Category Archives: Apocalypse

What Zombies Fear 6 The Incarnation

What Zombies Fear 6 The IncarnationI’m absolutely dying with anticipation.  The 6th and final novel in Victor Tookes’ story will be out December 16th 2014.  I know i’ve said this a couple times, but this time it’s for real.  I know this because it’s available RIGHT NOW for pre-order.
http://www.amazon.com/What-Zombies-Fear-6-Incarnation-ebook/dp/B00QFVS50U

There are a number of benefits to me if you pre-order.  Most importantly, it helps Amazon gauge how well it will sell.  And we all know, Amazon promotes books that are already selling well.  Secondly, the better the pre-order sales, the more likely my publisher is to make print copies and get them inside book stores.

For you, the benefit of pre-ordering is that you get guaranteed delivery of the book on the first day. No having to remember, it’s automatically sent to your kindle.  We’ve all been waiting more than a year for this book to be released, don’t wait!  Get your copy now!

If you read on a NOOK or other device, don’t fear.  What Zombies Fear 6: The Incarnation will be available at all major electronic retailers on December 16th!

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Captain Juke

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Table of Contents
<<Chapter 7                                                                                                    Chapter 9>>

Nyko and Jonas worked furiously to get the truck moving.  Once they had the air pressure lowered, Nyko drove, following the tracks, deep into the desert.  Within about thirty miles, the desert gave way to sandstone and rock.  The landscape was beautiful, if barren.  The occasional cactus was the only green in the reddish landscape.

Jonas found a rail map in the pocket of his door and unfolded it out over the dash.  “There’s a big canyon coming up in about a mile.  The tracks and the road parallel each other there.  I think that’s where we’ll find our maintenance garage.”

Continue reading Captain Juke

Post Apocalyptic Truck Shopping

I miss the old days of writing a serial. That’s what started my writing career, and I’d like to get back to that.  To that end, I offer up “Hell on Rails.”  An all new zombie-ish series.  It’s a whole new universe, all new rules.

Table of Contents                                                                                       Chapter 2 >>

 

hell_on_rails4“Nyko,” shouted Jonas.  The excitement was palpable in his voice.  “We got it!  Come check it out!”

Nyko limped across the barren landscape, the remains of a junkyard in Fort Mojave, Arizona.  To his left, a lone corpse stood up from behind a rusted out Buick Skylark and stumbled towards him.  It had been a girl in its previous existence, but now it was just a corpse.  Her clothes were torn to shreds; the junkyard was full of sharp pieces of metal.  Her once white, spaghetti strap tank top was torn half off, one strap trying in vain to hold the tattered garment over her breasts.

Normally Nyko would take a second to admire a mostly topless woman, but the pustules on her body leaking greenish goo that covered all of the walking dead reduced her to an object of revulsion, however pretty she must have been in her previous life.  Without missing a step, Nyko drew a wicked looking sawed off shotgun out of a thigh holster, held it out at arms-length and fired.  Nine ball-bearing sized pellets erupted from the gun at supersonic speed, completely eliminating the corpse’s face and sending a spray of greenish zombified brain fluid across the hood of the Buick.

“I’m sure that’ll buff out,” Nyko said, holstering his weapon before calling to his friend.  “Jonas, What ya got?”  Nyko wiped the sweat from his brow with his sleeve and continued towards his friend.

“It’s a Chevy.  Says Union Pacific Rail” on the side,” came the reply from behind a stack of crushed cars.

“How bad is it,” he called, making his way towards his friend.

“Body’s good.  One tire is flat, the others look okay.  Windshield’s in good shape and the doors open and close,” Jonas called as Nyko rounded the stack.

Jonas reached up on his tip-toes to grab the door handle, slammed the door on the pickup, and looked at Nyko.  “Now we just have to figure out if she runs,” he said, drawing his gun and pointing it at Nyko.  In one quick motion, Jonas fired, killing the zombie a few steps behind his friend and holstered his gun.

“Thanks, I just have one more shot in the over under,” Nyko said patting his thigh.  “Pop the hood.”

Jonas was just over three feet tall, and constantly grease covered.  Before the outbreak he’d worn glasses, but they’d long-since broken.  He’d worked the lenses into a pair of copper-clad goggles, which now sat on top of his head, lost in a mass of tightly curled black hair.  He wore the same gray coveralls every day, something he’d recovered from the local juvenile detention center, with a leather tool belt cinched at the waist.  His boots were mismatched, the left was a cowboy boot with a two inch heel on the back, and the right was a red converse high top.  Jonas’ left leg was shorter than his right, and without someone to make him special shoes; he’d figured it out on his own.

On several occasions, he’d shot a man for calling him a little person.

Jonas reached up to open the door and climbed inside the truck in order to reach the hood latch just as Nyko got to the front of the vehicle.  He flipped the hood safety with his finger and raised the hood.  “Looks fine. Everything’s here, no corrosion on the battery.  Fuel’s gonna be shot though.  Get the air filter open, I’ll bring my truck around to jump-start it.”

Jonas climbed up into the engine bay and began disconnecting the air filter to give Nyko access to the fuel injectors.  When he was finished, he scoured the inside the truck, finally locating the keys in the ash-tray.  Junk yards usually left the keys in the vehicle somewhere if they ran.  He took that as a good sign.  He sat in the driver’s seat, moved it all the way forward, and strained to reach the gas pedal.  If he held his leg out straight, he could just barely reach it.

He was back under the hood, checking the oil and dripping with sweat under the noon-time sun when Nyko’s tan Chevy Avalanche rolled up.  The whole crew had been searching for weeks for a Chevy truck with a rail suspension.  All Chevrolet pickups from 2006 on were designed as “flex fuel” vehicles.  That was the lynch-pin to the whole operation.

Nyko ran the Hell on Wheels Saloon, the only fully functioning casino, bar, and brothel left in New Vegas.  He made all his own beer and liquor in the back, and had a special still for making ethanol.  No one had any idea where he got the sugar, it was one of his most closely guarded secrets, but every week Nyko had a fresh five hundred gallons of fuel-grade liquor.   Everyone knew that’s why the Governor of New Vegas left Hell on Wheels alone, Nyko gave him fuel.

This project was the future though, and this truck was the key to it.   “Still look good?” Nyko asked.  Jonas was his chief mechanic.  He could fix anything.

“Yeah, I think it will.  Oil doesn’t look too bad, no gas smell in it.  Corporate trucks usually had good maintenance.  That’ll work out in our favor, it’s getting harder and harder to come by motor oil, and this monster,” Jonas said, patting the eight cylinder engine’s head cover, “Needs six quarts.”

Nyko handed Jonas a small can that said “Pampered Chef” on the side.  Jonas pumped the lid, creating air pressure inside, while Nyko connected jumper cables from his own battery.

“Three years of sitting here.  Hope it’s not seized.  Let me know when you’re ready.”

Jonas held the can down into the air filter bay and pressed the button, spraying aerosol fuel into the air intake.  “Hit it!”

Nyko turned the key.  The engine rolled over twice before roaring to life.  “Ha!  We got it!” he shouted over the engine noise.

“She’s missing on cylinder six,” said Jonas.  “I’ll need to tear it down, probably needs a ring job.”

“Will it make it to the shop?”

