believe what it stood for.

He was proud of the fact he could defend not only himself but others thanks to the Army. For the first time in his life, like most who joined the military, he had true friends, men and women who would cover his back out of friendship and or loyalty. People would cross the damn country to help him out.

Not like his so-called friends who came and went in the civilian world, who as soon as things got tough vanished from the scene. No these friends were there thru thick and thin. Which was another reason the men and women here had stuck together when the world went to hell.

The second reason was that Benton like many of the others had stayed because they were soldiers and had a duty, and because frankly they couldn’t get to their family and friends who lived in other states.

He was and always would be a soldier first and proud of it.

It was that duty, and devotion to an oath, that had led to so many of the soldiers being shuffled off to places like the Store. They were put anywhere that Col, I’m an insane jackass Parks thought would keep them from taking his ass out.

Of course Parks had been unhappy when they dared to speak out about his setting up Chemical weapons as an IED, a fall back doomsday weapon in case looters overran the islands.

His great crusade to wipe evil off the face of the earth, what in the hell would VX do to the undead. A nuke would clear a city, if you didn’t want to live there afterwards, but Chemical weapons, especially something like VX, god what a fucking Moron.

When Parks had first found the weapons, no one in the company had cared. Parks had come off as a mildly nuts. Most people were at that point, it was hard to remain sane watching friends and fellow soldiers getting eaten. The Acting first Sergeant who had been with Parks for many years had even been a moderating influence in keeping Parks from going overboard.

Then the dreams from god had started and Parks had come to believe he was Right hand of God incarnate. There were storys from some of the men who had been posted outside Parks quarters. Odd story’s, unbelievable story’s. The men swore they heard him talking to some one in his quarters, when he was alone. Some one who answered back on occasion. Benton personally knew two privates who had slipped away from the unit one night, and vanished into the land of the dead, just to get away from having to hear it again.

First Sergeant Bailey had at first managed to keep a cap on the crazier stuff, doing some mighty fancy foot work. But more and more often Parks had just gone ahead and did what ever his nutty dreams told him to do.

When they had gotten here and Parks had set up the Chem shells as a Doomsday weapon they had known he was around the bend and to make matters worse Parks lured ever more undead onto the island to add to the numbers already there. Calling them his Undead Legion and a crucial part of his defense plan.   It placed them all in greater danger but that didn’t matter to the one man who should have been looking out for his troops. Most of the Soldiers had protested but not to much of course, the world had ended after all. What did it matter if their commander was a bit of a nut job.

Then Parks had begun to gather civilians. At first, it had been an attempt to reinforce the shattered ranks of the company, Civilian augmentee troops as Parks had called them, Benton snorted, gangbangers, murderers and rapists were what they were.

Parks had gathered as many of them as he could find, Arming them with modern weapons, he had kept gathering civilians till their numbers were actually a larger than the surviving soldiers. No one left in the company had been thrilled by the idea of scum like that being armed. But again the soldiers had put up with it because the extra number made it easier to seize food and supplies with less risk. To be honest Benton and the other soldiers hadn’t minded the scum being killed if it saved one soldier from the same fate.

But once the asshole brigade had been created, Parks knowing he couldn’t trust the majority of the soldiers to follow along with out question, established forward Defense positions and observation points. Where he started posting the troops he knew he would have trouble with. They had been expected to live at the forward positions for couple of months at a time then rotate back to the CQ but that’s not what happened of course. Once they were posted out, with minimum ammo, rarely with transportation. Parks had started with his breeding laws.

At first it had only been rumors, heard when supplies had been delivered to the Op/DFPs.   Then as Parks had started posting his Augmentee’s out, the truth had come out. Benton and others had, had enough. Oh Parks had claimed it was to ensure that it was to keep the Human race alive but the women of the unit had been reduced to cattle essentially.

It disgusted Benton that almost 20 of soldiers still backed Parks, and with the greater numbers of the asshole brigade, There was little the soldiers of the company that disagreed could do since they were already scattered across two islands and isolated from each other by the large numbers of undead especially with no transportation.

Sex was now a reward for men that Parks liked. Those few still at the CQ that protested to hard, had been sent on Forlorn hopes, or shot quietly behind the Hotel that Parks used for a CQ.

The First Sergeant had convinced Parks to stop with the suicide missions, because frankly the troops started to refuse to go. And more importantly they needed his trained soldiers. So Parks had posted out the few soldiers still left at the CQ that openly protested the new orders to places like the “Red&white store”

When a large number of Augmentees from the asshole brigade had been forced on them here at the store they wanted to fight.   Jansen had insisted that for now they deal with the asshole bridge, if only to keep getting supplies and ammo replaced. If he hadn’t been so respected by his men he might have lost them right then and there. Instead they had rallied around him and begun to prepare for the day they could strike back.

Slowly over the last couple of months they had socked away supplies and extra ammo so if and when the time came. The top had covertly helped them as well, never questioning their requisition needs and not reporting it to Parks. If he had Parks would have tried to deal with them before they could revolt.

Hiding their efforts from the Asshole Brigade had been a little difficult but they had managed it with out having to resort to more than one wanna be gangbanger having an accident.

He hid the smile that threatened to show itself as he remembered when Sgt. Thor Jansen had accidentally knocked a swaggering, rape loving gangbanger off the roof when Jansen had “accidentally” tripped on a pipe. The poor bastard had hit the ground and the Rotters had been all over him in seconds. The man hadn’t lived long, not even Jansen could stand by and let him come back as one of those walking dead things. A few of the gangbangers buddies had been ready to violently protest the accident. But they had seen reason when the “ wuss” soldiers suddenly had weapons in hand and were casually pointing them at the gangbanger’s, with cold deadly intent.

Since then there had been something of a truce between the Augmentees and the soldiers. “ Big Mike” the new leader of the augmentee’s had decided to leave well enough alone and not try to press the notion that he was in Charge of the soldiers at the Op/DFP

But then a week or so ago, Parks had sent more of his Loyal troops, what a joke to call them that, to places like the store. Like he was expecting an attack or maybe a revolt.   Now that the augmentee’s outnumbered the real soldiers in each position people like “Big Mike” was starting to feel Froggy with additional men and had tried to push his authority.   When it had gone nowhere he had angrily given up for the moment none of the Soldiers doubted that it was over.

Benton frowned to himself as he walked thru the maze that covered the floor of the store. Built from the shelving units its only purpose was to funnel any undead that got into the store into one narrow avenue of approach.   Ten soldiers could hold the line almost indefinitely. In a perfect world they could at any rate. As heavy as the shelves were it was possible that enough undead pushing against the shelving units might be able to move them.   but it was a plan, a good one and no one doubted that the plan would go to hell in a hand basket the second they had to put it into motion.

Jansen, Dressed in boxers, and combat boots, sat at a round table with an umbrella. He was cleaning his M4 by lamplight. Athletically built, with a face that was all angles, and a definitely out of regs mustaches.

They had found all ten of the tables boxed in the store room, with accompanying chairs, ready to be sent back as a wrong delivery, that’s what the paper work said at any rate. They had taken one table and set of chairs up on the roof the rest they had set up in the store.

PFC Lane and Ramirez were sprawled out on their cots, in just their boxers playing Rummy with their rifles beside them in the cots.

Lane was called the bear, namely because he was furry from his ankles to his neck, but strangely couldn’t grow a beard or mustache that wasn’t patchy. Back in the good old days, a guy named Jones had slipped nair in Lanes shampoo, Lane had looked like an ewok with mange for almost a month after that, but his revenge had been something to see. Rumor had it that revenge had resulted in a official reprimand, and that their Old CO had laughed his ass off after hearing about Lanes revenge strike.

The squad had often joked that if they ever had to invade Russia, they would strip Lane naked and send him deep into enemy territory as a dancing bear to gather intel.

Townsend, another Ginger as Bentons Scottish girlfriend had called redheads, was one of the thin, wiry muscled guys, who could eat six tons of food, and still looked lean and mean. He also was or had been the units whore dog. The man could score anywhere at anytime till Parks had removed the women from the unit. He also was a gung ho, go getter.

Baker and Sinclair, looked and acted like twins, dark haired, thick eyebrows, eye lashes that women would have killed for, brawny, not so bright, but funny guys. Well funny in a non-politically correct way at any rate. Guess PC was as dead as Feminism now. Women had always considered them handsome in a down home southern way.

Danny Toliver, was a big black man from Philly, he always had a ready smile, even with the zombie shit going on and bitched daily about the lack of a good philly cheese steaks and his, his words, fat girlfriend. He had been busted back to E-4 at least four times that Benton knew of for fighting and some said using his ration card in Europe to sell stuff on the black market.

Last but not least was Jeb Hollings, a muscular, dark haired, good looking Texan who either deserved an Oscar for the Texan act or was truly the Former ranch hand, cowboy, who had joined the Army, excelled with firearms had moonlighted as a stripper with the stage name Bull, Benton had seen him the showers, it wasn’t just a name. Some how Jeb had managed to star in three porns with out getting caught and thrown out of the military which had made him something of a hero and legend in the Barracks.

Jebs former girlfriend had once said, he was what Woody Harrleson should have looked like in the Cowboy way. “ Wranglers were made for his ass” she had told their CO at a company BBq once. The poor bastard had turned red, and stuttered something about she was the best judge of that.

Jeb sat at a table, the flat brimmed first Cav hat, a hat he had earned in the Scouts, on his head. Wearing only his ACU pants and combat boots, thumbing thru a playboy. Five of the augmentees hung around near the stock room door, talking amongst themselves. Benton shook his head, ignoring the baggy pant’s idiots of the asshole brigade, in their wife beaters and the sideways hats. Pistols tucked into their waist bands, they were more likely to shoot their own balls off than be able to draw and shoot zombies, but a few more ball less gang bangers were fine by Benton.

Okay lets be honest here Benton told himself, they aren’t real gang bangers, just wanna be gangsters who watched the soprano’s once too often, with maybe a touch of scar face and the Godfather thrown in and had probably watched a lot of hip hop and rap Video’s. Real gang bangers would have shot these idiots on sight.

None of the soldiers took them as much of threat; except they had a hair trigger temper and were cowards, who would not to shoot till your back was turned.

Benton dropped into a seat at the table, “ any one for poker” he asked settling in for another long day.

**                                           **                                     **

The police Helicopters circled the National Guard Air Field a few times checking it out from the air, most of the Buildings were on the north side of the airfield. Medical center, armory, Fire, OEM. At various points abandoned vehicles could be seen around the base, at the gate was a long line of civilians cars, eternally bound for a home they would never reach.

The airstrip ran NE to with the hangers on the western side, a hundred yards to the east of the airstrip was a fence line and beyond that several hundred acres of pasture.

Ashton swept his binoculars over the hangers, fixing his gaze on the abandoned Helicopters lined up in rows. It looked like they had been preparing to deploy, he could see Cargo trucks parked next to the drop ramps of the Chinooks. Cases and crates had been dropped or knocked over, and lay scattered on some of the ramps and the ground around the trucks.

Farley, pointed to one of the buildings near the flight line, set back forty feet and behind a thick stand of trees and surrounded by a double fence line, with Concertina wire on top.
The structure looked more like a large bunker with a ramp that dropped ten feet into the ground. Ashton assumed there was a door at the bottom of the ramp. “ That’s where they keep a lot of the weapons and ammo, when its supplied to the base for deployments. That’s were to look first” Farley said over the intercom. Farley turned the chopper to swoop over the airfield again. There was a crashed C 131 at the end of the airstrip and another on the hot pad, that had never gotten off the ground.

So far, they had seen only a few zombies along the fence line and a few small groups on the base. There could be a few hundred to a few thousand in the buildings though.

“ Land us near the Black Hawks” Ashton said pointing. Farley nodded as he brought the chopper to a hover and began to land.

It was obvious that a lot of the choppers had been preparing for something before their pilots had fled or died and judging by the large gaps in the lines of parked Helicopters, mostly blackhawks, at least half had gotten off the ground. Not for the first time Ashton wondered where in the hell the surviving military had withdrawn to.

All four of the Police choppers settled to the ground near the Black hawks in the shadow of the Hangers. The town four miles down the road probably had over a thousand zombies, so they need to hurry, Ashton wanted to be in and out before more zombies could show up.

Ashton leaped from the helicopter, ducking out habit he moved beyond the reach of the rotor blades where he stood and studied the black hawks. “ God I almost have wood just looking at those” Ashton said Farley thought there had been something like twenty based here. but only ten remained. Farley handed off control to his Co pilot and Leaped from the police chopper.

He ran to the closest Black hawk, looked in to make sure it was safe then opened the door and climbed inside to check it out. Another police pilot ran to a second Black hawk.

A team of military and civilians jogged away from the helicopters, heading for the armory to recover anything that might still be inside.

The police choppers, sat idling, ready to lift off at a moments notice. They would wait till the Black Hawks were up and running ready to lift before the police helo’s departed.   just in case the people on the ground need to get out in a hurry.

Two of the former officers got one of the fuel trucks running and moved it next to the first of the Black hawks they would be taking. Hoses were unreeled, hooked and locked. Pumps hummed as fuel was transferred. Once the black hawks were fueled up the truck moved to the police helicopters to top off their tanks then the fuel truck was parked close by the remaining black hawks, so if they returned to recover another Helo, it would be close at hand.

The pilots inspected the machines as carefully as time allowed then climbed aboard and started preflight checks. Farley breathed a sigh of relief as the engines fired up one by one.

Daws had jogged over to a hot stand and set up a position where he could observe the gate that allowed access to the flight line. At some point the gate itself had been ripped away leaving the flight line mother naked to the undead. As the last police chopper was being topped off, he saw six zombies stagger out from behind a Peacekeeper parked near the gate. Their dead eyes were fixed on the helicopters across the flight line and the men around the birds.

“ Better make it snappy,” Daws radioed from his position “ There’s only six, but you know just how fast six can suddenly turn into a few hundred or more.”

Ashton nodded; remembering the nightmare days as their base had been overrun. “ Just a few more minutes. Weapon Free Daws” He said over the radio. With the sound of the choppers, a little gunfire wasn’t going to give away their presence.

“ Roger that Sarge, Daws out.” Ashton nodded absently turning to look at the choppers again. As he keyed his radio he heard Daws engage the six walking dead corpses, the rifle fire sharp and clear.

“ Jenkins status” Ashton asked, hoping that Jenkins and the recovery crew had located something worthwhile over at the armory. The Blackhawks were needed but extra weapons, ammunition and supplies were needed.

“ Alive, kicken and unbitten.” Jenkins replied his voice tinny over the radio, there was noise in the background of Jenkins transmission but Ashton couldn’t place the sound. “ you do realize Sergeant I was supposed to be discharged last November.” Jenkins added absently.

“Due to the current national Emergency your term of service has been extended indefinitely at the discretion of the US Military” Ashton replied snorting amusement. “ You can write a letter and complain to your congressman and Senator, but I think it might go unread at this point.”

“ Just Wonderful, Leave it to Uncle sugar to fuck up my plans. I was going to go and get laid in Fiji, spend some time lounging on the beach. Maybe take in a movie”

“ Jenkins, I know your lying, if you cant get laid here, no damn way you’ll get laid in Fifi” Crippen called out cutting into the transmission..

“ I can’t get laid here because most of the women are dead” Jenkins pointed out.

“ sure use that as an excuse, I got laid last night” Crippen shot back.

“ your hand, and a Kleenex do not count as a date or sex” Jenkins said archly, something rattled heavily in the background. “Got it Sarge, the gates open, give us a couple of minutes to clear and secure then we will start loading up the goodies ” Jenkins said suddenly.

“ whats it look like?” Ashton asked.

“ Well it’s a big room with lots of boxes, dark and has spiderwebs”

“Jenkins” Ashton prompted,

“roger, cutting the shit sarge, Looks like they supplied for the emergency, but not a lot left. Hang five, got a rotter in here.” Jenkins reported.   A minute rolled by then another. “Area clear, three rotters down.   so far we have a mk19, you just got to love a belt fed full auto 40mike mike grenade launcher with Six cases of 40mm, in such flavors as HE, WP, and two cases of Orange. Guess they liked chalk, we also have another Ma deuce, with three thousand rounds for the weapon.

And you wont believe this, something that I haven’t seen outside of a movie before, a 70mm recoilless rifle. Think bazooka only different. A SAW, and plenty of ammo…..” Jenkins talked steadily detailing every thing he could see in the depleted armory. Some one had taken most of the weapons and ammo. but what was left was more than enough for their purposes. Once they split the 5.56 and 7.62 with the cops, who were already damn near spitting empty, Ashton would be walking away with several thousand more rounds they desperately needed.

“ get what we need you have five minutes Jenkins that’s it. Maybe less. Those things are going to be showing up here any time now. We are making a lot of noise.” Ashton said.

“ No problem, out” Jenkins replied all business now.

Ashton turned and looked at the fence line were already more zombies had appeared and were pressing against the chain link. He could see many more crossing the open field behind the National Guard Base. He stood there watching silently, his hand idly stroking the grip of his weapon almost lovingly.

“ Any time your ready” Farley said over the radio moments later. Ashton checked his watch then nodded. “ time to go, lets mount up.” he called out motioning for his people to get aboard.

“Might want to expedite Sarge, we have some party crashers and not a hot chick in the lot” Daws reported.

“Get your ass back here Daws,” Ashton told the man.

Daws took one last look at the crowd pouring through the gate, flipped them the bird and started back across the field towards the waiting helicopters.

“As part of todays briefing on Safe sex while on Pass, we have to address certain issues, chiefly when dating the undead, using terms like Eat me, are not appropriate.” Daws said over the radio with a laugh.

Ashton watched as the men and women he had out on watch returned and began to board the waiting Helo’s. Daw was steadily cracking jokes, and chuckling to himself as he boarded the waiting helo Crippen and Angela right behind him.

 

“Coming at you hot Sarge.” Jenkins said suddenly over the radio. A minute later he spotted Jenkins Cargo configured Hummer tearing around the corner of a hanger then speed down the flight line. Then a wave of undead came into sight following the Hummer.

“ Jenkins, offload on Blackhawk two. Farley get your bird Airborne, along with all the police choppers. Get off the Ground now” Ashton said as he crouched and moved towards the second black hawk.

Dirt and debris flew around him as five helicopters lifted off. Jenkins drove thru the mini hurricane and screeched to a halt. Men piled out of the hummer and began to carry weapons and ammo cases to the Second chopper. T he mass of undead were now four hundred feet and closing in on the men around the helicopter.

The zombies were moving faster than a slow walk now, disintegrating shoes scuffing the pavement. The stench at least was blown away by the wash from the helicopters spinning rotors.

Ashton ran to the hummer as Jenkins and the others dumped their load inside the Black Hawk. He scooped up the last two cases, and the SAW and carried them to the chopper, where he passed it to Spacey who was looking anxious, but strapped the gear down nervously checking the advance of the undead.

Ashton took one look back then climbed into the Black hawk and strapped himself into the Door gunners’ harness. “ Lets Go.” he said, watching as the undead at the leading edge of the crowd rolled forward like the tide, ready to swallow them.

The pilot wasted no time, the black hawk shot up and away from the undead. The horde stopped and watched the chopper, their hands still reaching for the escaping food. As soon as they were at altitude, the entire group of helicopters turned and headed southeast towards Mt. Pleasant and the Yorktown. “ Now all we need is a mall” some one muttered over the radio.

 

**                                 **                                         **

The sun was going down on their second day in the house watching the store rooftop, Jared, thru his binoculars, saw two of the men at the store set up a propane bottle and hooked a lantern to it. they had it lit ready to ward off the approaching night as fast as possible. They were men scared of the night and what it could conceal. From the 21st century to the Stone Age, where monsters prowled the land, and evil came under cover of darkness. Not that that was far from the truth.

“ I have an idea,” Jared said, running fingers thru his beard, which was getting a bit longer than he liked.

“ Dazzle me with your stupi… brilliance I mean” Steve said grinning he wondered if Jared realized how often he rubbed his beard now.

“ I’m thinking if I get up on the roof, on that faux widows walk, I might be able to see over the store and get a better look at whats on the other side. If that’s the case, I’ll want Steger to position himself up there to take the shots at dawn. Ashton can be here in five minutes, once we engage. Steger can take out the Subway shop guys too, and any one else that thinks about sticking his head or a weapon out.” Jared said, wishing he had Ori with him for the sniper work. Not that he didn’t trust Steger or his men well all but that ass Hanson. Not even Hansen’s Buddies seem to trust him at this point.

“ as soon as it gets dark, I’m climbing up there” Jared said ignoring the worried look that Jill gave him. “ At least ill have a better view and know whether to call off the attack or not.”

“ What I don’t get Jared, is the first day we saw some military types up on that roof, but since then, its been a bunch of hip hop wanna be’s and crap. I don’t get it.” Steve said.

“ Two groups working together maybe, and you know how soldiers are about working with amateurs.” Jared pointed out looking thoughtful. It wasn’t likely that Mikhail had gathered so many men to himself in such a short time, or his ambush a couple of days ago would have been much more effective. But it was possible that there had already been two groups working together to hold Sullivan, before Mikhail had even arrived.

why in the hell a Army unit would work so closely with the civilian clowns he had been watching on the roof of the store he didn’t know, probably manpower issues. The only real difference it made in his plans was that the civilians were not going to react well to a coordinated assault by Men who knew what they were doing.

He watched as the last bit of sunlight faded from the sky and millions of stars appeared overhead in the black vault of heaven. The sky no longer hidden by smog, or the lights of the cities and towns was breathtaking. This was the sky his ancestors had looked upon with awe and wonder.

He idly wondered if Hubble was still downloading pictures, then shook his head at the thought of some zombies clustered around the screen looking at the pictures and wondering if there was something to eat out there in space.

“ Be careful” Jill said knowing he was about to try for the roof. Jared smiled and hugged her briefly before kissing her lightly on the lips. She could feel the longing and the love in that kiss and relaxed slightly.

“ Don’t worry, this place is a piece of cake compared to some of the climbs I’ve made” Jared said trying to assure her. Compared to running a recon through undead infested streets this was incredibly safe. He slipped out onto the balcony grabbed the eave of the roof then easily swung himself up out of sight.

Steve just smiled at Jill in the moon washed darkness. “ the man is part ape, your lucky he didn’t get the fur to go with it” Steve joked. Jill chuckled softly. A moment later a rope slid down, no doubt for Steger to use when the time came.

Jared lay on the fake widows walk with its ornate railing and was satisfied that he could see beyond the shopping center. he could also see part of the wall of cars in the Red&white parking lot.

The Subway shop was part of a strip center across the street from the Red &white and was walled in with Cars in the same way as the store. He could see a lantern burning inside and lanterns had been placed along the wall. A sentry stood on a scissor lift to see over the three high car wall. This one was dressed in ACU’s. Jared zoomed his scope in a bit more and began to count the men he could see. Eight, eight Military men, and not a one of them looked happy about being there.

