Category Archives: Fiction

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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Remnants: The Colcoa Wars Chapter 4

Chapter 4

Willa applied a poultice of crushed cabalage root and honey to the cut.  The cabalage root was to draw out any poison that might be in the wound, and she added honey because it killed germs, and germs caused infection.

There wasn’t anything to do but wait.   She tried to get comfortable beside him and plan her next move.  Her dad would be back as soon as it was safe for him to move, she had no doubt.  If Ezekiel was better, she would wait for him, but if he worsened over the day, she would leave him a message and take off with him.

It was about eighty miles west to Red River Falls.  She’d have to stop at least once for the day.  That’s not the closest town, she thought to herself.  Duluth is closer. It’s probably only forty miles from here.

Her father would kill her if she took him to Duluth.  She could just hear his voice.  “Duluth is full of snakes and grizzlies.  They just look like people.  They’ll kill you for your boots.

Ezekiel stirred, groaning.  She re-wet the compress on his head and laid it back on his forehead.  “Shhh, Ez.  Everything’s going to be okay. I got you.”  He seemed to calm back down after a few seconds.  His fever seemed about the same, which was a bad sign.  About an hour later, she washed the honey off, added more, and flipped the cabalage root pad over.  She tossed the part that had been in contact with the wound and re-tied the bandage.  The cut was less angry looking but was showing some grey flesh along the edge.  Come on, Dad.  I need you, she thought.

It was hot in the burrow that day.  Normally, they sealed off the door and hung a blanket over the entrance, but today Willa needed some light, so she left the door to the burrow cracked just a hair.  The heat in the entry way was intense, so she kept Ez back against the far wall, where some coolness remained in the earth.

She tried to sleep.  She knew she had a long run ahead of her.  If she was going to get Ezekiel to Duluth, she could make it in one long night.  If she went to Red River Falls, she would take two.  If her father was here, he’d never let her go to Duluth, but if he was there, he’d slow her down.   Even if she had to carry Ezekiel the whole way by herself, it would take half of a third night.  Her father just didn’t have the stamina he used to, although he wouldn’t admit it.  Willa knew she was in the best shape of her life.  Her feet were a little sore, but her legs were still strong.  She guessed she’d run fifty miles that day.

All day long, Willa argued with herself over her course of action.  Late in the afternoon, she peeled Ezekiel’s eyes back.  They looked yellow.  His fever broke soon after.  Willa checked the wound; there were red streaks running in every direction from the cut.  Blood poisoning, she thought.  That answers that.  I’m going without Dad.

It was about an hour until she could go; she made the decision to go to Red River Falls.  Her dad could catch her at the first burrow and see if there was anything he could do.  She only had enough cabalage root for one more change here, but she knew her dad left some at every burrow.

The sun was still streaming in the crack in the door when she started packing her backpack.  She refilled her water skin and then added some fresh bandages and a few pieces of dried meat.  She put it on backwards, so the pack was on her chest, and slung Ezekiel over her back, tying his arms and legs together so he’d stay.  She threw her sheet over her head, draping it over Ezekiel, and climbed up the stairs.

The heat hit her when she shoved the door open; it was still over a hundred degrees.  She affixed her smoked glass goggles and made sure all of Ez’s skin was covered.  She climbed out, slid the door back in place, and picked up a stick and wrote “Ezekiel hurt.  Headed to”.  She paused for just a second before scratching “Duluth.” Underneath that, she drew a circle with a bowed line through the middle and an arrow pointing in the direction she would be travelling. It was a sigil she and her father had worked out long before. It was quick, easily recognizable, and informative.

South was the worst direction to run at night, and she’d never actually been to Duluth, but while the sun was up, she knew she could just keep it on her right shoulder.   Once the sun was down, she’d have to work harder to ensure she was headed south.

She ran rather than think about her decision.  It was made, and that was that.  She maintained a punishing pace.  Willa bounded from rock to rock, each step causing Ezekiel to bounce mercilessly on her back.  After a few miles, she hit the gravel south of the boulder field, and she was able to lengthen her stride and set into an easy lope.