“Yeah, I think so.  Don’t get too far behind me though.”  Jonas disconnected the jumper cables and tossed them to the ground while the truck idled.  Nyko busied himself adding a second can of fuel to the truck.  Ten gallons, even with reduced mileage for ethanol should be enough to get the truck back to the shop.  “Oh shit!” exclaimed Jonas.  “The fucking AC works!”  Air conditioning was a thing of the past.  There just wasn’t enough power to run it.  Inside the casinos at night it was over a hundred degrees.  Many inhabitants purposely smashed the windows of their rooms out, just to try and get some air movement.

The heat was one of the reasons Nyko lived above Hell on Wheels.  He had real windows that opened.   He ran his generators for three hours every night, half the patrons only came there to sit in the cool air.  Anyone could sit in the saloon, as long as they could pay the door fee.

The front of the saloon was a store.  People brought whatever they could find or whatever they could spare and traded them for currency that could be spent in the bar, at his gambling tables, on his girls, or for other things in the store.  Nyko printed his own money and set his own prices.  A jar of pickles was worth ten bucks, which would get you in the door with a cool beer.  Five gallons of diesel would get someone a night with one of the girls, and ten gallons would earn the trader a cool shower afterward.

Nyko was the richest man in New Vegas, and for good reason.  It was called Sin City before the apocalypse, and people hadn’t changed.

Once they were both satisfied the truck would make it back to New Vegas, Nyko followed Jonas back.  Jonas was a terrible driver, in part because he couldn’t see over the steering wheel, and in part because he hadn’t ever been taught.

The drive back to New Vegas was harrowing in a couple of places, but Jonas managed to keep the truck off the guard rails and out of the ditch all the way back.  Just before the steel gates of New Vegas, Jonas turned off and headed out across East Flamingo, now mostly covered in sand.  The desert was reclaiming what remained of the city.  A short way down the sandy street and the two men were at the shop.

The wall around New Vegas was impressive.  Built in the first year after the apocalypse, it started off as the demolished remains of several of the big casinos.   Anyone approaching the city could see the sign for the MGM Grand, upside down against a huge pile of scrap off to the side of the road.  The scrap pile was the first line of defense.  When the outbreak first happened, the day the White House declared martial law across the United States, the day of the last television broadcasts, Las Vegas acted extraordinarily quickly.  They conscripted every man, woman, and child over age eight to work on the wall.  The city demolished four casinos along the strip and the citizens dragged the scrap to form a circle around the city.

The day the scrap wall was finished was a day of celebration; people caroused in the streets, drinking and laughing, confident in their safety from the pus covered hordes trying to pick their way through the scrap heap.  The very next day, work resumed, only now the residents of New Vegas were building a permanent wall.  Anyone who came into contact with the infected ran a significant risk of infection themselves.  If any of the pus that filled the blisters on the walking corpses got in their mouth, eyes, nose or an open wound would almost guaranteed infection, and a bite was a sure thing.  Whatever the infection was, it most preferred the mouth of the host, that’s where it replicated the fastest.

Forty feet tall, made of steel reinforced concrete poured eighteen inches thick, the safety wall went all the way around the strip.  City engineers designed a steel gate system at either end of Las Vegas Boulevard, the first just north of the iconic ‘Welcome to Las Vegas’ sign, the second just south of East Flamingo.

If a person didn’t work, they didn’t eat.  Every living soul was given a room in one of the remaining casinos.  Every night and every morning, people were checked for signs of infection.  Anyone who turned in an infected person got a week’s vacation in a Bellagio penthouse for their whole family or themselves and three friends.

Hell on Wheels was a mile outside of the wall, down Flamingo in an old warehouse, chosen specifically because of the railroad tracks that ran directly behind it.  In the old days, goods for the casinos came in on the train.  The train was unloaded into this warehouse, where it was then re-loaded onto trucks to be delivered to the hotels.  After the end of the world, Nyko owned all of it, including the train he’d found still on the tracks in the back.  Thirty-five pallets of liquor, among other hotel foods came with the location.

Nyko and his crew worked on the train all day, until the saloon opened at six. Just before the doors opened, his whole crew changed clothes and worked the saloon.  The warehouse was a gigantic half-million square foot “L” shaped facility.  The railroad ran along the long side.  They’d built a wall separating the short side from the warehouse, and finished the first half of the short side into living quarters for his crew, and the girls who worked in the saloon, twenty six people in all.  The rest of the short side was the saloon.

He hated being cooped up, the idea of living inside the walls was ludicrous to him; Nyko was a man of the open road.  The governor of New Vegas, Jim Ratton hated that Nyko was outside, but couldn’t do anything about it.  One day, Nyko would be the first man to run the rails.  He’d be free to cross the wasteland as he chose.  Hell, maybe one day he’d find a nice little train station in the middle of nowhere and take up residence.  But for now, he had too many people depending on him.

Jonas pulled the truck up over the curb and around behind the warehouse.  Nyko hit the button on a remote inside his truck and watched the garage door roll up.  He’d have to remember to charge the warehouse batteries tonight.  The patrons would complain about warm beer, but fuck them; he had a train to build.

The warehouse was buzzing with activity.  Brian and Andy were in the corner welding on a dune buggy they’d been building out of scrap car parts.

Derrick and Terrell were sitting at a table on the side, over by the door to the saloon.  The parts of four different guns were laid out in front of them in orderly rows.  The two men were scrubbing parts with tooth brushes.

At the back, near the rear door, the final two men were operating reloading equipment, pressing bullets into used shell casings.

Brian looked up from his welding.  “You hear that?”

Nyko looked over at him.  “Hear what?”

“I’d swear I heard someone…” Brian was cut off.

Everyone heard it this time.  Outside, still a few hundred feet away.  Someone yelled, “Buzzing a likes he for making a last day! Poop!”

“Stations!” Nyko yelled.  The men in the warehouse all scattered.  Andy climbed a long ladder to the roof.  Jonas bolted to a door on the far side of the warehouse.

Terrell tossed Nyko a long, black rifle and a radio with two feet on the front as the pair of them ran out the side door.  Derrick hit the door between the two roll ups, clipping his own radio to his shirt pocket.

“A tablespooonful of pizza, femur to eat!”  The marauder appeared.  He was wearing an old torn speedo, that once upon a time had been red, one sock, and a tattered “Hard Rock Las Vegas” tee shirt.  His skin was horribly sunburned, everywhere except where his matted hair hung down around his shoulders.

As if his gibbrish was a call to charge, three dozen more, all in similar shape ran out from behind the neighboring building, straight for Nyko.

The big man jumped up on top of a trash dumpster, and then to a platform he’d added to the outside of the building specifically for this purpose.

His radio chirped.  “All clear front,” Derrick checked in.

“In position,” Jonas said, closing the roof hatch and walking towards the edge of the gravel warehouse roof, holding a bag full of radio control car controllers.  His goggles were down over his eyes as he peered into the setting sun.

“Wait for them to hit the line,” Nyko said, unfolding the bipod on his rifle.  He laid down behind the rifle and flicked the covers off the scope.  “How long has it been since the last attack?”

“Fourteen days,” said Brian from the rear corner of the warehouse, right at the edge of the railroad tracks.

“You’d think they’d learn to duck.”