Who could blame them, in a reasonably safe position, surrounded by undead and not one vehicle to escape in. was not a situation you wanted to wake up to any morning.

He saw no sign of anyone dressed in Civilian clothing in the subway shop and the Reality place had no lights burning anywhere that he could see. He seriously doubted anyone was inside there at least not anymore.

Tomorrow morning this was going to come a stop one way or the other, he glanced at his watch and nodded, Ori should already be on Sullivan island. Assuming that end of the operation went fine.

 

**                             **                              **

 

The small group of men, strode down the docks, passing all number of Cabin cruises, fishing boats, shrimp boats, speed boats and every other type of boat one could imagine. The only sound was of their footfalls on wood and the lap of water against hulls and pilings.

No one said a word, not wanting to accidentally make their boss any angrier than he already was, the Russian was highly unpredictable, and to become the focus of his anger was not a wise thing to do, if you considered breathing something to continue.

Mikhail walked into the old wooden building with its fading and flaking paint, barely noticing the fishing nets, Charts, depths finders and other items in the main room. Daryl looked nervous as he walked beside Mikhail who was coldly furious.

Bobby Mertan, barrel chested with arms the size of phone poles, and sallow sagging skin, a product of once being grossly overweight, stood behind the counter looking sullen. Toby, Warren, Stevie and David, Bobby’s crony’s were trying to act casual and tough at the same time, pulling off neither attitude. The other four men that were supposed to have helped Bobby stood off to one side. more than willing to let Bobby hang himself. Only the monumentally stupid would willingly get between the boss and the person who pissed him off.

Mikhail stopped in the center of the room and looked around, at the old wooden walls, the wooden floor scuffed from years of feet crossing to and fro. An aerial picture of the west end of Sullivan Island hung behind the counter.   He gave a distasteful grimace.   there was nothing about blue collar work and its paraphernalia that he found admirable

“ I think, its possible Bobby, you have something to tell me.” Mikhail said mildly. Daryl gave no sign of what he felt. A mild Mikhail was a dangerous Mikhail. The man was a stone cold killer even if he were nuttier than a fruit cake. Bobby had well and truly screwed up. “ I cant trust the imbeciles under the command of our ally col. Parks. I thought I could trust you. Was I wrong Bobby? Is it possible that I cant trust you either?” Mikhail asked.

Bobby shook his head; the sun light thru the window shining off his balding head. “ You can trust me Boss, but we need more men for that job. Theres a lot of those things in there” Bobby protested.

Mikhail watched the man levelly, “ so your more scared of zombies than me” he said after dragging out the silence for almost five minutes.

“ no, that’s not it boss. We cant plant the device where you want it if we get killed before getting it set up.” bobby Explained. “there’s a lot of them in that fort.”
It was obvious the man had no intention of completing the Job that Mikhail wanted.

Daryl had no idea why the man thought he could play games with the Russian. It was possible that he thought the Russian wasn’t as dangerous now that they had a decent place, food and relative safety. Maybe he was just stupid enough to think that he deserved to be boss.

Mikhail studied the other man for a moment, a half smile playing across his face. Daryl didn’t move, he didn’t dare. Bobby, smiled back, somewhere in the back of his little atrophied redneck brain he must think he had scored some kind of point. Mikhail still smiling drew his pistol and shot bobby between the eyes, and as the others tried to scramble and duck for cover, Mikhail shot Toby in the head as well.

“ Now let me be just a little bit clearer,” Mikhail said. “ I want you to put that bomb exactly where I told you. I don’t care how many undead there are in that fort, I don’t care how scared you are of them. You had better be much more scared of me than the undead.” his voice was cold as the Siberian winter.

He didn’t holster the pistol, he just stood there waiting as the other men stumbled all over themselves to agree to do what he wanted.

Seemingly, satisfied Mikhail indicated the two corpses with his pistol. “ Get that out of here, its unhealthy to have dead bodies where you sleep and eat.”

Mikhail walked over to the table and sat slowly watching as the men gathered up the corpses and took them outside, they were gone only long enough to toss the bodies off the pier into the water.

If these cretins did as he wanted, Mikhail thought, even if Jared won in the coming confrontation he would still lose when the bomb went off killing the children. He should do this himself, but it was getting harder and harder deal with the Colonel. It would appear that any one who spent to much time with Mikhail’s partner went mad. Mikhail himself was not immune, he supposed. He had found himself often seeing memories of things he had never done, flowing thru his mind. Memories of torturing people, the images sharp and clear, the emotions flooded his mind.

Did it matter in the end, no; it didn’t affect his skills in the least. To be honest with himself, he would most likely have hunted down a group to sell his services to in this new world and enjoy being able to employ his skills even if he hadn’t met his partner and his boss.

Recently he had begun to sense his partners fear, something had upset its plans. Something it hadn’t planned for or foreseen. That fear bothered Mikhail, for the first time he wandered if he might fail. If his partner had reason to fear something, could that something affect Mikhail’s plans. The answer, he was sure, was yes it could.

Well it wasn’t as if you didn’t know there wasn’t another side to this little battle Mikhail told himself. And Jared represented the other side, which led Mikhail once more back to savoring the coming contest between them. oh yes, Jared as you say, Bring it on.

**                                                     **                                         **

 

The water was dark, with only a hint of moonlight filtering through. Two scuba sleds slid thru the water at thirty feet, pulled forward by electric motors, a driver lay on each sled while it towed two other divers on lines. Ori looked at the dimly lit compass and made a slight course correction. He was no stranger to Scuba diving, but he wasn’t a fan of night diving, or diving in a world where the undead prowled. He kept expecting to feel a dead hand grasp his leg and then pain as the zombie bit down. God knew how many had been washed out to sea over the last ten months and were even now trudging along the bottom half eaten by fish and sharks trying to find unsuspecting divers to eat.

At least he didn’t worry as much about sharks anymore, that had to be an improvement he told himself

Out of habit, he checked his oxygen and depth gauge, and noted they were still in the 35 foot depth range. Rob had added a depth gauge to the sleds small console, but Ori preferred the dual unit on the line attached to his tank.

He had to adjust for the current and prayed that Ronny was able to keep on course. He wasn’t the best diver in the world, but Ronny was better than the rest of the team who had never dove. Stephanie had snorkeled once during spring break in Mexico that was the closest to dive experience any of them had.

Ori had learned years back while active duty, his first duty station, where uncle Sugar had decided they didn’t need more EOD on that particular base where he found himself stationed as Nurse in one of the famous MOS screw ups the Army seemed to actively pursue. As a result he spent almost a year on the island sitting in an office doing paperwork that wouldn’t get some one killed, while the screw up was fixed.

In his copious off time, sarcasm intended, he had learned to dive and sail. Not that he would ever claim to be a sailor but he had the basic knowledge and experience. Diving how ever was a different story, he had put in a lot of dive time for several years when ever he gotten the chance.

His family had found both skills entertaining, considering his life long passion for hunting and camping in the hills and mountains of Tennessee. The thought of His playing sailor and navy seal amused them to no end. If only they could see me now he thought.

Not for the first time he wondered if they were still alive, his brother Jesse had gotten out of the Marines just before the zombie balloon went up. If any one could survive this and keep his family alive, it would be Jesse and his Father. They were probably holed up down the family holler using zombie bodies as sandbags.

He checked his course again, ignoring the dark water. When this was all over he might just pack his gear, take Beth and point the RV towards home. Jared would understand Ori knew, hell he might even come with him.

A dim yellow LED on the console began to flash. Ori reduced speed, Rob, the genius that he was had worked out a system using a handheld GPS unit in a sealed box to indicate when they were close to the beach, the light would begin to flash when they were a hundred feet from the programmed destination. A minute later, a blue light flashed, this one hooked to the depth finder. He began to angle up watching as the depth gauge climbed to ten feet. The sled was barely moving when Ryan tapped Ori on the leg, a signal that Ryan could feel the bottom.

Ori looked up and could see the moon thru the water, distorted but obvious. He slowed then felt a drag as his passenger’s fins dragged the sand, sending it swirling up in a cloud that obscured everything around them. Ori turned off the motor and removed the tether. He adjusted his BC so he was no longer Neutrally buoyant and pushed off the sled and touched bottom. In moments he had moved far enough up that his head was out of the water. he ducked down into the water removing his fins and and shoving them into the mesh bag at his side, then let the waves push him up on the beach, like so much driftwood still half in the water.

He studied the windswept beach and grass covered dunes but saw no sign of zombies. Once he was sure that no undead lurked nearbyhe reached down with his left hand and pushed a button on a little black box on his BC.

The button triggered a LED light on the box attached so his left ankle. it flashed ten times, before the capacitor that fed it lost its charge. But it was enough, the rest of the team seeing the light emerged from the water, dragging dry bagged gear and the sleds.

They rushed to the high grass and hid in the shadows of the weathered dunes, removing their dive gear and hiding it. Ori had decided they would just pull on their ACUs and BDUs over the wet suits, which should offer a little more protection from bites if something went wrong. They could strip out of the wet suits once they had cleared the lighthouse. Assuming no one got overheated and dropped over.

The lighthouse loomed over the beach, a 140 tall triangular structure, that looked nothing like the lighthouses people normally thought of. From the base, hidden behind the dune to the midway point the white paint glowed in the moonlight. From the mid point to the top where it looked like a air traffic control tower room, it was painted black.

Ori removed the sniper rifle from its waterproof bag, and smiled as he activated the scope. Jared had managed to trade Dean for the thing and she was a beaut. Raising it to his eye, he studied the top, there was no one on the balcony around the top. Switching it over to thermal, he saw two men inside but not near the windows.

They were close to the back of the upper room. Ori nodded in satisfaction. He signaled to the others to stay put while he worked his way thru the grass and up to the top of dune, laying in a clump of stiff thick weeds that hid him from sight.

Now as long as a zombie doesn’t crawl up and bit my ass I’m good as gold he thought as he looked down on the fence that ran around the entire facility. From his position, the could make out the crowd of undead clustered at the gates, and two humvee’s parked close to the lighthouse. They seemed to be only clustered at the gates, maybe fifty of them all told.

He worked his way silently around the fence moving slowly keeping to cover and deep shadow as much as possible, till he could see the building attached to the back of the lighthouse. It was three stories tall, with rows of windows.

Over the pitched roof of the attached building, he could see a window every ten feet or so up the flat back wall of the lighthouse. He assumed they were there to allow light into a staircase.

He scanned the building with the thermal scope and grunted as he saw two men passing a window about halfway up the lighthouse. Thru window he could Six more people were in a room on the second floor of the building. Satisfied, he summoned the rest of his team with three clicks over the radio. He hoped they remembered to keep their asses down while low crawling.

With the team gathered, he studied the fence line noting the three rows of barbed wire at the top. He smiled slightly as he shrugged off his pack and dug into the side pocket remembering some people complaining about all the stuff he carried. “ what do you need tools for, why would you carry that hand saw when you have an axe, whats the point in carrying wire cutters. Well you nay sayers, whose the man now he thought as he pulled the wire cutters out.

Ori moved to the fence paused to look around the area then scaled the fence stopping just below the string of barbed wire. Of course the fence rattles Ori thought. just my luck well Clocks ticking, zombies are on their way, he thought as he started cutting.

As soon as he had the wire cut, he slipped thru and waved at the rest to hurry it up. he could already seen zombies moving along the fence line, trying to find the source of the ringing rattling noise of chain link moving. One by one the team members came over the fence, as fast as possible, the Chain link jingling and bouncing. Brian the last of the team scrambled up and dropped to the other side, with a zombie only ten feet from him.

Brian knelt on one knee breathing fast from fear staring at the zombie that was now pawing at the fence trying to get to the people it could see. “ stop looking at it” Ori whispered, as he turned away and walked towards the parked Hummer and the front door of the facility.

The Hard part was coming up for all of them, clearing rooms. Nothing but stress and fear, never knowing if you threw open a door that some one might be waiting on the other side for you.

While the others waited on the steps, he checked the hummers out for anything useful, not that he had expected anything. Now if only there was no one home inside. He hefted the AR fitted with a silencer and moved quietly up the steps, to the metal door, complete with signs that had such official and original messages as “ authorized personal only.”

Ori pulled out a stethoscope, putting it on, he placed he disk against the door and listened. He wasn’t sure if it would work or not, but the door was only two pieces of thin metal with a hollow space between them.

Listening intently, he was rewarded after a few minutes with the sound of two men talking. It was to muffled to hear the actually words. At least his idea had paid off.
He tapped Ronny on the shoulder alerting him to be ready to breach; whispering “ two” so that Ronny knew there were people somewhere on the other side of the door.

Ori opened the door, and they went in just like they had been trained, just inside the door was a small office area with two desks, papers were scattered over the desktops and floors, an overturned phone lay on one desk. In the center of the south wall was a hallway. He could see four doors along the hall, two on each wall, one door stood open and light from a lantern spilling out into the hall. At the back of the hallway, he could see an elevator door.

He moved silently down the hall, with Ronny just to the right and behind him.

“I’m telling you man, that bitch she wants me. She cant get enough of my dick” a man was saying from the room.

“ bullshit, she’s just saying that hoping you’ll take her handcuffs off so she can escape like the cheerleader did last month. Now that was a hot piece of split tail.” Another man said.

“ Naw man I’m telling you, she likes me.”

Ori felt his temper flare, hearing the men casually talking about rape. but he kept in control he had a mission to finish and going off half cocked would screw things up..

“ What ever man, doesn’t matter as long as she gets knocked up. that mad as shit house bat Army guy, wants em all pregnant, all the time that’s what I done heard. Create a new race of Americans. Like any one gives a shit any more about that crap”

Ori and Ronny stepped into the room weapons up. “ Actually, I do” Ori said as he shot the speaker in the head, Ronnie shot the other man, a skinny white kid with baggy as hell pants, a wife beater and a ball cap turned sideways on his head, in the knee caps. The kid didn’t even try to reach for the pistol shoved gangsta style down the front of his to baggy pants.

The gunfire was no louder than coughs. Ori walked over to the sobbing man who was holding his knees.

“ see the thing about surviving against zombies is being able to move. Which it appears you wont be able to do anymore” Ori whispered. “ as much as I want to kill your ass, you can tell me how many men are still in here, where they are at, and what kind of weapons.” Ori said placing a hand over the mans mouth to keep him from shouting. “ If you do that with out shouting and warning anyone. I’ll promise to take you to our doctor when all this is over. She wont like you, but she will treat you.” Ori said as Ronny poked around in the cases of MRE’s and other gear stacked up in the room.

“ which is it, die here, or tell me what I want to know and get seen by a doctor” Ori said, as the man nodded wildly at the latter. “ Remember, voice low or you die.” Ori said removing his hand. “ How many?” he asked.

“ three more men, ones an army guy. Pistols mostly. The army guy is on the second floor with his breeder and the other women. The other guys are up top watching the water.” the man whimpered as Ori frowned, more to worry the sick asshole than anything else.

Ori had seen six people on the second floor, two on the top floor. So at least five of the six on the second were woman. Ori refused to use the word breeder. Equal numbers of women to men, how nice he thought acidly.

“ ties his hands and gag him then put his ass in a closet” Ori said. Ronny produced strip ties and went to work. As soon as lover boy was safely tucked away. Ori led them out and checked the other rooms on this floor. One was a com center, and was covered in thick dust only two sets of foot could be seen in the dust. Another room appeared to be a gear room. Medical response bags, floats, blankets, rope and to much other gear to see in one look.

They swept it to make sure no one was hiding inside then moved to the end of the hallway. Ori ignored the elevator doors; with no power, they couldn’t use it, which meant that last door was a stairwell.

Ori opened the door and thankful that he had the NVG’s, the Stair well was as dark as death. The stairs went both up and down, he wanted to head straight to the second floor but he couldn’t leave the down stairs with out checking. Lover boy might have been lying.

He led them quietly down, the stairs let out into a maintenance area, which he had suspected. It didn’t take them long to check out the room, electrical boxes, an emergency generator, and the air handler system. A hatch let into the elevator shaft.

This place actually would have done well to shelter in, secure and well stocked. Ori idly wondered why the Coasties who had worked here, had bailed. Probably went to save their families and never made it back Ori decided.

With the basement secured, they moved quickly and silently to the second floor, the first room they checked had four cots in it. porn magazines and food wrappers were everywhere. The second room looked like it was used regularly, but there was only a single cot and a sketchpad on the desk. Mollie gear and a Pack sat at the foot of the cot, along with two cases of 5.56 , two cases of MRE’s and an unmarked box.

Ori and Ronny moved to the next room the one Ori had seen six people in, through the thermal scope. Once Ronny was in position, Ori threw open the door and charged in rifle at high ready, Ronny on his heels. followed by Ryan and Stephanie.

They slid to a stop as a man, fully dressed, in ACUs threw himself over an obviously pregnant woman, trying to protect her. All five women, two of them pregnant, were chained to Eyebolts in the wall at the head of each Cot.

“ don’t shoot for gods sake” the soldier said quietly as he dropped the pistol he held next to the woman.

“ off the woman now” Ronny snarled, his anger growing in leaps and bounds at the sight of the chained and pregnant women. He might enjoy being chained up by his woman on occasion for fun, but this was nothing he wanted a part of, or to understand.

The man stood slowly, Ori noted his pants were still buttoned. “ hold up Ronny,” Ori said stepping forward but not straying into the others field of fire. “ want to explain whats going on here” He asked the man, but the woman spoke up first. “ he isn’t like the others, okay. He’s a friend, hes tried to protect us as much as he can.” She said, pleading with Ori.

“ Name” he asked the Soldier.

“Corporal Terry Cooper, US Army.” The soldier responded stiffly.

“ Well Corporal, is handcuffing women to walls and knocking them up SOP while in the field” Ori asked, his anger finally coming thru.

“ No, but not much you can do about it either, when your nut job Commander gives the order and has a bunch of white trash assholes backing up his breeding orders. Ive done what I can when I can,” Cooper said hotly, a dangerous light flickered in his eyes. “ Some of us tried to oppose the order at first, but the Col had us split up all over the island and isolated before he started issuing his breeding laws and other rules. So he made sure there were never enough men to actually bring it off. not much you can do, when your stuck in a position surrounded by undead and no way out. Dependent on that prick to have supplies dropped to you so you can go on eating and breathing”

“ you have two hummers out there, you aren’t stuck” Ori pointed out.

“And exactly what was I supposed to do, fight it out with four other men and then try to get five women, two of them pregnant out of here in a hummer that’s low on fuel and go where, buddy. As much as I hate it, this was the best place for them till they gave birth.” The soldier took a deep breath throttling his anger back.

“he got Tammy, Lacy and Pam, birth control pills so they wouldn’t get pregnant” the pregnant woman beside Cooper said, waving a hand at the three woman “ and was going to take us out of here after Lisa and I gave birth”

“I tried to come up with a way to the get rest of the women out, but I couldn’t see a way to pull that off, more than half are in the Hotel the Col, uses for an Hq, when he isn’t hiding at that House he likes. The rest are scattered over four locations.” Copper said.

“ you need to tell Jared about this, if there’s women in the positions we are going to hit he needs to know,” Ronny suggested to Ori who nodded.

“ if your going to be attacking the island you might want to know something else, Parks got a hold of some nerve gas Arty shells. VX I think, he claimed god showed him where to find them. Anyway, that nut job had at first talked about using them to clear an area of undead. he didn’t seem like a total nut case till we got here. he thought that since they had to use nerves to move around, and brains to run the nerves. VX should destroy them like it does a living person. When we got here, he rigged them up as a doomsday weapon, every person with in miles of this island will die if he sets them off.

Every since we arrived here, he talks about Dreams from god and how the Devils champion is going to attack us here. Some of the more religious guys believed every word of it. others like me think he is just a total wack job. But he will set them off, especially now that the Russian is here.” Copper said.

Ori stared at him for a moment, “ I need you to tell me exactly where the warheads are” Ori said as he silently and sarcastically thanked god, for the opportunity to once more disarm a few bombs, his most favorite job of all time.

 

**                                   **                             **

The metal door that sealed the parking garage shut, rattled open, and the three vehicles two hummers and a supply truck rolled out, pushing aside the undead, while soldiers on the grounds shot any that tried to rush the doors. in moments the gate was rattling back down. The vehicles pulled out and drove to Poe’s tavern where one soldier had been posted along with 12 street thugs.

Bailey watched the large crowd of undead that surrounded the place and had his driver keep going, there was no way they were going to be able to get supplies into the building at this point..

They tried three more defense positions, but it was the same everywhere. Crowds of undead had shown up surrounded each building sealing in the inhabitants and keeping any one else out. It was odd really, usually the undead just wandered around, small crowds would form around the buildings, small enough to clean out quickly so they could resupply. But nothing like the crowds around the buildings today.

He didn’t let his men waste any ammo. there was no point in it.   “ try the lighthouse.” He said. It was odd really, he thought as he watched the road out the window. The dead were clustering around the manned positions. Beyond those places the streets looked damned near empty; occasionally he would see a zombie shuffling thru the trash and debris that littered the streets.   He didn’t understand it, and that bothered him.

They finally pulled up in front of the lighthouse and saw no zombies immediately around the gate, which was really odd, considering all the other manned positions were covered in the walked dead. Yet another puzzle in an already weird situation.

Corporal Daniels looked nervous as he leaped out and ran to the gate, his weapon ready. Unhanded he got the key out and unlocked it.   Swinging the gate open he waited till the last vehicle passed then slammed the gate shut and locked it.

Daniels ran to where the vehicles were parked, the gravel crunching under his boots, sounded more like snow in the wintertime. Bailey stepped out of the HumVee then looked up at the night sky as if asking for help. Then he gathered himself and walked slowly up the front steps of the lighthouse, feeling the weight of the world on his shoulders.

He opened the door and stepped in inside to find Cooper walking towards him. a lantern in his hands. “ Evening top, Hows tricks?” Copper said, watching as two more soldiers entered behind Bailey.

“ Where’s your, assistants?” Bailey asked. Usually at least one of the civilian idiots would show up on a supply run just to look important if nothing else. “ up top I guess” Cooper responded just a little to fast his eyes darting between Timmons and Gason, the two soldiers with Bailey.

“ You can speak freely Cooper, whats up?” Bailey asked curious where Copper was heading.   It was something that

Copper looked apprehensive for a moment. “ I have someone you might want to meet Top.” Bailey raised an eyebrow; he had met every one on the island at this point. He motioned for Cooper to lead the way.

As they walked upstairs, Bailey felt a surge of guilt. He should have put a stop to all this when it first started. But he hadn’t, and because he hadn’t he bore as much guilt as Parks. He tried to ignore the sick feeling in the pit of his stomach as Cooper led him into the room where the women were kept. Bailey came to stop as he saw the heavily armed men and one woman.