She estimated four miles an hour across the boulders and then six miles in the hour she ran across the gravel before stopping for the first time under a scrubby pine tree.  She ate some venison jerky, drank some water, and tried to get some water into Ezekiel.  She sat for ten minutes, stretching her legs.  Just before she took off,  she scratched another bow and arrow sigil pointing south. Under it she wrote “8:30pm.”  She was making good time.

When Willa and Joe used to run together, he always pointed out how fast she was.  She had huge feet with toes that were almost as long as her fingers.  Joe said that’s why she was so fast on the rocky terrain; her toes could grip the rocks.

Ezekiel called her Bigfoot, but for Willa, it was just the way she was made.  It was nice to be able to pick things up with her feet around their burrow, and her toes helped with tree climbing.

She suspected her father was at least two hours behind her, and now that she was in the flats and her legs warmed up, she’d start expanding that lead.

She’d been travelling by herself for a long time.  It was almost second nature to keep track of the miles as they ticked by.  She knew her paces.  Her father had worked with her for years to drive the importance of knowing where she was into her brain.  “When the Colcoa came, I couldn’t even drive home without my GPS,” he’d said so many times.  “Now we don’t even have a paper map.  You have to keep the map in your head.  Getting lost out here will get you killed.”

She kept up the twelve miles per hour for another three hours, before she started seeing signs of an old city.  The Colcoa hadn’t had much interest in concrete, but they did want all of the metal pipes that humans laid under most roads.  They had a machine that drove along ripping up the road to get the iron water and sewer pipes up and to get the steel bars out of the concrete.   Her father called those piles of concrete ‘tailings,’ the parts left behind after a mine had extracted everything useful out of the soil.  The whole world was tailings.

As Willa climbed over the pile of concrete, Ezekiel stirred and moaned in her ear.  She set him down and checked the wound.  The red streaks were getting worse.  His face was clammy, and his eyes rolled back in his head.  She sat on the ground next to him, breathing hard, and tried to get some water into him.  He coughed the water up but managed to get the second gulp down his throat, then took two long pulls herself.  She was down to about two cups left and found herself fantasizing about the cool, crisp water in the river she’d found.

The first thing she’d done when she found it was jump in and suck down as much of the water she could hold. Then, just before she left, she drank at least two more skins’ worth.  That was the first time she’d ever been underwater, because it was the first time she’d ever seen enough water in one place to cover her.

There were tracks all along the road bed, most of them heading east.  Not knowing where Duluth was, she decided that most of the people would be walking towards the city this time of year and followed the tracks.

She ran along, her legs screaming at her to stop, but she ignored their protestation; she was so close to saving Ez.  A cramp developed in her calf from where she’d altered her stride to keep Ezekiel from bouncing so much on her back.  There wasn’t much she could do, so she ignored it as well and tried to adjust her step back to a more normal motion, shifting more of the work to her abused thigh muscles.  More and more tracks added to the set she was following, confirming to Willa that she was heading in the right direction.

She passed a tree, then another.  Ahead, the lane she was following entered what could only be described as a forest.  Willa studied the trees to keep her mind off the pain in her body, pushing herself well past what she thought was her breaking point.

The trees were lined up like soldiers, row after row, well tended and apparently disease free.  There wasn’t any scrub or brush under them or around the trunks; instead, the ground was covered in dead leaves, spread evenly throughout.  Whoever was in charge of this land was doing their best to make it fertile, returning nutrients to the soil.

She saw oaks and maples mostly, with some walnuts and pecans.  She had to be getting close to town.  These trees were new, planted after the Colcoa wiped out the population of this area, less than ten years old.

Duluth must be rich to have this much dirt, she thought as she ran.  Just a few steps later, she felt a sting in her thigh and looked down to see a feathery dart sticking in her leg.  She had just enough time to swat it out before she collapsed to the ground, unconscious.

<< Back to Chapter 3                                               Continue to Chapter 5 >>

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Molly

Before you read Chapter 4, I’d like to invite you to like my facebook page What Zombies Fear.  The link opens in a new window, so you can click it without losing your place here.  Facebook is the easiest way to keep abreast of everything going on in the worlds I create, however with their new rules reducing the number of news items you see from a page (it’s now below 10%) it’s still easy to miss something.  The most foolproof way to know when a new book comes out is to please sign up for my email list.  I promise I won’t spam you.  I publish 4 – 5 novels per year, so you’ll get 4 – 5 emails per year.