As Nyko spoke, the first marauder ran over the words written in chalk-dust on the ground, ignoring their warning.  He collided at full-speed with a thin piano wire stretched between the telephone poles at either end of the dry, rock-strewn field between Nyko’s warehouse and the abandoned one next door.

As the marauder’s legs flew forward, the wire bit into his neck, opening a huge cut across his windpipe.  Seconds later, thirty marauders hit the same wire, all suffering the same fate.

“Fourteen,” said Brian into the radio.  It never occurred to him that that was the same number he’d said a couple minutes before.

“Sixty one,” said Jonas.

“Seventy-two,” guessed Derrick.  Andy and Terrell both followed suit.

Nyko spoke into his radio.  “Today’s number was seventy-seven.  Jonas and Derrick, you two were closest. Cold beer on me.  The rest of you, clean this mess up.”

He was halfway down from his platform when he heard gunfire from the front.

Derrick called, “They’re hitting the front! Trucks!”  Then more gunfire.  Nyko recognized the sound of Derrick’s favorite assault rifle firing quickly.

Table of Contents                                                                                       Chapter 2 >>

 

I hope you enjoy this story!

 

-Kirk

 

 

If you’re a new reader and would like to read some of my other work, here is my Amazon Author Page.  You can also find most of my work on NOOK, at Smashwords, and other retailers.

5.07 Victor is Lost

Marshall dove at the zombie, intending to knock it off his brother.  He brought all the force his legs could bear.  As he lept, his feet created waves in the white striped asphalt like a bolder being dropped in a smooth lake. The collision with the super zombie should have been enough to kill it.  Marshall hit with his shoulder.  As his body collided with the zombie, Marshall felt his own collarbone give way.

With a bellow of surprise, he bounced off the super.  Moments later, Renee drove her kitchen knife into the zombie’s neck.  The blade plunged in to the hilt.  She twisted the knife blade a quarter turn inside it’s neck, severing the spinal column, but when she pulled the knife out, the wound sealed immediately.  From the way its skilled ripped, it was as if the zombie was made of water.

Marshall was struggling to get up when the zombie threw one punch, hitting Renee in the abdomen.  The strength of the blow knocking her back almost to the truck.  She hit the gravel shoulder of the road with a grunt, dazed from the force of the punch.

All the while, Max was walking slowly forward with his head tilted to one side.  The look of confusion was plain on his face.  “Stop hurting my family,” he said softly.  As he spoke, a bright blue aura surrounded him, driving away the inky blackness that no one other than he could see or feel.

By now, Marshall had regained his feet and was pulling on his left arm, trying to align the collar bone.  He knew if he didn’t, the bones bones would knit together improperly.  “Max, get back in the truck,” he yelled.

“I can’t, Uncle Marshall.  I have to stop him from hurting my Dad.”  Max said, his face looking confused and almost desperate.

“Max, go now.”  Marshall’s voice was stern.  The older brother was approaching panic as Max continued to walk towards the powerful zombie.  He pushed aside the horrible thought that he may lose his brother and his nephew all in one night.

“But Uncle Marshall!  I can’t!  I really really can’t,” said Max, continuing forward.  He knew he was supposed to do what his elders told him, but he also knew his daddy was in trouble.  He was just three feet from the zombie, and stopped for a second.  ‘Steve.  I’m not supposed to hit people.  Daddy says ‘we don’t hit’ all the time.  But Uncle Marshall and Aunt Renee are hitting him.  He’s hurting them.  I don’t know what to do.

‘Max, I’m not sure we should get involved.  He has many more E’Clei than we do.’

‘But my dad always says we have to take care of those who are weaker than us.’

‘Not if it gets you killed.  We understand you need to help your father, but he would be very cross if you were hurt.’

‘Then I won’t get hurt.  Can we just make him nice? Like I did with you?’

‘He is too strong, Max.  Please listen to us.’

Max stepped forward and put his hand on the zombie’s shoulder.  Blue light shot down into him, freezing him in place, like someone grabbing an electric fence.

Max spoke softly, “Stop hurting my friends.”

“I can not,” said the blonde zombie.

“You have to.  You’re not being nice.”

“I’m trying to save your father.”

“Then stop biting him,” Max said, increasing the pressure on the zombie.  Max felt the man start push back against him.

“I can not.  If I stop, he will die.  There are too many E’Clei in him, and you’re putting him in danger by stopping me.”
Marshall and Renee stood watching, afraid to get involved out of fear of hurting Max, or the zombie hurting Max in retaliation.  Panic was plain on their faces as Victor began to convulse on the ground.  His eyes had rolled back into his head and his body was violently jerking from side to side.

“Max, honey, get away.  We need to get to your Dad,” said Renee.  She was no longer hiding the terror in her voice now.

“I can’t, Aunt Renee,” Max said.  He was desperately trying to work out the right thing to do.  His four year old mind wanted to trust everyone, but the zombies actions didn’t mesh with his words.  Max had never encountered duplicity before.

Steve, I don’t know what to do.

If you won’t run, hit him hard.  With everything you have.  Think about how much you love your dad and hit him.  We can sort this out later.

Max thought of his favorite memory of his father.  He, his mother, and his dad were out on the back deck.  Max was riding his tricycle around the huge table pretending to be the ice cream man.  He had a small bell on the handlebars and was ringing it as he came around one of the corners and stopped.

“Hello, sir,” Max had happily said.  “Would you like some ice cream?”

“Why yes, young man,” his father had said in a funny voice.  “Could I trouble you for a strawberry cone?”

Tears streamed down Max’s face, thinking about that time when everything had been right.  His mother had been laughing.  He fondly remembered the three of them together on the deck on a beautiful summer afternoon.  The thoughts of his mother brought an extra powerful surge of emotion to him, as he hauled back and punched Drake in the side of the head.  Steve channeled all of Max’s E’Clei into protecting the little boys hand from the force of the impact.  Max’s aura solidified around his fist, just as his father had done.  The impact of Max’s energy, powered by his feelings of need for his father launched Drake off of his father and into the oncoming lane of traffic.  The zombie laid still.

Max wasted no time. ‘Daddy.  I punched the bad guy, I’m sorry.

There was no response from his father.  Concerned, Max moved over to his father and rolled him onto his back.  Victor’s eyes were closed as Max gently nudged Victor’s shoulder.  He still did not answer.  With a furrowed brow, Max pushed inside Victor’s head, and saw turmoil.  New E’Clei were fighting for control; there were so many.  Max started squishing them one at the time, as quickly as he could.  Even then, the E’Clei were forming pathways inside Victor’s brain faster than Max could kill them.  He could feel them weakening from the poisonous environment, but they were building up quickly.  As the E’Clei formed large groups around areas of Victor’s brain, the outside bugs died but their corpses shielded the inner ones.

Max pushed into the center of the largest group and started killing the bugs that were in direct contact with his father’s brain.

“Uncle Marshall,” Max said, strain clear in his tiny voice.  “I can’t get them all.  I think there are too many.”

Drake groaned from his position on the opposite side of the road, and started to stir.  Marshall walked over to the zombie and stomped on his femur, smashing it.  He then kicked the blonde zombie’s foot up under his butt, and repeated the same process with the other leg.

The bones in Drakes legs healed quickly, almost as quickly as Marshall was working.  His femurs healed together in the shape of the letter W.