The women who had been kept here for breeding, had been cut free of their chains and were clustered at the far end of the room eating from MRE meal pouches.

The two soldiers with Bailey immediately tensed, but Bailey waved them off “ at ease boys, it might be the end of our little problem.” He told his men then stepped forward, he could see the distaste on the short Blonds face, but didn’t let it deter him. “ I take it you are here to take control of the Island,” Bailey said. There was a military bearing to the man, that was easy for Bailey to spot.

The shortish blond man nodded slowly “ we are, but it seems that you slavers are already here.”

“ we aren’t fucking…” Timmons began but Bailey cut him off. “ we are Timmons, we failed these people.” Bailey said harshly cutting Timmons off and jabbing a finger at the women at the far end of the room. “ and its time we finally did something to end this. That’s what we’ve been planning at any rate” Bailey said. “Lets let the man speak.”

Ori eyed CSM Bailey for a moment, Cooper had told him how Parks had pulled all this off. but even still Ori wouldn’t have stood by and let this shit go down, even if it cost him his life. He forced aside his distaste, Copper had said that Bailey was stand up had been setting up a way to end this. Now it was time to decide if Bailey and Cooper were for real and if with their help Jared could take the island.

“If your serious about helping end this Top, then we need intel. Where the troops are, number of weapons, weapon types, weak points the works.” Ori stated motioning for Bailey to sit down at the small table in the room. Ori sat with his back to the freed women. Bailey sat slowly his eyes constantly moving to the women he had failed behind Ori.

Ori wanted Bailey to see the women, as a constant reminder of what he had let happen on his watch, even if he had been trying to find a way to stop it, and protect the men who weren’t involved.   Damn Jared and his idea that all of what was going on was to gain a second chance to make things right, and because Ori believed. He was going to take a chance and extend that second chance to Bailey and his men.

Bailey didn’t respond at first, he was studying the Blonde, his mind going over what he knew, and what would be needed to take the Island away from Parks and his loyal men.
So far the blonde and his buddies had slipped onto the island and taken the lighthouse with out a single alarm being raised, but is was one building on a island full of undead and multiple occupied buildings. Occupied by mostly decent men who would rather help then get killed.

No the only way for Bailey to even the odds, protect the men who had been against the whole thing from the start and give them a chance to expunge the stain to honor and soul was to lay it all out to this stranger and work with him..
If this man had enough men to give Baily’s men a chance, at least give the ones who hadn’t fallen to the madness that seemed to grip Parks and his loyal henchmen. Then it was worth the risk he decided.

“Before I do that I need to know a few things.” Bailey said. “First do you really believe you can do this?”

“Yes” Ori said locking eyes with the First Sergeant.

“Second will you allow my people to surrender.”

Ori nodded slowly then said. “as long as they don’t resist”

“Good enough, and lastly will you allow them to regain their honor. Because the men stuck out in the forward positions were not part of this. I’ve been slipping them extra food and ammo when I could and working with them to come up with a plan to end this. I want them to have the chance to end this the right way.”

“I can’t promise that Top, I can only say that J… our leader might allow that. MIGHT.” Ori said being totally honest. “we have manpower, we have weapons and the ammo to go with them. what we don’t have is a lot of trust in working with total strangers, even brothers in arms who allowed this shit to happen in the first place.’

Bailey was silent again then straightened in his chair placing his hands on his thighs as he made his decision. “ The Colonel is using the Sands Hotel as his CQ, there are only six men inside not counting myself that are against Parks and his agenda. He has twenty soldiers loyal to him and eighty or so of the Augmentee’s as he calls them at the hotel. scum of the earth for the most part, there might be one or two decent men in their ranks, but they are too scared to speak out. “ Bailey said relieved to at last see the end of the tunnel coming.

“ There are sixty five Soldiers who are against Parks, scattered across two islands. But there are a hundred augmentee’s spread out with them. That’s how he keeps control. he keeps the disloyal troops away from his breeding population and under guard,

Most are in positions that are surrounded by undead, with no transportation. Insane he might be, but the Colonel is still a very smart man. With out wheels, and only supplied with limited ammo, and saddled with Augmentee’s theres little chance the men against Parks can or will rise up against him. which is something I’ve been trying to change. Mostly by slipping them extra supplies when and where I could. The Colonel how ever doesn’t trust any one but his fellow religious nut jobs. So Im watched just as intently as every one else so what I can accomplish has been limited.”

A hundred and ninety agumentees, that was a company, Ori thought surprised, and only seventy five soldiers who wanted to fight back.

“ where’s the rest of your company.” Ori asked stressing your, Bailey had only mentioned ninety four men. He wasn’t sure he believed the Sergeant’s story or not. “how many are left, I need numbers, locations, and types of weapons.”

“ Some bugged out before we ever left Ft. Jackson. Others died or jumped ship on the way here. by the time we reached the islands, we were down to a hundred men. We lost ninety along the way, and the rest are woman, who are kept secured as you’ve seen.

It was the losses that that drove the Colonel to start gathering Augmentee’s. And what ultimately led to the breeding program.” Bailey said watching Ori for a moment. What ever reaction he had expected at those words didn’t appear, so he continued. “ but currently counting the augmentees, we have effectively two companies who are armed with M4’s, followed by AR’s, shotguns, and a variety of side arms of various munitions types. Only the Civilian manned company, led by the few soldiers loyal to Parks have complete access to ammunition and vehicles. ”

Two companies, is there a point God, where you start striking the Smite key and helping out, maybe a nice plague, or a rain of toads at the very least Ori asked silently.

“ what I don’t get is why you folks didn’t rebel the moment your COLONEL, started trying to make women play toys. With all due respect First Sergeant, I would have shot his ass in a heartbeat.”

“it was easier for him than you think, He already had a loyal cadre of soldiers, he just posted every one else he wasn’t sure about as far from himself as he could. Then announced his plans for a new America. It took a lot of work to keep him for having some of the men from being executed for Treason. The Colonel is doing Gods work Remember.

Besides Soldier, if any of my men had managed to get enough ammo, then seize vehicles and even came close to winning there is a Chemical weapon on the roof of the hotel, that would kill everyone for five or more miles around the hotel and he will use it. its rigged to go off if he doesn’t input a code into the thing every day. If that wasn’t the case I would have shot him a long while back. So judge all you want Son, but I have been making plans for a while now to end this. But we still need either a detailed example of how to disarm the weapon or find an EOD expert.”

Ori glanced up at the ceiling with a look that Bailey didn’t understand. Okay I really am starting to believe god, that you have been trying to blow me up for years now. oh joy, disarm another bomb they say. Your our only hope Ori wan kenobi. And yes I can be nerdy screw you very much Jared

“ and before you start on about why we didn’t get rid of him before it got this bad, I had thought it was PTSD, most of us were not dealing well with friends and family getting eaten, dying and coming back to try and eat us. And frankly he wasn’t all that bad then or even when we first got here. the rest of us were busy dealing with shock, stress, watching the world die and just dismissed the dreams he claimed led him here, the dreams from god.

It wasn’t till those dreams instructed him and the Templars, that’s what they call themselves, the twenty men who back the Colonel to the hilt, to form the Augmentees, rebuild America and how to repopulate it, that it got so bad.

Since then I’ve tried to save as many of my Soldiers as I could, and I’ve even tried to save the colonel because of the man he used to be. In the end Son, All I’ve done was failed them all.”

Ori sat silently hearing the pain and self-loathing in the other mans voice. But it was the mention of dreams that piqued his curiosity. “ Your saying that dreams led him here.” Ori asked. Bailey nodded.

“ Its insane I know. The Templars, believe he has been chosen by god, and they have dreams too where God comes to them and tells them he wants them to serve Parks who speaks with gods voice. And that they were here to stop the anti Christ.” Bailey said.

Ori nodded things starting to make some sense, at least to him. Ori wondered just how many of the nut jobs left in the world, had been driven completely around the bend and sent out to create chaos by, what do I call it, the devil, anti Christ, Evil. Evil works for me he told himself. night after night, hiding and fighting to survive with this little voice whispering to you in your dreams guiding you into actions that you’ve been led to.

Chaos and order, Light and dark. Jared had brought it up a few times over the months as they tried to make sense of Mikhail’s actions and the weird zombie behavior on occasion. Hell the existence of zombies themselves and one zombie in particular that weirded out any one unlucky enough to see it or dream about it, made the whole idea hard to scoff at and ignore.

“All right Top, Lets get down to details if we are going to take this place away from the Messiah. You see I used to do EOD.” Ori said with a grimace that he tried to make into a smile.

 

**                                         **                                    **

“ I don’t like this Col.” Bailey said knowing he might start a shit storm. Bailey had only been back to the HQ for an hour, and in the time he had been gone, the Colonel had, had yet another Vision from god.

He watched Colonel Nathan parks, intently. Parks looked exasperated, and annoyed but not much else. he sat behind the large desk, with the Company banner and the American flag flanking it. The wall lacked the usual I love me displays on a Co’s walls. But that was because Parks hadn’t had time to remove them from his office back on Jackson before the undead over ran the building.

Parks rose from behind his desk, and eyed his First sergeant. As usual Parks looked like he was read for a parade. All spit and polish, his personal woman got up at 0400hrs every day to iron Parks uniform. His woman, Bailey thought angrily, like he owned her. he was tired of this shit, tired of zombies and tired of not stopping Parks. If the man he had talked to at the lighthouse was serious and he seemed to be, then this might all end very soon.

A quick glance at the two bubbas standing on either side of the door, and noted that neither of them were acting aggressive. Other than the normal contempt, they felt for all the military men.

“ I’m sorry you feel that way Top, but the decisions I make though hard, are the best for us, and our situation. We must be strong enough to rebuild the country once we regroup and destroy those things out there. “ Parks said levelly, the sick part was that Parks believed every word he said. “ and to do that we need men, the number of survivors are growing smaller, and many like this Jared, a Former US army Sergeant I might add, are setting themselves up as warlords. There for we need every woman we have to be pregnant, if necessary for the rest of their lives so that we have enough children to grow up and secure our future as Americans. And frankly Top I’m about sick of explaining it to you.” Parks said in warning.

“ Yes sir, I understand, but its not that policy I’m referring to, at least not directly. It’s the reaction of the trained men of the company, they are not happy sir.” Bailey said. “ ever since you issued the order last winter, the bulk of our trained men, Loyal American soldiers sir, are in effect banished to Siberia. I don’t like to see our men playing second fiddle to some gang bangers because of an order that If you had given me time, I might have found a better way to implement it than to just sex lines sir.”

“ I’m not happy with it Top, but it’s the way it has to be.” Parks said angrily. “ they will do as ordered, they are soldiers. They have a duty to follow the orders of a superior officer” Parks stated. “ Besides, they are in no position to challenge my orders, even if they forget their duty.”

A duty to follow all legal orders and this and many of your orders are not what any one could call remotely legal. Bailey thought, he should have walked out back on Fort Jackson when he had first seen the signs. But he had thought, hoped really that he could keep Parks from going over the edge, for the sake of the men and women of the company, who had nothing left but the military and no one else to rely on.

And Bailey had almost brought Parks back from the edge, almost convinced him that he was suffering from PTSD and god wasn’t talking to him in his Dreams then that Damn Russian showed up. The fact that Parks had dreamed about it, a week before had shaken Bailey, the dream had been right, down to the sequence of lights that the Russian had used to signal parks he was coming in to land on the beach.

“Make them see the Light Top, that’s your job. If you cant do it, say so and Ill replace you with out prejuidice. We’ve been together too long, Ill make you the S3. or make a special position for you.” Parks said.

“ Ill do my duty sir. Come hell or high water” Bailey said, seeing the irony. Hell was already outside these walls. And all he needed to was two more days to do what his duty called for. “ Ill take a couple of men and go to outpost one and have a talk with the men there sir. Ill try to make them see the light.” One was where Parks had sent the men he least trusted, which was Staff Sergeant Jansons and his Squad, other men that had been a bit to open and critical. But at least Bailey had talked parks into exile than the much simpler shooting men in job lots.

“ Good idea, we need supplies delivered there anyway.” Parks replied as he walked to the window and looked out over the water. At least the Colonel had taken over a Luxury hotel to use as his base of operations Bailey thought. He tried hard not to use the insulting phrase nut job, but it did spring to mind far to often these days. “ dismissed Top” Parks said his back still turned.

Bailey left the room, stopping at his own quarters for a moment. He gathered up his Rifle and combat gear and donned it quickly then knelt next to the sixteen year old girl who sat on the floor looking out the window. He drew his pistol and passed it to her. “ If I don’t come back, you shoot every SOB that trys to rape you.” he said gently then hugged her. “ two more days, if I’m lucky and you will be safe.” He rose and smiled at her. “ don’t unlock the door for anyone. Theres enough MRE’s and water in here to last you a month.”

She nodded tears streaking down her cheeks, as she cradled the pistol. Bailey wanted to just hold her, and tell her it was going to be all right, but he didn’t want to lie to her. Chances are he was going to die real soon. If nothing else she had a weapon to take her own life. he might not know what happened to his own wife and daughter. But this one girl he had saved from the rape pits, at least for now. And if he succeeded there would be no more rape pits. He walked out the door, making sure it was locked behind him. he listened and heard her move boxes in front of the door and smiled.
.

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

Jared looked sick and nervous as he finished listening to Ori’s update. Once Ori signed off, Jared got up and began to pace the room. “ This changes things” he said. “ what changes things” Steve asked, the entire conversation with ori had been on a dedicated command channel, so he hadn’t been able to listen in.

“ Ori, has intel that the Asshat Mikhail is working with a nut case who has some old Artillery Shells filled with VX and has rigged them to blow if the island is invaded or it looks like he is going to loose.”

“ Jesus!” Steve said quietly. “ even if we went straight to Sumter, he could kill ever one of us, with out breaking a sweat.”

“ you got it” Jared said grimly, his eyes drifting to Jill who looked sick at the thought of chemical weapons, even if she didn’t know just how bad VX was.

He paused before a picture on the wall, where the former homeowners were wearing swim suits and standing in front of a large pool of water fed by a waterfall. Leadership truly sucks, he decided. Every plan they had made was so much junk now.

But if Ori controlled the lighthouse, could they use boats and come in from the ocean now. There was a club just down the beach from the lighthouse they could seize. They couldn’t come up on the beach behind the hotel the enemy were using as a base, to much of a risk of a look out watching the water. Air assault maybe, but every one would hear the choppers coming.

No he would have to risk the attack on the Isle of palms. He needed a place to base at, and to get his people gathered and work out a new plan. Besides, the Gas would blow inland. And he doubted seriously that Mikhail would allow it to be used unless all else failed.

“ we seize that store, every one on the roof dies, once we go in, any one that surrenders will be allowed to. No promises on what happens later, but that surrender will be honored. Ori said many of the Soldiers are against this Col Parks, and the ones he least trusted he stuck out in defense positions away from his,” Jared paused and looked at the Jill, Logan and Jason. “ his Base of operations.” He finished not using an acronym for them. Funny how he often he forgot they had never been in the military.

“ we also need to do something about Dean, his people and the kids. If that bomb goes off they are right in the path of it.” Jared said looking around the room. “ do you thing our camp can hold all of them?” Jared asked. Steve shrugged not really sure.

“ I need to think about this, before we do a damn thing” Jared said. “ I’m not going to risk peoples lives with out being sure we don’t have another option”

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

just after midnight, any of the living watching the moonlit streets, saw zombies begin to group and move, knots of undead mingled together at intersections, forming larger groups, That began to surround buildings and barricades. Those living who were awake, could hear the soft movement of uncounted bodies as the undead moved and gathered.

At the Breach inlet bridge, Lt. Jeremy Carr, looked out over the top of the wall, that blocked access to Jasper blvd, and saw a solid wall of zombies just standing there. unmoving staring at the barricade.

He dropped down and walked quickly to the barricade on the opposite side of the Jasper Blvd barricade and climbed up the step ladder and looked across the bridge to the Isle of palms and saw the same thing on the other side, except the mass of zombies were staring towards the isle of palms.

At the lighthouse, the zombies shambled away, Ori watched them merge with another much larger group and head towards Ft. Moultrie. Watching thru the scope of the sniper rifle he saw them fill up the space between the bastions, and spill around the sides.

Jeff Larrs, one time thief and drug dealer watched from the roof of the store in the Island Center strip mall as the numbers of zombies grew spilling down the causeway to the barricade and then stopped, staring towards the mainland with a frightening intensity. They filled Palm Blvd and the 517, a reeking, rotting mass of undead. a shiver raced through him. He would never be able to explain it, but he knew something was about to happen.

 

**                                 **                           **

Jill sat up and looked around, sunlight was streaming thru her bedroom window; the fancy high tech clock on her nightstand read 0800 hrs. she looked around confused, Jared wasn’t in bed next to her. in fact she wasn’t supposed to be in a bed, much less the bed in her old apartment. She swung her legs over the side of the bed looking around, her Anson prints, artfully arrayed on the walls. Were exactly where she remembered them. she wore only a lacy teddy and nothing else, something that Jared would have loved. the Teddy bear she had, had since childhood still sat on the hope chest in the corner, she felt sorrow well up as she realized she had left it sitting there when she fled her home.

She stood there for a moment then walked slowly across the room, feeling like she was being watched. She kept staring around the room seeking the threat she felt, and finally her eyes fell on the closet door. As she watched the closet door opened a crack, and a milky white eye stared out at her. she backed up bumping against the bureau, the vase on top, fell over spilling out the Lilies and water.

She reached the Bedroom door and stepped backwards into the pitch-black hall, still watching the closet door. Suddenly the bedroom door slammed shut in her face, and she heard a laugh, like someone choking on broken glass all around her.

She turned blindly and placed a hand against the wall, determined to reach the Living room, Her breathing loud in her ears. Each step was like pulling free of sucking mud, she could barely move, but the living room was on ten feet away, ten feet. She told herself, fighting the fear that threatened to overwhelm her.

Its only a dream, its only a dream it cant hurt me she told herself desperately.

“ so sure of that are you” a voice said from all around her then the sound of the bedroom door swinging open reached her.

Suddenly she was free of the paralysis that had held her in place, she plunged into the living room ripping at the drapes to let sunlight into the room.   It was useless she saw instantly. The daylight was gone, it was night time now and the street was filled with the undead waiting under a bloated yellow moon.

She turned away from the hideous sight and saw the broken coffee table and her sister’s body laying in the wreckage.

“No! no don’t do this to me you bastard” she screamed. Wendys head lay on the carpet, four feet from the body, in a pool of shadows, her hair spread around it like a nest. She could see the blood glistening on the wall in the moonlight, where it had sprayed when she took Wendys head off.

Jill wanted to tear her eyes away but couldn’t, she had done this. Killed her own sister, it didn’t matter that Jill had, had no choice, it didn’t matter that wendy had been infected and killing her had been the only choice. Jill had killed her, that was what mattered, what haunted her.. A sob broke free, and then her sister’s eyes snapped open, hate filled white orbs burned into Jill’s. The mouth opened and closed as if Wendy was trying to speak.

“ she’s in torment you know” the voice came from her sisters mouth. “ You can free her.”

“Fuck you, I don’t deal with the devil” she shouted, but part of her, part of her wanted to do just that if there were any chance of saving her sister. she felt a sense of deep shame to admit that.

“ Don’t listen to it.” a woman said from behind her. Jill spun, around hand on her heart. Terror in her eyes that faded as she saw a young, Pretty native American woman. It was Gayle the Cherokee elder who had died last winter, only as a young woman

“ Your strong enough Jill, you forced it away once, you can do it again.” Gayle said.

“ Stay out of this bitch, stay the hell out.” The voice hissed, low raspy from the hallway..

Jill couldn’t help herself she turned back and looked, trying to ignore the head of her sister and saw, something fade into existence in the shadows, thin, hunched shoulders, spindly arms. Its eyes bored into her, hatred seeping from it. the thin mouth parted into a smile of pointed teeth.

“ I’m coming for you girl in person, in the flesh as it were, but if you just step aside, let fate take its course, you’ll live and your sister will be safe forever.” It said, no not it. she thought.

“ jasper Brown, serial killer, Rapist, child molester, coward” Jill almost shouted, her limbs shaking.

“ oh I’m so much more than you can believe,” it laughed. “ youll know when to make that decision woman, fail and she suffers for all time, its so easy step aside, step aside and save the one you love.”

Jill woke managing to choke back her scream, and then Jared’s arms were around her, holding her tight lending her strength as she shook off the terror.

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

Joey sat up groggily, chilled to the bone and pissed off that those lazy ass military wusses hadn’t even relieved them on watch. Probably down there banging each other, stupid fags. And that moron that led them, what a nut case.

The only reason Joey and the other civilians still followed the guy, was he knew his stuff when it came to how to fortify areas, and a real knack for setting ambushes. But that scary ass Russian, he was even better and lots meaner. Why the Russian deferred to the Army Colonels was beyond Joey.

He staggered to his feet, this watching a barricaded bridge was stupid, He thought. but at least we got some good old, man bling, he smiled as he slung the M16, and the Col makes sure we get all the split tail we can handle.

The sudden image of an older woman with large breasts and Honey gold hair, chained spread legged to the bed. Appeared in his mind

Dale had snatched her off the street last year, said she had been a cops wife or something. Not that she could do much talking around that gag.

Speaking of Dale was still passed out, Joey walked over and was about to kick Dale in the shoulder to wake him up when he saw the fist sized hole in the back of Dales head. what the hell… he thought trying to get his rifle into his hands, he whirled in circles looking for attackers, but saw nothing.

Across the bridge he heard the roar of motors, he stood there stunned, they were under attack, how… he was confused only a moment then lunged for the radio. He never heard the shot that blew his head off.

Steger chambered another round, grinning as he saw the body fall across the radio gear. The silencer on his rifle was finally starting to fail. But that didn’t matter now, he thought as he heard the sound of motors across the waters and turned to watch a Semi truck with steel beams welded into a guard, that covered the front of the truck, speed onto the bridge. it was doing eighty when it struck the barricade of old vehicles.

He had to stop himself from shouting with laughter as he saw a compact car, a smart he thought it was called, fly into the air tumbling before it dropped into the water below. other vehicles flipped, rolled and tumbled out of the way. The diesel shuddered at the impact, a tire blew, the hood ripped away. The wind shield shattered as a piece of car flew thru it. But who ever was driving that thing kept it going straight ahead, plowing thru zombies, leaving goo and body parts behind it. if there was a complete torso left of any one of them Steger would have been surprised.

he could hear the squeal of metal as the now bare rim chewed on the asphalt and cement. Sporadic gunfire came from a position they didn’t even know had men. Steger shifted around and spotted a man in the upstairs window of a government building, he put a bullet thru the mans head. then regretfully he slung his rifle, grabbed the rope and slid down the roof. Time to go, buildings to raid.