Now, on with the show, thank you for reading.

-Kirk

A new free web story by Kirk Allmond

 

Table of Contents
<<Chapter 3                                                                                                    Chapter 5>>

His hair streamed out behind him as he thundered across the desert, enjoying the cool, dry, night air.  He knew the sound of the motorcycle would draw them in.  The infected were attracted to loud noises.

Nyko rode for an hour, due north on interstate 15, dodging dunes and wrecked cars.  At times, the reverberation of his bike bouncing off the walls that held the desert back was almost deafening.  It was the sound of freedom.  It was a sound that he craved.

Every time he passed a car he looked inside.  One in three had some sort of movement inside, sun-cooked flesh barely holding on to the bones.  In many cases, the inside of the windows were completely coated with dried gore.  The sun cooked the infected meat-sacks until the gasses inside exploded.  Everyone knew; never, ever open the door to those cars.  The smell took days to wash off, and nothing in the vehicle was salvageable.

He steered off the highway at Moapa, a small town in the middle of nowhere.  A left at the top of the off-ramp led him down the main street, and just past the long-dark traffic light, he stopped his bike in front of Iron Jack’s customs.  He deftly killed the engine, swung his leg over and took a step towards the door.  Keys still in his hand, Nyko unlocked the front door to Iron Jack’s and stepped inside.

There was a small front showroom with his two completely custom, hand-crafted choppers in it.  He looked them over fondly, each now covered in fine dust.  Nyko had pinned his hopes for Iron Jack’s on these two bikes.  They represented the future and his dream of being a custom bike builder.

Two years ago, he’d been sitting in his office in the back of this building when he got the call.  “It’s Molly,” the woman on the other end of the phone sobbed “She’s sick.  She’s dying, Nyk.  She’s got these sores all over her face.  The doctor doesn’t know what it is.  Her fever is over 107.”

That was how it had started for him; a desperate phone call from his ex-wife all the way across the country.  Nyko hung up the phone, hopped on his bike and headed down to Las Vegas to catch a flight to Northern Virginia. He rode south on Interstate 15, at times pegging the speedometer at the 130 miles per hour mark.

Ten miles north of the city, Nyko topped a small rise and brought the bike to a screeching halt.  Brake lights lit up in front of him and the sound of twisting metal eclipsed the sound of his bike. Cars and trucks went everywhere, filling up the median and the emergency lane.

He eased the bike over next to the wall on the west side of the highway, and idled through the cars, looking briefly for something he could do to help.  He reached into his inside coat pocket, retrieved his phone, and dialed 911.

“All operators are currently busy.  Please stay on the line and the next emergency responder will be with you as soon as possible.  If you are in need of immediate medical care, do not hang up.”

Nyko hung up his phone.  Half the people involved in this wreck were probably calling.  He stood up on the pegs of his bike to get a better view.  At least a hundred cars were totaled.  Fifty more were stopped with minor damages.  Everywhere he looked, doors were opening and people were walking up towards the front of the accident.

The biker wasn’t trained in any sort of first aid, but he looked in each car he passed to see if there was some way he could help.  He pulled up beside a blue Nissan Sentra.  The driver was slumped over the wheel, and there was blood on the inside of the windshield.

He knocked on the passenger side window.  “Hey buddy, you okay?” he asked.  The front of the Sentra was buried half-way up the hood under the rear of a black Suburban.  There was no movement inside the car.  Nyko pulled on the door handle, but it was either locked, or jammed.  From the wrinkles in the quarter panels, he assumed it was jammed and leaned out, pulling hard.

The door handle broke in his hand at the same time he heard screams from the front of the accident.  It wasn’t just one scream, it was hundreds of them.  He looked up in time to see a flood of people running towards him.

“Hey dude!” Nyko yelled, banging harder on the window.  “You alive in there?”