“I was trying to help him!” Drake yelled.  “He ordered me to bite him.  I warned him that this might happen.  I was trying to forcibly remove the extra E’Clei, but they’re determined to beat his immune system and bring down the great Victor Tookes.”

“Fix him!” yelled Renee.

“I can’t.  I was barely keeping up when you three attacked me. If we hadn’t been so busy trying to keep him alive, we would have killed all of you.”

“Why are you trying to save him,” asked Marshall.  “Don’t you want to kill all of us?”

“Victor is our Prime.  He created us.  He told me to collect all the E’Clei.  We were full.  There wasn’t any more room in this host to hold any more of us.  We came to try and talk him out of the order he implanted in us to kill ourselves.  He said he would only remove the order if we gave him the extra E’Clei we carry.  Even with our warning, he said he needed the extras to defeat Laura.”

“But Laura’s dead.  We watched her burn,” said Renee.

“Almost, but not dead.  She will heal eventually and be back.”

“Fuck,” said Marshall.

“Marsh, grab the corpse.  I’ll get Victor.  We need to get out of the open, and back to where it’s safe.  Crookshaks there may come in handy.”

Marshall grabbed the black suited zombie by one arm and dragged him over to the truck like a child carrying a rag doll.  With a flip of his arm, he tossed the zombie up over the side into the back of the truck.

While Marshall was dealing with Drake, Renee had grabbed Victor under the shoulders and was dragging him towards the truck.  Once Drake was securely nestled in, Marshall lept out of the truck.  He met Renee halfway and easily lifted his brother and set him in the back seat of the truck.  Max shadowed them all the way back, squishing bugs inside Victor’s brain as quickly as he could.

The trip back to the compound was a panicked one for Renee and Marshall who spoke in hushed whispers all the way back.  Max largely ignored then, instead focusing on his father’s predicament. He searched through his father’s mind, looking for anything familiar.  He saw a number of memories, and felt the emotions that went along with them.  The memory of the first time his father held him made him feel oddly uncomfortable, experiencing his father’s instant love for him from a different perspective.  ‘Daddy, are you in there?  It’s me, Max.  It’s Max-monster.

He waited while he continued to squish E’Clei with his mind.  He dug deeper, looking for some sign of his father, ‘Dad, it’s your boy, Max.  Remember me?

There was no response.

“Uncle Marshall, I can’t find Daddy,” said Max.

“Mommy.  I think Daddy needs your help,” said Max.

—-

Victor woke up in a familiar feeling white room.  He was in a huge wood bed with crisp white sheets.  The edges of the room were barely visible, the fog surrounding him seemed to get thicker the farther away it got from the bed, obscuring any decoration or anything on the walls.  The light in the room was soft and diffuse.   “The last time I was here you yelled at me,” said Victor.  “Could we skip that part this time? I know what I’m doing.”

“Tookes, you have no idea what you’re doing,” said Candi.  “But yes, I’ll skip the yelling at you.  For now, you need to fight what’s happening to you.  The E’Clei are trying to take over your mind.  The dose you got from Drake was way too strong, even for you.  You’re going to need to look inside your own head, find the parasites and kill them.”

Victor shook his head and asked, “What do you mean look inside my own head?”

“Search your mind, like you did when you first re-programmed Drake,” Candi replied.

“I programmed Drake?”

“Think about his face, Tookes.  Imagine it sagging off the bones.  He was wearing a blue button up shirt and shredded blue jeans.  It’s the zombie you messed with at the airport.”

“Oh, shit.”

“When you went into his mind at the airport, you changed him.  Do the same for yourself.  Find the E’Clei and will them not to exist.”

“I’m not sure I know how i’m supposed to get into my own head.”

“Tookes, you really are dense sometimes.  We’re in your head now.  Just get up and walk through the door.  And hurry, you’re dying.  There isn’t much time.”

As Candi spoke, the fog cleared, revealing a heavy brown steel fire door with a shiny brass deadbolt and knob. At head level there was a slide chain, and just under that a flip bar connected to the door frame.  The entire door had a steel bar crossing it, connected to steel braces on the wall.  Whatever was on the other side of that door was clearly not welcome on this side.

5.04 Water

“Let’s head out of here, James. Shut the door,” said Victor. “It would be a waste of ammunition to shoot them all.” Victor was fighting the urge to open fire. He knew they didn’t have much in the way of ammunition, but these things, these particular zombies were an affront to him. It felt like a personal insult, and it worked. He was angry.

James paused for a second after closing the door, and then asked, “What do you think that note meant?”

“It’s kind of a long story. It’s a crazy cult,” Victor said, waving his hand dismissively.

“Mate, the note had ya name on it,” said James, stepping forward towards Victor. “How do you explain that?”

Victor took a deep breath, obviously annoyed at the insinuation. “Alright, here’s the Cliff’s Notes version. A while ago, my son was kidnapped. He escaped his original kidnappers on his own, but another group of survivors found him. Max has some…unique talents. For one, he can make the zombies follow his orders. He can also kill all the E’Clei in them. Somewhere along the way, that second set of kidnappers decided Max was Christ reborn, and it started a whole cult. When we rescued Max, apparently I became the devil.”

“Wait, wait, wait.” Jame’s hands went up and he shook his head. “You’re saying Max can kill zombies? By lookin’ at ’em? What the fuck are we doing then? If the boy can kill them all, why the blue fuck are we going house to house?”

“Do not raise your voice to me,” said Victor. He was an inch shorter than the Australian, but he brought himself to his full height and looked James straight in the eye. “Because I won’t send a four year old boy into a house full of zombies,” Victor said firmly. “I won’t endanger a child, any child. Our job, our only purpose is to provide them with love, safety, security, and knowledge.”

James looked furious. He turned on his heel and strode out of the house, followed quickly by Victor. Out on the lawn, James turned to face Victor again. “You know, Sean said you were a fuckin’ drongo, but I had no idea you were risking everyone’s life for nothing.”

Tookes already felt himself standing on edge; this man he just met was getting close to pushing him over that edge. “Nothing? It’s not nothing. It’s my son. There’s no way of knowing what using these abilities does to us,” he said, gesturing with his hands. “There’s no way of knowing what the super zombies are capable of.” Vic paused and lowered his voice. “He’s four years old, James. If he were sixteen, it would be a little different.”

“It’s no different. We have to use every weapon at our disposal,” James said.

“My son is not a weapon. He’s a little boy.” Victor was overcome with anger. He was angry at the insinuation that he was holding something back, and he was angry that these kidnappers of his child were spreading their lies this far across the country. Without warning, he shot his fist upward into James’s jaw. “He’s MY son. I will be the one to decide,” Victor yelled, throwing a left across the stunned Aussie’s face. Victor followed with a third punch, straight with his right arm into James’ nose. The bigger man went down on his back, blood running down his face.

James lept up off the ground. Victor watched a punch to the abdomen form, the only option James considered. Victor stepped back and to the side, dodging the punch, and snapped a low front-kick, knocking the wind out of his opponent.
James aura solidified around him, and he stepped towards Victor. He was wary this time, considering his options as he said “You’re fuckin’ crazy.” He settled on a feint with his left hand, and a strong kick towards Victor’s thigh. Tookes completely ignored the punch, knowing it was just intended to distract. Instead, he raised his foot and kicked James other leg out from under him.