The Diesel roared off the bridge and plowed into the parking lot on the south side of the Island center strip mall, smearing undead as it passed, but as it came to a stop, zombies immediately swarmed it. Smoke and steam rose from the engine.

Zombies made their way down 20th street, heading towards all the noise, stopping then turning to watch a small multi wheeled device raced thru them, its motor whining, motion sensors detecting obstacles, the onboard computer immediately steered around them, racing for the east end of the street. Drawn by even the slight noise and movement many of the zombies began to follow till a large crowd had formed, the device stopped a block away from the beach. And suddenly Music began to blare from a CD player as Jim neighbors sang opera, and if an observer didn’t know any different it would appear that the music was just as annoying to the undead as to the living.

Once the RC decoy was released, and was well on its way, Jared, abandoning the plan to use the too small explorer, led the teams out of the front door and raced across the street. They shot down maybe twenty undead as they crossed yards and raced between two homes. It was only 200 feet or so thru a wooded area that separated the homes on the loop they had been hiding out in, to the delivery area behind the Red&white store.

Josh spotting a female zombie rearing up out of some brush slid to a stop, nocking an arrow and loosing. The arrows hissed past Jared’s head, and slammed into the undead woman before she could grab Jared’s shoulder. But more appeared from the left and right staggering thru the weeds, trying to reach the running humans.

“ way to go Kid” Chris shouted as he slapped Josh on the back in passing. “ now run, and don’t look back.” josh couldn’t help himself, he looked. And wished he hadn’t. he took off running quickly passing Chris. “ I don’t have to be fast, I only have to be faster than you guys” Josh shouted. Chris seemed to find that pretty funny, he laughed as he ran.

Both Beasts rolled thru what was left of the barricade, then spread out Beast One straddled the center line of the two east bound lanes, and Beast Two did the same thing on the west bound lanes. They rolled thru the undead, the cattle catchers tossing zombies aside, the knee cappers ripped away limbs and sometimes heads and torsos in all four lanes leaving nothing but the wreckage of the dead behind them. when they reached the end of the cause wa, the bridge was cleared of all but the crippled undead. safe enough for the follow up vehicles to race through, bouncing over the piles of bodies and body parts.

Beast One drove past the store, which was on its left, it came briefly under fire from the building to the right that had been the Public Works building. Reaching the intersection, it turned left on Palm ave. where it drove north, Ben, wasn’t upset at not being able to fly today, what he was doing was more dangerous but just as fun, tossed out Rigged propane bottles behind the truck, as carl had told him too, into the crowd of excited grasping dead.

Reaching 20th street Jack drove up into a yard watching as the zombies flowed back into the gap he had just created on the road behind them, when the road was filled again he hit a switch. a staggering series of explosions raced down the street, flinging zombies every where.

Those with in ten meters of the explosions died by shrapnel and the pressure wave, those out to twenty meters suffered damage, many were crippled maybe two percent actually died.

Grinning wildly Jack turned around leaving deep ruts in the lawn and back onto the street, running down the undead around the Deuce, he headed back to the strip center, laughing as he ran over ruined bodies of the undead, briefly wondering if he had finally lost it.

Beast Two engaged the enemy in the Public works building, bullets sparked and spanged off the metal plate armor on the sides of the Deuce. Kyle swung the .50 cal around and ripped righteous fire into the buildings. Cement and brick pulverized, dust spouted up into the air. glass shattered, and wood splintered.

Kelly quickly set up the tripod in the back of the armored deuce, fed in the belt, then opened up with the grenade launcher, sending half a belt of 40mm into the building. Fire, dust and bodies blew out the holes and windows as the grenades exploded.

Zombies closest to the building and not killed in the fire fight, poured thru the holes into the works building, seeking out the few survivors. Kyle swung the .50 around to the front and sent rounds down road, the thumb sized bullets punching through the vehicles used as a wall that protected the front of the Subway shop. For good measure he ripped a line across the windows of the Chinese place next door just in case. besides he had never really liked Chinese food.

Both deuces pulled into the parking lot, and drove back and forth over the zombies that were still milling about till only small-scattered groups of zombies remained. All over the island the remaining undead, were on the way, drawn to the sounds of combat.

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

Ashton grinned tightly as the black hawk swept north a hundred feet off the ground, two miles inland paralleling the Inter coastal waterway. “there’s our target” Ashton told the pilot and pointed towards the rising smoke in the distance. Farley nodded and turned to the east, bring the chopper up to two hundred feet and increasing the power to the engine.

A minute later The black hawk roared across the inter coastal waterway, then over the marsh, the gold and green plants bowing under the rotor wash. The 517 causeway to its right, straight ahead was the strip center that was maybe three hundred feet past a group of houses in a wooded area. Fired burned along the cause way and the building to the right of the causeway on the island side.

“ all right boys and girl, every one of you have trained for this sort of thing. Its an easy rappel, just pretend its off the tower or the buildings you were practicing on, if any of you actually practiced rappelling.” Ashton said as he slung his weapon and readied himself for fast rappel. he removed his headset, and racked it. Wondering if this would be the last time he ever got to fly in a helicopter. If he lived thru this he was going to get one of these police pilots to damn well teach him how to fly.

The Black hawk, crossed the shoreline clearing the treetops by maybe ten feet, and then they were over the rooftop of the strip mall. Farley cut the forward motion and hovered over the roof where bodies lay sprawled out. Ashton’s team had already lined up three to a door, double checked and ready. Smoke covered sections of the road. But where it didn’t he could see zombies crawling over each other and the crushed and burned corpses that had just moments before been a zombie. On the edge of the devastation, more zombies were pressing forward. But there had to be almost three hundred or so dead down there. if not more.

As soon as every one was double checked, Ashton gave the signal and all six went out the doors, in a rapid ascent to the gravel roof. Angela followed a moment later, as soon as she hit she unhooked, and assumed her position. Her face sheet white, and Ashton suspected she had pissed herself. He didn’t smile, it took a lot of courage to overcome the obviously intense fear the woman had. “ Lets do it” he said.

Jared and the men and women with him scaled the fence to the delivery lanes behind the Strip mall. Thankfully unlike out front and along the causeway the undead were thin back here, probably because some one had blocked off the access to the back with big package trucks. .

There were no more than twenty zombies trapped in the delivery area, Jared drew his Tomahawks, and attacked the closest, a woman, dressed in a blood stained nurses uniform. Her wrist had been chewed through and her left cheek was gone, revealing strands of muscle and the gleam of bone and teeth thru the ragged hole. Jared easily avoided her grasping hands, and the tomahawk cleaved thru bone easily sending her back into death.

The rest of the teams spread out, some team tagging the remaining undead. It only took a few minutes before they had finished the killing and zombies were sprawled out on the pavement. “ well that was fun” Steger said, wiping the reddish black goo from a zombie off his shoulder. They moved across the old cracked and pitted cement to the metal door with its faded and peeling paint. The sign on the door was newer than the door and read “ Red&White store” Jared motioned to the door “ Chris” Jared said as he sheathed the tomahawks and lifted his Commando. “ Your up Brother,”

Chris removed a small dual tank torch system from the fanny pack he wore, pushing a button on the side of the high tech looking device, he was rewarded by a jet of blue white flame from the nozzle. It only took moments to cut out the latch section of the rear door. Chris turned off the torch and returned it to his pouch then nodded at Jared as he went to High ready.

Jared didn’t let the tension he felt show, He hated entry. The tension that sang thru his blood as he went thru a door, waiting to get a bullet from an unseen shooter, was not a sensation he enjoyed. But it had to be done and better him than someone else.

As soon as the glowing hunk of metal with latch fell out of the door, Jared signaled Jason, who held a foot long piece of metal with a hook formed on the end. Jason slipped the end of the pole into the still red hot hole.   then stepped to the hinge side of the door, waiting for Jared to give him the signal to open the door.

Jared lifted his rifle and snugged it tight to his shoulder. Taking a deep breath he shouted “ go go go” as Jason yanked open the door, Jared went thru first, taking the right side, Steve went left, and Chris followed quickly.

“ Contact two” Jared called out, firing four times, Steve fired calling out a contact then confirming one dead on the left. Jared led his team to the right, sweeping thru dimly a lit stock room, peering between the mostly empty shelves. Ed and his men went left, in seconds they had cleared the stock room of all hostiles.

 

“Fire in the hole” Ashton called out as he dropped a grenade into the stairwell, Jones slammed the roof hatch closed and they ducked to the side. The hatch lifted and dropped with the air pressure change as the grenade detonated. “ knock, knock” Daws laughed.

Pulling the hatch open, Ashton bounded down the stairs leaping over two corpses, His team right behind him. Crippen paused only long enough to slip a knife into each corpses eye socket and up into the brain.

Reaching the bottom Ashton popped a quick look around the corner and saw a mechanical room with three men in civilian dress with military weapons. One actually crouched behind a cardboard box, What an idiot, he thought not sure if he should laugh or feel sorry for some one so stupid. he pulled the pin on his last grenade and tossed it around the corner. One of the three men shouted “grenade” which was about the extent of their military knowledge, The sudden crump and flash was almost surprising to him.

Ashton and his team entered the room moving quickly in a crouch weapons tracking, the room was dusty, shelves held binders, with MSDS sheets, schematics, and other data needed to keep things running. a stand up rolling tool box sat next to a work bench. Parts, hoses, belts and other items covered a series of metal shelves. A Coleman lunch cooler sat on the workbench, next to a tool belt. Old dried blood could be seen on the desk shoved into a corner.

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

Benton couldn’t believe it when he heard the motors and the gunfire, he could hear at least two .50 cals outside. Big mike, the leader of the asshole brigade immediately began shouting orders. His tough guy image harder to maintain, now that he was hearing combat, not the pissy fire a magazine wildly at some one and run stuff the wanna be was used to.

He sent six of his men to the roof to help the men up there fend off the vehicles, talking excitedly about the advantage of high ground, and sent three more into the storage room, where the delivery doors and the Rear door was located just in case some one managed to bust down the door.

Once his men had rushed from the room, half of them having to hold up their pants. He glared, fear in his pale beady eyes, at Sgt Jansen, “ get out front, they have to come over the walls, to get inside” he snarled. Jansen nodded in agreement. “ you heard the man.” Jansen said, as he shrugged on his combat vest and picked up his rifle.

Benton hooked three grenades to his vest, and double-checked to make sure he had all his magazines. Watching Jansen out of the corner of his eye he saw that Jansen wore a cold smile as he geared up. “ get a fucking move on you “ big mike said, feeling that the soldiers were stalling, his cheeks and nose turning red from anger, they were under his control their Colonel had told them so. Big Mike looked up as the roof began to vibrate. Ceiling tiles jumped and danced in their frames as Aisle signs began to swing, here and there a ceiling tile fell to the floor, dust filled the air shaken from the top of the tiles. .

Big Mike suddenly looked concerned, and out of his depth. “ what the hell is that” he asked no one in particular. “ that asshole is a black hawk helicopter dropping troops on the roof” Jansen said, Big mike must have sensed some thing, maybe the tone in Jansens voice, he was still clawing for his pistol when Jansen shot him between the eyes.

“ what do we do sarge” Jeb asked.

“ we sit here nicely, with no weapons on us and pray to god these folks are halfway decent is what we do Jeb.” Jansen said as he leaned his rifle against the wall. “ I’m not going to get shot for that Asshole Parks. Besides we were looking for a way out, so we could strike back finally. This might just be it.” They nodded smiling grimly as they heard grenades and weapons fire. Big mikes men were gone, saving them the trouble. A moment later heavily armed, professional looking men and two women entered the main floor.

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

Mikhail stormed into the Office of Col Parks, who seemed unfazed by the distant sound of combat. First sergeant Bailey was standing at the window, his shoulders tense.
“What the hell are you going to do about this Col” Mikhail, demanded.

“ I have dispatched men to secure the breach inlet bridge. they are authorized to use ATGMs and Javelins if necessary to stop the enemy vehicles and further block the bridge.” Parks said stiffly. It was obvious he was angry, probably at Bailey who, most likely, had refused yet another order or argued again.

“ the undead have massed outside some of the outposts over night, more than usual, so it might not be possible to reinforce them, either way this Former Sergeant will not make it onto this island alive.”

“ no Colonel, I want Jared on this Island that red headed fuck is mine.” Mikhail said then cussed steadily in Russian for a moment. He never noticed the slight reaction from Bailey.

Bailey was Wondering how many red headed former sergeants named Jared there could be, if it was the same man he remembered from years back, he should have asked the man at the light house about the members of his team. When Parks had mentioned Jareds name earlier he hadn’t even thought about the man he had once known, but the hearing he was a red head, had stirred memories, and Parks goons were in some serious shit if it was the same man.

However the disrespect that the Russian was displaying was something he wasn’t going to tolerate, and could deal with here and now. The contempt that the Russian and the scum showed to the military had worn on his nerves for too long, enough was enough. Besides if he didn’t act to correct it, Parks would wonder exactly why Bailey had not pushed for the respect due Parks rank, if not for the man. And lets be honest bring that Russian prick to task would feel good.

Bailey turned, his hand resting on the .45 holstered at his side. “ you will address the Colonel with Respect or I will escort you from this office” each word was sharp and clipped off. Bailey was angry.

“Past’ zabej, padla jebanaja” Mikhail snapped at him. stunned when Bailey replied.

“Oo ti bya, galava, kak, oon a bizyanie jopuh, you Russian shit” Baileys voice was cold as space. Mikhail no longer had to wonder exactly what the American Soldier thought about his presence here. not that he cared either, but the fact the American had the balls to insult him, and in Russian made Mikhail furious. how dare this American. How dare he. It was almost to much to bear. He started to reach for his weapon then stopped, as he saw the cold smile on the Command sergean majors face, praying Mikhail drew on him.

“ Ill deal with you later,” Mikhail vowed. There was absolute certainty in his words.

“ gentlemen, enough. we have a fight to win. And we are on the same side. Top, I want you to take first squad down and make sure the idiots on the Bridge do things right. I especially don’t want them running or surrendering.” Park’s said, annoyed and totally oblivious to the crackling anger in the room. “ meanwhile I have to go change into my Battle dress.” He said as he walked out of the room, not caring what might occur when he left. his two gaurds followed quickly neither wanting to be in the room.

Bailey stood calmly, as Mikhail glared a him then said “ I cant wait to deal with you once this is over American.”

“ bring it, but im betting you’re the cowardly type, poison, sniping, accidents.” Bailey said tossing his usually careful behavior to the wind. “ so get me the first time, because if you don’t, you goat humping, perv. I’m going to splatter your head across the wall.” Bailey said a slow smile spreading across his face. Mikhail gazed at him for a moment his eyes hard. He felt a grudging respect for the walking dead man. Few would have dared to stand up to Mikhail if they knew him.

“you may count on it American,” Mikhail said, finally, he turned and walked out. He had some place to be and quickly, if Jared was making his move, he wouldn’t waste time. and he doubted that Jared would worry over much about using the bridges. no Jared would be coming thru shortly, of that he was sure. After that he would tend to the uppity American, castration maybe. Or … he smiled evilly as he thought of the girl that Bailey seemed to like so much.

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

“ We could use the hawks to drop in on them” Jason suggested looking around the room, Steve remained silent but placed the javelin launcher on the table.

“ those can be used to take out helicopters” Jared commented as he looked around at the four teams assembled in the store. outside, the fight against the undead was still going on.

“ we have to get to those VX shells. “ Chris said, obviously not happy about the whole idea, but he also didn’t want those things to be in any ones hands.

“ I know, but its taking a lot of time to cull the undead out there, and the quick look Jack took down towards the Breach, showed heavy numbers of undead there.”

“ So helicopters are out, vehicles will have to fight thru the barricade and the undead. what does that leave us” Chris asked, his gaze falling on the soldiers that had been waiting here for them. men that Jones, had served with on Jackson.

“ Jansen, are you sure that he set up his doomsday bomb on the roof of the Hotel he is using as a HQ.” Jared asked, he didn’t doubt that was the case, not really the Sergeant had only confirmed what Ori had been told. . The soldier nodded, “ sure as shit, me and the boys helped carry the damn things up there. truth to tell we were hoping they were duds, or a mock up. but they didn’t look like a mock up to me. But I’m no expert.” Jansen replied from where he sat with Crippen and Spacey.

There was silence in the room after that as Jared looked thoughtfully at the map he had spread on the table. Finally he tapped the map and looked up. “ theres a way, we go in by water. two teams full load outs. If what jansen said is correct, we can land down the beach from the Hotel and assault from the rear like a Rump ranger on a rampage with no lube.”

Ed snorted a laugh, at that. and Jared tossed him a grin, that faded quickly.

“ to dangerous” Steve said in dismissal. “ youll be cut off from support, if something goes wrong, theres no way we could get to you in time.”

Steve had no doubts that Jared was planning on going no matter what. And he wasn’t about to let one of his best friends walk into that hell hole with out support.

“ Ori and his team are already there, If I take Ashton or Ed’s team, we can secure the Hotel, disable the bombs, and the rest of the folks will probably come over fast, at least the soldiers will, don’t know about the Asshole Brigade” Jared said looking at Benton and smiling. He liked that phrase.

Jared looked around “ its settled sorry folks, I’m going with team one, that puts the dirty dozen back together when we link up with Ori who isn’t more than a couple of blocks from the Hotel. I’ll take Eds team, Ashton I want you to figure out how to get thru the zombies and the barricades at the other end of the Breach inlet bridge. I don’t care how you do it, just try to keep from getting our people killed. We will leave at sunset, give me till dawn. After that, take them out. open the way to Moultrie and get our people inside.”

Ashton nodded slowly. Not even sure what to say, that Jared trusted him this much made him feel a bit of pride.

Ed looked happy, Jared was sure that the Cops would have protested at being left behind when their familys were directly in the path of the VX if it were released. Even Hanson Looked satisfied. And that gave Jill pause, she wasn’t sure why, but she was by god going to keep an eye on Hanson.

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

Mikhail, paced the roof top. Enjoying the cool wind off the water. a few clouds lit by the moon skated across the blue black night sky. He took a deep breath of the salt laden breeze. He loved the smell of the ocean. But not even that could dispel his anger tonight

Mikhail was furious, he suspected that Bailey was plotting something, he had been told as much. Especially when he sent more than half the remaining military men off to Secure some odd ball target. He wasn’t sure what the man hoped to accomplish, all he had done was strengthen Mikhail and his peasant troops. Thugs all of them, one or two were halfway decent people cut up in a bad situation, and Mikhail would kill them later when he could afford to. But for now he needed every one of them.

He was personally surprised that the soldiers hadn’t risen up yet. Mikhail couldn’t care one way or another, it was just interesting to see how many had gone along with the Colonels little planned utopia for men. He couldn’t prove it but he suspected that his partner had something to do with so many of the soldiers, acceptance. It seemed to corrupt any one it touched for any length of time. Even Mikhail wasn’t safe from it, though he had sensed it tried not to influence him like it did those others.

He paced to the edge and looked out over the dark streets, watching the undead for a moment, his partner seemed to be absent a lot lately as well and to be honest Mikhail didn’t mind, his mind felt clearer when it was away. the almost constant presence now vanished for hours to days at a time. it had its own agenda, all he had to do was look out at the mass of undead that were gathering, to realize that.

He eyed the boxes that sat on the roof, packed with explosives. The two Chemical weapons bothered him in a way. He didn’t mind killing by most means, but there was something about Biological and Chemical weapons he hated. Maybe it was they couldn’t be controlled. He couldnt just set it off to kill person A, or a room of people. it always spread, always out of control. like the undead.

At times he wished the old world still existed, the excitement of the kill, playing the authorities like the fools they were. Women when he wanted, willing women, not the meek, crying things like the one in his room right now. Rape was a tool, it shouldnt be the only way a man could get laid.

He turned away from the view, not caring about the undead, he would use them as a tool to when Jared arrived. Let him battle his way thru the hotel while the undead tried to kill him as well. it would at least prove entertaining. It didn’t even matter much to him whether the thoughts were his or not.

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

Parks took the shirt his woman held out as he pulled it on he wondered why a woman who had dedicated her life to her nation now found it repulsive that her primary duty for her nation was to breed. He would he suppose have to replace her when this was all over, no matter how much he disliked it. he didn’t like the idea, but she wasn’t loyal to him either and as the Leader of the new America he couldn’t have some one that close that he couldn’t trust.

There was a knocking at the door as he checked himself in the mirror, he had to be with in Regulation or he wasn’t setting a fine example for his men. “ find out who it is,” Parks said as he tugged on the bottom of his Uniform blouse settling it across his shoulders. She opened the door and a moment later Parks saw Bailey walk into his room and frowned unhappily, the Top should be on his way to the bridge, not here.

“ Top, you have your orders” Park said as he stepped back and admired his appearance before turning to face his first sergeant.

“ I’m sorry sir, I cant follow them” Bailey said. Parks only gaped at him for a moment, then fire flared in his eyes as his temper rose. “ stop this please, You’re a good man, don’t do this. Think of your wife sir, she wouldn’t have approved of all this” Bailey said almost pleading, moving his left hand around as if to indicated the entire island.

“ disobeying a direct order in time of war Top, can mean the death penalty.” Parks said angrily, he couldn’t believe that Bailey was actually being insubordinate. It was impossible, insubordination, Not the Bailey he had known for so long.

For a moment a glimmer of doubt filled Nathan Parks mind, he looked at the woman he had been bedding, and saw the swollen belly filled with his own child. And frowned, was this what he really wanted. A nation where his daughter from his real wife, would be forced to be knocked up, for just a moment he saw the truth, saw what he had become. And then it was gone as if something had closed the door on his own thoughts.

Bailey nodded, unaware of the thoughts that had raced thru the Colonels mind.“ yes sir it would, if we were at war, and if there were enough people to empanel for a court martial. Neither are true.” Bailey said and then suddenly his weapon was in his hands and the two Scum bags that acted as parks Guard were falling to the floor. the noise battered at their ears.

Parks snarled, all doubts, all regrets so much dust, at the first gunshot, He dragged his weapon from its holster as Bailey dropped his second Guard.

“ I’m sorry sir” Bailey said he leveled his pistol on the man he had know for so long and had seen go from a fine officer to a broken insane man. They both fired at the same time.

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

It had taken them only an hour to find a cabin Cruiser that actually started on the west side of the island. Shoving off they had cruised across the dark water around the north end of the Isle of Pines then down along the south east coast of the island. They shut down the motor long enough to drift past the OP at the Breach inlet. Once they were safely past, they fired up the motor once more to finally land at the Beach behind the lighthouse. Ori and his people linked up with Jared and the two teams and together they headed for the hotel

Jared crouched next to the coral colored wall, trying to listen for the sounds of people on the other side. but the wind and the sound of waves were loud enough to drown out the slight sounds he was listening for. Finally, he decided to just go for it. he looked out at the ocean possibly for the last time, watching as clouds swept across the moon. And the night became darker, and the wind seemed colder than before.