The crowd of screaming people was getting closer.  Nyko looked up from the car.  It looked like they were running for their lives.  Those in the front were looking back over their shoulders, while in the back, a group was chasing them, head-down and running as fast as they could.

Nyko saw one of the people fall.  Several of the group chasing dove on top of the fallen accident victim, like a pile of football players after a fumble.

“Dude! You gotta get up!” Nyko yelled, banging on the window again.  The crowd was less than fifty feet away now.  Hopefully, if the guy was alive, he’d be safe inside his car.  He could see the group chasing them clearly now.  All of them appeared sick with some kind of rash on their faces.  Like his daughter had.

There wasn’t room between the Sentra and the wall to turn his bike around.  With a grunt, he lifted the rear wheel up and spun the bike around in place, before hopping on it and racing off, away from the crowd of people.

Table of Contents
<<Chapter 3                                                                                                    Chapter 5>>

If you’re interested in my other work, please check out kirkallmond.com or my Amazon Author Page

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

 

 

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6.03 The Wall

The three figures stood in a triangle on the high stone wall, staring each other down.  The zombies were strong.  Max could sense an overwhelming number of E’Clei in each of them as they stood eyeing each other up.  The two zombies stood upright, hands straight down.  Their faces were expressionless as they studied their prey.

Steve spoke to Max, as he’d been doing for the last twelve years.  “They’re primes, Max.  Councilmen, most likely.  They’re the queen’s top advisers, and among the most powerful on the planet.”

How do I beat them, Steve?

We cannot.  Not two of them at once.  And now that they’ve seen you, the others will be here in seconds.  You must run.  They will follow but your family will be safe here.

How can you know that for sure?  This is my home, Steve.  This is where we make the last stand,” replied Max.

The last stand isn’t today, Max.  Wait for your father.  Wait for Marshall and Renee and Kris and John.  They’ll be here soon.  Now, run, and don’t stop.”

His father had taught him how to track teleporters; the two of them had spent years perfecting the techniques to track others and to avoid being followed.  The tracker had to stand in the exact spot where the prey disappeared, and empty their mind.  An image would form; a residual of the previous jump.  The hunter then fixed that image in their own mind, and then appeared right behind the prey.  Max knew these two would be able to follow him.

The clever boy picked a destination, a place he and his father had spent several days with heavy equipment the summer before.  “Hey, you fuckers wanna dance?  Let’s go somewhere more private.  Follow me, if you can,” said Max as he disappeared.

He reappeared in the woods high up in the mountains in North Carolina, and drew his hatchet as he backed up three steps.  Hanging suspended from three trees above the circle where he appeared was an old school bus.  Sharpened angle iron was welded the length of the bottom of the bus.   A single line ran down the tree trunk and was tied off low to the ground.

“Three, two, one,” said Max, cutting the rope with his hatchet.  Branches snapped.  The rope zinged as it ripped through dozens of steel pulleys.  To his left, a huge pile of logs that had been the counterweight to the bus hit the ground with a thunderous crash.  Limbs snapped and wood creaked as massive trees straightened after months of being under load.  Less than a second later, the two supers appeared just as the bright yellow school bus crashed down on them, followed by a sprinkling of green leaves ripped from the limbs high above.  The weight of the bus broke the lumber the two zombies were standing on, carefully placed there by Victor and Max to conceal a large pit underneath.  The two councilmen were pushed downward into a cavernous hole filled with sharpened wood and metal stakes.

‘Yeah!” yelled Max as he jumped in the air and fist pumped.  “Take that, bitches!”

“Take what, Max?” The two intoned from directly behind him.  One of the two councilmen lunged for him.  Stunned Max barely had time to react, bringing the hatchet up to block the attack.  The zombie grabbed his hand and twisted viciously.  Max kicked the creature in the knee, but it felt like his foot hit a brick wall.

Run, Max.  Keep running.

I can’t run if they’re holding on to me, Steve.  I’m open to constructive ideas.  And don’t tell me how much my dad is going to yell at me for blowing the bus trap.  It should have worked.”

We need to lose them.  You can’t go farther than them, but you are faster.  Every time you stop, they have to take a second to see where you went.  I would suggest hiding your trail of jumps.