“Stay down, James,” said Victor.

James jumped up again and lunged at Tookes, wrapping him in a bear hug. Tookes expanded his aura outward, enveloping James, and then parted the bubble, pushing the man off of him, leaving James stuck inside the shield Victor had learned from Lightfoot’s men.

“You can’t win this, James. I’m stronger than you.”

John and Sean were standing a couple feet behind Victor. Sean spoke first, “Easy James. This is over.”

“He fuckin’ sucker punched me,” said James, his voice muted by the shield around him. The sharp glare he was carrying never left as he wiped a hand across his nose.

“Tookes, You have him in one of those shields we were in?”

“Yea, John.”

“What’s this all about,” asked Sean.

Victor repeated the story of Max’s kidnapping, and of the note inside the door to the house, and then added James’ insistence that he put Max in harm’s way, just to make this easier.

“James, no one’s gonna put their kids at risk here. Without the kids, what do we have?” asked John.  “Tookes, please let him out.

Victor paused for a second and then released the shield holding James in place.

“There’s a note on the door, John. From a Maxist,” said Victor. “They said they intentionally infected themselves thinking Max would save them, instead of leaving to go find food and water.”

“Fuckin’ lazy Americans. Waiting on someone to save them, rather than saving themselves,” said Sean.

Victor cocked an eyebrow at Sean and said, “Really?”

“You’re nothing like normal, Mate. I reckon’ that’s why John hasn’t shot you yet,” he replied. Sean quickly changed the subject before Vic could respond. “ Can Max do that? Can he turn someone back?”

“When he was kidnapped, he took over a zombie. Before Steve died–”

“Who the hell is that?” Sean interrupted.

“The zombie Max took over,” he replied, losing patience. “Anyway, Max wanted me to build him a house because, he said, “zombies are people too.” If he could have turned him back, he would have.”

James spoke up then, “Maybe he didn’t think of it,” the man looked to his Australian friend and said, “I think we should ask him.”

Victor shook his head and said, “No. In fact, none of the children should know about this. I think we should knock the house down and burn it.” The sudden appearance of the Maxists created an odd resurgence of emotion and Tookes didn’t like it. The one thing he’d been sure of was his ability to keep Max safe, but this cult had shaken that belief. Even the suggestion of putting his son, his little boy, all he had left in the world, into the middle of his mess had been enough to coax him to violence. He wouldn’t even entertain the idea of including Max in this so he decided right then that he would ignore any further suggestion about involving his son.

“Flaming zombies? Do you think it’s a good idea to have flaming zombies walking around? They’d catch everything on fire,” said John.

“They’re all contained in the basement. The stairs have been removed. If we’re careful, we can collapse the house in on itself,” said Victor.

“We’d need a fire truck full of water,” said John.

“You’re going to need that anyway if you’re going to make a life here, John. We need to get ya well working. Jo and Renee went to have a go at that. Let’s go see what they found,” said Sean.

Renee showed them the well and the pumps. As they figured, the wooden water cistern was empty, the townspeople had drained it before turning themselves into zombies.

They talked about what they’d need, and how to start the plan. Ultimately, it was decided that Vic and Sean would go get generators and fuel.

About twenty minutes later, the two men entered Yuma in Sean’s truck. The drive to Yuma was largely through barren desert, nothing but sand dunes as far as they could see on either side of the highway. It wasn’t until they got to the outskirts of town that the first bushes and shrubs started to appear. The houses along the road were all southwestern in style, ranging from small adobo ranch houses to large spanish influenced two stories. Every house, no matter how small had a swimming pool, and there wasn’t a blade of grass anywhere within two hundred miles. Yards were landscaped with stone, the occasional Yucca tree or Saguaro cactus. Yuma wasn’t a ghost town, but it wasn’t a booming city either. The cars on the side of the road were average sedans, this had been a town full of working people.

Victor remembered from history classes in school that Yuma was a railroad town. From the coast of California, it was the last stop before the full desert, and from the east it was the first stop after a long, hot trip through the arid plains of Arizona and west Texas. There were train tracks everywhere, and huge metal warehouses dotted the landscape.

Victor led them to the a Sears store. The front doors were ripped from their hinges, shattered and bent in the parking lot. The two men decided to check it out anyway. Inside, the place was completely wrecked. Most of the hand tools were gone, although Sean did manage to put a couple tool bags together. All the battery operated tools were gone, and there were no generators. In the back of the store, there were three badly decomposed men in sears uniforms laying dead on the floor, black dried blood surrounding them. The two men returned to the truck with the few things of value they found and pulled out of the lot.

“Where to next?”

“I have no idea, I’ve never been here before, I saw the Sears sign while we were heading to the airport,” said Victor. “I guess we should try to find a phone book. Keep an eye out for a pay phone.”

“You reckon’ the hospital would have a gennie? In Townsville, the hospital always had a couple of trailer mounted units in case the power went out.”

“Usually here in US they’re built as part of the hospital, on huge concrete pads. We can take a look though,” said Victor.

“What about schools?”

“Same thing.”

Sean drove along in silence for a few minutes. “I can’t imagine being able to go this far in a city in Oz and not see one of them walkers. Where’d they all go?”

Victor had been wondering the same thing. There were some stragglers at the airport when they left, and this was a pretty sizable city.

“Maybe they went to the airport? That plane was loud. That may have drawn them all out to the edge of town.

“Hey, over there. What ya think about a vet’s office?”

“That might work, at worst we might be able to pick up some medications and other supplies.”

Inside the vet’s office, they found the first of the three generators they needed, plus they were able to find a huge haul of medications and other first aid supplies. Sean grabbed several drawers full of surgical tools, and all the saline bags in the office. In just under an hour, they had the truck loaded and were back on the road.

“I think we’re going to have to go house to house,” said Victor as Sean pulled the truck out onto the main road through Yuma. “Somewhere in this town a group of people survived, or is surviving. I’m worried that they’ve hit all the stores in town. That’s going to cause a little trouble for you guys, if you’re staying that close to town.”

Sean turned left off the main road, down a residential street, to start the house-to-house search. As he pulled the truck into the driveway of the first house, the two men looked at each other.

Victor spoke first, “Have you ever seen that?” he asked pointing to stacks of corpses. Sean backed the truck up a little bit, and turned the wheel. As he did, the headlights lit up six piles of bodies, each perfectly stacked.

Victor jumped out of the truck and walked over to the first pile, his gun in one hand and hatchet in the other. Each pile had twelve corpses face down along the bottom, then eleven in the next row, then ten, all the way up to just one body on the top, forming a perfect pyramid. The corpses were clearly zombies before they died, bits of rotten flesh were torn off and blackened from time and the elements. Each corpse had a fresh looking bite mark right at the base of the neck.

“What the fuck is this? Why would someone take the time to stack them? And what the fuck bites a zombie?”

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5.03 Departure

The runway was like the ending scene out of a movie. There were hugs and handshakes all around. Introductions were made, and Victor was finally able to put faces to all the names he’d been hearing for six months.

The last to approach Tookes was Sean, John’s twin brother. He had a huge grin on his face as he walked up, so Victor was surprised when shadows shot out from him. One of them solidified and developed into a right cross aimed at Vic’s jaw. Reflexively, Victor ducked his head, taking the punch right where his hairline met his forehead.