Everything he had gone thru had led here, to this time and place. He wished he could just hold Jill once more but didn’t dare. It might weaken his resolve. Like Ori it had taken the end of the world for Jared to fall in love, and now he stood before the real possibility of dying. He shrugged in dismissal; if that’s the way it had to be then so be it. at least he had, had her for this long. To be honest he didn’t expect to live past tonight, and that didn’t bother him as long as the threat of Mikhail ended with him.

He rose smoothly, any apprehension or fear he felt was dismissed. He accepted his death, and the fear had no power over him. “ lets go” he said and slipped over the wall.
He dropped to the ground commando at the ready, scanning the grounds. To the left of the pool and Jacuzzi area, was a once ornate garden now overgrown, and soaring palm trees. But no soldiers. Under the ornate arched patico he could see three sets of French doors. He was so used to the green tint from the NVGs that it barely registered.

The Three teams moved in file across the flag stone veranda, and took position one team to each door. They stood in the shadows of the Portico, almost invisible to any one with out Night vision or thermal. Luckily the extra batteries for the three NVGS Jared’s group had, allowed Eds team to use their own units, whose batteries had gone dead. Eds group had also traded four other NVGs to Jared for other gear they need on the Yorktown. The last of the batteries allowed Team one to be fully outfitted with operational NVG’s.

Jared reached for the knob, prepared to give the signal, when four shots came from somewhere above them. the last two were fired almost at the same time, overlapping each other. Jared had no clue what was going on, but he hoped it caused some confusion inside. it would make things easier for his people.

“ go, go, go” he called out. three doors burst open and all three teams rushed into the Hotel. Beyond the doors, a well appointed secondary lobby with conversation groups of comfortable furniture arraigned to either side of the main walk way. Just past the load bearing columns, which marked the center of the hotel, was the main lobby with the reception desk and more couches and chairs for those waiting for Taxi’s or Valet parking to deliver their ride.

A bank of elevators and a wide stairwell with a glass wall railing ran to the second floor. a short hallway on the right had a sign that read conference and ball room, to the left another hallway led towards the restaurant and lounge.

The ten men scattered through out the lobby were surprised, distracted and looking up the stairs with looks of concern, but they were not as surprised as much as Jared would have liked. They all turned at the sound of doors swinging open and tried to bring their weapons into play. Three died fast, cut down by the fire of Eds team. After that it was series of muzzles flashes, flickering lantern light and men running and diving for cover.

If they had received any training it didn’t show in the short brutal firefight. All the men were dressed in civilian clothes, jeans and sweat pants mostly. With Logo bearing t shirts, and many wore ball caps. Ori snagged one cap he liked off a corpse and shoved it into a pocket. Jared only shook his head. Looting was becoming common place, next grave robbing would be back in fashion. What a world.

As each team called clear for their areas, Chris and ori moved thru the dead and made sure they wouldn’t come back by running a knife up thru an eye socket and into the brain

As soon as they had secured the lobby, Ori and his team took position in the secondary lobby facing the main lobby. So they would be back in the shadows if any one entered from the front doors or the parking garage attached to the building. The other two teams started clearing the ground floor.

Most of the conference rooms were empty and dust filled, two held maps, paper cups, and cigarette butt filled ashtrays. Jared pulled one map free and placed it in his cargo pocket, He glanced around the paneled room with all the high tech gear, that were now nothing more than paper weights and art deco with out power to run them. beachscapes and Pictures of the coast decorated the walls. Logan, smiled as he scooped a laptop off the table and shoved it into his pack.

Back in the hallway, they walked to the end of the hall where it opened up into a large sitting area, once expensive furniture sat around low tables, where guests had sat and held semi private conversations.

Jared noted there were two sets of doors for the ballroom. Nothing to do for it now he thought as he readied his weapon, they pushed in and found burning lanterns, and boxes of MRE’s stacked in rows. To one side ammo crates lined the wall, many were open their contents gone. Most of those still sealed were odd calibers, and nothing his group could use. But a few would be damned helpful when this was over.

Gold colored curtains brushed the stage, while potted palms, fake of course, flanked the stage. The once polished white oak stained wood dance floor was now scuffed and marred with several blood, stains marking spots were people had died last year.

beyond the reach of the lanterns, Shadows clung to the corners and engulfed the back of the stage.

 

They cleared the room and stage quickly, and then exited out the second set of doors. It didn’t take long to finish clearing the few rooms left on the west side ground floor.

Returning to the lobby they found Eds team waiting, having finished sweeping the east side of the ground floor.

According to the Fire evacuation map, the hallways in both wings of the upper three floors basically formed a P, with two long east west hallways and two short north south hallways connecting the longer ones, the southern east west hallway also connected the wings to the Central wing.

They formed up, and started for the main stairs of the central wing, Ori itched to scout ahead, but Jared refused with a shake of his head, neither had to speak they knew each other to well.

From somewhere upstairs they head gunfire, lots of gunfire. Ed gave the signal and his team swept up the stairs, with Team one right behind them.

Reaching the second floor, Eds people swung into the hallway that would take them to the west wing, Team one headed to the east wing, Oris team secured the top of the staircase and the central Elevator bank on the second floor and the few rooms on the large landing.

Team one started into the East side wing, and Jared was almost relieved when he saw a grenade sail out from the connecting hallway. at least he didn’t have to wait any more for the battle he had known they would fight here.

the grenade stuck a wall to Jareds right, bounced and rolled back down the short hall just far enough that Jared’s team would be just on the edge of its envelope. Who ever had thrown it, should have waited another two or three heart beats, Jared thought as he shouted “ Grenade” .

The explosion ripped a hole in the beige carpet, shrapnel ripped holes in the and knocked framed pictures from the walls. Jared dropped into a crouch weapon ready, before the smoke had even begun to clear. They had been lucky and Jared wasn’t about to give the enemy a chance to try again.

He saw a man starting into the main corridor at the eastern end, and shot him down, bullets tore divots into the wall next to him as the enemy in the Side hall began to fire from around the corner at Jared and any one else exposed.

Jill out of habit checked her back and saw Eds team was advancing into the western wing under fire. Weapons swiveling servicing targets, only Hanson lagged behind. He was looking towards them, then turned and slotted into place with his own team.

The two teams swept thru the halls, coordinated fire taking down the bad guys who tried to keep ahead of them in the hallways, but eventually the enemy was forced back into the main hallway allowing Oris team to fire into their rear from their positions around the elevators. Occasionally Jared’s men would have to spend another bullet or two to put down the ones that reanimated. But eventually they had the hallways on the second floor secured and it was time to start clearing the rooms.

They cleared the first three rooms along the east side hallway, with ease. Steve kicked open the fourth door, and grimaced as he saw four men sprawled on the floor blood pooling around them. two were in civilian clothing on either side of the door as if they had been guarding it. one body wore the older BDU’s like Jared and his men wore, but with a full chicken on his collar. The other wore ACU’s, and lay with his head in a womans lap A pistol lay at her side.

The woman her head bent, her face obscured by long dark hair that fell to the tops of her swollen breasts, was obviously pregnant. She looked up, tears in her eyes but she seemed to have control of her self. “ he is still alive, help him” She pleaded.

Jason brushed past Steve and Jared, to kneel by the dying mans side shrugging off his pack he removed the large First Aid kit he Brendad. Thankful that his wife had insisted on teaching him as much as she could think of that he might need to act as a medic.

The burly looking Command sergeant major, was pale. The bullet had taken him to the left of his heart. Jason wasn’t sure there was much he could do. But he was determined to try.   “lay his head on the floor and step away” Jared said coming up beside Jason. “ not till you help him, he saved me, all of us.” She replied.

“ if he dies with his head in your lap he will come back and bite you. we will try but I want you and your baby safe” Jared said gently motioning to Jill who approached.

The woman seemed to relax slightly seeing Jill was as heavily armed as the men. She accepted Jills help in rising and allowed herself to be led to the bed where she slowly awkwardly sat down. Jill talked quietly with her while Jared stood guard over Jason. Just to make sure the Top didn’t come back and take a bite of out Jason.

Steve and the others kept watch at the doors, they should have finished clearing rooms first Steve thought but didn’t say anything.

The top opened his eyes and it seemed to take a minute before he could focus. “ thought it was you” he said in a low pain filled voice. “ you were in my unit for the last six months I was there, Germany, deployed Iraq… good troop”

Jared noted the mans name and something clicked. “ Command Sergeant major Bailey, you were a staff the last time I saw you.” Jared said smiling, though there was no humor behind it. He remembered Bailey a tough but fair man, Bailey had been B Company, but had mingled with A company on many occasions, till he PCS’d out.

“ shot… Parks.. insane, no choice” Bailey said. “ tried….” His voice trailed off. Jared looked at Jason who shook his head. “ don’t let me get back up” Bailey said each word dragged out. Jared didn’t try to lie to him, the man knew he was dying, let him die with out being lied to.

“ I wont “ Jared promised, wishing he had known the man better. He must have tried real hard to protect his people if one of the women that had been forced to be a breeder had wanted Bailey saved, and was now crying softly over his impending death.

“ good… man” Bailey said, he kept blinking and his eyes weren’t focusing, and then suddenly he gathered the last of his strength. “ the Russian, waiting for you. and something else, something dark. Didn’t believe … the storys…till now.” He said then fell silent. Jared motioned for Jason to move away. Bailey smiled at something then his face stilled and went slack as he stopped breathing. not even a death rattle. Jared didn’t hesitate he put a single bullet in the Command Sergeant majors head.

“ I hate to do this, but you need to stay here till we clear the rest of the place” Jared said gently. He rose to his feet, unslinging his rifle. The woman shook her head quickly.

“ wait, there are a few women on this floor, kept by the Colonels’s loyalists. One of them was Baileys woman. and….” Seeing the look on their faces she quickly explained. “ when she was brought in, a month or more ago, he demanded her, to keep her safe from the others, not that he told them that. you have to understand if a woman wasn’t chosen by the command staff. She gets placed on the production line upstairs. Bailey never touched her. just kept her safe, she was a kid for gods sake. He couldn’t let those pervs at her. Parks didn’t care, didn’t even ask, just assumed that Bailey was finally coming around. All Parks wanted was to breed more Americans, and if we women didn’t see it as our duty we were to be forced.” Fury and disgust tinged her voice, but it was as steady as the hand that held the pistol.

“ what was her name” Josh asked forcing his way into the room, to kneel in front of the woman. “ please.”

“ Amanda I think. Names weren’t used much around this place” she said bitterly.

“ what room” Josh asked desperately, pleading his eyes glittered as if he were about to cry.

“ don’t know, we weren’t allowed out much, I know the Top lived in a room at the end of the building that had a view of the lighthouse.” She said.

Josh leaped to his feet and ran for the door only to be snatched up by Jared. he struggled for a moment. “ hold it Josh, I let you come along as a team member, we go as a team.” End of the building, each side hall held four rooms Jared thought. “I’m thinking he gave her a weapon and if you go beating on the door, she might shoot you before she realizes who you are okay.” Jared said, if bailey was as stand up as he appeared, the man would have made sure the girl was armed just in case.

“ we have the hallways on this floor Clear, maam think you can walk.” Jared asked changing his plans. Time was running out he knew but this had to be done. “ I need you to knock on the doors to the rooms we haven’t cleared and get the woman to open up. we can get all of you gathered together in one room, to wait for us to finish”

she eyed Jared then levered herself up off the bed, with Jills help. “ I will help all right and you can call me Brenda” she said. It took ten minutes to get eight women to open the doors along the hallway. Jared wondered where their rapists were, rooftop probably or on the third floor waiting to ambush them. Of course they might even have bailed out once Parks was shot. He shrugged, they would meet them or not. Either way was fine by him. the women were gathered together in one room, to wait while the team got on with business.

entering the far eastern side hall, Jill helped Brenda to the first door, she knocked and called out, but nothing. Then a bump against the door and then another. Jared had Jill gently move Brenda out of the way and then he and Steve bracketed the door. In position he nodded at Steve, who kicked the door in. the jamb splintered, the door blew open knocking the zombie to the floor. Jared stepped in, and knew he would never forget the sight of the pregnant teen on the floor, fresh blood still covering her slit wrists. If she had just waited, god she should have waited. He shut the thought down it wouldn’t change a thing. He put a bullet in her head as she was trying to roll around and get to her feet.

He didn’t even wonder if the baby was still alive, what ever had brought her back had surely infected the infant when she died. “next door” he said as he stepped back into the hallway his face blank. Brenda headed to the next door and knocked calling loudly.

“is it safe” a girl replied. Josh hearing the voice pushed forward. “ Amanda, Its me Josh” he yelled. There was crashing from inside the room as if some one were throwing things, and then the scrape of furniture.

The door flew open and a teen aged girl in Shorts and a tshirt ran out into the hallway the pistol falling from her hands as she spotted her brother and ran to embrace him. She sobbed with relief into his shoulder, both of them talking a mile a minute.   Jared didn’t know if any of them would survive this, but watching the siblings made him vow to do everything he could to get all of them through. “Josh, take her to the other women, then stay and guard them” Jared ordered at least now he could get the kids out of the line of fire.

They cleared the last two rooms and recovered one more woman. Brenda had no idea what had happened to the woman who was supposed to have been in the last room. Jared had a few ideas but didn’t say anything or point out the half open window. Once Brenda and the last woman were safely in the room with the others. Jared shook joshes hand “ good luck, keep them all safe” He said.

He wished he could have sent them straight down to the parking garage or out of the building but if the VX was detonated then they wouldn’t have been able to get far away enough to make a difference.

Jared gave the signal and the teams moved up the emergency stairwells in the wings they had cleared.

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

Ashton watched the mass of undead on the breach bridge then turned his attention to the barricade at the far end of the bridge, puzzled, half an hour ago, the sounds of heavy combat could be heard from the other island. he had even seen an exchange of fire between the barricade forces and the men in the building just off the bridge. It looked like some one had started a fire, he could see an orange glow to the south and smoke billowing up into the night sky.

“ I think we should attack” Jones said, Ashton nodded in agreement. “ Jansen I have a job for your boys, and yes its going to be dangerous.”

Lowell squatted behind the barricade, hearing the rumble of a vehicle he scrambled up the ladder to peer over the top of the barricade and saw a Deuce and a half approaching. It was armored, and something attached to its wheels was ripping the legs off of zombies in a welter of goo and flesh. The gunner in the back of the Deuce began to fire into the undead, and Lowell could tell from the sound it was a .50. With that round you didn’t have to hit a zombie in the head, you only had to graze it a few times and it was no longer very dangerous.

But they weren’t firing at his position, why. They had the range. He frowned as gunfire erupted from the building next to the bridge. damn those assholes are still alive. He lifted his own weapon ready to fire into the building and finish what they had started an hour ago, and then something riding a jet of fire, blurred past and hit the building. Wood, glass and flame gouted out into the night as the javelin detonated.

He slid down the ladder, chanting ‘shit’ under his breath as he looked around for something, anything. His eyes fell on the radio. “ Caldwell, if you want to live another five minutes get on that radio and see if those people are broadcasting.” He snapped to the soldier who had been a recruit when the zombie balloon went up.

Caldwell swallowed nervously and began to scan frequencies. Avoiding any Frequency he knew were used by Parks and his loyalists. “ This is Breach bridge position, come in..” he paused not sure what to call them, “ come in Opposing units”

Lowell crouched by Caldwell, hearing more motors approaching the bridge. “ Keep trying” Lowell told the kid, he wasn’t proud of much of anything he had done the last ten or so months, except keeping that kid from getting killed or corrupted. He looked around at the dirt streaked faces of his men and grimy uniforms they wore. When the goons opened fire on them earlier they had wounded two of his six men. Barker might not even survive. He didn’t want any of his men dying, not now when they might actually be able to escape Parks and his insanity. “ hang on men, just hang on. Our luck might be changing.”

The Deuce was almost on top of them. Lowell slipped the sling of his M16 over his neck and leaned it against the wall. Then before anyone could say a word, he climbed up the ladder and began to wave his arms.

Ashton was focused on the building they had just used a Javelin on, watching the fire spread and quickly. He wondered if maybe the men inside had stored some kind of fuel in there with them. What ever the reason, the fire that started when the Javelin hit was spreading to the rest of the building. “ Sgt, you might want to look at the barricade” Jones said, his voice sounded muffled over the radio.

Ashton shifted his gaze and saw a Soldier on top of the wall, waving his arms trying get noticed. “ Beast one hold position.” He ordered, watching as the Deuce slowed then stopped. Beast two was blocking the Isle of Palms end of the Bridge, and at the moment, not a single undead lived on the bridge. Ashton, passed the wheel over to Jones. Out of habit he checked to make sure no undead were close by, then hopped out of the truck and ran past Beast two and across the four hundred foot bridge that connected the two Islands. Reaching Beast one he climbed up into the back and then climbed up onto the top of the Cab.

The barricade was shaped like a box that blocked this end of the bridge, its walls were formed by vehicles stacked two high. The troops who manned the barricade lived inside the box staying in Tents supplied with just enough to stay alive. Beyond the far side wall, he could see a few hundred undead. and smaller groups behind that wandering around behind the main mass.

“ what do you want” Ashton asked loudly. he keyed the radio “ Beast one shut down your motor so I don’t have to yell.” The motor was switched off before he stopped transmitting. “ better, what do you want” he asked again.

“ I want to surrender my position, I want my men unharmed and freed.” The dirty, desperate looking soldier called out.

“ your men” Ashton asked, arching an eyebrow.

“ I’m Sergeant First Class, Daniel Lowell and these men are what’s left of my unit.”

“ Staff Sergeant Ashton here, late of Ft. Jackson like yourself. Ill accept your surrender as long as you hand over your weapons as soon as your on this side of that wall. We are going to have to be quick about this, Id really like not to get eaten or have you eaten while we sit out here. “

Lowell didn’t even frown, he had expected no less, and the relief of getting out of here, and not having to be in charge any more was profound. He nodded quickly. “ You got it” he said turning and calling down to some one behind the wall. “ we have two wounded as well.” Lowell called out. Ashton nodded, relieved that Jared had wanted the ambulance brought forward.

Ashton had beast two moved and Jared’s van pulled up, and the prisoners were loaded onboard. The van turned and raced away heading for the secured area they had set up till they could take Moultrie. Once back in the truck he gave the order for Beast one to get back into motion. They had walls to tear down and undead to deal with.

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

The boat moved steadily thru the darkness towards Ft. Sumter. Warren kept looking back at the barrels and the devices they were supposed to attach to the barrels once the barrels were in place. Mikhail had told them the charge was big enough to wipe the fort out of existence.

They could hear gunfire and a few explosions on Sullivan island. it sounded like a small war had erupted. David didn’t look happy either Warren thought as he looked at the small crew of men. Daryl sat next to him, there to make sure they finally got the mission done. I don’t want to kill a bunch of kids, with a bomb. I don’t want to be another dim wit like that idiot in Oklahoma. Warren decided, that was the main reason so many of the guys had sided with Bobby, and only the fact that Mikhail had needed them to a do a few tasks for him. had delayed their launch till tonight. He saw David glancing at Daryl, who they both knew was so terrified of the Russian he would do exactly what the Russian wanted.

He and Daryl had been friends for years, but he couldn’t do this. Not this boy, no way. He knew David had his back, and more than half of the others. and the other half would just go along with what ever the rest decided. Daryl was the only problem. Never in is life had he ever thought that he would be here in this position in a world gone mad.

All I ever wanted was the bland mediocre life I had. And a decent woman. now I have neither, and rape isn’t something I’m willing to do to get laid. With out a word he drew his pistol and shot Daryl in the head. he was crying when he turned to David. “ dump that shit over the side,” he said pointing to the barrels and the explosive devices. “ I think we should visit Florida.” He said, David stared at Daryls body for a long moment then nodded. The Boat sped out of the harbor barrels splashing into the water behind it.

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

When the word went out that Parks was dead, the chaos that Bailey had held at bay, was finally unleashed. At the School on Jasper not far from the Breach, Soldiers turned on the Thugs that had been foisted on them. the battle was short and dirty. Three soldiers survived and managed to get to the roof and lock the door before the reanimated corpses could catch them.

At the Library, two soldiers who had been on parks shit list, were gunned down by the asshole brigade before they even found out the Colonel was dead.

At another resort on the isle of palms, the soldiers there for months, had been stockpiling and slipping out when the hordes wandered off to bring back more supplies with out the civilian watchdogs catching on, so when the word came in. Private manning, who was on the radio, casually and quietly spread the word. The Civilians were rounded up. some put up a fight, but most facing superior fire power and better training were smart enough to surrender.

At Poes Tavern, Corporal Henry Cole, had calmly walked into the back of the building. the Thugs could care less what he did, as far as they were concerned he was one man, and could do very little. They were concerned with the mass of zombies that had gathered around the Tavern and just stood watching the windows. They were distracted but at least tried to make sure one man kept on eye on the door Cole had walked thru in case he walked back out shooting.

They weren’t prepared for what he did do. Cole made sure the door to the upstairs was open. And nothing was in the aisle that might trip him, he then walked calmly to the rear door and threw it open, before it even banged off the wall, he was whistling and running for the stairs. He slipped into the stair case and shut and locked the door then moved quietly to the upstairs where he piled up anything he could find to block the stairs. Downstairs, the undead poured into the kitchen. And then hearing conversation from the bar area headed for the swinging doors. Cole sat smiling coldly as the screams and the gunshots started. It didn’t last long. The men who had raped his Girlfriend were dead and life might be short but it was good for him.

All over the island, the isolated bands of soldiers and Goons fought short and vicious battles. Even those who had willingly followed Parks orders turned on the criminals they had been saddled with.

A few places the men tried to slip out unseen, but in moments were dragged down and ripped apart by the zombies.

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

The third floor of the hotel became a nightmare of combat. The oil lanterns cast pools of dim light along the hallways, but between them were inky pools of darkness.

Eds team two were the first to be ambushed. They came out of the fire stairs and instead of turning and walking down the long east west hall, they headed straight taking the short connecting hallway. The plan was to clear those four rooms, then moving down the long hallway on the north side and clearing the 16 rooms there. .

That move Ed realized had saved their lives, as the ambushers sprang out of the rooms they had been hiding in along both of the East west hallways. The initial exchange had killed Landen, wounded Steger and Fields. The Ambushers realized at that point Their plan to hit Eds team from two sides was working, but not in the way they had intended. With Eds team trapped in the connecting Hallway they couldn’t get to the Eds team with out exposing themselves to serious return fire and Ed and his men couldn’t get out with out being shot down.

Muzzle flashes lit up the dark areas, like rapid fire lightening. The air was filled with smoke and the smell of gunpowder. The sound of heavy combat in a confined space was deafening.

Jared hadn’t been able to really rush clearing the east wing, but they had tried, and were bogged down in the east wing by a massive firefight of their own. Jared winced as a wild round struck one of the oil lanterns on the floor which shattered and sent flaming oil splashing on the wall and floor.