Max solidified his aura in a spot to the left of his face, allowing it to absorb a left hook from the zombie in front of him.  Even shielded, the blow knocked Max back to the ground and jarred his neck.  The boy disappeared before his persuers had a chance to follow up.

His first stop was a mile up in the air, directly above the bus trap.  He let himself fall for almost half a minute before he teleported again, to the ocean off the North Carolina coast.  The water was frigid, but Max swam down as hard as he could.  Max thought quickly about his next destination, and remembered he and his father taking a trip to Chile a few years ago when his class was discussing volcanoes.  He was nearly forty feet down when he teleported again.  He saw the first councilman splash into the ocean above him just before he disappeared.

Smoke and ash surrounded Max as he fell, choking him and making it hard to judge distance.  He hardened his aura and fell as long as he could stand the heat.  The soles of his shoes started to melt as he rocketed downward into the crater of an active volcano.  Glowing orange liquid magma bubbled and sputtered at the bottom.  Max disappeared just inches away from the bubbling surface.

Pleased with himself, Max bounced around several more places from pictures he’d seen in books.   After dozens of stops, he paused in the woods long enough to try and contact his father.  “Dad, where are you?  I’m being chased by a couple of betas.  I could use a hand.

He took off at a dead run through the woods, running down the side of a mountain somewhere in Washington.  They couldn’t still be following.  Somewhere along the way they had to have slipped up.  The tar pits, the alligators in the swamp, the volcano, the sharks off the coast of South Africa, something had to have gotten them.

Uncle Marshall, where are you?”  Max ran along a small game path somewhere high in the smokey mountains.  The path opened out along a ridge, his footfalls sent stones skittering down the side of a near vertical cliff.  He cartwheeled his arms to keep his balance, his feet criss-crossing on the narrow path.

Renee and I are helping with the zombies at home.  Where are you? We’ve been worried sick about you.  Someone said they saw you fighting a couple of supers on the wall.”  Marshall’s thoughts were slow, the mental equivalent of being out of breath.

“I’m running from them, but I’m not sure if I lost them.  I can’t come home, in case they’re still following, but I can’t find Dad anywhere,” Max said, starting a series of giant leaps down a steep rocky slope.  With each step he sent tons of rock sliding down the mountain.  “Stupid, Max.  They’ll hear this from miles away,” he chided himself as he tried to stay ahead of the landslide.

He’s out cold, Max.  John says your dad has been running non-stop, and he needs to rest.  Vic took a couple steps after he dropped John, his family, and Kris off at the barn and then passed out.  He’s sleeping now.”  As Marshall spoke, Max got flashes of the scene at the farm.  Marshall was indeed tiring, if his thoughts were getting that disorganized.  And if Marshall was tired, things were bad.

I don’t know what to do, Uncle Marshall,” thought Max, taking one step up onto a fallen log, leaping high into the air.  The boy grabbed a branch and propelled himself over a small stream, landing high up on the opposite bank without missing a stride.

Middle of the west wall in two minutes, Max.  We’ll be ready.

Max ran on, trying to make as little noise as possible, listening behind him, but there were no sounds of pursuit.  He covered another ten miles on foot, in the two minutes before heading back to the wall.  Max was almost as fast as his father on foot, but he was tired, and fear was starting to creep in to his consciousness.

Coming now.  I don’t know if they’re behind me or not.

Max appeared on the wall, stepped a foot to the left and drew his gun.  He pointed it at nothing, holding it head high where the zombies would appear, if they were still following him.  Then he waited.  From this height, the battlefield was a scene of complete carnage.  Marshall’s arms were dripping blood, which pooled on the stones at his feet and streamed off towards the gutter system carved into the back side of the wall.  This was exactly why water collected from the wall was used for irrigation, not drinking.

Seconds passed.  A full minute, then two.

“Maybe you lost them,” said Renee, who was holding a long gore covered spear in the exact spot Max in which Max had appeared.  If the zombies followed him, they would impale themselves on it.

“They are very powerful,” said Max, still breathing heavily.  His wrist was on fire, he had a bruise on his cheek, and his feet were going to blister from the heat of the volcano and then all the running.  Steve had been to busy shielding Max’s whereabouts and trying to throw off their attackers to heal him.