Sean jumped back shaking his hand, “Ahhh, ya fuckin hard-headed Drongo! I think ya broke my hand!”

“I knew you Aussies were a rowdy bunch,” said Victor. “But that was out of line. What the hell did I do to deserve that?”

“All that screaming you do! My head is still vibrating from that last one out at the army base,” he said, gesturing with his hands. “I’ve had to listen to you blasting my inner ear drums out for the last six months. You need to learn to control ya volume, mate.”

Tookes laughed. “To steal a phrase from your brother, I have a teaspoonful of concrete in my pocket. Swallow that with a cup of water – it’ll harden you right up,” Victor said with a grin. He stuck out his hand. Sean looked at him thoughtfully and then smiled again, gratefully accepting the handshake.

“John, lets put you and your whole family in one van, and we’ll all pile up in the other,” Tookes said to his friend. “We’re going to need to find a third vehicle and fuel up. We should get moving; the plane made a lot of noise and I’d like to be out of here before things get ugly again.”

The group crowded into any available spot in the vehicles, and the two overloaded vans took off towards the city of Yuma to find new transportation. Just inside the city limits, they pulled into a Chevrolet dealership. There were a handful of wandering zombies, which were easily dispatched.

John picked a white Silverado four-door pickup. James picked the same truck in tan. Victor and Marshall both picked Eco-Boost enabled suburbans. They were the newest model that could turn off up to four of the eight cylinders and, according to the stickers on the windows, got up to thirty miles per gallon on the highway. Behind the shop, they found the dealerships gas pumps and filled all four vehicles, plus the gas cans they had in the vans. Marshall transferred all the food and gear into the various new vehicles. Victor looked up to see John coming towards him. John’s face was troubled.

“Tookes, can I chat at ya for a minute, mate?”

“Sure John,” said Victor, knowing what was coming. It seemed like he had just had this same conversation with Kris not too long ago. Was everyone going to leave? He extended his hand and said, “Walk with me.”

The two men walked a short way away. As they walked, John absently rolled a cigarette, clearly uncomfortable with the entire situation. Victor didn’t want this to be harder on his friend than it had to be, so he spoke first.

“I assume from your choice of gas guzzling trucks, you’re not making the trip all the way back to the train.”

“Yeah, mate. Jo’s adamant. She says you’re gonna get me killed.” John paused for a moment, took a deep breath and said, “And, she’s right.” As he spoke, Vic fought back the flinch that was forming on his face. “I have my family to look out for now. Plus, you’ve won, mate,” John said. He was speaking with his hands now. “Laura’s dead. We haven’t seen fuck-all for zombies in the last eight hundred miles. It’s over, Tookes. It’s time to start living.” The Aussie paused and looked closely at his American friend. His voice dramatically softened as he continued, “You always said you were working to create a safe place for Max and we’ve done that. Good people died along the way, but we made this place safe. I met you on the side of the road, and followed you through the depths of hell.” He paused again before turning to fully face Tookes. “Go home Victor, it’s safe.”

“She’s not dead, John. This isn’t over, all it takes is one zombie and all this shit starts back up again,” said Victor sadly. “But I won’t stand in the way of your family. Blood comes first. Besides, Leo’s dead and I’m crazy. Your family needs you now.”

“You know if you ever need anything, just speak. I’ll have Nori taxi me wherever you are,” John said, putting his hand on Vic’s shoulder.

“John, I think of you like a brother. We’ll help you clear out a spot,” Tookes stated. “Do you have any idea where you want to go?”

“We passed a neighborhood right off the highway about thirty miles east of here. I checked it out when we drove by and it looks like a good spot,” he said. “It has a huge cliff on two sides, and the highway barricade on the third. All we’d have to do is close off the road leading in and it’ll be tighter than a platypus’ clacker.”

“What are you gonna do about water?”

“We’ll get it worked out. We’re Bushies,” he replied with a smile.

“Alright, man,” Victor nodded, “We’ll help you clear it out.”

John looked relieved, and Victor looked haggard. His team was falling apart, and there was nothing he could do about it. Leo left, and was now dead. Kris left and had a new life with Alicia in Tennessee. John was leaving. Thoughts and memories of the times they’d all spent together welled up and were quickly stuffed in the box – the box where he stored all his emotions to be dealt with later. And although he desperately tried to ignore it, “later” seemed to be creeping up on him much faster than he had anticipated.

It was a short trip to the little village John was talking about. Victor was filled with a sense of dread about the place, but chalked it up to John and his family leaving. They paired off to clear the houses. Each of the Americans had a lot more experience with this particular task, so each team had one American and one Australian. Victor paired with James, Marshall with Nori, and John with Sean.

Renee and Reggie led the rest of the crew and the children to find the local water source. The town was really just a flat spot at the bottom of a huge sandstone cliff. Thirty two houses, a general store, and a gas station made up the village. The highway ran along the south side. It was raised about ten feet high, with an impossibly steep hill and a guard rail at the top. On the north and west side, there was a sheer cliff that rose hundreds of feet in the air. The area was only accessible from the east from a small, two lane road. The narrowest part of the road was just over one hundred feet from the road to the cliff. Against the short western cliff face was the town’s water tower, just atop a wellhead.

“Jo, let’s head into the store there and see if we can find some supplies, and something for the kids to do,” said Renee.

“Are you sure? They haven’t cleared it yet,” said Jo.

“It’ll be fine, I have a few tricks of my own,” said Renee with a wink. “Would you mind watching Max, Maya, and Holly for a few minutes?” Jo nodded. Renee made herself invisible before continuing, “Zombies can’t see me either. I can scout the store, but it’s likely empty or we would have heard something by now. The kids aren’t being exactly quiet.”

“Okay, but if you hear me scream, come quickly,” Jo said.

“I wouldn’t go if I thought there was any danger,” she said. Renee began to climb the stairs and called over her shoulder. “I’ll be right back. I’m just going to look.”

She opened the door to the hardware store, and saw a very good sign. The shelves weren’t bare, and there was no sign that the place had been looted. It only struck her as odd for a single moment before she remembered how small the town really was. There was a high probability that the entire town either turned or had fled before raiding the stores. The parasites had spread so fast that most people didn’t have time to react or even realize what was happening being it was too late. Renee searched the store quickly; there wasn’t anything living or undead inside. Renee grabbed a couple of large styrofoam airplanes from the small section of toys and took them outside.

Renee reappeared infront of Jo and said, “Nothing in there. But I brought some toys.”

All of the children heard that magic word and ran over to them. Renee laughed as the planes were taken out of her hands and began soaring through the air. Jo was standing there watching the children play with a smile on her face. Max was talking to John’s older son and the girls were running around looking carefree and happy. The children were their hope for a future and so far, that hope was still going strong.

“We can find a generator to run the pump for a little while, but eventually you’re going to need to put a windmill up on top of that cliff to run your well pump,” said Renee.

“John knows all that. He can fix it up.” Jo paused and looked around. She had a sad smile on her face as she added, “This is going to be a good place for us. It has to be.”

“I wish you’d come back east with us,” said Renee. “It’s much easier living out there.”