Close quarters combat is one of the most brutal and dangerous things Jared thought as he rushed forward under fire. His biggest advantage were the NVG’s, allowing them to pick off their attackers steadily. He could see the arch at the end of the long hall that lead to the central building with its elevator bank and the staircase, just ahead. No more then six of the men who had first attacked them were still standing.

He reached the fire extinguisher while Chris and Steve covered him and quickly got it into action. Logan and Jason were acting as Rear guards just in case more attackers circled back around them from the other side. he prayed none of the women being held up here had been hit. These walls damn sure wouldn’t stop a bullet. He ignored the scattered bodies as he put out the fire. Standard Operating Procedure, SOP, at this point was to put a bullet into the heads of each one as the reached them.

Sadly that had been falling on Jill more often than not, and he hated to think about what kind of mental toll that it was taking on her. the last of the fire went out and he tossed the tank to the ground and took up his weapon again, only to realize that no shooters were left in their wing. From the sound of it Ed was still under assault.

Jared got his team moving into the main hall heading for Eds Team, as Chris, in the lead started to pass the main stairwell, he backpedaled signaling at the team to stop and be alert. “ undead” he called out.

at the top of the stairs a zombie had appeared, then another, and then more. God knew how they had gotten into the hotel but here they were. His mind raced, how they had gotten inside wasn’t important. And dealing with them wasn’t important. The bomb on the roof was. He just prayed Ori had successfully moved to his own destination before the Undead had swarmed the second floor.

“ Ed, theres undead on the stair case. Get in a room and stay there.” Jared said over the radio. “ Josh, don’t open that damn door until you hear people talking got me.”

“ get to the roof Jared, we will draw the undead down here, and then hole up. good luck and out” Ed said. “ josh did you copy “ Jared asked, praying that the guy and all those women weren’t dead yet. “ got ya, Jared. we are going to move furniture in front of the door.”

“ how are we going to get them out “ Jill asked as she listened. Steve and Chris were busy shooting down undead as fast as they reached the top of the stairs. “ don’t know yet.” he replied. “ start knocking on doors, and warning people that theres zombies on this floor and not to open up.” He said. Jill rushed to the nearest door and began knocking. He prayed that no combatants would be waiting in ambush behind those doors.

Jared looked around frowning, then rushed to the door closest to the Arch into the main hall, he kicked it open and rushed inside only to find a naked woman cowering on the floor. shit I don’t have time for kid gloves he thought. “ maam, listen to me” he barked hating the way she flinched at each word. “ I have to get you to another room, there are zombies up here. the men who raped you, are dead or dying okay. But you have to move.”

She nodded, and got to her feet trying to find some dignity. Jared held out a hand to help her. but she flinched away. God if your listening help out here. “ come on, lets go” he said impatiently. She followed him to the door, terror in her eyes at the steady gunfire. She was so slow that it would take time they didn’t have and that put his friends at risk. And he couldn’t risk Steve or Chris getting killed.

He turned back to face her stepping closer she flinched away from him. He was ice as he scooped her off the floor and ran out the door and further down the hall to the connecting hallway, he tried the first door and found it unlocked. He opened it and groaned as he saw a woman chained to the bed. He sat the shaking woman he carried on the bed. “ listen to me, If you don’t try to control yourself I cant save you so snap you fucking ass out of this shit.” He growled hating himself for what he was doing. But he didn’t have the time to be nice right now “How many women are up here in this wing” he asked. she stared at him then swallowed.

“ Twenty I think” she replied her voice husky and low. she was still shaking but, was trying her best to keep from falling apart.

“ okay I don’t know how many I can save. But I’m shutting this door when I walk out. if you hear me screaming at you to lock it. lock it and don’t open it again untill you hear people talking okay.” He asked. she nodded slowly.

He ran out shutting the door behind him and then bellowed for Jason and logan to help. In minutes they were hauling out the mattress, and then the bureau and any other furniture they could lay there hands on. Jared even pried the hinges free from the room door and the bathroom door.

as soon as they had that room stripped, he moved to the next door and tried the knob this time, realizing these guys were not going to want to unlock the door every time they wanted to get some sex, and sure enough it was unlocked. And inside was a young woman who stared at them. “ look I don’t have time to be nice or explain, im trying to save you. get your ass off that bed and follow me if you don’t I will knock you out and carry you if I have to. Zombies are inside the hotel and its fucked my rescue plans all to hell” He said hard and loud. She nodded and rose to her feet.

“ You don’t have to shout, and if you give me a weapon I’ll help fucking fight” she replied. Tough one Jared thought impressed. “ out in the hall there’s bodies all over take what you need, then start rounding up other women, my wife is out there, get her to help.” Jared said not caring as long as he could strip the room bare.

As they stripped the room, he could hear Jill and the other woman, getting women in other rooms moving. He paused only long enough tell Jill which room he had taken the other woman too. If it went to hell in here, and there was no other way, He would steal a damn ladder truck and take them all out from the balconies.

Jared and the others had everything they could find quickly piled up in the hallway. Fall back” Jared told the Steve and Chris, who instantly leaped backwards, and seeing what Jared was doing helped grab mattress’s and slap them across the arch to block entry into their wing. They were just in time as the first zombies reached the arch and tried to push thru.

While Steve and Chris held the mattress’s in place, Jason and Logan began piling and wedging things against the mattress to hold them in place. It wasn’t perfect., and it damn sure wasn’t easy, to hold the mattress’s in place while Steve and Chris moved out of the way, but they did it, and it seemed to work. There was enough space at the top for Jared and Steve to sit or kneel on furniture to fire over the top and thin the ranks of the undead. While Chris and other two stripped more stuff from two more rooms and added that to the barricade.

“ Ed how are you doing” Jared asked, he waited for a reply but didn’t get one. Shit he thought as he checked his radio. he could still hear gunfire, but there were screams now too, as the undead fell on Eds ambushers from behind. Jared eyed the barricade and figured it would hold up. if not Jill and the other women were almost finished getting the last of the gang rape victims into the four end rooms. “ Jill make sure you tell them that the only way they will be left behind is if we are all dead.” Jared told her over the radio. Jill only clicked her radio to acknowledge.

Zombies were pushing at the barricade but so far it didn’t move. They were trying to reach over the top, but couldn’t get quite reach the men on the other side. Thank god the pile of furniture was holding.

“ all of them are moved out “ jill said suddenly, Jared almost jumped out of surprise as she spoke over his shoulder. “ we picked up weapons too and handed them to the women who still have it together.”

“ Good thinking get them locked in and met us at the Mechanical room door” Jared told her. “ Ori get up here we don’t have a lot of time.”

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

Ed was under heavy fire as Ambushers at last charged, trying to break past Eds team to escape the zombies that had appeared behind them and were falling on the ambushers rear. He tried the knob of the room closest to him finding it unlocked he tossed it open and threw himself in side.

The rest of the team was scrambling for the rooms nearest them. and none of there were close to his position.

Ed slammed the door and locked it, breathing heavily. He almost jumped as something bumped against the door, and then the sound of nails dragging down the door as the zombie outside began clawing at the door.

He backed away from the door keying his radio. “report, is every body all right” he asked and waited for a response. Hearing nothing he tried once more then pulled the unit from its pouch on his side and held up what was left of the radio. He removed the ear bud and mike and tossed the trashed unit to the floor.

He stepped out of the short entry hall into the hotel room. Looking around he saw cheap pictures on the walls, no doubt the hotel had paid top dollar for reprints, and cheap mass-produced, custom furniture. He had always been amazed at how an expensive hotel would spend a fortune on stuff like this, and think it looked glitzy and expensive in fact it upset the gay decorating gene he was supposed to have, but usually cheerfully admitted he lacked. But if he had one it would be offended.

The bed looked slept in, hell from a last june, he thought noting the suitcases on the floor. poor bastards come here to enjoy the ocean, a little quiet time and got eaten. there were items on the dresser, but he didn’t pay much attention to them. as he was looking around the room became darker, and darker.

He realized after a moment the battery in the NVG was going dead. Not happy with that, he turned them off , then shrugged off the small pack he wore and placed them inside. Jared had been right when he insisted that every one going on this mission carry at least a small pack with, some food, water, first aid kit and other essentials enough to last a day or two.

He placed the pack on the bed then started to walk to the sliding glass door where moonlight leaked past the louvered shades, might as well open them and get some more light in here, he told himself. not really wanting to admit that he was getting creeped out as hell, with the sound of zombies clawing at the door, and the dark shadowy room. he was almost to the blinds when something slammed into him from behind and drove him to the ground.

Hot pain flared in his back as a knife blade was driven home. “ I warned you, stay out of my business fag boy” the voice came from everywhere and no where. It swirled through his mind, like some stinking noisome fog.

He felt weight on his thighs, and then before he could catch his breath, fresh pain flared as the knife was driven into his thigh. “ gonna skin you Ed” Jasper brown whispered in his mind, or ear. Ed couldn’t tell. He was terrified, jasper Brown was dead, there was no way he could be here.

Desperately He bucked trying to throw his attacker off and got another stab in the thigh for his efforts, this time it peeled a chunk of flesh out. Ed howled and pushed up with all his strength finally shaking his attacker free.

Eds leg almost buckled as he got to his feet, he ignored the pain and the hot blood flowing down his leg, he reached for his pistol and found it gone. His rifle, which had been propped against the bed was gone too.

The shadows in the room seemed to twist and twine together like they were alive. he crouched, his skin prickling painfully, he was trapped in a hotel with no power, in room with someone or something trying to kill him. and zombies outside the door. and beyond the windows was an entire dead city filled with those things.

“ I tried to be nice ” the voice said out of the darkness, or maybe his mind it was so hard to tell. “ but that’s long past” Ed strained to see into the dark room, slowly backing up to towards the sliding glass door.

He realized he had missed something when he entered the room, the bathroom positioned by the door. which was why there is a short entry hall. Who ever had attacked him was in there.

He stopped, watching the dark rectangle that was the door. something moved there, he couldn’t really see it, and realized he really didn’t want to. “ I’m going to cut off your balls and eat them Ed, you don’t mind if I call you Ed do you. I mean we are going to be closer than friends after all” the voice laughed, echoes of madness and anger with in it.

Ed remained silent, his eyes searching the floor for his weapons. But in the darkness he couldn’t see them.

“ Wont do you much good Ed, your weapons that is. Praying either. Most of my victims prayed you know. Oh god no, oh god no” Brown said laughing from the darkness that hid him.

“you cant be real” Ed said, hoping the fear he felt wasn’t apparent in his voice, it was a bit of pride but at the moment it was all he had.

“ Neither can the zombies outside the door Ed. I almost let them in you know. But this is between you and I. Proper English is so important at moments like this don’t you think”

“ shut up!” he said, then more loudly “Shut Up!”

there was silence for a moment then a sound like breathing filled the room, deep, rhythmic, the shadows seemed to move with it, bulging into the room then back again. Over and over, pulsing. its in my mind, its in my fucking mind he told himself.

“ I thought you were smarter than that Ed, how did I stab you. if its all in your mind. for that matter how did I take you weapons?” Brown hissed then snickered.

The rooms seemed to grow darker; he could sense something in the room with him. something dark and malignant, something hungry. “ people like you, you think your so superior. You think that the divine, the force or what ever is the only one that can put a spirit back in a body. Do you think we didn’t notice the three zombies it sent as a warning the other day. do you think we didn’t notice all the zombies it interfered with in England, or Up north And even here. well we did notice, and I’m here to tell you Ed, your going to die. Tonight, painfully at my hands.”

Ed was terrified, but he was tired of this too. “ how? are you going to talk me to death?” he asked sneering praying he didn’t sound like a scared asshole.

Something appeared in the dark doorway, something that made Ed want to throw up. Jasper brown, stood there, almost skeletal. Leathery mottled skin stretched tight over his bones. milk white eyes peering at him from under the brim of a bowler hat. A knife glittered in its hand. Its old fashioned clothes smeared in blood.

“ bullshit” Ed said suddenly “ your nothing. A dream, night mare. But your not real” he reached behind him and ripped the blinds down from the sliding glass door and let the moon light cut into the darkroom like a knife blade that slashed the room in half. And just in front of the bed he saw his pistol.

“ two choices ed, run or die” it said in sibilant sing song. It moved forward staying just out of the moonlight, “ die then” it said and leaped at him. Ed Lunged forward and snatched the pistol off the floor rolling over onto his back and firing.

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

Relief flared in Jareds eyes as he saw Ori and his team emerge from the Emergency staircase. That explained the lack of Radio contact. “welcome back little man, you missed all the fun” Jared said, wanting to hug the short blond till his tiny head popped off.

“lets get this over with” Jared said leading both teams to the Mechanical room door,

Ori looked pale, no doubt the thought of working on yet another bomb had him worried, but showed nothing else other than the nervous energy he usually got during a fight. Steve limped, his pants leg soaked with blood. He waved off their concern saying it was nothing.

Chris had been wounded too, a shot had gone straight thru his forearm, the bones were intact so he still had the use of his arm. Jared tried the knob and found it unlocked.

The mechanical room was the only way to the roof as far as Jared knew of. The buildings built in the last twenty years or so, usually only had access thru a mechanical room that could be locked with out violating fire codes. The move had been as much an insurance issue as a safety issue, Primarily it was so that guests and people of the street couldn’t reach the roof and mess with air conditioners and other items or throw themselves off creating not only a mess but lawsuits from family members for allow public access to a potentially dangerous area.

Jared entered carefully looking around. The room was as large as two hotel rooms on this floor. the air handlers were huge walk in affairs. Silent now with the power off. to those without NVG’s the room was pitch black, threats could be anywhere. Jared, Steve, and Chris scouted ahead, finding the metal staircase to the roof at the back of the mechanical room behind one of the two massive air handlers.

“ you can turn on flashlights now” Jared said. in seconds lights were burning. “lock that door.” Jared said tilting his head towards the hall door.

The lights showed them where the access hatch to the roof was behind the air handlers. Jared turned to his people. “ only myself, Steve, chris, and Ori are going up there..”

“ to hell you say Jared, I’m not stepping aside now” Jill said and shivered at her choice of her own words. “ don’t argue with me. I’m going.”

Jared shook his head then stopped himself, after a second he smiled sadly at her. “ all right you can go, the rest of you watch that door and the staircase. If we don’t make it back…. “ he hesitated. “ if we don’t, I don’t think any of us are getting out of here.”

“ all right campers, any one ready to play bomb disposal expert. Ori you look excited by that idea. “ Jared said with a smile that never touched his eyes. Ori flipped him off. “ we are in a hotel overrun by the undead, about to try to disarm a bomb that has nerve gas in it. while a one eyed Russian bastard is no doubt waiting to set the thing off just to laugh as we all die. And I doubt he is alone up there. any questions” Jared asked.

“ yeah what do we do for breakfast.” Chris asked.

“ lets go” Jared said leading the way, Jill right on his butt.

Mikhail was just starting to think that Jared was a no show to the party, when he saw the door open. He smiled and moved back out of sight. He had taken a position on the central portion of the hotel. it was higher than the two wings, and held the bomb that the red head and his friends had come so far to find. . He was looking forward to the coming fight. He heard the first gunshots, and readied himself. he wasn’t going to go hand to hand if he could help it. No he wanted to do this at range.

Jared hit the door running, his feet slammed down on the gravely rooftop and instantly the gunfire began. He ran in a crouch zigging and zagging, bullets chewing up the ground around him, using anything on the roof that he could to cut down on the angles the shooters could get on him.

The center portion of the hotel was ten feet higher than the wing, he noted, with a ladder leading to its top. Men were firing down on them, while others dropped to the rooftop Jared and his people were on, rushing to take cover behind equipment that couldn’t possibly provide any cover, As they found out quickly when Jared and his team shifted fire and riddled the thin metal. .

“ Steve’s down” Chris suddenly called out. Jared heart leaped, but he forced himself to keep moving, the only thing that was important at this moment was to get up to the central roof and secure and disarm that bomb.

“ I’ll get him” Jason said over the radio bursting out onto the roof a moment later with Logan at his side. Damn it Jared thought, as the rooftops defenders opened fire trying to shoot down Jason and Logan. The defenders distracted by Jason and Logan, gave Jared the chance to target and shoot two more enemy who tumbled off the central building to the lower wings rooftop. .

Chris swore as his rifle jammed, he dropped to one knee, trying to clear his weapon.
With no real cover on the roof top, he had no choice but to do it in the open. Jared and Ori fired steadily keeping the shooters ducking but one of them finally managed to pop up at just the right time and sent two bursts into Chris who went over backwards to sprawl on the roof. Jared prayed those shots had been in his friends armor.

He rushed forward while Ori and Jill fired upwards trying to provide cover. He scrambled up the ladder as fast as he could A bullet slammed him in the shoulder as he reached the rooftop, his armor stopped it but only barely. He was already firing trying to cover the ladder so Ori and Jill could come up behind him.

Fire, move, duck, cuss, fire some more, it was unending, and he had no idea why in the seemingly two hours he fought to hold that ladder he hadn’t been shot.

Then Ori was beside him followed by Logan and Jill. then all the others he had left in the mechanical room. He had tried to keep them out of this, keep them safe but it didn’t matter, they had abandoned the mechanical room and were here to help.

Stephanie whooped as she shot down two men, who had tried to low crawl under some pipes and flank them. Jason tackled her taking her out of the line of fire, as he spotted a man about to shoot her.

Jared stalked forward, as he spotted targets, aimed and fired. Pure mechanical, no wasted motion, or emotion. Just targets on the range, were all they were to him, Logan at his right, Jill at his left advancing across the roof with him. .

Mikhail watched them come across the barrel of his AK. He held his fire letting his men do most of the work. The old mans whore woman was just there, he noticed as he looked thru the iron sights and drew a bead. He had promised himself that he would kill her, and he was a man of his word. At least when that word was given to himself he silently amended. He stroked the trigger smiling as she went over backwards to fall to the lower roof. The man who had been with her dove to cover, taking himself out of Mikhails sight lines

Mikhail looked and realized that the short blond man with glasses had vanished. That was an annoying talent for an enemy to have. How he hated that blond man. Nothing he could about it just yet. he watched Jared for a moment then sighted.

Jill fired a burst and sent a man in ACUs to the ground, she tried not to notice the spray of blood and gore. But she did and later she would let herself be sick but not yet. Out of the corner of her eye she saw movement back in the shadows of a huge metal box with louvers, and pipes. She started to lift her rifle and her dreams flashed thru her mind. She knew this was what she had dreamed of, the moment she had to make a choice, Jared or herself.

Mikhail’s rifle bucked in his hands, his smile vanished as Jared’s woman knocked Jared out of the way. She looked surprised as the bullets struck her. He saw blood bloom as he started to pull the trigger again. Then bullets pounded around him, one struck his rifle, destroying the receiver. What is with Americans and shooting my damn weapons he thought as he dove for cover.

Ori kept firing from cover, driving Mikhail out of position then left Ronny to hold that spot while he headed for the bomb and prayed he didn’t kill them all.

Jared looked down at Jill, oblivious to the bullets still flying around him. his head cranked up slowly mechanically to look in the direction she had been shot from. “ Ori get to the bomb. I’ll deal with his ass” Jared said over the radio, his voice leached of all emotion. He knelt only long enough to gently brush a lock of hair out of her eyes then pick up her Katana.

“ on it sarge” Ori replied unaware that Jill had been shot.

Jared shoved the katana into his web belt, as he ducked under pipes and leaped over others. he leaped around the metal box and saw Mikhail running and leap down to the next wing. Jared went after him, moving effortlessly, reaching the edge of the high roof he leaped forward and landed in a roll on the lower roof, losing his commando in the process. He rolled up onto the balls of his feet to see Mikhail waiting for him.

“ so sorry about your woman, honestly. I was hoping to rape her after I finish with you” Mikhail said a pistol in his hands. Jared didn’t respond, there was nothing to say, no words could express the hate he felt for that bastard.

“ What no words, no shouting out your vengeance, no vows to make me pay. I thought all Americans believed in the witty banter and pithy one liners while seeking vengeance.” Mikhail said as Jared moved in a crouch from one side to another almost making a semi circle, no weapons in his hands.

Mikhail was starting to get angry as he watched the American stalk from side to side. Why didn’t he speak, Most men would babble vowing vengeance, or screaming threats but not this total silence. The only sound Jared made was the crunch of gravel under his boots. Mikhail could hear more gunfire and at one point the building shook. But he paid no mind to this.

“ you want to do this hand to hand don’t you.” Mikhail said suddenly taunting Jared. “ so melodramatic.”

Jared wasn’t planning anything, he had reached a state were his mind was busy studying every detail, catching every nuance and movement and at the same time was totally still and empty. And then he saw what his mind had been seeking, His hand flashed as he drew the pistol, he shot Mikhail twice, the pistol Mikhail held, went flying from a mangled hand. Mikhail screamed out in pain.

Jared stalked forward, and launched a roundhouse kick that sent Mikhail spinning. Jared shot him twice more as Mikhail tried to get back to his feet. Jared holstered the pistol, and stood loosely. “ no I wanted to shoot you” Jared said breaking his silence. “ Now we do it the old fashioned way.”

Mikhail rose with a roar, the civilian model vest he wore had shed the bullets, but it was basically useless now, He lunged at Jared who slipped to the side allowing Mikhail to step past him, and drove an elbow into Mikhail’s back sending the Russian sprawling. He let Mikhail get back his feet. He should have just shot the Russian dead. Jared knew that, but he couldn’t. To many had died at this mans hands, He wanted Mikhail to pay for every life he had taken.   He wanted to break his spirit, break his bones.   I want him to hurt to beg and plead.. and become just like him a small voice whispered in the back of his mind. damn you pappy Jared thought, as his mind settled again and thank you, you old coot.

Mikhail pushed away the pain and got to his feet, dropping into a crouch. His eyes narrowed as he watched Jared who just stood there. Mikhail began to circle, Jared followed his lead, letting Mikhail pick the dance.

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

The convoy rolled thru the streets of Sullivan Island, the first few blocks had been a nightmare run through a press of undead, then they broke through and the streets were mostly empty. Here and there crowds of undead were gathered around a building. Some of those turned and stumbled out towards the street, where they were shot down or run ove as the line of Trucks, Rvs, Semis and other vehicles passed. It was the largest concentration of running vehicles seen on the island for a long while now.

Here and there, some one would climb up on a roof and wave their arms or drapes anything to get attention. Mary used a loudspeaker to tell them to hang on, the group would be back for them. She was worried as hell about Ronny and the others, but kept her fear to herself. As they passed the hotel, she could see the steel gate that had closed the garage was open and zombies crowded the entrance.