Max felt the pain in his wrist subside first.  “Feet first, Steve, in case I have to run again,” thought Max.

Wrist first, in case you have to fight,” replied Steve.  “Then feet.  The damage to your face is going to take a few minutes.

Reggie peeked his head above the wall, then stepped up the last rung of the ladder and wiped his blood smeared palms on his handkerchief.  “Master Tookes, I’m so glad you escaped your pursuers.”  As he spoke, Reggie re-folded the bloody rag and stuffed it in his back pocket.

Marshall and Renee spun around to look at Reggie, then looked at each other and shrugged.  Each was thinking the same thing; where does Reggie always come from?

“Hi Reggie.  That’s still up for debate though.”  Max’s eyes never moved from the spot.  His gun was starting to waiver a bit as his arm tired.

Reggie thought for a moment as he tottered over to Max’s side.  “My father always said the trouble with hunting the Bubal Hartebeest was not that they were faster than the Gahiji, but that they ran so far the hunter would collapse before they gave up.”

“What’s a Gahiji?” asked Max, watching the spot carefully.

“It means hunter in my father’s language,” said Reggie.

The four of them stood there for another five minutes, intently staring at an empty spot in space.  It was becoming more an more apparent that the two chasing Max weren’t going to follow him here.

Marshall spoke first, turning his back and walking towards the ladder.  “Lets get off this wall.  If they show back up we’ll deal with them then.  There is still a lot to do.”

Two thousand miles west in the penthouse suite on the top floor of the Bellagio Casino, Charlie was not happy.  “What do you mean you lost him.  He’s just a fucking boy.  How could you lose him?  There were eight of you!

A man in a shredded suit stood in front of Charlie. He was missing an arm.  A steady stream of blood ran out of his shoulder, dripping off a bit of flesh into a priceless oriental rug.   “He teleported from the wall when he saw us.  He had traps set, and he is crafty.  The ones known as Roberts and Jamison were crushed by a bus and then impaled in a pit of spikes below.  We joined in after the boy dropped three of us into a volcano.  The child is completely fearless, he is beyond reckless.  His trail ended just eight inches above the magma, There was no time to follow his vortex.”  The councilman showed no emotion, but it was obvious that he was puzzled by this boy.  “We were damaged on the next stop above a watery pit filled with beasts made entirely of teeth.” The councilman paused, accessing the memories of his host.  “Alligators.  One of the beasts removed my arm with one bite.  The ones in Rohrer and McCaskil were ended by these alligators.”

Charlie flew into a rage, lashing out at the one armed councilman.  He struck him in the forehead, knocking him prone, then knelt on his chest.  “One boy,” said Charlie placing his thumb to the councilman’s temple.  “One boy killed eight of you, who were stupid enough to chase him.”  Charlie commanded all of the councilman’s E’Clei out of their host and into his own body.  The former councilman’s head rolled to the side, dead again.

Someone clean this fucking mess up,” Charlie commanded before he disappeared.

Bookbinder appeared in the same spot overlooking the farm he’d been several hours earlier.  It was pitch black, low clouds hung over the farm.  A few lights and a couple of fires made pinpricks of light around the settlement from this distance.  The smell of wood smoke and burning flesh from one particularly large fire drifted to his nose.  They were already cleaning up and burning the bodies of his wasted soldiers.

Had things gone so badly?  It was true that his forces in Atlanta and Virginia were wiped out.  The overseas offensives had gone well, and preliminary reports said John was dead out in the desert.  The Gander Acres attack went perfectly, except somehow all of his soldiers were dead too.  At least the last report he’d gotten was that Fuller had killed Kris and Alicia.

The day was a success, if not a complete one.  Half of Tookes crew being dead would make him an emotional wreck.  Victor never thought clearly when he was in that state, he would make mistakes now, and Charlie would be there to capitalize on them.   He knew the boy was inside those walls.  Charlie could feel him.  Max was shrouding their property once again.  Charlie knew the vague compulsion he felt to walk away was Max.  In his soldiers, it was overwhelming.  “What is it about that boy,” he said out loud.

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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