“For you, maybe,” Jo replied. “This is what we know, and this is what we love. We came all the way here and I want the kids to be in familiar territory.” She crossed her arms over her chest now and looked down. “Our whole life was there. Everything we loved and all of that is gone now. We need something that’s at least…somewhat familiar. Besides,” she looked over to Renee with a small smile and said, “John says out at Victor’s place he feels like he’s going to drown with all the humidity.”

The two women looked up at the sudden sound of three shots that exploded in quick succession. Down the street, Marshall and James were standing near three dead zombies. Marshall yelled something they couldn’t hear, and John waved his hand out of the second story window of a house.

Victor and James worked well together. After the second house, James had the routine down pat and Victor let him take the lead on the third. James stood in front of the door and knocked hard. The two men stood silently and listened for any sign of movement. Victor backed up a step to try and catch a glimpse of anything inside the porch window, but everything seemed clear. Victor nodded to him, and James opened the door. The two men instantly knew something was wrong. The second James opened the door, the stench hit both men like a brick to the face.

“There’s gotta be a bunch inside,” said Victor, suppressing a gag. He had pulled his shirt up over his nose. “I’ve never smelled anything that strong. Keep your wits about you.”

“I know that smell,” said James. “I smelt it in a petrol station. Musta had forty zeds in it.”

The two men waded into the house, warily checking every corner, doorway, closet, and kitchen. When they finally opened the door to the basement, they found what must have been the entire population of the town milling about. Taped to the door was a note:

The situation is dire
We have no food. We lost water when the power went out.
It has been six days without water and we are dying.
We are desperate. The only way we can preserve our bodies and return to Your service is to infect ourselves.
When Max arrives, He will save us, smiting the evil from our bodies and returning us to glory
We will spend the rest of our lives spreading the word of Max.
I have sealed these people in this basement with one of the minions of the Evil Father Victor Tookes, so that they may be preserved until The Savior arrives, and moved on to spread the Gospel.

In the service of Max, Nathaniel Rotelle.

“Oh shit,” said Victor, frozen in his tracks.

5.02 Gander Acres part 2

Kris only heard the tail-end of a conversation as she was coming up the stairs.  “Markus, I know you think you can do this.  But I swear to God, you’ll be more of a pain in the ass than an asset.  You can hardly walk for pete’s sake.”

“Alicia, come on.  I can do this.”

“Bull shit.  You’re sitting this one out and that’s the last I’m going to say about it.”

“Jesus Christ, Alicia.  I’m–”

“Markus, stop being a prick and just listen to me for once in your life!”

As Kris peered around the corner, the brother and sister were standing across from each other.  Even though Markus now stood a foot and a half taller than Alicia, she did not back down.  Having been a US Marshall, she was used to making herself appear to be the largest person in the room.  Although it was almost comical to watch the big man versus the petite woman, there was no doubt who would win this argument.  The two of them continued to yell at each other.  Alicia’s hand gestures were getting increasingly more and more dramatic and Kris knew she had to interject.

“She’s right, Markus,” Kris said from the doorway.  “I know you think you can help but for fuck’s sake, please listen to her.  We don’t have time for this.  You’re staying, even if I have to hold you here.”

“Hold me?” He said, walking over to her.  “Have you seen me?”

“Yeah, I have,” she replied, placing a hand on his upper arm, “But I can still lock your stubborn ass down.”

Markus started to laugh but before he got the chance, Alicia disappeared and then reappeared behind her brother.  She placed her hand on Markus as well and in a swirl of chilly darkness, Alicia transported the three of them out of the house and to the opposite side of the farm.  She was only there long enough to drop Kris and Markus off before disappearing again.

Alicia had dropped them off one of the spring houses on the property.  She had chosen the one that was farther away from the house and the battle.  The stones had all been hand-laid by Riley’s grandfather decades ago and even so, the small building was in excellent condition.  Of the three spring houses on the property, this one was the least used.    There was no furniture inside the single-room, save a couple of sections of an old tree trunk that were roughly the right height for sitting on.  The spring bubbled up through the stone floor, creating a small pond right in the middle, before flowing out a channel built into the middle of the floor.  The air inside the small building was almost chilly and Kris wrapped her arms around her body and sat down on one of the small retaining walls.

“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” Markus said throwing his head back.  He sighed heavily and began limping over to the doorway of the little house.  “I’m going to fight.”

“No, you’re not,” Kris said.  She tilted her head to the side and threw her dome across the floor and over to the door.  She pulled it taut across the opening, making sure to seal the edges.  He tried to take another step, and ran into the dome.

Markus drew his fist back and slammed it into the shield.  Kris felt her brain vibrate with the force of the blow.  He pounded on the shield over and over, lighting Kris’s brain on fire.  She wasn’t about to let him win, no matter how strong he was.

She sealed the dome to the floor, and whispered as softly as she could, “Keep on goin’, big man.  I’ll be here all day.” She trailed off and watched Markus closely.  He was hell bent on getting out.  He hated not being next to his sister, especially now that an attack was imminent.  Knowing the land as well as he did would have been a huge asset and Markus refused to believe that he would have been nothing but a help to his sister.  And now that she had gotten her way without a fair fight, he was angry.

Markus continued to beat on the inside of the shield for a full thirty seconds while Kris’s message bounced around, reverberating and gaining volume.  She had separated the dome for only a moment to create a second barrier around her own ears; she knew how loud it would get.

The strength of the sound continued to grow and as it did, Markus’s speed dramatically slowed down.  The large man shook his head, trying to ignore the pressure building inside his ears.  Before long, he brought his hands up to cover his ears and he was grimacing in pain.  Markus slowly sank to his knees, resigning himself to his fate. “Stop,” he muttered.  He took a breath and then yelled, “Kris, stop!”

As the words exploded from his mouth, Kris collapsed the dome.  In a second, she snuffed out all of the sound that was reverberating inside the small house.  Moments later, the soft sounds of the woods and the gentle trickle of the spring filtered back into the air.  Kris’s eyes never left Markus but she continued to maintain a look of neutral indifference.  The man stayed on his knees and sighed again.  Glancing over his shoulder, he met Kris’s gaze.

“You weren’t kidding,” he said simply.

Kris shook her head. “No, I wasn’t.”

“Alicia was telling me about what happened in Atlanta.  Is that what…” his voice trailed off.  Markus didn’t need to finish his thought – Kris already knew what he was going to say.

“Something like that, yeah.”

“Fuck me,” he muttered with a look of slight bewilderment on his face.  He pushed himself up off of the floor and as he stood, a grimace of pain flickered across his face. “Man, just trying to get the hell outta here wiped me out.  Maybe Alicia was right.”  He looked over to Kris and smiled weakly.  “But don’t tell her I said that.”

Kris laughed and said, “We’ll keep it between you and me.”  She patted the stones next to her and said, “Come on.  Sit next to me.  Alicia would kill both our asses if something else happened to you.”

“You have no idea,” he replied with a laugh.

____________________________________

Martin and Neil took off on the two tractors heading towards the oncoming horde of zombies.  When the they were about twenty feet away, Martin slowed dramatically and turned left.  At the same time, Neil sped up, pushing his tractor to its maximum speed.  The wire caught the outer edge of the zombies at waist height, and dragged them inward.  Neil arced around the walking dead, and then rocketed down through the middle, closing the loop.  He slowed down to match Martin’s speed as the two tractors dragged a hundred zombies towards one of the pits Joey had dug.