They sped past the road to the light house, and then past a building where zombies were standing around, some had fresh blood on their clothes and skin, Mary managed to catch a glimpse of the sign it had been some kind of bar. Up ahead on the right, she finally saw the place they had come so far to find. Fort Moultrie, and people were standing on the walls watching the convoy approach. She had hoped to be seeing this with Ronny at her side. but she couldn’t help but smile for a moment at the sight of the place they had come so far to find.

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

Ashton leaped out of Beast one as the .50 boomed, he fired on the run, leading his men to the hotel doors, Jansens team was dismounting and following right behind. Zombies were tumbling to the ground around them. most were just crippled, some were only knocked down, but many were dead, for a second time.

They breached the hotel door, with a satchel charge then charged into a lobby filled with undead. those with in twenty feet of the doors had been shredded, many killed. But the scorched corpses that survived, some with out legs, or arms, were trying to get at the men. The two teams fired steadily, Daws concentrated his fire on the undead still standing at the edge of the blast zone and the hallway, the SAW laying down heavy fire.

It took them ten minutes to clear the lobby. outside Beast one backed around and then pulled up against the hole where the lobby doors had been. Using its bulk to seal the doors against more undead. “ Ashton to team one, we are on the ground floor and coming up” Ashton called over the radio, a moment later Ronny responded. “ we have wounded, under heavy fire on the roof. Take the mechanical room up to the roof, third floor east wing.”

“ roger, on the way, Ashton out” he said then looked around. “ Blow that hallway” he yelled and pointed to the hallway that led to the parking garage.. Thank god Jansen’s men had stashed a few satchel charges.

Benton readied the charge and then under covering fire, he ran forward and tossed the satchel charge down the hallway that led to the parking garage.

He was already running back to his team as the satchel charge sailed down the hallway, it bounced off a zombie and fell to the floor. The zombie stared at it, trying to decide whether it was edible or not while others stumbled, crawled or limped past it.

The charge exploded shaking the building, dust and debris and zombie parts vomited from the arched hallway, as the walls and a section of the roof collapsed sealing the hallway.

“ Ashton this is Upton, we are trapped on the third floor west wing, a lot of stinkys out in the hallways. We are on the west side, connecting hallway. Theres also people in some of the rooms both second and third floor, so watch your fire” Ashton frowned, it should be the swat guy doing this. He was a blow the hell out of the building type of person.

“ thanks for the info, see you in a minute” Ashton replied.

They worked their way up floor by floor. Thankfully, most of the zombies were in the hallways. The second floor was packed with undead that made clearing fairly easy. They used rifle butts as much as possible to keep from wasting ammo, they had already burned through a lot in the last half hour, not to mention the last day or two. it was bloody dangerous work. But it went fast. Especially since they were only trying to clear the halls not the rooms.

**********************
Ed curse as he missed the bullets slammed into the things chest,“ I’m going to kill you” Brown snarled in his mind. As the spindly body jerked with the impact. He drove the knife down striking Ed in the stomach. Ed grunted in pain, and threw the damn thing off him, it struck the wall and then fell to the floor.

Ed climbed painfully to his feet, something hadn’t been right when it hit the wall but he couldn’t put his finger on it. The room was silent now, as if nothing had happened. Ed started to step around the bed, almost certain he was unconscious and having some sort of nightmare, Brown sprang to his feet. Large holes in his stomach, a wide grin on his face.

“ wanna bet on that fag boy” brown hissed lunging at Ed with his knife, Ed blocked a slash with his forearm. He dropped his pistol his hand numb. He ignored the pain and the stench, as brown hooted happily.

“ gonna eat your balls boy, then I’m going to flay you alive before raping you. Then I’m going to let you die slowly in pain, and come back as one of the undead. start my work right here right now.”

Brown leaped on him, grappling trying to stab him. Ed grabbed him by the wrist and twisted. Ed tossed him to the side, looking for his pistol. But couldn’t see it. his distraction almost cost his life as brown sprang at him again he lunged over the bed leading with the knife. Maybe not as fast a person, but faster than he had seen a zombie move before.

Ed was bent over and instead of trying to stand he just slammed his shoulder into its stomach and heaved up sending it flying thru the glass door and onto the balcony.   Brown sprang back to his feet and leaped at Ed stabbing him once more in the thigh, another inch it would have been somewhere he really didn’t want to be stabbed at. “ take your manhood, oh yessss” Brown hissed as the arm reared back again to strike. Ed caught the things wrist and yanked pulling the thing off balance and brought its arm down across his knee, breaking it at the elbow. It screamed, but sounded strangely human.

Ed kicked it in the stomach sending it staggering back onto the balcony. its arm hanging oddly at its side. Something it had said clicked with him, not the only one that can put a spirit back into a body. He stared at it for a long moment. Time seemed to slow, the features shifted and changed, and he saw Hansen. Whose mouth opened wide, eyes pleading.

Hansen was already dead, possibly had been for a while ed thought as he spotted his pistol and scooped it up. Hansen started to charge as Ed leveled his pistol and dropped into a perfect combat crouch and fired six shots into Hansen, three into the chest, three into the head. Hansen pitched backwards, and hit the railing. He slid to the ground blood pooling around him.

Ed dropped the spent magazine, and slipped in his last one. He walked over to the body and pitched it over the railing just in case, then limped back to the bed and managed to dig out his first aid kit, before the pain got to be to much. He was bandaging his wounds, when Upton climbed around the balcony wall from the room next door. “ damn Ed let me help”

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

The west wing on the third floor was a nightmare. There were almost forty fresh zombies, and there were more in the bullet-riddled rooms. Ashton left them be, no point in room clearing at this moment. Eds team had lost three, and two wounded. Ashton thought as he got the survivors gathered and had the wounded placed in a room together.

Ed looked like he was in shock, and Ashton didn’t even ask what the hell had happened in that room. But it had been a hell of a fight from the look of it. He made sure Ed had two more magazines. Then closed the door and led his men to the mechanical room, and up the stairs.

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

Ronny and Ori swept the last ambushers from the roof top, putting them down fast and ruthlessly while Jason rushed to tend the wounded. Rounding a small building on the roof the rest of the team stopped as they saw Jared and Mikhail on the lower roof, the two men were circling each other arms and legs flashing in rapid fire strikes, blocks and counters.

Mikhail drifted back and drew the long combat knife he carried. He wasn’t worried about using his off hand, he had taught himself years ago to use his left hand as well as his right for most things. Every breath hurt, he knew had at least two broken ribs, his right hand was mangled and the pain of blocking with that arm caused him agony. Jared smiled coldly as he remained open handed.

Mikhail feinted towards Jared who used an open palm to Mikhail’s wrist to deflect the strike as he slipped to one side, seeing the feint for what it was. Jared smiled mockingly at Mikhail, “ not so tough when your not torturing kids, planting bombs or sniping people are you. you piece of Russian trash” Jared said contempt fairly dripping from the words.

Mikhail gritted his teeth and lunged again, this time he scored a slash across Jared’s ribs. Damn him, the man seemed to shrug it off, even as blood poured down his side soaking his shirt and pants. Mikhail took advantage of the moment wading in trying to grapple and stab. He scored at least two hits and paid the price as he was sent flying his shoulder dislocated and another rib broken.

It was time, Jared thought as he drew the katana from his belt, still sheathed. He refused to use the bared blade to kill the man, Mikhail’s blood would taint the blade as far as he concerned. He moved the sword held at mid guard the strike hitting the breastbone with a crack, then flowed into a high guard and brought the sheathed blade down and broke the Russians left arm. A snap kick shattered his knee.

Jared didn’t hold back he wanted this over; he used the sheathed sword to batter Mikhail down. As the Russian collapsed, Mikhail managed to grab a hold of some pipes on a stand keeping himself half upright, Jared slammed the sheathed blade across his throat crushing it. Mikhail slid off the pipes to collapse on the ground unable to breath. Jared knelt beside the thrashing body.

“ I thought about saying something snappy or telling you exactly what kind of slime you are as you died. Dreamed of it really. but in the end, your not worth it. you were nothing in life and your less than that in death.” Jared said conversationally, as if discussing the weather. He rose slowly looking down on the dying Russian holding the sword by it sheath on his left side. he waited till Mikhail’s body stopped thrashing, then started the twitching as the body re animated. Jared still did nothing but stand and watch as the body climbed slowly to its feet using the pipes to lean against. The milky white eyes fixing on him, then Mikhail’s mouth yawned open.

Ashton saw Ronny and Ori standing near the roof top vent housing and rushed to their side arriving in time to see a zombie lunge at Jared who in one fluid movement drew the katana and in a slashing diagonal cut severed the zombies head from its shoulders. The head hit the ground and rolled across the gravel.

Jared knelt and wiped the blade on Mikhail’s clothing and then sheathed it. Rising he saw Ronny and Ori, and started towards them and then the world went black.

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

Mary walked across the courtyard, enjoying the warm sun on her face. men and women were working at expanding the garden that had been planted before their arrival. And for the first time in a long while, Children were running and playing shrieking at the top of their lungs and having a blast.

She watched as two pregnant women made their way to one of the gun emplacements to take in a little sunlight. Anne, and Carol were setting out bottles to make sun tea. She smiled as she thought about how she had squashed the rumors that the two women were lesbians. The soldiers who had survived and joined up with them, and not all had, were just a bit upset that Anne wanted nothing to do with men, because of what had happened to her. she suspected the man who had pushed the issue had probably been able to remove the ice pack from his balls yesterday.

She climbed up to the wall and looked out towards fort Sumter, the last destination of the group. the thirty people that had sheltered here since last summer, had been stunned to see the convoy bearing down on them. the steady rolling gunfire and explosions over the previous three hours had them on edge. Chad had done a fantastic job of clearing the undead around the fort, in short order while the convoy used the vehicles to build a large box around the front gate of the Fort between the bastions.

She smiled as she turned and saw Ashton running volunteers and Team members thru PT. He was coming along well. Though the military men refused to give up the military traditions, they took it as a point of pride to be soldiers. It was a way to hold on the identity they had dedicated themselves too.

She walked along the thick walls, some one, a former museum guide, had told her the walls were 16 foot thick. The only weak point was the gate. and that was now surrounded by the parked Rv’s, and other vehicles. The zombies that had kept gathering around the fort had been thinned out to next to nothing over the last week, at the expense of a lot of fuel and ammo. Both were in short supply now.

Three days ago Ashton and Jansen had led men to close off the bridge to the Isle of Pines to keep more zombies from wandering onto Sullivan island and keeping the zombie population high. Now that it was sealed off there was talk of sending out teams to start clearing the remaining undead out. but there was a general hold on that till they could resupply the ammo.

She watched as Ronny exited the chambers that Linda had turned into a hospital he waved as he saw her.

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

Jared woke feeling like hammered dog shit, his mouth felt stuffed with cotton and there were at least ten thousand really tiny people with honking big hammers in his mind wailing the shit out of the inside of his head.

The ceiling over the bed he was in, look like rough cement painted gray. Almost a military look. He tried to turn his head but it hurt like hell so he stopped. He then had what he later deemed the second stupidest move since waking, He tried to sit up, but pain lanced thru him.

“ Don’t not yet” Linda said appearing by his side.

“ Finally fucknuts gets to experience the tender care of the lesbian pill pusher” pappy said crankily from another bed.

“ you are the foulest mouthed old coot Ive ever met” Linda said as she went and got a cup of water for Jared.

“ You wouldn’t be saying that if you slept with me, come on over here and get some wrinkled lovin” Pappy said, Jared could see the leer in his mind.

“ god your disgusting” Linda said as she held the cup to jareds lips.

the water tepid as it was, felt cool as spring rain as it slid down his throat. He drank greedily till she pulled it away. “ that’s enough for the moment.” Linda said. “ now let me check you out”

“ don’t worry Dipshit, when she gropes you she give its an extra squeeze if she likes it” pappy chortled.

“ Jill, how is she, Steve, Chris..” Jared asked his throat felt itchy and dry, he wasn’t sure how long he had been out of it.

“ let me finish checking your wounds” Linda said. Jared caught her wrist and held it. she looked down at jareds hand then at him. he didn’t relent. “ Jills alive, her vest stopped the worst shots, she took one in the shoulder and one in the thigh. She lost a lot of blood but she made it thru the worst and will be okay. Steve and chris both are alive, Steve was knocked unconscious from shock I guess. The two bullets that hit him were not life threatening. Chris,…” she looked at him thoughtfully for a moment. Judging what his reaction might be.

“ Chris may not walk again, its hard to say Jared, I don’t have the training or the damned knowledge I need for some things. He took a nasty fall, and struck his head and back on some pipes, which could cause swelling of the brain and temporary paralysis amongst other things, But I don’t have the skill to open his head and drain any fluid build up. I’m more than likely to kill him that way.

The xrays I took, showed no damage to the spinal cord, no bone fragments, clots or other problems. If I had a MRI or Ct I could image his brain. But truthfully I don’t think its as bad as it looks. He has some numbness in his hands and legs, but still gets erections.” She blushed at that. Jared actually surprised himself with a smile. Pappy chortled like a peeping Tom seeing boobies.

Linda glared at pappy then continued. “ Only time will tell. I’m sorry I cant be more hopeful. Stephanie, will pull thru nicely. It was a simple surgery to remove the bullets. Id like to suggest you don’t ever do this shit again. Because if my husband gets killed I’m going to dope you up till you cant move and then remove parts. parts you really want to keep.”

She could see the relief and the anger in his eyes, “ your going to be fine, to be honest you had some broken ribs, lots of bruising, I pulled out two bullets. And frankly you looked like shit. Not your usual hot self. So its good that Jill was laid up too, or she might have left you for Jansen, or Logan. Who frankly are more her type anyway” Linda said grinning evilly at him. “ I’ll go get Mary and Sgt Ashton, who wanted to see you the instant you woke up.” Linda said then turned and vanished out of his line of sight.

“ Well, now that we are alone, how about I tell you about the Hooker I met in manilla. Sweetest little thing you ever saw with tittties as big……”

Jared groaned and tuned the old fart out, the headache was fading, and he felt some what better. He managed to sit up fairly easily after a few minutes and pappy interrupted his story to warn Jared he was about to get the “ big boobied, pill pushing lesbo pissed off enough to bring down the wrath of god”

Then Pappy launched back into his story, Jared only caught something about a mule, two bottles of scotch, a nun and small rubber balls before he could tune it out enough not to hear something that would scar him for life.

It seemed like hours before Linda returned with Mary, Ronny and Ashton who seemed happy to see Jared awake.

Ronny damn near humped Jared’s leg out of sheer excitement at seeing his long time friend moving around. Jared assured them repeatedly he felt fine and then got down to brass tacks. “what happened after I passed out?”

Mary filled him on how they had gotten to Moultrie and how thick the zombies were along the way. “ ….. Bill was one of the rangers here, back before. he decided to let us in after pointing out to the people in here, thirty or forty all told, that we hadn’t shot at them once. Only the undead. and of course I bribed them with offers of food and a doctor.

These folks went thru hell Jared, started off with close to two hundred people, some had ended up trying to get off the island on foot. They lost a lot of people trying to salvage food. Many committed suicide.

It was like at the farm, most of the people had been tourists, who just happened to be in the fort at the beginning. Some locals showed up with food and water from their homes thinking this would be a safe place till control was restored, some of the coast guard crew from the light house showed up. even some fisherman whose boats had been out on the water when the shit went down.

They had to shut the gates by the 24th and sat in here listening to people screaming and being eaten right on their doorstep. Winter took a lot more. come spring a few of the men that were locals got enough people together to get a boat and go crabbing and shrimping. They were just starting to do well when that insane Col showed up. when they wouldn’t hand over all their shrimp haul one day, he had two of their people shot. When they ran inside the fort and shut the door, he burned their boats then shot up every boat they tried to take out after that. he said when they would hand over the food he needed, he would stop. “

“ What an asshole” Jared said, remembering the body on the floor in the makeshift office. “ So how did we get out of there? and did we get all the women out.”

Ashton stood easy by the bed and told Jared of how they had swept the hotel clearing it on their way to the roof. Ashton had gotten Dean to send a helicopter to take the wounded to Moultrie for some aid .

“ … Ed got banged up, he lost three men total, had two wounded. We rescued forty-two women total. The rest, had been killed by stray rounds or suicide, others, many others were attacked by zombies.” Ashton said shaking his head sadly. “ anyway, once we secured this area, we off loaded generators, and supplies from the FEMA trailers. Set up this hospital area, and I think tomorrow, the two fishing crews want us to help them get two boats so they can head out try getting fish and shrimp.”

Jared’s mouth damn near watered at the thought of shrimp, but there were more important things to do like securing boats and getting to Sumter as soon as possible.

“ I need to get out of here” Jared said as he swung his legs over the side of the bed. Linda appeared almost instantly with a syringe threatening to knock his ass out if he didn’t lay back down for at least another day.

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

Bill stood on the wall of the fort watching the storm off in the distance; it didn’t look like it would be a good one. But here at the moment the sun was out, the wind felt good, and he couldn’t smell the undead. Whose numbers were dropping daily. The military guys, eager to make up for what had happened and what they had done. Had been clearing the area, blocking roads and gathering what they could find in the homes and businesses around the fort and bringing it back to the fort to be handed out. .

“ Here he comes” Mary told him. Bill turned to see the muscular red head walk out from under the covered walk way and look around. Jared spotting them on the wall and waved to Mary and began to walk towards them.   he walked with a slight limp, and favored his left side. but otherwise looked okay. The sunlight set his hair on fire.

As Jared walked up the wide steps to the top of the gun emplacement, Bill wondered about some of the stories the new comers had spread around. He didn’t know if he believed any of it or not. but they had wiped out the men who had wanted every one in the fort to die. They had shared food, medicine and medical treatment. He wasn’t going to deny he was thankful for their arrival, another week and his people would have been starving.

“ Beautiful day” Jared said tilting his head back for a moment enjoying the warm sunlight on his upturned face. He took a deep breath of ocean air then looked out across the harbor where Ft. Sumter was visible. Jared stood and stared lost in thought at the island. He was almost there, they had come so far, so much had happened, and god knows so many were left behind.

“ so you’re the one that kept the folks here safe?” Jared said finally, turning those emerald green eyes on Bill, who nodded.

“ I tried to keep them safe, didn’t do that great of a job” Bill replied.

“ you did better than say, the president of the United States, or 99.9 percent of police departments. Better than FEMA too.” Jared commented. Compared to that list, Bill had to agree he had done better than most of the so called leaders and experts. But his dead haunted him, they always would Jared knew. “sad to say buddy it’s the price of admission. You still did a good job. I’d guess half the people that survived the zombies died during the winter of starvation or froze to death.” Jared said softly. “We lost some ourselves.” For a moment he could see little billys face in his mind and he smiled back at the smiling kid.

Jared knew they would both be haunted by their dead, there was nothing to do for it, but deal with it. it was the price of being the idiot every one thought was the best to lead.

“ I don’t want to step on your toes, Bill. But we need to work some thing out. so I figure the two of us talk over our ideas, see what we agree on and then see what we might kill each over and work out a compromise now before we reach that point. I’ve brought these people to far thru to much to abandon them now.”

“ That sounds Fair enough, “ Bill said. “ I was never a real leader anyway. Look at us, three weapons to our name, and a thousand rounds of ammo for them.

“ beats a pointy stick and harsh language,” Jared said with a laugh. “ so lets get down to fuel and food, we have…..” Jared started detailing what his group had. While Bill listened. In the end, Jared had convinced Bill to start thinking about establishing a council or something like it by holding elections. They talked well into the next morning.

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

While Jared had been out of it, Ashton taking being left in command seriously had decided to reorganize the teams more along military lines. It was an easy decision to reach, and Jared didn’t blame him in the least. Team one was pretty much non-existent at the moment. Ori’s team with the exception of Ronny and Ori had been thrown together to take and seize the Lighthouse and observe.

Using the 35 soldiers, in addition to Jansen and Ashtons teams, who had decided to stay with the group, as the core for what Ashton called “ the US army Sullivan Island defense force”, made a lot of sense. Now instead of Teams he had organized 10 man squads. They formed the 1st company of the defense force then had started forming three more squads from the original teams Jared had set up as a Small 2nd company.

With the additional soldiers they had gained Ashton had started the training back up over the last week that Jared had been tortured and held prisoner by Linda.

Jared looked around the table in the RV, where they were meeting. Ashton and Jansen looked pleased with their progress so far. Jared couldn’t fault them they had done a great job.   Ashton how ever wanted Jared to take back Command. Which he was more than willing to do for the last assault. After that, he was thinking maybe a boat and find an island or head back to Tennessee and see how many more people he could locate and bring back or help establish a new community there. Not that he expected to find a lot more, but you never knew. The Human spirit was tough.

“ … the biggest problem is Ammo, we used up a butt load taking this island. we had no choice with the amount of undead and the opposition from the unlamented Col. Parks and the asshole brigade. What we recovered we shared with the Yorktown. So basically we have slightly less than when we arrived.” Ashton was saying, Jared nodded, around five thousand rounds of 5.56, 3 thousand of 7.62, a few thousand rounds of .12. and 1500 rounds left for the .50s. not a lot all things considered.

Deans folks need more fuel for the choppers, they had used a lot. and wanted Jared’s people to help them get it, since they used so much of the fuel to help Jared’s group.

Jared agreed with that, in fact he wanted Ashton to get back to the NG base, on the refueling run and get the last of the ammo and supplies from there. but at the moment that was on hold. Once they had Sumter, then they could start scavenging again.

The sooner those kids were safe on that island the happier he would be. And the closer he was to giving this all up and heading out. He watched Kevin walk slowly from the back of the RV to take a seat. Jared grinned at the sight, with all that happened seeing that man walking made him happy. Kevin looked pleased as hell, but he was also expecting his first child so he had two major reasons to be happy.

“ Gary and Roger have stripped most of the old nonworking Radio gear out of the Forts radio room and installed all the stuff from the RV we were using for Communications. We have the lights up and running in crucial areas of the fort. I’ve had two teams gathering old Vehicles and hauling them back here to build a wall of vehicles starting at the East bastion and along the road to form a big square anchored on the bastions.

we even scored some bulldozers and Backhoes, we just need to fuel them up and get over here to start some real fortifications. But to actually wall off the open fields along the coast. All we have to do is wall off from the water, up past Hennesy street, parallel to station 15st across Thompson st to the water, and this whole side of the island is ours. And that gives us a lot of homes and land to grow food on” Ashton said excited.

He was talking about a months work of building or longer depending on problems encountered. If nothing else they could make berms all the way to Hennesy and then use every vehicle they could lay their hands on to continue the wall from the Berm on.   Plus they would soon have three semi trailers to move into position and lay on their sides. He wanted to keep two for supply runs. But none of that addressed the one topic he wanted to discuss.

“ how long before we can seize Sumter?” Jared asked, deciding to get right to the topic he wanted to talk about. Privilege of being EL jefe he told himself.