“It’s not gonna hold ‘em all,” yelled Martin over the sound of the two tractors.

“It’ll hold em’,” yelled Neil.  “It has to.  We can gather up the stragglers later.”

The two men dragged their haul of zombies into a pit where they separated the tractors and raked them in with the line.  Martin circled around and reset beside Neil, and the two of them started over.

“This time you take the outside.  You’re gonna have to gun the hell outta that tractor to keep up.”

“I know how this works, Neil,” said Martin.  “Joey!  Watch your ass; there’s a few stragglers.”

Joey hefted a spear over his head, and charged one of the few zombies that managed to avoid being dragged into the pit.

“I got ‘em Mart,” he yelled.

The two tractors rocketed off, repeating the same maneuver and dragged the rest of the horde into the pit.  When they were done, the two men parked their tractors and walked over towards where Joey was spearing zombies.

“It’s like fishin’ in a barrel, Neil,” Joey exclaimed with a broad smile on his face.

Neil patted Joey gently on his shoulder and then said.  “It was too easy.” He looked to Martin now.  “Did that feel right to you? There’s gotta be somethin’ else going on here,” said Neil as he speared a zombie through the top of the skull.  Something off to his left caught his attention.  It was pitch black now and a small sliver of moon barely lit the landscape.  On the ridge, silhouetted against the thin moonlight, were two lumps that shouldn’t be there.

“Joey, there’s two on the ridge watching us,” Neil said after several minutes of watching them.  “They’re not doing anything, they’re just laying there.  One of ‘em just moved his head, otherwise I mighta missed ‘em.” The older man pushed the brim of his baseball hat up off of his forehead, deep in thought. “Whaddya think they’re up to?”

“Looks like they’re fixin’ to start somethin.  No way to know.”  The younger man shrugged.  “Weren’t no other zombies anywhere ‘round when I was scoutin’.  We got em all, Neil.”  Joey pointed behind the older man.  “Watch behind ya.  One comin’ up.”

Neil spun.  With a grunt, he speared the zombie through the face, then put his foot on its chest to pull the spear out.  He couldn’t shake the feeling that this was way too easy.  Were the two smart ones sizing them up?

Alicia spoke from behind Neil.  “Is it just the two of them?”

Neil jumped in surprise.  “Holy shit.. err… crap, Alicia.  When did you get back?” Neil asked quietly.  “Sorry ‘bout my language.  And yea, just two of ‘em.”

He heard her chuckle softly, but she didn’t reappear. “No problem Neil.  You guys handle these.  You’re doing an awesome job,” she put her hand on Neil’s shoulder.  It was like a ghost was touching him.  “I’ll go take care of the two supers.”

Neil heard Alicia’s holster click, and then her heard her work the slide, chambering a round.

“Alicia, I gotta tell ya.  This whole “invisible” thing is weird,” said Neil spearing another zombie in the hole.

“Sorry, Neil.  I don’t want them to know I’m coming.  You three be safe,” she said.  She lifted her hand from his shoulder and left the three men.

Alicia ran up the hill as fast as she could, cloaked in her invisibility.  She knew nothing could see her.  ‘Other than Kris,’ she thought to herself.  Kris was such a mystery to her but on the other hand, she’d never known someone so well.  Their minds had been merged not once, but twice.  Kris’s mind was elegant, if slightly disorganized.  She was the most beautiful person Alicia had ever known.  Ever since she was 16, Alicia had openly acknowledged that she was attracted to women but there was something about Kris that was different.  It was more than just a physical attraction; she adored what she saw in her heart.  But then again, the way she bit her bottom lip was so…  ‘Snap out of it Gander.  Focus on the job,’ she thought to herself.

The lone woman reached the top of the ridge, where she paused for a second.  Two zombies were laying prone, watching the three men by the pit work.  She raised her gun and drew a bead on the first one.  She let out a slow breath as she squeezed the trigger.  Between the time she started to exhale and the time she squeezed the trigger, both zombies were on her with their hands at her throat.

“Shit,” croaked Alicia.  The blonde to her right was her first target.  She kicked him in the leg, then squirmed sideways and dropped to the ground.  She helicoptered her legs, spinning on her back so fast her legs were a blur, in an attempt to sweep their legs out from under them.  Both zombies leapt high into the air, dodging her kicks.  They landed squarely on their feet as Alicia threw her legs upward and flipped herself onto her toes.  She extended her arm, and pointed at the dark haired one.  “You’re done.”

Alicia sized them both up.  They had some skill, but she’d been top of her class in hand to hand combat, and her Krav Maga was better than the academy instructors.  They were faster than she was, but she’d fought faster.  The way she saw it, she just had to wait and bait them a little.

The woman decided to play with them a little bit.  She grinned and asked, “You just gonna stand there?”

In perfect unison, the two of them split and circled around her.  They came from both sides at once.  The two men moved so fast that they were a blur.  She dropped to her knees and brought her fists upwards, catching both zombies in the groin.  ‘Stupid,’ she thought to herself.  ‘They have no use for those.’

The two zombies brought their knees together, smashing Alicia’s head between them.  The force of the blow made the woman see stars.  Out of reflex, she wrapped her arms around their legs, and somersaulted backwards.  As she moved, she twisted their legs and brought the two of them to the ground with her.  She released one, rolled over sideways and scrunched her body up, breaking the leg she had in her hands.  “That’ll slow you down,” she said, bringing her heal up to smash it into his face.  As she did, she drew the KA-BAR knife from the small of her back.  As she knew he would, the second zombie caught her heel.  The moment she felt that pressure on her foot, she lunged forward and drove the knife into its nose.

The zombie with the broken leg screamed “No!” as she did, but it was too late.  The blade penetrated the soft bones of the first zombie’s face, into the brain.  The blonde zombie fell, dead, and Alicia jumped to her feet.  She’d twisted the dark haired zombie’s leg up pretty well; he was a little slower getting to his feet.  She wasted no time and drove her knife into his shoulder, severing the ligament that controlled the arm.

Alicia stepped back to catch her breath, knowing he was using the time to repair his leg and shoulder, but she needed a second to get her head.  He was enraged, and had to be worried about how this fight was going to end.  In less time than Alicia expected, he lunged forward, driving a huge fist into her nose.  At the same time, he simultaneously kicked the inside of her thigh with the leg that had just been broken.  He wasted no time, spinning and driving his foot solidly into her chest, knocking the wind out of her.

Alicia rolled over backwards and got to her feet, slightly dazed.  The zombie closed the distance, launching another punch towards her already broken nose.  Through the blood in her eye, she managed to bring her knife upward at the last second, driving the knife point-up through his arm at the base of his elbow.  The knife-thrust stopped most of the energy of the punch, but he still connected with her nose, causing a fresh geyser of blood.

The zombie pulled his arm back, splitting it wide open.  When the blade hit his wrist, Alicia twisted the blade, dislocating all the tiny bones in his wrist.  “Heal that, fucker,” she said as she reached around grabbing his shredded arm.  She stuck her fingers inside the slice she’d just created, wrapped them around his radius bone and yanked it fully out of his arm.  Without missing a beat, she used drove his arm bone into his eye socket and left him wobbling on his feet, dead again.  It was a full second before the corpse hit the ground.