Ashton looked a bit put off that Jared leaped right past his report. Then shrugged gave a wry grin. “ two more days, we have a lot to do to secure the area around the fort we have. In two day we should have it completed.”

“ Good then I want that barge that Ori captured ready to take us over there in three days.” Jared said, every one gathered around could feel the intensity of his emotions.

“ Why don’t we get Deans folks to fly us in OUR black hawks” Jansen asked. Jared eyed him for a moment, when Jansen and his men had asked to join up, they had joined with a vengeance, then shook his head.

“ Lets not make a point of rubbing it in their faces that the black hawks are ours. We don’t need bruised feelings between us. Besides, the pilots are theirs and as to why not use the helicopters, Fuel. Every time we have to refuel, we risk peoples lives. Every time we go on an ammo run we risk lives. Lets conserve both, so the risk is a lot less.” He said feeling like a hypocrite, after the running gun battle in the streets and hotel. but it was necessary at the time. no one argued so he let it drop.

“ guess that’s all for now. I want to go see my wife, who Linda is still holding hostage” Jared said rising. And then stopped for a moment. “Mary Id like to talk with you in private later, it’s a personal matter okay.” Jared asked. Mary nodded curious but didn’t ask any questions bless her for that Jared thought with a soft smile. It was high time he made a few things right.

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

Steve looked pale as Jared walked into the room. “ you look like shit” Steve observed.

“ Have you looked in the mirror yet?” Jared asked as he lined against the wall. “ and I’m sorry to hear that… well you lost… you know’

“ Bite me asshat, that was the first thing I checked when I woke up” Steve said with a laugh that died off after a moment.

“ how’s Chris?” Steve asked, worried about their mutual friend.

Jared shrugged, Linda had kept Chris in the MMC because it was a much better place to have him, with all the equipment in the damn thing she had it close at hand for him.

“ no change yet, but Linda still thinks its temporary.” Jared replied, as he looked past Steve to where Stephanie lay, Linda had said she could leave tomorrow. Jill was doing well but being very cranky.

“ I hope so” Steve said after a moment. He looked around for a moment, at the old WW2 devices and decorations on the walls, and then looked back at Jared. “ there are times I wonder if My mom and brother made it. Feel kinda guilty I didn’t end up driving to Memphis. I had planned to you know”

Jared nodded, there had been a lot of conversations like that the first month or so at the camp. After awhile no one really believed that their distant families were still alive.

“ I had planned at first to head Ft. Campbell, my Brother Eric was stationed there. honestly I figured he died.” Jared admitted for the first time. “ you guys are my family, have been for years.” He said as he took Steve’s hand to hell with what any one thought. if he couldn’t hug his friend he would hold his hand for a second.

Steve nodded in understanding and then pulled his hand away. “ thanks, but I don’t want any one thinking I’m such a whore, I’m now dating my best friend as well as married to two women.”

Jared laughed, but he was thinking of long tree-shaded roads winding thru mountain valleys. “ get your ass better, we got things to do.” Jared said smiling.

“ you be careful with that fort Jared, you’ve barely made it this far. Make it to the end for Jill and the rest of us okay.”

Jared nodded, then reached into the side pocket of his cargo pants and pulled out a small metal tube with a cap and tossed it to Steve along with a lighter. “that’s an expensive one by the way. Import I think. Hide it and don’t let Der fuehrer Linda see it. and when I get back from Sumter. I still have two six packs hidden away. we can sit and eat shrimp, drink beer, smoke a stogey and watch the sunset over the ocean.”

“ god man, beer sounds great, shrimp sounds great. The rest sounds like a date.” Steve replied chuckling.

Jared leaned closer whispering so Stephanie couldn’t hear. “ it is a date sort of. Its going to be one of those dates women love men to remember. I’m going to propose to Jill.” Steve’s eyes rounded, and he grinned widely. “ fucking end of the world, cant hire strippers anymore. Well at least not ones that don’t try to eat you.”

Jared laughed and walked out of the room

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

The sun was rising, lighting the underside of the scattered dark clouds with fire. The water was choppy. Two Cabin cruisers escorted the Barge across the water. their wakes sparkling with golden light. The wind was growing stronger but nothing that would put an end to the mission.

Jared had decided to make this simple as hell. They would use melee weapons and sound as much as possible. Conserve their ammo.

The fort grew larger as they approached, towering ramparts looming over the small boats. It was simple plan as forts go, Jared remembered reading somewhere that the island itself was artificial. He tensed as the cabin cruiser he rode approached the dock, where the tourist ferry boats had once docked. There were maybe twenty zombies wandering around the large grassy area in front of the gates of fort Sumter. A Ferry still bobbed at anchor though it was starting to list to one side. Another year and it would be sitting on the bottom Jared thought.

He looked at Ronny, Ori, Ryan, Jeff, Logan, Chad who were his team one for this last mission. They had all come so far together he wanted them to be able to go just that last bit and see the end for all the friends lost along the way. “ Ready” he asked, every one nodded, tense and ready.

They leaped onto the dock Jared using his tomahawks, he had Jills katana on his back. if she couldn’t be here at his side in person he wanted something of hers with him. The first zombie he encountered was dressed in shorts, and a bloody shirt and wore crocs. Which was more than enough reason for Jared to split its skull wide open.

He pushed the body into the water and led the Team off the docks at jog, 1st squad followed behind them. then 2nd squad leaped to the dock, from the other cabin cruiser. The Civilian squads, were to stay aboard the Princess, till they were ready to clear the interior of the fort.

Every zombie outside the fortress’s walls turned and headed for the men. Maybe ten more walked out of the fortress gate. Jared felt pain in his side, as he swung the tomahawk once, then again and then a third time.

He ignored the aches and pains, once he was done here he could allow himself to feel it and finally rest.

Ronny and Ori waded in with axes. Soon the zombies lay scattered across the grass under the shadows of the forts wall, hacked, bludgeoned and stabbed to death.

Jansen pulled out the CD player and sat it down near the gates. He pushed the play button then quickly rejoined his men as Ac/Dc poured out of the speakers. They didn’t have long to wait.

Zombies began to spill out of the doors, and every one was busy cutting them down. Benton almost got bitten, when he swung his axe just as a zombie tripped and fell. Off balance Benton fell to one knee not seeing the crawling zombie till it managed to rip a hole in the leg of his ACU’s but no damage otherwise. At least not to Benton, the zombie however had his head stomped in, during a panic fueled attack from Benton.

Jared had no idea how long the fight lasted, it seemed like hours had passed and thousands of zombies had exited to fort. In reality it couldn’t have taken more than twenty minutes and it was more like a hundred fifty to two hundred zombies. so many that in the last few minutes a few men had resorted to shooting the undead to thin the crowd out quickly before the men were overrun.

It was getting darker fast, and the wind was picking up. Lightening was flickering on the horizon as the storm started making its presence known. Jared eyed the gate for a moment, then decided he was going to finish this today. The storm could wait. He led team one thru the gate.

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

The parade ground was empty, of undead. but a few were on the walls, one stepped right off the wall and plunged to the parade ground breaking bones. Grinning some of the soldiers walked along the walls whistling, and laughing as zombies walked off the wall. “ stupid bastards” lane said laughing. Looking up as thunder rumbled overhead.

“ all right lets clear the place. 1st squad A company take the main building and Barracks. 2nd squad A.comp. clear the magazines. Bravo company squads take the batteries and storage areas. Jared and Team one with me” Jansen said. Jared watched the teams, Squads, he corrected himself sweep into their assigned areas. “ I’m not sitting out here waiting Sgt.” Jared told Jansen firmly. “ yes you are” Jansen said grinning. “ Captain” Ashton promised Steve and Mary, I promised Ashton. And so here we are. Something about you folks have done a lot and they want you to live to have that wedding”

“ That asshole can’t keep a damn secret” Jared said as Ori snickered. “ He told you too didn’t he” Jared asked rounding on Ori and Ronny. Ori did his best to look innocent, Ronny didn’t even bother,“ last time I tell him I’m getting married.”

“ hopefully it will be the last time you get married. Besides, we promised to sit on you and tie you up if you tried to lead the assault this time. Later you can be a dumb ass soldier.” Ori said with a grin.

“ et tu Brute’” Jared muttered and sighed at the blank looks. “ good god, you people don’t even know classic literature. I’m surrounded by heathens.”

The sudden sound of gunfire from the magazines froze them in place, but after a moment it stopped and Jansen was given a clear signal over the radio.

“ main buildings and Barracks clear” the report rolled in an hour later, followed by the other squads. Jansen nodded as he acknowledged the reports then snapped to attention facing Jared and Saluted“ I would like to Report that fort Sumter is ours.” Team one Let out a wild cheer.

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

Jared walked slowly down the path between the crowd of people. surprised to see Dean and many of his people had shown up. he wanted to pull at the collar of the Mess dress uniform he wore. It was old-fashioned looking and had probably been in storage in the museum, but it fit well after a bit of tailoring. He had wanted the Generals stars removed but Ashton had insisted he should wear it as is. As far as the two fledgling companies were concerned Jared was in charge. That a Full bird should have been in charge of a two companies didn’t bother Ashton or the others. what did he expect of a sergeant who had promoted himself to Captain. Jared thought General my ass.

The double line of flickering torches end at the steps that led to the top of the Gun battery that looked out over the bay. He paused and helped Steve who was having a hard time on the stairs with his crutches. Ori grinned and whispered. “ its not to late, you can leap off the wall and run for the water” Steve chuckled. “ Bridgett and Sharon are pressing me to marry them both in a real ceremony, not just call them my wives. talk about wanting to run, and its all your fault” he said in a low voice. Kevin and Logan only grinned proud as hell to have been included as groomsmen. The only regret was that Chris couldn’t be here for this.

Jared only shook his head as they made it to the top of the battery. The alter had been set up in the semi circular depression in the wall where a harbor gun had once sat. Tucker whose father had been a minister had agreed to preside over the ceremony. And now stood in front of the alter, dressed in clean jeans and flannel shirt, a chaplains stole, recovered from the WW2 displays, around his neck. He had a wide smile on his face.

When he had asked Mary to set up a decent wedding, he had thought that it would be a simple affair. But she had gone all out. where Jill was a master of finding out the thoughts and emotions of the group and picking the right course to make people happy. Mary was the ultimate scrounger where romance was concerned. He wanted to laugh that idea that a dominatrix was a romantic at heart. But the evidence spoke for itself.

Behind him the sun was setting, the sky was lit with gold, orange, reds, pinks, fading to deep blue then black a few stars were already out glittering overhead. a hush fell over the crowd.   Jared turned and felt his knees go weak. Being shot at, zombies trying to eat him, fighting Mikhail hadn’t created the surge of fear he felt seeing Jill walking down the aisle in that flowing white gown that clung to every inch of her body. Little sally held the lace train and a beagle puppy trotted along happily behind her.

He couldn’t even define the emotions that filled him, apprehension, fear, longing and Love. He had heard some men talk about their wedding day, when they were drunk enough or honest enough to talk openly. He had never understood how they could have felt so freaked out. But now gazing at Jill, who looked radiant in that impossible gown he understood. Finally he noticed the brides maid, and had to choke back a laugh. Stephanie walked directly behind Jill bearing her katana, like Jill was some feudal Lord.

Sharon, Bridget, Mary, Tatiana, Shelley, Carol, Stephanie and Anne. Were all in mostly matching gowns, And all of them smiling hugely, happy to have been asked to be Bridesmaids. That after a year, or a couple of weeks short of year, after the world had ended, that something so mundane and normal as a wedding had become again a reason for a community to celebrate. It wasn’t just about He and Jill, but something that brought back a bit of the past. That made things all right for a short time.

Jared only noticed the Bridesmaids for a moment before his gaze was drawn back to Jill, his random thoughts chopped off, as he felt surprise at finding his is hands were actually shaking. His stomach wanted to leap up his throat and run and his hands felt sweaty. Just great its like junior prom only worse, Jared thought.

They were married in a short ceremony, as the sun slid below the horizon and the stars winked into life above them. Jared later could only remember snatches of it. but he could describe in detail Jill’s eyes, and the smile she gave him as she Slid a ring onto his finger. And that kiss that seemed to go on forever till the laugher of the assembled groups and Steve’s whispered “ get a damn room” And the cheering of two hundred some odd people who had survived against all odds, brought the newly married and blushing couple back to the world.

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

“ where in the hell did you get the gown” Jared asked Mary two days later. Mary only smiled and pointed at Ashton who was busily eating eggs. Real damn eggs. Tucker had gotten the Duck tuned up and Roger and Ronny had flown to the farm to check on them and had brought back ham, beans and Eggs.

The chickens they had brought with them were penned now but hadn’t settled in or calmed down enough to start laying yet.

“ What you’re a cross dresser who likes wedding gowns?” Jared asked Ashton who grinned, as people around the table laughed.

“ No actually I found it when we cleared an old house, from the other stuff in the trunk I think it was 1920s wedding dress. When I heard Mary asking around for stuff to make a wedding Dress, I went and got that one.”

“ aaah Mary who cant keep a secret and is now the Wedding planner of the zombie apocalypse.” Jared said as Mary sketched a bow, while people laughed again.

“ there’s already a few more weddings being planned, you know” Mary said smiling.

“ do tell, since you seem incapable of keeping secrets” Jared replied.

“ Kevin and Mattie, Chris and Shelly, Ben and Meoghan.” She said with a grin and a wink.

“ Ben, you mean little Ben.16 year old Ben, that Ben” Jared asked, not even sure what to say.

“ that Ben, the one that rode thru combat in the beast, flys the Ultra light. Fought zombies, saved 26 kids from zombies the first few weeks of the end of the world.” Mary said.

Jared shrugged, he had always insisted that the group could decided what they thought was right in their personal relationships, he wasn’t going to jump in now with his opinion. But damn Meohgan was literally old enough to be his mother.

He realized they were all waiting for some sort of reaction from him. “ well congratulations to them all.” He said and dug into his breakfast with out getting Gibb slapped which seemed to be the fashion of correcting men these days.

By the time, he finished the plate of food and leaned back with a satisfied groan, the others had finished as well. Mary leaned forward on her elbows, her chin resting in her cupped hands. “ so when are you leaving” she asked. it grew silent around the table.

Jared sighed he had hoped not to have to talk about this till a few days before he left. but it was out in the open now.

“ early July” he replied looking around the table at the reactions. No one looked real happy especially Ashton.

“ its because of the general thing isn’t it” Ashton asked, as he sat aside his fork and drained the glass of milk. The FEMA supplies had included, cases of canned Milk that was pretty popular at the moment. Almost as popular as the eggs and bacon.

“ That’s it” Jared said with a smile. “ truth is, I think theres more people out there, and I want to see if my brother is still alive.”

“ so you, Ori, and Steve are going to go back into hell to look for friends and family” Ashton asked.

“ Ronny and I are too” Mary said softly, looking around the table at people who had become closer than friends, they were all family now. “ the only ones staying behind are Bridget and Sharon, oh and Chris and shelly, and that’s because of Chris’s injuries.”

“ Roger is staying, so we will have a pilot here and I have finally worked out a deal with Deans people about training a couple of our people to pilot the Black Hawks. As long as we help them secure more helicopters, like the Chinooks and the remaining black hawks.” Ashton said.

********************
June 2011

The forts were getting online as the wall across the narrow neck of the island was completed. Rob and Erik had come up with a design for floating generator with horizontal paddle wheels that would be turned by water current. Tucker and roger were trying to iron out the problems with it. Crops had been planted and some were already starting to produce. It wouldn’t be a lot, but even a little bit of new food sources were welcome at this point.

Garret and Brian’s boats were starting to bring in a decent haul of fish and shrimp to supplement the food supplies. They had also taken the time to organize a group of men and women to go out in the marsh and gather crabs as well, showing them the best spots and how to go about crabbing, all in all the people were doing well.

Jared put aside the wrench and closed the hood on his van, and looked up at the walls of the fort. He was torn really, but come July he and the others were going back on the road, heading home. Oddly that word no longer conjured up images of his house or really even the camp. He was going to see if any family or friends had survived, there was already talk of sending a couple of choppers to oak ridge to see if the survivors that had been holed up there were still alive and willing to talk.

It wouldn’t be much further than the farm, and one of the black hawks had been flying there once a week since Sumter had been taken. With the food, they could bring back it was worth the risk in fuel and trade. And the farm was almost willing to sell children for fresh fish and shrimp.

Jared smiled at that, at least he knew they could stop at the farm on the way back, and have a few good meals. Part of him longed to take a boat and find an island just like he had dreamed of but Ori and Steve both wanted to try and find family, or at least put them down if nothing else. Jared couldn’t blame them either, he wanted to check on his brother. So the island paradise he dreamed of would have to wait till later. W ho knew maybe the zombies would die off in a few years and that would be the end of it.

He watched as Rob and Erik, who had announced they were leaving with Jared, Logan and Tatiana had opted to leave as well. Jared would miss Jason and they would damn sure miss Linda. But Mai linn was going, and Linda had been teaching her field medicine. So they would at least have some one to slap on band aids and use a stapler to put them back to together.

Things were working out all the way around, Stephanie and Ryan were an item now. And seemed to be happy as hell even though Ryan was only seventeen, Eighteen come august.

He had to admit Ashton had done a damn fine job of securing this end of the island and wiping out the undead. by the end of year they might actually have most if not all of the island clear of undead.

Gary sat in the com room reading a book on communications circuits, then he heard a crackle over the radio. He looked up surprised, and then flew out of his seat as he heard “ this is black knight one, to Romeo six three, we are approaching target. Stand by”

“ Roger that Black Knight one, Eagle two one is standing by to assist.”

Gary made sure the conversation was being recorded as he sat excitedly waiting hope flaring in him. This was he clearest transmission he had heard yet.

“Black knight one, Romeo six three, target is lifeless, mark it off the list. Returning home.”

“Romeo Six three, to Black knight, copy Target is lifeless. Return home, handing you off to the Reagan, Good Luck Black knight” Gary sat silently staring at the Radio. Then started grinning from ear to ear.

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

The sun had set and darkness had claimed the land once more. the cities and towns empty of the living were silent. It stood looking south towards Charleston, angry, that its plans had come to naught. Oh it had enjoyed its role, twisting and turning the soldiers minds into believing a twisted warped version of their religion, turning them against each other. It had caused and created chaos and death across miles of the dead country. All of that had been, satisfying, but it had wanted the children. soft, tender child flesh. so easy to flay. It laughed silently.

its tool had died, but it could find another one. Tools were easy to find, easy to corrupt. One day it would return and kill the Cop and the red head.   For now it had something else it had to do. It stood silent watching as a truck approached, the vehicles headlights cutting thru the darkness, the truck slowed and then stopped. The driver got out while two other men covered him with shotguns the driver stood by the open door and unzipped his fly, then sighed heavily as he took a leak.

They were laughing at some joke. The man finished his business and they all returned to the truck. As they drove away, the driver looked into the rear view mirror and flinched, before shaking his head. For just a moment he thought he had seen a zombie sitting in the back of his truck, wearing some kind of old fashioned hat. It grinned at him, and then was gone when he blinked. “I really need to get more sleep” he told himself. it was going to be a long trip to Nashville, Where his wife was hopefully still alive and at their Home. The truck drove off into the dark, vanishing into the distance.

 

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16 thoughts on “TCRD Act 3 Part 6

  1. Man i’ve really enjoyed reading this after i finished the Adrian’s Undead Diary. . . I honestly hope that you write a little more following Jared and the others going to look for family or just another story related to this one. . . Keep it up and let me know if you continue!

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    • Glad you’ve enjoyed it. I do have a a second story called “A dark tide rising” that I am editing in order to post on here, the first Chapter should be up in a couple of days. and Im working on a third story, and several short stories involving some or all of the Characters of the Clock.

      Like

  2. I just finished this first story and had to let you know how much I enjoyed it! I read Adrian’s last year and didn’t come across this until last week, and boy am I glad I did. Fabulous imagery and sense of humor too -actually had me laugh out loud a few times. Pappy is a hoot, gotta love the visual of him blasting zombies both figuratively and literally from the back of that truck! Thanks so much for sharing your talent here! Your story has helped me brave through some severe chronic pain and that is a Godsend for me right now.
    Thx again and congrats on this great story!
    Sofatato

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  3. First rate read You’ve created. The reader engagement in this tale was all consuming for me “couldn’t put it down”, “annoyed when I was interrupted.” describes my experience. Being critical your story crafting was 95%, some continuity issues here and there but any rational person knows that happens without a good editor cleaning up after the dreamer. Please realize, grammar spelling, continuity are janitorial. You have the gift of tale weaving. Loved every minute of it. Except for the part where it ended…I didn’t want it to!

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  4. Very Good! I am an avid reader of all genres, not just the EOTWAWKI/Zombie types. As such, I really enjoy the story and character development involved in telling an epic of this sort..
    I did find it somewhat difficult to read online, as I’m a diehard “hard copy” type. But I did manage to work my way thru it. LOL
    Only I did tee off my wife by sitting up half the night for the three days I was reading this.
    Actually thoroughly loved it and look forward to reading more from you.
    Keep up the storytelling, and should you get a publishing arrangement; I’ll be right in line to purchase.

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    • Thanks for reading HiPower, glad you enjoyed it. Like you I am a fan of hardcopy, but I have come to appreciate online stuff, but it will never replace the feel of a real book in my hands.

      tell the wife, its my fault and buy her something LOL flowers, chocolate, a back massager.

      Thanks again for reading, and hope fully one day I will be able to get into a real printed book form. Once I get it edited, corrected and then grovel a lot LOL.

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  5. I’ve read the whole thing now

    Good story, but the authors grammatical errors, lack of following established rules of punctuation, capitalization, etc really detracted from the story.

    It got so bad that by the third chapter I cut and pasted the whole thing into a Word document, corrected all of the mistakes as I went and enjoyed the story

    I know you said it’s a work in progress, but maybe you could get back into it at some point and fix stuff…..

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    • Thanks for reading Jim. I have been slowly editing as life allows.

      part of the problem how ever is that I am having to reteach myself grammar in my moments of Copious free time LOL

      It does get better in the next book, note I did not say perfect. far from it, but better!.

      I wrote the “Clock” in three weeks time. Posting it as I finished each chapter.

      Since then I have slowed down, both to try and improve and because Life just doesn’t allow me the time to spend as much time hammering at on a keyboard.

      I do hope to one day be able to polish this pig up and even expand it to include things I left out. But till then I do what I can.

      I will say I would love a little help on cleaning it up.

      Thanks again for reading, It means a lot especially when some one struggles past the mistakes to finish the story.

      Like

    • thanks Warkiwi, due to my moms health I’ve been pretty busy the last month and half, but I’ve been working on editing the rest of the clock and Dark Tide rising. I’m up to chapter 12 on DTR. I have to say it really needed it. pointer to others, take your time when writing. Pumping out 30 some odd pages every four days might seem great but man the errors and poor phrasing are horrendous.

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